The Legend of Hiram Abif
"A Ritualistic Drama"
In the Sublime Degree you were impressed by the tragedy of Hiram Abif above all other features of the impressive ceremonies.
As the degree is the climax of initiation, so is the Tragedy the climax of the degree. To understand its meaning will be a prized possession as long as you live.
Drama is a conflict between a man and other men, or other forces, resulting in a crisis in which his life or fortune is at stake. The crisis, or problem, is followed by a resolution or solution. If it favors the man, the drama is a comedy, in the original meaning of the word. If it turns against him, and he becomes a victim or a sufferer, the drama is a tragedy.
Plays acted on the stage are not actually dramas but, rather, representation of dramas. The Masonic Drama concerns that which occurs in our own lives, to each of us in our daily experience.
The tragedy of Hiram Abif is a ritualistic drama. Ritual is the set words and fixed ceremonies addressed to the human spirit through imagination.
A play in the theatre may be built around some historical figure or event, as in Shakespeare's plays about the English Kings. If the figures and events are not actually historical, they are at least supposed to be, so that time, place and identity are of importance.
A ritualistic drama moves wholly in the realm of the spirit, where time, space and particular individuals are ignored. The clash of forces, the crises and fates of the human Spirit alone enter into it and they hold true of all men everywhere.
Since the Drama of Hiram Abif is ritualistic, it is a mistake to accept it as history. True, there was a Hiram Abif in history, but our Third Degree goes far beyond what history tells of him.
Our Hiram Abif is a symbol of the human soul. If, therefore, you have been troubled with the thought that some of the events of this drama could not have happened, you can ease your mind. If they never happened in history, they are symbols of what happens in the life of every man.
It is an inexcusable blunder to treat the drama as a mock tragedy or semi-comedy. Savage peoples employ initiation ceremonies as an ordeal. But Freemasonry is not savage.
The exemplification of our ritualistic drama should be as sincere, as solemn and as earnest as a prayer before the Altar. He who takes it trivially or with perverted humor betrays a shallowness of soul which shows him unfit to be a Mason.
To repeat, Hiram Abif is a symbol of the human soul. The work he was engaged to supervise is the symbol of the work we do when we supervise, organize and direct our lives from birth to death.
The enemies he met are symbols of those lusts and passions which in our breasts make war on our characters.
His doom befalls every man who becomes a victim to those enemies; to be interrupted in his work, to be made outcast from the mastership of himself and, at the end, to be buried under all manner of rubbish, ill fame, defeat, demoralization, disgrace, weakness, misery, evil habits and scorn.
The manner in which he was raised from a dead level to a living perpendicular is the way by which any man rises from self-defeat to self-mastery.
And the Great Architect, by the power of whose word Hiram Abif was raised, is the God in whose arms we ourselves forever lie, and whose mighty help we also need to raise us out of the grave of defeat.
Did you ask, while participating in that drama, why you were made to participate; why you were not permitted to sit as a spectator?
It was YOUR drama, not another's. No man can ever be a mere spectator of drama in his own soul.
It was intended that your participation would prepare you for becoming a Master Mason by teaching you the secret of a Master Mason, by which the soul may rise above its internal enemies if a man is a Mason in reality was well as in name.
The real Master Mason is master of himself.
Did you ask why the three enemies came from within his own circle, not from outside?
The enemies most feared by the soul are always from within; its own ignorance, lust, passions, and sins.
As the Great Light reminds us, it is not that which kills the body that we need shun, but that which has the power to destroy the spirit.
Did you ask why there was so much confusion among the Craftsmen?
The temple is the symbol of a man's character and, therefore, breaks and falls when the soul, its architect, is helpless.
The most we can obtain from others is such hints and suggestions as these. Print the legend of Hiram Abif indelibly upon your mind. Ponder it.
When you are at grip with your enemies, recall it and act according to the light you find in it. Your inner self will give, in the form of Ritual, and you will be wiser and stronger for having the guidance and the light the Tragedy provides.