It happens that unlike the majority of symbols and rites a certain number of written data are in existence about the origin of the symbolism's of the two Globes.
The oldest Lodges did not have them. Notices of them appear in the Minutes of one Lodge, some years later in the Minutes of another; they are shown in some of the oldest tracing boards and not shown in others; these facts show that the use of the Globes came slowly into use in the first half of the Eighteenth Century. In one Lodge record it is stated in so many words that "they illustrate the universality of the Craft" anywhere under heaven, anywhere in the earth, there is the home of Freemasonry! In the beginning of the Speculative system with the first Grand Lodge in London in 1717 it was expected that Grand Lodge would warrant Lodges only in London and inside a radius of ten miles from the City; it was not until the period of 1725 to 1730 that Warrants began to be issued (and then usually to men who had been made Masons in London) for "Lodges oversee." It is reasonable to assume that this planting of Freemasonry on the Continent and in faraway America must have inspired and stimulated Masons in and around London, must have given them a new emotion, because their horizons were unexpectedly pushed outwards over the rim of the world; if that assumption is valid it follows that the use of Globes began to spread among the Lodges in the period between 1730 to 1750. Globes were hand-made in 1725, and therefore were costly, especially those of glass or silver; in one Lodge book a set is inventoried at £100. Many Lodges received them as gifts from well-to-do members.
In the "Legend of the Craft" included in the Old Charges it is said that the secrets of the Liberal Arts and Sciences were preserved through Noah's Flood in two pillars. It is probable that early Speculative Masons pictured them as having been pedestals rather than pillars, similar to the pedestals they had in Lodge and in which regalia and the Secretary's records were stowed. These two ancient pedestals of the Old Charges were replaced by the two Great Pillars of Solomon's Temple, J and B. It appears that when the Globes first came into use they were placed in whatever spot was most convenient. Certainly there were not two globes on the Diluvian pillars. Solomon's Pillars were surmounted by Chapiters, and archeologists believe that they were made of strips of metal and shaped like baskets, and that resinous wood was piled in them for giving light after dark.
The replacing of the Chapiters by Globes on top of the Great Pillars may have come about for any one or more of at least three reasons: Globes were more convenient when thus off the floor and out of the road; they made the Pillars more pleasing to the eyes; the symbolism of the Globes and of the Pillars combined naturally and easily, etc.
Archeologists found near Herculaneum a villa in which the dining room had an astronomical ceiling which could be turned to make the painted stars inside correspond on any night with the actual stars outside. There are hints that the Egyptians had globes they had spherical geometry and astronomy. In the late Middle Ages globes were so common that the phrase "Terrestrial and Celestial Globes" passed into current speech. This has been used as an argument to prove that before Columbus set sail men knew of the sphericity of the earth; a few men unquestionably did know of it, but the Globes themselves prove nothing. Men who believed the earth to be fiat could have had maps of the flat earth put on a globe because it was more convenient; we print maps on flat paper but it does not prove that we believe the earth to be flat. It is probable that the Speculative Masons used their Globes for no other purpose than maps; nothing is hinted in their Minutes of esoteric or occultistic meanings; but to them the mere map of the whole earth and the whole sky was something to excite the mind because it kept them alive to the fact that their Fraternity which had only a few years before confined itself to so modest a territory, had unexpectedly and almost miraculously burst its bonds, and was extending itself over the world. The Globes belong to the subject-matter of the philosophy of Masonry, but thus far have received meager attention from those who specialize in that branch of Masonic studies, though why this is true it is difficult to know, because that which the Globes symbolize is as massively overwhelming a fact as a range of the Himalayas.
Suppose that speculative Masonry had been confined, as it was first intended to a radius of ten miles from the center of London; if it had, it could easily have limited its membership to London citizens, of the white race, and members of some Christian church; when it became universal, as the Globes symbolize, such localism became impossible. It could not become universal without expanding to other countries, it therefore could not be confined to England, and other countries would stand on a par with England. It could not be confined to one race if it became universal because the world is occupied by three races with some sixty or so branches. It could not be confined to one religion, because there are scores of great religions in the world. This transformation of a local Craft into a world-wide Fraternity was an epochal event in the history of Freemasonry, and none more so; and since it is represented by the Globes they have a scope and power of meaning far outreaching the small attention they have thus far received.
Note. See History of the Lodge of Amity No. 137; by Harry P. Smith; published by the Lodge, Poole, England, 1937, and printed by J. Looker. This is a book excellently to be recommended because in the Minutes quoted by it are so many descriptions of Ritual, customs, etc. written at the time. On page 47 it is told that during a Degree there were exhibited "a pair of 18-in. globes, the perfect ashlar suspended from a Lewis [a species of clamp] and affixed to a winch, an armillary sphere, and a small philosophical [scientific] apparatus, as well as the usual ornaments furniture and jewels." The author makes it clear that in the earliest days symbols had been drawn on the floor with chalk; that later the same symbols were painted permanently on a cloth, or board, or were inlaid in wood or stone. By about 1765 actual objects were used in place of drawn figures. The same impulse which substituted actual objects for drawn figures, led to substituting acted out ceremonies in lieu of what had been an oral lecture. The reference to the two "18-inch globes" is one of many Minutes or other records which substantiate what was said in a paragraph above about the placing of the Globes.
The present Ritual with its Ceremonies, Rites and Symbols can be explained only in the light of its history and in this Supplement that history-as just above-has been drawn from Lodge records, most of them of the Eighteenth Century, and of these the majority are of English Lodges. Records and Minutes of early American Lodges would naturally have been preferred for the present purpose but they unfortunately are few in number.