History of Scottish Rite Freemasonry

The Scottish Rite of Freemasonry is one of two branches of Freemasonry to which a Master Mason may proceed after he has completed the first three degrees of the Symbolic or "Blue" Lodge.  The Scottish Rite includes the degrees from the 4° through the 32°.  Although there are many Scottish Rite members of Scottish ancestry, the Scottish Rite actually originated in France in the early 18th century.  During the 18th century, lodges were organized in the United States with the first Scottish Rite Supreme Council founded in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1801.

The Northern Masonic Jurisdiction was formed in 1867 and includes the 15 states east of the Mississippi River and north of the Mason-Dixon Line and the Ohio River, including Delaware.  The Southern Jurisdiction encompasses the 35 remaining states, the District of Columbia and the United States territories and possessions. The Northern Jurisdiction officially recognizes and enjoys friendly relations with many other jurisdictions around the world.

Scottish Rite shares the same belief of all Masonic organizations that there is no higher degree than that of Master Mason. The Supreme Council and its subordinate bodies acknowledge the Masonic supremacy of the Symbolic Grand Lodges and Grand Masters within their jurisdictions.  Scottish Rite degrees are in no way higher than the degrees of the Symbolic lodges.  The work of the Scottish Rite serves to elaborate on and amplify that of the Symbolic lodge.

The Scottish Rite degrees are lessons taught through allegory in the form of plays. The lessons are taken from Biblical as well as more modern historical events.  Cast members use costumes and makeup to look like the characters who they represent.  Candidates learn the lessons by observing the presentation.  Memorization of material presented is not required. The Scottish Rite is open to all Master Masons in good standing.

The 33° is conferred annually, at the meeting of the Supreme Council, upon a select number of 32 ° Scottish Rite Masons who have contributed outstanding service to Freemasonry or Scottish Rite or who have exemplified, in their daily lives, the true meaning of the Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of God.  A recipient must be at least 33 years of age and may not apply for the degree.

Scottish Rite members meet in local or regional "Valleys" and are organized into four parts; Lodge of Perfection, 4° - 14°;Council of Princes of Jerusalem, 15° - 16°; Chapter of Rose Croix, 17° - 18° and Consistory, 19° - 32°. Some individual Valleys do not contain all four parts.    

The Quests of the Scottish Rite

The Scottish Rite extends Masonry's quest for what is noble in man.

November 2001

My Brother:

     This paper comes from a conversation that Jim Tresner and I had over a period of time as we were contemplating the study of the Scottish Rite degrees.  I feel it is worthwhile for any serious student of the Rite to have as resource information. I usually put it into letter format and mail it to them.  Your getting it in very much the same way.

     I will share with you these thoughts on the Scottish Rite.

     As you know, to discuss the mission of the degrees of the Scottish Rite is a fairly lofty undertaking. It is a philosophical system that journeys deeper than the other systems of Freemasonry.  It has many parallels in the mythos of religion and ancient philosophy. It is not so easy to sit down and pen a simple answer to any inquiry regarding it’s overall themes. But it is important to understand these themes when one approaches it from the view of serious study. 

      Generally speaking, the degrees of the Scottish Rite are a series of lessons which have a time context, an overall grouping (Lodge of Perfection, Chapter of Rose Croix, etc.), a historical association, a set of ideas which are explored, an overall theme (religion, knighthood, etc.), and a guidepost, or marker that gives a person information about his own Masonic journey.

      Of course, not all degrees have all these elements, but most do.  And it is important to know that these elements are seldom ever stated, and each individual is free to disagree on the interpretation. We are dealing here with a quest; and that journey may be different for each person, depending on his level of insight. And, as in most all of Masonry, there is no right answer; although there are some which are clearly wrong.

      As a rather simplified overall statement concerning the Rite, I believe the instruction takes the form of four Quests (or one Great Quest, with four phases), and each Body concerns itself primarily with only one of the quests. None of the quests ever really end--they continue for the reason that we can never know perfection, or perfect insight, until after we have passed to the great beyond; yet our task is to be engaged in the journey all along.

