|Masonic Degrees beyond the Craft|
|(A statement by RW District Grand Master Ralph D Seligman, December 4th 1992)|
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 Masonry.
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