V — Perfect Master

Revised by Albert Pike

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The Masonic Legend

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The Masonic Legend

King Solomon, having learned that the body of Hiram had been found and deposited in the Western part of the unfinished Temple, and being greatly rejoiced that the precious remains of his Brother the Artificer were found, immediately ordered Adonhiram, who was afterwards appointed Chief Architect and Inspector of the Works in his stead, to prepare a funeral that should correspond with the eminent virtues of the deceased. And that the recollection of his sad fate might be more vividly remembered, and the general indignation against his murderers not be diminished, he directed that the stains made by his blood upon the floor of the Temple should not be washed out until they should be apprehended and punished for their awful crime.

All the workmen upon the Temple, on Mount Libanus, and in the quarries, were ordered to be present at the funeral ceremonies. In nine days, Adonhiram completed a superb mausoleum to the memory of the Grand Master, destined to receive his body: a tomb of white marble surmounted by a triangular obelisk of the black marble of Egypt, upon which was a great urn of the same, pierced with a sword. On the urn was carved a branch of acacia, and on its base, in Hebrew, the letters M.P. [I surmise that the letters stand for "Perfect Master", bearing in mind that Hebrew is written from right to left. — Ed.] In this urn was to be deposited his heart, which had for that purpose been embalmed.

This monument was erected in the Western part of the Temple, rather to the North, marking the spot where the murderers first deposited the body after they had committed the great crime. It being determined not to perform the funeral ceremonies until the monument was completed, the body was embalmed, placed in a coffin, and kept in an apartment of the Temple where it had been the habit of the Grand Masters to hold their Lodge Meetings and communicate the mysteries of Masonry.

Three days after the monument was completed, the remains of the murdered Grand Master were deposited there by King Solomon, assisted by Adonhiram the son of Abda, Zabud the son of Nathan, who was over his household, and all his Nobles, princes and Captains, and all the workmen, with Hiram, King of Tyre, who had come from his own country to be present at the imposing ceremony.

Annually afterwards, the anniversary of this funeral was religiously observed, and on each such occasion some Brother represented the deceased, and was thereafter called a Perfect Master: because he was thereafter considered to be, in his character and conduct, a representative of Hiram Abi, whose place he had occupied in the coffin and worn his clothing and his jewel.

And still further to perpetuate the memory of the murder of Hiram Abi, a representation of his murder was thereafter substituted in the Master Mason's degree in place of the ceremonies brought by Moses from Egypt and of those practised in Phoenicia; all of them emblems of one great truth and leading idea, common to all the ancient nations, and hereafter at the proper time to be unfolded to you.


Our Grand Master Hiram Abi, my Brother, was an industrious and an honest man. What he was employed to do, he did diligently, and he did it well and faithfully. Industry and honesty are the virtues peculiarly inculcated in this degree. They are common and homely virtues, but not for that beneath our notice. The bees love not drones, nor Masons the idle and the lazy; for those who are so are liable to become dissipated and vicious: and perfect honesty, which ought to be the common qualification of all, is more rarely met with than diamonds. To do earnestly and steadily, and to do faithfully and honestly, that which we have to do — perhaps this wants but little, when looked at from every point of view, of including the whole body of the moral law: and these virtues belong to the character of a Perfect Master, even in their homeliest and commonest applications.


Idleness is the burial of a living man. For an idle person is so useless to any purposes of God and man that he is like one that is dead, unconcerned in the changes and necessities of the world; and he only lives to spend his time, and eat the fruits of the earth. Like a vermin or a wolf, when his time comes, he dies and perishes, and in the meantime does no good. He neither ploughs nor carries burdens: all that he does is either unprofitable or mischievous.

It is a vast work that any man may do if he never be idle: and it is a huge way that a man may go in virtue if he never goes out of his way by a vicious habit or a great crime. And he that perpetually reads good books, if his parts be answerable, will have a huge stock of knowledge.

St Ambrose, and from his example St Augustine, divided every day into tertias of employment: eight hours they spent in the necessities of nature and recreation; eight hours in charity and doing assistance to others — despatching their businesses, reconciling their enmities, reproving their vices, correcting their errors, instructing their ignorance, transacting the affairs of their dioceses; and the other eight hours they spent in study and prayer.

We think, at the age of twenty, that life is much too long for that which we have to learn and do, and that there is an almost fabulous distance between our age and that of our Grandfather. But when at the age of sixty, if we are fortunate enough to reach it — or unfortunate enough, as the case may be — and as we have spent or wasted our time, we halt and look back along the way we have come and cast up and try to balance our accounts with Time, we find that we have made Life much too short, and thrown away a huge portion of it. We then in our mind deduct from the sum total of our years the hours that we have unnecessarily spent in sleep; the waking hours each day, during which the surface of the mind's sluggish pool has not been stirred and ruffled by a single thought (for the soul lives without thought far more than we suspect); the days that we have got rid of, to attain some real or fancied object that lay beyond, in the way between which and us stood irksomely the intervening days; and the hours misspent, and worse than wasted, in folly and dissipation; and we acknowledge with a sigh that we could have learned and done in half a score of years well spent more than we have done in our forty years of manhood.

