The Cyrus Proclamation

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The Royal Arch is a means of providing advancement in Masonic knowledge and experience which can be enhanced further by exploring sources beyond ritual books. For example, there are historical documents shedding light on the life and work of Emperor Cyrus. His ‘Persia’ comprised many kingdoms including Judah; the return to Jerusalem was not to an independent nation state but rather from Babylonian rule to Persian rule, albeit with religious tolerance.  The Cyrus Proclamation “Thus says Cyrus King of Persia, all the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of Heaven has given me. . .” is well known and can be found in Ezra 1.

Spin doctors and political propaganda are nothing new. Cyrus acquired the kingdoms by military might and genius, he was not given them by God.  Spin in ancient times was usually a ‘narrative’ for the control of the people and any subsequent military defeat would be attributed to the non-compliance by the people with the narrative. His proclamation is one such narrative and ‘all the kingdoms of the earth’ is a euphemism for the Persian Empire, with its promise of peace if all the citizens remained compliant.

Cyrus’ place in history arises from his military conquests and the successful administration of his empire. This was achieved by forming effective local governing units called Provinces. Cyrus was also a great architect, ordering the construction of administrative centers, temples, gardens, agricultural and horticultural areas, canals and water systems for irrigation and drinking. He used religious differences as a device to divide and rule, dissuading would-be dissenters from ganging-up against him. Some of the kingdoms within his empire built or re-built their own temples and every Royal Arch Mason knows of at least one.  

Cyrus promoted the concept that ‘rule means service’. In exchange for loyalty, he offered the conquered people freedom from oppression from within and without. This made a functional empire, the displaced were allowed to return to their native lands, within the empire, if they so desired. Not all did, some preferred to remain in the opulence of Babylon.  Cyrus created a citizenship wider than any one kingdom or jurisdiction, similar to Royal Arch Masons today aligning with the Order at local, Provincial, National and Universal levels. ‘Thus’, signifies that the people were required to comply with the legitimate civil authority, in this case the Cyrus Proclamation.  Various Royal Arch Regulations indicate that the Order is similarly an enhanced form of universal citizenship and appropriately governed.

‘Doing good’ can be understood as putting-in more than taking-out, just as the original sojourners did in volunteering to assist in re-building the Temple. In doing the same today, a similar transition is made from sojourner, not just to citizen, but more to an enhanced level of good citizenship. In life, a Royal Arch Mason is encouraged to put-in more than to take-out, just as the early sojourners did in compliance with the Cyrus Proclamation in BCE 538.