“The Lost Keys of Freemasonry” was written in 1923 by Manly P. Hall. Subtitled “The Secret of Hiram Abiff”, the prologue introduces the reader to the mythological Master Builder in a tale of mystery, philosophy and religious passion. Establishing the story of the three under-builders who murder their master, it serves to remind all readers to build first individual character and edifices will follow.
The “Eternal Quest” is the subject of the first chapter. Hall acknowledges the mystery that is Freemasonry. While not a religion, there is a spiritual lesson taught to all members. Those who wish to join the ranks of the Free Masons must be willing to consider, to ponder and to explore the richness of the universe within. They must be willing to think, and discuss and debate the life the rituals call each person to live.
If one is willing to undertake the struggle, then one becomes a Candidate. This is the topic of the second chapter. A candidate must realize the material world around him is in fact a prison that keeps the soul from experiencing the Great Architect. It is only in realizing the power one has to build one’s own prison that one can move toward destroying the false walls and walking into the Temple of the Master Builder.
In the third chapter, Manly Hall reminds us that the first step of the soul is that of youth, and the Entered Apprentice. Comparing this stage to the Temple of Solomon, one has only entered the outer court and is merely preparing for a holy audience. This stage is the opportunity for one to take command of one’s body ad tame it to obey the mind. If the body is the Temple to the soul, then the soul must beautify the Temple to make it worthy of the spiritual being it houses. This can be done through study of the liberal arts and service to the community. Finally, the Entered Apprentice must subjugate selfishness which only obstructs learning and service.
It is time to enter the Fellow Craft. This chapter defines the Fellow Craft degree as an adult devoted to taming the emotion and sentiment. This is the degree of the soldier, in command of one’s body and mind, able to maintain composure under the most trying of conditions. The goal of the Fellow Craft is to balance passions and emotions, learning to tame the animal within.
The author defines the Master Mason in the fifth chapter as one full of experience who may lay down the tools of the trade and revel in the connection between mind and the Divine. All lessons have culminated in a perfected triangle that balances the mind, the emotions and the body through controlling thought, desire and action. If the Entered Apprentice is youth and the Fellow Craft is adulthood, then the Master Mason is wise old age.
The final chapter is called the Qualifications of a True Mason. In this chapter, Hall reminds the reader that Free Masonry is free of specific creeds or religions and fits within all. The Mason is an observer who notices the Divine in all things and who seeks to serve a higher purpose.
The “Lost Keys of Freemasonry” closes with an epilogue. Called “The Priest of Ra,” it allegorically completes the journey begun in the prologue. Once one begins the search for enlightenment by joining the brotherhood, the only completion is liberation from the bonds of the world and experience of the Great Architect in all his Glory. The author provides the path, the reader must take the first step.