Masonic Tradition And The Royal Arch

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Part 1 of 2

ArchThe old distinction between Blue and Red has almost fallen into disuse, so far as  normal parlance is concerned, among members  of the Craft in England; but we know that a memorial remains among us in the colour-symbolism found in the ROYAL ARCH. The Blue also connotes Symbolical Masonry, and this is a valid qualification, because the Third Degree opens a door into  a great figurative Mystery as into the blue distance. It is not of our concern now or we might dwell for a moment on the significant fact that in Irish Craft workings the Candidate is told invariably that even the official and conventional penalties of the Three Degrees are to be regarded as a part  integral of the symbolism which rules in all.

The  ROYAL ARCH, or Red Masonry, has passed by its hypothesis out the symbolical domain: on the surface, at least, it is dealing no longer with allegory, but with an actual historical event. According to that version of the Holy Order which is at work in England and Wales, under the obedience  of the Supreme Grand Chapter, it belongs - as we  are all well aware - to the time of Zerubbabel and the building of the Second Temple. With  certain variations, which are not essential in character, it is the same, I believe, in Scotland and the United States.

In Ireland the historical time of the Grade is much later, being that of Josiah the King, but of this I am unable to speak except by report, as there are no Rituals available. There is a sense, however, in which all differences draw to the same end, for all are concerned with the central fact of a Secret Tradition, perpetuated by its hypothesis from an immemorial past, derived originally from sources behind Masonry and carried from Degrees leading up to the ROYAL ARCH, through the Holy Order itself and thence into Christian and some other High Grades.

It is a remarkable fact that on the surface of the Craft Degrees there is practically no intimation of this traditional inheritance. The presumable explanation is that those who constructed the Legend of the Third Degree, following any vestiges which may have come into hands of the 18th Century from the part of York or Scotland, had a mind to follow - a little roughly and crudely the lines of the Ancient Mysteries concerning figurative death and resurrection. A signal confusion followed, for they slew the prototypical Master, whereas they raised the Candidate, creating a complete fissure in the logic of symbolism. So it has remained among us, but something like sixty years after the approximate date of construction, the Loge de la Bienfaisance at Lyons, which transmuted the RITE OF THE STRICT OBSERVANCE, intervened to save the situation, so far as French Masonry was concerned, and in the Grade of PERFECT MASTER of St. Andrew they raised Hiram as Christ. If we pursue the subject of confusion from another point of departure, we know that - by the hypothesis of the Third Degree -  the Temple of Solomon was left unfinished, like

the legend itself, from which consideration of simple fact it follows that any completion of the Third Degree should take up the Hiramic myth at the point where its story broke off, and lead it to an end in symbolism.

Now we are familiar, and more than familiar, with the affirmation concerning the ROYAL ARCH, which is (1) that it is not to be regarded as in any sense a further Degree superposed upon the Craft, but (2) rather as a completion of the whole. So far, however, from concluding the Hiramic myth it leaves unabridged in Ritual a gap of several centuries, understood as historical time, and jumps to an examination of certain legendary events connected with preliminaries to the building of the Second Temple in the days of Zerubbabel. It follows that the Third Degree - historically speaking - is a story without an end, like Canova’s German romance, while the ROYAL ARCH is a prolegomenon to another story, which story is not to be found in Masonry.

The sense in which the one is supplementary to the other is a matter of the Secret Tradition, a formula of loss and recovery, according to which the Holy Order seeks to elevate the Craft out of a region of untinctured symbolism to the threshold of Divine Science. It could have been done in a logical manner, preserving all the unities, and it so happens that the necessary elements were ready to the hands of the symbolists, if we can suppose as I think, is possible - that certain so-called side grades, or steps, were already existing in some primitive form. In this case the ROYAL ARCH has been lifted out of a sequence to which it belongs essentially, and apart from which its real message is divided and confused, if it must not be called lost. My purpose is to collect the links of the broken chain and then join them up.

