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StarRed Special Project 2008 - PS Review of Freemasonry meets the Scottish Rite Research Society.

Ten selected papers first published on Heredom,
The Transactions of the Scottish Rite Research Society

PS Review of Freemasonry
Human progress is our cause, liberty of thought our supreme wish, freedom of conscience our mission,
and the guarantee of equal rights to all people everywhere our ultimate goal. - The Scottish Rite Creed

by Leon Zeldis 33°
Published in Vol.4, Year 1995

© No part of this paper may be reproduced without written permission from the Scottish Rite Research Society.
HTML code property of PS Review of Freemasonry - All rights reserved ©

IN THIS PAPER, WE STUDY THE MAIN COLORS SPECIFIED IN THE LITURGY OF each Scottish Rite degree, taking into consideration their symbolic and traditional meaning, as well as their psychological and historical significance. In most degrees, the color of the Lodge Room -that is, the color of the walls or the hangings that cover them- is specified for each part of the ceremony. These have been listed in the synoptic tables below under "Temple."


Other colors of importance in each degree are those of the regalia-apron, sash, collar, gloves, etc. Some degrees specify wearing robes or capes, and these have been designated generally as "cloaks" in the tables. Secondary colors used for lining, edging, or decorations are enclosed within parentheses. Sometimes, the collar is replaced by a ribbon worn diagonally over one shoulder. In these cases, the indication Ribbon has been added.


We have based our study on the works of two authors, Paul Naudon and Rex Hutchens. The colors indicated by Paul Naudon come from his extensive work on the history and symbolism of the Scottish Rite degrees, History, Rituals, and Tiler of the High Degrees of Masonry. Naudon's indications are compared with those illustrated in A Bridge to Light by Rex R. Hutchens who based his choice of colors on Albert Pike's works, particularly Morals and Dogma and his Liturgy for the various degrees. When both sources disagree, they are both noted, marking Naudon's description with an (N) and Hutchen's with an (H).



The Scottish Rite Journal is published bimonthly by the Supreme Council, 33°, Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry of the Southern Jurisdiction, United States of America, Washington, DC.



To understand the reasons for choosing one color or another in our rituals, we first must learn something of the psychological and historical symbolism attached to each color in Western civilization. The remarks below constitute only a few signposts -hints for further study. A full investigation of the symbolic significance of all the colors figuring in masonic rituals would fill several volumes. We shall add specific comments when discussing individual degrees. [i]


WHITE is the color of light and of beginnings, the world of possibilities, the blank page before the writer, the canvas awaiting the painter's color; it also represents innocence. ( Candor comes from the Latin word for white, candor).


BLACK is the shade of night; mourning, the interior of the earth, the absence of light, the opposite of white. Though associated with death (in the traditions of Western civilization, at least), it has its positive aspects. It is the color of germination, of the dark moment before light bursts forth, of simplicity and seriousness of purpose.


RED is the primary color, the color of fire, heat, life, enthusiasm -and danger. It's the only color that becomes stronger when saturated. All others lose brilliance. Red expands in all directions, representing the sublimation of matter, intelligence, affection.


The three above colors are the essential colors in alchemical symbolism, denoting successive stages of the alchemical transformation or "work". Alchemy influenced strongly various degrees that eventually became part of the Scottish Rite.


BLUE is the color of water and sky, life, motherhood, eternity, the heavens. Of all colors, it's the most relaxing one. While red speaks of matter, blue refers to spirit. Red is action and blue, contemplation. Blue represents what is exalted and ethereal in nature.


After these preliminary explanations, let us now examine the symbolism of the colors used in the various Scottish Rite degrees, in their sequence.





Following the division proposed by Naudon [ii] we shall study the colors of the different degrees classified into seven progressive classes. The division is not arbitrary, but corresponds to the origins of each group of degrees, which eventually became integrated within the Scottish Rite system.


