Origins of the Scottish Rite

posted May 31, 2015, 12:01 PM by San Jose Scottish Rite   [ updated May 31, 2015, 12:03 PM ]
Many of our newer members, and probably a few older ones, may be a bit hazy about how the Scottish Rite began. This is meant as a quick refresher course. Read De Hoyos’s “Scottish Rite Ritual” for an in depth coverage.
The origin of the Rite is almost as unknown as that of the Craft. As a Rite, it is definitely NOT Scottish., having its beginning as such in this country, and is distinctly American. The degrees which are the basis of this system actually came from France, and its forbear is the Rite of Perfection.
At the time of the establishment of the Grand Lodge in 1717 there were many degrees in existence, usually communicated as “side” degrees by individuals or Lodges. Some of them were fabricated in Scotland and were taken to France, which was fertile soil for the multiplication of degrees, one of them being the Ecossais, or Scotch Master Degree. It seems that, esoterically at least, Scottish Masons were much further advanced than the English. These degrees were incorporated in the Rite of Perfection, which flourished in France in the first half of the 18th Century. This Rite, which consisted of 25 degrees, is actually the fountainhead of our Scottish Rite system and was known as the Ancient Accepted Rite. The activities of this Rite largely centered in Bordeaux, the oldest provincial Masonic center in France. It was the Masonic home of Stephen Morin and the home port of the ship which sailed in 1761 with Morin, carrying all his important Patents, empowering him to propagate the Rite in the Western Hemisphere.
Morin never landed on the continent, but established himself in the West Indies. He commissioned Henry Francken as his Deputy, and it was Francken who came to New York in 1767 and established a Lodge of Perfection in Albany. Other Deputies were subsequently commissioned and a number of other bodies instituted. 
From the time Stephen Morin landed in the Indies, many appointed Deputy Inspectors General  in the New World were thriving on degree peddling and conditions in Sublime Freemasonry were becoming chaotic. The Founders of out Rite, long active and zealous workers in Symbolic Freemasonry and legitimately having the Degrees of Perfection, determined to bring order out of chaos. 
They selected from several Rites the particular degrees they thought would accomplish this, and on May 31st, 1801, John Mitchell, 33°, and ten associates founded in the City of Charleston, South Carolina, the first Supreme Council, 33°, A.A.S.R., the Mother Supreme Council of the World, controlling a system of 33 Degrees.
12 years later, on August 15th, 1813, in New York City, a second Supreme Council for the United States of America was established, which afterwards it became the Supreme Council for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction to which the Valley of Cleveland owes obedience. It has jurisdiction over 15 states north of the Masson Dixon Line and east of the Mississippi River, with a membership in 1997 0f 323,000. The total number of Scottish Rite Masons in both the Northern and Southern Jurisdictions is approximately 600,000.