RSM Cncl

The Council of Royal and Select Masters

The Council degrees are largely an elaboration and explanation of the Royal Arch degree and, to a lesser extent, the Master Mason degree. The first Council degree, the Royal Master, develops more fully the story of recovery of the "lost" word and the Holy of Holies of the Temple of King Solomon. The next degree, Select Master, concerns itself with the construction and adornment of the subterranean vault introduced in the Royal Arch degree of the Chapter. The last degree is that of Superexcellent Master, and tells the story of the Babylonian Captivity, and of Zedekiah and his perfidy. Council Masonry is also referred to as "Cryptic Masonry", in allusion to the continuance of the vault, or crypt. We will now examine these degrees in more detail.

ryl mstr


This degree consists of three relatively brief sections: (1) An optional prologue, in which the tie-in of the events of the degree to the degrees which have preceded it are called to the candidate's attention; (2) a scene in the unfinished Sanctum Sanctorum (SS), which consists of a monologue by GMHA concerning death; (3) a third section in which the candidate is obligated, given the words and signs, and made acquainted with the furnishings of the SS, and especially the details of the Ark of the Covenant. Let's consider (2) and (3) in somewhat more detail. In the second scene, as the candidate (representing a Temple craftsman, Adoniram) enters the unfinished inner Temple area, he observes GMHA deep in thought while working on some sacred vessels, and presents a piece of work for inspection. GMHA expresses his approbation of the work, and retires to the SS to render up his noontime prayer and then draw his designs on the trestleboard. Accosted by the candidate upon finishing these exercises, Adoniram demands to know when he can expect to receive the Master's Word. After demurring to this inquiry, GMHA conducts the candidate around the altar in the SS, commenting on each circuit on the nature of death and in his firm belief in a resurrection. At the end of each circuit, he stops, points to the altar, and informs the candidate that, should he die, the Word will be found there. This soliloquy on death is one of the most impressive and stark expositions of the Masonic philosophy on that subject. It touches the reality of physical decay and death, but culminates in an unswerving and firm conviction in the certainty of a resurrection to eternal bliss. GMHA foreshadows his own demise, but tempers its horror and sadness by his expression of immoveable faith in God. As Adoniram is evidently highly thought of by GMHA, he is made privy not only to Hiram's most private feelings, but also given a broad clue as to where the Master's Word will be located if Hiram should die before the Temple is completed. In the Third Part, during the circumambulations and the brief concluding lecture, the candidate receives an exposition of the adornment of the SS and particularly the construction of the Ark of the Covenant, which is the particular symbol of this degree. The grand sign and words of this degree further allude to the death of GMHA and of the reluctance of the two remaining Grand Masters to communicate the Word, even among themselves. The degree is readily seen to be a memorial to GMHA and a suitable lead-in to the one succeeding it.

select mstr


This degree explains how the Subterranean Vault introduced in the Royal Arch degree of the Chapter came to be. A particular friend of King Solomon's, named Zabud, misunderstands a remark by the king and unwittingly gains entrance into a special construction project one night. Being detected as an intruder, he is almost killed by the guards but is spared upon intervention by King Solomon, influenced by the mild counsel of GMHA. Zabud is permitted to take the place of a guard found wanting in trustworthiness, and, upon being duly obligated and instructed, Zabud gains admission to that point beneath the Temple chosen by the Grand Masters to conceal the treasures of the Craft and the Word. The candidate then witnesses the reenactment of the deposition of those treasures, which will not be recovered until the rebuilding of the second Temple as related in the Royal Arch degree. This degree teaches attentiveness to duty, to setting a watch over one's words and actions, and to illustrate that zealous attachment to duty and to the principles of Masonry will result in advancement in its ranks as well as in life. This degree is the culmination of what has been styled Ancient Craft Masonry, or Masonry related to the building of the Solomonic Temple.

Sup Exc mstr


This optional degree consists of four sections. It is usually conferred at irregular intervals and/or on large classes. In the first section, the candidate assumes the obligation and is instructed in the signs, grips, and words, as well as in the symbolism of the special symbols of this degree: square, circle, and equilateral triangle. In the second section, the candidate witnesses the desolation and sorrow of some Jewish captives in a grove in Babylon, who are subsequently given words of comfort by the prophet Ezekiel. In the third section, the scene shifts to the court of the dissolute and perfidious Jewish king Zedekiah who, influenced by two evil councilors, refuses to hearken to the voice of the prophet Jeremiah urging him to repent and return to God. Zedekiah, to his later grief, learns the answer to a riddle he proposes to Jeremiah, and immediately afterwards the king and his court are forced to flee before the besieging armies of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. In the final section, the captured Zedekiah is brought before Nebuchadnezzar at Riblah, and receives a severe judgement for his past infidelities, misdeeds, and insensitivity. This degree is one of the most dramatic in Freemasonry. It strikingly and forcefully teaches the great lesson of loyalty to friends and fidelity to promises and vows. Dry oral instruction is subjugated to teaching through observation of dynamic acting and dialogue. Few who see this degree done correctly and in full costume ever forget it.

A Royal & Select Masters Council has 10 officers, in order of rank: Illustrious Master, Deputy Master, Principal Conductor of the Work, Secretary, Treasurer, Chaplain, Capt. of the Guard, Conductor of the Council, Steward, and Sentinel. Some jurisdictions also have a Marshal. Members are styled "Companions". At least 9 Companions must be present to open a Council. Councils usually meet monthly. The state governing body is the Grand Council. The national body, to which Grand Councils voluntarily belong, is the General Grand Council of Cryptic Masons, International.