This book presents details of Masonic initiation rituals, along with grips, passwords and regalia. Written in the 19th century, Duncan’s Ritual, as it is known, has been republished numerous times. It includes the three basic degrees of the Ancient York Rite, and four additional advanced degrees. There are over a hundred illustrations, all reproduced here, which show important details of the rituals, including gestures and symbolic pictures. Duncan’s Ritual is careful to note known variations where they exist. This book will be of interest to beginning Masons who want a roadmap of the craft, as well as experienced Masons who need a review.
GUIDE TO THE THREE SYMBOLIC DEGREES OF THE ANCIENT YORK RITE
TO THE DEGREES OF MARK MASTER, PAST MASTER, MOST EXCELLENT MASTER, AND THE ROYAL ARCH
MALCOLM C. DUNCAN
EXPLAINED AND INTERPRETED BY COPIOUS NOTES AND NUMEROUS ENGRAVINGS
WITH ADDITIONS AND CORRECTIONS
New York: Dick & Fitzgerald
NOTICE OF ATTRIBUTION
Scanned at sacred-texts.com, January, 2005. Proofed by John Bruno Hare. This text is in the public domain. These files may be used for any non-commercial purpose, provided this notice of attribution is left intact.
THE objects which Freemasonry was founded to subserve are honorable and laudable; nor is it intended in the following pages to disparage the institution or to undervalue its usefulness. It has, at various times and in several countries, incurred the ill-will of political parties and of religious bodies, in consequence of a belief, on their part, that the organization was not so purely benevolent and philanthropic as its members proclaimed it to be. In the State of New York, many years ago, it was supposed, but we think unjustly, to wield a powerful political influence, and to employ it unscrupulously for sinister ends. The war between Masonry and Anti-Masonry which convulsed the State at that period is still fresh in the remembrance of many a party veteran. The Order, however, has long since recovered from the obloquy then heaped upon it, and is now in a flourishing condition in most parts of the civilized world.
The purpose of this work is not so much to gratify the curiosity of the uninitiated as to furnish a guide for the neophytes of the Order, by means of which their progress from grade to grade may be facilitated. Every statement in the book is authentic, as every proficient Mason will admit to himself, if not to be public, as he turns over its pages. The non-Masonic reader, as he peruses them, will perhaps be puzzled to imagine why matters of so little real importance to society at large should have been so industriously concealed for centuries, and still more surprised that society should have been so extremely inquisitive about them. “But such,” as Old Stapleton says, in ‘Jacob Faithful,’ “is human nature.” The object of the Order in making a profound mystery of its proceedings is obvious enough. Sea-birds are not more in-variably attracted toward a lighted beacon on a dark night, than men to whatever savors of mystery. Curiosity has had a much greater influence in swelling the ranks of Masonry than philanthropy and brotherly love. The institution, however, is now sufficiently popular to stand upon its own merits, without the aid of clap-trap, so “via the mantle that shadowed Borgia.”
It will be observed by the initiated, that the following exposition gives no information through which any person not a Mason could obtain admission to a Lodge. It is due to the Order that its meetings should not be disturbed by the intrusion of persons who do not contribute to its support, or to the furtherance of its humane design, and whose motives in seeking admission to its
halls would be impertinent and ungentlemanly. The clew to the Sanctum Sanctorum is, therefore, purposely withheld.
In its spirit and intention Masonry is certainly not a humbug, and in its enlightened age so excellent an institution should not incur the liability of being classed with the devices of charlatanry by affecting to wear a mystic veil which has long been lifted, and of which we are free to say, that, unlike that of the false prophet of Kohrassan, it has no repulsive features behind it.
The author of the following work does not conceive that it contains a single line which can in any way injure the Masonic cause; while he believes, on the other hand, that it will prove a valuable made mecum to members of the Order, for whose use and guidance it is especially designed.
It will be seen that the “work” quoted in this treatise differs from that of Morgan, Richardson, and Alleyn; but as this discrepancy is fully explained at the close of the remarks on the Third Degree, it is not deemed necessary to make further allusion to it here.
THE AUTHORITIES REFERRED TO IN THIS WORK ARE AS FOLLOWS:
“THE HISTORICAL LANDMARKS.” By the Rev. G. Oliver, D. D. In two volumes. London: R. Spencer. 1845.
“THE THEOCRATIC PHILOSOPHY OF FREEMASONRY.” By the same author and publisher. 1840.
“ORIGIN OF THE ENGLISH ROYAL ARCH.” By the same, &c., &c., &c.
“A LEXICON OF FREEMASONRY.” By Albert G. Mackey, M. D. Charleston: Burges & James. 1845.
“THE FREEMASON’S TREASURY.” By the Rev. George Oliver, D. D. London: R. Spencer. 1863.
Seven Freemasons, viz., six Entered Apprentices and one Master Mason, acting under a charter or dispensation from some Grand Lodge, is the requisite number to constitute a Lodge of Masons, and to initiate a candidate to the First Degree of Masonry.
They assemble in a room well guarded from all cowans and eaves-droppers, in the second or third story (as the case may be) of some building suitably prepared and furnished for Lodge purposes, which is, by Masons, termed “the Ground Floor of King Solomon’s Temple.”
The officers take their seats, as represented in the Plate on page 8. Lodge-meetings are arranged as follows, viz.: a “regular” is held but once a month (i.e. every month on, or preceding, the full of the moon in each month); special meetings are held as often as the exigency of the case may seem to demand, if every night in the week, Sunday excepted. If Tuesday should be Lodge night, by Masons it would be termed, “Tuesday evening on or before the full of the moon, a regular night.”
LODGE OF ENTERED APPRENTICES, FELLOW CRAFTS, OR MASTER MASONS. 1. Candidate prays. 2. First stop. 3. Second stop. 4. Third stop. 5. Room where candidates are prepared. 6. Ante-room where members enter the lodge. 7. Hall. 8. Doors. 9. Door through which candidates are admitted into the lodge. 10. Door through which members enter. 11. Altar. 12. Treasurer. 13. Secretary. 14. Senior Deacon. 15. Worshipful Master. 16. Junior Warden. 17 and 18. Stewards. 19. Senior Warden. 20. Junior Deacon. 21. Tyler.
All business relative to Masonry is done at a “regular,” and in the Third, or Master Mason Degree. None but Master Masons are allowed to be present at such meetings; balloting for candidates is generally done on a “regular,” also receiving petitions, committee reports, &c., &c.
A petition for the degrees of Masonry is generally received at a “regular” (though, as a common thing, Grand Lodges of each State make such arrangements as they may deem best for the regulation of their several subordinate Lodges).
At the time of receiving a petition for the degrees of Masonry, the Master appoints a committee of three, whose duty it is to make inquiry after the character of the applicant, and report good or bad, as the case may be, at the next regular meeting, when it is acted upon by the Lodge.
Upon reception of the committee’s report, a ballot is had: if no black balls appear, the candidate is declared duly elected; but if one black ball or more appear, he is declared rejected.
No business is done in a Lodge of Entered Apprentices, except to initiate a candidate to the First Degree in Masonry, nor is any business done in a Fellow Crafts’ Lodge, except to pass a Fellow Craft from the first to the second degree. To explain more thoroughly: when a candidate is initiated to the First Degree, he is styled as “entered;” when he has taken the Second Degree, “passed.” and when he has taken the Third, “raised” to the sublime Degree of a Master Mason. No one is allowed to be present, in any degree of Masonry, except he be one of that same degree or higher. The Master always wears his hat when presiding as such, but no other officer, in a “Blue Lodge” (a “Blue Lodge” is a Lodge of Master Masons, where only three degrees are conferred, viz.: Entered Apprentice, 1st; Fellow Craft, 2d; Master Mason, 3d. Country Lodges are mostly all “Blue Lodges“).
A Lodge of Fellow Craft Masons consists of five, viz.: Worshipful Master, Senior and Junior Wardens, Senior and Junior Dear hens; yet seven besides the Tyler generally assist, and take their seats as in the Entered Apprentice’s Degree. The Fellow Craft Lodge is styled by Masons “the Middle Chamber of King Solomon’s Temple.”
