Dusty Digital Tomes Series: The Testament of Solomon
Article By: Michelle Belanger
The following article is interesting for a couple of reasons. First of all, it’s from “Ars Quatuor Coronatorum,” a publication of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge no. 2076. This was a lodge of Freemasons based in London and active around the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries. As a secret society that often keeps a tight lid on its internal publications, the fact that the proceedings from the Quatuor Coronati Lodge are digitalized and freely available on Google books allows many of us an unprecedented look into their internal workings, traditions, and beliefs — at least to a point. As the Freemasons have grades of initiation, it’s likely that the publication was intended for the general membership, and thus we are not being made privy to the secret of secrets. The material revealed in the pages of the journal is, nevertheless, fascinating.
Further, this particular issue of the journal is of interest to readers familiar with the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, an occult society active in London around the same time as this Masonic lodge. A citation within the Solomonic article makes mention of the work of a specific brother of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge, a Dr. Wynn Westcott. Westcott, a Freemason, was a member of this lodge. He was also one of the founding members of the Golden Dawn. As this journal was published in 1901 and the Golden Dawn was founded in 1888, Westcott was clearly active in both at the same time.
The article below was written, not by Bro. Dr. Wynn Westcott but rather by Rev. W.E. Windle. It concerns the “Testament of Solomon,” a pseudepigraphal work from approximately the 3rd century CE that forms the very foundation of the grimoiric tradition of ceremonial magick that proliferated in Medieval and Renaissance Europe. Ceremonial magick had a significant impact upon the teachings and practices of the Golden Dawn and was also an area of interest for the brothers of Freemasonry, at least those members of the Quatuor Corontai Lodge # 2076.
The article, entitled “The Testament of Solomon:
A Contribution to the Legendary Lore of the Temple” appeared in Vol. 38, part 3 of the “Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, from the minutes recorded for Friday, 4th October, 1901. It comprises the Rev. Windle’s commentary and thoughts on a recent translation of the legendary “Testament of Solomon.” It also includes excerpts of the translation of the Testament itself, reproduced in part below:
The Testament of Solomon
A Contribution to the Legendary Lore of the Temple
By the Rev. W.E. Windle, PPGC, Devon pp. 172 — 177:
Any writing calculated to throw light upon the sayings and doings of our Grand Master King Solomon have more than a passing interest for Freemasons. On this account, perhaps, many will be glad to scan these brief notes on a very curious work which has excited some attention of late.
The Testament of Solomon would seem to be originally a Jewish work re-edited by a Christian. Its approximate date is the third or fourth century of our era. F.F. Fleck published it in 1837 from a MS. at Paris, and it is reprinted in Migne, “Patrologiae Cursus Completus, series Graeca, Tom. 122.” It is cited as a genuine writing of Solomon in the (Greek) “Dialogue of Timothy and Aquila,” a Christian composition of uncertain date, based, it is said, upon an earlier writing, possibly the lost dialogue of Jason and Papiseus. A translation of the “Testament” by F.C. Conybeare has recently appeared in the “Jewish Quarterly,” whence the passages hereunder quoted are mostly taken, and the references are to the section into which it is divided.
The treatise is profoundly interesting to the student of Semitic folklore of the magickal papyri. The many charms, incantations, and spells contained in it seem to be excerpts from a larger work — possibly the collection referred to by Josephus (Antiqu. VIII, 2, 5) as compiled by the royal Solomon for the benefit of mankind. Traces of the teaching of the Essenes, the Ophiani and other Gnostics are apparent, but the Masonic myth is nowhere to be found, though the treatise has for background the building of the Temple. Evidently the writer is one of the uninstructed and popular world who are not Masons, and yet there are sundry coincidences, verbal and otherwise, which are undoubtedly suggestive, if nothing more.
The Greek title of the book is as follows:
“The Testament of Solomon, son of David, who was king in Jerusalem, and mastered and controlled all spirits of the air, on the earth and under the earth. By means of them also he wrought all the transcendent works of the Temple.”
The manner in which Solomon gained his power over them is then told by him, and as the subjoined extract gives a very fair idea of the style of the Testament, it is quoted in full:
“And behold, when the Temple of the city of Jerusalem was being builded, and the artifcers were working thereat, Ornias the demon came among them toward sunset; and he took away the half of the pay of the chief-deviser’s little boy, as well as half his food. He also continued to suck the thumb of his right hand every day. And the child grew thin, although he was very much loved by the king.
So king Solomon called the boy one day and questioned him, saying, ‘Do I not love thee more than all the artisans who are working in the Temple of God? Do I not give thee double wages and a double supply of food? How is it that day by day and hour by hour thou growest thinner?’
“But the child said to the king: ‘I pray thee, O king, listen to what has befalled all that thy child hath. After we are all released from our work on the Temple of God, after sunset, when I lie down to rest, one of the evil demons comes and takes away from me the half of my pay and half of my food. Then he also takes hold of my right hand and sucks my thumb. An lo, my soul is oppressed, and so my body waxes thinner every day.’
“Now when I Solomon heard this, I entered the Temple of God, and prayed with all my soul, night and day, that the demon might be delivered into my hands, and that I might gain authority over him. And it came about through my prayer that grace was given to me from the Lord Sabaoth by Michael His Archangel. He brought me a little ring, having a seal consisting of an engraved stone, and said to me: ‘Take, O Solomon, king, son of David, the gift which the Lord God has sent thee, the highest Sabaoth. With it thou shalt lock up all the demons of the earth, male and female; and with their help thou shalt build up Jerusalem. But thou must wear this seal of God. And this engraving of the seal of the ring sent thee is a Pentalpha.”
Note to readers: the figure of the Pentalpha may have been of particular interest to the Masonic audience for whom Windle’s article was intended, as pentagons and pentagrams both feature strongly in the iconography of Freemasonry.