3rd Royal Mark Degree Biblically Examined
A Journey from Darkness to Light
We now consider the third degree of the Royal Black Institution. This is called the Royal Mark degree and begins with the candidate listening to the two assembled lecturers instructing him by way of a question and answer engagement:
Why do you wear those colours?
Black and white?
Because I am a Royal Marksman.
How do you mark?
By five and by seven.
Why by five and by seven?
Because five and seven are twelve.
Why by twelve?
Because of the twelve stones that were taken from the bottom of the River Jordan and pitched at the great camp of Gilgal.
Who was the first chosen Royal Marksman?
Because he wore the breastplate of the Lord whereon was engraved the names of the twelve tribes of the Children of Israel.”
The lecture continues:
“Where are you from?
Where are you going?
To the Temple.
Why did you leave the Tower to get to the Temple?
Because the Tower was confounded and the Temple was dedicated unto the Lord.”
Even if one reads over this carefully it is difficult to understand what is actually being taught here. Like most secret society teaching it is nearly impossible to comprehend the meaning of this Black catechism instruction without further additional explanation. The wording is so peculiar and written in such an obscure style that it is difficult to grasp where the Black Institution is coming from, or where it is actually going. Rather than speculate, we should seek further illumination from the remainder of the degree or any additional internal writing on the matter or external information that sheds light on this teaching.
We should say at this juncture that the Royal Mark degree (the 3rd grade) cannot be fully understood in isolation from the subsequent 4th Black degree – the Apron & Royal Blue degree. The Royal Marksman degree is in essence an introductory preface to the fourth degree. Both are interdependent on each other. Without one, it is difficult to understand the other. For the sake of comprehension, these two degrees should be viewed as a unitary whole.
It would be helpful at the outset to refer to the Black explanation booklet Lectures on Tracing Boards from Black to Red Cross Degrees for assistance in deciphering the aforementioned Royal Mark lecture. It explains, “In Holy writ we are told, ‘And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech’. That a tower was built called Babel: that the Lord confounded the language of those who built the tower; that the generations of Shem became scattered, and thus we have the confusion of tongues among us today. In our Ritual we are told that a Craftsman from the Tower of Babel, who was desirous of obtaining work at the Temple, which was subsequently built, must be advanced to the degree of a Royal Marksman, that he may learn how to mark and be entitled to receive Master’s wages for his work” (p. 13).
As seems to be the general pattern with the Black, it here mixes biblical truth with esoteric legend and presents the resulting religious concoction as absolute fact. This is both dangerous and unacceptable, since it distorts the meaning of Scripture. Whilst the detail about Babel and the confusion of the tongues and the subsequent scattering of the wicked is biblically correct, the Black attaches an extra-biblical myth to the story in order to reinforce its beliefs. It suggests that a craftsman from the Tower of Babel departed to go to Jerusalem, desiring to work on the building of the Temple. What is more, in order to qualify him for a post, he had to be “advanced to the degree of a Royal Marksman.” Who this craftsman is, is not revealed, and where this story comes from is not shown. At this early juncture, it is important to know that the attached fable is actually the central part of the degree. Without it there would be no meaning to it.
The ritual of the “Protestant” Knights of Malta is more dramatic and is particularly disturbing. The Knights of Malta candidate is asked the following questions in catechism style (being prompted each time with the proper answers):
“Where are you from?
And whither are you going?
To assist in building the Temple.
Why do you leave the Tower and travel to the Temple?
Because the Tower was confounded but the Temple is to be dedicated.
How do you expect to get there?
By the benefit of a password.”
The candidate is then solemnly informed, “It is well, but before you can travel further on your journey to Jerusalem you must receive the wages due to your participation in so unholy a work as the erection of the Tower.”
The candidate then places both his arms around the neck of the Senior Warden from behind, and the Senior Warden leans forward, thus raising the candidate off his feet, and on to the back of the Senior Warden. The lower part of the candidate’s back is then made bare, and he receives twelve stripes, applied with a thong or strap by a representative of the Order, which shall he numbered by the candidate in a loud voice as received.
The catechism is then explained:
“Did you ever work any?
In the Tower.
In an inner chamber.
Did you receive anything?
What did you receive?
Wages before the work was done.
What were those wages?
Upon what did you receive them?
My naked breech.
How did you know there were twelve?
Because I counted them in my hour of affliction.
For what did you receive them?
For disobedience of the Lord’s commands.”
This behaviour is unbecoming to an Order that connects itself to Protestantism. The Royal Mark rite makes a mockery of the Word of God and brings disgrace upon the Christian cause, by turning a wholesome biblical narrative into a demeaning pantomime. These orders have been allowed to engage in this inappropriate conduct for years – their practices being protected by a thick wall of secrecy. This Black Order should consider the counsel of II Thessalonians 3:6-7, “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you.”
So what about this Black teaching? Again, it is another blend of fact and fiction, carefully brought together to create an ambiguous mixture. The Bible student will know it is completely alien to Scripture. If we were to examine this lesson from a literal perspective we know it is impossible for it to have happened. After all, Babel was built over 1,000 years before the physical Temple in Jerusalem. No worker on the Tower could have possibly survived so long to make such a journey. The entire lecture is therefore factually illogical. Furthermore, the criterion for working on the house of God in Jerusalem could never have been the basis for advancement in this secret Royal Marksman degree.
The Lecturers inform the new candidate that the “password” of the degree is “The – twelve – priests!” Then, speaking of the supposed “twelve priests,” the Black lecture immediately continues:
“How were they arrayed?
In black scarves and white surplices.
Have you a number?
What is your number?
The twelve stones that were set up on the bottom of the River Jordan in the place where the priests feet stood firm.
How far was it from the Tower to the Temple?
Part of a Sabbath day’s journey.”
It is nowhere to be found in Scripture that there were twelve priests arrayed in the Masonic colours of black and white who laid twelve stones at the bottom of the River Jordan. Joshua 4:1 simply tells us that there were “twelve men out of the people, out of every tribe a man.” These twelve men were representative of the people, but the Black Knights unilaterally turn these twelve men into twelve priests. Whilst the priests were responsible for carrying the ark into, and through, the Jordan, Scripture does not state how many priests were engaged in this activity. The Black Knights constantly impose Masonic ideas upon the scriptural account, thus undermining the plain and inerrant truth of God’s Word.
The Black Institution also teaches that the distance between the Tower of Babel and the Temple in Jerusalem is “a Sabbath day’s journey.” This phrase is most probable taken from Acts 1:12, and indicates the distance between the place where the Lord ascended up into heaven in the sight of the disciples on the Mount of Olives and the actual city of Jerusalem. The passage says, “Then returned they (the disciples) unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a Sabbath day’s journey.” We therefore encounter another glaring inaccuracy. The Tower of Babel was built in the land of Shinar (Genesis 10:10, 11:2-4) in ancient Babylon, hundreds of miles away from the city of Jerusalem and consequently many, many ‘Sabbath day journeys’ away from the Temple. Even the most zealous Blackman must struggle to make head or tail of this instruction. The teaching embodied within this lecture is so strange and erroneous that one wonders what vestige of justification they would submit to defend it.
The Royal Mark lecture continues on a slightly different direction from the Knights of Malta degree:
“Did you work at the Temple?
Where did you work?
In an outer court.
Where were you paid?
In an inner chamber.
How were you paid?
By being clothed in a black and white apron and advanced amongst the skilled workmen at the Temple.
How was the Temple raised?
Without the sound of axe, hammer, chisel or any other.
instrument of iron hired thereon.
Why was it thus raised?
So that it might not be polluted.
How was the Temple formed?
Wider above than below.
Why was it thus formed?
Because the heavens are greater than the earth.
Again the Royal Black adds another myth about the building of the Temple in Jerusalem which is unknown in Scripture. They teach that the craftsman searching for work at the Temple succeeds, in that he gets a position working on the outer court. He is said to receive his pay in “an inner chamber” by oddly “being clothed in a black and white apron and advanced amongst the skilled workmen at the Temple.” This is his wage, and this is his reward. The craftsman is depicted as becoming a Royal Marksman in the inner chamber of the Temple by being endowed in a black and white Masonic apron. The Bible student will quickly discern that this is pure fiction, but fiction presented embodying deep mystical instruction!
The Black candidate is then informed that he must possess “three great things.” He is told they are “faith, hope and truth.” Here the Black slightly amends the three great requirements outlined in 1 Corinthians 13:13 “faith, hope, charity.” Instead of charity, the Black Knights insert “truth.” The candidate then learns:
In Jesus Christ the Saviour of the world.
Through Him to be saved.
Truth to all men more especially Royal Marksmen.”
The Knights of Malta catechism is almost identical:
”Why Faith, Hope and Truth?
Faith to believe, Hope to be saved, and Truth to be truthful to all men, more especially to a brother Marksman, well known to be such after strict trial and due examination, or who may be vouched for by a well-known Marksman.”
In the Apron & Royal Blue degree (4th degree) the candidate is informed he must possess “three great things,” this time it mirrors 1 Corinthians 13:13, saying, “Faith, hope and love.”
These attributes are then individually expounded, the last of which is love:
“Love to all men more especially free and accepted Royal Bluemen.”
We should stop and consider the extent of loyalty which is expected amongst Blackmen. It involves a level of “truth” and “love” that does not pertain to those outside the fraternity. These secret neo-Masonic ritualistic orders look after their own to the exclusion of others. Whilst the member is instructed to exercise “truth” and “love” towards “all men” he is expected above all to favour his fellow Blackmen. Such special favour to the membership of a secret brotherhood is totally unacceptable from a Christian perspective.
Firstly, the exclusiveness propagated within the Royal Black is the complete antithesis of the openness embodied within evangelical practice and the Gospel message. The true Church (those who are born again of the Spirit of God) has always an open door to those outside its influence. The message it professes and the spiritual freedom its adherents enjoy through simple faith in Christ is freely offered to anyone who would enter its doors. Those who are truly seeking will find the Saviour. Secondly, there is only one brotherhood ordained of God for the proclamation and defence of the Word of God and which has Christ as its supreme ruling Head. That is the Church of Jesus Christ. Thirdly, committing oneself to prefer fellow Blackmen above Christian brethren is clearly unscriptural. This is made worse when we consider that the Black membership consists mainly of those who would make no claim to be born again Christians.
The superior loyalty demanded by the Black and the inevitably strong bond of fellowship and allegiance which develops from such a commitment, must surely dilute a Christian’s commitment to the brotherhood of believers. Scripture presents believing Christians as Christ’s brethren, as members of His body and one of another. This is the biblical brotherhood – the true fellowship. This secret teaching powerfully demonstrates the mentality that pervades all secret societies: they look after their own to the disadvantage of others. They can make much of their occasional well-publicised outward charitable acts, but this is simply a smokescreen to conceal the real internal thinking of these secret brotherhoods.
The wording of the Royal Black obligation mimics that of Scripture; but instead of fellow redeemed believers being the preferred brethren in Christ, the Institution transfers that unique privilege to those who are fraternal brothers in the Black. But what does Scripture say on the issue? The Bible commands: “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). Here is a definite conflict of loyalty for the professing Christian in membership of the Black. On whom does his special favour rest? On his fellow Blackmen, as the Royal Black Institution demands, or is it “the household of faith,” as Scripture requires? Both expect that special and unique allegiance above all other earthly friendships, but both manifestly cannot exist together.
This Black teaching undermines Scripture in that it redirects a man’s main loyalty away from the people of God to a man-made institution. It places the Black in direct competition with the body of Christ for men’s ultimate allegiance. The wording the Black employs is so similar to that of Scripture that it can only be viewed as directly undercutting the divine requirement for special and unique duty to the saints of God. To give one’s first devotion to the Black is to ride roughshod over the command of God and relegate the individual’s dedication to the Church to a secondary position.
Adam Clarke says of this text, “Let us help all who need help according to the uttermost of our power but let the first objects of our regards be those who are of the household of faith – the members of the church of Christ, who form one family, of which Jesus Christ is the head.”
Here the Order is claiming a level of commitment which Scripture expects solely of the Church of Jesus Christ. This issue is more significant than most people realise. The plain fact is, many Loyal Order members give a greater diligence to their attendance at Lodge or Preceptory meetings than they do to organised church functions. This is especially seen with church mid-week meetings. Many professing Christians within these bodies would hardly ever miss a secret fraternal meeting, yet they would rarely be seen at a church Bible study or prayer meeting. This illustrates the powerful hold such secret obligations have over the souls of such people. They draw men away from their principal loyalty to God and His people and transfer it to carnal man-made religious substitutes. There is no doubt that secret societies are a counterfeit of, and an alternative to, the brotherhood of believers.
The Bible also says, “Honour all men, love the brotherhood, Fear God, Honour the King” (I Peter 2:17). Matthew Henry says of this passage, “A due respect is to be given to all men.” However, he then says of the Christian brotherhood, “All Christians are a fraternity, united to Christ the head, alike disposed and qualified, nearly related in the same interest, having communion one with another, and going to the same home; they should therefore love one another with an especial affection.”
