Swedish Rite … or Wrong?

I keep running in to this. Surfing and participating in online Masonic forums and blogs, one issue that surfaces every now and then, is the question of the Christian exclusivity of Swedish Rite being un-Masonic. Ticks me off, and I no longer want to get pulled into these discussions, as they make me angry and sad, and I think they are generally based on false preconceptions and intolerance, the very thing the critics want to oppose.

I started going into this whole explanation about the rite, but the critics rarely seem to be interested in anything but their own agenda, and I honestly don’t want to agonise over this.

So, here’s the bottom line: I could, generally speaking, care less about recognition. I think there are women and atheists that are deserving of being called freemasons, and I will do so, regardless of their status in the traditional ranks of recognition. If someone deems Swedish Rite unworthy of the regularity label, so be it – I wouldn’t change anything. They can make an argument for the rite being irregular, but not for its members not being freemasons.

My Swedish Rite link collection.

The Vigil, John Pettie 1884

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13 thoughts on “Swedish Rite … or Wrong?

  1. Here’s a thought: those who do not agree with the Swedish Rite’s Christian exclusivity are free not to join it. Freemasonry is a very large tent. There is plenty of room for all different kinds of Masons, in my opinion.

  2. My question about this Swedish jurisdiction is, what their ritual teaches? A fairly good portion of Masonic ritual and symbolic explanation in Oregon is spent talking about the Universality of Masonry, and if your Masonry isn’t about the Universal Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of God, then what makes up the corresponding portions of those lectures and degrees?

  3. One of the frustrations in these discussion is that Swedish Rite has maintained its integrity and secrecy, and I won’t end that strong tradition by throwing ritual tidbits to justify it – its critics will just have to come and see for themselves. :-)But I will say that the system revolves around the same truth, the Brotherhood of Man, and that tolerance in this respect is in no way in contradiction to the Christian faith (at least the one I grew up in).

  4. Since The Grand Lodge of Oregon and all other American Grand Lodges are younger than the Grand Lodge of Sweden, I don’t think that the lodges working according to the Swedish Rite need to explain anything at all to the Americans.

  5. I think it is clear that Br. Day is not asking on behalf of any Grand Lodge. And he is as entitled as anyone to make comment on this blog. In fact, I appreciate his, and any other Brother’s input, regardless of jurisdiction or obedience, race, colour or creed. I think making judgement on grand lodges half way around the globe from one’s own, is part of what I perceive to be the problem in the first place. So let’s not. Mutual respect and tolerance will prove more fruitful in the long run.

  6. I totally agree with you Bro. Warholm. However, as a point of historical perspective, not all American lodges are younger than the Swedish Rite. In fact, many on our East Coast are older than that rite, which I believe began in the 1740s. Our grand lodges back east have at least fifteen years on the Swedish system.

    Otherwise, your admonition rings very true and appropriate!

  7. Freemasonry in Denmark and Sweden goes back to 1730s and 40s, but with no formal national structure.

    Eckleff wrote the first ritual that would become Swedish Rite, and in 1760 a Grand Lodge of Sweden was formed, including the Illuminated Chapter, which I think is what would be considered the birth of the system.

    But it actually wasn’t finalised until Carl XIII’s revision ca. 1801.

    And it didn’t fully enter Denmark until 1858.

    Grand Lodge of Oregon is from 1851.

  8. How wonderful it is to see brethren dwell together!
    Sweden wishes it members to believe in christianity.
    American’s members must believe in a Creator.
    French orient allows atheists.
    In the end we are all masons. Duely initiated,passed and raised. Period.
    I gladly call you Brother, whether “recognised” or not. I recognise you as a man, and a mason.
    Godspead.

  9. I just read an article about Swedish Rite in the 2007 Miscellanea of the Allied Masonic Degrees, so I decided to come back and make an addendum to my previous comment.

    I *personally* think that some Swedish Masons should be considered Freemasons, and I would recognize them as Brethren. Such is the case with munkholt here, so far as I can tell. Others, however, may not be. The rite itself seems from an outside perspective to be extremely corrupt because it is aligned with both Church and State. I wasn’t aware of the intimate State connection until now. The fact that every King of Sweden is a Freemason (presumably regardless of his character or reputation) is frightening to me. But is this all bad? Probably not. I just wouldn’t call it Freemasonry, myself. I would call it something like Royal Swedish Templarism. I am also shocked to find out that, while the St. John’s Lodge is considered “compatible” with international Masonry, when a Mason advances to the fourth degree or higher, ho no longer retains membership in his St. John’s Lodge. To me this implies that he no longer practices as a Master Mason from this point on. It is like someone who has demitted from his Craft Lodge. All appendant bodies in Masonry in the US require one to be a member in good standing off a Craft Lodge. If you let your Masonic membership lapse, you are ineligible to remain in the appendant bodies. Sure, we have a few people everywhere who are Raised and then never show up again for 50 years but pay their dues. They are still Masons. But they aren’t what I would call active members of the craft. Are Swedish Masons who only practice the high-degree Templarism “inactive Masons”? They focus their efforts on a ritual system which as far as I know is entirely foreign to me, and does not represent Masonic philosophy as I know it. There is just a big question mark here. It is a big mystery. I don’t know what it stands for. Are they my Brother? Maybe as much as a member of the Elks Club or Rotary is my brother — they are part of the universal brotherhood of mankind, but I don’t know that I have anything in common with them Masonically. Then again, maybe I do. I simply don’t know, and I’m not allowed to visit their lodge to find out, since I’m probably not considered a proper Christian in their eyes?

