Albert G. Mackey on Adonhiramite Freemasonry
Provided by the Oklahoma Chapter and Council Education E-Newsletter (https://okyorkrite.com/)
Extracted from the According to Mackey Column in the May 2021 Issue
Of the numerous controversies which arose from the middle to near the end of the eighteenth century on the Continent of Europe, and especially in France, among the students of Masonic philosophy, and which so frequently resulted in the invention of new Degrees and the establishment of new Rites, not the least prominent was that which related to the person and character of the Temple Builder. The question, Who was the architect of King Solomon’s Temple? was answered differently by the various theorists, and each answer gave rise to a new system, a fact by no means surprising in those times, so fertile in the production of new Masonic systems. The general theory was then, as it is now, that this architect was Hiram Abif, the widow’s son, who had been sent to King Solomon by Hiram, King of Tyre, as a precious gift, and as a curious and cunning workman. This theory was sustained by the statements of the Jewish Scriptures, so far as they threw any light on the Masonic legend. It was the theory of the English Freemasons from the earliest times; was enunciated as historically correct in the first edition of the Book of Constitutions (published in 1723, page 11); has continued ever since to be the opinion of all English and American Freemasons; and is, at this day, the only theory entertained by any Freemason in the two countries who has a theory at all on the subject. This, therefore, is the orthodox faith of Freemasonry.
But such was not the case in the last century on the Continent of Europe. At first, the controversy arose not as to the man himself, but as to his proper appellation. All parties agreed that the architect of the Temple was that Hiram, the widow’s son, who is described in the First Book of Kings (chapter vii, verses 13 and14), and in the Second ‘Book of Chronicles (chapter ii, verses 13 and 14), as having come out of Tyre with the other workmen of the Temple who had been sent by King Hiram to Solomon. But one party called him Hiram Abif, and the other, admitting that his original name was Hiram, supposed that, in consequence of the skill he had displayed in the construction of the Temple, he had received the honorable affix of Adon, signifying, Lord or Master, whence his name became Adonhiram.
There was, however, at the Temple another Adoniram, of whom it will be necessary in passing to say a few words, for the better understanding of the present subject.
The first notice that we have of this Adoniram in Scripture is in the Second Book of Samuel (chapter xx, verse 24), where, in the abbreviated form of his name, Adoram, he is said to have been over the tribute in the house of David; or, as Gesenius, a great authority on Hebrew, translates it, prefect over the tribute service, or, as we might say in modem phrase, principal collector of the taxes. Seven years afterward, we find him exercising the same office in the household of Solomon; for it is said in First Kings (iv, 6) that Adoniram, “the son of Abda, was over the tribute.” Lastly, we hear of him still occupying the same station in the household of King Rehoboam, the successor of Solomon. Forty-seven years after he is first mentioned in the Book of Samuel, he is stated under the name of Adoram, First Kings (xii, 1s), or Hadoram, Second Chronicles (x, 18), to have been stoned to death, while in the discharge of his duty, by the people, who were justly indignant at the oppressions of his master.
The legends and traditions of Freemasonry which connect this Adoniram with the Temple at Jerusalem derive their support from a single passage in the First Book of Kings (v, 14), where it is said that Solomon made a levy of thirty thousand workmen from among the Israelites; that he sent these in courses of ten thousand a month to labor on Mount Lebanon, and that he placed Adoniram over these as their superintendent.
The ritual-makers of France, who were not all Hebrew scholars, nor well versed in Biblical history, seem at times to have confounded two important personages and to have lost all distinction between Hiram the Builder, who had been sent from the court of the King of Tyre, and Adoniram, who had always been an officer in the court of King Solomon. This error was extended and facilitated when they had prefixed the title Adon, that is to say, lord or master, to the name of the former, making him Adon Hiram, or Lord Hiram.
Thus, about the year 1744, one Louis Travenol published at Paris, under the name of Leonard Gabanon, a work entitled Catéchisme des Francs Maçons, ou Le Secret des Maçons, in which he says: “Besides the cedars of Lebanon, Hiram made a much more valuable gift to Solomon, in the person of Adonhiram, of his own race, the son of a widow of the tribe of Naphtali. His father, who was named Hur, was an excellent architect and worker in metals. Solomon, knowing his virtues, his merit, and his talents, distinguished him by the most eminent position, intrusting to him the construction of the Temple and the superintendence of all the workmen” (see Louis Guillemain de Saint Victor’s Recueil Précieuz, French for Choice Collection, page 76).
