The General Grand Council of Cryptic Masons International
Councils of Cryptic Masons form the center body of the York Rite of
Freemasonry. A Master Mason may join a Chapter of Royal Arch Masons and
receive the four degrees of that organization. After which he may seek
further knowledge in Freemasonry and join a Council of Cryptic Masons.
No rite of Freemasonry has come into its own so much as the series of
degrees known as the Cryptic Rite, also known as the Cryptic Masons. Its
popularity is well deserved for there are no more beautiful or meaningful
degrees in all Freemasonry that those conferred in the Council of Cryptic
One reason for its popularity is that it completes a story, a Masonic
allegory. Freemasonry is very philosophical and teaches its ideals by
allegory or story. This philosophy is moralistic and religious however
Freemasonry is not a religion., nor a substitute for one. A requirement
for membership in Freemasonry is a professed belief in God and eternal
life. It is mandatory that a man profess a personal faith in a Supreme
Being prior to becoming a Freemason. Fremasonry never attempts to alter
any one's beliefs. Freemasonry offers no theology or plan of salvation.
However, it does offer a moral plan to use in this world. Leaving the
Mason to look to his religion for salvation into the next world.
Ancient Cryptic Masonry centers around the story of the preservation, loss
and recovery of the Word. The Word represents man's search for life's
purpose and the nature of GOD. Symbolic Freemasonry, as in the Lodge,
teaches of the loss of the Word and hope for its recovery. Royal Arch
Masonry, as in the Chapter, teaches its recovery. Cryptic Masonry, as in
the Council, completes this story by teaching of the Word's initial
ORIGIN OF THE DEGREES
As in many of the Masonic degrees, the origins of the degrees
of Cryptic Masonry are shrouded in mystery. Yet, they have attained a
substantial growth and one out of every two Royal Arch Masons is a Cryptic
Nearly two hundred years ago the degrees of Royal Master and Select Master
appeared. Traveling Masonic lecturers throughout the East were conferring
them upon Masons, while engaging in instructing in Craft (Lodge) and
Capitular (Chapter) degrees. Even one Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite
included the degree of Select Master as one of its "detached" degrees.
But, these beautiful degrees were not to remain detached for any length of
time. The state of Connecticut bore the first Grand Council in 1819. In
Virginia and West Virginia the degrees developed in the Chapter of Royal
Arch Masons where they still remain. In the 1870's a General Grand Council
was formed for the United States of America. Today this Grand Council
numbers most of the Grand Councils in the United States, as well as the
western section of Canada.
Until a few years ago, Cryptic Masonry was not a series of degrees which
one had to take to meet requirements to join the Commandery of Knights
Templar. However, in recent years a large number of Grand Commanderies of
Knights Templar have made the Cryptic degrees a prerequisite for the
Temple orders. It appears that even more Grand Commanderies will adopt
this policy in the years ahead.
THE VAULT AND THE MYSTERIES
Biblical students and archaeologists know of the vaults or crypts beneath
King Solomon's Temple. Masonic Degrees were probably not actually
conferred in these vaults. However, such a legend does persist throughout
Freemasonry. The legends, conveyed in this system of degrees form a
beautiful allegory or story. The Masonic author, Albert G. Mackey, writing
of the vault, says: "The vault was, therefore, in the ancient mysteries,
symbolic of the grave; for initiation was symbolic of death, where alone
Divine Truth is to be found. Freemasons have adopted the same idea. They
teach that death is but the beginning of Life; that if the first, or
evanescent Temple of our transitory life be on the surface, we must
descend into the secret vault of death before we can find that sacred
deposit of Truth, which is to adorn our second Temple pf Eternal Life."
This teaching is not unusual in Freemasonry since as was stated previously
the requirements for membership include a professed belief in God and
one's eternal life.
THE USE OF THE
The degrees of the York Rite are classified as Symbolic (Lodge
of Master Masons). Capitular (Chapter of Royal Arch Masons), Cryptic
(Council of Cryptic Masons), and Chivalric (Commander of Knights Templar).
The Cryptic Rite or degrees derives its name from the setting of the
degrees of Royal Master and Select Master in the underground crypt beneath
King Solomon's Temple. The word cryptic means hidden, hence its use in
describing these degrees. The last of the series of Cryptic degrees is not
cryptic because it does not comply with the requirement of a vault scene.
It might be regarded as one of the Cryptic Rite's detached degrees for it
has no connection either in history or symbolism with those of Royal
Master and Select Master, as shall be discussed later.
THE ROYAL MASTER DEGREE
This is the first degree of the Cryptic Rite as conferred in the United
States of America. Candidates who receive the degree are impressed with
its dignified ritual and relevant teachings. It contains one section which
is generally regarded as an outstanding display of symbolism and content
of philosophy. The ritualistic presentations in the degree explain the
articles contained in the Holy of Holies of King Solomon's Temple,
including the Ark of the Covenant. A knowledge of which is essential to
those who would fully understand the preceding degrees. The principal
characters in the degree are Solomon and his royal assistant.
THE SELECT MASTER DEGREE
The degree of Select Master has not always been associated with that of
Royal Master. Jeremy Cross, a traveling Masonic lecturer, author, and
educator of the early 1800's, is given credit by most writers for having
combined the two degrees into one rite. There is strong evidence to
support the theory that the degree came from a similar degree in the
Scottish Rite called Intimate Secretary or Grand Tiler of King Solomon.
Regardless of its origin the legend of this degree is old.
The scene of this degree is laid in the underground vault of King
Solomon's Temple. The events which characterize the degree are stirring
enough to make it one of intense interest. The ritualistic presentations
contain the story to "complete the Circle of Perfection" in Ancient Craft
THE SUPER EXCELLENT
As we have stated, the degree of Super Excellent Master is not
a degree of the Crypt. But, it relates events that lead to the recovery of
the lost Word. This degree beautifully tells of a period in history in
which all Freemasons are interested, that period following the destruction
of the first Temple. The essence of the degree is foretold in the
presentation by the Principal Sojourner in the Royal Arch Degree when he
makes reference "Zedekiah was one and twenty years old when he began to
reign and he reigned for eleven years in Jerusalem, and he did which was
evil in the sight of the Lord his God," etc.
The degree of Super Excellent Master is one of the best devised, most
impressive, and beautiful degrees. It is most enlightening and relevant to
one's daily life. In a display of exciting events, Biblical characters
come to life exemplifying the historical drama of the Holy Bible. Here
Nebuchadnezzar rules again; Zedekiah proves the results of his wicked
life; Ezekiel and Jeremiah prophesy the promises of Almighty God.
CRYPTIC MASONS IN OTHER COUNTRIES
The Cryptic Rite is widespread, although governing bodies exist
only in England, Scotland, Canada, and the United States. In England the
Cryptic Degrees are controlled by a Genera Council of the Cryptic Degrees.
In Scotland, the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter has jurisdiction over
the Cryptic degrees, the Royal Ark Mariner degree, the Knight of the East
and West; bodies of the Cryptic Rite are attached to Chapters. It is
interesting to note that while Scotland received the first three degrees
of the last series from American sources, the degree of Thrice Illustrious
Master, taken over recently in this country, was of Scottish origin.
THE WORK OF CRYPTIC MASONS
Freemasonry seeks to improve the community by improving the
individual. Therefore, Councils of Cryptic Masons are found working with
Lodges, Chapters, and Commanderies giving more opportunities to improve
one's skills in leadership, public speaking, interpersonal relationships,
and administration. This empowers Masons to become better leaders in their
career, church, and community. Councils also work with these and other
Masonic groups in community service projects to demonstrate Masonic
teachings as a way of life.
The General Grand Council established the Cryptic Medical Research
Foundation to give Cryptic Masons an opportunity to turn Masonic
philosophy into a living practice. Currently the Foundation is working
with medical researchers to find agents to prevent atherosclerosis or more
commonly known as hardening of the arteries. This work places thousands of
dollars annually into the needed research to stop our nation's largest
killer, atherosclerosis and heart disease.