History of the Scottish Rite
The Scottish Rite was established in the United States by the creation of a Supreme Council in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1801. Col. John Mitchell, distinguished Revolutionary War soldier, was the first Sovereign Grand Commander. This was the origin of the Supreme Council (Mother Council of the World) of the Inspector General Knights Commanders of the House of the Temple of Solomon of the Thirty-third Degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, of the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States of America, to which authority the Bodies of Scottish Rite in Oklahoma acknowledge allegiance.
Relationship to Blue Lodge Masonry
The Scottish Rite is based on Blue Lodge Masonry and, in this country, does not confer the first three degrees. This is recognized as the unquestioned prerogative of the Grand Lodge. The Scottish Rite confers the degrees from the Fourth to the Thirty-Third inclusive.
Many questions raised by Blue Lodge Masons, but left unanswered, are answered in the Scottish Rite. Largely, it bears the same relation to Craft Masonry that the University does to earlier grades in education. At all time it recognizes the supreme authority in Masonry of the Grand Lodge and the Grand Master. It teaches that there is no rank higher than that of Master Mason, and no Masonic symbol more significant than the Master’s Apron, but it elaborates and emphasizes the great principles enshrined in Craft Masonry.
When a Master Mason advances to the higher degrees of the Rite, it does not detract, but adds to his interest in everything for which the Blue Lodge stands. It deepens his appreciation of it, and motivates him to more active participation in its affairs. He cannot fail to see the intimate relation between the two, and far from losing interest or diminishing his appreciation, he actually gains in both, or should. The Scottish Rite aids, supplements and reinforces the Blue Lodge in every way. As organizations these bodies are mutually dependent and strengthen each other with reciprocity.
The Scottish Rite is a rite of enlightenment. Its purpose is to spread the light of Masonic truth by revealing, and explaining matters concealed or only hinted at in Craft Masonry. Knowledge is power and the Scottish Rite seeks to arm its votaries with moral and spiritual understanding.
Albert Pike, 33°
Albert Pike, 33°, one of the greatest and most influential Masonic scholars and writers of all time, was born in Boston in 1809. He became a lawyer in the Territory of Arkansas. In the Civil War he was a General in the Confederate Army. He was elected Sovereign Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite in the Southern Jurisdiction in 1859, and died in Washington, D.C., in 1891. He was a linguist, and adept in esoteric Freemasonry. He revised or re-wrote the Scottish Rite Degrees into a coherent system. The lectures of these degrees are presented in “Morals And Dogma,” a comprehensive survey of the philosophy and work of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite. Today, candidates are given a copy of “A Bridge To Light” by Rex Hutchens, 33° G. C., which is a synopsis of “Morals and Dogma.”
The Symbol of the Double-Headed Eagle
The double-headed eagle was probably first accepted by Masonry as a symbol in the year 1758. In that year, the body calling itself the Council of Emperors of the East and West was established in Paris. The double-headed eagle was in all probability adopted by this Council, which claimed a double jurisdiction; one head inclined to the East to guard any and all who might approach from that direction, the other head guarding the West for a like purpose. The Council adopted a ritual of twenty-five degrees, all of which are now contained in the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, to which eight more were added so as to make thirty-three Degrees of which our Rite is now composed.
The eagle, as a symbol, is rooted in antiquity. According to Albert G. Mackey, the great Masonic encyclopedist, the bird was sacred to the sun in Egypt, Greece and Persia. To the pagans it was an emblem of Jupiter, that is, the Greek Zeus, god of moral law and order, protector of suppliants and punisher of guilt. Among the Druids, a religious order of the ancient Celts, it was a symbol of their Supreme Being. Reference is frequently made to the eagle in the Scriptures.
Among the pagans the eagle symbolized great strength and endurance as evidenced by its keen sight, aerial prowess, and resourcefulness in outwitting its prey, never wanting for its daily necessities.
Cicero, Roman orator, statesman, and man of letters, in speaking of the myth of Ganymede – the beautiful shepherd boy who was carried to Olympus by Zeus in the form of an eagle to be the cup-bearer of the mythical gods – states that “it teaches us that the truly wise, irradiated by the shining light of virtue, become more and more like God, until by wisdom they are borne aloft and soar to Him.”
And so goes the story of the Double-Headed Eagle. May its shining light of virtue guide and guard our pathway of life.
By Studying the Scottish Rite Degrees…
I learned that I should be obedient to the laws of the country, the law of God, and the laws of nature. I should be faithful to the promises that I make, to the vows that I assume, and to family, to friends and to country.
I learned to be a man of honor and conscience, preferring duty to everything else, to be independent in my opinions, to be of good morals, to be devoted to humanity, to country, to family, to be kind and indulgent to my brethren, and to be ready to assist my brethren by every means in my power.
I learned to be industrious and honest, that idleness is like a dead person. I learned to study much, to say little, and to hear and think much. I learned that I should take no wages for a work that I cannot do, that I should always be always able to say no man is poorer because I am richer and that which I have, I have honestly earned.
I learned to be zealous and faithful, to be free from selfish motives and benevolent, that I should be true to duty, that I should be generous, that I should control my temper and govern my passions so that I may fit myself to keep peace and harmony among other men. I learned that Masonry is the great peace society of the world, ever struggling to prevent difficulties and disputes.
I learned that I should inculcate justice and mercy in decision and judgment and in dealing with other men. I learned that every wrong done by one man to another, whether it affects his person, his property, his happiness, or his reputation, is an offense against justice. I should be just in judging other men’s motives. I learned that I should judge not, lest I myself be judged, for whatever judgment I render unto others, the same shall in turn be rendered unto me.
I learned to search after truth. I learned that in a large measure happiness is based on ourselves, and that to a great extent, whether we are rich or poor, we choose to be either miserable or comparatively happy. I learned that life is worth living.
I learned that Masonry is a crusade against ignorance, intolerance, fanaticism, superstition, uncharitableness, and error. I learned that Masonry is a crusade to establish all over the world, a reign of love, peace, charity, and toleration.
I learned that Masonry is not a religion but a way of life, a belief in God, a search after truth, a belief in and search for immortality. It is a will, a determination, to so live in the eyes of God, that when the hour glass of our time has run out and our work on earth shall be finished, we may be weighed in the scales of God’s mercy and justice and not found wanting.
These are a few of the things that I have learned from the study of Scottish Rite Masonry. But they are valueless, are nothing, if I do not learn to practice them; to believe in them with so fervent a zeal that not only will I be a better man but that I will have made so lasting an impression on my fellow men that they in turn will endeavor to live likewise and make such an impression on their fellow men that, by and by, the world will be free from vice and ill-doing, a place of universal peace and tranquility, not only to ourselves but to God.