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AQC INDEX
FRINGE FREEMASONS
IRWIN’s CORRESPONDENTS
SAT B'HAI CODE
COMMENTS
"...this paper’s subject matter deals with an essentially obscure sector of recent masonic history. On no account should the reader infer that during the period 1870-85 there was ever a widespread interest within the Craft in the activities of Mackenzie, Irwin & Co., the proprietors of a 'manufactory, mint or studio of Degrees'. "
.
[Four Crowned Martyrs] ARS QUATUOR CORONATORUM
TRANSACTIONS
OF THE
QUATUOR CORONATI LODGE No. 2076 LONDON

Fringe Masonry in England
1870-85
By Bro. Ellic Howe
(14 September, 1972)
PREFACE
MY FIRST ENCOUNTER with the concept of 'fringe' Masonry and the names of Kenneth Mackenzie and Francis George Irwin was in 1961, when I was baffled by almost everything relating to the origins and early history of Dr. W. Wynn Westcott’s extraordinary androgynous Magical society, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. A. E. Waite suggested in his auto-biographical Shadows of Life and Thought, 1938, that Mackenzie might once have owned the Golden Dawn’s legendary Cypher Manuscript, although this seems unlikely. The provenance of this document is unknown and likely to remain so. It was in the possession of the Rev. A. F. A. Woodford, a founder member of Q.C. Lodge, in 1886 and he gave it to Westcott in August 1887. Thereafter we are confronted with a lunatic story of fabricated letters, invisible Secret Chiefs and, for good measure, the introduction of a mythical German lady called Fräulein Sprengel, otherwise the Greatly Honoured Soror Sapiens Dominabitur Astris, allegedly an eminent 'Rosicrucian' adept. It was she, according to Westcott, who gave him permission to operate the Golden Dawn in this country. While all this is great fun for amateurs of the absurd, it is outside the scope of this paper1. . Since Waite tentatively suggested that the Golden Dawn trail led in the direction of Mackenzie, I followed it via his The Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross, 1924, and there I first came across Irwin’s name.
Certain statements made by Waite attracted my attention. 'For a period of about twenty-five years, dating approximately from 1860,' he wrote, 'the existence of amateur manufactories of Rites in England is made evident by the facts of their output, for which all antecedent history is wanting, except in a pseudo-traditional sense, which is that of occult invention.' The convoluted prose style is typical of Waite’s writing. He inferred, too, that Mackenzie was connected with what he called a 'manufactory, mint or studio of Degrees'. He described Irwin as 'a believer in occult arts within the measure of a thinking and reading person of his particular mental class', adding that 'for the rest [he] was satisfied apparently with the pursuits of spiritualism, to the truth of which his circle bears witness in unpublished writings'. Finally Waite mentioned that Irwin 'was a zealous and amiable Mason, with a passion for Rites and an ambition to add to their number'.
2 .
Waite antedated the ’studio of Degrees' by about ten years. My belief is that Irwin was always far more preoccupied with Freemasonry ('fringe' and otherwise) than with spiritualism.
Unable to make any headway with the Golden Dawn problem I turned to other eccentricities.
3 . I might never have returned to Mackenzie et alii but for the fact that in the autumn of 1969 I was again back in the Golden Dawn territory and fated to remain there for the next two years. Then in October 1970 Bro. A. R. Hewitt, Librarian of the United Grand Lodge of England, showed me a collection of c. 600 letters which F. G. Irwin had received from twenty-five different correspondents between 1868 and 1891.4 . The majority of them were from Kenneth Mackenzie and Benjamin Cox. For the most part they were written during the 1870s.
When I first read these letters I realised that it would now be possible to document Mackenzie and Irwin, also the amateur manufactories of rites, in greater detail than had been possible in the past. Indeed, the correspondence threw new light upon the whole area of 'fringe' Masonry during the late Victorian era.
The term 'fringe Masonry' is used here for want of a better alternative. It was not 'irregular' Masonry because those who promoted the rites did not initiate Masons, i.e. confer the three Craft degrees or the Holy Royal Arch. Hence they did not encroach upon Grand Lodge’s and Grand Chapter’s exclusive preserve.
The appearance during the second half of the nineteenth century of various 'additional', 'higher' or ’side' degrees indicates a loose interpretation of the last sentence in Article II of the Act of Union in 1813. This merely stated that it was 'not intended to prevent any Lodge or Chapter from holding a meeting in any of the Degrees of the Orders of Chivalry according to the constitutions of the said Orders'.
A Grand Council of Allied Masonic Degrees was formed in 1884. Rule I of its original Constitution stated:
In view of the rapid increase of Lodges of various Orders recognising no central authority and acknowledging no common form of government, a Ruling Body has been formed to take under its direction all Lodges of such various Orders in England and Wales and the Colonies and Dependencies of the British Crown as may be willing to join it.
It will be seen that submission to the Grand Council’s authority was a matter of choice.
5 . Furthermore, it never occurred to Irwin or Mackenzie and their friends to apply for, let alone accept, the Grand Council’s jurisdiction over their 'inventions'. 6 .
The emergence of a variety of 'additional degrees' after c. 1860 – those that later came under the authority of the Grand Council of Allied Degrees, and the ’stray' rites in which Mackenzie & Co. had a hand – happened at a time when the Craft was rapidly expanding in England, with a consequent increase in the number of lodges. It was coincidental that there was a widespread contemporary public interest in spiritualism and alleged mediumistic phenomena. There was no connection between the new spiritualist movement and Freemasonry, but men like Mackenzie and Irwin, who were active in 'fringe' Masonry, were often spiritualists. Furthermore they and many others in their particular circle were also identified with occultism. They did not represent anything remotely like a mass movement within Craft Masonry. We are merely confronted with a small and amorphous group of men, most of whom knew one another. The same names will be found time and again.
Since I have in turn referred to a Magical Society, i.e. the Golden Dawn, mentioned Waite’s hypothesis that Mackenzie might have had some connection with its pre-history, and identified Irwin as a believer in the occult arts, some may suppose that I have a personal involvement with occultism. This is not the case. As a historian of ideas I am solely concerned with the historical fact of the persistent survival of beliefs which can be equated with the concept of 'Rejected Knowledge', meaning knowledge which is rejected by the Establishment at large because it is held to be superstitious, lacking a rational basis, unscientific, and so on. Astrology is a typical example.
This paper’s subject matter is outside the main stream of the history of Freemasonry in nineteenth-century England. However, it concerns an obscure area which nobody else has hitherto wanted to describe. And that, perhaps, is its only justification.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
My thanks are due to the Board of General Purposes of the United Grand Lodge of England for permission to use material in Grand Lodge Library, also to Bro. A. R. Hewitt, Librarian and Curator, Bro. T. O. Haunch, Assistant Librarian, and Bro. John Hamill, Library Assistant, for their help and countless acts of kindness. I also express my gratitude to Bro. Harry Carr and Bro. Roy Wells for their constant encouragement.
Four Brethren, in particular, have helped to smooth research’s sometimes stony path and I thank Bro. Cohn F. W. Dyer (Secretary of Emulation Lodge of Improvement) for notes on Frederick Hockley and John Hogg; Bro. S.W.V.P. Fletcher (Royal Somerset House and Inverness Lodge No. 4) for delving at the Public Record Office and Somerset House on my behalf; Bro. A. L. Peavot (Secretary of Oak Lodge No. 190) for showing me the Lodge’s minute book for 1870-1; and Bro. P. M. Rae (Secretary of Lodce Canongate Kilwinning, No. 2, Edinburgh) for the hours he spent searching in his own lodge’s minutes in quest of Kenneth Mackenzie’s elusive name; and finally Bro. Dr. Henry Gillespie, a member of my own Lodge (St. George’s No. 370) for metaphorically placing me in a position, in his own inimitable way, to undertake this particular research.
My thanks are also due to Miss Sibylla Jane Flower, Miss Winifred Heard (Chiswick District Library), Miss E. Talbot Rice (National Army Museum, London), Mr. Christopher McIntosh, Mr. Gerald Yorke (for the almost indefinite loan of
S.R.I.A. material), Lieut.-Col. J. E. South (Librarian, Institution of Royal Engineers, Chatham), Dr. F. N. L. Poynter (Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine), Mr. J. C. Morgan (Archives Dept., Westminster City Library), The Public Archives of Canada, Ottawa, and the City Librarians at Birmingham and Bristol.
As so often in the past I have to thank old friends on the staff of the London Library and the Warburg Institute, University of London.
GRAND LODGE AND THE RITE OF MEMPHIS
The History of the rite, which was of French origin, in England is of interest for several reasons. For about seventeen years after 1850 in this country it was in the hands of Frenchmen. Up to 1859 it was possible that they only initiated their compatriots. It is conceivable that Grand Lodge knew nothing about it until the latter year when it learned, to its displeasure, of the existence at Stratford, Essex, of a Memphis 'Craft' lodge whose members were all British. Under the heading 'Answers to Correspondents' in its issue of 14 October 1871 The Freemason stated that 'The Rite of Memphis is the only so-called Masonic Rite which has incurred the denunciation of the Grand Lodge of England.' This was because the 'Equality Lodge King of Prussia' at Stratford had never been warranted by Grand Lodge and was therefore in every respect irregular. It is unlikely that the rite still survived in England under its French rulership as late as 187I. However, in 1872 John Yarker imported it from the U.S.A., but since he did not confer its first three degrees, meaning that he did not initiate Masons, the rite was not 'irregular'. On the other hand it was greatly disliked by the Supreme Council 33 ° of the Ancient and Accepted Rite which had already expelled Yarker in 1870. I will refer to Yarker’s extraordinary career in 'fringe' Masonry later.
The multifarious information – or more often misinformation – about the early history of the Rite of Memphis, which has been transmitted from one book or encyclopaedia to another, cannot be condensed into a few lines.7 . The usual story is that it was established with ninety five degrees by Samuel Honis at Cairo in 1814. He brought it to France in 1815 and a lodge ('Les Disciples de Memphis') was founded on 30 April at Montauban by Honis, Gabriel-Mathieu Marconis de Negre and others. This lodge was closed on 7 March 1816 and Honis and Marconis de Negre conveniently disappear from the scene. Next we encounter the latter’s son Jacques-Etienne Marconis de Negre, commonly known as Marconis, at Paris in 1838. A few lodges were formed but it is evident that J.-E. Marconis, Grand Hierophant 96 °, failed to attract much of a following.
In 1841 the police intervened, no doubt after receiving a gentle nudge from the Grand Orient or the French Supreme Council 33 °, and the rite went underground until 1848, the 'Year of Revolutions'. Then, under a more liberal regime, Marconis was able to revive it. Lantoine (see footnote
7.) inferred that the rite suffered a débâcle totale in December 1851 and that Marconis then allowed it to ’slumber', furthermore that its somnolence was permanent. This may well have been the case in France, but there was an export market for a novelty that offered a grand total of ninety-five degrees and during the next decade it was sold – it is inconceivable that Marconis offered all those degrees as friendly gifts – to the U.S.A., Egypt and Roumania. The rite also reached England in 1850, but in the possession of Frenchmen who had previously belonged to it in France. Their status, both as 'Memphis' Masons and as individuals is of considerable interest and I will refer to this later. Honis surrendered the rite, or rather its corpse, to the Grand Orient in 1862 and relinquished any form of jurisdiction over it. The G.O. regularised its French members by recognising them as Craft Masons and placed all its higher degrees upon what it hoped was a conveniently high shelf. Marconis, however, did not keep faith with the G.O. and dispensed warrants outside France, claiming that his renunciation only applied to France itself. He died on 21 November 1869, unregretted as far as the G.O. was concerned.
Grand Lodge first became aware of the rite’s existence in the autumn of 1859, although it appears to have been quietly active here since 1850. On 24 October I859 the Grand Secretary, William Gray Clarke, sent a circular letter to the Masters of all lodges in the English constitution. This document included a facsimile reproduction of a Memphis certificate issued by the 'Loge Egalité, O[rient] de Stratford' from which the name of the recipient and various emblematical devices had been deleted.
8 .
The Grand Secretary’s letter began: 'I am directed to inform you ... that there are at present existing in London and elsewhere in this country, spurious Lodges claiming to be Freemasons.' He warned Masters to be careful not to admit any irregular 'Memphis' Masons to their own lodges and emphasised that 'the Brethren of your Lodge ... can hold no communication with irregular lodges without incurring the penalty of expulsion from the Order, and the liability to be proceeded against under Act 39, George III, for taking part in the Meetings of illegal secret Societies'.
Some weeks later the Grand Secretary received a polite letter from Stratford. It disclosed that the lodge there was being joined by members of the artisan class who could not afford to join regular lodges. The letter did not reveal that the heads of the rite in England were French radical republicans who had fled from France in 1849-50 after Prince Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte was elected President of the Republic in December 1848. It is possible that the Stratford lodge might have been 'political' to an extent unknown in English Craft lodges, in which all political controversy was forbidden (see Antient Charges, VI, 2).
9 . The letter was signed by Robert Meikle, Leamen Stephens, David Booth, Charles Ashdown, Charles Turner, Stephen Smith and another whose name is illegible. Its first paragraph follows:
Equality Lodge King of Prussia Stratford The 4th day of December 1859 V∴ E∴ Sir and Brother,
As it appears from a Circular issued by the Board for [sic] General Purposes addressed to The Masonic body in England, that a great misconception exists in the minds of the Members of that Board as to the real objects and character of the Brethren comprising the Equality Lodge at Stratford we are instructed by the W.M. and Council of the Lodge to forward to you for the information of the Board such facts as may be useful to make known at the Quarterly communication. In the first place Stratford and its neighbourhood contains a population of some thousands of Skilled Mechanics, Artisans and Engineers, many of whom from their superior attainments or from the exigiencies of Trade are called upon to pursue their avocations in the various states of Continental Europe or in our own colonial possessions
10 . and to whom therefore the advantages rising from Masonic Fraternity are of great consequence. A desire therefore has long existed for the erection of a Masonic Temple in this district and one or two abortive attempts have been made for this purpose by Brethren in connection with your G.L., the failure arising chiefly from the large sums necessary for Initiations and raisings. The matter would probably have rested here, had it not happened some eighteen months since that several parties now Brethren of this Lodge were brought into communication with a number of Foreign Brothers meeting in London ... We feel honoured therefore by our association with those Intellectual and Honourable men to whom we owe our existence as a body; we are sympathetic to their misfortunes, and regret the causes that have made them exiles from their native land.
In 1869 almost ten years had passed since Grand Lodge issued its warning that the Rite of Memphis was irregular. It still existed in England although it cannot have had many members. The amnesties of 1859 and 1869 had made it possible for its French brethren to return to France. Robert Wentworth Little, the editor of the recently established weekly periodical The Freemason (No. 1, 13 March 1869) and second clerk and cashier in the Grand Secretary’s office at Freemasons' Hall, referred to the rite in the issue of 3 April 1869. An extract from his leading article follows:
We are induced to use very strong language in allusion to this pretended rite, from the fact that its adherents have dared to erect their 'ateliers' or workshops in the heart of London, and because they now claim to be connected, on terms of amity and alliance, with some Masonic bodies on the continent, notably with one or two lodges in the south of France, and even with the Supreme Council of the 33rd degree at Turin . . .
We grieve to learn, however, that doubtless in ignorance of this caution [i.e. the Grand Secretary’s warning in 1859], some members of English lodges have given countenance to the 'Philadelphes', by attending their soirees and balls, where, tricked out in fantastic finery, as 'Hierophants of the Star of Sirius', ’sovereign Pontiffs of Eleusis' and 'Grand Masters of the redoubtable sacred Sadah', these imposters libel the simplicity and purity of our noble Craft ... The gravest rumours are also in circulation as to the designs of these intriguing 'Philadelphes', the most revolutionary ideas, it is said, have been broached in their mystic assemblies, and Orsini like conspirators have been seen emerging from their dark and dangerous dens.11 .
At the Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge held on 7 June 1871 the Rite of Memphis and, by implication, Little’s name were mentioned in the same context. The subsequent fracas was to occupy Grand Lodge’s worried attention until a year later.
THE RITE OF MISRAIN (OR MIZRAIM)
The annals of this rite, which reached England under somewhat incongruous circumstances late in 1870, are not unlike those of the Rite of Memphis. Once again we encounter a mainly French origin, picturesque characters in the background and a monstrous collection of degrees. But whereas Memphis was declared irregular as soon as Grand Lodge learned that it was poaching in its preserves, Mismaim was not officially attacked because it did not initiate Masons. However, by today’s more critical standards, on English soil it was an aberration.
Whether or not the rite originated in Italy in 1805 with ninety degrees – plus three more for its ’secret Chiefs' – and was brought to France in 1814 (or 1815) by the three Bédarride brothers is of no great consequence. Any synthesis of the information available from a variety of sources is likely to be inaccurate. Thus instead of perpetuating traditional 'legends' my account of the rite’s background in France has been reduced to a few lines.
The Grand Orient declared the rite irregular in 1816. The police visited Marc Bédarride, the eldest of the three brothers, in September 1822 but found nothing suspicious. (Jacques Etienne Marconis was briefly a 'Misraimite' before he revived Memphis in 1839. He was expelled at Paris in 1833 as J.-E. Marconis and again at Lyons in 1834 under the name of de Negre). According to Lenhoff and Posner (Internationales Freimaurer Lexikon, 1932, art. Misraim-Ritus), like its Memphis rival the Rite of Mismaim was repeatedly forbidden by the French authorities, but always rose to the surface again. Indeed, for a brief period from 1882-90 the Grand Orient gave it recognition. Its mother lodge in France, the 'Arc en Ciel' was still working as late as 1925.
The Ancient and Primitive Rite of Misraim arrived in England – out of thin rather than any other kind of air – late in 1870. The Freemason reported on 31 December that a ’supreme Council General of the 90 °, had been regularly formed here 'under the authority conveyed in a diploma granted to the Ill. ∴ Bro. ∴ Cremieux, 33 ° of the Rite Ecossais, and a member of the Grand College of Rites in France'.
In England the rite’s three Conservators-General, all 90 °, were the Earl of Limerick, Sigismund Rosenthal and Robert Wentworth Little, who was then thirty years of age and, as I mentioned above, employed in the Grand Secretary’s office at Freemasons' Hall. Little, as we will learn, was an energetic promoter of 'additional degrees'.
The Rite of Misraim’s inaugural meeting was held at the Freemasons' Tavern on 28 December 1870 with Bros. Little, Limerick and Rosenthal in the three principal chairs. The main items on the agenda were to form the 'Bective Sanctuary of Lévites' (named after the Earl of Bective, who had accepted office as Sovereign Grand Master), and to confer the 33 ° upon between eighty and a hundred brethren who were present. After being admitted seven at a time, the new 33 ° members elected six of their number to be 66 °. It can be inferred that the three Conservators-General had previously nominated themselves 90 °. In the report in The Freemason the name of Major E. H. Finney 90 ° also appears, but without comment. The fact that he was not identified in any particular manner was significant.
Almost without exception those present were members of the 'Red Cross Order', meaning the Imperial, Ecclesiastical and Military Order of the Knights of the Red Cross of Rome and Constantine, which Little had 'revived' in 1865. It was announced that the Antient and Primitive Rite of Mismaim would be attached to the 'Red Cross Order' for administrative purposes. At this inaugural meeting 'the alms collected amounted to £2 Os.3d.' – say 6d. per head – 'and the brethren adjourned to supper, separating at an early hour'.
It is necessary to relate these 'Misraimic' events in London to the current situation in France. Napoleon III had declared war on Germany on in July 1870 and on 12 September surrendered at Sedan with 104,000 men. By 19 September six German corps surrounded Paris, which was effectively cut off from the outside world. A few days earlier a government of national defence was formed in the capital. The war, which continued, was conducted by a Delegation of the government which had made its way to Tours a few days before Paris was invested by the German armies. Between 19 September 1870 and until shortly after 28 January 1871 Paris had no normal postal communication with the French provinces or abroad.
Isaac Adolphe Crémieux was a well-known lawyer and liberal politician. At Tours, together with Léon Gambetta (a Freemason since 1869), he was a leading member of the Delegation, which had assumed the functions of a government-in-exile. On 8 December 1870, following the retreat of the Army of the Loire, Crémieux decided to transfer the Delegation to Bordeaux. Furthermore, there is documentary evidence that he was there on 28 December 1870, the day when the inaugural meeting of the Rite of Misraim was held in London.
12 . This fact is important in relation to later events.
When postal communication with France was resumed, Bro. John Montagu, Grand Secretary General of the Supreme Council 33 °, whose offices were at Golden Square, wrote on 11 March 1871 to Bro. Thévenot, Grand Secretary of the Grand Orient at Paris, to ask if Crémieux had the G.O.’s authority to issue a diploma for the establishment of the Rite of Misraim in London. Thévenot replied on 24 March and emphatically stated that no one, including Crémieux, had been given any such permission.
13 . Montagu forthwith sent copies of the correspondence to the editor of the Freemasons' Magazine and Masonic Mirror. It would appear that its rival publication The Freemason was not on Montagu’s mailing list, possibly because R. W. Little had a close connection with this periodical.14 . The Freemasons' Magazine and Masonic Mirror published the Montagu-Thévenot correspondence without delay on 1 April 1871. The editor, or perhaps someone else who wanted to stoke the fire, expressed a doubt whether 'any authority had been given for the establishment of the Rite of Mizraim [in London], which was then [in The Freemason of 31 December 1870] asserted to have been the case'. The writer continued: 'The fact of Paris then being in a state of siege prevented any enquiries being made on the subject.' Then a bomb with a relatively short time-fuse was planted: ' . . . how long', the writer asked, '[will] the Board of General Purposes ... permit this systematic trading upon Masonry on the part of those in the employ of Grand Lodge, whose connection with it gives a colour to their misrepresentations, and which connection is most likely to lead many to believe that these proceedings, if not authorised by Grand Lodge, are at least sanctioned by it.'
A week later, on 8 April 1871, The Freemason published an unsigned article headed 'The Rite of Misraim, by a Conservator-General 90 °. This was undoubtedly written by Little. He began by accusing the Supreme Council of the A. & A. Rite of having had plans to annex the Rite of Misraim, presumably before the inaugural meeting on 28 December 1870.
15 . Indeed, he described the Supreme Council’s allegedly nefarious designs with a surprising lack of moderation. These purple passages need not be reprinted, but Little’s account of what happened on 28 December is fascinating:
... a meeting of brethren desirous of establishing the Rite upon a legal basis was held, and this meeting was attended by a pupil of Marc Bédarride, the 'Premier Grand Conservateur' of the Order, and who had received its degrees thirty-seven years previously from the Great Chief himself. This distinguished brother assented to the Rite being reorganised under his auspices, and without his presence and leadership not a step in the matter was made by the present Conservators-General. It is quite true that for reasons easily understood by those who are acquainted with the inquisitorial system pursued by the S. G. C. 33 °, the illustrious brother alluded to thought it expedient to keep his name out of sight until the Rite was firmly consolidated, and it is equally true that he sought co-operation and aid from Ill. Bro. Crémieux, 33 °, of France, who was then in London. It is further beyond question that Brother Crémieux would have attended the inaugural meeting of the 'Bective Sanctuary' had he not been unavoidably prevented by urgent business.
However, on 28 December 1870 Crémieux’s 'urgent business' was being conducted at Bordeaux. Little continued:
Bro. C., however, as a proof of his willingness to assist, sent to the meeting his diploma as a member of the French Grand College of Rites, and this diploma was placed upon the table during the proceedings, and was examined by several out of the hundred Masons present. It was also understood that Bro. C.’s diploma invested him with the power to found rites or orders recognised by the Grand Orient of France (the Rite of Misraim being one) in all countries where no such rites existed, and this statement was accepted as confirming and endorsing the previous action of the prime mover, Marc Bédarride’s pupil and friend.
Thévenot’s letter to Montagu was brusquely brushed aside:
... in reality it is a matter of indifference, inasmuch as the organisation of the Rite in England rests upon another and surer foundation - its title being derived ... from the great Bédarride himself, and not from any foreign jurisdiction however 'ancient and accepted'.
As for the nature of the diploma which was 'examined by several out of the hundred Masons present', one can only speculate. The inference is that Little either manufactured it himself, or that the document was faked for him by someone else.
It remains to identify the 'pupil of Marc Bédarride' who had received the Misraim degrees thirty-seven years earlier, and who 'thought it expedient to keep his name out of sight', no doubt at Little’s behest. He was probably Major E. H. Finney 90 °, mentioned above, because apart from the three Conservators-General, i.e. Little, the Earl of Limerick and Sigismund Rosenthal, he was the only 90 ° recorded as being present at the famous meeting held on 28 December.
EMBARRASSING QUESTIONS IN GRAND LODGE
The publication of the Montagu-Thévenot letters and Little’s 'defence' did not remain unnoticed. Three months later, at the Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge on 7 June 1871, Bro. Sir Patrick Colquhoun rose to his feet and asked a question.
'Whether Grand Lodge countenance the Rite of Misraim of 90 °, the Rite of Memphis and the Order of Rome and Constantine? and if not, whether it be consistent with the position of a subaltern in the Grand Secretary’s office that he take a lead in these unrecognised degrees?' This enquiry set the cat among the Masonic pigeons because the ’subaltern' was none other than Robert Wentworth Little who, although only thirty-one years of age, was already a well known personality in the Craft.
16 .
The lengthy deliberations at successive Quarterly Communications and the Board of General Purposes' investigation of Little’s alleged activities need not be described here. However, the Quarterly Communication’s minutes show that some Grand Officers, and Bro. Matthew Cooke (P.M. Globe Lodge No. 23) in particular, had an incorrect or confused knowledge of the status of certain Orders or additional degrees. It was Cooke who raised the temperature at the next Quarterly Communication on 6 September 1871.
'Within the last six or seven years a great innovation has crept in, that ought to be looked to or stopped before it grew to too great a height,' he declared. 'In the Book of Constitutions it is held forth that it is not in the power of any man, or body of men, to make innovations in the body of Masonry.' He then metaphorically pointed an accusing finger at the clerks in the Grand Secretary’s office who, he said, 'on their own account formulate, tabulate, and send abroad other degrees, and they make the office the place from which they emanate.'
Bro. John Havers, P.G.W., protested that Cooke’s remarks were libellous. The Grand Master, clearly embarrassed, asked Cooke to 'moderate his language and confine himself to his motion'. In due course Cooke moved:
That whilst this Grand Lodge recognises the private right of every Brother to belong to any extraneous Masonic organisation he may choose, it firmly forbids, now and at any future time, all Brethren while engaged as salaried officials under this Grand Lodge to mix themselves up in any way with such bodies as the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite; the Rites of Misraim and Memphis; the spurious orders of Rome and Constantine -, the schismatic body styling itself the Grand Mark Lodge of England, or any other exterior Masonic organisation whatever, (even that of the Orders of Knights Templar, which is alone recognised by the Articles of Union) under the pain of immediate dismissal from employment by this Grand Lodge.
The Grand Mark Lodge of England could hardly be described as schismatic because in 1856 Grand Lodge and Grand Chapter had jointly decided that the Mark Mason’s degree was a graceful addition' to that of Fellow Craft. Furthermore, Grand Lodge had not objected to the recent establishment of what Cooke loosely referred to as 'the spurious orders of Rome and Constantine'.
