Museum of Freemasonry - Masonic Library
In the First Degree you discovered that King Solomon's Temple was an outstanding feature of its symbolism; in the Third Degree you will find that much of the action takes place within or about it; but it is in the Second Degree, which you are now studying, that it looms largest, therefore it is fitting that at this time you be given some indication of its meaning in Masonry.

The Temple built by King Solomon, afterwards twice rebuilt and twice destroyed, has a larger place in human history than any other building. For three thousand years the building itself, or the memory of the building, has stood at the centre of the Jewish religion and traditions. It has always had an almost equally central place in the Christian religion, both in the Old and the New Testaments. Also, because it makes use of the Old Testament, and because King Solomon is so prominent a figure in its traditions, the Temple has a large place in Mohammedanism. Thus it is a central feature of great historic importance in the three principal religions of the Western World.

But this is not all Both as a building and as the centre for a cluster of ideas and traditions, Solomon's Temple has a place outside our religions comparable to that held by no other structure; it appears and reappears in countless forms and often underneath many disguises, in folklore, mythology, literature, music, painting, sculpture, architecture, and theology.

Time does not permit me to review the facts concerning this place of the Temple in world life; I must continue myself to it as the central feature in our Masonic system of ritual and symbolism. To make all the more impressive how central it is, let me remind you of a few details.

Mount Moriah, the hill on which the Temple was built, appears in our symbolism. So does the Porch across which the Temple was approached; to be 'on the Porch' is a phrase used to describe a candidate awaiting initiation. The two Great Pillars, J ... and B ..., stand one on each side of the inner door of the Lodge-room. The Altar of the Lodge is a representation of the Altar of the Temple. The Sanctum Sanctorum stands at the centre of the Middle Chamber Lecture of the Second Degree. It is approached by Three, Five and Seven steps, as it was in the Temple. King Solomon, and Hiram Abiff, the builder of the Temple, are the principal characters of the Third Degree. Our Lodge is called a quarry in commemoration of the quarries from which Solomon's craftsmen hewed their stone.

In Masonry however-and this is the point that needs first to be emphasized-both as a building and as a chapter out of history, Solomon's Temple is used as a symbol; or rather, I had better say, a system of symbols. We are not interested in its history or architecture as such; it matters not at all if the Ritual says certain things about it that cannot be verified by the records because our Ritual is intended to teach, not history, but certain moral and spiritual truths.

What, then, are these truths?

Freemasonry was founded centuries ago, as you have already learned, by the Operative Masons. They were builders of structures of Stone and the scaffolds, and the great purpose of their art was to shape and set stone so that the design laid down on the trestle board would stand embodied, in every part and detail, before the eye.

In the course of time this Operative Craft developed into a Speculative Fraternity. Masons ceased to be builders of wood and stone and became builders of men, architects of human life.

What kind of human life should Masonry build? Life is a stuff that may be shaped in many forms. What form would Masonry have it take? The answer, like all of Masonry's answers, is stated in the terms of symbolism: it shall be human life as pictured symbolically by the Temple that Solomon built on Mount Moriah.

That Temple was built by a king able to command thousands of workmen, rich enough to purchase the finest of materials brought from the ends of the earth, a wise king who knew exactly what he was doing and why. So should a man be a king over himself, in the building of his life, using his five senses and all his faculties as his workmen, selecting out of the quarries of his nature only such materials as a king would use, and wise enough to plan his life aright.

King Solomon called to his assistance the most expert builder he could find, Hiram Abiff, who was also a skilled worker in brass and in the precious metals. So also should a man call into the building of his life only the best influences and the noblest of teachers, such as understand life and know how to shape it to the ends of goodness, beauty and truth.

At the centre of Solomon's Temple was a Holy of Holies, or Sanctum Sanctorum; this was not an architectural device, or a thing done for display, but that about which the Temple was built, its purpose as a structure, the centre according to which all else was designed. Similarly there must be a Holy of Holies at the heart of a man, in his soul, in his conscience; principles and ideals such that he would prefer death to having them profaned by evil.

Solomon's Temple was dedicated to God. By the dedication of a building is meant the purpose to which it is set aside and devoted-the one reason for its being. So must a man dedicate his self to God, make it his will to do God's will, make it his work to do God's work, lest he miss his calling as a man and become only an animal.

You will see by this that Masonry's conception of human life is a spiritual ideal-not ideal in the sense of something remote, unattainable, too fine for daily existence, but ideal in the sense of plan and purpose. Masonry sees the life of the senses as something fine and noble, never to be despised; it sees in the skilled hand and trained faculties a value without which there could be no civilization; it sees in the powers of the mind a splendor by which the world is irradiated; it sees in the four-square moral character a power without which all existence would become degraded into something impossible to endure; but over and above these it sees the spiritual life as that under which, and for which, all these other virtues and powers exist and to which they must be dedicated unless they are to become forces of death and evil, like those ruffians you will encounter in the Third Degree, who, because they played false to their dedication, became powers of destruction.

By the soul is meant that in a man by which he regulates and controls all else-his body, his moral actions, his mental work, his feelings, his habits, his conduct-it is the grasp he has on himself as a whole and of life as a whole At one time Solomon's Temple was a mere mass of unshaped material lying in loose piles along the side of Mount Moriah; then this material was given shape and meaning by art; at the end it ceased to be merely a building at all and became the sign and embodiment of the spiritual life of a people because of its dedication. By this Masonry teaches us that the raw materials of our own nature, feelings, passions, appetites, instincts, senses, faculties, physical limbs and organs, may by art be so shaped, and by consecration to the Highest be so dedicated, that the whole man will be transformed, not unworthy to feel that after using his Five senses, and laborsly climbing the Winding Stairs, he is entitled to enter the Holy of Holies.

Published by

The Grand Lodge of Antient Free and Accepted Masons of Scotland