Order of the Secret Monitor or the Brotherhood of David and Jonathan - History and Origin
|The first references to this Order are known to be of Dutch origin and there is an interesting document written in the last quarter of the Nineteenth Century which states that the Order of David and Jonathan was brought to the New World about the year 1658 by Dutch settlers of Jewish descent who settled in Newport, Rhode Island.
Looking at the history of the Netherlands, the northernmost part of the Netherlands, Holland, was essentially Protestant in its religious persuasion in the 1550s but an unfortunate dynastic marriage caused first a strong Austrian and then a Spanish influence. Both Austria and Spain were strongholds of Roman Catholicism and in those days of extreme religious intolerance was consequently abhorent to the Dutch Lutherians. Inevitably this led to the formation of underground secret societies with the object of freeing the Mother-land from the fetters of their overlords.
As we can read in the Old Testament books of Samuel, just as David was persecuted by Saul, so were the Dutch Protestants harassed by the Catholics. A revolutionary brotherhood was formed with modes of recognition suited to the hours of darkness as well as in daylight, and signs and symbols were chosen from the David and Jonathan story in the Bible.
That was in the late 16th century; and it occurred again a hundred years later when Louis XIV of France invaded the Low Countries again in a Catholic crusade against the Huguenots; the same modes of recognition were employed to cause confusion amongst the invaders.
Many Dutch Protestants emigrated to the New World to find a new life with greater liberty than seemed possible in Holland at that time and it is probable that the Order travelled with them. Any opposition to the way of life of the Dutch settlers immediately drew forth a resurgence of the David and Jonathan cult which had served the Netherlanders so well in the past.
The Secret Monitor grew in America as a side degree conferred by any Mason who had received it himself. It was brought to England in around 1875, by Dr. Issachar Zacharie when he returned from America following his service as Chiropodist-General to the United States Army during the Civil War. He settled back at 80, Brook Street, London, where he built up a busy and successful practice as an orthopedic surgeon. In London he became a member of the Bon Accord Mark Lodge and there he met a number of other brethren who had become Secret Monitors during their Masonic progress in other countries. At his invitation, they all met at his house on 5th. May, 1887 and resolved to form a Conclave to be called the Alfred Meadows Conclave (Alfred Meadows was a distinguished surgeon). Under the leadership of Dr. Zacharie a Grand Council was formed later in 1887 and the ritual was extended when a further two degrees were added, one of which pertained to the Chair of the Supreme Ruler.
The degrees gained in popularity, but this success was to bring about a series of unfortunate events, for in the meantime the Grand Council of Allied Masonic Degrees had been empowered by an American body of similar name to confer their version of the degree. Regretfully a period of over 37 years elapsed, during which both orders were conferring a Secret Monitor degree, but the matter was finally resolved in 1931 when C.W. Napier-Clavering was in the favourable position of being Grand Supreme Ruler of the Secret Monitor and also Grand Master of Allied Masonry. He then implemented an agreement transferring all rights to the Grand Council of the Order of the Secret Monitor and the degree was removed from the list of degrees of the Allied body.
The Order comprises the following degrees:
1. Secret Monitor
3. Supreme Ruler
Structure and Qualification.
In this Order, assemblies are termed Conclaves, each with a Supreme Ruler at its head. The Visiting Deacons (of which there are four) are Officers with a special function peculiar to this degree. It is laid down that they should afford assistance and support to a brother in time of sorrow and distress and they should also search out and warn him if he is exposed to danger, secret or apparent. This duty is no sinecure as each of the members of a Conclave has a number between 1 and 4 against his name in the Conclave list and the appropriate Deacon is required to contact his members prior to each meeting and is called upon to report on that Brother if he is not present at the Roll Call.
The structure is as follows:
1. Supreme Ruler
7. Director of Ceremonies
8. Visiting Deacons (Four)
9. Assistant Director of Ceremonies
11. Assistant Secretary
12. Scroll Bearer
1. David (Supreme Ruler of the 1st Degree)
2. Jonathan (the Immediate Past S.R.)
3. Abishai (Guide of the 1st Degree)
4. Adino (1stVisiting Deacon)
5. Eleazar (2ndVisiting Deacon)
6. Shammah (Guarder of the 1st Degree)
7. Lecturer (A Past S.R.)
There is only the single qualification of Master Mason for prospective Candidates for this Order.
The Regalia of the First Degree comprises a jewel in gilt, being of two equilateral triangles interlaced with three arrows and charged with the letters D and J. It is suspended from a ribbon in the colours of the Order, i.e. purple-orange-purple.
Officers wear a crimson sash, four inches wide and having a gold fringe below the frog, which also features two interlaced triangles in metal gilt.
In the Princes (Second) Degree an identical jewel is worn but it is suspended from a ribbon of equal stripes, orange-purple-orange.
A Supreme Ruler wears the jewel of the Order suspended from a collarette in the colours of the Second Degree, together with the appropriate sash bearing the initials SR in silver. He also wears a purple robe with orange or gold facings.
The legend of the First Degree is narrated during the Induction Ceremony and tells the story of the remarkable friendship which existed between David and Jonathan. During the ceremony the Candidate is instructed in a certain course of action to be adopted when a brother is about to do anything which might prove injurious to himself and it teaches a beautiful lesson on Friendship and Fidelity.
The Admission ceremony to an Assembly of Princes is also derived from the Book of Samuel and narrates how Saul sought the life of David. It further relates an interesting legend of the methods contrived to thwart the efforts of the jealous King.
