Monday, January 28, 2008

How the Degrees Came to Exist

In this article I am presenting a very complicated subject, but it shall be put forth as simply as possible. Each degree deserves multiple chapters in a book, but will only get here a brief description. Masonic Lodges originally worked a Two-Degree system:

The Entered Apprentice degree is the most obvious. It is the foundation of our Masonic journey, and while its lecture contains allusions to Solomon's Temple, its other content is almost entirely "operative." It obligates us, teaches us to behave in a proper manner, and gives us secrets whereby to recognize one another. In its simplicity, it represents the pure Masonry of time immemorial, having received very little amendment.

The Fellowcraft Degree is the original reward for being able to demonstrate quality Masonic work. The medieval guilds also used the name "Journeyman" for Fellowcrafts. They (originally) could begin to travel, work, and receive wages for their labors. We see in the Fellowcraft degree, the introduction of a complex system of symbolism, the birth of speculative Masonry, which most of all exhorts us to study the various arts an sciences and to make our life a well-spent one.

The Mark Man, or first section of York Rite's fourth degree, "Mark Master Mason" has elements which were originally taught to Fellowcraft Masons, including selecting a distinctive mark and learning to mark your work accordingly, and how to receiving the wages of an operative Fellowcraft Mason. Its lessons, from an operative point of view, seem particularly suited towards how to get along while working with a large groups of other Masons.

Lodges originally consisted of a number of Apprentices and Fellowcrafts, presided over by an elected Master. The positions of Master and the two Wardens were originally able to be held by Fellowcraft Masons, and the Mark Master, or second section of York Rite's "Mark Master Mason" degree probably at one time constituted the ceremonies given to a Fellowcraft upon becoming the Master of a Fellowcraft Lodge. The "Installation Ceremony" of a Worshipful Master was probably also used at this time, and is essentially a set of oaths and an investment with various items pertaining to the government and operation of the Lodge.

The first Grand Lodge was formed in 1717, and the Master Mason Degree was probably developed somewhere close to this time as a way of making the process of becoming Master of a Lodge more meaningful, beautiful and instructive. The ceremonies of Installation were probably moved from bing given with the Mark Master to the Master Mason. Eventually, probably owing to the growing membership in lodges, it was determined that the Master Mason Degree be given to all worthy brethren, rather than only one a year who was being installed. At this time, the Installation Ceremony itself became divorced from the Master Mason degree. The Installation ceremony is still used for annual installations in Blue Lodge, and has also developed into the fifth, or "Past Master" degree of York Rite.

But, at this time, the Master Mason Degree included the communication of the true Master's word. Soon, for some mysterious reason, the Hiramic Legend was introduced, and the concept of the Loss of the word, and its subsequent Recovery, was placed into the degree. My speculation is that this may have reflected genuine feelings of the loss and recovery of traditions relating to the reasoning behind many (particularly Irish) masons banding together to form the Antients Grand Lodge of England.

Upon the union of 1813, the recovery of the word was removed from the degree (it being already gone in the work of the "Moderns") , and the ceremony explaining its recovery was moved into what would become the Royal Arch Degree. The part of the degree which remained became the Master Mason Degree, being in essentially the same form as we know it today.

The Irish masons conferred a degree called Excellent Master as a preparation for the Royal Arch. This was a veil-working ceremony involving blue, purple, scarlet, and white veils and an allegory of the return from the Babylonian Captivity, which has been incorporated into the Royal Arch Degree itself as it is worked in the USA.

Meanwhile, Masonry had also traveled to France, and many degrees both spurious and valuable had arisen. Two of these eventually found their way to the United States as side-degrees of the Scottish Rite. They were Royal Master and Select Master. They were recognized to bee particularly applicable to explanation of the York Rite's Royal Arch Degree, and so the Supreme Council of the 33rd Degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite had no argument with letting these degrees become organized independently and become a fixture within the York Rite system. (However, the Supreme Council technically still possesses the authority to confer them if they choose to do so.)

