The Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters of England and Wales and Districts and Councils overseas was formally constituted in 1873. The degrees in this group are frequently referred to as 'Cryptic Degrees' two of which refer to a crypt. The degrees are the essential link between the degrees of Master Mason and Royal Arch Mason. There are over 240 Councils under the Grand Council, administered from Mark Masons' Hall. The Statutory qualifications for membership are those of Mark Master Mason and Royal Arch Mason.
The business of private councils is transacted in the degree of Select Master. Lodges of Most Excellent Master, Councils of Royal Masters and Councils of Super-Excellent Masters are opened only to admit candidates.
Supposedly held in the secret vault which has been constructed beneath the temple consisting of several arches, into one of which the secrets were deposited and later discovered.
This degree is set in time just prior to the completion and dedication of the first temple; it highlights the completed vessels pertaining to the House of the Lord and refers to a certain fellow craft making diligent enquiry of HA as to when he might receive the secrets of a MM. The subsequent deeply moving discourse by our Grand Master on the subject of death is one of the most enthralling pieces of ritual in freemasonry. It also shows how the secrets came to be deposited in the crypt where they are subsequently found.
Deals with the completion and dedication of the first Temple; it celebrates the completion of the whole edifice and mentions the installation of the Ark of the Covenant in the Most Holy Place. It constitutes a fitting ceremonial and dramatic preface to the Cryptic degrees.
The legend around which this degree is built brings the story of the first Temple down to the time of its imminent destruction and refers to the siege of Jerusalem by the troops of the enraged Nebuchadnezzar, following the rebellion of the Tributary Jewish king, Zedekiah.