The first class comprises the three traditional symbolic or craft degrees: Entered Apprentice, Fellow-Craft, and Master Mason. In the Scottish Rite, both Apprentices and Fellow-Crafts wear a plain white apron (however, each wears it differently, either in positioning the flap or tucking a corner), while the apron of a Master Mason is white edged in red and lined in black. [iii] The Lodge Room is blue in the two first degrees, and black in the third. Gloves are white in all three.


The three colors in these degrees, white, black, and red, are also the three fundamental colors in the psychology of colors. In reality, white and black are not properly colors, but denote the presence or absence of light, respectively. Sometimes, they are called "achromatic" or "colorless" colors. White light comprises lights of all colors (an additive mixture), the same as the mixture of all pigments or paints -theoretically, at least- should produce black (a subtractive mixture). Red, on its own, is the color par excellence. In some primitive tribes, the only color that has a specific name is red. In the Hebrew language, the same word root, appears in the words meaning red, man, and earth.





colorAASR01 The second class comprises the 4° to 8°. These are the first degrees in the Lodge of Perfection, and they share a common thread in their legendary stories, related to the punishment of Hiram's murderers, the reward given for services rendered, the search for a replacement for Hiram, and the completion of the Temple, including the building of a secret vault. Another main symbolic component of these degrees is the search for the lost Master's word. White as the main color of the apron is remarkable. This underlines the continuity of these degrees with respect to the symbolic degrees. Secondary colors are related to the legend of each degree. Thus black in the Fourth Degree reminds us that mourning is still observed (as does the tomb of Hiram Abif and loss of the word), while blue represents Faith. (Q: What is the characteristic of the fourth degree? A: It's an act of faith). The black Temple represents the Sanctum Sanctorum of King Solomon's Temple. The master's jewel is a golden triangle (or three triangles). Gold -represented graphically by yellow- is symbolic of wisdom.


The legend of the Fifth Degree is related to the creation of the universe (green). Green also reflects the idea of death-rebirth; it may refer to the password of the degree, which is an evergreen. White in the degree is related to beginnings and perfection. The combination of red and scarlet in the Sixth Degree suggests an excess of zeal, which is explained in the legend. Envy, which figures prominently in the Seventh Degree, is symbolized by the red Temple and the purple ribbon. The green in the Eighth Degree again refers to the idea of creation ( construction).





colorAASR02 The third class comprises the Ninth to Eleventh Degrees. These are the so-called degrees of vengeance or of the Elect (Elus). Their main themes are vengeance for the terrible crime of the evil companions and the punishment they suffered thereafter. These degrees form a distinct group and, according to some historians, are the oldest "Scottish" degrees, created in the first half of the 18th century. The predominant color in these degrees is black, representing sorrow, ignorance, and error, while the scarlet of zeal and vengeance appears as a secondary color. The white aprons serve to maintain continuity with the previous degrees, and also demonstrate the innocence of those wearing them.





The fourth class, Twelfth through Fourteenth Degrees, which also have reference to the Seventh and Eighth Degrees, are connected with construction and architecture, particularly the sacred vault below the Holy of Holies.

colorAASR03.jpg - 14067 Bytes [iv]

The Temple, as we can appreciate, is decorated successively with the three principal Masonic colors that we have noted before: white, black, and red. The apron continues to be white. The collars, when taking the three degrees together, remind us of the three colors of the Royal Arch. This should not surprise us, since the Royal Arch legend also appears in these degrees, although in a form slightly different from that known in Royal Arch Masonry.




colorAASR04.jpg - 15654 Bytes The fifth class comprises the so-called "Chapter" or Rose-Croix degrees, from the 15° to the 18°, The majority of these degrees require two or more rooms to execute their ceremonies in full form, each decorated in a distinctive and equally important color. Of these four degrees, the first, Knight of the East, of the Sword or of the Eagle, is very old, being a further development beyond the Lodge of perfection. The Temple in these degrees is no longer that of Solomon, but rather that built by Zerubabel upon the return of the Jews from their Babylonian exile. The dominant color in the degrees in the fifth class is red. The golden yellow (in French this color is called the "color of the dawn") in the 16° is perhaps a reference to the symbolic hour for opening the Chapter. ( Q: At what time do the Princes of Jerusalem rise and fight? A: When the sun rises above the horizon. ) The many references to gold found in this degree are better understood in connection with its name: Prince of Jerusalem. The heraldic colors of the Holy City are gold and silver. Further, there are numerous literary references to King Solomon's capital city as "Golden Jerusalem".





