Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Order of the Secret Monitor

from the book
Highways and By Laws of Freemasonry
by Rev John T. Lawrence

Library #: M00_LAW
Location: LoR

Publisher: A. Lewis

Published year: 1924

Pages: 295

This is a very interesting and withal a very little trodden by-way of Freemasonry. The bond of brotherhood is based upon obligations of a kind which go further into human nature than any other in either the Craft or any of the concomitant orders. He who acts upon his Craft obligations will hold out his hand to help his brother out of the mire, but he who acts upon that of a Secret Monitor will hold out his hand when he sees his brother about to fall in. The legend narrated during the admission of candidates is the good old story of the friendship which existed between David and Jonathan. This friendship was all the more remarkable because King Saul, the father of the latter, hated David with almost unequalled intensity, and on more than one occasion sought his life. Meetings of the two friends therefore were attended with considerable risk, and it became necessary to devise some form of warning which should convey information to David without necessarily enlightening anyone else. The whole story can be read in I Samuel xx. 18, &c.; and in accordance therewith it is the duty of obligation of every Secret Monitor to convey notice of impending danger to his brother, and even to warn when he appears to be embarked upon a wrong course of conduct likely to entail disastrous consequences. In saying all this no obligation of secrecy is violated, for the ritual is published by authority, and being copyright, copies are deposited at the British Museum and are, therefore, not inaccessible to the profane. The first references to such an association are to be found in a code of rules of government found in Amsterdam in I770. What the history of the Order was in Holland is not known. It did not become an effective Masonic tie until the period of the civil war which devastated the United States about sixty years ago. Dr. I. Zacharie, the first Grand Supreme Ruler of the Order as established in England, had a very adventurous career during the stirring period referred to. In his medical capacity he was constantly in the camps of both parties to the strife, and had frequent opportunities of seeing how Freemasonry could ameliorate even the horrors of civil war, when brother's hand was against brother's instead of being clasped in it. The degree of the Secret Monitor, which had been carried to the New World by Dutch immigrants, appeared to Dr. Zacharie to afford the means of cementing a closer fraternal union than even that which held together the Craft. It had existed up to the period under reference in a somewhat slipshod manner, with no organisation and with no ceremonies. The neophyte was simply taken "aside," and the several secrets communicated to him.

The Order in England dates from 1887. At the time of writing, of the conclaves which have been warranted, about one half are to be found in foreign parts - India, Burma, the West Indies, South Africa and Australia. The Sun, therefore, never sets on the Order. Its register contains many distinguished and illustrious names, such as F. A. Philbrick, Thomas Fenn, Shadwell Clerke, W. W. B. Beach, C. F. Matier, Frank Richardson, the Earl of Euston, Lord Halsbury, and the Earl of Warwick. Such names are quite sufficient to prove that the Order is highly esteemed by those who are most highly esteemed in the Craft.

Brethren who have taken any of the degrees worked under the authority of the Council of the Allied degrees, will have noticed that that body has extended its protection, and invested with its authority, a degree of the same name as that we are considering. This has been already referred to in a previous chapter, and it may be well to state once more, to prevent any misunderstanding, that the members of the degree, though under quite distinct jurisdictions, are in harmony and are permitted to extend to each other complete fraternal recognition.

The government of the Order is vested in a Grand Council, which is composed of Grand and Past Grand Officers. This body holds two statutory meetings annually, besides such as may be convened at short notice for the transaction of emergent business. The powers of the Grand Council are extensive, more so than those of the Board of General Purposes; for behind the latter an appeal to Grand Lodge is always a possibility. Analogous to Grand Lodge, there is in the Order we are considering Grand Conclave, which meets annually for the Investment of Grand Officers, and apparently for the development of the social side. This body is of democratic constitution, for in addition to all official members, i.e. past and present Grand Officers, past and present rulers and deputy rulers of Provinces and Districts, every private conclave sends up five representative members, in addition to the one or two Grand stewards it may elect, and plus all past Supreme Rulers of conclaves. Apparently it has no executive powers except of confirmation, but may make recommendations to the Grand Council. Those who framed these constitutions have, of course, had in their minds the fact that the majority of the conclaves, owing to geographical reasons, could never be actually represented at any meeting of the Grand Conclave, and therefore, to secure anything like continuity of procedure, all executive power must necessarily be entrusted to a body easily accessible.

Grand Officers are styled Right Worthy, and Very Worthy, and in addition the head of the Order is Most Worthy. Provincial Grand Officers, who in foreign parts are, as in the Craft, described as "District," are Right Worthy and Very Worthy. Private conclaves are governed by officers as follows: the Supreme Ruler, who is styled Worthy, the Councillor and the Guide, a Treasurer, Secretary, and Steward,'not more than four "Visiting Deacons," Director of Ceremonies, Guarder, and Sentinel.

The Visiting Deacons are officers peculiar to this Order, and there is nothing exactly analogous in any other branch of Freemasonry. What their duties are is well described in the following circular which is sent out officially to every Supreme Ruler of a private conclave immediately on registration, and is besides ordered to be given to every Visiting Deacon when invested.

The principles therein laid down go far to prove that quality rather than quantity is sought for in every extension of the Order. To this circular we have prefixed Article 68 of the Constitutions, and after reading these extracts no one will deny that a brother who seeks admission as a Secret Monitor must have formed and lived up to a very high ideal of Freemasonry.

