The Scottish Rite Research Society (SRRS) has just published two new titles relevant to those interested in the origins and early history of the Scottish Rite.
Freemasonry’s Royal Secret: The Jamaican “Francken Manuscript” of the High Degrees by Arturo de Hoyos and Alain Bernheim presents for the first time a copy of Morin’s so-called 25-degree Order of the Royal Secret from a manuscript with more ritual details than any other previously encountered. Etienne Morin was a French Freemason who traveled to the West Indies in 1763 to establish lodges there. He also brought with him the “Rite of Perfection,” a sort of greatest hits or compilation of the many pendant degrees that proliferated in the 1700s in response to Freemasons who were hungry for more of what they experienced in the Craft degrees. The “Rite of Perfection” was thus a collection of pendant rites that attempted to synthesize them into a single system of 25 degrees. Morin appointed deputies to help promulgate this rite throughout the Western hemisphere, and before long they began setting up lodges in the United States. In 1801, these lodges would be united under the banner of the Scottish Rite, which absorbed the Rite of Perfection and added additional degrees, bringing the new system to its current 33 degrees. The publication of this Francken Manuscript of those original rituals, along with the editors’ introductory essay, gives a glimpse into the primordial origins of the Scottish Rite.
Jeffrey Croteau leads the latest issue of the SRRS’s annual journal, Heredom (volume 21, 2014), with his article “Emanuel De La Motta in New York: 1813-1815: A Rejoinder” (p. 9-78), followed by a response by Alain Bernheim and Arturo de Hoyos (p. 79-94). These articles address the massive series on early Scottish Rite history by Bernheim that Heredom serialized in three previous issues: “Joseph Cerneau, His Masonic Bodies, and His Grand Consistory’s Minute Book–Part 1” (2010), “Joseph Cerneau, Part 2–The Charleston Grand Council of P.R.S. & the Supreme Council of the U.S.A.” (2012), and “Emanuel De La Motta in N.Y., 1813-1815: A Retrograde Chess Problem” (2013). It is fair to say that the establishment of the Scottish Rite in the United States was turbulent. The Rite’s foundational documents stipulated that there should be two jurisdictions in a nation as large as the USA, and the situation in the presumptive Northern Jurisdiction was complicated by the presence of competing factions which claimed authority there: those of Antoine Bideaud and Joseph Cerneau. It was the intervention of Emanuel De La Motta that led to the recognition of Bideaud’s group by the Mother Lodge in Charleston, and the persistence of the competing Cerneau rite that would prove to be a bone of contention in both the U.S. and abroad. (John Yarker received a charter from this rival group and attempted to promulgate the rite in England, much to the consternation of the Ancient and Accepted Rite that was already there; this authority was among those that passed from Yarker to Reuss and Crowley.) In his recent articles for Heredom, Bernheim delved into archival material in an effort to reconstruct what really happened in those negotiations between De La Motta and the two rival Rites in New York, and Croteau’s article adds to that discussion by adding his point of view–along with facsimile reproductions and transcriptions of relevant documents.
The new issue of Heredom also features great articles on Anti-Masonry, co-Freemasonry, Prince Hall Freemasonry, Knights of Columbus, and an article by Pierre Mollier about “New Lights on the Morin Patent & on the Rite of Perfection,” among others.
It’s all great stuff for those with an interest in the history and origins of high degree Freemasonry.