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by Bro. S. BRENT MORRIS 33° G.C.


There has been wide enthusiasm about the establishment of the Scottish Rite Research Society, but the question has been raised often, “Are there really enough topics to research in the Scottish Rite?” Certainly there are difficulties if we look to the earliest origins of our Rite in France, as the primary research materials are in another country across an ocean. Further, it is intimidating to look at the writings on the Rite by such master scholars as Baynard, Carter, Harris, Jackson, or Lobinger. It is easy to imagine that little remains to be done but to occasionally admire their splendid efforts.

Nothing could be farther from the truth! There are dozens of interesting, exciting, and important issues about the Scottish Rite that have never been addressed. Some require access to specialized research materials, but many are within the reach of any interested student. To spur research in this understudied area, several questions are posed about the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. No claim is made that these questions have never been answered, just that a fresh consideration would be welcomed.



In 1797, four years before the establishment of the Mother Supreme Council, Thomas Smith Webb published his landmark book, Freemason’s Monitor or Illustrations of Masonry. His book was an abbreviation of William Preston’s 1772 Illustrations of Masonry, arranged to suit the American Masonic environment. Webb’s work formed the foundation for what is considered “standard” American Masonic Ritual. His work with the ritual was expanded upon Jeremy Ladd Cross, John Barney, and other itinerant Masonic lecturers of the eighteenth century.

In the first edition of the Freemason’s Monitor, there was a section “containing an account of the Ineffable Degrees of Masonry,” those conferred Lodges of Perfection. These bodies were established under Stephen Morin’s “Rite of Perfection.” Webb’s description of the Degree of Perfection, or Grand, Elect, Perfect, and sublime Mason explains that “[t]he jewels appertaining to this degree [include] . . . a gold ring with this motto, ‘Virtue unites what Death cannot part.’”[i] A quick check of some of the oldest manuscript rituals in the Archives of the Mother Supreme Council, including the “Francken Manuscript,” the oldest English version of the Scottish Rite Degrees, shows that a gold ring with this motto has always been given to those receiving the Degree of Perfection. Several questions immediately present themselves.

  1.How long has a gold ring been associated with the 14°?

The evidence just cited gives an answer of at least 200 years in the United States alone. If 14° rings have been given out for two centuries, then there must be an oldest ring lurking in some Masonic museum.

  2.Where is he oldest example of a 14° ring?

The Fourteenth Degree is not the only Scottish Rite Degree with a distinctive ring. The Thirty-third Degree ring is immediately recognized as a sign of great Masonic achievement. However, there do not seem to be early written references to the ring of this Degree.

  3.When did a distinctive ring become associated with the 33° and where is the oldest example of a 33° ring?

Another distinctive item of regalia associated with the Scottish Rite is the “Grand Decoration of the Order” or jewel of the Thirty-third Degree. While this is described in the Appendix to the Constitutions of 1786, it appears no where in Constitutions of 1762.[ii] Presumably it was created or adopted from some other system during the twenty-four year period of 1762–1786.

  4.Where was the 33° jewel first described and when did it come into general use?

Anyone attending a Scottish Rite meeting for this first time, especially in the Southern Jurisdiction, is quickly struck by the distinctive caps worn by our members indicating their degree. While their use is now the norm, caps are a fairly recent addition to the Rite’s regalia.

  5.What is the history of caps in the Scottish Rite?

Who designed the caps? When wee they introduced? Has the same color scheme always been used? Did caps replace some other insignia? Was the introduction of caps well received by all Valleys?



Not all information about the Craft is available from records or direct evidence; many times it is necessary to rely on secondary sources. The description of the Ineffable Degrees in Webb’s Freemason’s Monitor is an example of secondary information.

It is not known where Webb obtained the material of these eleven degrees. Although a Lodge of Perfection had been established in Albany in 1767, it was dormant during the years Webb lived in that city, and it seems certain that he was not made a member of the Lodge. He may have received the monitorial data from some Albany Mason who had been a member of the Lodge and had possession of the rituals, or Webb may have gathered the data on one of his visits to Boston or Philadelphia.[iii]

While we do not know where Webb received his information about the Ineffable Degrees, the very fact that the Degrees are mentioned gives us insight to the precursors of the Scottish Rite. Were the Ineffable Degrees so popular that the descriptions in his Monitor were eagerly welcomed, or did Webb include the information to tease his readers and increase his sales?

  6.Where did Thomas Smith Webb get the information on the Ineffable Degrees for his 1797 Freemason’s Monitor?

Webb was a friend of Masonry, and his descriptions of the Ineffable Degrees were at worst designed as a sales gimmick. Not all authors are as benign. Exposés of Masonic rituals have been popular books for centuries, and they sometimes give the only insight into the evolution of Masonic Rituals and Ceremonies. The first exposé of rituals that evolved into Scottish Rite Degrees was published in 1766 by a Monsieur Bérage, Les Plus Secrets Mystères des Hauts Grades de la Maçonnerie Dévoilés [The Most Secret Mysteries of the High Grades of Masonry Unveiled]. This exposé was wildly successful with the public, not only because it unveiled the “most secret mysteries” but also because it was book prohibited by the French government.[iv] Its study should provide the same understanding for Scottish Rite Rituals as Three Distinct Knocks and Jakin and Boaz provide for craft ritual.

  7.What does Bérage’s 1766 Les Plus Secrets Mystères tell us about the evolution of Scottish Rite Degrees?

France was not the only source of ritual exposés of the high grades. Many were published during the American antimasonic period, including one of the most notorious, Light on Masonry, published in 1829 by Elder David Bernard. This book alleges to give the rituals for all the Craft, York, and Scottish Rite Degrees plus ten other “French Degrees.” Elder Bernard appears to have borrowed heavily from Bérage, as the rituals for many of his “Detached Degrees” are very similar. Bernard could have translated from Les Plus Secrets Mystères or he may have exposed the ceremonies of some Masons who themselves translated Bérage. If accurate, the Scottish Rite Rituals in Bernard’s Light on Masonry, published just 28 years after the formation of the Mother Supreme Council, give us a unique snapshot of our early ceremonies. However, the Scottish Rite Rituals in Light on Masonry differ significantly from known practices of the Southern Jurisdiction. They could be early Northern Masonic Jurisdiction rituals or rituals from the Cerneau Supreme Council or from yet some unrecognized source.

  8.What is the source of the “Degrees” in Bernard’s Light on Masonry?



The Scottish Rite in America has developed a distinct method of conferring the degrees in the periodic reunions of our Valleys. The Constitutions of 1762 require the deliberate (and obviously symbolic) delay of 81 months between 1° and 25°. Thus the rapid conferral of degrees at a Reunion flies in face of at least symbolic delays if not actual practice of the Scottish Rite.

  9.When and where did Scottish Rite reunions originate?

Freemasonry as a society venerates tradition, even in the face of common sense. It is thus hard to imagine that such a radical concept as a reunion was easily adopted.

  10.How quickly accepted was the idea of a Reunion?

Another distinctive feature of American Scottish Rite degrees is their elaborate staging and costuming—elaborate beyond the dreams of our founders. Professor Lance Brockman of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, has made a study of stage sets belonging to various Scottish Rite Valleys. In many cases, our Valleys have unwittingly preserved wonderful examples of theatrical art, previously thought lost.

  11.When and where did elaborate staging come to be used for Scottish Rite degrees?



The Constitutions of 1762 require Princes of Jerusalem to celebrate two feast days: November 20, when their ancestors made their entry into Jerusalem and February 23, to celebrate the rebuilding of the Temple. Knights of the East celebrate the rebuilding of the Temple and the equinoxes, March 22 and September 22. The Grand Elect Perfect Masons celebrate the dedication of the first Temple on July 5. The Constitutions of 1786 require two festivals: “one on the first of October when our property was sequestrated and given to the Knights of Malta, and the other on the 27th of December, St. John the Evangelist’s day.” All of these festivals seem to be lost to modern Scottish Rite tradition, though they may have been enjoyed by our earlier Brethren.

  12.Is there any evidence that these festivals were ever celebrated?

The Maundy Thursday ceremony of our Chapters of Rose Croix is the most widely celebrated of Scottish Rite events today, even though it is not mentioned in the Secret Constitutions of 1761, the Constitutions of 1762, nor the Constitutions of 1786.

  13.What is the history of Scottish Rite Maundy Thursday observance?

When did it come to replace the formerly mandated festivals? Did this change first occur in Europe or in America?

  14.When was the first Maundy Thursday celebration held in the United States?

Closely associated with the Rose Croix Degree in the Southern Jurisdiction is the “Sign of the Good Shepherd,” or the Scottish Rite attitude of prayer. The frontispiece of Les Plus Secrets Mystères (reproduced on page ) shows a temple with a robed shepherd on the steps holding a lamb in the Sign of the Good Shepherd. This could be first time this sign was connected with Masonry.

  15.When was the “Sign of the Good Shepherd” adopted in the Southern Jurisdiction as the “Scottish Rite attitude of prayer?”

In recent years the Feast of Tishri has become a popular celebration in the Southern Jurisdiction, and it, like Maundy Thursday, is not mentioned in our founding documents, certainly not as an obligation of Perfect Elus.

  16.What is the history of the Feast of Tishri?

Besides their distinctive rings, 33° Masons can be recognized by their use of a patriarchal cross, either on their caps or after their signatures. Sovereign Grand Inspectors General use a patriarchal cross with crosslets while the Sovereign Grand Commander uses a cross crosslet-crossed. These privileged symbols were not described in any of our founding Constitutions nor used by Scottish Rite pioneers, like Morin or De la Motta or Francken.

  17.When were distinctive crosses adopted to indicate a Scottish Rite Mason’s Degree?



One of the principal goals of the founders of our Mother Supreme Council was to bring order out of chaos in the high degrees. While today all seems ordered and calm, the journey to our current state of prosperity was not easy. The road is littered with literally dozens of failed Supreme Councils. Some arose from schisms, some from illegitimate authority, some from greed, and some from spite. There were Supreme Councils that claimed jurisdiction over only a single state, for example in New York, Connecticut, California, and Louisiana. The Ancient and Primitive Rite of Memphis originally controlled somewhere from ninety-one to ninety-seven degrees. Later they constricted their degrees to thirty-three and reformed themselves into a Supreme Council. Stories of this sort are almost endless.

  18.How many Supreme Councils have existed in the United States?

The most persistent clandestine Scottish Rite movement was that started by Joseph Cerneau in New York in 1807. Cerneau had legitimate authority to work Morin’s twenty-five Degree Rite of Perfection, but only for the northern part of Cuba. However, Cerneau overstepped his authority when he claimed control over thirty-three degrees, probably the better to enable him to compete with the Scottish Rite. His Supreme Council and its many descendants and off-shoots and revivals plagued legitimate Scottish Rite Masonry until the beginning of the twentieth century and spread throughout the northeast and midwest. The Cerneau Supreme Council merged into the Northern Supreme Council in 1867. Peace prevailed a few years, but in 1881 the Cerneau Supreme Council was revived and spread again with great energy.

  19.Why was “Cerneauism” so persistent?

The Cerneau movement became a bête noir for Albert Pike. He had battled the Cerneaus during the early years of his tenure as Grand Commander and was responsible for the ultimate merger in 1867. Then in 1881 when the Cerneaus once again rose up, Pike opposed them with an amazing zeal and fury. His attacks on the Cerneau Supreme Council seemed to go well beyond what was required to unseat an upstart challenger.

  20.Why was Albert Pike so adamant in his opposition to Cerneauism?

