33rds RULE!

"Of what value is anything to the solitary and those that live in misery and terror,
except the imagination."

Wallace Stevens (1879-1955), U.S. poet
"The Necessary Angel: Essays on Reality and the Imagination 'Imagination as Value'"

What's a 33rd Degree Mason? Do they really know and practice hideous and disgusting Luciferian rituals that are hidden from 'common Blue Lodge Masons'?

Scottish Rite RingsTo Masons this is probably the most hilarious 'indictment' against the fraternity that they could ever see. In every lodge, at every meeting, there are found Masons who have joined the Scottish Rite and who have received their prestigious and HONORARY 33rd Degree. These men are nearly always the ones most active and involved in Freemasonry. They have labored for long years 'in the quarries' (as Freemasonic allegory would explain it) and any allusion that they're off dancing naked in the moonlight and/or whipping up spells to praise Lucifer are more absurd than any childish taunt. Claims that only the "top 5%" of Masons really know what's going on in this secret 'new world order/luciferian conspiracy', though, are a staple of anti-Masons who want to convince you of some horrific conspiracy. Sometimes the 'five percent' are identified as the 33rd Degree Masons but in other cases (like the claims of Roger "El Gato" Bullock), it's some amorphous group whose membership credentials haven't been categorized just yet.

When one looks critically at the membership of the Scottish Rite's 33rd Degree, it would seem to most people that it's the most unlikely group one would ever find out plotting to take over the world. Of course, conjecture and imagination are amazing things and any similarities between truth and the claim of world-dominating 33rd Degree Masons are often deliberately blurred by Masonic detractors. Tossing away mounds of provable and visible evidence that 33rds are not really different than any average grouping of senior and involved members of an organization, they'll instead concentrate on a single thing that they feel others will agree supports their theories.

Let's step back just a bit to explain how this '33rd' stuff came into play in the fantasies of anti-Masons.

There are three (Count 'em: 3) degrees of Masonry:

  1. Entered Apprentice

  2. Fellowcraft

  3. Master Mason

When one becomes a Master Mason he has received the highest degree in Masonry.

This fact totally confounds those outside of Freemasonry who believe that when they see a higher numbered degree, it must mean that a person is somehow 'superior' in rank.

That is simply NOT TRUE!

In fact, there's NO RANKING in the number system whatsoever - except that in order to become a 2nd Degree Mason, you must first be a 1st Degree Mason - etc. However, a person who has received the 12th Degree of the Scottish Rite degree system is not particularly 'higher' in rank or stature: they've just received MORE DEGREES. If one becomes a Mark Master Mason in the York Rite system, they've received an additional degree. That's it. Nothing more and nothing less.

Of course, those who love conspiracies will argue that those non-33rds simply don't know what's going on. 1

But back to the discourse:  

Scottish Rite - a concordant organization which is part of the 'Masonic family' - has an degree system consisting of thirty-two degrees. The first three of those are only conferred by 'Scottish Rite Craft Lodges' of which there are very, very few worldwide - with most unrecognized.1 The 4th through the 32nd degrees (all of which have names that vary from Scottish Rite Jurisdiction to Scottish Rite Jurisdiction) are conferred upon those who make application AND PAY TO RECEIVE THEM!

Why don't Masons just use the NAMES of the degrees rather than numbering them? Well, sad to say, the memory power of Freemasons really isn't very different than the rest of the population. That microchip that's implanted secretly during some ceremony doesn't really enhance memory so when someone says, "Quick! What's the name of the 27th Degree of the Scottish Rite of the Northern Jurisdiction?" there'll be lots of stumbling. Baskin-Robbins had 31 Flavors: could you name all of them? In order? I don't think so....

Believe it or not, I've gotten emails asking about for more information about what I thought were clearly sardonic comments above. Apparently some readers thought there really WAS a secret ceremony to implant microchips. <SIGH>  You can read more on this topic here.

