home but was able to borrow the money from one of the other
men and gave it to her. We candidates were all unhappy about
this unpleasant surprise and grumbled to one another about it,
but were not unhappy enough to forsake the degree over it. We
were too close to the "top of the mountain" to turn back at that
THE TEMPLE ITSELF
The House of the Temple is quite impressive - a bit awesome,
really. Standing large, grey and silent on the east side of
Northwest 16th Street, between "R" and "S" Streets, it looms
very wide and tall from the curb. There is a huge expanse of
granite pavement in front of it, including three levels of
narrowing steps as the entrance is approached. Flanking the
entrance are two Sphinx-like granite lions with women's heads,
the neck of one entwined by a cobra and decorated with the
"ankh" (the Egyptian symbol of life and deity).
Adorning the neck and breast of the other is an image of a
women, symbolic of fertility and procreation. In the pavement,
just in front of the tall bronze doors, are two Egyptian swords
with curved, serpentine blades and, between the two swords,
brass letters, set into stone, saying, "The Temple of the
Supreme Council of the Thirty-Third and Last Degree of the
Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite."
Over the tall, bronze doors, cut into the stone, is the
statement, "Freemasonry Builds Its Temples in the Hearts of Men
and Among Nations." (1)
High above the entrance, partially concealed by stone
columns, is an elaborate image of the Egyptian sun god, backed
with radiating sun and flanked by six large, golden snakes.
Inside is elegance: polished marble, exotic wood, gold and
statuary. There are offices, a library, dining room, kitchen,
Council Room, "Temple Room" and a large meeting room. This room
is like a luxurious theater, rather elegantly furnished and
The ceiling is dark blue, with lights set into it to give the
appearance of stars. These lights can even be made to "twinkle"
like stars in the sky. There is a stage, well-equipped, and it
is all very nicely done. But the thing that is most noticeable
is the way the walls are decorated with serpents. There are all
kinds; some very long and large. Many of the Scottish Rite
degrees include the representation of serpents and I recognized
them among those decorating the walls.
It was all most impressive and gave me a strange mixture of
the sensations of being in a temple and in a tomb - something
sacred but threatening. I saw busts of outstanding men of the
Rite including two of Albert Pike, who is buried there in the
INTERVIEWED BY THE SUPREME COUNCIL
The first day was devoted to registration, briefings and
interviews. We were called into one of the offices, one at a
time, and interviewed by three members of the Supreme Council.
When my turn came I was ushered into the office and seated.
The very first question I was asked was, "Of what religion are
you?" Not long before this I would have answered with something
like, "I believe the Ancient Mysteries, the 'Old Religion,' and
I believe in reincarnation." However, without thinking at all
about how to answer, I found myself saying, "I am a Christian."
Then, to my surprise and theirs, I asked them, "Are you men
born again?" The man in charge quickly stopped me by saying,
"We're not here to talk about that - we are here to ask you
After they sent me back out I sat down and thought about it.
When the next man came out, I asked him, "Did they ask you if
you are a Christian?" He said, "Yes, they did."
"What did you tell them?" I asked, and he replied, "I told
them 'Hell no, and I never intend to be!'"
Then he said a strange thing to me, "They said I'm going
higher," and he left through a different door, looking pleased.
BECOMING A SOVEREIGN GRAND INSPECTOR GENERAL
The second day was the day of the actual initiation, held in
the theater-like meeting room. Those of us who were receiving
the degree were seated and the ceremony was "exemplified" (acted
out in full costume) before us, in the same way that we had
performed the lesser degrees of the Scottish Rite all those
years. The parts in the exemplification were played by men of
the 33rd Degree.
The representative candidate was dressed in black trousers,
barefooted, bareheaded and draped in a long, black robe that
reminded me of a very long, black raincoat. He had a black cable
tow around his neck but was not hoodwinked. During the
initiation he was led around the stage, conducted by two men
with swords, as the degree was performed for us.
Instructions and signs were given. Upon the altar were four
"holy books" (the Bible, the Koran, the Book of the Law and the
Hindu Scriptures). At one point the "candidate" was told to kiss
the book "of your religion" and, representing us all, he leaned
forward and did so. I remembered the First Degree initiation,
when I was told to kiss the Bible, and at that moment something
came full cycle. It was the final such kiss to be a part of my
WINE IN A HUMAN SKULL
When it was time for the final obligation we all stood and
repeated the oath with the representative candidate,
administered by the Sovereign Grand Inspector General. We then
swore true allegiance to the Supreme Council of the 33rd Degree,
above all other allegiances, and swore never to recognize any
other brother as being a member of the Scottish Rite of
Freemasonry unless he also recognizes the Supreme authority of
"this Supreme Council".