Thomas Smith Webb later adopted the Most Excellent Master Degree to fill a remaining gap in the legend by celebrating the completion of the Temple. There is a rumor that he authored the degree wholecloth, but documented evidence exists that a degree of this name was being conferred around the time Brother Webb was born, and the various elements of which this degree consist certainly predate the degree itself within Masonry. This degree fits chronologically between the Master Mason and Royal Arch Degree.

In summary:
  • 1° Entered Apprentice - Remains Intact.
  • 2° Fellow Craft - Today it is missing pieces.
  • 3° Master Mason - Today it is missing pieces.
  • 4a° Mark Man - Completes the Fellowcraft Degree.
  • 4b° Mark Master - Is itself an older type of "Master Mason" Degree.
  • 5° Past Master - Installation was probably the oldest form of the Master Mason Degree.
  • 6° Most Excellent Master - Adopted into this sequence by T.S.Webb.
  • 7° Royal Arch Mason - Completes the Master Mason Degree.
  • 8° Royal Master - Developed in France.
  • 9° Select Master - Developed in France.
You will observe that it is only the 6, 8, and 9° that do not have a claim to be part of Ancient Craft Masonry, as defined in the 1813 Articles of Union, "that pure Ancient Masonry consists of three degrees, and no more, viz., those of the Entered Apprentice, the Fellow Craft, and the Master Mason, including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch."

These other "degrees" are merely portions or different versions of the authentic three degrees which have become fragmented into pieces. It is unclear, however, which parts, if any, of the Royal Arch Degree constitute the "Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch" (the original conclusion ofo the Master Maso Degre, beyond the short exaltation ceremony itself.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Masonic Logos - Updated

Today seems to have been a very interesting day in terms of logos, as Brother M.M.M. over at The North Eastern Corner has also updated his logo. Meanwhile, I was busy updating my high resolution Masonic Logos. There are now .eps versions of each one available for download, and the Knights Templar Cross and Crown logo has been significantly improved.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Aprons in all their Varieties

Ben and I have been having quite a back and forth about Aprons, and I'm glad to see so many others join in. Here are some pictures out of a book from 1866. Our laps are pointed, not round, and our corner tucks in not at the center of the top, but on the opposite side, making a right triangle.

Master Masons wear their apron in the ordinary fashion, but I notice this same book depicts a blue bordered apron with the all seeing eye on the flap for the Master Mason. Like I said before, thats what our officers aprons look like, except that they also have the emblem of the particular office embroidered on the front.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

AMD: X - Knight of Constantinople

If you haven't done so yet, read my Introduction to the Allied Masonic Degrees, to which this post is a follow-up.

This Degree shows the way in which Emperor Constantine taught a lesson in humility and equality to the arrogant nobles of his time.

Aside from the Red Branch of Eri (awarded to AMD brethren in recognition of their service) this is the only Chivalric Order under control of AMD. Brethren of this order are addressed “Sir Knight.”

This ceremony reinforces in a very strong manner the great moral lesson taught by the Level, one of the principal Working Tools of the Symbolic Lodge’s Fellowcraft Degree.

This post concludes my original series on the Degrees controlled by the Grand Council of the Allied Masonic Degrees in the USA. If you haven't done so yet, go back to the beginning and read the whole series. I will be doing follow up posts on a few related topics in the near future.

A Masonic Funeral

Today I had my first experience at a Masonic Funeral. There have been a few other opportunities since I've been a Mason, but I never seemed to be around at the time they came up. This one was held at our Lodge room for brother Bob Dove.

I learned a few new things about Masonic practice. First, at a Funeral, none of the officers wear their usual Aprons, and every brother in attendance instead wears a white apron only, also lapel pins and other emblems of the craft were subtly discouraged (although permitted), to help emphasize the important symbols at the Funeral: The white lambskin apron, and the sprig of Acacia, and to show deference and honor to the deceased.

At first I was a little surprised by this, but then I found beauty in it, as it sets the "Lodge of Sorrow" apart from our regular Lodge meetings. Ironically, this coincides with Brother Ben Rowe's blog article for Today, which is partially in response to a comment I left on another post of his. I guess Ben and I seem to be playing like a tennis match, hitting the ball back and forth.

