St. Andrew Royal Arch Chapter #146

The History / Story behind the Royal Arch Degrees

The Excellent Master Degree

Referred to by some as the Ceremony of Passing The Veils.

The Excellent Master Degree is one of the degrees in Freemasonry that can be placed at a specific time in history.

The Ceremony of Passing the Veils may be considered as emblematical of the wanderings of the Israelites in the Wilderness, and of their return from Babylon to Jerusalem.

So why were the Israelites wandering in the Wilderness..? And what were they doing in Babylon..?

Without getting too involved in the actual history, and to keep things short and to the point, the basic story is....

Israel was conquered in a round-about way by the Babylonians and as was the custom back then the spoils of war went to the victors, and in line with Mesopotamian practice, Nebuchadnezzar deported around 10,000 Jews to his capital in Babylon.

The exile to Babylon was a traumatic event in Jewish history, as the destruction of the political independence of the kingdom coincided with the destruction of the monarchy and of the First Temple of Jerusalem.

As you well know the Babylonian Empire doesn't exist anymore, for in 539 BC, the Persian King, Cyrus took Babylon.

The Decree of Cyrus for the Jews to return and to rebuild their Temple was given in 538 B.C., the year after he had taken Babylon. It is this period in time that is referred to as "...wandering in the Wilderness", and is the setting for the Excellent Masters Degree.