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Holy Royal Arch…Whence Come You? A four part article By Mike Lawrence Part Four

In the final part of this series we examine where the Holy Royal Arch may have originated.

Neville Barker Cryer, tells us that from their earliest period, Operative Masons were always divided into two groups, Straight or Square Masons and Round or Arch Masons. The reason for this was that the straight work needed less skill and therefore commanded less wages than that of the Round or Arch man whose ability to make arches, bridges and all kind of curved work commanded more skill and therefore more wages.

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The Square mason obviously used the square, to check the accuracy of his work, while the Arch mason was given the compasses to assist him with making curves. The colour of the Square mason was blue, whilst the Arch mason was red. And we are told these colours are clearly illustrated on the original coat of arms of the Society of the Masons granted by Edward VI.

But this does not help any further with seeking to discover where the Holy Royal Arch originated. Like England, we know that in Ireland, the moral teachings of Masonry have been in existence since at least 1507. That was the date inscribed on the square that was found in Limerick when excavating the city’s Baal Bridge, which flows over the River Shannon. Although corroded with time the inscription reads:

Baal

I will strive to live with love & care

Upon the level. By the square

In fact, we can go back even further to one of the traditional heroes of Celtic mythology, Goban Soar, the stone mason. In Irish the word Soar, denote both “Free” and “A mason”. And legend tells us that it was the Goban, that built Ireland’s famous round towers, but that’s another story.

Gobán_Saor

But in 1751, you will no doubt recall, a rival Grand Lodge was formed in London, calling itself the Grand Lodge of England according to the Old Institutions. The new Grand Lodge accused the first or Premier Grand Lodge of having introduced many innovations and claimed that they alone preserved the ancient customs and practices of Masonry. They dubbed the older body, the “Moderns” and they assumed the title of the “Antients”.

Seal_of_the_Antient_Grand_Lodge_of_England

One of the innovations the “Moderns” had introduced was the reversing of the passwords and signs of the first and second degrees so as to confuse irregular masons that tried to gain access to regular Lodges. Another innovation that offended the “Antients” was to turn their aprons upside down so as the gentlemen would not look like mechanics.

Now the Brethren that formed this rival Lodge were looked upon, for many years as traitors, schismatics and men that had not only set out to destroy the Premier Grand Lodge, but were in violation of their Masonic obligation. However, in his book Masonic Facts and Fictions, Henry Sadler was able to prove that in the main, the founders of that rival Grand Lodge were in fact Irishmen, temporarily resident in London and who had not been made welcome in English Masonic circles. Humble men, whose only wish was to practice the Pure and Antient Freemasonry in the form they had known in their native country, under their own Grand Lodge, to whom they owed their allegiance.

Seal_of_the_Moderns_Grand_Lodge

Now you might well ask what this has got to do with our subject this evening, again I refer to Harry Mendoza. The Premier Grand Lodge did not recognise the Royal Arch as part of Freemasonry, though some of their members were exalted in a separate Chapters. However, the Grand Lodge of the Antients argued that the Royal Arch was the fourth degree and could be worked in a lodge under the authority of the lodge warrant. You will notice the four principal banners are represented on their seal.

But a rather unfortunate incident occurred. In 1766, some members owing allegiance to the Premier Grand Lodge set up the first Grand Chapter and exalted as the First Principal of the Order, Lord Blayney, the then Grand Master of the Premier Grand Lodge. This caused problems because it was felt such an action would imply recognition of the Order, so somebody tampered with the Charter of Compact, the document setting up the Chapter, and altered the date to 1767 and put the letter P in front of the words Grand Master, implying that at the time of his exaltation Lord Blayney was a Past Grand Master and by this date they claimed he acted in a private and not an official capacity.

Charter_Compact_

In respect of the ritual used at the time, John Hamill tell us:

“Surprisingly, little is known of the early Royal Arch Ritual. Some French manuscripts said to date from the 1760s give the skeleton of a ceremony centreing on the discovery of a vault containing the Sacred Name, but the earliest English manuscript ritual dates from as late as 1780. Nor can we rely on printed exposures,  for the Royal Arch did not attract the same publicity and curiosity as the Craft and the earliest printed (Royal Arch) exposure is Richard Carlile’s of 1825.”

To return to the Irish connection, another interesting point is that many Masonic students honestly believe that the Holy Royal Arch developed and was first practiced, in Ireland. In 1743, we read in an Irish newspaper that “…the royal arch (was) carried by two excellent masons…” as part of a St John’s Day procession though the Town of Youghal, Co. Cork.

