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The fundamentals of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite

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The fundamentals of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite

Alain-Noel Dubart

The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite was progressively built in France and in Europe starting 1743, when the Earl of Clermont was elected as Grand Master of the Obedience, which he remained until his death in 1771.

If the degree of Master Mason appeared in London around 1725, the Side (or Higher) Degrees were developed in France. After the Perfection Rite in 25 degrees, the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite was built in two different stages. At first through the Great Constitutions of Bordeaux in 1762, than under the authority of the legendary Friedrich II of Prussia, the "Great Friedrich", in its final aspect presented in the Great Constitutions of Berlin in 1786.

In 1875, during the Universal Convent of Lausanne, a statement of principles brought some light in the debate mostly on the question of the Great Architect of the Universe in relation to the belief in God (also to a lesser degree in relation to the immortality of the soul.)

It was all done while keeping the landmarks, those of the Anderson Constitutions of 1723 and 1738, those of the discourse of the Knight of Ramsay in 1736 and also of the masonry of the Antiens emphasized by Lawrence Dermott in 1750.

What are the essential characteristics of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite ?

The non dogmatic aspect of the initiation in the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite is to my eyes the most essential.

In spite of the fact that its origins are Judeo-Christian and although by certain aspects, the approach includes a "religious" longing, the Rite is in no way a Religion in the usual sense of the word.

The working don't propose a cult, neither a liturgy or a dogma to the conscience of the Brethren.

The above mentioned religious longing is to be understood under the double etymology of the word Religion. It consists in connecting the beings together and not linking each person to the Divinity - also because each ones belief is totally free - whatever is the Divinity.

Under this appellation it is also to be understood that a symbolic "rereading" of the Books and specially the Bible.

In this meaning we understand religare (to link) and religere (to attach).

Neither mysticism who would wrap the follower with a supernatural grace, nor spiritual adviser who would try to indoctrinate him. It is only an individual thinking and a personal research in the frame of a collective method; the initiatory method proposed by the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite and used in the Lodges.

In this view, the invocation of the Grand Architect of the Universe appears as the necessary keystone.

Invocation to the glory and not " in the Name " of the Great Architect, no more than the Works take place in the presence of the Great Architect or in the name of the Most High.

In the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, the workings never refer to some theist views who includes necessarily the existence of a God (the Biblical creating God ) or another one. The masons are humbly working in front of this problem who belongs to the individual conscience of each Brother.

Working to the glory of the Great Architect, they act with regard to a principle which is also a symbol.

According to the Rite, the Great Architect is presented as a creative principle. Note the absence of any ambiguity because creative is written with a small "c".

It is not about The Creator in the Christian meaning but simply of a creative principle who created the world and who organises it with the material he found in it. The Rite don't impose to believe in a creation "ex nihilo" but it doesn't refute it either.

It is indeed about a principle, that is, of what has in itself the strength to begin and what is already present.

But it is also a non-defined symbol, like all the complicated symbols and through this absolutely interpretable in the privacy of each Brother's conscience.

As for me and only as an example my interpretation of the Great Architect of the Universe is multiple.

At first it is only the time which dismantle and recreate constantly. Chronos and his son Zeus are not very far from this view. In the most ancient Greek mythology Zeus was in charge of the harmony of the world, in other words to assure the perpetuity of the cosmos in the balance.

Sometimes, I prefer the Demiurge of Timeo: " because the god wished that any things were good and that as possible there was nothing imperfect, and so he took it in hand all that there was of visible - it was not in rest, but moved without unison and untidy - and that he brought it of the disorder to the order, having considered that the order is infinitely better than the disorder ".

There are many other interpretations of the symbol of the Great Architect of the Universe, but each one makes its own image, all referring to it to see the realization of the primacy of a spiritual thought process which every Mason tries to bring to the foreground, both for himself and for his Brethrens in initiation.

The presence of the Volume of the Sacred Law on the oath's Altar, this book being the Bible because of the tradition and in reference to the initiatory substance of the Craft, is understandable only as a spiritual book and not the book of a revealed religion.

During his works in the Lodge, even if the Freemason is Christian, he cannot consider this book as a religious book.

