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part I - the heritage of freemasonry

W. M. Don Falconer PM, PDGDC

Progress through the degrees of the Scottish Rite is a pilgrimage that imparts moral and spiritual instruction for the proper conduct of life.




In the Mysteries of most of the ancient religions, the candidate’s participation was a mystical journey, as it is in each degree in freemasonry, the destination revealing the ultimate purpose of the degree. By definition a pilgrimage is an actual or allegorical journey to visit a holy place or a place venerated for its associations, which is often regarded as the journey of a lifetime. The candidate’s journeys through the various degrees of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, commonly referred to as the Scottish Rite, also constitute a symbolic pilgrimage that is intended to impart important moral and spiritual instruction for the proper conduct of life. Although not identical in all jurisdictions, the thirty-three degrees of the Scottish Rite usually differ only in their details between jurisdictions. As these differences generally are not of a fundamental nature, they are of no real consequence when considering the mystical journeys in which the candidate participates. The degrees may be considered under the following seven groups, which should be familiar to all members of the Scottish Rite irrespective of the jurisdiction to which they belong:


1.       The Craft Lodge or Preparatory Degrees – 1° to 3°.

2.       The Lodge of Perfection – 4° to 14°

3.       The Council of Princes of Jerusalem – 15° and 16°.

4.       The Sovereign Chapter of Princes Rose Croix – 17° and 18°.

5.       The Sovereign Council of Knights of Kadosh – 19° to 30° of which -

a.       19° to 25° are Philosophical;

b.       26° to 28° is a Search for Truth;

c.       29° is Moralistic; and

d.       30° is Consecration as Knight Kadosh.

6.       The Consistory – 31° and 32°; and finally

7.       Sovereign Grand Inspector General – 33°.


In about 1740 Christian masonic orders began to emerge in France, claiming to be a direct continuation of the Knights Templar. As many of the degrees had a Scottish title and Traditional History, they were designated Ecossais. In 1758 an organisation in Paris, called “The Emperors of the East and West” established a series of twenty-five Ecossais degrees and called it the Rite of Perfection. The rite spread quickly to the West Indies as a result of trade with France and it reached the mainland of North America in 1767. Statutes and Constitutions were issued in 1786 extending the Rite of Perfection to thirty-three degrees. They included seven degrees from other sources randomly interspersed between the 18° or Sovereign Prince Rose Croix and the 25° or Knight of the Royal Secret, also called Knight of St Andrew and Faithful Guardian of the Sacred Treasure or Knight of the White and Black Eagle. Thus the original 25° became the 32° and an additional degree, primarily of an administrative nature, was added and called the 33° or Sovereign Grand Inspector General. The formal establishment of the first Supreme Council of the rite at Charleston, South Carolina, followed in 1801. It recognised the extension of the rite and completed the transition by changing its name to The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite.


The candidate’s pilgrimage through the Scottish Rite and the symbolism that is reflected in the work of the degrees will now be reviewed. As the scope of the degrees is wide and varied, only their salient aspects will be considered and the important elements of their symbolism explained in enough detail for the purpose of the pilgrimage to be appreciated. The regalia and colours associated with the degrees will also be discussed in relation to their symbolism, but not exhaustively because there are many differences in detail between jurisdictions. Those differences will not be mentioned unless they are of special significance in the context of the journey. With regard to each degree, it is important to keep in mind the several basic elements that apply to every journey, so that the real purpose of the pilgrimage can be fully appreciated. These basic elements of each journey are the participant’s labour, observation, contemplation, education and lastly the proper application of the wisdom acquired during the journey.


The Craft Lodge or Preparatory Degrees


The original craft degrees practised in the Scottish Rite were the French degrees of Apprentice, Companion and Master, which are similar to the degrees still being worked in speculative craft freemasonry. The several Supreme Councils that control the Scottish Rite agreed long ago that they would not work the first three degrees, except for demonstration purposes, but would accept as their equivalents the speculative craft degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason received under a recognised Grand Lodge. However, it is worth noting some differences from the work of the degrees as they are carried out under some Grand Lodges. In particular the Apprentice is required to spend an extended period in a room of contemplation, lit only by a candle, where he has to prepare answers to a series of questions for the approval of the brethren before he may be admitted as a candidate. Also, the journey of an Apprentice is more physically challenging than that required of a candidate in speculative craft lodges under most jurisdictions, because the candidate is required to overcome various obstacles and to submit to various trials of his fortitude.


The Companion receives instruction on an important symbol that is rarely seen in English craft lodges nowadays, “la pierre cubique a pointe”, a cubical stone crowned with a pyramid. It featured on early English tracing boards and was called a broached thurnel. The Companion’s special attention is drawn to the Greek Cross that has four equal arms and signifies eternity; the Tau Cross, which signifies that the spirit is ascendant in the individual; and the Ankh Cross, which symbolises the life-transforming nature of faith. He is also told that, in addition to its well-known interpretations, the G in the centre of the building represents knowledge, from the Greek word gnosis. The Master is instructed in the usual Hiramic legend, but the work of the degree is longer and more dramatic than under most craft Grand Lodges. The degree concentrates on a philosophical contemplation of the soul of man and its return to heaven. In all three degrees the apron is white with a narrow blue border, signifying purity and friendly union. The apron has long blue tapes that are passed around the waist and tied in front under the flap, with the ends left hanging down, reminiscent of the wavy cord enclosing some early tracing boards in the first degree, that was knotted at the four corners and terminated with its two tasselled ends hanging down. It still appears surrounding some tessellated pavements as a reminder that the bonds uniting freemasons should draw them together. Apprentices wear the apron with the flap turned up, while Companions wear it with the flap turned down and a corner turned up. Completion of the craft degrees proves that the candidate has the desire and the fortitude required to continue his pilgrimage.


