The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry enables brothers to explore the ancient Craft far beyond the three core degrees of Blue Lodge Freemasonry. In fact, there are thirty-three degrees of the Scottish Rite, culminating in those in the ‘Court of Honour.’
Here’s how the Scottish Rite defines the esteemed thirty-third degree of Freemasonry:
‘Thirty-Third Degree (33°), Inspector General Honorary: The Thirty-third Degree is conferred by the Supreme Council upon members of the Rite in recognition of outstanding work in the Rite or in public life. The 33° cannot be asked for and if asked for must be refused. At its biennial session the Supreme Council elects members of the Rite to receive the Degree. These 33° Masons are Inspectors General honorary and honorary members of the Supreme Council. The active members of the Supreme Council are chosen from among them.’
It would be fair to describe the 33rd degree of Freemasonry as exclusive, perhaps even elusive to many brothers. It takes years of dedicated service and exploration of the Craft to work your way through the various degrees of the Scottish Rite.
Equally, the 33rd degree is a merit-based honorary award, and is not something only anyone can achieve. A Freemason must, for example, have been a Master Mason for at least 14 years, have been elected Master of the Lodge, and have satisfactorily served the Supreme Council to receive the 32nd degree. To get to the following stage is one step further.
As such, the brothers that have made it to this esteemed and exclusive ‘level’ are few and far between. There are thought to be only around 4,000 33rd degree Masons in the world, a remarkably small percentage when you consider the fact that there are more than 6 million Freemasons worldwide.
Only those who have shown exemplary service to the Brotherhood, as well as technical and personal achievements, are awarded the 33rd degree. Prominent Masons such as Billy Graham and Arnold Palmer achieved the 33rd degree of the Scottish Rite, so you will keep excellent company if you follow in their footsteps.
For more information about the Ancient and Accepted Rite of Freemasonry, and the degrees that constitute the order, this post by George Lilley is a good place to begin your research.