The Silent Architect

by MasterMason

The Silent Architect

The following talk was delivered in the Sydney Lodge of Research on 19th May 1936, by Brother Rev. L.H. Purnell.

First of all I want to say that about 85 years ago a man named Barclay went for a walk with his dog and a gun around the walls of Jerusalem, and when he got as far as the Damascus Gate he discovered that his dog was missing, and looking in every direction he began whistling for the dog without any success. He finally retraced his steps, and discovered the dog coming out of a hole from under some bushes apparently under the very walls of Jerusalem. When he went to investigate behind the shrubs and bushes and under the debris of centuries, he found a hole, and that hole led into a great cavern.

Now such a find, of course, under Jerusalem, would immediately fire the imagination of any man, because there was a story current among the Arabs to the effect that the gold and silver of King Solomon, the Ark of the Covenant and the vessels used in the Temple services and sacrifices are, even to this day, buried under the old city of Jerusalem, and so when Barclay discovered this hole his imagination was immediately fired at what he was going to discover.

He said nothing about it, however, that night, but next day he gathered a party of men together, and they came back and got down into this hole and made certain excavations, and finally found themselves in a great under-ground cavern perfectly white; the stone was white, but the cavern was so vast that the further recesses of it were in darkness, and were not lit up by the torches which they carried.

It was obvious, of course, to them that Barclay had found King Solomon’s quarries – the royal quarries, as they were called by Josephus, the quarries from which the stone was taken, 900 years before Christ, to build the temple of King Solomon. Today, of course, the place is well known, and Freemasons from all over the world gather there for their Lodge meetings, and they meet there in absolute secrecy. They are still convinced that the Masons who built King Solomon’s Temple were really the first masons, and those that came after them are merely followed in their train, and if by any chance you were able to get into that huge cavern, you would be given a torch, and you would be told to look out for the precipices that are there, and you would be absolutely amazed to see not only the whiteness of the stone, but the marks of the hammer, the chisel and the axe, which not only remain until this day, but look as if the workmen had just knocked off for lunch. It looks really as if they were made yesterday and not nearly 3,000 years ago.

It is true that there sits in one part of this great cavern an Arab who is cutting out of stones, certain Masonic implements, such as the triangle, and the square and so on, which Masons readily buy as a relic, of course, of King Solomon’s quarry, and it is also known that stones from this quarry are sent all over the world, and are made to be the foundation stones of Masonic Temples.

It is a very soft stone, almost white, but it hardens as soon as it gets into the air, and there has been taken out of this quarry enough stone to have built the whole of Jerusalem three times over, and some of that stone is in Jerusalem today, and it has weathered and become exceedingly hard, and, of course, the site of this quarry is under the city of Old Jerusalem.

Now, I do not know what you have thought about the site of King Solomon’s quarries, but I, for many years, was under the impression that they were a long way from the city, and that no sound of hammer or axe or implement of iron was heard because of the distance they were removed from the city, but as a matter of fact, here they are right under the city itself, and so deep and so vast that no one even standing at the door of the cavern could possibly hear the sound of hammer, axe or other implement of iron.

If you read the 1st Book of Kings and the 6th chapter, you will be astonished at the description of Solomon’s Temple that is given there, shall I say, in so few words. I defy any modern writer, given the same number of words, to put into such a picture that description of the temple, which you will find in the 1st Book of Kings and the 6th chapter. He gives you the plans, the design, the engagement of the workmen, the rates of pay, the structure of the edifice, and so on, in a very amazing way, and of course, you come upon these words, “And the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither, so that there was neither hammer nor axe nor tool of iron heard in the house while it was in building.”

As you and I are met together, not as operative, but as speculative Masons, it remains for us not only to be interested in the facts that come to us from time to time, such as I have given you tonight, but it is really our part to look beneath the surface and to try and interpret the seen by the unseen, and get by symbolical interpretation the proofs that lie with.  You remember that Goethe, the German philosopher, was once asked   “What is symbolism?” and he said, “All things transitory but as symbols are sent.”         The earth is a symbol, the heavens are a symbol, man himself is a symbol – a symbol of that which doth not appear.   Things seen are but evidence of that which is unseen.

And so tonight I want you to see the symbolism of this very great fact, that the stones of the Temple were quarried in a place unseen and unheard by man, and that they were set in a place and the structure was completed without the sound of hammer or axe or implement of iron.

Now every great structure that has ever been reared in the world bears the imprint of the architect. For instance, you cannot go to the great Basilica in Rome without seeing the hand of Michelangelo in every part of that Basilica. And you cannot look at St. Paul’s London without thinking of Christopher Wren, and I doubt if anybody can think for one moment of the great Temple of King Solomon that was built on Mount Zion without thinking, not of Solomon, but of the Great Architect of the Universe.

There it was and it rose quietly and silently in its majesty, for the stones were cut from their base, they were hewn and fashioned and passed to the masons and carried out into the open and set up in their places without noise of any kind. Great beams were fashioned in the forests of Lebanon, and many were pieced together in the forests and brought down to the temple while it was in building. As one man said:- “No workmen’s steel, no ponderous axes swung, like some tall pine tree, the noiseless fabric sprung.”

Therefore I want to say to you that that is the way of the Great Architect of the Universe in which we live. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light; and there was light.”

