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Rectified Scottish Rite

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The Rectified Scottish Rite (RER), also known as the Rectified Rite or RSR, is a Christian Masonic rite with a long and complex history. It was founded in 1778 at the Convent of Lyon in France under the leadership of Jean-Baptiste Willermoz, who served as the primary architect and driving force behind its formation.[1][2] It emerged as a reform and restructuring of the earlier Templar Strict Observance system that had spread in Germany and France in the mid-18th century.[3]

The rite is explicitly Christian, requiring candidates to profess faith in Jesus Christ. It incorporates influences and symbolism from branches of esoteric Christianity as well as Masonic Templar movements.[4] The central teachings of the Rectified Scottish Rite focus on the loss and restoration of mankind's original innocence, integrating elements of Martinez de Pasqually's occult Cohen theology and Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin's mystical Christianity.[5]


Development under Willermoz[edit]

The Rectified Scottish Rite has its origins in the Masonic landscape of 18th century France. Jean-Baptiste Willermoz was a prosperous silk merchant in Lyon who joined the Masonic Order in 1750 at the age of 20. He quickly rose to prominence and by 1763 was the Secretary Keeper of Seals and Archives of the Grand Lodge of Lyon.[6]

In 1767, Willermoz met the mysterious occultist Martinez de Pasqually, who initiated him into his Order of Knight Mason Elect Priests of the Universe. Willermoz became devoted to Pasqually's teachings and Cohen ritual magic system, which sought to achieve communication with angels and restore man's lost divine status.[7] For the next several years, Willermoz operated Rosicrucian study groups and Masonic bodies in Lyon that incorporated Pasqually's rites.[8]

In the early 1770s, Willermoz helped introduce the German Rite of Strict Observance system of Masonic Templarism to France, as part of efforts to revive the legacy of the medieval Knights Templar.[3] He quickly came to believe theStrict Observance degree structure needed reforming and simplification. At a Masonic convention in 1778, he put forth his "Réforme de Lyon" plan to reshape the system into the Rectified Scottish Rite.[9]

The early Rectified Scottish Rite consisted of 4 symbolic lodge degrees, 2 orders of knightly nobility, and a secret "Profession" class at the top incorporating Willermoz's Cohen magical rites and Pasqually's teachings. It also adopted the Strict Observance's system of Masonic provinces to govern the order. The new rite was approved at a national convention in Lyon in 1778 and formally established at the international Convent of Wilhelmsbad in 1782 under Willermoz's leadership.[10]

Over the following decades, Willermoz served as the primary author of the rite's constitutions, regulations, and ritual texts. He gradually crafted the rite's mythology and symbolism to place less emphasis on historical Templar succession and more focus on symbolic Temple rebuilding and restoration of man's original innocence.[4] Christian concepts and theology were made increasingly central.[11]

Decline during the French Revolution[edit]

The Rectified Scottish Rite flourished until the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789. Most Masonic lodges were shut down during the Reign of Terror of 1793–94. While some Rectified lodges survived, the rite declined sharply and failed to recover its former strength.[12]

Willermoz unsuccessfully tried reviving the order in the early 1800s before his death in 1824. The Rite was preserved in the Independent Grand Priory of Helvetia (Switzerland). In 1910, the Lodge le Centre des Amis was re-opened and subsequently other Great Priories were established including the Great Priory of the United States on August 27, 1936, and the Great Priory of England on the 2nd April 1937.[13] It has now expanded to twelve countries.[14]

Revival in 20th century France[edit]

In the 1910s, there was a renewed interested in resurrecting the Rectified Rite among some French Masons seeking an alternative to the secularism of the Grand Orient de France. Led by Dr. Camille Savoire, in 1913 the Rectified lodge Le Centre des Amis was reestablished under authorization from Swiss Rectified Masons.[15]

This revival led to the creation of several new Masonic obediences practicing the Rectified Rite: the Grande Loge Nationale Indépendante et Régulière pour la France et les Colonies Françaises (GLNR, later GLNF) in 1913, the Grande Loge Nationale Française Opéra in 1958, and the Grande Loge Traditionnelle et Symbolique in the 1960s.[16]


The structure of the Rectified Scottish Rite is as follows:[17][18]

