Prologue: The Presence of the Lord
Untold aeons ago, a spark of light shot forth from the heavens to become the first speck of matter in that region of space now known as earth. From that minute particle--the Foundation Stone (even shetiyya)--grew our world. Three thousand years ago, that stone served as the base for the Temple of Solomon, later the Temple of Zerubbabel, and later still Herod’s Temple. Today it is enclosed by the Muslim shrine the Dome of the Rock.
The plans and materials for Solomon’s Temple were collected by his father, David, warrior king of the Jews. The Temple housed the golden Ark of the Covenant, the powerful home of the two Tablets of the Law carved directly by the hand of God when He met with Moses on Mount Sinai. The Ark had remained in the Tabernacle, an elaborately constructed ritual tent, for some four hundred years before it found its resting place in the Holy of Holies of the Temple.
The Temple Mount, Mount Moriah, in Jerusalem is regarded as a holy place by the three great monotheistic faiths of the descendants of Abraham--Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It was on Mount Moriah that God tested Abraham’s faith by commanding him to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac, and which He repeatedly sanctified throughout the Bible as His dwelling place on earth; here where Jesus spoke with the Rabbis as a child, later ejected the moneychangers, then preached his reformation of the severity of the monotheism of his forebears; and here, where six centuries later, Muhammad met with Moses and Jesus in a vision before ascending on his fiery steed through the heavens. There are traditions that identify the Temple Mount as the location of the Garden of Eden.
The site of Solomon’s Temple became the headquarters of the divine warriors of the Crusades, the Knights Templar, sworn to protect the Holy City of their faith. Countless legends have come down through the centuries about the Order’s relation to the site and the secrets they may have uncovered there. Whatever truth such legends may or may not have, what is absolutely true is that the Bible and the Temple were the beating heart that animated the Knights Templar as they risked their lives to defend the Holy Land.
The building of the Temple of Solomon is the founding myth of Freemasonry. The craftsmen directed by Master Mason Hiram Abiff labored to erect the perfectly proportioned mystical edifice that would house and celebrate the presence of the Lord. Who else but the most skilled and spiritual artisan/adepts could be entrusted with such a task? Each and every Freemason has walked between the pillars of Solomon’s Temple on his path to Truth.
The Temple of Solomon remains as important today as the day it was completed in 957 bce. It is a fundamental component of the spiritual and religious yearnings of millions of people and has been the symbolic focus of the teachings of esoteric societies for three thousand years.
And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. (Exodus, 25:8)
The act of creation proceeds as unity manifests itself in duality. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. The Temple exists because of this division. It is the separation of sacred and profane, the sacrifice of space, effort, and resources to a greater yet invisible purpose. It signifies the distillation of the spiritual aspiration from the realm of the physical body. It is the manifestation of faith, the materialization of intention, the dedication of oneself and one’s community to the service and celebration of the divine. It is the Word made Flesh.
The story of the Temple of Solomon begins in the Garden of Eden. For within the enclosed sacred space of the Garden, the first couple walked with God in a state of undivided unity. That period of bliss came to an end at the Fall, when Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden and prevented from returning by armed cherubim guarding the entrance. Since the Fall, the reestablishment of the unity between God and man may be called the central theme of human existence. It is the underlying goal of the entire biblical narrative that follows Eden. It was pursued each time an altar was built, the Tabernacle moved, the Temple completed.
The integration of heaven and earth that remains to be achieved enjoys a most glorious and profound distinction from that of the Garden. This time we enter the Lord’s presence as fully conscious beings--having eaten of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil--free to choose acceptance of, and surrender to, the Infinite.
Long after the closing of Eden and the destruction of the Flood, the Tabernacle was built on the plan communicated to Moses by God. It was designed as the central place of worship for the nomadic tribes of Israel as they walked through the desert for forty years. The portable Tabernacle or Tent of Meeting was the precedent of the Temple of Solomon, which was built after the land of Israel was settled and Jerusalem conquered and established as David’s capital. Appropriately, the story of Solomon’s Temple ends at the conclusion of the Bible with John’s description of the New Jerusalem in Revelation.
“I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Revelation, 21:1-2)
“I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.” (Revelation, 21:22)
We have at last returned to the Garden of Eden and the immanence of God on earth.