Copy of a talk given by M.E. Comp Grahame J. Smith, Grand Scribe E of
the Supreme Grand Chapter of Scotland at the Regular Convocation of
Supreme Grand Chapter held in Freemasons Hall, London on November
I read with great interest the address delivered last December by RE Companion
Michael Walker on Irish Royal Arch Masonry. Although the Scottish Royal Arch
ritual, like the English one, deals with the rebuilding of the Temple, rather than the
repairing of it as in the Irish ritual, and although our regalia is superficially similar,
yet there are many differences in Scottish and English Royal Arch practice.
The Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Scotland is an autonomous Grand Body
which governs the Order of the Royal Arch Freemasons of Scotland. Although
operating independently of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, its regulations are broadly
similar in many respects, and the two Grand Bodies are in amity. There are no Grand
Office-bearers common to both Grand Lodge and Supreme Grand Chapter, no
equivalent status. Chapters are not attached to Lodges but are formed independently,
with their own names and numbers. How did this come about?
The Royal Arch degree is not native to Scotland, but seems to have been introduced
from both English and Irish sources, often Military Lodges, towards the middle of the
eighteenth century. The earliest reference to the degree is at Stirling in 1743. Many
other degrees beyond the Craft were introduced by these Military Lodges, and when
the regiments moved on, Lodges in the vicinity sometimes continued to work them.
This situation continued until the end of the eighteenth century. However, the early
Secret Societies Acts caused the Grand Lodge of Scotland in 1800 to issue a warning
to its Lodges against the working of any degrees other than those of Entered
Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason. Many Lodges heeded the warning, and
the additional degrees associated with Royal Arch or Templar masonry had to be
worked in assemblies separate from the Lodge. The feeling grew amongst the
Brethren that these assemblies should be legitimised in some way. A few obtained
warrants from the Grand Encampment of Ireland. Others petitioned the Templar
Grand Body in England, and in 1810, under the patronage of the Duke of Kent, the
Royal Grand Conclave of Scotland was chartered, and Alexander Deuchar appointed
its first Grand Master. This Royal Grand Conclave was empowered to grant Charters
for the conferring of the Knight Templar grades upon those qualified as Royal Arch
Masons. Deuchar soon realized that it was unsatisfactory to have the first three
degrees and the Knight Templar grades under proper control, but not the
intermediate qualifying degree of the Royal Arch. In 1815 he convened a special
committee, and all bodies in Scotland known to be working the Royal Arch degrees
were contacted, with a view to setting up a Grand Body to exercise proper control. All
three Home Grand Lodges were consulted, so as not to infringe upon their interests.
Advice was sought in particular from England where the United Grand Lodge of
England had recently been formed, and where the status of the Royal Arch degree
had been properly acknowledged, as the completion of the third degree. The Earl of
Sussex was supportive, and advised Deuchar to make every effort to persuade the
Grand Lodge of Scotland to adopt a similar stance, and take the Royal Arch under its
wing. However, after an initially encouraging reply from the Grand Secretary of the
Grand Lodge of Scotland, the matter became inextricably bogged down in
Committee. Eventually a meeting of interested Chapters could be delayed no longer,
and in August 1817 representatives of 34 Chapters met in Edinburgh, and the
Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Scotland was erected and consecrated.
Charters were issued, and the new Grand Body grew slowly but steadily, and
gradually all bodies working the Royal Arch degree in Scotland came under its
At its peak in the 1960s, the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Scotland had
some 650 active Chapters, many of which have subsequently left to form Supreme
Grand Chapters of their own, as happened for example in Israel and in New South
Wales. Currently we have some 470 active Chapters, 220 of which are overseas.
How did the Scottish Royal Arch system of degrees come about ?
In 1819, the Royal Grand Conclave and Supreme Grand Chapter met and agreed
upon a division of some 19 degrees relevant to both orders. Twelve degrees
associated with Royal Arch masonry, as than practised, were placed under Supreme
Grand Chapter’s control. Some of these soon fell into disuse. Elements of others,
namely of the Excellent, Super Excellent and Arch degrees, were combined as the
ceremony of Passing the Veils within the Excellent Master degree. Others developed
into the Royal Ark Mariner degree and into the Degrees of the Captivity or
Babylonish pass, all of which could be worked by virtue of a Chapter’s Charter.
However, the progression in mainstream Royal Arch Masonry from the 1830’s was to
take in turn the degrees of the Mark, Master Passed the Chair, and Excellent Master,
before being exalted to the Holy Royal Arch degree.
Membership of Royal Arch Chapters had originally been restricted to Masters or past
Masters of Craft Lodges, but this proved too restrictive, and Candidates not so
qualified were obliged to take the Master Passed the Chair degree. It was therefore
unnecessary to have the stipulation that before becoming a Principal of a Chapter, a
Companion must first have been Master of a Craft Lodge. The qualification of Master
Passed the Chair was removed from the middle of the nineteenth century. To this
day, however, unlike the English or Irish regulations, there is no prior requirement to
have been Master of a Craft Lodge before becoming a Principal of a Scottish Chapter.