  • Blue or Craft Lodges (lodges of St John):
    • (First Degree) Entered Apprentice
    • (Second Degree) Companion/Fellow Craft
    • (Third Degree) Master Mason
  • Green Lodges (Lodges of St Andrew) or Chapter Degrees:
    • (Fourth Degree) Maître Ecossais/Scotch Master (of St Andrew)
  • Inner Order:
    • (Fifth Degree) Ecuyer Novice/Squire Novice
    • (Sixth degree) Chevalier Bienfaisant de la Cité Sainte (C.B.C.S.)/Knight Beneficent of the Holy City
  • Secret Classes:
    • (Seventh Degree) Chevalier-Profès/Professed Knight
    • (Eight Degree) Chevalier-Grand Profès/Grand Professed Knight
The position of the Order of Knights Beneficent of the Holy City among the Masonic appendant bodies in England and Wales

The first three blue lodge degrees of Entered Apprentice, Companion/Fellow Craft, and Master Mason are focused on traditional Masonic morality, fraternity, and the construction of Solomon's Temple. The fourth degree of Scottish Master provides a transition into the more mystical teachings of the Inner or Interior Order.

The Interior Order comprises the Novice Knight and Chevalier Bienfaisant de la Cité Sainte (C.B.C.S) degrees, which relate to joining a metaphorical knighthood in service of spiritual enlightenment. These knighthood degrees introduce the Rectified Scottish Rite's mystical Christian cosmology.

The secret classes of Professed and Grand Professed represent the highest echelons of the rite, providing further elaboration of its mystical teachings.[19]

History of the Rectified Scottish Rite (RSR) Rituals[edit]

Rectified Rituals[edit]

The Rectified Scottish Rite (RSR), has its historical roots in the Strict Templar Observance of Germany. Even though the rite underwent modifications, it remains deeply connected to this traditional source. Jean-Baptiste Willermoz, in collaboration with the Brothers from Strasbourg, adapted the rituals of the Strict Observance, eliminating the notion of a temporal Templar power and establishing continuity between Masonry and the Order of the Temple. This transformation gave rise to the blue and green rituals of the RSR.[20][21]

Blue Rituals[edit]

Willermoz composed several versions of the blue ritual over a decade, using different sources at his disposal. Three significant steps in the development of these rituals are noteworthy:

  • In 1778, Willermoz presented a new blue ritual at the National Convention of the Gauls. Unlike the Strict Observance ritual, which comprised only a few pages, Willermoz's ritual extended to several dozen pages.
  • In 1782, for the General Convention of Wilhelmsbad, Willermoz created another version of the blue rituals, which was twice the volume of the 1778 version and included purification by the elements.
  • In 1785, his final ritual introduced a different password eliminated the one that was used until then, it also included the "rejection of metals."

Willermoz designed several successive versions of the blue ritual between 1778 and 1785, with the final version still practiced in Helvetia and France. This development led to a more extensive ritual than that of the Strict Observance, incorporating elements such as purification by the elements and ideas from the Elus-Cohen System of Martinez de Pasqually.[22]

Green Rituals[edit]

The 4th degree of the RSR was constructed based on the green Scottish ritual of the Strict Observance, modified by Willermoz and the Brothers from Strasbourg. This ritual, expanded over time, eventually incorporated elements from the Elus-Cohen system. The 1809 version of the ritual was influenced by Baron Tschoudy, introducing the character of Saint Andrew. This evolution marked a significant departure from the early versions, demonstrating the author's creativity and religious faith.[23]

The Ritual of the Mystical Supper[edit]

The Ritual of the Mystical Supper is a profoundly moving and spiritually rich ceremony. It was introduced in the early 20th century as a result of intervisitation agreements between the Supreme Council of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite (AASR) in Helvetia and the Grand Priory of Helvetia. This ritual was designed for the Lodges of Perfect Masters of Saint Andrew, similar to the one used in the 18th degree of the Rose-Croix in the AASR.

Notably, this ritual is not found in any of the manuscripts owned by Jean-Baptiste Willermoz. However, a note in a fourth-degree ritual, written in pencil by Amez-Droz, states, "The Supper rightfully belongs to the Fourth Degree."

The Supper in the fourth degree is simple and beautiful. It precedes the Mystical Supper currently employed in the 6th degree. René Désaguliers also mentioned having in his possession the General Ritual of the Lodge of Master Masons of Saint Andrew, revised on November 29, 1899, by the Scottish Directorate of Helvetia. This ritual includes a reference to the Rectified Supper, with a note from Charles Montchal dated March 11, 1924, suggesting that the narrative of the Mystical Supper is not found in the rituals from 1782, and it might have been optional, to be placed, if used, before the closure of the Lodge of Perfect Masters of Saint Andrew.

It's worth noting that the Mystical Supper is practiced in modern times in Helvetia, specifically in the Prefectures of Zurich and Neuchâtel. However, it is not practiced in the Prefecture of Geneva, possibly due to the desire of the Knights, who are members of the Congregation of Pastors of Geneva, to reserve the practice of the Supper for the Reformed Church.

Ritual and Symbolism[edit]

The rituals and mythology of the Rectified Scottish Rite revolve around rebuilding the Temple of Solomon as an allegory for restoring mankind's original perfection. It incorporates extensive Solomonic symbolism and requires professing Christian faith.[14]

Degrees trace an initiate's metaphorical journey from darkness into light. The symbolic lodge rooms are structured as a representation of King Solomon's Temple. Prayers appeal to Jesus Christ and the "Grand Architect of the Universe."[24]

The central myth involves the loss of man's original state of divine grace and unity with God. Through initiation, the Mason seeks to restore his former innocent condition and come closer to reintegration with the divine. This mythology and symbolism integrates influences from Judeo-Christian esotericism,occultism, and mystical Christianity.[25]

Philosophy and Teachings[edit]

The Rectified Scottish Rite's philosophy focuses on man's fall from an original exalted state and the potential for restoration. Its teachings are rooted in Christian concepts and theology aimed at bringing man back into harmony with God.[24] According to the rite's doctrine, the human race originally existed in a "Primitive State of Glory" of complete innocence, immortal and blessed. Man lived in direct unity and communication with God, made in the divine image. But man turned away from God, causing a Fall that resulted in the loss of his likeness to the divine image. Fallen man suffers under the shackles of intellectual and spiritual "death." He is severed from God, exiled from the East where the Light shines.

The rite teaches that man may regain his former perfected status through initiation, inner work, and ultimately, divine grace. The Masonic quest is framed as seeking to "rediscover the route which can bring man back to his Primitive State and reestablish him in the rights he lost." But man cannot achieve this restoration on his own. He requires mediation from the "divine Redeemer" who can reconcile humanity with God.[24]

These essential teachings were heavily influenced by Martinès de Pasqually's occult theurgic theology, Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin's mystical Christianity, and Jean-Baptiste Willermoz's synthesis tying them to Solomonic mythology.[26] Over time, the rite's explicitly Christian focus increased.


Although relatively small in terms of membership, the Rectified Scottish Rite has exerted influence within Freemasonry beyond its numbers. Several of its early leaders, including Willermoz and Joseph de Maistre, were prominent Masonic thinkers whose writings shaped esoteric and Christian interpretations of Freemasonry.

The rite's intricate rituals and unique mystical philosophy also inspired esoteric Masonic rites that emerged later, such as the Swedish Rite and certain high degree systems. It helped set a precedent for incorporating complex Christian mysticism and esotericism within Masonic initiation.[24]

The Rectified Scottish Rite's lasting impact has been to provide an example of how Masonic ritual can be used to achieve spiritual enlightenment based on a mystical understanding of Christianity. Its immutable rituals and teachings have preserved an esoteric Christian dimension of Freemasonry dating back to the 18th century.[27]

Prominent Members[edit]

The Rectified Scottish Rite attracted many influential members who shaped its philosophy and rituals:

  • Jean-Baptiste Willermoz (1730-1824): The primary creator of the Rectified Scottish Rite, having written extensively on its mystical teachings and designed its initiatory system. Willermoz sought to integrate Martines de Pasqually's theology with Masonic ritual.[28]
  • 'Martines de Pasqually (c.1715-1774): His treatise on spiritual reintegration and teachings on Christian theurgy provided the basis for much of the Rectified Scottish Rite's mystical philosophy. Pasqually's Order of Knight Mason Elect Priests of the Universe initiated Willermoz and inspired his Masonic reforms.[29]
  • Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin (1743-1803): Philosopher and prominent member of Pasqually's order who assisted with developing the Rectified Scottish Rite's teachings on spiritual illumination. Saint-Martin promoted a form of mystical Christianity that resonated with Rectified Scottish Rite philosophy.[30]
  • Joseph de Maistre (1753-1821): Influential Catholic philosopher and Mason who emphasized the Rectified Scottish Rite's connections to orthodox Christianity. De Maistre insisted that the rite adhere closely to Christian doctrine and morality.[31]
  • Charles de Hesse-Cassel (1744-1836): A prominent European Freemason who supported Willermoz's reforms and advocated for the acceptance of the Rectified Scottish Rite at the Convent of Wilhelmsbad.[32]
  • Franciszek Rydz-Śmigły (1886-1941): Restored the Rectified Scottish Rite in Poland in the early 20th century and served as its regional Grand Master prior to World War II. Helped preserve the rite after its decline following the French Revolution.

See also[edit]

The RSR in the World[edit]

In England and Wales, the Rectified Scottish Rite is administered from Mark Masons' Hall, London.


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