The Hiramic Legend is the heart of the third degree
ritual. Hiram Abif is one of the brightest characters recorded in the annals of
Freemasonry, and his story is held up as the shining example for all Masons to
emulate. Being the principal actor in the drama of the ritual, he might fairly
be expected to make a ceremonial entrance from the wings. But Hiram comes to
centre-stage through a trap door as it were. The legend is presented, suddenly
and dramatically, in the third degree, without the least hint of it in the
preceding degrees; neither the Entered Apprentice nor the Fellow-Craft knows
anything at all about Hiram Abif.
Masonic scholars have tried to trace the origin of the
Hiramic Legend, and discover when and why it was introduced in our ritual. But
there is very little written record available about the internal working of the
lodges before the early 18th century, and the little that is
available is "complex, confusing, and often fragmentary". Our
knowledge of the history of those times is incomplete and obscure, and
according to Robert Gould:
To a necessarily great extent therefore, all
speculations with regard to the more remote past of the sodality must repose on
inference or conjecture; and deductions which are accepted with easy faith by
some, will be rejected as irrational by others.
In this paper I have tried to present, with as little
speculation as possible, a plausible and coherent account of the origin of the
Hiramic Legend and of its inclusion in the traditions of our Craft.
With this rather lengthy preamble let us now start on
the subject of this paper, for doing which there can be no better place than
HIRAM ABIF IN THE BIBLE
The Bible has two accounts of the building of King
Solomon's Temple - in the Second Book of Chronicles, and the First Book of
Kings. According to Second Chronicles (ii:3) Solomon requested Hiram, King of
Tyre, to furnish men and materials for building the Temple. Solomon also asked
for a specially gifted craftsman :
Send me now, a man cunning to
work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, and in iron, and in purple, and
crimson, and blue, and that can skill to grave with the cunning men that are
with me in Judah, and in Jerusalem. (ii:7)
The King of Tyre accordingly sent Hiram to King Solomon,
And now I have sent a cunning
man, endued with understanding, of Huram my father's, the son of a woman of the
daughters of Dan, and his father was a man of Tyre, skillful to work in gold,
and in silver, in brass, in iron, in
stone, and in timber, in purple, in blue. and in fine linen, and in crimson;
also to grave any manner of graving, and to find out every device which shall
be put to him, with thy cunning men, and with the cunning men of my lord David
( ii. 13 &14)
From this it is apparent that Hiram was esteemed
highly in his profession as to have been deputed for so important a work. He is
alluded to as "Hiram Abi," and the word "Abi," meaning
"my father," is usually taken in the sense of "master," a
title of respect and distinction.
Solomon had asked for a craftsman to work and engrave
on metals and that is exactly what Hiram was. The pieces which he executed for
the Temple were:
pillars, and the pommels and the chapiters which were on the top of the pillars
; and four hundred pomegranates on the two wreaths; two rows of
pomegranates on each wreath, to cover
the two pommels of the chapiters which were upon the pillars. He made also bases, and lavers made he upon
the bases; one sea and twelve oxen
under it. The pots also, and the
shovels and the flesh hooks and all their instruments, did Huram his
father make to King Solomon, for the
house of the Lord, of bright brass.
Chronicles (2: iii. 15 to 2: iv:16) & Kings (1: vii: 15 to 45)
So how did a skilled metalworker come to be known as a
master stone mason? Alfred Mackey offers an interesting explanation.
In the original Hebrew text of the passage in the book of
Chronicles, the words which designate the profession of Hiram Abif are Khoresh
nekhoshet,- literally, a worker in brass. …. The error into which the old
legendists and the modern Masonic writers have fallen, in supposing him to have
been a stone-mason or an architect, has arisen from the mistranslation in the
Authorized Version of the passage in Chronicles where he is said to have been
" skillful to work in gold and in silver, in brass, in iron, in stone, and
in timber." The words in the original are Baabanim vebagnelsim, in stones
and in woods,- that is, in precious stones and in woods of various kinds. That is to say, besides being a coppersmith
he was a lapidary and a carver and gilder.
