Author: Rev'd Neville Barker Cryer
I've completed another book by Rev'd Cryer and I have to say that while not my favorite by him, it's still full of interesting information for the Royal Arch Mason. It's a very short book (94 pages), and it's a little dry in the reading- almost "text book" in style. But the information in it adds much to understanding the turmoil surrounding the creation and promulgation of Royal Arch Masonry as we know and practice it today. I think it's important to note the title may be misleading; if you're expecting a book about a Mason traveling the road of Royal Arch Masonry, you'll miss the mark (no pun intended, but cute none the less) as I did. It's actually a book about the inception and progression of Royal Arch Masonry itself.
This book, like his others, informed on some things that stood out to me as significant. First, he discusses in some detail the "Rule of Three" which has relevance in all forms of Freemasonry. The information wasn't surprising, rather I found myself thinking "so THAT'S why we do that".
It also touches on another interesting fact that he has written about in his other books and that is that at certain times and in certain places in history, Chapter's opened with just the three principles and past principle officers in attendance while the members waited outside. During this discussion, he also discussed several different variations in Chapter opening and closing throughout history and I was again surprised by his reference to how close North American RAM is to RAM in the 17-1800's.
In this book, he goes to great length and detail on the significance of "Passing the Chair" which naturally goes into the creation of the "Virtual Past Master" degree. He adds much to the understanding of exactly how significant this was in early Royal Arch Masonry, particularly why and how it was implemented.
The Rev'd provided a good discussion on how the RAM degree was variously referred to as a "degree" and as an "order" at different points in history. This of course is all related to the discussion of the RAM as the 4th degree or as the culmination of the Craft degrees. Very interesting indeed.
I was surprised at the point late in the book where he discussed and detailed RAM membership growth in terms of Chapters and membership. After reading this information I feel very good about the growth I see here in our local Grand Royal Arch Chapter Capitular District.
Rev'd Cryer provides some excellent information on the relationship between Craft (Blue) Lodges and Chapters at different times in history. There was much more complexity to the relationship than most RAM's know and it's a very interesting presentation!
Finally, I was struck several times by some of the terminology he used. Remember, his frame of reference is England and the historical period of this book is the 17-1800's, so certain terms jumped right out at me. For instance, he referred to an open chapter of RAM as an "encampment" and at one point he quoted a reference to a Royal Arch Mason becoming a "Masonic Knights Templar". I find these instances fascinating because they were recorded in the minutes of old English chapters.
I recommend this book to Royal Arch Masons, perhaps as a first book to read after being exalted. I don't believe the Council degrees would provide any further understanding or background for the RAM or is necessary for understanding this book. On the other hand, Master Masons that have not completed their Chapter degrees will likely not understand most of the material.
Review by Companion Bill Boyd