Since its founding in 1801, the Scottish Rite has existed with but a single purpose: to provide more light in Masonry. Its degrees are steps of initiation, intended to usher candidates into a mythical sphere, where the lessons of virtue and morality are portrayed in a traditional setting, by legend and metaphor. The Scottish Rite degrees are lessons in practical living, presenting in dramatic form a reminder of how we may overcome the obstacles and temptations which may otherwise prevent us from living an honorable life.
Scottish Rite Valleys:
- A Lodge of Perfection (4° – 14°)
- A Chapter of Rose Croix (15° – 18°)
- A Council of Kadosh (19° – 30°)
- A Consistory of Masters of the Royal Secret (31° – 32°)
“Secrecy, Obedience and Fidelity”
The Fourth Degree teaches that a man is not fit to commence the ascent toward the heights on which Truth sits enthroned without first appreciating and embracing the value of Truth itself and of Virtue. It teaches of Duty, of your mission as a Mason to serve your fellows, your country, and mankind, and of the nine great Masonic virtues build upon the three great pillars of Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty. They are: Truthfulness, Endurance, Independence, Justice, Mercy, Equity, Silence, Devotion, and Attainment. In this Degree, you are given the key to self-knowledge, your feet are set firmly upon the path which leads there, and the way to achieve that goal is pointed out.
You must learn to work for the work’s sake, without desire of praise or rewards. Work and action have their own rewards. It is the duty of a man who seeks and accumulates greater knowledge to know and practice those ethical and moral principles which demonstrate man’s highest, most noble nature.
As you begin your climb toward knowledge, your eyes are anointed to discern Truth from Error. You are given the Key to the Mysteries, and it devolves upon you to discover its use. You will be introduced to the Kabbalah as a system of mystical thought and shown the symbolic diagram used by the Kabbalists to illustrate the world and all its marvelous parts. This diagram is also introduced as a key to the symbolic language necessary for reading and comprehending the deeper meanings of Scottish Rite and Masonic symbolism in general.
“Set your house in order.”
The Fifth Degree commemorates and recounts the funeral ceremonies of our F∴M∴H∴A∴, and in so doing, it teaches the sobering lessons of death. We are admonished that death may take us at any moment, and that life is fleeting. We do not have time to tarry by the wayside. As well, we have a duty to our family and our loved one to see that our affairs are in order, and those whom we love are well taken care of when we depart this life.
In a sense, be contemptuous of Life. Be always ready to die for a great principle, to not regard death as the worst end that can befall a man. Always be encouraged towards self sacrifice in the case of duty, or as honor shall require it. The most excellent rewards of human virtue are the approbation of good men. You are reminded to do that which is right because it is right.
“Fidelity, loyalty, discrimination”
In the Sixth Degree we discover Solomon and Hiram of Tyre in a private discussion. In the course of the discussion, Solomon’s friend Zabud is thought to be eavesdropping and threatened with punishment. In the drama that follows you will be taught the excellence of disinterestedness and generosity; that it is the duty of every true Mason to heal dissensions and differences, and to restore Peace, Concord, and Harmony among men. You are taught the necessity of good faith, fidelity, self-sacrifice and generosity. You are shown the value of self-control, of never rushing to judgment, and the nature of true friendship. Zeal for service is encouraged, reminding us to be zealous in our services to God.
“Judge not, that ye be not judged.”
In the Seventh Degree King Solomon’s Temple is under construction. A dispute among workers arises that requires arbitration. The degree teaches you to be Just, without which no man is fit to be free. Above all else, the degree teaches Reverence and Administration of the Law with Justice, Equity, and Impartiality. It teaches that it is an unjust man who assumes powers that are not his own, and that Justice and uprightness alone can unlock the mysteries contained in the higher degrees, enabling your advance towards Perfection.
It also teaches that an independent and upright executive branch of government is indispensable to freedom and equality of rights. The administration of law is a sacred duty, and the only stable foundation of free government. An unjust man (and government) is the architect of his own swift ruin.
“Knowledge without its application is of little or no value.”
