Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Alberta
GENERAL INFORMATION ON
CRYPTIC RITE MASONRY
The Grand Council of Cryptic Rite Masons of Western Canada, Royal & Select Masters is comprised of 18 Cryptic Rite Councils, scattered from Winnipeg to Vancouver Island. Other regular Jurisdictions include Ontario, Eastern Jurisdiction of Canada, England, Germany, Israel, Philippines, Scotland, and 49 in the USA.
There are three Councils in Manitoba, Winnipeg, Portage la Prairie, Brandon, three in Saskatchewan, Regina, Saskatoon, Rosetown, three in Alberta, Lethbridge, Calgary, Edmonton, two in B.C. Interior, Creston & Kamloops, four in B.C. Mainland and three on Vancouver Island, drawing membership from Royal Arch Chapters in their respective areas.
They present the degrees of Royal Master and Select Master and provides access to the degrees of Super Excellent Master and Royal Ark Mariner four of the most beautiful and fascinating in Freemasonry.
The first two, Royal Master and Select Master, are Cryptic in nature and content. They explain how the Lost Word of the Master Mason degree, rediscovered in the Royal Arch degree, was preserved in the first place – in the crypt or secret vault under Solomon’s Temple. They focus on the core material of Ancient Craft Masonry, without Christian or military emphasis, and complete the explanation of our Fraternity’s most powerful legend.
The following text explains the popularity of the Cryptic Rite and its appendant degrees, so the Royal Arch Mason in Western Canada. who seeks more light in Masonry – further enlightenment towards Truth – may know his enthusiasm will be welcomed and matched by Companions who wish to share with him something very special.
The Cryptic Rite
Zohar No. 4 Council Edmonton 2018
Symbolic Freemasonry, in the Lodge, begins the powerful story of how the Word was lost, and another substituted. Capitular Masonry, in the Chapter, rediscovers the Word, through secrets found in a Crypt under an Arch. The Cryptic Rite, in the Council, tells how and why those secrets were preserved there. The story – Freemasonry’s great allegory – becomes clear and complete, and all the more powerful and effective. And those who experience that sense of completion help sustain the ongoing effort to share it with others, to help them complete “the Circle of Perfection of Ancient Craft Masonry”.
Councils of Royal and Select Masters are made up of Masons who recognize the inherent values of the Rite, and who join and remain active in their Councils because of those values – not because they need the degrees in order to gain admission to other bodies.
Though the core material is earlier, the modern shape of the Royal Master and Select Master degrees probably originated in Ireland, passed to England and Scotland, thence to Sweden, and finally to Prussia and King Frederick’s Lodge of Perfection of the Ancient Accepted Rite, today known as the Scottish Rite. The degrees were brought to America in 1761 as Scottish Rite “side degrees”, then including Super Excellent Master. In 1807 they became popular in New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island thanks to Jeremy L. Cross, an associate of Thomas Smith Webb, “father of Royal Arch Masonry in America”. It was Cross who described them as “the summit and perfection of Ancient Masonry, without which the history of the Royal Arch Degree cannot be complete.”
Conferral was assigned to chapters of Royal Arch Masonry for many years until 1870 when the Scottish Rite, and the General Grand Royal Arch Chapter, both divested themselves of the degrees. In 1880 the first General Grand Council was formed. Today, some compare the York Rite Select Master degree to the Scottish Rite Secret Master degree. Both refer to guardians of secrets and signs of secrecy. The idea of a Mason entering the Sanctum Sanctorum by mistake appears in both the Select Master and Intimate Secretary degrees. And both the York Rite Council of Royal and Select Masters and Scottish Rite Lodge of Perfection are supposed to have only 27 working members, others being surplus spectators. The senior Officer in one is Thrice Illustrious Master, in the other Thrice Puissant Master. Thrice Illustrious Masters are eligible to receive the Order of Thrice Illustrious Master, and then wear the “Silver Trowel” jewel.
The Name – Cryptic
The focus of the Royal Master and Select Master degrees is a secret vault beneath the Temple of Solomon. “Cryptic” means “hidden”, from the Latin crypticus, meaning “subterranean” or “concealed”. Vaults beneath many churches are called “crypts”. The expression “Cryptic Masonry” means, therefore, “Masonry of the Secret Vault”.
