An Abbreviated History of Scottish Rite
The Scottish Rite is one of the appendant bodies of Freemasonry which a Master Mason may join for further exposure to the principles of Freemasonry. In the United States, the Scottish Rite is officially recognized by Grand Lodges as an extension of the degrees of Freemasonry. Scottish Rite acknowledges that there is no higher degree than that of Master Mason. Because of the extensive nature of the 29 degrees of the Scottish Rite, it has been called the University of Freemasonry.
The University of Freemasonry
The degrees of the Rite enrich and build upon the teaching of ancient Craft Masonry. The Scottish Rite builds upon the ethical teachings and philosophy offered in the Symbolic Lodge, through dramatic presentation of the individual degrees. The Scottish Rite seeks to improve and strengthen the character of the individual man; through the individual, it seeks to improve the character of the community, reinforcing those spiritual and moral values which give the community its strength and stability, and believes that each man should act in civil life according to his individual judgment and the dictates of his conscience.
There are records of lodges in France conferring the degree of "Scots Master" or "Scotch Master" as early as 1733. The references to these few occasions indicate that these were special meetings held for the purpose of performing unusual ceremonies, probably by visiting Freemasons. There is no record of an actual Scottish involvement in the Scottish Rite, however there were a number of exiled Scots living in France, in the service of Charles Edward Stuart, “Bonnie Prince Charlie”, the heir to the Scottish throne, both before and after the “Battle of Culloden” in 1746. Many were active Freemasons, and some, no doubt were involved in the high degree madness, which swept continental Freemasonry. At one time there may have been as many as 1,000 “high degrees”.
The early development of the Scottish Rite is murky, but it is plain that the profusion of “High Degrees” that flourished in the 1730’s and 40’ was centered in Paris and Bordeaux, France. There the 25 degree “Rite of Perfection” was probably originated in an “Ecossais” Lodge or “Lodge of Scots Masters” ultimately one of Eight such high degree Ecossais lodges working in France. A French trader by the name of Etienne (or, Stephen) Morin was chartered in 1761 as “Grand Inspector for all parts of the New World”. Morin returned to St. Domingue (Haiti) and later in 1766, moved to Jamaica where he created a Grand Chapter of the Rite of the Royal Secret, as the highest degree was called “Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret”.
Enter Henry Andrew Franken, a naturalized French citizen, of Dutch origin, living in the American Colonies. Morin deputized Franken who chartered a Loge de Parfaits d’ Ecosse in New Orleans in 1764, which died very quickly when France ceded New Orleans to Spain, the Spanish crown has historically been hostile to Freemasonry and it did not flourish in that environment. Franken next granted a patent to the formation of a Lodge of Perfection in Albany, NY in 1767, the “Ineffable Grand Lodge of Perfection”; conferring the 4o thru 14o degrees. Franken was a busy man and wrote three manuscript books ultimately containing all the rituals from the 4o to the 25o. Most were in the form of an outline with a story and a few words or grips, but not in any sense a ritual that modern freemasons would recognize.
Franken communicated the degrees to Moses Michael Hays, and appointed him a Deputy Inspector General, Hays appointed eight others, also, Deputy Inspector Generals and four of these were important in the establishment of Scottish Rite in South Carolina, where the Mother Supreme Council was organized in May, 1801, at Charleston.
Scottish Rite is inexorably linked with one man, Albert Pike, Born in Boston, in 1809, educated as a Lawyer, and ended residing in Arkansas, where he was introduced to Scottish Rite Freemasonry in 1853, from 1855 to 1857, he re-wrote the entire 30 degrees giving them substance which they did not have previously. Elected a member of the Supreme Council in 1858, he became its Grand Commander in 1859, and after the Civil War he wrote Morals and Dogma of the Scottish Rite. By today’s standards a ponderous and turgid treatise, it actually is a textbook on comparative religion. In 861 pages of text and 218 pages of index, its 32 chapters are his thoughts and essays on the symbology and philosophic meaning of Masonic Degrees. Morals and Dogma is frequently misquoted by Anti-Masons.
Scottish Rite Today
Today, the Scottish Rite consists of a system of 29 degrees comprised of four bodies, conferring moral lessons with practical applications to our modern life in dramatic, theatrical form. In the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, a Lodge of Perfection confers the 4o~14o, using the era of King Solomon or before as its theme; a Council of Princes of Jerusalem confers the 15o~16o, using the Babylonian Captivity of the Jewish People, and the re-building of the Second Temple as the basis for its lessons; a Chapter of Rose Croix confers the 17o~18o, using the life of Christ in a non-denominational setting, inspiring us to prepare a Temple in our heart where our personal God is worshipped; and a Consistory of the Sublime Princes of the Royal Secret confers the 19o~ 32o in the form of an army of chivalrous knights.
Local bodies are organized into “Valleys”, States: Councils of Deliberation. There are nine Valleys in Massachusetts; Countries in Supreme Councils, In the U.S. the country is divided into the Southern Masonic Jurisdiction, with its Headquarters in Washington, DC and the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, the fifteen Northeastern states, with its headquarters in Lexington, Massachusetts.
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The Bodies of the Scottish Rite, sitting in the Valley of Boston, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, acknowledge and yield allegiance to the Supreme Council, 33°, of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the United States of America, whose Grand East is in Lexington, Massachusetts.