The Degrees of the Scottish Rite Lodge of Perfection
The 4th through 14th degrees are called Ineffable Degrees because their principal purpose is the investigation and contemplation of the ineffable name of Deity. Following each of degrees listed below we have provided a brief statement of the moral teachings found within its lecture.
In the Orient of the District of Columbia, these degrees are conferred by Mithras Lodge of Perfection.
4° – Secret Master
The Fourth Degree, or Secret Master, is the first step into the inner sanctuary of the Spiritual Temple, where he who seeks, finds Truth. In this Degree we are to learn the duty of obedience to law, not to the edict of a tyrant, contrary to the law of God or nature, but the law that is an expression of the will and judgment of the people and for the benefit of the whole people.
5° – Perfect Master
The Fifth Degree, or Perfect Master, emphasizes the two virtues, Industry and Honesty. The Master Khurum (Hiram) had both of these virtues. Idleness, the great enemy of growth, whether mental or spiritual, is the brewer of mischief and vice. “To sleep little, study much, say little, think and hear much, to learn to do earnestly and vigorously whatever is required by duty” are the precepts of the Mason who follows the Master. A Mason should always be honest in his contracts, sincere in his statements, and keep all promises and covenants even to his own disadvantage.
6° – Confidential Secretary
The Sixth Degree teaches us to be zealous, faithful, disinterested and benevolent. No good Mason can be worldly, covetous or sensual, but must be kind and affectionate, broadminded and charitable; keeping thoughts only on the good and true, with a feeling of thankfulness for all favors rendered and a sincere desire to do unto his Brother as he would wish done unto him.
7° – Provost and Judge
The Seventh Degree, or Provost and Judge, has for its chief lesson the great principle of justice. Those with the power of judgment should judge impartially without any personal consideration, without prejudice or preconception and without haste. Two kinds of injustice may be done to a fellow-man: one where a man does an injury to another, the other where he fails to avert an injury both by God and man, yet the consequences remain. In judging a wrong we should remember the motive and temptation. Some men are born with noble instincts, while others are less fortunate. Perhaps the man who leads a clean life has never had the temptation which came to his fallen brother; so we should judge with charity and pitying kindness.
8° – Intendant of the Building
The Eighth Degree, or Intendant of the Building, impresses upon the candidate the futility of advancing unless the lessons already taught have been carefully considered. The jurisprudence, learning and morality of Masonry and not merely the work and ceremonies should have our most profound thought and attention. We are seekers after Light and we should consider the earthly life of ours a field for noble action, the beginning of heaven and a part of immortality. This Degree teaches us that we have high duties to perform and a high destiny to fulfill on this Earth. We should love this Earth as the garden on which the Creator has lavished such miracles of beauty, has made it the dwelling place of the wise and the good, the place of opportunity for the development of the noblest passions, the tenderest sympathies and the loftiest virtues.
9° – Elu of the Nine
This Degree is consecrated to bravery, devotedness and patriotism. Its duties are summed up in “Protect the oppressed against the oppressor and devote yourself to the honor and interest of your country.” Masonry calls for active service in comforting the unfortunate and raising the degraded. It requires initiates to work actively and earnestly for the benefit of their brethren, their country and mankind. Most men have sentiment to the right, but do the wrong. They may talk much of virtue but live little of it. They may even talk much of wrongs but do little to eradicate them. He who fights against cruelty, oppression, wrongs and abuse fights for his country’s honor. Life is not measured by days, but by the deeds we have done for our fellow man and our country. “Unselfish and noble acts are the most radiant epochs in the biography of souls. When wrought in earliest youth, they lie in the memory of age like the coral islands, green and sunny, amidst the melancholy waste of ocean.”
10° – Elu of the Fifteen
This Degree is devoted to religious and political toleration and to the enlightenment of the mind of soul. Toleration holds that every man has a right to his opinion, and liberally claims that no human being can say he alone knows the Truth. Whatever a man sincerely and conscientiously believes is truth to him, and only through enlightenment and education are intolerance and fanaticism put down. Masonry is not a religion, but is founded on the essential truths of all religions; it is the universal morality underlying every creed. A belief in the one true God and a moral and virtuous life are the only requirements that Masonry promulgates as a necessity for membership.
11° – Elu of the Twelve
The duties of this Degree are to be earnest, true, reliable and sincere; to protect the people against illegal impositions; and contend for their political rights. It is a Mason’s duty to serve his Brothers, not Masons alone, but all humanity. The safety of every free government depends upon the integrity of the common people. The nation that bases its greatness on tyranny over prostrate states, heavy and unjust taxation and crafty alliances will find its empire tottering in ruins. Masonry should do all in its power to protect the people, to better their living conditions and to supply their needs.
12° – Master Architect
The human soul ever travels toward the Light and God. It never loses the sense of its own powers, but there are many faculties within us of which we are dimly conscious; to arouse that slumbering soul-consciousness to the realization of Truth is the most divine object of all human helpfulness. Masonry strives to develop these half-forgotten, God-given traits and to accept them as their guide. Life is what each man makes of it; the optimist turns every trial into a blessing, the pessimist sees only ruin and disaster. All our earthly transactions and institutions are based on faith in our fellow-man. How much more so must we believe in God. The belief in a Supreme Being is an instinct in all races. No man can suffer and be patient, can struggle and conquer, can improve and be happy without faith in a just, wise and beneficent God.
13° – Royal Arch of Solomon
For centuries the Hebrews have been forbidden to pronounce the sacred name of God and whenever it occurred they have read the name “Adonai” instead. The knowledge of the true pronunciation was supposed to give to the possessor supernatural powers. This idea of the sanctity of the Creator’s name was common to all ancient nations. Among them the conception of God varied according to their intellectual capacities; among the ignorant He was invested with the lower attributes of humanity, among the spiritual He was a Being, pure and holy. This knowledge of God, however, was not given out the common people, but was kept secret by the favored few. The communication of this knowledge of the true nature of the Creator, with other esoteric truths, is what is now called Free Masonry, which under other names has existed since the beginning of the human race. This Degree, in fact, forms the climax of the ineffable Masonry. It is the keystone of the Arch and discovers that which is revealed in the succeeding of Degree of Perfection. It is a most important and interesting grade, and so intimately connected with its successor as to appear like a section of that Degree. The dark clouds and mists that have hitherto veiled the sacred mysteries now begin to be dispelled; the glorious dawn illuminates the East with its bright effulgence, and its rays penetrate into dark and hidden places.
14° – Perfect Elu
This Degree is the last of the Lodge of Perfection, and we have reached the point where each individual Mason must discover the secret of Masonry for himself. This can be done only upon reflection of its symbols, and a wise consideration and analysis of what is said and done in the work. Perfect Truth is unattainable, yet we must ever press on, more nearly approaching it. We receive as much of the Divine Light as we are capable of understanding. God has arranged His great purpose so that each man has a work to do, a duty to perform to help in the progress of the great plan for enlightenment and growth. The Mason believes that the sorrows and trials of this life are a part of the plan of God designed to purify and strengthen our souls. Surely a wise and merciful God would not send these things upon His children without some ultimate good resulting. On this life depends our future well-being, and we should so live that death will have no terror for us, but will only be a release from the earth to spiritual realms above.
Description of the Degrees by Charles David Hall, 33°