A History of the Priestly Orders

Much of the history of Freemasonry in this country, and indeed abroad, is uncertain.  This is essentially due to records either not having been kept in the first instance, or from those that existed having been lost.  The Order of the Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests suffers from that same issue. Freemasons familiar with the differences between the “Ancients” and the Moderns” will be aware that the Ancients Lodges, most of which had the roots and membership from Ireland, practiced many forms of Freemasonry apart from the original two degree Craft system.  To the degrees of Entered Apprentice and Fellow Craft were later added the Third, or Master Mason’s Degree but the Ancients system also included the Degree of Holy Royal Arch Chapter of Jerusalem, considered by the Ancients as the fourth degree.  The Royal Arch degree, together with a plethora of other degrees and orders, were practiced as part of meetings sanctioned by a single warrant issued to a Craft Lodge. There are records that show that  “The Priestly Order” is referred to as part of the ceremonies of “The High Knights Templar” being worked in Ireland as far back as 1755.  It is further known that, in Ireland, a number of Lodges banded together to hold meetings and perform ceremonies that were the forerunners of the Orders that exist today.  It is understood that these “Union Bands”, as they were called, worked a number of very similar rituals, no doubt some of which gave rise to the Order we enjoy today. The names of some of those orders include: Pillared Priest;  The Order of Melchisadec;  Templar - Ne Plus Ultra;  White Mason; and, Order of Wisdom.
The Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests                  and                  Order of Holy Wisdom - District 15
© The Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priest and Order of Holy Wisdom District 15 - Surrey
The Priestly Order of the Temple, for example, which was otherwise known as The White Masons, had their initiates pass through seven mystical doors: Faith; Hope; Mercy; Utterance; Penance; and finally, of Life.  There were also sevens seals to be opened, seven passwords and seven Manners of Refreshment(The New Encyclopedia of Freemasonry - Arthur Edward Waite.)  This Order is also known to have been worked as part of the Scottish Grand Council of Rites. The certificate above left was to be awarded by a United Band showing: that our beloved Brother ________ was by us duly initiated into that Sublime Degree of a ROYAL ARCH, HIGH KNIGHTS TEMPLAR, PILLAR’D PRIEST. The triangle shown is the same as that used by us today as the “Priest’s Pass” but for the “M-A-M” which are missing.  The certificate further refers to the most Holy Apolistic Order of ROYAL PRIESTHOOD 33. The certificates above centre and right are of the: 7th or highest Degree of the Priestly Orders or Ancient NE-PLUS-ULTRA of Freemasonry, and is issued by the Belfast No 1. Royal Union Band.  The cross and the inscription INRI together with the latin phrase IN HOC SIGNO VINCES so well known to Red Cross of Constantine Knight Companions and Members of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia today, hark back to their use within the Masonic Knights Templar Rituals worked in Irleand and the USA. The seals at the foot of the certificate display the phrase, “LET TRUTH STAND THOUGH THE UNIVERSE SHOULD SINK INTO RUIN”.    As can be seen, the histories and the rituals are mysteries in themselves! It is known that The Union Lodge of Gateshead held an encampment of Knights Templar in 1794 and two others were believed to exist in Newcastle upon Tyne.  The Ancients Lodges numbered 131 and 80, the Atholl Lodge and St. John’s Lodge respectively, travelled to Scotland to receive encampment degrees at St.  Stephen’s Lodge in Edinburgh.  That Lodge is known to have been of Irish origin.  It later became an encampment under the The Early Grand Encampment of Ireland.  The “higher degrees” are known to have been worked at Edinburgh under that warrant. In February 1807 The Early Grand Encampment of Ireland issued a warrant to the Joppa Encampment at Sunderland, England.  Four years later another warrant was issued by the English Grand Encampment  for a similar-named Joppa Encampment to meet in that same place.  The High Degrees of Freemasonry, including the Knights Templar Priest are known to have been worked here too.  It seems that The Royal Kent Encampment was granted a warrant a few years thereafter with many of the founders hailing from the Sunderland-based Encampment.  The Joppa Emcampment became dormant at around 1845 but Royal Kent continued to work the “higher degrees”.  It is further known that, in 1893, members of the Knights Grand Cross of the Holy Temple of Jerusalem requested a warrant from the Grand Council of Royal and Selects Masters to work as a Council to be titled “Royal Kent Council” to meet at Newcastle upon Tyne. It is understood that the Cryptic degrees were being worked there prior to that time but without warrant.  Charles Matier, who had become the Grand Secretary for the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons in 1889 and was formally heavily involved in Scottish Masonry, endeavoured to ensure that the other degrees being worked in Newcastle were incorporated into the Allied Masonic Degrees of which he too was Grand Secretary.  The listing of the degrees then worked by they Royal Kent Tabernacle from Time Immemorial are listed hereunder: 1. Funeral Master; 2. Master of the Blue or Knight of  Solomon; 3. Most Excellent Master; 4. Excellent Master or Master and the Veils; 5. Sublime Master or Jacob’s Wrestle; 6. Fugitive Mark 7. Architect (not the same as the 12th Degree of the Ancient and Accepted Rite 33 Degrees); 8. Order of the Scarlet Cord, or Knight of Rahab; 9. Knights of the Three Kings or the Balance; 10. Knight of the North; 11. Knight of the South; 12. Knight of Patmos or Philippi; 13. Knight of Redemption; 14. Knight of Death or Elysium; 15. Knigh to of the Holy Grave; 16. Knight of the Christian Mark; 17. Knigh to Bethany; 18. Knight of the Royal Prussian Blue; 19. Knight of Eleusis; 20. Knight of Palestine; 21. Knight of St John the Baptist 22. Knight of the Cross; 23. Knight of the Black Cross; 24. Knight of the White Cross; 25. Knight of the White Cross of Torpichen; 26. Knight of the Suspended Cross of Babylon; 27. Knight of the Red Cross of Jerusalem; 28. Knight of the Red Cross or Roseae Crucis; 29. Knight of the Triple Cross; 30. Grand Cross if St John; 31. Made free from Harodim (not Heredom of the Ancient and Aceepted Rite 33 Degrees) 32. Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priest, or Order of Holy Wisdom 33. Grand High Priest of the Tabernacle, or the Templars’ Ne Plus Ultra. With the exception of the last two in this list, the titles of these degrees are precisely those now communicated by name only in a Tabernacle of Knight Templar Priests. In addition to the above, the following degrees were conferred but are not now actively worked: 1. The Link or Chain (absorbed by the Mark Degree) 2. The Order of Brotherly Love of David and Jonathan sic 3. Five Androgyne Degrees - The Heroine of Jericho - conferred without fee or reward.  These degrees admitted both men and women, hence their being referred to here as androgyne. All of this coincided with a well-known and respected Freemason from Yorkshire named Henry Hotham, being the last Knight Templar Priest, admitting nine Knights of the Temple into the Order so that the Order might be preserved. The Charter confirming these admissions was signed 23rd March 1894.  Hotham died on 17th May 1895 in the spa town of Moffat, Scotland, whither he had moved to convalesce. In 1909, Col. Charles Warren Napier -Clavering became the Provincial Grand Master for Northumberland, appointing as his Deputy, Seymor Bell who was a Past Preceptor of the Royal Kent Tabernacle.  Bell asked Napier-Clavering advice as to how best to preserve the “Royal Kent” degrees.  Three years later in 1912, Napier-Clavering was admitted to the Allied Masonic Degrees.  A year later he was received as a Knight Templar Priest and as early as January 1914 was installed as High Priest and VII Pillar of the Tabernacle.  At this point Napier-Clavering entered into negotiations with Charles Matier, feeling that the ceremonies he had experienced were rather uninteresting and lacking in substance.  Matier died in 1914 but further work on the part of Napier-Clavering was prevented by the Great War.  In 1917, the newly appointed Grand Master of the Allied Masonic Degrees, Richard Loveland Loveland sic appointed Napier-Clavering as his Deputy.   Loveland and Napier-Clavering were already well known to each other, the former being the Pro- Grand Master of the Templars and the latter the Great Seneschal. The pair discussed the possibility of the United and Military Orders of the Temple and Malta takingresponsibility for the Knights Templar Priests.  This was, at least in theory, the position that had held previously in Scotland.   Loveland, however, ultimately decided against it. On the resignation of his predecessor on grounds of ill-health, Napier-Clavering was elected Grand Master of the Allied Masonic Degrees in 1920.  He determined that the treaty agreed between Royal Kent Council and Matier/Allied Masonic Degrees should continue but only if Royal Kent were content to do so. If Royal Kent wished otherwise, Napier-Clavering was willing to restore independance to the Council at Newcastle.  The Royal Kent Council opted to form itself into a Grand College of the Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests of England and Wales , the Colonies and Dependancies of the British Crown.  The date for this is given as either 23rd May 1923 or 15th May 1924. The Allied Masonic Degrees disclaimed any further interest on 17 November 1924. The Governing body of the Order is called Grand College and the head of the Order bears the title “Grand High Priest”.  Grand College is divided into Districts, each presided over by a Grand Superintendent who represents the Grand High Priest in that District.  Each District is composed of a number of Tabernacles, a High Priest presiding over a Tabernacle, usually for a period of one Masonic year. Since the restoration of independence in the early 1920s, the Priestly Orders, as they are affectionately known, have grown exponentially with almost 300 Tabernacles representing fifty-eight Districts in seventeen countries. The Grand High Priest, The Most Illustrious Knight Priest, Christopher Gavin Maiden

