Royal Arch Masonry is both the foundation and cornerstone of our Masonic structure. It presents an allegory that shows us that, just as our ancient Brethren made a series of discoveries while preparing the ground for the foundations of the Second Temple, we must likewise recognize God's central role in human life and existence, and meditate on His Nature and our personal relationship with Him, regardless of our creed. In this sense, pure and Ancient Freemasonry can be seen as a journey of self-knowledge and discovery, with the Royal Arch culminating the practical lessons of Symbolic Freemasonry through a contemplation of the spiritual nature of man, which does not replace, but rather reinforces and supports what we have learned from religion.
Isn't a Master Mason's curiosity aroused at the moment of his Elevation and, later, when he hears the Venerable Master ask some pertinent questions? These genuine secrets are discovered only in the Exaltation ceremony, in which we are informed that the Holy Royal Arch is not a Fourth Degree, but in fact the culmination of the Master Mason’s Degree.
The Royal Arch is perhaps the most important Degree of Masonry, with the exception of the Symbolic Degrees, and so we must encourage all Master Masons to be exalted in the degree and to enjoy and share the joy and knowledge that we, as members of a Chapter of the Arch Real we already possess, since it will not simply involve contemplation, but actually completes his Third Degree.
The ceremony of admission to the Royal Arch Mason Degree is called Exaltation; but why does it get this name? According to the dictionary, the meaning of the word exalt is "to praise in the highest degree", and the meaning of exaltation is "the condition of being jubilant or exhilarated." The Royal Arch Masonry therefore intends to provoke a condition of jubilation in the Candidate admitted to this Degree.
In our ordinary life, when something long lost is found, we experience a simultaneous feeling of joy and relief, depending on the value of that long-lost and found thing. If the circumstances leading to the discovery of the lost are accidental and unexpected, the feeling of joy is even greater. It is not surprising, therefore, that the ceremony of admission to this Degree is called an Exaltation.
It is important to be familiar with the fundamental principles that govern Royal Arch Masonry. Terms like Companion, Chapter, Consecration and Exaltation must be understood for what they really mean and in what sense they are related to our own beliefs.
Our members are called Companions. The term has its origin in Latin and literally means the one who breaks bread with another. It comes from the uses of war, when the life of each man literally depended on his comrades in battle, and the man with whom you shared bread was the one who stood shoulder to shoulder with you when facing the enemy. In fact, there is a reference to it in the Royal Arch when it is narrated that the Overseers (Sojourners), with the trowel in one hand and the sword at their side, were always ready to defend the city and the Sacred Temple, and his fellow Companions, against the unprovoked attacks of their enemies.
The term Companion implies the strongest of ties, and demands selfless loyalty and trust. For these reasons it also implies a bond even greater than that of Brother in Symbolic Freemasonry, being a title which, with justice, we are deeply proud. It demands a high standard of conduct in our personal life, since such a title should never be sullied.
The word Chapter is defined as the governing body of a religious or chivalric order. Similarly, Consecration means formal dedication for a religious or divine purpose. In Masonry, we are taught that this is not a religious order, but an order firmly anchored in the belief of a Supreme Being. We do not profess a specific creed, but we firmly adhere to a belief and philosophy that is the envy of the world, and therefore we are Companions of an Order whose roots are deeply embedded in man's desire for spiritual happiness. A Chapter is consecrated to ensure that its members can expand their beliefs, beneficence and charity accordingly.