The Ancient & Accepted Rite is an Order of Freemasonry comprising of 33 degrees of which the Rose Croix is the 18th Degree.
The Order originated and evolved mostly in France in the early 1700s as a Christian ‘Rite of Perfection’ consisting of up to 25 ‘higher’ degrees and by the mid 1700’s had spread via the trade routes to the West Indies and Britain. In the Grand Constitutions of 1786, which are still used to this day, the number of degrees in the Order was increased to 33, followed in 1801 by the establishment of the first governing body known as a Supreme Council, that of the Southern Jurisdiction of the USA formed at Charleston, South Carolina. There are now over 60 Supreme Councils throughout the World.
Local bodies of the Order are known as Rose Croix Chapters and all business of a Chapter is conducted in the 18th Degree of the 33 where candidates are admitted, this being the only degree that is permitted to be worked in full at local Chapter level although demonstration workings of selected other degrees are performed annually.
The Rose Croix degree was first recorded in England in about 1770 when it was worked within the evolving Knights Templar Encampments – the degree becoming the final or ‘ne plus ultra’ (nothing beyond) degree of the Templars. However, following the establishment of the England & Wales Supreme Council in 1845, the degree gradually moved over to their present position as the 18º of the Ancient & Accepted Rite and being worked within stand alone, or sovereign, Chapters.
The Supreme Council 33° of the Ancient & Accepted Rite for England and Wales and its Districts and Chapters Overseas was established in 1845 under a Patent issued by the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the USA and is composed of nine eminent members of the Rite, all holders of the 33rd and last degree in freemasonry.
HRH The Duke of Kent, KG, Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England, is the Grand Patron of the Order which illustrates the very close link between the Craft and the Ancient & Accepted Rite.
Chapters are organised into just over 50 Districts in England and Wales, each under the jurisdiction of an Inspector General who is appointed by the Supreme Council to have charge and supervision over the Chapters within his District.
The Ancient & Accepted Rite has a very flat structure and there is no equivalent to a Grand Lodge or Provincial Grand Lodge in the Order which also means there are few Provincial officers.
The Inspector General is the representative of the Supreme Council in his District and is responsible for upholding the authority, standards and dignity of the Order.
The only other officer in the District is the District Recorder who is selected by the Inspector General to run the administrative elements of the District and work closely with each Chapter.
The election of a Most Wise Sovereign – equivalent to a Worshipful Master in Craft Masonry - occurs annually as in other Masonic Orders.
In the ceremony, the Candidate is taken through several rooms which figuratively represent his spiritual and Masonic life from Craft Masonry, through despair, to a Rose Croix Chapter and the discovery of the Lost Word. At the start, he is taken from a Master Mason (3º) to a 17º Mason, a Knight of the East and West, of symbolic age, coming – as the ritual explains - at a time of dire calamity with but incomplete pre-Christian knowledge.
The ceremony of the 18° seeks the Perfection of Christian virtues in Faith, Hope and Charity. It is an immensely thought provoking, impressive and beautiful ceremony which instils an even greater warmth of the Brotherly love, on which the whole Masonic movement is founded.
Following perfection, the ensuing "feast of fraternal affection" is a wonderful moment of shared Freemasonry all too often lost in other degrees.
The Rose Croix, like Freemasonry as a whole, is not a religion. It does, however, serve to point the way. It is this which makes Rose Croix so important, encompassing all we seek, while pointing us clearly to the Trinitarian Christian Faith.