from the book Encylcopedia of Freemasonry & its Kindred Sciences
by Albert C. Mackey M. D.
This book is in the public domain.
In Ancient Craft Masonry, Wisdom is symbolized by the East, the place of light, being represented by the pillar that there supports the Lodge and by the Worshipful Master. It is also referred to King Solomon, the symbolical founder of the Order. In Masonic architecture the Ionic column, distinguished for the skill in its construction, as it combines the beauty of the Corinthian and the strength of the Doric, is adopted as the representative of Wisdom. King Solomon has been adopted in Speculative Freemasonry as the type or representative of Wisdom, in accordance with the character which has been given to him in the First Book of Kings (iv, 30-2): "Solomon's wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all men; than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman and Chalcol and Darda, the sons of Mahol; and his fame was in all the nations round about."
In all the Oriental philosophies a conspicuous place has been given to Wisdom. In the book balled the Wisdom of Solomon (vu, 74), but supposed to be the production of a Hellenistic Jew, it is said: "I called upon God, and the spirit of Wisdom came to me. I preferred her before scepters and thrones, and esteemed riches nothing in comparison of her." And farther on in the same book (vii, 287) she is described as "the breath of the power of God, and a pure influence (emanation) flowing from the glory of the Almighty, .... the brightness of the everlasting light, the unspotted mirror, of the power of God, and the image of His goodness."
The Cabalists made the Hebrew Chochma, or Wisdom, the second of the ten Sephiroth, placing it next to the Crown. They called it a male potency, and the third of the Sephiroth, Binah, are, or Intelligent, female. These two Sephiroth, with Keter, or the Crown, formed the first triad, and their union produced the Intellectual World.
The Gnosties also had their doctrine of Wisdom, whom they called Achamoth. They said she was femenine; styled her Mother, and said that she produced all things through the Father.
The Oriental doctrine of Wisdom was, that it is a Divine Power standing between the Creator and the creation, and acting as His agent. "The Lord," says Solomon (Proverbs iii, 19) "by wisdom hath founded the earth." Hence Wisdom, in this philosophy, answers to the idea of a vivifying spirit brooding over and impregnating the elements of the chaotic world In short, the world is but the outward manifestation of the spirit of Wisdom. This idea, so universally diffused throughout the East, is said to have been adopted into the secret doctrine of the Templars, who are supposed to have borrowed much from the Basilideans, the Manicheans, and the Gnostics. From them it easily passed over to the advanced Degrees of Freemasonry, which were founded on the Templar theory.
Hence, in the great decoration of the Thirty-third Degree of the Scottish Rite, the points of the triple triangle are inscribed with the letters S.A.P.I.E.N.T.I.A., the Latin for Wisdom.
Bezaleel (Exodus xxxi, 3) was filled "with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship," and this has ever been the ideal condition of a Craftsman. From first to last the Scripture, the Great Light, urges the dominating value of Wisdom, from the Pentateuch to Revelation, the allusions are frequent and emphatic. Especially in such pertinent and suggestive references as in Second Chronicles (I, 7-12) do we find that the desire by Solomon for Wisdom and understanding was rewarded by material possessions as well as these leading spiritual gifts.
It is not difficult now to see how this word Wisdom came to take so prominent a part in the symbolism of Ancient Freemasonry, and how it was expressly appropriated to King Solomon. As Wisdom, in the philosophy of the East, was the creative energy—the architect, so to speak, of the world, as the emanation of the Supreme Architect—so Solomon was the architect of the Temple, the symbol of the world. He was to the typical world or Temple what Wisdom was to the great world of the creation. Hence Wisdom is appropriately referred to him and to the Master of the Lodge, who is the representative of Solomon. Wisdom is always placed in the East of the Lodge, because thence emanate all light, and knowledge, and truth.