by Daniel Rivera
This article was originally posted to the “Further Light” blog of the Southern California Research Lodge on October 27th, 2017.
Throughout history, men of great learning and spiritual insight have drawn inspiration from one of antiquity’s most celebrated monuments, one which inspired many cultures and spiritual traditions which have placed it foremost in legend, romance, and beauty, and have praised its ruler as the wisest of men. We speak of the Temple of Solomon. Synagogues, temples, churches and cathedrals around the world have turned to its geometric proportions to embody the sacred. These same proportions are found in Nature of which our bodies are a part, made sacred and in the image of same the God who dwelt in the Sanctum Sanctorum.
This article touches upon a vast subject of study and reflection which has occupied our speculative brethren for generations. Freemasonry is marked by two principal concerns, the search for more Light, and Temple building. It can be maintained that these are one and the same work. Solomon’s Temple has been the locus of the symbolic embodiment of Masonic practice, where the orientation, proportion, shape, and ornamentation of this holy place embodies not just an esoteric cosmology, but bears a relational link to the microcosm: the inner life and anatomy of the contemplative. This architecture is that of Initiation.
Let us begin first and foremost with a disclaimer of sorts: the interpretations of Masonic ritual and symbolism found herein should not be construed as authoritative or definitive by any means whatsoever. One of the strengths of our Craft is that nobody speaks with final authority when exploring the meanings of our ritual that go beyond what they literally say. Each reader is invited to examine the subject matters herein for themselves. However, if at least a portion of this article proves informative and illuminating, and encourages further exploration, the humble objective of this article is attained.
Bro. Albert Pike wrote:
“It is for each individual Mason to discover the secret of Masonry, by reflection upon its symbols and a wise consideration and analysis of what is said and done in the work. Masonry does not inculcate her truths. She states them, once and briefly; or hints them, perhaps, darkly; or interposes a cloud between them and eyes that would be dazzled by them. ‘Seek, and ye shall find,’ knowledge and truth.”
As Masons, we are driven by two concerns that are one and the same: the search for more light, and the construction of an imperishable, Spiritual Temple. Let us begin with an examination of the Biblical account of the construction of the historical temple and its proportions, and examine these in relation to the hierotopies of other cultures of antiquity. We will thereafter examine what the properties of these sacred spaces reveal about ourselves and our eternal work.
The historical lectures in our degrees provide a narrative that aligns closely with that presented in the books of 1 Kings chapters 6 and 7, and 2 Chronicles chapters 3 and 4, and to the account of Josephus in his Antiquities of the Jews; these being the circumstances under which the project was undertaken, the numbers and divisions of workmen, the materials used in the building. It bears reminding that the layout of the Temple Gates is different from those of our lodge, those of Solomon being to the North, East, and South, with the Holy of Holies in the West, while our lodges rotate these gates 90 degrees clockwise, placing them to the South, West and East, that the North may remain dark for symbolic reasons explained in one of our degrees.
Let us now of heed the words said unto Saint John in the Apocalypse: “Rise and measure the Temple of God.” (Revelation 11:1)
The biblical accounts about Solomon’s Temple give a few of its dimensions, but not enough for a precise reconstruction of the layout. The oldest surviving information about the detailed layout of the entire Jerusalem Temple precinct is relatively late. It was transmitted in Mishnah Middot 2.1 from the end of the second century of our era and may therefore appear, at first sight, to refer to the then recently destroyed Herodian Temple. Leen Ritmeyer, an archaeologist who spent much time studying the evolution of the ancient Temple Mount, states that those Rabbis are also more likely to have described the original plan of king Solomon’s First Temple because they listed the Temple Mount still as square, long after the Hasmoneans and Herod had enlarged the platform and made it rectangular.
Solomon had used a 2:1 table (20 x 40 cubits) in the Hekal, or Sanctuary, which extended as far as the Holy of Holies, which was itself a cube of 20 cubits on each side. The Temple was thus divided into 1/3 and 2/3rds. The porch was 12 cubits by 20 cubits, which when divided by each other yield 1.6, a close approximation of phi. The Sanctuary was itself a double cube, being 20 cubits wide by forty cubits long, this floor plan yielding the square root of 5, itself used in calculating the Golden Ratio. A double cube floor plan, where the diagonals intersect in exactly the center of the veil between them (as in the Temple between the Holy of Holies and Holy Place) marks the center point of a compass distance that can hit every corner of the double cube. This complete circle when drawn, can then be intersected by the adjoining side extension from the double cube. This making the classic and exact phi length from side to circle along the veil adjoining side. A cube as formed by the Holy of Holies is also made use of in art and proportional geometry to construct the human head.
