The Supreme Council, 33°, for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction is the governing body for Scottish Rite Freemasonry. With its headquarters in Lexington, Massachusetts, the Supreme Council is a board of directors comprised of some fifty 33° Masons, called "Active Members." The chief executive officer's title is Sovereign Grand Commander.
Each of the 15 states within the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction has an Active Member designated as a "Deputy," who is the executive officer for the Rite within his state. He is supported by the remaining Active Members of the state. There is at least one Active Member in addition to the Deputy in each state. Some states have as many as five Active Members. The purposes of the Supreme Council are clearly defined in its Declaration of Principles.
The Northern Masonic Jurisdiction oversees the bodies in 15 states: Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Wisconsin and Vermont. In the Northern Jurisdiction the Supreme Council consists of no more than 66 members.
The Supreme Council meets on an annual basis, at which time the business of the Rite is transacted and the 33° is conferred on those who have been elected to receive this honor. From a membership of more than 200,000 32° Masons, less than 3,500 have been elevated to the 33°, for which they have been given the title of "Honorary Member." Within each state are local Valleys, where degrees from the 4° - 32° are conferred.
The Scottish Rite of Freemasonry is one of two branches of Freemasonry to which a Master Mason may proceed after he has completed the first three degrees of the Symbolic or "Blue" Lodge. The Scottish Rite includes the degrees from the 4° through the 32°. Although there are many Scottish Rite members of Scottish ancestry, the Scottish Rite actually originated in France in the early 18th century. During the 18th century, lodges were organized in the United States with the first Scottish Rite Supreme Council founded in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1801.
The Northern Masonic Jurisdiction was formed in 1867 and includes the 15 states east of the Mississippi River and north of the Mason-Dixon Line and the Ohio River, including Delaware. The Southern Jurisdiction encompasses the 35 remaining states, the District of Columbia and the United States territories and possessions. The Northern Jurisdiction officially recognizes and enjoys friendly relations with many other jurisdictions around the world.
Scottish Rite shares the same belief of all Masonic organizations that there is no higher degree than that of Master Mason. The Supreme Council and its subordinate bodies acknowledge the Masonic supremacy of the Symbolic Grand Lodges and Grand Masters within their jurisdictions. Scottish Rite degrees are in no way higher than the degrees of the Symbolic lodges. The work of the Scottish Rite serves to elaborate on and amplify that of the Symbolic lodge.
The Scottish Rite degrees are lessons taught through allegory in the form of plays. The lessons are taken from Biblical as well as more modern historical events. Cast members use costumes and makeup to look like the characters who they represent. Candidates learn the lessons by observing the presentation. Memorization of material presented is not required. The Scottish Rite is open to all Master Masons in good standing.
The 33° is conferred annually, at the meeting of the Supreme Council, upon a select number of 32 ° Scottish Rite Masons who have contributed outstanding service to Freemasonry or Scottish Rite or who have exemplified, in their daily lives, the true meaning of the Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of God. A recipient must be at least 33 years of age and may not apply for the degree.
Scottish Rite members meet in local or regional "Valleys" and are organized into four parts; Lodge of Perfection, 4° - 14°;Council of Princes of Jerusalem, 15° - 16°; Chapter of Rose Croix, 17° - 18° and Consistory, 19° - 32°. Some individual Valleys do not contain all four parts.