Yes, conspiracy fans everywhere: while we hate to burst your 'bubble', it's really a simple fact that throughout the United States (the location of that vaunted "Mother Supreme Council"), one simply signs a petition and hands in a very reasonable amount of money (cash, check or credit card!) and they're on their way to being a 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason at the next degree class. While some parts of the world have time and service limitations for each individual degree in the series causing perhaps a 10 year delay from beginning to end, in the United States you can walk into a high school auditorium or some other location where the conferrals are being held and, after a suitable luncheon break, leave in the late afternoon having all of the 'secrets' of the 4th through the 32nd Degrees of the Scottish Rite.


The 33rd ("and last") Degree of the Scottish Rite is an honorary degree, conferred for exceptional service to Freemasonry.

Because there are so few who receive this recognition and because people frequently misunderstand, thinking that those who've received this honorary degree are somehow 'elite', the mythos of power around the 33rd Degree has developed.

We must admit, there are understandable reasons for the confusion: 


The York Rite Bodies (the other major concordant body of Masonry) are not 'unified' in the way Scottish Rite is; that is, York Rite is  broken into four (in some places, three) 'groupings' and a member is free to stop at the conclusion degree of any of those 'groupings'. Many do. Some even stop after one or two degrees. Scottish Rite, however, assumes a progression from their first (4th) degree through their final (32nd) degree and often offer all in a 'class' setting which ensures all degrees will be conferred on all candidates with none stopping at, for example, the 18th. Thus, the highest award for the Scottish Rite Bodies has no publicly recognizable comparison at the Knight Templar level of the York Rite (although certainly their recognitions are no less meaningful to the York Rite member recipient).


The recipient of the 33rd Degree, being rightly proud of the distinct honor, would append that after his name in virtually all Masonic communication. It was thus seen regularly amongst those considered the 'leaders' of Freemasonry. This was reinforced by the fact that a 33rd would regularly and proudly wear a ring emblematic of that distinction (shown above) which caused yet another noticeable distinction from (as non-Masons might perceive it) 'run of the mill' Masons.


Masons themselves would sometimes refer to this or that person as being a "33rd" - thus creating an air of 'power' surrounding the degree. In fact, during the lifetime of Albert Pike as Sovereign Grand Commander of the Southern (US) Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite, he actively promoted the organization by 'honoring' many of those in Masonic leadership in order to give his own organization far greater visibility than it might have otherwise achieved. Historians will note that this was the 'golden age of fraternity' and everyone wanted to accumulate degrees. What better than a large NUMBER of them?


And finally, it is normal to assume that a degree numbered 33 would be 'higher' than one numbered 3. Disclaimers by Freemasons notwithstanding, the common perception of 'rank' achieved simply by the numbering of degrees is often difficult to overcome.

What has this led to? A mythos of great proportions in some minds, with 33rd Degree Masons either alone or in league with others (the imagined Illuminati, the Bildeburgers or, in the case of David Icke, reptoids from outer space) to be in some kind of power elite.

We've taken one example from the website of an anti-Mason fixated with a hatred of US federal authority and attempting to prove a point using local information. His claims are not unlike many, many others; it's all the same tired rhetoric:

"Many who have actually been involved in the Masonic lodge and their offshoots often claim

(Masonicinfo Note: It would certainly help if just once someone would provide the names and the actual recorded quotes from these many folks who supposedly have been 'involved' and who're making these claims ostensibly so very often (yet are unknown to Masonic researchers). In reality, the only person we know was claiming that bizarre things happened with 33rds described himself as a 33rd Degree Mason but in reality was not:  Jim Shaw who - in reality - lied about his stature as such and never received the 33rd Degree! Are there any others? We've yet to see them.)

that after the 33 degree of the lodgeís ritualism a person steps into more heightened state of awareness of their actual involvement in the Illuminati control and their various steps and organizations that lead up to the upper echelons of the people who hold the reigns of power and money and who are in the actual process of taking over and controlling the entire world. 

(Masonicinfo Note: Aha! The Illuminati. That's got to be it. Those 33rds are all automatically part of some OTHER group! Now if only someone could just produce that Illuminati for us....)

A lot of these people who have quit the organization, without going further, claim the vast majority in the organization below the 32 degree arenít aware of what is actually going on.

