Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Higher Degrees

by RmOlano

“Higher degrees” are being work in “higher bodies” or more appropriately called, appendant bodies or Rites. Various Rites exists throughout the world, Scottish, York, Swedish, German, Egyptian, etc. Generally, any degrees after 3rd or Master Mason Degree are called or known as “higher degrees.” For lack of a better example which I hope that won’t offend other brothers who believed that they have already attained the Sublime Degree of Master Mason and all others are superfluous. The bottom line is that we can consider the Rite’s degrees as some sort of "college" level work after completing the Master Mason Degree.

The official explanation is that the additional degrees are not to be seen as a vertical progression but rather a horizontal expansion. It can be described as a trek to next the phase of travel or preparation prior to entrance to a door that offers promise of obtaining further light. The more portals one allowed to enter, the more unknowns could possibly be discovered. There are those brethren who subscribed to this concept and never joined the Rites and there are those who joined and understand that humility is a virtue. After all no one carries a college diploma in a wallet. It is usually left in the office or home. There are number of Brethren who still struggle to rationalize the notion of three is equal or not greater than 32. Unlike the Scottish Rite, the York Rite does not use numerical designation, but instead opted for a loosely organized structure. The final degree is called Knights Templar which requires that the candidate must be or be ready to defend Christian belief. Beyond that there are invitational bodies such as, Priory for KYCH of York Rite, AMD, honorary degrees such as 33rd of Scottish Rite, and others. I am not in a position to explain the prerequisites but the one thing that is common to all is that the Brethren don’t ask to be one but rather wait to get invited.

Masonry is a progressive moral science taught by degrees only; it is veiled in allegories and illustrated by symbols. In order to really appreciate the lessons or workings in York or Scottish Rites, a Master Mason must have a good foundation in his grade school before advancing into college works. It is a fact that majority of Masons believes that being a Master Mason or 3rd Degree is enough and contented thus missing what knowledge and opportunities that awaits them in the so-called appendant or higher bodies.

In the conclusion of The Higher Degrees’ Handbook by WB J.S.M. Ward, he wrote that, "... any man who has never gone beyond the Craft has still much to learn … Until he has taken them (Higher Degrees) he is in no position to form any kind of opinion, and after he has done so I feel sure that he will no longer speak slightingly of some of the greatest mysteries of this or any Age.”


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