From the language of this extract, and from the reference in the title of the book to Adoram, which we know was one of the names of Solomon’s tax collector, it is evident that the author of the catechism has confounded Hiram Abif, who came out of Tyre, with Adoniram, the son of Abda, who had always lived at Jerusalem; that is to say, with unpardonable ignorance of Scriptural history and Masonic tradition, he has supposed the two to be one and the same person. Notwithstanding this literary blunder, the catechism became popular with many Freemasons of that day, and thus arose the first schism or error in relation to the Legend of the Third Degree. In Solomon in all His Glory, an English exposure published in 1766, Adoniram takes the place of Hiram, but this work is a translation from a similar French one, and so it must not be argued that English Freemasons ever held this view.
At length, other ritualists, seeing the inconsistency of referring the character of Hiram, the widow’s son, to Adoniram, the receiver of taxes, and the impossibility of reconciling the discordant facts in the life of both, resolved to cut the Gordian knot by refusing any Masonic position to the former and making the latter, alone, the architect of the Temple. It cannot be denied that Josephus (viii, 2) states that Adoniram, or, as he calls him, Adoram, was, at the very beginning of the labor, placed over the workmen who prepared the materials on Mount Lebanon and that he speaks of Hiram, the widow’s son, simply as a skillful artisan, especia1ly in metals, who had only made all the mechanical works about the Temple according to the will of Solomon (see Josephus, viii, 3). This apparent color of authority for their opinions was readily claimed by the Adoniramites, and hence one of their most prominent ritualists, Guillemain de Saint-Victor (in his Recueil Précieux de la Maçonnerie Adonhiramite, Pages 77-78), propounds their theory thus: “we all agree that the Master’s Degree is founded on the architect of the Temple. Now, Scripture says very positively, in the 14th verse of the 5th chapter of the Third Book of Kings, that the person was Adonhiram. In the Septuagint, the oldest translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, the two books of Samuel are called the First and Second of Kings. Josephus and all the secrete writers say the same thing, and undoubtedly distinguish him from Hiram the Tyrian, the worker in metals. So that it is Adonhiram then whom we are bound to honor.
There were, therefore, in the eighteenth century, from about the middle to near the end of it, three schools of Masonic ritualists who were divided in opinion identity of this Temple Builder:
(1) Those who supposed him to be Hiram the son of a widow of the tribe of Naphtali, whom the King of Tyre had sent to King Solomon, and whom they designated as Hiram Abif. This was the original and most popular school, and which we now suppose to have been the orthodox one.
(2) Those who believed this Hiram that came out of Tyre to have been the architect, but who supposed that, in consequence of his excellence of character, Solomon had bestowed upon him the appellation of Adon, Lord or Master, calling him Adonhiram. As this theory was wholly unsustained by Scripture history or previous Masonic tradition, the school which supported it never became prominent or popular, and soon ceased to exist, although the error on which it is based is repeated at intervals in the blunder of some modern French ritualists.
(3) Those who, treating this Hiram, the widow’s son, as a subordinate and unimportant character, entirely ignored him in their ritual, and asserted that Adoram, or Adoniram, or Adonhiram, as the name was spelled by these ritualists, the son of Abda, the collector of tribute and the superintendent of the levy on Mount Lebanon, was the true architect of the Temple, and the one to whom all the legendary incidents of the Third Degree of Freemasonry were to be referred. This school, in consequence of the boldness with which, unlike the second school, it refused all compromise with the orthodox party and assumed a wholly independent theory, became, for a time, a prominent schism in Freemasonry. Its disciples bestowed upon the believers in Hiram Abif the name of Hiramite Masons, adopted as their own distinctive appellation that of Adonhiramites, and having developed the system which they practiced into a peculiar rite, called it Adonhiramite Freemasonry.
