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THE LOST KEYS OF FREEMASONRY
or The Secret of Hiram Abiff
MANLY P. HALL
THE ROBE OF BLUE AND GOLD
Hidden in the depths of the unknown, three silent beings weave the endless thread of human fate. They are called the Sisters, known to mythology as the Norns or Fates who incessantly twist between their fingers a tiny cord, which one day is to be woven into a living garment - the coronation robe of the priest-king.
To the mystics and philosophers of the world this garment is known under many names. To some it is the simple yellow robe of Buddahood. By the ancient Jews it was symbolized as the robe of the high priest, the Garment of Glory unto the Lord. To the Masonic brethren, it is the robe of Blue and Gold - the Star of Bethlehem - the Wedding Garment of the Spirit.
Three Fates weave the threads of this living garment, and man himself is the creator of his Fates. The triple thread of thought, action, and desire binds him when he enters the sacred place or seeks admittance into the tiled lodge, but later this same cord is woven into a splendid garment whose purified folds clothe the sacred spark of his being.
We all like to be well dressed. Robes of velvet and ermine stand for symbols of rank and glory; but too many ermine capes have covered empty hearts, too many crowns have rested on the brows of tyrants. These are symbols of earthly things and in the world of matter are too often misplaced. The true coronation robe - the garment molded after the pattern of heaven, the robe of glory of the Master Mason - is not of the earth; for it tells of his spiritual growth, his deeper understanding, and his consecrated life. The garments of the high priest of the tabernacle were but symbols of his own body, which, purified and transfigured, glorified the life within. The notes of the tiny silver bells that tinkled with never-ending music from the fringe of his vestments told of a life harmonious, while the breastplate which rested amid the folds of the ephod reflected the gleams of heavenly truth from the facets of its gems.
There is another garment without a seam which we are told was often worn by the ancient brethren in the days of the Essenes, when the monastery of the lowly Nazarenes rose in silent grandeur from the steep sides of Mt. Tabor, to be reflected in the inscrutable waters of the Dead Sea. This one-piece garment is the spiral thread of human life which, when purified by right motive and right living, becomes a tiny thread of golden light, eternally weaving the purified garment of regenerated bodies. Like the wh ite of the lambskin apron, it stands for the simple, the pure, and the harmless. These are the requirements of the Master Mason, who must renounce forever this world's pomp and vanity and seek to weave that simple one-piece robe of the soul which marks the Master, consecrated and consummated.
With the eye of the mind we still can see the lowly Nazarene in his spotless robe of white - a garment no king's ransom could buy. This robe is woven out of the actions of our daily lives, each deed weaving into the endless pattern a thread, black or white, according to the motives which inspired our actions. As the Master Mason labors in accordance with his vows, he slowly weaves this spotless robe out of the transmuted energy of his efforts. It is this white robe which must be worn under the vestments of state, and whose spotless surface sanctifies him for the robes of glory, which can be worn only over the stainless, seamless garment of his purified life.
When this moment arrives and the candidate has completed his task - when he comes purified and regenerated to the altar of wisdom, he is truly baptized of the fire and its flame blazes up within himself. From him pour forth streams of light, and a great aura of multicolored fire bathes him with its radiance. The sacred flame of the gods has found its resting place in him, and through him renews its covenant with man. He is then truly a Freemason, a child of light. This wonderful garment, of which all ea rthly robes are but symbols, is built of the highest qualities of human nature, the noblest of ideals, and the purest of aspirations. Its coming is made possible only through the purification of body and unselfish service to others in the name of the Creator.
When the Mason has built all these powers into himself, there radiates from him a wonderful body of living fire, like that which surrounded the Master Jesus, at the moment of His transfiguration. This is the Robe of Glory, the garment of Blue and Gold which, shining forth as a five-pointed star of light, heralds the birth of the Christ within. Man is then indeed a son of God, pouring forth from the depths of his own being the light rays which are the life of man.
Striking hearts that have long been cold, this spiritual ray raises them from the dead. It is the living light which illuminates those still buried in the darkness of materiality. It is the power which raises by the strong grip of the lion's paw. It is the Great Light which, seeking forever the spark of itself within all living things, reawakens dead ideals and smothered aspirations with the power of the Master's Eternal Word. Then the Master Mason becomes indeed the Sun in Leo; and, reaching downward i nto the tomb of crystallization, raises the murdered Builder from the dead by the grip of the Master Mason.
