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The Order of Royal & Select Masters was constituted in England in the early 1870s. The first book of Constitutions and Regulations being issued in 1874. The Order of Royal and Select Masters of England and Wales, and its Districts and Councils overseas, is governed by the Grand Council which meets annually in April at Mark Masons’ Hall, London, from which it is administered, with powers deputed to District Grand Councils.
This order originated from four degrees earlier worked in America. These four degrees were the Most Excellent Master, Royal Master, Select Master and Super Excellent Master. Collectively they form a connection between Craft, Mark and Royal Arch Degrees.
The Royal & Select Degrees continue the Solomonic story for a period of approximately four hundred and twenty years from the period when the Word was lost until it was recovered in the manner explained in the Holy Royal Arch Chapter. Originally, these degrees, also known as the Cryptic Degrees because of their association with the secret vault or crypt, were not communicated in chronological order. In the 1990s the order in which the degrees were communicated was revised and re-arranged in a strict chronological order which enables the meaning to be more clearly appreciated and assimilated.
Cryptic Masonry, as with so many Orders and Degrees in Masonry, encompasses the main steps in the allegory of the Lost Word and deals with certain aspects of the Hiramic Legend not dealt with elsewhere. It is enriched by many passages of beautiful and moving ritual equal to that of any other Degree and is commended by students of Masonic ritual as one of the Orders not to be overlooked in the search for Masonic knowledge.
Having been Raised a Master Mason, Advanced as a Mark Master Mason and Exalted as a Companion of the Holy Royal Arch of Jerusalem, worthy Brethren may perceive a gaping omission in the chronology lent to the legend of the building, destruction and rebuilding of the Holy Temple at Jerusalem. Within the ritual of the Craft in general and the Third Degree in particular, we are informed of the loss of the Word, brought about by the untimely demise of Hiram Abif, one of the three Grand Masters, shortly before the completion of the first edifice. The quest for the Word, the Tetragrammaton, or at least the pronunciation thereof, is the essence of Masonic ritual.
The Degree of Mark Master Mason, as a natural continuation of the Fellow-craft, culminates in the symbolic completion of the Temple with the placing of the all supporting keystone in the principle arch. Following a period of 470 years and the release of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity, a discovery of some importance is made by Three Sojourners whilst preparing the ground for the second temple. The story unfolds through the ritual of the Holy Royal Arch of Jerusalem.
The Order of Royal and Select Masters, also referred to as ’Cryptic’ Masonry, goes some way to provide the vital missing link, by explaining the measures taken by the two remaining Grand Masters not only to preserve the means of pronunciation, but also to safe-guard the Holy Vessels and Sacred Treasures from the catastrophe prophesied to befall the city of Jerusalem and its fabled Temple.