There appears to be either confusion or
ignorance or both in the minds of many Brethren in our District
concerning carious Masonic Degrees such as the Allied Degrees, the
Ancient and Accepted Rite, the Knights Templar, the Royal Order of
Scotland, and so forth.
I therefore wish to clarify any
misunderstandings about these Degrees insofar as they concern Craft
I first draw attention to the Preliminary Declaration in the Book of
Constitutions of the United Grand Lodge of England as follows:
"By the solemn Act of Union between the two Grand Lodges of Freemasons
of England in December 1813, it was 'declared and pronounced that pure
Ancient Masonry consists of three degrees and no more, vix, those of
the Entered Apprentice, the Fellow Craft, and the Master Mason,
including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch'".
Also printed in our Book of Constitutions is a statement of the aims
and relationships of the Craft accepted by the Grand Lodge of England
on September 7, 1949 from which I quote the following:
"The Grand Lodge of England is a Sovereign and independent Body
practising Freemasonry only within the three Degrees and only within
the limits defined in its Constitution as 'pure Ancient Masonry'. It
does not recognise or admit the existence of any Superior Masonic
authority, however styled".
I also draw attention to the fact that by agreement with the Grand
Lodges of Scotland and Ireland identical declarations were made by each
of those Grand Lodges on behalf of its respective Jurisdiction.
Against this background I consider it would be most helpful for me to
quote from the most comprehensive book published in England on these
'beyond the Craft Degrees and indeed the title of the book is 'Beyond
the Craft' and its author, Keith Jackson, is an eminent and highly
respected Masonic scholar.
I quote Bro Jackson as follows:
"The Degrees beyond the Craft are known by various titles, but none can
be said to offer an accurate description. The terms generally used are
'side Degrees', 'advanced' and even 'higher Degrees' - the latter two
usually stimulating strong protest and resentment from the many avid
supporters of the Craft. This is understandable for that which can
produce the oldest authentic records must naturally be in that regard
the senior and highest and this of course is the Craft. It appears that
the most reasonable title would be to describe them as additional
Degrees for this is exactly what they are".
I wholeheartedly adopt and endorse Bro Jackson's comments.
Accordingly, Whilst Brethren who join these additional Degrees can
enjoy a great deal of pleasure from them and it is certainly not my
intention to dissuade any Brother who is invited or is otherwise
eligible to do so, I must emphasise that no Degree in Masonry is higher
than or superior to the Craft.
I would, however, like to make special mention of the mark Degree which
in the English Constitution is separate from the Craft in its
administration and has its own Mark Master Masons' Grand lodge in St
James St, London. In the Scottish Constitution the Mark Degree is
conferred either in a Craft Lodge or a Royal Arch Chapter and in the
Irish Constitution Mark Lodges are attached to Royal Arch Chapters and
an Irish Brother must be advanced to the Mark Degree before he can be
exalted to the Royal Arch. Accordingly, English Brethren in Districts
where there is either a Scottish or Irish Province are well advised to
become Mark Masons to facilitate visiting, but quite apart from this,
the Mark is a particularly beautiful Degree and I strongly advise all
English Masons in this District to take it and preferably before taking
the Royal Arch.
Since many of the additional Degrees are administered from Mark Masons
Hall the Secretaries of the mark Lodges in Nassau, Freeport and Turks
can supply information about them to any interested Brother - many of
the other additional degrees can be joined by invitation only - however
I should also point out that there is no single authority administering
all these Degrees collectively and most of them have their own
independent Grand Lodges, Conclaves, Councils etc…
I trust that these observations will put the entire matter of these
additional Degrees in their proper perspective and that the superiority
of the Craft and its Rulers in English Craft Masonry is clearly
understood in this District.
Dated this 4th day of December 1992
Ralph D Seligman
District Grand Master