The Ritual of the Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests

The ritual of this Order, from the very opening of the Tabernacle (the term used being the equivalent of a Craft “Lodge”) to its closing, is deeply Christian in nature, linking the mystical figure of Melchisadec with that of Christ - King of Righteousness - King of Peace.  Both the opening and closing ceremonies centre around the reading of a number of portions of holy writ, all but one of which are taken from the New Testament. The ceremony of reception takes the form of a Freemason making a pilgrimage around the seven pillars that form the centre of the Tabernacle.  The Conductor leads the candidate around the Tabernacle and, the candidate having proved himself at each pillar, further scripture is read, each station opening up to him one of the seals from the Book of Revelations.  He is then challenged and sent on his onward path with a blessing and further food for his journey. Once invested as a Knight Templar Priest, thirty-one further Degrees are conferred upon him before the symbol of the Order, the equilateral triangle is explained to him during the working of the “Priest’s Pass”. Each Tabernacle has a High Priest, an Office usually held for one year, and seven Pillar Priests or Pillars as well as a Keeper of the Inner Porch - equivalent to the Inner Guard in Craft Freemasonry. The ritual is, as has been noted already, deeply Christian in nature and provokes a good deal of thought regarding our existence in Christ’s service.  The scripture extracts and ritual fit superbly well to show that Freemasonry and Christianity are eminently compatible.
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