The Degrees of the Scottish Rite Council of Kadosh
The degrees of the Council of Kadosh are chivalric and philosophical, but also contain mystical material. The word “Kadosh” is a Hebrew word meaning “Holy”. The complexity of these degrees cannot be overstated and is exemplified by the number of pages attributed to them in Morals and Dogma. The twenty-eighth degree alone is over a quarter of the 1000+ page tome.
In the Orient of the District of Columbia, these degrees are conferred by Robert de Bruce Council of Kadosh.
19° – Pontiff
This is the first Degree of the Council of Kadosh. In it the fact of the influence of the past upon the present and future is forcibly exemplified. The true Mason labors for the enlightenment of future ages. All good men hope to live after death through the work they have done. We still feel the influence of deeds of heroism done in the past and are uplifted by the monuments of art and literature of ages gone by. It is the dead that govern. The living only obey. The thoughts of the Past are the Laws of the Present and the Future. That which shall live when we are dead, as a part of the great body of law enacted by the dead, is the only act worth doing, the only thought worth speaking. Then let us so live that our acts may endure to uplift a Brother yet unborn.
20° – Master of the Symbolic Lodge
As Grand Master of all Lodges, one must first learn to be able to teach. There is nothing more sublime than leading the initiate into the sublime truth of Masonry, but to do so properly requires study and thought. The legends and allegories recited by Masonry are of worth only when understood. The lessons of this degree are Liberty, Fraternity and Equality. These must be applied to everyday life and not reserved for the lodge room only. The world will judge us by our acts and Masonry itself will be judged by the character of its members. Let the light shine always.
21° – Noachite or Prussian Knight
In the 21st Degree we are admonished to be modest and humble, speaking only of the good in mankind and forgetting the evil. Slander is the exact opposite to mercy, for “Mercy blesseth him that gives and him that takes” while slander curses him that speaks it, and to say the least, does no good to the other. Our ancient brethren met to redress wrongs and defend the helpless. Masonry today has the same great mission and woe to him who would attempt to destroy it.
22° – Knight of the Royal Axe
The lessons of this degree have always been of great moment to a large number of people. The respect for labor itself and sympathy for the laboring classes are purely Masonic. Masonry has made the working man and his associates the heroes of her principal legend, and himself the companion of kings. From first to last, Masonry is work. Labor is man’s great function, his peculiar distinction and his privilege. He pours his own thoughts into the molds of nature, fashioning them into forms of grace and fabrics of convenience. But greater than these, every man has work to do in himself, upon his own soul and intellect, and so may attain the highest nobleness and grandeur on earth or in Heaven.
23° – Chief of the Tabernacle
In most of the ancient ceremonies of public worship and private rites, called Mysteries, only the initiated could attend. Only after years of practice of the most rigid virtue, and great spiritual development, could the initiated hope to attain the greater mysteries. These ceremonies were often held at night in some secret place and consisted of sacred dramas, portraying some legend which contained a lesson, but little explanation was given and each candidate was left to interpret the truths for himself. Moses undoubtedly received from the Egyptians these Mysteries and in turn taught them to the Hebrew priesthood, emphasizing the doctrine of the one God, supreme and unapproachable.
24° – Prince of the Tabernacle
The Jewish tabernacle was more symbolic than an ordinary reading of the Scriptures would indicate. Whether it was copied after other religions or not has never been settled to the satisfaction of the leading scholars. Josephus, the great Hebrew historian, says that in the construction of it, and its vestments and sacred vessels, the whole world was in some way represented. In this we again see the influence of the Egyptian teachings. The twelve loaves of shew bread signify the twelve months of the year and the candlestick the twelve signs of the Zodiac. Philo asserts that the cherubim represented the two hemispheres. Symbols were the universal language of ancient theology. Symbolic instruction was the uniform usage of antiquity as a system of mysterious communication. The Mysteries were a series of symbols which strive to recall man to his Divine Origin, and point out to him the means of returning hither. The great science acquired in the Mysteries was knowledge of man’s self, of the nobleness of his origin, the grandeur of his destiny, and his superiority over the animals, which can never acquire this knowledge. The human mind still speculates upon the great mysteries of nature, and still finds its ideals anticipated by the ancients, whose profound thoughts are to be looked for, not in their philosophies, but in their symbols, by which they endeavored to express the great ideas that vainly struggled for utterance in words, as they viewed the great circle of phenomena – Birth, Life, Death, and New Life out of Death – to them the greatest of mysteries.
