The Missing Link
The Order of Royal and Select Masters, often known as the Cryptic Degrees, is open to those who are both Royal Arch and Mark Master Masons and consists of four highly dramatic degrees. These outline the initial steps taken during the building of the Temple to preserve copies of the holy vessels and sacred treasures in a secret vault, the burial of the Word by the two surviving Grand Masters after Hiram’s death, the completion and dedication of the Temple and finally the fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar and his army. It can be seen, therefore, that the Cryptic Degrees form a vital and interesting link between the Craft and Royal Arch, making the connection much more logical and completing the legend of King Solomon and his Temple. The Four Degrees are as follows:
The preparations for the building of the Temple having commenced in the Mark Degree, the three Grand Masters are anxious that the form of the sacred treasures, including the Ark of the Covenant, could be lost forever in the event of the Temple being sacked. They therefore arrange for a small number of Select Masons, sworn to secrecy, to construct a secret vault beneath the Holy of Holies and deposit replicas therein.
The Temple is nearing its completion and certain Overseers are anxious to receive the Master Word and be honoured with the rank of Royal Master before their employment ceases. Shortly before his death Hiram Abif explains to one of these Overseers, Adoniram, that with patience and industry he will, in due time, receive it. This discourse is widely regarded as the most beautiful in any Masonic Degree.
Most Excellent Master
Hiram Abif has been slain and after a period of mourning, the holy relics are transferred into the completed temple. King Solomon prepares to dedicate it to the Most High and, to celebrate this joyous occasion, confers the Degree of Most Excellent Master on his most trusted and skillful workmen, amongst whom are those who built the secret vault.
Super Excellent Master
The Temple had stood in all its glory for nearly 400 years but had then fallen to Nebuchadnezzar and his army. The King and his principal citizens were taken into captivity in Babylonia. Zedekiah, Nebuchadnezzar’s puppet King, has rebelled against him and fled, leaving the remaining citizens to defend the Temple and pledge their devotion to God.
The Degree of Thrice Illusrious Master
This degree, colloquially know as the Order of the Silver Trowel, has been performed in America for a number years and was introduced into this country in 2009. A select number of Installed Masters from each District are approved each year by the Most Illustrious Grand Master to receive it. In the District of Surrey the degree is performed annually at the meeting of Weald of Surrey Council No.309. Recipients of the degree are entitled to have a hallmarked Silver Trowel attached to the flap of their apron.
The degree is both extremely interesting and colourful and takes place during the final days of King David and recounts the abortive attempt of Adonijah, the half-brother of Solomon, to assume the throne and then the latter’s anointment as King. It concludes with a remarkable discourse between David and Solomon.