The Ineffable Degrees
The Fourth Degree, or Secret Master The first step into the inner sanctuary of the Spiritual Temple, where he who seeks, finds Truth. In this Degree we are to learn the duty of obedience to law, not to the edict of a tyrant, contrary to the law of God or nature, but the law that is an expression of the will and judgement of the people and for the benefit of the whole people.
5° – Perfect Master
The Fifth Degree, or Perfect Master, emphasizes the two virtues, Industry and Honesty. The Master Khurum (Hiram) had both of these virtues. Idleness, the great enemy of growth, whether mental or spiritual, is the brewer of mischief and vice. “To sleep little, study much, say little, think and hear much, to learn to do earnestly and vigorously whatever is required by duty” are the precepts of the Mason who follows the Master. A Mason should always be honest in his contracts, sincere in his statements, and keep all promises and covenants even to his own disadvantage.6° – Confidential SecretaryThe Sixth Degree teaches us to be zealous, faithful, disinterested and benevolent. No good Mason can be worldly, covetous or sensual, but must be kind and affectionate, broadminded and charitable; keeping thoughts only on the good and true, with a feeling of thankfulness for all favors rendered and a sincere desire to do unto his Brother as he would wish done unto him.
7° – Provost and Judge
The Seventh Degree, or Provost and Judge, has for its chief lesson the great principle of justice. Those with the power of judgement should judge impartially without any personal consideration, without prejudice or preconception and without haste. Two kinds of injustice may be done to a fellow-man: one where a man does an injury to another, the other where he fails to avert an injury both by God and man, yet the consequences remain. In judging a wrong we should remember the motive and temptation. Some men are born with noble instincts, while others are less fortunate. Perhaps the man who leads a clean life has never had the temptation which came to his fallen brother; so we should judge with charity and pitying kindness.
8° – Intendant of the Building
The Eighth Degree, or Intendant of the Building, impresses upon the candidate the futility of advancing unless the lessons already taught have been carefully considered. The jurisprudence, learning and morality of Masonry and not merely the work and ceremonies should have our most profound thought and attention. We are seekers after Light and we should consider the earthly life of ours a field for noble action, the beginning of heaven and a part of immortality. This Degree teaches us that we have high duties to perform and a high destiny to fulfill on this Earth. We should love this Earth as the garden on which the Creator has lavished such miracles of beauty, has made it the dwelling place of the wise and the good, the place of opportunity for the development of the noblest passions, the tenderest sympathies and the loftiest virtues.
9° – Elu of the Nine
This Degree is consecrated to bravery, devotedness and patriotism. Its duties are summed up in “Protect the oppressed against the oppressor and devote yourself to the honor and interest of your country.” Masonry calls for active service in comforting the unfortunate and raising the degraded. It requires initiates to work actively and earnestly for the benefit of their brethren, their country and mankind. Most men have sentiment to the right, but do the wrong. They may talk much of virtue but live little of it. They may even talk much of wrongs but do little to eradicate them. He who fights against cruelty, oppression, wrongs and abuse fights for his country’s honor. Life is not measured by days, but by the deeds we have done for our fellow man and our country. “Unselfish and noble acts are the most radiant epochs in the biography of souls. When wrought in earliest youth, they lie in the memory of age like the coral islands, green and sunny, amidst the melancholy waste of ocean.”
10° – Elu of the Fifteen
This Degree is devoted to religious and political toleration and to the enlightenment of the mind of soul. Toleration holds that every man has a right to his opinion, and liberally claims that no human being can say he alone knows the Truth. Whatever a man sincerely and concientiously believes is truth to him, and only through enlightenment and education are intolerance and fanaticism put down. Masonry is not a religion, but is founded on the essential truths of all religions; it is the universal morality underlying every creed. A belief in the one true God and a moral and virtuous life are the only requirements that Masonry promulgates as a necessity for membership.
