The Holy Royal Arch is the continuation of Craft Freemasonry. Its members, called Companions, and meet in Chapters under a Grand Chapter. Chapters are ruled over by three Principals, who rule conjointly, and the Grand Chapter is ruled over by three Grand Principals, with a Pro First Grand Principal when the First Grand Principal is a Royal Prince. Chapters at home are grouped in Provinces (based on the old Counties), Metropolitan(for London) and Chapters overseas are grouped in Districts. Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Chapters are ruled over by a Grand Superintendent who is appointed by the First Grand Principal as his personal representative for the particular area.
In England the Royal Arch has four ceremonies: the Exaltation ceremony to bring in new members and an installation ceremony for each of the three Principals. The Exaltation ceremony is in two parts: a rather dramatic presentation of the principles of the Order followed by three Lectures in which the history, symbolism and principles of the Royal Arch are further explained. Like Craft Freemasonry, the Royal Arch is open to men of all faiths.
The allegory of the exaltation ceremony is based on the Old Testament telling of the return to Jerusalem from the Babylonish captivity to rebuild the city and temple. In clearing the ground of the original temple for the foundations of the second temple, the candidate makes a number of discoveries which emphasise the centrality of God to man’s life and existence and, without transgressing the bounds of religion, lead the candidate to a consideration of the nature of God and his personal relationship with Him, what ever his religion might be.
In England, the Royal Arch is considered to be the completion of “pure ancient Masonry”. In the Craft the candidate is presented with a series of eminently practical principles and tenets which if he practises them he may hope to live a life pleasing to his God, however he worships him, and of service to his fellow man.
But man is not simply a practical being, he has an essential spiritual aspect to his nature. That spiritual aspect is introduced in the Third Degree, in which the candidate is led to a contemplation of man’s inevitable destiny, and becomes the central message of the Royal Arch. In that sense, “pure ancient Masonry” can be seen as a journey of self – knowledge and discovery with the Royal Arch completing the practical lessons of the Craft by a contemplation of man’s spiritual nature, not replacing but reinforcing and supporting what he has learned from his religion.
The prime qualification for admission into the Royal Arch is to be a Master Mason, of at least four weeks standing, in a Lodge under the United Grand Lodge of England, or a Lodge under a Grand Lodge recognised by it.
As in all other Masonic Orders you will need a proposer and seconder who are members of the Chapter in which you seek to be Exalted. If your Lodge does not have a Royal Arch Chapter attached to it it will probably have an arrangement with a local Chapter. Check your Lodge summons which may give details of either the Chapter attached to it, a Chapter to which it supplies candidates or a member of the Lodge who is a the Royal Arch liaison officer who will assist members interested in joining the Royal Arch.
If there are no details on your Lodge summons you can usually identify the members of your Lodge who are Royal Arch Masons as they will normally wear the jewel of the Order with their Craft regalia. They will be delighted to be approached about membership.