The performance of the work, whatever it is, is what is important. The reward of diligent work is advancement. Dignity and importance are attached to work, and those who perform it. You are taught the rights of the laboring classes, and your duties toward them. It is especially impressed upon you that every laboring man is your Brother, entitled to your regard and assistance.
When dealing with those whom you work, always practice the rules of Benevolence and Charity. Never deal harshly with those in your employ, or those with whom you labor. You will not make false, unjust, or unreasonable claims against them. Aid him and his family, recognizing all mankind as your brothers. Capital and labor must not be adversarial, but complementary, and respectful. They must cooperate to produce harmony. This provokes reflection in respect to the necessity of an elective and independent legislature.
“Free Thought, Free Speech, Free Conscience”
The ensuing three degrees continue the tale of the H∴ legend of the Third degree. Based on old French rituals they portray the discovery and punishment of the three ruffians, which are seen as symbols of vice. In these degrees you become pledged to the cause of true Freedom, of the People, as distinguished from the mob and populace. You will promise none should repent relying on your resolves, your word and your profession. You are shown the virtues which should be displayed by one in the pursuit of Justice: Disinterestedness, Courtesy, Devotedness, Firmness, Frankness, Generosity, Self-denial, Heroism, and Loyalty.
Finally, you are reminded that everything that appears in these degrees is a symbol of something else. You are called upon to reach beyond the surface of appearances, and seek for deeper meanings.
Your close swearing eternal vigilance against those special enemies of Freedom, in these degrees represented by the G∴M∴H∴A∴: Intolerance Persecution.
“Liberty – Equality – Fraternity”
Continuing the tale of the Ninth and Tenth Degrees, the Eleventh dramatizes the captures, trials and fates of the three assassins of Hiram the Builder. We are particularly reminded that revenge is ultimately met out by the hand of God, though we must pursue evil to its deepest recesses in our efforts to defeat it.
We are taught to deal fairly with all men and see that none are subjected to extortion or the unjust imposition of burdens. Neither fear nor fault of your own may permit harm to fall upon your country or its people.
The value of trials by jury is extolled, without which liberty, and immunity from wrong and oppression cannot be guaranteed. We are shown herein how an Independent Judiciary is the third leg upon which a stable and just government stands.
“Wisdom is the True Masonic Light.”
The ceremonies of this degree are brief, but its significance is profound. Here you are taught the symbolic meanings of the Master Architect’s tools, the most important of which instructs us to solve the great problems presented by the universe, to know and understand the lofty truths of philosophy and to communicate it freely to others, particularly by our actions. Only the best and wisest in us and among us should rule. For if it be any other, the low and the ignoble will presume, and soon prevail.
“Whatsoever a man soweth, that also he shall reap.”
This degree, together with the Fourteenth, represents the capstone of the Lodge of Perfection, and culminates with your descent to the floor of the Ninth Vault where you saw without knowing it, the Lost Word, the Great Symbol of Freemasonry. It is revealed to be the tetragrammaton of the Hebrews—the letters yod heh vav heh—rendered as “Jehovah” in the King James Bible. It is called Ineffable because its true pronunciation has been lost. Similarly, the degrees of the Lodge of Perfection are termed “ineffable” because they communicate truths and concepts that cannot always be expressed by word alone. In this Degree you are solemnly devoted to Honor and Duty.
In this Degree you will witness a symbolic descent into the earth, where the remains of a temple are discovered. The descent may represent many things. It may be emblematic of the difficulties encountered by those who endeavor to discover the truth about God and the world around us. Or, it may represent the self-exploration each of us must make in our quest for Truth. Self-discovery was the purpose of all true ancient initiations; hence the Greeks adorned their temples with the words “Know Thyself.”
The Cubical Stone, an ancient Masonic symbol, will be presented for the first time. If you give serious contemplation to this symbol you will discover that its significance was foreshadowed in the Craft Degrees, where it still occurs in many foreign jurisdictions. This symbol is also found in Hebrew and Christian scriptures. From here it was introduced into Alchemy, and from there, into Freemasonry.
“The glory of God is to conceal the Word.”
