In the Beginning…
The Blue Lodge is the beginning of Masonry. It is the foundation on which all other Masonic organizations are built.
Many Masons believe that the Fraternity has its origins in the building of King Solomon’s Temple and that the three degrees represent the three classes of workmen, the Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason. These are, in fact, the names of the three degrees of the Blue Lodge. Others believe that the Fraternity was born from the guilds of stone masons who built castles and cathedrals of medieval Europe.
Other “popular” theories claim the Fraternity was originated by the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt or as a place for the Knights Templar to hide after the purge by Phillip of France and Clement V in 1307. What we know for sure is that organized Speculative Freemasonry began in 1717 when four London lodges came together at the Goose and Gridiron Ale House, St. Paul’s Churchyard, and formed themselves into a Grand Lodge.
Masonry in the United States can be traced back to early colonial times. By the American Revolution there were an estimated 250 lodges in the colonies. Many Masons of the time, including Geroge Washington, Nathaniel Green, and Henry Knox were staunch patriots. Many claim that the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights were documents founded upon Masonic principles.
In the United States each state and the District of Columbia is organized independently under it’s own Grand Lodge. Individual Lodges are chartered by the Grand Lodge and work under that charter.
Masonry teaches good men to become better, not better than others, but better then themselves. It teaches life’s lessons through a progressive series of degrees. Symbolic, or Blue Lodge Masonry is composed of the degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason. It is the foundation upon which all other Masonic orders are based. The prescribed ritual is taught using symbolism and allegories, the interpretation and value of each is unique to each brother mason, based upon his own experiences.
The three golden tenants of Masonry are Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. The Mason comes to realizes that he must do more than attend the meeting of his Lodge if he is to truly appreciate the value of Freemasonry and understand the principles underlying its teachings.
The York Rite of Freemasonry is an appendant body of the Blue Lodge. It consists of three separate organizations, the Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, the Council of Royal and Select Masters and the Commandery of Knights Templar.
The organization takes its name from the City of York, where, according to Masonic Tradition, King Athelstan created the Rite as the first “Grand Lodge of All England” to reward the Masons and Knights who helped unify Saxon England after years of conquest by the Norsemen.
York Rites are organized at the state and local level. Each of the York Rite Bodies are part of an international organization.
For the Master Mason, the York Rite experience answers questions about, and explains in greater detail, the degrees of the Symbolic Lodge.
The allegories used by the three bodies of the York Rite center around themes summarized by Restoration, Preservation and Continuation.
The York Rite of Freemasonry is unique to the United States, although many of the degrees were taken from English Freemasonry.
1st Degree – Entered Apprentice
2nd Degree – Fellow Craft
3rd Degree – Master Mason
Chapter of Royal Arch Masons
Most Excellent Master
Super Excellent Master
Order of the Red Cross
Order of Malta
Order of the Temple
The Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry traces its origins to early 18th century France. The term “Scottish” is believed to come from those Scottish Masons who fled to France during and following the Jacobite Rebellion. Many of the earliest degrees in the Rite were believed to have come from Scotland.
Like all good things, it left France and came to America were it was perfected and grew to its current form in Charleston, South Carolina in 1801.
The Scottish Rite is often referred to as the University of Freemasonry. The twenty-nine degrees of this Rite amplify those of the Blue Lodge by offering a broader and deeper geographic, historical, philosophical and spiritual connotation drawn from the greatest teachings of antiquity.
The Scottish Rite in the U.S. is divided into two jurisdictions. The Supreme Council of the Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite for the Southern Masonic Jurisdiction is located in Washington, D.C., at the House of the Temple, one of the most impressive Masonic structures in the world. It is sovereign over all Scottish Rites in the 35 states south of the Ohio and west of the Mississippi Rivers. The other 15 states are part of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction headquartered in Lexington, Massachusetts.
Each state is referred to as an Orient. Individual Scottish Rites, known as Valleys, are located in cities across the state. The first three degrees of the Scottish Rite are conferred in the Symbolic, or Blue Lodge. The other degrees are organized as follows:
Lodge of Perfection
4th -Secret Master
5th – Perfect Master
6th – Confidential Secretary
7th – Provost & Judge
8th – Intendant of the Building
9th – Elu of the Nine
10th – Elu of the Fifteen
11th – Elu of the Twelve
12th – Master Architect
13th – Royal Arch of Solomon
14th – Perfect Elu
Chapter of Rose Croix
15th – Knight of the East
16th – Prince of Jerusalem
17th – Knight of the East & West
18th – Knight Rose Croix
Council of Kadosh
19th – Grand Pontiff
20th – Master of the Symbolic Lodge
21st – Noachite or Prussian Knight
22nd – Knight of the Royal Axe
23rd – Chief of the Tabernacle
24th – Prince of the Tabernacle
25th – Knight of the Brazen Serpent
26th – Prince of Mercy
27th – Knight Commander of the Temple
28th – Knight of the Sun
29th – Knight of St. Andrew
30th – Knight of Kadosh Consistory
31st – Inspector Inquisitor
32nd – Master of the Royal Secret
The 33rd Degree is reserved for those members who have been recognized for outstanding service to Masonry and their community.
