York and Scottish Rite in Freemasonry?

by Damiso
(Columbus, GA)

Why is there a York and Scottish Rite in Freemasonry, and why the separation?

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Jan 18, 2015
Good questiomn
by: Thane

Masonic history is pretty convoluted and shortcuts can be confusing, but let's try.

Much hinges on some old history, Masonic and UnMasonic. Freemasonry appeared in a fairly modern form in the latter half of the 17th century, but it was quite unorganized. Any group of Masons could start a lodge without reference to a grand lodge; there weren't any of those. Each area, each lodge had its own way of doing things.

Everything congealed, so to speak, in 1717, when the Grand Lodge of England was formed and started working towards central control and greater uniformity. Not that long after, as these things go, there was a schism in English Masonry. (Research 'Antients' vs 'Moderns' if you are interested in the details.) Each had their own ritual and considered the other as irregular. This continued until the early 1800s, when they joined back together to form the United Grand Lodge of England.

In the meantime, each had been busy spreading its own gospel, so to speak, for three or four generations, warranting lodges and so forth (the Antients rather more so). Much of this took place overseas, in North America, for instance. Now factor in minor things like a Revolution, leading US Masons to break away from British control, much as the Episcopal Chirch broke away from the Church of England.

In Canada, the process was rather slower, but both Modern and Antient lodges were operating there at the time UGLE was formed and both continued to operate independently, still not recognizing the other. When things began to meld in the middle1800s, a compromise was reached, with one grand lodge per province, but recognizing as legitimate two quote different rites. The former Antient lodges became known as 'York Rite' lodges; the British city of York, legend has it, being the place where Masonry got started. That's another story in itself.

From what I have seen, most US blue lodges use a ritual pretty close to what a Canadian would callYork Rite ritual.

York Rite also has the connotation of being one of the higher-degree streams, including the Royal Arch and Knights Templar.

As to the Scottish Rite, again go back to early days, when it was much easier to form your own. A French Mason named Morin came up with a system of higher degrees which for some reason he called 'Scottish'. Long story made short, it took off and now comprises the second major stream. More interesting history if you are interested.

York and Scottish come together again at the Shrine.

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