posted on Nov, 13 2004 @ 05:32 AM
In the "York Rite" of Freemasonry (in the U.S.A. and some other places) consists of 4 groups or Masonic "bodies" the Symbolic or "Blue" Lodge,
the Chapter, Council and Commandery. A Master Mason may petition to join and may join only the Chapter, only the Chapter & Council or all 3 groups.
However membership in these groups is predicated upon membership in the lower group. In other words, on cannot petition the Commandery without being
in the Council, and one cannot be a member of the Council without being in the Chapter, although in most states each is a separately organized and
governed body, all of which together comprise the "York Rite" (Confused?) :-)
The Chapter Degrees consist of: Mark Master, (Virtual) Past Master (not to be confused with "Actual" Past Master which is someone who has presided
as Master of the Blue Lodge) Most Excellent Master & Royal Arch Mason.
The Council Degrees are Royal Master and Select Master (there is another degree of the Council called Super Excellent Master. This degree is not
conferred or required in all jurisdictions...but it is in some) More confused? :-)
The Commandery Degrees (called Orders) are, Order of the Red Cross, Order of Malta and Order of the Temple (or Knight Templar) KT being the
terminal degree in the York Rite System.
There is an invitational org. for Royal Arch Masons called the Red Cross of Constantine. There is also the Royal Order of Scotland, the Knight
Masons, and some others that predicate membership on being a Royal Arch Mason. These groups are by invitation only and no particular extra duties
are expected of members of them. Masonry has literally dozens of "side" and "extra" degrees for those who are interested in participating.
Sometimes I think we have too many degrees...
As far as the "highest honor in York Rite Freemasonry" there really isn't an "official" one. As I've said, Knight Templar is the highest
degree in that system. For those who've served as presiding officer over all 4 York Rite bodies (that includes the Blue Lodge which is the
foundation stone) there is the Knight of York Cross of Honor (KYCH) which is a big honor, but there's also the Knight Templar Grand Cross, the York
Rite Sovereign College and it's "Order of the Purple Cross" and some others.
To add to the confusion, although many of these degrees mentioned are conferred outside the U.S. in some form or fashion, they're not necessarily
organized in this manner and some places do not confer several of them at all. On top of all of which, despite grand titles, and officers jewels,
etc. etc. the highest degree of Freemasonry is still the 3rd Degree: Master Mason.
[edit on 13-11-2004 by senrak]