The most relevant reason a Master Mason should
advance beyond the third degree is to complete his
Masonic education. The Symbolic Lodge, as existing in
this country today, uses only part of what was
originally considered the complete teachings of the
Lodge. On your journey through the three degrees of
Symbolic Masonry and as you have learned the proficiency
lecture for each degree, no doubt many questions have
arisen concerning the meaning of the ritualistic
ceremonies, the historical implications and the ‘why’ of
the legends of Freemasonry.
As a Master Mason, you will recall that certain things were left undiscovered as you made your travels in and around the Temple of Solomon. The York Rite is the only way of discovering that which was lost, and reveals to the candidate, in a most impressive manner, the true nature of his duties toward God, his neighbor and himself. The companionship and camaraderie which are established in the local Symbolic Lodge, are further strengthened and enriched by the additional light exposed to each member of the York Rite.
Although many erudite brethren have delved into the history and mysteries of Freemasonry no one has as yet determined the exact time the fraternity originated or where it first came into being.
Many believe the Sublime Degree of Master Mason to be the ultimate degree of Freemasonry and that all others are added and explanatory. Most students of Freemasonry agree that the story of the Craft as presented in the three degrees is incomplete and that the degrees offered in the York Rite of Freemasonry complete the story and answer many of the questions in the mind of the newly made Master Mason.
”In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And God said, Let there be light, and there was light.” With these words begins the Sacred Script which is the sacramental token of that Living Word by whom all things were made, and are still in the making, and whose life is the light of men. The candidate who recovers that lost Word, in the sense of regaining vital organic integration into it, and who, therefore, is one with its Life and its Light, is able to verify this old creation-story in its personal application to himself ...
Here we bring to an end our examination of the true meaning and purpose of the Royal Arch Ceremony. Dealing as it does with a supreme human experience which none can fully appreciate without undergoing it, it is the greatest and most momentous rite in Masonry, and no one who studies it comprehendingly and in its sacramental significance will withhold admiration either for the profound knowledge and insight of the now unidentifiable mystic and initiate who conceived it or for the skill with which he compiled it and cast his knowledge into dramatic expression. The pity of it is that those who practise the rite make no effort to penetrate its meaning and are content with the unenlightened perfunctory performance of a ritual which even exoterically is singularly striking, beautiful and suggestive.
The least reflection upon it must suggest that Masonry is here dealing with the building-work of no outward structure, but with the re-erection of the fallen, disordered temple of the human soul; and that even assuming that it but memorialized some long past historic events, those events can have no vital bearing upon the life, character or conduct of anyone to-day and would not justify the existence of an elaborate secret Order to perpetuate them. But if those events and this rite be symbolic of something deeper and something personal; if they sacramentalize truths perpetually valid and capable of present realization in those who ceremonially re-enact them, then they call for fuller and more serious attention than is usually accorded. Moreover, if the Royal Arch be the symbolic representation of a supreme experience attained and attainable only in sanctity and by the regenerate, it follows that the Craft Degrees leading up to and qualifying for it will take on a much deeper sense than they commonly receive and must be regarded as solemn instructions in the requisite preparation for that regenerate condition.
The Craft work is unfinished without the attainment forth shadowed in the Royal Arch. That attainment in turn is impossible without the discipline of the preliminary labours, the purification of mind and desire, and that crucifixion unto death of the self-will which constitute the tests of merit qualifying for entrance to that Jerusalem which has no geographical site and which is called the “City of Peace” because it implies conscious rest of the soul in God. For many, the suggestion that the attainment of such a condition is possible or thinkable whilst we are still here in the flesh may be surprising or even incredible. But such doubt is unwarranted, and the Masonic doctrine negates it. As has been already shown to the contrary, that doctrine postulates not the absence but the possession of the material organism as a necessary factor in advancing the evolution of the human spirit; that organism is the vessel in which our base metal has to be transmuted into gold; it is the fulcrum furnishing the resistance requisite for the spirit’s energizing into unfoldment and self-consciousness. Physical death is therefore not an advancement of, but an interference with, the work of regeneration. “The night cometh when no man can work,” and when the soul merely passes from labour to refreshment until recalled to labour once more at the task of self-conquest. It is but figurative of that necessary dying to self which implies the voluntary decreasing assertiveness of our temporal nature to permit of a corresponding ascendancy of the spiritual.
But if in the hands of its present exponents Masonry is now rather a dead letter than a living effectual Initiatory Rite capable of quickening the spirituality of its candidates, it still remains for the earnest and perspicuous aspirant to the deeper verities an instructive economy of the science of self-gnosis and regeneration. For such these papers are written, that they may both learn something of the original design of the Order and educate their imagination in the principles of that science. And to such, in conclusion, may be commended that Temple-hymn of the Hebrew Initiates, which of all the Psalms of David refers with most pointed reference to the subject-matter of the supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch of Jerusalem and the personal attainment of the blessed and perfected condition which that title implies :
I was glad when they said unto me, let us go up into the house of the Lord;Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together; Thither the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord. For there are set thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem ! they shall prosper that love it. Peace is within her walls and plenteousness within her palaces.For my brethren and companions’ sake I will say,
Peace be within thee. (Psalm CXXIL)