History & Relation to the Craft
The first documented evidence of a ‘Royal Arch’ comes from Ireland in 1743; it seems likely that this was an ‘added extra’ worked within craft lodges in England , Ireland and Scotland for many years. Thus it came to be regarded, by the Antients in England , as a fourth degree in Freemasonry.
The Moderns, on the other hand, do not appear to have officially recognised the degree at all (with a few exceptions), leading in due course, to completely separate Royal Arch Chapters.
These differences were partially resolved at the Union of the Grand Lodges in 1813, by a compromise: the new United Grand Lodge of England declared the Royal Arch to be an official and accepted part of ‘Pure and Antient Freemasonry’. Whilst the Royal Arch is, therefore, an integral part of Freemasonry and interwoven with the Craft, it is organised as a separate Order, distinct from the Craft degrees, the teachings of which it completes.
Why Should Craft Freemasons Join the Royal Arch?
The Royal Arch takes matters further and can be seen to be the superstructure that makes all that has been presented complete and perfect. The ceremony in the Royal Arch is colourful, thought provoking and uplifting. It is based upon the Old Testament legend of the rebuilding of the Temple and invokes, simultaneously, sensations of humility and our dependence on our unseen creator. The Royal Arch makes good the promise of ‘recovery’ when what is lost in the Third Degree of Craft Masonry is revealed in a fascinating ceremony. Progress through the Royal Arch completes an individual’s journey through pure antient Freemasonry.
Craft Masons are, therefore, actively encouraged to become members of the Royal Arch in order to further develop and enrich their understanding of Freemasonry. Indeed the Grand Master encourages Master Masons to join the Royal Arch only when they are ready to do so but before joining any other Masonic Order.
When Raised to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason (Third Degree), you were informed that, the secrets of a Master Mason were lost, and that certain substituted secrets were adopted to distinguish all Master Masons until time or circumstances should restore the genuine. Exaltation into the Royal Arch includes an explanation of how those genuine secrets were regained.
Early application, however, provides greater opportunity to give him the option of just sitting back and absorbing the full meaning of the beautiful ceremonial and its teachings before taking a more active participation in office.
Three items; an apron, sash and breast jewel, all of distinctive design. The breast jewel is worn by Freemasons who are members of the Royal Arch at their Craft meetings to evidence to brethren their membership of the Royal Arch.
The breast jewel therefore demonstrates in a Craft Lodge a Brother who has taken the opportunity to complete their journey in pure antient masonry. The jewel consists of the Seal of Solomon with one side in Latin and the other in English. There are many lectures on its contents but in simple terms it is a reminder for Freemasons on life's lessons by applying peace, love and concord, wisdom, strength and beauty.
How to join
As in all other Masonic Orders you will need a Proposer and Seconder who are members of the Chapter in which you seek to be exalted. If your Lodge does not have a Royal Arch Chapter attached , it will probably have an arrangement with a local Chapter. Your Lodge Royal Arch representative will provide you with details and locations of Chapters meeting at different times and days of the week. Or click below to ask Bruce