Scottish Rite Degrees & Ritual
The Degrees of the Scottish Rite are one-act plays often staged with costume, scenery, special effects, and the full rigging of any production. Their purpose is to examine different philosophies, ancient religions, and systems of ethics. Through all of these, people have tried to answer certain universal questions. The Degrees of the Rite do not tell a person what he should think about these questions. Instead, they tell him about what great thinkers and civilizations of the past have thought, and they try to create a situation in which the candidate or Brother can gain insight. Agreeing with Socrates that the unexamined life is not worth living, the Rite helps with this self-examination by providing reference points.
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Theatre is the oldest known means of teaching, especially of teaching abstract ideas. It was one of the principal means of instruction in the Middle Ages as well as in ancient Greece and Rome. Masonry borrows the techniques of theatre to make its lessons more impressive and to aid the candidate in forming the beginnings of what it is hoped will be a lifelong pattern of study and thought. Most of the Degrees are set in ancient Israel because it is from the legends surrounding King Solomon's Temple that Masonry takes many of its parables and lessons. Ancient Egypt and Medieval Europe also serve as Degree settings.
Almost every Master Mason who is afforded an opportunity to petition for the Scottish Rite Degrees naturally raises the question in his mind, "Why should I take the Scottish Rite Degrees?" It is a fair and quite appropriate question for him to ask as it is of utmost importance that the prospective initiate have a clear and definite understanding of what the Rite stands for and is endeavouring to accomplish. Here are a few reasons.
The Scottish Rite Degrees give us a sense of historical values and standards. Today is the child of yesterday, and no one can understand the significance of the epochal events that are shaking the world unless he sees them from the vantage point of history. Out of the crises of the past, man has discovered principles that are as solid as the mountains, as enduring as the stars.
The moral truths that prevailed in Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome are just as valid, just as imperative in the digital 21st century. In his confidence in the reality of these principles, man has built his faith in the permanent value of moral truth. Here is to be found the basis of optimism, of faith in the free institutions, and of confidence in a civilization resting on ethical principles. No man can witness the Degrees of the Scottish Rite and be either a cynic or a pessimist. They renew his faith in God, in man, and in the process of history.
The Scottish Rite Degrees put into picturesque but explicit language the civic and social ideals implicit in the Blue Lodge Degrees. For centuries, Freemasonry has been a tremendous force for enlightenment, freedom, and social progress in Europe and in the Americas. It was neither caprice nor mere prejudice that caused the Nazis and Fascists to proscribe Freemasonry. Why did the Nazi oppressors hate Masonry? Why did they violate the sacred emblems of the Craft? Why did they hunt down with ruthless cruelty our Masonic leaders? Particularly, why did the totalitarians persecute "Masons of all Degrees"? They knew that tyranny is threatened wherever a Masonic Lodge or Temple exists.
Freemasonry is a compelling and conquering spiritual force, and the reasons are revealed in the Scottish Rite Degrees. Scottish Freemasonry is the foe of intolerance, fanaticism, and superstition. It battles every form of racial and sectarian prejudice and bigotry. It is a mighty exponent of freedom in thought, religion, and government. Thus, the Scottish Rite is a rite of instruction. It interprets the symbols and allegories of Masonry in the light of history and philosophy using the words of the supreme prophets of humanity, ceremonies of the great religions of the world, and significant episodes from history to point the moral and adorn the tale.
The Scottish Rite makes application of the doctrines of Freemasonry to every realm of human activity. The individual Mason is taught to put into practice in his personal life and thought the lessons learned in the Blue Lodge.
Source: A Bridge to Light by Illus. Rex R. Hutchens, 33°. Copyright 1988, 1995 by the Supreme Council of the Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry.