The essential Degrees of Cryptic Masonry in the Universal or American York Rite are the degrees of Royal Master, Select Master, Super Excellent Master, along with the invitational Orders of the Silver Trowel or Thrice Illustrious Master and the Order of the Secret Vault.
The Degrees of Cryptic Masonry
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 Hiram Abiff and Adoniram.
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 principal characters in this degree are King Solomon and a particular friend.
Super Excellent Master
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 the following 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 this historic event. Here Nebuchadnezzar rules again, Zedekiah proves the results of his wicked life, and Ezekiel and Jeremiah prophesize the promises of Almighty God.
The Order of the Silver Trowel
The Order of the Silver Trowel is a degree offered to elected Thrice Illustrious Masters, installed Illustrious Masters, or Past Illustrious Masters of Councils of Cryptic Masons or Royal and Select Masters. It is based on the biblical history of the anointing of Solomon as King of Israel to follow his father, David, to the throne of Israel. Charters for Grand Councils of The Order of the Silver Trowel are issued by the Grand Council of North Carolina as custodian of the degree. Please contact the General Grand Recorder for further information.
The Order of the Secret Vault
The College of Preservation of the General Grand Council receives nominations from Deans from each of the Cryptic Jurisdictions or Regions annually to invite Companions who have shown the true spirit of Cryptic Masonry and service to the Craft. This invitational body inducts new members in a degree that reflects their service and intentions both before induction and into their future Cryptic Journey.