In our Fellowcraft degree is embodied far more particular reference to the subject of Israel’s great and world-famous Temple than in either the preceding or the following degrees. Indeed, upon strict analysis, the F. C. degree serves as little more than a fitting prelude and climax to the soul-stirring imagery of the M. C. lecture, which Masons have ever united in declaring to be the most beautiful and impressive allocution in our entire ritual.
It was undoubtedly the work of an author of profound culture, possessed of deep insight into the ancient mysteries; for it contains many allusions to facts long since relegated to oblivion in a language the very ingenuousness of which is a marvelous subtlety, and, while seemingly but a relation of prosaic historical facts, is in reality one of the greatest metaphysical documents in the language of any time or place.
The three principal contemplation of the ancient philosophical mind were God, the Universe, and Man. The supreme science of the universe viewed physical, Man as at once the Temple of God and the home of spiritual Man ; thus investing the human individual with the same responsible stewardship that any master might reasonably exact from the servant, whose duty it was to keep his residence pure and un-defiled.
The teaching of salutary truths has ever been best accomplished, according to oriental ideas, in the form of picturesque allegories and imageries which take hold upon the imaginations of the young and serve an admirable purpose in fixing upon the mind important truths, dissimulated to the “profane,” but intense in meaning and purpose to the initiate. The sacred books of the world have all without exception been composed with this end in view.
Ask the time-occupied, busy, average Mason if he believes every word of the thrilling story with which he is made so familiar in the Lodge. He will frankly tell you no. “Part of it,” he will say, “is true,” because he can point to the literary source from which it is taken. “The rest,” he will tell you, “may not be historically precise; but it is invaluable because of its efficiency in driving home and clenching the necessary moral lesson.”
In these words he will be uttering a perfect description of the method pursued by the moral teachers of the ancient world, practically without exception. The western world is densely oblivious of the fact that a vast system of dissimulation of natural truths was begun at a remote date, by the priestly caste.
Multitudes were unable to seize the idea of “reality” upon a purely spiritual plane. They could grasp only with the senses, just as the education in liberality of very young children begins with Santa Claus, who later proves to be “only Papa.”
The considerations involved are too extensive to be adequately treated in a short commentary. They cover almost the entire domain of philosophy and metaphysics ; but we venture a thought or so that may be helpful to the reverent seeker after “more light” who hesitates to enter the door of initiation because of a highly commendable fear that he may be taking a plunge into some unrealized profanation.
We need have no moral compunction about rereading the secular histories of most of the ancient nations, as those transmitted to us by the Greek historians of the Ptolemaic and Selucid periods of Egypt and Syria are shown by modern research to have been glaringly inaccurate as to the details of persons and events, although still carrying enough of such truth as had become traditional, to have a corroborative value in instances. The scholarship of the last century has recovered so much of the genuine history of the classic peoples, from their own records and monuments, as completely to destroy the value of those fantastic compilations (Berosus and Manetho, for instance) upon which many early 19th century biblical commentaries were constructed.
The entire pantheons of the ancient culture nations were composed of the attributes or emanations of a single, unrevealed, omnipotent Deity, considered as “Intelligences,” and therefore possessing a species of individual Ego, controlled by the great central Power.
These divine intelligences were, for more complete realization, distributed throughout the solar system, when the incessant revolution and ever changing aspects of the latter became the basis of a great cosmic drama, so that the loves and hates, the wars and friendly gatherings, of the “gods” (Elohim) might be described in anthropomorphisms, or terms pertaining to the affairs of men. The initiate alone, through all the ages, possessed the key to this sacred science of secrecy, and stood in the breach between the untutored masses and their superstitious regard for the powers of Nature.
Generation upon generation of ancient hierophants knew that by “Hercules” was meant the planet Mercury at the moments of its numerous passages through the Solar corona, at which periods it became draped in the lion’s skin; yet they constructed an elaborate genealogy for the kings of Macedon which shows them to have been lineally descended from Hercules and Dejanira. Similar pedigrees were enjoyed by all the monarchs of old, especially the Egyptian Pharaohs, who were all sons of the sun god Ra, so that the analogous claims of the emperors of China and Japan in our own day are not without ample precedent. Alexander the Great of Macedon is always shown on his coins and monuments wearing a lion’s skin as headdress, in honor of this peculiar parentage.
With reference to this widespread system of mystic theology, two facts may be established by any careful student.
The ever-recurrent course of universal nature being the basis upon which all arguments, however picturesque, are erected, the details are everywhere the same.
The sacred vocabularies of western peoples are mainly composed of translations and corruptions of eastern names and terms, largely Phoenician and Egyptian, showing the direction traveled.
In our western world we have the- completed spiritual edifice of our own Great Light, sufficing for all our present needs ; but it also has its archeology, and those few of us who have the time and patience to go back and delve into what are commonly called the “Fathers of the Church” and into the grand old Talmud of Israel, and even do not stop until we reach the rude symbols of spiritual insight away back in the Bronze Age, are rewarded by the view of an infinity of constructive material which the hand of Time has cleared away,-the rubbish of our Temple.
It has been necessary to dwell upon these details in order to make manifest the process by which living men became mythical heroes and their memories draped in the, splendors of the universe. Man was endowed with a threefold constitution. His soul was a spark of the unrevealed Divinity, his spirit was bestowed upon him by the particular planet under the influence of which, according to the astrologer, he entered the realm of matter, while his body was an accretion of the elements, suspended in zones between the earth and the heavens. Thus the very kingship of the King determined his identity with the Sun, and his panegyrists did not hesitate so to blend the human and divine, the natural and supernatural, that we are today speechless in wonder before the more than remarkable character of Solomon, the Sun King-a character historical without doubt, but elaborated upon until its glory has extended to the “uttermost parts of the earth.”
