Council completes a story, a Masonic allegory. Freemasonry is very philosophical and teaches its ideals by allegory or story. This philosophy is moralistic and religious however Freemasonry is not a religion, nor a substitute for one.
A requirement for membership in Freemasonry is a professed belief in God and eternal life. It is mandatory that a man profess a personal faith in a Supreme Being prior to becoming a Freemason. Freemasonry never attempts to alter any one's beliefs.
Freemasonry offers no
theology or plan of salvation. However, it does offer a moral plan to use in this world.
Leaving the Mason to look to his religion for salvation into the next world.
Ancient Craft Masonry centers around the story of the preservation, loss and recovery of the Word. The Word presents man's search for life's purpose and the nature of God. Symbolic Freemasonry, as in the Lodge, teaches of the loss of the Word and hope for its recovery. Royal Arch Masonry, as in the Chapter, teaches of its recovery. Cryptic Masonry, as in the Council, completes this story by teaching of the Word's initial preservation.
As in many of the Masonic degrees, the origins of the degrees of
Cryptic Masonry are shrouded in mystery. Yet, they have attained a substantial growth and
one out of every two Royal Arch Masons is a Cryptic Mason.
Nearly two hundred years ago the degrees of Royal Master and Select Master appeared. Traveling Masonic lecturers throughout the East were conferring them upon Masons, while engaging in instructing in Craft (Lodge) and Capitular (Chapter) degrees. Even one Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite included the degree of Select Master as one of its "detached" degrees. But, these beautiful degrees were not to remain detached for any length of time.
The state of Connecticut bore the first Grand Council in 1819. In Virginia and West Virginia the degrees developed in the Chapter of Royal Arch Masons where they still remain. In the 1870's a General Grand Council was formed for the United States of America.
Today this General Grand Council numbers most of the Grand Councils in the United States, as well as the western section of Canada.
Commandery of Knights Templar. However, in recent years a large number of Grand Commanderies of Knights Templar have made the Cryptic degrees a prerequisite for the Templar orders.
Biblical students and archaeologists know of the vaults or crypts beneath King Solomon's Temple. These vaults exist even at this late date. Masonic degrees were probably not actually conferred in these vaults.
However, such a legend does persist throughout Freemasonry. The legends, conveyed in this system of degrees, form a beautiful allegory or story. The Masonic author, Albert G. Mackey, writing of the vault, says: "The vault was, therefore, in the ancient mysteries, symbolic of the grave: for initiation was symbolic of death, where alone Divine Truth is to be found. Freemasons have adopted the same idea.
They teach that death is but the beginning of Life; that if the first, or evanescent Temple of our transitory life be on the surface, we must descend into the secret vault of death before we can find that sacred deposit of Truth, which is to adorn our second Temple of Eternal Life." This teaching is not unusual in Freemasonry since as was stated previously the requirements for membership include a professed belief in God and one's eternal life.
The degrees of the York Rite are classified as Symbolic (Lodge of Master Masons). Capitular (Chapter of Royal Arch Masons). Cryptic (Council of Cryptic Masons), and Chivalric (Commandery of Knights Templar). The Cryptic Rite or degrees derives its name from the setting of the degrees of Royal Master and Select Master in the underground crypt beneath King Solomon's Temple.
The word cryptic means hidden, hence its
use in describing these degrees. The last of the series of Cryptic degrees is not cryptic
because it does not comply with the requirement of a vault scene. It might be regarded as
one of the Cryptic Rite's detached degrees for it has no connection either in history or
symbolism with those of Royal Master and Select Master, as shall be discuss later.
THE ROYAL MASTER DEGREE
This is the first degree of the Cryptic Rite 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 assistants.
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 of the Scottish Rite called Intimate Secretary of 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 of 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 year old when he began to reign and he reigned for eleven years in Jerusalem, and he did that which as 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.
The Cryptic Rite is widespread, although governing bodies exist only in England, Scotland, Canada, and the United States. In England the Cryptic Degrees are controlled by a Grand Council of the Cryptic Degrees. In Scotland, the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter has jurisdiction over the Cryptic degrees, the Royal Ark Mariner degree, the Knight of the East, and Knight of the East and West; bodies of the Cryptic Rite are attached to Chapters.
It is interesting to note that while Scotland received the first three degrees of the last series from American sources, the degree of Thrice Illustrious Master, taken over recently in this country, as of Scottish origin.
Freemasonry seeks to improve the community by improving the individual. Therefore, Councils of Cryptic Masons are found working with Lodges, Chapters, and Commanderies giving more opportunities to improve one's skills in leadership, public speaking, interpersonal relationships, and administration.
This empowers Masons to become
better leaders in their career, church, and community. Councils also work with these and
other Masonic groups in community service projects to demonstrate Masonic teachings as a
way of life.
The General Grand Council established the Cryptic Masons Medical Research Foundation to give Cryptic Masons an opportunity to turn Masonic philosophy into a living practice. Currently the Foundation is working with medical researchers to find agents to prevent atherosclerosis or more commonly known as hardening of the arteries.
This work places thousands of dollars annually into the needed research to stop our nation's largest killer, atherosclerosis and heart disease.