Every candidate for the Royal Arch (RA) must confirm he has a desire to improve in Freemasonry. The RA exists to facilitate Masonic improvement and although practising hard to deliver good ritual is both satisfying and could help towards being considered for future promotion, it is not the type of improvement that our predecessors in the Age of Enlightenment had in mind. As all RA Companions know, this ‘improvement’ in Freemasonry is “to be directed to the glory of God and the good of man.”
In the RA, with members having a vast array of different religions and personal beliefs, there is an organisation-wide understanding of how ‘the glory of God’ might be applied. It is impossible for finite beings to accurately describe something infinite and our eighteenth-century predecessors were no different. They used ‘supreme-being’ or, more commonly the word ‘God’, which was then understood by all, to describe the ‘source of all creation’.
When the phrase ‘the glory of God’ was introduced into the RA ritual in the Enlightenment it referred to the invisible qualities and attributes which could be expected to be displayed by the ‘source of all creation’ in a visible way, if that were possible. To improve in Freemasonry new RA Companions were directed to be mindful of what was created, which can be explained better in today’s language as caring for the environment and the world around us.
Given the above, it was trusted that something recognisably for the good of man could originate in, be delivered from and celebrated by the Royal Arch. Possibly with the influence of the RA with the desire of improving in Freemasonry, there developed in the Victorian era from within the different orders found in Freemasonry the concept of ‘doing good’ specifically for the good of man. In the RA the allegory of rebuilding the Temple is used to illustrate to Companions this Masonic ‘doing good’ by volunteering.
The Covid-19 pandemic has provided Freemasonry with a unique opportunity to prove its relevance for the good of man and it is demonstrably doing so with distinction. Many of the tens of thousands of volunteers are also RA masons. Each one has confirmed their desire of improving in Freemasonry for the glory of God and the good of man. This may well attract many more to now consider becoming members and join a RA Chapter, so that as well as enjoying the truly delightful ceremony of Exaltation they too can confirm their desire of improving in Freemasonry.