The Origins of the Scottish Rite

Like so much early Masonic history, the origins of the Scottish Rite are hidden in mist. There’s evidence that by the early 1730s in England there were “Scotch Masons” or “Scots Master Masons,” a step after the Master Mason Degree (and apparently unrelated to Scotland). By 1742 in Berlin there was talk of “higher or so-called Scottish Masonry.” In 1743 the Grand Lodge of France adopted a regulation limiting the privileges of “Scots Masters” in lodges. It’s clear from these few mentions that something was going on behind the scenes with “Scottish Masonry,” but we’re not quite sure what. These developments were happening at the same time the Royal Arch was gestating before its birth in 1754. It’s even possible that the Royal Arch and Scottish Masonry came from the same sources. We just don’t know.

What we do know is that the high degrees found fertile ground when they were introduced to French Masonry. In 1745, two years after restricting Scotch Masons, the Grand Lodge of France gave them special privileges, and more privileges and authority followed in 1747 and 1755. In contrast, the Royal Arch appears in lodge minutes in America in 1753 and England in 1758 with little official notice. By 1766 we know that an elaborate sequence of High Degree or “Scottish” Masonry is being worked in France.

Above is an excerpt from S. Brent Morris, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Freemasonry, Chapter 9: The Scottish Rite (New York: Alpha Books/Penguin, 2006). © by S. Brent Morris. All Rights Reserved.