The Vault and the Mysteries
All biblical students and archeologists know of vaults beneath King Solomon’s Temple, the focus of Freemasonry’s cryptic mysteries. Philostorgius, the Greek historian of 400 A.D., was one who wrote up the story. But initiation into the Ancient Mysteries of pre-Christian times also involved underground caves, tunnels, or vaults. Much has been written to suggest that modern Freemasonry, especially in the group of degrees known as The Royal Mysteries, sustains some of the truths presented in the Ancient Mysteries. Certainly, the vault in the Ancient Mysteries was symbolic of the grave, for initiation was symbolic of the passage of death, where alone Divine Truth is to be found. Perhaps Freemasons adopted the same idea: We teach that death is “the gateway of life through which we all must pass, before entering into the beginning of a fuller and larger existence”. Today, these degrees are not complex in basic story presentation, but they are profound in potential impact on those who study further the words and their history.
The Royal Master, the first Council degree, is conferred in two parts. In the first, Hiram Abif talks to Adoniram about death. In the second, a day after Hiram Abif’s death, King Solomon and Hiram King of Tyre cannot communicate the Master’s Word without him – not as agreed. The dramas illuminate both the Master Mason and Royal Arch degrees. This is the only degree in Masonry where you can meet – and converse face to face – with Hiram Abif, our central character. It is an eloquent degree which beautifully symbolizes the idea of the labourer seeking his reward, and which discusses the subject of victory over death. (Click for More Info)
This degree again is set before Hiram Abif’s death, and alludes to preparations to hide the Secret Treasures. And it provides a much deeper explanation for the meanings of the inscriptions found on the Masters’ jewels and the triangle on top of the Ark. It also explains why King Solomon selected twenty-four true, tried and trusty Craftsmen, together with the three Grand Masters (making “twenty-seven and no more”), to complete an important part of the Temple.
The historical setting of this degree and its symbolism are intimately connected with the Royal Arch degree. It is the symbolic link that binds the Master’s degree to the Royal Arch, and without it the mystery of “The Recovery of That Which Was Lost” remains in darkness. It is the historical and symbolic bridge that connects the Hebrew Nation with the sad days of its captivity – extending from the completion of the first Temple to the building of the second Temple. “Truth” seemed lost, yet it was not lost, but only hidden until the generation should come which by its perfect and unselfish labors should restore “Truth”, and bring to light the Ineffable Secret.
The Select Master degree is said by some to be the most interesting degree in Masonry, perhaps because it rationally accounts for the concealment and preservation of those essential secrets which were buried in darkness for a period of four hundred and seventy years, and brought to light at the building of the second Temple. In 1817, Samuel Cole said: “It is strange, and it is also unfortunate, that very few have received the useful knowledge made known in the Select … we may, however, pronounce it the key to the Arch.” (Click for More Info)
Super Excellent Master
The Super Excellent Master degree was not originally a part of the Cryptic system, and is still not presented in all jurisdictions. Yet it is one of Masonry’s best written rituals. It deals with incidents in the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar when Zedekiah, last King of Judah, was conquered and carried captive to Babylon. It enlarges upon the section of the Royal Arch having to do with the capture of Jerusalem by the Babylonian King, and the final destruction of the first Temple. It dramatizes the lesson of fidelity. It is not a degree of the Crypt; it does not deal with Ancient Craft Masonry, but it has been described as “the best devised, most impressive and beautiful ritual in Masonry.”
In a panorama of exciting events, biblical characters move across the stage, illustrating history. The great Chaldean Monarch, Nebuchadnezzar, lives again; the treacherous and faithless Zedekiah, the last of Judah’s Kings, proves the results of infidelity; the unswerving Ezekiel, and the melancholy but zealous Jeremiah, prophesy the promises of the Almighty. The great lesson is about fidelity to a trust. It is a spectacular presentation, usually conferred by two or more Councils assisting one another as it requires a large cast.
It is to be noted that in this jurisdiction, ‘Western Canada’, you must be ‘Greeted’ as a Super Excellent Master before you are considered a ‘Companion of Royal and Select Masters’. (Click for More Info)
Royal Ark Mariner
Zadok No. 3 Council Calgary 2019
This degree is based upon the story of Noah and his ark. The presiding officer of a Royal Ark Mariner lodge, the Commander, represents Noah, and the Senior and Junior Warden his sons Shem and Japheth. The ritual emphasizes the cardinal virtues, using the triangle and the working tools with which Noah built the ark – axe, saw, and auger – to point the moral lesson.
