The Thirty-third and Last Degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite. The Latin Constitutions of 1786 call it Tertius et trigesimus et sublimissimus gradus, that is, the Thirty-third and Most Sublime Degree; and it is staled the Protector and Conservator of the Order. The same Constitutions, in Articles I and II, say:
The Thirty-third degree confers on those Freemasons who are legitimately invested with it, the quality, title, privilege, and authority of Sovereign, Supremorum, Grand Inspectors-General of the Order. The peculiar duty of their mission is to teach and enlighten the Brethren; to preserve charity, union, and fraternal love among them; to maintain regularity in the works of each Degree and to take care that it is preserved by others, to cause the dogmas, doctrines, institutes, constitutions statutes and regulations of the Order to be reverently regarded, and to preserve and defend them on every occasion; and, finally, everywhere to occupy themselves in works of peace and mercy.
The Body in which the members of this Degree assemble is called a Supreme Council. The symbolic color of the Degree is white, denoting purity. The distinctive insignia are a sash, collar, jewel, Teutonic cross, decoration, and ring.
The sash is a broad, white watered ribbon, bordered with gold, bearing on the front a triangle of gold glittering with rays of gold, which has in the center the numerals 33, with a Sword of silver, directed from above, on each side of the triangles pointing to its center. The sash, worn from the right shoulder to the left hip, ends in a point, and is fringed with gold, having at the junction a circular band of scarlet and green containing the jewel of the Order.
The collar is of white watered ribbon fringed with gold, having the rayed triangle at its point and the swords at the sides. By a regulation of the Southern Supreme Council of the United States, the collar has been worn by the active, and the sash by the honorary, members of the Council. The emblem is a black double-headed eagle, with golden beaks and talons, holding in the latter a sword of gold, and crowned with the golden crown of Prussia.
The red Teutonic cross is affixed to the left side of the breast.
The decoration rests upon a Teutonic cross. It is a nine-pointed star, namely, one formed by three triangles of gold one upon the other, and interlaced from the lower part of the left side to the upper part of the right a sword extends, and in the opposite direction is a hand of, as it is called, Justice. In the center is the shield of the Order, azure (blue), charged with an eagle like that on the banner, having on the dexter (right) side a Balance or (gold), and on the sinister (left) side a Compass of the second, united with a Square of the second. Around the whole shield runs a band of the first, with the Latin inscription, of the second, Ordo ab Chao, meaning Order out of Disorder, which band is enclosed by two circles, formed by two Serpents of the second, each biting his own tail. Of the smaller triangles that are formed by the intersection of the greater ones, those nine that are nearest the band are of crimson color, and each of them has one of the letters that compose the Word S. A. P. I. E. N. T. I. A., or Wisdom.
The ring is a triple one, like three small rings, each one-eighth of an inch wide, side by side, and having on the inside a delta surrounding the figures 33, and inscribed with the wearer’s name, the letters S..G.. I..G.., and the motto of the Order, Deus meumque Jus, meaning God and my right. It has been worn on the fourth finger of the right hand but in 1923 provision was made that the Thirty-third Degree ring should be worn on the little finger of the left hand in ache Southern Jurisdiction. The ring is worn on the third finger of the left hand in the Northern Jurisdiction of the United States of America (see Ring).
Until the year 1801, the Thirty-third Degree was unknown. Until then the highest Degree of the Rite, introduced into America by Stephen Morin, was the Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret, or the Twenty-fifth of the Rite established by the Emperors of the East and West. The administrative heads of the Order were styled Grand Inspectors-General and Deputy Inspectors-General; but these were titles of official rank and not of Degree. Even as late as May 24, 1801, John Mitchell signs himself as Kadosh, Prince of the Royal Secret and Deputy Inspector General
The document thus signed is a Patent which certifies that Frederick Dalcho is a Kadosh, and Prince of the Royal Secret, and which creates him a Deputy Inspector-General. But on May 31, 1801, the Supreme Council was created at Charleston, and from that time we hear of a Rite of thirty-three Degrees, eight having been added to the twenty-five introduced by Morin, and the last being called Sovereign Grand Inspector General.
The Degree being thus legitimately established by a Body which, in creating a Rite, possessed the prerogative of establishing its classes, its Degrees and its nomenclature revere accepted unhesitatingly by all subsequently created Supreme Councils; and it continues to be the administrative head of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite.