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Temple, Solomon's, And the Degrees

In the Seventeenth Century German archeology, full of vigor and beginning to employ "scientific methods," discovered so many things about ancient Jerusalem and Solomon's Temple that a great public interest was aroused. One of the manifestations of the latter was the excitement occasioned by the exhibition of a large scale model of the Temple, attributed to Chancellor Schott. This was taken over to London in 1723 and again in 1730, and there attracted endless throngs; newspapers were filled with it; clergymen preached about it; the Royal Family held a special view. At the same period John Senex, publisher, sold innumerable copies of a plan and drawings, which was at about the time he was publishing Anderson's 1723 Book of Constitutions, and was Junior Grand Warden. A long description of the Temple written by the al ready-famous Sir Isaac Newton some years before his death was published, and ran through one edition after another. Previously the states of Holland employed Rabbi Leon to build a replica of the Temple. He constructed a model as large as a room, complete in detail; Holland gave up the project on amount of the cost (as the World's Fair at Philadelphia was to do two centuries later, when it began a like project), and made a present of the "great model" to the Rabbi. He in turn took it over to London (after exhibiting it in Paris and Sienna), secured a patent from the King to display it in the British Capital, published an explanatory brochure to accompany it, put it on exhibit, and aroused great popular enthusiasm. It was carefully preserved and again exhibited in London some eighty years later with equal success.

Irish Lodges, already full of speculation about the symbolism of Solomon's Temple, became more interested in the Temple than ever. An oratorio of "Solomon's Temple" was given in Dublin, and it was inserted by Laurence Dermott in editions of his Ahiman Rezon (Book of Constitution) of the Ancient Grand Lodge; and in his Preface Dermott gives a florid account of Leon's model. Also, the Arms of the Ancient Grand Lodge were taken from one of Leon's works--he was one of the most respected and learned Hebrew scholars in Europe, as is shown by the biographical treatise on him (a brilliant essay), "Rabbi Jacob Jehudah Leon," contributed to Ars Quatuor Coronatorum; Vol. 12; page 150; by J. Chetwode Crawley. By one of those seemingly impossible coincidences which are seldom found in history, an older and far more popular and lasting and important tradition of another Temple had come to England to change the architectural face and living habits of the country; and much more profoundly affected the Mason Craft than the Hebrew enthusiasm was to do.

Only, this was not a Jewish Temple, or Solomon's, but a Greek Temple. (To call Jehovah's House at Jerusalem a "temple" is a misnomer; the word is pure Greek; so was the style and type and uses of the building.) Palladio of Venice was Europe's supreme architect from the Renaissance until now. He drew a line across architecture and divided it into before and after, brought Gothic to an end, taught the principles, then recently re-discovered, of Greek architecture first to Italian Masons and through them to Europe; was the Shakespeare of his art.

After Inigo Jones King's Commissioner of buildings, visited Venice he returned to England and introduced the Palladian (also called the Italian, or the Classic, or the Neo Classic) there, and Mason Lodges and clubs of amateur artists began studying Palladio as the Primitive Christians had studied their Gospels, and with as much zealousness. After the Lodge of Antiquity had become a Lodge under the Grand Lodge, its Master or Lecturer read Palladio to the Lodge; and its "old Master," Sir Christopher Wren, had carried the Palladian style to its supreme glory in St. Paul's Cathedral Palladio had found that almost the whole set of principles (they were principles of proportion) of the Greek style could be exhibited, and therein studied and mastered, in five columns, which he caned the Five Orders. A model which he himself had made when building St. Paul's was used by Sir Christopher Wren while he was Master of Antiquity.

If any Mason will ponder the Allegory of the Temple in the Second Degree and the Rite of HA.-. in the Third he can see for himself how weighty is the hypothesis that both were fabricated in their present form at the time when the Jewish Temple and the Greek Temple, as it were, met in London. Two great traditions crossed, and the point of crossing lay in the center of Freemasonry. It is obvious that the form and inspiration of the Allegory in the Second Degree is Greek in origin, and that in the Third it is Hebrem. It is possible, and to an unknown extent it is probable, that the germ, or first simple form, of each had existed in the Craft long before Palladio; but the form as now used has stamped on it too many of the hall- marks of the Eighteenth Century to make any doubt feasible of its origin.

And, more extraordinary still, Freemasonry itself had received its origin, form, and substance from the Gothic, begun in the Twelfth Century, and Masonry was probably always pure Gothic until the Palladian period; thus the three greatest architectural styles--and an architectural style is the principal public form always taken by a culture-- became embodied together in the Three Degrees. Matthew Arnold was later to say that European civilization consists of a union of two civilizations, the Greek and the Hebraic; in reality it was a union of three, for the great Medieval civilization had as large a part in shaping our modern civilization as either of the other two; and it helps to explain the largeness, the power, the inexhaustibleness of Freemasonry, that it combined the three within itself.

(John Bunyan wrote a whole book on the symbolism of Solomon's Temple, as fine a work of literature as his Pilgrim's Progress, but not having the latter's popular appeal. See elsewhere in this Supplement ARCHITECTURE, FIRST & CHIEF GROUNDS"; for a number of other articles consult Index.)

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