In the Fourteenth degree the most profound philosophical Truths are presented as axioms, without being discussed, inciting you to pursue studies into their meaning on your own. You will be put in possession of the Lost Word and pointed in the direction towards the application of this new-found knowledge. You are consecrated to Truth and more deeply bound to your Brethren, the Fraternity, and the ideals it hopes to promulgate.
The degree of Perfection is both a celebration of the revelation received in the Thirteenth Degree as well as an examination of your worthiness to possess it. Knowledge without its application is of little of no value. With knowledge comes responsibility, and one must prove oneself worthy to possess it. The mere possession of knowledge is not a virtue. Yet knowledge, properly applied, results in wisdom, which the Book of Proverbs says was coexistent with creation.
The ancient initiate could not have arrived at the hidden vault of Enoch had he not also mastered all the requisite lessons and their application in his personal life. The reward of the practice of virtue and upright living is what was discovered. What remains for you, as an inheritor of this ancient system, is to learn how to apply what you have discovered.
You will be symbolically purified and consecrated to living virtuously, acting worthily, and deciding justly. You will obligate yourself to strive hereafter to speak truthfully.
The Temple, the abode of the Living Presence of God (represented by the Ark of the Covenant placed in the Sanctum Sanctorum), has been built. Its most obscure recesses have been discovered, and that which was discovered has been secured.
The Word which has been discovered represents the limited utterance of the Grand Architect of the Universe. Here we arrive at the Perfection of the Master’s Degree of the Symbolic Lodge with the discovery that knowledge of God is of His invisible nature, revealed visibly to us in the world He created. Hence we say, “The Glory of God is to conceal the Word.”
“Liberty of Passage—Freedom of Thought”
This degree opens upon the ruins of the Temple of Perfection that you believed so secure in the previous Degree. It is in ruin, and must be built again. This teaches that there is a great Law of ebb and flow in Nature. The full Moon begins to wane the moment it reaches fullness. By example, Nature teaches us that perfection is not a static state but an ongoing process—a process of gradual and cyclic progression towards greater perfection. This process requires unceasing work, effort and vigilance on the part of every individual lest he stray, for whatever reason, from Truth and what is right.
Confronted with the reality of polarity, or opposition in all things, we are forced to seek a solution in apparent enigmas. We must ask, “Why are there opposites?” “Can they reconciled?” and “If so, how?”
Great swords are made by repeatedly plunging their blades into the extremes of hot and cold. By analogy, we here learn a lesson that foreshadows the reconciliation of opposites: we are taught to make advantage out of adversity. This reconciliation is one of the secrets of the Eighteenth Degree.
We are especially taught that, above all things, we must remain faithful adherents to the Truth and practice correct behavior. Integrity is extolled as the rule and bylaw of our personal code. By the words “Liberty of Passage” we mean freedom of thought and conscience, and Political and Religious liberty.
“Our Masonic labors end only when we close our eyes upon this world to awaken in another and a better.”
This degree continues the lessons of the Fifteenth Degree with a particular emphasis on the belief that God aids those who pursue a good work, are faithful, and can practice the virtue of Wisdom.
Righteousness and the impartiality of Justice are again demonstrated to you, while being shown how difficult it is to rebuild the Temple of Liberty once it has been overthrown. You are taught the symbolic meaning of rebuilding the Temple, and the purpose of the Scottish Rite Freemasonry: Religion founded on Love and Toleration: Philosophy which springs from Faith in One God and Hope of a future life; Morality which embodies the Wisdom of all ages; and a political Creed which rests on three great pillars of Liberty, Equality, and Brotherhood.
“He that hath an ear, let him hear.”
In the first section of this Degree you will witness a confrontation of between King Herod II and John the Baptist, which results in shameful murder of the latter. The tale, borrowed from the New Testament, has much to teach. In one regard Herod represents the man who, having achieved rank, allows his pride, sin, and folly to prevent him from achieving his spiritual aspirations. Unable, or unwilling to yield his pride, he succumbs to weaknesses of the basest characters, ultimately, to his own condemnation. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?
The second section borrows symbolism from St. John’s apocalyptic vision of the end of time. Used metaphorically, we see the self—weary of unprofitable speculation, of barren and diseased logic, and of empty and soulless forms—setting out in search of the True Light that shall give it peace.
