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Council of Kadosh, Degree Descriptions

The Degree description  below is reprinted with the permission of the Scottish Rite Journal.

Twenty-first Degree

Noachite, or Prussian Knight


Jim Tresner, 33°, Grand Cross
PO Box 70, Guthrie, Oklahoma 73044–0070


Photo: Oil painting by Bro. Robert H. White, 32°


The 21° and its titles represent a curious historical accident. Although it is less discussed in Freemasonry today, in the 1700s and early 1800s there was a strong Masonic tradition which placed Noah as one of the Craft's major patrons involved with the preservation of the knowledge of antediluvian arts and sciences during the Flood and its transmittal to the generations which followed. Some systems went so far as to make Noah the central legendary figure rather than Hiram. Freemasons were sometimes called Noachites or Noachidae, sons of Noah.

In the Degree, the story intermingles with that of the Vehmgericht, a medieval court headquartered in Westphalia, hence the term "Prussian Knight." It is a strange combination, but it produces one of the most powerful and theatrical Degrees of the Rite. All the elements of high drama are there—a meeting in the forest at night by the light of the full moon; men of integrity and power forced to confront personal biases they did not know existed within themselves; the ease with which one may fall into dishonor; the power of faith—all this and more takes the stage in this Degree. It is a powerful cautionary tale.

The apron of the 21° is yellow, lined with white. On the flap is an Arm of Justice, i.e., an arm holding a naked sword and prepared to strike. On the body of the apron is a winged human figure. The forefinger of his right hand is on his lips, and he holds a key in his left hand. He is the Egyptian figure of Silence. In A Bridge to Light, Dr. Rex R. Hutchens, 33°, Grand Cross, points out that the wings are an addition and that Plato indicated wings symbolized "intelligence," while to the alchemists they represented "the higher, active male principle" (page 177).

Two different jewels may be used with the Degree. On it is a triangular plate of gold having on it an arrow, pointing downward. Or, the jewel may be a disc of silver (representing the full moon), showing an Arm of Justice surrounded by the words Fiat Justitia, Ruat Coelum—"Let there be Justice, though the heavens fall." The cordon of the Degree is a broad black ribbon, worn from right to left.

There are several important lessons in this Degree. The first is the great importance of a free and legitimate judiciary. Elsewhere, Pike points out that access to the courts is more important than access to the ballot box.

The second important lesson of this Degree is that we must be very, very careful when judging others. By definition, we are making a judgment on the basis of inadequate data. We should especially be hesitant to judge someone negatively. Almost all of us have had the experience of deciding that we didn't like someone we just met, only to find out later that the person is truly good and someone we would want as a friend. Being human, we will form first impressions, but we must be willing to set those aside when more information comes to us.

A third important lesson is that we must never become too impressed with our own knowledge or ability. We must not, in the words of the ritual, become "wise in our own conceit." Doing so not only leads us into error; it also makes the error self-perpetuating.

A fourth important lesson is that of the strength of faith. Often, only faith will be there to sustain us. In the Degree, this is not just faith in God, but faith in some ideal or goal such as justice, or faith in the ultimate triumph of right, or even a faith in our own ability.

Finally, the Degree teaches that we should be humble and modest. At times, we are capable of an almost incredible arrogance. We are perfectly willing to tell God what is wrong with the world He made and how He should fix it. Many of us are willing to assassinate the character of someone else, because it makes us seem more important to ourselves. We not only pass on slander about someone, we embroider it around the edges to make it a better story. The whole and wrongful purpose is to give us a sense of moral superiority—a feeling to which we have no right.

In our country, we have no fear we will be hauled before a secret court at the dead of night, as happens in this Degree, and be forced to defend our actions and character. Let us be very sure that our own hearts do not become the secret tribunals for the trial of others.

The Scottish Rite Journal - November 2000


Jim Tresner
is Director of the Masonic Leadership Institute and Editor of The Oklahoma Mason. A frequent contributor to the Scottish Rite Journal and its book review editor, Illustrious Brother Tresner is also a volunteer writer for The Oklahoma Scottish Rite Mason and a video script consultant for the National Masonic Renewal Committee. He is the Director of the Thirty-third Degree Conferral Team and Director of Work at the Guthrie Scottish Rite Temple in Guthrie, Oklahoma, as well as a life member of the Scottish Rite Research Society, author of the popular anecdotal biography Albert Pike, The Man Beyond the Monument, and a member of the steering committee of the Masonic Information Center. Ill. Tresner was awarded the Grand Cross, the Scottish Rite's highest honor, during the Supreme Council's October 1997 Biennial Session.
 



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