The Allied Masonic Degrees are an invitational organization, and requires membership in the Royal Arch as well as the Symbolic Lodge. Membership is limited to 27 members per council.
Be it remembered that on August 5, 1933, this Grand Council took as its date of formation January 14, 1892, since this date was the beginning of the Allied Masonic Degrees in America with the formation of the Sovereign College of Allied Masonic and Christian Degrees at Richmond, Virginia, that on April 16, 1932, the subsequent establishment of a Grand Council of Allied Masonic Degrees of the United States of America occurred in Salisbury, North Carolina, and that the union of the two bodies was drawn up and entered into July 18, 1933, and was ratified by the North Carolina Grand Council August 5, 1933 and was ratified by the Sovereign College at Norway, Maine August 24, 1933, and became effective as of September 7, 1933.
The Allied Masonic Degrees are detached degrees some of which, many years ago, were conferred under Craft warrants and formed part of the then loosely governed Freemasonry of the period.
Many of these detached degrees became dormant in some places, although in others they were conferred as side degrees. In time, the better of these degrees were grouped together in an organized body under the title of Allied Masonic Degrees. The degrees comprising the system in our Jurisdiction in the U.S.A. are the Royal Ark Mariner, Secret Monitor, Knight of Constantinople, Saint Lawrence the Martyr, Architect, Superintendent, Grand Tilers of Solomon, Master of Tyre, Excellent Master, Installed Sovereign Master, Installed Commander Noah, Red Branch of Eri and Ye Ancient Order of Corks. They are conferred in the United States in Councils chartered by the Grand Council. Each Council is limited to twenty seven members, with two exceptions. One of these Councils is known as the Council of the Nine Muses and is limited to nine members. The other is Grand Masters Council, which has what is known as a roving charter. The purpose of the latter Council is to provide a place of membership in the Allied Masonic Degrees for brethren residing in localities where Councils have not been organized. Membership in every Council of Allied Masonic Degrees is by invitation, and is predicated on membership in the Royal Arch Chapter.
In addition to perpetuating these degrees, there is still another and equally important purpose. It is to bring together, in small groups, Freemasons who are interested in the advancement of all Masonry, preparing themselves to better serve the Craft through the medium of study and research. By limiting the membership in a Council and securing membership only by invitation, the result is a congenial group able to enjoy full fellowship when meeting together. Wherever there is an active Council of Allied Masonic Degrees, it exerts an influence for the betterment of Freemasonry in all the Masonic Bodies.
There is no intention on the part of the Allied Masonic Degrees to detract from any organized and established body of Masonry. On the contrary, you will find our members active, beyond the average, in all local Masonic bodies. The real purpose is to stimulate interest in Masonry in general and bring together in small groups those who are interested in the study of Masonic subjects. Thus they are better enabled to serve the Craft.
by C. Wallace Jackson, K.G.C.
Sovereign Grand Master (1965-1966)
Although the Grand Council, Allied Masonic Degrees of the USA has spread though many Grand Jurisdictions, too many of the Brethren belonging to the Coordinate Councils know little of its formation.
In the later part of the 1920s and early 1930s, a Masonic study group met Sunday afternoons in Monroe, NC. Sometimes they met in the Masonic Temple, but most often in that of J. Raymond Shute, II, one of Masonry’s foremost students at the time. In the year 1930, Bro. Shute began correspondence with R. E. Comp. George A. Howell, Grand Scribe, Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Scotland, relative to the Excellent Master Degree which was worked by the Royal Arch Chapters of that country. The correspondence resulted in a Dispensation being issued by His Lordship, the Earl of Cassillis, First Grand Principal, Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Scotland, permitting the Degree to be conferred within the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of NC, on May 12, 1931, at Asheville. The Degree was conferred on about 200 Royal Arch Masons. It was where the idea originated which resulted in founding the Grand Council, Allied Masonic Degrees.
The enthusiastic reception of the Degrees caused the Companions involved to seek a method to retain it in this country, together with other Degrees controlled by the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Scotland, without interfering with established Royal Arch customs. After much correspondence, including the precaution of securing permission from the Grand High Priest of North Carolina, and the General Grand High Priest of the General Grand Chapter, R. E. Comp. Howell agreed to entertain applications from three groups which had been formed in North Carolina. Charters were to be issued to them with the understanding that they would form a Grand Council as soon as possible after receiving them. The groups were located in Monroe, Charlotte, and Raleigh. They were later named St. Andrews in America No. 1A, Howell No. 3A, and Cassillis No. 2A.