You are again commanded to the virtues of Union, Honor, Duty, Loyalty, Courage, Discretion, and Silence. You are instructed that your life must mirror your spirituality, and that the knowledge of the name of God, revealed to you in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Degrees must be applied knowledge; for once one realizes a truth, one must live in conformity with it. You are informed that Innocence and Purity of Heart are prerequisites to the revelation of Great Mysteries, preparing you for the New Law in the Eighteenth Degree. You will be consecrated to Truth, Justice, Virtue, and Benevolence, and purified by Fire and Water, acknowledging your conscious passage through a world of seemingly contrary natures.
Informed that the path to the wisdom, understanding, and knowledge you seek is not an easy one, perhaps fraught with pain, suffering and great service, your resolve to proceed is firmly tested. If you pass, you will learn that evil works bear evil fruit, and those who are true to God persevere.
“The power of knowledge in Transformative.”
“Solve at coagula. “Analyze ad Synthesize.”
This degree has long held a special place of honor. As one of the most philosophical and practical Degrees in Freemasonry, it encourages earnest thought and introspection. You will here be presented with that great enigma of the universe: the question of opposites, and reconciliation of sin and wrong, and pain and suffering, with the theory of the unbounded and unwearying beneficence of God. The Degree both reveals and conceals one of the great secrets of Alchemy, and unfolds the knowledge required preparatory to receiving the Royal Secret. Although Practical Alchemy (the attempt to turn base metals into gold) led to the discovery of modern chemistry, there was a form of “Spiritual Alchemy,” which had different goals. Their dictum, aurum nostrum non est aurum vulgi, “our gold is not the common gold,” hinted at the initiatic, or transformative purposes of this ancient art. These practitioners sought to transform themselves.
In this you will given the True Word, and offered a solution to the great paradox of good and evil. It sheds light upon the way to understanding the reconciliation of opposites, a requirement of equilibrium.
You will declare that you accept all good men of whatever creed and faith as your Brethren, and understand that Freemasonry may teach great truths that do not exclusively belong to any one particular religion. If you interpret any one of the symbols used in any of the degrees as having a special reference to your own particular faith, you have no right to insist that another must accept your interpretation. Such understanding is necessary to be able to live according to the mandate of the New Law of Love.
You are taught to honor every reformer who has offered up his or her own life for the benefit of all humanity. You will be obligated to exercise charity towards other’s opinions, and your breast will be anointed to be the receptacle of pure and virtuous principles, making you truly a Knight of the Rose Cross.
In the Fourteenth Degree the Lost Word was revealed to you, and in this Degree the True Word of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite will be revealed to you. As a symbol, it is a key that may unlock the gates of the temple of philosophy and explain mighty enigmas of existence. It declares that Nature and Reason unite in demonstrating the Infinity God and the Immortality of the divine essence in Man. As esoteric meaning will also be entrusted to you.
We are further informed of God’s infinite love and taught that reason is a reflection of the Supreme Intelligence, and we arrive at this great truth: reason deciphers nature’s hieroglyphics, which may be read, or its symbols interpreted, in the Great Book of Nature.
The Knights Rose Croix practice Charity in all its aspects and they derive strength to labor in the cause of Humanity from Faith and Hope.
You will learn that when the True Word is recovered, the Cubical Stone is changed into the Mystic Rose; the Blazing Star reappears in its entire splendor, the columns of the Temple are reestablished, and the Working Tools of Masonry are restored. The True Light will dispel the Darkness, and the New Law will rule upon the Earth.
“The true Mason labors for the benefit of those who are to come after him.”
The Council Degrees exemplify various philosophical and religious traditions, as well as Orders of Knighthood, as embodying principles and ideas promulgated by our Rite. Their precepts, teachings and ideas illustrate what must be encountered, understood and employed on the path to greater Truth and Knowledge.
This Degree particularly shows how the great moral principles inculcated in the preceding degrees lead up to their application in various schools of religious, philosophical and civil thought.
Once enlightenment and proper conduct free a man from the bondage of servile and base behavior, the the structures of the old and faulty systems of belief are shattered and destroyed, symbolized by the Angels pouring their vials. For when evil, symbolized by darkness, destroys itself, naught is left but the Light. Truth alone endures, because it is real; all else is illusion.
