Freemasonry in France

Speculative masonry lands on the continent and in Paris in 1725. All lodges work according to the French translated rituals of the Grand Lodge of London. Among the lodges created in France, some will remain attached to the Grand Lodge of London while others will regroup and form a Grand Lodge, said of France, in 1737. This Grand Lodge will delay for half a century before playing an organizing part in the lodges of the French territory. Many lodges will develop without any link between them. In France, Masonry enriches itself from the support of many brotherhoods, such as for example the penitent brotherhoods of Provence and Berry and a great many companies inherited form the Middle Ages. The foresters organized in initiatic craft brotherhoods will later on join the masonic lodges.

Very soon, lodges become organized outside from the three symbolic degrees, first on account of the many queries aroused by the degree of Master Mason to those who received it.

The degrees, conceived as a continuity of the Master degree, will be termed as Scots or Scottish. Some of them are to be traced in London as soon as 1732, the in 1740. In Paris, one may find the Ecossais de 3 JJJ (Scots of the 3 J), also called the Scots of Paris, or the Scots of Clermont. The Grand Lodge accounts for their existence in 1743, in its General Ordinances and condemns the brethren introducing themselves as Scots Masters… demanding prerogatives and privileges existing nowhere in the Old Charges and customs of the Lodges existing on the surface of the Earth ». The Grand Lodge advises to grant them any other consideration as that betoed on other apprentices, yet it will recognize them as such two years later.

In southern France, another kind of Scottish In 1745, in Bordeaux, there exists a Scottish Lodge of « Perfected Elects » that will work until 1760, and will be the origin of many Lodges in Louisiana and Saint Domingo. These lodges worked a seven degree rite, beyond the three symbolic degrees.

The multiplication of degrees beyond the degree of Master induced freemasons to follow different itineraries according to the lodges they attended. Within 1740 and 1750, various slightly different itineraries arise in Avignon, Marseille, Montpellier, Bordeaux, and Paris. All of them enrich themselves with new degrees superimposing themselves upon the already existing ones. The terminal degrees of the newly proposed systems are very soon altered (Knight Rose Croix in 1757 – Knight Kadosh in 1761).

One may consider that from the middle of the XVIIIth century, the term Scots has become synonymous with the degrees beyond the Master’s , which in France are termed as the Higher Grades.