The Provincial Grand Lodge of East Lancashire
The Provincial Grand Lodge of East Lancashire

Freemasonry – Beyond the Craft

Soon after joining you will learn that there are several degrees in Freemasonry.  You may not yet be aware that the organisation you have joined, properly known as the United Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons of England, contains two distinct though sister organisations, the Craft and the Holy Royal Arch.

The Grand Master, HRH the Duke of Kent, and the Pro Grand Master head both organisations and the ProvGM heads both in the Province of East Lancashire.  There are also “additional Orders” which many Freemasons also join and enjoy run by separate and distinct organisations from ours. The right time to join one is when you are comfortably established in your Lodge and feel confident about the decision you have made to become a Freemason.  Ideally this should happen a good few years before you reach the Chair of your Lodge.  The RW ProvGM urges you only to consider joining one of them after you have joined the Royal Arch.  Sometimes it is great to join another Order in another District to meet a whole new set of potential friends. The Craft ritual underwent considerable revision during the 18th century and a significant proportion was changed. It also moved from a lecture based question and answer format to an enacted form in which the candidate plays a prominent role. As a result, many of the legends that did not immediately connect with the main theme were dropped. It is from the discarded material that many of the additional orders are derived. They can provide the avid seeker after Masonic knowledge with a lifetime’s study, but the newly made Mason should not allow himself to be seduced into joining the more obscure, until he has both the time and resources to support what can become a very expensive and time consuming hobby.  To give you a guide, about 40% of Masons eventually join a Royal Arch Chapter and about 15-20% of Masons will join a Mark Lodge.

The Royal Arch

The full title is the Order of the Holy Royal Arch of Jerusalem but for simplicity it is usually referred to as “Chapter” and, despite its title, it is not a Christian Degree.  It has very close links with the Craft and is administered alongside it at Freemasons’ Hall in London and in this Province at Ashday Lea.  The ProvGM, ProvGSec and ProvGTreasurer fulfil the same roles in it as they do in the Craft.  In order to join the Royal Arch you have first to become a Master Mason.  Royal Arch lodges, which are known as Chapters, have one beautiful and colourful ceremony which builds upon the story of the Craft 3rd Degree Ceremony.  Chapters generally meet four times a year and Dues are markedly less than Craft Lodges.  The increasing trend of sharing the work means that the amount of ritual an individual is expected to learn should not be excessive. Different regalia is worn, members are called Companions and meetings are referred to as Convocations.  The distinctive jewel of the Order is worn by Companions in their Craft Lodges and serves to distinguish those Brethren who have taken this important step in their Masonic career.  Brethren who have been Master Masons for more than four weeks are qualified for exaltation. It is a very enjoyable Degree, some say more relaxed than the Craft and it is the first logical step to take when thinking of progression – find out more.