WM, Parthenon Lodge No.112, Grand Lodge of Greece

The Temple built by King Solomon, destroyed, and afterwards rebuilt and destroyed again, one of the most prominent roles in human history. For three thousand years the building itself, and its symbolism, has stood at the epicentre of the 3 prevailing religions of the Western World, featuring prominently both in the Old, and the New Testaments. The temple was built to house the Ark of the Covenant, and become “a glorious temple for which God was to dwell”. (1 Kings 8:13).

In the mainstream Ritual practiced in Greece, Initiation and the EA Degree have little, to no reference whatsoever to the building of KST. In fact, our brethren practicing French-derived ritual, only get to hear about the building of the Temple, and its Master Architect, at the ceremony of their Raising. Rituals hailing from the British Isles on the other hand, start off with the building of the Temple, mentioned from the 1st Degree Charge, making a more consistent and robust influence on the Craft. This does not make one ritual better than another by any means; merely different. But let us see how this gradually increasing influence came to be.

Mount Moriah, the hill on which the Temple was built, appears in our symbolism. So does the Porch across which the Temple was approached; in fact, to be ‘on the Porch’ is a phrase used in the British Isles, to describe a candidate awaiting initiation. The two Great Pillars stand one on each side of the Masters Chair in our Ritual, or the inner door of the Lodge-room in others. The Altar of the Lodge is a representation of the Altar of the Temple.

16c. Scotland

The origins of Freemasonry as we know it, have been established to be rooted in Scotland as a considerable number of factual documents dating to the late 16th Century prove. There is some evidence that Scottish Lodges existed even before recorded Lodge documents were ever written. These Lodges only accepted stonemasons. In other words, more than 99% of present-day Freemasons would not have been admitted! We don’t know with any certainty exactly what ceremonies these early Lodges performed in the admission of new members, but the early records indicate that there was one, which constituted the most important function performed at the meetings of stonemasons in their Lodges.

But where was it that the idea of an initiation originated from? The earliest Masonic records show that the average level of education was pretty basic when compared to modern times. However, there was one book that was known to all whether literate or not – the Bible’s lore was well-known to our Brethren of the Middle Ages. It was this book that informed the ‘ordinary’ people on matters of religion, morals, law and history. Imagine if you will, the feelings of a stonemason upon reading I Kings and II Chronicles, where he learns of the first stone building in the world (The Tower of Babel was made of brick). The impact would have been intensified by the fact that not only was it the first stone building, but it was also a sacred building – a temple.

King Solomon’s Temple (KST) was therefore built by stonemasons just like him. To a middle-ages era stonemason, the long and detailed story of the building of KST as related in the Old Testament on the ‘other side of the world’, would not only have seemed exotic and exciting, it would also have made him feel proud, proud of being a stonemason. In light of this it is almost inconceivable that stonemasons would have chosen anything else on which to base their ceremony of initiation. So essentially, the stonemasons chose the story of the building of KST because of its historical importance rather than its religious functions. The building of KST appealed to them because their forefathers built it and not because it was a place of religious worship.

As we at Parthenon work in the Standard Ritual of Scottish Freemasonry, it is interesting to examine the part of Old Scottish masonic ritual containing questions, similar to our modern Questions asked during the Rituals, known as the Scottish Masonic Catechism. It contained 14 or 15 questions and answers. These ‘rituals’ come from different parts of Scotland and illustrated that there was a national system of Lodges sharing a common ritual, obligation and catechism. It’s significant to note that they considerably pre-date the existence of any Grand Lodge. What they contain is of great importance but they focus here is upon what they tell us about KST.

There are two references in the catechism. These questions relate to the admission of an Entered Apprentice and therefore show that KST is so important that it one of the first things a new candidate is taught. The fact that it’s mentioned twice demonstrates that it’s central to the lore of the Craft. Additionally, these two questions and their accompanying responses, tell us something more. But let us examine them in detail:

• Question 8 How stands your Lodge?

• Answer East and west as the temple of Jerusalem.

This is the kind of question in which stonemasons would have been interested, as it’s of a practical value… knowledge of the orientation of the structure. But the answer reveals that KST is so important that it simply must be identified by location. The answer could’ve simply been, ‘east and west’. This would have been sufficient to answer the practical needs of the stonemason. Naming the particular building (KST), shows that a specific knowledge of it, is vital in understanding the Craft. KST is of such importance, that it’s mentioned again.

Question 9 asks ‘Where was the first Lodge’; that is, where was the first Lodge situated? The answer: ‘In the porch of Solomon’s Temple’ ties the stonemasons’ Lodges directly to KST. As we’ve seen, KST was the first stone building in the world (the source being the Bible), so logically, the first Lodge must also have been there. However, note the exact wording of the answer, ‘In the porch of Solomon’s Temple’, not in the temple proper.

These two questions and the answers show that our predecessors in the Craft did not use KST as a religious reference but only because of its compelling historical attraction. Question 8 carries no religious connotations, being merely descriptive in nature. Question 9 is even more emphatic. The first Lodge did not meet in the temple but only in the porch, or entryway, and which only measured 20 feet by 15 feet, on either side of which stood two pillars. If those who devised the ritual wanted to make use of KST for a religious purpose they would not have chosen the least important part of the building. One might even interpret this as a deliberate comment on the non-religious character of Freemasonry. The entrance is not a religious space, no religious ceremonies took place there and it is removed from the sacred parts of the temple. In other words it was the access point to the first apartment of the temple, the hekal which led to the second apartment, the sanctum sanctorum (the Holy of Holies).

