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more light #314

The Sublime Degree Of A Master Mason

by Ed Halpaus
Grand Lodge Education Officer
Grand Lodge of A. F. & A. M. of Minnesota

Dear Masonic Student,

Below is something you’re likely to find interesting. There has long been a friendly debate about the terms, Sublime Degree of a Master Mason, and Sublime Degree of Master Mason. The following does not settle the discussion, but it does provide some useful knowledge of the degree, and also something to think about. It comes from “Freemasons’ Guide and Compendium;” a very good book to have for Masonic learning.

The Sublime Degree of a Master Mason

It is believed that the phrase “the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason ” first occurs, in the year 1754, in a certificate drawn up by the Grand Lodge of Ireland, relating to a lodge at Lurgan, No. 134, Irish constitution, and that it was used by another Irish lodge, that of the

Royal Scots, No. 11, in 1762.

In England the phrase was used in 1767 by the Lodge of Friendship No. 6, but did not come into general use in lodges under the Premier Grand Lodge until near the end of the eighteenth century; but where we do find it, there we also find as a rule evidence of the ‘ Antients’ influence. In 1760 Thomas Dunckerley, as Master of a lodge held aboard the Vanguard, signed a certificate (the original is in Quebec, a photograph :it in Grand Lodge Library) to the effect that a Fellow Craft “having sustasin’d with Strength, Firmness, and Courage, the most Painful Forks, and Severest Tryalls, we gave unto him the most Sublime Degree of Master.”

In Bristol in 1768 a lodge, founded and erased all within the twelve months, gloried in the name of the Sun Lodge of Perpetual Friendship, No. 421, and in the July of its short life its minutes refer to the Sublime of a Master Mason, and, in the month following, to the Sublime degree of a Royal Arch Mason.  The St John’s Lodge of Henley-in-Arden, which had a few years of existence beginning in 1791, at one time called the Master Mason’s Degree ‘honourable,’ or ‘respectable.’

So far as Scotland is concerned, we learn that in the eighteenth century the Third Degree was usually denominated the “High Degree of a Master Mason,” but in Lodge Holyrood House, according to R. S.

Lindsay’s history of the lodge, the degree had among its various designations, between 1776 and 1778, the “Honourable Degree,” the “High and Honourable Degree,” the “Noble and Honourable Degree,” the Stupendous Degree” (of a Master Mason).

Reference has just been made to a’ respectable’ degree. More than one lodge applied to the Third Degree, as also to Master Masons, that old-fashioned adjective, so peculiarly Masonic, so commonly misunderstood. The Candidate is early advised to dedicate himself to such pursuits as may enable him to be ‘respectable’ in life—that is, he should so comport himself as to earn the esteem and regard of those who ‘look upon’ him, that being the original meaning of the word ‘respect’ and the meaning borne by it at the time when the word ‘respectable’ was brought into the ritual.

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Last modified: March 22, 2014