THE LEGEND OF HIRAM ABIFF
(The Egyptian Connection)
THE DEADLY DECEPTION
Jim Shaw & Tom McKenney
The heart of Freemasonry is the Blue Lodge with its three degrees. The climactic degree (and the final one for most Masons) in the Blue Lodge is the Third, or Master Mason Degree. The heart of the Master Mason Degree, the thing that gives it both meaning and substance, is without any doubt the reenactment of the Legend of Hiram Abiff. It is this central figure in the legend, this Hiram the "Widow's Son," the "Tyrian Architect," this 'First Grand Master' who is impersonated by every man who is initiated as a Master Mason. It is Hiram who is at the very heart of the foundation of all of Masonry. His true identity and nature become, then, matters of extreme significance. Just who -- and what -- was this man, Hiram Abiff?
1. The Masonic Tradition
According to the Masonic legend, Hiram Abiff was a man of Tyre, the son of a widow, and the chief architect of the Temple built by King Solomon. He was the central character in the building of the Temple and one of three leading characters along with King Solomon and Hiram, King of Tyre. Hiram Abiff, Masonry teaches, was the only one on Earth who knew "the secrets of a Master Mason," including the most important secret of all, the "Grand Masonic Word," the name of God (the "ineffable name"). Since, in occult lore, knowing the name of a spirit is a key to having its power, there was a very great power in knowing this word. Knowing the other "secrets of a Master Mason" would enable the masons/workmen working on the Temple project to go out on their own, working as Master Masons and earning Master Mason's wages."
This Hiram had promised to reveal the "secrets of a Master Mason," including the name of God ("Grand Masonic Word"), upon completion of the Temple, and to make the workmen Master Masons, able then to go out on their own as masters (they were, as yet, only "fellowcraft" Masons). One day Hiram went, as was his custom, into the unfinished Holy of Holies at noon ("High Twelve") to worship and to draw up the work plans (on his "trestleboard") for the workmen to follow the next day. The workmen were outside the Temple for their lunch break (" the craft were called from labor to refreshment ")
As Hiram was leaving the Temple he was accosted by three "ruffians," in succession, who demanded that they be given the secrets immediately (without waiting for the Temple to be completed). He was handled roughly by the first ruffian (Jubela), but escaped. Accosted and handled roughly by the second ruffian (Jubelo), he again refused to divulge the secrets and again escaped. The third ruffian (Jubelum) then accosted him and, when Hiram again refused to divulge the secrets, killed him with a blow to the forehead with a setting maul. The body was hastily concealed under some rubbish in the Temple until midnight ("low twelve") when it was taken out to the brow of a hill and buried. The grave was marked by a branch of Acacia (an evergreen tree common in the Middle East), and the three ruffians attempted to escape the country. Denied passage on a ship out of the country, they retreated into the hills to hide. Meanwhile, back at the Temple, it was noticed that Hiram was missing and King Solomon was notified. Solomon immediately ordered a search in and about the Temple with no success. At this point 12 "fellowcrafts" reported to the King that they and three others (the three "ruffians") had conspired to extort the secrets of Hiram Abiff but they had repented and refused to go through with the murderous plan. They reported that it was those other three who had murdered Grand Master Hiram and King Solomon then sent them out in groups of three to search in all directions.
After questioning the sea captain who had refused the murderers passage, three of the searchers then followed the murderers' path and discovered the grave with its Acacia at the head. Digging down and recognizing the body, they reported back to Solomon. Solomon sent them back to locate the grave, positively identify the body as Hiram and to attempt to raise it from the grave with the grip of an Entered Apprentice. They relocated the grave but were unable to raise the body because decomposition had caused the flesh to cleave to the bone.
Reporting back to Solomon, they were told to return to the grave and attempt to raise the body with the grip of a Fellowcraft. When this failed because the skin slipped away, they reported back to Solomon who, himself, went to the grave and raised the body up with the grip of a Master Mason, the "Strong Grip of a Lion's Paw." Hiram was not only brought up out of the grave, but restored to life. The first word he spoke was the replacement for the "Grand Masonic Word" lost at his death and that word is the one passed down to Master Masons to this day. (1) This, then, is the Masonic legend of Hiram Abiff, and most Blue Lodge Masons believe that it is a factual, scriptural and historical account. It is generally believed, in spite of the fact that the Masonic authorities and writers of doctrine agree that it is not only a myth, unsupported by facts, but acknowledge that it is but a retelling of Isis and Osiris.
2. The Bible Record
Does the Bible record such as person as Hiram Abiff? Definitely not, although part of his identity is taken from the Bible. The Scriptures record two men named Hiram concerning the building of the Temple by King Solomon; one is Hiram, King of Tyre, who was supportive of Solomon and who provided materials and workmen for the project. The other Hiram, called "a widow's son of the tribe of Naphtali," was a worker in brass, not the architect of the entire Temple. He made the brass pillars, the brass lavers, shovels and basins. The Scriptures record that this Hiram, the widows son, completed all the work that he had come to do on the Temple. Presumably, he then returned to his home in Tyre, safe and sound (there is no indication in the Bible of anything to the contrary). (2) Concerning the Masonic claim that Hiram, the widow's son, was chief architect of the Temple, the Bible is clear in establishing that he was no such thing. The Bible reveals that God, Himself, was the designer and architect of the Temple, that He gave the plans in minute detail to David and that David gave them to Solomon, (3) along with most of the materials. To claim that anyone but God was the Chief Architect of the Temple is unfounded and, I believe, blasphemous.
