Order of the Secret Monitor
Order of the Secret Monitor-
History, Legend and Lessons
District Grand Guarder
Order of the Secret Monitor is a Society framed upon the principles of
self-sacrifice, of mutual trust, watchful brotherly care, of compulsory warning
in time of danger, official solace in time of sorrow and skilful and effective
though unostentatious advice in every circumstance in life, is a Society that
meets a great and crying need in human affairs, and is calculated to benefit
those who act up to its tenets. Such a Society is that of the Secret Monitor. If
a Brother be in sorrow the Conclave will afford him sympathy; if in danger his
Brethren will give him assistance; if in distress the Visiting Deacons will
bring him consolation; if in poverty he will find aid. Moreover, at every turn
of life, at every crisis of fate, he may look and he 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 of doubtful ones, and
generally to watch over him, support him and cherish him so long as he may need
their care and prove himself worthy of the confidence reposed in him. Such, my
Brethren, are the principles of our Order. Tried they have been in times of
peril and true they have been found in times of difficulty...." This statement
by Judge Philbrick brings out, the uniqueness of the Order of the Secret
It cannot be said that the
Order of the Secret Monitor existed from time immemorial. History tells us that
Dutch settlers of Jewish descent brought “The Order of David and Jonathan” to
the New World in or about 1658. For the ritual roots of our Order we must look
back to Netherlands. Many Dutch Protestants immigrated to the New World to find
a new life with greater liberty than seemed possible in Holland.
By this time, many Dutch Protestants were contemplating settling in America in
the hope to find there both a better life and complete freedom of worship. They
probably were the means by which the Order came to America. Any
opposition to the way of life of the Dutch settlers immediately drew forth a
resurgence of the David and Jonathan cult, which has served the Netherlanders so
well in the past.
quickly developed there. Indeed, as early as 1831 a ritual of the Degree of
Secret Monitor is known to have been published by one Avery
Allyn. It was originally
conferred individually, as a side degree, and without any central or
jurisdictional control whatsoever. But the Sovereign College of the Allied
Masonic and Christian Degrees for the Western Hemisphere, founded on 14th
January 1892, in Richmond, Virginia, soon took control of the Degree.
April 1932, in Salisbury, North Carolina, the Grand Council of the Allied
Masonic Degrees of the United States of America was constituted. This Grand
Council also claimed control of the Order and it was not until 1933, that the
last surviving members of the 1892 Grand College adhered to the new Grand
The Order, originally
worked as a single Degree, has very recently adopted the trigradal system as
operating in the United Kingdom and in February 2000 at the Annual Assembly held
during the “Masonic Week” in Washington, D.C., the Grand
Council of the Allied Masonic Degrees of the United States of America
authorised each of its Councils to hold, should they so wished, Conclaves of the
Order of the Secret Monitor.
Well, that is all about
the American scenario. How
then did the Order of the Secret Monitor develop in England?
The earliest history of the Order
tells us that Dr. Issachar Zacharie started it, and it was he who brought it
from America. We learn that he was born in Chatham, Kent, of Jewish parents, who
had become converts to Christianity. According to his accounts, he was born in
the year 1827 (but since his golden wedding was celebrated in 1894, he must have
married in his teens). The family migrated to America in his early boyhood. His
initiation into Freemasonry was in 1848, but there is no sure knowledge, where
this took place. He obtained medical qualifications, probably through an
apprenticeship with another physician. In the American Civil War, he offered his
services as a foot specialist, proving a shrewdness and discernment
characteristic of his race, for the foot soldier, marching hundreds of miles on
rough ground would surely need attention by such a practitioner. He was
appointed Chiropodist-General to the United States Army.
Little is known of his Masonic
progress, but one source quotes him as being a Past Grand Master of California.
It is known, however, that he returned to England in 1875, settled at 80 Brook
Street, London, where he built up a busy and successful practice as an
orthopedic surgeon. In London, he became a member of the Bon Accord Mark Lodge
and there he met a number of brethren, who had become Secret Monitors during
their Masonic progress. They were Col. Shadwell H. Clerke, Grand Secretary of
the Craft (who became a Secret Monitor in Malta in 1845); James Lewis Thomas,
PAGDC, Craft (St. Vincent, W.I., 1846); F. A. Philbrick, B.A., Q.C., G.Reg., and
Dep. Prov.G.Master, Essex, Craft; W. G. Lemon, B.A., LL.B. (Treas., Univ. of
London Lodge); Gen. C. W. Randolph, P.P.G.W.; W. I. Spratling, B.Sc. (Sec.,
Univ. of London Lodge); the Rev. J. Oxley Oxland, M.A. (Secret Monitor in
Jerusalem, 1848); and Charles Fitzgerald Matier (G.Sec., Mark, who received the
degree from an American brother passing through London in 1865).