     Generally, these Quests can be seen as follows:

      Lodge of Perfection--the Quest for Light and the awakening of one’s personal spirituality.

      Chapter of Rose Croix--the Quest to purify and strengthen that spark, once awakened, and to make it the guiding force in the person’s life.

       Council of Kadosh--the Quest to find ways to express that strengthened spark in the matters and affairs of the world.

      Consistory--the Quest for self-examination and empowerment which completes the process.

     Another important element of these quests is that they relate the Scottish Rite to the great mythic cycles in which the Hero goes in search of that which will benefit himself and mankind. Of course, metaphysically, this is also the Jesus quest, the Hiram quest, the Grail quest, etc., but the church developed the resurrection/salvation doctrine as it’s principle theme, therefore choosing not to relate other archetypal associations with their story. This was probably done out of fear that men would not understand the more involved universal synthesis and would therefore discount the important elements of the Christian faith as an unique belief system. But to the extent that one accepts the New Testament story as a quest, then the York Rite degrees offer a similar context laid out in a simplified format. The principle difference is that the meanings of the York Rite system, by their nature, limit themselves only to the Jewish or Judeo-Christian symbology.

      Having outlined this as a prologue, I will give you some examples of how the Scottish Rite degrees are defined.

      Referring back to the general ideas I listed above, in the 4°, Secret Master, the guidepost is that the candidate is about to begin a quest for Masonic Light, by which we mean self-development, independence of thought, and the ability to live freely, profitably and creatively. If he keeps at it, he will ultimately be successful. It is an unusual quest in that it is an individual quest which takes place in a group context. What he learns will be his alone, but others will be learning with him. The most basic element of this process is that the individual must trust himself and his brothers. That trust is based on secrecy or confidentiality--he has to know that he can share his thoughts and feelings with his brothers and they can share theirs with him, and no one will use that information against him. What we say and do remains confidential. This is the guidepost of this degree.

      The lessons of this degree include the importance of keeping silent about things told to you in confidence; the fact that there is a quest; and that knowledge is there if you choose to seek for it.   

      The time-context of the degree is the First Temple Period, c. 1004 B.C. And, of course, the grouping is the Lodge of Perfection.

      The historical/mythical association is the story of Hiram, between the murder and the capture of the assassins.

      The ideas explored in the degree are that confidentiality is sometimes literally a matter of life and death. At other times, it is a matter of honor and integrity. We all value those friends whom we can trust and know will never tell anyone what we said. The center of all self-development is duty. If we do not understand and perform what is required of us, if we do not have a sense of duty, we can never fully develop but will remain essentially selfish and self-centered. The understanding of this concept forms the basis by which we can hope to release ourselves from all self doubt and self-interest and become free to ourselves.

      Finally, the theme of the 4th degree is religious and organizational, and deals with the Princes of Jerusalem concerned with building the Temple.

      As you can see, the lesson of this one degree forms just a very small part of the total quest experience. But when the candidate integrates this with all other elements of his journey, he becomes transformed as an individual.

      I will not take you through all the associations for each degree. You get the idea here. But some of the important guideposts and ideas for the remaining degrees of the Lodge of Perfection are as follows:

 Guidepost for 5°--As we go through life, we will find people who become heroes or role-models for us; people whom we want to be like.  We choose those people with great care and thought.

      Lessons--industry and integrity or honesty are essential for self-development. It takes effort, and one must be honest with himself and others.  Deception, whether self-deception or deception of others is poisonous to the spirit.

     Ideas Explored--We learn primarily from the examples of others around us. Those examples are far more powerful than any theory. We must always remember, also that others watch us and learn from the examples we set.            

      Theme--Religious/organizational.  The two kings meet to bury Hiram. 

Guideposts for 6°--Learn to look beyond the surface of things.  First impressions are not reliable and will often give us wrong information. Get the facts before we make judgment.  Look for Truth.  To find it, we must first begin to develop the traits of faithfulness and care for others.  A man will never be happy if he is focused just on himself. Since we will probably get what we really want, we should want spiritual things.  Good intentions are essential to happiness and fulfillment.

