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The Grand Lodge of Antient Free and Accepted Masons of Scotland



Despite the assertions of English historians, there is before the end of the seventeenth century no proof of the existence of permanent lodges in England, in the sense of records of regular meetings in the lodges or in taverns in order to accept new members. In fact, the four lodges which met in 1717 to form a ‘federation’ called the ‘Grand Lodge of London’ brought together movement still in the process of gestation. They have an institutional structure and a constitution, the so-called Anderson’s ‘constitutions’. We may note in passing that Anderson was a Scot, son of a glazier, secretary of the lodge of Aberdeen.

This constitution preserved and remodeled the legendary history of the medieval masons transmitted in the ”ancient duties”, striking out of them all reference to any particular religion, given them therefore a resolutely deist character and leaving to everyone his freedom of conscience in this respect. Symbolic themes linked to architecture and the construction of the Temple of Solomon, the arrangement of the lodges, the signs of recognition used in the trade, the pledged word of the mason and the secret oath, all these became the ceremonial elements of recruitments and meetings in the lodes.

On identical basic humanist principles, a remarkable cultural and social phenomenon developed. It spread rapidly throughout the world, if not without reverses of fortune. Schematically, there were two great lines of development: the one, predominantly philanthropic and humanitarian, even political; the other, predominantly educational, philosophical and spiritualist, aristocratic in its hierarchies and more elaborate rituals, drawn from Greek and Judeo-Christian sources as well as from the humanist traditions of the Renaissance and of hermetic philosophy. From this second development arose in France the terms Ecossais and Ecossisme, translated into English as the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite.

I should like to attempt a definition of them. As to the term Ecossnais, the Grand Lodge allowed the words Maçon écossais to appear for the first time in a certificate of its Grand Master, the Count of Clermont, elected on December 11, 1743, succeed in his uncle, d ‘An tin who had died two days before. From article 20 it appears that certain brothers had already presented themselves in the lodges as Scottish Masons. We can derive two hypotheses. The first is from Professor Pierre Chevalier. It shows that Therrion, of the Congregation of the Minims, disturbed by the Pope’s condemnation of Freemasonry on May 4, 1738, asked for an explanation from his cousin Bertin du Rocheret, an eminent member of the order. He replied that it was an old society introduced to France after the arrival of King James VII in 1689, according to a manuscript in the library of Chalon. I conclude is that this important document allows us to glimpse Scottish Freemasonry as a matter of history, not only of philosophy?

The second hypothesis derives from the fact that a sort of superior rank would appear in France, bearing the name of the Scottish rank. It was distinguished by the wearing of red ornamentation, as opposed to the blue sash worn by the masons who later formed the Grand Orient de France. It may well have been introduced by Andrew Michael Ramsay (1686-1743), who studied at the universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh, went to London, then to France, where he was converted to Catholicism in 1709. A Jacobite, he was a familiar figure in French intellectual circles. In a famous speech of December 26, 1736, we may note these phrases: “We wish to engage all men of enlightened spirit, of gentle manners and of even temper… by the great principles of virtue, science and religion, whence all nations may draw sound knowledge and all subjects of all kingdoms may learn to cherish one another without renouncing their patriotism.” He developed his ideas in a work which at the time enjoyed great success, with six French and one English edition, The Voyages of Cyrus, he was, apart from everything else, a Freemason who sought to expand the higher ranks. The first appearance of the Scottish ranks came in 1743 and 1748.

As to the term Ecossisme, new to the French language, it symbolised a masonic system which may be called philosophical. It also had roots in England, in the ritual of the “three distinct knocks” of 1760 attributed to Lawrence Dermott of the Lodge of Ancients, of which records are to be found in the Guide to the Scottish House (1805-11) and in the higher ranks which appeared between 1743 and 1765 in France. One hundred degrees rerecorded: 25 would prove permanent and would nurture the Rite of Perfection with its 25 degrees. Etienne Morin would develop a Scottish system on the island of San Domingo which gave rise in 1801 to a supreme council with 33 degrees at Charleston.

De Grasse Tilly, of the Lodge of St Alexander of Scotland, promoted the creation in France of the world’s second Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite, in Paris in 1804. This gave rise to all European Supreme Councils, including that of Scotland in 1846. This Supreme Council of France gave rise to the Grand Lodge of France in 1894, the most important Scottish Masonic body in Europe.


As places for meeting and friendship, the lodges, like the intellectual societies, academies and salons, contributed to the diffusion of new ideas. The part played in this by the Scottish Jacobite intelligentsia cannot be overlooked. Thus the Highland exiles, with their new blood and new methods, transmitted to the Ancien Régime in France a sensibility, a cosmopolitan spirit, even an Ossianic message (through the literary influence of James MacPherson’ s poems) which renewed and revived the French spirit. Amid the enormous range of exchanges in the eighteenth century, they made their contribution to the Enlightenment.

Brother Philippe Morbach, GLDF.

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