The wrong translation of the words 'stones and woods'
in the singular to 'stone and timber', could well have led to the supposition
that he was a stonemason.
There are two other differences between the accounts
given in the two texts. In the Second Chronicles he is described as "the
son of a woman of the daughters of Dan, and his father was a man of Tyre",
while First Kings says " He was a
widow's son of the tribe of Naphtali and his father was a man of Tyre, a worker
Similarly, according to the Chronicles Hiram was sent
to Jerusalem by the King of Tyre, when Solomon started to build the temple. But
the Book of Kings says that "King Solomon sent and fetched Hiram out of
Tyre" (vii; 1 & 8) when the temple was completed.
While most Masonic historians dismiss these as minor
discrepancies, some argue otherwise, and suggest that there could have been two persons -
possibly father and son - and claim that this interpretation confirms the death
of Hiram. The first, a master craftsman who could work on any metal, who was
probably murdered before his work was completed. And the second, his son, (his
mother having become a widow because of the death of his father), who could
work only in brass. Solomon sent and fetched him out of Tyre, instead of merely
summoning him, (that is he sent his men to conduct him safely because of what
happened to his father) to complete the work left unfinished by the death of his
Be it as it may, let us next look into Hiram in our
HIRAM ABIF IN MASONIC TRADITIONS
The earliest factual information that we have about
Masonic history comes from a collection of documents known as the “Old Charges”
or the “Manuscript Constitution” of Masonry. Two of the earliest of these are
the Regius Manuscript of 1390 and the Cooke Manuscript of 1410. There are 130
versions of these documents running right through the 18th century. We meet
with the first allusion to Hiram Abif in the Cooke MS. It says:
And at the making of the Temple in Solomon's time, as stated in
the Bible in the third book of Kings and the fifth chapter, Solomon held four
score thousand masons at work. And the son of the king of Tyre was his master mason.
Here Adoniram, the chief of the workmen on Mount
Lebanon who was "over the levy", and who was later stoned to death,
has been confused with Hiram Abif. The literal meaning of Adoniram being Lord
Hiram, it has been mistakenly concluded that this Lord Hiram was the son of the
King of Tyre. In nearly all the succeeding manuscripts the word Adon, seems to
have been corrupted, and he is called variously as Aynon, Aman, Amon and Adon.
The first mention of the Hiramic Legend, including the
murder, the discovery and the raising occurs in 1730, in Samuel Prichard's
Masonry Dissected. But the name of Hiram Abif is first found in Dr. James
Anderson's Book of Constitutions of 1723 in which he says
The King of Tyre sent to King Solomon his namesake Hiram Abif,
the prince of architects . . . the wise
King Solomon was Grand Master of the Lodge at Jerusalem, King Hiram was Grand
Master of the Lodge at Tyre, and the inspired Hiram Abif was Master of Work.
The second edition of Anderson's Constitutions
published in 1738 mentions the death of Hiram Abif.
Their joy was soon interrupted by the sudden death of their dear
master, Hiram Abif, whom they decently interred in the Lodge near the Temple,
according to ancient Usage.
And that is the first known reference to the death of
ORIGIN OF THE HIRAMIC LEGEND
The question that naturally arises is how did the
elaborate legend of the builder originate from such slender references, and how
was a tragedy invented where there probably was none?
Most Masonic researchers are of the view that the Hiramic
Legend is simply the adaptation of the Legend of Orisis, with a
Masonic and Biblical background. John Fellows suggests "The story of Hiram is only another
version, like those of Adonis and Astarte, and of Ceres and Prosperine, of the
fable of Osiris and Isis."
This legend is
briefly narrated below:
Osiris was the wise and benevolent king of Egypt who was killed
by his jealous brother Seth. This evil brother then cut up Osiris' body and
scattered the parts throughout Egypt. Osiris had a faithful wife Isis who,
along with her sister Nephthys, gathered the pieces together. Using her magical
abilities, Isis put the pieces back together, but Osiris could never again live
like the other gods. He, therefore, reigned as lord of the underworld. Horus,
the falcon-headed son of Osiris and Isis killed his uncle Seth in battle and
became the ruler of Egypt. Horus was born to Isis after the death of Orisis,
and was therefore called a widow's son.
