Officers of a Council of Super-Excellent Masters:
2. The first Keeper of the Temple
3. The second Keeper of the Temple
7. Director of Ceremonies
8. Captain of the Guard
10. Assistant Director of the Ceremonies
12. The third Keeper of the Temple
13. Manciples (not more than four Manciples may be appointed)
Ged. Gavels once: Companions, assist me to open this Council of Super Excellent Masters.
Ged.: Companion Second Keeper of the Temple, you will ascertain that the Sanctuary is duly guarded.
2nd Keeper addressing 3rd Keeper: Are we duly guarded?
3rd Keeper of the Temple goes to the door, opens it and sees that Sentinel is present. He then closes the door.
3rd Keeper: Companion 2nd Keeper, we are. The Sanctuary is secure.
2nd Keeper: Most Excellent Companion Gedaliah, the Sanctuary is secure.
Ged.: To order, Companions, as Super Excellent Masters. All Companions stand to order, give the Sign of a Super Excellent Master, and remain standing.
Ged.: Companion 1st Keeper of the Temple, what is the hour?
1st Keeper: It is the time of the second watch.
Ged.: Companions, since it is the time of the second watch, let us repair to the Holy Altar, and there offer up our fervent prayer to the Almighty, that He may be pleased to vouchsafe to us, as heretofore His protecting care and favour. Gavels once.
The Companions assemble in a circle round the Ark of the Covenant, leaving an opening in the East, and remain until the completion of the opening.
Ged. Leaves his chair and completes the circle.
Chaplain: Companions, let us pray. All stand to order with hand on heart. O Lord and Supreme Master of the Universe, we humbly beseech Thee to bless us in all our undertakings. Help us to worship Thee worthily; fill our hearts with Thy fear, and make us steadfast in Thy service that hereafter we may praise Thee to all Eternity.
Omnes: So mote it be. All discharge hand on heart.
Ged. Returns to his chair and remains standing: I declare this Council of Super Excellent Masters duly open. Gavels ***, repeated by 1st and 2nd Keepers of the Temple. 3rd Keeper of the Temple goes to door and knocks ***; Sentinel responds ***.
C. of G. opens V.S.L. at 2 Kings, chap. 1 and adjusts Square, Compasses and Trowel.
D.C.: Companions, be seated.
Herald retires from the Council before the Ceremony commences.
3rd Keeper: Most Excellent Companion Gedaliah, a worthy Companion of the Holy Royal Arch and a Most Excellent Master, is desirous of being received and acknowledged as a Super Excellent master.
Ged.: Companion Captain of the Guard, let the candidate be admitted.
C. of G. goes to the door, receives Can. and conducts him to the West.
Sentinel knocks ***.
3rd Keeper: Most Excellent Companion Gedaliah, there is an alarm.
Ged.: Ascertain the cause thereof.
3rd Keeper goes to door, opens it and sees the Herald awaiting entry. Closes door and reports: Most Excellent Companion Gedaliah, a herald approaches.
Ged.: Admit him.
3rd Keeper opens door and admits Herald, who advances to the pedestal.
Herald, urgently: Companions, the sword of the enemy prevails. The innumerable forces of Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, advance and fill the city. The King has fled, and the Army of the Chaldaeans has pursued and overtaken him on the plains of Jericho.
Ged., calmly and resolutely: In this extremity, let us repair the Holy Altar, and there pledge our faith, renew our vows, and demonstrate once again the ties that bind us for ever to the Most High and to one another. Gavels once.
C. of G. conducts Can. to the pedestal. The Companions assemble in a circle round the Ark of the Covenant and stand to order with hand on heart. Can., at the pedestal, must be included in the circle.
Ged., standing by his seat addresses Can.: Companion …, you will stand perfectly erect, place both hands on the Three Great Lights and Trowel. State your several names at length and repeat after me:
I, …, of my own free will and accord, in the presence of the Most High and of this Illustrious Council of Super Excellent Masters, do hereby and hereon solemnly and sincerely promise never to reveal any of the secrets of this Degree to anyone who is not a Select, Royal and Most Excellent master. I further solemnly promise that I will not bow down to other gods, nor pay religious adoration to idols; and that I will not worship the sun, moon or stars of heaven, but will faithfully and zealously worship only the One, True and Living God. All this I swear to observe on my honour as a Super Excellent Master, so help me God and keep me steadfast in the due performance of the same.
