Welcome to York Rite Masonry
The York Rite is a collection of ten Masonic degrees and orders. These are conferred in the United States under a trilateral system of governance consisting of Chapters, Councils, and Commanderies. The name derives from the City of York where, according to one Masonic legend, the first meeting of Masons in England was held in the year 926 A.D.
The York Rite (along with the Scottish Rite) is one of two appendant Bodies of Masonry beyond the level of the Craft (or Blue Lodge). It is focused on expanding a Master Mason’s understanding of several important ideas introduced in the first three degrees of the Blue Lodge. The York Rite has a special and close relationship to the Blue Lodge degrees. It continues the lessons learned in the Fellowcraft degree and completes the journey that Hiram began in the Master Mason degree. It teaches the meaning of the True Word, offering impressive lessons from the Christian Knighthood tradition in a ceremony which is among the most beautiful in all of Masonry. In fact, the third tier of the York Rite, known as the Orders of Templary, has traditionally been styled the Christian Order of Freemasonry.
The York Rite takes the Master Mason on a journey into the oldest traditions of English Freemasonry. Every serious student of Masonry should be a York Rite Mason. We know our Masonic Brothers will benefit from the added knowledge gained through their York Rite experience.
The Essential Theme of the York Rite
The degrees and orders of York Rite Masonry all revolve around one great center—the True Word.
In the Lodge that Word was lost.
In the Chapter degrees, consisting of the Mark Master, Past Master, Most Excellent Master and the Royal Arch, you will find the Master’s Word and where it was concealed before the death of Hiram. In the Council degrees, comprised of the Royal Master, the Select Master and the Super Excellent Master, the Word is preserved. As a Royal Master you will have a conversation with Hiram Abif about his mortality. You will discover how and why the Master’s Word was lost, by whom, and for what purpose. The answers to these questions will be unveiled in the Select Master degree.
In the Orders of the Commandery, consisting of the Order of Red Cross, Order of Malta, and the Order of the Temple, the Word is explained. In the Commandery Orders, you will assist in rebuilding the 2nd Temple and learn the origins of the Knights Templar. You will become a Knight after the tradition of Templary.
As a member of a Symbolic Lodge, you have already started through the York Rite which consists of a Lodge, a Chapter, a Council and a Commandery of Knights Templar. You are urged to complete what you have started in the Symbolic Blue Lodge. The continuing degrees of the York Rite contain a wealth of Masonic knowledge waiting for you to enjoy.
The Royal Arch Chapter includes the three degrees of Capitular Masonry. It is the Masonry of Recovery. It teaches that the great beliefs in Freemasonry are never eternally lost. All things in due time will be recovered.
The Council of Royal and Select Master Masons includes in their three degrees the Masonry of Preservation; teaching that immortal truths will never be destroyed, that the approach of destruction will lead to a safe and secure deposit of these truths. This is Cryptic Masonry . . . the Alpha and Omega of the Ancient Craft.
Commanderies of Knights Templar confer three Orders: the Order of the Red Cross, the Order of Malta and the Order of the Temple. They are called orders rather than degrees because of their chivalric nature. Their teachings center on knightly virtues and are all based on feudal knighthood or the military nobility. Charity and hospitality are characteristics which underlie the Templar program.
The York Rite legends are included in the Gothic Constitutions dating as far back as the 10th century. It became identified very early on with Freemasonry as practiced in Britain and transmitted to the American Colonies. The story line of the York Rite degrees, like those of the Symbolic Lodge, is based on the completion and dedication of King Solomon’s Temple; and the building of the 2nd Temple.
The degrees continue the themes and practices of operative Masonry as the progressive system of moral instruction to which we have already been introduced in symbolic craft Masonry, and have come to expect as students of our speculative art. The York Rite adds immeasurably to our own personal quest for spiritual and self development.
The degrees and orders of the York Rite can be traced by written records from 1744 with the Royal Arch conferred in York, England to the Knight Templar conferred in Boston in 1769. The Cryptic or Council degrees were not established as part of the York Rite system until well into the 19th Century. But we find during the second half of the 18th century, both the Royal Arch and the Knight Templar degrees described in York lodge records as the 4th and 5th degrees of Masonry respectively, and were said to been conferred as part of a five degree system known as the Early York Rite.
During the early 19th century, the term York Rite came into common usage in early America because there was a need to distinguish the degree system offered by it, from that offered by the Scottish Rite. Because of the growing popularity of both Rites in America, Freemasons made almost daily use of the names of both in their Masonic conversations as a way of distinguishing between the two. Historically, many Freemasons have opted to belong to one or both of these great Rites. The quest of the Master Mason is not complete without them.
Today, the York Rite is known all over the world, and its significance is highly appreciated by all serious students of Masonry.