A series of Masonic degrees created in France in the middle of the eighteenth century. Despite the name, they have no actual connection to Scotland, and first arrived in Scotland in 1833, when the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite came there from America. This has not prevented incautious researchers from searching the degrees of that Rite for secrets passed down from medieval Scottish Templars.

The first chapters (local lodges) working Scottish degrees appeared in Paris in the late 1730s, in circles closely connected to the Jacobite exile community then planning the 1745 attempt to put Charles Edward Stuart on the British throne. The legendary origin of the degrees draws heavily on the famous Masonic oration of the Chevalier Ramsay, who first proposed that Masonry descended from the knightly orders of the medieval Crusades. Ramsay was himself a Jacobite, and it has been plausibly suggested that the oration and the new degrees were part of a single project to create a new Jacobite Masonry at a time when Jacobites were losing control of ordinary Craft lodges in France and other European countries.

This Templar origin, according to the legend, came via Scotland. Allegedly a band of Knights Templar fled from France to escape the destruction of their order under Philip IV. They were given a safe haven in Scotland, and in gratitude fought for Robert the Bruce against the English at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Each of the branches of Scottish Masonry that emerged after the failure of the 1745 rebellion traced their roots back to that group of Templars; thus the Royal Order of Scotland, for instance, claims that Bruce rewarded the Templars for their valor by instituting the Royal Order of Scotland, with the Templars as its first members and himself as the first Grand Master.

After the battle of Culloden put an end to Jacobite hopes in 1746, the Scottish degrees appear to have been left to their own devices, and spread through European Masonry. The Royal Order of Scotland was among the first to surface, establishing a lodge in The Hague in 1750. A much more elaborate rite of 22 degrees, the Rite of Perfection, went public in 1754 with the foundation of the Chapter of Clermont. Four years later this yielded to a new body, the Council of Emperors of the East and West, which lasted until 1781 and contended with a rival body, the Council of Emperors of the East. One or the other Council – to this day, no one is sure which – authorized a French Mason named Stephen Morin to establish the Rite of Perfection in the New World, and thus laid the foundations of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, one of the most important Masonic bodies today. See Rite of Perfection.



The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Societies : the ultimate a-z of ancient mysteries, lost civilizations and forgotten wisdom written by John Michael Greer – © John Michael Greer 2006