As Fellows so categorically states, "The likeness
throughout is so exact as not to admit of doubt."
We might now digress a little to briefly discuss the
structure of the Craft and the evolution of the ritual in the 17th
and 18th centuries.
TRANSITION FROM OPERATIVE TO SPECULATIVE MASONRY
Until the 17th century, Freemasonry was
mainly operative, and consisted of three classes or ranks - not degrees - of
Masons, namely, Masters, who made contracts and undertook the work of building
for employers; Fellow-Crafts or Journeymen employed by these Masters; and
Entered Apprentices, who were received and taught the art of building. After
seven years the apprentice was required to offer an essay or master's piece as
proof of proficiency, and then admitted as a Master of the Art and a Fellow of
the Craft. This ceremony of admission is the basis of our ritual.
In those days Fellow Crafts followed the
work from building site to building site. When a
building was completed they travelled, sometimes a considerable distance, to
the site of another building, seeking employment. As they were not so well
known to one another or to the Masters, it was necessary for the Master to be
satisfied that the man was not a cowan, or rough layer, but capable of skilled
work. It also had to be ensured that that he had been regularly received into
the Guild, a necessary condition of employment in those days. So "lodges" were formed at each
site, to meet when necessary, to admit apprentices and Fellow Crafts. According to C.N.Batham:
The picture, then, is of lodges throughout the country meeting
irregularly as occasion demanded, perhaps not surviving for any great length of
time, and of informal meetings of groups of members of the Craft for the sole
purpose of initiating friends of theirs. There is nothing other than brief
references to their ceremonies as, unfortunately for Masonic historians,
brethren of those days were pledged to the utmost secrecy about all aspects of
Free-masonry and so committed nothing to writing if they could possibly avoid doing
But as the erection of great buildings
such as cathedrals, palaces, and castles
grew less, masons became more settled in towns where they were employed
in more ordinary building. Then they formed what Bro. Knoop
calls "territorial lodges".
After the settling of lodges at fixed centres, non-operative members
began to be admitted. Thus in the 17th century the transition from "operative" to
"speculative" got well under way. Hughan remarks:
century operative Masons were most favourable to the speculative element
in their midst, and encouraged their admission to such an extent, that
sometimes the Lodges consisted almost exclusively of brethren in no way
connected with building.
This culminated in the transition to a wholly
speculative character in the 18th century. Alfred Mackey says:
These two elements of Freemasonry continued to exist together for
a very long period of time. But at
length, from causes which must be attributed to the increasing power and
influence of the Speculative element, as well as to intellectual progress,
there came a total and permanent disseverance of the two. . . . The men of culture and science who
were in constant communion with their operative associates, were getting
dissatisfied with a society of mechanics who had lost much of that skill as
architects. …The first act of severance occurred in England in the year 1717,
when the Grand Lodge of "Free and Accepted Masons" was organised
… …. followed nineteen years afterward
by the organization of the Grand Lodge of Scotland with similar methods.
EVOLUTION OF THE THREE DEGREE SYSTEM
We had seen earlier that, in the early 17th century
the ritual consisted of a simple ceremony of accepting an apprentice, and that
because of illiteracy and secrecy, there exist few records of the nature of
this ceremony. Some Masonic scholars hold that there were two ceremonies. G.W. Speth believes that:
The Apprentice was "made" a Mason by some ceremony of
a secret character, and received certain signs and words and so on for
recognition. At the end of his servitude, his passing into the ranks of free
craftsmen, Masters of the Art and fellows of the Fraternity, was celebrated by
another secret ceremony, in which further signs and words and so on were
communicated, and that this ceremony contained the essentials of the present
This theory is borne out by the Edinburgh Register House Manuscript dated 1696, found in the
Public Records Office of Edinburgh. This contains the earliest description of
the ceremonies and catechisms of the two degrees.
