Dr. Anderson and King Solomon's Temple
Food For Thought
DR. ANDERSON AND KING SOLOMON'S TEMPLE
By V.W. Bro. W. H. V. Taine P.G. Lec., P.M
As we all know, Speculative or Symbolical Masonry is an Institution of purely British origin, founded in general upon the ancient Craft, but in particular upon the usages and customs of the highly skilled masons of Medieval Britain, many of whose major works remain to this day, in constant use, as they have been for hundreds of years.
Dr. Trevelyan's "English Social History" refers to their achievements in eccelesiastical architecture as "filling England with towering forests of masonry, of which the beauty and grandeur have never been rivalled, either by the ancients or the moderns: . . cathedrals and minsters built in supreme magnificence"; that was in writing of the Age of Chaucer.
With such a background it is curious, if not remarkable, that so much of the instruction of Freemasonry should be based. not on the justly famous works of men of our own race, nor on their undoubted skill and fidelity, but on a building and builders of nearly 3.000 years ago in a foreign land.
Upon King Solomon's Temple is pivoted a great deal of the symbolism of all the Degrees of what is now known as Pure Antient Masonry", those recognized by the Grand Lodge of N.Z. being six in number. Considering the peculiar value to the institution of what was derived from the British Craft, framework, usages and customs, emblems, ancient words and expressions, etc., we may well ask why and when it was felt necessary to draw so much from so far back in time.
The object of this paper is to examine this aspect of Freemasonry, which long puzzled the writer and no doubt has mystified others also.
It may be said that in this matter the Craft has followed two important examples: the first is that of the V.S.L.. the inspiration of every system of morality in Christendom, in which instruction is derived from records of ancient times: the second is the writings of the medieval masons themselves, who in or near the Age of Chaucer produced the Regius and Cooke MSS.. in which regulations were prefaced by histories of the Craft.
It would appear that at that time, in the reigns of Richard II and the Henrys who succeeded him, the industry was one of many associations which were called upon to justify claims to sometimes valuable privileges.
The masons were not chartered as others were, but they were able to bring forward something which always carries much weight with Englishmen - the undoubted antiquity of their craft, and its most honourable record.
THE OLD CHARGES.-The Cooke Manuscript in particular, with a great show of learning, presented what must have seemed a very good case, fortified by claims that masonry had been an organised craft since the days of Nimrod; it is important to notice that it mentioned that "David loved well masons and gave them charges right nigh as they are now", and that Solomon had fourscore thousand masons at his work and confirmed the charges of David.
Expert brethren are of the opinion that for centuries all lodges of masons had documents more or less similar in character and content to those two famous manuscripts; they contained what was necessary for the prestige and good government of the craft - a history to show that it was both ancient and honourable, and charges and regulations which would keep it worthy of its splendid traditions; new men said the Cooke MS., "should be charged in this manner.”
Later, none of the early Speculative Lodges was considered “regular" unless it was equipped with a copy of what were known as the "Old Charges"; the reading of them to the candidate was as essential in the Ceremony of Initiation as it had been when "new men" were received and charged by the Operatives.
This usage still obtained when the first Grand Lodge was set up in London in 1717, the ruling spirits if not the instigators of which were some Speculative brethren of considerable learning and reputation.
Here is what they thought and said about the Old Charges -"The Old Constitutions in England have been much interpolated, mangled and miserably corrupted, not only with false spelling but even with many false facts and gross errors in History and Chronology, through length of time and the ignorance of transcribers in the dark illiterate ages . . . to the great offence of all the learned and judicious brethren." (From the "Approbation.")
It is not surprising therefore to find that in the year 1721 the Grand Master ordered the brother who was probably felt to be best qualified “to peruse, correct and digest into a new and better method, the History, Charges, and Regulations of the Ancient Fraternity."
ANDERSON'S CONSTITUTIONS OF 1723.-The brother was the subject of the Address of our Master at the last meeting of this Lodge. James Anderson, M.A., D.D., and the result of his labours was the first Book of Constitutions of the Grand Lodge, usually referred to as Anderson's Constitutions of 1723. It was the first officially approved printed publication ever issued by any branch of the Order, and on that account alone is of extraordinary interest and importance.
Perhaps there has never been a Masonic writing so severely criticised or a Masonic writer so heavily trounced; even his honesty, to say nothing of his accuracy. has been pointedly questioned.