The Lodge of Perfection


These degrees continue the story of King Solomon’s temple until Jerusalem was destroyed and the temple sacked by Nebuchadnezzar in 587 BCE. They reflect similar stories enacted in other degrees of freemasonry, many of which are referred to as the Solomonic Degrees. Although not exactly the same, some degrees of the Mark Lodge, the Royal Arch Chapter, the Cryptic Council, the Lodge and Council and the Allied Masonic Degrees are similar to or their themes run parallel with some of those worked in the Scottish Rite. Most of the degrees comprised in the aforementioned branches of freemasonry constitute the main stem of what is called the York Rite in the United States of America, connecting the speculative craft degrees with the Knights Templar. They are often referred to as the traditional degrees in freemasonry and are the subject of the previous chapter in this book. Members of those orders will recognise many topics that are summarised in the following discussion on the degrees of the Scottish Rite, which are considered in groups of degrees that have interrelated topics.


The 4° or Secret Master teaches secrecy, obedience and fidelity. Its primary colours are black and white, with the usual symbolic meanings, but the flap of the apron is blue and has an irradiated golden All-seeing Eye in the centre, alluding to the heavens and the ever-present Deity. This degree begins the philosophical and moral lessons of equilibrium, which is a central theme in the Scottish Rite. The 5° or Perfect Master symbolically re-enacts the funeral of the master builder, Hiram Abif, often referred to as the third Grand Master at the building of King Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem. Traditionally a reenactment of the death of the master builder was carried out annually, when a qualified master was selected to represent him for the ensuing year. This custom is still followed by the Operative Free Masons. In this degree the lining, flap and border of the apron and also the sash or cordon are green, symbolising joy and the spring of rebirth after death, contrasting with the sorrow associated with the previous degree. The 6°, called Intimate Secretary or Master by Curiosity, relates to the unheralded entry of King Hiram into King Solomon’s private chambers, when he discovers someone whom he thinks is an intruder. Solomon’s wisdom prevails and he judiciously heals the differences between the several parties. The apron is white emblematic of purity and edged with crimson emblematic of zeal. The letters B, N and S are on the apron in the form a triangle, with the letters JH in the centre, all in Phoenician characters. The letters that form a triangle signify Berith, Neder and Shelomoth, signifying Covenant, Vow and Perfection, while those in the centre spell Jah.


In the 7° or Provost and Judge, the candidate is entrusted with the ivory key to an ebony casket, which holds the plans of the temple when not in use, together with the records of the judgments and decisions of King Solomon’s tribunal. Ivory and ebony are white and black, symbolic of equilibrium and justice, also symbolised by the emblem embroidered on the flap of the apron, which is the hand of justice holding the scales of judgment. This degree teaches that every action, dream, virtue or vice committed by an individual becomes part of the plan of his temple, even though they might not be apparent to others. The colours are white and red, the emblems of innocence and guiltless blood. In the 8°, called Intendant of the Building or Master in Israel, the white apron and flap are edged in green and the collar is red, respectively emblematic of purity, zeal and hope for the future. Labour is the central theme of this degree, in which the candidate is told that real progress can only be made with the aid of study, that important undertakings can only be carried out with cooperative effort and that knowledge will be lost unless carefully preserved and passed on to others.


The 9°, 10° and 11° form a trilogy intended to impress upon the candidate that self-discipline is a vital characteristic. The degrees are Master Elect of Nine, Illustrious Master Elect of Fifteen and Sublime Knight also called Knight Elect or Sublime Prince Elect. The 9° and 10° relate to the search for and bringing to justice of the ruffians who slew the master builder. The 11° culminates with the reward of the faithful workers through initiation into higher service. The three degrees respectively teach service and obedience to superiors, emphasise the need for subordination to the common task and demonstrate that only those who have learned to subjugate themselves can properly exercise authority over others. These degrees are called Elu of Nine, Elu of Fifteen and Elu of Twelve in the United States of America. In all three degrees the aprons are white, edged with black and black sashes also are worn.


The aprons of the 10° and 11° also have black fringes. In Hebrew, Phoenician and other traditions fringes are a symbol representing spirituality and dedication to things that relate to the spirit. In these degrees black features as a symbol of sorrow for the ignorance, tyranny and intolerance that freemasons are pledged to overcome. The sash in the 9° is adorned with nine red rosettes as emblems of the special virtues emphasised in the degree, which are courtesy, devotion, firmness, impartiality, frankness, generosity, self-denial, heroism and patriotism. The apron and sash in the 10° are both adorned with three red rosettes. The smaller rosettes on the apron represent the three ruffians who symbolise ignorance, tyranny and fanaticism, while the larger ones on the sash symbolise that the candidate has overcome those perils. The candidate receives his reward in the 11° as a member of the Elect of Fifteen, each of whom has the characteristic name and title of Nasia Ameth, the two Hebrew words Nun Samech Yod and Aleph Mem Tau that respectively mean Prince and Truth. In both of these degrees a dagger or poniard appears as a jewel, as a symbol of the two-edged Sword of Truth with which every freemason should be armed.