      Lessons--Judgements made quickly, and especially in anger, are almost always  wrong.  Do not let yourself be blown about by the wind of your emotions.  Do not be motivated by the worldly or sensual.  If you are going to develop your real potential as a person it is important to be focused on things of the spirit.

      Ideas Explored--The balance of judgment is essential. Even observable fact may not give the full story, since intentions are generally more important than facts. It is important to intend well.    

Guidepost for 7°--One of the hardest things to do at this stage of our journey is to find the proper balance between alternatives. How far should we go?  What is too much activity, or too little activity?  Too much determination and zeal?  It is important not to become a fanatic in our quest.  Reasonable moderation is the key.

      Lessons--The first exploration of the idea of justice. It is essential to be impartial when deciding between people.  Always remember that when we judge other people we are putting ourselves at risk both intellectually and spiritually. You cannot understand another person’s actions unless you truly know what circumstances were facing him.

     Ideas Explored--Justice tempered with mercy; justice as opposed to despotism; the separation of the functions of legislation and the functions of judgment.

     Theme--Organizational/professional relationships.  Relationship between labor and management. Admirable and unworthy motivations for actions. Importance of not perverting the power of the group for personal grievance.

 Guidepost for the 8°--Our quest is a matter of taking one step at a time. And it is essential to learn each step.  Every degree in Masonry has something to teach.  If we miss any of the points, the Temple we are constructing will be weakened.

      Lessons--Every individual has high duties to perform and a high destiny to fulfill.  Knowledge comes in many forms and builds upon itself.  Specialized knowledge is good, but it is important always to have an overview. The successful building of our spiritual temple requires mastery of many kinds of information and insight from many sources.

     Ideas Explored--Our immortal life does not begin after death, it begins now.  We are already living in the first or earthly stage of immortality.  Justice (fairness) and Charity are not lessons we learn and then “go past,” they remain essential no matter how far we develop.  Learning and self-discipline is the necessary preparation for growth. The more we develop, the more is expected of us, and the better prepared we are to meet those expectations.

Guidepost for the 9°--As we continue to learn and develop, we become more sensitive to the wrongs in the world, and we must learn the difference between being moved to correct a moral wrong from a sense of outrage, from that of taking a destructive action because of the petty emotion of anger. 

      Lessons--physical bravery is important, but moral bravery is even more important.  Morality involves our relationships with people (as contrasted with virtue, which  involves our relationship with Deity). To avoid doing right because of fear is to be less than human.  Living uprightly and moderately are necessary for our own self-development as well as for the growth and protection of society as a whole.

      Ideas Explored--we have an obligation and duty to help set right the things which are wrong with the world. When the actions of men have unbalanced society (or when natural disasters impose a special burden on society) it is our duty as ethical men to try and make things right. Wrongness never limits its effects to the person or situation which is wrong--it effects everyone to some degree or another.

Guidepost for the 10°--While being outraged can be a helpful reaction, we must never let it blind our judgment.  To be an advocate for a position is good, and to work for right is honorable, but there is a trap we must avoid if our Masonic journey is to be fruitful.  We must avoid fanaticism at all costs, regardless where it arises.

      Lessons--What evil men do finds them out. Even if we are not punished by civil or religious authority, we punish ourselves. You cannot do wrong and expect positive results. There are forces for good in the world.  If we align ourselves with them, we experience strength and positive results.  If we choose evil, even the evil of perverted good, we pay the price.

     Ideas Explored--The concepts of divine justice and human justice. The cooperation of the forces of good and right against wrong and evil.  The need for moderation in all things.

 Guidepost for the 11°--Whenever possible, we should validate our thinking and our insight by discussion with others.  Never lose sight of the big picture by denying other points of view.

      Lessons--Judgement is best shared. Trial by jury is important, not because it releases the judge from responsibility, but because it assures that the judgment of several persons are involved and thus has a better chance of being fair.

      Ideas Explored--Justice is social concept. It takes into account more than just the facts of a case (e.g. rather than punish the woman taken in by adultery, punish the men who lead her into that life). The importance of civil administration and the ills which can befall society when such administration is inadequate.

