The ritual of modern Freemasonry contains references to an astounding number of ancient traditions and various Mystery Schools.  However, there is a large body of evidence which indicates that these various threads were not brought together until some time in the late 17th century when they were so combined with the specific purpose of creating a new instructive Mystery School for (what was then) Modern western civilization.

All historical evidence points to the fact that the Hiramic Legend as we know it today is a very recent introduction into the ceremonies of Freemasonry.  No signs are known of its practice among the Craft prior to the Revival of 1717.  The Old Masonic Charges give no hint of the Hiramic Legend.

It is quite clear that until the "Revival" of 1717, neither Solomon's Temple nor it's architect Hiram Abiff were figures in Masonic Ritual, and the Old Charges are indifferent as to the matter.  The evidence of the existence of the Temple legend in ancient Masonry is of a very slender character.  The pillars of the Temple may have been familiar elements, but niether the historic trio - Solomon, Hiram, and Hiram Abiff - appear to have been elevated to their current central position.

The Temple of Solomon was not connected in any way at all with Masonry prior to the Revival, and the Masons knew nothing at all of the Drama that we have today.  The Testament of Solomon (written in the fourth century A.D.) no where contains the Masonic myth, though the tretise has for background the building of the Temple.

One noted Masonic scholar notes, "I have gone to the works of those English scholars of the seventeenth century who have referred to the sacred edifice, hoping to find in them some indication of the source of the legends current in our Craft.  I have gone to these works as the most promising field for such information, but my hopes were disappointed.  Of the Hiramic legend, not even the slightest trace was discovered."

Reverend Anderson introduced the name of Hiram Abif to the Freemasons in his Book of Constitutions, first published in 1723.  He also presented to the Craft Solomon as the Grand Master of the lodge of Jerusalem, King Hiram as the Grand Master of the lodge at Tyre, and Hiram Abif as the Master Architect of the work, though at this point Hiram was not an architect but a worker of metals.  His name does not appear in any Masonic document prior to 1723. These and other suggestions of Anderson form the basis for the current Legend of Hiram Abif.

The division of Masonic initiation into three degrees happened between 1717 and 1730, but in so gradual and imperceptible a manner that there is no precise date for the change.  It is highly likely that the second and third degrees were not perfected for many years.  A third degree was not recognized as a part of the Masonic system as of the Januray, 1923 publication of the Book of Constitutions.  In early Masonry in Scotland, the only degree was that in which the Legend of the Craft was read and the benefit of the Mason word conferred.  There is no evidence to indicate the existence of the second degree as now practiced until 1735.

Ten years before the Revival (ie, in 1707) Jacob Tonson published in London the English translation of the Biographies of Pythagoras by Iamblichus and Porphyry which were translated from the original Greek by M. Dacier, together with the Commentaries of Hierocles ib the Golden Verses of Pythagoras.  At this time (1717) Dr. Anderson, "whose imagination has ushered into the story of the Craft other paradoxical fictions," was charged to remodel the Old Constitutions and to prepare a general Book of Constitutions.  In 1721, his draft was accepted and printed in 1723.  His co-worker was Dr. J Theophilus Desaguliers, Doctor of Laws, a collector of the old records of Freemasonry, and an indefatigable experimental philosopher.  Both of these scholars were thoroghly conversant with the system of Pythagoras, and willing to take advantage of his symbolic method of inculcating his doctrine, and to introduce some of his symbols into the symbolism of the Order which they were renovating, Among the Pythagorean symbols which were adopted by the Speculative Masons was the symbolism of the science of numbers, which appears in the earliest rituals extant.  This symbolism of numbers, which was adopted into Speculative Masonry at a very early perioed after the Revival, has been developed and enlarged in successive revisions of the lectures.  It was the work of the Revivalists who ,as scholars familiar with the mystical philosophy of Pythagoras, deemed it expedient to introduce it into the equally mystical philosophy of Speculative Masonry.  The symbolic numbers and the instruction of the liberal arts and sciences of the Pythagorean Society were introduced at this peried.  These lectures underwent at least seven revisions between 1717 and 1772.

  Return to the Freemasonry Pages