The impressive edifice built by Solomon housed the mysterious Ark of the Covenant. Exodus 25:10 gives the dimensions of this artifact: “Have them make a chest of acacia wood- two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high.”
A cubit is the measure of the forearm below the elbow. The ratio of 2.5 to 1.5 is 1.666…, which is as close to phi (1.618 …) as you can come with such simple numbers and is certainly not visibly different to the eye. The Ark of the Covenant thus approximates the Golden Section, or Divine Proportion.
The Cubit and other units of measure are Golden Sections.
The 2:1 ratio, Pi, and the Golden Section found in the ornaments and proportions of Solomon’s temple are also found in other cultures of antiquity, which also made use of tripartite divisions of sacred buildings. Where were they drawing their inspiration from?
The celebrated Roman architect Marcus Vitruvius Pollio described the human figure as being the principal source of proportion among the Classical Orders of Architecture in his seminal work De Architectura. In his work, Vitruvius states that an architect should focus on three central themes when preparing a design for a building: firmitas (strength), utilitas (functionality), and venustas (beauty). We see a concern paralleling the three principal pillars of Freemasonry, namely Wisdom, Strength and Beauty. Vitruvius expounds further on the principle of beauty, believing that a timeless notion of beauty could be learnt from the ‘truth of nature,’ that nature’s designs were based on universal laws of proportion and symmetry. He believed that the body’s symmetry and proportions could be used as a model of natural proportional perfection.
Vitruvius calls for symmetry in the construction of temples by demonstrating the symmetry inherent in the human body. He showed that the ideal human body fitted precisely into both a circle and a square, linking the proportions of our human anatomy to perfect geometric forms. These are the words that inspired Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. The body was seen as a living Book of Nature, containing the fixed and faultless laws of Divinity. The body as temple is an idea that predates Saint Paul, who wrote: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1 Corinthians 6:19). By the Second Temple Period, Jesus is said to speak of the “temple of his body” (John 2:21).
This anthropocentric approach to sacred space is explored in R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz’ Temple in Man, who identifies the Temple of Luxor as embodying many of these same proportions, being the Golden Section, Pi, and many more, and identifies these as a conscious exercise in the laws of harmony and proportion as found in nature and in the human body, culminating in the awakening of divine consciousness in the initiate who reaches the adytum, which Lubicz identifies with the head of man.
This relation of divine-human relationship in temple building is further demonstrated in India’s architectural discipline of Vaastu Shastra. According to the principles of Vaastu, a sacred structure such as a temple is designed to be not just the residence of a god, but the actual body of Deity. The building is sacred because it is the Deity directly, uniting macrocosm and the microcosm, each part containing within itself the whole.
Hindu architecture always begins by laying the cosmic body of God (purusha) over every building site (mandala). This is call the Mandala Purusha. The head of purusha liess to the northeast corner. The basis behind this orientation is the principle of maximization of light that is described by the metaphor: the sun equals light, which equals knowledge, which equals consciousness and ultimately spiritual enlightenment. The east is the source of light and of all the points along this eastern axis the north-east point is the most important because it is the point of maximization of light. On June 21st of every year the sun rises in the north-east and this is the day when daylight is longest and darkness is shortest. There is maximization of light at this point and so the north-east corner is called God’s corner (isha-kona). The cosmic head, which is a symbol for enlightenment, is placed in the northeast.
A Hindu temple is a divine and yogic representation of a human being with the Deity in the temple representing the God that also dwells in humanity. In a temple, the feet represents rajagopura, the hands represent praakaara, the abdomen represent mandapa, the heart represents antaraala and the crown of the head represents the sanctum sanctorum (garbha griha). The temple is used as a reminder that our inner spiritual journey is through internal yoga (union) to realize the indweller God.
