After the Third Degree….Now What?
So you just received the Third Degree in your lodge and now you’re a Master Mason. Congratulations, you now belong to the world’s oldest fraternity. Over the past several months (or one day) you have been exposed to a tremendous amount of information ranging from history, philosophy, legends, symbols and maybe even some mumbo jumbo.
Expecting you to digest and comprehend that vast amount of knowledge over such a short period of time is unreasonable and is like taking a drink of water from a fire hydrant.
It is common and even expected for the new Mason to seek to understand all three degrees and how they may apply in your journey for more Masonic light. Some of the stumbling blocks you will encounter may be understanding the many cryptic passages or the symbolism. In addition, you may want to know more information about the origins and foundations of Craft Freemasonry.
Ultimately, you likely will end up having more questions than answers. You may even conclude that you are missing pieces of information or you may feel that you have not gotten the whole story. Well, you are right; you did not get the full complete narrative in the first three degrees. As a matter of fact, most students (theoreticians) of Freemasonry agree that the story of the craft presented in the three degrees is incomplete and but that the degrees of the Chapter of the Royal Arch will complete the story for you.
There are many that would have you believe that you can receive the true secrets of the craft in the degrees that are other than the Royal Arch degrees. This is simply not true. Some say that these other degrees have similarities but different emphasis but again this is not true.
You have already received the symbolic degrees of the Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason. These three Blue Lodge degrees are of the York Rite, so it would be natural that you will want to continue expanding your knowledge in the same tradition?
As a matter of fact, the Grand Lodge of England, thought that the teachings of the Royal Arch were the very essence of pure Freemasonry and very important. When the Ancients and Moderns were merged in the 1813, creating the United Grand Lodge of England, they included a reference to it in the 1813 act of the Union:
“By the Solemn Act of Union between the two Grand Lodges of England in December 1813 it was declared and pronounced that Pure Ancient Masonry consist of three degrees and no more, via…, those of the Entered Apprentice, the Fellowcraft, and Master Mason. Including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch.”
In England today, the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of England, by virtue of his office, is also the top leader of the Grand Chapter of the Royal Arch.
The Royal Arch is taken very seriously in England. From my experience, I found the Royal Arch chapters meet in the local lodges on a different night than the regular lodge meeting. Usually your companions are your lodge Brothers. When the lodge raises a Master Mason he is entitled to join the Royal Arch “in order to complete his Master Mason degree.” Within a ten mile radius of London there are 3,000 Chapters with approximately 105,000 members (Companions).
The next logical step to complete your Masonic education is the Royal Arch. It will present a complete system that is in complete mutual agreement with the original plan. It will lead you to a fuller understanding of the purpose and spirit of Freemasonry and for the first time you will be able to perceive the completeness of the ancient craft. You will also have better insight into all the ceremonies from the Entered apprentice to the Master Mason degree. Once you have a clear picture or understanding then you can apply those principles to your life making it all relevant.
As a Royal Arch Mason, you will have completed your education of Craft Freemasonry and your quest for more light continues.
A man is not a Master Mason until he has received the Masters word and he can only receive it in the Royal Arch.