The Degrees no longer speak of building the Temple, but of building the New City, referring to the day when all Mankind will live together according to the principles extolled by Masonry. You will be made a Priest of the Order of Melchizedek, meaning that you should assume these priestly qualities: virtue, sincerity, equitability, truth, justice and tolerance. Be true and faithful to God, to duty and to yourself. This entitles you to be called a Pontiff, or bridge builder, able to make your way in the labyrinth of life.
“Truth, Justice, Toleration as the rule of life, conduct and conversation.”
The lessons of the degree include the admonition to make your life count. You are introduced to the great Lawgivers—men who having learned great truths and devoted their lives to the betterment of all Mankind.
You are given advanced teachings on how one should conduct one’s self in dealing with your fellowman. In all ways maintain dignity, listen patiently, weigh all things deliberately and dispassionately, and decide impartially. Living knowing that you represent the Fraternity at all things.
“A free and independent Judiciary is indispensable to Human Progress.”
In medieval Germany the Holy Roman emperors were unable to effectively control their lands and feudal warfare brought increasing disorder. To help control this lawlessness there emerged in Westphalia near the end of the 12th century an extra-legal but efficient criminal tribunal, called the Vehmgerichte, or “Holy Vehm.” They presumably received their original jurisdiction from the royal courts. Combining old traditions with new legal forms, they filled an important gap in German medieval criminal law. Operating where ordinary territorial justice failed, they became increasingly secret after the 14th century. They operated in so-called “holy bands” which were sworn to secrecy on pain of death. They also employed their own secret language and had secret signs. Some of their surviving documents bear the mysterious letters S.S.G.G., which are thought to be the initials of words stock, stein, gras, and grein, meaning “stick, stone, grass, and woe,” alluding to the tortures and punishment one could obtain. Accusations were made mysteriously, often by nailing a notice to a tree, and failure to appear for trial was punished by death. The possible trial verdicts were hanging or acquittal. They were most powerful in the 15th century. Thereafter increasing corruption and abuse, and the consolidated power of the petty princes, brought a general move against them, and in the 16th century the Vehmgerichte largely dissapeared; they were entirely eliminated only in the 19th century.
In this degree you are to be devoted to the cause of everyone who has been wronged by the great or oppressed by the powerful, those unjustly accused, those who have suffered from bribery, or corrupt judges, the widow, the orphan, the distressed and the destitude.
You are instructed that you cannot have honor as a Knight unless you earn it. Learn that laziness is degrading, and inactivity shameful. Be ever vigilant, seeking opportunities to perform good deeds. Be loyal in both word and deed.
Be charitable with the goods that God gives you, keeping always in the mind the poor and the needy. You shall, by generous giving, liberate yourself from the illusion that the accumulation of wealth is the purpose of life. Let not your tongue make mischief between other men, by speaking flattery or gossip.
It is certain that Truth, in the end, will always win, and the right prevail. Do not be impatient when God, for a time, allows falsehood and wrong prospers and overcome, for their day shall never be long.
“Dignity of Labor and the measurement of progress.”
Idleness is a deadly deterrence to advancement. Life is a process of never ending refinement, resulting ultimately in the achievement of perfection. Toil, the effort the we expend to reach a goal is the force which drives us to that perfection. There is always another lesson to be learned, always a new vista or horizon opening before us, and if we apply ourselves as if our lives dependent on it, both as individuals and as a society, there is no limit to the heights we might climb.
This is symbolized by labor and by the proper application of tools. Knowledge can destroy as readily as it can create, as a tool in careless hand may cut the operator.
You are taught how to apply yourself in overcoming obstacles and learn that the only way to defeat evil is to make energetic progress in the good.
“Holiness to the Lord.”
You are to be consecrated to the service to the Children of Light, and shown the Tabernacle in the wilderness, which we are told is a symbol of the universe. In the eyes of the ancients, man was considered a microcosm, or reflection of the universe; hence the Hermetic dictum, “As above so below.” We draw upon it allegorically to represent the establishment of a rebuilt mind and character according to the plan as laid out on the trestleboard of life by God. The tabernacle is a tent, a temporary dwelling place for the spirit of God, represented by the Ark. When the Tabernacle was ordered built by God, he promised a permanent dwelling place would eventually be made.