I took the opportunity to wear my original Lambskin apron, which I received as an Apprentice, and which has been tucked away in the closet since that time. It is typical for Brethren in Oregon to wear their original Apron only during their EA, FC, and MM degrees, then save it "to be placed upon the coffin which encloses their lifeless remains." We are not forbidden to wear it again, but the Lodge provides a stack of white linen aprons in the Tyler's room, which are for use during our regular meetings. I made the decision a while back that I wanted to wear my lambskin one instead of the linen because it would mean more to me. But, alas! It was too late, or so I thought, for I had become an officer, and one day I will wear a Past Masters apron, never again to wear the plain white Apron. But now I found a chance, in this Lodge of Sorrow, so I wore my lambskin Apron. I like to think that my Apron appreciated it too, as it got to say goodbye to one of its dear friends, and get a preview of what will some day be its own ultimate destiny. (I don't believe that my apron can really see and think, just for the record.)

In closing, Brother Dove was a good man and Mason. I did not know him as well as I should have liked to, but he has always been there in the Lodge, setting a good example of friendship and helpfulness. He will be missed.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Ingredients of a Masonic Degree

There are a lot of places to learn about Masonic ritual. One can experience it first hand (which is the recommended course, in my opinion), or read an exposure of the ritual either in print or on the Internet. Sometimes people are curious what is involved, but don't want to read something so shady to find out. Well, this is the right place! Here's an overview of what a Masonic Degree entails, without spoiling the experience or giving away any secrets. I will give an outline first, then details.
  1. Prologue

  2. Preparation
  3. Reception
  4. Circumambulation and Scripture Reading
  5. Approaching the Altar
  6. Obligation
  7. Instruction
  8. Apron
  9. Working Tools
  10. Return and Revestment

  11. Drama
  12. Lecture
  13. Charge
This list of events constitutes the degree proper. There are also opening and closing ceremonies that bookend the degree, with the potential for Lodge business to be conducted either after the opening ceremonies or before the closing ceremonies. Now for the details:

1. Prologue

In the Three Symbolic Degrees, the Prologue is found in the Entered Apprentice Degree and consists of a series of questions propounded to the candidate who has been patiently waiting during the opening ceremonies. These questions establish the man's eligibility to proceed with the degree. In York Rite's Chapter and Council the Prologue of a Degree sometimes takes on a dramatic character of its own, serving a purpose similar to "Act I" of a three-act play.

2. Preparation

The candidate is changed into certain symbolic clothing and/or given some basic instructions. He is then led to the door of the Lodge where he knocks to gain admission.

3. Reception

After some questions at the door to establish the purpose of the alarm, and the qualifications of the candidate, he is admitted and "received" into the Lodge by a symbolic act accompanied by a short explanation of this symbolism, which varies in each degree.

4. Circumambulation and Scripture Reading

Depending on the degree, and particularly in the Entered Apprentice Degree, an additional prayer may be offered at this point (in addition to the one at opening.) Next, the candidate is led clockwise around the Lodge a certain number of times, while a passage of Scripture is recited appropriate to the degree being conferred.

5. Approaching the Altar

After more questions with the Junior Warden, Senior Warden, and Worshipful Master, the candidate is conducted to the altar where he will receive his obligation.

6. Obligation

This is the heart of the degree. It is what makes the man a Mason. The candidate is informed that his Masonic obligation can never conflict with his duty to God, to his country, his neighbor or himself. He is also given the opportunity to "back out" at this point, if unwilling to proceed. Once he proceeds, he takes the full obligation, which varies in each degree.

7. Instruction

Now that he is obligated, the Brother learns the secrets pertaining to the degree to which he has just attained. These secrets are much discussed elsewhere, and I can only say with propriety that they typically consist of a password, a grip ("secret handshake") and a couple of signs. His knowledge of these signs is then demonstrated to the Junior Warden, Senior Warden, and Worshipful Master.

8. Apron

The candidate is given an Apron and/or taught how to wear his existing one, according to his particular degree. A short history or explanation of the symbolism of the Apron is given.

