SYMBOLIC DEGREES (Lodge)
Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason
CAPITULAR DEGREES (Chapter)
Mark Master, Past Master, Most Excellent Master, and Royal Arch Mason
CRYPTIC DEGREES (Council)
Royal Master, Select Master, and Super Excellent Master
CHIVALRIC DEGREES (Commandery)
Order of the Red Cross, Order of Malta, and Order of the Temple
LODGE of FREE and ACCEPTED MASONS – THE SYMBOLIC DEGREES
The ENTERED APPRENTICE is a bearer of burdens, the FELLOWCRAFT is a skilled workman, and the MASTER MASON is a director of the work.
The ENTERED APPRENTICE is taught symbolically to labor upon the building of his character Temple, to subdue his passions, and to improve himself in Masonry. He must obey the rules and regulations and learn to practice them.
The FELLOWCRAFT is carefully instructed in the principles of Geometry. The different orders of Architecture are explained to him, together with the Five Senses of human nature, and the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences, and he is instructed in the kind of wages he is to receive.
The MASTER MASON is taught numerous very important moral lessons governing his conduct in the world and towards others; that he must answer and obey the rules of the order; must not cheat, wrong, or defraud a brother or a lodge of Masons, but on the contrary must help, aid, and assist a distressed brother, his widow and orphans. Preparation of the life to come is inculcated by beautiful ceremonies. The Temple is not yet completed, and those faithful craftsmen who have labored so long upon it are deprived, by the wickedness of others, of that for which they have wrought. The building of the Temple symbolizes the continuous effort to erect within ourselves a way of life.
CHAPTER of ROYAL ARCH MASONS – CAPITULAR DEGREES
MARK MASTER.- – The work on the Temple is continued as in the preceding degrees of the Lodge. The candidate represents one of the workmen whose custom it was to have their work inspected at the end of each week. An important lesson is taught – that he should never claim the work of another. The degree lays still greater stress upon the dignity of labor; that we must all work, and receive wages according to our deserts.
PAST MASTER. – – This degree begins the preparation for the Royal Arch. In former times no one was eligible for the Royal Arch except actual or Past Masters of Lodges, but the degree of Past Master was instituted whereby one might become a “virtual Master” and thus be eligible for exaltation to the Royal Arch. The candidate is taught that he must first learn to obey before he can learn to rule, and that he must learn to govern himself before he can govern others.
MOST EXCELLENT MASTER, – – represents King Solomon’s Temple completed and dedicated. King Solomon offers a sublime invocation and his offerings are burned with fire. The brethren rejoicing that their long labor is ended, are greeted as Most Excellent Masters, and receive their reward. This ends the cycle of degrees having to do with the erection of King Solomon’s Temple, and brings us to the sublime story, spanning centuries of time as set forth in the Royal Arch Degree.
ROYAL ARCH.- – The candidates witness the burning bush where Moses was given command to return and lead forth the children of Israel from bondage. After the destruction of the Temple, they were carried away captives. After 70 years of bondage, they returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and the House of the Lord. On arriving they find themselves in the midst of ruins, make themselves known to the grand council – JESHUA, ZERRUBBABEL, and HAGGAI – and are set at work to remove the rubbish of the old Temple in order to lay the foundations of the new. Amidst these ruins they make many valuable discoveries which had lain buried in darkness for ages, and which complete the knowledge gained in the Symbolic degrees. Thus are connected together in the most intimate way the work of the Lodge and the work of the Chapter, neither being complete without the other.
COUNCIL of ROYAL and SELECT MASONS – CRYPTIC DEGREES
It is a peculiarity of the York Rite, whether intended or not by it’s authors, that the movement of the degrees is often inverse, and the historical connection reversed; so that as we apparently go forward in regular progression, the knowledge and light gained always reflect backward upon the path we have traveled before, and the degrees that seemed complete when we took them are found to require the explanation of the subsequent degrees before they can be understood. This is what makes the infinite interest in the work, and causes the reflective Mason to continually study the sublime precepts and ceremonies of the order. This is especially true of the Cryptic Degrees, two of which historically precede the Royal Arch, but which hold in reserve their valuable teachings until the candidate is ready to receive them.
ROYAL MASTER. – – In this degree HIRAM is alive again, and imparts to the candidate the teachings of useful labor on earth and a worthy end of life. The tragedy of his untimely death is again brought forward, with the great loss suffered by the craft. This is especially illustrative of the third and seventh degrees.
SELECT MASTER. – – In this degree we have dramatized one of the incidents that occurred during the building of the Temple. It is closely connected with the Royal Arch degree, and in fact it affords the explanation needed for it’s perfect understanding. Our three ancient Grand Masters appear in charge of a very important work connected with the Temple. Certain secrets are imparted to the candidate which make clear to him the preceding degrees. It is highly dramatic and of the greatest interest.
SUPER EXCELLENT MASTER – – This degree has no connection either in history or symbolism with the Royal and Select Master degrees. It is divided into three striking scenes , in the first of which King ZEDEKIAH of Judah listens to his false counselors and despises the warnings of the Prophet Jeremiah, and the vengeance of the Lord is poured upon him. Jerusalem is captured and it’s wicked King is taken before King Nebuchadnezzar who destroys the royal household, burns the city and Temple, leaving the land in charge of the very poor. The last scene represents the Jewish captives at Babylon, under the direction of HAGGAI, the prophet.
COMMANDERY of KNIGHT TEMPLAR – CHIVALRIC DEGREES
ORDER OF THE RED CROSS – – Our story goes back to the period of the Royal Arch, in the reign of King Darius. A grand council was convened to deliberate upon the unhappy condition of the country and devise means to secure the favor of the King and his consent to their proceeding with the rebuilding of the city and Temple.
ZERRUBBABEL, represented by the candidate, offered his services to travel to the Persian court and remind the King of his promise to aid the Jews in the work.
The King was so pleased that he told ZERRUBBABEL to ask what he would and it should be granted. ZERRUBBABEL then reminds him of his vow to rebuild Jerusalem and restore the Holy Vessels and to rebuild the house of the Lord. The King then makes a decree permitting the Jews to return and restore the city and Temple.
Here we bid farewell to the degrees having to do with King Solomon’s Temple, and go forward to the period of the Crusades when the Orders of Knighthood were formed to recover the Holy Sepulcher and to protect the pilgrims who went to visit it’s sacred shrines.
KNIGHT OF MALTA. – – The candidate humbly solicits to be admitted to the privileges of the Mediterranean Pass to enable him in safety to undertake a pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulcher. The ceremonies of the Pass degree refer to the shipwreck of Saint Paul upon the island of Malta, and the viper that came out of the fire and clung to his hand.
ORDER OF THE TEMPLE.- – We now approach the grandest and most impressive degree, the true capstone of Masonry. The candidate represents a knight of the period that succeeded the Crusades, who had made a vow to visit the Holy Sepulcher. As a trial of his worthiness there is enjoined upon him seven years of pilgrimage in the direction of the Holy Shrine. After having served six years of this preparation he is commanded to devote the remaining year of preparation to penance. Beautiful lessons of the death and ascension of our Savior are inculcated, and the candidate is at last received into full fellowship, in the most solemn manner.
The ancient Order of the Temple was suppressed and it’s members dispersed, and the warlike spirit of the Order has passed away; but there remains a spirit of refined and moral Chivalry which prompts the members to be ever ready to defend the weak, the innocent, the helpless and oppressed, and at last to be greeted as Brethren.