As a pledge of fidelity, you will seal this with your lips four times on the Volume of Sacred Law.
Companions discharge hand on heart.
Ged., gavels once: Companions, you will form a square round the Ark of the Covenant. Can. should be included in the Western part of each figure.
Ged.: This square represents the encampment of the Israelites, with the Ark of the Covenant in the centre, and three tribes on each side. On the East side, towards the rising sun, shall they of the standard of the camp of Judah, pitch with Issacher and Zebulun. On the South side, the standard of the camp of Reuben with Simon and Gad. On the West side, the standard of camp of Ephraim with Benjamin and Manasseh, and on the North side, the standard of camp of Dan, with Asher and Naphthali. Then the tabernacle of the congregation shall set forward with the camp of the levites in the midst of the camp. Ged. gavels twice: Companions, you will form a triangle round the Ark of the Covenant. The triangle of delta is an emblem of the Deity, and represents His Omniscience, Omnipresence and Omnipotence; it also represents the triple duty we owe to God, our neighbours and ourselves. Ged. gavels three times. Companions, you will form a circle round the Ark of the Covenant. The circle is an emblem of friendship, the Ark of the Covenant in the centre represents the blazing star. It is also emblematical of the circle of our moral virtues, as inculcated in the Degree of Entered Apprentice by the point within the circle embordered by two parallel lines. It is further an emblem of eternity, having neither beginning nor end. The first, the emblem of friendship, may be broken; the second, the emblem of our moral virtues, may be changed; but the third, the emblem of eternity, will never alter. This emblem encourages the hope that, through faith in the Divine promises, we may attain to the full fruition of a glorious immortality.
Ged. gavels once: Companions, be seated.
C. of G. conducts Can. to the East and places him in front of Ged.
Ged. rises: I will now entrust you with the secrets of this Degree.
The Signs of this Degree are three in number and allude to the traditional penalties contained in the former obligation. The first is that of having the thumbs cut off and is given with the thumbs crossed and the fingers clenched. Both arms are crossed with the thumbs erect. Demonstrates. The second of having the eyes poked out, and is given by raising your right arm as high as your eyes, with the first and second fingers extended; first point them towards your own eyes, then turn and dart them towards another's eyes. Demonstrates. The third, which is the Sign of a Super Excellent Master, is the Grand Hailing Sign or Sign of Distress and is given with the right hand clenched, then making a zig-zag motion from left shoulder to right hip. It alludes to the traditional penalty of being bound in chains of brass.
The Words given with this third Sign are 'Nazon Zazon Boni', signifying 'the Key to the Hidden Treasure.' This Sign is always to be given when entering of leaving a Council of Super Excellent masters or when addressing the Most Excellent Gedaliah.
The pass-grip is given like the Mark Master Mason's pass-grip, but with the thumbs erect; the pass-word is Solyma, signifying Peace.
The real grip is the pass-grip, given with both hands, right to right and left to left, at the same time repeating alternately the words: Saul, the first King of Israel; Zedekiah, the last King of Judah.
Ged. and Can. exchange the words. Ged. resumes his seat. C. of G. conducts Can. to the South-East, where both stand facing North.
Ged.: The Degree of Most Excellent Master commemorates the dedication of King Solomon's Temple. The Holy Royal Arch commemorates the return of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity and the building of the second Temple. Between these great events was a period of 470 years, which the Degree of Super Excellent Masters embraces, uniting the Degree of Most Excellent Master with that of the Holy Royal Arch.
King Solomon's Temple stood in all its glory for 33 years after its dedication, but eventually Nebuchadnezzar plundered it and carried away to Babylon many captives, including the King and his family, the princes, the mighty men of valour and the craftsmen.
