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Article # 99
The Royal Ark Mariners-The Rainbow Degree.

Author: W.Bro.A.Jayapalan P.G.I.G., P.A.R.G.M    Posted on: Tuesday, June 8, 2004
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The Royal Ark Mariners  - the Rainbow Degree

W.Bro.A.Jayapalan, RAM Lodge Kanyakumari No.76

 Royal Ark Mariners Degree is unique in many respects. This Degree though worked under the aegis of the Lodge of Mark Master Masons, has no historical connection with that Degree. But the R A M Lodge bears the same name and number as that of the Mark Lodge of the station to which it said to be moored.  The fact remains that the Royal Ark Mariners Degree stands entirely alone and totally unrelated to any other degree in Freemasonry.  I must caution my brethren not to judge the merit of this Degree by the brevity of the ceremony.  It must be borne in mind that the membership of a craft Lodge alone will not entitle you to be qualified to seek membership in RAM Degree; you should also be a Mark Master Mason; and that perhaps makes this Degree unique.

  It has now become a fond tradition for all of us to refer to any Degree as having “existed from time immemorial” and so is the Royal Ark.   However, the earliest document available dates back to 1795, but there are indications that this Degree was worked in Cornville in England in 1780 and Bath in England in 1790.  Both the Duke of Sussex, the Most Worshipful Grand Master of “Moderns” and Duke of Kent, the Most Worshipful the Grand Master of the “Ancients” were members of the Royal Ark Mariners Lodge and “it is but natural to surmise that the degree received the appellation ‘ROYAL’   from the association of these two Royal personages!”  There is a strong suggestion that this degree originated from the operatives, not from operative masons but from operative carpenters, for, there were carpenter’s guilds functioning in England and elsewhere during the early 17th century.

 As at the period, whence we deduce the origin of the Degree, the Sacred Writing- the Bible was not in existence and hence the RAM Lodge is opened on the Porphyry Stone.

  The Ritual of the degree has a nautical flavour and takes for its scenario, the circumstances leading to the great flood as recorded in the Book of Genesis and the steps taken by Noah to build the Ark by which mankind was preserved from perishing in the ‘Universal Deluge’.  As in the Mark Masters Degree, which is based on an established fact of the construction of the Temple of Jerusalem, so the Royal Ark Mariners Degree is also based on an actual happening of the great flood as recorded in the Bible, and as established in the year 1929 by archaeologist Sir Leonard Wooly, who not only found clear evidence of the flood and established that it has occurred some 6000 years previously, but also proved that it had covered an area of some 4000 square miles of what was then Mesopotamia, now Iraq.   Similarly, scientists looking for evidence of the Ark on the Turkish – Iranian border using aerial photography and radar imagery believe that they have found the remains of the Ark several feet below ground on the upper slopes of Mount Al Judi, in the mountains of Ararat at an altitude of 7000 feet. The image appears to be about 450 feet in length and compares favourably with the 300 cubits specified in Genesis. The Ark was 450 feet long 75 feet in beam and 45 feet high.  Such a vessel though unsuitable for the purposes of navigation, could hold much cargo and still float.  A boat of such size would displace 20,000 tons and have a gross tonnage of 14,000 tons.

The Legend

 Let us now take a closer look at the Legend of the Royal Ark Mariners Degree.  According to Bible, God created all things of the world and lastly HE created ‘Man’ on his own image. The First man was Adam and the first woman was Eve.  They both lived in the Garden of Eden in perfect harmony and happiness. There was a certain tree in the garden, the fruit of which they were forbidden to eat.   One day, tempted by Satan who was disguised as a serpent, Eve picked up the fruit and both Adam and Eve ate it. As a punishment for disobeying HIS commandments, God drove them out of the garden into the world where Man was to earn his daily bread by the sweat of his brow.

The family of man began to grow in numbers and filled the earth- the antediluvians.  They all had forgotten their divine origin and became subjected to wickedness, unrighteousness, greed, avarice etc. in their struggle for existence. And the Lord was sorry.  Lord said, “ I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”(Genesis 6.7)  But God was benevolent. He called Noah and entrusted with him the onerous duty of saving the species.

Who was Noah?  Noah was the ninth patriarch in the Sethite line.  He was the great grandson of Jared, grandson of Methuselah and son of Lamech. Please note that these names appear in the ritual in different contexts. “Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations.  Noah walked with God.”(Genesis 6.9)  He was righteous and a blameless one of his times.   So God ordered Noah to build an Ark out of gopher wood.   “And this is how you shall make it: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits and its height thirty cubits.  You shall make a window for the ark and you shall finish it to a cubit from above and set a door of the ark in its side.   You shall make it with lower, second and third decks”. (Genesis 6.15 & 16) Noah built the ark with great care. The Lord asked him to board the ark with his wife, his three sons and their wives.  “ And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female.  Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kind, two of every sort shall come in to you, to keep them alive.  Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up; and it shall serve as food for you and for them”. Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.

 Seven days after they all boarded the ark, torrential rains started pouring incessantly for forty days and forty nights. The water began to rise steadily and everything living on earth was destroyed except the ark and its contents.  The flood lasted One hundred and fifty days and then the water began to recede.  In the seventh month the ark was found resting on the mountains of Ararat, in Armenia.  In the tenth month tops of mountains began to appear.  When Noah felt that sufficient time had elapsed, he opened the window and let out a raven, which flew off, but never returned.  After a week he let out a dove, which returned finding no place to alight.   After another seven days, he sent the dove again which returned with an Olive branch in its beak. The land was again dry after a year and twenty-seven days and Noah found it safe to leave the ark.  Noah was horrified to find the entire creation around him destroyed, at the same time he was overwhelmed with gratitude for his signal deliverance. He built an alter and there on the porphyry stone with a clean beast and a clean fowl he gave burnt offering to the Lord for the mercy shown on him. God repented for what has been done to mankind and blessed Noah and his sons  “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth”. (Genesis 9.1)   Thereafter God entered into a covenant with Noah.  “Never again all flesh be cut off by waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”(Genesis 9.11)  As a sign of this covenant God set his rainbow in the cloud.

Ritual and symbolism

 The RAM Lodge is literally and figuratively the ark, governed by Noah and his two sons Shem and Japheth; but strangely we find the youngest holding the higher office of Senior Warden and the eldest holding the Office of Junior Warden, indicating that merit and ability takes precedence over seniority.  The second son Ham is not in the picture as he was not of good report and was banished by Noah and implies that none but those of good report only are admitted to this or any other order of Freemasonry.

The candidate who joins RAM Degree is called “NOACHIDA” meaning ‘new child’ and represents the distressed man trying to flee away from the impending disaster of the deluge of unrighteousness, wickedness etc. that surround him and trying to take refuge in the ark.

 The Lodge is arranged in the shape of an equilateral triangle, to resemble the interior of the ark, and the principal officers occupy the corners.  The equilateral triangle, being a perfect geometrical shape is adopted from time immemorial by many religions to depict the Almighty. The angles also symbolise wisdom, strength and beauty.

The Holy Triangle is placed on the Porphyry Stone. The stone has played a major role in the development of mankind.   Stone was in all probability the first material given by nature, which the primitive man used for his advantage.  When the Stone Age man polished the stone and made it suitable to his needs, he was no longer a passive receiver of what the nature had to offer.  With that, has started man’s incessant urge to establish mastery over nature. From, the stone as a working tool and building material to the stone as an idol for worship, it had remained pervasive in human life.  Stone occupies an important position in Masonry as a symbol in all Degrees. It appears in the Craft as the rough and perfect ashlars, in Mark as the Key Stone and in Chapter as the Arch Stone and the Alter. In the RAM Degree the Porphyry Stone substitutes the Volume of Sacred Law, on which the Lodge is opened.  It was upon this very stone that Patriarch Noah reposed when he daily returned from his pious labour in building the ark.  This was the stone used as an Anchor of Hope to fix the station of the Ark when it rested on Mount Ararat.  And it was upon this very stone that Noah made his offerings to God, upon his signal deliverance from the deluge.

