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Solomon's Temple, Builders Of

In the Cooke MS, written between 1410-1450, is imbedded the oldest Masonic tradition about Solomon's Temple, w hereby is meant the oldest adopted by Masons, because the unknown author of the document drew much of his materials from non-Masonic books. Beginning at line 539 and extending to line 572 the MS. states that when the Israelites came from Egypt to Jerusalem they brought Masonry (architecture) with them.

David began the Temple; "he loved well Masons...." But the Temple was made in Solomon's time. He had 80,000 Masons employed. (At the American equivalent of $3.00 per day, that would total $240,000 per day, a yearly payroll of 300 working days of $72,000,000!) The MS. states that "the King's son of Tyre" was Solomon's Master Mason; this would normally be taken to mean the son of the King of Tyre. David had given Masons their charges; Solomon confirmed them, though this is admittedly taken from "other chronicles" and is written "in old books of Masonry" (architecture). Solomon taught them manners, "but little different from the manners that now be used."

It is evident that the author is not here writing down Masons' traditions, or he would have said so, since he was careful to give his sources; and he did not have the Boosts of Kings or Chronicles before him but drew from old chronicles, polychrontcons (universal histories), etc. Nor was he offering a history, or connected narrative; the fact is evident from the table of contents which can be made for the MS. and which in this connection are: Abraham teaches Euclid the science of geometry; Euclid creates the craft of Masonry; the Israelites learn Masonry in Egypt; from Solomon's Temple the author then leaps to Charles II (not known to whom this refers); to St. Alban of England; to Athelstan; then back to Egypt and to Euclid.

The first, or 1723, Edition of the Book of Constitutions (see ante page 11) has another account. It says that there were 3600 princes [or harodim, or provosts ] or Master-Masons . . . with 80,000 Fellow Craftsmen who were "hewers of stone in the mountains" (in reality the quarry was in the hill under the Temple), and 70,000 laborers; in addition there was a special levy of 30,000, making in all 183,600. They were at work for seven and one-half years. At the rate of only $1.00 per day the cost for 183,600 for 2250 days would come to the large total of $413,100,000! (In a pseudo-learned foot-note it is curious to note that a Hebrew word bonai, pronounced bow-nay, is given as meaning a builder in stone; it is a reminder of another and more famous word. In another paragraph of notes on the next page an attempt is made to explain the name Hiram Abif.)

The Book of Kings (I, 5: 15, 16) has a census of the Temple workers: 70,000 workmen; 80,000 "hewers"; and 3600 overseers, or foremen. In the corresponding chapter in II Chronicles, these same numbers are given in two places, Ch. II, 5, and 18; perhaps its editor had two manuscripts before him and deemed it wisest to quote from both. His figures add to 153,600, or 30,000 less than the number given in the Book of Constitutions.

In a widely-used version of the Monitorial (or Exoteric) Work: "There were employed in its construction three Grand Masters, three thousand and three hundred Masters or Overseers of the work, eighty thousand Fellow Crafts, and seventy thousand Entered Apprentices or bearers of burdens."It is clear that the author of this enumeration (Preston originally?) was following the Old Testament and not the Old Constitutions --and the fact proves that Masons have never had an orthodox, infallible, unchanging text rigidly binding on them by law. So little was this the case that when the young Mother Grand Lodge prepared a second edition of the Constitutions of 1738 it altered the first part of it radically and at many points. Versions of the Old Charges differ among themselves. It is a reasonable theory that after the Edition of the Book of Constitutions of 1723 was read, a number of Time Intermorial Lodges discovered its accounts of the "history" to differ from theirs and made a clamor to have their own included.

(It is a paradox of the history of Solomon's Temple that though Solomon and his people were Jews, it was built not by Jews but by Tyrians, and working under Tyrian overseers; and these latter must have built it in the Tyrian style because in that period of history Masons were not taught architecture in terms of principles and pure geometry and engineering, but were rained to do only a given style of work--a Tyrian Mason would have said, "I can do Tyrian work but not Egyptian or Assyrian." It is also a curious fact that just after the author of the Constitutions had said that the Jews were trained in architecture he then goes on to say that Solomon had to send to Tyre for architects !)The publishing of a cheap form of illustrated Bible about 1700 set everybody in England to reading it. one of the results was a wide spread amateur study of Hebrew; another was the discovery and popularity of Josephus' History of the Jews. The consequence to Masonry of the former was to introduce a few Hebrew words into its nomenclature, such as gibtim, harodim, bonay, etc.; the consequence of the latter was to introduce into the history of Solomon's period a set of traditions not in Kings and Chronicles, and a number of old Oriental tales about Solomon.