We now move on to the founding of the Grand Lodge in
1717. We definitely know that there were two degrees at that time and the
second or senior degree was titled “Master and Fellow-Craft.” The founding of
the Grand Lodge also signalled the transition of the Craft from Operative to
Speculative, the Speculatives being dominant. In time, the simple Operative
ritual was no longer considered to be fitting to the character of the new Order
and was progressively replaced by a more ornate one adapted to the designs of
Speculative Freemasonry. According to Mackey:
On the establishment of the Grand Lodge . . . Speculative
Freemasons . . .
. . . perfected the transition from wholly Operative to wholly
Speculative Freemasonry by the fabrication of degrees and the development of a
more philosophical ritual, composed, as it has always been conjectured, by
Desaguliers and Anderson, but principally always by the former.
The original first degree was split into two and the
second degree became the third. The Three-Degree System grew up by a gradual
process between 1717 and 1730 and the ritual evolved from a simple ceremony for
communicating the secrets of the Craft, to a sophisticated philosophical system
of allegory and symbolism. This evolution from rudimentary ceremonies and
catechisms, to the beautiful and elaborate ritual of today continued - through
the time of the Union of the 'Antients' and the 'Moderns' in 1813, and the
formation of "Stability Lodge of Instruction" in 1817, and the
"Emulation Lodge of Improvement" in 1823 - until 1835.
HIRAMIC LEGEND IN THE RITUAL
The first record of the third degree being conferred
was at London in 1724. But the Hiramic Legend was probably not part of the
ritual of that time. We had seen earlier that Anderson's Constitutions of 1923
make no mention of the tragedy, but just fifteen years later, in the second
Constitutions of 1938, the three ruffians had killed the Prince of Architects.
This is conclusive proof that the Hiramic Legend became a part of Masonic
Traditions between 1723 to 1738, and not earlier.
Pick and Knight, in their Pocket History of Freemasonry say:
It is probable that, before the Craft finally settled on the
building of King Solomon's Temple, .... other prototypes were tried out,
perhaps by small groups of Masons in isolated parts of the country.
We come across one such prototype in the
Graham MS of 1726, with which we shall deal in detail in the next section of
the present we shall continue with the
whether the story was entirely originated by the compilers of the new ritual,
or was there some foundation for it existing in the craft guilds before the
formation of the Grand Lodge? Gould thinks:
If the murder of Hiram
Abiff had been a tradition of the Craft in early days, not only would allusions
to him be found in the literature of the Order, but he would have appeared in
the earlier degrees, and not been thrust without any sort of warning into the
third degree, much to the surprise of all who regard Craft Masonry as a
gradually developing spectacle.
Hughan is also of the opinion that ritualistically
Hiram Abif is unknown before the Third Degree, and this has not been traced
But there is another school of thought that contends,
with justification, that Brethren, who a few years
later, split up on very simple points into Ancients and Moderns, would not have
allowed an entirely new legend to be
introduced into Freemasonry and believes that there is sufficient evidence to
prove that some part of the story of Hiram
was known to Masons before this period. For instance, we read that, at
the installation of the Duke of Montagu as Grand Master in 1721, Dr. John Beal,
Deputy Grand Master, was invested and installed into the chair of Hiram Abif,
to the left of the Grand Master.
I would like to end this part of our discussion
by quoting Gould:
When the legend of Hiram's death was first incorporated with our
older traditions, it is not easy to decide, but in my judgment it must have
taken place between 1723 and 1729, and, I should be inclined to name 1725 as
the most likely year for its introduction.
