The degrees of the Council of Kadosh are chivalric and philosophical, but also contain mystical material. The word “Kadosh” is a Hebrew word meaning “Holy”. The complexity of these degrees (19°–30°) cannot be overstated and is exemplified by the number of pages attributed to them in Morals and Dogma. The twenty-eighth degree alone is over a quarter of the 1000+ page tome. The Council of Kadosh manifests in the quest to find ways to express that strengthened light in the matters and affairs of the world.
The Council Of Knights Kadosh (19º-30º) symbol is a double-headed eagle of silver with wings spread, resting upon a Teutonic cross of red, bordered in gold. The eagle is sometimes depicted with one half black, and the other half white, reflecting an older title of the degree, “Knight of the White and Black Eagle.” The Degree was once the ne plus ultra of Masonry, and the eagle was depicted atop a ladder which symbolized the increasing duties one accepts in knighthood, which are symbolized by the cross.
The Degrees of the Council of Kadosh
19° – Pontiff
The great lesson of this degree is that life, when lived properly, is but a bridge to eternal life. Once the secret of life after death is known, a man understands that there is no time but eternity. Therefore, calamities which happen are temporary and will not continue. We are not taken down by calamities, but remain strong to fight against oppression and ignorance; we have passed from the Alpha to the Omega, have learned all the letters of the alphabet and understand that Alpha comes after Omega, that life is renewed. There is no end to learning and science.
20° – Master of the Symbolic Lodge
This degree teaches that a Mason who knows that he does not possess the qualities of leadership, and who has not duly prepared himself to be a leader, should not want to be one. Notwithstanding, every Mason should endeavor to educate himself, bearing in mind that one day he may be asked to lead. Because he is of his community, it expects him to dispense light and knowledge; to practice the virtues both in and out of lodge.
21° – Noachite or Prussian Knight
The principle lesson of this degree is to not be conceited, or belittle others. Nobody should rely on his wealth, nobility, heavenly or worldly titles. We should be humble and modest and sincerely seek God’s mercy; for God protects those who are sincere and honest. A Mason should never lose hope and confidence in the fact that correctness and honesty will always be victorious.
22° – Knight of the Royal Axe
Work is the mission of man. We should respect our labor for its own sake, and do our work. Manual and mental work complete one another; thus, one who works in either manual or mental labor should not try to exploit, or oppress, the other. A Mason must be a person who makes no distinction in the nature and kind of work in which his brother is engaged.
23° – Chief of the Tabernacle
In this degree, we are reminded that we owe our knowledge to our faith in a revealed God. Therefore, it is our duty to disseminate this knowledge to all mankind. A Mason who believes in God has a duty to acquire knowledge and disseminate this knowledge to other people so that others are also enlightened. A Mason who is generous with his knowledge knows that he will receive the blessing of God, not by sacrificing living beings, but by destroying superstitions and bringing happiness and prosperity to other people.
24° – Prince of the Tabernacle
This is a continuation of the last degree and examines the nature of knowledge. We must be vigilant not to accept corrupted and erroneous echoes of real knowledge. We have to distinguish for ourselves what is truth; for many do not realize that they are in error when they think they have found the truth. As Masons, we must fight continuously against superstitions, wrong knowledge, false prophets, tyrants, and despots. Our task is to free knowledge from the monopoly of classes, casts, leaders, or priests; and to disseminate it to everyone.
25° – Knight of the Brazen Serpent
This degree teaches the virtue of hospitality. One who shows hospitality to guests is obliged not to differentiate between race, nationality or religion from whoever knocks at his door. The nature of Masonry is to heal those who are in distress from moral collapses, psychological crises, diseases caused by superstitions and ignorance. To save our fellows from these, to break the chains which represent moral slavery, to set men free, to be faithful and kind in every respect is the compulsory thing to do. We fulfill our destiny by re-creating ourselves, by enlarging our knowledge.
26° – Prince of Mercy
Practice forgiveness! Be tolerant! Masons are to respect all beliefs that do not dirty sacredness. Masonry is not a religion, nor do its members belong to one religious order, or any one religion. It embraces the truth in every belief and respects all of them. The truths of Masonry are contained within the religions of the world. Our task is to love all mankind; to be faithful to the agreement between the Great Architect of the Universe and ourself. We should trust that we can attain His boundless affection and compassion, the mercy in the degree’s title – that is, we can attain God’s love.
27° – Knight Commander of the Temple
This degree teaches the virtues of knighthood and asks its adherents to practice these virtues in life. Virtue requires duty; and both remain the same, regardless of the times. The Knight Commander of the Temple learns that he is the manager of the time, that he himself will decide when he will perform his duty; he does not wait for orders or authorization. He is his own man, and his task is to abolish distress at just the right time.
28° – Knight of the Sun, Prince Adept
Be a lover of wisdom. This degree points out seven truths: There exists an indefinable and incomprehensible principle that governs the universe. Human life is but a speck of eternity. Universal equilibrium is a result of a balance between similarities and contrasts. The absolute is the soul in its proper essence. The visible is the invisible. Evil, disaster, and misery are indispensable for universal equilibrium. Similarities are the only keys for comprehending nature. The majority of men fail to realize their errors. Masons are required to take up the arduous struggle against error. The moral code of Masonry is more extensive than that of philosophy.
29° – Scottish Knight of St. Andrew
In this degree, the Mason learns that there is no contradiction between religion and science; that religion can be better understood through science and science can be better understood by religion. He who denies science is as fanatical as he who denies religion. Our lifetime is limited in time; thus we must see God within this limited period of our time. Yet, God transcends all time; he is an energy over and beyond time. There is no other energy that creates that energy. There is no end to that energy. Freemasonry is thus the continual effort to exalt the divine in man over the human so that we may come to better understand the nature of God in our time.
30° – Knight Kadosh
This is the last of the philosophical degrees. To spread the sciences, to apply the virtues, to learn the sublime doctrines which enable humanity to live as one great family – this is the school of which Masonry is engaged. It is not within the realm of Masonry to punish oppressors and tyrants who enact barriers to brotherly love and affection. They are always punished in the course of history. It is our goal to defeat the passions and fanaticism which lead to oppression by spreading love and toleration. The Knight Kadosh is aware of his obligations. He is just, equitable, and respectful of all ideas. He battles for freedom of conscience. He opposes those who would attack these liberties, but material revenge is not in his thoughts and philosophy. He is a lover of great example.