The 12° or Grand Master Architect relates to the period immediately after the dedication of King Solomon’s temple. The theme changes from the teaching of pure morality to the introduction of philosophical considerations. In this context it extends the moral instruction imparted in the speculative craft degrees, but does not refer to the manual working tools of the operative freemason used as emblems in those degrees. Instead it contemplates instruments used for calculation and creation, such as the plain scale employed to measure dimensions, the sector or hinged scale used in computations, the protractor used to measure and set out angles on a plan, the parallel rule and the several types of dividers and compasses. These instruments represent measurement, computation and creativeness, respectively symbolising justice, wisdom and the spirit of God. As might be expected, the apron and flap are white edged with blue and the sash is blue, with the same symbolism as in speculative craft freemasonry. The apron is fringed with gold as an emblem of spirituality enhanced by the active forces of nature. The jewel of the degree is suspended from the sash and has seven sides. It portrays an equilateral triangle of three circular arcs in the centre and has a five-pointed star in each corner. The degree relates to the establishment of a school of architecture and emphasises the study of geometry.


The 13°, called the Royal Arch or the Royal Arch of Enoch, relates to a search instituted by King Solomon to find a secret vault that was hidden under the ruins of an ancient temple that the patriarch Enoch built before the flood. In an alternative working the degree is called the Royal Arch of Solomon and it relates how, during the building of King Solomon’s temple, three workmen discovered the vaults that had been constructed by Enoch. Both narratives are similar in many respects to that relating to the preparations made by Zerubbabel to rebuild the temple at Jerusalem. Nine subterranean vaults were found under the ruins and thereafter they were referred to as the Sacred Vault. A golden Delta that had been deposited by Enoch also was recovered from the ruins. It was engraved with the Tetragrammaton, the Sacred and Ineffable Name of the Deity, thus providing a clue to the true meaning and pronunciation of the Word. The apron is crimson, which is red tinged with blue, symbolising spiritual zeal. The sash is purple, a mixture of red and blue, which symbolises the spirit, has an element of zeal and also alludes to royalty. The degree teaches that our quest for the unknown must be prosecuted with zeal and imbued with spirituality, continuing without end as we draw closer to the Deity in heart, mind and spirit.


The 14°, or Grand Scottish Knight of the Sacred Vault, is also known as the Grand Elect Perfect and Sublime Master in England and as Perfect Elu in the United States of America. It meets in the Sacred Vault, where the candidate is required to prove himself in all the preceding degrees, after which he is accepted as having reached Perfection in Ancient Masonry. The candidate is told that after King Solomon had completed the temple he transgressed in the sight of the Lord and that later, when the children of Israel followed his example, Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed the temple as a punishment for their sins. As a reward for his zeal and devoted service in the Lord’s name, the candidate is entrusted with the original Word of a Master Mason and is instructed in its correct pronunciation. The apron and flap are white, edged with blue and lined with red, with the usual symbolism. The collar is crimson symbolising spiritual zeal and it is decorated with a sprig of acacia on the wearer’s left, symbolising immortality. On the right of the collar is a silver or gold five-pointed star, in which the Phoenician word for perfection is displayed.


The Council of Princes of Jerusalem


The 15° is called the Knight of the East or of the Sword. It relates to Zerubbabel when he appeared before Cyrus the King of Babylon and requested permission to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. When Cyrus agreed to Zerubbabel’s request he issued a decree to end the captivity of the Israelites and ordered that the sacred vessels of the temple should be returned to them. This degree is the beginning of the second part of the old Rite of Perfection, which was called Modern Masonry. The apron and flap are red, edged with green and decorated with three concentric equilateral triangles of chain that are reminders of the enemies of human intellect, namely tyranny, privilege and superstition, which are counteracted by liberty, fraternity and equality, represented by the three solid concentric triangles on the jewel. A green sash and a green collar that is edged and fringed in gold also are worn, representing the transcendent nature of freemasonry and symbolising the immortality of the human soul. The emblems of the degree also include a trowel and crossed swords, as a reminder that liberty and independence must be fought for constantly. They also allude to the legend that the operative freemasons found it necessary to work with a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other when rebuilding the temple at Jerusalem.


The 16° or Prince of Jerusalem begins in Jerusalem with Zerubbabal sitting in Council with the Knights of the East, because work on the second temple had been brought to a standstill by the ceaseless attacks of the Samaritans. Five of the Knights were selected and sent on a mission to Darius, who had succeeded Cyrus as King of Persia, to request him to enforce the Decree of Cyrus by ordering the Samaritans to cease their attacks. They also asked Darius to assist them with the supply of materials for construction of the temple. During their visit to the court of Darius the Knights took part in the discussions on the classical riddle recorded in I Esdras 3 and 4, to decide “Which is stronger, wine, women or the king?” When Zerubbabel concluded the discussion, saying that Truth is strongest of all and gave his reasons, their request was granted. When the Knights returned to Jerusalem their reward was to be created as Princes of Jerusalem. In an alternative working it is Darius who creates Zerubbabel as a Prince of Jerusalem, to reward his wisdom and to enhance his authority by elevating him to the same level as the Prince-Governors of the other provinces beyond the River Jordan.