Three Master Masons is the requisite number to constitute a Masters’ Lodge, which is called by Masons “the Sanctum Sanctorum, or, Holy of Holies of King Solomon’s Temple.” Although three are all that is required by “Masonic Law” to open a Third Degree Lodge, there are generally seven besides the Tyler, as in the other degrees.
I SHALL omit the ceremonies incident to opening a Lodge of Fellow Crafts, as they are very similar to those employed in opening the First Degree, and will be explained hereafter more
COMPASSES PLACED IN A LODGE OF FELLOW CRAFT MASONS, ”ONE POINT ELEVATED ABOVE THE SQUARE.” (See Note B.)
clearly to the reader. Five are required by Masonic law to make a legal Lodge of Fellow Crafts, viz.: Worshipful Master, Senior and Junior Wardens, Senior and .Junior Deacons; yet seven, besides the Tyler, generally officiate, and take their seats as in the Entered Apprentice Degree. (See Plate, page 8.)
When the Lodge is opened on the Fellow Craft Degree, the altar is arranged as represented in the accompanying engraving.
We will suppose the Lodge to be opened on the Fellow Craft Degree, and Mr. Gabe, who has previously taken the degree of Entered Apprentice, and been elected to that of Fellow Craft, is in the ante-room in waiting. The Master, being aware of this fact, will say:
W. M.–Brother Junior Deacon, you will take with you the necessary assistance and repair to the ante-room, where there is a candidate in waiting for the second degree in Masonry; and when you have him prepared, make it known by the usual sign.
The Junior Deacon, with the two Stewards accompanying him, steps to the centre of the Lodge, makes the duegard and sign of a Fellow Craft, and passes out of the Lodge into the ante-room. (For duegard and sign see Figs. 3 and 4, page 17.)
J. D.–Well, Brother Gabe, you will have to be prepared for this Degree as all have been before you. You, of course, can have no serious objection?
Brother Gabe.–I have not.
J. D.–Then you will take off your boots, coat, pants, vest-necktie, and collar; and here is a pair of drawers, unless you have a pair of your own. Now you will slip
your right arm out of your shirtsleeve, and put it through the bosom of your shirt, that your right arm and breast may he naked.
The Deacon here ties a hoodwink, or hand-kerchief, over both eyes. (In the time of Morgan, it was the usage to cover only one eye.) The Junior Deacon then ties a rope, by Masons called a cable-tow, twice around his arm. (Formerly, the rope was put twice round the candidate’s neck.) Some Lodges follow the old custom now, but this is rather a rare thing. The reader will, however, do well to recollect these hints, as they are particular points.
The right foot and knee of the candidate are made bare by rolling up the drawers, and a slipper should be put on his left foot. This being accomplished, the candidate is duly and truly prepared. (See engraving.)
The Deacon now takes the candidate by the arm, and leads him forward to the door of the Lodge; and upon arriving there he gives three raps, when the Senior Deacon, who has taken his station on the inside door of the Lodge, reports to the Master as follows:
S. D.–Worshipful Master (making the sign of a Fellow Craft), there is an alarm at the inner door of our Lodge.
W. M.–You will attend to the alarm, and ascertain the cause.
The Deacon gives three raps, which are responded to by the Junior Deacon, and answered to by one rap from the Senior Deacon inside, who opens the door, and says:
S. D.–Who comes here?
J. D. (conductor.)–Brother Gabe, who has been regularly initiated as Entered Apprentice, and now wishes to receive more light in Masonry by being passed to the degree of Fellow Craft.
S. D. (turning to candidate.)–Brother Gabe, is it of your own free-will and accord?
THE ceremony of opening and conducting the business of a Lodge of Master Masons is nearly the same as in the Entered Apprentice and Fellow Crafts’ Degrees, already explained. All the business of a “Blue Lodge” (a Lodge of three Degrees) is done in the Lodge while opened on this Degree, except that of entering an Apprentice or passing a Fellow Craft, when the Lodge is lowered from the Masters’ Degree for that purpose.
The Third Degree is said to be the height of Ancient Free-masonry, and the most sublime of all the Degrees in Masonry (Royal Arch not even excepted); and when it is conferred, the Lodge is generally well filled with the members of the Lodge and visiting brethren.
The traditional account of the death, several burials, and resurrections of one of the craft, Hiram Abiff, the widow’s son, as developed in conferring this Degree, is very interesting.