3. The Egyptian Connection
It is the consensus of opinion among Masonic authorities, philosophers and writers of doctrine that the legend of Hiram Abiff is merely the Masonic version of a much older legend, that of Isis and Osiris, basis of the Egyptian Mysteries. The following is a brief summary of that legend, and a comparison with the Masonic legend of Hiram Abiff. This comparison is supported, beyond doubt, by the conclusions of the Masonic authorities.
a. The legend of Isis and Osiris
Osiris, both King of the Egyptians and their god, went on a long journey to bless neighboring nations with his knowledge of arts and sciences. His jealous brother, Typhon (god of Winter) conspired to murder him, steal his kingdom and did so. Isis, sister and wife of Osiris and his queen (as well as Egypt's Moon-goddess) set out on a search for the body, making inquiries of all she met.
After certain adventures, she found the body with an Acacia tree at the head of the coffin. Returning home, she secretly buried the body, intending to give it proper burial as soon as arrangements were made. Typhon, by treachery, stole the body, cut it up into 14 pieces and hid them in as many places. Isis then made a second search and located all the pieces but one; the one missing and lost part was the phallus.
She made a substitute phallus, consecrated it, and it became a sacred substitute, and object of worship.
This, in extremely abbreviated form, is the Egyptian legend of Isis and Osiris. It is without doubt, the basis for the Masonic legend of Hiram Abiff. To support this "Egyptian connection," let's consider two things: a brief comparison of key elements in both stories and the conclusions of the Masonic authorities in Masonic source-writings.
b. A Brief Comparison of the Legends of Hiram Abiff and Osiris
The fundamental similarity between the two stories may be seen in many respects; the following are some of the most important:
(1) Both men went to foreign lands to share their knowledge of arts and sciences.
(2) In both legends there is a precious thing possessed: Hiram has the secret word; Osiris has the kingdom.
(3) In both legends there is a wicked conspiracy by evil men to seize the precious thing.
(4) In both legends there is a struggle and a murder of the virtuous leader.
(5) Both are murdered by their brothers (Osiris by Typhon; Hiram by Jubelum, his brother Mason).
(6) Both bodies are buried hastily, with the intention of a later, deliberate burial.
(7) Locations of the bodies are both marked by Acacia at the head.
(8) In both legends, there are two separate searches for the bodies.
(9) In both legends there is a loss of something precious: in Hiram's death, the secret word is lost; in Osiris' death, the phallus is lost.
(10) In both there is a substitution for the precious thing that has been lost; concerning Hiram it is the substitute for the secret word; concerning Osiris it is the substitute phallus.
c. Conclusions of the Masonic Authorities
A few statements from the most authoritative Masonic writers will suffice to express the doctrinal consensus:
(1) "The legend and traditions of Hiram Abiff form the consummation of the connecting link between Freemasonry and the Ancient Mysteries." (Pierson, "Traditions of Freemasonry," p. 159)
(2) "We readily recognize in Hiram Abiff the Osiris of the Egyptians " (Pierson, p. 240)
(3) "Osiris and the Tyrian Architect (Hiram Abiff) are one and the same." (Sickles, Daniel, "Freemason's Guide." p. 236)
(4) "That part of the rite (Master Mason initiation) which is connected with the legend of the Tyrian Artist (Hiram Abiff) should be studied as a myth and not as a fact outside of Masonic tradition there is no proof that an event such as is related in connection with the "Temple Builder" ever transpired and, besides, the ceremony is older by more than a thousand years than the age of Solomon It is thoroughly Egyptian." (Sickles, Daniel, "The Ahiman Rezon," p. 195)
(5) It (the Legend of Hiram Abiff) is thoroughly Egyptian, and is closely allied to the Supreme Rite (highest degree) of the Isianic Mysteries (Mystery religion of Isis and Osiris)." (Mackey, Albert, "Lexicon of Freemasonry," p. 195)
Thus, it seems clear, the Hiram Abiff of Freemasonry is not an historical character and certainly not a biblical one. Rather, he actually represents Osiris, the Egyptian Sun-god, and the reenactment of the Legend of Hiram Abiff is actually the reenactment of the legend of Isis and Osiris.
Thus, each sincere man who is initiated into the Third (Master Mason) Degree of Masonry impersonates Osiris, the Sun-god of Egypt, and enters into his life of good deeds, his death, his burial and is "raised" in his resurrection from the dead. With this understood, it is then easy to understand the statement in the Kentucky Monitor (handbook for all Blue Lodge Masonry in the Grand Lodge of Kentucky) that, while the Christian's Messiah is called Jesus, the Mason's Messiah is called Hiram (Kentucky Monitor, "the Spirit of Masonry," xv).
(1) It puzzles me that no one has questioned the necessity for a "substitute" for the lost Grand Masonic Word. If it was lost at the death of Hiram because only he knew it, then why, when Hiram was raised back to life, didn't Solomon just ask him what the real, original one was? All Solomon needed to do was say something like, "Hiram praise the Lord that you are no longer dead! Now what was that word all this fuss has been about?"
(2) I Kings 7:13-47
(3) I Chronicles 17;1-15; 22:11-29:9 (especially 28:19)
Back To The Mystical Bible: 'The Message' Of Mysticism Part III
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diluvio usque ad Abraham anni D CCCC XL II.
Ab Abraham usque ad Moysen anni D C XL.
A Moyse usque ad David anni D.
A David usque .A/abuchodonosor anni sunt D LX ViIiI.
Ab Adam usque trausmigrationem Babyloniae anni sunt 1111 DCCC LXX VHII.
A transmigratione Babyloniae usque ad C