We have, during the last century, recovered the entire and unbroken chronology of the Assyrian and Babylonian monarchies. The records of these ancient peoples consist in several instances of complete libraries made up of thousands of clay tablets, containing not only tradition and history, extending back to approximately B. C. 4500, verified by accounts of astronomical phenomena occurring in different reigns, by which modern savants, are able to fix dates to the very hour and minute, but also dictionaries, works on mathematics, syllabaries, by which the dead Sumerian and Akkadian writings could be translated into Babylonian, and elaborate records of the dealings of the kings of these countries with surrounding nations.
In not one single instance is there the slightest trace or track of an allusion to either a Hebrew nation prior to B. C. 925, or kings named David and Solomon at all.
According to the Hebrew record, these monarchs flourished about B. C. 1000-1100, which would render them contemporary with Kings Marduk-Nadin-Akhi, Marduk-Shapik-Zerim, and Ramman-apil-iddina of the first Babylonian empire and Tiglath-Pileser I, Shamshi-Ramman I, and Ashur-Bel-Kala of Assyria. As to Egypt, the biblical Solomonic period lies parallel to that of the later Ramesside kings of Thebes, and precedes that of Shishank of Bubastis, whose inscription on the walls of the great Temple of Karnak, including the “King of Judah” among the list of his prisoners in an expedition, is the first secular reference to the latter people. This king is presumed to have been Rehoboam, whose father and grandfather were the individual monarchs immortalized under the names of “David” and “Solomon.” Jehu, king of Israel in the reign of King Shalmanesar H, of Assyria, was the first biblical monarch whose name was actually recorded on a contemporary monument (B. C. 800). It is a long forgotten fact that all the ancient Hebrew names, beginning with the ineffable Tetragrammaton, are cabalistic constructions, upon a system borrowed from the Chaldeans, who were an equally Semitic people and the rootstock of the Abramic tribes.
Not only was each of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet a number, so that geometrical and mathematical formulas expressed in letters became words, but the three Hebrew letters A, Z, and .T represented the elements earth, water, and fire respectively ; Ch, V, H, Th, L, M, N, S, 0, Tz, Q, Sh, the 12 signs of the zodiac, beginning with Aries, and G, B, D, K, P, R, T, the Menorah or Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, and the Moon. ‘Thus all the possible astronomical aspects of the heavens either spelled words already known or suggested new ones.
The name “Solomon” is as completely cabalistic as the powers attributed to the great founder of our craft; but it antedates its use as that of Israel’s king, for we have a king of Assyria at B. C. 1300 named Shalmanesar, the construction of whose name, from “S-L-M-N” and the word “sar,” meaning “king,” is as unequivocally “King Solomon” as the latter in English.
Why then were these letters employed? No one can fail to find them aligned in the Hebrew alphabet, as representative of the values 60, 30, 40, 50, the sum total of which is 180, or the semicircle of the sun’s daily journey from east to west and nightly voyage through the underworld from west to east. It also represents the passage of the sun from the sign of Leo the lion, through Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, and Sagittarius, causing it to describe the Royal Arch, of which Libra, the highest of the 12 signs, constituted the Keystone from B. C. 1835 to A. D. 325. This passage, through five signs, constitutes the completion of each year’s symbolic Temple to the Author and Giver of All Good, represented by the element “Fire,” the Earth sign Taurus (corresponding to the letter A as well as V-Aleph, an Ox) and two signs of Gemini in each case suggesting the analogy between Hercules and Apollo (Tammuz or Adonis) of later eschatology, and the tivo sons of David,-Jedediah (“God’s Strength”) and Adonijah (“God’s Love”) . Hercules, as the Tyrian Melkarth (Melek-Kartha), was Hermes “King of the City” (of Tyre), and Apollo Hermes, the Divine Wisdom, who accompanies the Sun, the nearest of all his planetary retinue, until in pursuance of the divine order the planet Mercury “falls” in this thrice yearly circuit about the Lord of Day as the latter passes the .sign of Libra, the highest of the 12.
The story of Solomon and his Temple is not a mere chronicle of historical events, but, employing actual events and personages of far less contemporary historical importance than represented, as the basis of fact, the transcendent literary and spiritual genius of Israel wove a marvelous fabric of Oriental splendor, the object of which was °to display the glory of Jehovah in His Universe in such a manner as indelibly to impress it upon the minds of men for all time.
The symbolization of the Universe by means of a Temple edifice may be traced in the earliest Mesopotamian monuments. They were originally conceived as gigantic sun-dials constituted by erecting a circle of 12 upright stones around a central altar. These were the ancient Palestinian gilgals and were the patterns for the later Druidical circles. A study of their shadows enabled the priests to predict the changes in the seasons, knowledge extremely useful to agricultural and pastoral peoples. As time passed and knowledge increased, the forms of religious edifices were made to express this developed science. Their masses were outlined in angles which recorded the direction of the plane of the ecliptic, the earth’s axis, and the equator, the elevation above the horizon of the polar star, and constellations heralding the equinoxes and solstices.
Far antedating the Pyramids of Egypt were the step pyramids or seven-storied zigurrats, as the Temple observatories were called among the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Chaldeans.
They did not embody all the details of the Hebrew description, but they were the original “King Solomon’s Temples.”