These principles bear a striking similarity to the Kabbalistic belief in the Temple of Solomon as representative of the metaphysical world and the descending light of the creator through Sephiroth of the Tree of Life. The levels of the outer, inner, and priest’s courts represent the three lower worlds of Kabbalah. The temple pillars Boaz and Jachin are the active and passive elements of the world of Atziluth. The original Menorah and its seven branches represent the seven lower Sephiroth of the Tree of Life, the veil between the Holy of Holies and the Sanctuary represent the Veil of the Abyss on the Tree of Life, behind which the Shekinah or Divine Presence hovers.
The Kabbalah of Rabbi Isaac Luriah also speaks of Adam Kadmon, the primordial Adam, a parallel to the Purusha of the Vedas, who represented the divine light and the potential of all subsequent creation. From Adam Kadmon emerge the following Four Worlds of Atziluth, Briah, Yetzirah, and Assiah (manifestation).
Let us simply provide the words of Bro. Walter Leslie Wilmhust, who declares in his classic work, The Meaning of Masonry, “Great secret systems of the Mysteries (referred to as “noble orders of architecture,” i.e., of soul-building) existed in the East, in Chaldea, Assyria, Egypt, Greece, Italy, amongst the Hebrews, amongst Mahommedans and amongst Christians.” What is notable is the continuous use by diffuse cultures of the human body as a cosmography. The Temple of Solomon also speaks of the Temple of the human body.
Having examined some of the dimensions of the Temple, let us give further exploration to human anatomy.
The human body has many more Phi/Fibonacci relationships.
The leg: The distance from the hip to the knee, and from the knee to the ankle.
The face: The distance from the top of the head to the nose, and from the nose to the chin.
The arm: The distance between the shoulder joint to the elbow, and from the elbow to the finger tips.
The hand: The distance between the wrist, the knuckles, the first and second joints of the fingers, and the finger tips.
Many ancient systems of measure made use of these distances, giving a literal meaning to Protagoras’ statement that “man is the measure of all things!”
Having dwelt at length at with the fascinating dimensions of Solomon’s temple as well as insights offered by surrounding cultures, let us examine now what relation these have to our Masonic ritual, and to that Great Work of temple building.
Let us return to the image of Humanity superimposed over the Tree of Life. We find that the four worlds are overlayed in proportion to the body in a way which may be recognized by Masons. These same divisions are repeated in the dimensions of the Temple. When we look at the Golden Mean as found in the body, we see the same divisions.
In Masonic symbolism, the descent into every grave, crypt, or tomb, the penetration into every dark cave, secluded grove, or secret chamber, the entrance into every storeroom, workshop, laboratory, quarry, or lodge, and the passage into every sanctuary, chapel, temple, or cathedral, can be regarded as an invitation to turn within ourselves, to enter the hidden spaces of our own hearts and minds, to contemplatively plumb the mysterious and sometimes frightening depths of our own souls, there to discover the inner light that enables us to more fully realize our kinship with all human beings, to recover the lost truths that empower us to better serve in building and adorning the temple of humanity.
Our ritual at times has strikingly described this internal work by use of our own anatomy. One of the earliest exposes of a Masonic catechism or proficiency contains the following exchange:
Q. Have you any Key to [the Secrets contained in the Lodge]?
Q. Where do you keep it?
A. In a Bone Bone Box that neither opens nor shuts but with Ivory Keys.
Q. Does it hang or does it lie?
A. It hangs.
Q. What does it hang by?
A. A Tow-Line 9 inches or a Span.
Q. What Metal is it of?
A. No manner of Metal at all; but a Tongue of good Report is as good behind a Brother’s Back as before his Face.
In these exchanges, the Key is the Tongue, the Bone Bone Box is the Skull, the Ivory Keys are the Teeth, the Tow-Line is the roof of the mouth. The Lodge is the Head.
