Royal Arch Masonry Explained
What is Royal Arch Masonry?
By joining the York Rite, a Master Mason may proceed to supplement and expand upon the degrees of the Blue Lodge.
The Sublime Degree of Master Mason is often thought of as the ultimate degree of Freemasonry. However, many Masonic scholars agree that the narrative of the Craft, as illustrated in the three degrees, is not the whole story. The Degrees of York Rite Masonry complete the story and provide answers to many questions that the newly raised Master Mason may have.
Royal Arch Masonry is the first order a Master Mason joins in the York Rite. The Chapter works in the following degrees: The Mark Master Mason Degree is in some respects an extension of the Fellow Craft (second) degree. The Past Master (Virtual) Degree is conferred because of the traditional requirement that only Past Masters of a Blue Lodge may be admitted to Holy Royal Arch. Because there are so many applicants for this degree, Virtual Past Master is required to qualify them for it. There is no such requirement or procedure outside the USA. In the Most Excellent Master Degree the building of King Solomon’s Temple, which figures so prominently in the Blue Lodge, has been completed. The Royal Arch Mason Degree is said by many to be the most beautiful degree in all of Freemasonry.
The symbolism of the Royal Arch picks up where the Symbolic Lodge leaves off. The symbolism of the Blue Lodge degrees emphasizes the building of King Solomon’s temple. Royal Arch Masonry (known as Capitular Masonry) continues in this vein by emphasizing symbols and allegories of the Second Temple, the Ark of the Covenant, further symbolism of Solomon’s temple completed, and the Lost Word (also called the Master’s Word) — which is given to the Royal Arch Mason.
Royal Arch Masonry is not a religion and does not endeavor to fix one’s conception of God. Royal Arch Masonry regards your religious belief as your own; it does not attempt to influence your belief. It only asks that you have a belief. The motto of the Royal Arch is “Holiness To The Lord” and ever reminds us of the reverence due to the Great and Beneficent Author of our existence, who is a Being without beginning of days or ending of years.
A Royal Arch Mason holds firm to the belief in the Brotherhood of Man, the Fatherhood of God, and the Immortality of the Human Soul in high regard. He, therefore, who is a member knows that in his travels around the world he will be welcome and greeted with hospitality and friendship.
A Royal Arch Mason is taught to practice and espouse toleration for men and to become brothers indeed. Through active membership one obtains those things to which Royal Arch Masons aspire –companionship–brotherhood–opportunity for service in humanity’s name.
A Royal Arch Mason is taught to continually attempt to build with Plumb, Square and Level, that Temple of Character which is the great goal of our gentle Craft.
Royal Arch – Purpose and Teachings
Similarly, to Craft Freemasonry, the Royal Arch conveys moral and ethical lessons. In the three degrees of the Craft, the candidate is presented with a series of practical principles of service to his fellow man. But as man is not simply a practical being, he also has an essential spiritual aspect to his nature. The Royal Arch further develops this latter aspect by a contemplation of man’s spiritual nature, not replacing but supporting what the candidate has learned from his own religion. In the Chapter, the teachings of the Royal Arch are conveyed using a ritualized allegory based on the Old Testament telling of the return to Jerusalem from Babylonian captivity to rebuild the City and Temple. In clearing the ground of Solomon’s Temple for the foundations of a new temple, the candidate makes important discoveries. By adding a further explanation to the practical lessons of Craft Freemasonry, the Royal Arch is seen as an extension of the preceding degrees and the philosophical lessons conveyed are appropriate to that stage in a candidate’s Masonic development. The symbol or Grand Emblem of Royal Arch Masonry is the Triple Tau.
Chapter of Royal Arch Masons (Capitular Degrees)
Mark Master Degree
The first degree in Royal Arch Masonry is the Mark Master Degree, which is a wonderful expansion of the Fellowcraft Degree, centered on the story of the Fellowcraft of the quarry and their role in the building of the Temple. It explains the payment of wages in much greater detail and the necessity of displaying your skill in the quarries to earn those wages. Each craftsman must design his own peculiar mark and receives a pointed lesson regarding how this mark is used to bond brother Mark Masters to each other. It emphasizes the lessons of regularity, discipline, and integrity. Finally, a lesson is given regarding “abiding the law,” even when it does not please us. This degree is highly regarded by students and ritualists as one of the most beautiful degrees in all Masonry, teaching lessons that have proven value in all walks of life.
Past Master Degree (Virtual)
A Degree that emphasizes the lesson of harmony. This Degree is conferred because ancient custom required that a Mason must be a Past Master to be exalted to the Royal Arch. This degree was instituted to make it possible for all worthy Brethren to receive the Royal Arch Degree. The Degree confers no actual rank upon the recipient but is exemplified to maintain the ancient custom. This degree provides several pointed lessons regarding one’s difficulties, rights and responsibilities when presiding over a Lodge and confers upon the candidate the title of being a “virtual” Past Master.
Most Excellent Master Degree
The Most Excellent Master Degree is the rich story of the completion and dedication of King Solomon’s Temple and a re-enactment of the ceremonies surrounding that event, particularly the consecration of the Sanctum Sanctorum and the descent of the Host into the Temple. It is complimentary to the Mark Master Degree and completes the symbolic lessons introduced in that Degree. It’s a degree that emphasizes the lesson of reverence. It is by far the most spectacular degree in all Freemasonry. It is the only degree that brings forcibly to our attention the completion and dedication of King Solomon’s Temple. The very idea upon which all Masonic symbolism has been based. Those craftsmen found worthy were received and acknowledged Most Excellent Masters by King Solomon.
Royal Arch Degree
The Degree explains the origins of the Substitute Word found in the Master Mason Degree, the recovery of the Ineffable Word, and its concealment within the Royal Arch Word. Is the climax of Ancient Craft Masonry and Masonic Symbolism. It is described as “the root and marrow of Freemasonry.” It is the complete story of Jewish History during some of its darkest hours. Jerusalem and the Holy Temple are destroyed. The people of Israel are being held captive as slaves in Babylon. Here you will join with some of the captives as they are set free to return home and engage in the noble and glorious work of rebuilding the city and the Temple of God. It is during this rebuilding that they make a discovery that brings to light the greatest treasure of a Mason – the long lost Master’s Word. The lost is finally found and restored. This degree also teaches that there is no substitute for truth and that the discovery of concealed things comes through hard work, persistence, and personal risk.