The Supreme Council
The Supreme Council, 33°, is the governing body of the Scottish Rite. With its headquarters in Lexington, Massachusetts, the Supreme
Council is governed by 49 "Active Members" who come from the 15 states comprising the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. Each of the 15 States has a "Deputy", who is the executive officer for the Rite within his state, and he is supported by the remaining Active members. There is a least one "Active" in addition to the Deputy in each state. Some states have as many as five Active Members.
The Supreme Council meets on an annual basis, at which time the business of the Rite is transacted and the 33° conferred on those who have been elected to receive this honor.
What Is The Scottish Rite?
The Scottish Rite is one of the two branches of Freemasonry in which a Master Mason may proceed after he has completed the three degrees of Symbolic or Blue Lodge Masonry. The other branch is known as the York Rite, consisting of Royal Arch Masons, Royal and Select Masters, and Knights Templar. The Scottish Rite includes the degrees from the 4° to the 32°.
The use of the word "Scottish" has led many Masons to believe that the Rite originated in Scotland. There was also a false belief which persisted for many years, that a man had to go to Scotland to receive the 33°. Neither of these statements is true.
Actually, the first reference to the Rite appears in old French records where the word "Ecossais," meaning Scottish, is found. During the latter part of the 17th Century, when the British Isles were torn by strife, many Scots fled to France and resumed their Masonic interests is that country. It is believed that this influence contributed to the use of the word "Scottish."
In 1732, the first "Ecossais" or Scottish Lodge, was organized in Bordeaux, one of the oldest and most influential Masonic centers in France. The membership included Scottish and English Masons. The years 1738-40 saw the formation of the first "Hauts Grades" or advanced degrees. In 1761, certain Masonic authorities in France granted a patent to Stephen Morin of Bordeaux to carry the advanced degrees across the sea to America. In 1763, Morin established these degrees in the French possessions in the West Indies. What he established consisted of a system of 25 so-called higher degrees which flourished in France, and which were known as the "Rite of Perfection."
Within a few years after 1763, other degrees were added, until the Rite had a ritual structure of 33 degrees the first three being exemplified in a Symbolic Lodge, if a Grand Lodge with subordinate Lodges existed in the area.
In 1767, Henry Francken, who had been deputized by Morin, organized a Lodge of Perfection in Albany,
New York. This was the fore runner of what was to become the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite in the United States. During the Colonial Period, other deputies, appointed by Morin, organized Masonic groups which conferred the advanced degrees at other important points along the Atlantic seaboard, including Charleston, South Carolina. These groups were independent and without centralized supervision or control; however, they all agreed that their authority came from Stephen Morin in Jamaica in the West Indies.
On May 31,1801, the Supreme Council of the Thirty-third degree for the United States of America the first Scottish Rite Supreme Council in the world was founded in Charleston, South Carolina. Its aim was to unify these competing groups and to bring Masonic order out of chaos. The full membership of this Supreme Council consisted of 11 Grand Inspectors General.
Of these 11 - John Mitchell, Frederick Dalcho, Abraham Alexander, Emanuel De La Motta, Thomas Bartholomew Bowen, Israel De Lieben, Isaac Auld, Le Comte Alexandre Francois Auguste de Grasse, Jean Baptiste Marie Delahogue, Moses Clava Levy and James Moultrie — nine were born abroad and only Brothers Isaac Auld and James Moultrie were native born. In religion, four were Jews, five were Protestants, and two were Roman Catholics.
On August 5, 1813, Emanuel De La Motta, 33°, of Savannah, Georgia, a distinguished Jewish merchant and philanthropist, and Grand Treasurer General of the Supreme Council at Charleston, organized in New York City the Supreme Council of the Thirty-third degree for the Northern District and Jurisdiction of the United States of America.
The first Sovereign Grand Commander was III.·. Daniel D. Tompkins, 33°. He filled this office from 1813-25. He was at the same time Vice-President of the United States for two terms, under President Monroe. The first Grand Secretary General of this Supreme Council, its Conservator during the era of anti-Masonic attacks, and its third Sovereign Grand Commander from 1832-51, was III.·. John James Joseph Gourgas, 33°. Both the Northern and the Southern Jurisdictions made slow progress in unifying the scattered degree-conferring groups, and in standardizing the rituals. They were handicapped by the pride in the local organizations; by leadership jealousies; by the anti-Masonic agitation of 1826-40, which almost destroyed Freemasonry; by the War between the States, and by other matters. The process of unification, however, was completed in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction by the Union of 1867, when the last irregular Supreme Council finally acknowledged the authority of the regular Supreme Council. From that Union, there arose what is the present Supreme Council for the Northern Masonic
Jurisdiction of the United States of America.
Since it is now officially recognized as beginning in 1801 in Charleston, South Carolina, the Scottish Rite has spread throughout the world. At the present time, the Supreme Council for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction
officially recognizes and enjoys friendly relations with the Supreme Councils of the Scottish Rite in 39 other Jurisdictions, and the higher degree systems (Swedish Rite) administered by the Grand Lodges in the four Scandinavian countries (Denmark,
Iceland, Norway and Sweden).
The Northern Masonic Jurisdiction specifically covers the 15 states east of the Mississippi River and north of the Mason-Dixon Line and the Ohio River, including Delaware. Its headquarters is in Lexington, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. The other Supreme Council in the United States is that of the Southern Jurisdiction. It has its head quarters at Washington, D.C., and covers the remaining 35 states, the District of Columbia, and the United States territories and possessions. At present, there are 436,000 Scottish Rite Masons throughout the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. Of this number, there are approximately 3,700 Thirty-third degree Masons, comprising the membership of the Supreme Council. There are Scottish Rite centers, called "Valleys" in 110 cities and towns in the 15 states of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction.
The Scottish Rite membership of the Southern Jurisdiction exceeds 600,000, so that the total Scottish Rite membership in the United States is over one million.
One important point which must be recognized by all Masons is the fact that the Scottish Rite shares the 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 the Grand Master of Masons is recognized as the ranking Masonic officer present when in attendance at any Scottish Rite meeting.
Our degrees are in addition to and are in no way "higher" than Blue Lodge degrees. Scottish Rite work amplifies and elaborates on the lessons of the Craft. It should never be forgotten that termination of a member's Symbolic Lodge standing automatically terminates his Scottish Rite membership, whether his rank be 14° or 33°.
There are four coordinate divisions in the Scottish Rite:
1. Lodge of Perfection, 4°-14°
(presiding officer — Thrice Potent Master)
2. Council of Princes of Jerusalem, 15°-16° (presiding officer — Sovereign Prince)
3. Chapter of Rose Croix, 17°-18° (presiding officer — Most Wise Master)
4. Consistory of Sublime Princes of the Royal Secret, 19°-32° (presiding officer — Commander-in-Chief)
Some Valleys do not have all four divisions. In such cases, their candidates receive Council, Chapter or Consistory work in neighboring Valleys.
Lessons Of The Scottish Rite Degrees
Lodge of Perfection
Blue Lodge Degrees
1° Entered Apprentice.
This degree begins a mans journey into freemasonry and
This degree symbolizes man in adulthood and represents
3° Master Mason.
This degree represents man in old age and relates to
Lodge of Perfection Degrees
4° Master Traveler - Here
is the introduction to Scottish Rite Masonry. This
degree provides us with a preview of moral truths we shall
witness on our journey through the Scottish Rite.
5° Perfect Maser -
This degree teaches us that selfish thoughts and
unworthy ambitions will corrupt and destroy a man.
6° Master of the Brazen
We learn from this degree that we must have faith
in ourselves, faith in each other, and faith in God.
7° Provost and Judge -
Justice should be impartial and tempered with
mercy. This degree teaches us that we should not judge
8° Intendant of the
Building - We are reminded in this
degree that each new honor is a step toward moral
perfection. Each honor earned requires attention to a
9° Master of the Temple - The
message of this degree is that mutual belief in a Supreme
Being should bind all men together in a worldwide
10° Master Elect - We
learn in this degree that a person who violates his
obligations, regardless of his station in life, will not go
11° Sublime Master
Elected - This degree dramatizes the
importance of good citizenship, that honesty and respect for
others should be rewarded.