To learn, and to do! This is the soul's work here below. The soul grows as truly as an oak grows. As the tree takes the air, and the elements and particles that float in the air, the dew and the rain, and the food that in the earth lies piled around its roots; and by its potent chemistry transmutes them into sap and fibre, into wood and leaf and flower and fruit and colouring and perfume; so the soul drinks in knowledge, and by a divine alchemy changes what it learns into its own substance and develops itself from within outwardly, and grows with an inherent Force and Power like that which lies hid in the grain of wheat.

The soul has its senses, like the body, that it may be cultivated, enlarged, refined, as itself grows in stature and proportion: and he who cannot appreciate a beautiful painting or a noble poem or a sweet harmony or an heroic thought or a disinterested action only lives upon the level of common-place, and need not pride himself upon that inferiority of the soul's senses which is the inferiority and imperfect development of the soul itself.

To sleep little, and to study much; to say little, and to hear and think much; to learn, that we may be able to do; and then to do earnestly and vigorously whatever duty and the good of our fellows, our country and mankind require — these are the duties of every one who would imitate our deceased Grand Master.


The duty of a Mason as an honest man is plain and easy. It requires of us honesty in contracts, sincerity in affirming, simplicity in bargaining, and faithfulness in performing. Lie not at all, neither in a little thing nor in a great, neither in the substance nor in the circumstance, neither in word nor deed: that is, pretend not what is false; cover not what is true; and let the measure of your affirmation or denial be the understanding of your contractor; for he that deceives the buyer or the seller by speaking what is true in a sense not intended or understood by the other is a liar and a thief. A Perfect Master must avoid that which deceives equally with that which is false.

Let your prices be according to that measure of good and evil which is established in the fame and common accounts of the wisest and most merciful men skilled in that manufacture or commodity; and the gain such which without scandal is allowed to persons in all the same circumstances.

In intercourse with others, do not do all which you may lawfully do, but keep something within your power; and because there is latitude of gain in buying and selling, take not the utmost penny that is lawful or which you think to be so; for although it be lawful, yet it is not safe; and he that gains all that he can lawfully gain this year will possibly be tempted next year to gain something unlawfully.

Let no man, for his own poverty, become more oppressing and cruel in his bargain: but quietly, modestly, diligently and patiently recommend his estate to God, and follow its interest, and leave the success to Him.

Detain not the wages of the hireling: for every degree of detention of it beyond the time is injustice and uncharitableness, and grinds his face till tears and blood come out; but pay him exactly according to covenant, or according to his needs.

Religiously keep all promises and covenants though made to your disadvantage, though afterwards you perceive you might have done better; and let not any precedent act of yours be altered by any after-accident. Let nothing make you break your promise unless it be unlawful or impossible: that is, either out of your nature or out of your civil power, yourself being under the power of another; or that it be intolerably inconvenient to yourself, and of no advantage to another; or that you have leave expressed or reasonably presumed.

Let no man take wages or fees for a work that he cannot do or cannot with probability undertake; or in some sense profitably and with ease or with advantage manage. Let no man appropriate to his own use what God, by a Special Mercy, or the Republic, has made common, for that is against both justice and charity.

That any man should be the worse for us, and our direct act, and by our intention, is against the rule of equity, of justice, and of charity. We then do not that to others which we would not have done to ourselves; for we grow richer upon the ruins of their fortune.


It is not honest to receive any thing from another without returning him an equivalent therefore. The gamester who wins money of another is dishonest. There should be no such thing as bets and gaming among Masons: for no honest man should desire for nothing that which belongs to another. The merchant who sells an inferior article for a sound price, the speculator who makes the distresses and needs of others his exchequer, are neither fair nor honest.


It should be the earnest desire of every Perfect Master so to live and deal and act that when it comes to him to die, he may be able to say and his conscience to adjudge, that no man on earth is poorer because he is richer; that what he has he has honestly earned, and that no man can go before God and claim that, by the rules of Equity administered in His Great Chancery, this house in which we die, this land we devise among our heirs, this money which enriches those who survive to bear our name, is his and not ours, and we in that Forum only his Trustees. For it is most certain that God is just, and will sternly enforce every such trust; and that to all whom we despoil, to all whom we defraud, to all from whom we take anything whatever without fair consideration and equivalent, He will decree a full and adequate compensation.

Be careful, then my Brother, that thou receive no wages, here or elsewhere, that are not thy due. For if you do, you wrong some one by taking that which in God's Chancery belongs to him, whether that which you thus take is wealth, or rank, or influence, or reputation.