The Scottish Rite
The members of the Scottish Rite learn about their organization, history and mission of the Rite by progressing through a system of twenty-nine degrees of instruction. Through these degrees, the members are taught and strengthened in their understandings of the highest ethics, the wise expositions of philosophy and religion, the blessings of charity, the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule. They are provided a forum from which they may explore the concepts and learn the meanings of symbols, words and phrases long considered lost. These were the truths that Plato, Pythagoras, Socrates, Homer and other intellects of the ages held in high esteem.
Through their instructive and historic degrees, Scottish Rite Masons discover and may develop a comprehensive knowledge of the rites of heritage, philosophy, religion, morality, freedom and tolerance. They strengthen their understanding of, and bonds with, their creator, country, families and themselves.
Out of all this, the Scottish Rite and its membership, have set for themselves a mission of supporting a number of spiritual, charitable and moral programs. They are dedicated to their Scottish Rites activities, the maintenance of moral standards and spiritual values, the pride of patriotism, the love of flag and country, and the dispensing of charity without regard to race, color, or creed.
These men, as with all Masons, stand for positive programs, yet they will fight with moral courage and enthusiasm every force or power that would seek to destroy freedom, spread spiritual despotism or political tyranny. They firmly believe and support the concept that the sovereignty of the United States of America and other democratic countries resides in the very control of the people themselves.
Shriners International is, at its most basic level, a fraternity.
It all started in Manhattan in 1870 when some members of what’s considered the world’s oldest fraternity – Masonry – were hanging out at their favorite tavern. They felt that Masonry, which traces its roots to stonemasons and craftsmen of the Middle Ages, was a tad too focused on ritual. These guys wanted a fraternity that stressed fun and fellowship.
Two of those gentlemen – Walter M Fleming, M.D., and Billy Florence, an actor – took that idea and ran with it. Florence came up with the idea for a Near Eastern-themed party after attending a party thrown by an Arabian diplomat. Fleming added the structure, drafting the fraternity’s name, initiation rites, rituals and rules. Together, Fleming and Florence designed the fraternity’s emblem, devised a salutation and determined that the red fez with the black tassel would be the group’s official headgear.
The first chapter, Mecca Shriners, met in New York City in 1872. As word got out about the fledgling organization, membership grew rapidly, spreading across the U.S. In the early 1900s, membership spread into Canada, Mexico and Panama. Today, Shriners International is a fraternity with nearly 200 temples in several countries, thousands of clubs around the world and hundreds of thousands of members dedicated to the principles of brotherly love, relief and truth.
The York Rite
The Grand Commandery of Knights Templar of Minnesota will be celebrating its 150th anniversary. However, the history of Templary in Minnesota predates the formation of the Grand Commandery by at least a decade, when a group of Sir Knights petitioned the Grand Encampment for dispensation to establish Damascus Commandery in Saint Paul, Minnesota. During these formative years, three other Commanderies were granted dispensation, Zion Commandery in Minneapolis, Couer De Lion Commandery in Winona, and Mankato Commandery in Mankato. These four Commanderies met in Saint Paul on Monday, October 23, 1865, to form the Grand Commandery of Knights Templar of Minnesota. Authority for this occasion, was granted by Heruy L Palmer, then Grand Master of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the United States of America.
If one reaches further back in time, the Grand Encampment was formed only a half century before in 1816. Still further into the dim reaches of time, today’s Knights Templar may trace their heritage to the valiant and chivalric orders of knighthood so intimately tied to the Crusades.
The journey back into time does not stop there, however. The hearts of all Knights Templar are deeply rooted in Freemasonry, one of the oldest and most honorable institutions in the world. It is significant to note that all Knights Templar are Freemasons, but conversely, that all “Freemasons” are not Knights Templar. At first, this may seem a bit paradoxical; the following comments are offered in explanation.
The foundation of Freemasonry is the Blue Lodge. The Blue Lodge, in Minnesota, is a “York Rite Lodge” organized in a manner that consists of three York Rite degrees through which a candidate must pass to be accepted into membership. These degrees begin with Entered Apprentice, progress through Fellow Craft, and culminate with Master Mason. This progression can be compared with the stages through which craftsmen in the various trades advance from apprentice through journeyman to master. Masonry communicates its teachings and philosophies through allegorical portrayals and interpretations of these stages, equating them to the process in which one strives to achieve high moral goals in life. All candidates must complete the three aforementioned degrees before they may become members of the Masonic fraternity.
