Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Hiram Key: Pharaohs, Freemasonry, and the Discovery of the Secret Scrolls of Jesus by Christopher Knight from the Fair Winds Press:
This book has been the source of some heat, if little light, among students of esoteric history.
The scholarship in The Hiram Key is not profound, and it compares poorly with other books that treat similar themes and topics, such as Robertson’s Born in Blood or Assmann’s Moses the Egyptian. It is certainly wide-ranging, and seems to incorporate a dozen other recent theories on the Shroud of Turin, Templar survival in Scotland, Egyptian elements in Hebrew religion, lost Christian scriptures, and Masonic origins.
The picture of Gnosticism presented by Knight and Lomax is a caricature. Their theories of Egyptian origins for Masonry are in many cases laughable, such as using the ancient Egyptian doctrine of Ma’at (denoting both physical/architectural and metaphysical/moral order) as proof that the central metaphors of Masonry must descend directly from Egypt.
Perhaps the most novel and interesting material in the book concerns the authors’ readings of Hebrew scripture, and their theories of Hebrew custody of “the Sequenere resurrection ritual.” Fortunately for serious students who may become impatient with the irritating journalistic style of the book, each chapter has a single-page “Conclusion” which can substitute as a summary for the chapter as a whole. I recommend reading the “Conclusions,” and only going back to the actual details of the chapter for those that strike a personal interest.
The authors state in their first chapter that they “are very aware that the information which [they] give here may be considered by some Masons a betrayal of those secrets” which they have sworn to conceal. In fact, they give very detailed accounts of the Craft ceremonies as they received them in English lodges. We are expected to forgive them these willful exposures and violations of their oaths for two reasons:
1. “The United Grand Lodge of England considers only the means of recognition to be the protected secrets of the Order.” (So much the worse for the United Grand Lodge of England! Masonry benefits from a stricter reading of the obligation of secrecy, where initiates acquire and demonstrate the discipline of confidentiality.)
2. The authors took their obligations on the condition that “they would not interfere with [their] freedom as moral, civil or religious agents,” and they claim that to maintain secrecy on the matters discussed in the book would violate that condition.
Having read the book, I can find nothing in it which would create a moral, civil, or religious imperative for ritual exposure. The action agenda to which the authors’ thesis builds, is to excavate under Rosslyn Chapel in search of early Christian MSS. The real imperative for the authors must surely have been the prospect of making some money off of a book to be sold to the general public. That being so, I recommend that Masons interested in the book check it out of a public library or buy a used copy, in order to avoid contributing to the royalty stream for the authors. [via]
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