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structure 1

At first glance (especially for someone who is not familiar with Masonry) the structure of Freemasonry seems complex, overwhelming and mysterious. In some ways it can be, given the many orders and sub-social aspects that have been added over time and considering the different traditions throughout the world. To explore all of the structural history and traditions that have evolved since the beginning of Freemasonry would involve writing a book and there are countless volumes written on this subject over hundreds of years for one so inclined to explore. One thing is the same, and that is that every man starts in Masonry at the same place; The ‘Blue’ or ‘Symbolic’ Lodge…. also known as ‘Craft Masonry’.

Craft Masonry

Craft Masonry(Symbolic Lodge)

This is the starting point and ‘The Cornerstone’ of all masonry. These are the small lodges that you see in almost every city and town throughout the globe. Some ‘Blue’ lodges share a larger building with other lodges (such as our lodge). Each lodge has it’s own separate space within these larger buildings and share a dining hall, kitchen and other facilities. This is where a man works through the first 3 degrees of Masonry to finally become a ‘Master Mason’. This is the highest degree in Craft Masonry. Once a Master Mason, one can start working his way up ‘through the chairs’ (which are all the different roles/officers in the Blue Lodge) to eventually become the ‘Master’ of his lodge (these internal offices will not be covered in this lecture on structure). Any man regardless of social status, income, race, color, religion or age can become Master of his lodge. A man is not required to work his way up ‘through the chairs’. The ‘York Rite’ branch of Masonry (one of 2 branches covered below) also meets in the ‘Blue’ lodges. The three beginning degrees are:

1° Entered Apprentice
2° Fellowcraft
3° Master Mason

Once a man becomes a ‘Master Mason’ he is entitled to join one of the 2 branches (York Rite or Scottish Rite) of Freemasonry to continue his Masonic education. A Master Mason can join BOTH branches if he chooses. Joining a branch is not required. As stated above, the York Rite chapters meet in the Blue Lodge buildings. The Scottish Rite branch has its own building. A Master Mason may also join one of the many social, fundraising or co-ed orders’ (which are listed below after The York Rite and Scottish Rite branches) such as The Order Of The Eastern Star (which also meet in the Blue Lodge buildings) or the Ancient Arabic Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (known as the Shriners…. who have their own buildings). The wives of Masons can join several orders and sons & daughters of Masons can join youth orders. There are many social clubs (and even a dining club) that one can join.

structure 2

Looking at a more simplified illustration above, we can get a better idea of the basic structure of Freemasonry (reading what it says isn’t needed). The bottom 3 steps leading up the structure above represent the 1st 3 degrees in Masonry (Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft & Master Mason). See all the little Masons standing around on different steps? Once on the third step (Master Mason) he can join any of the Allied Organizations & social groups(the symbols for many of them are on the wall there) as well as the other orders under the arch. On the pedestal under the arch you can see a little ‘Shriner’ up there as well as a woman representing the women’s (co-ed) group, The Order Of The Eastern Star. There are some boys and girls standing under there that represent the youth orders (DeMolay for boys & Rainbow for girls. Jobs Daughters and a few others). Some of these allied organizations will be covered later.

Once a man reaches the third ‘step’ up there… not only can he join any of the Allied Organizations & social groups, but he can walk across the little platform to the left or right to ascend the steps into one of the 2 branches of Masonry. To the Right we have The York Rite branch. In the picture above we have several steps representing the stages and bodies of the York Rite branch (discussed below) until we see the little man standing at the top representing the Knights Templar. To the left we have the Scottish Rite branch. In the picture above we have many steps representing the 4-32 degrees (contained in 4 different bodies as you ascend, represented by the 4 men on the steps) of the Scottish Rite branch (discussed below). We see the little man standing at the top (next to the Knights Templar) representing the honorary 33rd degree (Sovereign Grand Inspector General). The degrees in the Scottish Rite branch are numbered, but the degrees in The York Rite are not. One thing to keep in mind about Masonry and it’s structure: Masonry is about charity and all of these organizations have (if not several) charitable organizations they support! 