We read in the Bible, that Hiram Abiff was one of the head workmen employed at the building of King Solomon’s Temple, and other ancient writings inform us that he was an arbiter between King Solomon and Hiram, king of Tyre; but his tragical death is nowhere recorded, except in the archives of Freemasonry. Not even the Bible, the writings of Josephus, nor any other writings, however ancient, of which we have any knowledge, furnish any information respecting his death. It is very singular, that
a man so celebrated as Hiram Abiff was, universally acknowledged as the third most distinguished man then living, and, in many respects, the greatest man in the world, should pass from off the stage of action, in the presence of King Solomon, three thousand three hundred grand overseers, and one hundred and fifty thousand workmen, with whom he had spent a number of years, and with King Solomon, his bosom friend, without any of his numerous confrères even recording his death, or any thing about it.
COMPASSES, PLACED IN A LODGE OF MASTER MASONS, ”BOTH POINTS ELEVATED ABOVE THE SQUARE,” (See Note B, Appendix.)
A Master Masons’ Lodge is styled by the Craft the “Sanctum Sanctorum, or Holy of Holies, of King Solomon’s Temple,” and when the Lodge is opened on this Degree, both points of the compasses are elevated above the square. (See engraving.)
A candidate for the sublime Degree of a Master Mason is generally (as in the preceding Degrees) prepared by the Junior Deacon and the two Stewards, or some other brethren acting as such.
PREPARING THE CANDIDATE
The candidate is divested of all wearing apparel, except his shirt and drawers, and if he has not the latter, he is furnished with a pair by the brethren preparing him. The drawers are rolled up just above the candidate’s knees, and both arms are taken out of his shirt-sleeves, leaving his legs and breast bare. A rope, technically called, by Masons, a cable-tow, is wound around his body three times, and a bandage, or hoodwink, is tied very closely over his eyes. (See engraving.)
When the candidate is prepared, the Deacon takes him by the left arm, leads him up to the door of the Lodge, and gives three loud, distinct knocks.
The Senior Deacon, who has stationed himself at the inner door, at the right of the Senior Warden, on hearing these raps rises to his feet, makes the sign of a Master Mason to the Master (see Fig. 6, p. 18), and says:
Worshipful Master, while engaged in the lawful pursuit of Masonry, there is an alarm at the inner door of our Lodge.
W. M.–You will attend to the alarm, and ascertain the cause.
Senior Deacon gives three loud knocks (• • •), which are responded to by one (•) from the parties outside. The Senior Deacon then answers with one rap (•), and opens the door.
THE Degree of Mark Master, which is the Fourth in the Masonic series, is, historically considered, of the utmost importance, since we are informed that, by its influence, each operative Mason, at the building of King Solomon’s Temple, was known and distinguished, and the disorder and confusion which might otherwise have attended so immense an undertaking was completely prevented, and not only the craftsmen themselves, but every part of their workmanship was discriminated with the greatest nicety and the utmost facility.
It is claimed by Masonic writers,1 that this Degree in Masonry was instituted by King Solomon, at the building of the Temple, for the purpose of detecting impostors, while paying wages to the craftsmen. Each operative was required to put his mark upon the product of his labor, and these distinctive marks were all known to the Senior Grand Warden. If any of the workman-ship was found to be defective, it was a matter of no difficulty for the overseers to ascertain at once who was the imperfect craftsman, and remedy the defect. Thus the faulty workman was punished, without diminishing the wages of the diligent and faithful craftsmen. A candidate upon whom this Degree has been conferred is said to have been “advanced to the honorary Degree of Mark Master.”
Eight officers are necessary to open a Lodge in this Degree. viz.:
1. R. W. Master; 2. S. G. Warden; 3. J. G. Warden; 4. Senior Deacon; 5. Junior Deacon; 6. Master Overseer; 7. Senior Overseer; S. Junior Overseer.