However, there is more controversy here when Fifield Dassigny’s wrote the following in his book “A serious and impartial enquiry into the cause of the present decay of Free-masonry in the Kingdom of Ireland”, published in Dublin in 1744:

…a certain propagator of a false system some few years ago in this city [Dublin] who imposed upon several very worthy men under a pretense of being Master of the Royal Arch, which he asserted he had brought with him from the city of York; and that the beauties of the Craft did principally consist in the knowledge of this valuable piece of Masonry. However he carried on this scheme for several months and many of the learned and wise were his followers, till at length his fallacious art was discovered by a Brother of probity and wisdom, who had some small space before attained that excellent part of Masonry in London and plainly proved that his doctrine was false.”

But whatever the intrigue, recognition of the Royal Arch was essential to the Union of the two Grand Lodges and this was achieved in 1818 by the somewhat ambiguous wording of the Preliminary Declaration of the Book of Constitution, which states

“…pure Antient masonry consists of three degrees and no more, namely the entered apprentice, the fellowcraft, and the master mason, including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch…”

In conclusion, like the Craft, the origin of the Holy Royal Arch has been lost and we have no records to give it the antiquity or history we would like, but I would encourage all Master Masons to consider membership of this beautiful Order and complete the cycle of what is considered, under the English Constitution and being “Pure and antient Masonry”

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Holy Royal Arch…Whence Come You? A four part article By Mike Lawrence Part Three

The second Temple, known to us as the third or Grand and Royal Lodge, was reconstructed and stood between 516 BC and 70 AD. During this time, it was the centre of Jewish worship, which focused on the sacrifices known as the Korbanot. In Judaism, the Korban is any of a variety of sacrificial offerings described and commanded in the Totah. King Solomon’s Temple was destroyed in 586 BC when the Jews were exiled during the Babylonian captivity. Construction of a new temple was begun in 535 and completed in 516, with its dedication in 515. As described in the Book of Ezra, rebuilding of the Temple was authorised by Cyrus the Great and ratified by Darius the Great. The Romans destroyed Jerusalem and its second Temple on August 4th 70 AD, ending the Great Jewish revolt that began in 66 AD.

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The story in our ritual which relates to the discovery of the vault, probably takes its rise from any number of contemporary books that were available at the time when the ritual was being formulated. For example, we already know that the many of the Craft ritual phrases and certain usages can be found in the works of Shakespeare, Bunyon, Milton, Bronte, and some of the comtemporary pracitices of the time, so it would figure that Royal Arch ritual would contain phrases, practices or other things that were common or available at the time.

Thus, we read of The Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, born 364 AD, translated and published in 1669 in a book entitled, “Solomon’s Temple Spiritualised.” The book records that the Roman Emperor, Julian the Apostate, ordered the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem, during the course of which a cave was discovered by a workman who was lowered by rope into the vault. He discovered a perfect square and, in its centre, a column upon which was found a book wrapped in fine linen cloth. The first words being “In the beginning was the word” The book was the entire Gospel of St John. This verse incidentally played a very important part in the early Holy Royal Arch ceremony but was dropped during the 1835 ritual revision.

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QCCC member Harry Mendoza, also tells us that references to the discovery of a law-book during repair work that was being carried out on the Temple can be found in 2 Kings, Chapter 22 and 2 Chronicles, Chapter 34. This book mentioned, many commentators identify as Deuteronomy, the fifth book of the Bible, and which both record Hilkiah the priest finding the book of the law that the Lord had given Moses.

Robert McCoy’s “A Dictionary of Freemasonry”, a late 19th century publication also records the early finding of a vault in the ruins at Yucatan, where the explorer recorded the following: “The only way of descending was to tie a rope around the body and be lowered by the Indians…”

Therfore, as you can see, it is not beyond the realms of anyone’s imagination to understand where the allegorical story originated.

But this idea of taking an existing story to accentuate salient points of our discipline or to highlight its meaning should in no way detract from the important message of the Holy Royal Arch. It all degrees in Freemasonry, traditional histories were written for that very purpose and have little or no historical accuracy and it still pains me to this day when exponents of our ritual sincerely and honestly believe that all Masonry is based on historical fact.

This I think is an indictment on our society and clear evidence of our failure to educate our people by allowing them to continue to serve in ignorance rather than provide proficient instructors and accurately presented resources. Strong words I know, but I stand by my view.

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So, having now established some of the basic facts about the Holy Royal Arch, i.e. where we are and what we are doing, perhaps a simplified recap will put things into a better perspective. So here are ten questions:

1) Where are we?

2) Where did we come from?

3) Who allowed us to come back to Jerusalem?

4) Who are we?

5) Who sits at the head of the Sanhedrin?

6) Who are they assisted by?

7) What did Cyrus give us permission to do?

8) What did we do to help the reconstruction?

9) What did they discover?

10) What was the reward for the industry and fidelity of the workmen?

Answers:

1) In Jerusalem!

2) Babylon, the captivity now being over!

3) Cyrus, the King of Persia!

4) The Grand Sanhedrin!

