There is a series of questions that may well come after why join the Royal Arch and that is
“Why is the Royal Arch relevant to me, what are the additional benefits over and above the Craft, what is Companionship?”
Craft Freemasonry is, so to speak, a glorious broad church. It is a mix of young and old, of craftsmen and managers, of those who worship regularly and those who could make Doubting Thomas a beacon of religious hope. It is a mixture of those whose Masonic diaries have scarcely a blank day and those who, having joined, realise that it was all a big mistake. And you might throw in some who are hugely content simply to enjoy the friendships available within their own lodge without troubling the ritual and others who see Provincial advancement as the ladder to a rank, status and happiness missing from their 9 to 5.. All these various parts unite together as one strong, sociable Brotherhood, and long may it continue.
Having achieved the aim of a united Brotherhood then where does the Royal Arch fit in?
The Holy Royal Arch is a remarkably satisfying fulfilment of the Third Degree. The Third Degree is incomplete, it leaves us in the air in that it asks us to obey God’s Laws but is silent about their location. Chapter tells us the who and the where of these Laws. In so doing it also provides the authority that underpins the morality flowing through all our three Degrees.
From that heady mix in a Lodge there are some…some…who are not content with just the social bonhomie and good cheer at the bar, rewarding though that is. They want to explore the meaning of Craft Masonry, as far as is possible. They have already realised that the Craft provides a great opportunity for social bonding but they now want to build on the lessons they learned in the Craft ritual and go forward to achieve a greater inner harmony. Chapter provides a colourful, historically, accurate and enjoyable explanation of how that might be done in completing the Master Mason’s journey.
How does that make the Chapter any more companionable than Craft?
It is perhaps the personality of those who actually decide to complete the Craft journey which creates a different atmosphere? They are more at ease with each other. They have enjoyed the energy and enthusiasm of their Craft Lodge strengthening the bonds of Brotherhood in the Temple and at the Festive Board. They now want to reach that level – deeper, quieter, more reflective – which has been sign-posted but not delivered so far in the Craft ritual. This is now offered within the Royal Arch. With this greater understanding of Speculative Freemasonry the friendships can become even stronger.
The Royal Arch looks to the man himself, inviting him to reflect on the ceremony and how with its spiritual revelation he is encouraged to live in harmony with all those pressures of his own mental, physical and spiritual nature, pressures that we all feel from time to time. By becoming more at ease with himself a Royal Arch Mason is better able to join a stronger relationship with the Companions around him. Craft has lessons for the group; Chapter has lessons for the individual within it.
By joining Chapter the Master Mason joins a group of like-minded people who respect each other and share each meeting, not in competition, but in mutual contemplation of a familiar and beautiful ceremony so as to live in greater harmony with each and all. It offers a deeper and quieter relationship founded on feelings of great harmony. We have become amiable Companions on the same life journey,