This Rite consists of twelve Degrees, as follows:
1, 2, 3. Knight of the Black Eagle or Rose Croix of Heredom, divided into three parts;
4. Knight of the Phenix;
5. Knight of the Sun;
6. Knight of the Rainbow;
7. True Mason;
8. Knight of the Argonaut;
9. Knight of the Golden Fleece;
10. Perfectly Initiated Grand Inspector;
11. Grand Scottish Inspector;
12. Sublime Master of the Luminous Ring.
The three Degrees of Ancient Craft Masonry form the necessary basis of this system, although they do not constitute a part of the Rite. In its formation it expressly renounced the power to constitute Symbolic Lodges, but reserved the faculty of affiliating regularly constituted Lodges into its high Degrees. Thory (Foundation of the Grand Orient, page 162) seems desirous of tracing the origin of the Rite to the Rosicrucians of the fourteenth century. But the reasons which he assigns for this belief are by no means satisfactory.
The truth is, that the Rite was founded in 1775, in the celebrated Lodge of the Social Contract, in French, Contrat Social, and that its principal founder was M. Boileau, a physician of Paris, who had been a disciple of Pernetti, the originator of the Hermetic Rite at Avignon, whose Hermetic principles he introduced into the Philosophic Scottish Rite. Some notion may be formed of the nature of the system which was taught in this Rite, from the name of the Degree which is at its summit. The Luminous Ring is a Pythagorean Degree. In 1780, an Academy of the Sublime Masters of the Luminous Ring was established in France, in which the doctrine was taught that Freemasonry was originally founded by Pythagoras, and in which the most important portion of the lectures was engaged in an explanation of the peculiar dogmas of the Sage of Samos.
The chief seat of the Rite had always been in the Lodge of Social Contract until 1792, when, in common with all the other Masonic Bodies of France, it suspended its labors. It was resuscitated at the termination of the Revolution, and in 1805 the Lodge of the Social Contract, and that of Saint Alexander of Scotland, assumed the title of the Mother Lodge of the Philosophic Scottish Rite in France. This body was eminently literary in its character, and in 1811 and 1812 possessed a mass of valuable archives, among which were a number of old charters, manuscript rituals, and Masonic works of great interest, in all languages.