|Posted by Troy Welch on September 17, 2010 at 11:26 AM|
The Legend of Hiram Abif
Fifteen Fellow Crafts, of that superior class appointed to preside over the rest, finding that the work was nearly completed and that they were not in possession of the secrets of the Third Degree, conspired to obtain them by any means, even to have recourse to violence. At the moment, however, of carrying their conspiracy into execution, twelve of the fifteen recanted; but three, of a more determined and atrocious character than the rest, persisted in their impious design, in the prosecution of which they planted themselves respectively at the East, North, and South entrances of the Temple, whither our Master had retired to pay his admiration to the Most High, as was his wonted custom at the hour of high twelve.
Having finished his devotions, he attempted to return by the South entrance, where he was opposed by the first of those ruffians, who, for want of other weapon, had armed himself with a heavy Plumb Rule, and in a threatening manner demanded the secrets of a Master Mason, warning him that death would be the consequence of a refusal. Our Master, true to his Obligation, answered that those secrets were known to but three in the world and that without the consent and co-operation of the other two he neither could nor would divulge them, but intimated that he had no doubt patience and industry would, in due time, entitle the worthy Mason to a participation of them, but that, for his own part, he would rather suffer death than betray the sacred trust reposed in him. This answer not proving satisfactory, the ruffian aimed a violent blow at the head of our Master; but being startled at the firmness of his demeanor, it missed his forehead and only glanced on his right temple but with such force as to cause him to reel and sink on his left knee.
Recovering from the shock he made for the North entrance where he was accosted by the second of those ruffians, to whom he gave a similar answer with undiminished firmness, when the ruffian, who was armed with a Level struck him a violent blow on the left temple which brought him to the ground on his right knee.
Finding his retreat cut off at both those points, he staggered, faint and bleeding, to the East entrance where the third ruffian was posted, who received a similar answer to his insolent demand, for even at this trying moment our Master remained firm and unshaken, when the villain, who was armed with a heavy Maul, struck him a violent blow on the forehead which laid him lifeless at his feet.
As a degree the Third is not much older than 250 years - the first recorded mention is in the year 1723 - but the Hiramic Legend, it seems, is much older than we realize. The Graham Manuscript, discovered as recently as 1936, records events of the thirteenth century, and mentions similar legends connected with Noah and Bezalel.
There are those that believe that the Hiramic Legend is derived from a Phoenician interpretation of the Egyptian legend of Isis and Osiris, and brought to England many centuries later by the Crusaders. There it remained suppressed, because of the domination of Masonry by the Church of Rome, which could not be expected to accept anything emanating from the Jews, whom they intensely hated for their crucifixion of Christ. According to this line of argument, the legend saw the daylight only as the domination of the Church waned; but there is, of course, no proof of this, even if it does sound feasible. Nevertheless, the Hiramic Legend is an indispensible part of Freemasonry, and the following Prestonian Lecture plants a beautiful thought in the mind of each of us, for we have all passed through the great Masonic ordeal. Here is the lecture, "Making of a Nation", by George Draffen (1966):
"During the ceremony of the Third Degree, which is so well named the Sublime Degree, you can hardly fail to have been impressed by the tragedy of Hiram Abif. To understand it, and to appreciate to the full its profound richness of meaning, is something that will remain with you as long as you live.
"Since the drama of Hiram Abif is ritualistic, it is a mistake to accept it as history. A ritualistic drama does not pay heed to historical individuals, times or places. It moves wholly in the realm of the spirit. The clash of forces, the crises and fates of the human spirit alone enter into it, and they hold true of all men everywhere, regardless of who they are or when or where. There was a Hiram Abif in history, but our Third Degree is not interested in him. Its sole concern is with a Hiram who is a symbol of the human soul, that is, its own Hiram Abif. If, therefore, you have been troubled with the thought that some of the events of the drama could not possibly have happened, you can cease to be troubled. It is not meant that they ever happened in ancient history, but that they are symbols of what is happening in the life of every man.
"For the same reason it is an inexcusable blunder to treat it as a mere mock tragedy. Savage peoples employ initiation ceremonies as an ordeal to test the nerve and courage of their young men, but Freemasonry is not savage. Boys at school often employ ragging, which is horseplay caricature of the savage ceremonial ordeals, but Freemasonry is not juvenile. The exemplification of our ritualistic drama is sincere, solemn and earnest. He who takes it trivially betrays a shallowness of soul, which makes him unfit ever to become a Mason.
"Hiram Abif is the actual symbol of the human soul, yours, mine, any man's. The work he was engaged to supervise is the symbol of the work you and I have in the supervision, organization and direction of our lives from birth to death. The enemies he met are none other than the symbols of those lusts and passions, which are in our own breasts, or in the breasts of others, and make war on our character and our life. His fate is the same fate that befalls every man who becomes a victim to those enemies: to be interrupted in one's work, to be made outcast from the lordship (or master ship) over one's own self and, at the end, to become buried under all manner of rubbish -- which means defeat, disgrace, misery and scorn. The manner in which he was raised from that dead level to that living perpendicular again is the same manner by which any man, if it happens to all, rises from self-defeat to self-mastery. And the Sovereign Great Architect, by the power of whose word Hiram Abif was raised, is that same God in whose arms we ourselves forever lie, and whose mighty help we also need to raise us out of the graves of defeat, or evil, and death itself.
"Did you ever wonder, while taking part in that drama, why you were personally made to participate in it? Why you were not permitted to sit as a spectator?
"You were made to participate in order to impress upon you that it was your drama, not another's there being exemplified. No man can be a mere spectator of that drama, because it takes place in his own soul. Likewise it was intended that your participation should itself be an experience to prepare you for becoming a Master Mason, by teaching you the secret of a Master Mason - which is that the soul must rise above its own internal enemies if ever a man is to be a Master Mason in reality as well as in name. The reality of being a Master Mason is nothing other than to be a master of one's own self.
"Did you wonder why it was that the three enemies of Hiram Abif came from his own circle, and not from outside? It is because the enemies to be most feared are always from within, and are ignorance and sins. As the Sacred Volume reminds us, it is not that which has power to kill the body that we need to shun, but that which has power to destroy the spirit.
"Did you wonder why it was that after Hiram Abif was slain there was so much confusion in the Temple? It was because the Temple is the symbol of a man's character, and therefore breaks and falls when the soul, its architect, is rendered helpless, because the craftsmen are symbols of our powers, and they fall in anarchy when not directed and commanded by the will at the centre of our being.
"And did you wonder why the Lodge appeared to neglect to explain this ritualistic drama to you at the end of the Degree? It was because it is impossible for one man to explain the tragedy of Hiram Abif to another. Each must learn for himself, and the most we can obtain from others is just such hints and scattered suggestions as these now given to you. Print the story of Hiram Abif upon your mind, ponder upon it; when you yourself are at grips with your enemies recall it and act according to the light you find in it. By doing so you will find that your inner self will give in the form of firsthand experience that which the drama gave you in the form of ritual. You will be wiser and stronger for having the guidance and the light the drama can give to you."
Categories: Current State of Masonry