But I make bold to say that with all their faults no book and no writer have made so deep and permanent a mark upon Freemasonry.
The book is in three sections, the History, the Charges and the Regulations; it is interesting to note in passing that under Anderson's own title, "The Charges of a Freemason" appear in the same form and language and with little alteration in the Book of Constitution of the Grand Lodge of N.Z. today.
However, the main topic of this paper is brought up in the History, that part of the book which has drawn the heaviest fire of criticism, some of it not at all nice to read.
We shall not concern ourselves much now with the accuracy of the details of the History; what we have to take into account is the fact that whether it was reliable or not it greatly influenced the ceremonies of the Order almost at once, and that would not have been possible if his contemporaries had felt that Anderson was seriously at fault; if he erred it was in very good company.
OFFICIAL APPROVAL.-His manuscript was examined and finally approved by a committee of fourteen learned brethren, was perused and approved by the Grand Master, the Duke of Montagu, and ordered to he "handsomely printed"; the book received the "Solemn approbation" of his successor the Duke of Wharton; and by no less a scholar than the distinguished Desaguliers, LL.D. and F.R.S., it was adjudged to be a "just and exact account of Masonry from the beginning of the world"; such a man would never have written that unless he felt it to be true.
In 1730 the Book was taken as the model for the Constitutions of Ireland, and in 1734 re-printed verbatim by Benjamin Franklin for use in America; and it was the basis of the Constitutions of England for nearly a century.
I have read, but cannot vouch for the truth of it, that in fact neither Anderson's authority nor the trustworthiness of his History seem to have been seriously doubted, much less challenged, for about 150 years, and buy before then the Craft had been irrevocably influenced by the highlighting of one of its ancient traditions in particular - the building of King Solomon's Temple by 80,000 masons or Fellow Craftsmen.
Anderson traces the History of "The Royal Art", as he continually refers to it, from its rise in the mind of Adam, who "no doubt taught his sons Geometry and the use of it"' down to the laying of the Foundation Stone of the Church of S. Martins-in-the-Fields in March 1721, by the proxy of King George I.
It was a masterly, and must have been also a highly successful presentation of what one feels was "a case", in that respect resembling the Cooke MS., which it is interesting to notice had been discovered and produced at a Masons' Dinner in 1721 by the Grand Master, George Payne.
The medieval writer had the Government in mind as well as the craftsmen, and Anderson seems to have set out to produce a book for the use of the Lodges which also would demonstrate, in a convincing manner, the continuity of the Craft from the earliest times down to date.
AN ANCIENT AND HONOURABLE INSTITUTION.-Far from being a new departure. as some of us may think and as contemporaries of the writer may have felt, Speculative Masonry was officially claimed to be a revival and continuation of the age-old Craft; it was to be regarded with no shadow of doubt as an Ancient and Honourable Institution, Anderson's term for it being "the most Ancient and Right Worshipful Fraternity."
This was a claim of cardinal importance; it seems to have been accepted by the brethren though politely ridiculed by such people as the Gormogons; they claimed that their society was instituted 1,000 years before Adam.
ANDERSON'S HISTORY OF MASONRY.-As we shall see, a new line was taken, as convincing as it was ingenious, in tracing the history of the Craft in the pre-Christian era. but we must first take notice how pointedly he involved with it many well known Old Testament figures, claiming them more or less directly as Craftsmen.
We learn that Noah and his three sons, "all Masons true", built the Ark by the aid of Geometry "and according to the rules of Masonry".
Abraham "learned Geometry" in Ur of the Chaldees and transmitted it to his sons and through them to his grandsons the Twelve Patriarchs of Israel.
Through their experiences in the Land of Egypt the Israelites became "a whole Kingdom of Masons", with Moses their Grand Master often marshalling them into a regular Lodge in the Wilderness and giving them wise Charges, Orders, etc.; he was "divinely inspired" with sublime knowledge of Masonry.
Bezaleel and Aholiab, familiar figures to many of us, erected the Tabernacle, "a most beautiful piece of Architecture", by the aid of Geometry; and finally we have Zerubbabel, Prince and General Master Mason of the Jews, building the Second Temple with the sympathetic assistance of Cyrus and Darius.