A child asked only the other day, “Who made God?” Well, I suppose such a question as that is unanswerable, but we think of God as the First Cause.  In our theology we have been taught to think of Him as the Personal Spirit, Who in holy love creates, sustains and orders all, and these worlds that we know and this universe of ours have come into being without noise, quietly, silently.

The Spirit of God brooded over the face of the waters, and at His word there was night, there was day, there was dry land and there was sea. Sun and rain, hail and storm have done their work all through the centuries; they have changed the face of continents; they have fretted away portions of great countries, and in their turn they have revealed the handiwork of the great Architect of the universe. The planets of course rush through space at a tremendous pace, and yet, though they rush about as they do through space, there is no sound. Everything is quiet – everything is silent in the working of God.

And when we think like that, I at any rate immediately remember that in nature there are three great elements, and the first is ‘force’. Now if you ask anyone for a definition of force, I suppose that they will give you the very simple definition that has come down the ages.   Force is whatever sets matter in motion. That word ‘whatever’ creates my problem.   An apple falls to the ground and you say ‘gravitation,’ but what is that? A tree is struck by lightning, and you say ‘electricity.’ What is that? No one can answer you.

A mushroom pushes its way quietly and silently through the ground. What pushes it?        You say ‘vital force,’ but what is that? But there you have it. Quietly and silently force operates in the universe where we live, and it brings the flower to bloom and the fruit to ripen. It gives us our light and our heat; it sets our world in motion, and we hear it not, but we know it is there.

The second point is ‘law’. Many centuries ago, when Joseph was able to feed many thousands of people in Egypt, he was immediately proclaimed as a miraculous deliverer of those people. But God comes out every day, and He gives seed to the sower, and bread to the hungry, and He feeds the multitudes, and it is done without noise, silently, quietly.

Then in the third place there is ‘mind’, and when we think of mind, we really get to the root of the whole matter. I picture it like this. Force operating through ‘law’ controlled by ‘mind’, which adjusts everything to its own use. There you discover a remarkable fact, life’s adjustments – the ear to hear, the eye to see? The most marvellous organ in your body is your stomach; it is amazing what it will do.

The wings to fly, the tongue to speak, and so on; the adjustment of all these things in the world to their use.

I might hang an Aeolian harp in my window to see what will happen, and then retire to the quiet of my room; and if presently I hear a sound on that harp that is not altogether harmonising, well then I know the wind is at work; but if suddenly I catch the strains of melody, if suddenly I hear harmony and beauty, I know it is not the wind, but I know there is a master’s hand at work upon my harp. And when I look abroad into God’s world, and when I see the adjustment of all things to themselves, I feel that there is a master hand at work, and there is the mind of God controlling all – quietly, silently, to the development and health of man.

Many years ago there was a man in Scotland whose name was Dr. Beattie. He wanted to teach his boy about God and he wondered as to how he might do it. He went out into his garden and planted some mustard and cress seed. Then he waited for a few weeks and one morning when everything was alright he sent his son into that part of the garden. Presently the child came running back and said, “Father, my name is coming out of the ground.” The father scratched his head and said, “But, my boy, it cannot be.” “It is, you come and see.” When they walked hand in hand into the garden there was the name Donald in the garden outlined in mustard and cress. The father said to the boy, “Well my boy, what a wonderful chance that that is there.” And the boy looked up with great big open eyes and said, “Father, someone must have put it there.”

“When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; what is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man, that thou visit him?”

Yes, and the same is true in the opening of a rosebud and the falling of a leaf and the revolving of the stars. You sit in a train travelling at 60 miles an hour, and you cannot hear yourself talk, and yet our world is rushing through space at 60,000 miles an hour, and you can hear the cry of a child, the fall of a leaf or your own heartbeat. As I see it, it is ‘force’ operating through ‘law’ superintended by ‘mind’ and that mind to us is the Great Architect of the Universe.

I want to say that the same law works in with providence. George MacDonald, a great scot, was once asked if he believed in personal providence. He cannily replied, “I believe in providence but I do not know about personal providence,” and told this story.

At one time he was conducting a prayer meeting at a county church. The country all around was very rugged, and in order to get there, some of his people had to ride over a very high mountain, and when they came to the meeting they made their petitions known. One man got up and said, “Sir, I want you to thank God for my safety, because tonight when I was coming over that mountain my horse stumbled and I was within a fraction of falling into the depths.

I want you to thank God that my life was spared. It was marvellously providential.” Of course the whole meeting went into ecstasies, and they were quite ready to thank God for the deliverance of this brother. Then another brother arose and said, “Sir, before you go on with your prayers, I want you to thank God for me because when I came over the mountain my horse did not stumble.” If an accident happened on the harbour tonight and fifty people drowned and you were spared, you would think it was a perfectly marvellous and miraculous escape. The same thing would be true if two trains collided; but what about the thousands of trains that never collided and the thousands of boats that never sank?

What about the thousands of people who are brought safely into this city and taken safely home again every day of their lives? Is not there any providence in that, and is that not just as great and just as marvellous a happening as the exceptional thing that takes place in a man’s life?


I have had the pleasure of reading this paper quite a number of times and, besides my total pleasure and enjoyment, I have had difficulty in determining how to categorize it.  We are treated to History; Philosophy and Symbolism all at the same time, however, I have chosen History as without these happenings we would be must less informed than we are today.

Have a Wonderful Day & God Bless




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