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THE LOST KEYS OF FREEMASONRY
or The Secret of Hiram Abiff
MANLY P. HALL
There comes a time in the growth of every living individual thing when it realizes with dawning consciousness that it is a prisoner. While apparently free to move and have its being, the struggling life cognizes through ever greater vehicles its own limitations. It is at this point that man cries out with greater insistence to be liberated from the binding ties which, though invisible to mortal eyes, still chain him with bonds far more terrible than those of any physical prison.
Many have read the story of the prisoner of Chillon who paced back and forth in the narrow confines of his prison cell, while the blue waters rolled ceaselessly above his head and the only sound that broke the stillness of his eternal night was the constant swishing and lapping of the waves. We pity the prisoner in his physical tomb and we are sad at heart, for we know how life loves liberty. But there is one prisoner whose plight is far worse than those of earth. He has not even the narrow confines of a prison cell around Him; He cannot pace ceaselessly to and fro and wear ruts in the cobblestones of His dungeon floor. That eternal Prisoner is Life incarnate within the dark stone walls of matter, with not a single ray to brighten the blackness of His fate. He fights eternally, praying in the dark confines of gloomy walls for light and opportunity. This is the eternal Prisoner who, through the ceaseless ages of cosmic unfoldment, through forms unnumbered an d species now unknown, strives eternally to libe rate Himself and gain self conscious expression, the birthright of every created thing. He awaits the day when, standing upon the rocks that now form His shapeless tomb, He may raise His arms to heaven, bathed in the sunlight of spiritual freedom, free to join the sparkling atoms and dancing light-beings released from the bonds of prison wall and tomb.
Around Life - that wondrous germ in the heart of every living thing, that sacred Prisoner in His gloomy cell, that Master Builder laid away in the grave of matter - has been built the wondrous legend of the Holy Sepulchre. Under allegories unnumbered, the mystic philosophers of the ages, have perpetuated this wonderful story, and among the Craft Masons it forms the mystic ritual of Hiram, the Master Builder, murdered in his temple by the very builders who should have served him as he labored to perfect the dwelling place of his God.
Matter is the tomb. It is the dead wall of substance not yet awakened into the pulsating energies of Spirit. It exists in many degrees and forms, not only in the chemical elements which form the solids of our universe but in finer and more subtle substances. These, though expressing through emotion and thought, are still beings of the world of form. These substances form the great cross of matter which opposes the growth of all things and by opposition makes all growth possible. It is the great cross o f hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon upon which even the life germ in protoplasm is crucified and suspended in agony. These substances are incapable of giving it adequate expression. The Spirit within cries out for freedom: freedom to be, to express, to manifest its true place in the Great Plan of cosmic unfoldment.
It is this great yearning within the heart of man which sends him slowly onward toward the gate of the Temple; it is this inner urge for greater understanding and greater light which brought into being through the law of necessity the great cosmic Masonic Lodge dedicated to those seeking union with the Powers of Light that their prison walls might be removed. This shell cannot be discarded: it must be raised into union with the Life; each dead, crystallized atom in the human body must be set vibrating and spinning to a higher rate of consciousness. Through purification, through knowledge, and through service to his fellow man the candidate sequentially unfolds these mystic properties, building better and more perfect bodies through which his higher life secures even greater manifestation. The expression of man through constructive thought, emotion, and action liberates the higher nature from bodies which in their crystallized states are incapable of giving him his natural opportunities.
In Freemasonry this crystallized substance of matter is called the grave and represents the Holy Sepulchre. This is the grave within which the lost Builder lies and with Him are the plans of the Temple and the Master's Word, and it is this builder, our Grand Master, whom we must seek and raise from the dead. This noble Son of Light cries out to us in every expression of matter. Every stick and stone marks His resting place, and the sprig of acacia promises that through the long winter of spiritual darkness when the sun does not shine for man, this Light still awaits the day of liberation when each one of us shall raise Him by the grip of the Grand Master, the true grip of a Master Mason. We cannot hear this Voice that calls eternally, but we feel its inner urge. A great unknown something pulls at our heartstrings. As the ages roll by, the deep desire to be greater, to live better, and to think God's thoughts, builds within ourselves the qualifications of a candidate who, when asked why he takes the path , would truly answer if he knew mentally the things he feels: "I hear a voice that cries out to me from flora and fauna, from the stones, from the clouds, from the very heaven itself. Each fiery atom spinning and twisting in Cosmos cries out to me with the voice of my Master. I can hear Hiram Abiff, my Grand Master, crying out in his agony, the agony of life hidden within the darkness of its prison walls, seeking for the expression which I have denied it, lab oring, to bring closer the day of its liberation , and I have learned to know that I am responsible for those walls. My daily actions are the things which as ruffians and traitors are murdering my God."