The principal emblems of the degree are the triangle, rainbow, and a dove with an olive branch in its beak. The earliest record of the degree being worked comes in Bath in 1790. Today in our Jurisdiction, Royal Ark Mariner lodges are “moored” to most Councils – due to the long distances between Councils Select Masters who receive the Royal Ark Mariner Degree may then wear the “Rainbow” jewel.
For a brief insight into the degree of the Royal Ark Mariner’s degree please click on the title noted below for a paper delivered by Bro. Matt Webb.
Seek More Light Now
Candidates are “Honoured’ as Royal Masters, “Chosen’ as Select Masters and ‘Greeted’ as Super Excellent Masters, usually on separate occasions. Appropriate dress for both occasions, and also for every regular assembly, is a business suit. After becoming a Companion of the Cryptic Rite, a Mason is deemed worthy of the appellation, “The select of the Craft”. As a Royal Arch Mason, you have the right to petition for Council membership.
CRYPTIC RITE DEGREES
The following is intended to furnish information of the Cryptic Rite Degrees or The Mysteries of the Secret Vault to Royal Arch Masons.
There are three Degrees, viz.: Royal Master, Select Master and Super-Excellent Master.
Degree of Royal Master
The historical setting of the Royal Master degree is just before the completion of the Temple and chronologically precedes the degree of Master Mason. The chief personages therein are our three Ancient Grand Masters and a Fellowcraft in search of and making his demand for that reward which was to elevate him to the rank of a Master Mason. The seeker for more Light, for more Masonic knowledge, will find the Royal Master the answer to the startling assertion of our Grand Master: ‘I fear the Master’s Word is forever lost.’
This degree is preparatory to and intimately connected with that of the Select Master and contains most valuable information necessary to understanding correctly all the proceeding degrees. It also presents one great Masonic idea – that of the labourer seeking his reward. That idea is most beautifully symbolized in the degree of Royal Master, and is appreciated by all candidates. It will actuate all Royal Arch to the proficiency, fervency and zeal that should characterize those who have been exalted to the august and sublime degree of Royal Arch Mason.
Degree of Select Master
The historical setting of this degree and its symbolism are intimately connected with the Royal Arch. It is the symbolic golden chain that binds the Master’s degree to the Royal Arch and without it the mystery, and unsolved riddle of the Recovery remains in darkness. It is the great. historical and symbolic bridge that spans the golden age of the Hebrew Nation and the sad days of its captivity from the completion of the first Temple to the building of the second Temple. Truth seemed lost, yet it was not lost, but only hidden, until that generation should come which, by its perfect and unselfish labors, would restore it and bring to light the ineffable secret to guide men in the paths of perfect peace into the seat of the Holy of Holies. The Select Master degree is the most interesting degree in Ancient Craft Masonry, without a knowledge of which the history of the Royal Arch degree is not complete nor is a man a Master Mason in deed and in truth until he is in possession of the Royal Master and Select Master degrees. The latter degree rationally accounts for the concealment and preservation of those essential secrets which were buried in darkness for the period of four hundred and seventy years from the Masonic eye, but brought to light at the building of the second Temple. And a knowledge of those essentials is necessary to clearly comprehend all the preceding degrees, and complete the circle of Masonic science. This degree explains why King Solomon selected twenty-four true, tried, and trusty, skilled craftsmen, together with the three Grand Masters (making twenty-seven and no more) to complete an important part of King Solomon’s Temple.
Degree of Super-Excellent Master
This degree is, without doubt, the most dramatic and impressive of all degrees of the York Rite. Historically it deals with the destruction of Jerusalem in B.C. 586, and the carrying away of the Hebrew people into Babylonian captivity. The characters represented in the drama are: The Great Chaldean monarch, Nebuchadnezzar; the treacherous and faithless Zedekiah, the last of Judah’s Kings; the melancholy but zealous Jeremiah, the Prophet; the faithful Gedeliah; Belshazzar, the profane King; Daniel, the master of the magicians, the astrologers and sooth sayers; and the unswerving Prophet Ezekiel. The interesting and absorbing lesson is Fidelity to Vows, and that the Kingdom of God is not in kings, in ostentation, or in national glory, but that His Kingdom shall he in the hearts of men.
The whole history of Masonry, both real and legendary, has centred around a single Word.