Every believer is united directly to Christ. Jesus said “I am in my Father, an ye in me, and I in you” (John 14:20). Every regenerated person is personally connected to Christ, and receives life from Him. The instrument God uses to bind the believer to Christ is the Holy Spirit. The true believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and is therefore joined to Christ through the work of the Spirit. I Corinthian 6:17 affirms, “He that is joined unto the Lord is one Spirit.” By virtue of the union between the believer and Christ, the child of God enjoys spiritual unity and communion with all true believers.
In John 17:22 Christ prays to His Father for the unity of the church, “that they may be one, even as we are one.” Every believer, truly united to Christ, is united to his brethren. All are members of the body of Christ. Ephesians 4:16 states, “the whole body fully joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth.” Ephesians 5:30 says, “For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.” The Holy Spirit is the identifying and unifying bond between believers and their Head, Christ Jesus, and therefore through Him they enjoy the same life, Spirit and covenanted privileges.
The spiritual meaning of the teaching
The Black candidate must wait until he arrives at the concluding retrospective Grand Charge degree (which is after the 11th Red Cross degree) before he obtains further revelation of the sense and spiritual application of this lesson. The Blackman hears: “As a Marksman you were taught to leave the Tower (the symbol of wickedness), and press towards the Temple dedicated unto the Lord (a type of the city of refuge), where by faith, hope and truth you were elevated to the position of a scientific workman.”
Here, the transition from the “Tower” to the “Temple” is presented as a spiritual picture of salvation. The Blackman is said to turn his back on a life of wickedness and progress into God’s “city of refuge” in salvation. The Temple in Jerusalem is symbolically advanced as a type of the city of refuge; the Tower of Babel is correspondingly presented as a symbol of the place of wickedness. In the lecture, the Marksman is seen leaving the Tower and journeying to the Temple. On the surface, no fair Bible student could have a major issue with using Old Testament types and allegories as pictures of spiritual truths. We are fully aware the Bible uses the cities of refuge as a picture of salvation. This kind of typology is acceptable provided it is not overstrained and is in accordance with the plain teaching of Scripture; as long as the only means of getting from the spiritual tower of wickedness to the spiritual temple of refuge is shown to be the Lord Jesus Christ. Man can only experience this great deliverance through faith in Christ and His shed blood at Calvary. There is no other way to make that journey. Any other counsel, whether ritualistic, secret or mystical is spurious.
In this degree the candidate is, in essence, participating in is a symbolic journey from the figurative Tower of Babel in Babylon to the figurative Temple in Jerusalem. The Black informs the ignorant candidate of the means by which he leaves the tower of rebellion (representing the old wicked life) and enters into the temple of hope (representing a new life of salvation). The catechism teaches:
“How do you intend to get to the Temple?
By the benefit of a password.”
According to the Black Institution, one leaves the life of sin, wickedness and rebellion and enters into God’s haven of rest by means of a secret Black password. This is astonishing and is in blatant conflict with Scripture. Every genuine evangelical would surely agree that these sentiments run contrary to the fundamental tenets of the Christian Gospel. Here the Black Institution makes salvation (and consequently entry into the heavenly temple) subject to, or dependent on, knowledge of a secret password. It thus reduces the great act of redemption to a religion of esoteric works and mystical knowledge. It makes heaven accessible by way of knowledge – knowledge of the mysterious secrets acquired during the process of the Black initiation. This concept and process is theologically known as Gnosticism.
The lecturers then inform the initiate of his entrance password into God’s great city of refuge:
“Have you that password?
Will you give it to me? I will, if you begin.
The – twelve – priests!”
The Black Order here teaches that the spiritual key which opens the gates of the kingdom of heaven is this mysterious Black password ‘the – twelve – priests’. It is not enough that the Royal Black adds the idea of twelve priests to the scriptural narrative, but it then proceeds to present the knowledge of this extra-biblical concept as the way into God’s temple of rest. The possession of this secret pass can never secure a sinner’s salvation. These crude religious inventions, rather than articulating the simple Gospel message, and therefore pointing people to Christ, tend to confuse and blur God’s wondrous truth. Such a doctrine belongs far outside the domain of evangelical Protestantism. Jesus said in John 3:3, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” This is God’s only way of salvation.
The Royal Mark address adds further illumination: “In beauty and adornment it (speaking of the physical Temple) was a type of that great temple above from which we derive this lesson that we should with unabated earnestness quietly prepare these souls of ours as living stones for that great temple above whose builder and founder is God.”
The terminology the Black uses in its lessons always tends to take it for granted that its members are saved. Like Freemasonry, most secret societies view their members as being part of God’s great spiritual temple. This is seen in the wording of this teaching. Blackmen are said to be living stones in God’s tabernacle, and, as such, are destined for an eternal heavenly reward in “that great temple above whose builder and founder is God.”