There are many legends of the Holy Sepulchre which for so many centuries had been in the hands of the infidel and which the Christian worlds sought to retake in the days of the Crusades. Few Masons realize that this Holy Sepulchre, or tomb, is in reality negation and crystallization - matter that has sealed within itself the Spirit of Life which must remain in darkness until the growth of each individual being gives it walls of glowing gold and changes its stones into windows. As we develop better and bet ter vehicles of expression, these walls slowly expand until at last Spirit rises triumphant from its tomb and, blessing the very walls that confined it, raises them to union with itself.
We may first consider the murderers of Hiram. These three ruffians, who, when the Builder seeks to leave his temple, strike him with the tools of his own Craft until finally they slay him and bring the temple down in destruction upon their own heads, symbolize the three expressions of our own lower natures which are in truth the murderers of the good within ourselves. These three may be called thought, desire, and action. When purified and transmuted they are three glorious avenues through which may manifest the great life power of the three kings, the glowing builders of the Cosmic Lodge manifesting in this world as spiritual thought, constructive emotion, and useful daily labor in the various places and positions where we find ourselves while carrying on the Master's work. These three form the Flaming Triangle which glorifies every living Mason, but when crystallized and perverted they form a triangular prison through which the light cannot shine and the Life is forced to languish in the dim darkness of despair, until man himself through his higher understanding liberates the energies and powers which are indeed the builders and glorifiers of his Father's House.
Now let us consider how these three fiery kings of the dawn became, through perversion of their manifestation by man, the ruffians who murdered Hiram - the energizing powers of cosmos which course through the blood of every living being, seeking to beautify and perfect the temple they would build according to the plan laid down on the tracing board by the Master Architect of the universe. First in the mind is one of the three kings, or rather we shall say a channel through which he manifests; for King Solomon is the power of mind which, perverted, becomes a destroyer who tears down with the very powers which nourish and build. The right application of thought, when seeking the answer to the cosmic problem of destiny, liberates man's spirit which soars above the concrete through that wonderful power of mind, with its dreams and its ideals.
When man's thoughts rise upon the wings of aspiration, when he pushes back the darkness with the strength of reason and logic, then indeed the builder is liberated from his dungeon and the light pours in, bathing him with life and power. This light enables us to seek more clearly the mystery of creation and to find with greater certainty our place in the Great Plan, for as man unfolds his bodies he gains talents with which he can explore the mysteries of Nature and search for the hidden workings of the Divine. Through these powers the Builder is liberated and his consciousness goes forth conquering and to conquer. These higher ideals, these spiritual concepts, these altruistic, philanthropic, educative applications of thought power glorify the Builder; for they give the power of expression and those who can express themselves are free. When man can mold his thoughts, his emotions, and his actions into faithful expressions of his highest ideals then liberty is his, for ignorance is the darkness of Chaos and knowledge is the light of Cosmos.
In spite of the fact that many of us live apparently to gratify the desires of the body and as servants of the lower nature, still there is within each of us a power which may remain latent for a great length of time. This power lives eternities perhaps, and yet at some time during our growth there comes a great yearning for freedom, when, having discovered that the pleasures of sense gratification are eternally elusive and unsatisfying, we make an examination of ourselves and begin to realize that there a re greater reasons for our being. It is sometimes reason, sometimes suffering, sometimes a great desire to be helpful, that brings out the first latent powers which show that one long wandering in the darkness is about to take the path that leads to Light. Having lived life in all its experiences, he has learned to realize that all the manifestations of being, all the various experiences through which he passes, are steps leading in one direction; that, consciously or unconsciously, all souls are being le d to the portico of the temple where for the first time they see and realize the glory of Divinity. It is then that they understand the age-old allegory of the martyred Builder and feel his power within themselves crying out from the prison of materiality. Nothing else seems worth while; and, regardless of cost, suffering, or the taunts of the world, the candidate slowly ascends the steps that lead to the temple eternal. The reason that governs Cosmos he does not know, the laws which mold his being he do es not realize, but he does know that somewhere behind the veil of human ignorance there is an eternal light toward which step by step he must labor. With his eyes fixed on the heavens above and his hands clasped in prayer he passes slowly as a candidate up the steps. In fear and trembling, yet with a divine realization of good, he raps on the door and awaits in silence the answer from within.
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Last modified: March 22, 2014