The Beginnings of Freemasonry
Freemasonry is one of the world's oldest fraternal societies, it evolved in part from Medieval stone masons guilds mainly in Scotland, after spreading to England with King James II and his court in the early 1600, the craft greatly expanded in part thanks to events such as the Great Fire of London, which raised the Masons profile immensely.
After the Glorious Revolution in 1688 Freemasonry spread to Europe with Jacobite exiles before travelling to every part of the world.
Freemasonry's lessons of moral values (governing relations between people) and its acknowledgement, without crossing the boundaries of religion, that all depends on the providence of God, apply today with as much force as they did when the order began.
The Formation of the Rite
The Constitution of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, was ratified on 1st May 1786 when Frederick, King of Prussia was proclaimed its Chief.
At this time the 32nd was the highest degree; and the higher Councils and Chapters could not be opened without the King's Presence, or of a substitute appointed by him. With the view of continuing the Supreme Power on his death bed (no provision having been made to appoint a successor) the King established the 33rd Degree, for which the Supreme Council is formed, possessing all the Masonic rights and privileges exercised by the King.
On 1st May 1786, the Grand Masonic Constitutions were finally settled at a Grand Council held in Berlin, Prussia and proclaimed for government over the Rite across the entire Globe.
The A&ASR in Scotland
After Dr. Morison, Scottish Sovereign Grand Commanders have included such eminent Freemasons as the Duke of Atholl, John Whyte Melville of Bennochy and Strathkinnes, the Earl of Rosslyn, Sir Michael R. Shaw Stewart, and the Earl of Kintore.
11 of the members of the Supreme Council have also served as the Grand Master Mason of the Grand Lodge of Scotland.
The Degrees in this Rite are not innovations on pure symbolic Masonry, but are rather illustrations, and, as such, are full of much instructive speculation, combining many traditions of great interest to Freemasons, and shedding great light on the object of the institution.
The complete A&ASR system consists of thirty three degrees
the 1˚ to 3˚ are not worked under the Rite, as those carried out under the Grand Lodge of Scotland are held as sufficient qualification; nor are those from the 4˚ to the 17˚, inclusive, worked in full in Scotland.
When a candidate presents himself to be received into the 18˚ Degree or Prince of the Rose Croix certain portions of the 4˚ to 17˚ degrees are communicated to him, before the 18˚ degree is worked in full.
Admission to the A&ASR is by invitation only and brethren so invited must have been a Master Mason for at least three years.
The next degree conferred in Scotland is the 30˚ Degree, the Degrees from 19˚ to 29˚, inclusive, being given similarly to those from 4˚ to 17˚. This Degree is called Grand Elect Knight K.H., and is only conferred under the immediate superintendence of the Supreme Council.
No Prince Rose Croix is eligible to receive the 30˚ Degree unless he has been five years, a member of the 18˚.
31st and 32nd Degrees
The 31˚ and 32˚ Degrees are conferred by the Supreme Council by selection, and are strictly limited in number.
The 33˚ and last Degree is conferred very sparingly by the Supreme Council, and only on Brethren of high social and Masonic Position, the number being strictly limited to nine members of the Supreme Council, besides Inspector Generals of Provinces at home and abroad.
Only one Supreme Council can exist in any one nation at the same time, unless under special circumstances as in the United States of America.