I am a new Cryptic Mason. I have been studying profusely the lessons and history of Royal Arch Masonry to at least try to provide adequate instruction for my Chapter as High Priest. But this new journey is yet another layer of allegory and meaning.
I understand (as much as I am able) the interrelationship between the Three Degrees and the Royal Arch Degrees. Historical complexities can reasonably account for the order of the events in the legends. We find the "deleted scenes" that occur before and after the notorious murder scene and then are fast-forwarded to what is almost a sequel in itself, the recovery of what is lost.
So how does Cryptic fit in? Are they just some extra degrees that lingered on after the first three had been finally and firmly established in the middle of the 18th Century? Were they crammed in to fill out some need, or perhaps arbitrarily placed in the York Rite from the Scottish Rite due to the common details of the Legend? (I must here note that many of the creative ritualists were the same people in both traditions.) There seems to be little logic in any of it, being solely a matter of historical compromises and nearly random circumstances.
I'm not concerned with that here. Well, from a scholarly view it is noteworthy, but what we can consider from the experience is more than just what the authors intended or even imagined. We can speculate on them ourselves, as individuals, and what I have derived is a pattern that makes sense to me. So what I propose here is another angle from which to measure this path of Degree work.
Let's put aside the chronology of the story, and distill the elements down to their possible underlying meaning. In other words, let's see the Degrees as our own story and see what fits where.
We begin by losing something precious. We're not even sure exactly what it was that was lost because we didn't quite receive it. Is it a part of ourselves, perhaps a connection to our higher nature? Perhaps such loss is the expulsion from the Garden, the Fall of Adam in each of us.
Sure, we learn from the consequences of our natural inadequacies. Maybe that's part of the purpose of human existence. But regardless, we are in some way lacking and imperfect. There is something missing and we cannot complete our journey. We must use a substitute to get us by. Who knows what the particulars may mean for you, the reader, but we all have at some point been at a loss and prop ourselves up with something by which to compensate or medicate or just plain cope.
However, by some divine forethought and Grace, we find a hidden remnant of what we lost. Perhaps we gave up looking; perhaps we strove diligently in Faith. But such an important thing could not be gone forever, lest there be no true Hope. When we recovered (or rather uncovered) the holy relic and its secret, it was as if our journey was complete. We know Truth in a higher and more complete way.
So why does the Cryptic narrative serve as the final chapter of the story? I see it as the lesson of how we should preserve and cherish what was found, something that could only be heartily done AFTER having suffered its loss.
We cherish it as a secret should be cherished -- entombed in our faithful breast, rather than dissipated in an unintelligible shout among the profane. And we value it enough to preserve it through the passing on of our tradition, from generation to generation. This could be symbolic of passing on our highest values to our children, or those we mentor, or the young in general.
This gives a deeper meaning to what it means to "keep" your word. We've all had times we lost part of ourselves, and may or may not have succeeded in preserving our integrity or honor. But sometimes it takes losing something to realize how precious it is. From that point onward, we try to do better once such things are regained.
So these are my thoughts about Cryptic Masonry. As I progress, I may find it primitive or build further upon it. But for now, I have this lesson to learn: I must not only rediscover those things that are dear and precious in my life but learn to actively guard them against the ruffians of the world and even my own apathy, sleeplessly and unceasing as if defending whatever it may be from the ravages of time itself.
Bro. Ken JP Stuczynski is a member of West Seneca Lodge No.1111 and recently served as Master of Ken-Ton Lodge No.1186. As webmaster for NYMasons.Org he is on the Communications and Technology Committees for the Grand Lodge of the State of New York. He is also a Royal Arch Mason and 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason, serving his second term as Sovereign Prince of Palmoni Council in the Valley of Buffalo, NMJ. He also coordinates a Downtown Square Club monthly lunch in Buffalo, NY. He and his wife served as Patron and Matron of Pond Chapter No.853 Order of the Eastern Star and considered himself a “Masonic Feminist”.