    Theme--Politcal/judicial--the first two assassins are presented for trial and convicted.  The idea of trial by jury is introduced.

Guidepost for the 12°--As we become more aware of the great forces of the universe, we may be tempted to think that our actions make little difference. But every action effects our plan of life. There is no such thing as an unimportant action. There is no such thing as fate. There are actions and consequences to actions. We can have whatever life we want. 

     Lessons--We primarily build ourselves, and the selection of materials for our intellectual and spiritual life are the most important decisions we will ever make.

     Ideas Explored--The philosophy of fatalism is explored and rejected.  Man is transcendent over events and fate.

      Theme--The candidate is instructed in the philosophical lessons of the instruments of mathematics.

Guidepost for the 13°--As we learn more to take control of our life, we discover that the spiritual, and not the material, must be at the center of our being.  And we should seek that spirituality within ourselves, don’t look for it outside. Our first Quest, therefore, the Quest for spiritual awakening, nears its close.

      Lessons--Seek the spiritual center deep within yourself. This is a strengthening and development of the lesson of the Middle Chamber in the Fellow Craft degree.  Spiritual development is a matter of awakening and bringing to light that which is already there.  There is a light of the divine within you.

     Ideas Explored--Enochian philosophy and the completion of the temple. Since the allegory of the temple is always symbolic of the building of the life of the individual Mason, the degree suggests that the awakening of spiritual awareness within ourselves, analogous to the sacred light which flooded the Holy of Holies during the dedication of the Temple of Solomon, is the act which completes the building of your life.

 Guidepost for the 14°--We must discover the “secrets” of Masonry for ourselves. They are not secrets in the sense of something which can be told to us, but rather insights which we must develop on our own.  We can learn only what we have prepared ourselves to learn.

      Lessons--Perfect Truth is not obtainable while we are still mortal, but we can come ever close to it during this life. Sorrows and disappointments should be seen as chances to strengthen ourselves.  We each have a work to do, a duty to perform, a part to play in the gradual enlightenment of the entire world.

      Ideas Explored--Purposes of sorrow and pain. Light as a symbol of knowledge and insight.  The world of nature as a model for the world of spirit.  The importance of validating the results of our quest by the insight obtained from the sacred literature of the world.

     And thus we complete our first Quest--the Quest for Spiritual Awakening--the theme of the fourteenth degree.

      We then being the second Quest through the degrees of the Chapter of Rose Croix.  Again, there are guideposts for each degree.  Having achieved some measure of spiritual awakening (and it continues all our life), we are now beginning a quest to strengthen, purify and direct that awakened spark within us until it becomes a major force in our life.  It becomes the primary basis for our actions and decisions, and the standard by which we live.

      The degrees of the Rose Croix (the 15° through the 18°) teach us of the pain and sacrifice associated with every quest.  It is only when our belief system and principles are tested that we discover if they are strong enough.  We can live a life of temptation, we can live irresponsibly, we can be swayed by materialism and the pleasures of the flesh, we can let other authority figures control us, or we can strive for higher things. Only a determination to follow the Truth and Light will lead to a successful conclusion of the quest.  The final step in this aspect of the Quest is to truly understand the basis of our relationship with others.  It is the Law of Love.   It requires true charity because it requires us to put the interests of others ahead of our own.  We move toward a more compassionate discipline at this level in the path toward perfection.

     The ideas explored in the Chapter of Rose Croix degrees are Principles Ethics.

      In the 15°, we study the conflict between duty and desire.  Are there things which are always right or always wrong, no matter the circumstances?  How can we be sure that we are motivated by high ideals and not by selfishness or stubbornness in disguise. In this degree, we learn that it is important that we remain true to obligations and steadfast in our convictions.  It is far easier to know what is right to do than it is to do right.  We admire the man who holds to his convictions.

      The time-context of the degree is the Second Temple Period (Temple of Zerubbabel), c. 536 B.C.