Article 68 runs as follows :-

In as much as the peculiar characteristic of this Order consists in giving friendly monition and warning to its members in time of danger, and in affording support and assistance to them in time of sorrow and distress, it is expressly enjoined on the Visiting Deacons as the chief duty of their office to search out and warn any brother who may be exposed to danger, whether secret or apparent, and to visit those afflicted with sickness or sorrow, or who have fallen into adverse circumstances, or may otherwise stand in need of fraternal help and consolation.

A statement that this duty is specially recognised as a distinguishing feature of the Order shall appear on the by-laws of every Conclave; and the officers of every Conclave shall be specially charged at their appointment and installation to see that this fundamental principle of the Order be practically carried into effect during their term of office.

The following is a copy of the Circular :-

The Grand Visitors in a recent report to the Grand Council refer to an occasional failure, on the part of Visiting Deacons of Conclaves, to appreciate the real gist and principle of this Order as administered by our Grand Council, which in their opinion merits the attention of all Supreme Rulers and other Officers.

They point out that the fundamental principle underlying all the teaching of the Order, with regard to the duties of Conclaves, may be summed up in an affirmative reply to the old question, Am I my brother's keeper? And that the function imposed upon Visiting Deacons at their appointment - "to search out and visit, &c., &c," - is that of Officers selected to discharge, on behalf of the Conclave, this duty of keeping in constant touch with the rest of the Brethren (if deceased, with those depending on them) and of conveying to the Conclave, at its periodical meetings, the tidings of their welfare, or should Providence so will it, their illfare. The Grand Visitors think that such a reply to the usual question as "I have nothing to report, Supreme Ruler," should certainly NEVER BE HEARD, or, if heard, should be taken as an indication of the Visiting Brother's utter want of interest in the Conclave or the Order, as well as a distinct falling short in the execution of the charge imposed upon him at his investiture. The Grand Visitors think that exceeding and very special fitness in some other direction could alone justify the promotion of any Visiting Deacon who should habitually so neglect his duty.

The Grand Council adopted this report, and ordered a Circular on the matter to be prepared and distributed to all Conclaves. The existence of four Visiting Deacons in each Conclave should prevent the duty from becoming burdensome to anyone, and it is desired that a Bro. Visiting Deacon should be a welcome sharer of his brother's joys, and a cheering comforter in his (or his dear ones') griefs. A visit from such a discreet Official should never be resented by any Brother, while to a young or perplexed member, or, to one who "stands in slippery places," such a visit may bring a blessing unspeakable.

I am, Dear Sir and Worthy Brother,
Yours truly and fraternally,
--- G. R.

N.B. - You are particularly requested to see that a copy of this circular is handed to every newly appointed Visiting Deacon at his investiture.

There is a Benevolent Fund, organised almost as a separate order. It is in three divisions, each of which selects its own general, treasurer, scribe, and as many almoners as may be desired. The first or lowest division, described as the "left wing," is composed of guinea subscribers, and the funds are devoted to education, either by direct grant, or by collecting votes in the Masonic Institutions. Girls and boys are dealt with by separate "columns." A total subscription of ten guineas, which may be accumulated whilst in the lowest division, qualifies for membership of the "right wing," and the funds go to the relief of sickness and support during convalescence. An honourable career in the right wing, that is a personal subscription of five guineas after reaching the highest rank, qualifies for membership of the centre wing, which has the care of the aged, and may make grants to brethren in distress or may purchase voting power in the Benevolent Institutions of the Craft.

Bearing a relation to the Order of the Secret Monitor, analogous to that which the Royal Arch bears to the Craft, is the Royal Order of Masonic Knights of the Scarlet Cord. Members meet in consistories. Secret Monitors are eligible who have been admitted to the second degree (Prince), and are members of the Benevolent Fund. Membership being considered a badge of honour combined with merit, all its degrees are conferred without fee, expenses being met by a collection at every meeting, which is virtually a subscription of 2s. 6d. for each member for each meeting. There are three grades of membership, and the numbers are limited. In addition to the grading, members are classified as active, supernumerary and honorary. The legend of this Order is found in Joshua ii., verse 18 supplying the key.

The Order of the Secret Monitor possesses its own phraseology. Its lodges are "conclaves." Members are "inducted" in the first degree, "admitted" to the second, and the "Supreme Ruler" is "commissioned." In the Order of the Scarlet Cord members are "elected," "chosen," and" promoted," &c., to the several degrees.

We may conclude this notice by referring to a somewhat singular provision. In the Craft we are familiar with the Installing Master and the Lodge Secretary, who exercise these functions year after year, until they grow grey in the work and conceive they have a freehold in the office. And it is admitted that this feature of Lodge government; whilst it may have its conveniences, is not generally commendable, nor does it ultimately make for Masonic efficiency. But in the Order of the Scarlet Cord it is highly commendable. That is to say, the brother who is always ready to perform the duties of "Guide" or conductor to the candidate in each grade, and who actually has taken the place of the officer whose real duty it is, and who has been granted a dispensation liberating him may, when this has happened frequently, receive a special commendation endorsed upon his certificate, and is ipso facto entitled to promotion to a higher grade if otherwise qualified.

The Order of the Scarlet Cord is governed by "the Court," which consists of all the members of the sixth grade. These are Knights of the Order and are addressed as such. The fifth and fourth grades form "The Camp," and anyone who is conversant with the Wars of the" Maccabees" finds little explanation needed when he takes up membership of these "Camp" grades. There is little paraphernalia, and still less gaudy clothing, in these Orders.

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