There are no howlers quite as hilarious as anti-Masonic howlers.
The truth is that the ring given to the 33rd degree Mason, at least in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, is either to be buried on the finger of the Brother when his end comes, or returned to the Supreme Council by his family so that it may be passed to another generation of Freemasons.
As to the symbolism, it has a triangle or delta (with the number "33"), in plain gold with no other color, and three distinct rings, which might be interpreted as 3+3. Inside, it is inscribed with the phrase "Deus Meumque Jus", meaning "God and My Right" (or perhaps more clearly, 'God and my moral rightness').
As to the three rings, my own interpretation from here on is 'Think twice before speaking once.' But that's just me.
There are approximately 11,000 33° Masons in the United States, roughly split 50/50 between the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction and the Southern Jurisdiction. And for those who have asked, the 33° ritual in the two jurisdictions is VERY different.
The number 33 was not just selected at random by the originators of the Scottish Rite. It has long been considered sacred within Christianity for several reasons. It is the multiple use of three, signifying the Holy Trinity. Christ was 33 years old when he ascended into heaven, and the gospels list thirty-three miracles performed by Christ. (Dan Brown is incorrect when he states, appropriately on page 333 of The Lost Symbol, that God is mentioned thirty-three times in the Book of Genesis. God is actually mentioned thirty-two times, in the first chapter of Genesis of the King James Bible.)
Thirty-three also appears in the Old Testament and other Jewish writings. Jacob had thirty-three children; Mosaic Law required that a woman purify herself for thirty-three days after her male child was circumcised; the holy day of Lag B’Omer occurs thirty-three days after the start of Passover; and the Seal of Solomon, or Star of David, made up of two intersecting triangles, is considered a graphic representation of 3+3. It also plays a prominent role in Kabbalah.
The religions of Islam, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism and Hinduism all associate sacred meanings with the number thirty-three. There are even thirty-three bones in the human vertebrae. Therefore, it appears in the Scottish Rite as a symbol of the fraternity’s universality as well as the perfection that every man should aspire to achieve in his soul.
Another curious aspect of the numbers thirty-two and thirty-three in regards to the Scottish Rite is that both Charleston, South Carolina, the birthplace of the Rite in 1801, and Jerusalem, location of Solomon’s Temple, lie between the 32° and 33° latitude. For many years it was common for Scottish Rite officers to include the latitude of their location when writing letters, articles or papers.
The double-headed eagle is the principal symbol of the 33rd degree of the Scottish Rite. It is not, as is mistakenly referred to in Brown’s text concerning the tattoo on Mal’akh’s chest, using his nipples as the bird’s eyes, a “double-headed phoenix.” The legendary phoenix, rising from the ashes, as described in Greek (and earlier) mythology, is not what depicted here at all.
Rather, the symbol comes from an early European rite of degrees called the Order of the Royal Secret, from which the Scottish Rite descended in 1801. The Royal Secret’s most advanced degree was called “The Knight of the White and Black Eagle.” The French Masonic authority that issued a patent (a document that authorizes the formation of new chapters) in 1761 was called the Council of the Emperors of the East and West. They used the double-headed eagle as a heraldic device (like a logo) on their documents, and it is believed they had appropriated the imagery from the period of the division of the Roman Empire into an eastern and western empire under the Byzantine emperors. The image of the double-headed eagle also appears in heraldry of the Holy Roman Empire, Germany, Austria, Russia, Armenia, Albania, Serbia and many others. It also appears as a symbol of the Greek Orthodox Church.
What makes the image specific to the Scottish Rite is the triangle on the eagle’s breast, and the number “33.”