Explaining the "higher" degrees.

Discussion in 'Frequently Asked Questions' started by BryanMaloney, Nov 6, 2013.

  1. BryanMaloney

    BryanMaloney Premium Member

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    There is a lot of confusion regarding the place of various "degrees of Freemasonry". Perhaps clarification can be had by means of analogy:

    There are three and only three Degrees of Freemasonry. They are Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason. That's it. There is nothing higher within Freemasonry. However, there are a lot of other "degrees" and bodies that require one to first be a Master Mason. Since this is a requirement, it is mistakenly believed that they are somehow "higher" than Master Mason. Unfortunately, there are some Masons who appear to have held such beliefs, too, including fairly prominent ones. This leads to the confusion. Confusion dissipates if one looks at it this way:

    Entered Apprentice: This is the "bachelors degree" of Masonry. It means you have actually started the journy.
    Fellow Craft: This is the "masters degree" of Masonry. It means you have shown proficiency and should be taken somewhat seriously.
    Master Mason: This is the "doctorate" of Masonry. There is no higher degree.

    But what about all the other "degrees"? Scientists are not a homogeneous mash of people. They specialize. They form societies and associations based on their specializations. Thus, a membership or "degree" in a body that requires one to already be a Master Mason would be like a fellowship in one of those specialized societies. Those societies might have their own hierarchies. However, the PhD is still the PhD. It is the highest academic degree, regardless of ranks within a fellowship. Likewise, the Master Mason is the highest degree within Freemasonry, regardless of how many other "society" degrees may be obtained by an individual Master Mason.
     
  2. crono782

    crono782 Premium Member

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    excellent analogy. I've used the same one, but slightly modified wording.
     
  3. otherstar

    otherstar Registered User

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    Very apt analogy!
     
  4. JJones

    JJones Moderator Staff Member

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    I like it! :thumbup1:

    Also, much like a degree, it's detrimental to hand them out to people who haven't learned the content.
     
  5. Browncoat

    Browncoat Registered User

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    This is a good analogy. Well done!

    While I was at my first Lodge meeting, I noticed an ink drawing hanging on the wall very similar to this one. To me at least, it looked as though there were degrees above and beyond that of a Master Mason, considering the 3rd degree is at the very bottom of this pyramid. Not to mention there is a man starting to ascend the steps of the Scottish Rite, being directed to move upwards.

    It was explained to me that these additional degrees are not "above" that of a Master Mason, they are parallel to it.
     
  6. crono782

    crono782 Premium Member

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    I like to think of it as "further" knowledge rather than "higher". We have the same picture in my lodge. To me it is misleading. You should consider the drawing accurate in the sense that the York Rite and Scottish Rite *build upon* the Masters Degree, but not in the sense that it is above it.
     
  7. Browncoat

    Browncoat Registered User

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    That's the best explanation I've heard yet, considering the context of Freemasonry.
     
  8. rebis

    rebis Premium Member

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    Isn't somebody with more("further") knowledge higher than somebody with less knowledge?

    The way I like to look at it is...as a MM it's like graduating high school. You can then get a job or continue your education...which will be higher and more involved than what you learned in high school.


    My Freemasonry
     
  9. coachn

    coachn Coach John S. Nagy Premium Member

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    Most excellent analogy, with one exception: These first three are titular in nature and only denote that three Road Maps have been provided to those who have experienced them.

    Should one desire to have these titles have any other significance, one must actually Recognize, Understand and Follow them, assuring too that the Work that these three Road Maps point you toward is done and Mastered. Without this extra effort, you shall not be bettered in any way.

    Moreover, when you do their Work (the Work pointed toward by the first Three Degrees), Further Light make far better sense. When you don't, you shall be forever dependent upon others for your Light, accepting one Substitute after another.
     
  10. rebis

    rebis Premium Member

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    I like to think of the EA degree as kindergarten, FC as elementary school and MM as high school and the appendant bodies different universities.

    ...without that high-school diploma you can't go to any colleges. Similarly without your MM degree, you can't join the appendant bodies.

    This makes more sense to me.

    As a MM I feel like my journey has just begun and I am looking to perfect and embellish that which has already been entrusted to my care.




    My Freemasonry
     
  11. rebis

    rebis Premium Member

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    To me the first three degrees are like the foundation of a magnificent temple.

    Once the foundation is sound, one must in turn start erecting the actual structure.

    When the structure is near its completion and the mason goes to the top floor and peeks out the balcony, his perspective is far more elevated than it would be at the foundation level.


    My Freemasonry
     
  12. todd

    todd Registered User

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    i respect all that has been said before, i am a 32 degree mason but i am so proud of the first 3 degrees, the ones with all the meaning, the others to me are just degrees.
     