       The Rainbow, one of the most beautiful natural phenomenona is adopted as a powerful symbol in this Degree. “Even the proverbial ‘pot of gold’ at the end of the rainbow leads us to wishes, hopes, and promises. Is it any wonder, then, that the sight of a rainbow in the sky usually gladdens the heart? The Rainbow appearing over the throne of God (Revelation 4.3) is a constant reminder of His infinite mercy in sustaining mankind.   It is an emblem of the hither to unbroken covenant of God to Noah to protect mankind from perishing.

       The cardinal teaching of Royal Ark Masonry is righteous living.  As God made man in his own image and so expects him to be perfect as his father in heaven is perfect.  “ God  intended his creation to be a thing of beauty to be cherished.  He gave man strength to overcome evils and enjoy the nectar of his divine creation.  He gave him enough wisdom to think deep into the meaning of creation and realise his own part to be played in it. But man has lost his direction due to his fascination for unreal pleasures of this mundane existence. As a result there is a constant struggle in the mind of man between the negative and positive values of life. All major religions throughout the world, recongnise such a struggle existing in man’s mind. In The Bhagavadgita  (IV .7) Krishna tells Arjuna:  “Whenever righteousness wanes, and unrighteousness increases the Almighty Lord creates himself.” Whenever there is a serious tension in life, when a sort of all pervasive materialism invades the hearts of human souls, to preserve equilibrium, an answering manifestation of wisdom and righteousness is essential. The Supreme though unborn and undying, becomes manifest to overthrow the forces of ignorance and selfishness.

According to Hindu Philosophy, Dharma literally means mode of being. “It is the essential nature of a being that determines its mode of behaviour.  So long as our conduct is in conformity with our essential nature, we are acting in the right way.  Unrighteousness is nonconformity to our nature”.  The creator cannot remain a dumb spectator when unrighteousness reaches a saturation point and proves to be a menace to the lawful.  HE is not one beyond good and evil, remote and unconcerned with man’s struggle with righteousness.

Brethren, let us all build an ark in our minds and preserve our traditional norms and values from the decadent cultural deluge that threatens us.

 

 

    

      

W.Bro. A.Jayapalan, the author, is a Masonic Scholar and was initiated on 08-03-1986 in Lodge Vivekananda (No.254) , Kanyakumari. He was installed as the W.M of the Lodge in 1993, as the M.Ex.Z in Chapter Kanyakumari No 87 (G.C.I) in 1998, as the W.M of Mark Lodge Kanyakumari No 76 (GMI) in 1998. He was elevated in Royal Ark Mariners Lodge Kudal No.17 (GMI) on 01-03-1991 and installed as W.C. N, in Mark Lodge Kanyakumari No.76 in 2003. He was installed as the W.S.R in Trivandrum Conclave in 2000. He holds the rank of P.G.I.G and P.A.R.G.M in Craft, R.G.St, Br in Royal Arch and P.J.R.G.D.in Mark Masonry. He has presented numerous illuminating papers on Freemasonry in several Masonic Seminars, winning admiration of the brethren. Currently, he is the Co-Editor of “ Masonsouth”, the Newsletter of Regional Grand Lodge of Southern India and the Editor of the Website: www.lodgetvm168.org of the Lodge Trivandrum (No.168) We are very thankful to him for contributing this beautiful article on the degree of Royal Ark Mariners.----Webmaster.


Click Here To Post Your Comment

BrotherJaccob wrote on Sunday, August 19, 2012:

Subject: .:TAF:.

Thanks for sharing, Worshipful Brother. I found this to be a very enlightening read. Fraternal Greetings Brother Jaccob Merricks Cannon Memorial Lodge No. 626 A.F. & A.M. Kannapolis, North Carolina, USA



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