Taking our cue from Lubicz’ work on the Temple of Luxor as well as the principles of Vastu, we may explore the dimensions of Solomon’s Temple as overlaid in the human anatomy. We find the Holy of Holies, which Masonic Tradition holds as the meeting place of the Lodge of Master Masons, aligning with the head. A striking correlation can be seen, one which did not escape the notice of Manly Hall, who in 1922 wrote:
“In the brain of man, between the wings of the kneeling cherubim, is the mercy seat, and there man speaks with his God as the priest of the tabernacle spoke to the spirit of the Lord hovering between the wings of the Angels. Man is again the Ark, and within him are the three principles—the tablets of the law, the pot of manna, and the rod that budded. But as in the case of the ancient Israelites, when they became crystallized the pot of manna and the rod that budded were removed from the Ark, and all that was left were the tablets or the letters of the law.
“In all the Mystery Religions of the world, individually and cosmically, the ark represents the fountain-head of wisdom.
“Over it the Shekinah’s glory hovers, as a column of flames by night and a pillar of smoke by day.
“Every individual by his daily actions is expressing more plainly than by words his ideals, his desires, and his attitude towards this great work. The composite attitude of a certain number of people either shuts out or lets in the light. Therefore every individual has a great duty, a great work has to be done, and to that the true student must dedicate his life. Then wherever he may go, whatever he may do, he is being led, and the Shekinah’s glory directs his footsteps.
“Solomon’s temple, or the perfected temple of the human body, the perfected temple of the universe and the perfected temple of the soul, finally forms the perfect shrine for the living Ark. There at the head of a great cross it is placed, and there in man it becomes permanently fixed. The staves of polarity upon which it was carried are removed, and it becomes a living thing, a permanent place where man converses with his God. There man, the purified and elect priest, arrayed in the robes of his order, the garments of his soul, converses with the spirit hovering over the Mercy Seat. This Ark within is always present, but man can only reach it after he has passed through the outer court of the Tabernacle, after he has passed through all the degrees of initiation – not only ceremonial, but contemplative – and after he has taken the Third Degree and becomes a Master. Then and then only can he enter into the presence of his Lord, and there in the darkened chamber, lighted by the jewels of his own breast plate, he converses with the Most High, the true spiritual essence within himself.”
Is this a passing correlation, or is there more to explore? Let us look at what our current medical science shows us about of our anatomy in relation to what we have just heard.
A brain scan reveals an architecture of sublime design:
The fornix, which contains the Amygdala, continues on with the hippocampus wrapped around the Crus of the Fornix through the hippocampal commisure to the anterior pillars above the mamillary bodies.
The uppermost arch enveloping the entire structure is the Corpus Callosum, which unites the right and left hemispheres of the Cerebral Cortex. At the the back end, the pineal gland is observed in between the Thalamus, and is closely associated with the hypothalamus. Immediately below the hypothalamus is the Optic Chiasma, which relays electrical impulses from the eyes through the optic nerves. Connected to, and directly below this is the pituitary body. Central to all of this is the Ventricular System which is formed from the Meninges and includes the Choroid Plexus.
This structural system is central to the function of the brain, which is incessantly receiving, integrating and interpreting both internal and external stimuli. The ventricular system, contains generative zones for neural and glial progenitor cells as well as cerebrospinal fluid. The cerebrospinal fluid is primarily produced from the choroid plexus and bathes all cells of the brain – in fact it forms a buoyant environment in which the brain essentially floats in the dura casing of the meninges.
An exploration of the inner anatomy of the brain provides more than a passing similarity to the cherubim above the mercy seat. This region of the brain supports a variety of functions including emotion, behavior, motivation, and memory. These are the same areas of activity engaged in our Masonic ritual, as we memorize, reflect and act upon the symbols and principles we encounter.
The cerebrospinal fluid, functions mainly to protect the brain from potentially damaging impacts, as well as to distribute certain metabolites and growth factors. Being largely composed of water and glycoproteins, the cerebrospinal fluid may may also be able to function as a conduit that assists in the transmission of impulses and signals from the meninges.
The skull and meninges are not simply an encasing of the brain. Far from it – the specific structure of the skull gives it a specific functionality as a receiver of external stimuli. The stimuli received can be transduced through the skull to the connective tissue and into the meninges. Here the neuroanatomical structure of the meninges as well as the unique biomolecular properties of the associated extracellular matrix allow the meninges to transmit impulses to very key locations within the brain and beyond.
