Way of the Hermit

Scottish Rite: Epilogue

March 19, 2023 Dr. David Brown & Gene Lawson Season 1 Episode 36
Way of the Hermit
Scottish Rite: Epilogue
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this episode, we complete our discussion of “Morals and Dogma: The Annotated Edition” and the Scottish Rite System.

"Morals and Dogma" is available from these sites:



  • Introduction (01:14)
  • Square and Compass (02:16)
  • Double-Headed Eagle (03:04)
  • Textbooks (04:14)
  • Origins of the Degrees (06:18) 
  • Albert Pike (09:56)
  • Esoteric Psychology (15:36)
  • The Meaning of the Degrees (21:16)
  • Conclusions (27:08)


Introduction (01:14)

Gene: Hello Dave.

David: Hello Gene.

Gene: “This is the end… my friend.”

David: It is. This is our last episode in our series on the Scottish Rite System but, as always before we get started I want to remind everyone that Show Notes, Chapter Markers and a Transcript of this, and all episodes, are available on our website - WayOfTheHermit.com. So, in the last episode, we discussed the 32nd Degree - “Master of the Royal Secret”. In this episode, we’re going to complete our discussion of the Scottish Rite, talk about the process of going through the degrees, and finally just give some of our opinions on all of that. I’d like to start off by saying that, one thing that struck me in the 32nd Degree was how Pike tied the system and its symbols back to the first three degrees. Basically, framing the Scottish Rite as a detailed elaboration of the symbols of the “Blue Lodge”.

Gene: I like how Pike tied all of that up in a nice little bow. He went back to the early symbols and showed how they mean more now after you know the history and the philosophy behind them.

Square and Compass (02:16)

David: I liked that, too. Even just the main symbols, like the Compass and Square, which is the main symbol of the “Blue Lodge”. It just means so much more now after going through the degrees.

Gene: What would you say about that symbol now that we’ve studied the whole system?

David: Well, we’ve talked about it before. The Compass over the Square is symbolic of Spirit ruling over the material, Heaven over Earth. And the G inside is a symbol of the “Grand Architect of the Universe”. But, now when I look at it, it looks like a glyph of the “Third Temple” that embraces all of Earth and Heaven. And the G inside is the “Sacred Word”, “Divine Providence” or the organizing principle… whatever you want to call it.

Gene: And esoterically, it would be that Temple in yourself and the G would be your highest conception of Divinity.

Double-Headed Eagle (03:04)

David: Right. That’s a good take on it. So, that’s the main symbol of the “Blue Lodge”. What about the main emblem of the Scottish Rite, the double-headed eagle? What would you say it represents to you now?

Gene: Well, we talked about the double-headed eagle in the 30th Degree as a united consciousness. It’s a symbol of our dual nature, the human and the divine, united and crowned with a single crown. It’s the “Divine Androgyne”, the Hermaphrodite rising from the Egg or the Phoenix from the ashes. But really, when I look at it now, I see an image of what incorporating the “Royal Secret” of Equilibrium into your life would look like. It’s a symbol of a fully realized human being.

David: In some versions of the emblem, the eagle holds a banner in its talons with the Latin inscription “Deus Meumque Jus”, which means “God and my right” or “God and my law”. Which I take to mean that “Divine Law” and your inner justice have become one. There’s also sometimes a triangle, which, like the crown, symbolizes overcoming our dual nature.

Gene: Or that you’ve raised the “Middle Pillar” of your own nature, which really means the same thing.

Textbooks (04:14)

David: Right. It’s like finding the “Third Term”. But to understand what that actually means in the 32nd Degree, as we’ve discussed, you have to assimilate the symbols from the earlier degrees. And the primary repository of the symbols of the degrees are in the Rituals and the Lectures on the Rituals, and those have been our textbooks throughout the podcast.

Gene: You know, we actually started off just working with the Annotated version of “Morals and Dogma”, but we saw that the Lectures were difficult to interpret outside the context of the Rituals. That’s when we started including material from the “Scottish Rite Ritual - Monitor and Guide” which has most of the text of the Rituals of the Degrees, and also a ton of other information about the history and lore of the Scottish Rite… over 900 pages worth!

