Monday, November 28, 2011

Which Rite is Right… for me?

I’ve been very busy with Masonry and family lately. Being a new father and a Mason is not easy, but I make it work the best I can. About two years ago, I joined my local Royal Arch Chapter. I was the first new candidate in about three years. In keeping with Masonic tradition, I was given a position in leadership, the High Priest. So I jumped a few chairs (as in all of them) but I’ve been kept out of trouble for a while at least. I also joined the local Cryptic Council because they met in the same building.

I’ve had fun serving Corinthian Lodge as LEO and Corinthian Chapter as High Priest. For the upcoming year, I’ll again serve as High Priest in addition to serving as Marshal for Corinthian Lodge. I have high hopes for the Royal Arch and the Cryptic Council in Farmington. I’ve even publically struggled over whether to join Commandery.

One other development in my life is the encouragement of the brothers to give Scottish Rite a try. I have so many irons in the fire that I sometimes feel I’ll get burned out. I love Masonry and I love being active in all aspects of the Craft. So I’ve been led to a quandary, which rite is for me?

I love the Royal Arch degree. I think it is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced. I think that there is a reason that the Antients believed in it so highly and why the UGLE Constitution still proclaims it, rightly or wrongly, to be a part of Ancient Craft Masonry. Of course, brothers disagree with this assertion with strong evidence of their own.

I like the York Rite from what I’ve already experienced. I like the York Rite because there is no pressure to join everything. If you just want to see the Royal Arch and the Mark Master, join Royal Arch Chapter. If you want to see the Council degrees, you have to be a RAM. If you want to be knighted, join the Chapter and the Council. The first two bodies are non-sectarian and in my opinion, at the very least, all Masons should join a Royal Arch Chapter.

I’ve posted at least two posts concerning the push by some brothers to make the York Rite one comprehensive system which would make it Christian only. I would disagree with any assertion that one must be a Christian to join a Chapter or Council. The Royal Arch is a completion in the Antients’ system of Ancient Craft Masonry. Restricting that to only Christians is patently wrong. Chapter holds a powerful and important set of degrees that is open to all Masons and should be advertised and celebrated as such.

With all that being said, I’m still very interested in the Scottish Rite. The Scottish Rite in Minnesota is very special. We have one of the few Valleys in the world, the Minneapolis Valley, that presents all 29 degrees in full form and Minneapolis Valley performs them twice a year. The other three Scottish Rite Valleys in Minnesota perform a majority of the Scottish Rite degrees, which again, is very uncommon.

To prepare myself for taking the Scottish Rite degrees, I’ve started to look at copies of the Scottish Rite Craft degrees, in particular, Albert Pike’s Porch and the Middle Chamber. Pike stated that to really prepare to take the Scottish Rite degrees, the enlightened Masonic student should have some familiarity with the Scottish Rite Craft degrees. (From Porch and the Middle Chamber, “[t]his Ritual is intended for instruction only, in the States of the Southern jurisdiction, where there are not Lodges working in the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite; to be studied and understood before investiture with the fourth degree. For, without it, the system of that Rite is incomplete, and even like a fabric without foundation.” (Pike, 1872))

That’s where I’m at. I’ve decided to really dig into the Scottish Rite Craft degrees. I want to learn the alchemical meaning behind the degrees; I want to study the mystic art that seems to permeate through them. I’ve been told that this is not really necessary and that I should just enjoy the degrees. However, I really feel like I should immerse myself before I take on the extra learning of the “University of Freemasonry.” If this process takes me years, then so be it. I took me 5 years to join the Royal Arch and I really feel like, even with the close relationship between lodge and chapter, I still haven’t skimmed the surface of everything I need to understand to be confident in my knowledge of the capitular degrees.

The lodge remains the center of learning. All great things happen within a lodge. However, the Rites provide that extra basis required to be a well-rounded Masonic student. I think a Mason can remain in Lodge and never have to see them and still be happy and complete. It’s the refining qualities that the rites provide that make them both attractive and useful.