with the proviso that it is not impossible that the Legend , or some part of
it, was known to the Craft before that
LEGEND OF NOAH AND THE GRAHAM MANUSCRIPT
We had, in the previous section, mentioned the Graham
manuscript of 1726.This is of special importance for a study of the development
of our Ritual because this manuscript
makes very clear reference to King Solomon and Hiram Abiff, and their
respective parts in the building of the Temple:
Four hundred and four score
years after the Children of Israel came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth
year of Solomon's reign over Israel, that Solomon began to build the House of
the Lord. . . . Now we read in the 13th verse of the 7th chapter of the First
Book of Kings that Solomon sent and fetched Hiram out of Tyre, he being a
widow's son of the Tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a
worker in brass. . . . And he came to King Solomon and wrought all his work for
But the manuscript does not go on to give us the
legend of our third degree, which has Hiram as its central figure. Instead, it
gives practically all the ingredients of that legend in a very different
setting, with a "traditional history" of which Noah was the central
figure - which may be taken as about 1,300 years before the building of King
Solomon's Temple. In the words of H.W.Coil:
We have it by
tradition and still some reference to scripture that Shem, Ham and Japeth went
to their father Noah's grave to try to find something about him to lead them to
the veritable secret which this famous preacher had, for all things needful for
the new world were in the Ark with Noah. Now
these 3 men had agreed that, if they did not find the very thing itself,
that the first thing they did find was to be to them as a secret thing not
doubting but did most firmly believe that God was able and would cause what
they did find to prove as veritable to them as if they had received the secret
at first from God himself. So they came to the grave finding nothing but the
Taking a grip at a finger, it came away; so from joint to joint; so to the
wrist; so to the elbow; so they reared up the dead body and supported it;
setting foot to foot, knee to knee, breast to breast, cheek to cheek and hand
to back, and cried out: 'Help, O, father,' as if they had said; 'O, Father of
Heaven, help us now for our earthly father cannot.'" So they laid down the
dead body again and not knowing what to do, one, said: 'Here is yet marrow in
the bone;' and the second said: 'But a dry bone,' and the third said; 'It
stinketh.' So they agreed to give it a name as is known to Freemasonry to this
We cannot fail to observe that there are
several details that are almost identical with elements in the Hiramic Legend.
in the Book of Constitutions of 1723 calls Noah and his three sons "all
Masons true". This perhaps was an admission that the Legend of Noah was in
use at that time, and a hint that its inclusion in the ritual of the proposed
Third Degree was being contemplated by him and Dr. Desaguliers.
Recapitulating the summary of the preceding sections
of this paper, it can be reasonably assumed that: -
Hiram Abif is mentioned in the Bible and in Anderson's
Constitutions and is referred to by different names in the Old Charges.
The Hiramic legend is an adaptation of the legend of Osiris;
Freemasonry had become predominantly, if not completely,
speculative by 1717;
Prior to 1717 a two degree system was in existence, and the ritual
of the second degree contained elements of the present Third Degree;
The Three Degree system was probably invented in 1724 by Dr.
Desaguliers to give a philosophical and ethical content to the ritual.
The Legend of Noah was in use when the Three Degree system was
introduced, and was later replaced by the Hiramic Legend.
REASONS FOR THE INTRODUCTION OF THE LEGEND.
Let us next discuss the reasons for the introduction
of the legend of the Builder in the ritual of Freemasonry. We know that the
three degrees were meant by Dr. Desaguliers to represent birth & infancy,
adulthood & education, and old age, death, & immortality of the soul,
respectively. The symbolism of the third degree is expressed by the powerful
imagery of Ecclesiastes xii, which is an exhortation to remember the Creator
while you are still young, because old age will soon catch up with you, and the
pleasures of life will no longer be yours to seek. That is, in old age, one
should be able to look back on a life well spent, one's responsibilities fully
discharged, and contemplate the end with equanimity and without fear, secure in
the knowledge that the it is only the body which will perish, while the soul is
immortal. The great and useful lesson of the third degree is that:
(Nature) prepares you, by contemplation, for the closing hours
of existence, and when by means of that
contemplation she has conducted you through the intricate windings of this
mortal life, she finally prepares you how to die.
And also that one need not fear death because the soul
. . . in this perishable frame there resides a vital and immortal
principle . . .
I submit that had this sentence been completed with a
phrase like '"which will endure when
time with you shall be no more" it would have been more appropriate to
the context, and more in tune with the theme of the teaching. But the ritual
says that " the Lord of Life will enable us to trample the King of terrors
beneath our feet'. The resentment, violence and deep anger expressed in these
words appears to be in sharp discord with the spirit of the degree, which is
Let us now look at the Graham manuscript, and the
Legend of Noah. It is fully in consonance with, and would have, as it probably
did, amply illustrated the message of the Third Degree.
We have a very old and venerated patriarch, who was laid to rest
after a life of great achievement.
It has its origins in the Bible and is, in fact, older than the
story of Solomon's Temple.
It has been referred to in all the Old Charges, and is well known
to the Craft.
It has all the elements that make up the legend of Hiram.
It was used in the third degree ritual before being substituted by
the Hiramic Legend.
Now comes the important question. Why was the Legend of Noah replaced by the
Legend of Hiram? Both are similar enough to warrant the continuance of the
former. But if the Hiramic Legend replaced it in the Third Degree Ritual, it
obviously was because it had an element which the former lacked - that of
betrayal, violent death, martyrdom and revenge.
When we are taught to face death serenely, knowing
that the soul is immortal, where is the question of grieving over a death, and
avenging it? Truth to tell, it is this contradiction that prompted my study,
and I believe that, it is in the answer to this question that we will find the
reason for including the Hiramic Legend in our ritual.
BRIEF HISTORY OF ENGLAND & SCOTLAND IN 17th
AND 18TH CENTURIES
We had mentioned earlier that Masonic scholars have tried to trace the
origin of the Hiramic Legend, and discover why it was introduced in our ritual.
They have propounded many theories, some of which are listed below:
1. The actual death of Hiram Abif.
2. The legend of Osiris.
3. Expulsion of Adam from Paradise.
4. The entry of Noah into the Ark.
5. Death and Resurrection of Christ.
6. The murder of Thomas Becket.
7. Persecution of the Templars and the death
8. Execution of Charles I.
9. An invention of the Jacobites to aid the
house of Stuart.
representation of Old Age.
Of these, I would like to take up the execution of
Charles I, for further examination. This is because, it was a cataclysmic event
which had the element of violent death, martyrdom and revenge; it could have
provoked the strong resentment and anger observed earlier; and it occurred at
the precise period of time that has been the subject of our discussions.
At this juncture, we might take a brief look at the
history of the Royal House of Stuart during those turbulent years of early 17th
century. At is zenith, the dynasty ruled over the kingdoms of England &
Scotland, but in 1746 its fortunes were irretrievably lost in the bloody battle
For over 300 years Scotland had to struggle constantly
to preserve its independence and fend off a powerful England. Yet ironically,
in 1603, it was the Scottish king, James VI who ascended the English throne as
James I and united the two kingdoms. On his death in 1625, his son Charles
became king. But in 1649, after a civil war, Charles was tried by Parliament,
and beheaded. The regicide traumatised the nation because, the populace
remained largely royalist at heart; as evidenced by the fact, that after the
Parliament had ruled the country for 11 years, monarchy was restored. Charles
II, exiled son of the dead king ascended the throne and his brother, James II
succeeded him. James attempted to restore royal prerogative, and supported the
Catholic faith. In 1688 Parliament forced James to abdicate in favour of his
Protestant daughter Mary, and her husband William, to prevent succession by his
Catholic son, James Francis Edward, later to be known as the Old Pretender.
This is called the Glorious Revolution of 1688. James died in exile in France
in 1701. The Old Pretender, and his son, called Bonnie Prince Charlie, or the
Young Pretender, made several efforts to recapture the throne of England; their
supporters were called Jacobites. There were two major Jacobite uprisings; the
attempt of the Old Pretender in 1715 had considerable support in Scotland
but failed due to inept leadership;
that of Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745 was badly planned and the Jacobites were
mercilessly slaughtered in Culloden. That was the end of the Jacobite cause.
HIRAMIC LEGEND AND THE EXECUTION OF CHARLES I
It must now be emphasised that from hereon the
evidence is circumstantial, and our arguments, like Freemasonry in the middle
of the 17th century, become predominantly speculative. With this
caveat, let us return to the Hiramic Legend and the execution of Charles I. By
the middle of the 17th century, Freemasonry had acquired power and
prestige. Many eminent Masons - Robert Murray, Elias Ashmole, Inigo Jones and
Nicholas Stone, to name a few - were staunch royalists. It is quite probable
that the dead King's son, then in exile in France, was in contact with his
supporters, and that they met in the safety and privacy of the Lodge to further
their designs. For obvious reasons those designs had to be concealed from other
members of the Craft. A suggestion was advanced that the Hiramic Legend might
have been invented and cautiously introduced in the ritual to promote loyalty
to the royalist cause. In the words of Hextall, the Hiramic Tradition was:
Calculated to remind the Royalist Freemasons, in the strongest
possible manner, of the murder of their King, and of events to be striven for
in the future.
