Modern Freemasonry begins, with us joining the team of Masons who are engaged on the building of a fabulous temple, errected to the Lord as envisaged by Solomon, King of Israel, with the assistance of Hiram, King of Tyre.
Hiram, King of Tyre provides not only many of the essential materials but also some of the labourors and in particular a Master-Craftsman who is skilled in forging brass, but also in the planning, designing and overseeing of the whole work. The Craftsman name is Hiram Abif.
Under King Solomon’s direction, new Masons are recruited to this team in order to learn the skills and the tools that will enable him to perform the required tasks.
The young Apprentice soon realises that he is very much part of a team and that he has obligations of care and co-operation towards the other members of his lodge, as well as to the universal society of which he has become a member. He is charged on his honour to maintain the principles of which he will now increasingly become aware, and entrusted with his first ‘secrets’.
After a suitable interval which represents his apprenticeship, he is considered for fuller admission into the society of Fellows of the Craft.
He has to prove himself competent in the work that has already been entrusted to him but he has also to show that he is not just a manual worker but has a mind that can grasp complex ideas and can be creative.
The Fellow Craft must prepare his own pieces of work for inclusion into the temple and it must be judged suitable for the sacred purpose for which it is destined–no less than the Sanctum Sanctorum itself.
He is told of how: Hiram, the Master Architect has divided up the work and assigned it to different classes of workmen, each under their control of the Overseers or Harodim.
The fellowcraft is taught that because the temple is to be constructed ‘in silence on the site’ so the work produced by him and others has to be marked in order that it may be laid in place without hesitation and also that good work may be rewarded
He is even told where to go to receive his wages and how to request them. He is again warned that any who misuse their privileges will be punished and as in his previous obligation that there are comparable penalties
The craftsman is introduced to the various arts and sciences that enable him to become a true Master of the Craft.
His progress in participating in the work at the temple site is such that he is now ready to he considered for a post of management, first as one of the Harodim but thereafter, once judged fit, to be an Architect Master, able to draw designs, lay schemes and manage the government of the work.
He is even able to be considered as a possible future Grand Master, but in order to attain that high status he has to learn the secrets of a Master Overseer and rule over those who, like himself, have regularly produced marked work according to the plans of the Grand Master of the Work, and become aware of the great responsibility which that demands.
He will realise what is still required to complete the temple building and he will be aware not only of the danger of over ambition revealed by some Overseers but also of the disastrous results when some of those Overseers overstep the mark.
The Grand Master Hiram Abif’s murder meant that a substitute had to be found in order that the Grand Secret within the completed temple can be maintained.
Af this time the Master Mason is now so competent as a ruler that he is selected to be Hiram Abif’s replacement and becomes Adoniram. He helps to complete the temple with its final Arch and King Solomon can dedicate the edifice assisted by the Priests.
Like Jachin and in the presence of many Princes and Rulers, such as his ancestor, Boaz, was, and including the Queen of Sheba. Adoniram joins the Kings in maintaining the Mason’s Word in a sacred chamber beneath the temple and order is maintained amongst the workmen.
Following the death of Solomon, the kingdom of Israel is once more divided and eventually – falls to the attacks of its enemies – The Assuyrians destroy Israel and the Babylonians conquer and enslave Judea.
The Grand Secret or Mason’s Word is similarly dissipated and lost. The nobility and rulers of Israel are taken into captivity and it is only when Persia conquers Babylon that the opportunity arrives for a return to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple.
Men such as Ezra and Nehemiah undertake the first task and at last a Prince, Zerubbabel, aided by prophets like Haggai, and the priesthood seek to undertake the rebuilding of the temple.
They are rebuffed by the local pagan rulers and only after Zerubbabel has returned to Persia and appealed successfully to King Cyrus can he come back and uncover the sacred chamber and the lost Mason’s Word. All who assist the Sanhedrim in this task are made Princes and Rulers.
The ultimate discovery is that the Mason’s Word has a threefold form. All those who are deemed worthy of knowing it as Rulers and Princes are made privy to it, and not simply the Kings and Grand Masters as before. Knowing the Word is of course not enough.
Those who are given it are expected to exemplify their knowledge by the kind of lives they live in society generally. For their guidance and instruction biblical and historical figures are portrayed and imitation of their good deeds encouraged–just as was recommended when Hiram Abif first suffered.
When the good Mason has lived respected and died regretted his whole life is complete.