Sancta sanctis, Holy things for the holy! Great truths must be approached with reverence and piety. Hence you are purified in a brazen laver, in preparation that you might shine among men, blessing all and returning good for evil.
“Reason, Knowledge and Faith.”
This Degree illustrates the common features of some of the world’s major religions. The unity of thought that exists in all faiths, binding all mankind as one family, is the search for Divine Truth. The object of Masonry is social unity, by the alliance of Reason and Faith. However men may differ in their private beliefs, there can be but One True Origin of all Things. There can be but One True Creator. This fact alone makes all men Brothers.
To advance further you are told that an initiate must possess many qualities and attributes. Intellect enlightened by study, audacity which nothing checks, will that nothing can conquer, and discretion that nothing may corrupt or intoxicate, these are the qualities which identify a true Adept. To Know, to Will, to Dare, to Be Silent—these are fit rules of conduct for one who has attained or arrived at the knowledge of its practical application, a Master of Reason, and a Master of the Regenerating Fire.
Masonry, like Nature, teaches by symbols. Application of the ideas put forth in the Eighteenth Degree lead to this truth: Harmony, or Equilibrium, consists of the reconciliation of opposites. For this to be achieved there must be separation and reunion as the Alchemists said, solve et coagula, “analyze and synthesize.”
You will be introduced to the great principle of rhythm, and the great cycle of Birth, Death, and Regeneration, or Resurrection as a theme known the world over in many cultures and times. One lesson there points to the truth that from death and darkness does the Light eventually rise reborn as the Phoenix from its ashes, as a tree is nourished by the leaves which die and decay at its roots.
You accept your position as a novice in the Mysteries, prepared to fill your duties of life and of your private religion, that you may be raised, on that great day of account, a monument to God’s glory.
“God is the Light of the heavens and the earth.”
This Degree introduces you to Sufi teachings and traditions, and gives us clues on how this esoteric branch of Islam might help overcome the difficulties encountered in our attempts to advance as novitiates in the mysteries.
It first asks us if we have truly performed all we have promised. This is a question we must frequently ask ourselves. In our Masonic careers we have assumed obligations to the performance of many duties. These obligations are real. If we have agreed to live by them and do not do so, we are hypocrites and dishonor the Fraternity. The Perfection that was idealized in the Fourteenth Degree reveals itself to be elusive, and the path to it requires constant attention.
Knowledge, the Truth, and opportunities for service often come to us in forms which are at first unrecognizable, and may seem at first sight, unacceptable. Truth may appear to us in a guise we find unrecognizable, or even foolish. By withholding premature judgment and by applying mature reflection we learn to recognize Truth, and in so doing we broaden our horizons of understanding, which leads to greater wisdom. As you have discovered throughout the Degrees, philosophical truths are not as easily digested as are children’s primers. We must vigorously apply ourselves to learning, and be prepared to do so at all times.
“I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord.”
This is the third and final of the novitiate of the Mysteries Degrees, in which you will represent one of the faithful and the elect.
The early Christian mysteries are introduced, and some of their ideas are expounded upon, as were the early Hebrew mysteries in the Twenty-fourth and the Islamic mysteries in the Twenty-fifth Degrees. Their grades were Purification, Initiation, and Accomplishment, or Perfection.
The Grip of the Lion’s Paw is identified as representing the mental grasp of a new definition of the world, by which man is raised in consciousness from the dead and putrefied state of mental ignorance. You will again be symbolically lustrated with water as a symbol of purification by suffering and sorrow. You will again share food and wine, remembering that we are fellow travelers on the path, and that we are united in our pursuit of Truth.
“As Above, So Below.”
This Degree will instruct you in the nature of symbolism. It will show you what symbols are, and how to read them. Symbols are used because many abstract, philosophical, and profound truths and realizations cannot be expressed by words alone.