9. Working Tools

Now that he is wearing his Apron properly, the Brother is ready to be presented with the Working Tools of the degree. These are regular builder's tools with which the world is already acquainted, but they are presented with an explanation of their moral symbolism. For example, the plumb-line teaches us to walk uprightly before God and man.

10. Return and Revestment

The Brother is conducted out of the Lodge, where he changes back into his ordinary clothing (continuing to wear the Apron, however, as taught in the degree) and he is returned to the Lodge room.

11. Drama

The drama varies greatly with each degree. For the Entered Apprentice, it is nothing more than a short admonition from the Master (we're talking two sentences.) For the Fellow-craft the Drama is integrated with the Lecture itself (which will be explained next). For the Master Mason Degree, and many of the York Rite Degrees, it is an elaborate and beautiful performance in which the Candidate takes an active role (with his conductor guiding him and sometimes speaking on his behalf.) The drama section of the degree is often done in costume with great effect. If the obligation (although short in duration) is the main course of the Degree, the drama is like a fine dessert, without which the meal would be incomplete.

12. Lecture

The lecture recounts the ceremonies of the degree which have been performed, endeavoring to explain some of their meaning and inspiring contemplation upon the rites and symbols by the candidate. It often contains a commentary of philosophical and moral value, along with additional historic material pertaining to the degree. These Lectures can range from a half hour to an hour long and are, today, memorized word-for-word (quite an impressive feat!) A portion of this lecture includes a Question and Answer examination about what the candidate has passed through and a test of his knowledge of the passwords, grips, and so forth. This portion of the lecture becomes the Candidate's duty to learn and present before the Lodge before he may be advanced to the next degree.

13. Charge

The charge is a short statement given to the Mason outlining the particular type of moral behavior and refinements of character expected by a Brother of this degree. (A historical side note: After reading The New Masonic Trestle-board, a product of the National Masonic Convention of 1843 held in Baltimore, I believe all the charges used in the USA were written wholly by brother Thomas Smith Webb, which accounts for the slightly different ring to their vocabulary as compared to the rest of the degree work and lectures.)

I hope this post has been enjoyable. I'm also curious how accurately it reflects the order of the degree work as it is conducted by other Masons around the world.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

AMD: IX - St. Lawrence the Martyr

If you haven't done so yet, read my Introduction to the Allied Masonic Degrees, to which this post is a follow-up.

St. Lawrence, a Spaniard called to Rome by the Pope was martyred by order of the Roman Prefect, August 10, 258 C.E.

Fifty years later, Constantine had a Basilica built over St. Lawrence’s grave which became one of the seven major churches in Rome.

St. Lawrence was tortured to death by being slowly roasted on a grid-iron, but having confidence in his status before God, Lawrence responded by telling his torturers "This side's done," and, "turn me over and have a bite." ["Assum est, inquit, versa et manduca."] It is therefore said that he "bested the heat of the flames with the might of his spirit."

This degree requires the candidate to undergo a test of his own courage, after which he is obligated and taught the history of St. Lawrence and the significance of the symbols of this degree.

Monday, January 07, 2008

AMD: VIII - Excellent Master

If you haven't done so yet, read my Introduction to the Allied Masonic Degrees, to which this post is a follow-up.

This story of this Degree tells of the return from the Babylonian Captivity, and includes a historic variation of the ceremony of "Passing of the Veils" with which York Rite Masons are already familiar from the Royal Arch Degree.

The Veils referred to are a series of curtains which were, according to Masonic tradition, set up at the entrance to the Tabernacle during the rebuilding of the Temple. The first, or outermost veil is Blue, followed by Purple, Scarlet, and then White.

Thee Blue veil represents Universal Friendship and Benevolence, and is the principal color of Ancient Craft Masonry from whence the term "Blue Lodge" derives. The Purple is a symbol of union between Ancient Craft Masonry and the Royal Arch. Scarlet represents fervency and zeal, and is particularly characteristic of the Royal Arch Degree. White is a symbol of purity. Albert Mackey, in describing the veils, refers here to the scripture "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." White is, therefore, the appropriate color to mark the candidate's admission into the place where he shall receive the long sought object of his journey.

