The degree system of craft Freemasonry is centered on the building of the Temple of Solomon and the story of its chief architect, Hiram Abiff. According to the non-cyphered Book of Standard Work of my Grand Lodge(IL),
“The Temple at Jerusalem was supported by fourteen hundred fifty-three columns and two thousand nine hundred six pilasters, all hewn from the finest Parian marble. There were employed in its erection one hundred fifty three thousand three hundred three workmen; namely three Grand Masters, three thousand three hundred masters or overseers of the work, eighty thousand fellow crafts or hewers in the mountains, and seventy thousand entered apprentices or bearers of burdens.”
According to Israel Finkelstein and Neil Siiberman, authors of “The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts”, argue that at the time of King David and his son Solomon, Jerusalem was populated only by a few hundred residents or less. They claim that the kingdom of Israel at the time of Solomon was little more than a small city state. They claim that the authors of the stories of Solomon took the achievements of the Omrides (who ruled more than a century after Solomon) and assigned them to Solomon. They also claim that the size of the temple as described above implausible.
This isn’t to say that all scholars agree with Finkelstein and Siiberman. Kenneth Kitchen in his work: “On the Reliability of the Old Testament” argues that Solomon ruled over a mini-empire, and considers the temple of Solomon to be a reasonable size for the time. William Dever in his work: “What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It? What Archaeology Can Tell Us about the Reality of Ancient Israel?” states that there exists direct Bronze and Iron Age parallels for every feature of Solomon’s temple as described in the Tanakh (Old Testament). Further adding evidence for the construction of the temple is the first century scholar Josephus. In his work, “Against Apion”, he cites Tyrian court records which gives the specific year during which King Hiram I of Tyre sent materials to Solomon for the construction of the Temple. Considering the temple mount is holy for the Islamic religion as well, any attempt to excavate the site has been met with protests from the Muslim authorities. Furthermore, due to the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians and the rebuilding and destruction of the temple several times after, it’s possible that the physical evidence that may have once existed no longer exists.
If we take the side of the scholars that argue for the Temple never existing, does it lessen the teachings of our degrees? Does it lessen our experiences during them? Freemasonry describes itself as a “...beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols." An allegory is a story, poem or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one. Allegories play an important part in our culture. Both the old and new testament feature allegories. In the New Testament, Jesus uses many allegories such as his parable of the Sower in Matthew 13:3-9, as well as the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32. Does Christ’s use of allegory lessen any of his teachings? In the same way, Freemasonry’s teachings are not lessened if the Temple didn’t physically exist.
More importantly, the allegory of building the temple is applied to every Freemason from a physical and spiritual sense. In the physical sense, the degrees of Freemasonry parallel the different stages of life; Youth, Middle Age, and Old Age/Death. The idea of Freemasonry is to build a temple within ourselves. In the same way that we are taught of working towards the perfect ashlar, we strive to create a temple inside of ourselves worthy of having the spirit of the Great Architect inhabit us.
It should come as no surprise that the Temple of Solomon is a blueprint for the Temple that we are building within ourselves. If this is the case, how would the temple look if superimposed over the human body? Using the below images taken from http://www.templesecrets.info/ and using them under fair use for the educational purpose of this article, you can clearly see how this applies:
Used under fair use from Agama-Kosha (Volume 6:Alaya and Aradhana), S.K. Ramachandra Rao, Kalpataru Research Academy, P.O.Box 1857, Bangalore, India (1992).
We are taught that our lodges are situated like King Solomon’s temple. Yet, I find it interesting that Hindu Temples share the below with King Solomon’s Temple and Masonic Lodges:
The Hindu’s perform circumambulation within the temple. We perform circumambulation within our lodges.
The Hindu Temple is not thought of as the meeting place of the congregation, rather the temple is the focal point of the community of the congregation. A Masonic Lodge is not the building where the members meet, rather it is the community of members.
The heart of the temple is where the most important icon is placed (garbha grha). The heart of our Lodge room is the altar where the 3 greater and 3 lesser lights reside.
Pillared halls and Porticos were added to the Garbha Grha. King Solomons’ Temple had both Pillars and Porticos. We keep a representation of the pillars in each Lodge Room.
Hindu Temples are very ornate. This is due to their belief that things that were not ornamented were imperfect. King Solomon’s Temple was heavily ornamented, and we represent this with the ornaments on each pillars.
Something else that both have in common is displayed in the diagrams of each Temple Man. In the examples above, King Solomon’s Temple Man and the Hindu Temple Man both have man’s connection with the divine in his head. In the Hindu Temple Man, the Sahasrara (or Crown) Chakra represents this. In the King Solomon’s Temple Man, the idea that the Holy of Holies resides there, represents this. But don’t take my word for it, as 1 Corinthians 6:19 states:
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own”.But what is man’s connection with the divine? The ancient Greeks had two forms of Knowledge. Gnosis and Logos. Gnosis was knowledge of how to do something. For example, how to build a house, ride a horse, plant and harvest crops. In contrast, Logos was academic knowledge, such as knowledge of mathematics or logic. Logos was primarily taught through words, whereas Gnosis was taught through practice and repetition.
In spiritual terms, Gnosis is knowledge of one’s connection with the divine. Socrates said, “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.” Philo of Alexandria understood gnosis to be knowledge of God and his Sophia (Wisdom), but also of oneself, nature and the great work (Magnus Opus). The Egyptian proverbs found inscribed in their temples and tombs show they understood this as well. Some of these proverbs are as follows: "The kingdom of heaven is within you; and whosoever shall know himself shall find it.", ”The body is the house of god. That is why it is said, "Man know yourself.”, “Your body is the temple of knowledge.”, and “True teaching is not an accumulation of knowledge; it is an awaking of consciousness which goes through successive stages.”
Logos meaning “Word”, “Reason”, or “Plan”, was thought of in Greek Philosophy to be the divine reason which gives the cosmos form and meaning. This idea can be traced back to Heracleitus, who observed in the cosmos a reasoning power like that of man. The stoics defined Logos as an active spiritual and rational process that permeates all reality. Philo of Alexandria thought of Logos as the mediator between God and the Cosmos. Logos was that created the universe but that also that which allows man to comprehend God. Both Philo and Platonists believed that Logos was both intrinsic to the world, but also the transcendent mind of God. John 1 1:5 identifies Logos, stating:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ ”16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.”Later, in John 8:12, he makes the final connection between Jesus and Logos when Christ says: “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
Freemasonry exists to convey to the initiate that Logos is important, as we are taught as Fellowcrafts to apply ourselves to the
“...study of the liberal arts and sciences, especially of the noble science of geometry, which forms the basis of Freemasonry, and which, being of a divine and moral nature, is enriched with the most useful knowledge; for while it proves the wonderful properties of nature, it demonstrates the more important truths of morality. To the study of geometry, therefore, your attention is specially directed.”
Gnosis then can be linked with Logos, as knowing oneself can be attributed to knowing God, and thereby knowing Logos. As the mind is the seat of knowledge, it is where Logos and Gnosis resides, and therefore where your connection with God resides. This ties back to the above, where I mention the head as being the place where the divine resides in the temple man. There’s a reason that halos are depicted around the head in iconography. It is the place from which the Logos or the divine light emanates from, and is the place where the connection with the divine resides, where our own holy of holies exists, the mind. At the end of the day, whether the Temple of King Solomon physically existed is irrelevant, because it does exist in our teachings, and within ourselves.
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 email@example.com.