This “Little Gem of a Degree”, although worked under the aegis of the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons, and requiring every candidate to be a Mark Master Mason, has no historical connection whatsoever with the Mark Degree. Mark Grand Lodge’s rule over the ‘Ancient and Honourable Fraternity of Royal Ark Mariners’ is simply a quirk of fate. It stands entirely alone and totally unrelated to any other degree in Freemasonry.
The history of the Degree is an obscure and difficult subject and the number of historical facts that have emerged over the years have indeed been small. As a result, the precise origins of the Royal Ark Mariner degree are unknown.
The Degree is around two hundred years old and, as its name suggests, it has a nautical flavour taking for its setting the circumstances leading up to the Great Flood and the steps taken by Noah to build the Ark by which mankind was preserved from perishing in the ‘Universal Deluge’
Like the Mark Master Mason’s Degree, which is based on an established fact (i.e. the construction of the Temple at Jerusalem), so the degree of Royal Ark Mariner is also based on an actual happening, i.e. the Great Flood, as recorded in the Bible and as verified in 1929 by the archaeologist Sir Leonard Woolley, who not only found clear evidence of the flood, but established that it had occurred some 6,000 years previously.
The qualification for “elevation to membership” is, as mentioned above, that of being a Mark Master Mason.
Elevation into the Royal Ark Mariner Degree commemorates the providence and mercy of God and relates to the legend of the deluge. The subject matter being taken directly from The Bible is naturally both beautiful and instructive. When the candidate enters the Lodge room his attention is directed to three pillars and at one stage the Ark is momentarily symbolised in terms similar to the Ark of Salvation. The candidate is finally instructed to advance in the spirit of the Cardinal Virtues.
The teaching of the Degree emphasises the importance of the family strengths and the need for each member of society to play his part for the benefit of all. We are taught that out of chaos and catastrophe mankind can survive and that we should face adversity together, helping to look after those less fortunate than ourselves.
During the ceremony analogies are drawn between the dangers of the flood and the dangers of life. We are reminded of how we should strive to reach the Ark, the haven of rest, just as did Noah’s family and the other occupants of the Ark in the Biblical tales of the deluge.
There is only one ceremony (apart from installation of a Worshipful Commander) and that is the ceremony of elevation which at around forty-five minutes is relatively short. Only one ritual is used throughout the constitution.
(See under RAM History for a more detailed history of the Degree)