The Royal Arch is a beautiful degree, dramatic in its Ceremony, and full of allegory and hidden meaning. It takes brotherhood to the next level as Craft Masons become Companions in the Royal Arch in their journey through life. As such it is the completion of a Craft Mason’s journey through ‘Pure and Antient Freemasonry’ from Initiation to Exaltation.
The Book of Constitution declares:
“Pure and Antient Freemasonry consists of three degrees and no more, those of the Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason including the Supreme Order of the Royal Arch.”
A Craft Mason is eligible to join the Royal Arch when he has been a Master Mason for no less than four weeks, after which he can join a Chapter anywhere. There is no compulsion to join the Chapter attached to his own Craft lodge, or indeed in the same centre. As such, joining the Royal Arch offers the opportunity to broaden a Master Mason’s masonic circle. Any Chapter will welcome a new member, on proof of his Raising.
Here’s why membership of a Chapter completes the story that unfolds in the Third Degree, which is a tragedy of Shakespearian proportion. The story tells how our Master Hiram Abiff is slain, the perpetrators put to death, and the Genuine Secrets of a Master Mason are lost. King Solomon, racked with grief at the murder of his chief architect, orders the use of substitute Secrets until the original can be recovered. That is no way to end a story! In the Royal Arch we find the Secrets again. The Royal Arch is the happy ending to the tragedy of the Third Degree. There is a stunning Ceremony in which a drama unfolds when the Secrets are discovered by the new member as he is Exalted into the Supreme Degree.
The essential point about the relationship between the Craft and the Royal Arch is that:
- In the Craft we are taught about our relationships and responsibilities to our fellow men, to our Brothers.
- In the Royal Arch we find out more about ourselves with the help of others. We are asked to reflect on our own relationship and understanding of the Supreme Being.
In Summary, whilst we all have choices, joining the Royal Arch after the Craft is the natural step for the Master Mason to take because
- Only the Royal Arch completes the journey through Pure and Antient Freemasonry
- The Royal Arch is the happy ending to the tragedy which unfolds in the Third Degree
- It is the dramatic story within a beautiful ceremony
- The Craft is illogical without this completion
Why Join the Royal Arch
In Warwickshire we are very fortunate in being able to choose from a number of Orders beyond the Craft, worked in many different locations and ceremonies. Whilst it is possible for the Master Mason to join any number of these, and many do, we should not lose sight of the fact that only the Royal Arch completes the story which began in the third degree. As such it is the only one that completes the journey through Pure and Ancient Freemasonry. There is no right or wrong way for a Master Mason to develop his career, and he can do that in any way he sees fit, but surely he ought first to complete the journey that began with his Initiation?
If our aim is to seek that great moral secret or truth offered by our Masonic Founders, then we need first and foremost to look to the three Craft Degrees – including the Royal Arch.
In them we are instructed how live in harmony with each other, in harmony with our own nature and in harmony with our chosen Supreme Being.
When we have achieved all three of these we can look further to enhance and embellish our ongoing journey as our further interests develop.
Fortunately Speculative Freemasonry has equipped us to make our own decisions and decide our own pathway; there is no right or wrong! Each Master Mason is free to choose but perhaps we can agree with the Grand Master that Master Masons should be encouraged to join the Royal Arch first and complete their journey through “Pure and Antient Freemasonry” before exploring other avenues.
In Summary, when you are asked the question why join the Royal Arch
“I wanted to join the Royal Arch because of its indissoluble link with the Craft, it is the completion of the journey through pure and antient Freemasonry, the happy ending to the tragedy which is the Third Degree”
I wanted to join for four main reasons:
The Third Degree leaves us in the air, the RA is the only way to complete your journey through pure and ancient Freemasonry.
- It takes friendship and brotherhood to an even higher level – Companionship.
- It invites you and supports you to explore the spiritual nature of man.
- It has a beautiful Ceremony full of history, allegory and hidden meaning.
Brotherhood to Companionship
There is a series of questions that may well come after why join the Royal Arch and that is likely to include:
“Why is the Royal Arch relevant to me; what are the additional benefits over and above the Craft; and what is Companionship?”
Craft Freemasonry is, so to speak, a glorious broad church. It is a mix of young and old, of craftsmen and managers, of those who worship regularly and those who could make Doubting Thomas a beacon of religious hope. It is a mixture of those whose Masonic diaries have scarcely a blank day and those who, having joined, realise that it was all a big mistake. And you might throw in some who are hugely content simply to enjoy the friendships available within their own lodge without troubling the ritual, and others who see Provincial advancement as the ladder to a rank, status, and happiness missing from their 9 to 5. All these various parts unite together as one strong, sociable Brotherhood, and long may it continue.
Having achieved the aim of a united Brotherhood then where does the Royal Arch fit in?
The Royal Arch is a remarkably satisfying fulfilment of the Third Degree. The Third Degree is incomplete, it leaves us in the air in that it asks us to obey God’s Laws but is silent about their location. Chapter tells us about the who and the where of these Laws. In so doing it also provides the authority that underpins the morality flowing through all our three Degrees.
From that heady mix in a Lodge there are some… just some… who are not content with just the social bonhomie and good cheer at the bar, rewarding though that is. They want to explore the meaning of Craft Masonry, as far as is possible. They have already realised that the Craft provides a great opportunity for social bonding, but they now want to build on the lessons they learned in the Craft ritual and go forward to achieve a greater inner harmony. Chapter provides a colourful, historically accurate and enjoyable explanation of how that might be done in completing the Master Mason’s journey.
How does that make the Chapter any more companionable than Craft?
It is perhaps the personality of those who actually decide to complete the Craft journey which creates a different atmosphere. They are more at ease with each other. They have enjoyed the energy and enthusiasm of their Craft Lodge strengthening the bonds of Brotherhood in the Temple and at the Festive Board. They now want to reach that level – deeper, quieter, more reflective – which has been signposted but not delivered so far in the Craft ritual. This is now offered within the Royal Arch. With this greater understanding of Speculative Freemasonry the friendships can become even stronger.
The Royal Arch looks to the man himself, inviting him to reflect on the ceremony and how, with its spiritual revelation, he is encouraged to live in harmony with all those pressures of his own mental, physical and spiritual nature, pressures that we all feel from time to time. By becoming more at ease with himself a Royal Arch Mason is better able to join a stronger relationship with the Companions around him. Craft has lessons for the group; Chapter has lessons for the individual within it.
By joining Chapter the Master Mason joins a group of like-minded people who respect each other and share each meeting in mutual contemplation of a familiar and beautiful ceremony so as to live in greater harmony with each and all. It offers a deeper and quieter relationship founded on feelings of great harmony. We have become amiable Companions on the same life journey.
In Summary, becoming a Royal Arch Companion means:
- Being in the company of like-minded people.
- Taking Brotherhood to the next level Finding a deeper, quieter, more reflective relationship within oneself and other Compan which has been sign-posted but not delivered so far in the Craft.
- Finding a way of becoming more at ease with oneself and more in harmony with other Companions on life’s journey.
There are a number of people in the Lodge that can help Brethren who are interested in the Royal Arch and may be thinking about joining.
- Lodge Mentor.
- Lodge Chapter Representative.
- Any Brother wearing a Chapter jewel, be it on a white, red, or tri coloured ribbon.
It is so important to be proactive with Brethren and to be ready and available to help them with their next step when they feel ready. This document will help Craft Masons develop an interest in the Royal Arch by giving them an insight into the degree and the benefits we all achieve by becoming Companions.