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It is a peculiarity of the York Rite, whether intended or not by its authors, that the movement of the degrees is often historically reversed; so that as we apparently go forward in regular progression, the knowledge and light gained reflect backward upon the path we have traveled before, and degrees that seemed complete when we took them are found to require the explanation of the subsequent degrees before they can be fully understood. This is especially true of the Cryptic degrees, two of which historically precede the Royal Arch Mason degree, but which hold in reserve their valuable teachings until the candidate is ready to receive them with the most impressive effect. The term Cryptic Masonry stems from the fact that a central feature of the Royal and Select degrees is an underground chamber or vault.
A Cryptic Mason is a Companion who has been exalted to the Holy Royal Arch, and to make his knowledge of the Royal Art more complete he is greeted a Royal Master. He learns something of the Alpha, and something of the Omega, the beginning and the end.
Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters