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ROYAL AND SELECT MASTERS
HISTORY

 

In the 1870’s, the question of introducing the Cryptic Rite into England began to be mooted. Isolated degrees of the Rite are known to have been worked in the north of England in the 18/19 th century but the complete rite as a sovereign body existed only in the USA, controlled by Grand Councils in certain states of the Union as part of the so-called ‘York or American Rite and it is a reasonable assumption that through certain members of the rite (American masons resident in England or English masons who had taken the degrees in America) the Cryptic Rite became known to various influential masons in England.

Important points which emerged in the discussions were (a) that an essential preliminary to the Cryptic Rite as worked in America was the degree of Most Excellent Master and (b) that whereas the Cryptic degrees proper were controlled by State Grand Councils, that of Most Excellent Master came under the aegis of State Grand Royal Arch Chapters.

It was decided to apply to the appropriate sovereign bodies in New York State.

The first Book of Constitutions and Regulations was published in 1874. In it, regalia for Grand Officers and Companions was laid down but it was not until 1930 that the Executive Committee found itself called upon to urge the wearing of the proper regalia.

The reason for the selection of New York State as the parent of English Cryptic masonry must have been due to the influence of Jackson H. Chase who was a Grand Officer of the Royal Arch and Cryptic sovereign bodies in New York State and who, presumably, was in business in London and must have taken part in the preliminary discussions. Similarly, in 1877 Scottish Royal Arch masons obtained their dispensations from the appropriate sovereign bodies of the State of Illinois. Three Councils were set up in Scotland and a Grand Council was elected in 1880. Cordial relations were immediately set up between the English and Scottish Grand Councils and our Minutes record visits (which were no doubt returned) by Captain Charles Hunter, Grand Master of Cryptic Councils in Scotland, usually about the time of the annual Festival which, in the 1880’s was fixed for the 8 th 0f May at the Holborn Restaurant.

At its inception the Cryptic Rite in Scotland included the Most Excellent Master degree but when, in 1915 the so-called Council degrees were taken over by the Sovereign Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Scotland, the Most Excellent Master was dropped in favour of the Excellent Master degree which is not worked in English Chapters. This problem, which at first raised a difficulty when inter-visiting took place, was solved in 1959 by an agreement between the Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters and the Sovereign Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Scotland which provided that a Scottish Cryptic Mason could witness the Most Excellent Master degree after being ‘heled’ of the degree, i.e.by taking a short Obligation. Similarly an English Cryptic Mason can witness the Excellent Master degree in analogous circumstances.

Since 1871/73 our Order has gradually increased both in strength and number of Councils

As already noted, the story of King Solomon’s Temple purports to be an allegory of that search for the Truth which is the aim and object of all masonic philosophy. The story tells of the loss, preservation and eventual recovery of the Master Word as illustrated in a series of legends contained in what may be designated certain Solomonic degrees. The Cryptic degrees fall between the Craft and the Royal Arch but, as worked at present they appear to be no more than a random collection of unrelated incidents in the said story. Only if studied in chronological order and suitably edited does a coherent narrative emerge. Taken thus the story of King Solomon’s Temple becomes a recognisable branch of that masonic knowledge in which the initiate is recommended to endeavour to make a daily advancement.

 

This brief history has been extracted from the Introduction within the 2008 edition of the Ritual Book.

Reproduced by kind permission of the Grand Council of the Royal and Select Masters.