In the past Degrees you learned something of the ancient mysteries, and were provided with an esoteric interpretation of the Master’s Degree. The divine origin and nature of the Self has also been alluded to. You have been introduced to the Kabbalistic philosophy of the Hebrews, and were shown methods by which the ancient initiate investigated the nature of the universe. You are given to understand that the accumulation of knowledge is gradual. It builds upon itself with unceasing labor. It requires great patience and determination. In this Degree you are admonished not to confuse the symbol of the thing symbolized, a practice which leads to confusion and folly. You are also informed that it is the nature of a symbol to both conceal and reveal information. Revelare, the word in Latin, means to veil anew.
The seat of divine inspiration lies beyond the veil. He who would receive the gift of Wisdom must be prepared to surrender to it completely, as it may spring forth suddenly, without warning, and from the darkness. Once received, it cannot be undone. Woe unto him who partakes of the mysteries unworthily, for he may lose himself where the true initiate finds reality unveiled.
You are taught that you must emulate Nature in your efforts to digest what you learn. Everything in Nature follows a great cycle. All living things, after fulfilling the measure of their creation, return to the earth only to become part of a new form of life. To express this in the symbolism of Alchemy, you must “analyze and synthesize.” That is, you must be able to take apart what you have learned, and put it together in new and useful ways. That which was alluded to in the Eighteenth Degree, you will hear clearly spoken: those who can read the symbols of the Book of Nature are truly Princes among Masons and Adepts among Men.
“Continence, Obedience, Beneficence.”
This is the first of the three Chivalric Degrees. Having made yourself familiar with some of the great truths common to some of the world’s great religions, and firm in what you have learned in all the Degrees up until now, you assume the vows of Knighthood and take up arms against injustice, falsehood and oppression. The five excellent qualities of a Knight are Humility. Temperance, Chastity, Generosity, and Honor.
You realize fully that you have no time to waste, as death draws nearer upon you with every breath. You vow to guard the honor of women, not neglect the sick and suffering, live to serve your fellow man. You will endeavor to exemplify all the principles inculcated in the Rite, and never harm another as a result of base motives.
A firm and steadfast willpower is needed on the part of every initiate, so that he does not deviate from the path, no matter how strong the temptation. When one sacrifices personal desires for nobler and higher ends, or for the benefit of humanity at large, then one is worthy of the highest rewards.
“Death before dishonor”
Here, in the second of the Chivalric Degrees, you learn a new the value of Humility, Patience, and Self-denial. The necessity of a probationary period alludes to the time required for knowledge to the analyzed and processed, and its application in daily life discovered. The idea is put forth, as was believed in the time of the great Chivalric Orders, that illumination could be achieved by Knightly and Heroic Virtue. Therefore you are once again commended to Humility, Patience, Self-denial, Charity, Clemency, Generosity, Virtue, Truth, and Honor.
You are given a brief introduction into the origin of some of the Orders of Masonic Knighthood, departing with the knowledge that no true Mason ever despairs of the final victory of truth over error.
“Vengeance is Thine O Lord! Thou wilt repay!”
The degree of Knight Kadosh derives from the same source of the York Rite Degree of Knight Templar, with which it has some affinities. This Degree is the capstone of your experience in the Council of Kadosh, and you will here assume your third degree of Knighthood. You will here discover that you may not ascend any higher in your knowledge of the mysteries until you have overcome the dread of death. Death is inevitable, and in the grand scheme of the Great Architect, it is the entrance to another existence. We must all overcome what we fear most in order to fully cross the threshold of self-knowledge, even as death is the gateway to the personal knowledge of God. For the third and final time your resolve to proceed is thoroughly tested.
The mission of the Kadosh is the avenging of a great crime, and we are the sworn enemies of the crimes of oppression, injustice, and usurpation. In token of our willingness and determination to proceed, you are called upon to sacrifice the base emotions of vanity, pride, jealousy, envy and any private grievance that would impede the welfare of the Order or of a Brother.
You are warned that no matter how near to the top you may appear to be you may fall at any moment. Therefore, be ever on guard, and ever vigilant. Many are called yet few are chosen.