At the Annual Meeting of the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Scotland, March 21, 1932, the Charters were granted. When the Charters arrived, the Councils were consecrated, and a call issued to form the Grand Council, Allied Masonic Degrees of the USA, in Salisbury, NC, April 16, 1932. The Grand Council was formed with R. E. Comp. J. Raymond Shute, II as the first Sovereign Grand Master.
In the course of the Salisbury meeting, a call was issued for a Special Communication to be convened at the Raleigh Hotel, Washington, DC, during the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Masonic birthday of our great and beloved Bro. George Washington on May 12, 1932. Less than a month had passed since the formation of the Grand Council when this meeting was held in Washington, yet charters were issued to five new councils.
The first Annual Communication of the Grand Council was held in Charlotte, May 8, 1933, at which three more charters were issued. At this Communication, the establishment of the bulletin Miscellanea was authorized for the publication of research papers of lasting interest. This Communication also established the honorary rank, Knight Grand Cross, upon the twenty-one founders, together with such brethren as the Board of General Purposes might nominate and the Grand Council approve. There may never be more than ninety-nine living Knights Grand Cross at any time. The Constitution and By-laws offered at Washington were adopted at this communication.
Shortly after the Charlotte Communication, it was discovered that some of the Degrees assigned to the Grand Council had been worked previously by the Sovereign Grand College of Allied and Christian Degrees of Norway, Maine. This organization had been formed in Richmond, VA, in 1882 by the Rev. Hartley Carmichael, an Episcopal Rector and Masonic leader of his time, Josiah Drummond, Charles A. Nesbitt, and others. After the death of Carmichael and Nesbitt, the records and activities of the Allied and Christian Degrees were moved to Maine, where it became defunct in all but name. However, its previous working of some of these Degrees put a dubious light on the authority of the Grand Council to take over the same Degrees.
In July 1933, a committee consisting of J. Raymond Shute, II and William Mosely Brown journeyed to Norway, Maine, where arrangements were made to absorb the Allied and Christian Degrees into the Grand Council. Articles of Union were drawn up and offered for adoption at a Special Communication of Grand Council in Raleigh, July 22,1933.
The Second Annual Communication of Grand Council, held at Alexandria, VA, February 20,1934, ratified the Articles of Union with Grand College, Allied and Christian Degrees presented in Raleigh, which gave Grand Council clear title to each of the Degrees controlled by Grand College. In addition to those Degrees which were in doubt, Grand Council acquired a number of Degrees controlled by Grand College pertaining to Christian philosophy which it had not previously possessed. These Degrees were grouped together and formally transferred to control of a new organization, formed for the purpose and named Ordo Sacerdotalis Templi. This body later became the Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests.
Such is a brief outline of the beginning of Grand Council, Allied Masonic Degrees of the USA, and a resume of some of the highlights of the first two years of its existence. The account is incomplete and sketchy, but does cover salient points.
The purposes of the Allied Masonic Degrees are beneficial to all aspects of Masonry, whether they be Symbolic, York, or Scottish Rite. Though we control a number of Degrees by incontestable authority, we are not primarily a degree-working organization. Our chief interest is a return to the conviviality and good fellowship, an indispensable part of Masonic gatherings in former times, lost in the pressure of degree work now found highly prevalent. This good fellowship is to be followed by research papers or talks on various Masonic subjects. With this aim-an effort to throw more light from the Sanctuary upon us all-we can but foresee even greater growth ahead for Grand Council as these principles become more widely known.
Every man should study, interpret, and develop the symbols of Masonry to best suit his own experiences, for Masonry is a vast and almost limitless subject, with numerous facets to explore. It is more than a parrot-like recitation of the ritual-far more than that. Not to underestimate the value of good ritualistic work, for it is by this means that we welcome our devotees. But the ritual is only the vehicle by which we bring them to the open door of the wonders which lie in store for the sincere student of our art. Beyond its portals lie exciting treasures untold, limited only by the individual’s own capacity to discover them. Just as each man’s conception of his God may vary as much as the individual man himself; just as one man may be completely satisfied with a concept of a God in human form who sits on a golden throne high in the heavens, dealing out fire and brimstone to those who displease him, while others may believe Him to be to be kind and merciful, One who pervades all things, sustaining His children with an ever-present help in time of trouble, a God who is universal, eternal Divine Love, which changes not, and causes no evil, disease, or death. Who am I to say that my concept of God is right and the others are wrong. Even so, each man’s concept of Masonry and its allegorical lessons must be essentially personal and individualistic.