      In the 16°, we look at the importance of keeping focused on the search for Truth. Self discipline and self-determination are the themes of the quest for Truth. In our quest for self-development and creative living, there are some subtle temptations which can sidetrack us. One is the desire to live irresponsibly and without direction-it’s simply easier and more comfortable not to constantly strive for higher things. Another is the temptation to materialism, especially to the pleasures of the flesh. Yet a third is to surrender our control over our life to some authority figure, whether that is the church, the government, a parent, a spouse, a peer group, or someone else. Only a determination to follow Truth and Light will lead to a successful conclusion to the quest. 

      In the 17°, we come to understand that the world and indeed the universe moves in great, centuries-long patterns. We are the participants in those patterns. The quest-path is never easy. Knowledge and insight are only won through suffering and pain. Neither has to be intense or overwhelming, but they must be real.  It is never comfortable to move out of rut, but it is essential to our growth. And growth implies change.

      The search for Light is an on-going process, accomplished by small steps taken in humble determination.  Beware of ego.  The self-centered man will never find Light. The further we develop the more we become the servant and the less we become the master of others.  There is a fundamental unity to all great systems of thought and philosophy which underlie any apparent differences.   All human beings are related to each other in profound and primal ways.  Truth is scattered throughout all religions and all systems of thought.  It is the task of man to gather these scattered sparks of Light and to create, for himself, a true philosophy based on them.  This Truth, when properly understood among nations, will produce perfect harmony and insight.  This is why it must be cherished, protected and spread.

      The time-context of the degree is the time of the Essenes, c. A.D. 20.

      In the 18°, we explore the reality that most people in the world live with limited freedom.  Wars over political differences and ideologies; and between members of different religions are still common.  It requires an act of profound faith to see the possibilities of love as opposed to hatred.  It takes an even more profound act of faith to treat others with love rather than suspicion, and the most profound act of faith of all to love our enemies.  Yet, there is no other profitable way to live, no other answer.  For hatred and anger always poison the soul.  God was written the answers to the great mysteries throughout nature.  We must be sensitive and “in tune” enough to read them.  We can choose.  We can base our lives on Faith, Hope and Charity, and if we do that, we inhabit the Chamber of Light.

      The Law of Love is not limited to nor the exclusive possession of any particular religion, but is the gift of God to man. Love is a practical and powerful force. Humans are entitled to our care and respect, simply because they are human. There is one God, and all mankind are His children. When we look with knowing eyes, we can see the answers to the great enigmas of nature written in nature itself.

      The time-context is the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, c. A.D. 28. The historical/mythological association is the teachings of the Essenes as perfected and expressed by Jesus. 

     The 18° completes the second Quest, the quest to strengthen, purify and direct the spark of the divine which we are progressively discovering in ourselves. The final step in this quest is to truly understand the basis of our relationship with others.

      Here begins the third quest. The degrees of the Council of Kadosh include the 19th through the 30th degrees. They form the third Quest, which is to express our growing spiritual awareness in the world, performing the duties which that awareness requires of us, and using it to be a force for good in the world.  Spiritual awareness is like any other attribute we possess--we “use it or lose it.” We are meant to be a force in the world, literally, and we bring only shame on ourselves if we are not.

      Of course, to accomplish this part of the quest involves much study, preparedness, knowledge, reflection, thought, and living in the right ways, both morally and ethically. We use in the world the insight we develop from it.

      In the 19°, we discover that the past controls the present and the future.  It is the dead who govern--the living only obey.  Any moment in time is simply a product of the times which have gone before. It, in turn, influences the times that are to come. Nothing happens in isolation or is isolated in its effects. But we can positively influence the course of history by right focus and universal feeling and caring. Good and wise men, in the past, powerful because they were in touch with their spirituality, have done things which have shaped the world.  That is our task as well.  Every Mason should leave a legacy of positive deeds behind him.  We need only to focus on the Law of Love, and the understanding that we are all children of a common father, we are all related to each other and all owe to each other consideration and aid.

      The historical/mythological association is the epic battle between Good and Evil. The theme is that the candidate meets the Pontiffs in the halls of eternity and is instructed in the great teaching-myths of religion.

