On May 31, 1801, the first Supreme Council of the Thirty-third Degree, the Mother Council of the World organized in Charleston, with the motto “Ordo ab Chao” (Order from Chaos). Although it is the “Mother Council” for Scottish Rite, it was not the first Masonic activity in Charles Town.
The first Masonic Lodge in Charles Town was established on October 28, 1736. The South Carolina Gazette announced:
Last night a Lodge of the Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons, was held, for the first time, at Mr. Charles Shepheard’s, in Broad Street, when John Hammerton, Esq., Secretary and Receiver General for this Province, was unanimously chosen Master, who was pleased to appoint Mr. Thomas Denne, Senior Warden, Mr. Tho. Harbin, Junior Warden, and Mr. James Gordon, Secretary.
By 1765 there were four active Lodges in Charlestown, under the jurisdiction of the Provincial Grand Lodge, and through it, the Grand Lodge of England. They were: Solomon’s Lodge, Union Lodge, Master’s Lodge and Marine Lodge.
The Scottish Rite is one of the two branches of Freemasonry in which a Master Mason may proceed after he had completed the three degrees of Blue Lodge Masonry – the other branch being the York Rite, which includes the Royal Arch and Knights Templar. The Scottish Rite included degrees from 4 to 32.
The word “Scottish” has led many to believe the Rite originated in Scotland, which is not true. During the late 1600s many Scots fled to France during the English Civil Wars. The Scots in France who practiced their Masonic interests were referred as “Ecossais,” which translates to “Scottish Master.”
In 1732 the first “Ecossais” or Scottish Lodge was established in Bordeaux, which included Scottish and English members. In 1763, a Masonic patent was given to Stephen Morin to carry their advanced degrees to America. Morin established his degrees in Jamaica.
In 1801, the Supreme Council was established in Charleston to unify competing groups of “Ecossais.” Their membership consisted of eleven Grand Inspectors General:
- John Mitchell
- Frederick Dalcho
- Abraham Alexander
- Emanuel De La Motta
- Thomas Bartholomew Bowen
- Israel De Lieben
- Issac Auld
- Le Comte Alexandre Francois
- Auguste de Grasse
- Jean Baptiste Marie Delahogue
- Moses Clava Levy
- James Moultrie
They announced control of high-degree Masonry in America by introducing a new system that incorporated all 25 of the Order of the Royal Secret, and added eight more, including that of 33 degree – Sovereign Grand Inspector General.
It was a diverse group of men, with only Auld and Moultrie being native-born South Carolinians. Four of the founders were Jews, five were Protestants and two were Catholics. Under the leadership of Grand Commander Albert Pike, in 1859 the Supreme Council expanded its membership to the mystical number of thirty-three members.
Pike also wrote the Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, published by the Supreme Council, Thirty-third Degree, a collection of thirty-two essays which provide a philosophical rationale for the degrees of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite. The lectures provided a backdrop for each degree with lessons in comparative religion, history and philosophy.
Pike served as a general for the Confederacy during the War and his writings have influenced Masonic practices for 150 years. He is the only Confederate soldier to have a statue in Washington, D.C., at Judiciary Square.
From this beginning in Charleston, the Scottish Rite has spread throughout the world. Currently there are approximately 170,000 Scottish Rite Masons, with about 4000 of them attaining the Thirty-third degree. All regular Supreme Councils of the world today descend from the Charleston Lodge.