Cryptic Masonry consists of the Royal Master and Select Master with the Super Excellent Master as an optional third degree. The basic organizational unit for Royal and Select Masters is the Council and is composed of the following officers: Illustrious Master, Deputy Master, Principal Conductor of the Work, Treasurer, Recorder, Captain of the Guard, Conductor of the Council, Steward, Chaplain, and Sentinel
The Illustrious Master presides over a Council of Royal and Select Masters (or Cryptic Masons) and represents King Solomon during the building of the Temple that immortalized his name. The honorary title of the Master and the Council is Illustrious which is rooted in the Latin word "illustris" meaning "light, bright, or brilliant" or "distinguished by greatness." The word "Master" is rooted in the Latin word "magister" meaning "chief, head, or teacher." The jewel of the Illustrious Master is a Square and a trowel within a hollow triangular medal that is suspended from a purple collar or lanyard. A sitting Illustrious Master or Past Illustrious Master qualifies to be initiated into the Order of the Silver Trowel.
The second-in-command of the Council is the Deputy Master who corresponds to the Senior Warden in the Blue Lodge; they differ in that the Deputy Master is stationed in the East on the right of the Illustrious Master. In the absence of the Illustrious Master, the Deputy presides over the Council. Per the legend, the Deputy Master represents Hiram, King of Tyre. The title of Deputy comes from the Latin "deputare" meaning to "allot or to destine" which has come to indicate a subordinate officer or one given the full power of an officer without holding the office. The jewel of the Deputy Master is a Level and a trowel within a hollow triangular medal that is suspended from a purple collar or lanyard
Corresponding to the Junior Warden in the Blue Lodge, the Principal Conductor of the Work sits to the left of the Illustrious Master in the East. Just as in the Blue Lodge, the third-in-command represents Hiram Abiff, the Chief Architect of King Solomon's Temple. It is interesting to note that while the Third Degree ceremony centers on Hiram Abiff, the candidate has very little interaction with this character while in the Cryptic Degrees Hiram Abiff plays a central role in the conferral by giving a very moving soliloquy. The title indicates the chief or most important guide for the physical labor and construction of an edifice. Principal comes from the Latin word "principalis" which translates to "first in importance or original." The word "conductor is rooted in the Latin word "conductor" meaning "one who hires or leads." Work stems from the Old English word "weorc" meaning "something done." The jewel of the Principal Conductor of the Work is a Plumb and a trowel within a hollow triangular medal that is suspended from a purple collar or lanyard.
As in the other Masonic bodies, the Treasurer and Recorder are the financial and administrative officers of the Council.
The senior appointed officer of the Council is the Captain of the Guard. This officer corresponds with the Senior Warden and Junior Deacon as he assists the Illustrious Master in the opening and closing of the Council, ensuring all present are Cryptic Masons, ensures the Council is guarded, and sits in the West of the Council. Etymologically the word "captain" comes from the Latin word "capitaneus" meaning "chief" which itself originated from the "caput" meaning "head." The word "guard" derives from "garder," an Old French word meaning "to keep, maintain, preserve, or protect." The jewel of the Captain of the Guard is an ax and a trowel within a hollow triangular medal that is suspended from a purple collar or lanyard.
Stationed in the South, is the Conductor of the Council who corresponds to the Senior Deacon and Marshal of the Blue Lodge. A conductor is a director or guide, and comes to us from Latin via Middle French from the word 'conductus' meaning "a carrier". The word "council" is rooted in the Latin word "concilium" meaning "a gathering of people." The jewel of the Conductor of the Council is two batons and a trowel within a hollow triangular medal that is suspended from a purple collar or lanyard.
Sitting to the right of the Captain of the Guard, the Steward sits as the inner guard of the Council and corresponds with the Junior Deacon of the Blue Lodge. The word "Steward" is rooted in the Old English words "stiward" and "stigweard" meaning "house guardian" and "housekeeper" which are rooted in Proto-Germanic words meaning "guards." The jewel of the Steward is two swords and a trowel within a hollow triangular medal that is suspended from a purple collar or lanyard.
Just as in the Blue Lodge, the Chaplain is charged with scriptural lessons to the candidate as well as other ritualistic duties during the conferral of degrees. Traditionally a Chaplain is a member of the clergy who is attached to a private chapel, organization, military unit, institution, or society. This title comes from Old French "chapelein" meaning "clergyman" deriving from the Medieval Latin word "cappellanus" meaning the same. The jewel of the Chaplain is an open Holy Bible and trowel within a hollow triangular medal that is suspended from a purple collar or lanyard.
The final appointed officer of the Council is the Sentinel and whose duties correspond with that of the Tyler in the Blue Lodge. The Sentinel guards the Council from without the door to ensure the Companions are not caught or taken by surprise by those wishing to cause harm or those who are not entitled to be there. The word Sentinel stems from the Latin word "sentire" meaning "to watch or perceive by the senses." The Sentinel is one who stands guard over some kind of structure, whether it be an installation, a gate, or a passage. It is their job to prevent intrusion by enemies or those unauthorized. The jewel of the Sentinel is two sabers and a trowel within a hollow triangular medal that is suspended from a purple collar or lanyard.
1. Speidel, F. G. (1978). The York Rite of Freemasonry. Raleigh: Press of Oxford Orphanage.
2. (n.d.). Retrieved from Online Etymological Dictionary: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php
3. Dictionary. (n.d.). Retrieved from Merriam-Webster: http://www.merriam-webster.com/
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