17 .
Cooke’s motion was referred to the Board of General Purposes, whose report to Grand Lodge, dated 22 November 1871, was discussed at the Quarterly Communication on 6 December. The Board had thought it desirable to circulate once again the previous Grand Secretary’s letter of 4 October 1859, also the facsimile of the Memphis certificate, which warned the Craft not to have any intercourse with irregular lodges. The Board had established that Little had assisted on one occasion for twenty minutes or less 'at a Meeting held on the premises of the Craft for purposes connected with a Society not recognised by Grand Lodge', also that, on several occasions payments had been made to and received by the Clerk in question at the Grand Secretary’s office for purposes not connected with the Craft'. By and large he was whitewashed.
My brief summary of the discussions in Grand Lodge in 1871-2 omits much relating to contemporary individual attitudes to the degrees outside the Craft and Royal Arch. However, the minutes highlight the fact that, pace Bro. Cooke, during the last few years 'a great innovation had crept in', namely the introduction of so-called additional degrees. It can be inferred, too, that Little was very active in this territory.
18 .
R. W. L
ITTLE AND KENNETH MACKENZIE
In 1866, the year after he 'revived' the Knights of the Red Cross of Rome and Constantine, Little founded the Rosicrucian Society of England, now the the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia, more familiarly known as the Soc. Ros. or by its initials S.R.I.A. Unlike the 'Red Cross Order', as it was often called, it did not represent an 'additional degree'. Then, as now, it was a Masonic study group. However, it had nine grades and worked its own brief rituals. At this point I must emphasise that all my references to the Rosicrucian Society or S.R.I.A. relate to its distant past. I know little about its affairs and membership after 1914. Here I am mainly concerned with Mackenzie’s alleged participation in its origins.
Important in the context of this study is that during its early years it provided a meeting place for Master Masons who were interested in one or other variety of 'Rejected Knowledge'. In the 1870s a fair number of its members can be identified as spiritualists. A decade later Dr. W. Wynn Westcott, Dr. W. R. Woodman19 . and S. L. MacGregor Mathers - in 1887 they became the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn’s founding Chiefs - led the Society in the direction of the western Hermetic tradition, e.g. the study of the Cabbala and alchemical symbolism. In 1900 Westcott described its members as ’students of the curious and mystical lore, remaining still for investigation, as to the work and philosophy of the old Rosicrucians, Alchymists, and Mystics of past ages'.20 .
When
Madame Blavatsky settled permanently in London in 1887 a good many members joined the Theosophical Society and at least thirty were in the Golden Dawn at various times between 1887 and the early 1920s.21 . In effect, a small number of Freemasons whose interests veered in the direction of spiritualism and occultism, tended to find their way to the S.R.I.A. I cannot sufficiently emphasise that it was a small-scale affair and catered for minority interests. The average Freemason, and particularly the vast majority that did not bother to read the Masonic press, would not even have been aware that it existed.
As to the Rosicrucian Society’s foundation, the traditional story, as told by Dr. Westcott, is that Little found some old papers containing 'ritual information' at Freemasons' Hall and enlisted Mackenzie’s help.
22 . Westcott searched for these papers at Great Queen Street in 1900 but was unable to find them. It is possible that the documents were in German. If this was the case then Mackenzie, who had a first-class knowledge of that language, would have been able to translate them.23 .
Mackenzie’s help appears to have been important in another respect because, again quoting Westcott: 'Little availed himself of certain knowledge and authority which belonged to Brother Kenneth R. H. Mackenzie who had, during a stay in earlier life, been in communication with German Adepts who claimed a descent from previous generations of Rosicrucians. German Adepts had admitted him to some grades of their system, and had permitted him to attempt the foundation of a group of Rosicrucian students in England, who under the Rosicrucian name of the information that might form a partly esoteric society.'
24 . Westcott is also the source of the information that Mackenzie received his Rosicrucian initiation in Austria, 'while living with Count Apponyi as an English tutor'.25 .
Westcott’s, and by inference Little’s, acceptance of Mackenzie’s alleged authority should be noted. It does not appear necessary to take Mackenzie’s supposed Rosicrucian affiliations very seriously. Firstly, no contemporary Austrian or German 'Rosicrucian' group of which he might have been a member can be identified. Secondly, it can be established that, although he was abroad during his late teens, he was in London from early in 1851 onwards, namely at least ten months before his eighteenth birthday. It is unlikely that a mere youth would be admitted to any initiatory society, hence his own later claim to be a 'Rosicrucian adept' probably owed more to invention than truth. Waite observed, seemingly not without reason: 'On Rosicrucian subjects at least the record of Kenneth Mackenzie is one of recurring mendacity.'
26 .
Westcott did not join the Rosicrucian Society until 1880, two years after Little’s death, and there is no evidence that he ever met him. He wrote, perhaps with intentional caution: 'The share of Mackenzie in the origin of the Society depends at the present time on his letters to Dr. Woodman
27 . and Dr. Westcott, and on his personal conversations during the years 1876-86 with Dr. Westcott.'28 .
While Mackenzie may have helped Little to launch the Rosicrucian Society in 1866, he was ineligible for membership because, according to Westcott, 'he was not an English Freemason'. It is doubtful whether he had ever previously been initiated under any other Obedience. When he eventually joined Oak Lodge No. 190, in London four years later his career in Regular Freemasonry was to be surprisingly brief. His preoccupation with 'fringe'-Masonic aberrations had already begun.
Mackenzie’s letters to F.G. Irwin contain interesting information about the Rosicrucian Society’s affairs during the 1870s. I have used very little of this material, preferring to leave it to the attention of the S.R.I.A..
CAPTAIN FRANCIS GEORGE IRWIN
The man whom A.E. Waite loftily described as 'a zealous and an amiable Mason with a passion for Rites and an ambition to add to their number' possibly deserves a less patronising appraisal. He was born on 19 June 1828. Benjamin Cox mentioned the date in a letter written in September 1885 when he discussed his own and Irwin’s horoscopes. Apart from the brief biographical note in AQC 1, 1886-8, the only source of information for his early life is Robert Freke Gould’s obituary notice in AQC 6, 1893.
29 .
According to Gould he enlisted in the Royal Sappers and Miners on 8 November 1842 when he was fourteen years old. The Sappers and Miners were then N.C.O.s. for other ranks with Royal Engineer officers. Members of the Corps were employed in various capacities at the Great Exhibition in 1851 and the Lance-Corporal Francis Irwin who received a bronze medal, a certificate signed by the Prince Consort and a present of a box of drawing instruments was probably our Irwin.
30 . We next encounter him at Gibraltar in 1857. On 3 June 1857 he was initiated in the Gibraltar Lodge (also known as the Rock Lodge), No. 325, Irish Constitution. Gould, then a young subaltern in the 31st Regiment of Foot and a Master Mason of two years standing, met Sergeant Irwin, now R.E., early in 1858 when he and another sergeant requested him to ask the D.P.G.M. for permission for them to revive the defunct Inhabitants Lodge, now No. 153. The lodge was resuscitated in February 1858 with Gould as W.M. and Irwin as S.W. Gould’s regiment soon left for South Africa and Irwin succeeded him as W.M.. Gould mentioned that it was at Gibraltar that Irwin first met Lieutenant Charles Warren, R.E., who was initiated there in the Lodge of Friendship No. 278 on 30 December 1859. Gould recalled, too, that Warren had a great respect for Irwin, both as a Freemason and a soldier. Many years later Q.C. Lodge provided yet another link between these three men.31 .
Irwin appears to have remained in Gibraltar until 1862 and from there may have gone to Malta. He can next be traced at Devonport (Plymouth), where he joined the St. Aubyn Lodge No. 954 on 11 April 1865. It is likely that it was he who introduced the Knight of Constantinople degree to English Freemasonry in that year.
32 .
In 1866 Irwin moved to Bristol. He had served in the ranks for almost twenty-four years and on 7 May 1866 was appointed Adjutant of the 1st Gloucestershire Engineer Volunteer Corps with the rank of Captain. He was to remain at Bristol until his death in 1893.
When we encounter him in the first of Benjamin Cox’s letters to him in September 1868 he had been a member of the Craft for eleven years and had just been installed as the first W.M. of St. Kew Lodge No. 1222 at Weston-super-Mare, then a quiet seaside resort about fifteen miles from Bristol. In 1869 he was appointed P.J.G.W. in the Province of Somersetshire and in the same year was made an honorary member of the Loge Etoiles Réunis at Liege, Belgium. According to Gould '...there was scarcely a degree in existence, if within his range, that he did not become a member of. Indeed, he became late in life a diligent student of the French and German languages, in order that he might peruse the Masonic literature of each in the vernacular'. A number of MS. translations of French rituals, either in his own small and distinctive handwriting or transcribed for him by the indefatigable Benjamin Cox, bear witness to his knowledge of French.
The obituary published in the Bristol Times and Mirror upon his death on 26 July 1893 referred to his great interest in Freemasonry and suggested that 'he hardly occupied the position his education and abilities qualified him for'.
K. R. H. MACKENZIE - EARLY LIFE AND CAREER TO 1872
If Mackenzie is remembered at all in Masonic circles today it is as the compiler of The Royal Masonic Cyclopaedia which was published in parts by John Hogg in 1875-7. A.E. Waite’s disparaging remarks about him in his New Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry, 1921, and The Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross, 1924, had intrigued me long before I saw his letters to Irwin. When I read these documents, which revealed and yet at the same time hid so much, I sensed that it would be impossible to understand Mackenzie’s role in 'fringe' Masonry without knowing more about his early life. A brief passage in a letter to Irwin (16 March 1879) showed that something had gone wrong. 'At one time I was well off and kept my carriage and had the world at my feet so to speak .... 'he wrote. My premise was that the disappearance of the carriage and the world no longer being at his feet might have a connection, however tenuous, with his 'fringe'-Masonic interests during the 1870s and after. My search for Mackenzie’s trail now began.
Kenneth Robert Henderson Mackenzie was the son of Dr. Rowland Hill Mackenzie and his wife Gertrude. She was the sister of John Morant Hervey, Grand Secretary of the United Grand Lodge of England from August 1868 until ill-health compelled him to retire in 1879. He was born on 31 October 1833.
33 . According to the 1851 Census the birth took place at Deptford in south-east London, but no baptismal record can be found there. The Census entry also shows that his mother was about twenty years old in 1833.
By 1834 the family was at Vienna where Dr. Mackenzie, who specialised in midwifery, had a hospital appointment.
34 . He probably returned to London in 1840, although the annual membership lists ofthe Royal College of Surgeons locate him at Vienna until as late as 31 August 1842.35 . He was a general practitioner, first at 61 Berners Street (1841-3) and subsequently at 68 Mortimer Street, Cavendish Square. Hence he had a West End practice. He held an appointment as Surgeon to the Scottish Hospital and Corporation (1845-52?), and by 1845 had been twice President of the German Literary Society of London.
Kenneth Mackenzie was seven years old when his parents settled in London in 1840. Furthermore, he must have been bilingual in English and German. A passage from the Preface to his Tyll Eulenspiegel translation, published by Trubner & Co. in 1859 as The Marvellous Adventures and Rare Conceits of Master Tyll Owlglass, indicates that he read German at a very early age. 'I well remember how, as a very little boy, I made the friendship of the [book’s] lithe though clumsy hero', he wrote. In the Preface to the second edition, dated Christmas Eve 1859, he mentioned that 'it was almost the first book I ever possessed, and I remember to this day the circumstances under which it was given to me.'
My belief is that he was largely educated abroad and that the unusually wide range of cultural interests which he displayed before he was twenty cannot have been merely the result of a period spent in Count Apponyi’s employment as a tutor. (See
above.) The 1851 Census and the surprisingly erudite series of seventeen contributions to Notes and Queries in the same year indicate that he was now (aet. 17-18) back in London and the possessor of a polymathic storehouse of learning which could hardly have been acquired at any contemporary British public or grammar school.36 .
His 'A Word to the Literary Men of England' in Notes and Queries, 1 March 1851, proposed the foundation of a learned society whose task would be to rescue old manuscripts in Greek, Latin, Anglo-Saxon, Norwegian, Zend (an ancient language allied to Sanscrit), and a dozen other middle-eastern and oriental tongues. Some months later he reported that 'I have so far accomplished my purpose, as lately, while residing on the continent, and also since my return, to establish in Russia, Siberia and Tartary, Persia and Eastern Europe, stations for the search after MSS. worth attention.'
The issue of Notes and Queries for 6 September 1851 shows that at one time he was far from Austria and had visited the then remote Prussian province of Pomerania, where he discussed the reputed site of Julin with Count Keyserling, a member of a renowned Baltic landowning family.
37 . His 'Notes on Julin' contains a lengthy translation from the German which could only have been achieved by someone with a first-class knowledge of the language.
In the Preface to the second edition of his Tyll Eulenspiegel translation he mentioned that even as a child he had literary ambitions. His first important work was his translation of K. R. Lepsius, Briefe aus Aegypten, Aethiopen, etc., 1842-5, 1852, which Richard Bentley published in London in 1852 within a few months of the appearance of the original German edition.
38 . Discoveries in Egypt, Ethiopia and the Peninsula of Sinai was a remarkable performance for a nineteen year-old boy. Mackenzie’s own additional notes display an impressive knowledge of Latin, Greek and Hebrew, also a familiarity with the current scholarly literature relating to Egyptian antiquities. He was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London in January 1854, nine months before his twenty-first birthday. Membership of this distinguished learned society cannot have been normally granted to minors and it may have been given in recognition of his edition of Lepsius’s book.39 .
