Do You like masonic research and
The Ars Quatuor Coronati
Circle of Correspondence,
Premier lodge of research in the world.
The Secretary, Q.C.C.C. Ltd
60 Great Queen Street
London WC2B 5BA
Not the least of the mysteries which perplex the
freemason is the sudden appearance in the Installation Ceremony of a hitherto unknown
figure, Adoniram, whose abrupt elevation from total obscurity te, a position of
pre-eminence is quite unexplained. Masons asked about this phenomenon seem to have been in
the main content to accept it without question or comment, but occasions arise when some
explanation is sought. Indeed, as this paper was about to be written, a correspondent to AQC
103, wrote :
« I have been asked to give a talk on The Origin and History of the board of
Installed Masters to brethren who have passed the chair. I have a problem with the
inclusion of Adoniram as a character in the relevant ceremonial because he does not
otherwise figure in out Craft workings. In The Early French Exposures, he appears
to be a substitute for Hiram Abif but there is no mention in English Freemasonry until
1827 when a ritual for the « Board » was promulgated. »
Did Adoniram come either from the Royal Arch or the Ancient and Accepted Rite ? If so, hen
was his name first used in either or both ?
Bro. Frederick Smyth replying tells us nothing of Adoniram or his sudden and inexplicable
elevation; quite properly, since he was not asked to, his questioner having concerned
himself solely with the derivation of the name Adoniram, not with the person.
Bro. Smyth, in his reply, puts Adoniram's first appearance in the Installation ceremony as
late as 1827, since « we can be sure that his name and salutation were unknown to
Preston.' The Early French Exposures does indeed give his name as a substitute for that of
Hiram Abif, as does, as Bro Smyth points out, the « Summary of the History of Hiram » in
L!Anti-Macon, where indeed Adonira and Adora also appear as substitute names.
It is, however, difficult to believe that the two, Hiram Abif and Adonirarn (literally,
Lord Hiram) are one and the same.
Certainly an Adorarn (equated with Adoniram) is mentioned in the Bible. He is said (11
Sam, 20:24) to have been « over the tribute ». That is, head of the tax-collectors. So
reads the Authorized Version. The Revised Standard version (RSV) puts it somewhat
différently. There Adorarn « was in charge of the forced labour. » The Authorized
Version refers to the tax-collector Adoram in 1 Kings 12:18. He having been sent by
Solomon's unpopular son Rehoboam to further fleece the people of Israel, they responded by
stoning him to death. The RSV has it : « Then King Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was
taskmaster over the forced labour, and all Israel stoned him to death with stones. » 2
Chronicles 10: 18 also refers to the stoning of the tax- collector Hadoram (Authorized
Version), and to the stoning of « Hadoram, who was taskmaster over the forced labour. »
(RSV) 1 Kings 5:14 puts Adoniram as over (that is, in charge of) the levy of thirty
thousand men whom King Solomon sent into the mountains of Lebanon to hew cedars for the
building of the Temple. The RSV is more detailed :
King Solomon raised a levy of forced labour out of all Israel; and the levy numbered
thirty thousand men. And he sent them to Lebanon, ten thousand a month in relays; they
would be a month in Lebanon and two months at home ; Adonirarn was in charge of the levy.
It seems unlikely on one ground that this Biblical Adoram (Adoniram) and the masonic Hiram
Abif were one and the same. The enormously skilled craftsman of masonic legend, the
principal architect of the Temple, on the one hand, and the efficient and reliable civil
servant, on the other, who was either tax-collector or Master of the labour gangs, or both
(in either case a highly unpopular figure), seem mutually exclusive. It seems quite
impossible on another ground : that is, that the masonic Hiram Abif was slain « just
before the completion of King Solomon's Temple » ; whereas the Biblical Adoram (Adoniram
: Hadoram), the trusted civil servant, was very much alive in the reign of Solomon's son
and successor Rehoboam.