Additional stages of Masonic education may occur after the completion of the Blue Lodge degrees. The candidate may choose between two avenues or Rites in his advancement and education: the York Rite or Scottish Rite. Each of these Rites, consist of a number of degrees, similar to the format of the Blue Lodge. The Master Mason may continue his education in York Rite Masonry by continuing on through the next three York Rite Bodies, which each comprise a number of degrees or “Orders”. The first four degrees after the Blue Lodge comprise the Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, three degrees comprise the Council of Cryptic Masons, and three “orders” comprise the Commandery of Knights Templar.
The Scottish Rite consists of 32 degrees, (a 33rd degree is conferred as a special honor to recognize exemplary dedication and service).
The Commandery has the unique distinction within the framework of Masonry of being founded upon the principles of the Christian religion and the practice of Christian virtues. With the exception of the work in the first of the orders, the Order of Red Cross, the Order of Malta and the Order of the Temple are directly structured upon the lessons contained within the New Testament. Thereby, the Knights of Malta and the Knights Templar trace their origins to the Crusades and the circumstances regarding the period of history surrounding the pilgrimages to the Holy Sepulcher.
In marking the event of this 150th year of the Grand Commandery in Minnesota, the topic of its history deserves special note. This is a time to look back with reverence for an illustrious heritage. It is also a time to look forward with great expectations for the future. The chapters contained in this history are intended to chronicle significant events and to tell of hopes and aspirations, of successes and failures, of joys and disappointments, and of encouragement and chastisements. Above all, however, they are intended to celebrate the pride which one feels as a Minnesota Knight Templar.
Order of the Eastern Star
The Order of the Eastern Star was founded by Dr. Rob Morris in 1850. Dr. Morris created the degrees of the Eastern Star around the lives of five Biblical women. They are Jephthah’s Daughter, whom he chose to call Adah; Ruth, Esther, Martha, and, from the Second Epistle of John, the Elect Lady, to whom he gave the name Electa.
He chose these women because each of them exemplifies virtues that are the tenets of the Order: Fidelity, Love, Constancy, Loyalty, and Faith. Even though our ritual is based on heroines from the Bible, the Order of the Eastern Star is clearly not a religion. It does not pretend to take the place of a religion or to serve as a substitute. We welcome petitioners from all faiths.
MINNESOTA GRAND CHAPTER
The Order of the Eastern Star in Minnesota had its inception in the hearts and minds of our early members as the result of visits made to Minnesota by Robert Morris, the founder of the Order, in the late 1860s.
He conferred the Degrees on many of the leading Masons and their wives and from the wonderful conceptions they received of its beautiful teachings, they were soon eager to have others enjoy its benefit. The early members banded together and organized Chapters, with most of the Charters signed by Robert Morris and a few by Robert McCoy, who conceived the Chapter idea. Prior to the organization of the Grand Chapter in 1878, the following Chapters were organized: Crystal Lake #1, at Hokah; Cereal #2 at Mankato; Oriental #3, at St. Charles; Esther #4 at Zumbrota; Madelia #5 at Madelia; Zion #6, at Cannon Falls; North Star #7 at Anoka; Harmony #8 and Minneapolis #9 both at Minneapolis; Unity #10 at Elk River; and Bethlehem #11 at Mazeppa.
The Grand Chapter of Minnesota was organized on June 27, 1878 at Minneapolis by five Chapters: Esther, Madelia, North Star, Harmony and Minneapolis. The meeting was called by Leonard Lewis, Deputy Grand Patron of the General Grand Chapter and he was the chairman of the Convention. A resolution was adoped that all Chapters in Minnesota be invited to ratify the action of the Convention and become members, The first Grand Matron was Sarah Armstrong and Charles Griswold was the first Grand Patron.
There are currently 67 Chapters in Minnesota with Cereal #2 Chapter in Mankato being the oldest!