BLUE LODGE DEGREES
Masonic lodges have three separate degrees or ceremonies: Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason, given in that order. These ceremonies, in which all parts are delivered from memory, use symbols and allegory to teach lessons about brotherly love, relief, and truth. Many of the symbols are tools used in the stonemason's trade, which explains why a common Masonic symbol is the square and compasses. The square teaches that a Mason should relate honestly and fairly with his fellow men; "giving a square deal" is a phrase in everyday use. The compasses are used to teach Masons to moderate or circumscribe their passions and desires.
Teaching by treating common-place things symbolically is an old technique; and because Masons use this system of communicating their lessons, their lodges are often given the name "Symbolic Lodges." The color blue is associated with these lodges, and Symbolic Lodges may be called Blue Lodges. Because the tools of the stonemason's craft are used symbolically, another name for these lodges is Craft Lodges. Masonry--or Freemasonry, the terms are used interchangeably--is often called The Craft by initiates.
RED HOUSE-YORK RITE CHAPTER DEGREES
What has attracted so many brethren to seek further light in Royal Arch Masonry? In your journey through the three degrees of Symbolic masonry and as you have learned the proficiency lecture for each degree, no doubt many questions have arisen concerning the meaning of the ritualistic ceremonies, the historical implications and the "why" of the legends of Freemasonry.
Many believe the Sublime Degree of Master Mason to be the ultimate degree of Freemasonry and all others to be added and explanatory. Most students of Freemasonry agree that the story of the Craft as presented in the three degrees is incomplete and that the degrees of the Royal Arch complete the story and answer many of the questions in the mind of the newly made Master Mason.
Councils of Cryptic Masons form the center body of the York Rite of Freemasonry. A Master Mason may join a Chapter of Royal Arch Masons and receive the four degrees of that organization. After which he may seek further knowledge in Freemasonry and join a Council of Cryptic Masons.
The Cryptic Degrees are a set of three degrees controlled by the Select Masters Council. The degrees get their name from the reference to a hidden or secret vault in the degrees, hence the term Cryptic. Only the first two degrees are regularly worked, the third degree, that of Super Excellent Master, is worked as an honorary degree, not being required as a requisite for membership in the Council. It is also somewhat peculiar in its association with the Cryptic degrees, as it is more closely allied in theme and character with the Royal Arch and the Illustrious Order of the Red Cross. The history of the body as a whole is also shrouded in uncertainty and controversy. Though there is early evidence of Councils of Royal and Select Masters being worked in the United States, the degrees were worked variously by their own Councils, Royal Arch Chapters, and even Lodges of Perfection of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite. Though the Scottish Rite has long relinquished any claim to these degrees, several Grand Jurisdictions still confer them as a part of Capitular Masonry. In England, the degree of Most Excellent Master is grouped with this body. In the United States, all business is conducted in the Select Masters Council, the other two bodies only being opened for the conferral of degrees.
The Knights Templar is a Christian-oriented fraternal organization that is based on the history and mythos surrounding the 11th century Order. Originally, the Knights Templar were laymen who protected and defended Christians traveling to Jerusalem. These men took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and were renowned for their fierceness and courage in battle.
The Chivalric Orders are a set of three Orders culminating in the grade of Knight Templar, and controlled by that body. This body is markedly different from its foreign counterparts, in that it exhibits a paramilitary structure and outlook on Masonry, being the only branch of Masonry in the world that is a uniformed body. Its requirement that its members be professed Christians has led to calls of condemnation from other Masonic bodies and organizations both inside and outside the United States, claiming that the body is more of a Christian organization rather than a Masonic body. These have had little effect on the body, however, as many of the organizations criticizing the body have similar degrees among themselves.
The Scottish Rite is one of the two Appendant Bodies of Freemasonry in which a Master Mason my proceed after he has completed the Three Degrees of Blue Lodge (or Craft) Lodge Masonry. Any Master Mason in good standing may Petition for Membership. He must be judged of good moral character and be approved by the Members. Neither Scottish in origin nor a Rite in the religious sense, the Scottish Rite has as its ultimate goal mankind's moral and spiritual development. The local Scottish Rite organization, called a "Valley," confers the 4th through 32nd Degrees in Degree-conferring Meetings. The Scottish Rite is sometimes called the "College of Freemasonry" because it uses extensive allegory and drama to emphasize the message of its Degrees.
The Scottish Rite is said to have been brought to the New World in 1761. In 1801, the first Scottish Rite Supreme Council was established in Charleston, South Carolina, becoming known in 1813 as the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry for the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States of America, the Supreme Council 33rd Degree, Mother Council of the World.
In 1813, this Council authorized the formation of a second Council in New York City, known as the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the United States of America. The Supreme Council of the Northern Jurisdiction with headquarters in Lexington, Massachusetts, consists of 15 states north of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi River.
The Supreme Council of the Southern Jurisdiction includes the other 35 states, plus the District of Columbia, Canal Zone, China, Japan, Okinawa, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Korea, and Taiwan. The Southern Jurisdiction has its headquarters in Washington D.C. In addition, Canada's Scottish Rite is governed by the Supreme Council of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry of Canada, headquartered in Hamilton, Ontario. Mexico also has its own Scottish Rite Jurisdiction.
All Supreme Councils and their Subordinate Bodies acknowledge the Supremacy of Symbolic Grand Lodges. Termination of Symbolic Lodge Membership automatically terminates Scottish Rite Membership.
SHRINERS-Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order Nobles Mystic Shrine
The Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order Nobles Mystic Shrine of North and South America and Its Jurisdictions, Inc. has a long and colorful history. The order was established as an Imperial Council of Prince Hall Shriners on June 3, 1893, in Chicago, Illinois, by 13 Prince Hall Masons under the leadership of John George Jones. They met in the Apollo Hall on State Street where Palestine Temple was organized. On June l0, 1893, Jones and his associates organized the Imperial Grand Council of Prince Hall Shriners. Jones, who was an attorney, immediately went about organizing Prince Hall Shrine Temples in Los Angeles, California, Washington D.C., Jacksonville, Florida, Indianapolis, Indiana, Baltimore, Maryland, Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri, New York City, New York, Cleveland, Ohio, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Providence, Rhode Island, Alexandria and Richmond, Virginia. In September of 1889, Isaac L.W. Holland, the Illustrious Potentate of Pyramid Temple in Philadelphia, sent out a call to members of Prince Hall Shrine Temples within the nation to meet with him for the purpose of reorganizing the Imperial Grand Council. On December 12, 1900, a meeting was held in Philadelphia with officers and members attending from Temples in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and from Alexandria, Virginia, At this meeting the Imperial Council was reorganized and the order adopted a new name: Imperial Council of the Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order Nobles Mystic Shrine of North and South America and its Jurisdiction, Incorporated.
The first annual session of the newly organized Imperial Council was held on September 25, 1901, in Newark, New Jersey, it was here that a Constitution was formally adopted, establishing the fraternity as it is today, and designating the Imperial Council as a charitable, benevolent, fraternal. and social organization, dedicated to the welfare and extension of Prince Hall Freemasonry, and decreeing that membership in the order be confined to regular freemasons who were members of lodges descended from African Lodge #459 (African Lodge #459 established on September 29, 1784, was formally African Lodge #l formed on July 3, 1776; Massachusetts).
The Worldwide Fraternal Shrine Family has a membership of approximately 35,000 in some 227 Shrine Temples and 200 Courts, its women's auxiliary, the Imperial Court, throughout the Continental United States, Canada, Germany, Italy, England, Spain, Hawaii, Japan, Korea, Guam, Thailand, Panama, and the Bahamas. The Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine is primarily a benevolent, charitable and fraternal organization, Its membership is dedicated to the principle of fostering civic, economic and educational development programs throughout the world.