If the question be why does the Craft Candidate pass through a figurative experience which connotes the idea of death, and then through a shadow of resurrection, the answer is that the god died and rose in the Ancient Mysteries, as in the great proto typical example which is that of Osiris. He was of the Divine Pantheon, and he returned thereto, as to former companions at once of toil and attainment. So also Iacchos was torn to pieces, but again he was restored to life; Tammuz died and rose; the dead Adonis was given back to the arms of Venus, even as Persephone to Demeter. If it be asked, on the other hand, why in the ROYAL ARCH there is a quest followed ad interiora terra and a discovery consequent thereon, the answer is that this is precisely the thesis concerning the preservation of a Secret Tradition, which descended from Adam, of which Enoch was a notable custodian, which came down to the time of Solomon and is carried thereafter through several eloquent memorials of Masonic Rite. It was not invented by Masonry, and if I speak here only of the mythos in Israel it is not peculiar thereto, though it appears under other aspects in other regions of traditional lore. Before linking up briefly the chain of Ritual, it is necessary to make a proviso with respect to the sources.

They are texts of what I am accustomed to call the Greater Exile of Israel, being that of the Christian centuries, and they are three in number: (1) The TALMUD BABLI; (2) The TALMUD HIEROSOLYMAE, and (3) The SEPHER HAZOHAR. The last is the latest of all in respect of time, its final reduction being referred by scholarship to the 13th Century, though it contains old elements. It is the great text of the Secret Tradition in Israel, and this - according to the ZOHAR - began with Adam, for Latin theology and that which is termed Kabalism meet unawares, and seem to clasp hands over things appertaining to the hypothetical state of unfallen man in Paradise. It was in a state of supernal know ledge, of the science which - by the theosophical hypothesis - has its root in the Tree of Life, in the unity of Divine things, not in the duality and sophistication which is referable to the Tree of Knowledge. It is said that when the Holy One, blessed be He, created Adam, He exhorted him to advance in the path of goodness and revealed to him the Mystery of Wisdom. Adam contemplated, indeed, all wisdom and all highest mysteries. He was “encompassed by the glory from on high,” and was intended in the scheme of divine things to be united for ever with God, in Whose Image he had been made. But from the path of the Good and the One - all this notwithstanding - Adam fell into ways of separation and abandoned the Tree of Life, meaning the supreme theosophy of the inward Secret Doctrine. The penalty of this separation is described under the term death in the text of Genesis.

By the hypothesis of the ZOHAR, the Secret Doctrine, the Supreme Wisdom, in a word, that Hidden Treasure which was transmitted in perpetuity thereafter as a tradition through the ages, was communicated to the First Man by means of a book, which came down from heaven in the hands of the angel Raziel, and was delivered to Adam, the messenger in question being denominated Chief of Supreme Mysteries. It remained in the possession of Adam till he was driven out of the Garden, when it was ravished out of his hands. But as it is obvious that there could have been no Secret Tradition - such as was conceived by the mind of Israel - unless its depository were restored, so we hear in due course that in answer to his tears and entreaties it was given back in the end to our progenitor by the angel Raphael. Adam transmitted it to Seth, from whom it passed to Enoch, who, after he was taken by God became the great angel Metatron, the Angel of the Presence and Chief of the Celestial School. It is said that the School of Metatron is the School of the Holy One, and that in his hands are the Keys of Heaven. It came about for these reasons that the Secret Book is called the BOOK OF ENOCH, though it passed down ultimately to Abraham. Thereafter the ZOHAR is silent regarding its travels and whereabouts, but the Secret Tradition of which it is the source was communicated to the elders by Moses and thence, in the myth concerning it, through succeeding generations to the doctors of the Zoharic school, the chief repository at the time of the fall of Jerusalem being Rabbi Simeon ben Yochai.