A structure called the Falx Cerebri connects the meninges directly to the suprapineal recess of the third ventricle, where stimuli may be transmitted directly to the Pineal gland. It is at the crown of the skull where Vedic esoteric anatomy places the Crown Chakra, and where mystics such as Harold Waldwin Percival placed the Keystone of the Holy Royal Arch described in York and Scottish Rites.
Here in this extraordinary system, stimuli are concentrated and transmitted not only down the central channel of the Meninges through to the bottom of the Spine, but through the vasculature, which at the molecular and cellular level is continuous with the meninges directly to the Heart. From the heart the frequencies are easily transmitted to every cell in the body.
Additionally, this extraordinary system is not only the resident localization of stem cells in the brain – from which all neurogenesis issues, but is also one of the only empirically validated areas where somatic nuclear recombination occurs. That is to say remodeling of the genome in non-germline cells – creating genetic mosaicism. Here we can encounter not only neurocellular, but genetic renewal, which may be interpreted as new designs upon the Trestleboard.
The directed concentration of specific stimuli within this center could increase the amount of coherent genetic recombination taking place and produce new genetic combinations that are highly advantageous. If, for example, it was a protein associated with the synapse, then it may have the capacity to increase the efficiency of the synaptic signaling. This would in turn increase optimal function in the brain.
Furthermore, the Choroid Plexus is a conduit for the passage of cells into and out of the brain, and is situated directly above the stem cell niche of the subventricular zone of the lateral ventricles. If these progenitor cells were to undergo genomic remodeling, they could exit the brain through the Choroid Plexus and migrate to tissues and organs within the body where they could become resident progenitor cells. Eventually many of the daughter cells would come to populate the tissue, and in that way could upgrade many systems of the body, assuming the genetic recombination was advantageous. We may interpret this as Craftsman building King Solomon’s Temple.
The essential point of this activity is that the genome is fluid, able to undergo permutations in a relatively short period of time when compared to macro evolution cycles, even within the single lifespan of an organism. As has been described, approximately 98% of the genome contains sequences that are non-coding for proteins expressed outside of the nucleus. But far from being a retroviral graveyard of selfish DNA elements (rubbish of the Temple), it may very well be a repository of dormant protein coding sequences that were designed with the specificity to upgrade and sublimate the biological system.
By the accelerated engagement of the human genome by increased transposon mobilization from sources such as increased high frequency stimuli, the brain may become more capable of forming higher functioning states for prolonged periods of time.
Situated nearly in the center of the brain, within the Ventricular and Limbic system, we come to the Pineal gland, of discernible interests for many reasons. It is not only involved in the spacetime regulation of the organism through the production of melatonin, which modulates the circadian cycle, but also in regulating non-spacetime interactions through the production of Dimethyltryptamine (DMT). It contains microcrystals which are involved in the transduction of various stimuli. The Pineal gland is comprised of cells which have photoreceptor activity.
During certain states of meditation the brain can enter a Gamma Oscillatory state, in which electrical excitations are fired from the thalamus and sweep back and forth through the brain dozens of times a second in complete spatiotemporal synchrony, extraretinal phototransduction having also been empirically characterized.
What is the source of this extraretinal light? While it very likely could be from endogenous biophoton emissions that increase with high frequency excitation of local biomolecules, this is probably a result of intercranial light transduction. It has been demonstrated that in avian and mammalian species light is received at the crown of the head and transduced intracranially to the pineal gland.
An interpretation offered for your consideration is that of the Temple of Solomon and its proportions and dimensions as being a blueprint to understanding our sacred nature, the potentials hidden within each of us to build of our perishable material an imperishable dwelling place for divinity. Hiram Abiff enters the adytum, communes with Light, and prays for inspiration by which to upbuild our bodies. The various proportions found in the temple and in our human anatomy provide insights by which we can engage in the practical inner work of sublimating our inherent nature.
It is no mystery that Hiram Abiff appears in the Bible; however, his biblical story is not the one with which we are presented in our Masonic degrees. We are apt to interpret this variance as a proof of the deeply symbolic and allegorical – as opposed to historical – nature of Masonic ritual. The question then naturally follows: of what is the character of Hiram Abiff symbolic within Freemasonry? The answer is not a simple one: the Hiramic Legend is of such complexity that it alludes not to one but to many concepts.
