by David Buckenham, PAGDC, Prov G Mentor
The United Grand Lodge of England General Laws and Regulations for the Government of the Craft, Preliminary Declaration states: ‘By the solemn Act of Union between the two Grand Lodges of Free-Masons of England in December 1813, ‘it was declared and pronounced that pure Antient Masonry consists of three degrees and no more, viz, those of the Entered Apprentice, the Fellow Craft, and the Master Mason, including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch.’
When we join Craft Freemasonry, we join a Fraternity or Brotherhood, and we are known to each other as Brothers. Why then, when we join the Holy Royal Arch (HRA) to complete our journey in Freemasonry, are we known as ‘Companions’?
First, let’s look at the Cambridge Dictionary definitions for Brother and Companion:
Brother: A man who is a member of the same group as you or who shares an interest with you or has a similar way of thinking to you.
Companion: A person you spend a lot of time with often because you are friends or because you are a travelling together
The dictionary meaning of Brother fits well as an explanation for Freemasons being referred to as ‘Brothers’. The key words here for explaining why we become ‘Companions’ in HRA could be ‘travelling together’, a travelling Companion.
Outside Royal Arch circles it is thought that the word Companion originally came from a military background. It referred to soldiers who shared bread together, messmates. Your Companions were the men with whom you ate in the barracks and with whom you fought in the field.
They were the men who you defended in battle and who defended you; the men on who your own life might depend & they in turn on you. Your relationship is closer than friendship, closer than that of a Brother. Relationships made in battle or dangerous or testing times are hard to forget.
The Royal Arch Story
Let’s briefly remind ourselves of the Royal Arch story. Three Sojourners (journeymen builders) travel nearly 900 miles over difficult terrain from Babylon to Jerusalem, as illustrated by the map at the top of this post. The journey on foot takes 100 days.
During this journey they form a strong bond and closer relationship, they share bread together. They are ‘Travelling Companions’ who go to assist with rebuilding the Temple at Jerusalem.
They arrive in Jerusalem at the start of the Ceremony, they find a hidden Vault in the ruins of KS Temple, and one of them enters. There is great danger in entering an unknown Vault, since the Sojourners have no idea what they might encounter. However, one of them goes in with a lifeline and has the support of his Companions at all times. The three Sojourners have formed that bond that we call Companionship rather like the soldiers in battle.
In the Craft we become Brothers, and that is a brilliant relationship but maybe it can be described as the foundation to a journey. Hopefully, you can now see that in the Royal Arch ceremony our relationship to each other becomes closer. As Companions our relationship goes further and can be described as dynamic – as Sojourners we represent the ‘Journeymen Builders’ who travelled nearly 900 miles over 100 days. They are with each other at all times, even in danger. We support and encourage each other.
Companionship is a continuing and strengthening relationship of mutual support and encouragement as we journey across the chequered pavement, the joys and sorrows of life together.