The Hiram Abif legend in Freemasonry:
What is it about? What are we supposed to learn from it?
Outline for presentation at Benjamin B. French Lodge #15, F.A.A.M., District of Columbia
February 17, 1999, by Paul M. Bessel
Hiram Abif legend was not used when modern Freemasonry started in 1717.
By 1730 (just a few years later) it was the central part of the Masonic ritual.
Today it remains the heart of the ritual. It is supposed to teach us Masonic lessons. But what are they?
No “Hiram Abif” in the Bible, but there are “Hiram’s” in connection with the Temple of Solomon.
Widow’s son, from the tribe of Naphtali, or from the tribe of Dan.
Brass worker, not stone mason (compare with Masonic reference to another brass worker).
Arrived after the Temple was completed, to work on items placed in it.
Or arrived during the building of the Temple, completed his work, and returned home safely.
Examples of inconsistencies in the story, if taken literally
1 not 3 gates to the Temple.
What could have been done with the “word” even if the ruffians had obtained it?
Học cách đánh Tiến Lên Miền Nam qua giá trị các lá bài, cách xếp bài và nguyên tắc xác định thắng – thua đơn giản. Chia sẻ kinh nghiệm chơi Tiến Lên bách thắng từ cao thủ.
Why attack separately rather than together? Why use the weapons we are told about?
What possible purpose for marking the grave?
Why attempt to go to Ethiopia, rather than someplace else? Why by sea?
Why would 2 who knew the word not be able to give it, even if the 3rd was gone?
Why do we use a substitute word, now that the Royal Arch degree gives us the “true” lost word?
Why would the substitute have to be given on the “5 points?”
What is meant by “raising” the body? For what purpose in that manner, if it was decomposed?
(Why prevent the candidates from seeing the drama in a way that would give them the full benefit of it?)
Possible interpretations of the Hiram Abif legend given by Masonic writers
Expulsion of mankind from the Garden of Eden.
Cain and Abel. Noah and the Ark. Joseph mourning for Jacob. Death and resurrection of Jesus.
Murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in 1170.
Destruction of the Templars. Jacques DeMolay’s execution in 1314.
Oppression of Stuart Kings of England against their people. Execution of King Charles I in 1649.
Oppression against the Stuart pretenders to the throne of England.
Expulsion of King James II in 1688-1689. Jacobites’ efforts to regain the English throne.
Virtue of keeping secrets, keeping oaths. Regeneration (spiritually) of man, nature, or both.
Immortality of the soul, the body, or both. Separation of mankind from Deity, and coming back.
Egyptian: Osiris, Isis, Horas. Sun: rising, midday, setting. Astronomical problem (Yarker).
Story of what happens to us in old age. Psychology of each human being.
Savage initiation ceremony.
Many cultures talk of losing something important, result of evil, later found and helped society.
Just a stirring ritual ceremony (Coil’s choice).
Some things to think about
Names of the ruffians — similarity to the “true word” given in the Royal Arch degree. Any significance?
Murder by fellow workmen, with one’s own working tools. Are we our own worst enemy? Should we expect attacks by those we think are our friends and brothers? Even our Masonic brethren?
Sometimes kings and others attack free speech, religious leaders and others attack freedom of conscience, and ignorance destroys freedom of thought.
Freemasonry (remember the period when the Hiram Abif legend started, 1717-1730) teaches that each person is entitled to dignity and respect, freedom of thought and speech, not even our friends, or ourselves, should curtail this freedom. Hiramic legend could be about the universal struggle for freedom.
If so, what is this freedom?
Freedom of speech includes freedom of those who say things we hate, hurtful things that upset people. Otherwise, it is not real freedom.
Theories of why freedom of speech is valuable:
(1) The best ideas will “win” when all have a chance to be heard and tested. Marketplace theory.
(2) Safety valve. If people can’t say what they want, they might build bombs instead.
(3) Free speech enhances the human spirit. People should be able to think and say whatever they wish, whether there’s any chance of persuading people, or any other purpose to it. Self-fulfillment.
Freemasonry and freedom (things to think about)
We say Freemasonry supports freedom, and that’s why dictators oppose Freemasonry.
What specific examples can be given of how Freemasonry supports freedom of speech & thought today?
Khám phá cách chơi bài Tiến Lên Miền Bắc, so sánh game bài Tiến Lên 2 miền Nam – Bắc và mẹo chơi hiệu quả giúp bạn chiến thắng ăn tiền.