In Ireland, the "Passing of the Veils" is worked in the Royal Arch Degree just as we do here in the USA, but in Bristol and Scotland a variation of this Excellent Master Degree is separately conferred upon Mark Masters in preparation for the Royal Arch Exaltation ceremony.

In England, and elsewhere, this portion of the Royal Arch ceremony has been reduced so that only the fourth, or white veil, remains.

Improvements to King Solomon's Lodge


Today I did some upgrades on which should be quite beneficial. In addition to adding a few new blogs, I implemented the "New" flag to draw attention to such new blogs. I also made a tabbed interface, and pulled the News and Search off of the columns and into their own tabs.

The most important change is Aggregated Recent Comments, which at the present time is a bonus only available for blogs which display a link or banner back to and which provide a suitable comments rss or atom feed for this purpose. The blogs whose comments are aggregated are indicated by a little balloon to the left of their name in the list of blogs.

I encourage everyone to try out the aggregated Recent Comments. These are important because they allow relevancy to return to older posts. You can now go and post on a historic post and someone else can find your comment in this list, and respond to it right away, instead of waiting months for someone to dig through the archives and notice what you said.


The Return of Recent Comments

I'm not sure when it got erased from my Template. Maybe when I upgraded from old Blogger to Beta, but at some point my Recent Comments widget went away. Well, its back! This should help those who are commenting on this blog follow each others valuable input, which is just as important as the posts themselves, in my opinion!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

AMD: VII - Superintendent

If you haven't done so yet, read my Introduction to the Allied Masonic Degrees, to which this post is a follow-up.

The structure of the Temple is completed, and only the sacred utensils remain to be completed. (Utensils here includes furniture, including the table of shewbread, lampstand, incense altar, etc.)

Having proven himself capable, by way of the plans presented in the preceding degree, the candidate is now recognized for his achievement by being made Chief Architect, thus becoming the successor to Hiram Abiff.

Thematically, this degree feels similar to the Capitular degree of Most Excellent Master, in that it also acknowledges the completion of the Temple.

The Cryptic Mason will find particular interest in comparing this degree to the Royal Master Degree, in which is given a different (and presumably conflicting) story of the appointment of Hiram Abiff's successor.

Masons are, in some measure, familiar with the concept of self-identifying as "Hiram," but this degree is very humbling in that it appoints the candidate in his stead, by merit of his work and achievements. I don't think it is suggesting that the candidate has surpassed Hiram, particularly since he is not in possession of the Lost Word, but rather, that for want of a Chief Architect the Candidate is found to be the best suited for the position.

Reciting the Degrees

I just got done reciting the Chapter and Council degrees of York Rite with one of my Companion's of the Council. We've done this over the last two weeks or so. We went in an odd order, starting with the Council degrees: Royal Master and Select Master, then we went back and did the Chapter degrees: Mark Master, Past Master, Most Excellent Master, Royal Arch Mason. Next, we will probably go back and recite the Blue Lodge degrees together.

I heartily recommend this type of small group study to all of my brethren in the Craft. It has been very instructive, and provides the ability to stop and discuss the possible meanings of symbolism and the impressions that we receive -- something that doesn't usually get to happen in the midst of a full degree rehearsal at the Lodge.

Upon close study, each degree has become more beautiful than it seemed before. The symbolism has been made richer, even in the humblest of degrees.

AMD: VI - Grand Architect

If you haven't done so yet, read my Introduction to the Allied Masonic Degrees, to which this post is a follow-up.

While attempting to complete the third elevation of the Temple the work is at a standstill because only a Grand Architect possesses the skill to erect structures in the air.

A Master Architect comes forth claiming to have drafted plans for the third elevation (the like of which are unknown to him.) He presents them, and owing to his skill and ability, they are taken under consideration by the two Overseers and subsequently adopted!

This degree is significant because it shows that man, by his creativity and intelligence, can exceed beyond the level of his instruction. The third elevation of the Temple must have been a daunting task in its day. The similar prospect of building a vehicle that can travel in outer space comes to my mind, a way in which today's man has clearly exceeded the level of his instruction, and triumphed.

