posted on Sep, 28 2012 @ 02:30 AM
I fact, it is even more complicated than you say...
Originally, there were number of different side Orders which a Mason could do join after becoming a Master Mason, each which had it's own degrees. The
major ones were:
The Holy Royal Arch
The Cryptic Degrees
The Knights Templar
The Degrees of the Ancient and Accepted Rite
In English Freemasonry, it is still like this, and each of the degrees mentioned above is a separate Order, with it's own structure and Officers. The
Degrees of the Ancient and Accepted Rite has one governing body, but is divided into two, namely the "18th Degree" and the "Higher Degrees" (meaning
specifically the higher degrees of the Ancient and Accepted Rite, and does not refer to higher Degrees in Freemasonry - a common misconception which
has led to much of the misunderstanding of the degrees by non-Masons), and one has to go through all the offices in the 18th degree, and become the
equivalent of "Master of the lodge" in the 18th degree before doing the "Higher Degrees".
The problem with the English system is that each of these being a separate order, each require a different evening of the week, additional annual
fees, charity donations for each, dinners for each etc., which means that English Masons in general decide to join only two or three of the side
Orders and Degrees.
Now, in the American system, it was decided to merge some of the Degrees together into Rites as follows:
Holy Royal Arch
This means that an American Mason gets exposed to many degrees by belonging to a single Rite, rather than in the English system, where a Mason has to
choose which degrees to do, each belonging to a different order.
edit on 28/9/2012 by Saurus because: (no reason given)