The Legend of Hiram the Builder

Adapted by H. V. A. Parsell IX°, 32°, from the article by Bro. Ben H. Barrows

In “The Rosicrucian and Masonic Record.” April, 1878.


The careful student has undoubtedly remarked, in pursuing his investigations, the prominence given to the explanation of any religious rite or mystery. More pages of the writings of the Ancients that have been preserved to our times, are devoted to the mysteries than the development of empires. Hence we have a better knowledge of the ceremonials and legends of many of the faces of the mysteries, than we have of the country in which they were practiced.

The design of these mysteries is precisely the same as laid down in our modern charge, wherein the candidate is told that, “the design of the Masonic Institution is to make its votaries wiser, better, and consequently happier. Such persons when associated together will naturally ask each other’s welfare equally with their own!” It is as the silver-tongued Kasson has said, “the constant striving of the human race to regain the lost Paradise, by erecting an earthly one.” The mystery, then, became the type of the highest growth of culture in religion, morals, and ethics, in the countries where it flourished. These, in time, may have degenerated into heresies and false schools, just as the pure worship of Ceres, the beauteous goddess of the fields, under the decadence of the Romans, sank into the licentious and shameful practices of the Lampascene festival of worship of Priapus. But they were not so in the beginning, or else the wisest men of antiquity have uttered willful falsehoods.

The original pure mysteries were the symbolic form in which great truths were enveloped. The legend of the death, burial and resurrection of H:.A:., in its highest sense, teaches the great doctrine of immortality, and for thousands of years upon the earth has this myth been practiced, with different names and other attributes of personal honor; but the general character is one and the same. Indeed, we may say it is identical, except in the names of individuals. Each legend represents the death, by violence, of some particular person. With some, it was a god; with others, a demi-god; and again, a great warrior, or some distinguished personage who had conferred lasting benefits upon his race and time.

In consequence of such a death, something was lost; a finding of it – a beginning in sorrow and lamentation, and ending in joy and rejoicing.

This is the ceremonial of each and every mystery of which we have any account, either historical or traditional, that has been practiced on the globe. From the fact that these salient points are observable in all, we naturally infer that there must have been somewhere in the infancy of the world, a great tragedy, which is the type whence all these took their rise. It must have had an original, as proved by its universal acceptance. This tradition is traced back to the plains of Shinar, before the dispersion of mankind. Neither history nor tradition relates any circumstance as occurring that could have been the great original of the legend. In Genesis iv;8-9, we find recorded these words: “An Cain talked with Abel, his brother, and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel, his brother, and slew him. And the Lord said unto Cain, where is Abel, thy brother? And he said, I know not. Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Here we find a loss of life by violence, and that, too, by a brother; the escape of a murderer; the search; the discovery of the body by the parents, and its interment under a certain belief in its final resurrection from the dead. We are required to imagine but one point here; that is, that Adam buried his son in the hope of a resurrection. Finally, to complete and more fully round the coincidences of the legend, the murderer was discovered, and received the punishment directed by the Almighty.

Diffused in many lands, the name of the hero changed as the language changed. Egypt, the birthplace of mystery and science, undoubtedly received it first, and in the course of time, the Egyptian legend of Isis and Osiris came to be regarded as the original. Then it went to Greece, and the Ionian architects in pursuit of employment migrated to every civilized country, practicing the Dionysian rites wherever they were, and in time came to Tyre; from thence to Jerusalem, where they found the true original legend.

Solomon and Hiram reorganized, as it were, the whole system, restoring them to their original intent. At what time the legend of the death of H:.A:. took the place of the older mysteries of Egypt, India and Persia, we have no information. The Scriptures nowhere mention the death of H:.A:., nor deem him worthy of any mention whatever, save as a skilful workman in brass. The Masonic legend stands by itself unsupported by history, or other than its own traditions….We believe the fact (that great primitive fact) to have been the murder of Abel by his brother.