Origins of the Scottish Rite
It is believed that in 1732 an English Lodge named Loge L’Anglaise was founded in Bordeaux, France. This Lodge was later chartered by the English Modern Grand Lodge and still exists today. An early offshoot of Loge L’Anglaise was the Loge la Française which, as the name implies, is believed to have been French. The latter Lodge had a penchant for the so-called hauts grades, or “High Degrees,” then coming into vogue, and founded Loge Parfaite Harmonie in 1743. Étienne (Stephen) Morin was among the founders of Loge Parfaite Harmonie. The French strongholds of Freemasonry were, at the time, in Bordeaux and Paris.
A Parisian Masonic Body, the “Council of the Knights of the East,” which changed its name to the “Council of the Emperors of the East and West,” granted Morin a patent in 1761 (the first of its kind) to promulgate certain hauts grades in the New World.
Until recently, it was believed that Morin was authorized to establish Bodies of a 25 Degree Rite (sometimes referred to as the “Rite of Perfection”) which was, to a large measure, destined to become the parent of the Scottish Rite. However, the term “Rite of Perfection” properly refers only to the 4°–14° (Lodge of Perfection), and Morin’s 25 Degree Rite was actually called the “Order of the Royal Secret.” Recent research suggests that Morin was personally responsible for superimposing Degrees atop the Lodge of Perfection to create the Order of the Royal Secret. There is compelling evidence that, to bolster his authority, he created and backdated documents known as the Constitutions and Regulations of 1762—an act that was not discovered for over 220 years.
About 1763, Morin introduced his system to Kingston, Jamaica, and empowered an enthusiastic Dutch Mason, Henry Andrew Francken, to establish Masonic Bodies throughout the New World, including the United States. Francken soon sailed to New York, and in 1767 he began to confer the Degrees. Fortunately, he made several manuscript copies of the rituals of the Order of the Royal Secret. The Supreme Council, 33°, N.M.J, owns the best of these copies, the Francken Manuscript of 1783.
On December 6, 1768, Francken appointed Moses Michael Hays (also Hayes), of Dutch parentage, a Deputy Inspector General for the West Indies and North America. The Hays patent granted authority to confer all of the Degrees of Morin’s Rite.
The following year, Francken returned to Jamaica, and by 1780 Hays immigrated to Newport, Rhode Island. In 1781, Hays traveled to Philadelphia where he met with eight Brethren whom he appointed Deputy Inspectors General over given States, with the exception of Samuel Myers who presided over the Leeward Islands. Barend Moses Spitzer, a Deputy Inspector General, lived in Charleston from 1770 to 1781 and moved to Philadelphia where he was appointed Deputy for Georgia and, after traveling briefly abroad, returned to Charleston by 1788. On April 2, 1795, Spitzer appointed the Irish-born John Mitchell, then living in Charleston, a Deputy Inspector General.
On May 24, 1801, Mitchell created the Reverend Frederick Dalcho (a Prussian, born in London) a Deputy Inspector General, and one week later “the Supreme Council of the 33d Degree for the United States of America, was opened…agreeably to the Grand Constitutions” with Mitchell and Dalcho presiding. This Body is often referred to as the Supreme Council at Charleston and exists today as the Supreme Council, 33°, Southern Jurisdiction. As the premiere Supreme Council, it is sometimes referred to as the “Mother Council of the World.” This is the Body we belong to.
The traditional authority of the Supreme Council, as cited in its first official publication, the Circular throughout two hemispheres (1802), stems from the Constitutions of 1786, which were allegedly ratified by Frederick II, King of Prussia. Like Morin’s Constitutions and Regulations of 1762, they are viewed as traditional rather than historical documents.
As the anti-Masonic movement lost momentum in the early 1840s, there was a renewed interest in Freemasonry, including the Scottish Rite. In connection with this, the Supreme Council issued a document known as the “Manifesto of 1845.” This document briefly recounted the Scottish Rite’s line of authority and, curiously, claimed the exclusive right to confer the Degrees according to the schedule originally published in the 1802 Circular.
The republication of this primitive list (p. vi) may suggest that the Degrees were “communicated” rather than “conferred.” Indeed, communication was the common method of admitting members to the Scottish Rite in its early days. This simply meant that new members assumed obligations of secrecy and fealty and were then allowed to study the manuscripts. Conferral, on the other hand, refers to the presentation of a ritual/drama in which the Candidate assumes an active role.
Albert Pike’s Magnum Opus of 1857.
In March 1853, Albert G. Mackey, then Secretary General of the Supreme Council, communicated the Scottish Rite Degrees to Albert Pike. Concurrent with his communication of these Degrees, Mackey loaned his manuscript collection to Pike who copied them into a large volume now in the Archives of the Supreme Council. Entitled
Formulas and Rituals Transcribed by Albert Pike in 1854 and 1855, it preserves a portion of the Supreme Council’s ritual collection that was subsequently lost. Pike’s study of these rituals prepared him for appointment to a Supreme Council committee in March 1855 charged with the responsibly of revising all the Scottish Rite’s rituals. As a 32° Mason, he was the lowest-ranking member of the committee, but he threw himself, as was his habit, into the task, and within six months, he had revised ten of the Degrees.
In 1857, Pike finished his revision of the 4°–32°, which he then had privately printed in an edition of 100 copies. This first revision—originally untitled but dubbed the Magnum Opus by Mackey—was a monumental step forward for the Scottish Rite. Although it failed to meet the needs of the Supreme Council and was never adopted as the official ritual, it became the basis for subsequent revisions not only of the Southern Jurisdiction’s ritual but also of the ritual for many Supreme Councils worldwide.
Albert Pike, Laffon de Ladebat and Subsequent Revisions
In the same year Pike was appointed to the ritual revision committee, the Supreme Council, 33°, Southern Jurisdiction, signed a Concordat with a Body known as the “Supreme Council of Louisiana.” This organization, with headquarters in New Orleans, traced its authority to Joseph Cerneau, who had long contended with the first two American Supreme Councils. The New Orleans group, acknowledging its dubious origins, voluntarily dissolved itself, and its members transferred their fealty to the Supreme Council, 33°, Southern Jurisdiction. One of the leading Louisiana members was Charles Laffon de Ladébat, who became a friend, coworker, and confidant of Pike.
De Ladébat had himself published revisions of the Eighteenth and Thirtieth Degrees in 1856 and 1857, respectively, which included synopses of the 4°–17° and 19°–29°, together with the modes of recognition, as well an analysis of the significant foreign words. In 1858, Pike and de Ladébat co-authored a revision of the Thirty-first and Thirty-second Degrees.
Following his work with de Ladébat, Pike produced the Southern Jurisdiction’s Scottish Rite rituals in multi-volume sets, publishing several revisions.
Degrees When Revised
4°–14° 1861, 1870, 1883
15°–16° 1861, 1870, 1882
17°–18° 1861, 1870
19°–30° 1867, 1884
31°–32° 1867, 1879, 1883
33° 1857, 1867, 1868, 1880 (manuscripts only)
Some of the revisions were influenced by de Ladébat’s work, as is the case with Pike’s 1861 Eighteenth Degree ritual, which is largely a combination of The Magnum Opus and de Ladébat’s 1856 version.