How the Royal Arch Completes the Story
By Thomas Hendrickson P.G.M.
In the 1700’s the Royal Arch was regarded as the Root, Heart and Marrow of Freemasonry.
For those of us in Freemasonry, symbolism is part of our way of life. It causes us to take an extra moment or two to reflect upon something to find the greater meaning which is far more personal and meaningful than having it spoon fed to us in a 20 second sound bite.
We all interpret things differently so for me this is how I interpret these symbols.
The Root is a symbolic representation of our origins and in unseen ways the tree is supported and finds nourishment.
The Heart is used to symbolize the flow of life itself. In ages past the heart was believed to be where the soul resided
The Marrow refers to the essence of life. Bone Marrow is a spongy tissue found inside the bones. It produces the red and white blood cells along with platelets and adult stem cells which are essential for humans to live. When I would visit the blood center to donate blood, I heard it referred to as the very essence of life.
So after reflecting on the descriptive words of Root, Heart and Marrow I believe the Brothers of our ancient craft believed strongly that the Royal Arch was important, essential and indispensable to the craft degrees.
My question is, how did the Royal Arch become so important? What was the purpose of the Royal Arch?
We know that in England during the 1600’s, there were two degrees. The Entered Apprentice and The Fellow Craft. Up until 1717 some lodges were working one comprehensive degree, while others were working two degrees. The Master Mason degree started appearing around 1730 (we know that the legend or Hiram was known around 1700).
It was determined by many that the Master Mason degree was incomplete. The candidate was left with an unfinished temple and a substitute word. The candidate is left with more questions than answers. I know that when I left the lodge room I said to my Masonic mentor, “How did they lose the word”?
It is easy to see that some speculative degree writers may have seen an opportunity to carefully weave the completion of the story from the same Hiramic legend used in the craft lodges to provide the completion of the story. Thus the Royal Arch was born.
In England there were two major factions of Freemasons, the Ancients and the Moderns. The Ancients considered the Royal Arch essential to Freemasonry. The Moderns officially disavowed the Royal Arch and in their official announcements they were very straight forward and blunt of their dislike for the Royal Arch.
were belonged to Royal Arch Chapters. They were in amazement when they learned that many of their prominent members were Royal Arch Masons
Both sides come to understand the situation needed a solution and they stopped the infighting and developed a workable idea. In October 1809 the Ancients and the Moderns agreed to create a Special Lodge called “The Lodge of Promulgation”. The purpose of this lodge was to find a common ground and negotiate their differences. In November 1813 they agreed to merge and signed the “Articles of Union”.
The actual union took place on St. Johns Day on December 28, 1813 at Freemasons Hall, creating the “United Grand Lodge of Ancient Freemasons of England, the very same Grand Lodge that we know today.
Both the Ancients and the Moderns felt that the Royal Arch was such an integral part of pure ancient masonry that it was written in their constitution.
By the solemn Act of Union between the two Grand Lodges of Freemasons of England in December, 1813, it was “declared and pronounced that the pure Ancient Masonry consists of three degrees and no more, viz those of the Entered apprentice, the Fellow Craft, and Master Mason including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch”.
The union clearly defined what pure ancient masonry was and created the Royal Arch as an Order to ensure the proper regulation of the Capstone of the Craft degrees.
So the Royal Arch stands on authority to bring the Master Mason into the full Masonic light, by the completion of pure ancient masonic degrees.
So if you completed the first three degrees and desire to be a Master Mason with the complete and intended purpose of the ancient craft you should seriously talk to your local Royal Arch and consider joining.