If there’s a need for harmony in the Craft, and therefore limitations on free speech, why can’t the same be said for limitations on freedom of speech in society, to preserve harmony there, too?
If the Hiram Abif legend is about freedom of speech, conscience, and thought, what is Freemasonry doing to promote what we teach in this most important part of our ritual?
Where to read more about this subject
Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia, by Henry Wilson Coil, 1996 revision by Allen E. Roberts.
Mackey’s Revised Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, by Albert G. Mackey, 1946 revision by Robert I. Clegg.
Who Was Hiram Abif?, by J.M.S. Ward, 1925.
Symbolism of the Three Degrees, by Oliver Day Street, 1924.
The Lost Word: Its Hidden Meaning, by George H. Steinmetz, 1953.
Freemasonry: A Journey Through Ritual and Symbol, by W. Kirk MacNulty, 1991.
Ars Quatuor Coronatorum (AQC), vol. 1 (1886-1888) pages 25-27; vol. 5 (1892) pages 136-141; vol. 7 (1894) page 134; vol. 8 (1895) page 27; vol. 43 (1930) pages 158-181; vol. 66 (1953) pages 89-103; vol. 67 (1943) page 53; vol. 73 (1960) pages 118-120; vol. 76 (1963) pages 220-224; vol. 77 (1964) pages 274-278.
The Builder magazine (published 1915-1930), vol. 1 (1915) page 285; vol. 3 (1917) pages 101, 113, 137, 175, 237; vol. 4 (1918) page 294; vol. 5 (1919) pages Oct CCB 8, 131, Nov CCB 5; vol. 6 (1920) pages Oct CCB 3-4, Cor. 56, Sept CCB 3-4, Oct CCB 3, 236; vol. 7 (1921) page QB 333; vol. 8 (1922) pages 144, 65, Cor 223, SC 19, 310; vol. 9 (1923) pages 294, 296; vol. 10 (1924) pages QB 222, 40, QB 127; vol. 11 (1925) pages 95, 256; vol. 12 (1926) pages Lib 156, 72, 109, 130, 170, 200, 203, 111, 110, 74, 75; vol. 14 (1928) page 183; vol. 15 (1929) pages 162, Lib 156.
|Events in the Recent Memories of Men in 1730|
|Timeline comparing events then with present dates|
|(chart prepared January 17, 1999 by Paul M. Bessel)|
|1730||Hiram Abif legend firm||1999|
|1729||English peace treaty with Spain||1998|
|1727||King George II began reign||1996|
|1723||Anderson’s Constitutions published||1992|
|1722||English peace treaty with France & Prussia||1991|
|1720||South Sea Bubble – disastrous financial panic||1989|
|1719||Spain tried to help the Stuart Pretender in Scotland||1988|
|1717||1st Grand Lodge – modern Masonry – England & Spain war||1986|
|1716||Execution of Jacobite traitors||1985|
|1715||Jacobite (Stuart) invasion of Britain – riots||1984|
|1714||King George I began reign||1983|
|1713||Treaty of Utrecht ended war between England & France||1982|
|1712||England and France in bitter war||1981|
|1711||Landowners attempt to bar middle classes from Parliament||1980|
|1710||Marlborough dismissed – 1st peaceful transfer of power||1979|
|1709||England and France in bitter war||1978|
|1708||James III invaded in Scotland, soon returned to France||1977|
|1707||England and Scotland union into Great Britain||1976|
|1706||England and France in bitter war||1975|
|1705||England and France in bitter war||1974|
|1704||Marlborough won Battle of Bleinheim||1973|
|1703||England and France in bitter war||1972|
|1702||Queen Anne began reign||1971|
|1701||James II died – France supported his son as James III||1970|
|1700||death of Princess Anne’s son, heir to throne||1969|
|1699||King forced to disband Dutch guards||1968|
|1698||Catholic teachers and priests subject to life imprisonment||1967|
|1697||England and France in bitter war||1966|
|1696||England and France in bitter war||1965|
|1695||England and France in bitter war – plot to assassinate King||1964|
|1694||Mary II died, William III continued – press censorship ended||1963|
|1693||England and France in bitter war||1962|
|1692||Salem witch trials – England at war in Scotland and France||1961|
|1691||England and France in bitter war||1960|
|1690||Battle of the Boyne in Ireland – James II to France||1959|
|1689||William III & Mary II by vote of Parliament – Bill of Rights||1958|
|1688||King fled England – Glorious Revolution||1957|
|1687||Declaration of Liberty of Conscience||1956|
|1686||King supported Catholics – very unpopular||1955|