  13. todd

    todd Registered User

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    consider this, you can't buy the first 3...you gotta earn them, you just buy the rest.
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2013
  14. Karen MM

    Karen MM Registered User

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    As the daughter and granddaughter of Master Masons I'm confused. I understand the first 3 degrees are required to join other lodges. I also know a lot of studying and memory work occurs prior to raising to Master Mason. My question (and confusion) relates to the men who are 32* and 33* masons. If the degrees, after 3rd, aren't a hierarchy, then how do these men rise to those degrees? My father was a 32*. I can't remember his reason, but I remember him saying he would never be a 33*. He passed away last year so I can't ask him what he meant. Perhaps one of you gentlemen can explain these 2 degrees to me.
     
  15. vangoedenaam

    vangoedenaam Premium Member

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    32 you can attain by just going through the degrees. 33 is special as far as i heard. But im not so i dont know.


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  16. therev

    therev Registered User

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    33 is an honorary degree through the Scottish Rite.


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  17. Mike Martin

    Mike Martin Eternal Apprentice Premium Member

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    The ONLY way to truly appreciate the position of the Appendant Degrees and Bodies is to become familiar with their actual (not legendary) histories. Then you will understand why they are not superior to the Craft but only additions.

    Sadly too many Freemasons who should know better buy into legendary histories rather than the true facts of these Orders.
     
  18. Brother JC

    Brother JC Vigilant Staff Member

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    Karen, any Mason accepted into the Scottish Rite can become a 32nd Degree. 33rd is an honour that comes from the national-level governing bodies and can not be bought.
    Also, the Degree isn't honourary (as previously mentioned), but the position it represents often is (unless you are a jurisdiction's SGIG).
    Beyond that Rite are also numerous invitational Bodies which can't be applied for.
     
  19. dfreybur

    dfreybur Premium Member

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    This is why we say these degrees are earned. A brother can't advance in the blue lodge to the next degree until his proficiency is complete, plus in states where the MM proficiency is mandatory he can't join any appendent body until his third degree proficiency is complete.

    For these other degrees, there is no proficiency before having the next one conferred. As such they aren't earned in anything like the same way as the first three. In the rites the degrees are a matter of attendance not a matter of proficiency.

    The 33rd degree is honorary. It is awarded but not automatically earned. It can be and has been awarded for eminence outside of Masonry. My home valley cornetted our Congressman as a 33rd degree and I never saw him in the building. A white hat can't be earned like a Master Mason degree. With the first three degrees there is a specific process and that's why we say we earned it. With the 33rd there is no specific process and that's why we say it's awarded.

    It IS true that white hats earned their hat; it's just that the word "earned" means something different and less specific. The Congressman from my home valley worked hard in Congress for well over a decade and he'd had a long career in state public service before he went national. He worked for a lot of honors. But little of his work was at the valley. He didn't use Scottish Rite proficiencies because there aren't any.

    One day I was in the dining hall at my home valley. With me were a new guy and an old timer. The new guy asked the old timer "How do you earn a white hat?" The old timer said "You can earn a white hat by walking on the Moon or working in the kitchen for 20 years. I earned mine in the kitchen." I laughed because the old timer have been Grand Master of Masons in California several years before. He was so eminent that when he died the Mason of the Year award was named after him. But he was so active in the Scottish Rite that he had served in the kitchen for 20+ years before getting his white hat. He had earned it that way and more, but a white hat can't be earned.

    If you specifically work for a white hat as a goal and it becomes known you're doing that, the committee might never nominate you for the hat. It works that way for a Nobel Prize as well. It's an award for service given for the sake of the service itself. It's not a goal that is earned. Our first three degrees are goals that are earned.

    One of the other posts was that "you can't buy the first 3...you gotta earn them, you just buy the rest". This comment works for all but the 33rd. A Master Mason can pay the fees to join any appendent body, show up and have the degrees of that body conferred with no proficiency. Doing the proficiency work earns the first 3 degrees and it takes very little money to get the first 3 degrees. Except for the 33rd the rest only take money and attendance.

    I tried to phrase it several different ways. Hopefully one of them made sense.

    A comment on why the word "higher" is in quotes. Once we are Master Masons we are all on the level, all brothers together. There is no higher. Appendent bodies that are well run say that they are "farther" not "higher". If you find an appendent body that uses the word "higher", maybe it is about its own degrees relative to each other. And maybe it shows my own bias on what I think they should be saying.
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2014
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  20. BryanMaloney

    BryanMaloney Premium Member

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    I don't think of it that way because I never got my high school diploma. I was admitted to and graduated from college, though. There's no legal requirement, after all.
     

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