Ancient Order of Pilgrims
The Royal Sceptre
The crowning point of Pilgrimic usages, practices and customs is those practical virtues and truths, no less beautiful than poignant, as impressed by the degree very properly designated The Royal Sceptre. This degree can be conferred during a session of the Supreme Home, or Annual Conclave, only, stated or special, and by and with the consent and approval of such members thereof as have regularly attained the same, and are in good and regular standing in a Pilgrimic Jurisdiction.
The candidates eligible therefor must be Past Supreme Home officers or Past Worthy Shepherds or agents authorized to establish subordinate bodies in the Jurisdiction, or Worthy Recorders of local bodies having five yea.rs continuous service and membership, and all of said applicants or candidates for the said. Royal Sceptre Degree must have the endorsement of the sanctuary where their membership is lodged, properly signed arid attested under seal. The Royal Sceptre Degree is a prerequisite for (a) a Worthy Shepherd to represent his sanctuary in an Annual Conclave during his term of office or at the expiration thereof; (b) for permanent membership in the Supreme Home whilst one remains a member of the Order in good and regular standing; (c) for office in the Supreme Home, elective or appointive; (d) for authority to establish and institute subordinate sanctuaries; and (e) to act as the authorized- agent of the Supreme Worthy Shepherd. And in investigations, complaints, trials, charges, and appeals before the Annual Conclave, an accused having attained this degree, can elect to- have the same prosecuted before his associates or peers in this degree.
The requisite number to confer the degree is ten, and the arrangement of the room is substantially the same as when the other degrees are conferred in a sanctuary. The titles of the officers and the duties in connection therewith are practically the same, save where exceptions are made to exemplify the truth of the narrative sought to be impressed, the most notable of which are the following:
Immediately in front of the Supreme Worthy Shepherd in the East (King Ahasuerus) is a hanging curtain of blue. fastened back with cords of linen and purple; six feet in front of the Supreme Worthy Shepherd is stationed the Supreme Worthy Vice-Shepherd (Memucan, prince to the King), behind a hanging curtain of green, fastened back with cords of purple; and, about twelve feet in front of the King is stationed the Supreme Worthy Counselor (Harbona, chamberlain to the King), behind a hanging curtain of white, fastened back with cords of linen. The Supreme Worthy Inspirator (Nehemiah, the Prophet) is at the altar, and any member of the degree represents the Benjamite at the King's gate.
The candidate having been duly passed, and everything being in readiness. is allowed to enter. He is conducted by the Supreme Worthy Senior Usher on the left, and a member of the Supreme Council, who is the Escort, walks on the right. As they pass around the room ten times, by the way of the North first, the following ceremony is performed:
Escort.: My brother (sister), in our continued journey from the West toward the East, we arrive in Shushan, the capital of the kingdom of Ahasuerus the Great, and, in the distance raising the left hand to shade the eyes, palm outwards, we view at the altar of consecration the faithful prophet, Nehemiah. His faith and devotion reminds us of now the lack of it brought us here to Shushan. We will approach.
Nehemiah, reads: "O, Lord God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love Him and observe His commandments:
"Let Thine ear now be attentive, and Thine eyes open, that Thou mayest hear the prayer of Thy servant ... We have dealt very corruptly against Thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments which Thou commandest Thy servant Moses.
"Remember, I beseech Thee, the word that Thou commandest Thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter ye abroad among the nations. But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttern1ost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there." (Neh. 1 :5-9.)
Escort: Thus, my brother (sister), we are reminded how disobedience and idolatry and a lack of faith on the part of those to whom the promise had been given, just as we once represented ourselves to be, became a scattered nation and captives in the land of King Ahasuerus. Is it not recorded that when Jehoichin began to reign he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, and when Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, came against Jerusalem, "he carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the ,mighty men of valour, even ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths ; none remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the land." ( 2 K. 24:14.)
And is it not recorded in the chronicles of the Kings that when Zedekiah began to reign, he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, and would not "humble himself before Jeremiah, the prophet, speaking from the mouth of the Lord;" that when he also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, "he brought the Chaldees against them" ... "and they burnt the house of God, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem and burnt all the palaces thereof with fire, and destroyed all the goodly vessels thereof. And them that had escaped from the sword carried he away to Babylon, where, they were servants to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia." (2 Chron. 36 :19-20.)
Importuned by those who had kept the faith, Nehemiah, Jeremiah and Ezra, the predecessors of King Ahasuerus permitted as many as so willed to return to Jerusalem, and yet nine-tenths of them remained in this foreign land. In his kingdom he reigned from India even unto Ethiopia, over a hundred and seven and twenty provinces.
