Differences between Rites of Freemasons

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There are many rites in the Freemason tradition, the most popular being the Scottish Rite and the York Rite. Besides this, there also exists The Ancient and Accepted Rite in England, the French Rite in France and the Swedish Rite in Sweden. Although all these bodies share similar interests and beliefs, ceremonies, practices and some beliefs do differ.

Difference between the Scottish Rite and the York Rite

In the United States, the Scottish Rite and the York Rite are the two main Masonic appendant bodies. Because both have the word “rite” in their names, people sometimes confuse the two, although the Scottish Rite and the York Rite are quite different. Both rites are open to US Master Masons who feel they have mastered all the tenants of their regular lodge and have exhausted what their regular lodge can teach them. A Master Mason can join the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, or even both. In fact, the York Rite, and the Scottish Rite do have some similarities. Both rites offer additional explanation of the Symbolic Degrees. Both hold the same beliefs in Truth, Brotherhood and a Higher Being that Freemasons everywhere believe.

However, the York Rite, and the Scottish Rite do differ in their degree structures. Also, the Scottish Rite emphasizes individual freedoms and citizenship rights while the York Rite often stresses Christianity. To become a Knight Templar Freemason in the York Rite, a Mason must formally vow to defend Christianity. This is quite different not only from the Scottish Rite but also from regular Freemason lodges, which emphasize belief in a supreme being but often avoid specific religious rhetoric. Generally, men who belong to religions other than Christianity join the Scottish Rite or another group when they wish to pursue more knowledge about the Order of Freemasonry.

Those who decide to join the Scottish Rite are expected to take an active leadership role in furthering individual rights. This can mean defending government by democracy, encouraging free speech and press through charitably or advocacy activities, seeking to encourage equitable laws, promoting religious and individual freedoms, or trying to bring about a separation of church and state. Members of the Scottish Rite believe in all these ideals and try, through advocacy, awareness raising and other campaigns to encourage these characteristics in their governments.

Differences between the French Rite, the Swedish Rite, and the The Ancient and Accepted Rite

The obvious difference, of course, is that each rite is associated with a specific country. This means that the main languages spoken in each Rite’s lodges may differ. Members of the French Rite speak French while members of The Ancient and Accepted Rite speak English. The Swedish Rite, despite its name, is not just found in Sweden. This order of Freemasonry is also found in Finland, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland.

Each of these Rites also differs in degree structures.

The Swedish Rite, for example, is structured into:

  • St. John's (Craft) degrees (which essentially are degrees 1 through 3)
  • St. Andrew's (Scottish) degrees (which essentially are degrees 4 through 6)
  • Chapter degrees (which essentially are degrees 7 through 10)
  • and the rarely attained eleventh degree

The French Rite has 7 degrees in a regular “blue” lodge:

  • Apprentice (1st degree)
  • Companion (2nd degree)
  • Master (3rd degree)
  • Secret Elect (First order, 4th degree)
  • Scottish Grand Elect (Second order, 5th degree)
  • Knight of the Orient (Third order, 6th degree)
  • Sovereign Rose-Cross Prince, also known as the Perfect Free Mason or the Grand Commander of the Temple (Fourth order, 7th degree)

The Ancient and Accepted Rite, also known as the Rose Croix, has 33 degrees.

The beliefs of the rites also vary. The Swedish Rite demands that members believe in Christianity, not just in a supreme being. Also, members of the Swedish Rite are not allowed to use their membership to help them realize advantages outside of the lodge. The French Rite is considered to be among the most 'lay' rites and therefore any person can join, regardless of their religious beliefs.

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