A short addition will be made, if Grand Lodge approves in December, to the wording known as the Preliminary Declaration which stands at the head of our Book of Constitutions, and this will enable the higher status of the Royal Arch to be more easily compatible with the definition of 'pure, Antient Masonry'.
This change will be mandatory in all versions of our ritual, because we cannot have different, and completely contradictory, definitions in different Chapters. It is important that we correct now something which has been logically wrong for nearly two hundred years.
It does not befit the importance of the Royal Arch in any way to be identified as an adjunct of another Degree, and it does nothing useful for the Third Degree either to be regarded as in some way incomplete.
What we need to concentrate on is the completion of our journey in pure Antient Masonry, and not weaken it with a misunderstanding.
Two other changes are proposed to the actual ceremony; a short addition to the words spoken after the candidate is restored to light, in order to give him more time to comprehend the import of what he sees before him; and the introduction of a brief description of the Reverential or Hailing Sign before the communication of the Word.
One of the elements most commonly identified as a problem for the candidate at the time of his Exaltation is the length and complexity of the three Lectures.
Indeed this has led many Chapters to decide not to deliver all three on the same evening, and whether this is done or not, the obscurity of some of the thought, and difficulty of some of the very old-fashioned words, has proved an obstacle to many Principals and candidates alike.
The traditional Symbolical and Mystical Lectures have therefore been very substantially rewritten, are now considerably shorter, and much clearer.
I would like to stress that the SWP has been very sensitive to the need to avoid any suggestion of 'dumbing down' the Lectures, and that the revised versions will still give candidates plenty to think about.
In the Mystical Lecture in particular, care has been taken to retain some of the original text which the SWP considered, by reason of its importance or simple grandeur, to be essential.
Many of those who have already seen the proposed revisions think they are an improvement.
Adoption of the revised Lectures will be discretionary within each Chapter, and Companions will be free to continue with the traditional Lectures if this is preferred.
Whether or not the new versions are adopted, however, every candidate will have to be given a new booklet on the night of his Exaltation, prepared and funded centrally, which will include the three traditional Lectures in full, and a guide to their meaning and content.
This new guide will not try to explain the Royal Arch, but rather direct the reader's attention to an appreciation of aspects of it, which might otherwise take a long time to acquire.
It will be designed to appeal to those with many years' experience as well as those who are newly Exalted. An editorial team of Companions who have studied the RA for many years is being assembled, and I hope that this initiative will prove to be a popular and helpful innovation.
A few changes to the rules concerning the attachment of Chapters to Lodges are also proposed, but these are, I hope, uncontroversial, and will simplify the process.
Of considerably more importance, especially to our younger Brethren, is a proposal to remove the barrier on progression to the Third Principal's Chair for those who are not yet through, or in, the Chair of the Craft. This should not be 'encouraged', in the sense that anyone not yet ready for progression to the Chairs of the Chapter should feel under pressure to do so, but it will help those who are ready and willing to make Masonic advancement but may be, for whatever reason, not yet a Past or ruling Master.
The barrier is, after all, artificial, for there is no esoteric knowledge in the Craft Installation required for advancement in the Chapter, and the senior members of each Chapter will still maintain their responsibility for ensuring that those elected to the Chair are ready for that responsibility. The SWP, however, feel it is important to satisfy the ambition and interest of our keen young members, and not drive them off to exercise their enthusiasm in other Orders of Masonry, perhaps never to return.
That is all I plan to say now about the changes, Companions. They have been given a great deal of thought over many months, and the process of full consultation will now begin.
I believe that they will lead to a greater interest in, and enthusiasm for, the Royal Arch, and I believe that they will make it more attractive to join and more enjoyable for its members.
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