Sunday, January 26, 2014

End of a Chapter

Today marks an important transition in my life. Today officially ends my career as a Soldier in the Idaho Army National Guard. Twelve years ago I went through the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) in Boise and raised my right hand and took the oath of enlistment. I enlisted with the Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) of 96B/35F - All-Source Intelligence Analyst; as I was a minor, my parents had to sign my paperwork and that was a chore...convincing my mother that this was something I wanted to do. After my Junior year of high school ended I attended Basic Training at Fort Jackson, SC, and once I completed that I went back home and attended my Senior year. Once I graduated high school, I attended Advanced Individual Training (AIT) at Ft. Huachuca, AZ. Not counting Basic Training, this was the first experience on my own and it was an eye-opening experience.

After AIT I attended training exercises in Hawaii and Japan which were experiences of a lifetime. Shortly after my trip to Japan, I was activated to deploy to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom III, at FOB Warrior in Kirkuk (northern Iraq), with a trip through New York, Texas, and Louisiana for pre-deployment training. This was a difficult experience leaving home with only the hope that I would survive. Thankfully, the Almighty saw it necessary that I survive and come home back to my amazing family and friends. It was during the pre-deployment training that I was exposed to Freemasonry and which sent me down the road to join.

In 2007, I found myself once again in Ft. Huachuca attending MOS training for Unmanned Aircraft Operators. The next year I would be hired as the first Operations NCO for the Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems (TUAS) Platoon. It was at the end of 2008 that I was promoted to Sergeant. I had the pleasure of creating the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and preparing and executing, the fielding of the Shadow TUAS for the State of Idaho. This was a tough time as I was also serving my Lodge as Worshipful Master and it all kept me very busy.

I served in this position until 2010 when we deployed to Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn. I was deployed to COB Adder in Talil and COS Garry Owen in Al Amarah (southern Iraq). I primarily served as Mission Coordinator and Shift Supervisor for the TUAS Platoon, but I would also act as Instructor-Operator when needed. During this deployment, I didn't go home for my mid-tour leave, but visited Italy which was an amazing time and I am thankful for the hospitality of the Italian Masons. This deployment was very trying though as the base I was on was affectionately called "Fort Incoming" because of the high rate of indirect fire we took during our time.

I had injured my back and I was informed that I could not re-enlist so I knew I was on my final lap. I started ensuring that I would pass on all of my knowledge to the TUAS Operators, and eventually, I was transferred out of the TUAS Platoon and back to my old job as an All Source Intelligence Analyst. I jumped back into it and I was put into various leadership roles and enjoyed my final year. I am thankful for the leaders of my Company who have worked with me and made this transition as painless as possible.

My time was filled with great times as well as low points, but in the end, I gained a great deal of experience and a group of Brothers- and Sisters-in-Arms that I wouldn't trade for the world. I had the honor of being Guidon Bearer for my company during the first deployment and served in a variety of leadership roles. My entire career was in the same company, though the name changed in 2006. I saw four Company commanders and five First Sergeants come and go. I've seen a host of soldiers pass through, some leaving after their initial enlistment and some going on in their military careers. There are many people I will always remember: Ryan, Laura, Tony, Becky, Brandon, Julie, Eric, Gabby, Michael, Jack, Kingsbury, Chris, Jake, Heather, Tettleton, Trout, Jason, Wolf, Dehaven, Blood, Hagob, Shandera, and Charles, I can never thank you all for the experiences I had with each of you. I now enter into a new chapter in my life and I am mixed between excitement and apprehension as my entire adult life has been in the military. I hope I'm ready for this.

Monday, January 20, 2014


By Author Unknown

It is not ornamental, the cost is not great
There are other things far more useful, yet truly I state,
Tho’ of all my possessions, there’s none can compare,
that white leather apron, which all Masons wear.

As a young lad I wondered just what it all meant,
When Dad hustled around and so much time was spent,
On shaving and dressing and looking just right,
Until Mother would say; "It’s the Masons tonight".

And some winter nights she said; "What makes you go,
Way up there tonight thru’ the sleet and the snow,
You see the same things every month of the year".
Then Dad would reply; "Yes, I know it, my dear".