12° Master of Mercy - Exemplified
in this degree is the quality of forgiveness, not just to
forego the opportunity for revenge, but to cease to feel
enmity or resentment toward the transgressor.
13° Master of the Ninth Arch -
This degree teaches us that difficulties and dangers,
however great, should not deter us from progressing toward
moral and ethical improvement.
14° Grand Elect Mason - As
the summit of Ancient Craft Masonry, this degree impresses
us with holiness of God and the reverence due His Holy Name.
Council of Princes of
15° Knight of the East - The
lesson of this degree emphasizes the importance of
loyalty to our beliefs and fidelity to our obligations.
16° Prince of Jerusalem.
This degree exemplifies fidelity to duty and devotion to
Chapter of Rose Croix Degrees
17° Knight of the East
and West. We learn from this degree that we must
seek truth in our way of life and that we should learn from
and avoid repeating the errors of the past.
18° Knight of the Rose
Croix of H.R.D.M. - The message of this degree
reveals the new law of love. We should prepare a
Temple in our heart, where God is worshiped.
Consistory of the Royal
19° Grand Pontiff - This degree
dramatizes the perennial conflict between good and evil that
will end in triumph of righteousness and peace in the hearts
20° Master ad Vitam - In
this degree we learn that the challenge of disloyalty and
treason must be confronted. We should condemn all who
conspire against the security of the nation and the
happiness of its people.
21° Patriarch Noachite - This degree teaches that Freemasonry is not a shield for
wrongdoing and that justice is one of the pillars of
22° Prince of Libanus - The dignity of
honest labor, the nobility of work and the disgrace of
idleness are the subject of this degree.
23° Chief of the
Tabernacle - Based on the incident of "The
Four Chaplains," this degree teaches us that faith in God
will find expression in love for our fellow man, even to the
ultimate personal sacrifice.
24° Brother of the Forest.
In this degree we discover that a Scottish Rite Mason
should not judge any man by his race or by anything except
his own acts.
25° Master of Achievement -
Dramatizing events in the life of Brother
Benjamin Franklin, this degree shows us that an industrious
life benefits not only ourselves but also humanity.
26° Friend and Brother Eternal -
From a true incident during the American
Civil War we learn that partisan strife does not dissolve
our Masonic obligations and that the virtues of brotherhood
give rise to good citizenship.
27° Knight of Jerusalem - The
lesson of this degree illustrates the importance of a free
church in a free state, each cooperating toward the common
28° Knight of the Sun - Reminding
us that Freemasonry provides a meaningful moral philosophy,
this degree points out the importance of overcoming the
vices and superfluities of everyday life.
29° Knight of St.
Andrew - This degree emphasizes the
Masonic teachings of equality and toleration.
30° Grand Inspector - This degree
teaches us to be attentive, impartial, and equitable in
31° Knight Aspirant -
In this degree we learn that service to humanity should be
our response when God calls us to labor.
32° Sublime Prince of
the Royal Secret - As the culmination of
Scottish Rite Masonry, this degree celebrates the triumph of
individual integrity and our obligation to serve humanity.
The 33° is conferred upon those members of the 32° who have been outstanding in their contributions to Freemasonry, the Scottish Rite, or who have shown in their communities the leadership which marks them as men who exemplify in their daily lives the true meaning of the Brotherhood of man under the Fatherhood of God. It cannot be sought by application, but must be such a man as described above who has been selected by the Deputy of his state. He must be not less than 33 years of age, and may be elected at an Annual Meeting of the Supreme Council a Sovereign Grand Inspector General of the Thirty-third and Last Degree, Honorary Member of the Supreme Council. Such election shall be by unanimous vote of the Active Members present taken by secret ballot. The degree is conferred at the Annual Meeting of the Supreme Council next succeeding the election of a candidate.
