In the Entered Apprentice degree, we are told that we are divested of all metal when we are prepared to be a Mason for two reasons. The first being that the candidate bring nothing into the lodge that could be used for offensive or defensive purposes. The second being that at the building of King Solomon’s Temple there was not heard the sound of axe, hammer or any tool of iron. This comes directly from 1 Kings 6:7 in the Old Testament which in the King James Version states:
“And the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither: so that there was neither hammer nor ax nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building.”How was the Temple built then? One easy explanation is that the quarries where the stones were prepared were far enough away from the Temple so that the noise of the workmen in the quarries would not reach the Temple. However, according to the Talmud, this isn’t correct. Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki; (1040-1105; (foremost commentator on the Torah and Talmud; leader of the Jewish community in Alsace-Lorraine)says, the building of the Temple was to promote peace, YHWH found it inappropriate to use iron which was the material of weapons that could also be used in war and cause bloodshed. This seems to come from Exodus 20:25 where it states,
“ ....if you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones; for if you lift up your tool upon it, you have polluted it."Instead, King Solomon is said to have used a Shamir. According to the Gemara, which is the component of the Talmud containing rabbinical analysis and commentary on the Mishnah, the Shamir is a worm or substance that had the power to cut through or disintegrate stone, iron and diamond. According to the Talmud, the Shamir said to have been created as one of the 10 wonders at the twilight of the Sabbath eve just before YHWH finished creation. The Talmud also states that the Shamir was first used at the time of the construction of the Tabernacle, to engrave the names of the tribes on the precious jewels of the High Priest’s breastplate. (Those of you that are in the York Rite should know what the breastplate looks like.) The Jewish Encyclopedia states of the Shamir:
“Its size was that of a grain of barley; it was created after the six days of creation. Nothing was sufficiently hard to withstand it; when it was placed on stones they split in the manner in which the leaves of a book open; and iron was broken by its mere presence. The shamir was wrapped for preservation in spongy balls of wool and laid in a leaden box filled with barley bran.”The Jewish Encyclopedia states the Solomon came into possession of the Shamir by one of two ways. The first states that an eagle brought Solomon a Shamir from paradise at his command. The second states that when Solomon asked the Rabbis how he could build the Temple without using tools of iron, they called his attention to the Shamir and advised him to command the demons using his ring. As an aside, the Ring or Seal of Solomon supposedly gave Solomon the power to command demons, jinn (genies) and to speak with animals. Solomon supposedly used the ring to command Asmodeus, the prince of the demons to ask about the Shamir’s whereabouts. Asmodeus informed him that he was not the caretaker of the Shamir, but that the Prince of the Sea had entrusted its care to the wood-grouse who swore an oath to the Prince of the Sea. The wood-grouse used the Shamir to cleave bare rocks so that he might plant seeds of trees in them and cause new vegetation to grow, so the bird was called the rock – splitter.
The wood-grouse was tricked by an emissary of Solomon, Benaiah. Benaiah found the nest of the wood-grouse and covered it in glass. The bird landed on the glass, at which point Benaiah frightened the bird, causing it to drop the Shamir which then broke the glass. Benaiah was then able to secure the Shamir, and the wood – grouse killed itself because it had violated its oath. Continuing with the legend, The Shamir was used in the construction of King Solomon’s Temple, and the material to be worked was cut by being shown to the Shamir.
In Arabic tradition, Solomon under instructions from Gabriel uses the Shamir when he desires to bore through a pearl and thread the Oynx. The Holy Quran seems to reference the Shamir in Sura 34 ayat 14, where it points out the ignorance of the Jinn who worked with Solomon and emphasizes that all knowledge only rests with Allah, by stating that a creeping creature of the earth gnawed away at the staff of Solomon who according to tradition remained leaning on his staff when he died. The Jinn still thinking that Solomon was alive supervising them, continued its work for him until the Shamir gnawed through his staff, and Solomon’s body fell to the ground. In not knowing that Solomon was dead, the Jinn realized that it did not have all the knowledge it thought it possessed.
There remains a debate to whether the Shamir was a living creature or something else. It is the opinion of Jewish Tradition and early Talmudic scholars that the Shamir was a living being. However, other scholars have argued that the Shamir was a green stone, or a powder of corundum which was an abrasive substance. I personally would submit that as a supernatural creation of YHWH, made on the eve of the first Sabbath during the week of creation, the Shamir would appear to be whatever form YHWH would have it take. As all signs point to it being a “real” worm like creature; then it most likely was such. In any case, the Shamir was said to have been lost by the time of the first destruction of the Temple by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC.
At this point, maybe you’re expecting Giorgio Tsoukalos to say something about 'Ancient Aliens' giving Solomon the technology to hew the stones for the Temple. (If you don’t know who that is, google him.) However, there are only a couple of things which could scientifically explain how the glance of the Shamir could cut through stone, iron and diamond. These could include: The production of high or low frequency waves (electromagnetic radiation) which could resonate the molecular structure of materials, or a high powered laser beam. Many modern scholars have speculated that the Shamir was radioactive due to it being wrapped in wool and stored in a container made of lead. However, none of the above are able to explain the descriptions of the stone being cut instantaneously, as the most highly powered lasers of today would require multiple passes to cut through stone, and radiation takes some time to work.
However, on a more esoteric level; if the building of King Solomon’s Temple represents one’s body (http://www.midnightfreemasons.org/2019/11/the-secret-teachings-in-temple-of.html), then the Shamir might represent the Kundalini, or form of divine energy which is depicted as a serpent which resides at the base of one’s spine. As I depicted in the article linked above, the idea of the man as Temple comes from Hinduism. Therefore, the Kundalini when cultivated and awakened through Tantric practice goes up the spine through the Chakras to lead to spiritual liberation. Since each Chakra has a Metal and Jewel Essence associated with it, then the Shamir could represent the Kundalini energy passing through each Chakra (metal or jewel essence) to achieve spiritual awakening. Much like the Shamir was the tool which allowed the construction of King Solomon’s Temple exoterically, so too it exists esoterically in the form of what the Hindu’s call Kundalini to allow one to construct his inner Temple esoterically.
Only a few things regarding the Shamir can be agreed upon. The Shamir, if it existed, was a mysterious if not wholly supernatural creature. We’ll never know the true nature or source of its power. Lastly, it’s possibly just an allegory for a process that one must undergo to transform themselves, much like all of our other lessons in Freemasonry.