"Forty years I have seen the same things it’s true,
And though they are old, they always seem new,
For the hands that I clasp, and the friends that I greet,
Seem a little bit closer, each time that we meet".

Years later I stood at that very same door,
With good men and true, who had entered before.
I knelt at the alter and there I was taught,
That virtue and honour can never be bought.

That the spotless white Lambskin all Masons revere,
If worthily worn, grows more precious each year.
That service to others brings blessings untold
That man may be poor, though surrounded by gold.

I learned that true Brotherhood flourishes there,
That enmities fade ‘neath the Compass and Square.
That wealth and position are all thrust aside,
As there on the level, men meet and abide.

So honour the Lambskin, may it always remain,
Forever unblemished and free from all stain.
And when we are called to the great Fathers love,
May we all take our place in that Lodge up above.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Introduction to Rosicrucianism

The term "Rosicrucianism" refers to a philosophical secret society founded in medieval Germany by the legendary founder Christian Rosenkreutz. The term derives from the Latin words "rosa" and "crucis" which meant "rose cross". The doctrine of Rosicrucianism is based upon three published documents: Fama Fraternitatis, Confessio Fraternitatis, and The Chymical Wedding of Christian Christian Rosenkreutz. These documents recount the life, travels, and death of Christian Rosenkreutz hereafter referred to as "C.R.C.". While the author was anonymous they are attributed to Johann Valentin Andreae, a German theologian. The philosophy of Rosicrucianism is built on ancient truths that have been concealed for centuries that deal with nature, the universe, and spiritual enlightenment. Rosicrucians are also devoted to the study of these ancient truths and philosophies and spreading this light among the public. The most common symbol of Rosicrucianism is the Rosy Cross.

Christian Rosenkreutz

According to these documents, C.R.C. was born in 1378 and lived for 106-years. When he was 5-years old, his family was murdered, but he was secreted away and taken to a monastery or cloister where he was raised and educated (learning Greek and Latin). As he grew up he, along with some monks, decided to devote their lives to gaining enlightenment and headed out on an adventure to the Middle East, under the pretense of visiting the Holy Sepulcher. The journey proved perilous and soon two of his companions died, leaving C.R.C. alone. He headed for Damascus, an intellectual refuge from the invading Mongols, and, on arrival, learned Arabic and immersed himself in all the wealth of knowledge contained in that city from mathematics and astronomy to Sufism and other forms of ancient mysticism. He left and is said to have visited Damcar, whose location is unknown today, but afterward then entered Egypt before going to Fez for several years.

It was in Fez that he learned divination and the secrets of Nature. His ultimate goal was to spread the information he had gained from his travels. He returned to Europe by first going to Spain. He attempted to pass on this information, but he would be disappointed as his words fell on deaf ears. The scholars and theologians of the time were reluctant to neither receive any new kinds of ideas nor believe any suggestion that their beliefs were flawed. He came to the understanding that he must slowly push this information to the public and leave plans that future generations may continue his work. 

He returned to Germany around 1407, established a secret group that existed centuries without being known, and initiated a select few (believed to have been no more than 8-members).

Each initiate was learned in the medicinal arts and swore an oath to heal the sick without payment; wear no special clothing, but wear the clothing and adopt the customs of the land they were in; to maintain a secret fellowship for 100-years; use "RC" as their seal; and had to find a replacement before he died. These followers of C.R.C. would meet annually and, if they could not attend, had to justify their absence. These obligations contain important lessons of humility, generosity and charity, temperance, selflessness, modesty, chastity, and prudence.

The Tomb of C.R.C.

Around 1484 C.R.C. passed away and the only ones who knew where he was buried were the two followers who stayed with him after the initiation, and this secret they would take to their graves. Some wonder if this was kept secret as to prevent grave desecration by those who may consider the Rosicrucians heretics.

According to the Fama Fraternitatis, the burial site was to be discovered after 120-years. The burial chamber was a vault with 7-sides that were each 5-ft wide and 8-ft tall. Each wall was divided into 10-squares with figures and sentences to be explained to the initiates. Each wall had a door that contained many different items from historical documents, instructions, and other devices.

The ceiling was arched and the room was lit by some kind of artificial source. In the middle of the floor was an altar with a brass plate with the inscription "A.C.R.C. Hoc universi compendium unius mihi sepulchrum feci" which is thought to mean "Altar of Christian Rosenkreutz By this compendium of the universe I have made a living tomb." In the center were 4-figures surrounded by circles and with the following inscriptions:

1. Nequaquam vacuum: By no means void
2. Legis Iugum: The Yoke of Law
3. Libertas Evangelii: The Gospel of Freedom
4. Dei Gloria Intacta: The Glory of God is untouched
The altar had to be pushed aside to find the body of C.R.C. which appeared to be perfectly preserved. The discovery of his tomb is thought to coincide with the public announcement of the order's existence.


In the beginning, the Rosicrucian manifestos did not cause much of a stir, but with the 17th century it started to cause a buzz as the continent was ravaged by war and this secret group was said to exist to transform and enlighten, a glimmer of hope in some dark times. Due to the secrecy and absence of any public appearance, many denounced the documents as a hoax while others stood up in defense of the principles discussed in the manifestos. Real or not, these documents caught the imagination of intellectuals and esotericists across Europe.

Many documents and groups would be influenced by the Rosicrucian manifestos, and inspire many famous figures of the Enlightenment Era like Robert Fludd, RenĂ© Descartes, John Dee, Francis Bacon, and Elias Ashmole. Rosicrucianism declined a bit during the 18th century, but would new Rosicrucian-based societies started to appear again in the mid-19th century such as the Masonic Rosicrucian Order known in the United States as "Societas Rosicruciana in Civitatibus Foederatis".


The most common symbol of the Rosicrucians is the Rosy Cross, a cross with a rose attached at its center. This symbol is to remind one of the ancient mysteries through the study of nature, alchemy, astrology, philosophy, theology, and so on. Let's look at each symbol individually.

As discussed in earlier articles, the cross is a very ancient symbol. While it may vary in shape it is essentially a combination of two intersecting beams, a vertical one crossing a horizontal one. Before its use by Christians, the cross represented the Sun or has been a symbol of Earth and nature with the number four representing the Cardinal directions, the changing seasons, the four winds, the quarters of the moon, and the alchemical elements. The cross may also emblematically represent the union of Heaven and Earth. For the Christian, the number four (4) also reminds us of the Four Evangelists and their Gospels. By it are we reminded of time and the delineation of seasons, as it was on the Fourth Day that God put lights in the firmament to separate light from darkness, to mark days, and to outline the passing of seasons and time. The cross can be seen to represent the four elements which at its intersection symbolize the 5th element, Ether or quintessence, in Alchemy.

Of all the flowers, the rose is a singular example of a natural form that has been included in the symbolism of many cultures, spiritual traditions and folklore throughout the centuries.
- Linda Iles

The rose is also a symbol that has been used since time immemorial. The rose has many interpretations such as purity, life, death, love, beauty, but the most notable interpretation of the rose in this context is that it represents secrecy. The phrase "sub rosa" is Latin for "under the rose" used to denote secrecy or confidentiality. When assembled, if it was to be understood that anything said in the meeting was to never be repeated elsewhere, the Romans would hang roses from, or paint them on, the ceiling above the table - "sub rosa". The use of the rose as a symbol for secrecy goes back to ancient Greek and Egyptian mythology, where the rose was also a symbol for the god Horus (son of Isis). Although Horus was the sky god, represented by a man with a falcon for a head, he was sometimes represented as a child. In Egyptian artwork, the child was often represented by a naked child with his finger on his mouth as if sucking on it, to denote youth, but the Greeks misunderstood this gesture to mean "secrecy". The Greek's translated the name of Horus to which they now have the Harpocrates, the god of silence. It was adapted in Greek lore that Aphrodite gave her son, Eros (or Cupid), a rose. He in turn gave this rose to Harpocrates, god of silence, as a bribe to make sure that the indiscretions of the gods and goddesses were kept "under wraps", concealed. Harpocrates was often represented as a chubby infant with a finger to his mouth. For Christians, the rose symbolized Jesus Christ, the Blessed Redeemer and Savior. The rose is also associated with the Virgin Mary as well as the martyrdom, passion/charity, and resurrection of Christ. The red rose, specifically, is symbolic of the blood of Jesus as it is said that a rose bush grew from the site of Christ's death. With the rose's beauty, it is also contrasted its thorns, we're also reminded of the Crown of Thorns the Savior wore, and thus we see the rose become the ultimate symbol of Christ's sacrifice. With a 5-petaled rose, we also see the symbolism of the passions of the Blessed Redeemer and the wounds he suffered upon the cross.