|1685||James II began – Monmouth rebellion – Bloody Assizes||1954|
|1684||annulment of the Massachusetts Charter – no democracy||1953|
|1683||N.Y. Charter of Franchises and Liberties – Rye House plot||1952|
|1681||Test Act against Presbyterians||1950|
|1680||Duke of York (James II) returned to exile||1949|
|1679||Habeas Corpus Act – Meal-Tub plot – Scottish-English war||1948|
|1678||Titus Oates Popish plot – Papists’ Disabling Act||1947|
|1677||King’s ministers imprisoned||1946|
|1676||Bacon’s Rebellion in against government in Virginia||1945|
|1675||French King gave English King secret subsidy||1944|
|1674||War between England and Holland||1943|
|1673||Test Act – only Anglicans – Indulgence withdrawn||1942|
|1672||English-Dutch war – Declaration of Indulgence for Catholics||1941|
|1671||Proclamation against Jesuit priests||1940|
|1670||secret treaty with France promising toleration for Catholics||1939|
|1669||feudalism tried in Carolinas||1938|
|1668||James, Duke of York, announced his Catholicism||1937|
|1667||England at war with Holland and France – low point for navy||1936|
|1666||Great Fire of London – Scottish revolt||1935|
|1665||Great Plague of London||1934|
|1664||English conquered Dutch to take over New York||1933|
|1663||Declaration of Indulgence withdrawn||1932|
|1662||Charter of Connecticut – representation in government||1931|
|1661||Clarendon Code to require uniformity in religion and politics||1930|
|1660||Charles II – Restoration of Monarchy||1929|
|1659||England at war with Spain||1928|
|1658||Oliver Cromwell died||1927|
|1657||England at war with Spain||1926|
|1656||England at war with Spain||1925|
|1655||risings in England suppressed – military dictatorship||1924|
|1654||Cromwell dissolved Parliament||1923|
|1653||Instrument of Government for England – written constitution||1922|
|1652||English – Dutch war||1921|
|1651||Charles II fled to exile in France||1920|
|1650||Charles II invaded – beaten by Cromwell||1919|
|1649||Charles I beheaded – Dorgheda massacre in Ireland||1918|
|1648||Second Civil War in England and Scotland||1917|
|1647||Scots gave Charles I to English army in return for pay||1916|
|1646||King Charles I surrendered to Scottish army||1915|
|1645||Battle of Naseby – total victory of Parliamentary army||1914|
|1644||Battle of Marston Moor – Cromwell defeated King’s army||1913|
|1643||Solemn League & Covenant – attempt religious uniformity||1912|
|1642||King tried to arrest MPs – English Civil War began||1911|
|1641||Star Chamber abolished – plots by king and Parliament||1910|
|1640||Charles I forced to call Parliament – Root and Branch Bill||1909|
|1639||representative government in Connecticut – Bishops’ War||1908|
|1638||King Charles 1 ruled without Parliament||1907|
|1637||Charles 1 without Parliament – Solemn League and Covenant||1906|
|1636||King Charles 1 ruled without Parliament||1905|
|1635||King Charles 1 ruled without Parliament||1904|
|1634||King Charles 1 ruled without Parliament||1903|
|1633||King ruled without Parliament – Maryland began||1902|
|1632||King Charles 1 ruled without Parliament||1901|
|1631||King Charles 1 ruled without Parliament||1900|
|1630||King Charles 1 ruled without Parliament||1899|
|1629||Charles 1 ruled without Parliament – conformity enforced||1898|
|1628||Petition of Right by Parliament against King||1897|
|1625||Charles I began reign||1894|
|1624||Virginia made into a Royal colony – no democracy||1893|
|1621||Great Protestation in England||1890|
|1620||Pilgrims sailed for America||1889|
|1619||inaugural meeting of colonial parliament in Virginia||1888|
|1618||Sir Walter Raleigh executed as reparation to Spain||1887|
|1614||King and Parliament quarreling over money and power||1883|
|1611||King James Version of the Bible published||1880|
|1610||Great Contract attempt to resolve financial issues – failed||1879|
|1607||landing of settlers at Jamestown, Virginia||1876|
|1606||Plague in London – Penal laws against Catholics||1875|
|1605||Gunpowder Plot – attempt to blow up King & Parliament||1874|
|1604||Hampton Court conference – King punished non-Anglicans||1873|
|1603||James I began reign (Stuarts)||1872|