From Zoharic Kabalism the tradition descended to the follies and iniquities of Jewish Ceremonial Magic, and so it comes about that in these dregs and lees there is a BOOK OF RAZIEL, which is a book of Divine Names and Conjurations based thereon. It is a favourable specimen of its class, in comparison with Keys of Solomon, texts of Goetia, Sworn Books of Honorius and things under the generic title of Grimoires; but it presents a corrupted form of the tradition concerning Enoch. Antecedent to the ZOHAR, as I have intimated, are certain Talmudic fables, which exceed the scope of this notice. Antecedent to both are Josephus and a comparatively ancient apocrypha of the apocalyptic class under the name of the BOOK OF ENOCH. To Josephus we owe the well-known myth concerning the Pillars of Stone and Brick, on which Enoch inscribed the Mysteries of Knowledge belonging to the age before the Flood: there are many variations of the legend, which concerns broadly the perpetuation of the Secret Tradition. It is not otherwise to our purpose. But the BOOK OF ENOCH, which is a series of visions beheld by the prophet when he was in the spirit, like the seer of Patmos, is a prototype of Masonic tradition and that especially which is reflected into the ROYAL ARCH. It is said that GOD shewed Enoch nine vaults in a vision, and that with the assistance of Methuselah his son, he proceeded to erect in the bosom of the mountain of Canaan a secret sanctuary, on the plan of what he had beheld, being vaults beneath one another.

In the ninth, or under-most vault, Enoch placed a triangle of purest gold, on which he had inscribed that which was presumably the heart, essence and centre of the Secret Tradition, the True Name of God, comprehending all grace, all power and the providence of Divine Mercy. It is the development of this legend which can be followed through several Grades and various Rites of Masonry, the root of all therein being referable to the Traditional History in the Third Craft Degree. We know that which it was attempted to wrest by violence from the keeping of the Master Builder: we know what he died to preserve inviolable, and though in reality it did not perish with him - because there were other Keepers - we know that Masonry suffered a loss through the centuries, and is represented as in the quest of its discovery in the Opening and Closing of the Lodge in the Master Grade. We know in fine what substitutes were accepted as distinctive tests, to prevail everywhere, until in some manner as yet unknown the term of quest should be reached and the pearl of great price restored. When Moses, Aholiab and Bezaleel sat in the Holy Lodge, at the foot of Mount Horeb, during the long wanderings of Israel in the desert of Sinai, by the great hypothesis of the tradition, they were in plenary possession of all the Masonic treasures. When Solomon and others of the triad, who ruled the Sacred Lodge, sat on Mount Moriah, it was still as if the sun were at its meridian, a noon-tide glory of Masonry. But a change came over, by which the triad was broken and the light of the Art was obscured. It seems to me that in the deeper understanding our Craft Lodges are a memorial of this original loss: it is a logical inference from all that we are told in the story and from that which we claim to seek; for it is with us as it was with those Brethren of old, who, after the passing of the Master-Builder, agreed - till they could do better - to be content with things casual, though they desired things essential, and with accidents in place of the nominal. It is as if, having heard and followed a great call, and been long on the quest of God, it came about that - for want of a term - we had to rest satisfied with His image, or with unconsecrated Bread and Wine in place of the Higher Eucharist and the Holy Grail.


Freemasonry is founded on the immutable laws of Truth and Justice and its grand object is to promote the happiness of the human race.


Part 2 of 2

But after nearly five hundred years - I am speaking still within the hypothesis of the symbolism - there rose up the Grand or Royal Lodge, which was in the day of restoration and the day when things are reborn, or made anew, when Zerubbabel, the prince of the people, with their prophet and priest, led back Israel out of exile. It came about that, having made a great discovery within the precincts of the First  Temple, they held their Lodge at Jerusalem, and proclaimed the glad tidings, which are called the climax of Freemasonry - at least within the measures and under the obedience of the Old Law. And the original of that which we term the ROYAL ARCH is the Grand or Royal Lodge.

In the sense of this symbolism, notwithstanding all disparities occasioned by things that are left at a loose end and all temporal lacunae, it may be said that the Holy Order does, within its own degree, complete the Masonic circle - though only within measures of the Craft - in virtue of that mystical recovery which made the glory of the Third Grand Lodge even as the glory of the first, and Jerusalem in the days of Zerubbabel as Horeb in those of Moses, who first promulgated the beneficent Law of Masonry.

The ROYAL ARCH may be defined briefly as the Grade of the Word attained; but while a certain expectation is intimated on the part of those who ruled, there is nothing to show that the Brethren who made the discovery were qualified by antecedent knowledge or were themselves dedicated to the work of quest. It was the providence of an accidental happening which brought about the event, and as such - on the surface - it does little honour to the important subject in hand.

