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York Cathedral.
York Rite
YORK RITE. This is the oldest of all the Rites, and consisted originally of only three Degrees: 1. Entered Apprentice; 2. Fellow Craft; 3. Master Mason. The last included a part which contained the True Word, but which in Brother Mackey’s opinion was disrupted from it by Dunckerley in the latter part of the eighteenth century, and has never been restored. The Rite in its purity does not now exist anywhere. The nearest approach to it is the Saint John’s Freemasonry of Scotland, but the Master’s Degree of the Grand Lodge of Scotland is not the Master’s Degree of the York Rite. When Dunckerley dismembered the Third Degree, as Brother Mackey believed, he destroyed the identity of the Rite. In 1813, it was apparently recognized by the United Grand Lodge of England, when it defined the "pure Ancient Masonry to consist of three degrees, and no more: namely, those of the Entered Apprentice, the Fellow Craft, and the Master Mason, including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch." Had Grand Lodge abolished the Royal Arch Degree. which was then practised as an independent Order in England, and reincorporated its secrets in the Degree of Master Mason, the York Rite would have been revived. But by recognizing the Royal Arch as a separate Degree, and retaining the Master’s Degree in its mutilated form, they to that extent repudiated the York Rite.
In the United States it has been the almost universal usage to call the Freemasonry there practised the York Rite. But Brother Mackey believed it has no better claim to this designation than it has to be called the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, or the French Rite, or the Rite of Schröder. It has no pretensions to the York Rite. Of its first three Degrees, the Master’s is the mutilated one which took the Freemasonry of England out of the York Rite, and it has added to these three Degrees six others which were never known to the Ancient York Rite, or that which was practised in England, in the earlier half of the eighteenth century, by the legitimate Grand Lodge.
"In all my writings," asserts Doctor Mackey, "for years past, 1 have ventured to distinguish the Masonry practised in the United States, consisting of nine Degrees, as the American Rite, a title to which it is clearly and justly entitled, as the system is peculiar to America, and is practised in no other country."
Brother Hughan, speaking of the York Rite (Unpublished Records of the Craft, page 148) says "there is no such Rite, and what it was no one now knows." Doctor Mackey thought that this declaration was too sweeping in its language. Brother Hughan was correct, as Doctor Mackey frankly admits, in saying that there is at this time no such Rite. Doctor Mackey proceeds,
I have just described its decadence; but he is wrong in asserting that we are now ignorant of its character. In using the title, there is no reference to the Grand Lodge of all England, which met for some years during the last century, but rather to the York legend, and to the hypothesis that York was the cradle of English Freemasonry. The York Rite was that Rite which was most probably organized or modified at the Revival in 1717, and practised for fifty years by the Constitutional Grand Lodge of England. It consisted of only the three Symbolic Degrees, the last one, or the Master’s, containing within itself the secrets now transferred to the Royal Arch. This Rite was carried in its purity to France in 1725, and into America at a later period. About the middle of the eighteenth century the Continental Freemasons, and about the end of it the Americans, began to superimpose upon it those high Degrees which, with the necessary mutilation of the Third, have given rise to numerous other Rites. But the Ancient York Rite, though no longer cultivated, must remain on the records of history as the oldest and purest of all the Rites.

Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, Albert G. Mackey. Revised and Enlarged by Robert I. Clegg. vol ii. Richmond, Virginia : Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Company, Inc., 1966. New edition copyright, 1946. p. 1132.


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