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History of the Rite

This material is taken from S. Brent Morris,


Complete Idiot’s Guide to Freemasonry,

Chapter 9: The Scottish Rite (New York: Alpha Books/Penguin, 2006). © by S. Brent Morris. All Rights Reserved.

The Origins of the Scottish Rite

Image: Copy of the Grand Constitutions of 1786 from the Archives of the Supreme Council, 33°, S.J., U.S.A., in the handwriting of Rev. Frederick Dalcho, ca. 1801–02

Like so much early Masonic history, the origins of the Scottish Rite are hidden in mist. There’s evidence that by the early 1730s in England there were “Scotch Masons” or “Scots Master Masons,” a step after the Master Mason Degree (and apparently unrelated to Scotland). By 1742 in Berlin there was talk of “higher or so-called Scottish Masonry.” In 1743 the Grand Lodge of France adopted a regulation limiting the privileges of “Scots Masters” in lodges. It’s clear from these few mentions that something was going on behind the scenes with “Scottish Masonry,” but we’re not quite sure what. These developments were happening at the same time the Royal Arch was gestating before its birth in 1754. It’s even possible that the Royal Arch and Scottish Masonry came from the same sources. We just don’t know.

What we do know is that the high degrees found fertile ground when they were introduced to French Masonry. In 1745, two years after restricting Scotch Masons, the Grand Lodge of France gave them special privileges, and more privileges and authority followed in 1747 and 1755. In contrast, the Royal Arch appears in lodge minutes in America in 1753 and England in 1758 with little official notice. By 1766 we know that an elaborate sequence of High Degree or “Scottish” Masonry is being worked in France. There’s much activity prior to 1766 that we’ll cover later, but we want to take a look now at that sequence of High Degrees.

Emperors and Knights in France

Competition is the force that drives the world’s economies, and it also seems to have driven Scottish Masonry in France, which became part of jockeying for power within the Grand Lodge of France. The Council of the Knights of the East, Sovereign Prince Masons, was organized in 1756, and included in its government middle-class Masons who had been excluded in previous High Degree ventures. It is not known how many degrees the Knights worked, but they seem to have faded out around 1768–1779.

Coming on the heels of the Knights of the East in 1758 was the Sovereign Council of Emperors of the East and of the West, Sublime Scottish Mother Lodge. The Emperors attracted the upper class and nobility and competed with the knights in the number of degrees they offered. (Just from a marketing point of view the newer group bested the older: “Emperors” are more powerful than “Knights,” and “East and West” is twice an extensive as only “East.”)

The Invention of Stephen Morin

In August 1761 Stephen Morin received a patent from the Grand Lodge of France “authorizing and empowering him to establish perfect and sublime Masonry in all parts of the world, etc., etc.” Morin was a wine merchant from Bordeaux and set up business in Santo Domingo in what is now the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean. Morin is little remembered for his wine business, but his Masonic activities have gained him lasting fame.

It took Morin about 15 months to make it from France to Santo Domingo, arriving in January 1763, because his ship was captured by the English and he was taken to England. While we know that he arrived with a patent of authority over the High Degrees, we don’t know how many or which High Degrees he controlled! What we do know is that he met a Dutch merchant, Henry Andrew Francken, and made him a Deputy Inspector General sometime between 1763 and 1767. Francken in turn traveled to Albany, New York, and created there a Lodge of Perfection (4°–14°) in 1767.

In addition to creating the Albany Lodge of Perfection, Francken at least four times copied all of his degrees into books: 1771, 1783, and two undated versions. The “Francken Manuscripts” contain the earliest English versions of 21 degrees from 4°, “Secret Master,” to 25°, “The Royal Secret or Knights of St. Andrews—the faithful guardians of the Sacred Treasure,” a 25-degree system with the first three degrees conferred in Blue Lodges. This should establish conclusively that Morin worked a system of 25 degrees, right? Well, only if the degrees that Morin gave to Francken are the same ones that he received in France!

There is growing evidence that Morin took whatever high degrees he had received in France and refashioned them into the Order of the Royal Secret, creating additional degrees as needed. The governing document, the “Constitutions of 1762,” has been discovered by Masonic scholar Alain Bernheim to be a slightly modified version of the constitution of the Grand Lodge of France. Morin apparently acted to create a new Masonic body with himself as the only “Grand Inspector.”

The First Supreme Council: Charleston, 1801

However the 25-degree Order of the Royal Secret came into being, it proved popular. These French high degrees, unlike the English York Rite, were spread by traveling Inspectors who conferred them for a fee. It wasn’t necessary to wait for enough Masons in a town to receive the high degrees somewhere else and for them to apply for a charter; the itinerant Inspector could take care of everything as soon as he arrived. Eight bodies of the Royal Secret were formed in America before 1800, from New Orleans to Albany. The weakness of the Order proved to be the unchecked system of Inspectors General.

Each Inspector General could confer the degrees on Master Masons, establish local bodies, and create new Inspectors—all for an appropriate fee. There were no guidelines on cost, no limitation on numbers, and no restriction on how many more Inspectors an Inspector could create. By 1800 there were over 80 Inspectors General, and the system was moving toward chaos.

Then on May 31, 1801, the first Supreme Council of the Thirty-third Degree, the Mother Council of the World, declared its existence with a motto of “Ordo ab Chao” (Order from Chaos). It announced a new 33-degree system of high degrees that incorporated all 25 of the Order of the Royal Secret, and added eight more, including that of 33°, Sovereign Grand Inspector General. This new organization declared control of high-degree Masonry in America.

The new Supreme Council had a written constitution and a plan for organizing and managing the bodies under its control. The problem it faced was how to rein in the roving Inspectors General. The solution was shrewd and depended upon convincing the Inspectors to voluntarily yield allegiance to the Supreme Council. Any Inspector of the 25° would be given authority to confer up to the 32° (the extra seven degrees would make his product more attractive), if he turned in his old patent and agreed to follow the rules of the Supreme Council. This strategy was reasonably successful, and independent Inspectors General soon disappeared.

The Second American Supreme Council: New York, 1806

The Charleston Supreme Council had organized itself according to the “Grand Constitution of the Thirty-third Degree,” purportedly written by Frederick the Great of Prussia in 1786. The Constitution provided for one Supreme Council in each country, except that the United States of America could have up to two. (This is an odd provision for a document supposedly originating from Prussia in 1786!) The decision to create a second American Supreme Council was unexpectedly thrust upon the Supreme Council in Charleston.

The second Supreme Council in the world was established in Santo Domingo in 1802, a fitting return to Stephen Morin’s home. This Supreme Council died with the slave revolt on the island, but one of its members, Antoine Bideaud, fled to New York. While there he came across five Frenchmen who were interested in the high degrees. For a fee of $46 in 1806 (about $565 in 2000), Bideaud conferred the degrees upon his customers and formed them into a “Consistory” of the 32°—all without the knowledge of the Charleston Supreme Council.

The same year that Bideaud was creating his Consistory, Joseph Cerneau, a French jeweler, moved from Cuba to New York City. He had a patent from an Inspector of the Order of the Royal Secret that gave him limited powers in Cuba, but that didn’t stop him from setting up his own consistory in New York City. Cerneau operated without saying much about whether he had a 25-degree or 32-degree consistory.

Emmanuel de la Motta, the Grand Treasurer from the Charleston Supreme Council, arrived in New York City in 1813, examined the two competing factions, and decided against Cerneau. De la Motta regularized Bideaud’s group and transformed them into the second Supreme Council for America, now known as the “Northern Masonic Jurisdiction” and consisting of 15 mid-western and northeastern states from Wisconsin and Illinois northeast to Maine. The original Supreme Council or “Southern Jurisdiction” is composed of the other 35 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. All regular Supreme Councils of the world today descend from the Mother Supreme Council of Charleston.


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Masonic lodge Page issues (Redirected from Blue Lodge)

This article is about the Masonic term for a membership group. For other uses, see Masonic lodge (disambiguation).

A Masonic lodge, often termed a private lodge or constituent lodge, is the basic organisational unit of Freemasonry. Every new lodge must be warranted or chartered by a grand lodge, but is subject to its direction only in enforcing the published constitution of the jurisdiction. By exception the three surviving lodges that formed the world’s first known grand lodge in London (now merged into the United Grand Lodge of England) have the unique privilege to operate as time immemorial i.e. without such warrant; only one other lodge operates without a warrant – this is the Grand Stewards’ Lodge in London, although it is not also entitled to the “time immemorial” title. [note 1] A Freemason is generally entitled to visit any Lodge, in any jurisdiction (i.e. under any Grand Lodge) in amity with his own. In some jurisdictions this privilege is restricted to Master Masons (that is, Freemasons who have attained the Order’s third degree). He is first usually required to check, and certify, the regularity of the relationship of the Lodge – and be able to satisfy that Lodge of his regularity of membership. Freemasons gather together as a Lodge to work the three basic Degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason.

Kimbolton, NZ: Masonic Lodge No.123

Freemasons meet as a lodge not in a lodge, although Masonic premises may be called lodges, as well as temples (“of Philosophy and the Arts”). In many countries Masonic centre or hall has now replaced these terms to avoid arousing prejudice and suspicion. Several different lodges, or other Masonic organisations, often use the same premises at different times.