All of them were members of Alfred
Meadows Lodge (named after a distinguished surgeon) and at the invitation of Dr.
Zacharie, they met at his house on May 5, 1887. Also present were Bros. C.
Belton, H. E. Francis, Dr. Lennox Browne (a laryngologist), J. P. Godfrey, M.
Ohren and T. Godfrey. It was resolved to form the Alfred Meadows Conclave with
Dr. Zacharie as first Supreme Ruler.
The legend of the Order as set up was
based upon the scriptural story of the great and enduring friendship between
David and Jonathan, which led to the secondary part of the Order’s title: “The
Brotherhood of David and Jonathan” and its practice and teachings have ever led
to care for one’s brother and lasting friendship.
Progress was rapid. On June 17,
1887, Grand Council was constituted, with Dr. Issachar Zacharie nominated as
first Grand Supreme Ruler. The first meeting of Grand Council took place at 80
Brook Street on July 2, 1887.
The year 1887 was a notable year for
many reasons. It was the year in which Queen Victoria and her loyal subjects in
the United Kingdom and the British Empire, indeed, in practically the whole
world, celebrated fifty glorious years, the golden jubilee of her reign, the
year in which the new suspension bridge at Hammersmith, London, was opened as
the eleventh bridge spanning the River Thames, the year in which Steiner’s "The
Crucifixion” had its first public performance at St. Marylebone Parish Church in
London, the year in which Marylebone Cricket Club celebrated its centenary at
Lord’s, and the year in which the English "Order of the Secret Monitor” was
“The Freemason” a Masonic periodical
of the time reported: -
“The special feature of the Order
consists in this: Every Conclave shall appoint not more than four Visiting
Deacons, whose duty it shall be to search out and call upon any Brother who may
be in danger or distress, or who may have fallen into ill health, or may be in
need of fraternal monition, sympathy, consolation, or assistance. This duty
shall be recognised in every set of by-laws sanctioned for any conclave, and the
S.R. of every conclave at his installation must be duly warned that he will be
held responsible to the Grand Council for the proper and effective carrying out
of this Constitution. He will also take care to impress the importance of this
matter upon those whom he may appoint as his visiting Deacons.”
three-degree system adopted by the Grand Council of the secret
Monitor appealed to many American brethren from Rocklands,
Maine, already members of the single Degree American Secret Monitor, who
petitioned in 1894 to the Grand Council of Dr.Zacharie in order to establish,
under its jurisdiction, a Conclave of the Order in their city.
News of such action, once
spread, so irritated the Grand Council of the Allied Masonic Degrees of
the United States of America that it retaliated, granting to the
Grand Council of the Allied Masonic Degrees of Great Britain,
founded on 9th August 1879, full authority to confer the single
Degree of Secret Monitor, in full competition with the Grand Council of
Dr.Zacharie Thirty-seven years of strife were to
follow, with two jurisdictions concurrently conferring the Order of the Secret
Monitor in Great Britain.
This situation happily
came to an end, thanks to a typically English agreement when, in 1931, Colonel
C.W. Napier Clavering, Grand Master of the Grand Council of the Allied
Masonic Degrees, was elected Grand Supreme Ruler of the concurrent Body.
The Grand Council of the Allied Masonic Degrees then relinquished
control of the Degree to the sole Grand Conclave of the Order of the
Order struggled throughout the years of World War II, as did Freemasonry in
general, and in December 1942 it was decided to suspend meetings of the
Executive Committee except for matters of urgency. At the end of the war in 1945
normal working gradually took shape, records were brought up to date, dues
collected and the administration restored to normal. At the 55th Grand Festival
in April 1946, accounts for the previous five years were presented and adopted.
1987 it was agreed that Grand Council and Grand Conclave be replaced by a single
body designated Grand Conclave. This was confirmed at the meetings
of Grand Council and Grand Conclave on 17 September 1987.