During the recital of the foregoing paragraph shouts are heard within the palace, thus:
Attendants: All hail Ahasuerus, the King!
Escort: It is the third year of his reign as king, and before him are gathered the nobles and princes of the provinces to observe the "riches of his glorious kingdom'' and to celebrate the "honor of his excellent majesty" in a feast of one hundred and eighty days.
Harbona: Because Vashti the queen hath not done wrong to the king only, but also to all the princes that are in the provinces, and to all the people that are in the' provinces; and because likewise shall all the ladies of the provinces of Media and Persia say unto the princes of the king, the royal commandment to. be published in all the provinces of the empire, according to the language of the people thereof, is: That Vashti come no more before King Ahasuerus.
Escort: The royal commandment advised by Memucan, the favorite prince of the King. If you would have more of the secrets of the palace revealed unto you, it will be necessary to enter the "king's gate" to the outer court, and take the vow.
Will you enter?
Candidate, prompted by S.W.S.U.: I will.
The candidate is hoodwinked by the Supreme Worthy Senior Usher, and they approach the king's gate kept by Harbona, where the S.W.S.U. makes three distinct raps on the floor with the staff.
S.W.S.U., * * *.
Harbona, * * *: Loyal subjects of the king and patriots of the kingdom, enter the outer court of the palace.
They pass to the inner court behind the white curtain, where the following obligation is taken by the candidate before Harbona:
Harbona: In addition to my former vows and obligations, I, ..., in the presence of the members here assembled, do most solemnly and reverentially reaffirm and vow my allegiance to the principles, tenets and usages of the institution as heretofore explained to me, in the preceding degrees, and sincerely promise to maintain as sacred within my breast the secrets of this degree, except as shall be permissible in accordance with the requirements of the Order, and to observe a strict compliance with the same as far as my ability will permit.
I further promise, in addition to my former vows and obligations, fervent adoration for my home and family, undaunted patriotism for my country, unswerving loyalty to my people, and sincere devotion to my friends and benefactors.
I further promise to go to the relief of a member of this degree, to aid and support him in disttress, at the risk of my own life ⸻ violation of the family ties, insurrection and anarchy, and the destruction of human life excepted ⸻ all of which I most sincerely promise and swear, and in token of which my right hand is extended.
Prompted by the S.W.S.U., the candidate extends his right hand to Harbona.
S.W.S.U.: "In those days, while Mordecai sat in the king's gate, two of the king's chamberlains, Bigthan and Teresh, of those which kept the door were wroth, and sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus." (Est. 2 :21.)
Harbona: "And all the king's servants that were in the king's gate, bowed and revered Haman; for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence." (Est. 3 :3.)
During the reading of the following the candidate is conducted about in the outer court, so timed as to conclude on the approach to the curtain of green:
Escort: My brother (sister), it was during the third year of the reign of King Ahasuerus that he made a sumptuous banquet for his nobility, and prolonged the feast to one hundred and eighty days. And on one occasion, when merry with wine, he ordered his queen Vashti to be brought out, and upon her refusal to violate the decorum of her sex, he indignantly divorced her, and published an edict throughout the empire concerning her disobedience.
In the seventh year of his reign, Esther, who concealed her parentage, was made queen; Mordecai, her benefactor, sat in the king's gate; and, in the twelfth year of his reign, Haman, the Agagite, was advanced above all the princes of the king.
Approaching the middle court of the palace, we find it guarded by the prince Memucan.
S.W.S.U., * * * on the floor with his staff.
Memucan, * * *: Loyal .subjects of the king and patriots of the kingdom, enter the middle court of the palace.
The candidate is brought within the hanging curtain of green, and immediately thereafter the Supreme Worthy Shepherd says:
Ahas: My loyal Memucan, who is in the Court?
Memucan, prompting the candidate: Haman.
Ahas: Prince Haman, approach the throne.
Escort, for the candidate: "There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diversed from all people; neither keep they the king's laws; therefore, it is not for the king's prophet to suffer them. If it pleases the king, let it be written that they may be destroyed: and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver." (Est. 3 :8-9.)
Ahas, placing the signet ring on the ring finger of the candidate: The silver is given to thee, the people also, to do with them as it seemeth good to thee.
They pass three times around the Court. while the following occurs:
Memucan: "When Mordecai perceived all that was done, Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and bitter cry. And came even before the king's gate; for none might enter in to the king' s gate clothed with sackcloth. And in every province, whithersoever the king's commandment and his decree came, there was great mourning ... and fasting, and weeping and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes." (Est. 4:1-3.)
