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Cryptic Council Masonry
 
The Councils of Cryptic Masons operate under the jurisdiction of the Grand Council of Cryptic Masons of each State and most Grand Councils operate under the General Grand Council of the United States.  They confer the following three degrees:
  • Royal Master
  • Select Master
  • Super Excellent Master
Without the Royal and Select Master degrees, neither the Master Mason degree, nor the Royal Arch degree is complete.  These two degrees account for the concealment and preservation of the treasures revealed to the candidate in the Royal Arch degree.
 
The Super Excellent Master is an honorary degree, qualifications for which are fulfilled
by virtue of being in good standing in a Council.
  
This degree is the most dramatic and spectacular of all Masonic Degrees.   Since it is a quite extensive degree to do, the degree is usually  performed only on special occasions.  In Nevada, the Super Excellent Master is performed only at the York Rite Fall Festival in Laughlin, NV every two years (on the even years).  If you ever have the opportunity to see this degree performed, it is well worth the effort.

What is the Council or Cryptic Masonry?

The Council of Cryptic Masonry is the third of the York Rite bodies. A man must have completed the Symbolic (Blue Lodge) Degrees and have taken the Degree of Royal Arch before he can become a Cryptic Mason.  Cryptic Masonry consists of three Degrees: Royal Master, Select Master and Super Excellent Master. They are known as Councils of Royal and Select Masters.

The Council of Royal and Select Masters, known as the Cryptic Rite, fills what would be a significant void in the complete story of the York Rite. The Degrees of Royal Master and Select Master are sometimes called the Degrees of Preservation. The Council Degrees are often referred to as "The Three Little Jewels" and are to many, the most appealing in all Masonry.

The Cryptic Rite is "one of the smallest but one of the most important and certainly one of the most curious of all the rites," according to Coil's Masonic Encyclopedia.  "Crypt" comes from a Greek word meaning "hide, conceal, or secret," and thus has come to mean a vault, cave, or other place of underground concealment. The Cryptic degrees are centered on stories involving a vault or crypt where certain treasures were hidden beneath King Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem for very specific purposes.  Rob Morris, a very influential Mason in the 1800’s, first called them “Cryptic”.



The Cyptic Rite is the completion of a story.  A story begun in the Blue Lodge.
It is the story of the preservation of a word.
 
Those who have assumed the Council obligation have  done so because they were interested in the complete story of Freemasonry.
 
The Cryptic Rite derives it's claim to the word "Cryptic" because the scene of the Royal and Select Master is set in the underground crypt beneath Solomon's Temple.  The word Cryptic alludes to the term "hidden".  Thus, it's use in describing these degrees.
 
Symbolic Masonry teaches of the loss of a Word.
Royal Arch Masonry tells of its rediscovery.
Cryptic Masonry teaches of it's preservation, and completes the story of the Ancient Craft Masonry begun in the Blue Lodge.
 
In the Symbolic Degrees (or Blue Lodge) we learn of the loss of the "Word", and we search for it but do not find it.  In the Chapter, we search for and find the Word, but do not truly understand the significance of what we have found.  It is in the Cryptic Degrees that we find enlightenment and explanation - and - learn how the Word was preserved and what it means.
 
We learn in the Royal Master degree, that there was agreement among our three Most Excellent Grand Masters, that the Word would not be communicated to the Craft until the Temple was completed, and then only in the presence of all three.  We learn in the Master Mason degree, how the Word was lost, and in the Royal Arch degree, how it was recovered.
 
In the Royal Master degree, we learn that whatever the uncertainies of life, the reward is sure to the faithful Craftsman.  In the Select degree, we learn that the Word is to be preserved in the Secret Vault of the Soul.  While in the Super Excellent Master degree, we find that catastrophe overtakes the unfaithful, whether he be a prince or a pauper, and that without fidelity, success is impossible.
 
 A Brief History of the Cryptic Degrees
 
The Royal Master degree appears to have been developed primarily in New York under the direction of Thomas Lownds, wheras the Select Master degree was promulgated by Philip Eckel in Baltimore.  It is claimed by Eckel, that a Grand Council of Select Masters was formed in Baltimore in 1792.  While it is known that a Grand Council of Royal Masters (Columbian No. 1) was organized in 1810 in New York.  It remained for Jeremy L. Cross to combine the two degrees into one system, which occurred in about 1818, and this pattern was adopted in most jurisdictions.  As near as may be determined, the Select Master degree is the oldest of the Cryptic Rite degrees.
 
The degree of Super Excellent Master is not allied to the other two degrees of the Cryptic Rite, so far as its teachings and traditions are concerned.  The records of St. Andrews Chapter in Boston indicate that a degree of this name was conferred during the latter part of the 18th century.  The earliest positive reference to the Super Excellent Master degree in connection with the Cryptic Rite is December 22, 1817, when a "Lodge" of Super Excellent Masters was organized by Columbian Council of Royal Masters in New York.  The incidents, teachings, and ritualistic format of the Super Excellent Master degree bear no resemblance to any former degree, which appears to justify the claim that it is American in origin.