|The Masonic Legend
Light of the Soul
Wisdom Better than Strength
Introduction to the Bible
Degree IV — Questions
Hiram Abi, reared at Tyre, no doubt followed the religion of his mother and of her country. Gebal, from which the Ghiblemites or stone-quarriers came, was a Phoenician city. The subjects of Solomon and Hiram sailed together in the same vessels to Ophir and Tarshish, and planted colonies together on the coasts of Ireland and Spain, and perhaps of America.
The King of Tyre came into Palestine to see the cities that Solomon had given him, and addressed him as his brother. It is evident that there was some bond of union between them, and between the Jews and the Egyptians and Phoenicians — a bond other than their religion, which must constantly have tended to make them hate each other.
Moses married Tsi-Po-RaH [daughter of the God Ra], the daughter of Jethro, a Pagan Priest of Midian; and Joseph had married ASNeiTh [devoted to the Goddess Neith], daughter of PeT-HeRPHRE [belonging to the Gods Horus and Ra], a Priest of Heliopolis.
As Moses and Joseph could not thus have married without having first been initiated into the Egyptian Mysteries, so there can be no doubt that Solomon was required to receive such initiation before he could intermarry with a daughter of the King of Egypt. These Mysteries had also spread into Syria and Phoenicia, and were known of course to the king, his nobles, and favourites; and teaching there as in Palestine the doctrine of one God, of whom all the host of Pagan deities were but images and emblems, they united the Jewish to the Phoenician initiates in bonds of harmony and union that were not broken for many years.
By the death of Hiram Abi, the works upon the Temple were suspended, the craft was overwhelmed with sorrow, and changes were rendered necessary among the great officers of the realm. In what manner these needful changes were effected, you have already heard [in the initiation ritual — Ed], and your admission here is in imitation of that of Jeroboam (afterwards King of Israel), as one of the seven Princes of the Court of King Solomon.
We do not assert that this legend is true. We only know that it has come to us by tradition. At what time the legend of the death of Hiram took the place of the older legends in the Mysteries of Persia, India, and Egypt, we have no information. Nor is it important for us to know. For Masonry is a succession of allegories, the mere vehicles of great lessons in morality and philosophy. You will more fully appreciate its spirit, its object, its purposes, as you advance in the different degrees, which you will find to constitute a great, complete and harmonious system.
You have now taken the first step over its threshold, the first step toward the inmost sanctuary and heart of the Temple. You are in the path that leads up the slope of the Mountain of Truth; and it depends upon your Secrecy, Obedience and Fidelity whether you advance or remain stationary.
Do not imagine that you will become a thorough Mason by learning what is commonly called "the work", or merely by becoming familiar with our traditions. Masonry has a history and a literature. Its allegories and its traditions will teach you much; but much is to be sought elsewhere. The streams of learning that now flow broad and wide must be followed to their heads in the springs that well up in the far distant Past, and there you will find the meaning and the origin of Masonry.
A few trite lessons upon the rudiments of architecture, a few ordinary maxims of morality, a few unimportant and unsubstantiated traditions, will no longer satisfy the earnest inquirer after Masonic Truth. Let him who is satisfied and content with them remain where he is, and seek to ascend no higher. But let him who desires to understand the harmonious and beautiful proportions of Masonry read, study, reflect, digest, and discriminate. The true Mason is an ardent seeker after knowledge. He knows that books are vessels which come down to us full-freighted with the intellectual riches of the past, and that in the lading of these Argosies is much that sheds light upon the history of Masonry and proves its claims to be regarded as the great benefactor of mankind.
We see then how far the monuments of genius and learning are more durable than monuments of power or of the hands. For have not the verses of Homer continued twenty-five hundred years or more, without the loss of a syllable or letter, during which time infinite palaces, temples, castles, cities, have been decayed and demolished. It is not possible to have the true pictures or statues of Cyrus, Alexander, Caesar — no, nor of the Kings or great personages of much later years; for the originals cannot last, and the copies cannot but lose of the life and truth. But the images of men's genius and knowledge remain in books, exempted from the wrong of time and capable of perpetual renovation. Neither are they fitly to be called images, because they generate still, and cast their seeds in the minds of others, provoking and causing infinite actions and opinions in succeeding ages; so that if the invention of the ship be thought so noble, which carries riches and commodities from place to place and consociates the most remote regions in participation of their fruits, how much more are letters to be magnified which, as ships, pass through the vast seas of time and make ages so distant to participate of the wisdom, illumination and inventions, the one of the other.
To learn, to attain knowledge, to be wise, is a necessity for every truly noble soul; to teach, to communicate that knowledge, to share that wisdom with others, and not churlishly to lock up his exchequer and place a sentinel at the door to drive away the needy, is equally an impulse of a noble nature and the worthiest work of man.
To attain the Truth, and to serve mankind, our country and our fellows: this is the noblest destiny of man, your object henceforward and forever. If you desire to ascend to that destiny, advance! If you have other and more ignoble objects, and are contented with a lower flight, halt here, return, and leave Masonry to fulfil her mission.
If you will advance, gird up your loins for the struggle; for the way is long and toilsome. Pleasure, all smiles, will beckon to you on the one hand, and Indolence will invite you to sleep among the flowers on the other. Prepare, by Secrecy, Obedience, and Fidelity, to resist the allurements of both.
The Secrets of our brother, when communicated to us, must be sacred if they be such as the law of our country warrants us to keep. We are required to keep none other, when the law that we are called on to obey is indeed a law, by having emanated from the only source of power, the People. Edicts which emanate from the mere arbitrary will of a despotic power, contrary to the law of God or the Great Law of Nature, destructive of the inherent rights of man, violative of the right of free thought, free speech, free conscience, it is lawful to rebel against and strive to abrogate.
But that law which is the fair expression of the will and judgment of the people is the enactment of the whole and of every individual. Consistent with the law of God and the great law of nature, consistent with pure and abstract right as tempered by necessity and the general interest — as contra-distinguished from the private interest of individuals — it is obligatory upon all, because it is the work of all, the will of all, the solemn judgment of all, from which there is no appeal.
In this Degree, my brother, you are especially to learn the duty of obedience to that law. There is one true and original law, conformable to reason and to nature, diffused over all, invariable, eternal, which calls to the fulfilment of duty, and to abstinence from injustice, and calls with that irresistible voice which is felt in all its authority wherever it is heard. This law cannot be abrogated or diminished, or its sanctions affected, by any law of man. A whole senate, a whole people, cannot dispense from its paramount obligation. It requires no commentator to render it distinctly intelligible: nor is it one thing at Rome, another at Athens, one thing now, and another in the ages to come; but in all times and in all nations, it is, and has been, and will be, one and everlasting; one as that God, its great Author and Promulgator, who is the common Sovereign of all mankind, is Himself One. No man can disobey it without flying, as it were, from his own bosom, and repudiating his nature; and in this very act he will inflict on himself the severest of retributions, even though he escape what is regarded as punishment.
All the general measures of justice are the laws of God, and therefore they constitute the general rules of government for the conscience; but necessity also has a large voice in the arrangement of human affairs and the disposal of human relations and the dispositions of human laws; and these general measures, like a great river into little streams, are deduced into little rivulets and particularities by the laws, customs, sentences and agreements of men, and by the absolute despotism of necessity, that will not allow perfect and abstract justice and equity to be the sole rule of civil government in an imperfect world; and that must needs be law which is for the greatest good of the greatest number.
Fides servanda est. "Faith plighted is ever to be kept" was a maxim and an axiom even among pagans. The virtuous Roman said, "either let not that which seems expedient to be base or, if it be base, let it not seem expedient". What is there that so-called expediency can make so valuable as that which it takes away if it deprive you of the name of a good man and rob you of your integrity and honour? In all ages, he who violates his plighted word has been held unspeakably base. The word of a Mason, like the word of a Knight in the times of chivalry, once given must be sacred; and the judgment of his brothers upon him who violates his pledge should be stern as the judgments of the Roman Censors against him who violated his oath. Good faith is revered among Masons as it was among the Romans, who placed its statue in the capitol next to that of Jupiter Maximus Optimus; and we, like them, hold that calamity should always be chosen rather than baseness and, with the Knights of old, that one should always die rather than be dishonoured.
Be faithful, therefore, to the promises you make, to the pledges you give, and to the vows that you assume: since to break either is base and dishonourable.
Be faithful to your family, and perform the duties of a good father, a good son, a good husband, and a good brother.
Be faithful to your friends; for true friendship is of a nature not only to survive through all the vicissitudes of life, but to continue through an endless duration; not only to stand the shock of conflicting opinions, and the roar of a revolution that shakes the world, but to last when the heavens are no more, and to spring fresh from the Universe.
Be faithful to your Country, and prefer its dignity and honour to any degree of popularity and honour for yourself, consulting its interest rather than your own, and rather than the pleasure and gratification of the people, which is often at variance with their welfare.
Be faithful to Masonry, which is to be faithful to the best interests of mankind. Labour, by precept and example, to elevate the standard of Masonic character, to enlarge its sphere of influence, to popularise its teachings, and to make all men know it for the Great Apostle of Peace, Harmony, and Good-will on earth among men.
Masonry is useful to all men: to the learned, because it affords them the opportunity of exercising their talents upon subjects eminently worthy of their attention; to the illiterate, because it offers them important instruction; to the young, because it presents them with salutary precepts and good examples, and accustoms them to reflect on the proper mode of living; to the man of the world, whom it furnishes with noble and useful recreation; to the traveller, whom it enables to find friends and brothers in countries where else he would be isolated and solitary; to the worthy man in misfortune, to whom it gives assistance; to the afflicted, to whom it lavishes consolation; to the charitable man, whom it enables to do more good by uniting with those who are charitable like himself; and to all who have a soul capable of appreciating its importance, and of enjoying the charms of a friendship founded on the same principle of religion, morality and philanthropy.
A Free-Mason therefore should be a man of honour and of conscience, preferring his duty to everything beside, even to his life; independent in his opinions, and of good morals; submissive to the laws, devoted to humanity, to his country, to his family; kind and indulgent to his brethren, friend of all virtuous men, and ready to assist his fellows by all the means in his power.
Thus you will be faithful to yourself, to your fellows, and to God, and thus you will do honour to the name and rank of Secret Master — which, like other Masonic honours, degrades if it is not deserved.