As the sun awakens the seedlings in the ground, so this Son of Man, glowing with the light divine, radiates from his own purified being the mystic shafts of redeeming light which awaken the seeds of hope and truth and a nobler life. Discouragement and suffering too often brings down the temple, burying under its debris the true reason for being and the higher motives for living.
As the glorious robe of the sun - the symbol of all life - bathes and warms creation with its glow, this same robe, enfolding all things, warms them and preserves them with its light and life. Man is a god in the making, and as in the mystic myths of Egypt, on the potter's wheel he is being molded. When his light shines out to lift and preserve all things, he receives the triple crown of godhood, and joins that throng of Master Masons who, in their robes of Blue and Gold, are seeking to dispel the darkness of night with the triple light of the Masonic Lodge.
Ceaselessly the Norns spin the thread of human fate. Age in and age out, upon the looms of destiny are woven the living garments of God. Some are rich in glorious colors and wondrous fabrics, while others are broken and frayed before they leave the loom. All, however, are woven by these three Sisters - thought, action, and desire - with which the ignorant build walls of mud and bricks of slime between themselves and truth; while the pure of heart weave from these radiant threads garments of celestial beauty.
Do what we will, we cannot stop those nimble fingers which twist the threads, but we may change the quality of the thread they use. We should give these three eternal weavers only the noble and the true; then the work of their hands will be perfect. The thread they twist may be red with the blood of others, or dark with the uncertainties of life; but if we resolve to be true, we may restore its purity and weave from it the seamless garment of a perfect life. This is man's most acceptable gift upon the al tar of the Most High, his supreme sacrifice to the Creator.
What nobler relationship than that of friend? What nobler compliment can man bestow than friendship? The bonds and ties of the life we know break easily, but through eternity one bond remains - the bond of fellowship - the fellowship of atoms, of star dust in its endless flight, of suns and worlds, of gods and men. The clasped hands of comradeship unite in a bond eternal - the fellowship of spirit. Who is more desolate than the friendless one? Who is more honored than one whose virtues have given him a friend? To have a friend is good, but to be a friend is better. The noblest title ever given man, the highest title bestowed by the gods, was when the great Jove gazed down upon Prometheus and said, "Behold, a friend of man!" Who serves man, serves God. This is the symbol of the fellowship of your Craft, for the plan of God is upheld by the clasped hands of friends. The bonds of relationship must pass, but the friend remains. Serve God by being a friend, - a friend of the soul of man, serving his needs, lighting his steps, smoothing his way. Let the world of its own accord say of the Mason, "Behold the friend of all." Let the world say of the Lodge, "This is indeed a fraternity of brothers, comrades in spirit and in truth."
THE EMERALD TABLET OF HERMES (TABULA SMARAGDINA)
The Emerald Tablet of Hermes, illustrated on the opposite page, introduces us to Hiram, the hero of the Masonic legend. The name Hiram is taken from the Chaldean Chiram. The first two words in large print mean the secret work. The second line in large letters--(CHIRAM TELAT MECHASOT - means Chiram, the Universal Agent, one in Essence, but three in aspect. Translated, the body of the Tablet reads as follows:
It is true and no lie, certain, and to be depended upon, that the superior agrees with the inferior, and the inferior with the superior, to effect that one truly wonderful work. As all things owe their existence to the will of the Only One, so all things owe their origin to One Only Thing, the most hidden, by the arrangement of the Only God. The father of that One Only Thing is the Suit; its mother is the Moon; the wind carries it in its wings; but its nurse is a Spirituous Earth. That One Only Thing (af ter God) is the father of all things in the universe. Its power is perfect, after it has been united to a spirituous earth. Separate that spirituous earth from the dense or crude earth by means of a gentle heat, with much attention. In great measure it ascends from the earth up to heaven, and descends again, new born, on the earth, and the superior and inferior are increased in power. * * * By this thou wilt partake of the honors of the whole world an d darkness will fly from thee. This is the strength o f all powers; with this thou wilt be able to overcome all things and to transmute all that is fine and all that is coarse. In this manner the world was created, but the arrangements to follow this road are hidden. For this reason I am called CHIRAM TELAT MECHASOT, one in Essence, but three in aspect. In this Trinity is hidden the wisdom of the whole world. It is ended now, what I have said concerning the effects of the Sun.
FINISH OF THE TABULA SMARAGDINA
In a rare, unpublished old manuscript dealing with early Masonic and Hermetic mysteries, we find the following information concerning the mysterious Universal Agent referred to as "Chiram" (Hiram) :
The sense of this Emerald Tablet can sufficiently convince us that the author was well acquainted with the secret operations of Nature and with the secret work of the philosophers (alchemists and Hermetists). He likewise well knew and believed in the true God.
It has been believed for several ages that Cham, one of the sons of Noah, is the author of this monument of antiquity. A very ancient author, whose name is not known, who lived several centuries before Christ, mentions this tablet, and says that he had seen it in Egypt, at the court; that it was a precious stone, an emerald, whereon these characters were represented in bas-relief, not engraved.
He states that it was in his time esteemed over two thousand years old, and that the matter of this emerald had once been in a fluidic state like melted glass, and had been cast in a mold, and that to this flux the artist had given the hardness of a natural and genuine emerald, by (alchemical) art.
The Canaanites were called the Phoenicians by the Greeks, who have told us that they had Hermes for one of their kings. There is a definite relation between Chiram and Hermes.
Chiram is a word composed of three words, denoting the Universal Spirit, the essence whereof the whole creation does consist, and the object of Chaldean, Egyptian, and genuine natural philosophy, according to its inner principles or properties. The three Hebrew words Chamah, Rusch, and Majim, mean respectively Fire, Air, and Water, while their initial consonants, Ch, R, M, give us Chiram, that invisible essence which is the father of earth, fire, air and water; because, although immaterial in its own invis ible nature as the unmoved and electrical fire, when moved it becomes light and visible; and when collected and agitated, becomes heat and visible and tangible fire; and when associated with humidity it becomes material. The word Chiram has been metamorphosed into Hermes and also into Herman, and the translators of the Bible have made Chiram by changing Chet into He; both of these Hebrew word signs being very similar.
In the word Hermaphrodite, (a word invented by the old philosophers), we find Hermes changed to Herm, signifying Chiram, or the Universal Agent, and Aphrodite, the passive principle of humidity, who is also called Venus, and is said to have been produced and generated by the sea.
We also read that Hiram (Chiram), or the Universal Agent, assisted King Solomon to build the temple. No doubt as Solomon possessed wisdom, he understood what to do with the corporealized Universal Agent. The Talmud of the Jews says that King Solomon built the temple by the assistance of Shamir. Now this word signifies the sun, which is perpetually collecting the omnipresent, surrounding, electrical fire, or Spiritus Mundi, and sending it to us in the planets, in a visible manner called light.
This electrical flame, corporealized and regenerated into the Stone of the Philosophers, enabled King Solomon to produce the immense quantities of gold and silver used to build and decorate his temple.
These paragraphs from an ancient philosopher may assist the Masonic student of today to realize the tremendous and undreamed-of shire of knowledge that lies behind the allegory which he often hears but seldom analyzes. Hiram, the Universal Agent, might be translated Vita the power eternally building and unfolding the bodies of man. The use and abuse of energy is the keynote to the Masonic legend; in fact, it is the key to all things in Nature. Hiram, as the triple energy, one in source but three in aspec t, can almost be called ether, that unknown hypothetical element which carries the impulses of the gods through the macrocosmic nervous system of the Infinite; for like Hermes, or Mercury, who was the messenger of the gods, ether carries impulses upon its wings. The solving of the mystery of ether - or, if you prefer to call it vibrant space - is the great problem of Masonry. This ether, as a hypothetical medium, brings energy to the three bodies of thought, emotion, and action, in this manner Chiram, the one in essence, becoming three in aspect - mental, emotional, and vital. The work which follows is an effort to bring to light other forgotten and neglected elements of the Masonic rites, and to emphasize the spirit of Hiram as the Universal Agent.
Freemasonry is essentially mysterious, ritualistic, and ceremonial, representing abstract truth in concrete form. Earth (or substance) smothering energy (or vitality) is the mystery behind the murder of the Builder.
What motive leads the Masonic candidate out of the world and up the winding stairway to the light? He alone can truly know, for in his heart is hidden the motive of his works. Is he seeking the light of the East? Is he seeking wisdom eternal? Does he bring his life and offer it upon the altar of the Most high? Of all things, motive is most important. Though we fail again and again, it our motive be true, we are victorious. Though time after time we succeed, if our motive be unworthy, we have failed. Enter the temple in reverence, for it is in truth the dwelling place of a Great Spirit, the Spirit of Masonry. Masonry is an ordainer of kings. Its hand has shaped the destinies of worlds, and the perfect fruitage of its molding is an honest man. What nobler thing can be accomplished than the illumination of ignorance? What greater task is there than the joyous labor of service? And what nobler man can there be than that Mason who serves his Lights, and is himself a light unto his fellow men?
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Last modified: March 22, 2014