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Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Two US Scottish Rite Jurisdictions

Brother Robert H. Johnson over on the Midnight Freemasons blog has a long post today outlining the basic, general differences between the U.S. systems of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, versus the Southern Jurisdiction. There are VERY big differences. 

Robert's post is a good primer for anyone who is interested in joining the Scottish Rite and is encountering this subject for the first time. It is not a critique of either jurisdiction - it is merely the observations of a Brother who has experienced degrees in both. 

Give it a look HERE.

Many Masons often ask why there is so much difference between the philosophy of the two jurisdictions in the US regarding their rituals. It can best be summarized by the late Melvin Maynard Johnson, the NMJ's former Sovereign Grand Commander, in his Allocution from 1943: 
 “If the time ever comes when the Scottish Rite determines to remain static, when its philosophy may not be adjusted to the needs of a chang- ing world, then is the time for its obsequies. Until then, its leaders should never abandon study of the philosophy of its ritualistic teachings that, by recast and revision, it may keep in the van of advancing civilization.” 

From "The Degree Rituals of The Supreme Council, 33°, AASR for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction United States of America" (2008) by C. DeForrest Trexler, 33°:
"It is of passing interest that in 1960 the Supreme Councils of the Northern and Southern Jurisdictions of the United States agreed to joint meetings of their respective Committees on Rituals for the purpose of promoting greater uniformity in degree work. Before any meetings were held, however, the Southern Jurisdiction withdrew from the venture on the grounds that its ritual, written by Albert Pike, already “was as perfect as humanly possible.” Hence, there was no reason to discuss change, notwithstanding that Pike himself had been the greatest innovator of Masonic ritual and, over a period of 30 years to 1884, had revised the initial versions of his own rituals. Perfect or not, the reality was that Valleys across the Southern Jurisdiction routinely were abridging and adapting the Pike ritual to suit their individual situations. Perhaps it was inevitable that, starting in 1985, the Southern Jurisdiction began to soften its stance by undertaking to modify and simplify, i.e., abridge, the Pike ritual. This process culminated in 2000 with issuance of The Revised Standard Pike Ritual." 
Illus. Bro. Trexler's work is the only relatively up to date document that even discusses the NMJ degrees, while the SJ has published a stream of books over the years to explain or explore the rituals Pike wrote between 1857-70. Trexler's book does not disclose any of the actual rituals, signs, symbols, etc. It is merely a history of the changes the NMJ degrees have undergone over the last century or more. But it is of interest to those who have wondered about the subject. To my knowledge, it exists only online, and then as an archived file on the Wayback Machine archive.

A new book has been written by a NMJ Mason, and it covers the newest versions of the NMJ degrees, explains each one, tells its history, the background of each story told in the ritual, and also adds a brief description of its SJ counterpart just for good measure. This promises to be a boon to NMJ Masons who have been begging for something similar for years, and it frankly should have been published officially by the Supreme Council. It is due to be released later this year by Starr Publishing, a print on demand imprint that has published Cliff Porter's books.


  1. Thanks for including this well written and highly educational article on you blog, Chris. The author is an intellectual with a great sense of humour and maturity.
    I would be very interested in reading his thoughts on the Prince Hall Scottish Rite and the British Scottish Rite, if he should ever write about them.

    Tom,32* SJ, Master Craftsman program graduate.

    1. Richard Gordon and Brent Morris directed me to a paper by Art de Hoyos on the Origins of PHA Scottish Rite Rituals, originally published in the #5 (1996) edition of Heredom. A very old online version of it can be seen here:


      The graphics of the page are missing, and the original's footnotes were not included, but the bulk of the facts are there. In it, Art discusses the oft repeated anecdote that Albert Pike gave a copy of his revisions to Thornton A. Jackson, Sovereign Grand Commander of the United Supreme Council, 33°, SJ, PHA between 1887 and 1904. According to a letter written in 1945 by a later SGC, Pike and Jackson had become friends, and late in his Masonic career, "he became a very staunch friend of Negro Masonry."

      Art was inclined to agree that the rituals were indeed Pike's, based on the evidence.

  2. Very interesting, I can tell you after reading that the Prince Hall Scottish Rite is in-line with the Southern Jurisdiction degree work, rather then our Northern counterpart. Any changes in our Scottish Rite ritual I believe would have been before WWII, in the early 1940's.

  3. Prince Hall scottish rite degrees are the same ones as the s.j. scottish rite because Albert Pike gave them the same degrees.

  4. Was the book mentioned ever published?

    1. It was not. The manuscript has been complete for quite some time, however for some unfathomable reason, it has had difficulty getting to press. At first Macoy's was doing it, but backed out at the last minute, demanding a large number of pre-sale commitments before printing it. Then, Porter wanted to do it through a CreateSpace endeavor, but that seems to have faded.

      I put the author in touch with Michael Poll, and his Cornerstone Publishing has committed to publishing it. That was a couple of months back and I haven't heard a release date yet. I know it required reformatting because of how he created his document. And I suspect Michael may have had some copyright concerns about several images, along with graphics too small to properly reproduce for publication - just one longstanding danger with grabbing internet art that guys like Mike and other pros worry about. So, I just know it's still coming, just not when. rest assured - I've been griping about the NMJ not having such a guide since, oh, 2001, about 10 seconds after my degrees. So I will announce it and trumpet it far and wide once it's a real book.

    2. I've been trying to get info for some time also, even contacting our SGC directly... I was finally able to get a copy of our Constitution a few days ago, and believe me it wasn't easy. I felt that I shouldn't and couldn't be obligated to adhere to the laws, rules and regulations of the Jurisdiction if I didn't know what they were. Next mission will be to get a copy of our ritual, which will probably be even more difficult. Many Brothers have demitted from the NMJ because of this. I hope things change soon.

  5. We are all children of God and brothers we all put in front of the scriptures so mote it be


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