The Order of the Eastern Star is the largest fraternal organization in the world open to both men and women. Qualifications for membership include a belief in a Supreme Being and a family relationship to a Mason or a member of the Star for ladies. A male applicant must be a Master Mason in good standing.
The Order of the Eastern Star was organized in 1850 by Brother Rob Morris to provide female relatives of Masons an avenue to share the same inspirations found in the Blue Lodge.
The organization, headquartered at the International Temple in Washington, DC, governs Grand Chapters in all 50 states, all 7 provinces in Canada, Puerto Rico, Guam, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Bermuda, Okinawa, and Scotland.
The purpose of the Star is based on the beautiful and inspiring biblical examples of heroic conduct and moral values used in the ritual of initiation which portray the noble principles which should adorn the personal lives of Eastern Star members. As with every Masonic organization, the Eastern Star strives to take good people and make them better. Concrete evidence of the charitable nature of the organization is found the millions of dollars which have been raised within the membership to support national, jurisdictional, and local charities.
The Ancient & Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, the Shrine of North America or simply, “the Shrine”, is a fraternity that grew out of Freemasonry in the late 19th Century. Originally envisioned to be the “Playground of Masonry,” it soon realized the need to focus on philanthropy, and, as a result, in 1923 the first of its 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children was opened in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Requiring each of its members to be a Blue Lodge Mason, the ritual of the Shrine, while abbreviated, affords additional light in Masonry using an Arabic theme. The rite is performed at a “Ceremonial” in which a pilgrimage to Mecca is enacted. Following his initiation the new Noble is encouraged to join a Unit or Shrine Club.
The Shrine provides a Mason with the means to widen the fellowship first enjoyed in the Blue Lodge. The Shrine of North America is governed by the Imperial Council headquartered in Tampa, Florida. Each Orient (or state) is comprised of several Deserts (or cities) each having a single Shrine Center. There is no governing body at the Orient level.
Job’s Daughters is an organization for young women between the ages of 10 and 20 who are related to a Master Mason. The “Jobbies” perform service projects in their communities and support the Hearing Impaired Kids Endowment (HIKE).
The International Order of the Rainbow for Girls is a character building and service organization for girls between the ages of 11and 20 sponsored by Masons, Eastern Star or Amaranth. Its main goal is to teach belief in a Supreme Being and in the immortality of the soul; the truths contained in the Holy Bible; church membership; patriotism; love of home and family, dignity of character; effective leadership and service to humanity & community. The four main types of activities for Rainbow are: service projects, charity projects, money making projects and fun projects.
DeMolay International was born in 1919 with a phone call, nine boys and one man and seven precepts of life. Today, DeMolay still teaches the seven precepts or basic life principles upon which DeMolay members should build their lives: love of parents, reverence for sacred things, courtesy, comradeship, fidelity, cleanness and patriotism.
Royal Order of Scotland: An invitation order of the Masonic family. Members must be Master Masons of five years standing. The Order has two degrees, that of Heredom of Kilwinning and the Rosy Cross.
Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests: An invitational organization with membership limitations. Members are selected on the basis of outstanding performance as a Commander of a Commandery of Knights Templar.
Membership in National Sojourners is open to citizens of the United States who are Master Masons in good standing who are serving or have served honorably as a Commissioned Officer, Warrant Officer or senior Non-Commissioned Officer or to those of similar rank in an allied service during the time of war.
York Rite Sovereign College of North America: An invitational order that exists primarily to be of service to the York Rite of Freemasonry by providing ritualistic and educational support.
High Twelve International: A social and informational organization open to Master Masons in good standing. Usually meets at noon for lunch and a program of community or Masonic interest.
Mystic Order of Veiled Prophets of the Enchanted Realm, also known as the Grotto of North America is a social and charitable organization open to Master Masons.
Allied Masonic Degrees: An invitational organization that requires membership in the Royal Arch as well as the Symbolic Lodge. Each Council is limited to 27 members.
Knight York Cross of Honor: An invitational order open to York Rite Masons who have successfully completed a year as Master of the Lodge, High Priest of a Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, Illustrious Master of a Council of Cryptic Masons, and Commander of a Commandery of Knights Templar.
Knight Masons: An invitational order of Masons requiring membership in the Royal Arch.
Tall Cedars of Lebanon of North America is a Masonic organization devoted to fostering friendship and fellowship among Freemasons and to all mankind.
White Shrine of Jerusalem: An international Christian Order whose primary purpose is social contact and mutual protection and support of its members. White Shrine is opened to men and women.
Social Order of the Beauceant: An organization for wives, mothers, daughters and sisters of Knights Templar. The organization supports the Commandery of Knights Templar.
Daughters of the Nile: A benevolent fraternal organization for women who are related by birth or marriage to a Shriner, Master Mason or another Daughter of the Nile. They contribute over a million dollars a year to the Shrine Children’s Hospitals.
*Information provided and adapted from the “White Leather Apron” program developed by the Sioux City Scottish Rite Bodies in 2007. To view the original source, click here.
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