York Rite

York Rite of Freemasonry AKA The American Rite (aka Royal and Select Masters, The Cryptic Rites, the Knights Templar)

Some of the rituals eventually collected into the York Rite were in existence in England and Scotland in the 1770s, but were not organized into the Grand Council of the Allied Masonic Degrees until late in the century. By 1830, they existed only in Newcastle Upon the Tyne. When the “Antients” split from the Moderns before the creation of the United Grand Lodge of England, some of those “Antients” actively pursued these unofficial degrees and developed them. In 1893 the Cryptic Masons of Kent, England petitioned the Council of Royal and Select Masters of London to communicate Masonicaly, and the 41 or so degrees were divided up and organized.

“In 1920, Colonel C.W. Napier-Clavering became Grand Master of the Grand Council of the Allied Masonic Degrees who, renouncing the prerogatives of the Grand Council over the Order of The Secret Monitor, brought to a happy end thirty seven years of feud, and recommended to the Royal Kent Council, heir to the similarly titled Tabernacle, to erect itself as a Grand College for England, Wales and the Colonies and Dependencies of the British Crown of The Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests.”1) In 1935, John Edward Allen brought a charter to America to form the United States Tabernacle, No. 9.

The basis of these degrees are the Blue Lodge degrees of Masonry, 1. The Entered Apprentice, 2. the Fellowcraft and 3 the Master Mason, all given in Blue Lodges except in Louisiana, USA, where they are also performed in the York, or Red Lodges. In France, alternative, more alchemical degrees were substituted in the 1800s. The 4th degree of Mark Master Mason, 5. (Virtual) Past Master (to distinguish it from the degree required before assuming the Worshipful Master Chair in a Lodge of Actual Past Master), 6. Most Excellent Master, and 7. Holy Royal Arch. These degrees may have been part of the Original Blue Lodge of Masonry in Europe, but were separated out of the Blue Lodges over time and are now given in independent “Chapter of Royal Arch Masons” rather than under Grand Lodge control.

The 8th degree is Royal Master, 9 is Select Master, and the 10th degree is ceremonial, an honorary degree, called Super-Excellent Master. Together, these represent the “Cyptic degrees” not only for their Search for the Lost Word puzzle, but as they occur in the “underworld” (well, underground). These are given out in “Council of Royal & Select Masters” or “the Council of Cryptic Masons”, also independent of Grand Lodge supervision.

The Knights Templar AKA the The United Religious, Military and Masonic Orders of the Temple and of St John of Jerusalem, Palestine, Rhodes and Malta are still a third governing body in this system of York Rite initiations. It is the only degree of Freemasonry open primarily to Christians, and while Brothers of other faiths may join, the character of the institution would not be suitable. Originally formed after the Baron's Crusade (first or 2nd, depending on how you count), a local Knight's militia got the support of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, founder of Cistercian Monks, to found an unusual mixture of Knight and Monk, two distinctly different approaches to Salvation. After becoming tow powerful for the political leaders to ignore, Phillip the Fair of France destroyed the Order, leading to millions of conspiracy theories. It consists of 3 real degrees and a “threshold” degree, 1. The Illustrious Order of the Red Cross 2. The Passing Order of St. Paul, (or the Mediterranean Pass, not a full degree, but a “threshold” degree) 3. The Order of the Knights of Malta (or simply Order of Malta), 4. The Order of the Temple.

Mythologically, these “Chivalric” degrees are based on the martyrdom of the Knights Templars and their leader Grand Master Jacques de Molay by King Philip 'the Fair“ of France, the escape of some members to Scotland (perhaps with King Solomon's gold or the children of Jesus and Mary Magdalane) to found Freemasonry. Chevalier Andrew Michael Ramsay proposed this Templar tale, and in 1729 inspired the Knights Templar, the Beneficent Knights of the Holy City, 1782, the Rite of Strict Observance of Baron Karl Gotthelf von Hund, the Rectified Scottish Rite or Jean-Baptiste Willermoz, more development in the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry and inspired the OTO, The Order of the Oriental Templars of Carl Kellner, Theodor Reuss and Aleister Crowley;

York Rite of Freemasonry attributes it's origins to Hermes Trismegistus in the York Constitution, based on the POLYCRONYCOM, written by Brother Ranulf Higden, translated from Latin by Trevisa, and published by William Caxton, 1482;


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