In the archives of the Mother Supreme Council is a black leather-bound book prepared by Albert Pike and marked Book of Infamy. The book, mentioned in Carter’s History of the Supreme Council, Vol. III, lists the names of several dozens of members of the Mother Supreme Council who went over to the Cerneau Supreme Council after 1881. The introduction to one section in of names is particularly intriguing:

Perjurers, Apostates, and Renegades in the City of Baltimore who, disloyal and rebellious because they were not permitted to confine the A and A Scott Rite in Maryland to Knts. Templars, crowned themselves with dishonour and infamy by shameless recreancy and desertion to Cerneauism, April 1884

  21.What is the story of those “Perjurers, Apostates, and Renegades in the City of Baltimore?”

The first name of the list from Baltimore is that of Ferdinand James Samuel Gorgas, a distinguished physician and dentist who had been coronetted a 33° jointly by the Grand Commanders of the Northern and Southern Jurisdictions. Today, the honor society of the University of Maryland Dental School is the named after Dr. Gorgas. He renounced the Southern Jurisdiction and eventually became the Grand Commander of one of the two Cerneau Supreme Councils that existed at that time. What could have influenced such a distinguished Mason, physician, dentist, and scholar to turn to Cerneauism?

  22.What is the story of Ferdinand James Samuel Gorgas?



The hauts grades first appeared in the United States in Lodges of Perfection in at least the cities of Albany, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Charleston. They almost certainly did not draw their membership from the “ordinary” Masons of those cities. Further, Masons with these exotic “high degrees,” in many cases claiming extraordinary prerogatives for themselves, must have caused some stir among their Brethren.

  23.Who joined and was active in the early Lodges of Perfection?   24.How did the early Scottish Rite Masons interact with other Masons and with the Grand Lodge?

During the first expansion of the Scottish Rite, some states had Grand Consistories that worked with the Sovereign Grand Inspectors General to control the Scottish Rite for that state. The last Grand Consistory was in the state of Kentucky, but it and all the others have been eliminated.

  25.How did Grand Consistories function in the states and what led to their elimination?

At the turn of the century the Scottish Rite accounted for less that 4% of Master Masons in the United States, while today we account for nearly 33%. The moral lessons and degree pageantry of the York Rite is the equal to that of the Scottish Rite, and yet the Scottish Rite grew in prominence and strength at a surprising rate that was much faster than that of the York Rite.

  26.What caused the explosive growth of Scottish Rite Masonry at the turn of the century?

When the Scottish Rite was established in Charleston in 1801, Princes of Jerusalem held a position of special importance and prestige. In fact there was no Council of Kadosh, 19°–30°, as now found in the Southern Jurisdiction but rather a Council of Princes of Jerusalem, 15°–16°, between the Lodge of Perfection, 4°–14°, and Chapters of Rose Croix, 17°–18°.

  27.What led to the disestablishment of Councils of Princes of Jerusalem and the creation of Councils of Kadosh in the Southern Jurisdiction?

The Scottish Rite as we know it today is essentially the result of Stephen Morin’s evangelizing efforts. The Deputy Inspector Generals he appointed were often ineffective and occasionally unscrupulous in their activities. They were responsible, however, for the establishment of Scottish Rite Masonry. A thorough study of the activities and lives of these Deputy Inspectors General should provide a detailed picture of an embryonic Scottish Rite.

  28.Who did Stephen Morin appoint as Deputy Inspectors General and what were his reasons?   29.What were the accomplishments, if any, of these Deputy Inspectors General?

During the later years of his life, Albert Pike made a lengthy western journey in which he established many Valleys of the Scottish Rite. The trip was by steamboat, horse, and train across rugged, uncivilized wilderness. On one level, the trip was a monument of human endurance, and on another, it established the structure of Scottish Rite Masonry in the western United States.

  30.What is the full story and results of Albert Pike’s western trip?

Albert Pike is best remembered as a ritualist and writer. There was more to his accomplishments, though. He took command of the Southern Jurisdiction when it was small, poorly organized, and nearly broke. At his death the Southern Jurisdiction was efficiently governed and well on its way to becoming one of the most influential Masonic organizations in the world today.

  31.What administrative changes did Albert Pike make in the government of the Southern Jurisdiction?