How is it possible then for the Adoniram whom King Solomon beckoned towards him, on the
occasion of his visit to the newly completed Temple, to be equated with Hiram Abif ? One
is left with two possibilities. The first is that Hiram was the generic title accorded to
the principal architect, much as Pharaoh was the title of the ruler of the Two Kingdoms,
and Minos that of Crete. There is no contributory evidence to suggest that such was the
case. It would in addition be incongruous that, in masonic tradition, it was the murdered
Hiram Abif's successor (generically named Hiram), a shadowy figure who appears out of
nowhere and as promptly disappears again, who was accorded the honour of being designated
« Adon » (lord), a title nowhere accorded to his predecessor, the Son of the Widow.
One is left with the somewhat daunting possibility that the Adoniram (that is, Hiram) who
was about to kneel before his King in token of humility was no physical presence but a
mystical recreation of the Principal Architect, now dead and buried. Before this
possibility is dismissed out of hand, however, it is as well to read what the _7ewish
Encyclopaedia has to say about Hiram under the general heading « Freemasonry ».
According to Masonic legend he [Hiram] was killed by three workmen just at the completion
of the Temple ; and there is a mystery about his death as represented in the Masonic
rites. This may possibly trace back to the rabbinic legend that while all the workmen were
killed so that they should not build another temple devoted to idolatry, Hiram himself was
raised to heaven like Enoch.
In this event, Hiram was singled out for some special favour. Like Enoch, he did not die.
In the masonic tradition therefore, his appearance before King Solomon on that celebrated
visit to the newly completed Temple would have been possible, although it could only have
been a spiritual appearance : a manifestation to the King of the original Hiram, now
'reinterred as near to the Sanctura Sanctorum as the Israelitish law would permit ! One
argument against this supposition, of course, is that while it is possible to accept that
King Solomon was as specially favoured as Hiram, only in this case with the capacity to
enjoy close and indeed physical contact with his dead servant, it is quite another thing
to believe that the numerous retinue that accompanied the King was granted a like
indulgence. On the other hand there is no suggestion that those who accompanied the King
on that occasion were granted the privilege of seeing Hiram, although in that case the
raising by their King of an invisible body frorn a kneeling position would undoubtedly
have been accompanied by the raising of a few eyebrows also. The fact that on this
occasion Adonirara [Hiram] does not say one word to his Royal Master might be considered
as bearing out this hypothesis.
The young and inexperienced Solomon, as we know, in his dream at Gibeon asked God for
wisdom. The wisdom intended was practical wisdom, knowledge of men and affairs, even
astuteness.1 Now « Wisdom » in the Biblical, indeed in any Ancient sense is not to be
equated with anything so mundane as this. A god-like attribute, in Greek mythology it
counted as its patron the goddess Athene herself, who invented the flute, the trumpet, the
earthenware pot, the plough, the rake, the oxyoke, the horse-bridle, the chariot, and the
ship. She first taught the science of numbers, and all women's arts, such as cooking,
weaving and spirming.2 Chapters 1-9 of 13roverbs make it clear that wisdom is regarded not
only as a human achievement but as a universal reality « the work of God that precedes
his creation of the world. » Indeed, 'Ibis divine Wisdom is presented as a person who
calls men and seeks to help them in their search for knowledge and as such constitutes a
type of divine activity in behalf of men./3 It is « The breath of the power of God »
that permeates all things./4 Wisdorn in this greater sense, which was handed by God to
Solomon, surely does not preclude the capacity to experience the kind of spiritual, indeed
mystical, communion which is suggested by the writer or writers of the Installation
ceremony of 1827.
While this may go some way towards explaining the sudden, indeed dramatic reappearance of
the dead Hiram, it does not, of course, explain the interesting use of the appellation «
Adon » : « Lord ». The use of this title I find the most interesting as well as most
fascinating féature of the mystery.
In no other masonic context do we meet this title in connexion with Hiram ; not even where
we think we should be most likely to come across it: in his ordeal and death in the
Temple. What comes most readily to mind on reading the appellation, however, is that Adon
(Adonis) whose cult prevailed over the whole eastern Mediterranean. One recalls the
shocked Ezekiel's seeing even at the outer door of the north gateway into the Temple the
women wailing for Tammuz (Adon). And this as late as 592 B.C.
Under the names of Osiris, Tammuz, Adonis, and Attis, the peoples of Egypt and Western
Asia represented the yearly decay and revival of life, especially of vegetable life, which
they personified as a god who annually died and rose again from the dead. As Frazer has
pointed out, « The true name of the deity was Tammuz : the appellation of Adonis is
merely the Semitic Adon, « lord », a title of honour by which his worshippers addressed
What reasoning might lie behind the compiler's, or compilers', inclusion of the fertility
god Adon(is) in this particular context - if indeed such is the case ? If we ask
ourselves, with what did the Adonis cult concern itself, and that exclusively, the answer
is: death and resurrection. The god's death at the gathering in of the harvest - the month
of Tammuz wailings was from 20 June to 20 July, when heat and drought brought forth the
demons of hunger and pestilence - and his resurrection with the starting of the new corn.
The connexion with the Installation ceremony becomes immediately obvious. Indeed, the
connexion of such a mythological figure with masonry in toto needs little explanation, for
what is Freemasonry about if it is not death and resurrection : the death of the old ego
and the rebirth, assisted by masonic line and rule, of the new ? The Installation ceremony
carries the parallel a stage further, for here we have surely the symbolic annual death of
the old Master and the beginning of the rule of the new: a clear recall of the Adonis
Mysteries and as clear a return to practice once hallowed by millennia of tradition.
It may be objected first that the juxtaposition of the appellation Adon with that of
Hiram, even if the intention of the compiler or compilers was to direct the attention of
the participants in the ceremony to the essential factor in it, would place too great a
burden on the ability of those participants to see correspondences : in other words, that
the element of logic to which we today fondly believe we are accustomed is lacking. Now
there is no known mythology which develops according to strict logical pattern.
Mythologies being syncretistic, borrowings, fusings and overlappings of elements are one
of their most marked characteristics. One cannot therefore expect to find in masonic
legend logical structures which are foreign to the genre as a whole.
Further, if we today fail to grasp the intended symbolism, the fault lies rather in
ourselves than in the intention of the compiler or compilers ; or more accurately, in out
education, which has all but totally neglected the fouridation blocks of a culture which
once transcended the artificial boundaries of race and state.
Objection may also be raised to the juxtaposition, in a masonic context, of Adon, with all
his pre-historic, « pagan » associations, with that of the Biblical Hiram Abif, whose
devotion to the Hebrew Jahveh seems to have been indisputable. Two instances from the
Bible itself should suffice to disperse this.
Corn deities such as Tammuz (Adon) being « weeping deities », whom fertilising
tears awoke to new lifé, the sowers of grain simulated the sorrow of divine mourners of
the slain god when they cast the seed in the soil - to "die": that it might
spring up again as corn. The eclectic, indeed syncretistic nature of religion, as indeed
of humanum genus, is evident from the psalmist David's song :
They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing
precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with
Esther provides an even more striking example of the introduction into a Biblical context
of deities considered anathema to the jealous Jahveh. Esther herself is none other that
the Babylonian Ishtar, the lover of Tammuz (Adon), to save whom from eternal night (and
the peoples of a dying world from the spectres of famine and death) she descended into the
dreadful queendom of Eresh-ki-gal. Mordecai, the guardian of the surpassingly fair Esther,
is the Babylonian Marduk, « the sun genius »7. and creator of mankind. The
wicked Haman, whose plan to hang Mordecai about-turns, so that he is hanged from his own
gallows, is the Baal-Hammon of certain Phoenician and Mesopotamian regions well known to
Esther reveals important spiritual and historical truths in legendary images. Emil Bock
summarises the purpose of this revelation succinctly.