S.W.S.U.: O, revered and honored Esther, the request of the Benjamite in the king's gate, as delivered by your chamberlain Hatach, is that you go unto the king, to make supplication unto him, and to make request for your people.
Escort, prompting female candidate: Faithful Hatach, all the king's servants, and the people of the provinces, do know that whosoever, whether man or woman, shall come unto the king in the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live.
S.W.S.U.: Think not with thyself, Queen Esther; that thou shalt escape in the king's house.
Escort, prompting female candidate: "Go gather all that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink, three days, night or day. I and my maidens will fast likewise, and I will go in, unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish."
Memucan, places on the candidate the royal apparel, regalia, and in her mouth spices or cloves, saying: "The oil of myrrh." Anointing the brow of the candidate with perfumed water, saying : ."Sweet odours for thy purification."
Ahas: Who is in the court?
Ahas: Let him come in.
The hanging curtain of blue is parted and the candidates stand in front of Ahasuerus, who extends the golden sceptre, the top of which is touched by the female candidate. The hoodwink is removed as the following statement made by all the members is announced, and immediately thereafter the sign of the degree is made:
Memucan and Members: "Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant."
Ahas: "What shall be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honor?"
Escort, prompting the male candidate: "Let the royal apparel be brought which the king useth to wear, and the horse that the king rideth upon, and the crown royal which is set upon his head, and let them be delivered into the hands of one of the king's most noble princes, that they may array the man withal whom the king delighteth to honour, and bring him on horseback through the streets of the city."
Ahas: What is thy petition, Queen Esther? And it shall he granted thee; and what is thy request? and it shall be performed, even to the half of the kingdom.
Escort, prompting the female candidate: "If I have found favor in thy sight, O King, and if it please the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request. For we are sold to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish."
Ahas: The degree just conferred upon you, taken in all its connections, presents vividly the crowning point in Pilgrimic practices, customs and usages, and it is significant not only from the fact that it sets forth admirable traits of individual characters, worthy of emulation; but serious contemplation of its truths will, on reflection, reveal some very desirable virtues essential for the redemption and preservation of a people.
The ceremony thus far, briefly stated, recalls how a favored people, through disobedience to divine law and sheer lack of faith, through idolatry and ignorance and sin became a "nation scattered abroad." Having been governed and directed by the Patriarchs and Judges more than two thousand years, following three successive reigns of forty years each by three kings famous in the world's history, their kingdom became divided and was subjected to assault and attack from foes without and within.
The people of one of these divisions were scattered around in the cities of the Medes, and in time finally lost their identity. The other was carried into captivity in Babylonia, and their splendid temple in Jerusalem destroyed, and the walls of that famous city demolished during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar.
The seventy years captivity in Babylon came to an end, after the death of Nebuchadnezzar, when his kingdom began to disintegrate and was taken over by Cyrus the Great of Persia, whose empire for two hundred years ruled all the lands from the Mediterranean to the borders of India, and was more thoroughly organized, and. more enduring than any that had preceded it. King Cyrus was friendly to these people, and issued a proclamation suggesting their return to their own country. The descendants of the captives at this time numbered nearly half a million, and many of them prospered in the land of their adoption. Not more than one-tenth of this number returned to Jerusalem, at the invitation of King Cyrus, and it is particularly those who returned not, together with their direful experience with the successors to Cyrus the Great, that we now purpose to consider.
On entering the room you observed at the altar Nehemiah-unselfish, earnest and self-denying. He knew the secret of the failure of his people, and though rich, honored and prosperous, and in daily contact with the greatest king of the time, his heart went out to his people five hundred miles away from his palace. They were in terror of their enemies, unable to help themselves, and their sorrows were his sorrows. His prayer was not for himself but for his people across the desert. He prayed "day and night," not that God would have to be made willing to give, but to make himself willing to receive God's gift. His prayer was not only unselfish, it was more; it was self-denying. His prayer was that the way might be made clear by which he could leave his home and his wealth, and his high office, and journey a thousand miles across a desert that could not be crossed that he might aid his people in reconstructing the walls about Jerusalem. My loyal Memucan, instruct the candidates.
The Due-Guard Sign
Memucan: The decline of the chosen people was very largely due to their failure to exercise the gift of prayer to idolatry, and on entering the palace of the king you saw Nehemiah, thus: Shading the eyes as from the glare of the sun, as was done on entering at the altar.