11° – Elu of the Twelve
The duties of this Degree are to be earnest, true, reliable and sincere; to protect the people against illegal impositions; and contend for their political rights. It is a Mason’s duty to serve his Brothers, not Masons alone, but all humanity. The safety of every free government depends upon the integrity of the common people. The nation that bases its greatness on tyranny over prostrate states, heavy and unjust taxation and crafty alliances will find its empire tottering in ruins. Masonry should do all in its power to protect the people, to better their living conditions and to supply their needs.
12° – Master Architect
The human soul ever travels toward the Light and God. It never loses the sense of its own powers, but there are many faculties within us of which we are dimly conscious; to arouse that slumbering soul-consciousness to the realization of Truth is the divinest object of all human helpfulness. Masonry strives to develop these half-forgotten, God-given traits and to accept them as their guide. Life is what each man makes of it; the optimist turns every trial into a blessing, the pessimist sees only ruin and disaster. All our earthly transactions and institutions are based on faith in our fellow-man. How much more so must we believe in God. The belief in a Supreme Being is an instinct in all races. No man can suffer and be patient, can struggle and conquer, can improve and be happy without faith in a just, wise and beneficent God.
13° – Royal Arch of Solomon
For centuries the Hebrews have been forbidden to pronounce the sacred name of God and whenever it occured they have read the name “Adonai” instead. The knowledge of the true pronunciation was supposed to give to the possessor supernatural powers. This idea of the sanctity of the Creator’s name was common to all ancient nations. Among them the conception of God varied according to their intellectual capacities; among the ignorant He was invested with the lower attributes of humanity, among the spiritual He was a Being, pure and holy. This knowledge of God, however, was not given out the common people, but was kept secret by the favored few. The communication of this knowledge of the true nature of the Creator, with other esoteric truths, is what is now called Free Masonry, which under other names has existed since the beginning of the human race.
This Degree, in fact, forms the climax of the ineffable Masonry. It is the keystone of the Arch and discovers that which is revealed in the succeeding of Degree of Perfection. It is a most important and interesting grade, and so intimately connected with its successor as to appear like a section of that Degree. The dark clouds and mists that have hitherto veiled the sacred mysteries now begin to be dispelled; the glorious dawn illuminates the East with its bright effulgence, and its rays penetrate into dark and hidden places.
14° – Perfect Elu
This Degree is the last of the Lodge of Perfection, and we have reached the point where each individual Mason must discover the secret of Masonry for himself. This can be done only upon reflection of its symbols, and a wise consideration and analysis of what is said and done in the work. Perfect Truth is unattainable, yet we must ever press on, more nearly approaching it. We receive as much of the Divine Light as we are capable of understanding. God has arranged His great purpose so that each man has a work to do, a duty to perfom to help in the progress of the great plan for enlightenment and growth. The Mason believes that the sorrows and trials of this life are a part of the plan of God designed to purify and strengthen our souls. Surely a wise and merciful God would not send these things upon His children without some ultimate good resulting. On this life depends our future well-being, and we should so live that death will have no terror for us, but will only be a release from the earth to spiritual realms above.
The Historical and Religious Degrees
The Fifteenth Degree is the first Degree of the Rose Croix, and the leading lesson is fidelity to obligations and constancy under difficulty. Masonry carries on a war against ignorance, intolerance and error. The chief stumbling blocks on the way to success in this crusade are the indifference of its own members and the world. Masonry teaches that God is paternal, having concern for each individual, for each individual soul is an emanation from Him, made for good and not for evil. We must, therefore, persevere even as the ancient Brethren have done, notwithstanding all obstacles. We must resist temptation and be upright and virtuous, assisting in God’s great plan for the eternal salvation of the universe. We must pass through the darkness to reach the Light.
16° – Prince of Jerusalem
The story of the rebuilding of the Temple at Jerusalem is of peculiar interest to Masons, and while we no longer plan to rebuild it, yet its story ever conveys to us the thought that the world and every noble heart is God’s Temple, and we should labor to establish the reign of love and peace, thus building a lasting temple to God. The trowel is the emblem of this Degree, teaching Masons the ennobling effect of honest labor. The work of the soul, developing the virtue of patience and gentleness ought to be as important to us as earning our daily bread. The beauty of Love, charm of Friendship, the sacredness of Sorrow, the heroism of Patience, the nobleness of Sacrifice, make life to be life indeed, and we are its grandeur and power. They are the priceless treasures and glory of humanity.