Meritorious Service Award
There is an award known as the "Meritorious Service Award" which may be conferred upon members of the Rite in this Jurisdiction who have attained the Thirty-second degree and who, by reason of meritorious service of a Masonic character, are deemed worthy of such recognition. This distinction is granted by statewide Scottish Rite organizations known as Councils of Deliberation.
Oath of Fealty
Before receiving the degrees of the Scottish Rite, every candidate must sign the Oath of Fealty:
"I, the undersigned, do hereby promise on my word of honor, and swear true faith, allegiance, and fealty to the Supreme Council of Sovereign Grand Inspectors General of the Thirty-third and Last Degree of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the United States of America, sitting at its Grand East in the Town of Lexington, Massachusetts, of which the Illustrious ..............is Sovereign Grand Commander, and will support and abide by its Constitutions Orders, and Decrees.
"That I will hold allegiance to the said Supreme Council and be loyal thereto, as the supreme authority of the Rite; will hold illegal and spurious every other Body that may be established within its jurisdiction, claiming to be a Supreme Council, and every other diction that does not hold its powers from said Supreme Council, and will hold no communication whatever in Scottish Rite Masonry with any member of the same nor allow him to visit any Body of the Rite of which I may be a member; and I will dispense justice to my brethren according to the laws of equity and honor.
"And should I violate this, my solemn vow and pledge, I consent to be expelled from Scottish Rite Masonry, and all rights therein and in any Body of the Rite, and to be denounced to every Body of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite in the world as a traitor and forsworn.
"And may God aid me to keep and perform the same. Amen."
Declaration of Principles
Each petitioner must also hear the following Declaration of Principles:
"This Supreme Council reaffirms its unswerving loyalty to the fundamental purpose of Freemasonry, which purpose from time immemorial has been to improve and strengthen the character of the individual man, and through the individual, the character of the community, thus under girding the community with those spiritual values which give it strength and stability.
"This Supreme Council believes that this purpose is to be attained by laying abroad basis of principle upon which men of every race, country, sect, and opinion may unite.
"Believing that good and true men can be trusted to act well and wisely, this Supreme Council considers it the duty of the Fraternity to impress upon its members the principles of personal righteousness and personal responsibility, to enlighten them as to those things which make for human welfare, and to inspire them with that feeling of charity, or well wishing, toward all mankind which will move them to translate principle and conviction into action.
"To that end Freemasonry teaches a belief in God and faith in His divine purposes. It encourages the worship of God in conformity with the dictates of individual conscience. It stands for truth and justice, liberty and enlightenment, fraternity and philanthropy.
"This Supreme Council expects of its members strict obedience to the laws of the land, and respect for their country's flag.
"Such principles unite men and encourage the pursuit by them, individually and collectively, of worthy endeavors and the attainment of the purposes inherent in them. In that unity, human character achieves its highest unfolding and provides man's best hope for peace on earth and goodwill among men.
"To the furtherance of these principles, all our ritual is directed and all our efforts are aimed. To their furtherance, each Master Mason has pledged himself and at the portal of the Scottish Rite has renewed that pledge.
"This Supreme Council discountenances and rejects any attempt by any international groups or confederations of Scottish Rite Supreme Councils to legislate for individual Supreme Councils.
"Recognizing that principles unite men, that programs sometimes divide them, and that the preservation of unity of purpose and devotion to principle is essential to Freemasonry, the Supreme Council affirms its continued adherence to that ancient and approved rule of Freemasonry which forbids the discussion within tyled doors of creeds, politics, or other topics apt to excite personal animosities.
"This Supreme Council further affirms its conviction that it is not only contrary to the fundamental principles of Freemasonry but exceedingly dangerous to its unity, strength, usefulness and welfare for Masonic Bodies m their official capacity to take formal action or attempt to exercise pressure or influence for or against any particular legislative project or proposal, or in any way to attempt to procure the election or appointment of Governmental officials, whether executive, legislative, or judicial, or to influence them, whether or not members of the Fraternity, in the performance of their official duties."