Secret Societies of All Ages: Vol 2 - Charles Heckethorn

IX. Grand Elect Knight of Kadosh

409. The Term Kadosh.—This degree, the thirtieth of the ancient and accepted Scotch rite, contains a beautiful astronomical allegory, and is probably derived from Egypt. The term Kadosh means "holy" or "elect." (Every person in the East, preferred to a post of honour, carried a staff, to indicate that he was Kadosh or elect, or that his person was sacred; whence eventually the name came to be applied to the staff itself, and hence the derivation of caduceus, the staff of Mercury, the messenger of the gods.)

410. Reception into the Degree.—There are four apartments; the initiation takes place in the fourth. They symbolise the seasons. The first apartment is hung with black, lit up by a solitary lamp of triangular form, and suspended to the vaulted ceiling. It communicates with a kind of cave or closet of reflection, containing symbols of destruction and death. The candidate, after having been left there some time, passes into the second apartment, which is draped with white; two altars occupy the centre; on one is an urn filled with burning spirits of wine, on the other a brazier with live coal, and incense beside it. The candidate now faces the sacrificing priest, who addresses some words of admonition to him, and having burned some incense, directs him to the third apartment. It is hung with blue, and the vaulted ceiling covered with stars. Three yellow tapers light up this room. This is the areopagus. The candidate, having here given the requisite explanation as to the sincerity of his intentions and promises of secrecy, is introduced into the fourth apartment, hung with red. At the east is a throne surmounted by a double eagle, crowned, with outspread wings and holding a sword in his claw. In this room, lighted up with twelve yellow tapers, the chapter takes the title of "senate"; the brethren are called "knights." In this room also stands the mysterious ladder.

411. The Mysterious Ladder.—It has seven steps, which symbolise the sun's progress through the seven signs of the zodiac from Aries to Libra, both inclusive. This the candidate ascends, receiving at every step the explanation of its meaning from a hierophant, who remains invisible to the candidate, just as in the ancient mysteries the initiating priest remained concealed, and as Pythagoras delivered his instructions from behind a veil. When the candidate has ascended the ladder, and is on the last step, the ladder is lowered and he passes over it, because he cannot retire the same way, as the sun does not retrograde. He then reads the words at the bottom of the ladder, Ne plus ultra. The last degree manufactured is always the ne plus ultra, till somebody concocts one still more sublime, which then is the ne plus ultra, till it is superseded by another. What sublimity masonic degrees will yet attain, and where they will stop, no one can tell.

412. The Seven Steps.—The name of the first step is Isedakah, which is defined "righteousness," alluding to the sun in the vernal equinox in the month of March, when the days and nights are equal all over the world, and the sun dispenses his favours equally to all.

The second step is Shor-laban, "white ox" figuratively. This is the only step the definition of which is literally true, which, as it might lead to a clue to the meaning of the mysterious ladder, is thus falsely denominated figurative. Taurus, the bull, is the second sign of the zodiac, into which the sun enters on the 2ist April. His entry into this sign is marked by the setting of Orion, who in mythological language is said to be in love with the Pleiades; and by the rising of the latter.

The third step is called Mathok, "sweetness." The third sign is Gemini, into which the sun enters in the pleasant month of May. "Canst thou hinder the sweet influences of the Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?" (Job). Now, the Pleiades were denominated by the Romans Vergilice, from their formerly rising when the spring commenced, and their sweet influences blessed the year by the beginning of spring.

The fourth step is Emunah, "truth in disguise." The fourth sign is Cancer, into which the sun enters in June. Egypt at this period is enveloped in clouds and dust, by which means the sun, which figuratively may be called truth, is obscured or disguised.

The fifth step is Hamal saggi, "great labour." The fifth sign is Leo. The great labour and difficulties to which the sun was supposed to be subject in passing this sign have already been alluded to (403).

The sixth step is Sabbal, "burden or patience." The sixth sign through which the sun passes is Virgo, marked by the total disappearance of the celestial Hydra, called the Hydra of Lerna, from whose head spring up the Great Dog and the Crab. Hercules destroys the Hydra of Lerna, but is annoyed by a sea-crab, which bites him in the foot. Whenever Hercules lopped off one of the monster's heads two others sprang up, so that his labour would have been endless, had he not ordered his companion lolas to sear the blood with fire.

The seventh step is named Gemunah, Binah, Jebunah, "retribution, intelligence, prudence." The seventh sign is Libra, into which the sun enters at the commencement of autumn, indicated by the rising of the celestial Centaur, the same that treated Hercules with hospitality. This constellation is represented in the heavens with a flask full of wine and a thyrsus, ornamented with leaves and grapes, the symbols of the products of the seasons. The sun has now arrived at the autumnal equinox, bringing in his train the fruits of the earth; and recompense is made to the husbandman in proportion to his prudence and intelligence.

The ladder will remind the reader of the ladder of the Indian mysteries; of the ladder seen by Jacob in his dream; the pyramids with seven steps; and the seven caverns of various nations.

Formerly—it may be so now in some lodges—one of the tests the aspirant to this degree had to undergo was to kill the murderer of Hiram with a dagger, to bring his head to the altar, and drink blood out of a skull. The candidate, being blindfolded, had to place his hand on the beating heart of a sheep, the wool around that part having been shaved off, and, having stabbed the victim, he was freed from the bandage, and was shown a bleeding head, made of wax, which, however, was immediately removed, to prevent his discovering the deception.