In the 16° the apron and flap are red, edged with gold, symbolising the zeal of the Knights in their pursuit of justice and the loftiness of their purpose. A silver trowel is suspended from a golden sash, emblematic of the nobility of labour. A Hand of Justice, holding the Scales of Judgment, is depicted on the flap and on the jewel. The Scales of Judgment are also depicted on the sash, with a hand holding the Sword of Righteousness immediately above them. There are two crowns on the sash, one on each side of the Scales of Justice, signifying the separable functions of civil and religious authority. On the body of the apron are the Phoenician letter corresponding to the Greek letter Alpha as a symbol of God and the Greek letter Theta as a symbol of judgement, for which purpose it was used in court by the ancient Greeks to signify the sentence of death. This degree continues the message that liberty must be fought for without remission whilst labouring for the benefit of mankind.


The Sovereign Chapter of Princes Rose Croix


The 17° or Knight of the East and West unites the work of Ancient Masonry with that of the Modern Masonry, which commenced in the 15°, foreshadowing the work of the 18°. The Crusaders, when seeking to establish the Christian faith and the worship of the True God at Jerusalem, were reminded of the work of Zerubbabel and the Knights of the East who erected the second temple at Jerusalem. The work of the degree relates to the breaking of the Seven Seals of the Book of Revelation. The apron and flap are both triangular as a symbol of the Deity. Their colour is gold in allusion to the dawn of a new era and the edges are red as an emblem of faith and zeal. Two sashes are worn, one of black from the left or weaker shoulder to the right hip and the other of white from the right or stronger shoulder to the left hip, white over black. Light and knowledge is symbolised by the white sash, which prevails over the darkness and ignorance symbolised by the black sash. This also alludes to duality and the balance of nature, symbolising equilibrium. The two sashes form a Cross of St Andrew, which is an ancient symbol for change or transformation and also alludes to crucifixion. The apron is decorated with a Tetractys of ten Yods, the first Hebrew letter of the Tetragrammaton. The triangular shape of the Tetractys represents God and the ten Yods represent the ten Sephiroth or manifestations of God that constitute the Tree of Life referred to in the Cabalah and symbolising God’s creation and preservation of the universe.


The 18° Sovereign Prince Rose Croix, or Knight of the Eagle and the Pelican, is the story of a descendant of the princes and rulers in Israel who is wandering aimlessly after the destruction of Herod’s temple by the Romans, seeking the enlightenment of the New Law. During his wanderings in a state of darkness and despair he discovers the three pillars of Faith, Hope and Charity, which relieve his despair and will thenceforth be his guide. In the Chamber of Darkness that represents a world lost in sin and despair, he catches a glimmer of the light of the True Word and is thus encouraged to continue his search. Ultimately his search is rewarded in the Joyful Chamber that represents a world enlightened by the Saviour of mankind, where the True Word springs forth in all its splendour. The regalia of the degree comprise an apron and a collar from which the jewel is suspended. All items of the regalia are reversible, having a dark side and a bright side. The dark side of the apron is a badge of mourning that is worn when the Word was lost, while the bright side is a badge of rejoicing that is worn when the Word has been found. Entry into this degree represents a transformation by entering into the third or Spiritual and Moral Temple that Christ established at Jerusalem. In this context it is important to realise that Herod’s temple was not the third temple, but an expansion of the second temple built by Zerubbabel.


The dark side of the apron and collar is black or a dull purple, on which a red Latin or passion cross is raised on three steps, all edged in gold. The bright side of the apron and flap are white, edged in crimson and the bright side of the collar is crimson. The emblems on the apron and collar vary between jurisdictions, but they always include representations of a Latin cross and a pelican feeding its young. Traditional Scottish aprons have a rounded flap and body, but others have a triangular flap and rectangular body. The flap of the apron usually is adorned with a rayed golden triangle that encloses either the Tetragrammaton in Hebrew or an All-seeing Eye, emblematic of Almighty God. The jewel is a pair of compasses opened 60° on an arc. On the side worn in the Joyful Chamber the compasses enclose a pelican feeding its young, which alludes to devotion and self-sacrifice. On the other side is a silver eagle, which alludes to wisdom and intelligence. A red rose at the hinge of the compasses on the side with the pelican alludes to the Saviour and a silver rose on the other side to His ascension. A seven-pointed crown surmounts the jewel, to remind us of the sovereignty of the people and their right of self-determination, as well as to emphasise that a freemason of the highest rank is only the first among his equals


