"Of what value is anything to the solitary and those that
live in misery and terror,
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'?
To 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:
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....
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:
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:
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.
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
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
We 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.
To 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 33�. Updated 25 August 2013.
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