In his History of the Three Grand Lodges, Rebold supports this theory and suggests
that the speculative Masons of England and Scotland invented two higher
degrees, and gave to Freemasonry an entirely political character; that these
Masons were men of power and high position, and it was through their influence
that Charles II was enabled to recover the throne in 1660.
Professor Robinson in his 'Proofs of Conspiracy' also
appears to entertain similar thoughts:
It is not improbable that the
covert of secrecy in those assemblies had made them coveted by the Royalists as
occasions of meeting. Nay, the Ritual of the Master's Degree seems to have been
formed, or perhaps twisted from its original institutions, so as to give an
opportunity of sounding the political principles of the candidate, and the
whole of the Brethren present. For it bears so easy an adaptation to the death
of the King.
Ragon, in his Masonic Orthodoxy, goes still further.
He says that Ashmole and other Brethren had renounced the simple initiation and
established new degrees. That the Fellow Craft degree was fabricated in 1648,
and that of Master a short time afterward; that the decapitation of King
Charles I, and the part taken by Ashmole in favour of the Stuarts produced
great modifications in this third and last degree, which had become of a Biblical
Dr. Oliver, in
a posthumous work titled "The Discrepancies of Freemasonry," says
that "The Grand Mystery", published in 1924
. . .was the examination or lecture used by the Craft in the 17th
century, the original of which, in the handwriting of Elias Ashmole, was given
to Anderson when he made his collections for the "Book of Constitutions.
There is one other fact that lends credence to this
theory. In 1720 " several valuable manuscripts concerning the Lodges,
regulations, charges, secrets and usages of Masons (particularly one written by
Mr. Nicholas Stone, the Warden under Inigo Jones) were too hastily burned by
some scrupulous Brothers" in order that the papers " might not fall
into strange hands". The destruction followed a request by Grand Master
Payne that any old writings or records concerning the fraternity, to show the
usages of ancient times, should be brought to the Grand Lodge. Preston, in his
Many of the fraternity's records of this and the preceding
reigns were lost at the Revolution: and not a few were too easily burnt in our
times by some scrupulous brothers, from a fear of making discoveries
prejudicial to the interests of Masonry.
There is evidence enough here to concede that the
execution of King Charles I was the possible cause of the invention of the
Hiramic Legend, to which Elias Ashmole was possibly instrumental. But even if
the legend had been actually invented and introduced in our ritual, there would
have been no justification for its continuance, since its purpose - viz.
restoration of monarchy - was accomplished in 1660. So it might not be
unreasonable to suggest that the propagation of the Hiramic Legend was
abandoned after the Restoration, but was resumed after 1715 when the Jacobite
cause demanded it.
HIRAMIC LEGEND AND THE JACOBITE CAUSE
Let us now examine the possible connection of the
Hiramic Legend with the Jacobites. The 1708 Act of Union was repugnant to the
Scots, and the accession of the Hanoverians to the thrones of England and
Scotland in 1714 rekindled their latent loyalty to the Stuarts. The rebellion
of 1715 nearly succeeded, and brought home the fact that the Jacobite cause had
many influential supporters, not a few among them probably being Freemasons. It is not improbable that they
used the privacy of the Lodge, as was done during the Cromwellian interregnum,
and revived the old legend of the builder to test and keep alive the loyalty of
Brethren to the Jacobite cause.
