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.”
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.