The “Real” Legend of the Temple

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners

I recently discovered that our sacred temple legend is vastly different from the one that is claimed to be the original. According to Rudolf Steiner, in his lecture: “The Temple Legend – The Mystery known to the Rosicrucians”, which he gave in Berlin on the 4th of November 1904, The Legend of the Temple came from Christian Rosenkreutz in the 14th or 15th centuries.

We know that the Freemasons accepted it in the 18th century, as it appeared in Masonic Literature at this time. We can suspect that the legend was known before the time it appeared in the Masonic Literature. Albert Mackey seems to back this up, stating: “But I do not believe that this lost legend of the stone-masons was ever intended to be historical. It was simply a symbol to illustrate the idea that the temple at Jerusalem was the type of all Christian cathedrals. This symbolic Legend, which I suppose to have existed among the stone-masons of the Middle Ages, was probably lost before the revival of Masonry in the year 1717. Anderson therefore framed a new legend out of the Legend of the Craft, the Scriptural account, and his own invention. Upon this Andersonian legend, simple in the first edition of the Constitutions, but considerably expanded in the second, the modern ritualists have framed another legend, which in many important details differs from Anderson's, from the Legend of the Craft, and from the account in the Bible.” 


Getting back to the original legend, it’s doubtful that a character by the name Christian Rosenkreutz ever existed. Steiner believed him to be a real historical figure, but he only turns up in 1616 in a work titled:

Chymische Hochzeit: Christian Rosenkreutz, Anno 1459. Roughly translated into English: Chymical Wedding: Christian Rosenkreutz, or better known as The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz, authored by Johann Valentin Andreae. Regardless of the historical authenticity of Christian Rosenkreutz, Rosicrucianism has heavily influenced Freemasonry. Many figures associated with early Freemasonry are also associated with Rosicrucianism.

The legend that Steiner references is taken from the work, The Secret Societies of All Ages and Countries, Vol. I, Book VIII, Ch.1, sec. 191 & 192 by Charles William Heckelthorn published in 1875. (The book is now in the public domain. I have summarized the chapters below, but I would suggest that you read them by following the link before continuing:

The temple legend as outlined by Heckelthorn and attributed to Rosenkreutz presents an entirely different story. The story begins telling the story of Adam and Eve. The most striking difference between the story told in Genesis and the one told in the legend is that Cain, instead of being the Son of Adam, is actually the son of an Elohim. Elohim, according to this legend, are primitive genies. However, in looking into the etymology of the word, it is actually the plural of El, meaning gods or the children of El. El was in the pantheon of Canaanite gods, the highest God. So the legend is stating is that Cain is not only a son of a God, but that he is from a God other than Adonai or Jehovah. There is evidence for multiple gods in Genesis (1:26), “And God said, Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of heaven and over the cattle and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

Adam and Eve begat Abel. Cain was a demi-God, and Abel was human. Cain was not favored by Adonai, and he rejected his offerings. He subjugated Cain and his line to the family of Abel as punishment for Eve’s transgression. The legend relays that Adonai stirred up strife between the sons of the Elohim, generated out of Fire (Cain) and generated out of the Earth only (Abel). However, other than saying that it was an Elohim, the identity of Cain’s father is unknown at this point. As we know from Genesis, Cain killed Abel. It is mentioned that Cain’s sons were the ones that invented the arts and diffused science. It is also said that again the sons of Cain were subjugated to the sons of Abel, this time as punishment for Cain murdering Abel. However the bible does not mention whether Abel had sons or not. Also missing from the legend is Seth, who is also the son of Adam and Eve. It might be possible then to substitute Seth’s line as the one to which the sons of Cain were subjugated. This would make more sense, since Noah and Solomon are both of Seth’s line. The legend then shows the descendants of Cain, and their contributions to society in teaching the line of Seth certain tradecrafts.

In the descendants of Cain, we see two references to Freemasonry. “Methusael, another of his descendants, invented the sacred characters, the books of Tau and the symbolic T, by which the workers descended from the genii of fire recognised each other.” Those who have been through the Royal Arch will know that the Triple - Tau is a symbol of that Order. We are also told: “T-C, who first constructed a furnace, worked in metals, and dug subterranean caves in the mountains to save his race during the deluge; but it perished nevertheless, and only T-C and his son, the sole survivors of the glorious and gigantic family, came out alive. The wife of Ham, second son of Noah, thought the son of T-C handsomer than the sons of men, and he became progenitor of Nimrod, who taught his brethren the art of hunting, and founded Babylon. Adoniram, the descendant of T-C, seemed called by God to lead the militia of the free men, connecting the sons of fire with the sons of thought, progress, and truth.” The legend states that the son of T-C is handsomer than the sons of men. Because of Cain’s parentage, his offspring then would possess characteristics that were greater than a pure human. The passage is also important because it shows that the line of Cain survived the deluge, and eventually produced Hiram Abiff (Adoniram according to Mackey means the Lord Hiram.

We then learn about Hiram Abiff and how he was responsible for erecting the temple, casting the golden throne of Solomon, and building other glorious edifices. However, Hiram lived a solitary and sad existence. He was hated by many, including Solomon who was jealous of his talents. During this time, the Wisdom of Solomon was well known in many nations of the earth. This apparently attracted Balkis, the Queen of Sheba, who came to visit Solomon and became betrothed to him. Solomon knowing Hiram to more talented and handsome than he, tried to keep the Queen from meeting Hiram. He however failed, and eventually they met. Of course, it was love at first sight for Hiram. The Queen was so impressed with the temple, she demanded to see all of the men who worked on it. Solomon thinking this impossible denied the request. However, Hiram quickly made the Tau symbol in the air from a high point, and the workmen assembled for Balkis to see. This action along with the gaze of Hiram apparently captivated her.

Like our legend, we see Hiram in charge of building the temple. However, our legend has no mention of Hiram being solitary or sad. We also do not see the jealousy between Solomon and Hiram in our legend, in fact they shown to be quite fond of each other. There is also no mention of the Queen of Sheba. We do see however, a tie to Royal Arch Masonry by Hiram tracing the Tau symbol and how that symbol calls the workmen to assemble. In the Royal Arch, the Triple Tau is used as identification of Royal Arch Masons. The tau also has ties to Rosicrucianism, as it represents God and the attributes of wisdom, strength and harmony to them.

This action by Hiram and Balkis’ reaction to it made Solomon extremely jealous. Solomon was dependent upon Hiram to finish his temple, however there was one thing left to be completed, The Molten (Brazen) Sea. Solomon hired three fellow-craft, who were also envious of Hiram, since Hiram refused to raise them to the degree of Master. The three, named Fanor, a Syrian and a mason; Amru, a Phoenician and a carpenter; and Metusael, a Hebrew and a miner. They were tasked by Solomon to sabotage the casting of the Molten Sea. One of Hiram’s friends, Benoni, discovered the plot, and reported it to King Solomon. King Solomon did nothing to prevent the plot. When the Sea was cast, the molten metal poured over the mould. The crowd that had gathered to witness this soon fled in panic. Hiram stood his ground, using water to try to fight the flames, but this only caused steam to rise and then to cool and come back down to the earth spreading more terror and death.

Hiram looked to find his friend, Benoni, among those who had not fled. Little did he know that his friend had been executed by Solomon in order to keep his murderous plot a secret. At this point, Hiram accepted his fate, and turned his thoughts to the beautiful Queen Balkis. Just as he was about to perish, he heard a voice calling out his name. Hiram saw a giant figure, who told him that he had made Hiram fire-proof and told him to cast himself into the flames. Hiram did this. He was then taken to center of the Earth, to the realm of Cain. Hiram found out that he was spared by T-C, who was his Grandfather/Ancestor (Father of thy Fathers). Hiram then learned about the jealous nature of Adonai, when he met Cain. The legend then states: ”The angel of light that begat Cain was reflected in the beauty of this son of love, whose noble and generous mind roused the envy of Adonai.” The beauty of Cain made Adonai jealous, and that prompted his actions to curse Cain. (For the record, there’s no mention of Cain committing murder). Hiram then heard a prophecy about how the line of Cain would triumph over the line of Adam, and he was returned to Earth. T-C gifted Hiram a magical hammer, which he then used to fix and complete the Molten Sea in one night, leading to the adoration of Balkis and countless others.

Like the legend that we know, there are three fellow-craft who are jealous of Hiram and mad at him for not giving them the Master’s Word. However, they are named differently. We have no trace of the Molten Sea disaster in our legend. There is no mention of Hiram being taken to the center of the earth. He does not meet his ancestors. There is also no prophecy. Nor is there a magic hammer that is gifted to Hiram.

While travelling outside Jerusalem, Balkis came upon Hiram, and they confessed their love for each other. They married, and then plotted how to get Balkis out of her promise to marry Solomon. They decided to flee to Arabia. Balkis plied Solomon with wine, and then removed the ring from his finger to which she had betrothed herself. Meanwhile, Solomon had hinted that the removal of his rival Hiram would not bring punishment to the three fellow-craft. They assaulted Hiram when he came into the Temple, but Hiram was able to dispose of the Master’s Word, which was inscribed on a golden delta that he wore around his neck, into a deep well. They took Hiram’s body and buried it on a solitary hill, placing a sprig of acacia to mark the site. Hiram was not seen for seven days, and the people started to clamor for him. Solomon then called for a search for Hiram. Three master masons discovered his body and immediately suspected that the three fellowcraft who had not been given the Masters degree were responsible. The three masters, having the master’s word, decided that in order to keep it secure, they should change it. They decided that the first word uttered upon raising the body would become the new Master’s word. While trying to raise the body from the grave, one of the master’s exclaimed: “Macbenach!” (the flesh is off the bones!). This then became the substitute for the Master’s word. The three fellow-craft were hunted down, and rather than be captured, they committed suicide. Their heads were then brought to King Solomon. A search was then made for the Master’s word, which was found at the bottom of the well where Hiram had thrown it. Solomon then had it placed on a triangular altar erected in a secret vault which was built under the temple. The triangle, was further hidden by a cubical stone, upon which the sacred law had been written. The vault was known only to the 27 elect, and was walled up.

Once again, we have no mention of the Queen nor of a romance between her and Hiram Abiff in our legend. Hiram being assaulted in the temple by the three fellow-craft, his body taken, buried and marked by a sprig of acacia matches up. However, Solomon ordering the assassination is missing in our version of the legend. The time between when they discover Hiram missing is also drastically different. In our version, King Solomon orders the search, but he does so because there is confusion between the workmen as to their instructions missing, not because of the people clamoring for him. The circumstances and particulars around the pursuit of the fellow-craft, who are captured in our version, the discovery of Hiram’s body, and the raising of it differ greatly between our version and the “original”. The word given as the substitute for the Master’s word is different in our version. The Golden Delta holding the Master’s word which is recovered by Solomon evokes the delta used in the opening of a Lodge of Royal Arch Masons. King Solomon building the secret vault to hold the Master’s word is completely absent in our version. However, the vault does come into play in the Royal Arch Degree, as well as the 13th Degree in the Scottish Rite for both jurisdictions. However, it is said that it was built by Enoch in those degrees.

Of course, we know that Hiram Abiff is a figure who goes by the name of Hiram – Abi (Huram – Abi) in the bible. He appears two times in the Old Testament. In 2 Chronicles 2:11-14, Hiram King of Tyre replies to a request by Solomon stating: “And now I have sent a skillful man, endowed with understanding, Huram my master craftsman 14 (the son of a woman of the daughters of Dan, and his father was a man of Tyre), skilled to work in gold and silver, bronze and iron, stone and wood, purple and blue, fine linen and crimson, and to make any engraving and to accomplish any plan which may be given to him, with your skillful men and with the skillful men of my lord David your father.” Also, in 1 Kings 7: 13-14, “Now King Solomon sent and brought Huram from Tyre. 14 He was the son of a widow from the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a bronze worker; he was filled with wisdom and understanding and skill in working with all kinds of bronze work. So he came to King Solomon and did all his work.”