The officers of a Chapter rank as follows, viz.: the High Priest, as R. W. Master; King, as Senior Grand Warden; Scribe, as Junior Grand Warden; Captain of the Host, as Master of Ceremonies; Principal Sojourner, as Senior Deacon; Royal Arch Captain, as Junior Deacon; Master of the Third Veil, as Master Overseer; Master of the Second Veil, as Senior Overseer; Master of the First Veil, as .Junior Overseer. The Treasurer, Secretary, and Tyler, corresponding in rank with the same officers in other Degrees. These officers are filled by the officers of the Chapter under whose warrant the Lodge is held.
The symbolic color of the Mark Degree is purple. The apron is of white lambskin, edged with purple, and the collar of purple, edged with gold. But as Mark Lodges are no longer independent bodies, but always held under the warrant of a Royal Arch Chapter, the collars, aprons, and jewels of the Chapter are generally made use of in conferring the Mark Degree.
Lodges of Mark Masters are “dedicated to Hiram, the Builder.”
The interior arrangements of the Lodge, and the positions of the Master, Wardens, Deacons, Secretary, and Treasurer, are the same as those in the Entered Apprentices’ Degree (p. 8). The Master Overseer takes his seat on the right of the Right Worshipful Master in the east. The Senior Overseer sits on the right of the Senior Grand Warden in the west, and his Junior on the right of the Junior Grand Warden in the south.
Right Worshipful Master (giving a rap with his gavel.)–Brethren, I am about to open a Lodge of Mark Master Masons in this place, for the dispatch of business. I will thank you for your attention and assistance. If there is any person present who has not taken this Degree, he is requested to retire.
To Senior Grand Warden:
Brother Senior, are you satisfied that all present are Mark Masters?
S. G. W.–Right Worshipful, I wish the pass-word might be given by the brethren.
The two Deacons thereupon go round and receive the word, which is JOPPA, in the same manner as in the Master Mason’s Degree (p. 20).
R. W M. (giving one rap.)–Brother Junior Deacon, the first care of congregated Masons?
J. D. (rising on his feet, and, at the same time, giving a sign–see Fig. 20, p. 154.)–To see the Lodge tyled, Right Worshipful.
R. W. M.–Perform that part of your duty, and inform the Tyler that we are about to open a Lodge of Mark Master Masons
THIS degree in Masonry was instituted to try the qualifications of a Master Mason before becoming Master of a Lodge, and no Mason can constitutionally preside over a Lodge of Master Masons unless he has been admitted to this Degree. A Mason usually takes this Degree before offering himself as a candidate for presiding in a Master’s Lodge; but should it so happen that a Mason is elected Master of a Lodge who is not a Past Master, the Past Master’s Degree may be conferred upon him without any other ceremony than that of administering the obligation. In such a case it is usually done by Royal Arch Masons, acting by order of a Grand Master.
The Past Master’s Lodge consists of seven officers, as follows:–
The interior arrangement is the same as in the first degree, and the officers are similarly seated. (See p. 8.)
The symbolic color of the Past Master’s Degree is purple. The apron is of white lambskin, edged with purple, and should have the jewel of the Degree inscribed upon it. The collar is of purple, edged with gold. But, as Past Masters’ Lodges are held under the warrants of Royal Arch Chapters, the collars, aprons, and jewels of the Chapter are generally made use of is conferring the Past Master’s Degree.
When a Lodge of Past Masters is opened in due form, the ceremony is similar to that of a Master’s Lodge. If there is a candidate in waiting he is usually introduced into the Lodge as though it were open on the Mark Master’s Degree, and he is made a Past Master before he is aware of it. Since the many disclosures of this and other Degrees in Masonry, it requires a great deal of tact and ingenuity to confer this Degree so as to produce the effect desired. The candidate is elected to the Degree in the Royal Arch Chapter, as no business is permitted to be done in this Degree except that of initiation. Formerly it was the custom for all the members to wear their hats while conferring this Degree, but now no member wears his hat except the Right Worshipful Master. We will now proceed to give the manner of conferring this Degree “in old times,” as described by Richardson, and, at the close, will give the reader an idea of the modern way of conferring it. By comparing this with Richardson’s work, the initiated will perceive that we have made some trifling alterations, and corrected several errors which occur in that book.
A Master Mason wishing to enter on the Degree of Past Master, petitions the Chapter, and is balloted for in the same way that a candidate would be in one of the first Degrees; but he is received very differently. Having had the requisite ballot, the Junior Deacon conducts him into the Lodge, places him on a seat, and then repairs to his own station near the Senior Warden in the west. Soon after, a heavy alarm is given at the outer door.