5) Zerubbabel, Haggai and Joshua!

6) Ezra and Nehemiah!

7) To rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem

8) We hired three workmen to clear the ground in order to receive the foundations. They made a discovery of great importance which they immediately conveyed back to us.

9) The name of the True and Living God Most High! Which was lost through the untimely death of Hiram Abiff.

10) They were made members of the Grand Sanhedrin!

We complete the story of the Holy Royal Arch in the next and final part of the Article.

 

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Holy Royal Arch…Whence Come You? A four part article by Mike Lawrence Part Two

In part two, we take a brief look at the main characters of our drama.

Zerubbabel, was the grandson of Jehoiachin, penultimate King of  Judah. He led the first band of Jews, numbering 42,360, who returned from the Babylonian captivity in the first year of Cyrus, King of Persia. It was also Zerubbabel that laid the foundation of the second Temple in Jerusalem the next year. Muslim historian, Ya’qubi attributed the recovery of the Torah and the Books of the Prophets to him instead of Ezra. Little else is known about him.

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Haggai, was one of the twelve minor prophets and the author of the Book of Haggai. He was the first of three prophets (with Zechariah, his contemporary, and Malachi, who lived about one hundred years later). His ministry belonged to the period of Jewish history which began after the return from captivity in Babylon. We are told that when the work of rebuilding the temple had been put to a stop through the intrigues of the Samaritaina and having been suspended for eighteen years, the work was resumed through the efforts of Haggai and Zechariah who exhorted the people, which roused them from their lethargy.

 Joshua, the son of Josedech and the first High Priest of the second Temple, should not be confused with that other Joshua who succeeded Moses as the leader of the Israelites and who we will all remember from the second degree, prayed fervently to the Lord to continue the light of day. Sadly, I can find no further details other than our own allegorical association with Zerubbabel and Haggai.

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Ezra, the “scribe” led the second body of exiles that returned from Babylon to Jerusalem and was author of the book of Scripture which bears his name. He was the son, or perhaps grandson, of Seraiah. All we know of his personal history is contained in the last four chapters of his book. We also learn that in the seventh year of the reign of  he obtained leave to go up to Jerusalem and to take with him a company of Israelites. The King manifested great interest in Ezra’s undertaking, granting him “all his request” and loading him with gifts for the house of God, being the Second Temple, whose construction had now commenced. Again we must not confuse Scribe Ezra with, the priest of the same name that returned with those to Jerusalem under Zerubbabel.

 Nehemiah, the son of Hachaliah was probably of the tribe of Judah and was one of the “Jews of the dispersion”. In his youth he was appointed to the important office of royal cup-bearer at the palace of Shushan. Like Ezra, the King Artaxerxes Longimanus, seemed to have been on terms of friendly familiarity with him, for after Nehemiah had heard of the mournful and desolate condition of the Holy City, he was filled with sadness of heart. At length, we learn the King observed his sadness of countenance and asked the reason. Nehemiah explained it all to the King and obtained his permission to go up to Jerusalem and there to act as Governor of Judea. He went up in the spring of 446 BC (eleven years after Ezra), with a strong escort supplied by the King. On his arrival he set himself to survey the city, and to form a plan for its restoration; a plan which he carried out with great skill and energy, so that it was completed in about six months. We are told that he resembled Ezra in his fiery zeal, in his active spirit of enterprise, and in the piety of his life, but he was of a fiercer mood and he had less patience with transgressors. He was a man of action rather than a man of thought, and more inclined to use force than persuasion.

The three Sojourners are representative of the workmen needed to rebuild the second Temple and humbly wished to participate in the great and glorious undertaking. They were nobly born of the House of Judah, but due to the lateness of their application they were tasked to prepare the ground for the foundations which they cheerfully accepted.

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Those are the characters or main players in our ritual drama and it were they that formed part of the Grand Sanhedrin, which as I previously explained is what the lodge room represents during the Exaltation ceremony of the Holy Royal Arch, and we, as Companions of that Order, are also part of that ruling council.

The Great Sanhedrin, which is what the Convocation is representative of, was an assembly of Jewish judges who constituted the Supreme Court and legislative body of ancient Israel. In total there were 71 Sanhedrin members. During the period of the second Temple in Jerusalem, prior to its destruction in 70 AD, the Great Sanhedrin would meet in the Hall of Hewn Stones in the Temple during the day, except before festivals and Shabbat.

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Now the objective of the ritual authors was to restore to Freemasonry the true secrets of a Master Mason, lost as we know, by the allegorical death of one of the brightest characters in Masonry, Hiram Abiff. In order to repair that loss, another allegorical story was prepared, its origin we will discuss a little later, but the vehicle for such a message was the building of the second Temple in Jerusalem.

In part three we look at the where the theme of the ritual may have taken its rise and recap with some simple questions and answers.

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