David: Yeah, in the preface, Arturo de Hoyos, who designed and edited the book, says that when he created it he thought “How many Masons will buy a 952-page doorstop?” But, it’s great, and it’s available on Kindle, too. If you’re going to research the degrees, you have to have this book.

Gene: You do. Even though it doesn’t contain the full rituals, it’s enough. And sometimes “A Bridge To Light” filled in the gaps. It usually had more of what went on in the rituals. That was what I felt it was most useful for.

David: It was also good to get a quick overview of both the Ritual and the Lecture. I thought “A Bridge to Light” was very helpful in the beginning especially.

Gene: It was. And then there’s our main book - “Moral and Dogma: The Annotated Edition”. Also edited and annotated by the Grand Historian and Grand Archivist of the Scottish Rite, Arturo de Hoyos.

David: I can’t say enough about how much the footnotes, annotations and other information help in studying the Lectures. You can see where each section comes from, since a good part of the text is quotations and it helps with archaic words and language and history.

Gene: Again, if you really intend to make a study of the Scottish Rite degrees, you need the Annotated Version.
Origins of the Degrees (06:18)

David: I’ve linked to those three books in the “Show Notes” throughout the series. So, if you don’t own those already and you intend to do your own study, those are the core textbooks of the degrees. At the beginning, we talked a little about the origins of the Scottish Rite degrees, but before we end, I’d like to revisit that history and also talk a little bit about Albert Pike. So, would you care to start off our short history of the degrees with where Pike became involved with the Scottish Rite?

Gene: OK. In the “Ritual - Monitor and Guide” it says that in 1854 and 1855, the Secretary General of the Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite, Albert Mackey, loaned Albert Pike most of the manuscripts in their ritual collection for him to transcribe. “For the most part, the early Scottish Rite rituals studied by Pike were… slightly modified versions of French rituals written in the late eighteenth century; others had been revised by the Supreme Council between 1821 to 25. Many of the rituals seemed primitive and even jejune to Pike, who believed that their true meaning had been lost to time.” And “jejune” means childish.

David: Right. So, a committee was established in March of 1855 to revise the rituals. Here’s a quote from the “Ritual - Monitor and Guide” - Pike… “as a 32° Mason… was the lowest-ranking member of the committee but, as was his habit, he threw himself into the task. In fact, he was the only person on the committee to produce any results. Pike’s qualifications extended well beyond his familiarity with Masonic ritual. He was a keen student of comparative religion, mythology and philosophy and he was well read in the natural sciences and in history. In his revisions Pike sought to recover and restore the ethical and philosophical truths he believed the original framers of the Degrees intended to teach. Several of the Degrees, which were skeletonic, were fleshed out and became “workable.” The dramas Pike wrote taught the lessons and conveyed the truths he supposed was a reflection of their original intent.”

Gene: As a result of that work, Pike was elected Sovereign Grand Commander in 1859, and held that post until his death in 1891.

David: Here’s another quote that I thought was interesting and relevant. It says - “Albert Pike’s revisions of the Scottish Rite Degrees were produced in an era much different from today. Pike’s Victorian writing style now seems overly elaborate to many modern readers. Those unable to follow Pike’s train of thought have lamented that the lessons - originally meant to spread Masonic Light - instead have obscured it. In Pike’s day, the educational curriculum also made it more likely that Candidates would understand the Latin, Hebrew, and Greek references in his writings, as well as appreciate the philosophical dilemmas he posed. Some of today’s candidates neither enjoy nor comprehend these complexities. Because of these difficulties, some Valleys indiscriminately edited out large parts of the rituals. The resulting Degrees were often ill structured and confusing.”

Gene: And that’s why in 1995, the Supreme Council decided to create a quote-unquote “Standard Revision” of Pike’s rituals. We talked in earlier episodes about how they reversed the 27th and the 28th degrees and changed the Knight of the Brazen Serpent and the Knight of the Sun degrees.