(Masonicinfo Note: Does this sentence make any sense? A lot of _what_ people? The Masons? The 33rds? The Illuminati? And where are these people? As stated before, the only person who claims to have been a 33rd and left was Jim Shaw. He never once mentioned any kind of Illuminati world control even in the fantasies he or his co-author might have had about his being a 33rd Degree Scottish Rite member!)   

Itís no secret the Masonic organizations use various and well-known occult symbolism in their strange, mysterious and hidden ritualism and in times past they have threatened and others reveal have actually killed and otherwise financially destroyed people who have revealed their secrets. Many former Freemasons have vigorously stated this.

(Masonicinfo Note: Claims that Freemasonry uses occult symbolism are false to fact. If the ritualism is hidden, how do these non-Masons ever know about it? Hyperbole about deaths and threats are simply foolish. Perhaps one should ask the author of this piece for a few names of these imagined 'former Freemasons'?)

We've here snipped the rest which involved some ranting about the roots of Freemasonry in Georgia since it's somewhat irrelevant to the issue of 33rd Degree Masonic power. It speaks of Freemasonry in 1735 and 1786 when there was no such thing as the Scottish Rite in the US!

Bottom Line: Those who've received the 33rd Degree of the Scottish Rite are Masons who have been honored by the Scottish Rite through receiving this honorary degree. They do not, however, rule the world nor do they rule Freemasonry.

An oft-overlooked (or deliberately ignored) fact is that a Grand Master of Masons is the supreme authority within his jurisdiction during his term of office. While it would be very highly unlikely that a Scottish Rite Body would be engaging in any acts that were un-Masonic, nevertheless if it were to occur, the Grand Master could simply order the body closed and forbid any Masons within the geographical boundaries of his jurisdiction (whether they were members there or not) to participate in any of their events. He could, should he choose, even require that every one of the Masons in his jurisdiction renounce their membership. Because Scottish Rite membership is predicated on Masonic membership (a member losing their good standing in a Craft Lodge, either through suspension for non-payment of dues or expulsion) automatically loses Scottish Rite membership.

An interesting footnote to prove the above point: in 1988, the Grand Master of Washington, DC removed the privileges of Freemasonry from the Sovereign Grand Commander of the Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite. The GM wasn't even a recipient of the 33rd Degree Scottish Rite, by the way. (He received it over twenty years later in 2009!) You can read about that here (go down to the middle of the page).

NOW, if the Sovereign Grand Commander of the 'Mother Supreme Council' - Albert Pike's titular successor - was as all-powerful in Freemasonry as some anti-Masons would have you believe, how could such a thing have occurred? Someone who didn't even hold that Degree (honor) had power over someone who did....  And thus, the anti-Masonic crowd are wrong in their assumptions!

A 33rd Degree Mason has NO power in Freemasonry greater than that of the Grand Master of the jurisdiction in which he resides - no matter WHAT his title. If a Grand Master issues a ruling, it applies to the entire Masonic fraternity on which membership in the Scottish Rite, Shrine, and all branches of the Masonic 'family' derive their membership!

And the Grand Master is regularly elected to office from among the membership....

Kinda blows up the whole theory of this conspiracy cabal, don't you think?

And doesn't it seem reasonable that with all the Grand Masters in the world, just ONE might get a bit upset that he wasn't the prime Director of World Control - and 'spill the beans'?  

Think about it, honestly, and you'll see just how ludicrous this charge of 33rd Degree Masonic control really is....

About those rings:

14th Degree Scottish Rite 'official' ringWe often receive inquiries from folks who've come across a ring with a symbol inside a triangle and some writing inside. it's the official ring of the Scottish Rite Mason. It is a plain band of gold, about 5/16th of an inch wide. On it is an equilateral triangle, enclosing the letter yud, the initial of the Name of Deity in Hebrew. It's circular shape symbolizes unending commitment and loyalty just as it does in a marriage. The triangular plate and the letter signify that that commitment is to the Deity. Traditionally, the inside of the ring bears the inscription Virtus junxit mores non separabit, "Whom virtue unites, death will not separate." 

