History and Origins
The History of our Order cannot be better presented than in the paper given by the then Most Worthy Grand Supreme Ruler on the 23rd August 2000 at an Emergency Meeting of Summus Conclave No 3 in Stirling Scotland. The eloquence of that speech is still as compelling to us today as it must have been to all those present who had the privilege of receiving it. The speech is as follows:
Address by the Past Grand Supreme Ruler, Most Worthy Brother Peter Glyn Williams, C.St.J,. at an Emergency Meeting of Summus Conclave No.3, held in The Albert Halls, Stirling, Scotland, on the 23rd of August 2000.
Ladies, other distinguished guests, and Brethren all
Most of us have travelled to this Royal Burgh of Stirling for the Fifth Convocation of Great Priories of the World, but Dr Roy Scott, the Most Eminent and Reverend Grand Master of the Great Priory of Scotland, thought it was an ideal opportunity for the Ladies and Brethren attending the International Conference to learn about the other Masonic Orders established in Scotia. Our Grand Conclave was delighted to accept his kind invitation, and we are honoured by his presence among us this evening. We trust that your journey here was both pleasant and relaxing, and that you all slept well last night. The reason for my concern is that I am going to be talking to you for about 25 minutes on the origin and purpose of our Order, and I hope that you will find what I have to say interesting and enjoyable.
Many of you have probably read that archaeologists in what used to be called Babylon recently unearthed two very ancient tablets. They date back to 2800 BC, are nearly five thousand years old, and comment on the trends of the day. One read “Times are not what they used to be.” Well, we really should not be too surprised at this for the world is constantly changing. Freemasonry is too, and it would be surprising if anyone present, man or woman, is unaware that there is Freemasonry for ladies just as there is for men; and I have yet to meet the wife of any mason who does not have a very good idea of what freemasonry is about, or what our rituals are meant to teach us.
This was certainly not the case in the 19th century when our fraternity was still shrouded in mystery and cloaked in secrecy, a time when this Order of the Secret Monitor, or Brotherhood of David and Jonathan, was in its embryo stage of formation in the British Isles.
Detailed records of the origins of most Orders of Freemasonry have been lost in the mists of time, and Masonic archives are less than comprehensive. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence, however, confirming that the Degree of Secret Monitor had been worked in Continental Europe, in North America, and in many other parts of the world since 1685, and two of its other and earlier titles were “The Order of David and Jonathan” and the “Order of Brotherly Love”.
In 1860 Most Worthy Brother Robert Morris, a Past Grand Master of the Craft Grand Lodge of Kentucky, travelled to
Jerusalem seeking traces of freemasonry from the time of Solomon. Though there were very few masons living in Palestine, which was then under Turkish rule, four of those with whom he did make contact, were the Governor of Jaffa, His Excellency Noureddin Effendi, a member of Lodge Amitie Clemente of Paris, Henry Petermann, the Consul of Prussia in Jerusalem, the American Vice-Consul, Roger Beardsley of Elkhart, Indiana, and Bro Charles Warren, the British military engineer and archaeologist, who had been sent to Jerusalem by the Palestine Exploration Fund, and later became the first Worshipful Master of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No.2076 English Constitution, the Premier Research Lodge in the world.
By chance, the British naval ship HMS Lord Clyde arrived in Jaffa, the old biblical port of Joppa, for a brief visit. The Captain and several of the Officers were freemasons and Bro Morris who was an enthusiastic Secret Monitor invited them, in company with the four masons he had already met, to take the Degree at the ceremony he held in King Solomon’s Quarries on Wednesday the 13th of May, 1868. In those days, anyone who had received the Degree of Secret Monitor was empowered to confer it on any other Master Mason. The minutes of that meeting, which was the first Masonic ceremony performed in the Holy Land, are now preserved for posterity in the archives of the Craft Grand Lodge of the State of Israel.
Why was it thought necessary to institute the Order of the Secret Monitor in the British Isles? When was it constituted? How does one become a member? What is its appeal to so many senior and distinguished masons throughout the world.
From the very moment of our initiation as a craft mason we are made aware that Brotherly Love is to be the feature that should permeate every word, deed and thought within, and without, our assemblies, and should be the very touchstone of our practice, the blazon of our intentions and the very monitor of our utterance. Although strongly adhering to this basic craft tenet, our illustrious founding fathers in 1887 firmly believed that there was a need for a more intimate tie with this principle that could be handed down to posterity by those who approved and could appreciate its worth. They also felt that the single-degree ceremony composed by Dutch settlers of Jewish descent, which had been in use throughout Continental Europe, North America and in other parts of the world since the 17th century, should be revised to include their more meaningful and inspiring purpose.
The compassion and eloquence of our first Grand Supreme Ruler, Dr. Issacher Zackarie, a highly acclaimed orthopaedic surgeon and physician, who had been a trusted friend of President Lincoln, and the first Grand Master of the Craft Grand Lodge of California, and His Honour Judge F.A. Philbrick, Q.C., Grand Registrar of the United Grand Lodge of England, who was noted for his legislative and drafting skills, were charged with the important task of re-writing the ritual of the Ceremony of Induction, and to be the authors of the new Ceremonies for the Admission of a Prince of the Order, and the Installation and Commissioning Ceremonies of a Supreme Ruler.