You are called upon to verbalize your thoughts regarding your beliefs in all matters Masonic, Political and Religious, which indicates you fully understand the principles of the Order, and are able to teach them to others. The beliefs must be in accord with the following:
MASONIC—To believe in being a true Brother, in the performance of Duty, in subduing the passions and in aspiring to virtue.
POLITICAL—To believe in being a loyal and peaceable citizen, and in government by the consent of the governed, with equal treatment for all.
RELIGIOUS—To believe in the existence of a Supreme Being, of Infinite Wisdom, Understanding and Knowledge, One who loves us all and desires our obedience.
You will be presented with one of the oldest symbols of the Scottish Rite degrees, the Ladder of the Kadosh, and given its meaning. Among other things, it illustrates the steps of attainment: Justice, Perfect Equity, Amiability, Good Faith, Great Labor, Endurance, and Elaboration/Intelligence/Understanding.
In life, temptation is everywhere, and the ability to resist, control and to redirect the will is what distinguishes a Knight Mason from common men.
You swear to always contribute to the propagation and diffusion of enlightened ideas, to always strive to serve the legal sovereignty of the People over institutions, and to always keep separate Church and State.
In closing you are reminded that all knightly virtues are but the tenets of brotherly love, relief and truth manifested in action to the world at large—those tenets first taught you in the Symbolic Lodge.
“The Peace and Truth of God be with you always.”
This Degree presents an allegorical representation of the final judgment common to many world religions. It is portrayed within the context of ancient Egyptian mythology, which shared many similarities with the Judeo-Christian religions. As in other degrees of Masonry, you are instructed to look beyond the mere symbol and discover for yourselves what you can learn from the lesson presented. We do not assert the reality of the Egyptian gods, but see in them the personifications of natural forces and cosmic events. Whatever religious truths you may ascribe to them personally is your own concern. At the very least they are actors in a great play, attempting to convey the lesson that we are accountable for our actions.
Perhaps the most important lesson of this Degree is that the strong who easily resist temptation are less deserving of reward than the weak who struggle to overcome. To rise and fall again is more heroic than by greater strength never to fall. To do wrong and make amends—to sin and repent—belongs to a nobler nature. Being human, we all err. Those who hold different opinions entertain them as honestly as you do your own, and you have no right to doubt their sincerity. No man is truly wise who is not kind, courteous and charitable in his construction of other men’s motives.
Remember that you represent the Order; that you must maintain its dignity and glory, preserve its Constitutions, and act by its laws. You are ever to bear in mind that what the letter of the law does not prohibit is often forbidden by generosity and decency.
“Ex Oriente Lux.”
Brethren, all of the preceding instruction, admonitions, and initiatory Rites of the previous Degrees have been to prepare you for this Degree, and to enable you to comprehend the Royal Secret and the Holy Doctrine.
The Royal Secret, if lived with perfect comprehension and understanding, elevates mankind to sublime heights and levels of realization. The Great Symbol of the Degree is the Symbolic Camp. It will be presented to you as an emblem of Realization as Achievement.
Some of the most profound truths of the ancient mysteries are spoken as axioms. You are called upon to summon your capacities and to attempt to pierce the veil to the symbolic language in which they are presented. To be truly a Master of the Royal Secret, individual realization is required on the part of each and every initiate.
You will assume five final vows, marking you as a Soldier of Light, Liberty, Freedom of Religion, the People, and of Scottish Rite Masonry. In the Fourteenth Degree you received the Lost Word; in the Eighteenth Degree you received the True Word, and soon, in this Degree, you will be put in possession of the Sacred Word of the Scottish Rite.
You are about to given the Royal Secret and put in possession of the Holy Doctrine. It therefore becomes necessary that you take responsibility for this knowledge and devote your lives to being fit examples of our Rite.
Therefore, will you consent to lead the life of a mere animal? Will you continue to prefer ease over exertion? Or luxury over self-denial for the good of others? Or wealth in money over wealth of knowledge and truth? Or the sensual and the material to the spiritual and the divine?
Brethren, soon to be Masters of the Royal Secret, you are the point where the roads of life diverge. Make now your decision and mark well your actions. So mote it be.
Many thanks to brother Arturo de Hoyos for the rich content and well studied knowledge within the“Scottish Rite Ritual-Monitor & Guide” book.