Q: How do we define the body of masonry? Are our landmarks a part, or is it already the body, of masonry? Are rituals, installation of officers, and others also part of the body of masonry? (Bro. Antonio Valencia, April 17, 10:22 am)
A: First of all, allow me to express to you my sincerest apology for replying to your query in a terribly late manner. Your email, I must admit, was overlooked upon because of the deluge of comments and questions asked, by both the fellow brethren and non-Masons alike, whom I have, fortunately, interested into this website.
As to your question about what Masonic bodies mean, here is my humble take:
The fraternity of Freemasonry, also known as “Free and Accepted Masons,” is organized into lodges, chapters, councils, commanderies, consistories, etc., which are collectively referred to as Masonic “bodies.” The most basic Masonic body is the local “Masonic lodge,” which confers the first three degrees in Masonry, being that of Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason.
Whilst there is no degree in Freemasonry higher than that of Master Mason, there are a number of related organizations which have as a prerequisite to joining that one be a Master Mason. These include, but are not limited to Scottish Rite, York Rite, and the Shriners.
Additionally, there are also organizations that are affiliated with Freemasonry that admit both Master Masons as well as non-Masons who have some relation to a Master Mason. These include, but are not limited to, the Order of the Eastern Star and the Order of the Amaranth. Still other affiliated organizations like the Order of DeMolay, the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls and others, admit non-Masons and have no requirement that an applicant be related to a Master Mason.
A number of terms, such as “appendant,” “affiliated,” “concordant,” or “in amity” is used, sometimes interchangeably, to describe these bodies, illustrating that there is no one, single accurate description that includes them all.
As to our Landmarks, it is another important subject that I wish to expound soon. Unlike the Masonic Bodies, however, which is purely “structural,” our Landmarks are wholly “instructional, methodological, and procedural” which we must solemnly protect and preserve.