History of the Rite

The Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, commonly known as the Scottish Rite, is one of several groups that are part of the worldwide fraternity known as Freemasonry. The Scottish Rite is the largest and most widely practiced Masonic Rite in the world and employs a lodge system.

While there is no Masonic degree more important than that of Master Mason, there is a long tradition—almost as old as Freemasonry—of “high degrees” that expand upon and elaborate the teachings and lessons of the first three degrees. The Scottish Rite degrees teach a series of moral lessons culminating in the 32°, Master of the Royal Secret.

When we consider the creation of the Master Mason’s Degree—the first “high degree” added to Craft Masonry—it is a remarkable fact that high degree Masonry is virtually as old as Speculative Freemasonry itself. Other high degrees also followed quickly on the footsteps of the Master Mason’s Degree. As early as 1733 a reference to a “Scotch Masons’ Lodge” appeared in a manuscript list of lodges by Dr. Richard Rawlinson, and the following year, it was again mentioned in a printed list of Masonic Bodies. The early designations “Scotts,” “Scotch,” and “Scottish” refer to a type of Masonry practiced, rather than referring to native Scotsmen.

Thus, we read that from 1733–40 the “Scotch Master Masons” Degree was being conferred on “normal” Master Masons. For instance, on July 18, 1740, at the Lodge at the Rummer, Bristol, it was “Order’d & agreed That Bro. Tomson & Bro. Watts & any other member of this Lodge. that are already Master Masons may be made Scotch Master. . . .” By 1734–35 additional degrees were invented, two of which were the “Excellent Mason” and “Grand Mason.” These early “Scotts” (or Scottish) Degrees are ancestors of the Scottish Rite in both name and tradition, and represent a type of Masonry almost as old as the Master Mason’s Degree. The tradition of “Scotts” (or Scottish) Masonry is the second oldest type of high degree Masonry known, even surpassing the antiquity of the Royal Arch Degree.