The Philosophic Degrees of the Sovereign Council


The 19° or Grand Pontiff, sometimes called Sublime Scottish Knight, teaches that ignorance and sin must be combated with the assistance of the help that comes from above, complementing the teachings of the 16° and 17°. In this degree pontiff is used in its original sense of bridge builder, which is its primary theme. An important element of the regalia is a crimson sash edged in white, symbolising zeal and purity. The sash is decorated with a line of twelve golden stars, separated midway by the Greek letters Alpha and Omega. The jewel suspended from the sash is a rectangular gold plate, engraved with the Hebrew characters Aleph the Tau on the obverse and reverse sides respectively. Both of these inscriptions, the Greek Alpha and Omega and the Hebrew Alpha and Tau, signify the first and the last and the beginning and the end, thus representing the full cycle of existence, or totality. The twelve stars have several meanings, which include an allusion to the Zodiac and the twelve tribes of Israel, as well as the twelve gates of the New Jerusalem and the twelve fruits of the Tree of Life depicted on the tracing board. The degree emphasises that sin and indifference must be fought with zeal and purity of the heart, to build a better world.


The 20° or Venerable Grand Master, also called Master of the Symbolic Lodge, has a traditional history that seeks to link the builders of Herod’s temple with the Knights Templar, who settled at Kilwinning after escaping from the Inquisition in France in 1314 and established the Scottish Rite in Scotland. The apron and flap are yellow, edged with sky blue and the sash has equal bands of yellow and blue, emblematic of a new birth and friendly union. The apron and jewel display three concentric equilateral triangles that have a cross in the centre formed by the intersection of two inscriptions. The bar of the cross is a Tetragrammaton, written in Phoenician characters because Hiram’s birthplace was Phoenicia. The Hebrew words Yod He Yod and Aleph Waw Resh written upwards form the upright of the cross, which is yehi aur or let there be light. The central theme of the degree is that we must control our own destiny with the help of God.


The 21° called Noachite or Prussian Knight is an unusual degree that relates the story of Phaleg, the chief architect of the Tower of Babel, who spent his closing years after the destruction of the tower repenting in exile in a triangular shrine. The apron and flap are yellow and the sash is black. The yellow alludes to a new dawning resulting from the part played by Noah in the preservation of the antediluvian arts and sciences and its transmission to those who followed. The black alludes to sorrow for the causes of the destruction of the tower. On the flap is displayed an Arm of Justice holding a naked sword ready to strike. On the body of the apron is the Egyptian figure of secrecy and silence, a winged human figure with the forefinger of the right hand to the lips. The jewel also depicts the Arm of Justice with the Latin words Fiat justitia, ruat coelum in an arc above them, signifying Let there be justice, though the heavens fall.


The 22° called Prince of Libanus, or Knight of the Royal Axe, teaches that labour is a privilege that is dignified and noble of itself, neither a punishment nor a curse. The work of the degree begins as a meeting being held in the workshop of a timber yard on Mount Lebanon, where Colleges had been established for the improvement of forestry and the practice of benevolence and other social virtues. King Solomon had established settlements of workers there after the dedication of the first temple and their descendants had supplied timber for the second temple. The work continues as a round-table conference in the Inner Council of one of the Colleges concerned with the supervision of morals and the science of measurements, proportions and dimensions. The apron and flap are white edged with purple, the sash is rainbow coloured and the jewel is a golden axe. A round table is depicted on the apron with mathematical instruments and plans resting on it. The white apron signifies purity of purpose, while the purple edges signify spiritual zeal. The mathematical instruments, plans and golden axe combine to emphasise the nobility of labour. The rainbow sash is lined with purple, which is a symbol of hope for the future reinforced by spiritual zeal.


The 23° or Chief of the Tabernacle teaches that, in the fullness of time and when necessary in a good cause, the successor of a deceased worker will come forward and continue the fight against evil. The candidate represents the son of Hiram Abif, the master builder who was slain before completion of the first temple at Jerusalem. Hiram Abif’s son enters the tabernacle after a long delay and offers up the sacrifice that had been made every day since King Solomon made the first offering of thanks for the retribution that had been inflicted on the assassins. After making his offering, the candidate is told that he must constantly seek out and eliminate envy, folly and cowardice. The apron and sash are white, bordered with red, blue and purple, the colours used to decorate the interior of the tabernacle. A representation of a golden menorah, or seven-branched candlestick, is depicted on the apron to remind the wearer that he must always bear witness to the light, as we are told in John 1:8-9, which says “he came to bear witness to the light – the real light that enlightens every man”.


The 24° called Prince of the Tabernacle is highly mystical, but it conveys the simple underlying message that we should seek inspiration from the universe that surrounds us, because simple faith is wiser than vain philosophy. It is a curious story beginning when the altar of the temple is overthrown, false gods invade the holy place and King Solomon strays from righteousness. The setting suddenly changes to the idyllic state in the Garden of Eden before the fall of man, to which state all should aspire. The message of the degree is emphasised by the apron of white lambskin, which is edged with light green and lined with scarlet, symbolising fervency in the pursuit of that purity of life that will lead to spring and a rebirth. The sky blue flap is adorned with a myrtle tree, emblematic of immortality. The scarlet sash is adorned with a golden scarab beetle, a winged globe and a butterfly, all emblems of rebirth. A Phoenician Aleph is suspended from a violet collarette, which also symbolises beginning and rebirth.


