Book Review: History and Symbolism of Royal Arch Masonry

For people who are curious to learn just what Masonry is all about, one good resource is “History and Symbolism of Royal Arch Masonry,” which is written by Edward R. Graham with forward by Marion K. Crum and Dennis J. Anness. Published in 2001, the book explores many elements of Royal Arch Masonry, particularly the significance of its symbols and its connection to other branches of Masonry.

While many people have written about the general topic of the Masons, there have only been a handful of books that deal specifically with Royal Arch Masonry, making this a valuable source of information. Graham delves into the history of both the world and America, noting ways in which Royal Arch Masonry has been involved in making that history come about. Additionally, there is emphasis upon the four Capitular Degrees, of which Royal Arch is the highest.

Graham writes in a manner that is easy to understand, and his economy of words is impressive. In fewer than 200 pages, he presents a fairly comprehensive guide to Royal Arch Masonry, with detailed illustrations offering further illumination. Many myths and misconceptions about Masonry have popped up over the years, and Graham addresses many of these, helping readers to stay rooted in facts. His informative tidbits are fascinating, especially to those who have little familiarity with the subject.

Readers will come to understand how the degree of Royal Arch follows naturally from Mark Master, Past Master and Most Excellent Master, with the dichotomy of loss and recovery in the forefront as the Royal Arch seeks to understand the mysteries of death and resurrection. In addition to the benefit of his own extensive experience, Graham brings to the project a clear understanding of Masonic history and culture, and he draws useful comparisons between American and European branches.

“History and Symbolism of Royal Arch Masonry” is a good starting point for anyone just immersing himself in the study of this society. In order to get a fuller picture of what Royal Arch Masonry entails, the eager student should consult one of the few other books on the subject, including “The Royal Arch: Its Hidden Meaning” by George H. Steinmetz and “A Guide to the Royal Arch Chapter” by John Sheville and James L. Gould. Reading this book first, however, will provide a firm foundation upon which to build, and since the book is readily available for under twenty dollars, it’s a reasonable expense for such useful knowledge.