Which Rite is right? I think the answer is pretty obvious. The right Rite is the one that feels right to you. (Sorry, I'm used to the standard law school answer of "it depends.")

To which Rite do you belong? If you don’t belong to a Rite, why not? Leave a comment.


Dustin Tarditi said...

I joined YR first, to "complete" my work started in the Blue Lodge, so to speak. I have joined the AMD since. I plan on pursuing Scottish Rite in time, but only after I have fulfilled my obligations in the officer line at my Mother Lodge.

Mr. Ives said...

I joined all of the York Rite bodies in my building, as a way of supporting them as lodge brothers. As most of my time is spent in lodge activities, I find it hard to get to other events with the other bodies. I do expect that as a go through my leadership positions, I will then have more time to get involved.

My motto (and my wife's) has always been to do as much as I can until things on the homefront begin to suffer. I have been careful to attend to that first.

Scott S said...

I joined Scottish Rite first, as that was what had led to my becoming a Mason in the first place. I read Morals and Dogma for the first time while in high school.

Having said that, I am extremely grateful that I joined the Scottish Rite in the Southern Jurisdiction, as I prefer the currently used Revised Pike Degrees from what I have read of the Degrees in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction.

As well as being an officer in my Lodge, I am an officer in two of the bodies of the Scottish Rite, and was recently appointed Director of Work for the Valley.

In the past year, I also joined the York Rite. I have a feeling that I will be elected/appointed to some positions there at our meeting next week.

sleinen said...

I am a member of the York Rite in Saint Paul and have yet to join the Scottish Rite. I do plan to join the Scottish Rite, but that is on the back burner while I have other Masonic Obligations.

I jumped right into the Royal Arch and Commandry immediately after taking my Blue Lodge Degrees (not entirely my own decisions but more like being ushered through). I really enjoy the Royal Arch Body as a whole, but more especially the Mark Master and Royal Arch Degrees. At the time there was no need to do the Cryptic Council to Join the Commandry, so the Council was skipped. I really had to question joining the Commandry. I was brought up Lutheran, but fell away from religion in general. I never found an "organized" religion that I ever felt comfortable with. They all offered great moral lessons, but with an undertone of brainwashing (at least in my experience and perception). But after a conversation with my Masonic Mentor, I came to the realization and understanding that it was really not necessary that I be a church going, bible thumping Christian to be a member of the Commandry, but more a supporter of the moral lessons. I decided to join on his recommendation. I LOVED the order of the Temple Degree (the others were OK). This was almost, but not quite, as powerful as the Master Mason Degree (again in my perception). I have only been back to the Commandry once since my Knighting. I, Like Brother Ives, need to spend some time on the home front and have other Masonic Duties. It took me eight years to finally go on to the Cryptic Council and I am very glad I did. In my opinion the Chapter and Council really add to the Blue Lodge experience and I like you WB Nick would recommend that every Freemason should join these bodies at some point.

Russell said...

I joined the York Rite first and then the Scottish Rite. They both offer further light in Masonry and depending on your cable tow (all my kids are adults)it is possible to be involved with all bodies.

Kurt said...

Brother and Companion Nick,

I am an active member of both the York and Scottish Rite, and a Past Master of my Lodge. I serve my York Rite bodies as an officer, and the state as a Grand Council and Grand Commandery Officer. I serve my Scottish Rite Valley as the Commadner of the Knights of St. Andrew (a group for 32 Masons only).

When asked the question of which Rite to join first, I respond with this: The degrees in the Symbolic Lodge are like the theatrical trailer to one of the greatest stories ever told. The York Rite is the theatrical cut of the movie. Good, but it doesn't have all the story. The Scottish Rite is like the Director's Extended Cut. It has it all, but it is too much to go directly from the theatrical trailer to the Director's Extended Cut. I encourage all Masons to start with the York Rite, then the Scottish Rite. In my opinion, one's Masonic education isn't complete without both Rites. So, how can one choose which Rite is best for them? I think the question should be, which of my children do I love more?