One of the Conductors then handed the "candidate" a human
skull, upside down, with wine in it. "May this wine I now drink
become a deadly poison to me, as the Hemlock juice drunk by
Socrates, should I ever knowingly or willfully violate the same"
He then drank the wine. A skeleton (one of the brothers
dressed like one - he looked very convincing) then stepped out
of the shadows and threw his arms around the "candidate." Then
he (and we) continued the sealing of the obligation by saying,
"And may these cold arms forever encircle me should I ever
knowingly or willfully violate the same."
The Sovereign Grand Commander closed the meeting of the
Supreme Council "with the Mystic Number," striking with his
sword five, three, one and then two times. After the closing
prayer, we all said "amen, amen, amen," and it was over.
PROMINENT MEN TOOK PART
There were some extremely prominent men there that day,
including a Scandinavian King, two former presidents of the
United States, an internationally prominent evangelist, two
other internationally prominent clergymen, and a very high
official of the federal government, the one who actually
presented me with the certificate of the 33rd Degree. Some made
only brief appearances; others stayed much longer. However, they
didn't do much mixing or socializing with us, except for those
whom they already knew. Even though these celebrities weren't
extremely "brotherly," it was still quite an experience for me
just to be associated with them. It was easily the largest
gathering of such prominent and influential men of which I have
ever been a part.
The third day there was a banquet to celebrate our becoming
"Grand Inspectors General. 33rd Degree." The banquet was a
little anticlimactic, at least for me, and I was anxious to get
it over with so I could return home. It was good to be a 33rd at
last. But it wasn't as exciting or fulfilling as I had thought
it would be during all those years in the Craft. I guess this
was because of the profound changes going on down deep within
I returned home as soon as the 33rd Degree award and related
social functions were finished, for it was time for my next
appointment with the doctor. After he had examined my eyes he
said they were healing fine, that he felt good about the way
they were looking, and as usual he spoke with me about the Lord.
I told him that I planned to come to his church the next Sunday
and that I had been reading the Bible.
Obviously pleased, he said, "Good. Keep studying, and your
sight will soon be much better." By this time I knew what he
meant - he was speaking of my spiritual sight.
In the Scottish Rite the Thursday before Easter, "Maundy
Thursday," is an important day. On this day we always performed
a special service of Communion in the local Scottish Rite
Temple. At this time I was Wise Master in the Chapter of Rose
Croix and it was my job to preside over the exemplification
(dramatization) of the ceremony. I had done this many times and
was known for my knowledge of the service and for "doing a good
job" of putting it on.
THE WORDS HAD MEANING NOW
On Thursday evening we gathered at our home Temple and
dressed for the ceremony. It was always a most solemn occasion
and seemed a little awesome, even to those of us who had done it
Dressed in long, black, hooded robes, we marched in, single
file, with only our faces partly showing, and took our seats.
There was something very tomb-like about the setting. The
silence was broken only by the organ, playing mournfully in the
background, and there was no light except for the little that
came through the windows. After the opening prayer (from which
the name of Jesus Christ was conspicuously excluded), I stood
and opened the service.
As I had done so many times before, I said, "We meet this day
to commemorate the death of our 'Most Wise and Perfect Master,'
not as inspired or divine, for this is not for us to decide, but
as at least the greatest of the apostles of mankind."
As I spoke these words that I had spoken so many times
before, I had a strange and powerful experience. It was as if I
were standing apart, listening to myself as I spoke, and the
words echoed deep within me, shouting their significance. They
were the same words I had spoken so many times before, but had
meaning for me now. They made me sick, literally ill, and I
The realization of what I had just said grew within me like
the rising of a crescendo. I had just called Jesus an "apostle
of mankind" who was neither inspired nor divine! There was a
silent pause that seemed to last a very long time as I struggled
with a sick smothering within.
When I was finally able, I continued with the service and we
gathered around a large table across the room in marching order.
The table was long, shaped like a cross, and covered with a red
cloth which was decorated down the center with roses.
A BLACK COMMUNION
Once we were assembled at the table, I elevated (lifted high)
the plate of bread, took a piece, put my hand on the shoulder of
the man in front of me, gave him the plate and said, "Take, eat,
and give to the hungry."
This continued until all had partaken of the bread. Then I
lifted up the goblet of wine, took a sip, and said, "Take,
drink, and give to the thirsty."
Again, this continued until all had partaken of the wine.
Then I took the bread, walked over to the first row of
spectators and served it to the man previously chosen for the
honor of representing the rest of the Lodge
As I handed it to him I again said, "Take, eat, and give to
In like manner I served the wine to him saying, "Take, drink,
and give to the thirsty," and he sat down.
After this we took our places at the table shaped like a
cross and sat down. The setting was dark, our long, sweeping
robes were solid black, our faces nearly concealed in the hoods,
and the mood was one of heavy gloom. The Christ-less prayers and
the hymns we sang fit right in. The one word that would describe
the entire event would be "black." It was, indeed, a Black
Communion - a strange Black Mass.
