The Capitular Degrees are a set of four degrees controlled by the Royal Arch Chapter. They center on the construction phases of Solomon's Temple, with the exception of the degree of Past Master, hence the title of Capitular. The degree of Past Master is the vestigial remnant of the former custom that the degree of the Royal Arch could only be conferred on a Past Master of a Symbolic Blue Lodge. In the United States, these degrees are considered as proprietary to the Royal Arch, while in England there is no Past Master degree as found here, and the Mark Master degree is controlled by its own Grand Lodge. The Most Excellent Master degree is also part of the Cryptic Degree in England. As stated in the forward, the Royal Arch overseas is controlled by Chapters attached to English Blue Lodges.
No rite of Freemasonry has come into its own so much as the series of degrees known as the Cryptic Rite, also known as the Cryptic Masons. Its popularity is well reserved for there are no more beautiful or meaningful degrees in all Freemasonry that those conferred in the Council of Cryptic Masons.
Ancient Cryptic Masonry centers around the story of the preservation, loss, and recovery of the Word. The Word represents man's search for life's purpose and the nature of GOD. Symbolic Freemasonry, as in the Lodge, teaches of the loss of the Word and hope for its recovery. Royal Arch Masonry, as in the Chapter, teaches its recovery. Cryptic Masonry, as in the Council, completes this story by teaching of the Word's initial preservation.
The Commandery confers Orders, not Degrees. The orders represent a new line of Masonic thought and experience, in that they no longer refer to Ancient Craft Masonry, but to ideals and practices of ancient chivalry and Christianity. The first Commandery order, The Order of The Red Cross, presents the story of the Jewish Prince, Zerubbabel, and his efforts to secure permission of the Persian King Darius to rebuild King Soloman’s Temple. The next order, Knight of Malta, is a departure from Masonry based on the Old Testament and is the first Christian Order. Here, the candidate represents a knightly warrior of the Crusades and is preparing for a trip to the Holy Land. The last order is that of Order of The Temple or Knight Templar, the crowning glory of York Rite Masonry.