       In the 20°, the guidepost is that we should be leaders of our brothers.  The Lodge represents the world and our life in the world.  A Master of the Symbolic Lodge, then, is a person who is prepared to make a positive impact on the world. To do this effectively, of course, requires that we prepare ourselves as deeply as we possibly can in matters of philosophy, morality and ethics.  Being prepared means to become the advocate and champion in the world of the great values.  Three of the most important of these are Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.  Without liberty no one can develop their potential abilities.  Equality is necessary because the only alternative is political despotism.  Masters do not learn from slaves, nor slaves from masters.  Only men on the level of equality can truly learn and share with each other.  Fraternity is necessary because the compassionate care of one person for another is the only “free” way to live.  In this degree, we learn that the further we develop, the more obligated we are to care for others. 

      It should be pointed out that there is no time-context in this degree. This is one of the degrees which takes place in the “halls of eternity.”          

      The 21° reminds us to never forget that, however certain we are that we are right, we may be wrong.  Unjust actions are the result of pre-judgments.  We may think a negative decision about someone’s honesty, intelligence, intentions, even wealth or status, only to discover that we have judged on externals and been wrong. Science tells us that reality is merely a perception and that, fundamentally, we cannot see or measure reality.  It is easy for us to lose focus on the spiritual and substitute a reliance on the material.  Ultimately, this can lead to Materialism, a philosophy which denies the spiritual completely and insists that only that which we can see, touch, taste, or otherwise experience through the senses exists. Never become so imbedded to your view of reality that you ignore or discount information which contradicts that point of view.

     If we are to live as a positive force in the world, we must be mindful of the unintended consequences of our words and actions. The more active we become in the world (the theme of the third Quest), the more important that awareness, coupled with humility, becomes.

      The time-context of this degree is Westphalia, Germany, c. A.D. 1195

     The guidepost for the 22° is that the spiritual development and self-discipline on which you are working so hard is worthless unless it manifests itself in the work you do in the world.  Masons should live in ivory towers, and they should return to them each day only after doing the dirtiest work in the fields.  All work is noble, and all work, properly understood, is creative.  It is not “higher” or “more noble” to work with your head than with your hands, or vice versa.  To sneer at any work is wrong.  Work where you are, as effectively as you can. It is a privilege, not a punishment.  It is only when we work that God allows us to participate in His creative nature.

      The mythological/historical setting for the degree is a college established on the slopes of Mt. Lebanon in Biblical times, but the time context is not given...another of the degrees set in the halls of eternity.

      In the 23°, the guidepost is that we should beware of literalism.  Instruction in spiritual growth has always been expressed in allegory and symbol.  A person who thinks of the 3rd degree as telling a literal story about an actual man who is murdered before he can finish his job is completely missing the point.  Further Light is only earned by work and study, it cannot be given as a gift.  We will learn little if all we do is watch the degrees once; and we will know little if we only read the sacred books in a literal sense.  There is a divine purpose to the allegory and symbols found in the mythical systems of the world. The divine is expressed in many ways, by many different cultures, and some even contradictory; but the essential understanding is the same.  Our task is to discover the synthesis for ourselves.

      The time-context is the Pre-Temple period, during the wandering in the wilderness, c. 1500 B.C. The historical/mythological association is the Ancient Mysteries and the wandering of the Hebrews in the desert.

      The 24° teaches us that it is through symbols that we think.  Some are clear and direct; others are complex and require many hours if not years of study. The use of symbols is one of the distinguishing characteristics of humanity. The great mythic traditions are allegories which explore the human condition and relationship between man and his Creator. The myth of the Hero who dies to benefit either his tribe or mankind in general is one of the oldest and most pervasive of the great myth cycles. Man is reflected in and bound-up with the great myths of birth, death, and rebirth.  The degree also teaches us that living our life in the world requires making hundreds of ethical and moral choices each day.  These are generally not choices between right and wrong, but often between good and good-enough, or between wrong and more-wrong, or even between right and legally-required but wrong.  Work to make sure that your choices reflect your true values.