David: I don’t know what all the changes were, but those that you just mentioned, which as you said, we’ve talked about… I didn’t care for those changes. Did you want to say anything else about those?

Albert Pike (09:56)

Gene: Just that I wasn’t a fan of the changes either. The farther I worked the system through the degrees, the more respect I came to have for Albert Pike and his judgment. I don’t think he gets the respect he deserves, maybe because of his apparent racism.

David: Apparent?

Gene: Well, not apparent… it’s real.

David: Oh yeah. It’s real. We’ve talked about it. He was a very intelligent man, but he was still a man of his time… and some of that is in “Morals and Dogma”.

Gene: We talked about this at the beginning and pointed out instances throughout the degrees where there were intolerant statements, even in sections that were preaching toleration!

David: I know, but since Albert Pike is responsible for the Scottish Rite System, I want to talk a little about who he was… beyond that.

Gene: OK.

David: Pike was born in 1809 and was said to have a photographic memory. Which, of course, you can’t prove whether that was true or not, but he did pass the entrance exams at Harvard when he was 15 years old, although he didn’t go to school there, because he couldn’t afford the tuition.

Gene: And you know how a good portion of “Morals and Dogma” is really uncredited quotations from other sources?

David: Right.

Gene: I read somewhere that Pike didn’t actually sign the “Morals and Dogma” manuscript as the author because he said he often couldn’t remember which parts were his own thoughts and which came from other people because he could recall from memory everything he’d ever read.

David: That’s interesting. Here’s a few other details about Pike’s life. He owned a newspaper. He was a court reporter for the Supreme Court of Arkansas. He was a poet and writer. He once had to walk 500 miles after his horse ran off from him on his way to Taos, New Mexico. I haven’t been able to find any place that says exactly how many languages Pike spoke. Most sources just say he was a “polyglot” and spoke dozens of languages, but he definitely knew Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, German… etc… but also Sanskrit and at least five American Indian dialects. He became a lawyer and represented the Creek Nation in front of the Supreme court. He also advocated for the Choctaw and Chickasaw. He also served as a Judge on the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Gene: And in the first episode, we talked about Pike being commissioned as a Brigadier General in the Confederate States Army. Near the end of the war, he was charged with insubordination and treason for refusing to turn over funds and equipment when “Martial Law” was declared in Arkansas. He was held briefly on those charges, but the war ended and Pike moved to Canada for a while. He was pardoned in 1866 by President Andrew Johnson.

David: I have another quote… and I’d just like to preface it by explaining what Prince Hall Affiliation is.

Gene: OK.

David: Prince Hall is a branch of Freemasonry for African-Americans established through the authority of the Grand Lodge of Ireland and founded in Boston in 1784 by a man named Prince Hall. So here’s the quote - “In a 1945 letter … Willard W. Allen, (who was then) Sovereign Grand Commander of the United Supreme Council, S.J. Prince Hall Affiliation, noted, "that in the closing years of General Pike's Masonic career, he became a very staunch friend of (Prince Hall) Masonry." Pike had become a personal friend of Thornton A. Jackson, (who was then) Supreme Grand Commander of … Prince Hall Affiliation and even gifted to Thornton his complete set of rituals for Prince Hall Scottish Rite Masonry to use.”

Gene: So, can people change or not? Or do you just judge people on the worst things they’ve done or said? Everyone has a darkness they can’t see.

David: I think Pike is a perfect example of this. He was a legitimate genius, but he was most definitely constrained by his time and circumstances. Pike died on April 2, 1891 and was interred, though he had asked to be cremated, and then in 1944 his remains were moved to the “House of the Temple” in Washingington, DC, which is the headquarters of the Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite.

Gene: One other note. A statue of Pike was erected in 1901 in Judiciary Square in Washington. And although the statue showed him as a private citizen, he was the only Confederate Military officer with an outdoor statue in D.C. There were calls for its removal, but before those calls went through legal channels, on June 19, 2020, protestors tore it down and set it on fire.

David: Which… you know, you can’t help but think of Jacque de Molay.

Gene: Ooh. Yeah.