Blue lodges, craft lodges or ancient craft lodges refer to the lodges that work the first three Masonic degrees, rather than the appendant Masonic orders such as York Rite and Scottish Rite. The term “craft lodge” is used in Great Britain. The blue lodge is said to refer to the traditional colour of regalia in lodges derived from English or Irish Freemasonry. Although the term was originally frowned upon, it has gained widespread and mainstream usage in America in recent times. [1]

Research lodges have the purpose of furthering Masonic scholarship. Quatuor Coronati Lodge is an example of a research lodge; it has a strictly limited membership and receives visitors and papers from all over the world. Many jurisdictions have well-established research lodges, which usually meet less frequently than blue lodges and do not confer degrees.

In Great Britain, a lodge of instruction may be associated with a Lodge, but is not constituted separately. The lodge of instruction provides the officers and those who wish to become officers an opportunity to rehearse ritual under the guidance of an experienced brother; there may also be lectures around the ritual and the symbolism in the lodge within a Lodge of Instruction, in order to develop the knowledge and understanding of the membership.

In some jurisdictions in the United States, the lodge of instruction serves as a warranted lodge for candidate instruction in other aspects of Freemasonry besides ritual rehearsal, as well as hosting a speaker on topics both Masonic and non-Masonic.

In Great Britain, the term mother lodge is used to identify the particular Lodge where the individual was first “made a Mason” (i.e. received his Entered Apprentice degree). ‘Mother lodge’ may also refer to a lodge which sponsors the creation of a new lodge, the daughter lodge, to be warranted under the jurisdiction of the same grand lodge; specific procedures pertaining to this vary throughout history and in different jurisdictions. Lodge Mother Kilwinning No 0 in the Grand Lodge of Scotland is known as the Mother Lodge of Scotland, having been referred to in the Schaw Statutes of 1598 and 1599, and having itself warranted other lodges at a time when it did not subscribe to a grand

Main article: Regular Masonic jurisdictions

Plaque of Lodge St. George, the 1797 Masonic Lodge which has been housed in Bermuda’s former State House since 1815

Lodges are governed by national, state or provincial authorities, usually called Grand Lodges or Grand Orients, whose published constitutions define the structure of freemasonry under their authority, and which appoint Grand Officers from their senior masons. Provincial Grand Lodges (which in England generally correspond to historic counties) exercise an intermediate authority, and also appoint Provincial Grand Officers.

Different grand lodges and their regions show subtleties of tradition and variation in the degrees and practice; for example under the Grand Lodge of Scotland, the Mark Degree (which is unrecognised by the United Grand Lodge of England, but has a separate Mark Grand Lodge) is integrated into “The Craft” as a completion of the second degree. In any case, Grand Lodges have limited jurisdiction over their member Lodges, and where there is no prescribed ritual Lodges may thus have considerable freedom of practice. Despite these minor differences, fraternal relations exist between Lodges of corresponding degrees under different Grand Lodges.

Generally, to be accepted for initiation as a regular Freemason (in a lodge following Anglo-American style), a candidate must:

Be a man who comes of his own free will by his own initiative or by invitation in some jurisdictions. [2]

Believe in some kind of Supreme Being. [2]

Be of good morals, reputation and financially supporting himself and family. [2]

Be 21 years old (but as young as 18 or as old as 25 depending on the jurisdiction). [2]

Live in the jurisdiction under some Grand Lodges in the United States. [3]

Be able to pass interviews and pass the Investigation Committee’s inquiries about his past with people who have known him, which can take up to 2 years. [2]

Be of sound mind and body. [4]

Although this is not a universal requirement. [2]

Be a “Free Man”. This may have arisen from the refusal of operative masons to pass their secrets to slaves, who could be ordered to divulge them to others. [5] It may also have arisen from a requirement of early speculative lodges that a new Freemason should at least have a license to trade and employ others, making him a Free Man of the city or borough of the lodge. [6]

Pass the vote of the Lodge to allow your membership. [2]

After a Lodge elects or approves a candidate in accordance with the requirements of its Grand Lodge, it will decide whether to give the candidate each degree in order. Generally speaking those who have only received the Entered Apprentice degree are considered Freemasons, but hold limited privileges until they attain the Master Mason degree; under UGLE only a Master Mason will receive a Grand Lodge certificate, which may be demanded by any other Lodge he wishes to visit.

