Masonic Bodies

An example chart of the many bodies in the Masonic Order from the Missouri Masonic Lodge

Overview

The basic unit of Masonry is the Masonic Lodge, commonly referred to as Blue Lodge, which by itself can make or initiate a Freemason. Each lodge is governed by a Grand Lodge with national or regional authority for all lodges within its territory. A masonic lodge confers three degrees: Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft (Fellow Craft), and finally the Master Mason degree.

There is no degree higher than the Master Mason. However, there are additional degrees that are offered only to those who are Master Masons. Most, if not all, are controlled with their own Grand bodies which are independent from the Grand Lodge.

The United Grand Lodge of England has no direct authority over other Grand Lodges, but does have a historical influence in terms of regularity and practice since it is the world’s oldest Grand Lodge. It defines “pure, ancient Freemasonry” as consisting of the three degrees as mentioned above, plus the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch.

There are a number of organizations, most of which are known as Masonic or have a title identifying themselves as such, that require candidates for membership to be in good standing with their lodge. This means their dues are paid and they are not under any penalty set forth by their Grand Lodge or local Lodge. In some countries, like the United States, the Scottish Rite and York Rite are the two main routes available. In other countries, such as England, Scotland, Ireland, the Commonwealth countries, there are a large number of stand-alone Orders and Degrees that exist, without the umbrella organization of a rite. Some of these bodies use numbers as an informal way of referring to or identifying the degrees they confer, but the most important and therefore highest degree is always the third, or Degree of Master Mason.

Additionally in some countries, such as the United States, there are organizations affiliated with Freemasonry which admit both Master Masons and non-Masons who have some relation to a Master Mason, such as the Order of the Eastern Star, International Order of Job’s Daughters (Job’s Daughters International) and the Order of the Amaranth. Still other affiliated organizations like the Order of DeMolay and the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls admit non-Masons and have no requirement that an applicant be related to a Master Mason. These associated organisations for non-masons are only rarely encountered in European Freemasonry.

Types of Masonic Bodies

  • Blue Lodge: The main body of Masonry through which all Masons must achieve the third degree to join other bodies. This body has three degrees: Entered Apprentice (E.A), Fellow Craft (F.C.), and Master Mason (M.M.)
  • Scottish Rite: The Scottish Rite builds upon the ethical teachings and philosophy offered in the craft or Blue Lodge, through dramatic presentation of the individual degrees.
  • York Rite: The York Rite is actually a grouping of separate organizations joined in order. Each body operates with relative autonomy. It is also common for non-Christians to join only the Royal Arch and Council of Royal & Select Masters, as the Knights Templar require members to be willing to defend the Christian faith, if needed. Regardless of the path chosen, the Royal Arch is always required and membership in that the body must be kept in order to maintain membership in the other two bodies.
    • Royal Arch Masonry: The first order a Master Mason joins in the York Rite. The Chapter works the following degrees:
      • Mark Master Mason: In some respects this is an extension of the Follow Craft degree in Blue Lodge.
      • Past Master (Virtual): This degree is conferred because of the traditional requirement that only Past Masters of Blue Lodge may be admitted to Holy Royal Arch. Because there are so many applicants for the degree, Virtual Past Master is required to qualify them for it. Much of the work is the same given to install the Worshipful Master of Blue Lodge. There is no such requirement or procedure outside the USA.
      • Most Excellent Master: In the buidling of King Solomon’s Temple, which figures so prominently in Blue Lodge has been completed.
      • The Royal Arch Mason: Sometimes referred to as Holy Royal Arch, this degree is said by many to be the most beautiful degree
    • Cryptic Masonry: Membership in the Council of Royal & Select Masters or Council of Cryptic Masons is not required for membership in the Knights Templar in some jurisdictions, so it can be skipped. In others it is required. It consists of three degrees: Royal Master, Select Master, and Super Excellent Master
    • Knights Templar: The Knights Templar is the final order joined in the York Rite. Unlike other Masonic bodies which only require a belief in a Supreme Being regardless of religion, membership in the Knights Templar is open only to Christian Masons who have completed their Royal Arch, and in some jurisdictions their Cryptic Degrees. This body is molded on the historical Knights Templar to carry on the spirit of their organization. Throughout history it has been claimed that Freemasonry itself was founded by the Knights Templar or that the Knights Templar took refuge in Freemasonry after their persecution. The Grand Encampment of the United States acknowledges the existence of these theories but states that there is no proof to justify such claims The KT has three orders instead of degrees: The Illustrious Order of the Red Cross, The Order of the Knights of Malta, The Order of the Temple.
  • Shriners International: Historically known as the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. Shriners meet in Shrine temples, and are well known for their maroon fezzes, lavish parades and sponsorship of children’s hospitals.
  • Order of the Eastern Star: Membership is limited to Master Masons and their close female relatives. The Chapter is run by the women; the Master Mason is there to help open the Chapter. The female relatives are wife, sister, daughter, mother and various grands, step relatives and in-laws.
  • Order of the Amaranthe: An American androgynous order for Master Masons and their female relatives.
  • Youth Organizations: A number of Masonic-affiliated youth organizations exist, mainly in North America, which are collectively referred to as Masonic youth organizations.
    • Knights of Pythagoras: For boys aged 8 to 18; sponsored by the Prince Hall Masons.
    • DeMolay International: The most common amoung young men. Ages 12 to 21 are eligible. There are DeMolay chapters located in Argentina, Aruba, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Romania, Serbia, the United States, and Uruguay.
    • Job’s Daughters: Young ladies from 10 to 20, who are daughters of Master Masons or daughters of a majority Job’s Daughter, are eligible. The “Jobies” have Bethels in Australia (Queensland), Brazil (most Brazilian states have at least one bethel), Canada (Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario & Saskatchewan), the Philippines, and many states within the United States (notable exceptions include all of the New England states and most of the South). Mostly due to American military presence there have also been bethels in Germany and Japan.
    • International Order of the Rainbow for Girls: Young ladies from 11 to 20 are eligible. The “Rainbow Girls” have Assemblies in Aruba, Australia (in Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia), Bolivia, Brazil (in Distrito Federal, Espirito Santo, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Minas Gerais, Para, Parana, Rio de Janeiro, Santa Catarina, São Paulo and Tocantins), Canada (in Ontario and New Brunswick), Italy, Paraguay, the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Romania. There are currently Rainbow Assemblies in every state within the United States except Delaware, Utah and Wyoming. Rainbow has had assemblies, mostly due to American military presence, in the following countries: Cuba, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Panama, the Republic of China, and Vietnam.

Please note that there are more masonic bodies and Allied Masonic Bodies located throughout the country and the world, and are simpley too numberous to list. Clinton Lodge #47 hosts a few of these bodies. They have their own sections of the website which you can view at the top. If you would to know more about the Masonic Bodies, please contact your Lodge Education Officer for more information.