The Circle of Perfection & the Charge to the New Select Master

The following monitorial instructions on the Select Master degree appear on pp. 44-47 and pp. 71-72 of “Cryptic Masonry: A Manual of the Council” by Albert G. Mackey.

The ceremonies of reception into the degree of Select Master are of a compound nature, because they refer to two entirely distinct events. The earliest monitorial instruction that was given to the public on the subject of this degree, states that it rationally accounts for the concealment and preservation of those essentials of the craft which were brought to light at the erection of the second temple, and which lay concealed from the Masonic eye for four hundred and seventy years.

The inculcation of this doctrine—the imparting of this knowledge—undoubtedly constitutes the important object of the degree. It is because of its thus rationally accounting for the concealment and preservation of these fundamental mysteries of Freemasonry, filling up an hiatus between the Master’s and the Royal Arch degrees, that the initiates into the Select Master’s degree are said to have “passed the circle of perfection.”

The idea of comparing the progress of Masonic science to a circle, with whomsoever it originated, is a good one. The true signification of the phrase may be readily illustrated. Let us, then, suppose that the science of Freemasonry, or, in more definite words, the science of Masonic symbolism, is represented by a circle. This circle will be divided into three portions or arcs: One arc will be occupied by the degrees of the Lodge, or Ancient Craft Masonry; another by the degrees of the Chapter, or Royal Arch Masonry; and the third by the degrees of the Council, or Cryptic Masonry. Now, if a neophyte begins at any point of the circle, and passes over one-third of its circumference, he will arrive at the Master’s degree, and will then discover that, so far, the consummation of his Masonic labor is to know only that that for which he has been striving has been LOST, and, instead of the key to all Masonic science, he receives only a substitute for truth.

Dissatisfied with this, let him, in his further search, proceed through another arc, or third of the circumference of the Masonic circle, and he will arrive at the Royal Arch degree. Here, in this second arc, that key which had been LOST in the first arc is FOUND.

But the circle has not yet been completed. It is true that the neophyte now knows that the lost has been found. He is perhaps even put in possession of the sacred treasure. But the process by which the restoration was accomplished is still unknown to him, and all the events of Masonic mythical history which form the links between the loss and the recovery, and all the sublime symbolism which is connected with these events, are withheld from him. He knows what he has obtained, but he knows not why nor how he obtained it. To acquire this knowledge he passes through the remaining arc, and, by arriving at the degree of Select Master, consummates and perfects his knowledge of the representative symbol of Divine Truth, and thus passes the circle of perfection in Masonic science.

But the same early monitorial instruction informs us that in this degree is exemplified an instance of justice and mercy by our ancient patron, toward one of the Craft who was led to disobey his commands by an over-zealous attachment for the institution. The event here referred to, however striking may be its dramatic effect, is really totally unconnected with the true symbolism of the degree. It is merely an interesting episode, which was introduced into the body of the Masonic epic by some ingenious but modern ritualist. So little is it really connected with the mythical symbolism of the degree, that it might actually be dismissed from the ceremonies of initiation without in the slightest manner affecting the great design of the degree, or in any way impairing the completeness of that circle of perfection to which we have just alluded. The science of the degree, as connected with the loss and the recovery of the truth, would not be at all impaired by its removal from the ritual. But it has been so long retained as a part of the ceremonial observance, that it could not at this late day be dispensed with, and it must therefore remain, like a superfluous stone in the edifice, which adds no strength to the building; a ceremony in Masonry without a symbolism, or at most only intended to exemplify the union and the practice of the two virtues, mercy and justice.

Charge to the New Select Master.

Having attained to this degree, you have passed the circle of perfection in ancient Masonry. In the capacity of a Select Master, you must be sensible that your obligations are increased in proportion to your privileges. Let it be your constant care to prove yourself worthy of the confidence that has been reposed in you, and of the high honor that has been conferred upon you in admitting you to this select degree. Let uprightness and integrity attend your steps; let justice and mercy mark your conduct; let fervency and zeal stimulate you in the discharge of the various duties incumbent on you; but suffer not an idle and impertinent curiosity to lead you astray or betray you into danger. Be deaf to every insinuation which would have a tendency to weaken your resolution, or tempt you to an act of disobedience. Be voluntarily dumb and blind when the exercise of those faculties would endanger the peace of your mind or the probity of your conduct; and let silence and secrecy, those cardinal virtues of a Select Master, on all necessary occasions be scrupulously observed. By a steady adherence to the important instructions contained in this degree, you will merit the approbation of the select number with whom you are associated, and will enjoy the high satisfaction of having acted well your part in the important enterprise in which you are engaged; and after having wrought your regular hours, may you be permitted to participate in all the privileges of a Select Master, and to enter the Celestial Council, where you will behold that divine Stone of Foundation on which rests Eternal Truth.

The full text of Mackey’s monitorial instructions on the Select Master degree may be found at:

Select Master from Mackey’s “Cryptic Masonry: A Manual of the Council”