The accounts of Hiram’s parentage differ in the accounts. In the account in 2 Chronicles 2:11-14, his mother is alluded to be from the Tribe of Dan, and his Father was a man of Tyre, making him from the tribe of Asher. In the account in Kings, his mother is from the Tribe of Naphtali, and his father was from Tyre (meaning that he was from the Tribe of Asher). However, the city of Dan was a city within the boundaries of the Tribe of Naphtali. Is it possible that the author of Kings took him being the son of a woman of the daughters of Dan to mean not the tribe of Dan, but rather the city of Dan? This would then make his mother from the tribe of Naphtali. There is a discrepancy regarding Hiram’s father also. In the account in Chronicles, it uses the past tense when referring to his father (his father was a man of Tyre). While in the account in Kings, it states that he was the son of a widow and his father was a man of Tyre, a bronze worker. So is it possible that the account given in Kings is wrong again? By making the assumption that due to the past tense description of his father, maybe there was an assumption made that he was deceased. Is it possible that Hiram’s father isn’t deceased? For example, his Father was a man of Tyre could easily mean his father was born in Tyre.

If we then take the account in Chronicles as being accurate, and the account in Kings as being inaccurate, then Hiram might not be a widow’s son. In the original temple legend, it states that the father of Cain was married to Eve, and had a son called Cain. The next line says that Jehovah then created Adam and united him with Eve to bring forth the family of Abel. In ancient Hebrew law, divorce wasn’t an option for a woman, and having a child with someone infers that they were married. Men in that time were able to have more than one wife, but a wife could not have more than one husband. So the only possible way that Eve could have been re-married to Adam would have been if her husband was dead. This would make Cain the son of a widow, IE: A widow’s son.

In the legend, the sons of Cain are said to have invented the arts and diffused science. We are taught in Freemasonry to study the seven Liberal Arts and Sciences. We refer to members of Cain’s line within our ritual. We refer to Hiram Abiff in our ritual as being a Widow’s son, yet there is evidence as presented above that he might not be. It might be a leap of faith, but I think that the reference to Hiram being a Widow’s son in our ritual might refer to Hiram Abiff being a descendant of Cain. If Hiram is as skilled in architecture, masonry and metallurgy as the original legend portrays him to be, (as well as the account in Chronicles), then this would lead further credence to this possibility, since Cain’s line was skilled in these arts as well. Another clue indicating Hiram’s ancestry would be the use of the Triple Tau in Royal Arch Masonry as a way to identify other Royal Arch Masons. As the legend says, the Tau is how the workers descended from the genii of Fire recognized each other. This would seem to then match up Hiram’s ancestry in our legend with the ancestry as given in the “original” legend.

Of course, all of this is as we refer to it, a legend. We know that our Masonic temple legend is an allegory created to tell man’s ultimate triumph over death. It is likely that the Rosicrucian “Real” Temple Legend is also an allegory. It is also possible that the author Hecklethorn made it up entirely, contrary to Steiner stating that it was presented by Christian Rosenkreutz to the a select few members of the Rosicrucian brotherhood in the 15th century. Steiner gives his own interpretation of the “Real” Legend himself explaining that it portrayed the destiny of the 3rd, 4th and 5th Post-Atlantean cultural epochs. Regardless of its authenticity, there is just enough of that version of the legend which corresponds with ours to make me believe that a version of it was present in some circles prior to Anderson’s re-telling of it. As to who the real author is, or what the “real” Legend is, we may never know. What I do know is that had our ritual stuck to the legend as described by Hecklethorn (and attributed to Rosenkreutz), it would tell a similar, but very different story.


WB Darin A. Lahners is the Worshipful Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL). He’s a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of the new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282, and is the current Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign – Urbana (IL). He is also a member of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. You can reach him by email at


  1. I'm still trying to tie together all the little pieces to complete the whole puzzle. Having just read Brother P.D. Newman's fascinating work "Alchemically Stoned, The Psychedelic Secret of FreeMasonry", I have less pieces to find.

  2. Hypothesis and contemplation of concealing interest while giving the impression of uninterested bordom is exibiting patience to philosophy within while boosting the moral indeed confidence in our Brethren to lumenes spiritual advancement whilst I humbly aim to my own service amongst the magnanimous and ancient men of our Fraternal Order...


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