San Diego Area Chapters
No Rite of Freemasonry covers the world, as does Royal Arch Masonry. In every country of the Earth: on every continent and on many isles of the sea will be found Royal Arch Chapters, eager and willing to receive their companions from other parts of the world into the full fellowship that characterizes Royal Arch Masonry. In Asia, in Africa, in Europe, in the Americas, and on the continent of Australia will be found hundreds of Royal Arch Chapters into whose halls you will ever be a welcome visitor. In our own country, we find upwards of 750,000 members in 3000 Chapters.
Founded in 1797, in Boston, MA, as a national organization, the General Grand Chapter, Royal Arch Masons, International now has jurisdiction over half the 7000 Chapters in the world, including provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan in Canada, the Grand Chapters of Mexico, Philippines, Germany, Italy, Greece, and many chapters in South America. Upon your exaltation as a Royal Arch Mason, you will be a member of the oldest and largest rite of Freemasonry.
What has attracted so many brethren to seek further light in Royal Arch Masonry? In your journey through the three degrees of Symbolic Masonry, and as you have studied for your proficiency, no doubt many questions have arisen concerning the meaning of the ritualistic ceremonies, the historical implications, and the “why” of the legends of Freemasonry.
Many believe the Sublime Degree of Master Mason to be the ultimate degree of Freemasonry and all others to be added and explanatory. Most students of Freemasonry agree that the story of the Craft as presented in the three degrees is incomplete and that the degrees of the Royal Arch completes the story and answer many of the questions in the mind of the newly made Master Mason. The Royal Arch Degree was considered most important in the early years of Freemasonry, and so dogmatic was the Mother Grand Lodge – from which all Speculative Masonry derives – that in 1813 when the two grand lodges in England united, a firm and solemn landmark was adopted and placed in the Articles of Union to guide Masons throughout the world forever on this matter:
“Pure Ancient Freemasonry consists of but three degrees, viz., that of Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason, including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch.”
This landmark has never been changed, and to this day, no other degree has been officially recognized by the Mother Grand Lodge. Every rite, system, or additional degree of Freemasonry cannot confer its degree on a Master Mason until he has received the Royal Arch Degree. Naturally, this is as it should be, because a man is not a Master Mason until he receives the Master’s Word, and he can only receive it in the Royal Arch.
The Chapter of Royal Arch Masonry consists of four degrees: Mark Master, Past Master, Most Excellent Master, and Royal Arch Mason.
The Mark Master Degree is believed to have originated as a ceremony of registering a craftsman’s mark in those years distinguished by the operative craft masons and their temple building. It was later developed into a full-fledged degree by the Masonic fraternity, as we know it today. Some scholars say it was the earliest degree and may predate all others by many years. It is highly regarded by students and ritualists as one of the most beautiful degrees in all Masonry, teaching lessons that have proven of value in all works of life. Some Grand Lodges place so high an eminence on the Mark Master Degree that they confine it to the jurisdiction of a separate grand body, the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons.
The Past Master Degree came into being because initially, the degree of Royal Arch was conferred by the Symbolic (Blue) Lodge only on actual Past Masters. This degree was instituted to make it possible for all worthy Brethren to receive the Royal Arch Degree. The first record of its conferral was found in 1768 in England.
Most Excellent Master
The Most Excellent Master Degree is a product of American innovation. It was conferred in a Royal Arch Chapter as early as 1783 in Middletown, CN. It is by far the most spectacular degree in all of 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.
The Royal Arch Degree 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 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.
Many historians have traced the earliest origins of the Royal Arch Degree to Ireland, late in the 17th Century and in England in 1738. In 1752, ambulatory or military warrants for lodges were introduced. This was instrumental in placing the Royal Arch Degree on par with the Master Mason Degree.
Military lodges were greatly responsible for planting Freemasonry in the Colonies and also gave birth to the use of the Mark and Royal Arch Degrees in the “New World.” Lodge records show that the Royal Arch Degree was conferred at Fredericksburg No. 4 on December 12, 1753. George Washington was raised in this lodge a few months prior to this date.
The value of Royal Arch Masonry will be appreciated by all who are exalted to that most sublime degree, particularly by those who are seeking to complete their Masonic education. It reveals the full light of Ancient Craft Masonry, presents it as a complete system in accordance with the original plan, and justly entitles you to claim the noble name of Master Mason. Royal Arch Masonry contains some simple plain statements of Truth, easily understandable and helpful in our relation to life. Lodge symbolism deals with lessons of the material side of life. The Chapter degrees, and notably the Royal Arch, deal with the spiritual side of life.
For further information about Royal Arch Masonry, CONTACT a San Diego York Rite Chapter.