Mackenzie now began the career in letters which had been his ambition as a child. In 1852 he supplied the articles on Peking, America and Scandinavia for his friend the Rev. Theodore Alois Buckley’s Great Cities of the Ancient World, which was published by George Routledge. In 1853 he helped the elderly and eccentric Walter Savage Landor to prepare a new edition of his Imaginary Conversations.
40 . In the same year Routledge published his Burmah and the Burmese, yet another surprisingly mature and self-confident product. For Routledge in 1854-5 he edited translations from the German (by other hands) of Friedrich Wagner’s Schamyl and Circassia and J. W. Wolf’s Fairy Tales, Collected in the Odenwaid. Both these books reflect his erudition. His scholarly inclinations are particularly evident in his Tyll Eulenspiegel translation (1859), with its admirable bibliographical appendix.
In a letter to Irwin (9 May 1878) he mentioned that he had written ’side by side with B. Disraeli for years and learned to love his cordial frankness of heart'. The only identifiable period when he could have had a literary association with Benjamin Disraeli was when the latter was proprietor of the weekly periodical The Press. This would have been during the early 1850s. (41)
Mackenzie was already interested in the 'Rejected Knowledge' area by 1858, when he published (at his own expense) four issues of The Biological Review: A Monthly Repertory of the Science of Life (October 1858-January 1859). This periodical, which soon failed for lack of support, was particularly concerned with mesmerism’s medical applications, homoeopathy, a novelty called 'electro-dentistry', and what Mackenzie described as 'the finer Physics generally'. He was greatly interested in medical matters and like so many occultists, then as now, dabbled with fringe medicine and mesmerism.
42 .
In December 1861 (aet. 28) he was in Paris and visited
Eliphas Lévi (i.e. the Abbé Alphonse-Louis Constant, 1810-75), the author of Dogme et rituel de la haute magie, 1856, and already renowned as an authority on Magic. When Mackenzie returned to London he immediately dictated an account of his two meetings with the Magus to Frederick Hockley, then his close friend and mentor in occultism.(43) According to Lévi’s unpublished correspondence, quoted by his biographer Paul Chacornac, he found Mackenzie very intelligent but excessively involved with Magic and spiritualism.44 .
Until recently I supposed that Mackenzie’s trip to Paris in 1861 was undertaken solely for the purpose of sitting at Eliphas Lévi’s feet, but there may have been another reason. His father had moved to Paris in 1857-8 and apparently never returned to London.
45 .
So far I have discovered nothing edited, translated or written by Mackenzie between 1859 and 1870, when James Hogg, & Son published his translation of J.G.L. Hesekiel’s The Life Of Bismarck. To all intents and purposes he seems to have gone underground. However, we do not entirely lose track of him, although biographical information which has no connection with Freemasonry, 'fringe' or regular, must be relegated to a footnote.
46 .
When Mackenzie’s account of his two meetings with Eliphas Lévi in December 1861 was published with minor alterations in the April 1873 issue of The Rosicrucian, he mentioned that 'these hasty notes of my conversations might never have been recorded at all had it not been for the patience with which an equally profound occult student in this country, Bro. F. Hockley, P.G.S., recorded them at my dictation, a very few days after the interviews had taken place.'
Frederick Hockley (1808-85), an accountant by profession, was well known in circles which cultivated 'Rejected Knowledge'. He was about twenty-five years older than Mackenzie, who probably first met him when he was editing the Biological Review in 1858-9. Apart from his scrying experiments with crystals and so-called 'Magic Mirrors', which were used to induce trance states, he was a diligent copyist of old magical manuscripts.
47 . He became a Freemason rather late in life in 1864 (aet. 56), but his career in the Craft was not without distinction.48 . He was also Mackenzie’s guru in occult matters. The time came, however, when his pupil became tiresome. His letter to Irwin of 23 March 1873 explains why Mackenzie’s career had gone to seed, hence why he no longer had his carriage and the world at his feet. Hockley wrote:
I have the utmost reluctance even to refer to Mr. Kenneth Mackenzie. I made his acquaintance about 15 or 16 years since. I found him then a very young man who having been educated in Germany possessed a thorough knowledge of German and French and his translations having been highly praised by the press, exceedingly desirous of investigating the Occult Sciences, and when sober one of the most companiable persons I ever met. Unfortunately his intemperate habits compelled me three different times to break off our friendship after 6 or 7 years endurance and since then he has once so grossly insulted me in a letter than I cannot possibly hold any communication with him. I regret this the more on a/c of his mother who is a most estimable lady and his uncle our esteemed Grand Secretary Bro. Hervey who has long favoured me with his acquaintance ... I saw in the last issue of The Freemason his marriage announced. I sincerely hope it will be the turning flood.49 . Of course Mr. M.’s information is only derived from his intimate knowledge of French and German, and when you have mastered that difficulty, a vastly enlarged field of occult science will furnish you with Original matter, as well as others ... I do not know Mr. M.’s address but a letter thro' Bro. Kenning would doubtless reach him.
Mackenzie at long last became a Freemason in 1870 when he was in his thirty-eighth year. One might have expected that his uncle John Hervey would have proposed him in one of his own lodges, but this was not the case The minute book of Oak Lodge No. 190 reveals that on 19 January 1870 he was proposed by the W.M., Bro. H. W. Hemsworth and seconded by Bro. John Hogg ('acting Sec'.) for initiation at the next regular meeting at Freemasons' Hall on 16 February.50 . He was not present on 16 February but was ballotted for and Initiated at an Emergency Meeting on 9 March. (According to the minute book he was an author and resided at Tavistock Place. This was also John Harvey’s address at the time.) He was Passed on 20 April and Raised on 18 May. He attended the lodge’s next meeting on 16 November and that was the last that the Oak Lodge brethren saw of him. On 18 January 1871 the W.M. read a letter from Mackenzie in which he stated that he wished to resign. The minutes record that his resignation would be accepted 'after payment of his fees in full'.
Thereafter his interest in Craft Freemasonry appears to have been nil. His letters to Irwin contain only one reference to a visit to a Craft lodge. Now a Master Mason he did not even apply for membership of the Rosicrucian Society, which he had supposedly helped to establish. It was no doubt R. W. Little who persuaded him to accept honorary membership and he was admitted to the Society’s first or Zelator grade on 17 October 1872. (John Hervey was made an honorary member in October 1870.)
When Mackenzie deigned to appear in Rosicrucian circles he had recently married Alexandrina Aydon, aged twenty-three and fifteen years his junior. She was the daughter of Enoch Harrison Aydon, a civil engineer and member of the Craft, of 2 Axmouth Villas, Cambridge Road, Chiswick. The ceremony was performed at the Brentford register office on 17 June 1872. He and his wife installed themselves at Oxford House, Chiswick Mall, whether in rented rooms or as sole occupiers is uncertain. Furthermore, as we will learn in due course, his drinking habits were now strictly temperate.
BENJAMIN COX AND THE FRATRES LUCIS
Benjamin Cox, F.G. Irwin’s fidus Achates, was born on 28 May 1828. When St. Kew Lodge No. 1222 was consecrated at the Assembly Rooms at Weston-super-Mare on 7 July 1868 - Irwin was its first W.M. - he was forty years of age and Chief Accountant of the local Board of Health at an annual salary of £180. He was later promoted to Town Accountant (Borough Treasurer).
51 .
Cox quickly ascended the Masonic ladder. At an Emergency Meeting of St. Kew Lodge held on 16 July 1868 he was ballotted for, initiated and forthwith invested with the Secretary’s collar and jewel. Ignorant of the finer points of Masonic etiquette he soon turned to Irwin for advice. On 16 September he wrote:
A member [i.e. Cox himself] having paid all dues and passed to F.C. can he propose a candidate for Freemasonry or do [sic] that privilege belong exclusively to M.M.’s [?]. I have purchased of Bro. Breamer ... a M.M.’s apron. I suppose as a F.C. I can wear such apron in a Lodge if I cover the rosette[s] on the flap until I am raised. I must apologise for so many questions wishing to act truly Masonic in all things.
Masonic activities were soon in full swing at Weston-super-Mare. On 27 October 1868 Cox suggested to Irwin that 'if we intend to work Craft, Mark and 2 Chivalric Orders it will occupy the whole of the first Wednesday of every month ... only one sum being paid for the whole day it will be cheaper for us while we retain the present rooms to work any of the Orders on that day.' The inference is that Cox was already a Mark Mason and had joined two Chivalric Orders. One of them must have been the recently established Rose and Lily Conclave No. 10 of the Red Cross of Rome and Constantine.
In April 1869 Irwin received permission to form a Bristol College of the Rosicrucian Society. Membership was to be restricted to twelve including himself as Chief Adept. Cox, now indispensable for such duties, was its Secretary. There was a snag in the person of Bro. Major General Gore Boland Munbee, Indian Army (retired), who brought a breath of Poona, where he had been a member of Lodge Orion in the West, No. 415, to placid Weston-super-Mare. The General succeeded Irwin as W.M. of St. Kew Lodge in 1870 and Cox found him difficult. W. Bro. Munbee was a member of the Bristol College and about to become its Celebrant, an office corresponding to the W.M. of a Craft lodge. Cox wrote to Irwin on 19 December 1870:
I will do everything in my power to help work the College (Rosic.) with any member you like to appoint Celebrant except Bro. Munbee. I have fully made up my mind never to accept another office under him (Masonically). I should have resigned some which I at present hold, had not members pressed me not to do so... I do not fall out with the General because I can control my temper, yet sometimes the remarks he makes is [sic] as bitter as wormwood.
If the General was a tartar, there were compensations. Cox was appointed a Provincial Grand Steward on 16 September 1869 and was soon to lay the foundations of his unusually large collection of additional degrees. However, his letter of 31 December 1870 reveals little enthusiasm for the latest novelty. 'I see that Bro. Little has at last got hold of authority to work the Rite of Misraim', he observed. 'What next? Good heavens 99 ° to work and then be entitled to write [sign?] Sir Knt. "Bellowsblower". This will beat Bro. Parfitt’s "Rosi Crucis" by a long way.'
52 .
By 27 February 1871 Cox was less contemptuous. Furthermore, he had a few pressing favours to ask. He wrote, somewhat breathlessly:
Now I want you Bro. Irwin while in London to get permission to give me the Order of Misraim [i.e. by communication]. Bro. [Dr. W. R.] Woodman has offered to give it to me any time when I am in London which I expect I will be there on a fortnight’s official duty very shortly, but I would much rather that you gave it to me because every Order which I have taken has been given by you (except sovereign R. Cross) if possible please get permission to give me the 66 ° I will pay for the dispensation for same if one is required. I suppose it would not be possible for you to get Bro. Little to give me, through you a minor official Grand Council collar at this meeting. I do not care so much for the honour but I want to let Bro. [Major-General] Munbee see that I have friends [underlined three times] elsewhere, and I am quite certain that you can get me a Gd Ark Mariners collar from Bro. Edwards ... I should very much like to receive the Order of the Kt. of Holy Sepulchre [an appendant of the Red Cross of Rome and Constantine], however I am quite certain my interests will not be lost sight of by you.
The letter ends with an allusion to Cox’s belief in astrology. Within the past week he had given 'true judgments' in every case out of the five submitted to him. '4 of the parties I never saw or did not know of their existence until informed so...' He had recently acquired a crystal and on 6 February 1871 wrote: 'I expect full instructions for working the Crystal (which I have by me) this day from Mr. Cross.
53 . You seem undecided as to believing in occult science. I have not a shadow of doubt in the matter.'
During the summer and autumn of 1873 Cox’s letters to Irwin contain allusions to the Ritual of the Knight of the Hermetic Cross. Irwin was translating it, probably from the French, and Cox offered to make a fair copy. He asked on 28 August if it had any connection with John Yarker’s Antient and Primitive Rite of Masonry and on 1 October if it was part of Yarker’s Rite of Memphis.
54 . Irwin did not satisfy his curiosity.
By 23 February 1874 Irwin must have already vaguely hinted at the existence of a very secret affair called the Order of the Brothers of [left and implied that Cox might be allowed to join it. Thus when Cox wrote to Irwin on that day he proclaimed that
... the one desire of my heart is to become a member of some Order wherein I may learn the mysteries of nature and truth so that I may not only benefit myself but that of [sc. also] my fellow men. I have, as you know, ever considered the knowledge of occult science the one sure and safe means whereby we can obtain truth and wisdom.
I will be glad by your proposing me a member of the 'Order of the Brothers of [left and will gladly pay the yearly sum you have named, also pledge myself to my promise or O.B. under your guidance.
Cox appears to have supposed that the Order of the Brothers of [left was Masonic because he added: 'I have sent you on a separate paper a few of the degrees which I have taken in masonry and which you can vouch for as correct.'
55 . Above the list of degrees someone wrote 'Useless'. The handwriting does not appear to be Irwin’s. On 9 March 1874 Cox wrote to Irwin to express his pleasure that he had been accepted as a candidate for the Order of [left. By 28 March he was aware that Order was known as the Frates Lucis. Furthermore he knew that Irwin had recently been in Paris and had allegedly met members of the Order there. He wrote: 'I am very glad to hear that you met with such a warm reception from members of the Order in Paris.' 56 . The weeks passed by and the impatient Bro. Cox still knew little or nothing about the Order except its name. Indeed, at one moment he feared that his candidature had been rejected. He wrote to Irwin on 13 July:
By mid day train I sent you MS. of Knt. of Hermetic Cross, &c.... I want to ask 3 questions: viz. 1. Is the Knt of Hermetic Cross and the Fratres Lucis Order one and the same? 2. Is there any member of the Fratres Lucis now living in Bath? Is it true that Bro. Bird [a member of St. Kew Lodge who dabbled with astrology] and myself have been rejected by the Fratres as unsuitable for the Order?
