History, Legend and Lessons

"The 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 Monitor.

History

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.

 The Order 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.

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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.

On 16th April 1932, in Salisbury, North Carolina, the Grand Council of the Allied Masonic Degrees of the United States of America came to life.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 Council.

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 immigrated to America in his early boyhood. His initiation into Freemasonry 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.

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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 this country in 1875, settled at 80 Brook Street, London, where he built up a busy and successful practice as an orthopaedic 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 Clarke 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., University of London Lodge) Gen. C. W. Randolph, P.P.G.W.; W. I. Spratling, B.Sc.(Sec.,University of London Lodge): the Rev. J. Oxley Oxland, M.A. (Secret Monitor in Jerusalem, 1848); and Charles FitIzerald 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 intitation of Dr. Zacharie they met at his house on May 5th 1887. Also present were Bros. C. Belton Francis, Dr. LennoxBrowne (a larynxologist), J. P. Godfrey, M. Ohren and T. Godfrey. It was resolved to form the Alfred Meadows Conclave with Dr. Zacharie as the 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 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 Crucificionhad its first public performance at St. Marylebone Parish Church in London, the year in which Marylebone Cricket Club celebrated its centenary at Lords, and the year in which the English "Order of the Secret Monitor was born,

"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.

The 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 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 AlliedMasonic Degrees then relinquished control of the degree to the sole 

Grand Conclave of the Order of the Secret Monitor.

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 !radually too shape, records were brought up to date, dues collected and the administration restored to normal. At the 55th Grand Festival in April 1945, accounts for the previous five years were presented and adopted.

 

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In 1987 it was agreed that Grand Council and Grand Conclave be replaced by a single body designated 

Grand Conclave.

 This was confirmed at themeetin!s of Grand Council and Grand Conclave on 17th September 1987.

The 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 17th September 1987.

To 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 sumof £200 to be donated to Hospices of their choice.

Lt. Col. John Walter Chitty, M.B.E. continued in office as M.Wy. GrandSupreme Ruler until his death in 1991his successor was Col. G.S.H.Dicker, C.B.E., T.D., and D.L. who held office until 1996.

Over the past 125 years the Order has flourished in England, Wales andScotland, and altogether there are now over 500 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. Andrew Christopher Sweeney.

The Legend and the Lessons

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 VSL 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 take 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 Israelites armies, and Saul, seeing all his plans fail, too 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 now 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, whos 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.

Credit: Jayapalan A. Nair