The top of the first page of the Book of Constitutions reads:
‘By the solemn Act of Union between the Grand Lodges of Free-Masons of England in December 1813, it was declared and pronounced that Pure Antient Masonry consists of three degrees and no more, those of the Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Masons, including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch’.
This is the only mention of the Royal Arch in the Act of Union, but it has caused more debate that any other subject in the whole of Freemasonry. Is the Holy Royal Arch a completion of the Master Masons’ Degree or a separate Degree?
Until changes were made to the ritual in the 1990s, the final paragraph of the Ceremony of Exaltation contained the following:
‘You may perhaps, imagine you have this day taken a Fourth-Degree in Freemasonry; such, however, is not the case. It is the Master Mason’s completed, for when you were raised to the Third-Degree, you were informed that by the untimely death of our Master Hiram Abiff the secrets of a Master Mason were lost…’
Today this has been changed to:
‘We congratulate you on being exalted into Royal Arch Masonry, at once the foundation and keystone of the whole Masonic structure. When you were raised to the Third-Degree, you were informed that by the untimely death of our Master Hiram Abiff the secrets of a Master Mason were lost…’.
The Royal Arch’s connection with the Craft is emphasised on the Grand Chapter Certificate, which is headed by the letters ‘G.A.O.T.U.’ and not ‘T.T.A.L.G.M.H.’ as might be expected. The chequered pavement is also there, and it bears the seal of the United Grand Lodge of England; although the Arms of the Antient Grand Lodge appear on the left-hand side and it bears the devices of an ox, a lion , a man and an eagle.