It is the due-guard sign of this degree, and may it remind you, as often as you rise to speak, of the devout Nehemiah, and inspire you with devotion and love for your people, and remember how solicitously he enquired of his people in "great affliction," the walls of whose city were "broken down and the gates thereof burned with fire."
Ahas: Ezra also knew the secret of the transgressions of his people in that they followed not the laws as given by Moses and the prophets, and exercised not faith, and we read that the king granted him his request, according. to the hand of the Lord his God upon him. As a manifestation of his faith in the power of Jehovah, he would request of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to accompany him to the relief of his people in affliction at Jerusalem, for he knew as he said, "The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him." He too returned to Jerusalem, instructed his people in the law, and "they gave him their hands that they would put away their (strange) wives." My loyal Memucan, instruct the candidate.
Memucan, to male candidate: My brother, as Ezra upheld the law we shall expect you so to do, and not only to study and practice the teachings of the Holy Bible yourself but teach it to the members of your household. Obey the Constitution, the rites, customs and ceremonies of our institution, and we charge you to so receive and treat and accept the rulings, mandates and decrees of your superior officers until the same shall have been revoked by the powers of last resort. Contemplate on Ezra, and demand the hand of your brother or sister for virtue and morality in the home and family; for chastity and purity in our womanhood.
Ahas: On the return of this people to Jerusalem, the walls about the city were rebuilt and the temple for worship, together with its altars for consecration and sacrifice were erected and dedicated to God without assistance from surrounding nations. My loyal Memucan, instruct the candidate.
Memucan: My friends, the example of this people as cited by our noble King Ahasuerus teaches us industry and self-reliance, self-help. Let us emulate the example set, and exercise due diligence in support and protection for our family, our people and our institution.
Ahas: To return to the story for our more special consideration, we will revert to Mordecai, the uncle and benefactor of Esther, who is the heroine in our narrative.
His lineage can be traced back to Saul, the son of Kish, and the interesting and astounding fact is that the lineage of his arch enemy, Haman, traces back to Saul's enemy, Agag.
In Shushan his people were oppressed, despised and hated; he was a constant promoter of the interest of his lovely ward, and is to be commended for the interest he had in the welfare of his people, in that he importuned Esther to go in to the king that they might be protected against the machinations and designs of the wicked Haman. The unselfishness of Mordecai revealed itself in the fact that he made known. to the king a murderous intrigue on the part of his chamberlains, and thus, though a devout and sternly patriotic Jew, he showed his loyalty to a foreign ruler, and was indeed the "man whom the king delighted to honor."
Loyal Memucan, instruct the candidate.
Memucan: My brother, in contemplating Mordecai, the fact standing out most prominently is that although he received in the end the very highest honors, he never sought them. We admonish you to become worthy and competent for the most exalted and trustworthy positions in our institution, or elsewhere, but cultivate that admirable quality of the Benjamite pointing to him at the entrance through the curtain of white, who sat in the gate of the king. Promote the interest of the females under your care and protection; be loyal, be patriotic, be devout.
My sister, let the contemplation of Mordecai teach you what to expect.
Ahas: Our serious reflection on Mordecai can but recall his antithesis, as it were-his arch enemy Haman. Advanced in the Court through the loyalty of Mordecai, in all probability, and piqued because Mordecai failed to. do him reverence at the command of the king, he sought to influence the king to order the destruction of the Jews in his kingdom, for a consideration, which, it is regrettable to remark, the king at first granted. By order of the king he was hanged on the gallows he had ordered built for the Benjamite. My loyal Memucan, instruct the candidate.
Memucan: My brother, this character Haman we hold up for its peculiar qualities that are to be avoided, rather than emulated and cultivated. His elation over the invitation to the banquet of the king and queen points to his self-esteem to be avoided; his acquiescence and agreement with Zeresh suggest the discretion we should use, lest we be unduly influenced by designing women. His enmity to Mordecai-more pious, devout and patriotic and loyal-because of his failure to do him reverence, shows the heights to which arrogance and folly attain, at times, because of supposedly high official position in civil life.
Ahas: Esther had been an obscure orphan, reared in the home of Mordecai, and was called to the palace after it had been decreed that Vashti come no more before the king. Her days of purification having ended after one year, she was chosen queen from a very large number of the most beautiful maidens of Persia, and in obedience to the instructions of Mordecai she kept concealed her connection with the hated race of Jews.
When Mordecai perceived that Haman had planned the destruction of the Jews, he requested that Esther go in to the. king and make request of him for her people; and although she at first hesitated to do as her benefactor requested, after a period of three days of fasting and prayer she resolved to go in, whereupon the king extended the golden sceptre, and granted her request-from which fact this degree derives its name, the Royal Sceptre. You can but recall the slaughter of the enemies of her people.
