The Temple Legend
In his lecture cycle "The Temple Legend - Freemasonry & Related Occult Movements" given in Berlin between 23rd May 1904 and the 2nd January 1906 (GA 93), Rudolf Steiner gives a synopsis of the myth in Lecture 5, entitled "The Mystery Known to Rosicrucians."
Below is a synopsis of the legend as given by Steiner in the lecture, followed by a more detailed version provided by the publishers (Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1985).
There was a time when one of the Elohim created a human being whom he called Eve. That Elohim united himself with Eve and she gave birth to Cain. After this, another Elohim, named Yahveh, created Adam. Adam also united himself with Eve and from this union came Abel.
Thus we see that Cain is a direct descendant of the gods, but Abel is a descendant of Adam and Eve who are human. Now the myth proceeds:
The sacrifices which Abel made to Yahveh were pleasing to him, but the sacrifices brought by Cain did not please him because the birth of Cain was not ordained by him. The result was that Cain committed fratricide. He killed Abel and for this he was excluded from communion with Yahveh. He went away into distant lands and founded his own race there.
Adam again united himself with Eve and from this union came Seth, also mentioned in the Bible, who took over the role of Abel. Thus we have two generations of mankind; the race of Cain, who was a descentant of Eve and one of the Elohim, and the other race which had human parentage and was brought into existence at the commad of Yahveh.
Among the descentants of Cain are all those who have been creators of art and science, as, for instance, Methuselah, the inventor of the Tau script, and Tubal-Cain, who taught the use and working of metal ores and iron. In this line of descent, stemming from the Elohim, were all those who trained themselves in the arts and sciences.
Hiram also descended from the race of Cain, and he was the inheritor of all that had been learned by the others of his line in technology and art. He was the most significant architect we can imagine.
Out of Seth's line came Solomon, who excelled in everything which came from Yahveh. He was endowed with the wisdom of the world and all the attributes of calm, clear, objective wisdom. This wisdom can be expressed in words which go straight to the human heart and can uplift a person, but is unable to produce anything tangible of a technical nature, in art or science. It is a wisdom which is a directly inspired gift of God and not attained from below through human passions welling up from the human will - that would be the wisdom pertaining to the sons of Cain, a legacy of the other Elohim, not Yahveh. They are the hardworking industriuous ones who seek to accomplish everything through their own efforts.
Solomon now decides to build a temple and calls upon Hiram, the descendant of Cain, to be his master builder. It was at the time when Balkis, the Queen of Sheba, was visiting Jerusalem because she had heard of the wisdom of Solomon. And she was certainly impressed and charmed by the exalted and clear wisdom and beauty of the King when she first arrived, and when he made love to her she consented to be his bride. Now she heard about the temple which was being built and she desired to make the acquaintance of the master builder, Hiram. When she first met him she was captivated merely by his glance. As a result, a certain mood of jealousy arose between Hiram and Solomon and the latter wished to do something or other against Hiram, but he was dependent upon him for the completion of the temple.
Now came the following: The temple was almost complete. Only one thing was still lacking, which was to have been Hiram's masterpiece; that was the Molten Sea, which was to represent the ocean cast in bronze and was to have adorned the temple. All the necessary mixtures of ores had been prepared by Hiram in a most wonderful manner, ready to be cast. Now, however, three apprentices got to work, whom Hiram had found so lacking in skill that he had been unable to promote them to become masters. They had therefore sworn to be revenged on him and desired to prevent the casting of the Molten Sea. A friend of Hiram, who got to know about these plans, confided them to Solomon, so that he should prevent their realization. But Solomon, through jealousy, did nothing to stop them, because he wished to destroy Hiram. The result was that Hiram had to look on while the whole casting disintegrated due to the addition of a wrong ingredient in the mixture by the three apprentices. He tried to quench the bursting flames by pouring water over them, but this only made matters worse. Just as he was on the point of despairing about the work ever being completed, Tubal-Cain, his ancestor, appeared to him and told him that he should not hesitate to cast himself into the fire, as he was invulnerable to the flames. Hiram did as he was advised and came to the center of the earth. He was led by Tubal-Cain to Cain, who there resided in a condition of pristine divinity. Hiram was thus initiated into the Mystery of Fire and into the secret of bronze casting, receiving from Tubal-Cain a hammer and a Golden Triangle which he was able to carry with him as a pendant round his neck. Then he returned and was able to complete the casting of the Molten Sea and to put everything in order again.
Hereupon the Queen of Sheba consented to become Hiram's bride. He, however, was set upon by the three apprentices and murdered. But before he died, Hiram managed to throw the Golden Triangle into a well. As no one knew where he had disappeared, a search was made. Even Solomon was afraid and was anxious to find out what had happened. It was thought that the ancient Master Word could be betrayed by the apprentices, and therefore another one was devised. The first word to be spoken when Hiram was discovered should be the new Master Word. At last Hiram was found and was able to utter a few last words. He said: "Tubal-Cain had promised me that I shall have a son who will be the father of many descendants who will people the earth and bring my work - the building of the Temple - to completion. Then he pointed to the place where the Golden Triangle was to be found. This was then collected and brought to the Molten Sea and both were preserved together in the Holy of Holies. They are only to be discovered by those who can understand the meaning of the legend of the Temple of Solomon and its Master Builder Hiram.
