The three blows given to the Builder, according to the legend of the Third Degree, have been differently interpreted as symbols in the different systems of Freemasonry, but always with some reference to adverse or malignant influences exercised on humanity, of whom Hiram is considered as the type. Thus, in the symbolic Degrees of Ancient Craft Freemasonry, the three blows are said to be typical of the trials and temptations to which man is subjected in youth and manhood, and to death, whose victim he becomes in old age. Hence the three Assassins are the three stages of human life. In the advanced Degrees, such as the Kadoshes, which are founded on the Templar system commonly credited to Ramsay, the reference is naturally made to the destruction of the Order, which was effected by the combined influences of Tyranny, Superstition, and Ignorance, which are therefore symbolized by the three blows; while the three Assassins are also said sometimes to be represented by Squin de Florean, Naffodei, and the Prior of Montfaucon, the three perjurers who swore away the lives of DeMolay and his Knights. In the astronomical theory of Freemasonry, which makes it a modern modification of the ancient sun-worship, a theory advanced by Ragon, the three blows are symbolic of the destructive influences of the three winter months, by which Hiram, or the Sun, is shorn of his vivifying power. Des Etangs has generalized the Templar theory, and, supposing Hiram to be the symbol of eternal reason, interprets the blows as the attacks of those vices which deprave and finally destroy humanity. However interpreted for a special theory, Hiram the Builder always represents, in the science of Masonic symbolism, the principle of good; and then the three blows are the contending principles of evil.
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