Irwin replied on 14 July:
TO ASPIRANTS ONLY - Strictly Confidential
1. Is the Knt of Hermetic Cross and the Fratres Lucis Order one and the same? NO!!! It may have had some connection with it as had the Rites of Cagliostro,
Swedenborg, etc.
2. Is there any member of the Fratres Lucis now living in Bath? There is no member of the English Temple now living in Bath... if a member of any Foreign Temple came to England I would be advised, for there were only twenty-seven members five years ago so not much difficulty in learning the whereabouts of each Bro. as we are bound to keep our immediate Chiefs posted up in all our movements.
3. Is it true that Bro. Bird and myself have been rejected by the Fratres as not being considered fitting candidates for the Order of [left? It is not true!!! Something about the Order has been communicated to Mr. Robert Cross [the astrologer who supplied Cox’s crystal - see above]. My attention was called to it and an explanation is required.
Cox’s letter of 27 July 1874 was apologetic: '...you shall never have cause again (for I will never speak of it again to any one except yourself) to correct my indiscretion,' he wrote. Irwin continued to keep him waiting. On 17 November Cox wrote: 'I am glad there is a prospect of my receiving the first grade of the [left as I am anxious to know more of its true principles and real value.' A sentence in an undated letter from Irwin to Cox reads: 'The [left shall be given you but twill be a Great favour [both words underlined three times]. I must at any cost keep my word.' The 'great favour' was granted in January 1875.
In Grand Lodge Library there is a manuscript copy in Irwin’s handwriting of the 'Ritual of Fratris [sic] Lucis or Brethren of the Cross of Light'. It is prefaced by a traditional 'history' which begins:
In Florence there now exists, and has existed for a great number of years a body of men who possess some of the most extraordinary secrets, that ever man has known. Cagliostro learned from them some of the most wonderful secrets in Magic and Chymistry, they converse with those who have crossed the river.
The members of this society are bound by a solemn oath to meet once a year, whether they are living or have passed the boundary. They are ruled by an officer, styled Supreme and Sublime Magus ... The brethren take Hebrew names. There are branches of the order in Rome, Paris and Vienna. Vaughan (Dr.), Fludd, Count St. Germain, Count Cagliostro, Mesmer, Swedenborg and Martinez de Pasquales were members of the order as also Schussler.
They have made animal magnetism their chief study and have carried it nearly to perfection. It was through being a member of this society that Mesmer practised his healing power and founded his Mesmeric Lodge on the principles of the Order.
Swedenborg derived his Rite from the same source, and from it Count Cagliostro derived the knowledge that enabled him to found the Egyptian Order; those three Rites represent three of the four grades into which this society is divided.
When I read this delightful nonsense I recalled two little duodecimo notebooks containing a record of Irwin’s spiritualist or scrying seances during the years 1872-3. His most interesting communicator was none other than Cagliostro, in his day a notable exponent of 'fringe' Masonry.
On Sunday 19 (month omitted) 1873 Cagliostro told him that 'the Crystal you have will be of little use. It is charged with an antagonistic principle.' Cagliostro came again on 29 October 1873: 'I am afraid that at present I cannot give (u) anything to be continuous.' Thereafter, between 31 October and 9 November Cagliostro communicated on four separate occasions and, according to Irwin’s ’spiritual Journal', dictated almost word for word the substance of the 'historical introduction' to the Fratres Lucis ritual which I have quoted above.
The manuscript which Irwin chose to call a ritual merely consists of the notes for his scheme for a secret society of occultists. Under the heading 'Ceremony' we only learn that the 'Aspirant is conducted to a kind of labyrinth', and in due course 'invested with the Cross of gold [left and enjoined to fit himself for that state of mind of which it is the emblem'. It is uncertain whether Irwin, in his imagination, intended to restrict membership of the brotherhood to Master Masons or their discarnate spirits - one must not forget that according to Cagliostro’s utterings membership continued after death! The information below has been slightly condensed from his notes, and is not presented in its original sequence.
'Only 81 members are permitted to belong to the first grade connected with the Empire of Great Britain ... In the first degree the number of officers is nine.
'There is now an annual fee of one guinea required. The Induction fee for England is not yet settled.
'The fee for Initiation is made high for the purpose of deterring persons from being initiated out of mere curiosity. Half the fee to be devoted to charitable purposes, and the other half to the formation of a library. Meetings take place four times a year. The obligatory meeting is in the month of June. At this the Brethren are pledged to be present in body or in spirit.
'The aspirant is kept one year on probation ... during the term of probation the aspirants are obliged to appear at all meetings enveloped in a black mantle.
'The society is pledged to study the following subjects. Natural Magic - Mesmerism -The Science of Death and of Life - Immortality - The Cabala - Alchemy - Necromancy - Astrology - and Magic in all its branches.
'Annual dinner - cost 4s. The fare to consist of Bread, Butter, Cheese, Confectionery, fruits and wine. The surplus money to be added to the charitable fund.
This document, however nonsensical, is important because it throws so much light on Irwin’s character. Hidden within the disciplined professional soldier - furthermore one who had served for years in the Royal Engineers, a Corps whose functions are nothing if not practical - we encounter a personality in which reality and fantasy must always have been in some kind of conflict.
Irwin’s Fratres Lucis must have been a very modest affair, meaning that a handful of occultists, probably all Freemasons who were well known to Irwin, became members. It is inconceivable, too, that it was an international fraternity. It is difficult to believe that there were 'twenty-seven members five years ago', as Irwin claimed in his letter to Cox of 14 July 1874. This would have been four years before 'Cagliostro', who was the product of Irwin’s subconscious mind, gave him the idea for the Order. In fact, apart from Irwin I have only been able to identify three other members, although there may have been a few more.
We know about Cox’s intense desire to be admitted to the select circle. On 9 January 1875 he announced his intention of coming to Bristol, bringing with him an 'old Latin Bible for Ob[ligation]'. Irwin was in no hurry to confer membership upon Mackenzie, perhaps because he feared that he would get drunk at the annual dinner at which, as we know, the 'Festive Board' was nothing if not frugal. On 20 September 1875 Mackenzie wrote reassuringly: 'I never drink spirits or wine if I can avoid them - only fourpenny ale,' and some months later on 4 February 1876: 'As to Fratres Lucis I shall indeed be obliged for the article and should also be glad to be a member of the Brotherhood. I think you may trust me as to temperance as I drink nothing but tea, coffee and very small ale and not much of that - rarely wine - and never spirits - nor have I done the latter since my marriage more than four years ago.' When Frederick Hockley died in November 1885, Cox observed: '... there is now one member less of the Order of [left.' He seems to have implied that few were now left. Almost exactly two years later Westcott was busy launching the Order of the Golden Dawn, which had a far greater vitality - one might say élan - than the Fratres Lucis ever achieved. 57 .
KENNETH MACKENZIE AND THE ROSICRUCIAN SOCIETY
The Rosicrucian Society’s members experienced a more than usually entertaining evening on 24 April 1873 when Mackenzie, who had recently become an honorary member, read a paper describing his visit to Eliphas Lévi in December 1861. To commemorate the event the Society thereupon elected Lévi as an Honorary Foreign Member. Mackenzie’s text was forthwith published in The Rosicrucian. This version is the same as the MS. one (see
above) with one important exception. In the latter Mackenzie recalled that Lévi 'mentioned Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton as a gentleman of versatile talents, but of little real knowledge in relation to the Cabala'. This was now amended to read: '... he rendered a tribute to the versatile knowledge of Lord, then Sir Bulwer-Lytton, and returned to his favourite topic, the Cabbala upon which he dwelt with emphasis.'
Lord Lytton’s connection with the Rosicrucian Society was an involuntary one. On 14 July 1870 R.W. Little proposed 'that the Rt. Hon. Lord Lytton be elected an Hon. Member of this Society and be requested to accept the office of Grand Patron of the Order'.
A candidate for election to the Society had to be a Master Mason. There is no evidence that Lytton was then or ever had been a member of the Craft. Either Little had not bothered to enquire or supposed that, whether or not Lytton was a Freemason, he had received a genuine Rosicrucian initiation and was therefore eligible for honorary membership. In his pamphlet Data of the History of the Rosicrucians, 1916, Westcott wrote: 'In 1850 the very old Rosicrucian Lodge at Frankfort-on-the-Main fell into abeyance; in this Lodge the first Lord Lytton was received into the Adeptship and became imbued with the ideas he displayed in his novel "Zanoni" and other works' (p. 8). Nothing whatever is known about this Lodge.
However, Lytton’s name did not appear as Grand Patron in The Rosicrucian until July 1872. Nobody informed him of the honour that had been bestowed upon him. Indeed, he does not appear to have known about it until the end of 1872 when, on 16 December, he wrote a letter of complaint to John Yarker. It is impossible to suggest why his Lordship should have written to Yarker, who was merely a leading member of the Society’s Manchester College, which was founded early in 1871. Yarker, whose letters are notable for their acerbity, despatched an uncharacteristically apologetic reply on 16 December.58 . Lytton conveniently died on 18 January 1873 and the Society lost its involuntary Grand Patron.
Mackenzie now became a regular contributor to The Rosicruician. Hitherto its editorial contents had been almost unbelievably dull, and with the exception of his Eliphas Lévi piece Mackenzie’s articles were no better. One would never suppose that they could have been written by the 'bright young man' that Mackenzie represented during the early 1850s.
59 . He was appointed the Society’s Assistant Secretary General on 8 January 1874. His correspondence with Irwin began ten months later and in the very first of his letters (12 October 1874) he wrote- 'I certainly have the lightest duties that ever fell to the lot of an Assistant Secretary as Dr. W[oodman] does all the work and I only write papers of more or less general interest.'
In the spring of 1875 the Society’s affairs were in a state of mild confusion. R.W. Little was threatening to resign and Dr. Woodman was living at Exeter and too far away to be able to intervene effectively. As for Little (according to Mackenzie on 9 April 1875): '... he has so many irons in the fire it is impossible for him to keep them all right. If he would take things more coolly and not waste so much of his time in the Refreshment Room at Freemasons' Hall it would be better.'
60 .
Mackenzie’s letter of 9 April 1875 indicates that he was now aware that Frederick Hockley, his erstwhile friend and mentor, had been proposed as a joining member of the Society’s Metropolitan College. Hockley, who lived in London, had been a member of Irwin’s Bristol College since January 1872. Quite recently Mackenzie had asked Irwin to approach Hockley on his behalf; thus on 23 October 1874 he wrote: 'Can you be a peacemaker between us? I am willing to do or say anything to that purpose.' Hockley offered no olive branch. Embarrassed at the prospect of being publicly snubbed by Hockley at the Metropolitan College’s meetings, and irritated by Little’s vagaries, his letter of resignation from the Society was read at its Quarterly Convocation on 30 April 1875.
Six years later in a letter to Westcott (24 March 1881) Mackenzie emphasised that his former fellow-members could scarcely be considered as genuine Rosicrucians while he, of course, could claim that distinction. This document illustrates Mackenzie’s occasionally paranoid temperament.
... I have always held aloof from the English Society of late years. I possess the real degrees but I may not by my tenure give them to any one in the world without a long and severe probation to which few would consent to submit.
61 . It has taken me a quarter of a century to obtain them and the whole of the degrees are different to anything known to the Rosi. Society of England - those few who have these degrees dare not communicate them.' Read H[argrave] Jennings again 62 . and [Bulwer-Lytton’s] Zanoni. 63 . Even Lytton who knew so much was only a Neophyte and could not reply when I tested him. How then could Little claim that he had them [i.e. the degrees]? I know how many real Rosicrucians there are in the islands.
When Mackenzie resigned from the Rosicrucian Society in the spring of 1875 he was busy writing the first fascicule of his Royal Masonic Cyclopaedia, a book whose current price in the antiquarian market is out of all proportion to its value as a work of reference.
MACKENZIE’s ROYAL MASONIC CYCLOPAEDIA
The first edition of Albert Mackey’s massive Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry was published in the U.S.A. early in 1874. The Rev. A.F.A. Woodford reviewed the book in The Masonic Mirror in May (Vol. 1, No.ii), hence copies were circulating in this country by 12 October, when Mackenzie wrote in the first of his letters to Irwin: 'I am engaged in preparing a new Masonic Cyclopaedia, of which you shall hear more ere long.' It is likely that it was Mackey’s book which gave Mackenzie and John Hogg, his prospective publisher, the idea for a less compendious work for the British market.
According to a prospectus issued in October 1874 the book was to be issued in ’six Half Crown Parts, of 128 pages each' and publication was scheduled to begin early in 1875. Mackenzie hoped to receive permission to dedicate the work to the Prince of Wales (letter to Irwin, 29 January 1875) but when the 'pretims' for the bound volume were printed in 1877 it was his uncle, John Hervey, who was accorded this token of respect.
It is unnecessary to discuss the Cyclopaedia’s contents at any great length. There was a wholesale process of pillage from Mackey, whose articles were condensed and paraphrased. The prospectus mentioned his indebtedness to other Masonic authors, although he did not specify the titles of their books.
64 . In some respects the most interesting articles are those in which Mackenzie displayed his inventive ability. Among the best examples, are 'The Hermetic Order of Egypt' and 'The Rite of Ishmael', which will be mentioned again later. The story of his quest for information for his piece about Cagliostro reflects his ’scholarly' approach.
It will be recalled that in 1873 Irwin supposed that he was in touch with the departed spirit of Cagliostro. In August 1875 it occurred to Mackenzie to apply to Cagliostro, through Irwin, for authentic biographical material. Thus on 29 August he wrote:
I have a request to make to you which may seem odd, but it is not inappropriate. I have understood that you are in communication with a Spt calling himself Cagliostro. Now I am very anxious in the article I am writing concerning Joseph Balsamo, to bear very much more lightly upon him than Carlyle, the Freemasons generally and the Papalini have done ... If your spirit friend would condescend to take an interest in the matter, not as a publicly avowed spiritualistic matter, but simply by way of correction or hints it would be very valuable. I cannot in the present state of my wife’s health institute spiritual seances just now.65 .