David: I’ve got one more quote about Pike and we’ll move on. “If not for slander and persecution, the Mason… must look for apathy and cold indifference in those whose good he seeks… It is enough for us to know that the fruit will come in its due season. When, or who shall gather it, it does not in the least concern us to know. It is our business to plant the seed…. To sow, that others may reap; to work and plant for those who are to occupy the earth when we are dead; to project our influences far into the future, and live beyond our time; to rule as the Kings of Thought, over men who are yet unborn; to bless with the glorious gifts of Truth and Light and Liberty those who will neither know the name of the giver, nor care in what grave his unregarded ashes repose, is the true office of a Mason and the proudest destiny of a man.”

Gene: Here, here! Rest in peace… Uncle Albert.

Esoteric Psychology (15:36)

David: Yeah. That’s a fitting eulogy, because Pike saw the Scottish Rite as his legacy to mankind. As the quote from de Hoyos said earlier, Pike channeled his understanding of what he saw as the core of religious beliefs into the Degree Rituals. He was trying to revive the “Ancient Mysteries”. The “Royal Secret”, which was called in the past the “Secret of Kings”.

Gene: It’s basically the esoteric “Theory of Everything”. It’s cosmology, philosophy and psychology, based around a study of symbols. And the symbols are primarily drawn from the Kabbalah and Gnosticism.

David: And speaking of psychology, “Morals and Dogma” was before Freud and Jung’s work, but both of them were also influenced by the same sources.

Gene: That’s really true. Freud was influenced by esotericism and the Kabbalah especially. Here’s a quote from the book - “The Hidden Freud: His Hasidic Roots” - Freud's lasting legacy… psychoanalysis… is a science of subjectivity enhanced by the process of "free association", which 13th-century Kabbalists called "skipping and jumping"... (or) "listening with the third ear". … Psychoanalysis itself carries the added cachet of opening a door to the many discoveries and mysteries of Kabbalah. It is the means by which the Jewish mystical tradition has entered and enriched the mainstream of society. Kabbalistic ideas include the concept of bisexuality, methods of dream interpretation, the interplay between good and evil, theories of repression and depression, and the significance of reparation, Tikkun, perhaps the most important imprint of them all.”

David: “Tikkun Olam” means “restoration of the world”. Which was what I think Jung’s concept of “Individuation” means - reassembling your fragmented Self. I have a quote about Jung from Stephan Hoeller. It says - “Jung was instrumental in calling attention to the Nag Hammadi library of Gnostic writings in the 1950's because he perceived the outstanding psychological relevance of Gnostic insights…. ". Jung's reflections had long been immersed in the thought of the ancient Gnostics to such an extent that he considered them the virtual discoverers of 'depth psychology'... In the light of such recognitions one may ask: "Is Gnosticism a religion or a psychology?" The answer is that it may very-well be both.”

Gene: I would say what all of these systems, or mental maps, or whatever you want to call them have in common is that they all force you, or at least encourage you, to look in places you don’t normally look… inside and behind yourself… if you know what I mean.

David: And as we’ve talked about before, that kind of deep introspection can be painful and cause problems. That’s something not many people talk about. It’s more about the empowerment that comes from self-knowledge.

Gene: Yeah.

David: Not the pain involved in gaining that knowledge.

Gene: Right. The work here poses questions that only you can answer. So it only works if you work at it. And that means you dig. You can’t just read it and go “Yeah. Read it. Got it. Yeah buddy!”

David: No, you can’t just read it. I like the Eliphas Levi quote where he asks “Do you have to be like the Saints to know what they knew?” and the answer is, “No… you can know what they knew… but, you can’t do what they did unless you use the same means.” They came to know themselves. You have to come to know yourself. It’s a different question. It’s your “Riddle of the Sphinx”. Who are you?

Gene: One of the inscriptions at the “Temple of Apollo” was “Know Thyself”. Which is also the goal of Gnosis… inner knowledge.

David: How would you say that “inner knowledge” is conveyed through the symbols of the degrees?

Gene: Like I said before, through mental maps. Like Freud’s Id, Ego and Superego. Or Jung’s Archetypes. In Kabbalah, it’s the Tree of Life and in Gnosticism it’s the Tetractys… and also the Encampment from the last degree. All of those are ways to organize your thoughts and analyze your inner dynamics.

David: In the Mysteries, those inner dynamics were personified as humans, Gods and demi-gods. And the interplay between the Light and Dark, the Apollonian and the Dionysian, is the root of both comedy and tragedy. And those elements play out inside us and through us in the world.

Gene: On the other side of that is that what is inside us we also see out in the world. In psychology, that’s called “projection”... which is also an alchemical term that relates to what you do with the “Philosopher’s Stone”. But anyway, I asked this earlier, but I’ll ask it again, how much of what we’ve found in our study of the degrees is in the degrees, and how much have we projected onto it the way we think? Do you know what I mean?

David: I do.

Gene: I mean, I sometimes wonder if the podcasts don’t say more about how we think than about what is in the Scottish Rite.

David: Here’s what I say. The more that’s true, the better this system has worked for us! If it helped us do that, then it worked… for us.

Gene: That’s right. We can’t do it for anyone else… only us.

David: We can show an example of us trying to doing it… but nobody else can do that work for you.

Gene: What does Morpheus say in “The Matrix”? “I can only show you the door. You have to walk through it.”

The Meaning of the Degrees (21:16)

David: So, let’s talk about “walking through the door”... or walking through the degrees. Let’s talk a little about what we did for this podcast.

Gene: Well, we put two weeks into each degree, except the 28th which we spent six weeks studying.

David: But we could have put two years into some of those, like the 28th or the 18th… actually the 3rd even!

Gene: Yeah.

David: But the point is that they’re worth exactly the amount of time and effort you put in toward understanding them for yourself.

Gene: Which brings up a really important question.

David: What’s the question?

Gene: What does it mean to hold a degree?

David: Well, that’s a good question anymore. Back when I did my college work, a college degree meant something very different than it does today… I think… but I guess, there’s the question of is the Scottish Rite a college? It’s sometimes referred to as the “College of Masonry”. And as a repository of the Rituals and Lectures, it deserves that title.

Gene: But…

David: But, it’s not a college in the sense that it has real requirements to hold its degrees. I mean, I have three college degrees, and they took me about 14 years to get and there were things you had to do all along the way.

Gene: Right. And we get our 29 degrees in 2 or 3 days. Along with the textbooks.

David: So, it’s not a college, it’s more a self-study course. No, not even that. To me, it grants degrees on the honor system. Now think about this, when we started the podcast we had only ever run into two people who claimed to have read “Morals and Dogma”. Let that sink in. That’s the main textbook of the Degrees. And we’re not even broaching any question of comprehension, we’re just talking about people who even took the time to read the text.

Gene: Hmm.

David: You get the books and all your degrees with all those fancy titles, and then it’s you know, “nudge nudge wink wink” go study these for yourself… if you even care to.

Gene: Yeah. I know this is a pet peeve for you.

David: It is. It’s not the way Pike intended for the degrees to be conferred. You were supposed to understand the symbols of each degree before advancing to the next one. Which makes sense.

Gene: So, I agree with you, but do you think it’s ever been any different? I mean, was there ever a time when the degrees were conferred the way Pike describes that they should be?

David: I don’t know. I’ve looked, but, at least in the U.S... I don’t think so. I think it’s always been this way. So, I guess I’ve come to feel that unless you take the degrees on yourself, and work them, that you may hold them on paper, but that doesn’t mean anything. They’re not real degrees.

Gene: And that’s what I think we’ve gotten in our own study, we’ve made them real, we’ve made the degrees mean something by working them, by really studying them.

David: With the caveat, that we spent two weeks on each degree. Two hard weeks, but just two weeks. You could spend a lot more.

Gene: Yeah.

David: But to me there’s another level to holding a degree, beyond that. I mean, we’ve mentioned holding one on paper versus studying it over a period of  time and attaining some of the knowledge of the degree.

Gene: Right.

