Introduction to Cryptic Masonry
What is Cryptic Masonry?
The Cryptic Degrees are a set of three degrees controlled by the Most Puissant Grand Council of Royal & Select Masters. The degrees get their name from the reference to a hidden or secret vault in the degrees, thus the name Cryptic. Only the first two degrees are regularly worked, the third degree, that of Super Excellent Master, is worked as a superlative degree, and is not required for membership in a Council. The history of the body as a whole is shrouded in uncertainty and controversy. Though there is early evidence of Councils of Royal & Select Masters being worked in the United States, the degrees were worked variously by their own Councils, Royal Arch Chapters, and even Lodges of Perfection of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite. The duties, the powers, the responsibilities of a council embrace the whole range of Ancient Craft Masonry, from the conception of the idea in the heart until the candidate is in the full possession of our mysteries, or in our own peculiar language, until he has
passed the circle of perfection.It is the Council degrees that fill in the gaps in the Temple and Hiram Abif stories which still puzzle some Royal Arch Masons, and complete the Circle of Perfection in Ancient Craft Masonry.
The Royal Master Degree
This is the first degree of the Cryptic Council as conferred in the United States of America. Candidates who receive the degree are impressed with its dignified ritual and relevant teachings. It contains one section which is generally regarded as an outstanding display of symbolism and content of philosophy.
The ritualistic presentations in the degree explain the articles contained in the Holy of Holies of King Solomon’s Temple, including the Ark of the Covenant. A knowledge of which is essential to those who would fully understand the preceding degrees. The principal characters in the degree are Solomon and his royal assistant.
The Select Master Degree
The degree of Select Master has not always been associated with that of Royal Master. Jeremy Cross, a traveling Masonic lecturer, author, and educator of the early 1800’s, is given credit by most writers for having combined the two degrees into one rite.
There is strong evidence to support the theory that the degree came from a similar degree in the Scottish Rite called Intimate Secretary or Grand Tiler of King Solomon. Regardless of its origin the legend of this degree is old.
The scene of this degree is laid in the underground vault of King Solomon’s Temple. The events which characterize the degree are stirring enough to make it one of intense interest. The ritualistic presentations contain the story to “complete the Circle of Perfection” in Ancient Craft Masonry.
The Super Excellent Master Degree
As we have stated, the degree of Super Excellent Master is not a degree of the crypt. But, it relates events that lead to the recovery of the lost Word.
This degree beautifully tells of a period in history in which all Freemasons are interested, that period following the destruction of the first Temple. The essence of the degree is foretold in the presentation by the Principal Sojourner in the Royal Arch Degree when he makes reference “Zedekiah was one and twenty years old when he began to reign and he reigned for eleven years in Jerusalem, and he did which was evil in the sight of the Lord his God,”etc.
The degree of Super Excellent Master is one of the best devised, most impressive and beautiful degrees. It is most enlightening and relevant to one’s daily life. In a display of exciting events, Biblical characters come to life exemplifying the historical drama of the Holy Bible. Here Nebuchadnezzar rules again; Zedekiah proves the results of his wicked life; Ezekiel and Jeremiah prophesy the promises of Almighty God.