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Article # 175
Oration at the Consecration of R.A.M.Lodge Vidya Betwanti

Author: R.W.Bro.S.Krishnan S.R.A.M.G.O.    Posted on: Wednesday, November 9, 2005
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Oration delivered at the consecration of R.A.M. Lodge Vidya Betwanti (No.90) at Jhansi on 9th September 2005.

By R.W.Bro.S.Krishnan S.R.A.M.G.O.

It is not often that R.A, M. Lodges are consecrated. I therefore consider it a privilege that M.W. the Grand Master has asked me to act as the Chaplain, at the consecration of this R.A.M. Lodge Vidya Betwanti (No.90) and called upon me deliver an oration on the nature and purpose of our Institution.

Freemasonry is said to be an ancient and honourable Institution. Ancient undoubtedly it is, as having subsisted from times immemorial and honourable it must be acknowledged to be, as by a natural tendency it conduces to make all those so, who are obedient to its precepts.

In this context therefore, let us turn our attention to the R.A.M. Lodge and Degree, which commemorates the miraculous escape of Noah and his family from the deluge and the wrath of God. All accounts indicate that the history of this degree is an obscure and difficult subject and that the number of historical facts, that have emerged over the years about this degree have indeed been very slender. As a result, the precise origin of the Royal Ark Mariner degree is unknown. However according to Masonic Historians, the legend of Noah, his sons, the Ark and the Deluge were enacted in the Mystical Plays of the 17th century and continued as catechisms in many of the early Masonic Rituals. By the 1750ís there was a degree of Noahchites and Prussian Knights. However, the first authentic record of the degree is said to appear in the minutes of a meeting held in the city of Bath in England in 1790. Since then other records have also been found regarding the ceremony of elevation in this degree.

This degree although worked under the aegis of the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons and requires every candidate for this degree to be a Mark Master Mason, it has no historical connection what so ever with that degree. It was only a quirk of fate, that the degrees stand linked; otherwise the R.A.M degree stands entirely alone and is unrelated to any other degree in Freemasonry.

The degree seems to have been practiced in the country of its origin, in a variety of ways and in a host of different Lodges. We are of course reminded of the wide spread practice of this degree, every time we enter a Craft Lodge and observe a dove bearing an olive branch by the Deacons rather than Mercury, the Messenger of Gods, which we see in Mark Lodges. There are records to the effect that one Bro Thomas Dunkerly, who is said to have played an important role in the fortunes of many degrees in Freemasonry, also described himself in 1793, as Grand Commander of the Society of Ancient Masons of the Diluvian Order of Royal Ark Mariners. It is also learnt that one Bro. Radcliffe held the office till 1799 after which the Grand Lodge gradually withered and died. Later though an attempt was made in 1843 to revive the Grand Lodge of Royal Ark Masonry it was even less successful than the 1793 body mentioned earlier. Subsequently, one Bro. Morton Edwards, who occupied the Chair of Noah, was fired with the ambition of reviving the Grand Lodge of Royal Ark Mariners and accordingly he reconstituted a Grand Lodge of Royal Ark Mariners in 1870. However, since the fact remained that a number of Mark Lodges had begun to work this degree from 1790 onwards and a Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons had been constituted in 1856, there was a conflict between the two bodies, which came to a head, when the then Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons announced, in 1870, that the Mark would protect the Royal Ark Mariner degree under a new Grand Masterís Royal Ark Council. The conflict and dissension continued well after 1870, until The Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons simply purchased the degree from Bro. Morton Edwards for the sum of 25 Pounds! The receipt for this transaction is still said to be hanging in the library of Mark Masonsí Hall in St. James Street, London. It was thus that a formal connection came into existence between the Mark and the Royal Ark Mariner degrees.

Let us now turn our attention to the contents and the purpose of the degree, which is the other aspect, expected to be covered by me in the oration. According to me the main purpose of this degree is contained in the concluding part of the opening ceremony of the ritual according to which as Ark Mariners we are to rest wherever the Providence of God is pleased to direct us with Hope as our anchor as Noah did on Mount Ararat with the Porphyry Stone as the Anchor of Hope and offer our prayers to God for delivering us from the various viscitudes of life symbolized as the waves of this troubled world, as is in fact mentioned in one of the prayers to be recited by me later, during the course of the ceremony of Consecration. The other purpose is that since we ourselves have been preserved by the Providence of God and have observed and obeyed Godís voice, to look for others who might be willing to join Royal Ark Marinersí Lodge and benefit by its teachings. This aspect is further emphasized when we are informed that a brother clothed in the habiliments of a distressed Mason requests for admission to the Royal Ark Marinersí Lodge.

At the very beginning of the ceremony of elevation the candidate is informed about the significant attributes of Beauty, Strength and Wisdom of God. He is made to listen to the promise made by God to Noah and is reassured that with that promise he may confidently meet the Brethren in Ark Masonry, for it will comfort him in trouble, cheer him in the hour of death and make him happy till eternity. He is further asked to remember the promise that no weapon that is formed against him shall prosper and that every tongue that shall rise against him in judgment shall be condemned. I canít think of a better way of impressing the candidate about the significance and importance of this degree to him in life.

Of particular importance is the Junior Wardenís lecture to the candidate when he is lucidly informed about how a brotherís distress may arise from three different causes and what how he is expected to act in each circumstance. The explanation of the working tools of the degree beautifully shows, that by perseverance in Faith, Hope and Love. we may find rest and comfort in the Ark of Safety. The degree also emphasizes through the symbolism of the Sun, the Moon and the Stars, that the highest is he, who performs his part best and not necessarily the one who fills the most exalted position. Last, but not the least, the degree also teaches the important lesson of how to conduct our course through life by following three important steps signified by Wisdom, Strength and Beauty followed by the fourth step surrounded by the first three and five other steps implying that in our onward course in life we must always be careful to practice, without remission, the five cardinal virtues peculiarly characteristic of Freemasonry, viz. Watchfulness, Discretion, Brotherly Love, Truth and Charity.

I am also sure that every time we see that beautiful and colourful Natural Phenomenon , the Rainbow, it will have a different significance for us as Royal Ark Mariners, because it will remind us always of Godís Promise and Covenant with mankind and the lessons of Royal Ark Masonry.

I find from the records that the first R. A. M. Lodge to be consecrated in India was Lodge Rainbow moored to Mark Lodge Capestone in Calcutta, on 21st August 1878. I congratulate the Founder Members of this R.A.M. Lodge for becoming the 75th R.A.M. lodge in the country and pray that the Supreme Commander of the Universe may long preserve the Order and confer Peace, Prosperity and Harmony on its Members.

R.W.Bro.S.Krishnan, the learned author is a Masonic scholar and a very senior Freemason, who has been in the fraternity a little over 50 years and who is held in high estimation for his administrative skills and great Masonic Knowledge. He is a former Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of India. A Past Dy.G.M in Craft, he is the present M.E.III Grand Principal in the Royal Arch and Senior R.A.M.Grand Officer and Past Assistant Grand Mark Master. There are numerous publications to his credit. We are very thankful to him for permitting us to post this article, which was the Oration, he delivered at the Consecration of R.A.M. Lodge Vidya Betwani (No.90) in Jhansi.

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