'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'
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
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
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 womens heads, the neck of one entwined by a cobra and
decorated with the ankh (the Egyptian symbol of life and deity)
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 Were 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
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 Im 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 didnt do much mixing or socialising with us, except for those whom
they already knew. Even though these celebrities werent 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 wasnt 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.
'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
Keith B. Jackson: Beyond the Craft: (quoted on page 166 of
The Craft and the Cross by Ian Gordon)