The sixth class comprises the degrees 19° to 27°. These are called the philosophic degrees. For convenience, we shall study them divided into three groups of three degrees each. This division of the degrees in this class is arbitrary and has no particular symbolic significance.

colorAASR05.jpg - 18557 Bytes

The Temple in these degrees ( except the 21°) is Blue, alluding to Heavenly Jerusalem and the reconstruction of the Holy City. The yellow appearing in the 20° may be explained by the fact that the recipient of this degree is awarded the title of Very Respectable Grand Master of all Symbolic Lodges. Gold, represented by yellow, is related to the center, wisdom, nobility, and geometry.

colorAASR06.jpg - 21885 Bytes

The 21° constitutes an exception in many ways. First, the use of yellow for the apron. This deviation from white had been observed before in the 17°. Both degrees, in fact, stand apart from the central line of Masonic legends, and have nothing to do with the construction of Jerusalem's Temple, neither that of King Solomon nor that of Ezra-Nehemiah. The silver color of the Temple represents in reality the light of the moon, which in this degree is supposed to constitute the room's only source of illumination.

colorAASR07.jpg - 22944 Bytes

We now examine the colors of the 23° to 27°. These five degrees were inserted into the twenty-five degrees of the old Rite of Perfection to create the present Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite. They were apparently taken from the Order of Trinitarian Scotsmen to make a coherent system. Many colors are repeated from previous degrees, and their explanation should be found above. An interesting deviation is the use of blue for the gloves in the 23° (Chief of the Tabernacle}. This possibly alludes to the clothing of the Grand Priest in the Temple of Jerusalem, which was almost totally blue. Some authors indicate the cloak used in this degree should also be blue, instead of the colors appearing in the table.



colorAASR08.jpg - 18689 Bytes[v]


These six degrees are the culmination of the "Scottish" system. The first three are related to the Kadosh degree (Knight Kadosh}, one of the fundamental Scottish degrees which served for a time as the highest degree of the canon preceding the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite. In these degrees no aprons are used. The use of black gloves in the 29° and 30° contrasts with the white gloves used in the next three degrees. The black gloves are related, of course, to the theme of death and vengeance of the Kadosh. The last three Scottish Rite Degrees are known as Administrative Degrees, although this is not entirely correct, since the 32°, Master (or Prince) of the Royal Secret, encompasses the entire Scottish Rite scale of degrees in a coherent and logical system. Again, in these degrees the apron is no longer used, perhaps to indicate that when reaching this level of development, the Mason no longer works physically, but only conceptually.

colorAASR09.jpg - 17627 Bytes[vi]

The use of purple for the 33° is remarkable. Purple is the color both of the Emperor and the Pope. White and gold (or yellow) are likewise the colors of the Vatican flag. Yellow, in Masonic symbolism, represents wisdom [vii] which is undoubtedly appropriate for the last and most illustrious degree of the Scottish Rite.





As with all symbols appearing in Masonic rituals, the colors have been chosen with a purpose and are not the result of an arbitrary decision. Traditional and psychological symbolisms have been used, but perhaps what is most evident are the recurring Rosicrucian -alchemical motives. This is not surprising when taking into account the possible close connections existing between early Freemasons and Rosicrucianism. Bro. A.C.F. Jackson has examined this aspect in his Rose Croix. [viii]


While blue is without question the fundamental color of Craft Freemasonry, the alchemical colors, red (crimson), black, and white, are the mainstay of Scottish Rite color symbolism. Green, too, appears frequently, as a sign of life, renewal, and rebirth. Gold, or its representation, yellow, is often used, symbolizing light, the sun, and similar concepts.


