Topic of Masonic Interest: Ritual Changes

On the last Saturday of the month, the Scottish Rite of Pasadena has a philosophical discussion group open to any 32° Mason to discuss one of the Scottish Rite degrees in depth. In the beginning of the month, several different variations of the particular degree to be discussed are sent out for us to read through. These sources include Albert Pike‘s Magnum Opus and the original Ordo ab Chao, a collection of ritual transcriptions used by Giles F. Yates 33° from around 1827, which may include many of Frederick Dalcho‘s original rituals. These materials are to prepare us for the philosophical discussion on the degree of interest, as we can compare the differences between the present degree that we read together in the class, and those that had come before it.

I have been looking forward to this group ever since it was mentioned to us in our Reunion class. As a point of interest, I learned from the group leader that Reunion referred to the 32° reuniting all of the degrees in Freemasonry, and not a coming together of people after being separated for a time. There was of course mentioned the caveat that there are more degrees in Freemasonry than the 32° or 33° of Scottish Rite. This class was really my first exposure to this particular Scottish Rite degree since my Reunion, so in a way it was a Reunion in the other sense of the word. Additionally, this particular degree was communicated to us and not exemplified on the stage.

For this particular discussion group we focused on the 25° Knight of the Brazen Serpent or Master Sufi. As I had not seen this degree performed, it was very interesting to really dive into it and discuss with my fellow philosophers. The group consisted of some brothers who were involved in research lodges, studied esoterics, collected books, long-time Masons, new Masons, and five of my Reunion classmates, as well as someone I would call a Mentor to me personally.

Without revealing too much of the ritual, which can likely be found online or in many books found for purchase here, and keeping with the topic of Masonic interest as I presented it above, I will be as brief as possible.

I found it very interesting that the material I had read leading up to the meeting had little to do with the current ritual being used in the Scottish Rite. Truthfully, I thought I read the wrong material in preparation for the discussion. The biggest difference was the original materials described a Biblical event during the Exodus when the Israelites turned from God in the 40th year and were attacked by fiery serpents. Moses made a brazen serpent upon a pole to heal the sick from the serpent bites.

Brazen Serpent

The new degree makes no mention of this story at all, save for one line near the end. Rather, it focuses as an introduction to Sufism (the mystical side of Islam). Unfortunately, I had read the other materials first, so the new degree did not seem to me to have the same theme or oomph, as the original. I’m not really sure why it had to change or change so drastically. Perhaps, if had I not read those materials first, then I would have enjoyed it for what it was, but now I feel like I spoiled the movie by reading the book. This is not to say that the degree as it stands does not have its merits. I’m sure it has and if I take more time on it, I’m certain I’ll discover the meaning behind working it this way instead of the original ritual.

I’m thankful that I was able to participate in a discussion group like this, or I may never at all realized the drastic change in ritual that had been made. All in all, this opportunity to gain more light was awesome and I can’t wait for the next one.

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