The Hiram Key is a book that will shake the Christian world to its very roots. When Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas, both Masons, set out to find the origins of Freemasonry they had no idea that they would find themselves unraveling the true story of Jesus and the original Jerusalem Church. As a radically new picture of Jesus started to emerge, the authors came to the startling conclusion that the key rituals of modern Freemasonry were practiced by the early followers of Jesus as a means of initiation into their community.
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.
This book is laced with conspiracies, conjecture, and confusion. Luckily, each chapter has a handy-dandy conclusion section that you can skip to when you get too overwhelmed by the writers’ avalanche of secret knowledge. The whole book is basically a call to arms to dig up a church so that they can “prove” some of the more outlandish theories that they propose. There is little here by way of a bibliography or even footnotes, so tracing their scholarship is nearly impossible. You just have to sit back and enjoy the ride they take you on. And trust me: it is quite a wild ride.
However, most scholars disagree with them as they state, "Many twentieth-century experts have concluded that these works were the output of several much later people, circa 230 BC onwards. This would place it close to the dating as the oldest 'Dead Sea Scrolls' found at Qumran, thought to date from around 187 BC to AD 70."
If this were true, then it would totally screw up their theory. How do they respond? Like this, "If this is the case it would affect our thesis, serving only to confirm the already massive links between these writings and the Qumran Community, so FOR CONVENIENCE WE ASSUME at this stage that the Book of Ezekiel was indeed written by one man whilst in captivity in Babylon." (Caps are mine for emphasis.) In other words, "since most scholars have demonstrated facts that don't jive with our theory, we're just going to ignore them." What this all means to me, is that this book is utter garbage!
What I have quoted from the 'The Hiram Key' can be found on page 176.
Therefore, I found this book to be an interesting and plausible account of the history and origins of Freemasonry. However, there is very little in the way of serious scholarship here -- no citing of sources, no bibliography, and some of the leaps they take and the connections they make are giant steps indeed.
So, the book is entertaining, plausible as far as it goes, but unless some further discovery is made, still extremely speculative.
There's some entertainment to be had in "Hiram Key" but to be honest Knight didn't sway my beliefs around the Freemasons.
An interesting study of the history of Freemasonry, but they allow their speculations to get more than a bit wild.
Nice pictures of the inside of the chapel though.