The 25° or Knight of the Brazen Serpent teaches that life and liberty can only be enjoyed through cooperation with our fellow men, which is demonstrated to the candidate by his inability to ascend Mount Sinai, representing the Hill of Virtue, until the chains in which he is bound have been removed at the instigation of others. The story is illustrated by the recovery from mortal agony of all those present when the candidate passes them holding aloft a staff bearing the serpent he found on top of the mountain. The serpent alludes to the all-healing herb that Moses is reputed to have found on Mount Sinai, when he saw a serpent applying the herb to a wounded mate. The apron and flap are white, edged and lined with black. The white side of the apron is adorned with golden stars representing the Pleiades and it also has a rayed equilateral triangle with the Tetragrammaton in Phoenician characters in the centre, to remind us that our help is in God. On the flap is a symbol called an Ouroboros, a serpent coiled in a circle with its tail in its mouth, symbolising time and eternity and also alluding to the great cycles of time in which we live. A crimson sash is worn from the left shoulder to the right hip and over it a white sash from the right shoulder to the left hip, as a reminder that purity must always prevail in our zealous pursuits. As in the 17° the sashes form a Cross of St Andrew, an ancient symbol for change or transformation that also alludes to crucifixion. A crimson collar is worn, from which an Ankh Cross is suspended. The upright arm of the cross has the words “he has suffered” engraved in Hebrew and the crossbar has Nehushtan in Hebrew characters, the name given in 2 Kings 18:4 for the brazen serpent Moses set up on a pole, said to be in the form of an Ankh Cross, which Moses did at God’s command after interceding with God on behalf of the people. The loop of the Ankh Cross has a serpent coiled around it, symbolising healing and spiritual grace.


The Search for Truth in the Sovereign Council


The 26° called Prince of Mercy, or Scottish Trinitarian, emphasises that there are three progressive stages by which Truth can be determined. They are a literal interpretation, a figurative interpretation and a hieratic or spiritual interpretation. The apron is scarlet, edged in white and the flap is purple, signifying devotion, purity and spiritual zeal. The sash is green, white and red, which respectively symbolise the infinite wisdom of the Deity, the unlimited power of the Deity and divine harmony. The apron and jewel depict the triune aspects of the Deity by an equilateral triangle, which signifies that the Wisdom, Strength and Beauty of the Deity is absolute, that the Creative, Preservative and Destructive power of the Deity is infinite and that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost comprise three inseparable elements of the Deity. Within each of the triangles there is a flaming heart, engraved with the letters IHS, which is another important symbol of the degree. The letters IHS have been assigned various interpretations, including Iesus Hominum Salvator, meaning Jesus Saviour of Man; and In Hoc Signo, meaning In This Sign; and also Imperium, Harmonia, Sapientia, meaning Power, Harmony and Wisdom.


The 27° or Sovereign Commander of the Temple continues the search for Truth. The moral of the candidate’s journey is reminiscent of that posed by the classical riddle in the 16°. The candidate travels under difficulties with his hands bound and is faced with three great temptations. They are a life with sensual pleasure, but without faith; a life based on the practical and economic realities of the world, but without any spiritual component; and lastly a life based solely on spiritual values, but without any true human content. The candidate overcomes these three temptations while journeying from the west to the east, where he encounters and wins a final battle, which demonstrates that Truth must always prevail. His hands are then unbound and he is crowned with laurel as a token of his courage and perseverance in his search for truth. The apron is scarlet edged in black, emblematic of the candidate’s zeal and determination in overcoming the sorrow, death and martyrdom represented by his trials. It is adorned with a laurel wreath enclosing a key, as a reward for the honour and valour displayed during the trials. The collar is white edged with scarlet, emblematic of the candidate’s zeal and purity of purpose. It is decorated with two gold Teutonic Crosses and the jewel suspended from it also is a Teutonic Cross. The jewel is a black cross potent (meaning that there is a crossbar at the end of each arm) that is charged with a gold cross potent and surcharged with a white escutcheon bearing a black double-headed eagle. The Holy Roman Emperor, Henry VI (1165-1197), first assigned the simple badge to the Teutonic Knights. John King of Jerusalem added the gold cross and the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II (1194-1250), added the escutcheon to complete the emblem.


The Teutonic Cross is an emblem in the chivalric degrees of the Scottish Rite in the United States of America, where the 27° is usually regarded as the first of those chivalric degrees. In most other jurisdictions the red Cross Pattée or Templar Cross with four arms, each an equilateral triangle, which was given to the Knights Templar by Pope Eugenius III in about 1146, is the cross usually adopted as the emblem of the chivalric degrees. The well-known Maltese Cross is closely associated with the Templar Cross. It also is a Cross Pattée, but the external side of each triangle is deeply indented so as to form eight sharp points instead of the 60° points of the Templar Cross. This cross is the emblem of the Knights of Malta and is white when displayed on their black tunic. The eight points are said to allude to the eight beatitudes named in Matthew 5:3-11. The reason why the Teutonic Cross has been adopted as a chivalric emblem in some jurisdictions probably relates to the persecution of the Knights Templar during the Inquisition in the fourteenth century. It is well known that many of the Knights Templar escaped with their ships to Scotland. It is believed that many also escaped to Germany and Prussia, where they received the protection of their friends and confederates, the Teutonic Knights. As the original chivalric degrees of the Scottish Rite had their origins in the “Cross of Christian Encampment” of France and the “Observance” of Germany, it is not surprising to find that the Teutonic Cross was adopted as an emblem.