The deity of external sense-radiance turned demonic, Baal-Hammon, was the hate filled
villain. Marduk, the shining one, arose against the principle of evil in the figure of a
Judaean, robbed of his homeland. And the virginal-maternal goddess Isis-ishtar, as Esther,
simultaneously degraded and elevated as the slave and consort of the foreign ruler, stood
on the side of Marduk. It is an apocalyptic image which is unveiled to us in earthly
If the above hypothesis regarding the inclusion of the mythological Adon is correct, the
compiler, or compilers, of the Installation ceremony after the deliberations of 1827 were
merely continuing a tradition hallowed by inclusion in the Volume of the Sacred Law.
They had however no need to go further than masonic ritual for a justification of Adon's
inclusion in a ceremony so closely associated with death and rebirth, that of the Second
Degree ceremony, where the juxtaposition of two fertility symbols closely associated with
corn deities had existed from the beginning: the ear of corn near to a fall of water. «
Ears or sheaves of corn or wheat are attributes of all corn deities, » says the
Encyclopaedia of Traditional Symbols, and symbolise « the fertility of the earth,
awakening lifé, life springing from death ... »9. Attis, the Adon of the Cybele cult of
Western Asia (Phrygia) was the « reaped yellow ear of corn. » The ear of corn indeed was
the central symbol of those greatest of all Mysteries - the Eleusinian : « There was
exhibited as the great, the admirable, the most perfect object of mystic contemplation, an
ear of corn that had been reaped in silence.10. For the second element, water, « All
waters are symbolic of the Great Mother and associated with birth, the feminine principle,
the universal womb, the prima materia. » 11.
The two symbols, among the most ancient and powerful the human mind has been able to
conceive, come together in the phenomenon known as the Gardens of Adonis. These were
baskets or pots filled with earth, in which wheat or barley were sown and tended, chiefly
or exclusively by women, for eight days. Eight days symbolically represented the eight
years which was the accepted cycle, the Great year of a hundred lunations, of the Sacred
King before he « died », that is was slain, for the people. Forced up by the sun's heat,
the plants shot up rapidly, but having no root withered as quickly away; and at the end of
eight days were carried out with the images of the dead Adon, and flung with them into the
sea or into springs./12.
Finally, to what manner of man, or men, do we owe the inclusion of Adon-Hiram in what is
one of the most significant of Masonic rituals? And under what circumstances was the
inclusion of Adon-Hiram in the new, and standardised, ritual of 1827 effected ?
Without knowing even their names or backgrounds, one can be sure of one thing: that their
education must have been a severely classical one, one that would have made them familiar
with the substance on which has been based the hypothesis in this paper. University men,
they would have read Classics at Oxford, or Classics and Mathematics at Cambridge. Durham,
the third oldest University in England, was founded only in 1832, its first undergraduates
coming up a year later. Its curriculum also, being modelled on that of the older
Universities, was as distinctly classical. Certainly Neo- classicism was in the air in
1827, and had been for some time ; Keats' « Ode on a Grecian Urn » had appeared
in his 1820 volume. Louis Cazamian has written of Keats' favourite themes, as shown in the
« Odes », as the sculptural grace of Greek attitudes, the nostalgy [sic] of the
charming myths of Hellas, the changing semons and the joy of the earth ... in all, a «
Dionysian » inspiration. Whether the compiler, or compilers, of the Initiation ceremony
of 1827 had read the « Urn », in which Keats catches, frozen in mid-stream, as it were,
a festive celebration of earth's generosity whose origins go back into the dawn of
humankind, can bc only a matter for conjecture. He or they would certainly be aware of
Ovid's Fasti, that curious little compendium of Roman religious customs and traditions,
and it is inconceivable that they would have experienced a University education without
being made aware (however deplorable was the tuition in the Oxford and Cambridge of the
late eighteenth century) of the religio-mythological background of the ancient cultures.
