The  Significance of No. 33

The number 33 is indeed a very special figure. The significance and usages of this numeral is quite ubiquitous, as it has a multitude of applications, particularly in mathematics, e.g. Pythagoras attributed many powers to it, which is beyond the scope of this treatise, nevertheless, in numerology, it is considered a ‘master number’, which is thought to promote creativity and artistic expression, and is associated with harmonious and caring energy.

In this Article I hope to explore where, why, and when it became so prominent in Freemasonry, most especially in the Ancient & Accepted Rite, formerly a ‘Christian’ Order, where the numeral 33 is indeed quite precious.

For the purpose of highlighting its significance in the various additional spheres, it is discussed under the following 7 subtitles:

I. Nature
II. Popular Culture
III. World Religions
IV. Christianity
V. Freemasonry
VI. The A&A Rite
VII. The special reserve of the figure 33 ͦ

I. In Nature:

a. Astronomy:

i. Consider the two glorious luminaries of nature, viz., the sun and the moon, Fig. 1., where it takes 33 years for the lunar phase to return to its original position in the night sky, according to the astronomical calculations in relation to the Solar and Lunar calendars:

The 12-month Solar year totals 365.24 days, and the 12-month Lunar year consists of 354.36 days, a difference of 10.88 days. As each year passes, the moon trails 10.88 days behind, therefore, it is during the 33 rd year (10.88 x 33 = 359.04), that the lunar phase returns to the exact same position in the sky.

Fig. 1. The Orbit of the Earth around the Sun, with its 23.5 ̊ tilt, and the Moon’s orbit around the earth, tilted 5 ̊.
IMAGE LINKED:  sourced by author Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

ii. The smallest dwarf planet in our Solar system is called Ceres , it is the 33 rd largest celestial body therein, interestingly comprising about one-third, i.e. 33 % of the mass in the asteroid belt.

b. Human Anatomy:

In the human spine, there are 33 vertebral bones

Cervical Vertebrae = 7
Thoracic or Dorsal = 12
Lumbar = 5
Sacral (fused) = 5
Coccygeal (fused) = 4


Fig. 2. Human Vertebral Column, note the fused sacral and Coccygeal bones
Fig. 3. Comparative Anatomy
IMAGE LINKED:  sourced by author Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

c. Comparative Anatomy:

The same number of vertebrae is shared with most of the mammalian kingdom. Even a Giraffe will have only 7 vertebrae in its long neck, The spine refers to the Strength – Omnipotence, Universality –Omnipresence, and the Knowledge & Perfection – Omniscience of the one creator Triune God.

d. Chemistry:

The atomic number of Arsenic is 33 . It Is said to be the perfect poison, being colourless, tasteless and odourless mineral. Hence, it is described the ‘King of poisons’, which also proved to be the ideal poison of Kings, e.g. King George III and Napoleon Bonaparte.

II. In Popular Culture:

Quite a number of Lyrics in songs and texts in Films revolved around the number 33 . In Dan Brown’s ‘The Lost Symbol’ the tattoo on the Chest of Mal’akh – a double-headed phoenix, using the nipples as the bird’s eyes, with No. 33 in the center.

According to Mr. Brown, ironically on page 333 (Hardback copy), God is mentioned 33 times in the Book of Genesis!

This is, of course, categorically wrong, as in Genesis Chapter 1 alone, God is mentioned 32 times under the name of Elohim, and at the conclusion of the Creation narrative, the 33 rd mention of God, the ‘new’ name Jehovah is introduced, in the compound name, as Jehovah Elohim, Gen. 2:4, vide infra .

III. In World Religions:

a. Judaism :

The numeral 33 plays a very prominent role in Kabbalah.

In the afore-mentioned creation story, the name of God appears 33 times Gen. 1;1 – 2:4 .

The Law of Moses required 33 days for Ceremonial cleansing. The important Holy Day of Lag Ba’Omer occurs 33 days after the Feast of the Passover.

The Star of David, aka Magen David, and afterward called the Seal of Solomon , is made up of 2 intersecting equilateral triangles, 3&3.

It is also traditionally believed that Jacob had 33 Children, not only the 12 boys & Dinah, that are recorded in the Old Testament.

b. Islam :

In the Qur’an, there are 99 (33×3 ) names of God. Hence the Islamic prayer beads are generally arranged in sets of 33 in total, or alternatively in three distinct combinations of 33 , made up to 99 , fig. 4., corresponding to the names of the Deity.