The Mark degree has since the 1830s been regarded as an essential preliminary to
the Royal Arch degree under the Scottish Constitution. Since 1860 the Mark degree
has been under the jurisdiction conjointly of both Grand Lodge and Supreme Grand
Chapter. The Grand Lodge of Scotland regards the Mark degree as the second part of
the Fellow Craft degree, but to prevent confusion, permits it to be conferred only
upon Master Masons. So far as Royal Arch Masonry is concerned, the Mark degree is
reckoned as the Fourth degree in Masonry. A candidate for the Royal Arch degree
who has not received his Mark degree within a Craft Lodge has to be advanced in the
Mark Lodge held within the Chapter. If already qualified, the Candidate has only to
take an obligation of affiliation.
Normal Scottish practice is to open the Chapter, read the minutes and conduct any
business, then, if a candidate be present, adjourn the Chapter. English Constitution
visitors who are not Mark Master Masons or Excellent Masters must retire for a time.
It is not necessary for Irish Constitution visitors to retire as they work an equivalent
system of degrees. A Mark Lodge is now opened, the business of advancement or
affiliation is completed, then the Mark Lodge is closed. A Lodge of Excellent Masters
is then opened, and the candidate is obligated and instructed, then passes the blue,
purple, and scarlet veils, receiving at each the appropriate sign, token and word
which will be required of him later in the R.A. degree. He is then received as an
Excellent Master. The Lodge is closed and the Chapter resumed, and English
Constitution visitors are readmitted.
Upon the Altar, when fire regulations permit, is placed a brass bowl of spirits of wine,
which is ignited, otherwise the Altar is illuminated from within. Surrounding the
central flame or light are six further lights or burning candles, making seven lights in
all. The Candidate is received in prayer, then is taught to approach the Altar in a
particular manner with seven steps. An obligation is administered, and sealed seven
times on the VSL. The Candidate then retires and the lights are removed. Strictly
speaking, English Constitution visitors should again be asked to retire for a short
time, but are often allowed to remain. He, upon readmission, has to pass three
guards. bearing standards of blue, purple and scarlet respectively, to whom he must
give the sign, token and word of the appropriate veil. The Candidate is now permitted
to approach the white veil, to request permission of the Sanhedrin to help rebuild the
Temple. The next part of the ritual dealing with the discovery is very like your own.
Some Chapters have a vault constructed beneath the floor, some have a model of a
vault. In some Chapters six Companions interlink rods in the form of a hexalpha
above the double cube or pedestal, symbolically representing a vault. In any case, the
first Sojourner (in your terminology the Principal Sojourner) enacts a vivid
representation of the discovery, then takes the Candidate to report the same to the
Sanhedrin. As a reward for his discovery he is invested as a Royal Arch Mason and
instructed in the secrets, which are further explained in the lecture given at the end
of each ceremony of exaltation.
There are two further lectures which are not routinely given, but reserved for
occasions when time permits. The Second Lecture describes the Scottish Royal Arch
Jewel, which is different from the English one, and goes on to explain the
significance of the seven lights present during the obligation. The Third Lecture
elaborates upon the significance of the double cube and further explains the
traditional JBO word, which we in the Scottish Constitution still retain in our
ceremonies. The Candidate is welcomed, fraternal greetings are exchanged, and the
Chapter is closed.
Turning briefly to Chair degrees, there are the three associated with the Three
Principals. In addition, First Principals and Past First Principals of Chapters under
the Scottish Constitution are entitled to receive the Chair degree of Installed Master
in the Mark Degree, which is none other than the Master Passed the Chair degree
discontinued as a qualifying degree in the mid nineteenth century.
Other degrees also come under Supreme Grand Chapter’s control. In 1916, the
Cryptic degrees, introduced into Scotland from Illinois in 1877, were taken under its
wing and Charters issued. In the same year, it was made obligatory to obtain separate
Charters to continue to work the “Lodge and Council” series of degrees (Mariner and
Babylonish Pass degrees) hitherto worked by virtue of a Chapter’s Charter. Some 350
Cryptic Councils or Lodges and Councils are administered by the Supreme Grand
Chapter of Scotland, in addition to its 470 Chapters. All together ten ordinary
degrees and seven chair degrees are controlled by Supreme Grand Chapter, which
makes for an interesting and varied workload. There has only been time today to
touch briefly upon some of the many differences in Scottish and English Royal Arch
history and practice. The differences serve only to make visiting more interesting,
and we are firmly united in the aim of seeking to help Companions to prepare for
that Second Temple, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
Companions, it has been a pleasure to be invited to address you and I thank you for
your attention. I hope that it will not be too much of an imposition if I salute your
Most Excellent Pro First Grand Principal in the Scottish manner [Done]. Thank you.