The symbolic Degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason, as conferred in the United States, are degrees of the York Rite.
York Masonry is the oldest and bets known of all Masonic Rites. It takes its name from York, England, where the earliest known record of Masonry exists, dating from about A.D. 923. Masonry’s first written record is centered around York, the seat of the Ancient York Grand Lodge. In 1813, this Grand Lodge merged with another group called the Modern Grand Lodge, to form the United Grand Lodge of England. This is the basis upon which our present system of Masonic Lodge Masonry is built.
You, as a Master Mason, have received the first three degrees of the York Rite. Having begun your Masonic work in the York Rite, it is natural that you should want to continue with it.
According to Masonic legend, every man raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason received “substitute secrets”, as the “true secrets” were lost. It may prove a surprise to the average man, believing his work is completed, to be told that the secrets pertaining to the ceremony will not be given to him! This is unfortunate, but the veil is lifted in the degree of the Royal Arch, and in that degree only. Hence, no man actually becomes a Master Mason until he is exalted to that holy order.
Some would have the newly raised Master Mason believe that he can receive the secrets and word in a degree other than the Royal Arch. This is not true, historically or otherwise. The mother Grand Lodge of England was so emphatic regarding the necessity of the Royal Arch degree that many years ago, it set forth this as Paragraph One (1) of its Laws and Regulations.
“By the solemn act of the union between the two Grand Lodges of Freemasons in England in December, 1813, it was declared and pronounced that Pure Ancient Masonry consists of three degrees and no more, viz; those of the Entered Apprentice, the Fellowcraft, and the Master Mason, INCLUDING THE SUPREME ORDER OF THE HOLY ROYAL ARCH”.
On the North American Continent, there are additional degrees in the system, supplementing the work of the Lodge, Chapter and Council, and the Orders conferred in the Commandery have been arranged into a system or Rite referred to as the American, Canadian, or York Rite of Freemasonry. It is American in structure, as it is a democratic organization in which every member has a voice and a right to be heard.
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