The History and Development of the Cryptic Degrees

According to Wikipedia ~ The Online Free Encyclopedia


The degrees of Royal Master and Select Master were not originally combined into one system, each having been conferred by separate authorities and initially controlled by separate Councils. As near as can be determined from conflicting claims, the Select Degree is the oldest of the Rite. In the beginning it was customary to confer the Royal Master Degree on Master Masons prior to the Royal Arch Degree, and the Select Master Degree after exaltation. This accounts for the fact that control of the Cryptic degrees vacillated back and forth in many jurisdictions, even after the formation of Grand Councils. Today the Royal and Select degrees are under the authority of the Grand Royal Arch Chapters In Virginia and West Virginia, and conferred by the subordinate Chapters in those Grand jurisdictions.

The Royal Degree appears to have been developed primarily in New York under direction of Thomas Lownds, where as the Select was vigorously 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 definitely known that a Grand Council of Royal Masters (Columbian No. 1) was organized in 1810 in New York. It remained for Jeremy Cross to combine the two degrees under one system, which occurred in 1818, and this pattern was adopted in most jurisdictions as the degrees became dispersed beyond the eastern seaboard.

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 of Boston indicate that a degree of this name was conferred during the latter part of the eighteenth century. The earliest positive reference to the Super Excellent in connection to the Cryptic Rite is December 22, 1817, when Columbian Council of Royal Masters in New York organized a “Lodge of Super Excellent Masters”.  The incidents, teachings, and ritualistic format of the Super Excellent degree bear no resemblance in any former degrees so named, which appears to justify the claim that it is American in origin. This degree has been, and to some extent still is, a rather controversial subject. It is conferred as one of the regular Cryptic Rite degrees in some Grand jurisdictions, whereas others confer it as an honorary degree only, in some instances, separate Grand Councils of Super Excellent Masters have been formed.

Cryptic Degrees