|Rivista di Massoneria - Revue de Franc-Maçonnerie - Revista de Masonerìa - Revista de Maçonaria|
|History Literature Music Art Architecture Documents Rituals Symbolism|
by Bro. S. BRENT MORRIS 33° G.C.
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.
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.
RINGS, AND THINGS
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Presumably it was created or adopted from some other system during the
twenty-four year period of 1762–1786.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
did it come to replace the formerly mandated festivals? Did this change first
occur in Europe or in America?
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.
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.
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.
SCOTTISH RITE MASONRY
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
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.
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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.
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°.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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
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°.
Samuel H. Jr. History of the Supreme Council, 33°. 2 vols. Boston: Supreme
Council, 33°, N.M.J., 1938.
David. Light on Masonry. Utica, N.Y.:
William Williams, Printer, 1829.
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.
Henry A. Manuscript Rituals and Regulations. . Typescript. Archives,
Supreme Council, 33°, S.J., Washington, D.C.
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.
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.
Phillip M. Freemasonry Under the Cloak: A Masonic Text of the Old Regime. The
Cryptic Scholar, Winter/Spring 1991, pp. 22-39.
Herbert T. Thomas Smith Webb: Freemason, Musician, Entrepreneur. Dayton, Ohio:
The Otterbein Press, 1965.
Charles Sumner. The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. Louisville,
Ky.: Standard Printing Co., Inc., 1932.
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.
Thomas Smith. Freemason’s Monitor or Illustrations of Masonry. 1797. Reprint.
N.Y.: Masonic Historical Society of New York, 1896.
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.
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.
Phillip M. Katz, “Freemasonry Under the Cloak: A Masonic Text of the Old
Regime,” The Cryptic Scholar, Winter/Spring 1991, pp. 22–23.