The Scottish Rite is one of the two appendant bodies of Freemasonry in which a Master Mason may proceed after he has completed the three degrees of Blue Lodge, or Craft Lodge, Masonry. Any Master Mason in good standing may petition for membership. He must be judged of good moral character and be elected by the members. Neither Scottish in origin nor a rite in the religious sense, the Scottish Rite has as its ultimate goal mankind's moral and spiritual development.
The local Scottish Rite organization, called a "Valley," confers the 4th through 32nd degrees in degree-conferring meetings. The Scottish Rite is sometimes called the "College of Freemasonry," because it uses extensive allegory and drama to emphasize the message of its degrees. The degree work may, but not necessarily, be completed at one time.
The Scottish Rite shares the belief of all Masonic organizations that there is no higher degree than that of Master Mason. The degrees are in addition to, and in no way higher than, those of Blue Lodge, or Craft Lodge, Masonry. The degrees simply amplify and elaborate on the lessons of the craft, providing further knowledge of Masonry, the building of the Temple, and ancient religions, with memorable lessons ranging from the days of chivalry to modern times.
The Scottish Rite is said to have been brought to the New World in 1761. In 1801, the first Scottish Rite Supreme Council was established in South Carolina, becoming known as the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry for the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States of America, the Supreme Council 33rd degree, Mother Council of the World.
Twelve years later, this council authorized the formation of a second one in New York City, known as the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the United States of America. The Supreme Council of the Northern Jurisdiction, with headquarters in Lexington, Mass., consists of 15 states north of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi River. Membership in the Supreme Council of the Northern Jurisdiction is limited to 66 active 33rd degree Masons, excluding emeritus and past active members.
The Supreme Council of the Southern Jurisdiction includes the other 35 states, plus the District of Columbia, Republic of Panama, China, Guam, Japan, Okinawa, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Taiwan. The Southern Jurisdiction has its headquarters in Washington, D.C. In addition, Canada's Scottish Rite is governed by the Supreme Council of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry of Canada, headquartered in Hamilton, Ontario, and Mexico also has its own Scottish Rite jurisdiction.
All Scottish Rite jurisdictions nominate a select few members to receive the 33rd Degree, Inspector General Honorary, in recognition of outstanding service to the Rite, or in public life, to the principles taught in the degrees. In the Southern Jurisdiction, the Supreme Council chooses 33rd degree members from among those who have previously received the rank and decoration of Knight Commander Court of Honor. The KCCH is bestowed in a Ceremonial of Investiture in recognition of outstanding service to the Rite, or in public life, to the principles taught in the degrees.