We have only scratched the surface of the rich symbolism contained in our rituals and legends. However, I hope that by reflecting on the above explanations, every Mason will gain a richer understanding of the rituals and may draw added pleasure and insight from his participation in the ceremonies of our Order.





Berteaux. Raoul. Le Rite Ecossais Ancien et Accepte (15°-33°). Paris: Editions EDIMAF, 1987.

Crowe, F.J. W. "Colours in Freemasonry" Ars Quatuor Coronatorum (hereafter AQC), vol. 17 (1904), pp. 3-11

Hutchens, Rex R. A Bridge to Light. Washington: Supreme Council, 33°, S.J., 1988.

Jackson, A.C.F. "Rosicrucianism and its Effect on Craft Masonry:' AQC, vol. 97 (1984), pp. 115-133.

Jones, Bernard E. Freemason's Guide and Companion. London: G.L. Harrap, 1950.

Mantz, Elmer, "The Symbolic Colors:' New York Masonic Outlook, March 1926.

Naudon, Paul. Histoire, Rituels et Tuileur des Hauts Grades Mafonniques. 4th ed. Paris: Dervy- Livres, 1984.

Zeldis, Leon. "Colour Symbolism in Freemasonry :' AQC, vol. 105 {1992), pp. 183-191.


[i] Further information on the Masonic symbolism of color can be found, inter alia, in the following papers: Bernard E. Jones, Freemason's Guide and Companion (London: G.L. Harrap, 1950) pp. 470-473; F.J. W. Crowe, "Colours in Freemasonry", Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, vol. 17 {1904), pp. 3-11; Leon Zeldis, "Colour Symbolism in Freemasonry"Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, vol. 105 {1992), pp. 183-191. This last paper also has a useful bibliography.

[ii] Naudon, p. 299.

[iii] Let us remember that we are dealing exclusively with the colors in the Scottish Rite. This is not the apron customary in the United States, where blue is habitually used for craft degrees. The manner of wearing the apron and even the shape may differ from one Constitution to another. However, what we state concerning Scottish Rite aprons is valid in many Grand Lodges in Europe and Latin-America, where the Scottish Rite is worked also in the first three degrees.

[iv] Albert Pike, in Liturgy of the A.A.S.R., prescribes a yellow robe for the presiding officer, and a chasuble of crimson satin lined with blue. The Warden wears a purple robe and the Inspector, a white robe, both without chasuble.

[v] The colors of the four chambers of the Temple and that of the cloak are taken from Raoul Berteaux, Le Rite Ecossais Ancien et Accepte (15°-33°) {Paris: Editions EDIMAF, 1987,) pp. 193-194.

[vi] Used only on visits to lower degrees, in past times. See Hutchens, p. 297.

[vii] Elmer Mantz, "The Symbolic Colors:' New York Masonic Outlook, March 1926, p. 204.

[viii] See also Jackson's paper on "Rosicrucianism and its effect on Craft Masonry" Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, vol. 97 (1984), pp.115-133.

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Heredom is the flagship publication of the Scottish Rite Research Society and has been sent annually to members since 1992. It is a collection of the finest essays on contemporary and historical Freemasonry emphasizing the Scottish Rite.

Each year the Scottish Rite Research Society publishes a volume of insightful, scholarly, and thought-provoking articles on all aspects of Freemasonry, but with a general emphasis on the Scottish Rite. Past volumes include studies on biography, bibliography, the evolution and meaning of Masonic rituals, history, kabbalah, hermeticism, Masonic poetry, Prince Hall Affiliation, symbolism, and much more. Each volume is usually between 150-250 pages, and may be color illustrated. (One volume is sent free each year to dues-current Scottish Rite Research Society members.)

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