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.
of the Scottish Rite
Scottish Rite extends Masonry's quest for what is noble in man.
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.
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
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
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:
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
Relationship between labor and management. Admirable and unworthy motivations
for actions. Importance of not perverting the power of the group for personal
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
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.
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.
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
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
primarily build ourselves, and the selection of materials for our intellectual
and spiritual life are the most important decisions we will ever make.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
The theme of the degree is a visit by the candidate to the houses of the
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
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
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
Yours on that Path,
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.