      One of the central ideas explored is that there is no such thing as death.  The immortality of the soul, the reliance upon Deity for that immortality, is the function of symbols. The theme of this degree is that the candidate is instructed in the theme of the hero who dies and is reborn.  He witnesses the struggle between good and evil as explained in the Egyptian mythology. The historical/mythological association is the tabernacle in the Sinai, Egyptian mythology.

      The 25° reminds us to be very careful, as we continue our development and continue to express that moral and ethical self in the world, that we do not fall into the error of confusing symbols with the thing symbolized.  The search for knowledge is characteristic of man, but we should seek after wisdom, which is the ability to apply knowledge and insight to the problems and questions of the world.   Never judge any group, organization, culture or civilization by its symbols. Judge, rather, by the knowledge which those symbols represent. The degree also teaches that our thoughts are our most basic and important tools.  To progress, we must think clearly and well.  There is a need for constant spiritual purification if we want to grow and develop.

     The theme of the degree is a visit by the candidate to the houses of the zodiac.

     The guidepost for the 26° is that, as  we use the knowledge and insight that we are developing, we will come in contact with others on the same quest.  They may come by different paths, but the ultimate goal is the same.  Also, we should not neglect to develop our Faith as we develop our spirituality.  We should not let our own ego get in the way of our self-development.  As we become more aware of the divine it is even more important to say,  “Not my will, but Thine be done.”

        The concept of God as One is a thread which runs through many faiths. They may teach God as expressing Himself in more than one person, but that does not change the underlying concept of God as One. Faith is strengthened by questioning. To doubt and question does not weaken faith, but rather helps it grow. Properly understood, there is no conflict between faith and science. It is only when one ventures into the proper area of the other that conflict arises. Growth in spirituality, like growth in faith, is a matter of study, questioning and overcoming obstacles. Man has an inherent need to relate to God. All systems of faith have hidden meanings in common.

      The time-context of this degree is c. A.D. 305, and the theme is the persecution of the Christians in ancient Rome.

      In the 27° we explore situational ethics, where right action is determined by circumstance.  We cannot push the responsibility for our actions or decisions onto others--we must evaluate and act for ourselves.  There is no “pre-programmed” path to right action.  The world is not black and white.  Right and wrong are rarely absolute. What is right in one situation may be wrong in another.  At each point in our journey we must evaluate our choices.  Our conscience will help us, and a good general guide is that of benefit to others. Nevertheless, choices are not easy.  And as we achieve the purpose of our third Quest, we become aware that more and more people or ideas will oppose us.  Virtue alone allows us to have the effect we seek.  We express in the world the duties, obligations, insights and knowledge gathered from our spiritual journey.

     The time-context is the Medieval period, c. A.D. 1400. The historical/mythological association is the creation of a knight in the Middle Ages.

      In the 28°, the guidepost is that as we act in the world to make things better, we cannot assume it is something we can do part time or only when it is convenient.  We must always be willing to serve the world.  The degree further teaches us that all men could be free, but ignorance and superstition forge chains.  When men put these chains on, they create their own bondage.  The man who is a slave to his passions or of his weaknesses, or of the prejudices of the world cannot become a true Initiate.  He who is in love with his own ideas and dreads to lose them, or who fears new Truths, can never truly be a Mason.  Faith has in all ages been the lever whereby to move the world--it is Faith which makes Leaders and Heroes.  The central idea explored by the degree is Self-transcendence.  Each man carries within himself a spark of the divine. God lives in each of us.  That means there is no moment when what we do is hidden from him.

     The time-context is not specific, but comes from the alchemy of the late Middle Ages. The mythological association is the quest of the Alchemist, and the theme is the instruction of the candidate by the seven archangels.

     The lesson of the 29° is that Truth, and not error, is immortal.  And while our Quest never ends, we ultimately reach a point where death holds no fear in us.  Virtue becomes a shield against error.  We forge ahead on the path of right living, right actions, right thinking. Yet, we will be opposed by lies, fear, and distortion. Our motives will be questioned.  We will be held up to ridicule.  The negative forces in the world will oppose us.  But virtue will allow us to have the effect we seek.  We are called Knights for the very good reason that we are involved in the battle, striving for that final quest for enlightenment!