Who was the original founder of the rite of Adonhiramite Freemasonry, and at what precise time it was first established, are questions that cannot now be answered with any certainty. Thory does not attempt to reply to either in his Nomenclature of Rites, where, if anything was known on the subject, we would be most likely to find it. Ragon, it is true, in his Orthodoxie Maçonnique, attributes the Rite to the Baron de Tschoudy. But as he also assigns the authorship of the Recueil Précieux (a work of which we shall directly speak more fully) to the same person, in which statement he is known to be mistaken, there can be but little doubt that he is wrong in the former as well as in the latter opinion. The Chevalier de Lussy, better known as the Baron de Tschoudy, was, it is true, a distinguished ritualist. He founded the Order of the Blazing Star, and took an active part in the operations of the Council of Emperors of the East and West; but we have met with no evidence, outside of Ragon’s assertion, that he established or had anything to do with the Adonhiramite Rite.
We are disposed to attribute the development into a settled system, if not the actual creation, of the Rite of Adonhiramite Freemasonry to Louis Guillemain de Saint-Victor, who published at Paris, in the year 1781, a work entitled Recueil Precieux de la Maçonnerie Adonhiramite, etc.
As this volume contained only the ritual of the first four degrees, it was followed, in 1785, by another, which embraced the higher degrees of the Rite. No one who peruses these volumes can fail to perceive that the author writes like one who has invented, or, at least, materially modified the Rite which is the subject of his labors. At all events, this work furnishes the only authentic account that we possess of the organization of the Adonhiramite system of Freemasonry.
The Rite of Adonhiramite Freemasonry consisted of twelve degrees, which were as follows, the names being given in French as well as in English:
- Apprentice – Apprentif.
- Fellow-Craft – Compagnon.
- Master Mason – Maître.
- Perfect Master – Maitre Parfait.
- Elect of Nine – Premier Elu, ou L’Elu des Neuf.
- Elect of Perignan – Second Elu nommé Elu de Pérignan.
- Elect of Fifteen – Troisiéme Elu nommé Elu des Quinze.
- Minor Architect – Petit Architecte.
- Grand Architect, or Scottish Fellow Craft – Grand Architecte, ou Compagnon Ecossais.
- Scottish Master – Maître Ecossais.
- Knight of the Sword, Knight of the East, or of the Eagle – Chevalier de l’Épée surnommé Chevalier de l’Orient ou de l’Aigle.
- Knight of Rose Croix – Chevalier Rose Croix.
This is the entire list of Adonhiramite Degrees. Thory and Ragon have both erred in giving a Thirteenth Degree, namely, the Noachite, or Prussian Knight. They have fallen into this mistake because Guillemain has inserted this degree at the end of his second volume, but simply as a Masonic curiosity, having been translated, as he says, from the German by M. de Bérage. It has no connection with the preceding series of degrees, and Guillemain positively declares in the second part (2nd Ptie, page 118) that the Rose Croix is the ne plus ultra, the Latin for nothing further, the summit and termination, of his Rite.
Before concluding, a few words may be said on the orthography of the title. As the Rite derives its peculiar characteristic from the fact that it founds the Third Degree on the assumed legend that Adoniram, the son of Abda and the receiver of tribute, was the true architect of the Temple, and not Hiram, the widow’s son, it should properly have been styled the Adoniramite Rite, and not the Adonhiramite. So it would probably have been called if Guillemain, who gave it form, had been acquainted with the Hebrew language, for he would then have known that the name of his hero was Adoniram and not Adonhiram. The term Adonhiramite Freemasons should really have been applied to the second school described in this article, whose disciples admitted that Hiram Abif was the architect of the Temple, but who supposed that Solomon had bestowed the prefix Adon upon him as a mark of honor, calling him Adonhiram. But Gui1lemain having committed the blunder in the name of his Rite, it continued to be repeated by his successors, and it would perhaps now be inconvenient to correct the error. Ragon, however, and a few other recent writers, have ventured to take this step, and in their works, the system is called Adoniramite Freemasonry.
The full text of the 1912 edition of Mackey’s “An Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry and Its Kindred Sciences” may be found at:
Mackey’s Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry: Volume I