The Order was regularly Constituted in London in 1887; it is non-denominational and open to every member of a Regular Craft Constitution. Our rituals and ceremonies generate a deeper understanding of the Craft principle of brotherly love, and demand a higher level of commitment to their precepts by every Brother of David and Jonathan.
Every mason is required to express a belief in his respective God, and all Orders of Freemasonry have a special name for the Supreme Being. In the Craft it is ‘The Great Architect of the Universe’, in the Knights Templar we refer to ‘Our Heavenly Captain.’ As Royal Ark Mariners we have the Supreme Commander of the Universe, in the Order of the Secret Monitor the Supreme Being is called ‘The Almighty Friend of all friends’, the significance of which can only be fully appreciated by members of the Order.
Craft masons meet in Lodges, but an assembly of Secret Monitors is held in a Conclave, and at this moment in time we are all present at an Emergency Meeting of the Summus Conclave No.3. The Presiding Officer has the title Worthy Supreme Ruler and is seated on the Throne of King David in the East. He wears the jewel of the Order suspended from a yellow and violet collaret, and a sash of the same colours bearing his rank with the name and number of the Conclave beneath, all embroidered in Silver wire.
The two other principal officers in the Conclave are the Counsellor and Guide, the former is situated in the South East and the latter in the North East, facing each other. The other regular officers include a Chaplain, the Treasurer, Secretary, and Director of Ceremonies, four Visiting Deacons, the Guarder, usually four Stewards, and the Sentinel who are all situated so as to conveniently discharge their respective duties.
All these Officers wear a sash of medici crimson, and all Conclave sashes have two interlaced triangles in gilt metal or wire
on the frog. Provincial and District Grand Conclave Officers wear Empire Blue sashes with the name of their Province or District and the office they hold embroidered immediately below in thin gold wire, and below that are the two interlaced triangles overlaid with three arrows and the initials D.J. all in gold wire.
Grand Conclave Officers wear medici crimson sashes bordered with gold cord, on which is embroidered in gold wire a celestial crown above the wearer’s rank, below which are again the two interlaced triangles overlaid with the three arrows and the initials D.J. all in gold wire, and the frog being finished with a gold fringe. Provincial, District, and Grand Officers all wear collaret’s from which is suspended the jewel of their office. All sashes are worn over the right shoulder and under the left arm.
Unique to the Order of the Secret Monitor are the four Visiting Deacons whose special duties also distinguish this Order from any other in Freemasonry, and reflecting the sacred nature of their caring role they are seated at the corners of what is designated the Holy Ground or Magen David in a Conclave. Magen David refers to the ‘Shield of David’ and the two interlaced triangles thereon.
These two interlaced golden triangles, also known as the Seal of Solomon, were traditionally set above the Throne of King David in Jerusalem and are said to represent our two-fold nature, spiritual and material, which shape our lives and destinies. The arrows are emblematic of man in his uncivilised state, relying on his own resources.
Our rituals with their beautiful and inspiring precepts, take us back to the time when the Hebrews, wandering defenceless in the wilderness, forged one bond or another for mutual protection and support. Indeed, much of our ritual is in the very words of the ancient scriptures of the Jews and is based on the story of the enduring friendship that existed between David and Jonathan, a friendship that has become almost proverbial as the ideal to be aimed for. They saved each other’s lives on countless occasions, and swore a covenant of eternal friendship. The bond that united David and Jonathan, and plays such a vital part in the lives of all Secret Monitors, is the fact that the Covenant was made in the presence of God.
And the very purpose of our Order is the practical expression of the paramount importance of each individual human being in the sight of God. We are His creatures, living in His creation, and the ritual of our Induction as Brothers of David and Jonathan insists that it is our inescapable duty to reflect in every way we can, as best we can, the concern and love the Almighty Friend of all friends has for all his creatures.
The Order, however, does not proclaim Brotherly love simply in the abstract, or as a desirable norm, for at every turn of life, at every crisis of fate a Secret Monitor may look, and will not look in vain, to the experienced among his Brethren who have pledged themselves to give him caution, to prompt him to good actions, to warn him from doubtful ones, to offer him skilful and effective advice, solace in time of sorrow, and to exercise watchful Brotherly care and concern over him and his family at all times.
This is an impressive and moving list of generous undertakings, and while we learn the arts of taciturnity and trust in the Craft degrees, the sense of reverence in the Royal Arch, the blessing of humility in the Mark, and the requirements of fearlessness and witness as Knights Templar, it is here, in this Order of the Secret Monitor, in the story of David and Jonathan, in the doings of Eliazar and Abiathar, and not least in the touching and unifying consecration of purpose that comes to all Princes of the Order, that freemasons can truly begin to grasp not only the urge to be loving brethren, but to be doers of the word and not hearers only.
Today, more than eleven decades later, we are the mother, or Primus Inter Pares, of all Sovereign Grand Conclaves in the world, and the members of our daughter and granddaughter Grand Conclaves, together with our nine Districts Overseas and the twenty-six Provinces here in the British Isles are spreading that word throughout the United Kingdom, in South Africa, South America, the West Indies, The Bahamas, Canada, Gibraltar, Spain, France, India, South East Asia, Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand.