The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry (AASR) is one of several different rites belonging to the worldwide fraternity known as Freemasonry.
A rite is a series of progressive degrees that are conferred by various Masonic organisations or bodies that all operate under the control of one central authority. Under the AASR, the central authority is called a Supreme Council.
The thirty-three degrees of the AASR are conferred by several different controlling bodies. The first of these is the craft lodge which confers the Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason degrees.
The AASR forms one of the more important appendant bodies of Freemasonry that a Master Mason may join for further exposure to the principles of Freemasonry.
The AASR builds upon the ethical teachings and philosophy offered in the craft lodge, through dramatic presentation of the individual degrees. Although in the modern AASR only the 18th, 30th, 31st, 32nd and 33rd degrees are worked (at least in Scotland and England).
The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite in each country is governed by a Supreme Council. There is no international governing body, each Supreme Council in each country being sovereign unto itself.
In the United States of America there are two Supreme Councils headquartered in Washington, DC, and Lexington, Massachusetts. Individual states are referred to as “Orients,” and local bodies are called “Valleys.” Each Valley has four Scottish Rite bodies: the Lodge of Perfection controls the 4th through the 14th degrees, the Chapter of Rose Croix controls the 15th through the 18th degrees, the Council of Kadosh controls the 19th through the 30th degrees, and the Consistory controls the 31st and 32nd Degrees. The Supreme Council controls and confers the 33rd Degree of Inspector General.
The Scottish Rite Degrees
Attainment of the third Masonic degree, that of a Master Mason, represents the attainment of the highest rank in all of Masonry. Any Master Mason stands as an equal before every other Master Mason, regardless of position, class, or other degrees. Additional degrees are sometimes referred to as appendant degrees, even where the degree numbering might imply a hierarchy. Appendant degrees represent a lateral movement in Masonic Education rather than an upward movement. These are not degrees of rank, but rather degrees of instruction.
- 4° Secret Master
- 5° Perfect Master
- 6° Intimate Secretary
- 7° Provost and Judge
- 8° Intendant of the Building
- 9° Elu of the Nine (Master Elect of the Nine)
- 10° Elu of the Fifteen (Master Elect of the Fifteen)
- 11° Elu of the Twelve (Sublime Master Elected)
- 12° Master Architect (Grand Master Architect)
- 13° The Royal Arch of Solomon (Master of the Ninth Arch)
- 14° Perfect Elu (Grand Elect Mason)
- 15° Knight of the East, or of the Sword
- 16° Prince of Jerusalem
- 17° Knight of the East and West
- 18° Knight of the Rose Croix (Knight of the Rose Croix of H.R.D.M.)
- 19° Grand Pontiff
- 20° Master of the Symbolic Lodge (Master ad Vitam)
- 21° Noachite or Prussian Knight (Patriarch Noachite)
- 22° Knight of the Royal Axe (also known as Prince of Libanus in both jurisdictions)
- 23° Chief of the Tabernacle
- 24° Prince of the Tabernacle
- 25° Knight of the Brazen Serpent
- 26° Prince of Mercy, or Scottish Trinitarian
- 27° Knight Commander of the Temple (Commander of the Temple)
- 28° Knight of the Sun, Prince Adept
- 29° Scottish Knight of St. Andrew
- 30° Knight Kadosh (Grand Elect Knight Kadosh)
- 31° Inspector Inquisitor (Grand Inspector Inquisitor Commander)
- 32° Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret
Systems of Degrees
According to the various AASR jurisdictions in the world, all of which operate independently, the degrees are worked at will by their governing bodies. For example the Southern Jurisdiction separates the degrees as follows:
- 4° through 14° – Lodge of Perfection
- 15° through 18° – Chapter of Rose Croix
- 19° through 30° – Council of Kadosh
- 31° through 32° – Consistory
In Scotland, candidates are perfected in the 18th degree, with the preceding degrees awarded in name only. A minimum of a two-year interval is required before continuing to the 30th degree, again with the intervening degrees awarded by name only. Elevation beyond that is strictly by invitation only.
Description of Degrees
4th Degree – Perfect Elu (Elect)
The lessons of this degree are that Perfect Elect Masons are to be free from prejudice, intolerance and envy. The duties of a 14 Degree Mason are to protect the oppressed and relieve want and distress, and to serve the common good and do good works.
18th Degree – Knight of the Rose Croix
The lessons taught in this degree are the lessons of faith, hope and charity. The duties of a Knight of Rose Croix are to practice virtue, to labor to eliminate vice, and to be tolerant of the faith and creed of others. The symbols of the degree are those of the rose and cross, and the “pelican in her piety,” that is, a nesting pelican plucking flesh from her breast to feed her young.
The lessons taught in this degree are that man must have a new Temple in his heart where God is worshipped in spirit and in truth, and that he must have a new law of love with all men everywhere may understand and practice.
The degree affirms the broad principals of universality and toleration.
29th Degree – Scottish Knight of St. Andrew
The duties of a Knight of St. Andrew are to serve the truth, to protect virtue and innocence, and to defend against tyranny. The degree incorporates elements of Scottish legend dealing with the survival of the Knights Templar. The lessons of the degree are symbolic and philosophical, not historical.
Early References to “Scots Master” Degree
There are records of lodges conferring the degree of “Scots Master” or “Scotch Master” as early as 1733. A lodge at Temple Bar in London is the earliest such lodge on record. Other lodges include a lodge at Bath in 1735, and the French lodge, St. George de l’Observance No. 49 at Covent Garden in 1736. The references to these few occasions indicate that these were special meetings held for the purpose of performing unusual ceremonies, probably by visiting Freemasons.
Many Scottish Jacobites who were living in France during the early 1700’s, took an active part in high degree Freemasonry there and saw in its symbolism some hope for their political aspirations of a return of the Stuart to the thrones of England and Scotland.
The seed of the myth of Stuart Jacobite influence on the high degrees may have been a careless and unsubstantiated remark made by John Noorthouk in the 1784 Book of Constitutions of the Premier Grand Lodge of London. It was stated, without support, that King Charles II was made a Freemason in Holland during the years of his exile (1649-60).
However, there were no lodges of Freemasons on the continent during those years. The statement was undoubtedly made to flatter the fraternity by claiming membership for a previous monarch. This folly was then embellished upon by John Robison (1739-1805), a professor of history at the University of Edinburgh, in an anti-Masonic work published in 1797. The lack of scholarship exhibited by him that work even caused the Encyclopedia Britannica to denounce it.
By the mid-19th century, the story had gained currency. The well-known English Masonic writer, Dr. George Oliver (1782-1867), in his “Historical Landmarks,” 1846, carried the story forward and even claimed that King Charles II was active in his attendance at meetings — an obvious invention, for if it had been true, it would not have escaped the notice of the historians of the time.
James II died in 1701 at the Palace of St. Germain en Laye, and was succeeded in his claims to the British throne by his son, James Edward Stuart (1699-1766), the Chevalier St. George, better known as “the Old Pretender,” but recognized as James III by the French King Louis XIV.
He was succeeded in his claim by Charles Edward Stuart (“Bonnie Prince Charles”), also known as “the Young Pretender,” whose ultimate defeat at the Battle of Culloden in 1746 effectively put an end to any serious hopes of the Stuarts regaining the British crowns.
Estienne Morin and his Rite of 25 Degrees
A French trader, by the name of Estienne Morin, had been involved in high degree Masonry in Bordeaux since 1744 and, in 1747, founded an “Ecossais” lodge (Scots Masters Lodge) in the city of Le Cap Francais, on the north coast of the French colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti).
Over the next decade, high degree Freemasonry continued to spread to the Western hemisphere as the high degree lodge at Bordeaux warranted or recognized seven Ecossais lodges there. In Paris in the year 1761, a Patent was issued to Estienne Morin, dated 27 August, creating him “Grand Inspector for all parts of the New World.”
This Patent was signed by officials of the Grand Lodge at Paris and appears to have originally granted him power over the craft lodges only, and not over the high, or “Ecossais”, degree lodges.
Later copies of this Patent appear to have been embellished, probably by Morin, to improve his position over the high degree lodges in the West Indies. The authenticity of the enlarged powers named in later copies of Morin’s Patent is further weakened by the Declaration of the Grand Lodge of the 3 Globes at Berlin.
Early writers long believed that a “Rite of Perfection” consisting of 25 degrees, the highest being the “Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret,” and being the predecessor of the Scottish Rite, had been formed in Paris by a high degree council calling itself “The Council of Emperors of the East and West.” The title “Rite of Perfection” first appeared in the Preface to the “Grand Constitutions of 1786,” the authority for which is now known to be faulty. It is now generally accepted that this Rite of twenty-five degrees was compiled by Estienne Morin and is therefore more properly titled “The Rite of the Royal Secret,” or “Morin’s Rite.”
Morin returned to the West Indies in 1762 or 1763, to Saint-Domingue, where, armed with his new Patent, he assumed powers to constitute lodges of all degrees, spreading the high degrees throughout the West Indies and North America. Morin stayed in Saint-Domingue until 1766 when he moved to Jamaica. At Kingston, Jamaica, in 1770, Morin created a “Grand Chapter” of his new Rite (the Grand Council of Jamaica). Morin died in 1771 and was buried in Kingston.
Henry Andrew Francken and his Manuscripts
The one man who was most important in assisting Morin in spreading the degrees in the New World was a naturalized French subject of Dutch origin named Henry Andrew Francken. Morin appointed him Deputy Grand Inspector General as one of his first acts after returning to the West Indies. Francken worked closely with Morin and, in 1771, produced a manuscript book giving the rituals for the 15th through the 25th degrees. Francken produced at least two more similar manuscripts, one in 1783 and another about 1786. The second and third of these manuscripts included all the degrees from the 4th through the 25th.
A Loge de Parfaits d’ Écosse was formed on 12 April 1764 at New Orleans, becoming the first high degree lodge on the North American continent. Its life, however, was short, as the 1763 Treaty of Paris ceded New Orleans to Spain, and the Catholic Spanish crown had been historically hostile to Freemasonry. Documented Masonic activity ceased for a time and did not return to New Orleans until the 1790s.
Francken travelled to New York in 1767 where he granted a Patent, dated 26 December 1767, for the formation of a Lodge of Perfection at Albany. This marked the first time the Degrees of Perfection were conferred in one of the thirteen British colonies. This Patent, and the early minutes of the Lodge, are still extant and are in the archives of Supreme Council, Northern Jurisdiction.
Birth of the Scottish Rite
Although most of the thirty-three degrees of the Scottish Rite existed in parts of previous degree systems, the Scottish Rite did not come into being until the formation of the Mother Supreme Council at Charleston, South Carolina, in May 1801.
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, 29 December 1809, Albert Pike is commonly asserted as the man most responsible for the growth and success of the AASR from an obscure Masonic Rite in the mid-1800’s, to the international fraternity that it became.
Pike received his Degrees from the American Masonic historian, Dr. Albert G. Mackey, in Charleston, S.C., in March 1853, and, in that same year, Pike was appointed Deputy Inspector for Arkansas.
At this point, the degrees were in only a rudimentary form, and often only included a brief history and legend of each degree as well as other brief details which usually lacked a workable ritual for their conferral. In 1855, the Supreme Council appointed a committee to prepare and compile rituals for the 4th through the 32nd Degrees.
In March 1858, Pike was elected a member of the Supreme Council for the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States, and in January 1859 he became its Grand Commander. The War between the states interrupted his work on the Scottish Rite rituals. After the War, he moved to Washington, DC, and in 1868 his revision, and de-christianisation, of the rituals was complete.
Pike also wrote lectures for all the degrees which were published in 1871 under the title “Morals & Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite”.
Controversy surrounding the Scottish Rite
In 1856 Albert Pike revised and re-issued the rituals, illustrating his interpretations of his revised rituals in Morals and Dogma. These rituals and the interpretation in Morals and Dogma provide much of the source for criticism of Freemasonry as a whole, despite the factual inaccuracies.
The Scottish Rite Creed
The Scottish Rite Creed of Freemasonry is as follows:
Human progress is our cause, liberty of thought our supreme wish, freedom of conscience our mission, and the guarantee of equal rights to all people everywhere our ultimate goal.