Fig. 4. Islamic prayer beads arranged in sets of 33 or 99
IMAGE LINKED:  sourced by author Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

According to Al Ghazali, a well-known scholar among the Muslims, the dwellers of heaven will exist in a state of being, perpetually, at the age of 33!

c. In Vedic Religion, Hinduism & Brahmanism:

The Vedic Religion, which flourished in 1500 – 500 BCE, constituted the ideas and practices that were prevalent amongst the Indo-Aryan peoples and subsequently proved to be a major tradition which shaped Hinduism and Brahmanism. Interestingly, therein the number of Deities is 33.

d. In Buddhism:

Founded upon the teachings of Budda, ‘the awakened one’, dating back to the 6th or 5th century BCE, the Second level of heaven is named Trāyastrimśa, meaning, “of the 33 (gods)”. Also the number of incarnations the bodhisattva is said to embody is, you guessed it, 33 !

IV. In Christianity:

In the Bible, if one included the Apocrypha, there are 33K verses.

A Charity called IllumiNations avowed to have the Bible translated into every tongue and distributed to all the Nations of the World by 2033 , at the estimated cost of £33M!

The word AMEN has a numerical value of 33, based on simple English Gematria, where a = 1, m = 13, e = 5 & n = 14 .

In 1978 , John Paul I pontificate lasted 33 days only, and that year also became known as the 3 -Pope year.

The numeral 33 being a multiple of figure 3, or adjoining 3&3. Metaphorically, it represents the Holy Trinity, the cornerstone of Trinitarian Christian faith.

Most significantly, the Lord Jesus Christ is ‘said’ to have lived 33 years upon earth. This is based on the fact that according to St. Luke, one of the disciples and a first century historian, the Lord Jesus started His public ministry at about the age of 30 years, Luke 3:23 , and that His Crucifixion took place at the time of the third Passover during His ministry. He therefore dies at the age of 33.

He left a bright and shining example for us to follow, suffered a painful and ignominious death on the Cross of Calvary, so as “to consummate the redemption of all those who faithfully and sincerely put their trust in Him, the Risen Emmanuel”.

Interestingly, the Gospels enlisted 33 miracles, which were performed by the Lord Jesus Christ! It is, therefore, not surprising that the numeral 33 is called the Jesus number .

V. In Freemasonry:

The basic initiatory Orders in Freemasonry, viz., the Craft and the Mark, are founded on the building, completing, and dedicating of the Temple at Jerusalem.

Likewise, the Royal Arch in the English Constitution is founded upon the rebuilding of the Temple where it formerly stood in Jerusalem.

It is believed that the site of King Solomon Temple, is located near enough to latitude 33 ̊N in Israel, fig. 5.

Fig. 5. Map of the world and of Israel, highlighting latitude 33 ̊ N
IMAGE LINKED:  sourced by author Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Co-incidentally, many of the so-called ‘Hauts Grades Mac̯onniques’ , i.e. the Higher Degrees in Masonry, originated in France, it is of note that the international dialing Code for that country is none other than 33 .

Of the many Orders in Freemasonry, the ‘Christian’ Orders adopt the numeral 33 in their proceedings, the best examples are the Red Cross of Constantine, the Knights Templar Priests, the Royal Order of Scotland and the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia, to name a few.

But the most notable is the Ancient and Accepted Rite, which was in England and Wales until recently a Christian Order when the contemporary Supreme Council denounced it after 178 years.

VI. In the Ancient & Accepted Rite:

The First Supreme Council for the A&AR, aka the Mother Supreme Council, was opened in 1801 in Charleston, South Carolina, USA, lies at Latitude 33 ̊N, fig. 6. It is now the headquarters of the Southern Jurisdiction in the USA.

Fig. 6. Map of the USA, Highlighting South Carolina, on Latitude 33 ̊N
IMAGE LINKED:  sourced by author Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

In 1813 the Supreme Council for the Northern Jurisdiction of the USA was formed, and on the 26th October 1845, the Patent was issued to Dr Robert Thomas Crucefix, (1797 – 1850) for the formation of the Supreme Council for England and Wales and its Districts and Chapters overseas. Interestingly, this took place in the 33 rd year (Jan. 1813 – Oct. 1845) of that Supreme Council’s existence.
In England , the Headquarters of the Supreme Council, aka the Grand East, before moving to 10 Duke Street St. Jamse’s, had an interesting address between 1865 and 1911, that of No. 33 Golden Square, London.

VII. The Special reserve of the figure 33:

Whereas in a few ‘Christian’ Masonic Orders the number 33 featured only in the Ceremonial or as part of the furniture, it is quite explicit only in the A&AR, where the full Title of the Ruling body is “The Supreme Council of the 33 rd Degree of the Ancient and Accepted Rite for England and Wales and its District and Chapters Overseas”.

