Royal Arch Masons
The Capitular Degrees
The work on the Temple continues. Amplifying the Fellowcraft Degree, we are taught that the learning we receive there can most usefully and judiciously be employed for our honor and the profit of others, to whom our duty is more clearly defined. A beautiful lesson is exemplified, inculcating the encouraging truth that though we are often misunderstood, underrated, and defamed, there is ONE who will make the rejected stone, the Head of the corner.
This Degree begins the preparation for the Royal Arch. We are told it was removed from the Symbolic Degrees, of which it was once a part, to reserve it for the more earnest seeker of more Light in Freemasonry. Originally, only actual Past Masters of Lodges were admitted to the sublime secrets of the Royal Arch, which meant that very few could receive them. The Degree of Past Master teaches the candidate that he must first learn to obey before he can rule, and to govern himself before he can govern others, fulfills the obligation and qualifies him for advancement.
Most Excellent Master
Here we have the most significant Degree in Ancient Craft Masonry. King Solomon’s Temple, which was begun so suspiciously and halted so dramatically in the third Degree, is completed amid much rejoicing and great splendor. The labors of the Craft are given the blessing of the Lord descending as fire from heaven, and King Solomon in his gratitude, received and acknowledged them Most Excellent Masters, empowered to travel and receive Master’s Wages, and charged with the responsibility of sharing their Masonic Light and Knowledge, with those who needed it.
In this Degree we find the actual completion of the Master Mason’s Degree and the Recovery of the lost Word. After the death of King Solomon, his magnificent Temple was destroyed and the Israelites carried away captive to Babylon. Here they lived for about seventy years, many of them acquiring considerable wealth, and some attaining high rank and influence in the Chaldean government. However, when liberated by King Cyrus, many of them returned to Jerusalem and began the rebuilding of the Temple. While this work was going on and the rubbish of the ruins of the first Temple was being cleared away, many interesting and valuable discoveries were made, chief of which was the recovery of the lost WORD.
With the recovery of that which was lost, it would seem to the novice that his search for Light was ended, however, in order that he might better acquire the lessons, a seemingly inverse movement of the Degree historically is set up.