The fraternity of Freemasonry
, also known as "Free and Accepted Masons," is organized into lodges, chapters, councils, commanderies, consistories, etc., which are collectively referred to as "Masonic bodies
". The most basic Masonic body is the local "Masonic lodge", which confers the first three degrees in Masonry, being that of Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason.
Whilst there is no degree in Freemasonry higher than that of Master Mason, there are a number of related organisations which have as a prerequisite to joining that one be a Master Mason. These include, but are not limited to Scottish Rite, York Rite, and the Shriners.
Additionally, there are also organizations that are affiliated with Freemasonry that admit both Master Masons as well as non-Masons who have some relation to a Master Mason. These include, but are not limited to, the Order of the Eastern Star and the Order of the Amaranth. Still other affiliated organizations like the Order of DeMolay, the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls and others, admit non-Masons and have no requirement that an applicant be related to a Master Mason.
A number of terms, such as "appendant," "affiliated," "concordant," or "in amity" are used, sometimes interchangeably, to describe these bodies, illustrating that there is no one, single accurate description that includes them all.
Throughout the 17th century and the first two decades of the 18th century, Freemasonry in the British Isles seems to have consisted of only one degree, although there have survived some obscure references to symbolic elements that now appear in both the second and third degrees. Following the introduction of the second and third degrees in the 1720s, the premier Grand Lodge of England, formed in 1717, frowned on anything beyond the first three degrees, viz. the Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason.
However, the Antient Grand Lodge of England, formed in 1751, claiming to be of an older tradition, with strong ties to the Freemasonry of Ireland and Scotland, allowed a wider range of more elaborate rituals to be worked. The Ancients believed, rightly or wrongly, that their possession of the Royal Arch Degree gave them the older, more complete tradition, and they derisively called the Masons of the premier Grand Lodge "the Moderns." When the two Grand Lodges merged in 1813, Article Two of the Articles of Union agreed that "pure ancient Masonry consists of three degrees, and no more," although by semantic wordplay that agreement included the "Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch.
The period from 1740 to 1813 saw a host of Masonic rites, orders and degrees emerge, as there were brethren for whom the Grand Lodge system was insufficient. These new rituals enlarged the scope of Masonry and encompassed many elaborations, some of which included elements which had previously been practiced within the craft. Many rites proved to be transient and died out (some being no more than a written record without evidence of having been practiced), but some proved more resilient and survived through amalgamation.
Different Masonic jurisdictions vary in their relationships with appendant bodies, if at all. Some offer formal recognition, while others consider them wholly outside of Freemasonry. This leads to some such bodies not being universally considered as appendant bodies, but rather separate organizations that happen to require Masonic affiliation for membership.
Membership of Masonic bodies also vary greatly, because each group sets its own requirements. Many of these, especially those that actually confer additional Masonic degrees and orders, limit membership to Master Masons only. Others require the candidate to either be a Master Mason or have a familial relationship to one. Some require the candidate to be a Trinitarian Christian, which is more religiously specific than Craft Masonry, which accepts candidates of any faith as long as they declare a belief in a Supreme Being. Others require prior membership of other groups, or having held specific office in a group.
Membership is sometimes open, and sometimes invitational. In the United States, the York and Scottish Rites make petitions available to all Master Masons but reserve the right to reject petitioners, while other groups like Priories of Knights of the York Cross of Honor require that a petitioner have presided over the four York Rite bodies (lodge, chapter, council and commandery), and others like the Knight Masons require that one be asked to join by a current member.
Rites, Orders and Degrees
In the United States there are two main Masonic appendant bodies:
- The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, which is further subdivided into four bodies.
- The York Rite (sometimes called "The American Rite"), which, aside from the craft lodge, comprises four separate and distinct bodies: the Royal Arch Chapter (Capitular Masonry), the Council of Royal & Select Masters (Cryptic Masonry), the Commandery of the Knights Templar, and the York Rite College. The York Rite also includes Priories of Knights of the York Cross of Honor.
In England and a number of other countries in addition to craft freemasonry there are a number of additional bodies and orders:
- The Holy Royal Arch. Under the English Constitution, Royal Arch Chapters confer only the Royal Arch degree. The Holy Royal Arch is recognised by the English Grand Lodge as part of "pure, antient Freemasonry" along with the three degrees of Craft Freemasonry. It is the only other Order so recognised by the United Grand Lodge of England. However, members are not prohibited from joining the other Orders (below), and membership of them is widespread.
- The Order of Mark Master Masons. Under the English Constitution, this degree is conferred in separate Mark Masters Lodges.
- The United Religious, Military and Masonic Orders of the Temple and St John of Jerusalem, Palestine, Rhodes and Malta; colloquially known as the KT or the Knights Templar.
- The Ancient and Accepted Rite (also colloquially called "The Rose Croix"). In England, this Rite drops the word "Scottish" from its title. Although the names of its degrees are the same as those in the Supreme Council, Southern Jurisdiction of the U.S.A., the Mother Supreme Council of the World, it has different requirements for membership and the progression through its degrees is more restricted.
- The Masonic and Military Order of the Red Cross of Constantine and the Orders of the Holy Sepulchre and of St John the Evangelist, colloquially known as the Red Cross of Constantine. (This is not to be confused with the Illustrious Order of the Red Cross in the U.S. Knight Templar system, which is an entirely different order.)
- Royal Ark Mariners, which in England is run by the Mark Grand Lodge, and whose Lodges are attached to Mark Lodges.
- Order of the Secret Monitor
- Knights of Malta
- Royal and Select Masters
- Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests
In northern Europe Freemasonry exists mostly in the form of the Swedish Rite.
The French Rite is strong in France, Luxembourg, Greece, Brazil, and formerly Louisiana.
Other Orders and Degrees
The following affiliated and/or appendant bodies confer Masonic degrees. Those who petition or are invited to membership must be at least Master Masons, although each body may have additional qualifications for membership:
- Allied Masonic Degrees. In the U.S., councils of the A.M.D. exemplify twelve Masonic degrees. In England, councils confer only five degrees.
- Royal Ark Mariners. In the U.S., it is part of the Allied Masonic Degrees. In England, separate lodges of Royal Ark Mariners are administrated by the Mark Grand Lodge. See Mark Master Lodge. In Canada, the degree is associated with the Cryptic Rite.
- The Order of the Secret Monitor. In the U.S., the degree is exemplified as a part of the Allied Masonic Degrees. In England, separate conclaves of the Order include three degrees.
- The Red Branch of Eri. In the U.S., it is part of the Allied Masonic Degrees. In England, the Order of Eri consists of three degrees.
- The Order of Eri. Same as The Red Branch of Eri, above.
- Ye Antient Order of Noble Corks. A part of the Allied Masonic Degrees. In England, and in some other countries, it is conferred separately.
- The Knight Masons. In Ireland, councils of the Knight Masons of Ireland confer what are known as the three Green Degrees: Knight of the Sword, Knight of the East, Knight of the East and West. In the U.S., the Grand Council of Knight Masons of the U.S.A. charters councils in amity with the Grand Council of Ireland.
- Royal Order of Scotland. The Grand Lodge of the Royal Order at Edinburgh, Scotland, controls approx. 85 Provincial Grand Lodges around the world, and confers two degrees.
- Chevaliers Bienfaisants de la Cite Sainte. (CBCS, or Knights Beneficent of the Holy City) (The Reformed Scottish Rite) Great Priories of the Order are exclusive, invitational bodies which confer four degrees.
- The Rite of Baldwyn at Bristol. Practiced only in the city of Bristol, UK, the camp confers five degrees.
- The Holy Royal Arch Knights Templar Priests. A rite of 33 degrees, of which only the last degree is conferred in full form in "tabernacles."
- Societas Rosicruciana. Colleges confer nine degrees, or "grades."
- Order of St. Thomas of Acon. A commemorative chivalric order. Organized in "chapels."
- The Order of the Worshipful Society of Free Masons, Rough Masons, Wallers, Slaters, Paviors, Plaisterers and Bricklayers. Colloquially known as "The Operatives" and formed of seven degrees or "grades."
- The Hermetic Order of Gnosis. Known as H.O.GN, Organised in "Temples", confers two degrees, and is ruled by a council of seven. this Order is by invitation only.
- The August Order of Light. Temples of the Order confer three degrees. In England only.
- The Masonic Order of Athelstan. The Order is invitational, organised in "courts."
Other Affiliated Bodies
The following affiliated and/or appendant bodies admit Masons only, but confer no Masonic degrees or orders:
- Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, (A.A.O.N.M.S.). Shriners, as they are known colloquially, meet in Shrine "temples," and are well-known for their maroon fezzes, lavish parades, and sponsorship of children's hospitals.
- Royal Order of Jesters (R.O.J.) Colloquially known as "Jesters," local "courts" are limited to thirteen initiates yearly. Initiation, by invitation and unanimous ballot, is limited to members in good standing of the Shrine; see above.
- Mystic Order of Veiled Prophets of the Enchanted Realm. Colloquially known as "The Grotto;" members wear black fezzes.
- National Sojourners. An American patriotic organization for Master Masons who served as officers, warrant officers, or senior non-commissioned Officers in the U.S. Armed Forces.
- Heroes of '76. An American patriotic side order of the National Sojourners; see above.
- Tall Cedars of Lebanon.
- Order of the Sword of Bunker Hill. An American patriotic side order, limited to the U.S. east coast.
- Order of Quetzalcoatl. Colloquially known as "The Q", a group mostly in the West and Southwest of the US.
The following affiliated organizations admit both Masons and non-Masons:
- Order of the Eastern Star. Membership is limited to Master Masons and their close female relatives. The Chapter is run by the women; the Master Mason is just there to help open the Chapter. The female relatives are wife, sister, daughter, niece, and various grands, step relatives and in-laws.. Masons who are members of lodges under the United Grand Lodge of England are prohibited from joining this quasi-Masonic organization.
- Order of the Amaranth. An American androgynous order for Master Masons and their female relatives.
- Social Order of the Beauceant (S.O.O.B.). An American androgynous order for Knights Templar, their wives and widows.
- White Shrine of Jerusalem. An American androgynous order for Master Masons and their female relatives.
- Daughters of the Nile. Membership is limited to wives of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine.
A number of Masonic-affiliated youth organizations exist, mainly in North America, which are collectively referred to as Masonic Youth Organizations.
- DeMolay International is the most common. Young men from 12 to 21 are eligible.
- Order of Boy Builders, formerly folded into DeMolay, now apparently revived in Kentucky.
- A.J.E.F., Asociacion de Jovenes Esperanza de la Fraternidad, for boys aged 14 to 21, active in México, the United States, and Latin America.
- International Order of the Rainbow for Girls. Young ladies from 11 to 20 are eligible. Rainbow, though not active in all of the United States, is active in Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the Philippines.
- Job's Daughters Young ladies from 10 to 20, who are daughters of Master Masons or daughters of a majority Job's Daughter, are eligible. The "Jobies" have Bethels in Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Philippines, as well as in many states of United States.
- Order of the Constellation of the Junior Stars, for girls, a junior affiliate of the Order of the Eastern Star.
- Girls of the Golden Court, for girls 12 to 18, sponsored by the Order of the Golden Chain, and apparently centered in New Jersey.
- Organization of Triangles, confined to New York State, for girls and young women aged 10 to 21.