In fact, these are the first words any Candidate for Perfection hears, as he receives the Intermediate Degrees.

The figure 33 is repeatedly pronounced throughout the Perfection Ceremony. At the First Point, the Candidate is directed to travel 33 Days, and at the Second Point, in the Mansions of Light, the Candles / Lights upon the white Altar in the East are 33 in number.

They are placed in the form of 3 inverted equilateral Triangles having a White Cubic Stone at their junction in the centre on the fourth or middle step.

All Supreme Council 18 ͦ Certificates in England and Wales, are thrice emblazoned with the number 33 . Once in Roman numerals: XXXIII and twice as the Arabic number 33 , Fig. 7.

Fig. 7. Supreme Council Certificate of the 18 ̊. The Roman XXXIII is quite clear in the Title, and the twice Arabic 33 can be seen, within the text below the Title and in the inverted triangle above the crown over the double-headed Eagle.
IMAGE LINKED:  sourced by author Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Historical Note

It is claimed that the Order of the Ancient and Accepted Rite is formed according to two Constitutions of 1762 & 1786, the latter is aka The Grand Constitutions.

Historically, it is said that a certain Frenchman Stephen Etienne Morin received a Patent in 1761/62 from the Grand Lodge of France to propagate Freemasonry overseas (The original of the said Patent has never been found). In 1762, Morin sailed to West Indies, but his ship was captured by the British, and he was taken to England.

Not much is recorded if he influenced Masonic activity here! When he eventually arrived in West Indies in 1763 , he immediately appointed a Dutchman, Henry Andrew Francken, as his Deputy. They jointly formed a ‘Consistory’ of 25 Degrees, in Jamaica.

In 1765: Jean-Baptiste Willermoz* of Lyon, a committed Christian, completed the Ritual which became the 18 ͦ, aka ‘Rose Croix’, The full Title of which is: ‘Sovereign Prince Rose Croix’. Therein, was the first mention of ‘Knight of the Pelican and Eagle’, the Christian connection is fully explained in the 18 ͦ Collar and Jewel.

In 1771, Stephen Morin died in Kingston, Jamaica, and Henry Francken instantly took over the lead role. The original ‘Rite’ consisted of 25 Degrees. Few degrees are shared with other Orders: e.g. The 15 ͦ & 16 ͦ, viz, The Council of Princes of Jerusalem of the Knight Masons Order & The Red Cross of Babylon of the Allied Masonic Degrees.

Francken completed the re-writing of the 4˚ to 25˚ Ritualˣ. Wherein, the appearance of the ‘Knight Kadosh’ Degree featured as the 24˚ , which is now the 30 ͦ . The final Degree was then the 25˚ , Ne Plus Ultra, i.e. no more beyond.

By 1801 the ‘Rite’ developed from 25 to 33 Degrees. The 25˚ eventually became the 32 nd Degree, the Sublime Prince of the Royal Secrets. The 33 rd was then added, finalized, approved and sealed. The 33˚ was self-conferred for the first time on John Mitchell and all the members of the ‘Mother’ Supreme Council. It is called the 33 rd and Last, Sovereign Grand Inspector General, to supervise all preceding degrees.


The 33 rd Degree is an honour held by very few Brethren, namely:

a. The Grand Patron, the current incumbent is HRH The Duke of Kent, who took up the position in 2008, 66 years after the death in a plane crash in 1942, of his predecessor, his own Father, Prince George.

b. All present, past, and honorary members of the Supreme Council.

c. All Inspectors General, present and past.

d. This honour is conferred on a few dignitaries, most especially, until recently, the ‘Christian’ Heads of Orders or more particularly Heads of the other Christian Orders, viz., The Most Eminent and Supreme Grand Master of the United Orders, aka KT, the Grand Sovereign of the Red Cross of Constantine, the Grand Master of the Knights Beneficent of the Holy City aka KBHC.

e. Others, as SC might from time to time see fit.

In conclusion:

Sadly, in view of the recent decision of the current Supreme Council to lose the strong ‘Christian’ connections with the A&AR in England, the numeral 33 will from now on prove to be just a number with no significance to those who do not acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ and His death on the Cross of Calvary at the age of 33 .

Article by: Dr. Joseph F. Khalil-Marzouk

R. Wy. Fra. Dr. Joseph F. Khalil-Marzouk, Chief Adept for South Midlands, S.R.I.A.


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