The Manifestos

As mentioned above, the Rosicrucian Manifestos were written in the early 17th century and published in Germany. They make known the existence of a secret order known as the "Brotherhood of the Rose Cross".

Fama Fraternitatis was the first document. It was published in 1614 and discusses the life, travels, and death of "Father C.R.", who is also called "C.R.C." and will in another manifesto be known as Christian Rosenkreutz. It also discusses the Rosicrucian agreement or obligation that was discussed above as well as the discovery of the tomb of C.R.C.

The Confessio Fraternitatis came second and it was published in 1615. This manifesto talks of the secret order and its desire to transform Europe and bring it to a golden age of enlightenment. This manifesto is a completion of the first and in a way defends and justifies it.

The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz came last and was published in 1616. This document varies greatly from the first two in style and the subject. It is an allegorical story divided into "Seven Days" and tells us about Christian Rosenkreutz, who was invited to go a wonderful castle full of miracles so he can assist in the "Chymical Wedding" of the king and queen which is believed to have taken place around Easter. Many believe that "chymical" is spelled using a "y" so as to refer to alchemy.

There are similarities between the stories of this manifesto and those found in the Holy Bible. There are also nine Lords who are said to be the nine (9) books of the New Testament: I Peter, II Peter, James, Jude, I John, II John, III John, the Gospel of John, and Revelations.

This manifesto has many anti-Catholic sentiments in it. In one way we see this is with the four paths. C.R.C. sits down to rest under some tall cedars where to one of them was attached a tablet that spoke of four paths:
The first is short but dangerous, and one which will lead you into rocky places, through which it will scarcely be possible to pass.
The second is longer, and takes you circuitously; it is plain and easy, if by the help of the Magnet you turn neither to left nor right.
The third is that truly royal way which through various pleasures and pageants of our King, affords you a joyful journey; but this so far has scarcely been allotted to one in a thousand.
By the fourth no man shall reach the place, because it is a consuming way, practicable only for incorruptible bodies.
The first path speaks of rocky places and reminds one of Saint Peter, "the rock" upon which the Catholic Church is founded. The second path is thought to be referring to the Gospel of John as C.R.C believed that was the only one of the gospels that is historically plausible. The third path is thought to refer to Peter, James, Jude, and John. The fourth path is the letters of Saint Paul.

The manifestos communicated the idea that Christians didn't need to be under a Pope nor afraid to study the arts and sciences. These documents and its members sought to be protected from suspicion and paranoia so that they could study in peace and not be labeled heretics by those who dwelled in intellectual darkness.


This was but a very brief introduction to this philosophical and often misunderstood belief system. We may never really know if Christian Rosenkreutz was real or allegorical, nor is really relevant as he did not invent the doctrines he followed, but cultivated and perpetuated those things which he discovered in his legendary travels. These documents which immortalized this figure came about during the Age of Enlightenment and had a profound effect on many historical figures, some of whom were tied with the Masonic fraternity and we see some kind of influence in some of the degrees and bodies of Masonry.


1. Christian Rosenkreuz. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia:

2. Jantz, P. (2002, February 4). Rosicrucianism. Retrieved from Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon:

3. Merton, R. (n.d.). Christian Rosenkreutz. Retrieved from Alchemy Lab:

4. Rosicrucian. (n.d.). Retrieved from Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

5. Rosicrucianism. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia:

6. Rosicrucians. (n.d.). Retrieved from Catholic Encyclopedia:

7. The Rosicrucian Manifestos. (2000). Retrieved from The Hermetic Library:

8. Newell, B. E. (2012, April 27). The Rose. Retrieved from Traveling Templar blog:

9. Rosicrucian. (n.d.). Retrieved from Encyclopedia Britannica:

10. The words engraved on the Altar on the Tomb of C.R.C. (n.d.). Retrieved from Rosacroce:

11. Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia:

12. Confessio Fraternitatis. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia:

13. Ede, M. (2010, February 5). What is a Rosicrucian? Retrieved from Connecticut College, SRICF:

14. Fama Fraternitatis. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia:

15. Herd, R. (2008, February 2). The Initiatic Experience. Retrieved from The Sanctum Sanctorum blog:

16. Miner, R. W. (2007, November 26). On the Masonic Societas Rosicruciana in Civitatibus Foederatis. Retrieved from Nebraska College, SRICF: 

17. Newell, B. E. (2012, September 9). The Crown and the Cross. Retrieved from Traveling Templar blog:

18. Rosicrucian Manifestos. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia:

19. Worrel, T. D. (n.d.). A Brief Study of the Rose Cross Symbol. Retrieved from California College, SRICF:

20. Rosicrucian. (n.d.). Retrieved from Online Etymology Dictionary:

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Top 10 Events in York Rite History

History is a passion of mine and I love all that I do on this blog. I wanted to change things up so in November I created a poll to see what my audience thought were the Top 10 Events that have affected the York Rite of Freemasonry. Out of the options available, here were the results of the Top 10:
  • The Regius Poem/Halliwell Manuscript
  • Formation of the first Grand Lodge
  • The First Recorded Conferral of Early Knights Templar
  • Thomas Smith-Webb's Monitor
  • Formation of the UGLE
  • Combining of the Royal Master and Select Master degrees
  • The Morgan Affair
  • Formation of the General Grand Chapter 
  • Formation of the Grand Encampment 
  • Formation of the first Grand Council
Let us look at each of these events briefly and what has caused them to stand out in history as a major, defining event.

The Regius Poem/Halliwell Manuscript

This manuscript is admitted to be the oldest genuine record of Craft of Masonry known today. It is said to have been written between the late 14th century and the mid-15th century. The text is poetic and begins with the history of the Craft, starting with Euclid’s invention of geometry in ancient Egypt. In it can also be found rules of conduct for Master Masons.

The manuscript was recorded in various personal inventories as it changed hands until it came into possession of the Royal Library, which was donated to the British Museum in 1757 by King George II to form the nucleus of the present British Library. The significance of the document as relating to Freemasonry was not realized until it was featured in an article on Freemasonry by James Halliwell in 1840. The text of the document states that Freemasonry was brought to England during the reign of King Athelstan from 924 to 939. It is from this assembly at York which is where the American Masonic term "York Rite" derives its name from.

Formation of the first Grand Lodge

The story of the first Grand Lodge is pretty well known. On Saint John the Baptists Day in 1717 four London-based Lodges came together at the Goose and Gridiron Tavern
in St. Paul’s churchyard established a Grand Lodge and elected Anthony Sawyer as their Grand Master. The actions of these Brothers have echoed through eternity and affected so much of our history. This was the first effort to centralize the authority over Freemasonry as prior to that, there was none. This body went to work standardizing the ritual and emplacing rules and policies, which we see with the publication of Anderson's Constitution in 1723 and all subsequent editions. One such thing was adopting only certain degrees to be included under the banner of Craft Masonry as all others were seen as detracting. Many of the degrees seen in the appendant bodies were originally controlled by the Lodge or a like entity, and much of American York Rite Masonry traces its origins back to these groups. Many Lodges outside of London and Westminster did not agree with the policies of the newly formed Grand Lodge and trouble started to arise.

Eventually, disagreements erupted over the conferring of the Royal Arch degree, and in 1751 the Fraternity in England would be divided among two opposing Grand Lodges who were referred to as the “Antients” and the “Moderns”. The former considered the Royal Arch degree to be the completion of the Master Mason degree while the latter did not. The Antients would create their own regulations under the name of Ahiman Rezon. This Great Schism affected the chartering American Masonry as you will find when traversing the Union that each Grand Lodge is identified as either "Ancient Free & Accepted Masons" or "Free & Accepted Masons"; those designations are a result of the two Grand Lodges issuing charters in the colonies. The fight for supremacy would continue for 6-decades when finally the two bodies reconciled and united in 1813 under the name of the "United Grand Lodge of England".

The First Recorded Conferral of the Knights Templar degree

The earliest written record available in America mentioning the Knights Templar is to be found in the records of St. Andrew's Royal Arch Chapter. On August 28th, 1769, William Davis received the "four steps" in this chapter and these four steps were called Excellent Master, Super Excellent Master, Royal Arch Masons, and Knights Templar. The earliest written record of a Royal Arch conferral was in 1744 in York, England, but in America, the earliest record of a Royal Arch conferral is in Fredericksburg Lodge in Virginia on December 22, 1753.

There's very little documentation of St. Andrew's Chapter prior to this date, but it stands to reason that this Chapter was formed before August 28th, 1769. It is believed that British troops brought traveling Lodges over who worked these degrees and spread the degrees throughout the colony. William Davis was the first Mason to be recorded as receiving the Knights Templar and would be soon followed by Paul Revere and Joseph Warren. Soon records appear that these early York Rite degrees spread throughout the colonies. For some time Lodges performed the Chapter and other degrees such as the Knights Templar. Soon individual bodies began to form such as Chapters, who took on the role of conferring other degrees which were not the sole province of the Lodges. These degrees would eventually fall under a centralized system with the establishment of the General Grand Chapter, the Grand Encampment, and the first Grand Council with some direction from Thomas Smith-Webb and Jeremy Ladd Cross.

Publication of Thomas Smith-Webb's Monitor

Thomas Smith Webb, who was influenced by the work of William Preston, was the author of Freemason's Monitor or Illustrations of Masonry, which had a very significant impact on the development and evolution of the Masonic rituals, particularly the York Rite degrees and orders, practiced in the United States. On September 14th, 1797, he published this book which was a compendium of William Preston's work as well as his own alterations, additions, and works. This book plays such a significant role that many Grand Lodges in America still follow it today. It is to Thomas Smith-Webb we owe the charges of the degrees and the words regarding many an Emblem, including the Bee-Hive, Pot of Incense, Book of Constitutions, Sword and Naked Heart, All-Seeing Eve, Anchor and Ark, Forty-Seventh Problem, Hour Glass, and Scythe.

This Monitor was divided into 2 sections. The first section surrounded the origin story of Masonry; the opening and closing of the Lodge; the prayers used; management of the Craft; prerequisites for membership; lectures and rituals of the first 3-degrees; miscellaneous ceremonies such as cornerstone dedications; rituals of Mark Master, Past Master, Most Excellent Master, and Royal Arch Masons; and the government and history of Royal Arch and Templar Masonry in the US. The second section deals with the "Ineffable Degrees of Masonry” such as Secret Master, Perfect Master, Intimate Secretary, and several others; several Masonic songs by Webb; and a sketch of the history of Freemasonry in America. This monitor and revised rituals were the basis of most rituals adopted by many American Grand Lodges and the rituals used in the York Rite bodies.

Formation of the United Grand Lodge of England

As discussed above, the "Antients" and the "Moderns" had been in a dispute since 1751. Six decades later the Brethren would reunite and form the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE).

In 1809 the "Moderns", or Premier Grand Lodge, established a "Lodge of Promulgation". Their goal was to established regularity and return harmony between Scotland, Ireland, and the Antient Grand Lodge. In 1811, both of the British Grand Lodges appointed members of this Committee and they worked over the next 2-years on the Articles of Union. Finally, negotiations were completed.

In January of 1813, the Duke of Sussex became the new Grand Master of the "Moderns" and later that year the Duke of Kent became the new Grand Master of the "Antients". On Saint John the Evangelists Day in 1813, the Brothers of both of these Grand Lodges agreed to establish the UGLE with the Duke of Sussex as the Grand Master. A Lodge of Reconciliation was formed to reconcile the rituals practiced by the "Antients" and "Moderns". The Lodge of Reconciliation demonstrations were not officially recorded, but what is known is that the UGLE adopted the recommendations presented. This union led to a standardized use of rituals, symbols, and regalia. Although not considered a part of Craft Masonry and the first 3-degrees, the Royal Arch degree is intimately tied to Craft Masonry.