Middle Ages – Continental Europe

It is, however, unfortunate that the prevalence of the lore around KST was restricted to our Brn. practicing Continental Rituals. This is because there actually existed a similar legend among the French “Compagnons de la Tour,” – associations of workmen who emerged around the 12th century, and who are supposed to have been an offshoot of dissatisfied journeymen from the body of oppressive Masters, who at that period constituted the ruling power of the corporate guilds of operative Masons and other crafts.

Traditions of these groups of workmen, referred to the building of KST, and may have actually influenced the aforementioned rituals practiced among Masons a few centuries later.  The Compagnons de la Tour have three different legends, each of which traces the association back to the Temple of Solomon, through three different founders, which causes their Society to be divided into three distinct, associations not working together in amity. These are the Children of Solomon, the Children of Maitre Jacques, and the Children of Pere Soubise.

The Children of Solomon assert that they were associated into a brotherhood by King Solomon himself at the building of the Temple.

The Children of Maitre Jacques and those of Pere Soubise declare that both of these workmen were employed at the Temple, and after its completion went together to Gaul, where they taught the arts which they had learned at Jerusalem.

However, the most interesting of these three factions is that of Maitre Jacques, as it dictates that he was the son of an architect named Jacquain, who was one of the chief Masters of Solomon and a colleague of Hiram Abiff. From the age of fifteen, he was employed as a stone-cutter. He travelled through Greece, where he acquired a knowledge of architecture and sculpture. He then went to Egypt and thence to Jerusalem, where, being engaged in the construction of the Temple, he fabricated two pillars with such consummate skill that he was at once received as a Master of the Craft.

Therefore, although no direct historical connection has been substantiated, linking the actual origin of medieval operative Masons to KST, we do find such a tradition prevailing among an association of workmen who, were at one time linked to the Operative Masons. Thus, we see the lore of the Compagnons de la Tour, or Traveling journeymen, tracing their origin to KST, through them being transferred to the Corporations of Masters or Guilds of Operative Masons of Scotland and England, among whom it was an accepted tradition, and that it thus greatly predates the era of Masonic Revival in the late 16th century.

The Old Manuscripts / First Records

Examining written records, the earliest references to the building of KST in the Old Manuscripts, indicate that there was a set organization of Masons with “Charges and Manners,” that is, laws and customs at the building of the Temple of Jerusalem, and that King Solomon was assisted in the work by the King of Tyre, and by a skilful artist who had been sent to him by Hiram. The first connecting the origin of Freemasonry with KST, is found in the Cooke Manuscript and dates to the mid 1400’s. About 50 years later, in the early 1500’s, the Dowland Manuscript gives substantially the same Legend of KST, but with the additional circumstances, that David learned the charges that he gave, from Egypt, where they had been made by Euclid; that he added other charges to these; that Solomon sent into various countries for Masons, whom he gathered together; that the name of the King of Tyre was Iram, and that of his son, who was Solomon’s chief Master, was Aynon; and finally that he was a Master of Geometry and of carving and graving.

This brings us to the birth of Modern Freemasonry, and the more detailed, elaborate reproduction of the Legend of KST, with direct references from the Book of Kings, specifically cited in the Legend of the Craft by Anderson, in the first edition of the Constitutions. Anderson says that at the Temple, King Solomon presided as Grand Master at Jerusalem, King Hiram his respective Ruler of Tyre, and Hiram Abiff was the Master of Work. Solomon partitioned the Fellow Crafts into certain Lodges with a Master and Wardens in each; that they might receive commands in a regular manner, might take care of their tools and jewels, might be paid every week, and be duly fed and clothed, etc. and the Fellow Crafts took care of their succession by educating Entered Apprentices.

In the second edition of Andersons Constitutions somewhat modified these views and added certain other particulars. He promotes Hiram Abiff from the position of Magister Operis or Master of the Work, to that of Deputy Grand Master in Solomon’s absence and to that of Senior Grand Warden in his presence. Several of these facts are sustained by the historical authority of the Books of Kings and Chronicles, and those that are not have the support of extreme probability.

It’s Symbolism

Solomon’s Temple is used in contemporary Freemasonry as a system of symbols, aiming to promote lessons of morality. We do not focus on the specifics regarding its history or architecture as such, and several of the claims within Ritual cannot be substantiated by the records, as the goal is not to teach history, but certain moral and spiritual truths. As Operative Craft developed into a Speculative Fraternity. Masons ceased to be builders of wood and stone and became builders of men, architects of human life.

What kind of human life should Freemasonry build? What form would Masonry have it take? The answer, is illustrated by Symbols and veiled in Allegory. At the centre of KST was The Holy of Holies, or Sanctum Sanctorum; this was not an architectural device, or an ornament for display, but that about which the Temple was built, its purpose as a structure, the centre according to which all else was designed. Similarly, there must be a Holy of Holies at the heart of a man, in his soul, in his conscience; the safe repository of our principles.

Before its shaping, KST was a mere mass of unshaped material lying in loose piles along the side of Mount Moriah; then this material was given shape and meaning by the use of our Craft and Science. By this Masonry teaches us that the raw materials of our own nature, feelings, passions, appetites, instincts, senses, faculties, physical limbs and organs, may by art be so shaped, and by consecration to the Highest be so dedicated, that the whole man will be transformed, and in due time be entitled to enter the Holy of Holies. Chris Hodapp, in his manual Freemasons for Dummies, defines Solomon’s Temple as a representation of the individual Freemason, where both an individual man and the physical temple take “many years to build” as a “place suitable for the spirit of God to inhabit.”

Bro. Robert L. D. Cooper, Curator of The Grand Lodge of Scotland Museum and Library
Hodapp, Christopher: Freemasons for Dummies, 2005.