While the keystone is the principal locking stone of the Arch, the
Copestone is the top, or cap of the entire wall.  Therefore, the Royal
Arch of Freemasonry, which has been classed as "the Copestone of
Ancient craft Masonry." is known as the Capitular Rite.

     In the United States, a Chapter of Royal Arch Masons confers the
degrees of Mark Master, Past Master, Most Excellent Master, and The Most
Sublime Degree of the Holy Royal Arch.  To add realism to the work, these
degrees are usually conferred in appropriate costumes.

     In Virginia and West Virginia, the Royal Arch Chapters also confer
the Royal and Select Masters degrees of the Cryptic Rite.  In
Pennsylvania, the Grand Lodge retains control of the Past Master's Degree.

     While solicitation cannot be made for members for the Symbolic Lodge,
once a man has attained the rank of Master Mason he can and should be
encouraged to continue his Masonic Education in the York Rite.  Several
Grand Lodges specify a waiting period before a Master Mason is permitted
to advance.  All Capitular Masons should be familiar with the
requirements of their jurisdiction.

     In ancient times, stonemasons placed an identifying symbol upon their
work.  This symbol was known as their "Mark."  Whether this practice was
utilized during the building of the Great Temple in Jerusalem in
accordance with Masonic allegory is uncertain.  However, "Operative"
Masons in England and on the continent of Europe have left their "Marks" on
stonework dating from the dark ages. (Page 26)

PAST MASTER'S DEGREE (Virtual Past Master, Installed Master)
     ...  The earliest reference to this degree occurs in the middle of
the 18th century in England, where the degree was conferred for one of two
purposes: First, a number of English lodges conferred the degree of
Installed Master up the Masters of symbolic lodges.  The degree
possibly included a secret work and grip and could only be conferred in
the presence of Installed Masters. 
...  Second, it was originally the custom of many lodges and chapters to
only confer the degree of the Holy Royal Arch upon Installed Masters of
lodges.  As the craft became more speculative, it became the practice to
confer the degree of (Virtual) Past Master as a prerequisite to the
conferral of the Royal Arch....
     Additionally, several American Grand Lodges believe that it is
desirable for a Master-elect to receive particular instruction for
governing a lodge.  These Grand Lodges require that the Wardens of their
subordinate lodges receive the Past Master's Degree of the Chapter prior
to their installation into the office of Master. (Page 27)

     This is the only Masonic degree that deals with the completion of the
temple.  The craftsman is confronted with many valuable lessons for his
future development.  

     The Royal Arch is the capstone (copestone) of the craft (symbolic)
degrees.  In other words, without the craft degrees, the Supreme Order of
the Holy Royal Arch has no foundation.  Therefore, the development of the
degree of the Holy Royal arch has been, necessarily, linked to the
development of the craft degrees. ...
     The Royal Arch Degree, as practiced today in a major part of the word
is a refinement of a number of degrees, legends, and traditions that
existed under that, or a similar name in the early 18th century, in the
British Isles.  The legends refer to a "crypt."  The type of crypt and its
location, whether subterranean or above ground, varied.  The stated
origins of the crypt differed by several millenia. The only point of
similarity in the legends was that the crypt was constructed to
preserve valuable secrets for future generations.
     The Royal Arch degree concerns itself with the discovery of a crypt
and the value of the resulting discoveries in bringing additional
Masonic light to the discoverers. (Page 28-29)

Excerpted by permission from:
The York Rite of Freemasonry A History and Handbook by Frederick G.
Speidel, page 26-29
Copyright purchased by Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the United
States of America 1989
5097 Elston Avenue, Suite 101
Chicago, Illinois 60630-2460
Full text copies available from the above address

     In Ohio, there are three Mark Master lodges which only confer the
Mark Master degree and two Apollo Tabernacles or dramatic chapters which
provide advice and support for improving presentation of the Chapter
degrees in the most impressive and dramatic manner.

    The General Grand Chapter supports the DeMolay Endowment fund to
support the International Supreme Council, Order of DeMolay, an
organization for young men aged 13-21.  They also have formed the Royal
Arch Research Assistance Program to support research into central
auditory disorders that affect auditory perception. 

The International Guild Of M@sonic Webmasters
Jeff Slattery, PM, KYCH, Fellow Webmaster

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