The 28° called Knight of the Sun, or Prince Adept, encourages us to seek Truth through Philosophy and to subjugate our passions. The journey begins with ordeals in a gloomy vault, followed by trials while passing through subsequent apartments that progressively become lighter. In the fourth apartment, which is brilliantly lit by the Sun of Philosophy, the candidate is required to express his own views on moral philosophy before he receives a Dictum of Philosophy that he must make his future guide. The apron and collar are white. The apron has a plain white flap and the body is adorned with an open pentacle, which is defined by red edges and has an All-seeing Eye in the centre. The collar is also adorned with an All-seeing Eye on the wearer’s right hand side. The jewel is an open golden pentacle suspended from a gold coloured collarette. The pentacle is an emblem of mankind, whilst white and gold represent the purity of life that we should seek continually.


The Moralistic Teachings of the Sovereign Council


The 29° or Grand Scottish Knight of St Andrew of Scotland is the culmination of true Ecossais Masonry, leading into the Chivalric or Templar Degrees. The obligation emphasises the teachings of this form of freemasonry, which are chastity, the rejection of unworthy associates, the worship of God, avoidance of evil speech, care of the sick and needy, hospitality, obedience to all lawful authority, the study of nature and finally the humble service of mankind. The ceremony is based on the rendition of a traditional history that traces the imaginary development of the Scottish Rite from the time Herod’s temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by Pompey the Great, through the period of the Crusades, until their refuge in Scotland after they had assisted Robert the Bruce, King of Scots, at the Battle of Bannockburn. Prince Charles Edward Stuart is said to have introduced the Scottish Rite into France from Scotland. In the 29° a white sash with gold fringes is worn from the left shoulder to the right hip. The collar is green edged with crimson, from which the jewel is suspended. The jewel is a golden Cross of St Andrew with a large emerald at the centre. The cross supports a knight’s helmet above and a thistle below, both in gold. The banner of the degree is white with a gold fringe at the lower edge and it is adorned with a green Cross of St Andrew, surmounted by a thistle surrounded by five stars all in gold. The emerald signifies manly virtue and strength by its colour and purity by the clarity of the stone. The thistle and the cross are emblems of Scotland. The helmet is an emblem of knighthood. The white of the regalia signifies purity of purpose, the crimson symbolises spiritual zeal and the green alludes to the eternal life of the spirit. The degree emphasises the qualities of knighthood, especially those of the Knights Templar, usually described in three ascending groups of three, which are: humility, patience and self-denial; charity, clemency and generosity; and virtue, truth and honour.


Consecration as Knight Kadosh


The 30° or Grand Elect Knight Kadosh, which sometimes is referred to under the title of Knight of the Black and White Eagle, is the culminating degree in the Council series. Although closely related to the Knights Templar, the work of the degree not the same. It is the first of the three Chivalric or Templar Degrees in most jurisdictions, but see the 27° in relation to the United States of America. The degree has had a chequered history. In its original form it was directly concerned with retribution for the suppression of the Knights Templar in the fourteenth century during the Inquisition and also retribution for the afflictions that the Knights Templar suffered through the cruelty, fanaticism, superstition and greed of their oppressors. A central theme of the original degree was revenge for the burning at the stake of the Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, which accounts for the modes of recognition and some of the terminology now used. In the closing years of the eighteenth century the ceremony was re-written in its present form as a purely philosophical degree. The real journey now commences in the Chamber of Reflection and continues in the Hall of Judges. If the candidate shows sufficient determination to continue his journey he proceeds to the Chamber of Dedication, then must return to the Hall of Judges for final examination before admission into the Council Chamber where he receives a lecture on the Mysterious Ladder. The lecture first explains the moral basis on which the labours of the degree are founded and then outlines how their teachings should be applied on a material and intellectual basis. The central lesson taught is that a Knight Kadosh must always be ready to sacrifice himself in promoting the Divine Kingdom of Justice and Mercy on Earth. The title Kadosh is a Hebrew word signifying separated to the service of God, in which sense it also means consecrated.


The regalia of the degree comprise a black sash edged with silver and having a silver fringe at the end, worn from the left shoulder to the right hip, together with a jewel that is a double headed eagle with a poniard in its talons. The sash is decorated with two crimson Templar Crosses edged with gold and also the banners of the Knights Templar supported on crossed staffs, testifying to the origins of the degree. Above the upper Templar Cross a large double-headed eagle with a poniard in its talons is mounted in silver bullion, which in turn has a red lined jewelled crown with nine points above it. Also depicted on the sash are the Mysterious Ladder, an intertwined three-headed snake and the Letters KH. It is sometimes said that the letters K and H represent two Hebrew words meaning “House of the Temple”, but this does not appear to be incorrect having regard to the fact that the Hebrew word for temple is He Yod Kaph Lamedh or Hekhal and that Beth Yod Tau or Beth is the word for house. Probably K and H are the first and last letters of the English word Kadosh, because the Hebrew word for Kadosh is spelt Qoph Daleth Shin. The symbolism of the colours of the sash is twofold – mourning for the deceased Knights Templar and also secrecy. The double-headed eagle is a symbol of sovereignty and intelligence and also of balance or equilibrium. The crown signifies authority and judgement.


The Work of the Consistory


The degrees of the Consistory complete the triad of Chivalric Degrees and also consummate the pilgrimage of the Scottish Rite. A consistory is a place of assemblage and also the assemblage itself, including a spiritual or ecclesiastical court, which originally was the privy council of the Roman emperor. This is the capacity of a Consistory in the Scottish Rite and is the reason why it is also referred to as the Consultative Council. In practice the three Chivalric Degrees bring the pilgrim to the completion of the Third or Spiritual Temple. The labours of instruction are completed and the only work remaining is constantly to put into practice the virtues that have been exhorted throughout the pilgrimage. The 30° or Grand Elect Knight Kadosh could be regarded as the operative component of the Chivalric Degrees, which requires the Consecrated Knight to set himself aside and go forth in battle to promote the divine kingdom of justice and mercy on earth. The Consistory has two complementary degrees, the 31° or Grand Inspector Inquisitor Commander representing judicial activities and the 32° or Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret representing military activities, two facets of government that are diametrically opposed and must be kept separate and distinct in all well-ordered societies.


In the 31° or Grand Inspector Inquisitor Commander the work constitutes a philosophical journey, during which the candidate receives a series of lectures recounting the works, opinions and judgements given by six of the greatest sages, lawgivers and philosophers of antiquity renowned for their discernment and wisdom, whose example every man should use as a guide for his own conduct. It is impressed upon the candidate that the office of Judge is both arduous and responsible, that all human judgement is uncertain and that the only infallible Judge is the True God. He is also told that no man should seek to judge his fellowmen, but if judgement cannot be avoided honourably it is a duty and a task that must be performed. The characteristic colour is white, signifying harmony and justice. In the Council Room ten lights are arranged in the triangular form of a Tetractys, a symbol used by Pythagoras that he is believed to have learned when he visited Babylon. It is an emblem of the Tetragrammaton and Pythagoras explained the four rows of points thus. The one point at the apex of the triangle is a symbol of the Active Principle or Creator; the two points represent the Passive Principle or Matter; the three points represent the world proceeding from their union; and the four points at the base represent the liberal arts and sciences, thus completing and perfecting that world. The central moral is that Justice is Equity and must be dispensed with Gentleness and Compassion. On the white collar are two red Maltese Crosses, the Scales of Justice and two wavy Swords of Truth that cannot be sheathed.


It was mentioned earlier that the 32° or Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret originally was the 25° of the Rite of Perfection, a symbolic pilgrimage woven around an encampment of Knights Templar. The Knights Templar set up assemblages called Encampments, often called Commanderies or Preceptories. The Tracing Board in the Rite of Perfection was a plan of the Encampment and it is still the central emblem on the collar of the 32°. The Encampment is symbolical and arranged as five concentric geometric figures, all of which have the usual significations. The perimeter is a nonagon, with a flag at each of the nine angles and a tent and pennon at the midpoint of each side, representing members of the degrees from the first to the eighteenth. Within the nonagon is a heptagonal fence. It encloses a pentagon, with a standard at each angle representing members of the degrees from the nineteenth to the thirtieth. Within the pentagon is an equilateral triangle, within the angles of which the members of the Consistory are camped, with any Knights of Malta who have proved themselves true and faithful and have been received. A circle inside the triangle has the tent of the Sovereign Grand Inspector General at the centre. The circle originally enclosed a red Templar Cross with five arms, but nowadays it is a Cross of St Andrew. In the Rite of Perfection the Christian element of the degree was that part of the Palestine Order of St John now appended to the order of Rome and the Red Cross of Constantine as the Knights of St John the Evangelist. It relates to the final hours of the Messiah on the Cross of Calvary, explaining how the degree of Master Mason reflects the agonies suffered by the Messiah and that the Word is a substitute for those the Messiah uttered on the cross. The collar is black edged with silver. Black is a symbol of mourning for the Knights Templar who were mercilessly slain during the Inquisition, but it also signifies sorrow for the crucifixion of the Messiah and is a reminder of that darkness beyond the veil from whence the True Word will become manifest. The silver edging is a symbol of hope. Also on the collar are Maltese Crosses and other emblems illustrating the pedigree and purpose of the degree.


The 33° or Sovereign Grand Inspector General is the paramount administrative degree of the Rite, but in the United States of America it is also conferred as an honour in recognition of service. The sash is white, a symbol of purity that also alludes to the soul or spirit. In this degree white indicates the purity of purpose required of every leader and ruler. The jewel incorporates three interlaced equilateral triangles forming a nine-pointed star as a symbol of Divine Truth and the nine points represent the Latin word SAPIENTIA meaning WISDOM. The mottos set out in the Statutes and Constitutions of 1786 are Deus Meumque Jus, or God is my Right together with Ordo ab Chao, or Order out of Chaos.

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Last modified: March 22, 2014