A Master Mason is considered a full lifetime member of the Lodge where he received his degrees. He can demit (resign) [7] if he so desires but only if he is in good standing and his dues paid. A Mason might remit for personal reasons or to join another Lodge in those jurisdictions where multiple membership is not permitted. After remitting, he continues to be regarded as a Mason in absentia and may rejoin through a new application, but he and his family have no rights, privileges or claims on Freemasonry. [8] Some sources (Mackey) claim that leaving the lodge does not exempt him from his obligations nor the wholesome control of the Order over his moral conduct. [9] A Mason may be expelled from his Lodge and Freemasonry in general if convicted of particularly serious violations of Civil or Masonic law. Expulsion from all of Freemasonry can only occur from a Grand Lodge while lesser chapters can expel members from their specific lodges. [9]

A Master Mason “in good standing” (i.e. whose dues are current and who is not subject to Masonic investigation or discipline) may join another regular Lodge; he need not take his degrees again, but may be expected to serve the new Lodge in office.

If a Master Mason is dropped from the rolls for non-payment of dues, under most circumstances he may be immediately reinstated in good standing simply by paying his current dues as well as any back dues owed, although in many jurisdictions there is a requirement to ballot for re-admission.

Many Grand Lodges permit Master Masons to be “plural affiliates,” or members of more than one Lodge simultaneously. In some jurisdictions plural affiliates are prohibited from serving as an elected officer of more than one Lodge at any given time.

These rules are different for Freemasons of the Entered Apprentice and Fellowcraft Degrees. In some Grand Lodges an Entered Apprentice or Fellowcraft may not receive a demit, but may join another Lodge with the intent of earning the Master Mason Degree with the consent of his original Lodge.



Opened to great fanfare on October 18, 1915, the House of the Temple in Washington, D.C., has since functioned as the headquarters of the Supreme Council, 33°, Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction, USA. The Temple, which includes a library, archives, and museums, is open to visitors for guided tours. The library—which was the first library open to the public in the District of Columbia and remains so today—contains books on Freemasonry including history, philosophy, symbolism, poetry, lodge proceedings, and periodicals.

Designed by renowned architect, John Russell Pope, the House of the Temple was his first monumental commission. It garnered him the attention of the architectural community, leading to many awards and commissions in the District, such as the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, National Archives, and the National Gallery of Art—West Building. For more information on Pope, see History of the Temple.

The Architecture

The exterior of the building stands 130 feet high, with an Ionic colonnade that rises to a magnificent stepped pyramid roof. The front of the building features two impressive limestone sphinxes carved on-site by famed sculptor Adolph A. Weinman, best-known for designing the Walking Liberty and Winged Mercury coins. The rear of the building is a dramatic semicircular apse, which encompasses the library and the Grand Staircase that leads to the Temple Room.

The intense attention to detail paid to the exterior of the Temple continues on the interior. Walking into the Atrium of the House of the Temple for the first time is an awe-inspiring experience. Like being transported back in time to an ancient temple, the Egyptian and Greek influences encompassing the space are immediately recognizable.

For the floor of the Atrium, Pope used beautiful beige Tavernelle marble from France, inlaid with black marble originating from the Greek Isle of Tinos. The Egyptian statues flanking the Grand Staircase in the Atrium also were carved by Weinman on-site out of black marble from the shores of Lake Champlain. The ceiling and frieze high on the walls of the Atrium depict elaborate, colorful designs hand painted by Sherwin and Berman, Inc. of New York City, who were known for architectural woodwork and decorative painting.

The centerpiece of the Atrium is a large table made of Pavonazzo marble imported from Italy and inspired by a table found in the ruins of a Pompeiian home. The table features four double-headed eagles, the chief symbol of Scottish Rite Masonry, supporting the base of the table, with the words Salve Frater, meaning “Welcome Brother,” carved on the side facing the entrance.

The Grand Staircase rises dramatically from the Atrium to the entrance of the Temple Room. The Temple Room is a voluminous space with a domed roof rising over eight stories from the floor. The magnificent dome was the work of the Guastavino Fireproof Construction Company founded by master builder, Rafael Guastavino Moreno. The doom roof of the Temple Room soars 100 feet above the altar and weighs 332 tons. The walls around the room that support it are eight feet thick.

Other Notable Features

The House of the Temple is also home to several museum exhibits. Currently, we have the Americanism Museum, Albert Pike Museum, Masonic Philanthropies Museum, and a museum dedicated to Illustrious Brother Burl Ives, 33°. Among the many features of the Temple are the George Washington Memorial Banquet Hall, Pillars of Charity Alcove, the Executive Chamber, the Hall of Regalia, the Pillars of Charity Portrait Gallery, and the Hall of Honor.



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