The French Masons say: “We erect temples for virtue and dungeons for vice;” thus, referring to the great Masonic doctrine of a spiritual temple.
There is no symbolism of the Order more sublime than that in which the Speculative Mason is supposed to be engaged in the construction of a spiritual temple, in allusion to that material one which was erected by his operative predecessors at Jerusalem.
Indeed, the difference, in this point of view, between Operative and Speculative Masonry is simply this: that while the former was engaged in the construction, on Mount Moriah, of a material temple of stones and cedar, and gold and precious stones, the latter is occupied, from his first to his last initiation, in the construction, the adornment, and the completion of the spiritual temple of his body.
The idea of making the temple a symbol of the body is not, it is true, exclusively Masonic. It had occurred to the first teachers of Christianity.
Christ himself alluded to it when he said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up;” andSt. Paul extends the idea, in the first of his Epistles to the Corinthians, in the following language: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?”
And again, in subsequent passage of the same Epistle, he reiterates the idea in a more positive form: “What, know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?”
But the mode of treating this symbolism by a reference to the particular Temple of Solomon, and to the operative art engaged in its construction, is an application of the idea peculiar to Freemasonry.
Hitchcock, in his Essay on Swedenburg, thinks that the same idea was also shared by the Hermetic philosophers.
“With perhaps the majority of readers, the Temple of Solomon, and also the tabernacle, were mere buildings – very magnificent, indeed, but still mere buildings – for the worship of God. But some are struck with many portions of the account of their erection admitting a moral interpretation; and while the buildings are allowed to stand (or to have stood once), these interpreters are delighted to meet with indications that Moses and Solomon, in building the Temples, were wise in the knowledge of God and of man; from which point it is not difficult to pass on to the moral meaning altogether, and affirm that the building which was erected without the noise of a ‘hammer, nor ax, nor any tool of iron (1 Kings: 7)’ was altogether a moral building – a building of God, not made with hands.”
In short, many see in the story of Solomon’sTemple, a symbolical representation of Man as thetempleofGod, with its Holy of Holies deep seated in the center of the human heart.