Much has been written about Freemasonry and the
Jacobites and it is unnecessary for us to dwell in detail on that aspect. But
no account of the subject would be complete without the mention of Chevalier
Michael Andrew Ramsay, who was tutor to the Young Pretender. Ramsay was a man
of learning and genius - a Scotsman, a Jacobite, a Roman Catholic, and an
ardent Freemason to boot. He used his not inconsiderable powers to adapt
Freemasonry as a fitting instrument for the restoration of Stuart fortunes. It is a matter of history
that he invented the High Degrees during the second and third decades of the 18th
century for this purpose. It is not improbable that he would have influenced
the development and interpretation of the Craft ritual as well to the advantage
of the Jacobites. Being intimately acquainted with the old legends of Masonry,
he transferred the Biblical allusions of Freemasonry to his political aim.
Many examples of this can be cited from the rituals of
the Scottish Rites. But we will
restrict ourselves here only to those in respect of our Craft. One such is
that, after the death of James II in
1701, his Queen Consort, Mary of Modena, survived as a widow for a period of
seventeen years; her son the Old Pretender
was styled " the widow's
son", thus being identified with
Hiram Abif. Similarly, the Jacobites invented a new substitute word for the
master's degree, very similar to the word that we know.. This word, 'Macbenac' is derived from the Gaelic Mac, a
son, and benach, blessed, and literally means the " blessed son"; and
this word was applied by the Jacobites to James.
According to Rev. Covey Crump:
The possibility does remain that the Hiramic Tradition had in
some way a Jacobite application, and that it was with the object of concealing
that connection from Anderson that the famous holocaust of Masonic documents
was effected in 1720.
We thus have reasonable grounds to propose that
Jacobite loyalties could well have influenced the preferment of the Hiramic
legend over the Legend of Noah in our ritual.
I would now sum up this discussion with the words of Mackey, from whom I
have drawn much in the course of this treatise:
It cannot be denied that at a subsequent period the primitive
degrees were modified and changed till their application of the death of Hiram
Abif to that of Charles I., or the dethronement of James II, and that higher
degrees were created with still more definite allusion to the destinies of the
family of Stuart.
In the preceding pages I have attempted to present a
compendium of facts about the most celebrated Mason of all time. I have
approached the Legend of Hiram Abif purely in a spirit of historic enquiry, and
I believe, established a tenable case that its inclusion in the ritual of our
Craft could have been influenced by the Jacobites. But it must always be
remembered that any conclusion about its antiquity or authenticity can in no
way affect the value of the legend to Freemasons. The lessons found in the Legend of
Hiram Abif reach to the roots of the soul and spirit. They are instilled in the
heart forever. They depict man's search for truth, for courage, for his
immortal soul. And that is why the Legend will live on and on and Hiram Abif
will be venerated in the traditions of Freemasonry and continue to shine as the
stars for ever and ever.
I gratefully list below the works of eminent Masonic
scholars, which I have consulted and quoted from, in preparing this article.
History of Freemasonry - Albert G. Mackey
Freemasonry - From AD 1600 to the Grand Lodge Era: A
Sketch of the transition Period - Bro. W.J. Hughan
The Story of Hiram Abiff - William Harvey
Legend Of Hiram Abiff - Jerry Marsengill
The Hiram Abif legend in Freemasonry - Paul M. Bessel
The Hiramic Legend - R.W. Bro. J. L. Rankin
Making of a Nation - George S. Draffen.
The Hiramic Tradition. - W. Bro. Rev. W. W.
The Legend of The Third Degree - R.S. Thornton
The Degrees of Masonry: Their Origin and History -
A.L.Kress & R.J.Meerken
Masonic Education Course - Kent Henderson
The Hiramic Legend and The Ashmolean Theory - W. B.
The Formation of the Three Degree Structure - Ron
History of the Craft Ritual - Dr. Bing Johnson
Our Ritual: A Study In Its Development - Bro. J. Mason
Early Masonry in England - Bro. C.N. Batham
The Origin of Freemasonry (A New Theory) - C.N. Batham
Masonry Dissected - Samuel Prichard
The Old Charges Of Freemasonry - Bro. H.L. Haywood
King Solomon's Temple and the Story of the
Third Degree - Robert Smailes
The Jacobite Cause - Louise Yeoman
R. W. Bro. Rev. Brian Burton