Grand Council of Royal and Select Masons of Maryland

 

Randall L. Watson
Most Illustrious Grand Master
2019-2020

On behalf of the 15 Maryland Councils and their approximately 1,100 members, I welcome you to the website of the Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters of Maryland. If you are already a Select Master, you will find dates and other information about the events going on in the Grand Council. If you are not a member, read on, and perhaps you will find something to pique your interest.

The Council is the third step of the four bodies in the York Rite, following the Lodge and the Chapter. It is known as Cryptic Masonry, since the two main degrees (Royal Master and Select Master) take place in underground passages beneath King Solomon’s Temple, and give the story providing the background information for the Royal Arch Degree. Without knowing the events described in these degrees, a Royal Arch Companion is left wondering how the wonderful discoveries that are made in that degree could possibly happen. Originally, these degrees were conferred in Chapters. In most jurisdictions, separate Councils were established in the 1800’s; but in Virginia and West Virginia, all six degrees are still the responsibility of the Grand Chapter.

The Grand Council of Maryland has control of four degrees: Royal Master; Select Master; Super Excellent Master; and Thrice Illustrious Master. The Royal Master and the Select Master are conferred by the local Councils at their regular meetings, and are the two degrees required for full membership. One special aspect of the Royal Master Degree is that it is probably the only one in Masonry where the candidate gets to talk directly with Hiram Abif. The final part of this interaction, called the Soliloquy in Maryland (and going by other names in some other jurisdictions), is among the finest pieces of Masonic ritual.

The Super Excellent Master Degree is an optional third degree – you don’t need to receive it to be eligible to join a Commandery of Knights Templar. It tells the story of the destruction of King Solomon’s Temple and the sacking of Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar; events mentioned only briefly in the Royal Arch Degree. The version done in Maryland is quite a production. If each part were done by a different person, a cast of 60-75 people would be needed. For this reason, it is not done very often. In recent years our Brethren of the Scottish Rite have been generous in permitting us to use their Temple and equipment to stage this degree.

The final degree is the Thrice Illustrious Master Degree. This is a “chair” degree, conferred by the Grand Council of Maryland. It can only be conferred on a Companion who has already been elected as the Thrice Illustrious Master (presiding officer) of his Council; and its conferral is required before the Companion can be installed to that office. It tells the story of the transition of power from King David to his son Solomon. It is arguably the best of the three York Rite chair degrees, because it specifically describes the qualities need to preside over a body. This degree goes by other names in other jurisdictions, most commonly the Order of the Silver Trowel.

The Council degrees, combined with those in the Chapter, round out and complete the story one begins in the Blue Lodge. For the Brother looking to get involved in the ritualistic or governing aspects of Masonry, the Council is a good place to start. The degrees are relatively short, and the duties of the presiding officer are no more burdensome than in the Chapter, and normally easier than they are in the Lodge. Please consider joining us.

Randall L. Watson
Most Illustrious Grand Master