For many years in at least one Scottish Rite jurisdiction, such rings were given to each and every Mason who'd received his 14th Degree. The cost of the ring was included in the cost of receiving the degrees (also included in the 'package' was "Morals & Dogma" by Pike). With the increase in gold prices, however, this practice has been discontinued. There are, though, many of these rings still around, tucked into drawers or in old jewelry boxes.

A Masonic ring which includes the 14th Degree emblemTo the right is a more fanciful ring, created commercially, that shows not only the Scottish Rite 14th degree emblem but other Masonic emblems as well and contains the inscription inside as well. 


1 A brief but necessary footnote: There are, in some places in Continental Europe (France primarily), unrecognized Grand Lodges whose Degree system is ENTIRELY that of the Scottish Rite. In these instances, EVERY degree (1-33) comes under the aegis of their (unrecognized) Scottish Rite system. In these cases, 33rd Degree Scottish Rite members do have significant authority within the lodge since that is their entire system of operation. Let it be clearly understood, however, that these are UNRECOGNIZED organizations and their members would not be admitted to a lodge meeting anywhere else. See our page on recognition for more to do with this sometimes confusing aspect of Freemasonry. Suffice it to say, your Masonic lodge down the street does NOT work in this way. The Master Mason degree is the highest Masonic Degree one receives and the presence at a meeting of someone holding the 33rd Degree of the Scottish Rite is likely no more of concern than someone wearing a pair of black pants

Those who are 'Religious Intolerants' love to smear those whom they (without even a modicum of theological training) have determined to be preaching a 'false doctrine'. Regardless of their accomplishments in winning souls over to Christ, the work of Rev. Billy Graham, Robert Schuller and others are constantly cited by anti-Masons as.... Masons! Nearly always, the claims are that they're 33rd Degree Masons and yet, not a single one of the 'Liars for Jesus' crowd is able to produce a shred of evidence to support their claims. They'll argue that it's a "secret".... and yet, to anyone even vaguely familiar with the Scottish Rite, nothing could be further from the truth (or funnier!).

While the nomination of a man to receive the 33rd Degree in the Scottish Rite Bodies is not revealed until his election, at that time it becomes a matter of public knowledge and pride. Because there are limitations on such honors, obviously not everyone nominated for honor will receive it. Just as ANY organization would do when selecting, for example, their "Member of the Year", until such time as the decision is made, the names of those involved are private. 

Once the election is held, ALL honorees are publicly announced and notice of that announcement is sent to the individual, to his Scottish Rite Body, and is even published in the records of that year's annual meeting, copies of which are sent to ALL Scottish Rite bodies within that Jurisdiction, to serving Scottish Rite Deputies and Active Members, and to other Scottish Rite Jurisdictions around the world - as well as to Masonic libraries all of which are open to the public. In addition, they're generally available for sale to anyone who wishes a copy.

But it doesn't end there!

While the ANNOUNCEMENT of the award is made in one year, the actual award itself is normally not presented until the following year! Thus, during the intervening period, newspaper announcements, listings in various Masonic publications, and more will occur. The following year, the named honorees attend the Scottish Rite's Annual Meeting where they are invested with the rank and honor of a 33rd Degree Scottish Rite member.

Masons are well aware of such publicity and accordingly, they'll rarely give a second thought to the concept that a 'secret' 33rd was conferred. The fact is, it just doesn't happen.

Look closely when someone makes claims about 33rd Degree Masons. Demand PROOF! When they say that so-and-so is a 33rd Degree (Scottish Rite) Mason, ask them to refer to a picture of that person receiving the award or wearing a Scottish Rite ring, or have them show you a listing of the person in the Yearbook for that SR Jurisdiction. What we know you'll find is a lot of back-peddling, statements about it being a 'secret' ceremony, or foolishness trying to obfuscate the fact that they've got their facts wrong.

For some more info, including more silliness from anti-Masons, see the excellent blog post by Christopher Hodapp here.

Page updated 25 August 2004 with a couple of typos fixed 9 Aug 2005. A little added in April, 2007. And a correction about the GM of Washington, DC - he WASN'T a 33rd at the time - made 29 August 2011 thanks to Bro. Carroll J. Collins 33į. Updated 25 August 2013.

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