This scenario also gives an example worthy of emulation in that the Overseers, being clearly of a higher seniority than the Architect, are nonetheless willing to consider the ideas of their less experienced brother and adopt them if they are found worthy.

AMD: V - Architect.

If you haven't done so yet, read my Introduction to the Allied Masonic Degrees, to which this post is a follow-up.

This degree occurs after the death of Hiram Abiff and requires the candidate to profess his abhorrence of the crime committed against Hiram before being admitted.

It is the first in a series of three degrees, all under the control of AMD, which tell a continuing story about the advancement of skilled craftsmen for the ultimate purpose of completing the Temple.

In this degree the candidate is made an Architect to furnish plans for the second elevation of the Temple and to participate in the construction of the tomb for Grand Master Hiram Abiff.

This degree bears a significant resemblance to the French degree "Petit Architecte" (Junior Architect), which was reprinted in Volume 4 (1995) of Heredom, by the Scottish Rite Research Society. The source from which they received it was an expose published in 1766 entitled "Les Plus Secrets Mysteres des Hauts Grades de la Maconnerie Devoile" [The Most Secret Mysteries of the High Grades of Masonry Unveiled], edited by M. de Berage.

According to Berage's work, this was the Fourth Degree of Masonry, with Perfect Elect Mason, Elect of Perignan, Elect of the Fifteen coming before it. A little research has landed me with this list, which shows that it would have been the Fifth Degree of the "Hauts Grades", not the Fourth or Fifth Degree of Masonry itself. According to Albert G. Mackey's "An Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and its Kindred Sciences" pg. 20, the list of degrees in the now extinct rite of "Adonhiramite Masonry" were as follows:
  1. Apprentice
  2. Fellow-Craft
  3. Master Maon
  4. Perfect Master
  5. Elect of Nine
  6. Elect of Perignan
  7. Elect of Fifteen
  8. Minor Architect
  9. Grand Architect, or Scottish Fellow-Craft
  10. Scottish Master
  11. Knight of the Sword, Knight of the East, or of the Eagle.
  12. Knight of the Rose Croix
There is sometimes a thirteenth degree "Noachite or Prussian Knight" listed with these, but according to Mackey, this is an error because of its being included after Rose Croix in a book from which the list was copied.

I should mention that I got to be the candidate for the AMD version of the Architect Degree when our Council put it on this last year. It was special, and I really feel that it is a worthwhile degree and has a good, consistent feeling that goes along with the other degrees of Masonry.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Allied Masonic Degrees of England and Wales and Territories Overseas

If you haven't done so yet, read my Introduction to the Allied Masonic Degrees, to which this post is a follow-up.

We're almost half way through my original 11-day series on AMD. In my studies I have discovered that the practice of The Grand Council of Allied Masonic Degrees of England and Wales and Territories Overseas is interesting enough to warrant a post of its own.

In my post about The Order of the Secret Monitor I mentioned that AMD in Europe no longer controls the Secret Monitor Degree. Well, it turns out that the Grand Council AMD of England, etc., currently controls only five degrees, as compared with the ten which the GC of AMD of the USA controls. However, the overlap between these two systes is only partial. In Europe, the following degrees constitute AMD:
Additionally, St. Lawrence the Martyr is received by every initiate into AMD, and the remaining four degrees are worked thereafter in any order. Upon completion of all five degrees, the AMD member receives a pentagonal breast jewel featuring the emblems of each of the degrees. It looks like a snazzy jewel.

So, it sounds like an interesting system, with some trade-offs compared to the way it is done here in the USA. I prefer working the degrees when possible, and it seems that their system is set up to do exactly that, whereas it is only the option of a Council in the USA to do so.

In conclusion, this discovery means that you're going to get two bonus posts after my initial series is completed. In these bonus posts, I will share my findings on the degrees of Red Cross of Babylon and Grand High Priest, the two additional degrees that The Grand Council of AMD of England, Wales, etc., works that are not to be found in my GC of AMD of the USA ritual book.

AMD: IV - Grand Tylers of Solomon

If you haven't done so yet, read my Introduction to the Allied Masonic Degrees, to which this post is a follow-up.