25° – Knight of the Brazen Serpent
The serpent was regarded in olden days with reverence and was known as the author of the fate of souls. The serpent in coil with his head erect was the royal ensign of the Pharaohs. Other mysteries as well as those of the Hebrews and Gnostics consecrated it. In those of Bacchus Saba-Zeos it was flung into the bosom of the initiate. In a system of degrees to complete the Scottish Rite, it was necessary to teach every religion and philosophy known, and so in this degree, we find the moral lessons of some of the older religions taught with vigor, especially that of the mystical death which symbolizes the descent of the soul into the infernal regions and afterwards its rise to the state of light, truth and perfection.
26° – Prince of Mercy
To know many sciences and to know them thoroughly is an impossible task for our infinite minds. But we can take time from our daily tasks to learn a little. That the light from some great sun has been traveling toward the earth for many centuries and is not yet visible to us is almost unbelievable, when we know that light travels 186,000 miles each second, and yet is it any more wonderful to know that the great tree, the clinging vine and the little plant all sprang from seeds so similar that only a botanist can tell one from another? The truth is that everything in nature is a mystery to us and we are mysteries to ourselves. Then let us watch and pray for that understanding which comes only after being tried in the fire of time and experience.
27° – Knight of the Sun, Prince Adept
The study of the ancient religions is of such vast proportions, that were one able to devote his entire lifetime to it, he could not hope to complete it. The worship of the sun and its planets, with more or less variations, was the most prevalent, although originally the planets, as well as fire, light and heat, were but symbols or rather the outward manifestations of the Supreme Being or Intellect. Almost every heathen nation, or at least all of whose mythology we have any knowledge, believed in one supreme God, whose name was never uttered. All rites and creeds, the evolution of some one or more of these ancient beliefs, have come down to us, sometimes purified by experience and added wisdom, but often a distorted vision has made what was once pure gold nothing but dross. This Degree especially was the real belief of our first Brethren, who lived long before the Pyramids of Egypt or the first Babylon.
28° – Knight Commander of the Temple
Practical charity, knightly attributes of character, and a scorn for the base and selfish…are but a few of the lessons taught in this degree. Truth and honor are more to be cultivated than the gathering of wealth and power, and while we have been studying the historical, philosophical and religious lessons of Masonry, let us not forget the practical side of it, ever remembering our duties to the poor and helpless, the weak and the unhappy.
29° – Scottish Knight of St. Andrew
Traditions and folk songs, handed down through the ages, are the foundation stones for the building of national character. The glorious achievements of our ancestors are the beacon lights of our efforts today. The Cross of St. Andrew has always been the emblem of humility, patience and self-denial, and even more than these, that of charity and forbearance for the weak, the poor and the helpless. The knights of old held virtue and truth and honor the most essential qualities of character.
30° – Knight Kadosh
Of all the Degrees of the Scottish Rite, we should consider this one of the most important. “Lives of great men,” as the poet has said, “remind us we can make our lives sublime.” If in death there is life, then the great martyrs of history live indeed in the hearts of the followers after Truth. Every Mason who has attained this Degree should study the history of the Templars for it is as true now as then that the esoteric teachings of Masonry are only to be appreciated when studied diligently and continually. This Degree particularly teaches the great necessity of combating arbitrary and unscrupulous power and all influences which would keep the people in ignorance.
Description of the Degrees by Charles David Hall, 33°