Why The Royal Arch?

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An Introduction To The Supreme Degree


Master Masons are continually arriving at the point in their Masonic Meanders when they ask “What is the Royal Arch DEGREE,” or even, “What has it to do with the Craft”? A short answer to these questions would be that the Royal Arch DEGREE is the completion of the Third DEGREE, but, this is an understatement. The Royal Arch is certainly the natural progression in Freemasonry which provides the “genuine secrets” following the granting of certain substitute ones, and, as such, it truly forms an integral part of Freemasonry.

Craft Masonry concerns itself with the circumstances of the building of ‘Solomon’s Temple,’ the first fixed place for the worship of the God of Israel. Following a default in payment of the tribute to Babylon, the city of Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed by Nebuchadnezzars , the King of Babylon. The King of Judah, together with the prominent people of his kingdom were taken into captivity to Babylon. When Babylon fell to their Persian conquerors, the captives were encouraged to return to their native land.

Royal Arch Masonry in the English system, deals with the return of the surviving captives, and their descendants to Jerusalem. Its main theme is centred upon the clearing of the site of the Temple to prepare the ground for the foundation of the second temple. At this stage it recounts how, and in what special circumstances the “genuine secrets” were regained.

The Craft and the Royal Arch together span the whole period of the Old Testament.

The Emergence of the Royal Arch

The well defined ceremonies of the craft, as we know them today, are the result of change and evolution that has taken place over the years. The form of the three degree system in the Craft, followed by a separate ceremony in the Royal Arch is a comparatively modern creation. The first printed reference to this division of the Royal Arch from the three degrees is found in an article published in 1744. In 1751 when a second Grand Lodge was created and the era of the “Ancients” and the “Moderns” came into being the Royal Arch was not practice by the “Moderns”; the members of the original Grand Lodge. Within a few years, however, many members of “Modern” lodges had been Exalted into Royal Arch Masonry. The Act of Union uniting the two Grand Lodges in 1813 contained an article which stated:

“By the solemn Act of Union between the two Grand Lodges of England in December 1813, it was declared and pronounced that pure Ancient Masonry consists of three degrees and no more, those of the EA.; the Fellow-Craft and the Master Mason,.-including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch. “

That Which Is Lost

The Master Mason who is anxious to continue to make a daily advancement in Masonic knowledge, the enquiring freemason, has no doubt questioned why a legend which portrays a loss fails to include the complimentary sequence of recovery; why the loss of the “genuine secrets” is apparently resolved by the permanent adoption of certain substituted ones, and what relation those substituted would have to those which were lost?

The substituted secrets, regularly communicated to the W. Master are declared by him to be sanctioned and confirmed “until time or circumstances shall restore the genuine.”. Until what time? In what circumstances are the genuine secrets likely to be restored? The ritual compilers of long ago, possibly decided that here at the Master Masons degree was a breaking off point, that would provide an element of satisfaction for some Freemasons. In any case that is exactly what has happened, as this has most certainly proved to be a convenient halt for many members. But for the Master Mason who has paused to “think on these things” the truly speculative Freemason the Royal Arch, or to give it the full title, The Order of the Holy Royal Arch, awaits to reward him to the limit of his own capacity or ability.

Should I Enter? A Conclusion

The initiate for Freemasonry, amongst other things, affirms that his trust is placed in God, that he has a genuine desire of knowledge and a sincere wish to ready himself more extensively serviceable to his fellow creatures.

As a candidate for the Royal Arch he would present himself “with a desire of improving in Freemasonry and directing that improvement to the glory of God and the good of man.”


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