In proceeding along these lines Anderson was following the example of the Cooke MS., but went much further, and in doing so made extravagant claims which have damaged his reputation.
One wonders if the good clergyman was led on by the hope that an aura of sanctity might be imparted to Freemasonry by showing that famous men of God's Chosen People had been actively associated with the Craft, and the nation itself as well; but whatever his reasons, what he wrote has had a permanent effect upon all the ceremonies of Masonry.
A gem of the History Is in a footnote referring to one of the heroes of ancient Israel who was a disappointment, “The glorious Sampson", says Anderson, "never had the honour to be numbered among Masons", because he had revealed his own secrets to his wife.
Anderson's master-stroke as a historian was, however, his claiming as works of the Craft the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, in which he appears to have been both original and on fairly sound ground: they were undoubtedly great works of Architecture and Masonry, for the most part built in stone; a statue could be included, being "performed" by the aid of Geometry.
In doing so he adhered to the usual classification, with one very important modification - he omitted the famous Temple of Diana at Ephesus and replaced it with one not usually included in the list; he described it in these words, "that most sumptuous, splendid, beautiful and glorious edifice "..."the eternal God's Temple at Jerusalem."
THE SEVEN WONDERS OF THE WORLD.-In order of mention Anderson's list was as follows:
(1) The Great Pyramid of Egypt.
(2) King Solomon's Temple.
(4) The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus.
(5) The Pharos of Alexandria.
(6) The Statue of Jupiter Olympius (by Phidias)'
(7) The Colossus at Rhodes.
BABYLON.-Most of the Wonders receive only a few lines in the History, but three pages of text and footnotes were allotted to Babylon, its Temple, Palaces, Hanging Gardens, and its gigantic Walls, Towers and Gates, the description of which appears to owe a good deal to the study of Heredotus; it should be noted that the Builder of that most mighty City was Nebuchadnezzar, "the Grand Master Mason", in the words of Anderson,
The reason for this generous treatment was not, I suggest, because it was as he said, "indeed the largest work upon earth", but on account of the part supposed to have been played in its construction by those persons so important to Anderson, here referred to as "the ingenious artists of Judea", the captive Jews who were of special use to Nebuchadnezzar because of "their great skill in Masonry". At Babylon the nation kept its hand in, so to speak, and when the time came was ready and able to build the Second Temple.
KING SOLOMON'S TEMPLE however, obtained more than twice the space allotted to Babylon though their relative importance as works of masonry may be judged from Anderson's figures for the circumference of their surrounding walls, which were about 11⁄2 and 60 miles respectively; moreover, there was an ecstasy in the description of the Temple found nowhere else in the Book.
Here is one paragraph-"And if we consider the 1,453 Columns of Parian Marble, with twice as many Pillasters, both having glorious Capitals of several Orders, and about 2,246 windows, besides those in the Pavement, with the unspeakable and costly Decorations of it wthin (and much more might he said). we must conclude its Prospect to transcend our imagination; and that it was justly esteemed by far the finest Piece of Masonry upon Earth before or since, and the Chief Wonder of the World." Babylon, great as it was, was said to be "vastly inferior, in the Sublime Perfection of Masonry, to the holy, charming, lovely Temple of God."
THE PERFECTION OF MASONRY,-To discover perfection in anything is unusual, but Anderson tells us how and when it was reached in Masonry, in two passages: However ambitious the Heathen were in cultivating the Royal Art (that is in Egypt. etc.) it was never perfected until God condescended to instruct his peculiar People in rearing the abovementioned Stately Tent (the Tabernacle) and in the building at length this gorgeous House (the Temple) for the special refulgence of His Glory"; and again- "all the world came far short of the Israelites in the Wisdom and Dexterity of Architecture", when King Solomon was Grand Master at Jerusalem, King Hiram Grand Master at Tyre, and Hiram Abif Master of Work, and when "Masonry was under the immediate care and direction of Heaven."
With that comfortable conviction in his mind the Historian proceeded to trace the influence of the Temple and its builders upon the rest of the world; the glorious Edifice "attracted soon the inquisitive Artists of all Nations", and became "the Wonder of all travellers, by which, as by the most perfect Pattern, they corrected the Architecture of their own Country."
PROMOTERS OF THE ART.-"Kings, Princes, and Potentates built many glorious Piles and became the Grand Masters, each in his own Territory, and were emulous of excelling in this Royal Art."
