Originally posted by Leveller
The normal course is then Mark or Chapter and you're talking about at least 6 months from when you put your name forward until you go in. Then
you're expected to wait and learn the degree before you go on again. It takes years for us to go into the side degrees!!!
In the US, Chapters of Royal Arch Masons control the degrees of Mark Master, Past Master, Most Excellent Master, and Royal Arch Mason. Once you’ve
received the Royal Arch Degree, you can be admitted into the Council of Cryptic Masons, which controls the degrees of Royal and Select Master, and a
side degree called Super Excellent Master. Then the Chivalric Orders (Illustrious Order of the Red Cross, Order of Malta, and Order of the Temple) are
conferred in a Commandery of Knights Templar.
At 33, I'm the youngest in any of the side degrees of which I'm a member and I'm probably talking 5 years before I get to go any further
(I'm RAM too), yet it seems to me that you guys in North America can get to 32nd in no time.
Pike had intended that each degree be conferred in full form in a standard Blue Lodge setting, and that the Catechism be memorized for each degree
before advancing. All this has changed since Pike’s lifetime.
Today in the US, the Scottish Rite Degrees are rarely conferred in Lodges anymore. Most cities have large Scottish Rite Temples that accomodate
hundreds of members in an auditorium hall. The degrees are performed on stage with music, stage props, backdrops, costumes, lighting effects, etc., as
in theatre productions, and are much more elaborate and intricate than the standard Blue Lodge Degrees.
In the late 1800’s, a group of 32° and 33° Scottish Rite Masons formed the Ancient Arabic Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, commonly known as
Shriners. The original prerequisite was that all Shriners must have at least the 32°, although this could be waived if one was a Knight Templar in the
York Rite. From that time forward, both the York and Scottish Rites in the US dropped its Catechism memorization requirements, and began advancing
Candidates quickly because they could become Shriners.
This has produced both good and ill effects. On the good side, it has provided a huge membership base for the support of Masonic charities. Shriners
Childrens Hospitals and Scottish Rite 32° Childhood Speech and Learning Clinics are in operation all over the US, Canada, and Mexico because of this,
all treating kids for free. This would not have been possible without advancing candidates quickly, so they could participate.
On the down side, we’ve got thousands of 32° Masons who don’t really know anything about Masonry. Many have not taken the time to study the subject,
and become inactive, although hey still support the charities by paying their annual dues.
Some states have even started “going all the way” in one day. Last year, Ohio staged a controversial program where over a thousand candidates received
the first three degrees in the morning. In the afternoon, they were made 32° Masons by the Supreme Council of the Northern Jurisdiction. That evening,
they received the degrees of Mark through Royal Arch, and Knight Templar, and were later that night inducted into the Shrine.
I have no doubt that these guys were bewildered when they left. They came in that morning as non-Masons, and left with practically all the standard
degrees that exist, including that of the Shrine. I am personally opposed to such a practice, but Masonry in the US has become more and more fixated
on membership numbers in order to keep its charities running. This of course isn’t a bad thing, but I question how much we can actually teach a
Brother by giving him 50 degrees in one day.
How do you learn your degrees in such a seemingly short time?
Memory work is no longer required for degrees above the third, unless one signs up as a member of a degree team. The Grand Master of Ohio waived the
memory work requirements for the abovementioned one day fiasco for the Blue Lodge Degrees.