J. D. (to the Master, rising.)–There is an alarm at the outer door, Right Worshipful.
R. W. M.–Attend to the alarm, and see who comes there.
Junior Deacon goes to the door, and soon returns, bringing a letter to the Master, who opens it, and reads aloud to the Lodge as follows:–
DEAR BROTHER–Our dear mother has been taken suddenly very ill, and the physician despairs of saving her life. Come home immediately; do not lose a moment in delay.
Your affectionate sister, ALICE. p. 186
R. W. M. (addressing the Lodge.)–Brethren, you see by the tenor of this letter to me that it is necessary I should leave immediately. You must appoint some one to fill the chair, for I cannot stay to confer this Degree.
J. W.–Right Worshipful, I certainly sympathize with you for the afflicting calamity which has befallen your family, and am sorry that it seems so urgently necessary for you to leave; but could you not stop a few moments? Brother Gabe has come on purpose to receive this Degree, and expects to receive it. I believe he is in the room, and can speak for himself; and unless he is willing to put off the ceremony, I do not see how you can avoid staying.
No Mason can receive the Degree of Most Excellent Master until after he has become a Past Master, and presided in a Lodge, or, in other words, been inducted into the Oriental Chair of King Solomon. When the Temple of Jerusalem was finished,1 those who had proved themselves worthy, by their virtue, skill, and fidelity, were installed as Most Excellent Masters, and, even at this date, none but those who have a perfect knowledge of all preceding Degrees are (or should be) admitted.2
A Lodge of Most Excellent Masters is opened in nearly the same manner as Lodges in the preceding Degrees. The officers are, a Master, Senior and Junior Wardens and Deacons, Secretary and Treasurer, and of course a Tyler.
The officers of a Chapter rank as follows:–
The High Priest, as Right Worshipful Master; King, as Senior Warden; Scribe, as Junior Warden; Principal Sojourner, as Senior Deacon; Royal Arch Captain, as Junior Deacon. The Treasurer, Secretary, and Tyler corresponding in rank with the same officers of other Degrees.
The symbolic color of the Most Excellent Master’s Degree is purple. The apron is of white lambskin, edged with purple. The collar is of purple, edged with gold. But, as Lodges of this Degree are held under warrants of Royal Arch Chapters, the collars, aprons, and jewels of the Chapter are generally made use of in conferring the Degree.
The Right Worshipful Master represents King Solomon, and should be dressed in a crimson robe, wearing a crown, and holding a sceptre in his hand.
A candidate receiving this Degree is said to be “received and acknowledged as a Most Excellent Master.”
Lodges of Most Excellent Masters are “dedicated to King Solomon.”
The officers of the Lodge are stationed as in the Entered Apprentice’s Degree, described on Page 8. The Master presiding calls the Lodge to order, and says:
Master (to the Junior Warden.)–Brother Junior, are they all Most Excellent Masters in the south?
J. W.–They are, Right Worshipful.
Master (to the Senior Warden.)–Brother Senior, are they all Most Excellent Masters in the west?
S. W.–They are, Right Worshipful.
Master–They are also in the east.
Master gives one rap, which calls up the two deacons.
Master (to Junior Deacon.)–Brother Junior, the first care of a Mason?
J. D.–To see the door tyled, Most Excellent.
Master–Attend to that part of your duty, and inform the Tyler that we are about to open this Lodge of Most Excellent Masters, and direct him to tyle accordingly.
Junior Deacon goes to the door and gives six knocks, which the Tyler from without answers by six more. He then gives one knock, which the Tyler answers with one, and he then partly
opens the door, and informs the Tyler that by order of the Most Excellent Master a Lodge of Most Excellent Masters is now about to be opened in this place, and he must tyle accordingly. He then returns to his place and addresses the Master:
J. D.–The Lodge is tyled, Most Excellent.
J. D.–By a Most Excellent Master Mason without the door, armed with the proper implements of his office.
Master–His duty there?
J. D.–To keep off all cowans and eavesdroppers, and see that none pass or repass without permission of the Right Worshipful Master.