What follows is a somewhat expanded version of the Temple Legend, with more detail:
THE LEGEND OF THE TEMPLE
Ancestry of Hiram Abiff
Solomon, having determined on the erection of the Temple, collected artificers, divided them into companies, and put them under the command of Adoniram or Hiram Abiff, the architect sent to him by his friend and ally Hiram, King of Tyre. According to mythical tradition, the ancestry of the builders of the mystical temple was as follows: One of the Elohim, or primitive genii, married Eve and had a son called Cain; whilst Jehovah or Adonai, another of the Elohim, created Adam and united him with Eve to bring forth the family of Abel, to whom were subjected the sons of Cain, as a punishment for the transgression of Eve. Cain, though industriously cultivating the soil, yet derived little produce from it, whilst Abel leisurely tended his flocks. Adonai rejected the gifts and sacrifices of Cain, and stirred up strife between the sons of the Elohim, generated out of fire, and the sons formed out of the earth only. Cain killed Abel, and Adonai pursuing his sons, subjected to the sons of Abel the noble family that invented the arts and diffused science. Enoch, a son of Cain, taught men to hew stones, construct edifices and form civil societies. Irad and Mehujael, his son and grandson, set boundaries to the waters and fashioned cedars into beams. Methusael, another of his descendants, invented the sacred characters, the books of Tau and the symbolic T, by which the workers descended from the genii of fire recognized each other. Lamech, whose prophesies are inexplicable to the profane, was the father of Jabal, who first taught men how to dress camels' skins; of Jubal, who discovered the harp; of Naanah, who discovered the arts of spinning and weaving; of Tubal-Cain, who first constructed a furnace, worked in metals, and dug subterranean caves in the mountains to save his race during the deluge; but it perished nevertheless, and only Tubal-Cain and his son, the sole survivors of the glorious and gigantic family, came out alive. The wife of Ham, second son of Noah, thought the son of Tubal-Cain handsomer than the sons of men, and he became progenitor of Nimrod, who taught his brethren the art of hunting, and founded Babylon. Adoniram, the descendant of Tubal-Cain, seemed called by God to lead the militia of the free men, connecting the sons of fire with the sons of thought, progress, and truth.
Hiram, Solomon, and the Queen of Sheba
By Hiram was erected a marvellous building, the Temple of Solomon. He raised the golden throne of Solomon, most beautifully wrought, and built many other glorious edifices. But, melancholy amidst all his greatness, he lived alone, understood and loved by few, hated by many, and among others by Solomon, envious of his genius and glory. Now the fame of the wisdom of Solomon spread to the remotest ends of the earth; and Balkis, the Queen of Sheba, came to Jerusalem, to greet the great king and behold the marvels of his reign. She found Solomon seated on a throne of gilt cedar wood, arrayed in cloth of gold, so that at first she seemed to behold a statue of gold with hands of ivory. Solomon received her with every kind of festive preparation, and led her to behold his palace and then the grand works of the temple; and the queen was lost in admiration. The king was captivated by her beauty, and in a short time offered her his hand, which the queen, pleased at having conquered his proud heart, accepted. But on again visiting the temple, she repeatedly desired to see the architect who had wrought such wondrous things. Solomon delayed as long as possible presenting Hiram Abiff to the queen, but at last he ws obliged to do so. The mysterious artificer was brought before her, and cast on the queen a look that penetrated her very heart. Having recovered her composure, she questioned and defended him against the illwill and rising jealousy of the king. When she wished to see the countless host of workmen that wrought at the temple, Solomon protestd the impossibility of assembling them all at once; but Hiram, leaping on a stone to be better seen, with his right hand described in the air the symbolical Tau, and immediately the men hastened from all parts of the works into the presence of their master; at this the queen wonderd greatly, and secretly repnted of the promise she had given the king, for she felt herself in love with the mighty architect. Solomon set himself to destroy this affection, and to prepare his rival's humiliation and ruin. for this purpose, he employed three fellow-craftsmen, envious of Hiram, because he had refused to raise them to the degree of masters, on account of their want of knowledge and their idleness. They were Fanor, a Syrian and a mason; Amru, a Phoenician and a carpenter, and Metusael, a Hebrew and a miner. The black envy of these three projected that the casting of the brazen sea, which was to raise the glory of Hiram to its utmost height, should turn out a failure. A young workman, Benoni, discovered the plot and revealed it to Solomon, thinking that sufficient. The day for the casting arrived, and Balkis was present. The doors that restrained the molten metal were opened, and torrents of liquid poured into the vast mould wherein the brazen sea was to assume its form. But the burning mass ran over the edges of the mould, and flowed like lava over the adjacent places. The terrified crowd fled from the advancing stram of fire. Hiram, calm, like a god, endavored to arrest its advance with ponderous columns of water, but without success. The water and the fire mixed, and the struggle was terrible; the water rose in dense steam and fell down in the shape of fiery rain, spreading terror and death. The dishonored artificer needed the sympathy of a faithful heart; he sought Benoni, but in vain; the proud youth perished in endeavoring to prevent the horrible catastrophe hen he found that Solomon had done nothing to hinder it.
