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33rd degree symbol

  The 33rd Degree

    'Grand Inspector General'


Internationally united

33rd Degree in England

 33rd Degree ritual in the USA
Married to the Masonic Spirit

Internationally united under USA seniority.

'Although Craft Freemasonry is worldwide in the sense that it exists in most parts of the non-communistic world, and even underground in parts of the eastern bloc, it has no international organisation. The Ancient and Accepted Rite of the Thirty-Third Degree is the only cohesive Masonic group run on truly international lines. The Supreme Council in London in London is one of many Supreme Councils in various parts of the globe, of which the senior is the Supreme Council of Charleston, USA, which effectively operates a worldwide network of Freemasons in the most powerful positions in the executive, legislative, judiciary and armed forces as well as industry, commerce and professions of many nations'  

Stephen Knight: The Brotherhood: Page 44

The 33rd Degree in England

In England only 75 Freemasons can be 33rd degree at one time.  Headquarters of  Supreme Council 33 Degree is at 10 Duke Street, London. (Known as Grand East by Masons)  The building contains a 'Black Room' a 'Red Room' and a 'Chamber of Death' for ritual purposes.  No Mason can rise above the 18th Degree without the unanimous agreement of the entire Supreme Council. The most senior 33rd Degree Mason is known as the 'Most Puissant Sovereign Commander'  The English working of the rite - sometimes known by the code name Rose Croix from the title of the initiate to the 18th Degree - differs from the American in one basic respect. In England and Wales only a few of the 33rd degrees are conferred by special ritual, while in the USA each degree has its own initiation ceremony. In England the 4th to the 17th Degrees are conferred at once and in name only during initiation of the selected Freemason to the 18th Degree. To the few who rise higher than the 18th Degree, the 19th to 29th are conferred nominally during the ritual of initiation to the 30th Degree - that of Grand Elected Knight Kadosh or Knight of the Black and White Eagle.  Degrees above the 30th are conferred singly.  

Extracts from Stephen Knight: The Brotherhood: Pages 38-45

The 33rd degree ritual & oaths in the USA.
Extract from ‘The deadly deception’ by Jim Shaw. *33rd degree.* Knight Commander of the Court of Honour. *Past Worshipful Master, Blue Lodge * Past Master of all Scottish Rite bodies  (Note: Masons say that Jim Shaw did not go as high as he claims - I cannot confirm - but his account certainly has the ring of truth)

In order to receive the 33rd degree it was necessary for me to go to Washington DC. The initiation and related functions were to last three days....I flew to Washington National Airport and took a taxi to the ‘House of the Temple’ on Northwest 16th Street. Upon arriving at the Temple I was met by a receptionist who asked me if I was there to receive the 33rd degree. I was surprised to find a woman in those sacred Masonic precincts, but said that I was, and showed her my letter from the Supreme Council. She then told me that in order to receive the degree I would be expected to make a minimum donation of a very large sum of money (at least it was a very large amount for me) This took me completely by surprise for there had not been a word about a ‘minimum donation’ in the letter sent to me by the Supreme Council. I didn't carry that amount with me and had left my chequebook at home, but I was able to borrow the money from one of the other men, and gave it to her. We candidates were all unhappy about this unpleasant surprise and grumbled to one another about it, but we were not unhappy enough to forsake the degree over it. We were too close to the top of the mountain to turn back at that point.

The Temple itself

The House of the Temple is quite impressive - a bit awesome, really. Standing large, grey and silent on the east-side of Northwest 16th Street, between ‘R’ and ‘S’ Streets, it looms very wide and tall from the curb.   There is a huge expanse of granite pavement in front of it, including three levels of narrowing steps as the entrance is approached. See the 33rd degree magazine cover



Flanking the entrance are two Sphinx like granite lions with women’s heads, the neck of one entwined by a cobra and decorated with the “ankh” (the Egyptian symbol of life and deity)

Adorning the neck and breast of the other is the image of a woman, symbolic of fertility and procreation. In the pavement, just in front of the tall bronze doors, are two Egyptian swords with curved, serpentine blades and, between the two swords, brass letters set into the stone saying “The Temple of the Supreme Council of the Thirty third and last degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite”

Over the tall, bronze doors, cut into the stone, is the statement, “Freemasonry builds its Temples in the hearts of men and among nations”

High above the entrance, partially concealed by stone columns, is an elaborate image of the Egyptian Sun God, backed with radiating sun and flanked by six large golden snakes.

Inside is elegance: polished marble floors, exotic wood, gold and statuary. There are offices, a library, dining room, kitchen, Council Room, “Temple Room” and a large meeting room. This room is like a luxurious theatre, rather elegantly furnished and decorated. The ceiling is dark blue, with lights set into it to give the appearance of stars. These lights can even be made to twinkle like stars in the sky. There is a stage, well equipped, and it is all nicely done. But the thing that is most noticeable is the way the walls are decorated with serpents. There are all kinds; some very long and large. Many of the Scottish Rite degrees include the representation of serpents, and I recognised them among those decorating the walls.

