Albert Pike and the Scottish Rite Ritual
Up to the time Albert Pike received the degrees of the Scottish Rite communicated to him by Dr. Albert G, Mackey in 1853, probably no one had given much attention to the rituals. Indeed, it is doubtful whether the degrees had ever been conferred to any extent or disseminated otherwise than by communication and patent.
That is no libel on the Masons of the
early 19th century for only about half of the degrees are ordinarily conferred
now a century later. Pike was curious about them from the start, for he took
some of the rituals home the year after his first visit to
"After accumulating a good quantity of material, by reading and copying, I commenced on the Scottish Rite. I found it almost equivalent, as to the degrees I selected, to making something out of nothing I first endeavored to find, in the degree I had under consideration, a leading idea: and then to carry that out and give the degree as high a character as I could. Ragon says, of several of the degrees I have chosen, that no Ritual of them is to be found in France I have re rained all the signs, words, etc., and generally the substantial parts of the obligations.
In the Transactions of the Supreme Council, 1857-66, p. 258, he is quoted as saying in 1857: "They were a heterogeneous and chaotic mass, in of incoherent nonsense and jargon, in of jejuneness: in some of the degrees of absolute nothingness. So much pains had been taken to conceal the meaning of the symbols, that their true meaning was for the most part last, and ignorance or dullness had supplied others, invented by themselves The jargon of some of the degrees was us unintelligible us that of the Alchemists convincing me that their real meaning had been communicated orally and that the rituals were purposely framed to mislead those into whose hands they might unlawfully Fall."
In Transactions, 1870, p. 158,
Pike said: "Resorting to another method, I satisfied myself that many of
the degrees were purposely constructed to conceal their meaning and the objects
of those who used them as the means of union und organization Such, I believed,
were the Fifteenth and Sixteenth, of the Knight of the East and princes of
Jerusalem, but I could not fathom their meaning or detect the concealed
allegory They seemed to teach nothing and almost to be nothing. After I had
collected and read a hundred rare volumes upon religious antiquity, symbolism,
the mysteries, the doctrines of the Gnostics, and the Hebrew and Alexandrian
philosophy, the Blue Degrees and many others of our Rite still remained as
impenetrable enigmas to me as at first. The monuments of
In 1878, Transactions, p. 20, he said: "The truth is that the Rite was nothing, and the Rituals almost naught, for the most part a lot of worthless trash, until 1855."
In his pamphlet, "Beauties of Cerneauism, Aug. 25, 1887. Pike said: "I have said that the rituals of the degrees of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, and those of the Rite of Perfection, when I received them, were worthless. I repeat it, excepting the Rose Croix only. They taught a man nothing that he did not know before. They were not impressive in any way. No man of intellect and knowledge could regard them, all literary productions, with any respect. They were trivial, insipid, without originality, contemptible as literary productions, mere collections of flat, dull, common place - in short, they were no better than the rituals of the two or three Degrees which alone Cerneauism now possesses - of it own, at least.
"I found them all at
Pike's later statement of 1887 treating the original rituals as merely vapid and trivial is more nearly accurate than his earlier estimates in which he seemed convinced that they were designed to conceal some deep secrets and symbolism. He had acquired this idea from the Masonic literature of the time, which depicted Masonry al descended from the Ancient Mysteries, and loaded with all sorts of magism, mysticism and ancient philosophies and religions. Fortunately, there is a way in which we can apply our own judgments to the problem for we have here an insight into the Scottish Rite early rituals by a similar medium to that by which we inspect the early rituals of the Blue Lodge - exposures. In 1829, Elder David Bernard, who, following the Morgan affair at Batavia, New York in 1826, dedicated his life to the destruction of Freemasonry and, as a means to that end, published Light on Freemasonry, containing, not only William Morgan's work on the Craft Degrees, but also the purported rituals of many other degrees, and among them all of the degrees of the Rite of Perfection and the Scottish Rite, except two. They consist of a plethora of talk, titles, decorations, hangings, uniforms, jewels, banners, swords, signs, words, knocks, obligations, questions, answers, generally running to considerable length, but, upon analysis, as Pike said, failing to tell a man anything he did not know before. The contents of the modern rituals are practically all the contribution of Albert Pike.
Source: Coil's Masonic Encyclopedia