Celebration of the Centenary was guided by the then Grand Recorder, R.Wy.Bro.
Peter Glyn Williams, and took place at The Masonic Hall, Birmingham on 17
mark the occasion of one hundred years of the Order of the Secret Monitor, the
M.Wy. Grand Supreme Ruler, Lt.Col. John Walter Chitty, M.B.E. decided to make a
donation from the Order's funds to the Mark Benevolent Fund of £25.000, and to
all United Kingdom Conclaves the sum of £200 to be donated to Hospices of their
Col. John Walter Chitty, M.B.E. continued in office as M.Wy. Grand Supreme Ruler
until his death in 1991. His successor was Col. G.S.H. Dicker, C.B.E., T.D., and
D.L. who held office until 1996.
Over the past 114
years the Order has flourished in
England, Wales and
Scotland, and altogether there are now over 400 Conclaves including many in
India, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and several European countries. The
Order is divided into Provinces, each ruled by a Provincial Grand Supreme Ruler
who has the authority to consecrate new Conclaves. The Grand Supreme Ruler of
the Order, which is administered from Mark Masons Hall, is currently M Wy Bro
Peter Glyn Williams.
The Legend and the
Not every Masonic Degree is founded
on Scriptural bases, but the legend of the Order of the Secret Monitor is surely
one that is. Our Order chose that wonderful story told in the Book of Samuel of
the enduring friendship between David and Jonathan. A brief resume can be given
here, but the full story is in the V.S.L. for all to read.
The Jews decided to follow the
fashion set by their neighbours and to dispense with the Judges who had governed
them previously, and take to themselves kings whose military ability had
impressed them. They were convinced that their future safety would be greater
under a king than a judge. The sword is mightier than the pen was their belief.
Samuel listened to their demands and
he selected Saul as the first king. Saul was a stalwart figure, impressive
indeed when arrayed for battle. Unhappily, Saul did not live up to expectations:
mighty though he was in battle, he lacked the mental qualities so necessary for
one who held power. Samuel was convinced that Saul had failed as a leader and
that another must be found in his stead. Samuel found in David the son of Jesse
the very man he was looking for, courageous, skilled in the use of arms, yet
sensitive and artistic, a soldier, poet and musician of exceptional ability.
Saul anticipated the course, which events would lead, unless he acted decisively
and he was determined to establish the permanent supremacy of his family in
Israel through Jonathan his son. David and Jonathan were close friends and
nothing was permitted to come between them, not even future fame and honours.
Jonathan did not claim succession to his father, accepting the decision of the
High Priest without resentment. Saul, however, planned David’s death, but his
plans failed. David was presented with many opportunities to slay the king, but
Saul was the anointed of God and he held his hand. Finally, Jonathan and two of
his brothers were slain in battle, when the Philistines overran the Israelitish
armies and Saul, seeing all his plans fail, took his own life in despair. David,
now, was fully accepted as King, but his immediate reaction was one of deep
grief for the death of his friend.
The unselfish devotion of these two
friends is the basis of our Secret Monitor ritual and precepts. Friendship for
one’s Brother is the paramount basis of our teachings, even as Brotherly Love is
the first tenet of the craft.
“Jonathan and David typify the
conscience of man. Jonathan is emblematical of God, who advises and warns the
human soul, and David of the soul. God and a man’s heart alone know a secret
matter, the world without knows nothing of it”.
Receive the Bow and Arrows: they are
emblematical of man in his uncivilised state, relying on his own resources. Let
them ever remind you that man apart from God has no understanding; that from God
has come all enlightenment, which has led on humanity in the road of progress,
that if man would have all things put under his feet he must recognise his
dependence upon God, and that man will assume his true position as head of
created things when he acknowledges, not by his word only, but also by his will
and resultant conduct that he is not only Son of Man but also Son of God.” The
weapons teach us also to remember the duties we owe to our Conclave and to each
other; they also remind us of the great archer of Death, whose unerring and
remorseless shaft will, sooner or later, strike each one and summon him to
render an account of the manner in which he has discharged his duty to his
brother and his God. At the God’s abode harmony is unbroken, and peace, perfect
peace, reigns eternally supreme.
Acknowledgements: (1) Various
Websites. (2) Oration delivered by
Rt.Wy.Bro.T Singaravelu, at the
Consecration of Trivandrum Conclave No.127.