    And therein lies the other side of the problem. If they won’t receive me as a Brother in their Lodge, then why should they expect me to receive them?

    On the other hand, I humbly respect my Grand Jurisdictions decisions regarding recognition. If a Swedish Mason came to visit my Lodge, and the GL of Sweden is recognized (I do not know whether or not it is– I would have to check) then I would recognize him as a Brother.

  10. Hi Jeff,

    thank you for your thoughts and taking the time.

    The Swedish Rite does describe itself as an “order”, so there is some truth in that. But that statement is founded on the tradition of rites such as Strict Observance, where freemasonry was seen as a veil for templarism; no such historical connection exists, sure, but in the internal workings of the system, they are two sides of the same coin.

    I will just have to correct a few things:

    >The fact that every King of Sweden is a Freemason

    It has traditionally been so, but it was always by choice, and the current is not (the last Danish king to be GM, was Christian X, more than 50 years ago). It is also not so unusual, and quite in the vein of European freemasonry; for instance the current Duke of York is GM of UGLE, serving mainly as the figurine on top of a layer cake. (Not sure I agree with this concept either, though; just wanted to clarify.)

    > when a Mason advances to the fourth degree or higher, he no longer retains membership in his St. John’s Lodge.

    This is patently wrong! I know the Q&A at GL of BC and Yukon has the same info, but it is simply not true. I would say quite the opposite, in fact: The system is progressive to a point where the higher degrees wouldn’t make any sense without the first, and the first take on whole new layers of meaning when seen with the higher. I will be joining a lodge of St. Andrew probably next year, but will stay a member of my mother lodge for ever. In fact, it is often said that “highest” Swedish Rite masons are there for almost every first degree, because that one contains everything that is laid out in the system.
    [EDIT: actually, it is correct for Sweden, but not Denmark, so it’s not a Swedish Rite thing, but something that is specific for that Grand Lodge.]

    > I’m not allowed to visit their lodge to find out, since I’m probably not considered a proper Christian in their eyes?

    Again, not true. Visitors of ANY faith are welcome (within the rules of recognition). Regarding members, the Order doesn’t question how one defines Christianity; there is no dogma, and there is huge spread. I was informed recently that some of the higher chapter degrees ask that a guest confirms that he is a Christian (by his own description). This was in Sweden, and I’m not even sure such a thing is asked in Denmark – haven’t heard about it.

    Hope that makes a little more sense.

  11. Thank you Brother Munkholt, your answers are a comfort and relief. I feel much better about the system now. There is one piece of data I would like you to verify. I believe that the transferring of membership away from St. John’s Lodge as described on the Q&A at GL of BC and Yukon and in the Miscellanea is *only* an issue in Sweden proper, not in Denmark, Norway and other areas where Swedish Rite exists. I don’t know if this means that they are no longer obliged to visit St. John’s Lodge on a regular basis, but that would certainly be interesting to find out.

    I do understand what you mean about the latter degrees building upon the first three. American York Rite, of which I am an active member, does the same thing. However, we acknowledge it as one interpretation of the Blue Lodge degrees, and whether or not we think its interpretation is correct (I do 🙂 ) we allow other brethren to interpret the Blue Lodge degrees however they please. In other words, York Rite is considered more of a commentary than a canonical source of Masonic information, at least officially.

    Well, that’s all I have for now. Thanks for your information and your blogging effort here!

  12. You could try taking the question to the Swedish Masonic forum: http://frimurare.se/ (put it in ‘Stora frimurare forumet’), they’ll be happy to take a Q in English. Looking at some of their membership info on Facebook, they tend to list both their St. John’s lodge and St. Andrew’s lodge, so I would be surprised if they do things different than in Denmark. I’d be interested in knowing! 🙂

  13. The Swedish Rite also has a Grand Lodge in Germany. The American Webb-Preston dogma is based upon the gradual de-Christianized (thanks to the Duke of Sussex) version of Masonry that arose out of England. The Swedish Rite did not agree with the proclomation in 1813 & went on record along with the Rectified Scottish Rite as preferring to stay with the “old way” of Christian Mysticism. As has been pointed out, both systems maintain secrecy and oral traditions to this day that are not in line with the universal fish fry crowd.

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