The article was completed by 17 September 1875 and Mackenzie hoped that Irwin would read it to Cagliostro. 'Re Cagliostro article,' he wrote. 'Of course I cannot say that the Count himself is to see this, but I much want him to do so.'
Mackenzie corrected the last of the Cyclopaedia proofs early in 1877. He wrote to Irwin on 20 January: 'The Cyclo is finished. I have nothing particular to do and feel like a fish out of water. I think I shall take up my unfinished work on Railway Springs and the Theory of the Spring in general and get it out.' He told Cox on 28 January that 'it is a purely practical work of an engineering character with tables of formulae and differential calculus etc.' He completed the manuscript by 26 February. The book does not appear to have been published.
The Cyclopaedia was never critically reviewed in the British Masonic press. Brief paragraphs were printed in The Freemason and The Freemasons' Chronicle from time to time throughout 1875-7 but these contained little more than the view that it was a 'wonderful undertaking of benefit to all Masons' etc. etc. G.J. Findel, the editor of the German Masonic periodical Die Bauhiitte reviewed the first three fascicules early in 1876 and was content to ignore the later ones.
66 . His respect for Mackenzie’s performance was minimal, although the book had one redeeming feature: 'It is better than similar books in English that have come our way,' Findel wrote. As for Mackenzie: 'The author is a High-grade Mason (IX degree), hence his predilection for aberrations and mystical rubbish generally ...' 67 . Findel’s praise was reserved for Kenning’s Masonic Cyclopaedia and Handbook of Archaeology, edited by the Rev. A.F.A. Woodford, which was published in 1878. Unlike Mackenzie he publicly acknowledged his debt to Findel. This tactful gesture did not pass unnoticed. 68 .
THE HERMETIC ORDER OF EGYPT
Mackenzie briefly referred to the Hermetic Order of Egypt in the April 1874 issue of The Rosicrucian on p. 109: 'The Hermetic Order of Egypt is one of a very exclusive character,' he wrote. 'I have only met with six individuals who possessed it and of these two were Germans, two Frenchmen and two of other nations.' Irwin was in Paris during the autumn of 1874 and visited Eliphas Lévi. Unfortunately he forgot to ask Lévi about the Order. When he returned to Bristol he applied to Mackenzie for information. Mackenzie replied on 23 October and was evasive. 'I can give you very little information about the Hermetic Order of Egypt. Constant [i.e. Lévi] could have given you far more than I could - he was one of my preceptors.'
69 .
However, what could not be disclosed to Irwin was revealed at some length in the Cyclopaedia where the Order was described as the Hermetic Brothers of Egypt and as
an occult fraternity which has endured from very ancient times, having a hierarchy of officers, secret signs and passwords, and a peculiar method of instruction in science, moral philosophy and religion. The body is never very numerous, and if we may believe those who at the present time profess to belong to it, the philosopher’s stone, the elixir of life, the art of invisibility, and the power of communication with the ultramundane life, are part of the inheritance they possess.
By the time the Cyclopaedia article was written the number of the Order’s members had been reduced to three. Mackenzie’s further 'information' about the Brotherhood is of considerable interest because here may be found echoes of the original legend of the Rosicrucian Brotherhood as published in the Fama Fraternitatis R.C. at Cassel in 1614. He did not claim that the Order had any Masonic affiliations but then, after all, he had somehow to fill more than seven hundred pages. The Cyclopaedia article continues:
The writer has met with only three persons who maintained the actual existence of this body of religious philosophers, and who hinted that they themselves were actually members. There was no reason to doubt the good faith of these individuals - apparently unknown to each other, and men of moderate competence, blameless lives, austere manners, and almost ascetic in their habits. They all appeared to be men of forty to forty-five years of age, and evidently of vast erudition. Their conversation was simple and unaffected, and their knowledge of languages not doubted.
So far this might be a portrait of Mackenzie as he currently saw himself. He was then about forty-two years of age. He continued:
They cheerfully answered questions, but appeared not to court enquiries. They never remained long in one country, but passed away without creating notice, or wishing for undue respect to be paid to them. To their former lives they never referred, and, when speaking of the past, seemed to say what they had to say with an air of authority, and an appearance of an intimate personal knowledge of all circumstances. They courted no publicity, and, in any communications with them, uniformly treated the subjects under discussion as very familiar things, although to be treated with a species of reverence not always found among occult professors.
THE ORDER OF ISHMAEL
According to John Yarker’s article on 'Arab Masonry' in AQC 19, P. 243, 'in 1872 the late Bro. Mackenzie organised the "Order of Ishmael" of 36 degrees, the basis of which, he informed me, he had from an Arab in Paris'. The introduction of a mysterious Arab is so typical of Mackenzie that no further comment is necessary. According to Mackenzie’s Cyclopaedia the Order of Ishmael, or of Esau and Reconciliation, had eighteen degrees divided into four classes.
The government of the Order is vested in three supreme and equal powers, respectively known as Patriarch, Priest and King. The consent of all three must be obtained before the admission of any candidate. The postulant must be of mature age, of good breeding and education, and must not be a Roman Catholic ... It is not necessary, on the continent, that he should be a Freemason, but if so, many secrets are given to him not otherwise disclosed. Until very recent years there was a political section to the Order, but this has been altogether suppressed, and objects for which the Order exists consist of mutual aid, instruction, and ceneral enlightenment. The Chiefs of the Order reside habitually in the East, and two of the three chiefs must always be east of Jerusalem. Branches of this Order, under Arch-Chancellors, exist in Russia, Turkey, Greece, Austria, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, France, Spain, Portugal, Africa, and the United Kingdom.
Thus we encounter an Order with Secret Chiefs - a typical Mackenzie elaboration - and busy in a dozen countries but unknown to the Masonic world until Mackenzie’s revelations were published in the Cyclopaedia. It seems, however, that the Order had no ritual until Mackenzie obliged by furnishing one. According to Yarker, it was 'far too lengthy for general practice' and MS. copies were so costly that nobody wanted to pay for them.
70 .
Letters written by Mackenzie to Irwin late in 1874 indicate that the Grand Patron’s representative (i.e. Mackenzie) hoped that Irwin would become a member.
[23 October 1874]. As to the Rite of Ishmael, presuming you to have taken the degree of Rose Croix, you would then begin to have glimmerings of it ... The Rite has existed side by side with Freemasonry for thousands of years and forms a completion by working back to the Entered Appr: degree ... The ceremonies are of a most august nature and teach the invariability of God, His Providence, and the instability of Man.
[7 November 1874]. As to the Order of Ishmael I will do what I can within the next few months but it is impossible to move in the matter until the spring - annual meetings only take place and properly speaking on the first of May. I may however as well inform you that I hold an official position in that body for England, and of course will be glad to forward your views ... In your admission your Masonic rank will receive due recognition.
[6 December 1874]- We will talk about the Order of Ishmael when we meet - several things have to be considered before the Ob[ligation] can be given, as portions of the Koran have to be taken as of authority. As however Saladin gave the rite to Coeur de Lion we have good precedent for the admission of Christians.
Irwin may have been admitted to the Order in June 1875.
71 .
On 29 August 1875 Mackenzie explained that 'the Ishmaelite degree can only be given personally - it is impossible for anyone to understand it otherwise - and it opens a field to all who embrace its sublime teachings - to me it has ever seemed the highest point and completion of Masonry, altho' it does not start from the same basis.'
Benjamin Cox was another potential recruit. On 21 November 1875 he wrote: 'I do not think I shall go to London next week - if I do so it will be to see Mackenzie to receive the Order of Ishmael which he promised to give me if I came to London.' He had not joined by 13 January 1877 when he remarked to Irwin: 'I am very glad that you're in communication with some other person than Mackenzie about the Rite of Ishmael as Bro. M. has always [made] such a fuss about the Order.'
With customers few and far between, the Order of Ishmael remained in more or less cold storage until John Yarker inherited it after Mackenzie’s death in 1886.
KENNETH MACKENZIE - DOMESTIC AFFAIRS, 1875-83
Before dealing with Mackenzie’s fringe-Masonic preoccupations during the late 1870s - one of them, the Royal Oriental Order of the Sat B'hai, was by far the most ludicrous promotion of the period - some brief information about his domestic life is necessary. His sources of income are unknown but he probably made a very modest living, from miscellaneous journalism. The Cyclopaedia did not benefit him financially.
On 13 August 1875, when he was busy writing the first fascicules, he optimistically mentioned to Irwin that 'when this book is finished, I shall, very likely, run over to Canada. My father in law Harrison Aydon is carrying all before him and I am in correspondence with my cousin Alexander Mackenzie the Premier [of Canada].' This statement led me up a long genealogical blind alley because no relationship of any kind could be established. Perhaps for Mackenzie any namesake was a 'cousin' and the Premier of Canada a more than usually impressive one.
72 .If Harrison Aydon returned to London with his pockets lined with gold, neither Mackenzie nor his wife appear to havc benefited.
During 1876 the Mackenzies moved from Chiswick to a more modest address: 2 Mark Cottages, Staines Road, Hounslow. Whether or not he could afford an occasional bet, it pleased him to forecast the winners of the classic turf events.
73 .
By August 1877 they had left 2 Mark Cottages and were at 1 Flint Villas, Wellington Road, Hounslow. 'We have a carpenter’s shop next door in full work from 1/4 past 4 in the morning and shall leave when I find another house,' he wrote. They endured the noise until November 1880 when they moved to a quieter house in the same road. They were next (1882-3) at 23 Ryder Terrace, Twickenham.
His uncle John Hervey died on 2 July 1880. 'He has been more of a father to me than my own father,' he told Irwin a few months carlier when Hervey would obviously not survive for long. Hervey left about 4,000 pounds. His sister (Mackenzie’s mother) was left a life interest after a few modest legacies had been paid and Mackenzie and a cousin were the residuary legatees in moiety. Hervey’s estate was not settled until September 1883.
At about this time Mackenzie acquired an eighty-six years lease of a house in Twickenham for 400 pounds. He told Irwin that the purchase had been made under good astrological aspects and that the bank had lent him part of the money. On 25 October 1885, however, he informed Irwin that his financial prospects were dismal. 'When my mother dies ... I and my wife will just have 35 pounds per annum to live on, and what I precariously earn. The Freemasons have never done a thing for me, though I have done much for Masonry, and I don't expect they ever will ... I never hear of [Dr. W.R.] Woodman for he deserted me when he found I was not my uncle’s heir, nor have I seen him since the day of the funeral of my uncle.'
During this period there was one redeeming feature. Frederick Hockley had agreed to a reconciliation and in November 1878 invited him to a meeting of Grand Stewards' Lodge.
THE OOYAL ORIENTAL ORDER OF THESAT B'HAI
The Order of the Sat B'hai was not Mackenzie’s invention, still less Irwin’s, although Mackenzie had a hand in the inflation of this comic pseudo-Masonic balloon, which rose a few feet into the air, wobbled briefly and then quietly collapsed without the average member of the Craft knowing that the thing had ever existed.
The Sat B'hai’s advent was obscurely heralded in a letter signed 'Historicus' which was published in The Freemason on 14 January 1871. The prose style is not unlike Mackenzie’s. If so, he was unaware that his misinformation referred to the 'rite' which was to occupy so much of his time a few years later.
A brother informs us that a 34 ° of this rite is in existence called the 'Apex', thus corresponding with the 90 ° of the Ancient and Primitive Rite of Misraim. There are only three holders of the 'Apex' in the whole world, who exist by the succession of triplicate warrants from Frederick the Great of Prussia, signed immediately after the Grand Constitutions. The symbols are the cord and the dagger; the ceremonials are very august, 74 . and detail the legendary history and object of the degree, which is to draw the funds and energies of all the councils of the world to one great centre. Grave purposes are said to be in view, but whether such is the expulsion of the Turks from Constantinople, or the establishment of a single empire either on the Continent or in America, is not known.
A letter correcting the inaccuracies perpetrated by 'Historicus' appeared about a month later in The Freemason of 18 February 1871. Whoever wrote it knew the substance of the Sat B'hai or Apex legend much in the form in which it was subsequently developed.
THE APEX- 49 ° - 81 °
A very serious mistake occurs in The Freemason of the 16th [sic] ult., in which it is affirmed that 'there are only three holders of the Apex in the world, who exist by a succession of triplicate warrants from Frederick the Great', and that the symbols of the degree are a 'Cord and Dagger'.
Now, brethren should not be precipitate in their revelations on the subject of this climax of our Grand Historics-Masonic mysteries, for I am in a position to assert, most emphatically, that the warrants in question were not promulgated by Frederick the Great, and that the three so-called Apexes were, in fact, no other than the three sponsors of the ONE SUPREME APEX, whose very style proclaims his crowning and solitary grandeur, and the succession of whose high office comes by an Act of Grace on the part of the existing Apex, who, under circumstances of the strictest solemnity, and himself strictly veiled, transmits to his successor (if practicable, in the presence of one or more of the sponsors) the rituals of all other orders (some of which are scarcely known in England), contained in an antique leaden casket cased in cedar of Libanus (or Lebanon). By this means the Apex-elect is, if of one of the lower degrees (but in no case under that of a P.M.) under a peculiar dispensation.