Nebuchadnezzar placed on the throne Mattaniah, the uncle of the deposed King, and made his swear to be faithful and true to him. He also changed his name to Zedekiah, which signifies 'the Justice of Jehovah', to keep him continually in mind of the vengeance he might expect from the justice of Jehovah, if he violated his fidelity. But Zedekiah broke his obligation, and then Nebuchadnezzar sent Nebuzaradan with a mighty army to destroy Jerusalem and the Temple. At this point in history, this Degree begins.
Gedaliah is in the Temple with some of the people. A great calamity is impending. A mighty army is advancing against the city and preparations are made for its defence. A herald enters and announces the victory of the enemy and the flight of the King, leaving the Temple and his people to their fate.
But the King did not escape, for we are told in the scriptures that the army of Chaldaeans pursued the King and overtook him in the plains of Jericho; and that they put out the eyes of Zedekiah and bound him with fetters of brass and carried him to Babylon. Thus were fulfilled the predictions of the prophets that Zedekiah, King of Judah, would be carried to Babylon, yet his eyes were not to see it though he should die there.
Gedaliah was appointed governor, but was assassinated soon thereafter and Nebuchadnezzar again invaded Judaea and carried away the remnant of the people, so the land was desolate until the return of the Jews by permission of Cyrus.
The object of this Degree is to inculcate true devotion to the Most High, to strive to enlighten our minds and purify our hearts, that they may become wiser and better, shining more and more unto the perfect day.
Above all, by the fate of Zedekiah, the last King of Judah, we were warned of the peril of a broken vow; we are taught to be faithful to our trust, and true to our obligations, and to be perfectly honourable on every occasion.
Let us then labour diligently and fearlessly in the cause of truth so that when the time of the third Watch our work is finished, we may be greeted as Super Excellent Masters; and, being released from our captivity in the flesh, may return over the rugged way of the valley of the shadow of death to our abiding-place in the heavens, there to adore the Most High through the endless cycles of eternity.
C. of G. conducts Can. to Ged.'s pedestal where Can. is invested with the apron of a Royal and Select Master. Ged. offers congratulations to Can.
Ged.: You are now entitled to take your seat in a Council of Super Excellent Masters.
C. of G. conducts Can. to a suitable seat.
Ged., gavels once: Companions, assist me to close this Council of Super Excellent Masters
Ged.: Companion 2nd Keeper of the Temple, what is the first and last care of a Super Excellent Master?
2nd Keeper: To see that the Sanctuary is duly guarded.
Ged.: See that it be so.
2nd Keeper to 3rd Keeper: Are we duly guarded?
3rd Keeper of the Temple goes to door, opens it and sees that the Sentinel is present; closes door: Companion 2nd Keeper, we are duly guarded and the Sanctuary is secure.
2nd. Keeper: Most Excellent Companion Gedaliah, the Sanctuary is secure.
Ged.: Companion 1st Keeper of the Temple, what is the hour?
1st Keeper: Most Excellent Companion Gedaliah, it is the third watch.
Ged.: Companions, since it is the time of the third watch, let us repair to the Holy Altar, and offer up our fervent prayer to the Most High for His protecting care and favour. Gavels once.
The Companions assemble in a circle round the Ark of the Covenant leaving an opening in the East. Ged. leaves his chair and completes the circle.
Chap.: Let us pray. All Companions stand to order with hand on heart. Almighty and Eternal God, protector of all who trust in Thee, save us, we beseech Thee in all difficulties and dangers. Keep us faithful to our vows, and true to our obligations so that we may never waver nor be cast down, but through Thy mercy at length be admitted to that immortal Temple eternal in the heavens.
Omnes: So mote it be. All Companions discharge hand on heart.
D.C.: Companions, resume your stations and remain standing.
Ged.: I declare this Council of Super Excellent Masters duly closed. Gavels ***, repeated by 1st and 2nd Keepers of the Temple. 3rd Keeper goes to door and knocks ***. Sentinel responds ***. C. of G. closes V.S.L. and replaces Square, Compasses and Trowel.
D.C.: Be seated, Companions.