Our Lessons

Cryptic Masons – Our Lessons

Our Lessons


This section is taken freely from Mackey’s Symbolism as written in Chapter
XXXI of “The History of the Cryptic Rite.” It is not written verbatim, but
rather was adapted to the form of our present day ritual. Symbolism from other
authors has been incorporated. It is the belief of the Grand Council, that if
our members understand the beautiful symbolism of our Order, they will become
better members of their subordinate Councils. We encourage you to study and
learn more about our great Order, as it is not possible to include everything of
interest or importance in this brief synopsis. We learn in the Royal Master
degree, that there was an agreement among our three Most Excellent Grand
Masters, that the word would not be communicated to the Craft until the Temple
was completed, and then only in the presence of all three. We learn in the
Master Mason degree, how the Word was lost, and in the Royal Arch degree, how it
was recovered. In the Symbolic degrees, we have an account of the loss of the
Word, and we search but do not find. In the Chapter, we search and find, but do
not understand the significance of what we have found. It is left to the Cryptic
degrees for enlightenment and explanation, to learn how the Word was preserved,
and what it means. In the Royal Master degree, we learn that whatever may be the
uncertainties of life, the reward is sure to the faithful Craftsman. In the
Select degree, we learn that the Word is to be preserved in the Secret Vault of
the Soul. While in the Super Excellent Master degree, we find that catastrophe
overtakes the unfaithful, whether he be a prince or pauper, and that without
fidelity, success is impossible.


This degree is held in the Council Chamber, and represents the private
apartment of King Solomon, in which he is said to have met for consultation with
his two colleagues during the construction of the Temple. Its symbolic colors
are black and red — the former being significant of grief and the latter of
martyrdom — and both referring to the chief builder of the Temple. The period
of time referred to in the first and second sections of the degree is different.
In the first section, Hiram Abif is active in the construction of the Temple. In
the second section, he is missing and the Temple is very near completion. This
is evident by the presence of the Ark of the Covenant and the investiture of
Adoniram with the responsibility of the Master Builder. His search is not
complete as he is instructed that in due time he will receive his reward, and is
returned to the Clay Grounds to continue his labors. The Beautiful Piece of Work
(brought up by Adoniram), represents a pure and complete life, offered to the
Supreme Architect of the Universe, followed by an admonition to remain content
and in due time we shall receive our reward. The reward will come after our life
has been completed, and is further symbolized by our entry into the 9th Arch,
after completing all the symbolic instructions of Ancient Craft Masonry. The 9th
Arch is usually considered the symbolic Gate of Death. It is now high twelve, an
appropriate time to cease our labors and commune with the Supreme Architect of
the Universe. The number twelve is considered a sacred number in Mythology. It
is explained by some as being the product of multiplying the three sided
triangle by the four sided square. The triangle represents the three equal
attributes of Deity; His Omniscience, Omnipresence, and Omnipotence (Universal
wisdom, peace, and power). Low twelve consists of the same numbers, but
represents death, or the midnight of life. Hiram Abif passes from the spiritual
trestleboard to the temporal trestleboard, where he is met again by the eager
candidate, who is still pursuing his search for Divine Truth. Then he delivers
the commentary on death, moving slowly around the room, going in the same manner
and direction as the sun. He explains that all men are equal in the eyes of God,
from the youngest Entered Apprentice, to King Solomon.

ROYAL MASTER (Second Section)

As the first light of day comes from the East, we are taught to look to the
East for enlightenment. The step symbolizes reverence toward the Alter. We
alternate steps as we pass through the degrees, up to, and including the Royal
Master degree. It is believed this has an allusion to the path of the Sun
crossing the Northern and Southern Hemisphere, between the two signs of the
zodiac, Capricorn and Cancer, in a zig-zag motion. When the two hemispheres are
laid out end-to-end, with two parallel lines on the sides, it forms an oblong
square or the shape of a Lodge. In the sign, Alpha is the first, and Omega is
the last letter of the Greek alphabet, equivalent to the beginning and the end
of anything. Alpha and Omega are adapted as a symbol of Deity. This passage was
at one time read from the Apocalypse during the circumambulations, but is now
read from the book of Revelations. The equilateral triangle represents our three
Grand Masters at this point in the ritual. The broken triangle represents the
allegory of life. Some must go, and other must remain and carry on. The number
seven was sacred in Hebrew scriptures and ceremonies. The seventh day was the
Sabbath day; Solomon was seven years in the building of the Temple; there are
usually seven sabbatic years; seven days usually constituted the feast periods;
and seven represents completeness. In the Temple, twelve loaves of bread
(shewbread) were always kept upon a table in the sanctuary (representing the
twelve tribes of Israel). It was a symbol of the bread of eternal life by which
we are brought into the presence of God. The principal article of furniture in
the Temple of Solomon at Jerusalem, was the Ark of the Covenant. It was
surmounted by the Cherubim and between the wings of these fabled characters was
the Shekinah, or perpetual cloud, from which the bathkol issued when consulted
by the High Priest. The Altar of Incense was made of wood and overlaid with
gold, as was most of the furniture of the Temple. On the four corners were
horns, in shapes like those of a ram’s horns. A censer was placed on the top
center of the Golden Altar, and in it sweet incense was burned every morning. On
the table of Holy Vessels were pots, shovels, basins, flesh-hooks, and fire
pans, as well as all the other vessels or utensils necessary to the services of
the Altar. These were made of gold and brass.


This degree commences with a character by the name of Zabud. Zabud was a
friend of King Solomon, and appears in several of the Masonic degrees. To most
of our membership, Zabud is but another character out of the past. Yet a reading
of the Holy Scriptures reveals that he was truly the friend and companion of
King Solomon, for Zabud was one of the sons of Nathan the Prophet. Nathan was
the chief advisor of King David, and it was through the strategy of David,
Nathan, and Bath-Sheaba, that Solomon came to the throne of Israel, for the
natural heir to the throne should have been Adonijah. Zabud must have been about
the same age as Solomon, and probably frequented the Royal Court where he
acquired the friendship and favorable notice of Solomon, later developing into a
friendship which caused King Solomon to refer to Zabud as “my particular friend
and favorite.” The Deputy Master refers to the number 27 which is also alluded
to in the closing ceremony. Although the closing ceremony states it a little
differently, some authors belive that 27 members were made up from one of each
of the twelve tribes of Israel, the three workmen who discovered the triangle
hidden by Enoch before the flood, nine Grand Masters of the Arches, one of whom
was Ahishar, and our three Grand Masters. The Select Master degree, or the
building of the Secret Vault, took place between the first and second sections
of the Royal Master degree. This is explained by saying that the secrets of the
Select Master degree were not brought to light until long after the existence of
the Royal Master degree had been known and acknowledged. In other words, to
speak only from the traditional point of view, Select Masters had been
designated, had performed the task for which they had been selected, and had
closed their labors without ever being recognized as a class in the Temple of
Solomon. Their occupation and their very existence, according to legend, was
unknown in the first Temple. Whether the punishment meted out to Ahishar was
deserved, we should not question, for the story is but a legend, teaching us
that constant watchfulness is necessary in waging the warfare of life, and only
those shall succeed who are constantly on guard. Considered simply as a
historical question, there can be no doubt of the existence of immense vaults
beneath the superstructure of the original Temple of Solomon. Legend has it that
Josiah, forseeing the destruction of the Temple, commanded the Levites to
deposit the Ark of the Covenant in this vault, where it was found by some of the
workmen of Zerubbabel, at the building of the second Temple. Masonic legend,
whether authentic or not, teaches that there was an Ark in the second Temple,
but that it was neither the Ark of the Covenant, which had been in the Holy of
Holies of the first Temple, nor one that had been constructed as a substitute
for it after the building of the second Temple. It was that Ark which was
presented to us in the Select Master degree, and which, being an exact copy of
the Mossical Ark, and intended to replace it in case of its loss, is best known
to Freemasonry as the Substitute Ark. In the Masonic System there are two
Temples; the first Temple in which the degrees of Ancient Craft Masonry are
concerned, and the second Temple, with which the higher degrees, especially the
Royal Arch, are related. The first Temple is symbolic of the present life; the
second Temple is symbolic of the life to come. The first Temple, the present
life, must be destroyed; on its foundations, the second Temple, the life
eternal, must be built. And so we arrive at this result, that the Masonic Stone
of Foundation, so conspicuous in the degree of Select Master, is a symbol of
Divine Truth, upon which all Speculative Masonry is built; and the legends and
traditions which refer to it are intended to describe, in an allegorical way,
the progress of truth in the soul, the search for which is a Mason’s labor; and
the discovery of which is to be his reward.


In 598, Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, besieged Jerusalem, captured the
city and took into captivity the King, Jehoiachin (Jeconiah). He replaced him on
the throne with Mathaniah, the youngest son of Josiah, and an uncle of the
former King, who was but twenty-one years old. Nebuchadnezzar changed
Mathaniah’s name twice, although the reasons as to why are not clear. First to
Mattaniah, which means “gift of Jehovah” and then to Zedekiah, which signifies
“Jehovah is righteous.” As one of the conditions of his enthronement, there was
extracted from him a solemn oath to be subject and loyal to his King and to
Babylon. Being subjects of Babylon, naturally there were powerful parties in
court determined to throw off the yoke of the “barbarian” ruler, and, in order
to accomplish this, favored an alliance with Egypt. It is natural that this
palace clique and the priestly circle should favor Egypt. The civilizations of
the Nile was a dying one, but its rulers and its aristocracy were living in
wealth and luxury, blind to the ominous forces threatening their existence. The
royal crowd of Jerusalem was of like character, and attracted by the same
glitter and pretense. Against this royal party was arrayed the strength,
courage, and oratory of Jeremiah of Anatoth, the prophet, a descendant of one of
the earlier High Priests of the Jews, and a small group of followers, who
advised submission to Babylon as the only means of preserving national entity,
and claimed for his position that he had direct command, and approval of Jehovah
himself. Into this maelstrom of contending and conflicting forces was plunged a
young man of twenty-one, immature, inexperienced, over-shadowed for years by his
princely relatives, lacking in strength of character and resolution. To be sure,
at times he showed an inclination to follow the voice of the prophet, but it was
an inclination which he did not have the strength and resolution to pursue
through to the bitter end, in the face of intrigues, and the influence of royal
favorites. The story of his struggle with Jeremiah, his yielding to him on
occasion, his later stiffening of his neck in opposition to him, his punishment
of him, and of the conflict between Jeremiah and the petty dignitaries of the
court, is a fascinating one, and it gains much in its appeal as it is portrayed
in the degree of Super Excellent Master.