Even assuming that the compiler, or compilers, were not University men, they would have
had, at the public schools they attended, a classical education that was vastly more than
a foundation for that which they then went on to at University. Tom Brown, in Thomas
Hughes' Tom Brown at Oxford, writes of his lectures at « St. Ambrose's » as « a farce
», all the books he was lectured on having been 'done over and over again' at Rugby. Even
a clerical tutor employed to teach the most prestigious at home, such as the Grand Master,
would have been fashioned in exactly the same mould.
What we know of the compiler, or more likely compilers, of the 1827 Ceremony of
Installation, is that they were, in the words of Dundas, the Deputy Grand Master, in the,
Warrant, « a Special Committee », and they and they alone were responsible for the
momentous changes. This Special Committee had drawn up, revised, arranged or rearranged
the Installation Ceremony, on the authority of the Grand Master, His Royal Highness the
Duke of Sussex, fourth son of George III and Uncle to the Queen, one of the two avuncular
« ogres » indeed who were the bane of her childhood. The Duke, a voracious
book-collector be it noted, having approved the Ceremonial changes, issued a Warrant,
dated 6 February 1827, authorizing ten'trusty and well-beloved Brothers' (these included
the Grand Secretary, the Grand Registrar, and the Masters of seven senior Lodges) to
The reason for this intense activity of 1827 is made clear. The Grand Lodge Proceedings
for 6 June of the same year stated it categorically.
« The M.W Grand Master stated that finding there was much diversity in the Ceremonial
of the Installation of Masters of Lodges, and feeling it to bc most desirable that
uniformity hould exist, His Royal Highness had deemed it expedient to issue a Warrant to
certain intelligent others, directing thern ... to hold meetings for the purpose of
promulgating and giving instructions in this important ceremony that conformity might be
As bas been already stated, there is no appearance of Adoniram before 1827. Neither is
there any trace of the story of Solomon's inspection of the Temple in any text before that
date./14. These additions must, consequently, have been included following the
deliberations of the Select Committee.
What is impossible to believe is that such an important ceremony as the 1827 Installation
Ceremony could have been drawn up, on instructions from the highest masonic authority with
the declared intention of eradicating diversity in the ceremonial, and standardising it
for the foreseeable future, without the most meticulous thought being given to every
detail. Thus the inclusion of Solomon's inspection of the Temple and his encounter with
Adoniram (Adon-Hiram) must surely merit an importance far greater than that of a chance
encounter of the King with an unidentifiable stone-mason. Quite as impossible to believe
is that the compilers had forgotten that Hiram Abif was dead and buried, and were
therefore guilty of an anachronistic howler for which any Eton schoolboy of the time would
have been bent double over the block in Old School.
Since it made sense to them, it should, deductive reasoning being exercised, also make
sense to us. What is offered above is a hypothesis which, it is to be hoped, goes at least
some way to explaining a mystery which has been calling out for some time for explanation.
lt conflicts in no way with masonic teaching; and as certainly accords with the view, held
by many, that the roots of Freemasonry run far deeper than the Age of Reason when, most
incongruously, they first threw up trunk and branches above the rationalistic surface.
1. M. Black (ed.), Peakes Commentary on the Bible, Nelson, 1962, p. 340.
2. Robert Graves, The Greek Myths, Pelican, 1966, p. 96.
3. Peake, p. 349.
4. Proverbs 7: 25.
5. Sir James Frazer, The Golden Bough, Macmillan, 1933, p. 325.
6. Psalms CXXVI. 7. Emil Bock, Kings and Prophets, Floris, 1989, p. 36 1.
8 Bock, p. 362. 9. Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Traditional Symbols (J. C. Cooper), Thames
and Hudson, 1978, pp. 42-3.
11. Encyclopaedia of Traditional Symbols, pp. 188-9.
12. Frazer, pp. 341 seq.
13. Quoted in Harry Carr, The Freemason at Work, p. 283.
14. Carr, p. 283.