While the highest degree in Freemasonry is the 3rd or Master Mason degree, the Master Mason in British Columbia may wish to supplement his knowledge of Freemasonry through membership in one or more other bodies with which our Grand Lodge has declared ‘amity’. The following information is provided for the Master Mason who may be seeking further involvement in Freemasonry beyond that provided by his Craft Lodge. Until recently, the minimum time that must pass before a Mason may join a concordant body has usually been six months. Some masons wait for many years or until they have passed the chairs in their Lodge. It is up to the individual to decide.
York Rite Masonry
The York Rite consists of the Craft Lodge, the Chapter, the Council, the Preceptory and numerous other groups. The York Rite takes its name from the old English city of York. It is said that Athelstan, a British king, was converted to Christianity in York and that he granted the original charter to the Masonic guilds in that city nearly a thousand years ago. None of the York Rite bodies is a religion. Like the Craft Lodge, The Chapter and the Council are based upon the building of King Solomon’s Temple. The Royal Arch allegory deals with the building of the second Temple under Zerubbabel after the return of the Israelites from their captivity in Babylon. One Royal Arch Chapter in British Columbia still confers the Virtual Past Master degree (which confers no status in a craft lodge). The Preceptory has a theme of Christian Chivalry. While the degrees in all concordant bodies have much inherent value and beauty, those of the York Rite are especially impressive.
The Supreme Degree of the Holy Royal Arch
Our three craft degrees in British Columbia and Yukon are York Rite degrees. The logical completion of the sequence of York Rite degrees can only be acquired through membership in a Chapter of Royal Arch Masons and a Council of Royal and Select Masters.
There are 38 chapters in the jurisdiction of British Columbia and Yukon. There are two such Chapters in each of Vancouver, Victoria and New Westminster, one each in North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Richmond, Port Coquitlam, Langley and Chilliwack.
The degrees of ‘Mark Master Mason’, ‘Most Excellent Master’ are conferred in Lodges whose officers are those of the Chapter. The Supreme Degree of the Holy Royal Arch is conferred in a Chapter of Royal Arch Masons. The familiar blue of the Craft Lodge regalia is replaced by scarlet, purple and gold on the aprons and sashes and jewels in the Chapter. Hence the nicknames ‘‘Blue Lodge’’ and ‘‘Red Lodge’’ still sometimes heard.
The work of the Chapter is very closely related to that of the Craft Lodge, and the Freemason finds a warm and comfortable home in and a safe and sacred retreat in the Chapter. The degrees afford historical and philosophical background on the work and meaning of Freemasonry.
Some charities supported by Royal Arch Masons in British Columbia include the Keystone of Life Foundation which provides small items of needed medical equipment to hospitals, the operation of an intermediate care facility for seniors, and a bursary program.
The Council of Cryptic Rite Masons, Royal and Select Masters
A Royal Arch Mason may petition to become a member of a Council of Royal and Select Masters, whose teachings expand further on those of the Craft Lodge and the Royal Arch.
Councils of Royal and Select Masters meet in Victoria, Courtenay, Ladysmith, Kamloops, Creston, Vancouver, North Vancouver, Langley and Chilliwack.
The degrees are based on the building of King Solomon’s temple and include ‘Royal Master’, ‘Select Master’, and ‘Super Excellent Master’. An interesting side degree governed by the council is the ‘Royal Ark Mariner’ degree. It is conferred only upon Super Excellent Masters and in a Lodge of Royal Ark Mariners whose officers are those of the Council.
The Preceptory of Knights Templar
Royal Arch Masons who profess the Christian faith may petition a Preceptory of Knights Templar. The Order of the Red Cross is based upon Old Testament events and is thus pre-Christian in its focus. This order has much in common with the 15th and 16th degrees of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite.
The Order of Malta and the Order of the Temple have a New Testament orientation and their lessons are based upon the crusades of the original Knights Templar. Whether there is an actual historical link between the modern Masonic Knights Templar and the historical group of the same name is debatable. Some think there is such a link, others do not.
One of the charities of the Knights Templar is a bursary program for divinity students.
The Allied Masonic Degrees
This group invites Royal Arch masons to study and preserve some of the lesser known ‘arcane’ degrees of Freemasonry.
Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests
This group admits members by invitation who are Installed Masters of their Craft Lodge and Knights Templar. They have control over thirty degrees but usually confer only the ‘Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priest’ degree. There are two Grand Colleges, one in the UK and the other in the USA. The local Tabernacles, one in Victoria and one in Abbotsford, are both of the UK affiliation.
The Order of the Red Cross of Constantine
Membership is by invitation of Royal Arch Masons only. The order was established in England in 1865. There are Conclaves in Kelowna, Langley, Parksville, Vancouver, and Victoria. Both the Scottish and Canadian Constitutions are represented.