     The time-context is the Middle Ages, after the death of DeMolay in 1314.  The historical/mythological association is the arrival of the Knights of the Temple in Scotland and their absorption into the Scottish Knights.

     The 30° marks the end of your third quest, the quest to express in the world the duties and obligations, insights and knowledge gathered in your spiritual journey.  You must be a positive force against all forms of tyranny.  Masonry is opposed to any arbitrary power which seeks to tell people what they should believe or think.   If man IS to be free, then he must BE free--not semi-free, or sort of free, nor free with exceptions. The only limits which are legitimate are those which prevent him from harming others.  Thus censorship is wrong, and must be opposed.  Laws, whether civil or ecclesiastical, which places limits on man’s exercise of religion or his relationship with God, are wrong and must be opposed.  It is never true that a state has a legitimate interest in keeping people ignorant.  The rights of individuals belong to the individuals as free and independent thinkers and as children of God.  They are not gifts of the state, and the state has no legitimate power to limit them.

     The fact that only a man who does not fear to die can truly live.

     The historical association is the fall of the Templars.

     The final Quest, then, is the quest for Perfection and Empowerment. It is represented in the degrees of the Consistory (31° and 32°), and it requires us to take a hard look at our own character, assess our strengths and make ourselves aware of our weaknesses. The object is to Know Thyself.  This requires continuous self examination. We should always be far harsher on ourselves than any outside critic. We should cut ourselves no slack at all.

    The pursuit for perfection is life-long.  The search to make a difference in the world is unending. The lives of great men teach us that we, too, can and must make a difference in the world.  We are encouraged to make our life useful and attempt to do great things.  He who is most free and most empowered must be most truly the servant of all.  This is the central idea explored in the 31°.

     The historical/mythological association is the Egyptian Court of the Dead.

     The 32° is the end of the Quest, so far as instruction in the Rite is concerned.  But be aware that we must constantly strive for improvement in all areas reviewed by the Rite.  We must serve Truth, Faith, the People, Honor, our Scottish Rite teachings, and our own destiny.  The great secret of the universe is equilibrium.  There is an ultimate and universal equilibrium in all things since we are all part of the same Source of All That Is.  In Truth, all things work in balance.  When that balance is upset, it is our task to help set it right. 

     Our duty in the world is the duty to understand and maintain balance and equilibrium in our life.

     I know this has been a rather long explanation; more than you asked for.  But I’m sure you will agree it is important that we understand these things so that the Rite has meaning in our life. These are valuable concepts and lessons which we should integrate into our own lives.  There is a profound relevancy to Masonry; and it is being lost because men do not understand it’s mission.

     The Scottish Rite is clearly a school of ethical and philosophical instruction. We are engaged in the business of teaching men about the quest of this life.  We seek to prove that there is a synthesis in religion, or between religion and spirituality.  There is indeed a level of perfection that exists for us in another place, or state of being. Our lessons are aimed at a greater hope which comes from our faith in that which cannot be fully understood, but which still requires that we know how to love unconditionally.

     The Scottish Rite is engaged in recognizing there is a quest in life and our aim lies in working out this quest in a way that is right in the world.  But it does not deny that man must have a faith that there is a plan associated with this quest which leads to eternal life.  There is a divine Truth which provides for our own eternal bliss.

     Is this not stuff worthy of our thoughtful study and reflection?  I think that it is; and hope that others may become serious students on the path. For now, I remain

Sincerely Yours on that Path,

Robert G. Davis, 33°

The above essay is reprinted with permission of the author.  It is reprinted in its entirety from the Louisiana Scottish Rite Trestleboard, January 1999.

The author, Robert G. Davis is the Secretary of the Scottish Rite Bodies in Guthrie, Oklahoma.  He is a Past Master of two Oklahoma Lodges, serves as editor of the Oklahoma Scottish Rite Mason, is actively involved with Masonic education and renewal programs both in Oklahoma and nationally, and is the immediate Past President of the International Philalethes Society.

 

 

         

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