Ain Soph to Malkuth – The First Degree of Scottish Rite Freemasonry

The following is the introduction to something I’ve been working on for some time and I needed to let it see the light of day before it strangled me.  It is not the complete work, rather the first paragraph of twenty pages that follow behind it which explore the ideas and claims made here-in.  In a nut-shell the work is an exploration of Freemasonry to the Hermetic system of Qabalah that, I believe, matured into the systems that practice it today.  Those systems, I believe, would not of evolved into what they have were in not for Pike’s work in crafting the Scottish Rite in the the manner he did.

So, I respectfully submit this to you and would delight in hearing your thoughts.

To say there is a first degree of Scottish Rite masonry may come as a surprise.  As most commonly practiced, the Scottish Rite is a system of degrees that begins following from the traditional Masonic system in most prevalent practice today of blue, or craft, lodge masonry.  Specifically the Scottish rite craft lodge degrees parallel the first three degrees of the Webb Preston York Rite System which is the dominant system of lodge ritual adopted in American Masonry in the early 1800′s.  In an earlier era, and along a parallel development, there existed a similar series of degrees that lead seamlessly into what we know of today as the 4th through 32nd Scottish Rite system.  Sadly, only a few lodges today still practice the Rite’s precursor degrees, most notably the blue lodge in Louisiana, as the degrees are said to retain much of their earlier European and French roots[1].  Much of what is contained in those degrees mirror what is common practice in the York degrees, but there are differences and it is in those aspects of divergence that these earlier rituals hold some parlance for the Scottish Rite.  To see this we must look to the earlier rituals so that we can find in them the fundamentals of the esoteric scholarship and taught in the Rite as applied by Brother Pike in the present day system. These differences become especially obvious in his degree analysis in Morals and Dogma giving us the opportunity to find out why.  For those reading who are not already Scottish Rite kaballah, mysticism, treemasons the degrees, as they are taught in the multitude of valleys across America today, suggest a link between the Scottish Rite teachings by degree to the teachings of mystical Kabbalah, more precisely to the Kabalistic Tree of Life, something brought to the attention of the Scottish Rite candidates in the lecture of the fourth degree. In that fourth degree the connection is made loosely but in close analysis of the progressive degrees it becomes very clear to say that there is a distinct connection between the degrees, the 10 Sephirot and the 22 paths that compose the most universal representation of the esoteric Tree.  As the fourth degree mention is a superficial reference it is our starting point to see the two as related and necessitates an extensive exploration of the following degrees within which we can find a multitude of parallels in the Rite’s construction.  As one begins to climb the allegorical Tree, very quickly it becomes obvious that veiled in its canopy are metaphorical links, ineffable symbols, and outright allegorical references to the connections between them – something that many writers, both Masonic and lay, have traced through a variety of esoteric systems of study.  Was this system intended to mirror an ancient Jewish system of esoteric theology, or a device made use of by Pike to capture with such detail the similarities that he saw between them?  As you will begin to see it is the latter as the degrees lack the theology of Judaism, rather it takes on a parallel structure borrowing from this older tradition in a way that they become a natural compliment to one another, such that the two have become intricately linked – the Kabbalah of old intermingled with the Christian Mysticism of Caballah to become a syncretic blend of spiritual Qaballah unencumbered by strict religious dogma.  Throughout his work Pike keeps the systems separate, acknowledging the idea of the one true God keeping the system in a predominately Christian worldview.  With the skill of a master artisan, Pike weaves a tapestry of old and new thought together to knit the details of what he sees as the ideas that underlie all modern religions illustrating that importance into the system that is the inheritor of those combined faiths into the Scottish Rite.  That choice to link the three degrees of Freemasonry, an old system at the time of his own contributions, revived as best he could the systems of the Hermetic esoteric tradition that we find in several modern magical systems today.[2]  But, before those traditions could build on thatScottish Rite, Rte, eagle work Pike welding these disparate systems together into an amalgam of esoterica, such that I believe they have become inseparable from the deeper meaning of the degrees.  The lesson with their Qabalistic teachings has been interlaced in a way that to change their composition would change the very nature of the Scottish Rite itself.  To that end the degrees, both the lower three and the higher 29 are – in and out of themselves – a complete loop which are formed into a circuit of learning that is its own birth, baptism, and maturation, that ever climbs the Tree towards a pinnacle of completion ending at the 32 degree.  But before we get to that zenith, we must first start in the beginning, in the very roots of the Tree of Life, at the point just before the degree system begins where we can start to construct this understanding.  That starting point is outside in the space before the door of the lodge room as the aspirant makes his first fateful knocks, which is the essence of what the first degree represents.  To enter that space we must start with an explanation of the Kabbalah and our entry point through the degrees of Masonry into the Tree of Life through chaos of Ain Soph becoming the Sephirot of Malkuth.



[1] No known catalog of ritual practice comparisons is believed to exist.

[2] Such traditions are likely, in the opinion of the author, outgrowths and parallel developments of the work of Pike in Morals and Dogma and the Scottish Rite.  Such groups include the Golden Dawn, Ordo Templi Orientis, Thelema, Theosophy, and other like Hermetic systems.

Read on to the second degree - By Wisdom a House is Built – The Path of Tav

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About Greg Stewart

An artist by nature and vocation, Greg pursued the sublime degrees of Freemasonry in 1994. A 3rd degree Master and a 32nd degree Scottish Rite Mason, Greg is the author of the ebook What is Freemasonry and the print book Masonic Traveler.

Read more about Greg Stewart.

Comments

  1. a fellow traveling man says:

    Nice introduction. I would love to read the rest of the paper.

    I have heard recently, that at least in the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States, the Grand Commander has ruled that any Valley can get the rituals and exemplify the Degrees.

    Albert Pike himself wrote, in “The Porch and the Middle Chamber: The Book of the Lodge”:

    This Ritual is intended for instruction only, in the States of the Southern Jurisdiction, where there are not Lodges working in the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite; to be studied and understood before investiture with the Fourth Degree. For, without it, the system of that Rite is incomplete, and even like a fabric without foundation.

    It was also suggested in 1867, in McClenachan’s “The Book of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite,” for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, before the Degrees in that Jurisdiction were completely overhauled.

  2. a fellow traveling man says:

    my comment above failed to state that I was referring to the 3 Scottish Rite Craft Degrees, which are the ones done by the Lodges in New Orleans, and are based on French work, not Pike’s revisions.

  3. James McNaught says:

    Figuratively speaking, I cannot understand why an original keystone is set in place and then removed and replaced by smaller keystones. The Scottish Rite is the oldest known Anglican group known wordwide in Freemasonry. These are the teachings that should be used worldwide. The degrees are levels of understanding and learnedness which is the meaning of wisdom in the craft. All of this wisdom is what generations ahead will need for their pursuit of Masonic understanding and purity. It appears that some groups in the U.S. and elsewhere want the easy way to claiming their titles. I do not understand how an individual can become a Master in the same day, and should they enjoy that favoritism without true pursuit and putting in the time for study to reach the next degree. I think the Southern U.S. Lodges have the right idea. The Scottish Rite Orders should be initiated back into Freemasonry. It is my personal opinion that I do not think that many of our U.S. members are attune with Freemasonry and they need to be further educated.

  4. Exelent! You may find more connecting paths in Israel Regardie’s books . The middle pilar, Pomegranade Garden.

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  1. […] This work follows in line with the first installment Ain Soph to Malkuth – the first degree of Scottish Rite Freemasonry […]

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