So far, so good: this is a super-Masonic Order and the Apex-elect must be a P.M. Furthermore, he has the status of a ’secret Chief'. This particular archetype made its Masonic debut in the German ’strict Observance' (c. 1750) and in a non-Masonic context will be found in Westcott’s 'Golden Dawn' (The Secret Chiefs of the Third Order) and in Theosophy a la Madam Blavatsky in the secret rulers of the 'Great White Lodge'. The letter continues:
True enough, the Cord and Dagger are the symbols of the Sponsors, but not of the one unapproachable Apex, for he has seven (hence the con-fraternity [sic] known in the East as the Sat-bhae, seven brothers), but which failed under a secret suspension of the then (1845) Sublime Climax Apex, who, at that period, happened to be on one of his tours of secret inspection in India.
From the nature of the office of the Grand Climax Apex, 81 °, it has been a time immemorial law that his name should never be divulged nor his actual identity be known to any but a Sponsor. Sometimes it happens, where Apex dies in any remote locality, his successor cannot be known to the Sponsors, but the latter can always identify the true Apex by the seven symbols which lead to the leaden casket that crowns the mystic edifice, and which, with reverence, I venture to assert I have seen, but it is not fitting that I should say more.
There is a remarkable painting, of small size, called 'The Dream of Apex'. It represents a man in a gloomy appartment, startled at the appearance of a serpent; but for reasons inconvenient to mention, the locality cannot be indicated.
As your correspondent is perhaps aware, the one Supreme Apex takes in regular succession, as his symbol, one of the starry signs; but these are not numbered as amongst the seven occult symbols.
Allow me to add, that 'the Frederick the Great' is not a warrant of authority. The Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa certainly did issue one, but under the superior inspiration of the Veiled Apex, who, at that period, is supposed to have been a Venetian.
N. B - - - - E
Perhaps the most astonishing disclosure of all was the one published in The Freemason of 29 June 1872 signed ’sp-ns-r [i.e. Sponsor], II'. 'It may be sufficent to say,' he wrote, 'that I have seen the true jewel of 'Apex' the jewel can be heard as well as seen.' The jewel probably incorporated a small bell which tinkled.
The Royal Oriental Order of Sikha (Apex) and the Sat B'hai, to give it its official title - was the brain child of Captain James Henry Lawrence Archer (or Lawrence-Archer), Indian Army, although Mackenzie did most of the donkey-work and received small thanks for his trouble. John Yarker briefly referred to the Order’s founder and origins in The Arcane Schools, 1909, P. 242: 'This is a Hindu Society organized by the Pundit of an Anglo-Indian regiment, and brought to this country, about the year 1872, by Captain J. H. Lawrence Archer.' In Hindi the word pundit or pandit means a learned man, one versed in philosophy, religion and jurisprudence, alternatively a learned expert or teacher. In military usage it meant a native civilian who was employed to teach the British officers of Indian regiments the Hindi language and to read the Devanagri script. Nothing is known about the Pundit’s 'Hindu Society' or the nature of the notes, MSS. etc. which Archer brought to England and which Mackenzie in due course attempted to 'work up'.
Archer was born on 28 July 1823. He was gazetted Second-Lieutenant in the 39th Foot Regiment in December 1840 (aet. 17) and served with the 24th Foot Regiment throughout the Punjab Campaign in 1848-9. He went on half pay as a Captain on 1 January 1869 and remained on the half pay list until his death in February 1889. He was initiated in Masonry in India in 1851 (aet. 28) and later became a joining member of Lodge Canongate Kilwinning No. 2 at Edinburgh.
75 .
The British Museum catalogue lists the titles of a dozen books by him, e.g. genealogical studies, military histories, memoirs of Indian campaigns, a work on the Orders of Chivalry etc.
76 . As far as the Sat B'hai was concerned he remained in the background. Mackenzie used to complain that he was elusive, absent somewhere in Scotland and not to be found. Only one letter written by Archer survives in Grand Lodge Library. It was addressed to Irwin (6 April 1875) and because we do not know in what context it was written its contents are obscure. Yarker mentioned that his salary as a captain on half pay was only 127 pounds per annum, but he must have had private means. Mackenzie inferred that Archer hoped to make money out of the Sat B'hai.
The second of the three letters published in The Freemason in 1871 -2 may have been written by Archer. At that time he was not in touch with Mackenzie, but he was already or soon to be acquainted with Yarker. There is no evidence that Irwin ever met him, but he was a member of the Captain’s barely-hatched Order by the end of 1874.
77 . When Mackenzie arrived on the scene in 1875 the Order existed in name rather than in fact. It was he who was to wrestle with the insoluble problem of placing this Hindu cuckoo in an English fringe-Masonic nest. No one was better equipped for this particular exercise in human folly.
On 18 January 1875 Mackenzie told Irwin that he had 'heard of the Rite of Apex [i.e. the Sat B'hail and that is all.' Eleven days later he asked Irwin for information about the rite for the Cyclopaedia. Irwin referred him to Archer with whom he now began to correspond. He joined the Order early in April and was appointed one of the seven Arch Censors. 'I can say no more because I know no more,' he told Irwin. Then on 22 April he wrote: of course you know a great deal more about it than you have chosen to say.' On 3 May he asked Irwin if he had 'the Code and Mystery and other things'.
78 . The Code contained information about the Order’s structure and its rules. John Yarker published what he described as a revised edition of the Sat B'hai Code in 1886. The text printed here in Appendix II is probably from this edition.
Early in April 1875 Irwin was already thinking of resigning. Archer’s letter to him of 6 April refers to this eventuality. The postscript reads: 'I send you as requested 2 Codes and 2 Mysteries. Kindly send a Post Card to Bro. Yarker to forward to you the third copy of each which you require.' Hence Yarker was active in the business in an administrative capacity. Mackenzie was beginning to busy himself, perhaps rather officiously, in London. On 10 May he wrote:
For the present, until I learn what I want to know in the matter ... stick like grim death to a dead nigger in the Apex business. All I can say now is that the matter is likely to move. Don't give up your Censorship on any account. I have obtained some important evidence in writing. Don't do more than stir Bros. Yarker and B. Cox of Weston super Mare up.
His enquiries continued and on 17 May he advised Irwin: 'Pray let us leave Apex alone for a little while longer. I assure you there are strong reasons for it.' On 24 May he reported the receipt of a letter from Archer. 'I would put myself in communication with him,' he told Irwin, ' . . . and see what he says - pray don't mention me at present. I don't want a Masonic fraud to be perpetrated, verbum sap. Ask him what he is doing. It’s pretty muddled as it now stands.' BY 5 June he was beginning to show more enthusiasm: 'Modifications will have to be made before Apex will be of much Masonic service to us. But I think there is a brilliant future. I will try and see Archer in a few days ... I had a letter from Yarker recently but it does not seem to reveal anything very definite about Apex. Have you a copy of the code [underlined three times]? If you have not, I must send you one, or a printed copy can be obtained from Bro. S.P. Leather, Civil Engineer, Burnley, Lancashire.' 79 .
By 11 June 1875 Mackenzie’s attitude was again ambivalent. He had received a letter from Archer and had learned that 'there is a ritual as well as the Code and Mystery'. He informed Irwin that he had written to Archer and made various suggestions: 'Have pointed out to him that English gentlemen cannot be governed by unknown heads and advised him to call a meeting of Sponsors and Censors. I did not mention names but (in confidence) I may tell you that I might prevail upon Bro. Hervey to accept the fourth censorship, still vacant.'
So now the Grand Secretary of the United Grand Lodge of England was to be inveigled into the Apex scheme. Mackenzie did not object to ’secret Chiefs' when they were of his own invention (cf. the Order of Ishmael) but disliked the prospect of having to submit to their authority when produced out of thin air by someone else, in this case Archer.
By the autumn of 1875 a few recruits had presented themselves. On 19 October Mackenzie wrote: 'Bro. Ranking has joined the Order of Apex,
80 . also Colonel Ridgway. Something will have to be done in this soon.' On 24 November he reported that 'Brother Col. Ridgway is appointed Treasurer General of the Sat B'hai.' Next, on 27 January 1876 he wrote: 'I think there is every probability of Sir William Feilden’s brother Bro. J. Leyland Feilden joining the Sat B'hai. It is high time that this was brought forward in a more tangible shape, but there are so many influences at work that it is very difficult to reconcile the elements.' However, at least a little progress was being made because on 4 February he was able to report: 'Rite of Apex is extending ... I am very carefully selecting the members of the section I represent as Daksha. I only wish for real Masons of studious habits, likely to render good service.. . My uncle [John Hervey] thinks the Order likely to be of great utility.' One wonders if the Grand Secretary supposed anything of the sort.
At this point we are left in a state of suspension as far as Apex or the Sat B'hai are concerned because the few surviving letters for 1876 contain no references to either. In the meantime Mackenzie had written an article about the Order which was published in the Cyclopaedia probably in the fascicule which was issued late in 1876. It commences:
ROYAL ORIENTAL ORDER OF THE SAT B'HAI - An order incorporated with that of Sikha. It originated in India, and is so named after a bird held sacred by the Hindus, and known to naturalists as the Malacocerus grisius, whose flight, invariably in sevens, has obtained for the rite the appellation of the seven (Sat) brethren (B'hai). The last meeting in India was held at Allahabad (Pryaya or Prag), in the year 1845. It is divided into seven degrees (but, with Sikha, composed of the Sponsors, nine), the first being the highest, i.e., 1. Arch Censor. 2. Arch Courier. 3. Arch Minister, 4. Arch Herald. 5. Arch Scribe. 6. Arch Auditor. 7. Arch Mute. The last three degrees are, under certain limitations, open to both sexes, but none but Master Masons are admitted into the first four degrees.
At the end of the article there is a statement which is 'typical Mackenzie': 'The order is now firmly established in England and Scotland, and has branches in America, Austria, and other countries.' It is inconceivable that a rite which had not yet been worked in England, because there were still no rituals, had already been exported to America and Austria. Finally, as might be expected, 'the ceremonies are of an august nature'.
A.E. Waite once described Mackenzie as 'a shining light of occultism hidden in a bushel of secrecy', or in words to that effect. The source of the quotation escapes me, although I remember it well. Irwin thought much the same and in a long and critical letter written on 16 January 1877 referred to Mackenzie’s tendency to envelop everything in a cloak of mystery. The following probably refers to the Order of Ishmael rather than the Sat B'hai:
There is no one more ready than myself to acknowledge your intellectual powers. I am well aware that you could compile a hundred Rituals each as good as the average of those in present use, but you unfortunately appear to have a desire to surround your proceedings with an air of mystery. Now this mystery is all right and proper with the greater number of Masons ... but why persevere with the mystery - or trying to mvstify one who has been admitted to the innermost secrets of the sanctuary?
Irwin was referring to himself. As for the Sat B'hai:
The Rite of Apex would have spread rapidly in the most of England were it not for this air of mystery. There was the groundwork for much that was good and beautiful ... If the ceremony of the Sat B'hai is not a beautiful one, it will not be that you are unable to so form it, but that an air of mystery will be thrown over it - that, to use a common expression, won't go down.
Mackenzie replied somewhat plaintively on 28 February: 'As to Apex, Sikha, Sat B'hai or whatever you like best to call it, I have only to say that I am trying my best to bring it on. But I do not find there is much enthusiasm about it . . . ' On 3 March he explained at some length the difficulty he was having in getting the rituals into shape. One of his problems was that neither the Mutes nor the Auditors, who were members of the two lowest degrees, had anything to do, 'and until this is extricated from the Sanskrit original I do not see how a ritual can be issued.' By 5 April he thought that the Sat B'hai ritual was nearly finished: 'There is a separate ceremony for each grade of the Order . . . ' On 9 August he complained that his work was at a standstill because Archer was away and could not be found. It seems that without Archer’s knowledge of Sanskrit no progress was possible. The position was much the same in October and he had now quarrelled with Archer. He knew, too, that some members were becoming restive, hence 'we cannot expect others to take an interest in the Sat B'hai until we give them something for their money . . . ' He was also now aware that for Archer, at least, the Sat B'hai had a certain commercial element: 'I am sorry that Bro. Archer’s means are so slight that he is forced to make money out of the Sat B'hai . . . ', he wrote on 20 October.
Late in 1877 Bro. Charles Scott, of Omagh, Co. Tyrone in Ireland, sent Irwin three indignant letters on the subject of Mackenzie and the Sat B'hai within the course of five weeks.
[21 October 1877]. I know nothing of Apex more than I did three years ago ... I assume that the Sat B'hai is a humbug devised to raise the wind. Bros. Archer-and Mackenzie have fallen out. This is plain by Archer’s notes, so that Mackenzie is now Apex and Ishmael and I suppose his fertile genius is conceiving something else racy for the gulls.
[29 October 1877]. As for Apex I am washing my hands of it. It is no use and only fit for gulls and dupes ... I can't introduce the Order over here so I shall resign all connection with it.
[26 November 1877]. I wrote to Yarker withdrawing from Apex as I could not understand it nor had I any opportunities of meeting those who did ... It was only laughed at by my clever friends who promptly refused to join a rite of very questionable benefit.
By 9 November 1877 Mackenzie had completed the following ceremonies:
1. Opening an Ashayam
2. Working and closing the same
3. Initiation (general)
4. Admission of a Mute
5. Passing a Mute to Auditor
6. Advancing Auditor to Scribe
7. Passing Scribe to Herald
8. Consecrating Herald as a Minister
9. Entrusting a Courier
10. Ceremony of Relegation
11. Ceremony of Perfection
12. Various Lectures, Regulations &c.
On 25 January 1878 he wrote more in sorrow than in anger to Irwin: 'I hear nothing at all from Bro. Yarker. Bro. Archer is mysterious. You and Bro. Scott have, it seems, both resigned and from another source I hear that Madam Blavatsky is the head of the Order! This last item of news is "quite too awfully laughable".' He finally admitted defeat on 27 January 1879: 'As to Apex I should not trouble myself about it', he advised Irwin. 'I regard it as a thing of the past.'
However, the Order of the Sat B'hai was not quite as moribund as Mackenzie supposed. A few years later John Yarker ingeniously amalgamated its Ceremony of Perfection with the ritual of a recent novelty called the Order of Light.
THE 'KNIGHTS OF THE RED BRANCH'
There is a brief entry under this heading in Mackenzie’s Cyclopaedia. It reads: 'Established in Ulster, Ireland, B.C. [!] go ... In 1760, there was a degree of that name given in an Orange Lodge. It is still in existence as a side degree.'
For some reason which I am unable to fathom, Benjamin Cox, who does not appear to have had any connection with Ireland or Ulster, was the Order’s Grand Chancellor in 1872. In Grand Lodge Library there is a handwritten certificate, roughly printed by the 'do it yourself' cyclostyle process, headed: 'Royal Order of Knights of Eri and Red Branch of Knights of Ulster'. It was issued on 3 June 1872 to Irwin as 'Knight Grand Cross and Chieftain' etc., signed by R. S. D. O'Donohue, and 'registered in the Archives of the Order by Benjamin Cox, Grand Chancellor'. On the same day a similar certificate was issued to Yarker’s friend and colleague Samuel Petty Leather in this case signed by Irwin.
There are occasional references to what Cox always called 'the Red Branch' in his letters to Irwin. In 1877-8 he was busy trying to design a certificate for the Order, in Gaelic and written in Irish uncial characters. He informed Irwin on 7 August 1878 that he had been unable to procure an Irish dictionary.
In a later letter to Irwin (25 November 1887) he wrote: 'Red Branch - When you send me the final Ritual I will make another exact copy therefrom. I have been thinking of nominating Bro.Capt. Nunn and Bro. Lieut. Capell as Knights and Bros. Blackmore and Millard as Esquires to serve under my Knightly [Person?].' The Captain and the Lieutenant were both members of a local Volunteer unit. Furthermore, all these prospective Knights and Esquires were Freemasons ... six months later, in April 1888, they became the founder members of the Golden Dawn’s Osiris Temple at Weston-super-Mare, of which 'Frater Crux Dat Salutem', i.e. Benjamin Cox, was 'Hierophant'. 81 .
THE RITE OF SWEDENBORG
There is no evidence whatever that the Swedish mystic Emanuel Swedenborg (b. 1688 Stockholm, d. 1772 London) was ever a Freemason, although some Masonic annalists of the distant past have insisted that he must have been a member of the Craft. According to Lenhoff and Posner (Internationales Freimaurer Lexikon, 1932) the Rite which bears his name was founded in the U.S.A. in 1859 and was soon exported to Canada. Mackey mentioned that it possessed six grades in his Encyclopaedia, 1874: 1. Apprentice, 2. Fellow Craft, 3. Master Neophyte, 4. Illuminated Theosophite, 5. Blue Brother, 6. Red Brother. The third degree was, in fact, that of a Master Mason, and since the Rite did not initiate Freemasons, only the last three degrees were worked.
The Rite reached England by virtue of a Canadian charter, dated 1 July 1876, granted to 'John Yarker, Francis George Irwin and Samuel Petty Leather ... to hold a subordinate Lodge and Temple ... in the City of Manchester to be called the Emanuel Lodge and Temple No. 3, and therein to confer the degrees of Enlightened, Sublime and Perfect Phremasons upon such lawful Master Masons as they may deem worthy.
82 .
Since the rite was in possession of what might be described as 'the old firm' it was only natural that Kenneth Mackenzie should be appointed its Supreme Grand Secretary. Benjamin Cox would have liked to have been Joint Supreme Grand Secretary - he was still a Masonic pot-hunter even if he did declare two years later that 'I care but very little if I never again attend a Lodge Meeting' - but Mackenzie disagreed and proposed that he should be Provincial Supreme Grand Secretary if the rite prospered.
There was no great rush to join the rite but by the end of 1879 there were about a dozen lodges, all of them with probably minute memberships, and a handful more were founded during the next few years. Hence Mackenzie’s duties were never very onerous. They would have been even easier if lodge secretaries had been more punctilious in sending returns and remitting fees.
In April 1877 the Swedenborg Rite was still short of a Supreme Grand Chaplain and Mackenzie suggested that the Rev. William Stainton Moses should be invited to accept the office. At this point in time fringe-Masonry gained an interesting new recruit because Stainton Moses was one of the most prominent personalities in the spiritualist movement.
83 .
Whereas all the individuals we have so far encountered accepted Freemasonry - 'fringe' or Regular, or a combination of both - as they found it, Stainton Moses wanted something different. It is likely that his decision to accept the Swedenborg Rite’s Supreme Grand Chaplaincy was largely influenced by the prospect, as he informed Irwin in August, 1877, of being able to form a lodge entirely composed of ’spiritualists, Theosophists,
84 . or whatever you like to call them ... I desiderate for this purpose something rather different from the ordinary Lodge, which meets four times a year to work a stereotyped ritual, or to eat a heavy dinner'.
By August 1878 he had abandoned the hope of establishing a spiritualist lodge within the framework of the Rite of Swedenborg or even the now moribund Sat B'hai. He resigned from the Rite in April 1879
The Rite of Swedenborg lingered on in England until the early 1900s. By that time it was merely an item in John Yarker’s stock of rites for export abroad.
EXEUNT OMNES ...
Frederick Hockley, who had no connection with fringe-Masonry, but knew Irwin and Mackenzie well, was the first to die (10 November 1885). His will included a legacy of 19 guineas to Mackenzie, who followed him on 3 July 1886, shortly before his fifty-third birthday. The deterioration in his handwriting in the last of his letters to Irwin (20 November 1885) suggests that his health had greatly failed.
Latterly (1883-5) he had been tinkering with the formation of an exclusive little 'club' called The Society of Eight, apparently for the study of alchemy. Its prospective members in August 1883 were Irwin, Yarker, the Rev. W. A. Ayton
85 . and Frederick Holland, whom Mackenzie described as 'a technically experienced chymist and metallurgist', and who was a member of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia.
In a letter to Irwin (24 August 1883) Mackenzie wrote: I fear that Bro. Hockley is too advanced in years to join. I do not think that Stainton Moses would do at all; there are reasons I cannot enter upon. Dr. Westcott also will not do. If Holland gets him to join I will at once retire.' By the end of 1885 he had quarrelled with Holland and on 20 November told Irwin: ’society of Eight quite dormant, thro' Holland’s fault.' Towards the end his relationship with Yarker cannot have been satisfactory. The obituary notice in the latter’s periodical
The Kneph (August 1896) could hardly have been briefer or more perfunctory.
Although one would suppose that the Sat B'hai was completely dead and buried by 1885 both Irwin and Cox were keeping it going in a small way in the West Country. On 15 December Cox wrote: 'I will assist by taking No. 2 Censorship and I would suggest that Dr. Nunn be asked to take the other ... there can be no harm in asking him, the only objection is that he does not care much for occultism.' Almost two years later Cox reported: 'Dr. Nunn intends to wear at our Thursday’s meeting his Sat B'hai jewel ... I forgot to say that Bro. Dr. Nunn thinks that by wearing the jewel of the Sat B'hai at our meeting it may be the means of others joining without outside solicitation.' 85 .
Irwin and Cox were still busy with the affairs of the Order of Eri. On 12 December 1887 Cox expressed his admiration for Irwin’s latest version of its ritual: 'I think it is equal to any that I have ever seen,' he wrote.
A week later he told Irwin that he had just received the second part of the first volume of AQC. On 15 June 1888 he asked Irwin if his appointment as local Secretary of QC’s Correspondence Circle had been confirmed. He was currently full of enthusiasm for Westcott’s newly hatched Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Irwin, on the other hand, was not. 'I am sorry to hear that you do not care for the G.D. Order,' Cox wrote on 1 June 1888. By then he had been corresponding with Irwin for almost twenty years. A few later letters - the last of all was written in June 1890 - are of no interest. Irwin died in July 1893 and Cox in December 1895. Pamela Bullock - Soror Shemeber in the Golden Dawn - made a note of his decease in a contemporary list of members.
By now John Yarker was the only important survivor of our original coterie of enthusiasts for fringe-Masonry. However, the 'Most Illustrious Grand Master General of the Antient and Primitive Rite of Masonry (inclusive of Memphis and Misraim), 33 ° - 96 °, 90 °. P.M. of all Orders; Past Senior G.W. of Greece, P. Gd. Constable of the Temple; Hon. 33 ° -96 ° in America, Egypt, Italy and Roumania', and heaven knows what else, was not a practitioner, in the strict sense of the word, in the Mackenzie-Irwin 'manufactory, mint or studio of Degrees'. He was essentially a collector of rites which, in later life, he patched together with this or that fringe Masonic invention that had fallen into his lap. Maurice Vidal Portman’s August Order of Light offers a typical example.
Portman’s enthusiasm for Freemasonry, regular or fringe, did not last for long. The Order of Light was launched without any audible beating of drums in 1882. It had the same echoes of Hinduism as the Sat B'hai, but with a Cabbalistic top-dressing. The Rev. W. A. Ayton and Robert Palmer Thomas - the latter was later Frater Lucem Spero in the Golden Dawn and well known to W. B. Yeats in 1900-1-were among the first to be entrusted with its secrets. In or about 1890 Portman handed the rite to Yarker who amalgamated some of its ritual with the Sat B'hai’s highest 'Perfection' grade.
85 . Ultimately the Order of Light travelled across the Pennine hills to Bradford, where it was gratefully received by certain members of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia who had been, or perhaps were still running the Golden Dawn’s local Temple, Horus No. 5. According to Westcott, the rite 'was revived at Bradford by the Rosicrucian Adepts, Dr. B. J. Edwards and T. H. Pattinson, with Dr. Wynn Westcott as Chief of the Council of Iustruction'. 88 .
One writer after another has accused Yarker of conducting a pseudo-Masonic racket at Manchester, meaning for personal financial profit. I am by no means convinced that this was the case. One has only to read his periodical The Kneph (1881-95) to see that over the years the income and expenditure of his Antient and Primitive Rite were very small indeed. Nor do I believe that he can have charged more than nominal amounts for warrants for rites which were exported to overseas customers. He mentioned in The Arcane Schools that he had recently issued a Swedenborg Rite charter 'for a body in Paris and previously to Roumania and Egypt' (P. 490). Mackenzie’s Order of Ishmael ultimately fell into his lap - Westcott was one of its 'Grand Officers' - but he did nothing with it. His most important export operation was in 1902 when he issued Warrants for Memphis and Misraim and the Rite of Swedenborg to Dr. Karl Kellner and the latter’s friend Herr
Theodor Reuss in Germany. In the case of the Rite of Swedenborg Westcott, who was then its Supreme Grand Secretary acted as an intermediary. He also obliged Reuss by giving him a Warrant for a Societas Rosicruciana in Germania. 88 .
By the beginning of the new century the curtain had almost dropped in front of the fringe Masonic scene in England. John Yarker was still active at Manchester but with the approach of his seventieth birthday in 1903 had probably lost much of his old fire. He died on 30 March 1913.
90 . The fight for the corpse of his Antient and Primitive Rite is partially described in The Equinox, Vol. 1 No. 10, 1913.
During the early 1900s Craft Masonry was in a particularly flourishing condition. Furthermore, by now Grand Lodge was undoubtedly actively discouraging peripheral innovations. In the past the fringe affairs mentioned in this paper had clung like ivy, although with shallow roots, to regular Masonry because their inventors or promoters, who were all members of the Craft, depended upon Masonic precedents, e.g. rituals and a hierarchy, for their inspiration.
After c. 1885 a minority of Freemasons in search of esoteric novelty tended to join the Theosophical Society, where there was no conflict with the authority of Grand Lodge. Irwin, Westcott and the Rev. W. A. Ayton were all members of the T.S., and so, too, were others who were in the S.R.I.A. and the Golden Dawn. Referring to the Sat B'hai in The Arcane Schools Yarker wrote: ’somehow its raison d'être ceased to be necessary when the Theosophical Society was established by the late H. P. Blavatsky' (P. 492).
I am incompetent to offer an authoritative diagnosis of the 'fringe' phenomenon because so many complex psychological factors are involved. In a merely historical context I regard Irwin, Mackenzie and others in their circle as the harbingers of the notable expansion of public interest in occultism and all varieties of 'Rejected Knowledge' which began during the late 1880s. Here the Theosophical Society played a particularly important role. There was something like an underground explosion. Its waves can be charted in Great Britain and France; they did not reach Germany until the early 1900s. The explosion was hardly noticed by the Establishment, including Freemasonry’s own Establishment.
Finally, once again I cannot too strongly emphasise that this paper’s subject matter deals with an essentially obscure sector of recent Masonic history. On no account should the reader infer that during the period 1870-85 there was ever a widespread interest within the Craft in the activities of Mackenzie, Irwin & Co., the proprietors of a 'manufactory, mint or studio of Degrees'.
Reprinted with permission of
Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, the Transactions of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, UGLE in Volume 85 for the year 1972. [p. 242.] Footnotes renumbered as endnotes.
Ellic Paul Howe (1910/09/20 - 1991/09/28), printer and book designer, was initiated into St. George’s Lodge No. 370, Chertsey, Surrey on Saturday, October 17, 1970. Author of Urania’s Children: the strange world of the astrologers (1967) and Magicians of the Golden Dawn: a documentary history of a magical order (1972); collaborator with Prof. Dr. Helmut Möller of Göttingen of Merlin Peregrinus: Von Untergrund des Abendlandes (Würzburg, 1986); and contributor to Man, Myth and Magic. An appendix to Wege und Abwege.Beiträge zur europäschen Geistgeschichte der Neuzeit (Freiburg, 1990) contains an exhaustive bibliography of his Howe’s writings compiled by Mr. Nicolas Barker. Howe was Master of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076 in 1978.

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