David: But there’s another level, which is actually living what the degree teaches. So, I’d say there are three levels to holding these types of degrees, on paper, in your head, meaning you’ve studied it, or in your heart, meaning that you live it.

Gene: I think of it this way. I think that I understand, at least somewhat, the self-sacrifice demanded in the 18th degree. I mean, the example was Jesus. And to be blunt, I don’t consider myself capable of that level of self-sacrifice. So, although I understand it with my head and consider it an ideal to strive for, I’m not there and probably never will be.

David: Me either.

Gene: And hey - the 32nd degree is 14 degrees above that!

David: That’s true.

Gene: Who is arrogant enough to claim they’re all that?

David: Not me. But it comes down to what is meant by initiation. Is it just the ceremony? Or is it how much you study? I think it has to do with those things, but ultimately, it’s something internal, a real change that takes place in you. But to me, the real problem in the Scottish Rite is that people don’t seem to even know there’s a problem with any of that. It’s always been this way. Pike says about the Scottish Rite that “if those who govern (it) are not equal to… the station to which they have aspired, and if … under them… the sphere of duty of the initiates is continually lessened, and their obligations become less and less real (and) that which requires of them the least possible amount of labour and sacrifice… none will mourn those who have lost by inertia a power and a place that they did not deserve to retain.”

Gene: I’ve got a quote about that, too. It says that we can’t fix this problem “by inducing many… to receive the degrees, and then permitting them to neglect the duties and the studies by which alone the true initiation is obtained; but by increasing the number of the true Adepts and real Princes of the Royal Secret, understanding the symbols high degrees, and appreciating the magnificent truths which these symbols were intended to conceal from the many, that they might by diligent study and profound reflection be discovered by the few… Those alone imagine that they understand them fully, who have hardly begun to catch glimpses of their meaning. When one has studied and reflected on them for years, he begins to see how wide the field is, how much remains to be discovered, how many hieroglyphics to be deciphered… The duty of the Hierophants was to teach the highest knowledge to the Elect among the initiates.”

Conclusions (27:08)

David: Alright. I think a good quote to end on. Gene, what else would you like to say before we wrap up?

Gene: Well, maybe because we have all the clips about the moon landing in our intro, I’ve been thinking about the JFK quote “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

David: What are you thinking about that quote?

Gene: We’ve talked about how virtues are only equal to the challenges you have to overcome to acquire them. Which as far as the degrees are concerned, they’re only worth what you put into them. But on another level, hey - going to the Moon, that’s a big challenge, right? 

David: Yes. 

Gene: And we did it. But how many people have overcome the challenge that’s in the heart of us all - to become a fully realized human being. To me, the Scottish Rite, and the Mysteries generally are about becoming an authentic human being… to be who you truly are… to strive for that. And to not get depressed by seeing how far you may be from the ideal. You just have to do the work. There’s no guarantee of arrival. You have to find a way to get your satisfaction through the process of becoming. Do the work and try to inspire others.

David: And that’s what I hope we’ve done with this podcast. At the time of this recording, we’ve had downloads in almost 90 countries. So I do hope the work we’ve done is inspiring other people. I have one last quote. It’s the dedication in the front of the annotated version of “Morals and Dogma” and it’s a quote by Pike. 

Gene: Cool. Let’s hear it.

David: “When I am dead I wish my Monument to be builded only in the hearts and memories of my brethren of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, and my name to be remembered by them in every country, no matter what language men may speak there, where the light of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite shall shine, and it's Oracles of Truth and wisdom be reverently listened to.” 

Gene: So mote it be!

David: So mote it be. That’s it. Well, we’ve completed our discussion of “Morals and Dogma” and the Scottish Rite system. We may be back with another esoteric topic in October… maybe around Halloween. But, until then - I’m David.

Gene: And I’m Gene.

David: We hope you’ve enjoyed our discussion of “Moral and Dogma: The Annotated Edition”.

Square and Compass
Double-Headed Eagle
Origins of the Degrees
Albert Pike
Esoteric Psychology
The Meaning of the Degrees