With regard to your apprehensiveness in joining the Commandery, there are those that I classify as Temple Boars, and those that are truly Sir Knights. When one actually reads the petition for the Commandery (at least here) it does not say that one must be a Christian, but that he must defend the Christian faith above all others. Therefore, one need not be a Christian in order to be a Templar, just be willing to defend the Christian faith. The Temple Boars are those that believe that this requirement means that one must be Christian to be a Templar, and evangelize every opportunity they get. The true Sir Knight respects the faith of others, and does nothing to influence them but living as an example for them. That is a keen difference, and is espoused in the libations in the Order of the Temple. So, do not fear becoming a Sir Knight, for you are the type of Companion that the Commandery needs.

One recommended reading for the Scottish Rite is Albert Pike's Esoterika. It goes into great detail about the first three degrees, and will set the stage for your Scottish Rite career.

Finally, when you become a Master of the Royal Secret, be sure to attend future reunions and look into the Master Craftsman program, it is worth it.


MP said...

Br. Kurt, I have to take exception with what you have said.

You say: When one actually reads the petition for the Commandery (at least here) it does not say that one must be a Christian, but that he must defend the Christian faith above all others. Therefore, one need not be a Christian in order to be a Templar, just be willing to defend the Christian faith. you omit "above all others" in your second comment about defending the Christian faith.

And you don't think this prevents someone who is not a Christian from being a KT?
Because it explicitly requires someone to give preferential defense to something other than their own faith.

The Temple Boars are those that believe that this requirement means that one must be Christian to be a Templar

Actually, no, that's what GE says:
Grand Encampment Constitution, Chapter XI, §177 (b) ("Commanderies - Election of Candidates and Members/Qualifications of Petitioners") holds that the Orders of Templary can be conferred only on a Companion "Who is a firm believer in the Christian religion."

I'm glad for all those Brothers who think that non-Christians should be allowed to join the KT, in that they are showing religious tolerance, but it does not jibe with the written rules of the order, nor can it, IMO, jibe with the attitude of defending the Christian faith above all others.

Tom said...

I joined York Rite after I finished going through the chairs in my Blue Lodge because I didn't think I could apply the time and energy to the other Bodies while going through the chairs in my Blue Lodge. I didn't want to take away from the other Bodies. Now I am an Officer of my Council and when finished the chairs in Council I will move on to one of the other Bodies as an officer maybe Chapter. After I do all the Chairs in York Rite then I will join Scottish Rite.

Unknown said...

What about Albert Pike in his statement worshipping Lucifer in his book morals and Dogmas? How can a confessioning Christian join that??????

Ryan Dymek said...

Pike did not worship lucifer. Read the book, and you'll quickly realized the 1 passage out of the book commonly referenced is taken out of context. Read this blog about this here:

Ryan Dymek said...

Pike did not worship lucifer. Read the book, and you'll quickly realized the 1 passage out of the book commonly referenced is taken out of context. Read this blog about this here:

Anonymous said...

Many are making peace with the Christian requirement after reading this and joining the Commandery. We expect large numbers. Pass it on!

Anonymous said...

Or this

Richard Vier said...

Defending the Christian faith, when you get down to it, isn't defending any one Christian denomination. So essentially you're talking about defending the Christian ideals, or the principals of Christ. Think about that... What did Christ himself advocate in the various books of sacred law? I think just about any good man can get behind that, and those same ideals are echoed in several other faiths.

Unknown said...

I suppose his membership in the KKK was just taken out of context also...get a life.

Adri Leemput said...

I joined the Mark Lodge, because they meet on the 3 fridays a year our blue lodge does not meet. (in Belgium, the Mark degree is a stand alone degree under English jurisdiction).
When visiting other lodges, one in particular, they asked me to join them in the higher degrees of the Rectified Scottish Rite.

Now I moved to the Boston area, waiting to affiliate here. Probably I will join the York Rite here, or at least the Chapter and Council.
For Commandery, I need first some advise from my Great Priory (CBCS) back home. It has to do with the recognition between KT and CBCS.