The Master now questions each officer of the Lodge as to his duties, which are recited by them as in the other Degrees.
Master (to Senior Warden.)–Brother Senior, you will assemble the brethren around the altar for our opening.
S. W.–Brethren, please to assemble around the altar, for the purpose of opening this Lodge of Most Excellent Master Masons.
The brethren now assemble around the altar, and form a circle, and stand in such a position as to touch each other, leaving a space for the Right Worshipful Master; they then all kneel on their left knee, and join hands, each giving his right-hand brother his left hand, and his left-hand brother his right hand; their left arms uppermost, and their heads inclining downward: all being thus situated, the Right Worshipful Master reads the following verses from Psalm xxiv:
THE Royal Arch Degree seems not to have been known to what are called modern Masons as late as about 1750. That portion of the old Freemasons who met at the famous Apple-Tree Tavern, in 1717, and formed the society upon somewhat new principles, that is, so far as to admit into fellowship, indiscriminately, respectable individuals of all professions, were denominated, by the non-adherents to this plan, modern Masons. This affair caused the division of the Masonic Society into two parties, which continued till 1813, nearly one hundred years. To the rivalry occasioned by this schism, Masonry, it is presumed, is mainly indebted for the great celebrity it has obtained in the world.
It appears that the non-conformists to this new scheme, who considered themselves the orthodox party, by rummaging among the old records of the Order, first discovered the Royal Arch Degree, which had probably lain dormant for centuries; during which time, it would appear, the society had been confined almost exclusively to operative masons; who continued the ceremonies only of the apprentice, fellow-craft or journeyman, and master mason, these being deemed appropriate to their occupation.
A society of Royal Arch Masons is called a Chapter, and not a Lodge, as in the previous Degrees. All Chapters of Royal Arch Masons are “dedicated to Zerubbabel,” and the symbolic color of this Degree is scarlet. The several Degrees of Mark Master, Present or Past Master, and Most Excellent Master, are given only under the sanction of the Royal Arch Chapter; and a Master Mason who applies for these Degrees usually enters the Chapter also, and sometimes the four degrees are given at once. If he takes the four, he is only balloted for once, viz.: in the Mark Master’s Degree. Candidates receiving this Degree are said to be “exalted to the most sublime Degree of the Royal Arch.”
It is a point of the Royal Arch Degree not to assist, or be
present, at the conferring of this Degree upon more or less than three candidates at one time. If there are not three candidates present, one or two companions, as the case may be, volunteer to represent candidates, so as to make the requisite number, or a “team,” as it is technically styled, and accompany the candidate or candidates through all the stages of exaltation.
At the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, three Most Excellent Masters were carried captives to Babylon, where they remained seventy years, and were liberated by Cyrus, King of Persia. They returned to Jerusalem to assist in rebuilding the Temple, after travelling over rugged roads on foot. They arrived at the outer veil of the Tabernacle, which was erected near the ruins of the Temple. This Tabernacle was an oblong square, enclosed by four veils, or curtains, and divided into separate apartments by four cross veils, including the west end veil or entrance. The veils were parted in the centre, and guarded by four guards, with drawn swords.
At the east end of the Tabernacle, Haggai, Joshua, and Zerubbabel usually sat in grand council, to examine all who wished to be employed in the noble and glorious work of rebuilding the Temple. Since that time, every Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, if properly formed, represents the Tabernacle erected by our ancient brethren, near the ruins of King Solomon’s Temple, and our engraving shows the interior arrangement of a Chapter of the Royal Arch Degree.1 (See Fig. 31.)
These three Most Excellent Masters, on their arrival, were introduced to the Grand Council, and employed, furnished with tools, and directed to commence their labors at the northeast corner of the ruins of the old Temple, and to clear away and remove the rubbish, in order to lay the foundation of the new. The Grand Council also gave them strict orders to preserve whatever should fall in their way (such as specimens of ancient architecture, &c.,) and bring it up for their inspection.
Among the discoveries made by the three Masters was a secret vault in which they found treasures of great benefit to the craft, &c. The ceremony of exalting companions to this Degree, is a recapitulation of the adventures of these three Most Excellent Masters, and hence it is that three candidates are necessary for an initiation.