The story of Cyrus and the adventures of Darius form one of the most interesting and fascinating chapters in the history of the Persian Empire. They are rich in tradition and clouded in fable, and yet Scriptural and historical reference to their deeds and exploits entitle them to a position among the empire builders of Persia – men with vision and foresight, whose efforts at conquest and attempts at the liberation of oppressed peoples seem to have been divinely authorized. It is upon these epochs in Persian history that the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Degrees are founded, and the lessons in the ritual are drawn from events that transpired during the lives of Cyrus and Darius.
17° – Knight of the East and West
This is the first of the Philosophical Degrees which penetrate the inner mysteries of Masonry. In all times truth has been concealed in symbols. At the time of John the Baptist, all the ancient philosophical and religious doctrines became intermingled on account of the various conquests which brought the nations together. John, who taught some creed older than Christianity, must have belonged to a sect of the Essenes, which was very similar to Christianity. It is from the Essenes that this Degree is sprung. The Essenes believed that Truth was scattered throughout the world among different sects. They believed it the duty of every man to gather these fragments of divine revelation into a harmonious whole to be used in spreading the right thinking and right living among mankind. Thus, they combine the thought of the Orient and the Occident, from which fact we draw the name of this Degree.
18° – Knight Rose Croix
The ceremonies of this Degree are interpreted by each individual according to his own faith for in no other way can Masonry retain its universal character. To all antiquity, Light was the type of Good while Darkness was Evil. Evil was a principle represented in demons and fallen angels, who first having fallen themselves, tempted others to do so, thus bringing sin into the world. The future life was to be obtained by purification and suffering, through the Redeemer who would overcome Evil. The belief was general that He was to be born of a virgin and suffer death. The Cross has been a sacred symbol of earliest antiquity among many nations, with various meanings. In this degree its interpretation was taken from the Egyptian hieroglyphic for life emananting from Deity, the eternal life for which we all hope. The Rose is the symbol of dawn, of the resurrection of life. Together the Rose and Cross represent the dawn of eternal life. In all religions there is a basis of Truth; in all there is a pure Morality. All that teaches the cardinal tenets of Masonry we respect; all teachers and reformers of mankind we admire and revere. Masonry also has her mission to perform. With her traditions reaching back to the earliest times, and her symbols dating further back than even the monumental history of Egypt extends, she invites all men of all religions to enlist under her banners and to war against evil, ignorance and wrong.
The Philosophical and Chivalric Degrees
This is the first Degree of the Council of Kadosh. In it the fact of the influence of the past upon the present and future is forcibly exemplified. The true Mason labors for the enlightenment of future ages. All good men hope to live after death through the work they have done. We still feel the influence of deeds of heroism done in the past and are uplifted by the monuments of art and literature of ages gone by. It is the dead that govern. The living only obey. The thoughts of the Past are the Laws of the Present and the Future. That which shall live when we are dead, as a part of the great body of law enacted by the dead, is the only act worth doing, the only thought worth speaking. Then let us so live that our acts may endure to uplift a Brother yet unborn.
20° – Master of the Symbolic Lodge
As Grand Master of all Lodges, one must first learn to be able to teach. There is nothing more sublime than leading the initiate into the sublime truth of Masonry, but to do so properly requires study and thought. The legends and allegories recited by Masonry are of worth only when understood. The lessons of this degree are Liberty, Fraternity and Equality. These must be applied to everyday life and not reserved for the lodge room only. The world will judge us by our acts and Masonry itself will be judged by the character of its members. Let the light shine always.
21° – Noachite or Prussian Knight
In the 21st Degree we are admonished to be modest and humble, speaking only of the good in mankind and forgetting the evil. Slander is the exact opposite to mercy, for “Mercy blesseth him that gives and him that takes” while slander curses him that speaks it, and to say the least, does no good to the other. Our ancient brethren met to redress wrongs and defend the helpless. Masonry today has the same greaet mission and woe to him who would attempt to destroy it.
