A few years ago, I became conscious of the very "Masonic looking" pillars flanking the entrance to the local beaux arts styled police station in town, and I couldn't help but be struck by the obvious Masonic nature of them. I mean, there's no identifiable, architectural purpose for the spheres being placed atop two pillars. I was reminded of a conversation I once enjoyed participating in and contributing to well into the late hours of the early morning. Much of the discussion that night was concerned with the origin and sudden appearance of globed pillars in the rituals, writings, illustrations and tracing boards of Freemasonry. You can watch a short extract of our lively conversation here:
In the late night conversation with Dr. Trevor Stewart, he pointed out that members of the Royal Society had written in their diaries of their impressions of a popular display in London at the Museum that included a replica of the temple with its pillars. This reminded me of the 1633 Latin - English translation of a sermon written by the Jesuit Priest, Jeremias Drexel (1581--1638) entitled 'The Christian Zodiak'. The frontispiece was done by Wenceslaus Hollar and depicts two classical pillars supporting a pair of globes and a compass.
There were numerous texts such as Drexel's published in the 17th century, using a typological approach to biblical exegesis. Two such examples are Samuel Lee's Orbis Miraculum or "The Temple of Solomon portrayed by SpiritualLight"and Bunyan's Solomon's Temple Spiritualiz'd.
The use of the open compasses reminds the viewer of the imagery employed by Blake and found in the public sphere in such places as Rockefeller Center. Interestingly enough, there's quite a bit of variance in the arrangement as well as the representation of Pillars in Freemasonry. The placement of pillars in a Masonic lodge can differ dramatically across jurisdictions of mainstream craft Masonry in the United States. In some mystical orders and magical lodges, one pillar is depicted as black and the other as white in color. According to Biblical accounts, one floats while the other sinks or that one is capped (this is not the case in French or Continental Freemasonry) with a Celestial sphere and the other Terrestial (neither of which serve any architectural purpose). Some esoteric interpretations point to implications of polarity and the male and female energies of the two Saints John...fire (celestial globe) and water (terrestrial globe). Every initiate who is pulled or passed through these pillars, is set out to be instructed in a middle path where the initiate strives to balance their time and manage their energy so as to act rationally, fairly and objectively towards their fellow man.