This degree is staged in a subterranean vault. Its meetings are composed of 27 members. It features the number 9, and the drama involves an unwitting intruder's entrance into the vault. This degree teaches us not to make hasty judgments and emphasizes the importance of being properly Tyled (guarded).

All of the traits I just listed are also present in the first half of the Select Master Degree of Cryptic Masonry. Scottish Rite’s 6°, Intimate Secretary, is also very similar. It is possible that one of these degrees was a source of inspiration for the others, or perhaps they were originally the same degree and have drifted apart slowly owing to a long separation of time and distance.

The vault in this degree is called the "Mystic Chamber" and the degree itself was for a while conferred as a Side-Degree by the Scottish Rite, and was then known as the "Select Masons of the 27."

Unlike the Select Master Degree in Cryptic Rite, Grand Tilers of Solomon does not explicitly mention the Nine Arches (however, the number 9 does come up in other contexts), neither does it make any deliberate connections with the story of the Royal Arch Degree. It is my opinion that this degree was the source upon which was grafted the story of "the Deposit of the Word" in order to formulate the Select Master Degree and complete the circle of perfection in Ancient Craft Masonry.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

AMD: III - Masters of Tyre

If you haven't done so yet, read my Introduction to the Allied Masonic Degrees, to which this post is a follow-up.

This most impressive degree commences in the Court of Hiram King of Tyre, who receives a request from King Solomon for assistance in building the Temple. Hiram of Tyre composes a congratulatory letter in return, and sends the requested assistance along with a skilled craftsman named Hiram Abiff.

This degree, therefore, gives an explanation to how two of our "Ancient Grand Masters" became associated with the other one, King Solomon, in the building of the Temple, and allows us to visualize circumstances which were merely mentioned in the Lecture of the Master Mason Degree.

The second section of this degree takes place in a quarry near Jerusalem. Bodies of this degree are styled Quarries.

Events that take place after the death of Hiram Abiff are also included in this degree, and it is so interwoven with the time-line of the Master Mason degree, that it almost seems as though one is observing the Master Mason Degree from a different person's perspective.

In commemoration of Hiram Abiff, who was a Tyrian by habitation, but an Israelite by birth (his mother was of the tribe of Naphtali), Hiram, King of Tyre founds a new order, the Masters of Tyre, to memorialize our departed Grand Master.

This degree is unique in being from a Tyrian perspective such that Hiram King of Tyre presides in the East.

I haven't seen it put on yet, but from my study of it, I believe this to be my favorite of all the Allied Masonic Degrees.

AMD: II - Order of the Secret Monitor

If you haven't done so yet, read my Introduction to the Allied Masonic Degrees, to which this post is a follow-up.

A degree of Brotherly Love, demonstrated through the example of David and Jonathan.

Originally, this degree was conferred by any Mason who received it. In England, there was a Grand Council of the Order of the Secret Monitor formed in 1887. Until 1894, the Grand Council and AMD disputed over right to confer the degree. In 1931, the Grand Council was given control of this degree and it was removed from AMD in Europe, but it remains part of AMD in the USA. In Europe, there are now provincial Grand Conclaves just as there are provincial Grand Mark Lodges. Shown here is the banner of the Grand Conclave of the Order of the Secret Monitor of Great Britain. The emblem in the center, consisting of the Star of David, with the three arrows and the initials D and J, is the general emblem of the Order of the Secret Monitor, and is the emblem used by AMD in reference to this degree.

This is considered one of the happiest, and friendliest of Masonic Orders. Local bodies are called Conclaves, and when operated under the Grand Conclaves, rather then under AMD, each Conclave has four officers titled Visiting Deacons, who are assigned a portion of the members which they personally visit between each meeting, to extend their support and help in any way needed, as well as to invite the Brethren to the next meeting, an example I think all Masons should undertake to follow.

This degree is important because it symbolically demonstrates that the Masonic principles which survived the flood with Noah were yet alive among the children of Israel, providing a link between Antediluvian Masonry and the "Solomonic" Masonry which is commonly known to us.