EXTINGUISHING THE CANDLE
There was a large Menorah (candlestick with seven candle
holders) in the center of the room, with seven candles now
Standing again, I said, "This is indeed a sad day, for we
have lost our Master. We may never see him again. He is dead!
Mourn, weep and cry, for he is gone."
Then I asked the officers to extinguish the candles in the
large Menorah. One by one they rose, walked to the center of the
room, extinguished a selected candle and left the room.
Finally, with only the center candle still burning, I arose,
walked sadly to the Menorah and extinguished the last candle -
the candle representing the life of Jesus, our "Most Wise and
Perfect Master." We had dramatized and commemorated the snuffing
out of the life of Jesus, without once mentioning his name, and
the scene ended with the room in deep silent darkness. I walked
out of the room, leaving only the darkness and the stillness of
Once again, the single word best to describe it would be
All through the service I was shaking and sick. I have never
felt so sad. I had stumbled over the words but, somehow, I made
it to the completion of the ceremony and went back to the
dressing room. I still didn't know much about praying but felt
that I had been sustained by the Lord through it all.
THE FINAL PARTING
Back in the dressing room we hung up our black, hooded robes,
put our street clothes back on and prepared to leave. Less than
two hours had passed since I arrived. But what had happened in
that period of time had changed my life forever.
Still sick in my heart, I changed clothes without a word to
anyone. The others asked me what was wrong. But I couldn't
They reminded me that I had acted as Wise Master so many
times before, that I was known for my smooth performance of it,
and they asked what had gone wrong.
I was choking on the awful reality of what we had said and
done, the way we had blasphemed the Lord, and the evil, black
mockery we had made of His pure and selfless death. With weeping
welling up within me. I could only shake my head in silence and
Mike was waiting for me at the door, expecting to get a ride
home, and he asked, "What's the matter, Jim? Are you sick?"
Finally able to speak, I quietly replied, "No, Mike, I'm just
sick of all this."
"IT ISN'T RIGHT"
I started down the wide steps in front of the large Scottish
Rite Temple, realization and conviction growing within me,
reached the bottom step and stopped. Turning around, I looked
back at the huge, granite building and slowly studied the words,
carved in the stone across the top of the entrance: "ANCIENT AND
ACCEPTED SCOTTISH RITE OF FREEMASONRY."
Something came clearly into focus in my understanding and I
made a decision. This crisis point in my life, one which had
required so many years for me to reach, passed in seconds. The
truth was revealed and the choice was made - a choice that would
be the difference between darkness and light, death and life,
one that would last for eternity. Looking up at those words I
had walked under so many times, words of which I had been so
proud, I spoke to myself out loud. It was as if I were the only
man in the world as I heard myself say, slowly and deliberately,
"It isn't ancient, it isn't Scottish, it isn't free, and it
INTO THE LIGHT
I turned away and walked into the parking lot, knowing that I
would never return. As I walked into the deepening darkness of
that springtime night, I was walking into the growing light of
the living God. As the natural darkness closed around me, the
supernatural light welled up within me. With every step I took,
as the Temple receded behind me, I was more free.
"I will never return," I thought with each step. "I will
never return, I will never return...."
The decision was made, the die was cast. From that night
onward I would serve the true and living God, not the Great
Architect of the Universe. I would exalt and learn of Him, not
Osiris, Krishna or Demeter. I would seek and follow Jesus, not
the will--the-wisp of "hidden wisdom."
I was walking, after such a long time, out of the darkness
and into the light.
statement is an interesting contradiction with the Temple it
adorns, as well as with the thousands of other such Masonic
temples built around the World at a total cost of many billions
A PERSONAL WORD FROM JIM
As this true story is closed, I would be greatly remiss if I
did not make it clear that in my pre-Christian life I truly
loved Freemasonry. I loved the men with whom I was associated in
the Lodge and the men with whom I worked so hard in the degrees
and bodies of the Scottish Rite. Most of all, I was so very sure
that I was doing what was right and pleasing in the sight of the
Great Architect of the Universe.
Never in all my years of dedicated service to Masonry did
anyone in the Lodge witness to me about the love and saving
grace of Jesus. The Lodge attended a church once each year as a
group. Each time the pastor (who was himself a Mason) would
introduce us to the congregation and then exalt the Craft,
telling them about all our wonderful works. We usually left the
church thinking of how wonderful we were and feeling sorry for
all those in the church who were not Masons, participating in
all our good deeds.
After having been witnessed to by my ophthalmologist for some
time I read those simple, wonderful words of Jesus, "Verily,
verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me hath everlasting
life." These words, so short and so sweet, went right through my
heart. I looked in the Bible for more and I found blessed
assurance everywhere I looked. Jesus the Christ, the Son of God,
really loved me as a real Brother! He will do the same for you.
- - - - - -
This article is an excerpt from Jim Shaw's book: "The
Deadly Deception", pp. 99-109.
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