The Royal Arch - The Next Step in Freemasonry
Your future in Freemasonry: The Royal Arch
Who is eligible to join the Royal Arch?
A Master Mason may join a Royal Arch Chapter four weeks after being raised to the Third Degree. It is the natural and traditional next step in Freemasonry.
What is the Royal Arch?
Long ago, the Royal Arch degree would have been worked in a Craft Lodge. For many years following the re-organisation of Freemasonry after the Union of the Grand Lodges in 1813, the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch was stated to be the completion of the Third Degree, but it is now more accurately described as the completion of the journey through pure, ancient Masonry. This is undoubtedly a most rewarding and enlightening step for a Master Mason to take. It offers him an opportunity to fill the gaps left in Craft Masonry after the Third Degree and to continue his Masonic journey towards a spiritual conclusion. In the degrees which you received in the Craft you were taught that Freemasonry is a system of morality, based on a belief in T.G.A.O.T.U. and promoting brotherly love, relief and truth as the rule for your earthly pilgrimage. The Ceremony of Raising implies that there is more to learn, for it urges us to lift our eyes beyond our civil duties and routine existence. The Royal Arch develops this theme and teaches us that the true secrets of a Freemason are to be found within ourselves.
Why should I join?
The Royal Arch has a unique position as part of the mainstream of Freemasonry, so that it and the Craft are totally complementary and are together described as forming the whole of "pure, ancient Masonry". There are other Masonic Orders, all of which require Craft membership as a pre-requisite; many of them also requiring candidates to have been exalted into the Royal Arch. Usually, a Royal Arch Chapter is attached to a specific Lodge, and will most likely use its name and number though not all Lodges have a Chapter. It follows that Companions of a Chapter will come from different Lodges, perhaps from the Metropolitan Grand Lodge, or other Provinces. Certainly, joining a Chapter will extend the circle of your Masonic friends.
How is it organised?
The close affinity of the Craft and the Royal Arch is further emphasised by the fact that the Grand Master is automatically the First Grand Principal of Supreme Grand Chapter; the Pro Grand Master is the Pro First Grand Principal, and the Grand Secretary is also Secretary of the Royal Arch in which he is called the Grand Scribe Ezra. The Royal Arch Regulations are in the Book of Constitutions of Grand Lodge which you received at your initiation. Chapters meet less frequently than Lodges, commonly three or four times a year in East Kent. Joining Fees and Annual Dues are usually less than those of the Craft. The members are known as "Companions". Companions who become one of the three Principals of a Chapter (broadly equivalent of the Worshipful Master and Wardens) are known as "Excellent Companions". It has recently become permissible to be elected a Principal of a Chapter without having been the Worshipful Master of a Lodge, although this will probably happen relatively rarely.
What are the Royal Arch Ceremonies?
Apart from the annual Installation Ceremony, there is only one ceremony in the Royal Arch ritual, that of the 'Exaltation' of a new Companion. After the darkness of the Third Degree, it is a colourful, enlightening and memorable ceremony, with profound, challenging, allegorical significance. The story told, which contains some of the most delightful lines of Masonic ritual, concerns the re-building of the Temple after the exile of the Israelites.
Every Lodge should have a Royal Arch Representative named on the Summons, but there will always be many Brethren eager to give advice about joining the Royal Arch and make the necessary introductions. Your Proposer will also be able to offer you advice or you can see a Chapter liaison Officer. A Lodge Summons may give details of an attached Chapter although it is not obligatory for a Brother to join the Chapter attached to his Lodge. If you are unable to obtain an introduction to a Chapter you should contact the East Kent Provincial Office.