The Order of Royal and Select Masters, often known as the Cryptic Degrees, is open to those who are both Royal Arch and Mark Master Masons and consists of four highly dramatic degrees. The Cryptic Degrees form a vital and interesting link between the Craft and Royal Arch, making the connection much more logical and completing the legend of King Solomon and his Temple. The Four Degrees are as follows:
Select Master (SM) – This degree continues the story of the preparation for the building of the Temple commenced in the Mark Degree, and in this degree the Three Grand Masters are concerned that the Ark and the Treasures could be lost forever if the Temple were to be ransacked. The scene is set in the Secret Vault beneath the Temple and relates the story of what happened to a well known mason, who had frequent contact with King Solomon, when he accidently enters the Vault.
Royal Master (RM) – The Temple being almost completed, the Overseers are anxious to receive the Master Word before the Temple is finally completed. One Overseer, Adoniram, seeks assurance from Hiram Abif of when he will receive the Word and be honoured as a Royal Master. The reply by Hiram Abif is probably one of the most moving and fascinating pieces of ritual a Mason will ever experience in any Masonic Order.
Most Excellent Master (MEM)– This Degree commemorates the completion and dedication of the Temple to the Most High and the honouring and celebration of those workman who had built the Secret Vault, and is intimately associated with Mark Masonry. Hiram Abif has been slain and after a period of mourning the Holy Treasures are transferred to the completed Temple. This Degree is akin to the “Passing of the Veils” worked as the Excellent Masters Degree in Scotland and can be taken in Bristol Freemasonry.
Super-Excellent Master (SEM) – This Degree unites the M.E.M with the Holy Royal Arch. The story of this Degree is of the imminent destruction of the Temple, which had stood for well over 400 years, when Jerusalem had fallen to the Romans under Nebuchadnezzar and his army. The King, his family, and the principal citizens were taken into captivity in Babylon. The puppet King, Zedekiah having fled, leaves the citizens to defend the Temple and they pledge their duty to do this in their devotion to God