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Masonic Knights Templar and the York Rite Bodies

Updated on March 2, 2012

Knights Templar (Freemasonry)

Knights Templar is an international philanthropic Masonic order affiliated with Freemasonry.

In some countries it forms part of the York Rite, while in others it is a separate order on its own.

In the mid 1700s the Freemasons began to incorporate symbols and traditions of the medieval Knights Templar.

The original medieval Order of Knights Templar was established after the First Crusade, and existed from approximately 1118 to 1312.

There is no known historical evidence to link the medieval Knights Templar and Masonic Templarism, nor do the Masonic Knights Templar organizations claim any such direct link to the original medieval Templar organization

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Description of the Masonic Knights Templar Order

Knights Templars meet in Preceptories or commanderies and dependent on the masonic jurisdication may be attached to craft lodges or other appendant bodies.

Membership in the Order is open to Master Masons of Christian faith (in some jurisdictions, the order is also open to those of other faiths who are willing to swear to defend the Christian faith) and who have been exalted into a Holy Royal Arch Chapter. Some jurisdications also require membership in a Cryptic Masons Council, although this is optional in others.

As in all Masonic organizations, membership requires that the candidate be of sound moral character, have an exemplary reputation, and believe in a Supreme Being. The Knights Templar have the additional requirement that the candidate be a professing Christian.

York Rite

The term York Rite is a term most often used in the United States of America to refer to a collection of Masonic degrees that, in most other countries, are conferred separately. As such, it constitutes one of the two main branches of Masonic Appendant Bodies in United States Freemasonry, which a Master Mason may join to further his knowledge of Freemasonry. Its name is derived from the city of York, where, according to a Masonic legend, the first meetings of Masons in England took place, although only the lectures of the York Rite College make reference to that legend.

The other principal branch of Freemasonry in the United States is the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite. Some obediences of the Scottish Rite, outside the United States where the York Rite is not active, may confer some of the York Rite degrees.

The divisions within the York Rite and the requirements for membership differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but the essentials are the same. In all the workings, the one requirement is that all applicants be in possession of the degree of Master Mason (the third degree of Freemasonry).

The York Rite is not found as a single system in the majority of countries outside the United States, nor are any of the separate degrees subject to the local Grand Lodge jurisdiction. Each sovereign and distinct rite or "Order" elsewhere has some differences in ritual details to the York Rite system. However, provided that the Grand Lodge in question regards the parent "Craft" jurisdiction as regular, each distinct Order has recognised fraternal inter-relations with the respective Rite within the York system.

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United Stated York Rite Bodies

Royal Arch Masonry

Royal Arch Masonry is the first order a Master Mason joins in the York Rite. The Chapter works the following degrees:

* The Mark Master Mason degree is in some respects an extension of the Fellow Crafts' second degree. In some jurisdictions the degree is conferred in a Fellow Craft Lodge, that is, the second degree of the Blue Lodge.

* The Past Master (Virtual) degree is conferred because of the traditional requirement that only Past Masters of a Blue Lodge may be admitted to Holy Royal Arch. Because there are so many applicants for this degree, Virtual Past Master is required to qualify them for it. Much of the work is the same given to install the Worshipful Master of a Blue Lodge. There is no such requirement or procedure outside the USA.

* In the Most Excellent Master degree the building of King Solomon's Temple, which figures so prominently in Blue Lodge, has been completed. In England the degree is conferred by Cryptic Councils, along with three other degrees below.

* The Royal Arch Mason degree is said by many to be the most beautiful degree in all of Freemasonry. Following the convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter in England on November 10, 2004, there are significant ritual differences from that worked in the USA, fraternal inter-relations remain as before. Freemasons who reach this degree may continue to Cryptic Masonry or go straight to Knights Templar (where permitted—requirements vary in different jurisdictions).

Cryptic Masonry

Membership in the Council of Cryptic Masons (or the Council of Royal and Select Masters in Great Britain and several states in the USA) is not required for membership in the Knights Templar in some jurisdictions, so it is frequently skipped. It is called Cryptic Masonry or the Cryptic Rite because a crypt or underground room figures prominently in the degrees.

* Royal Master

* Select Master

* Super Excellent Master

Knights Templar

The Knights Templar is the final order joined in the York Rite. Unlike other Masonic bodies which only require a belief in a Supreme Being regardless of religion, membership in Knights Templar is open only to Royal Arch Masons who promise to defend the Christian faith. Its affiliation with Masonry is based on texts that indicate persecuted Templars found refuge within the safety of Freemasonry.[1]

A local Knights Templar organization is called a Commandery in the United States and a Preceptory elsewhere. In the United States, Knights Templar consists of three degrees:

* Illustrious Order of the Red Cross

* Order of the Knights of Malta (or simply Order of Malta)

* Order of the Temple

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