22° – Knight of the Royal Axe
The lessons of this degree have always been of great moment to a large number of people. The respect for labor itself and sympathy for the laboring classes are purely Masonic. Masonry has made the working man and his associates the heroes of her principal legend, and himself the companion of kings. From first to last, Masonry is work. Labor is man’s great function, his peculiar distinction and his privilege. He pours his own thoughts into the molds of nature, fashioning them into forms of grace and fabrics of convenience. But greater than these, every man has work to do in himself, upon his own soul and intellect, and so may attain the highest nobleness and grandeur on earth or in Heaven.
23° – Chief of the Tabernacle
In most of the ancient ceremonies of public worship and private rites, called Mysteries, only the initiated could attend. Only after years of practice of the most rigid virtue, and great spiritual development, could the initiated hope to attain the greater mysteries. These ceremonies were often held at night in some secret place and consisted of sacred dramas, portraying some legend which contained a lesson, but little explanation was given and each candidate was left to interpret the truths for himself. Moses undoubtedly received from the Egyptians these Mysteries and in turn taught them to the Hebrew priesthood, emphasizing the doctrine of the one God, supreme and unapproachable.
24° – Prince of the Tabernacle
The Jewish tabernacle was more symbolic than an ordinary reading of the Scriptures would indicate. Whether it was copied after other religions or not has never been settled to the satisfaction of the leading scholars. Josephus, the great Hebrew historian, says that in the construction of it, and its vestments and sacred vessels, the whole world was in some way represented. In this we again see the influence of the Egyptian teachings. The twelve loaves of shew bread signify the twelve months of the year and the candlestick the twelve signs of the Zodiac. Philo asserts that the cherubim represented the two hemispheres.
Symbols were the univeral language of ancient theology. Symbolic instruction was the uniform usage of antiquity as a system of mysterious communication. The Mysteries were a series of symbols which strive to recall man to his Divine Origin, and point out to him the means of returning hither. The great science acquired in the Mysteries was knowledge of man’s self, of the nobleness of his origin, the grandeur of his destiny, and his superiority over the animals, which can never acquire this knowledge. The human mind still speculates upon the great mysteries of nature, and still finds its ideals anticipated by the ancients, whose profound thoughts are to be looked for, not in their philosophies, but in their symbols, by which they endeavored to express the great ideas that vainly struggled for utterance in words, as they viewed the great circle of phenomena – Birth, Life, Death, and New Life out of Death – to them the greatest of mysteries.
25° – Knight of the Brazen Serpent
The serpent was regarded in olden days with reverence and was known as the author of the fate of souls. The serpet in coil with his head erect was the royal ensign of the Pharaohs. Other mysteries as well as those of the Hebrews and Gnostics consecrated it. In those of Bacchus Saba-Zeos it was flung into the bosom of the initiate. In a system of degrees to complete the Scottish Rite, it was necessary to teach every religion and philosophy known, and so in this degree, we find the moral lessons of some of the older religions taught with vigor, especially that of the mystical death which symbolizes the descent of the soul into the infernal regions and afterwards its rise to the state of light, truth and perfection.
26° – Prince of Mercy
To know many sciences and to know them thoroughly is an impossible task for our infinite minds. But we can take time from our daily tasks to learn a little. That the light from some great sun has been traveling toward the earth for many centuries and is not yet visible to us is almost unbelievable, when we know that light travels 186,000 miles each second, and yet is it any more wonderful to know that the great tree, the clinging vine and the little plant all sprang from seeds so similar that only a botanist can tell one from another? The truth is that everything in nature is a mystery to us and we are mysteries to ourselves. Then let us watch and pray for that understanding which comes only after being tried in the fire of time and experience.