This Royal Mark promise is in close agreement with the instruction the candidate receives in the initial Black degree, where the brethren are promised a heavenly hope on account of their Black membership. These terms and the hope embodied within this lecture should not be applied to the unconverted as they pertain solely to the redeemed of God. They certainly cannot be received by or attributed to a man just because he has been made a Blackman. This is further evidence that the ideology of the Black is dangerous to the souls of men.
As with all the other degrees, this teaching stems from Freemasonry, and particularly the Royal Arch degree, where the Masonic candidate is taught, in the form of a catechism, “Why do you leave Babylon to go to Jerusalem?” To which he replies, “To assist in rebuilding the second Temple, and to endeavour to obtain the sacred word.”
The Masonic candidate is shown to make his journey from the darkness of Babylon to the destiny of the Temple place in order to acquire the mystical Masonic “word.” This mystical word, as we shall see in the next degree, is the central focus in secret society thinking. Whilst this is not immediately apparent to the Royal Mark candidate, due to the strange and obscure manner in which the Black lesson is communicated, a cursory examination of the Masonic lectures, coupled with a careful analysis of the proceeding Black degrees, will make the matter clearer. We do not intend to reveal at this juncture the sacred Masonic word; it will suffice to say that the discovery of the “Word” is a central experience in the Masonic aspirant’s ritualistic travels.
WL Wilmshurst explains the spiritual significance of the journey from Babylon to Jerusalem, saying, “He has ‘gone up’ out of the Babylon of his old complex and disordered nature, and upon its ruins has built for himself an ethereal body of glory, a ‘house of the Lord’. He sees how this ecstatic condition and this new-made celestial body are the sublimated products of his former self and its temporal organism. He sees how each separate part and faculty of that old nature, or as it were each of the zodiacal divisions of his own microcosm, has contributed its purified essence to form a new organism … and how these essences … have assembled convergently and finally coalesced and become fused into a unity or new whole, ‘a city that is compact together’. And it is this ‘city’, this blessed condition, which mystically is called ‘Jerusalem’.”
He continues, “The antithesis of this ‘heavenly city’ is the confused Babylon city of this world, of which it is written to all captives therein, ‘Come out of her, My people, that ye be not partakers of her sins and that ye receive not of her plagues !’ (Rev. xviii. 4). And, in a word, the Royal Arch Ceremony sacramentally portrays the last phase of the mystical journey of the exiled soul from Babylon to Jerusalem as it escapes from its captivity to this lower world and, ‘passing the veils’ of matter and form, breaks through the bondage of corruption into the world of the formless Spirit and realizes the glorious liberty of the children of God.”
This is a false typology, a bogus use of symbolism. Like the Royal Black Institution, Freemasonry uses Babylon and Jerusalem as important symbols representing the journey of the initiate from darkness to light, from ignorance to enlightenment. Every experience along the way is intended to open his understanding to the intensity of this spiritual expedition. But what is noticeable in this illustration is the Christless nature of the trek. Salvation and illumination are achieved without coming to the cross or surrendering one’s sinful life to the Saviour. There is no repentance or faith involved. There is no mention of grace – the undeserved favour of God to the guilty sinner. This is therefore “another gospel.” It is an alternative means of reaching God – one that does not require the seeker to take up his cross and follow Christ. It is a spurious religious invention that has no basis in God’s Word. Rather than rising to a higher spiritual plane, as these Lodges promise, the traveller is brought further away from God’s only means of redemption – Jesus Christ. It is a ritualistic gospel of works that ends in a lost and darkened eternity.
The Royal Black Institution consists of eleven degrees, as follows: –
(1) Royal Black degree – exposed and biblically examined
(2) Royal Scarlet Degree – exposed and biblically examined
(3) Royal Mark degree – exposed and biblically examined
(4) Apron and Royal Blue degree – exposed and biblically examined
(5) Royal White degree – exposed and biblically examined
(6) Royal Green degree – exposed and biblically examined
(7) Gold degree – exposed and biblically examined
(8) Star and Garter degree – exposed and biblically examined
(9) Crimson Arrow degreee – exposed and biblically examined
(10) Link and Chain degree – exposed and biblically examined
(11) Red Cross degree – exposed and biblically examined
The Institution also possesses a final retrospective degree, which is essentially an overview of the 11 degrees that the candidate has traversed.
Red Cross Grand Charge – exposed
For further revelations read Inside the Royal Black Institution