Hiram could not withdraw himself from the scene of his discomfiture. Oppressed with grief, he heeded not the danger, he remembered not that this ocean of fire might speedily engulf him; he thought of the Queen of Sheba, who came to admire and congratulate him on a great triumph, and who saw nothing but a terrible disaster. Suddenly he heard a strange voice coming from above, and crying, "Hiram, Hiram, Hiram!" He raised his eyes and beheld a gigantic human figure. The apparition continued: "Come, my son, be without fear, I have rendered thee incombustible; cast thyself into the flames." Hirm threw himself into the furnac, and where others would have found death, he tasted ineffable delights; nor could he, drawn by an irresistible force, leave it, and asked him that drew him into the abyss: "Whither do you take me?" "Into the center of the earth, into the soul of the world, into the kingdom of the great Cain, where liberty reigns with him. There the tyrannous envy of Adonai ceases; there can we, despising his anger, taste the fruit of the tree of knowledge; there is the home of my fathers." "Who then am I, and who art thou?" "I am the father of thy fathers, I am the son of Lamech, I am Tubal-Cain."
Tubal-Cain introduced Hiram into the sanctuary of fire, where he expounded to him the weakness of Adonai and the base position of that god, the enemy of his own creature whom he condemned to the inexorable law of death, to avenge the benefits the genii of fire had bestowed on him. Hiram was led into the presence of the author of his race, Cain. The angel of light that begat Cain was reflected in the beauty of this son of love, whose noble and generous mind roused the envy of Adonai. Cain related to Hiram his experiences, sufferings, and misfortunes, brought upon him by the implacable Adonai. Presently he heard the voice of him who was the offspring of Tubal-Cain and his sister Naamah: "A son shall born unto thee whom thou shalt indeed not see, but whose numerous descendants shall perpetuate thy race, which, superior to that of Adam, shall acquire the empire of the world; for many centuries they shall consecrate their courage and genius to the service of the ever ungrateful race of Adam, but at last the best shall become the strongest, and restore on the earth the worship of fire. Thy sons, invincible in thy name, shall destroy the power of kings, the ministers of the Adonai's tyranny. Go, my son, the genii of fire are with thee!" Hiram was restored to the earth. Tubal-Cain before quitting him gave him the hammer with which he himself had wrought great things, and said to him: "Thanks to this hammer and the help of the genii of fire, thou shalt speedily accomplish the work left unfinished through man's stupidity and malignity." Hiram did not hesitate to test the wonderful efficacy of the precious instrument, and the dawn saw the great mass of bronze cast. The artist felt the most lively joy, the queen exulted. The people came running up, astounded at his secret power which in one night had repaired everything.
One day the queen, accompanied by her maids, went beyond Jerusalem, and there encountered Hiram, alone and thoughtful. The encounter was decisive, they mutually confessed their love. Had-Had, the bird who filled with the queen the office of messenger of the genii of fire, seeing Hiram in the air make the sign of the mystic T, flew around his head and settled on his wrist. At this Sarahil, the nurse of the queen, exclaimed: "The orcle is fulfilled. Had-Had recognizes the husband which the genii of fire destined for Balkis, whose love alone she dare accept!" They hesitated no longer, but mutually pledged their vows, and deliberated how Balkis could retract the promise given to the king. Hiram was to be the first to quit Jerusalem; the queen, impatient to rejoin him in Arabia, was to elude the vigilance of the king, which she accomplished by withdrawing from his finger, while he was overcome with wine, the ring wherewith she had plighted her troth to him. Solomon hinted to the fellow-craftsmen that the removal of his rival, who refused to give them the master's word, would be acceptable unto himself; so when the architect came into the temple he was assailed and slain by them. Before his death, however, he had time to throw the golden triangle which he wore round his neck, and on which was engraven the master's word, into a deep well. They wrapped up his body, carried it to a solitary hill and buried it, planting over the grave a sprig of acacia.
Hiram not having made his appearance for seven days, Solomon, against his inclination, but to satisfy the clamor of the people, was forced to have him searched for. The body as found by three masters, and they, suspecting that he had been slin by the three fellow-craftsmen for refusing them the master's word, determined nevertheless for greater security to change the word, and that the first word accidentally uttered on raising the body should henceforth be the word. In the act of raising it, the skin came off the body, so that one of the masters exclaimed "Macbenach!" (the flesh is off the bones!) and this word became the sacred word of the master's degree. The three fellow-craftsmen were traced, but rather than fall into the hands of their pursuers, they committed suicide ad their heads were brought to Solomon. The triangle not having been found on the body of Hiram it was sought for and at last discovered in the well into which the architect had cast it. The king caused it to be placed on a triangular altar erected in a secret vault, built under the most retired part of the temple. The triangle was further concealed by a cubical stone, on which had been inscribed the sacred law. The vault, the existence of which was only known to the twenty-seven elect, was then walled up.
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