Talk:Degree (Freemasonry)

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History of degrees[edit]

There are some serious problems with the paragraph on the developement of the degrees... particularly the idea that prior to 1717 there was only one degree. Not so... there were definitely two (entered aprentice and fellowcraft). This can be evidenced by Masonic catechisms dating from the late 1600s. The Master Mason degree on the other hand was a later addition (not becoming standard until the 1730s). As for the "higher" degrees... the Royal Arch seems to have been invented sometime in the 1740s. By the 1760s there were over 100 different degrees being offered by various bodies in France. Blueboar (talk) 03:55, 5 March 2009 (UTC)

  • The cited source that is linked to the text (which is cited, and was cited before you tagged the text) says exactly that. If you think that there's better information to be had, cite a source supporting it. Then we can fix the text accordingly. Note that currently there's at least one other source in the article that states that your unsourced assertion is wrong. Bogdan states that Fellow Craft only came into existence around the 1730s, being split off Entered Apprentice around that time. Cite sources! Don't work from personal knowledge. What one thinks one knows might be half-remembered and wrong. Uncle G (talk) 12:00, 5 March 2009 (UTC)
You need sources... ok here are just a few that I came up with after a quick online search:
First and formost is the Edinburgh Register House MS, which notes a simple but seperate catechism for those who are Fellowcrafts. But incase you think this is OR from a Primary source... this from the Philalethes Society talks about there being two degrees prior to 1700, this list from the Grand Lodge BC&Y notes catechisms dated to the late 1600s early 1700s, the Contract or Mutual Agreement of 1658 which while arguably not genuine in regards to James VI, does demonstrate that a degree of fellow craft existed.
Finally, this chart from google note the first three entries.
If you need dead tree sources, I can get them... but will need a bit of time (I would have to go down to the Livingston Masonic Library here in NY to compile the references).
Part of the problem is that you seem to be basing your information on relatively old sources... you have relied heavily on Mackey (indeed the section in question is all but a direct quote from his encyclopedia). Mackey's enclyclopedia dates from the late 1800s and a lot of research has gone into the origins and development of the degrees since then. New documents have been discovered that have shed new light on the history of the craft and its degrees. Blueboar (talk) 17:34, 5 March 2009 (UTC)
Also, we should probably point out that not everyone initially accepted the Master Mason degree. As part of that, we need to figure in the developement of the Royal Arch degree in the early 1700s... indeed debate over which of these two "third degrees" (the Master Mason degree or the Royal Arch degree) was "correct" was a key factor in the Ancients/Moderns schism). Blueboar (talk) 16:32, 5 March 2009 (UTC)

Sources, we got em: "Six Hundred Years of Craft Ritual" by Harry Carr:

  • The earliest evidence we have, is a document dated 1696, beautifully handwritten, and known as the Edinburgh Register House Manuscript, because it was found in the Public Record Office of Edinburgh. I deal first with that part of the text which describes the actual ceremonies. It is headed `THE FORME OF GIVING THE MASON WORD' which is one way of saying it is the manner of initiating a mason. It begins with the ceremony which made an apprentice into an 'entered‑ apprentice (usually about three years after the beginning of his indentures), followed by the ceremony for the admission of the ,master mason or fellow craft', the title of the second degree.
  • Meanwhile, this was the situation at the time when the first Grand Lodge was founded in 1717. We only had two degrees in England, one for the entered apprentice and the second was for the 'master or fellow craft'. Dr Anderson, who compiled the first English Book of Constitutions in 1723, actually described the English second degree as 'Masters and Fellow‑Craft'. The Scottish term had already invaded England.

Additionally, on July 3, 1634 William, Lord Alexander, his younger brother Anthony Alexander and Sir Alexander Strachan of Thornton were all made Fellowcrafts in the lodge of Edinburgh (Stevenson, The First Freemasons, p. 26).

More from Carr:

  • There is a manuscript called the Trinity College, Dublin MS. (because it's in the library of that College) that might contain the earliest reference to a three degree system. It is written on a single folded sheet of paper, about 11 3/4" x 7 1/2", and on the "ouside" of the folded paper is written "Free Masonry Feb : 1711". The endorsement on the outside appears to be in a different handwriting than the catechism on the inside, but nobody knows who wrote it, or what the intent of the date was. The relevant part is:
"The common sign is with your right hand rub yr mouth then cross yr throat & lay it on ye left brea[st]. The Masters sign is back bone, the word matchpin. The fellow craftsman's sign is knuckles & sinues ye word Jachquin. The Enterprentice's sign is sinues, the word Boaz or its hollow. Squeese the Master by ye back bone, put your knee between his, & say Matchpin. Squeese the fellow craftsman in knuckles, & sinuses & say Jachquin [.] squees the enterprentice in sinues, & say boaz or its hollow."

- Early Masonic Catechisms, edited by Harry Carr, pp. 69-70 --Vidkun (talk) 21:46, 5 March 2009 (UTC)

*headdesk* Squeeze the "sinuses"? I need to get these glasses replaced asap...--SarekOfVulcan (talk) 13:45, 6 March 2009 (UTC)
Remember the old George Carlin joke: "pick your friends or pick your nose, but don't pick your friend's nose"? :>) ! 13:52, 6 March 2009 (UTC)
Blame Carr and the poor manuscript. I think it is sinews, in all instances in the quote, what with taking into account that English was much with standard spelling back then.--Vidkun (talk) 13:52, 6 March 2009 (UTC)
Yeah, I figured that out right before I posted. :-)--SarekOfVulcan (talk) 18:11, 6 March 2009 (UTC)

American Rite = York Rite[edit]

The "American Rite" is the same thing as the York Rite. York Rite, however, is the much more common (and official) usage, while American Rite is really only used by Albert Mackey. Blueboar (talk) 15:39, 5 March 2009 (UTC)

New History section[edit]

OK... I have been bold, and have started a proper section on the history and development of the degrees. I am sure it needs a lot of rewriting and better referencing... but at least it is a start in the right direction. Blueboar (talk) 14:31, 8 March 2009 (UTC)

BB, I wish we had Pete Normand around to help us with this article, as he had some great points (which need citation) in his commentary here (not just the difs, but the whole section which the difs show. He suggests that the third degree existed prior to the 1700's, a claim which I would like to see supported, as, as far as i can tell, current scholarship states otherwise (Carr, et al).--Vidkun (talk) 13:54, 9 March 2009 (UTC)
I don't have a problem with adding other theories and views on the history and developement of the degrees... if there are reliable sources to support the additions. Without such sources, any "alternative" view is simply OR. Blueboar (talk) 14:17, 9 March 2009 (UTC)
I agree, and just wish Pete had actually cited his claims.--Vidkun (talk) 14:19, 9 March 2009 (UTC)

Article has been merged[edit]

I note that this article has been merged into the main Freemasonry article. Since there is no longer an article associated with this talk page, I have removed the "article rating" and "importance level" from the template. I would also suggest that we move this talk page to the archives at Talk:Freemasonry.