"But", said Anderson, "none of the nations, nor all together, could rival the Israelites, far less excel them in Masonry, and their Temple remained the constant Pattern"; even the Grand Monarch Nebuchadnezzar "with all his unspeakable advantages, could never carry up his Masonry to the strength and magnificence of the Temple which he had, in warlike rage, burnt down."
After viewing with Anderson the Third Wonder, Babylon, we glance at Zerubbabel's Temple, which though far short of Solomon's was still "the most symmetrical and glorious Edifice in the whole world", are then conducted to Greece and other Mediterranean countries and finally by way of Rome to Britain.
On the way we see the remaining four Wonders of the World, but none of them surprises us so much as to learn, first, that the Greeks owed their "Improvements in Masonry" to the example of King Solomon's Temple (which considerably ante-dated the world-famous buildings on the Acropolis at Athens) and secondly, that the great Emperor Augustus was Grand Master of the Lodge at Rome, and that the Royal Art was carefully propagated, a Lodge being erected in almost every Roman Garrison.
But. brethren, I feel that the time has come, and no doubt you will agree, when I should be well-advised to say, in Anderson's own words, "Of this enough."
You will have gathered from what, I have quoted either that Anderson was convinced himself, or determined to convince his readers on two main points, first that there had never been a nation so gifted in Architecture and masonry as Israel and second no building of such magnificence as King Solomon's Temple, the Chief Wonder of the World and the pattern from which all subsequent civilised Architecture was developed.
The first of these contentions is not supported either by the records or by informed opinion; not so many years before the constructions of the Temple King David captured and settled in Jerusalem, and a palace was built for him by carpenters and masons sent by Hiram. King of Tyre (II Sam. 5, II), presumably because the men of Israel either could not do it at all or as well as the men of Tyre.
It was hardly likely that in a comparatively short time they could have acquired the considerable skill in engineering and construction necessary for the much larger project.
So it is not surprising to read that engaged, upon the work were not only Hiram Abif from Tyre, but the most famous masons of that region, the: "stonesquarers" of I Kings, Chap. 5; who were Giblites or Giblim, from the northern part of the dominions of King Hiram.
As regards the fabulous Temple, a reasonably sound view of it would appear to be that the actual shrine was quite a small building, but the preparation of a difficult site, the construction of the several courts and their walls, and the erection of ancillary buildings, made the whole project a great work of masonry.
The almost incredible richness of its interior, decoration would itself be sufficient to make as we say its "costliness and splendour an object of wonder to surrounding nations". According to II Chronicles Chap. 3, the weight of gold used in overlaying the interior of the Sanctum, Sanctorum alone, a cube of about 30 feet, was 600 talents, equal to about 27 tons avoirdupois.
Both of Anderson's contentions were smartly disposed of by Bro. Chetwode Crawley in these words: "The Jews were singularly unversed in the arts of architecture, and the renown of King Solomon's Temple has been altogether built up in later ages." (A.Q.C. Vol: XII).
NO INNOVATION.-However, in justice to him it must be pointed out that learned brethren have agreed that Anderson's treatment of the story of the Temple was not a complete innovation, which his contemporaries would have strongly objected to. The passage from the Cooke MS. which I quoted earlier shows that David, Solomon, and the 80,000 masons had been figuring in the traditions of the Craft for 300 years.
Whether the History was entirely or only partly responsible, within a very few years of its appearance the ceremonies of Speculative Masonry underwent considerable alteration; the major operation, if such a term may be used, was the introduction of the Third Degree, which, like much of the Second, is based upon circumstances attending the erection of King Solomon's Temple, whether the account of them is historically accurate or not.
IN CONCLUSION, - may I refer to the Installation last evening of a Past Master of this Lodge, R.W. Bro. N. B. Spencer, as First Grand Principal of the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of New Zealand.
In the course of the evening he committed himself to some very definite statements regarding the intimate connection between the Degrees of' Craft and Capitular Masonry, with which I heartily agree and which I hope will be widely circulated.
To students of this aspect of Freemasonry I would like to suggest that Anderson's remarkable History was the quarry for more than a little of the materials used in constructing the so-called Higher Degrees of Pure Antient Masonry, as well as some of those auxiliary to them.
SOURCE UML Vol. 11 No.11