27° – Knight of the Sun, Adept
The study of the ancient religions is of such vast proportions, that were one able to devote his entire lifetime to it, he could not hope to complete it. The worship of the sun and its planets, with more or less variations, was the most prevalent, although originally the planets, as well as fire, light and heat, were but symbols or rather the outward manifestations of the Supreme Being or Intellect. Almost every heathen nation, or at least all of whose mythology we have any knowledge, believed in one supreme God, whose name was never uttered. All rites and creeds, the evolution of some one or more of these ancient beliefs, have come down to us, sometimes purified by experience and added wisdom, but often a distorted vision has made what was once pure gold nothing but dross. This Degree especially was the real belief of our first Brethren, who lived long before the Pyramids of Egypt or the first Babylon.
28° – Knight Commander of the Temple
Practical charity, knightly attributes of character, and a scorn for the base and selfish…are but a few of the lessons taught in this degree. Truth and honor are more to be cultivated than the gathering of wealth and power, and while we have been studying the historical, philosophical and religious lessons of Masonry, let us not forget the practical side of it, ever remembering our duties to the poor and helpless, the weak and the unhappy.
29° – Scottish Knight of St. Andrew
Traditions and folk songs, handed down through the ages, are the foundation stones for the building of national character. The glorious achievements of our ancestors are the beacon lights of our efforts today. The Cross of St. Andrew has always been the emblem of humility, patience and self-denial, and even more than these, that of charity and forebearance for the weak, the poor and the helpless. The knights of old held virtue and truth and honor the most essential qualities of character.
30° – Knight Kadosh
Of all the Degrees of the Scottish Rite, we should consider this one of the most important. “Lives of great men,” as the poet has said, “remind us we can make our lives sublime.” If in death there is life, then the great martyrs of history live indeed in the hearts of the follwers after Truth. Every Mason who has attained this Degree should study the history of the Templars for it is as true now as then that the esoteric teachings of Masonry are only to be appreciated when studied diligently and continually. This Degree particularly teaches the great necessity of combating arbitrary and unscrupulous power and all influences which would keep the people in ignorance.
The Ceremonial and Official Degrees
The title of this Degree conveys the thoughts of self-examination. Every man, and more especially every Mason, should meditate prayerfully and soberly on his thoughts and acts of the day. The wrongs of today must not be repeated on the morrow, for each day should add some light and truth for our guidance for the next, and then as time goes by, our characters should be so far above reproach, so filled with the love of our fellowman, that the world would instinctively say: “There is a good man, for he is a Mason.” To correct the faults of others, to admonish with love and forbearance, is a duty we owe each other, but never to judge, for that is a divine prerogative alone.
32° – Master of the Royal Secret
In this degree the crowning point is reached by those who have studied and thought. The Royal Secret, like the occult science of the ancients, is concealed even here – but remember, “Faith begins where Reason sinks exhausted.” Magic, contrary to the belief of many, is but the absolute science of nature and its laws, hence the Star of Hope shines for us as truly as it did for the Wise Men of the East two thousand years ago. Today, as in the first days of the creation, the univeral equilibrium still retains its predominant position in the eternal plan of the Omnipotent. Good and evil, right and wrong, justice and mercy, attraction and repulsion balance each other to teach us to remeber ourselves as immortal souls, retaining for each other respect and charity and remembering always that each is slowly climbing to that state of perfection, the final goal of all.
“Be sovereign over yourself, be neither intoxicated by success nor depressed by defeat. You must not usurp in order to be enabled to punish usurpation nor must you hate error so much as not to love mankind.”
The Rank of Knight Commander of the Court of Honour is not a Degree but an Investiture bestowed upon members deserving recognition for faithful services to the Rite. The respective Sovereign Grand Inspectors General or Deputies likewise nominate members for this honor, and these must also be unanimously approved by The Supreme Council. This Investiture is a prerequisite of receiving the Thirty-third Degree at some later time, though relatively few receive this distinction.
33° – Inspector General Honorary
All Scottish Rite jurisdictions nominate a select few members to receive the 33rd Degree, Inspector General Honorary, in recognition of outstanding service to the Rite, or in public life, to the principles taught in the degrees. In the Southern Jurisdiction, the Supreme Council chooses 33rd degree members from among those who have previously received the rank and decoration of Knight Commander Court of Honor.