YR Branch

York Rite Branch

The York Rite is one of the 2 paths or bodies of Freemasonry in which a Master Mason may proceed to supplement his Masonic path. The York Rite amplifies the Blue Lodge degrees. The York Rite takes its name from the old English city of York. The York Rite is not a religion in itself, it does, however, develop themes based on the Medieval Crusades.

The York Rite confers degrees beyond the Blue Lodge’s three degrees. In the York Rite, A Master Mason may become a member of three bodies that consists of nine additional degrees. The York Rite is made up of three distinct organizations, each with its own local, state, and national structure:

York 1The Royal Arch Chapter is the second of the four York Rite Bodies of Masonry (the first is the Symbolic Lodge, where the first three Degrees of Masonry are conferred.) Chapters confer four degrees:

  • Mark Master
  • Virtual Past Master
  • Most Excellent Master
  • Royal Arch.

York 2The Council of Cryptic Masonry is the third of the York Rite bodies. A man must have completed the Symbolic Degrees and have taken the Degree of Royal Arch before he can become a Cryptic Mason. Cryptic Masonry consists of three Degrees:

  • Royal Master
  • Select Master
  • Super Excellent Master.

York 3Commanderies of Knights Templar is the fourth and last of the York Rite Bodies of Masonry. In the Commandery, there are three ‘degrees’ or steps, which are called Orders. These are:

  • The Illustrious Order of the Red Cross
  • The Mediterranean Pass and Order of Malta
  • The Order of the Temple


SR 32 Branch 2

Scottish Rite Branch

The Scottish Rite is the 2nd path or body of Freemasonry in which a Master Mason may proceed to supplement his Masonic path. The Scottish Rite is sometimes called the “Masonic University” of Freemasonry. (to be continued)

Perfection 1

Lodge of Perfection (4°-14°)
4° Secret Master
5° Perfect Master
6° Confidential (or Intimate) Secretary
7° Provost and Judge
8° Intendant of the Building
9° Elu (or Elect) of the Nine
10° Elu (or Illustrious Elect) of the Fifteen
11° Elu (or Sublime Elect) of the Twelve
12° (Grand) Master Architect
13° Royal Arch of Solomon (or of Enoch)
14° Perfect Elu (or Grand Elect Perfect and Sublime Mason)

Rose Cr 1

Chapter Of The Rose Cross (15°-18°)
15° Knight of the East or of the Sword
16° Prince of Jerusalem
17° Knight of the East and West
18° Knight (or Sovereign Prince) of the Rose Croix (Cross)


Kadosh 1

Council of Knights Kadosh (19°-30°)
19° (Grand) Pontiff
20° (Grand) Master of all Symbolic Lodges
21° Noachite or Prussian Knight
22° Knight of the Royal Axe, or Prince of Libanus
23° Chief of the Tabernacle
24° Prince of the Tabernacle
25° Knight of the Brazen Serpent
26° Prince of Mercy
27° Knight (or Grand) Commander of the Temple
28° Knight of the Sun, or Prince Adept
29° Grand Scottish Knight of St. Andrew
30° Knight Kadosh, or Knight of the White and Black Eagle

Consistory 1

Consistory of Masters of the Royal Secret (31°-32°)
31° (Grand) Inspector Inquisitor(Commander)
32° Master (or Sublime Prince) of the Royal Secret

Honorary Degrees

KCCH32° Knight Commander of the Court of Honour
32° Inspector General Honorary
33° Grand Cross of the Court of Honour

Grand Supreme Council

GSC33° Sovereign Grand Inspector General








Social Clubs





See Also:

What Is Freemasonry?

 Quick Q&A

The Benefits Of Being A Mason

How Can I Become A Mason?

List Of Famous Freemasons

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