The discovery itself is unintelligible, as the story stands, since there is nothing leading up thereto - either in the Craft or Arch. But in Masonic Grades external to both the preliminary steps are found and the motive at work throughout. In view of this fact, as explained already, it would look as though the ROYAL ARCH had been lifted out of some Ritual series and utilized as an epilogue to the Craft, not a little to its own detriment, because it was never intended originally to stand alone. In Masonic history we hear of the bare title and of some un-described symbol belonging thereto being carried in a Masonic procession, tempus 1743, while a year later there is an allusion to the Grade itself, but under circumstances which suggest that more than one version was about. The preliminary sidesteps or intermediates to which I have alluded and which throw light on the subject are not in distinct evidence till a later period.

If I may put forward a personal opinion, purely at its hypothetical value, it seems to me that as the ROYAL ARCH originated in these islands, certainly and beyond question, so also there were other Grades, side-steps or preliminaries connected therewith and essential thereto. It is impossible to speculate about their original form, in the absence of all evidence, or on how far they have departed from it in the Degrees now extant: if we may judge by the vicious editing of the Arch Degree itself, they have suffered drastic change. The Grades in question are called respectively ROYAL and SELECT MASTER. But before offering a brief description of their scope and motive I must refer to the year 1754, when several important items were grouped together under the auspices of a French Rite, as if they had been manufactured suddenly or suddenly collected together.

I refer to the COUNCIL OF EMPERORS OF THE EAST AND WEST, otherwise the RITE OF HEREDOM or RITE OF PERFECTION, working twenty-two Grades superposed on those of the Craft. In virtue of certain sub-titles attached to some of them on the authority of rare MSS. now in my hands, it would appear that not all of them were of French Origin, though it is impossible to have any assurance on such a debatable point. The examples include ENGLISH MASTER, as alter native to INTIMATE SECRETARY, and ILLUSTRIOUS IRISH MASTER, as substitute for PROVOST AND JUDGE. However this may be, we are concerned more especially with the thirteenth Grade of the Rite, called ROYAL ARCH OF ENOCH, or - in early examples - Knight of the ROYAL ARCH. As there are two titles, so also there are two forms and that which is the more important is, I think, perhaps the later: it is incorporated at the present day into the long series of the SCOTTISH RITE. It goes very near to the root-hypothesis of the Secret Tradition and delineates the circumstances under which the Sacred Word was placed in the hiddenness, long prior to the Three Prototypical Grand Lodges.

In this form, I believe, it to be of foreign invention as well as redaction: its importance for our purpose is that it places a Masonic complexion on an early epoch of the Tradition. In the alternative and possibly earlier form there is no question that it is of English origin as to its root-matter or that it derives from the ROYAL and SELECT MASTER GRADES, but from the former more especially, and at a time when both were in a state corresponding more nearly to the mode in which they were communicated, not so many years ago, under the auspices of the EARLY GRAND Scottish Rite, rather than that of the CRYPTIC. The latter bears marks of editing by persons who had no acquaintance with the Secret Tradition. As regards all recessions, the time is that of Solomon, the Temple is still uncompleted, but the mythical history in each case is subsequent to the Hiramic myth, which is still left at its original loose end.

The Grades in their several forms throw light on the central point of the Royal Arch, because they shew how a place of concealment was planned for the Secret Mysteries and how these were hidden therein until time or circumstances should render their restoration essential. The implicit throughout is that in such case the providence protecting what is understood as Masonry would intervene in favour of the Art, as it did ex hypothesi at the epoch of the Second Temple.

We may follow the Secret Tradition into strange places of Masonry, and if the intimations are often at variance they are in agreement on at least two points. The Tradition is always concerned with the power and grace of a Word, usually a Divine Name, and there is always an intention to show that a hidden Knowledge concerning it goes on from age to age. There is the Grade of KNIGHT OF THE EAST, which in one of its versions belongs to the Maccabean period, and the Candidate is in search of the Sacred Treasure after the profanations of Andochus Epiphanus. There is the Grade of TRUE SCOTTISH MASTER, which belongs to Adonhiramite Masonry. It affirms that the Word of God was never lost in reality, and that after the sacking of Herod’s Temple, at the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, a mysterious inscribed plate was found beneath one of the Pillars. This fable is recited in a kind of historical discourse, and although on the surface we are still in the days of Solomon, we are already on the threshold of Christian Masonry, for the Lodge of the Grade is said to have been instituted by St. John the Evangelist in succession to one which was held on the banks of the Jordan by St. John the Baptist.

When we pass definitely into Christian Masonry the Tradition is still with us, although under several mutations. It owes something to Philostorgus and his ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY, written at the beginning of the 5th Century. In connection with the baffled attempts to rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem he tells us of certain workmen let down by means of ropes into a deep well, at the bottom of which - emerging above the water - there was found a small column, and on the column, a book wrapped in a linen cloth. When examined, it proved to be a copy of St. John’s Gospel. For the rest, according to Christian Masonry, the Keepers of the Secret Tradition are represented as Knights of the Morning, Knights of Palestine, Sons of the Valley, Thebaid Brethren, a secret Brotherhood perpetuated from generation to generation in the heart of Jewry, but unknown to Jewry at large. They looked for a Master who was to come, the Deliverer and Messiah. In the fullness of time they found the Word in Christ, which is the message of the Christian Grades.

I have been dealing with questions of fact in Ritual and with the tradition out of which they arise. I do not intend on the present occasion to dwell on the inferences to be drawn, however legitimate. I have followed the Secret Tradition in its development through several paths, within and outside of Masonry. That there is a meaning behind the Tradition I am entirely certain, for it is of symbolism or allegory after its own manner and within its own measures, even as Masonry is..

The great BOOK OF THE ZOHAR contains the whole doctrine of the Lost Word and of the circumstances under which it shall be restored on the coming of Israel out of exile, in the day of Messiah. But the ZOHAR is the book of the Secret Tradition in Jewry under the Christian aegis. As regards the Lost Word, it depends from a question of fact, which of itself is of minor consequence, being the loss of the mode in which the High Priest pronounced the Divine Name when he entered the Holy of Holies once a year to make atonement for the sins of the people. Over this the ZOHAR allegorizes and in their fervid hearts the doctors of the Greater Exile looked for magnalia Dei when it should be put again into their mouths. But that which it meant in their symbolism was the coming of the Kingdom of God on earth - to the chosen people above all, but apparently by derivation from these to all tongues and tribes and peoples and nations. The Secret Tradition was taken over by zealous scholars of Christendom during the 16th and 17th Centuries, and they sought to convince Jewry that all which was expected had come in Christ, that it was possessed by the Gentiles and might be enjoyed by them if they would turn their hearts to Him. This is the philosophy of the Tradition in brief and crude summary. But in another form and aspect, it is the philosophy of the Tradition in Masonry, which is another story of a Word in loss or hiddenness, and this fact, which might be one of coincidence, is linked up with the Secret Tradition because it is represented - in variably and only - by a Sacred Name, an omnific and ineffable message, and the plenary grace of a mystery abiding in a Name of God. Now the Tradition of the Name in Masonry was taken over by other Zelatores, who, after all intimations of the ROYAL ARCH OF ENOCH, Arch of Zerubbabel and Arch of Josiah the King, after all that was said to be inscribed on sacred plates of gold, came forward in their later day and founded the Christian Grades - the ORDER OF THE TEMPLE, the ROSE CROIX, the RED CROSS OF CONSTANTINE and KNIGHT OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE. Like other makers of legend, they testified that the Word is Christ. It follows that those rumours of a Secret Tradition which are conveyed in the Royal Arch are not confined thereto. In one or other form, they are in the body- general of Masonry.

What does this fact signify, and where may it lead the Mason who is willing to dwell on such things and, perhaps, pursue them further? The answer to this question is my last word and a kind of obiter dictum. It signifies that the Secret of Masonry, that Word too often lost, is the Secret of Christ realized in the heart of a Mason, and that from beginning to end our “peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols “ has never had another object than to direct us with eyes uplifted to the bright Morning Star, whose rising brings peace and salvation to those who sit in tribulation and in the shadow of death.