Combining of the Royal Master and Select Master degrees

The exact origin of these two Cryptic degrees is highly debated. Albert Mackey, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council, 33°, Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction, states:
There is abundant evidence in the archives of the supreme Council, that the historical facts detailed in the preceding report are correct. Thirty years ago, a Council of Royal and Select Masons was unknown. The degrees were entirely conferred by Inspectors-General, whose authority for so doing was derived from a patent granted by Supreme Council of the 33°. There are many old Masons now in the Southern and Western as well as in the Northern States received from Bro. Barker, the accredited agent of the Supreme Grand Council, whose seat of government is at Charleston. And indeed we think we may safely say, as the report we have cited clearly implies, that the subordinate councils now existing in the South and West were originally organized by Royal and Select Masters, who received their degrees from, and owed allegiance to, the Supreme Council of Charleston.
Regardless of this debate, it is believed that these degrees were first to be conferred in America around the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th. The exact date that Jeremy Ladd-Cross, considered the father of the Cryptic Rite in America, started teaching both the degrees Royal Master and Select Master in a Council is not known, but there is an excerpt from his diary from March 21, 1818, that Jeremy Ladd Cross conferred both degrees to Companions in Middletown, CT. He spent much of his time in Connecticut and established many Councils here and in October 1818, while at the Grand Chapter meeting, made the recommendation that the following year the Councils meet to form a Grand Council which would be established to govern and regulate the Councils and ritual under its jurisdiction, but this will be further discussed later.

The Morgan Affair

One of the biggest events to affect all of Masonry was the Morgan Affair. Anti-Masonry had been around since 1723 with the establishment of the Gormogons. Towards the end of the 18th century, there was a spike of anti-Masonic sentiment stemming from inflammatory sermons given by Jedidiah Morse. Strong anti-Masonic sentiments would not rise again until the Morgan Affair.

On March 13th, 1826, William Morgan, a supposed Mason, living in Batavia, NY, signed a contract for a book that was to expose the secrets of Freemasonry; some believe that it was out of resentment for his Masonic affiliation being questioned by the Batavian Masons. Morgan's membership in the Lodge was later questioned, but this occurred after he had received the degrees of Royal Arch Masonry.

Prone to drunkenness Morgan bragged about his book and soon everything came to a head in September. He was arrested for theft, but upon making bail was rearrested for failure to pay a debt of $2.68 and upon his release from jail he disappeared by means which were never agreed upon by the "eyewitnesses". Anti-Masons push that he was kidnapped and killed by a band of Masons. Several Masons were arrested and convicted of kidnapping, but there was never proof that he was killed.

Even after his disappearance, his book was still published. All of these circumstances culminated in an uproar of public outrage. Regardless of reality, ALL Freemasons were seen as guilty of the murder of William Morgan. Soon anti-Masonic propaganda spread into all avenues of society to include churches and politics which led Thurlow Weed, a NY politician, to form an anti-Masonic movement in February of 1828, gathering discontented opponents of President Andrew Jackson, known to be a Mason, into the Anti-Masonic political party. In many places in New England and America, Masonry ceased to exist for a number of years, but would come back, stronger. This event still has some effect on Freemasonry today, though many may not realize it.

The Formation of the General Grand Chapter

One of the biggest accomplishments and momentous occasions for Thomas Smith Webb was that he presided over the convention that was held in Boston in October of 1797, which would lead to the formation of the 
the "Grand Royal Arch Chapter of the Northern States of America", which is the oldest national Masonic body in the United States.

The road to this started with St. Andrew's Chapter in Boston and King Cyrus Chapter in Newburyport appointing committees to standardize the ritual between the two which was accomplished. After this reconciliation, the matter of forming a Grand Chapter was started. On August 2nd, 1797, Thomas Smith-Webb, a Companion from Temple Chapter in Albany (NY), was recorded to be in attendance at the Boston Chapter. I cannot find what exactly transpired at the meeting, but the establishment of a national or regional body for the Royal Arch Masons must have been a topic of discussion because on September 11th, 1797, St. Andrew's Chapter passed a motion that the High Priest correspond with Thomas Smith-Webb on the "subject of a union of the Chapters." On the 24th of October of the same year, representatives from three Massachusetts Chapters met in Boston to form a Grand Chapter. This Grand Chapter also sent letters to the Chapters from New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, and Vermont asking them to form Grand Chapters of their respective States.

In response to these letters delegates of Chapters from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York met in Hartford (CT) on January 24th, 1798. At this meeting, the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of the Northern States of America was created. Originally Grand Chapters were styled as "Deputy Grand Chapters", but this was changed in 1799. It was here that this body sought to take the name "General Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons", but there is no evidence that any action was taken until 1806 when a newer version of the Constitution was adopted.

It was his work of establishing this body that would lead to the establishment of the Grand Encampment of Knights of the United States of America in New York City in 1816.

Formation of the Grand Encampment

As Freemasonry started to grow at the beginning of the 19th century, the Grand Encampment (now called Grand Commandery) of Massachusetts and Rhode Island desired to create a centralized government over the Encampments around the United States.

Soon word began to spread and by 1816 delegates from the Grand Encampments of New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania assembled in Philadelphia on June 11th, 1816, for the purpose of joining all the encampments in the United States under one General Grand Encampment. No records of this convention exist, but what is known is that after several days of deliberation the delegates from New England and New York left the convention and it was subsequently dissolved.

The failure of this convention surrounded some points of difference between the delegates of Pennsylvania and the others. The first point of contention surrounded that the Grand Encampment of Pennsylvania considered itself subordinate to the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania and could have been considered an adjunct body other than a sovereign body. Second, there was an argument over the conferring of Mark Master and Most Excellent Master degrees prior to one receiving the orders of Knighthood; Pennsylvania considered these degrees unnecessary and the other delegates did not. Third, there was a contention as to conferring the Illustrious Order of the Red Cross. Fourth, the delegates from Pennsylvania were unwilling to accept the ritual as revised by Thomas Smith-Webb.

The delegates from New England and New York still focused upon accomplishing their goals agreed to meet in New York City. On June 20th they met and accomplished their goals. On the 21st of June, the General Grand Encampment of the Knights Templar and Appendant Orders for the United States was formed and a Constitution was ratified. Delegates reported back to their respective Grand Encampments for the adoption of that which was accomplished.

Many would believe that Thomas Smith-Webb would have been elected as the first General Grand Master, but it was DeWitt Clinton of New York who was elected to this position. Webb was elected as Clinton's Deputy. This may have been for political reasons, but regardless Templary began to expand until The Morgan Affair and the Civil War when it dwindled, but afterward, it began to grow again to the body we have today. Pennsylvania would join the Grand Encampment in 1854. At the 13th Conclave in 1856, the General Grand Encampment would be known as the Grand Encampment and from this, the Grand Encampment of the states would be known as Grand Commanderies and the constituent bodies would be known as Commanderies.

Formation of the first Grand Council of Select Masters

This event is closely tied with that of the combining of the Royal and Select Master degrees previously discussed. About a year after this combination, Companions from Connecticut Councils met on May 18th, 1819, in Hartford. This convention was called to order by Talcott Wolcott, Illustrious Master of the Hartford Council; and Lymna Law (Grand High Priest of Connecticut) was selected as Chairman and John Gannett as Secretary to preside over the establishment of the Grand Council of Select Masters. The next day a Constitution was presented and adopted outlining the government of the organization, established the powers of the Grand Council, the duties of the Councils, and the regulation by which fees and new charters would be established. In one of its articles, it established that both the degrees of Royal and Select Masters would be covered by the fees of initiation.

The establishment of this independent body started a chain reaction that separated the Cryptic degrees from being controlled by other organizations such as the Royal Arch Chapters. Soon many Grand Councils would be formed and on August 25th, 1880, the General Grand Council of Royal and Select Master of the USA, was established by the 17-Grand Councils who were present at this convention. While it sits in the middle of the degrees conferred in the York Rite, the Cryptic degrees were the last ones to be organized under a sovereign, independent, and centralized body. In many states, particularly those in the West, the Council was the last body to form and up through the 20th century, many Masons were not required to go through the Cryptic degrees before joining the Commandery.

Each of these events had a significant impact on the York Rite of Freemasonry. These are not the only ones, but they are the ones that were voted by my audience. I have enjoyed researching these topics and it has helped me better appreciate the history even more.


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