Our previous Grand Master Richard Dupuis, being a catholic, presented it very well :

" The Bible is for the Freemason, neither a historic story, nor a theological treaty … It represents the approach of the Humanity clearing her road on the ground of the realities thanks to the engine of the Spirit, and by the obstinate effort of her reason, her intuition and her imagination ".

Each one of us can have a personal symbolic reading in order to extract the notions of ethic, justice, duty, love and action it contains; so as to take out of it a "true substance" contributing to the development of his spirituality.

Through this multi-form study which is proposed to the initiated, that in particular of the ritual characteristics themselves, that of the symbolic transposition of the Bible and the other Great "Sacred" Books, that of the reflection on the great metaphysical, scientific, sociological and philosophical themes of the present times, it becomes possible for the Freemason to evolve progressively towards to a more acute state of consciousness, on the alert about the state of the World, and to try to establish by himself, then with others, the relations of Order and Harmony which constituted the purpose of the Human Life for the Greeks of the Classical era.

To lead a "Good Life" - according to the Aristotelian expression - was the essential purpose that every Man had to look for.

To give a sense to its life and to try to reach the Wisdom, this is the purpose of the Freemason and it is what the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite proposes.

The progressive method used by the Rite is also essential. It achieves by the mediation of a progress in successive degrees. Each degree brings to the initiated a specific toolset and a particular support for his reflection.

Initially the toolset is symbolic and inherited from the builders' craft. The matter for the builders was to improve the architecture of the Temple but for us contemporary Masons, the question is, in a first time, to follow through the work of constant improvement which starts with ourselves.

But, at the same time, it is asked to us, and this from the first degree, to meditate and to understand the mythological and symbolic plan which is presented to us: the rational equipment which is present in the Lodge, as Three Great Lights which have to enlighten the behaviour of the Freemason, requires, in a same discursive and intuitive movement, to be used to build ourselves and to be interiorized to know ourselves.

And so, from degree to degree, adding new symbolic tools and incorporating new mythological schemes, the initiated, at least the one who is really on the way of the Initiation will progress, leaving aside his prejudice and his metals and improving in the same rhythm Knowledge and Conscience.

In this manner, refusing all dogmas and inequity, each one will progress towards more freedom and Love.

Indeed, the Initiatory Method offers us a constant quest of truth, not a scientific truth easily demonstrable, neither even a religious truth - revealed or not - but this Truth which comes from the Greek word "Aletheia".

Aletheia, the Truth with the depriving alpha, which means that it is possible to take out of the great river Lethe, the river of oblivion which surrounded the Hell, the World of the Endless dead.

This what is to be withdrawn from oblivion, in other words which is necessary to keep lifelong in mind in order to be able to transmit it.

Each will recognize here without difficulty that it is about a spirituality in action and a living Tradition which can pass from Being to Being, and from Initiated to Initiated.

It is may be the main reason why the Book of Sacred Law is open at the first Chapter of John, the one where we learn, not that the individual soul, the Psyche, could be immortal (each has his own beliefs) but that the breath, the Pneuma, could be the one of the eternal life, the one who has to be present here and now in the heart of each Mason.

The spirituality of the Rite is also open to the one who wants to make the effort to work and to think. To this one, either inside, or outside the Lodge, the wide domain of the Thinking and the Action is open.

It is possible to each Being, without any Divine revelation, without mystical illumination and without rationalist fossilization, to rise progressively in the frame of a collective elaboration inside the Lodge, but also in the strict respect for a personal and individual thought, to find or to give a sense to his own life.

To find the hidden signification and to continue the realisation of the plan initiated by the creative principle, or to elaborate the plan through the collective reflection and to participate by the individual action, everything is possible for the one who comes to search, to understand and to act.

The Transcendence, the laic transcendence is within the reach of each. One needs to pass on the other bank, there where the wealth of the initiatory Teaching offers itself to the multitude and remains inexhaustible.

To built oneself to think, to built oneself to act, the Rite gives us totally and since the beginning the dimension of the spirituality it conveys together with its Ethical reflection and its Humanist purpose.

It belongs to us to appropriate it, to make it alive and to pass it on.

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