There was yet another source of Temple lore: the enthusiastic public interest in the two "great" models of the building exhibited for years in England, one by Schott, the other by Leon, each with a handbook, and of which at least one contained lore from the Talmud. Thus, the Solomon's Temple of the Ritual was constructed, as it were, and in a poetic sense, by at least seven different sets of architects, and not working together: the Old Charges, Book of Constitutions, Book of Kings, Book of Chronicles, Josephus, Schott's model, Leon's model.

But this commixing was not yet at an end; indeed, it was only at a beginning. For with Inigo Jones (during 1600-1652) the architectural style perfected by Palladio was brought from Italy into England, and almost at once began to replace the mixture of Tudor styles and the last vestiges of Gothic. Palladio was a modern style, but in essence was an adaptation of Greek; that is, more strictly, it made use of certain features of the classical Greek.

It was called Italian, Palladian, Classical, Neo-Classical, Grecian, etc. By the time of the 1723 Constitutions this had become the style, and had been for so long that everybody had forgotten Gothic; and the compilers of the Constitutions not only forgot (or did not know) that Freemasonry was a child of the Gothic, but they sneered at it as a piece of barbarism, and no doubt assumed that each and every fine building in the past, including Solomon's Temple, had been designed in the Italian style. There was thus introduced into the Craft traditions, and on top of Solomon's Temple, "another temple," a Neo-Classical one.

But even this was not the end. Once architects and amateurs became engrossed in Palladio, they were inevitably led back to Vitruvius, and through him discovered the genuine, classical Greek temple, which, unlike the Palladian adaptation, was composed of pillars and columns, with few or no walls, and 8 flattened down, simple roof without spires, or domes. or towers. The wonderful Greek columns were adopted into Masonic symbolism, where they became the Five Orders of Architecture.

What few data we have about the Esoteric Work indicate that until the middle of the Eighteenth Century, in both Britain and America, and by comparison with its rigidity afterwards, the Ritual was between 1700 and 1750 in a fluid condition. It is improbable that Preston, or any other one man, was responsible for the fixation; but it is probable that the general acceptance of Preston's system of Monitorial Lectures signalized the fact that the Ritual had become stable.

When it did so the Temple in it was not Solomon's Temple, or any other in particular. It was wholly a symbolical Temple, called Solomon's for symbolic purposes, and it was "built" out of whatever the Ritualists needed from many styles and traditions. They were not engaged as contractors to erect a London church; they were not historians or architects; they were Ritualists, great Ritualists, and they obeyed the laws of ritualism; and according to those laws historical or technological facts are of small importance; indeed, the fewer of them the better!

Their symbolic temple had something of Solomon's in it; yet it also came to a focus in a drama not about his building or Solomon's people or even (this is remarkable!) about himself, but about a Tyrs architect--a workman; the fact that Greek columns of 500 B.C. had no place in a Tyrian Temple on Jewish soil of 1000 B.C. did not disturb them. They introduced priests bowing toward the Inner Sanctum alongside London college professors lecturing on ethics and the curriculum of Medieval Schools. They had Greek columns alongside ancient, legendary pillars.

They put Euclid and Pythagoras cheek by jowl with Moses on the one hand and the English St. Albans (Thomas a Becket?) on the other. Historically and architecturally they had a museum of ruins, of anachronisms, solecisms, fallacies; ritualistically they had a masterpiece--and if Phidias had been a Ritualist he could not have built a better ritualistic temple. The once-burning question as to whether Solomon was the founder of Masonry or not (the Tyrians had been Masons long before Solomon!) answers itself as soon as the Masonic student sees the recorded, indisputable facts before him, and studies the Second and Third Degrees for himself.

Note. In 1723 the Constitutions give HA.. as the Master of Masons, in 1738, as Deputy Grand Master. In a very revealing aside Anderson, or whoever wrote the paragraph gives as his authority "the traditions of the old Masons who talk much of these things."

What he meant probably was that they talked much to the Grand Lodge leaders whose iconoclasm was disturbing them. The Old Charges do not attribute the founding of Masonry to Solomon, but to Adam--itself another answer to the above referred-to "burning question"; if they give any one man the credit it was Euclid--a Greek, and a Greek whom the Medieval Church had both hated and feared. It also is significant that the oldest existing MS., the Regius, does not include Solomon's Temple--early Operative Lodges enjoyed a wide latitude in matters ritualistic and symbolic.

Medieval builders themselves either knew nothing about Solomon's Temple or else took no interest m it; among its few appearances among the cathedrals was Wursburg where the pillars J and B were set up in the porch.

The French Compagnonnage had a symbolic rite or symbolism about HA.. but there is no known connection between that fraternity and early English Lodges- for some 200 years Englishmen and Frenchmen were almost completely out of touch with each other, what with wars and a conflict in religion; the majority of English tourists preferred to go to Italy, which became almost a tourist colony. It remained for Voltaire to rediscover the English and to bring them and their Loeke's philosophy and Newton's science to French attention. The fact helps to explain why Speculative Freemasonry is so purely English in origin.

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