The candidate, when he receives the degree of Master Mason, learns that the ‘Word’ for which he has searched is lost, and he receives only a ‘Substitute’. In the Royal Arch Degree, the ‘Word’, long lost, is found. In the Degrees of Royal and Select Masters, the explanation is given of how the ‘Word’ was lost, how it was found, the way it was preserved, and its meaning.
The process by which the restoration of the ‘Word’ was accomplished is known only to those who have received the Degrees of Royal and Select Masters. There are many missing links in the great chain of Masonic History and symbolism which are found only in the Council. Therefore the work of both the Lodge and the Chapter is incomplete without the degrees of the Council. The whole structure generally referred to as Ancient Craft Masonry, embracing the Lodge, Chapter and Council, shows mutual dependence and inter-connected unity. From the first degree of Entered Apprentice, to the last degree of Select Master, each degree is linked to the others.
Bro. Mackey, widely known as the author of the Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, has this to say of the Cryptic Degrees: ‘Let us suppose that the science of Freemasonry, or, in more definite words, the science of Masonic symbolism, is represented by a circle. This circle will be divided into three portions or arcs. One will be occupied by the degrees of the Lodge, or Ancient Craft Masonry; another by the degrees of the Chapter, or Royal Arch Masonry; and the third by the degrees of the Council, or Cryptic Masonry. Now, if a neophyte begins at any point of the circle, and passes over one-third of its circumference, he will arrive at the Masterâ’s Degree, and will then discover that, so far, the consummation of his Masonic labour is to know only that, that for which he has been striving has been lost, and instead of the key to all Masonic science, he receives only a Substitute for truth. Dissatisfied with this, let him, in his further search, proceed through another arc, or third of the circumference of the Masonic circle, and he will arrive at the Royal Arch Degree. Here, in this second arc, that key which has been lost in the first arc is found. But the circle has not yet been completed.
It is true that the lost has been found, but the process by which the restoration was accomplished is still unknown to him, and all the events of Masonic mythical history, which form the links between the loss and the recovery, and all the sublime symbolism which is connected with these events, are withheld from him. He knows what he has obtained, but he knows not why nor how he obtained it. To acquire this knowledge he passes through the remaining arc, and, by arriving at the degree of Select Master, consummates and perfects his knowledge of – the representative symbol of Divine Truth, and thus passes the circle of perfection in Masonic Science.’
Nyles, in 1817, wrote: ‘We have no degree in Masonry that has a more needful, or more important Connection with another, than the Select Master with the Royal Arch. It fills a chasm, which every intelligent Royal Arch Mason has observed, and without it, it seems difficult, if not impossible, to comprehend clearly some of the mysteries that belong to the august degree of Royal Arch.’
‘It is strange, and it is also unfortunate, that very few have received the useful knowledge made known in the Select Master, and, indeed, such is the nature of the degree that we cannot feel free to allude to the nature of its secrets. We may, however, pronounce it the key to the Arch.’
The degrees as conferred in the Lodge, Chapter and Council are a modification of the English or Ancient York Rite, consisting of nine degrees, as now constituted, and present an exact circle of Masonic science which, from the Apprentice’s Degree to the Select Master’s Degree, begin and end in the search for the True Word.
We trust the foregoing has aroused your interest in ‘The Cryptic Rite’. Meetings at which the degrees are conferred are conducive of firmer friendships and a closer spirit of brotherly love.
The noble heritage of Masonry is yours to take-not that decorations may be proudly worn; not that you may be known as a Mason of ‘high’ rank,— but that you may the more abundantly realize in your own life the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man. We invite you to claim this heritage.
Office of Grand Recorder:
R. Ill. Comp. Kyle Burns
Zadok Council No. 3
Meetings: 29th Day of January, March, May, September & November
Bowmount Lodge Hall
7704 – 39th Ave NW
Registrar: Ron Beirnes
Cost to Join: Initiation fee of $45.00 plus $10.00 for annual dues
Zohar Council No. 4
Meetings: 2nd Thursday January, March & October
2nd Wednesday June
Highlands Masonic Hall
5526 -118 Ave
Recorder: Wally Watts
Cost to Join: Initiation fee of $55.00 plus $25.00 for annual dues
Alberta Council No. 5
Meetings: 1st Saturday March, May & November
3rd Friday October
Lethbridge Masonic Hall
315A – 10th St. S.
Recorder: Kyle Burns
Cost to Join: Initiation fee of $50.00 plus $25.00 for annual dues