The Rite

The York Rite or American Rite is one of several Rites of the worldwide fraternity known as Freemasonry. It is one of the routes a Master Mason may choose to seek more light in Masonry.

Contrary to the name, the York Rite, isn’t a Rite of Freemasonry. It is a loose confederation of three different Masonic systems, who have in the Americas chosen to share a single administrative structure. The three primary bodies in the York Rite are the Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, Council of Royal & Select Masters or Council of Cryptic Masons, and the Knights Templar, each of which are governed independently but are all considered to be a part of the York Rite. There are also other organizations that are considered to be directly associated with the York Rite, or require York Rite membership to join such as the York Rite Sovereign College but in general the York Rite is considered to be made up of the aforementioned three.

The Rite’s name is derived from the city of York. According to Masonic legend (the Regius Poem) the first meetings of Masons in England took place in the city of York. Interestingly, none of the legends or degrees of the principal bodies of the Rite mention this.

Since the York Rite is actually a grouping of separate organizations joined in order, each body operates with relative autonomy. And though they are referred to as one rite it is common for individuals to be member of some bodies and not others. For example in many jurisdictions Cryptic Masonry can be skipped allowing the person to be a member of just the Royal Arch and Knights Templar. 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 of the Christian faith. But no matter what the Royal Arch is always required and membership in that body must be kept in order to maintain membership in the other two bodies.

Details on the individual bodies are as follows:

Royal Arch or Capitular Masonry
The Degrees of Royal Arch Masonry are direct extensions of the Blue Lodge experience, and are thus part of Ancient Craft Masonry. These degrees complete the Fellow Craft (Mark Master), the Master Mason (Royal Arch) degrees, as well as confer the Esoteric Work of the Master’s Chair (Past and Most Excellent Master) and restore to the Candidate the Lost Word.

Cryptic Masonry
Once part of the Étienne Morin’s Order of the Royal Secret, the Cryptic Degrees are of French origin, and display the essential characteristic of eccossais maconnerie, namely the preservation of the Master’s Word.

Chivalric Masonry
While chivalric Masonry is undoubtedly of French origin, the Orders of the Commandery are most assuredly English, and continues the general York legend. Orders of the Commandery take the Masters Word, and apply a uniquely Christian interpretation to the Masonic interpretation to it.

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