Manly Hall provides a bold interpretation:
Sufficient similarity exists between the Masonic CHiram and the Kundalini of Hindu mysticism to warrant the assumption that CHiram may be considered a symbol also of the Spirit Fire moving through the sixth ventricle of the spinal column. The exact science of human regeneration is the Lost Key of Masonry, for when the Spirit Fire is lifted up through the thirty-three degrees, or segments of the spinal column, and enters into the domed chamber of the human skull, it finally passes into the pituitary body (Isis), where it invokes Ra (the pineal gland) and demands the Sacred Name. Operative Masonry, in the fullest meaning of that term, signifies the process by which the Eye of Horus is opened. In the human brain there is a tiny gland called the pineal body, which is the sacred eye of the ancients, and corresponds to the third eye of the Cyclops, which Descartes suggested (more wisely than he knew) might be the abode of the spirit of man. As its name signifies, the pineal gland is the sacred pine cone in man–the eye single, which cannot be opened until CHiram (the Spirit Fire) is raised through the sacred seals which are called the Seven Churches in Asia.
The run of humanity is ignorant or indifferent and even hostile to this work of the Hiram, thereby slaying the Skilled Artificer and burying him in the rubbish of the temple, their temples not escaping the ravages of time. Should Hiram be raised, the temple work will continue, the stone that the builders rejected is become the Keystone, and man is sublimated.
The work of Masonry is both internal and external. The internal qualities of the candidate, revealed through a reputation built by attitudes and actions outwardly expressed, are what lead to entry into the lodge. Once within the lodge, through ever deeper reflection upon the symbols and principles presented us, we internalize them and thus refine the inner architecture of our souls. These labors in turn provide us with greater tools, skills, and designs by which to exemplify wisdom, strength, and beauty in our world and in ourselves. The work of Masonry is both internal and external, and neither can advance toward its greatest potentials without the other.
In the Chronicles of Israel we read how, after long and extensive labor, after employing the choicest materials and the most skillful artificers of his age, King Solomon completed his celebrated Temple, and dedicated to the Grand Master of the Universe that work of his wisdom, his sacred edifice being accepted and that acceptance signified by a Divine Descent upon the Temple so that the glory of the Lord shone through and filled the whole house.
“Behold! the Temple of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And he that sat upon the throne said: Behold, I make all things new.”
- Albert Pike, Morals & Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite. (Washington: Supreme Council, 2011) p. 218 ↩
- Louis H. Feldman, ed. Studies in Josephus And the Varieties of Ancient Judaism. (Boston: Brill Publications, 1943) ↩
- Leen Ritmeyer, “The Temple Mount in the Herodian Period,” (biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-sites-places/temple-at-jerusalem/the-temple-mount-in-the-herodian-period) Accessed 06/25/17 ↩
- Vitruvius, de Architectura, Book III 1:1-4, 9 ↩
- R.A. Shwaller de Lubicz, The Temple in Man. (New York: Inner Traditions, 1989) pp. 46-49 ↩
- Binda Thapar, Introduction to Indian Architecture. (Singapore: Periplus Editions, 2004) pp. 42-44 ↩
- W. L. Wilmhurst, The Meaning of Masonry. (Plumbstone, 2007) p. 26 ↩
- Doczi, Gyorgy, The Power of Limits: Proportional Harmonies in Nature, Art, and Architecture. (Boulder: Shambala Publications, 2005) pp. 26-28 ↩
- Samuel Pritchard, “Masonry Dissected” (phoenixmasonry.org/masonry_dissected.htm) Accessed 06/26/17 ↩
- Manly P. Hall, Initiates of the Flame. (Los Angeles: Philosophical Research Society, 1922) p. 55-61 ↩
- Dale Purves ed., Neuroscience (5th ed.). (Sunderland: Sinauer associates, 2012) p.724 ↩
- Harold W. Percival, Masonry and its Symbols in the Light of Thinking and Destiny. (New York: The Word Foundation, 1952) p. 30 ↩
- Neuroscience, pp. 725-726 ↩
- Manly P. Hall, The Secret Teachings of All Ages. (Los Angeles: Philosophical Research Society, 1936) p. 194 ↩
- Revelation 21:3,5 ↩