In her exalted position in the palace, Esther never forgot her friend and benefactor, Mordecai. Because of his failure to bow in reverence before Haman, Mordecai knew himself to be in a manner responsible for the disaster sought to be visited upon his people. We can, therefore, readily understand his persistence in demanding that Esther go in to the king. You will now be instructed on the sign of the degree.
The Sign of the Degree
Memucan: The sign of the degree, made thus, Raise the right forearm to a position in which the right hand will be at a distance of about eighteen inches from the eye, and clasp the ring finger between the first and second joints by the thumb and forefinger of the left hand, is suggestive of the Signet of the King transferred from Haman to Mordecai. It is symbolical of authority and power, and as you strive to acquire it let your method and attitude be like Mordecai's rather than Haman's. Be discreet in its use at all times, in all places and under all circumstances. Exercise it for the promotion of the welfare of others, and not for self-aggrandizement.
Ahas: My loyal Memucan, chamberlain to the King, instruct the candidate further.
Memucan: My brother, you were taught that Esther concealed her identity as a member of a hated and persecuted people; and through the advice of Mordecai she passed to the palace. Out of respect to that beautiful quality of obedience she possessed, our pass in Royal Sceptre Degree is: "Hadasah.''
The Caution Sign and Word
Memucan: The caution sign, made thus: Draw the first finger of the right hand across the throat, the answer to which is made in the same way with the left hand, is suggestive of the fate against which Esther was cautioned by Mordecai, if she failed her people.
The caution word is: "Think not of scope in the house of the king" the answer to which is: "not more than the rest of my people." Our caution sign and word refer to the manner in which Mordecai held forth to Esther the opportunity to render good service for and in behalf of her people. My sister, may you follow her good example.
The Distress Sign and Word
Memucan: The distress sign, made thus: Place the right hand against the right ear, palm inwards. and then extend the arm at full length to the right. The answer is made in the same way with the left hand, on the left ear, is suggestive of the proclamation designed by Haman, and which they heard not; and the prostrate form of Esther's people, if the plans of Haman had prevailed.
The distress word is: "Haman - Nemah," the answer to which is: "Haman - Zaresh."
The Grip and Accompanying Word
Memucan: The grip is made thus: Clasp the right hands in the ordinary way, and the accompanying word is: "At the king’s gate."
The colors for this degree, a combination of all those preceding - white, blue, green and purple - serve to remind us of the lessons herein, and in the preceding degrees. They reveal the necessity of blending into one harn1onious whole all the virtues and truths sought to be impressed by the ancient mysteries of our institution.
Ahas: Few indeed were the people who knew Esther to belong to the hated race, and there was no need for her to make known, in the palace, her relationship. In the palace she was safe, and, therefore: (1) As she loved Israel, let us love our people and feel it an honor to be one of them; let us love our institution and its ancient mysteries, and feel it an honor to be "one of the faithful." (2) In the palace of the King, among a pleasure-loving people, Esther was prayerful. The Benjamite at the King's gate was not unlike her. Let us all emulate their good example. (3) Esther made a sacrifice. To come uninvited into the presence of the Persian King meant instant death, unless the King interposed. Her life was in her hand, as it were, but she risked it for her people. Can you risk as much as did Esther?
In the Crown Degree you observed the burning incense and sacrifice on the altar, and there are many things burned on altars, but the truest and highest sacrifice is self-sacrifice. A sacrifice burned on the altar can do no good unless it is the solemn symbol of true and entire devotion of self. Such must be its main element in religious or secular affairs. There. can be no higher virtue than self-denial, self-sacrifice. 'Tis often said, "God does not require us for himself, but for the saving and nurturing of his other children;" that "he is most like the Master who takes up his cross and follows him, that is, offers everything, even his life, to the carrying forward of His work."
Most naturally, then, my beloved, the question of the moment is: At what point did Esther save her people? Was it on the day the enemies of her people were slain, or was it when Mordecai put on the Signet of the King? Was it at the banquet spread for the King and Haman, or was it when the King held out the golden sceptre?
The supreme moment was prior to any of these. It was when her decision was made, as evidenced by her declaration: "I will go in unto the King, and if I perish, I perish." And thus, my beloved, nothing we have said or have required of you will hold you steadfast and true to the principles cherished by our institution, unless you have so willed and decided. It must all depend upon the Will, the greatest power in the world-the power which dominates all other forces.