The patents issued by Stephen Morin from the West Indies indicate that Deputy Inspectors General controlled not only the twenty-five degrees of their Rite but also another nineteen “side” degrees. There is some evidence that the Cryptic Degrees of Royal Master and Select Master may have come from this source. Other degrees seemed to have existed as titles only.

  32.What happened to the “side” degrees of the Deputy Inspectors General?

The “Rite of Perfection” of twenty-five degrees was reorganized into the Scottish Rite with the addition of eight degrees, some of which may have been originally “side” degrees. There have been many speculations as to why the new Rite chose to have thirty-three degrees. Was it because Jesus lived thirty-three years? Was “33” a natural evolution from 3\3\, taken from the French custom of abbreviating Masonic words? (For example, Brother would be written as B\ and Brothers as B\B\) Thirty-two could be symbolic of the ten Sephiroth of the Kabbalah and the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and thirty-three could be seen as presiding over this mystical union. The speculations are virtually endless, but as yet no firm answer has been given to this basic question about Scottish Rite Masonry.

  33.Why are there thirty-three degrees in the Scottish Rite?




In preparing this paper I relied on the advice and suggestions of many Brethren. In particular I am grateful for the help of Brothers Duane Anderson, 33°, David B. Board, 32°, William Fox, 33°, and Rex Hutchens 33°.





Baynard, Samuel H. Jr. History of the Supreme Council, 33°. 2 vols. Boston: Supreme Council, 33°, N.M.J., 1938.

Bernard, David. Light on Masonry. Utica, N.Y.: William Williams, Printer, 1829.

Carter, James D. History of the Supreme Council, 33°, (Mother Council of the World) Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction, U.S.A., 1861–1891. Washington, D.C.: Supreme Council, 33°, 1967.

————. History of the Supreme Council, 33°, (Mother Council of the World) Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction, U.S.A., 1891–1901. Washington, D.C.: Supreme Council, 33°, 1971.

Francken, Henry A. Manuscript Rituals and Regulations. [1770]. Typescript. Archives, Supreme Council, 33°, S.J., Washington, D.C.

Harris, Ray Baker. History of the Supreme Council, 33°, (Mother Council of the World) Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction, U.S.A., 1801–1861. Washington, D.C.: Supreme Council, 33°, 1964.

Jackson, A.C.F. Rose Croix: A History of the Ancient and Accepted Rite for England and Wales. Rev. and enlarged ed. Shepperton, England: Lewis Masonic, 1987.

Katz, Phillip M. Freemasonry Under the Cloak: A Masonic Text of the Old Regime. The Cryptic Scholar, Winter/Spring 1991, pp. 22-39.

Leyland, Herbert T. Thomas Smith Webb: Freemason, Musician, Entrepreneur. Dayton, Ohio: The Otterbein Press, 1965.

Lobinger, Charles Sumner. The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. Louisville, Ky.: Standard Printing Co., Inc., 1932.

[Pike, Albert.] Book of Infamy. 1883–1884. Archives, Supreme Council, 33°, S.J., Washington, D.C.

————. Grand Constitutions of Freemasonry, Ancient and Accepted Rite. New Edition. N.p.: J.J. Little & Co., 1904.

Webb, Thomas Smith. Freemason’s Monitor or Illustrations of Masonry. 1797. Reprint. N.Y.: Masonic Historical Society of New York, 1896.




[i]. Thomas Smith Webb, Freemason’s Monitor or Illustrations of Masonry, First Edition, 1797, Reprint (New York: Masonic Historical Society of New York, 1896), p. 209.

[ii]. Albert Pike, Grand Constitutions of Freemasonry, Ancient and Accepted Rite, New Edition (N.p.: J.J. Little & Co., 1904), pp. 269–71.

[iii]. Herbert T. Leyland, Thomas Smith Webb: Freemason, Musician, Entrepreneur (Dayton, Ohio: The Otterbein Press, 1965), p. 435.

[iv]. Phillip M. Katz, “Freemasonry Under the Cloak: A Masonic Text of the Old Regime,” The Cryptic Scholar, Winter/Spring 1991, pp. 22–23.