It was all most impressive and gave me a strange mixture of the sensations of being in a Temple and a tomb - something sacred but threatening.

I saw busts of outstanding men of the Rite, including two of Albert Pike, who is buried there in the wall.

Interviewed by the Supreme Council

The first day was devoted to registration, briefings and interviews. We were all called into one of the offices, one at a time, and interviewed by three members of the Supreme Council. When my turn came I was ushered into the office and seated. The very first question I was asked was, “Of what religion are you?” Not long before this I would have answered with something like, “I believe the Ancient Mysteries, the ‘Old Religion,’ and I believe in reincarnation.” However, without thinking at all about how to answer, I found myself saying, “I m a Christian,”

Then, to my surprise, and theirs, I asked of them, “ Are you men born again?”

The man in charge quickly stopped me by saying “We’re not here to talk about that - we are here to ask you questions.” After they sent me back out I sat down and thought about it. When the next man came out, I asked him, “Did they ask you if you are a Christian?” He said, “Yes, they did.”

“What did you tell them?” I asked, and he replied,
“I told them ‘Hell no, and I never intend to be!’”

Then he said a strange thing to me, “They said I’m going higher,” and he left through a different door, looking pleased.

Becoming a Sovereign Grand Inspector General

The second day was the day of the actual initiation, held in the theatre-like meeting room. Those of us who were receiving the degree were seated and the ceremony was “exemplified” (acted out in full costume) before us, in the same way that we had performed the lesser degrees of the Scottish Rite all those years. The parts in the exemplification were played by men of the 33rd Degree.

The representative candidate was dressed in black trousers, barefooted, bareheaded and draped in a long, black robe that reminded me of very long, black raincoat. He had a black cabletow around his neck but was not hoodwinked. During the initiation he was led around the stage, conducted by two men with swords, as the degree was performed for us.

Instructions and signs were given. Upon the altar were four “holy books” (the Bible, the Koran, the Book of the Law and the Hindu Scriptures). At one point the “candidate” was told to kiss the book “of your religion” and, representing us all, he leaned forward and did so.

I remembered the First Degree initiation, when I was told to kiss the Bible, and at that moment something came full cycle. It was the final such kiss to be a part of my life.

Wine in a skull

When it was time for the final obligation we all stood and repeated the oath with the representative candidate, administered by the Sovereign Grand Inspector General. We then swore true allegiance to the Supreme Council of the 33rd Degree, above all other allegiances, and swore never to recognise any other brother as being a member of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry unless he also recognises the supreme authority of “this Supreme Council.” One of the Conductors then handed the “candidate” a human skull, upside down, with wine in it.

With all of us candidates repeating after him, he sealed the oath, “May this wine I now drink become a deadly poison to me, as the Hemlock juice drunk by Socrates, should I ever knowingly or wilfully violate the same” (the oath).

He then drank the wine. A skeleton (one of the brothers dressed like one - he looked very convincing) then stepped out of the shadows and threw his arms around the “candidate.” Then he (and we ) continued the sealing of the obligation by saying, “And may these cold arms forever encircle me should I ever knowingly or wilfully violate the same.”

The Sovereign Grand Commander closed the meeting of the Supreme Council “with the Mystic Number,” striking with his sword five, three, one and then two times. After the closing prayer, we all said “amen, amen, amen,” and it was over.

Prominent men took part

There were some extremely prominent men there that day, including a Scandinavian King, two former presidents of the United States, an internationally prominent evangelist, two other internationally prominent clergymen, and a very high official of the federal government, the one who actually presented me with the certificate of the 33rd Degree. Some made only brief appearances; others stayed much longer.

However, they didn’t do much mixing or socialising with us, except for those whom they already knew. Even though these celebrities weren’t extremely “brotherly,” it was still quite an experience for me just to be associated with them. It was easily the largest gathering of such prominent and influential men of which I have ever been a part.

The third day there was a banquet to celebrate our becoming “Grand Inspectors General, 33rd Degree.” The banquet was a little anticlimactic, at least for me, and I was anxious to get it over with so I could return home. It was good to be a 33rd at last. But it wasn’t as exciting or fulfilling as I had thought it would be during all those years in the Craft. I guess this was because of the profound changes going on down deep within me.

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Married to Masonry

'The Supreme degree of the Rite incorporates a most impressive ceremony in which the candidate is required to endure a test demanding great courage, this being followed by a lengthy obligation and fitting climax, when he is married to the Order with a golden ring of special significance'.

Keith B. Jackson: Beyond the Craft: (quoted on page 166 of The Craft and the Cross by Ian Gordon)


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