By reading the Old Testament books of Samuel, all the names of the Conclave Officers fall into place.
The last named degree is unusual when compared with the other Orders of Freemasonry, in that the ceremony of Installation constitutes the Third Degree of the Order pertaining to the Kingship of David and is fundamentally concerned with the headship of a Conclave. Embodied in the ritual of this degree, however, is the ceremony of commissioning, which gives rank and status within the Order as a whole, a certificate being issued to that effect.
The full title of the Order is "The Order of the Secret Monitor, or Brotherhood of David and Jonathan, in the British Isles and its Districts and Conclaves Overseas". It has its headquarters at Mark Masons' Hall, 86, St. James's Street, London, and the head of the Order is termed the "Grand Supreme Ruler".
There are now over 500 Conclaves spread between some 30 Provinces or Districts. Each Province or District has a Provincial or District Grand Supreme Ruler at its head.
From the very moment of our initiation as a craft mason we are made aware that Brotherly Love is to be the feature that should permeate every word, deed and thought within, and without, our assemblies, and should be the very touchstone of our practice, the blazon of our intentions and the very monitor of our utterance. Although strongly adhering to this basic craft tenet, our illustrious founding fathers in 1887 firmly believed that there was a need for a more intimate tie with this principle that could be handed down to posterity by those who approved and could appreciate its worth. They also felt that the single-degree ceremony composed by Dutch settlers of Jewish descent, which had been in use throughout Continental Europe, North America and in other parts of the world since the 17th century, should be revised to include their more meaningful and inspiring purpose.
The compassion and eloquence of our first Grand Supreme Ruler, Dr. Issacher Zackarie, a highly acclaimed orthopaedic surgeon and physician, who had been a trusted friend of President Lincoln, and the first Grand Master of the Craft Grand Lodge of California, and His Honour Judge F.A. Philbrick, Q.C., Grand Registrar of the United Grand Lodge of England, who was noted for his legislative and drafting skills, were charged with the important task of re-writing the ritual of the Ceremony of Induction, and to be the authors of the new Ceremonies for the Admission of a Prince of the Order, and the Installation and Commissioning Ceremonies of a Supreme Ruler.
The Order was regularly Constituted in London in 1887; it is non-denominational and open to every member of a Regular Craft Constitution. Our rituals and ceremonies generate a deeper understanding of the Craft principle of brotherly love, and demand a higher level of commitment to their precepts by every Brother of David and Jonathan.
Every mason is required to express a belief in his respective God, and all Orders of Freemasonry have a special name for the Supreme Being. In the Craft it is ‘The Great Architect of the Universe’, in the Knights Templar we refer to ‘Our Heavenly Captain.’ As Royal Ark Mariners we have the Supreme Commander of the Universe, in the Order of the Secret Monitor the Supreme Being is called ‘The Almighty Friend of all friends’, the significance of which can only be fully appreciated by members of the Order.
Craft masons meet in Lodges, but an assembly of Secret Monitors is held in a Conclave, and at this moment in time we are all present at an Emergency Meeting of the Summus Conclave No.3. The Presiding Officer has the title Worthy Supreme Ruler and is seated on the Throne of King David in the East. He wears the jewel of the Order suspended from a yellow and violet collaret, and a sash of the same colours bearing his rank with the name and number of the Conclave beneath, all embroidered in Silver wire.
The two other principal officers in the Conclave are the Counsellor and Guide, the former is situated in the South East and the latter in the North East, facing each other. The other regular officers include a Chaplain, the Treasurer, Secretary, and Director of Ceremonies, four Visiting Deacons, the Guarder, usually four Stewards, and the Sentinel who are all situated so as to conveniently discharge their respective duties.
All these Officers wear a sash of medici crimson, and all Conclave sashes have two interlaced triangles in gilt metal or wire on the frog. Provincial and District Grand Conclave Officers wear Empire Blue sashes with the name of their Province or District and the office they hold embroidered immediately below in thin gold wire, and below that are the two interlaced triangles overlaid with three arrows and the initials D.J. all in gold wire.
Grand Conclave Officers wear medici crimson sashes bordered with gold cord, on which is embroidered in gold wire a celestial crown above the wearer’s rank, below which are again the two interlaced triangles overlaid with the three arrows and the initials D.J. all in gold wire, and the frog being finished with a gold fringe. Provincial, District, and Grand Officers all wear collaret’s from which is suspended the jewel of their office. All sashes are worn over the right shoulder and under the left arm.
Unique to the Order of the Secret Monitor are the four Visiting Deacons whose special duties also distinguish this Order from any other in Freemasonry, and reflecting the sacred nature of their caring role they are seated at the corners of what is designated the Holy Ground or Magen David in a Conclave. Magen David refers to the ‘Shield of David’ and the two interlaced triangles thereon.
These two interlaced golden triangles, also known as the Seal of Solomon, were traditionally set above the Throne of King David in Jerusalem and are said to represent our two-fold nature, spiritual and material, which shape our lives and destinies. The arrows are emblematic of man in his uncivilised state, relying on his own resources.
Our rituals with their beautiful and inspiring precepts, take us back to the time when the Hebrews, wandering defenceless in the wilderness, forged one bond or another for mutual protection and support. Indeed, much of our ritual is in the very words of the ancient scriptures of the Jews and is based on the story of the enduring friendship that existed between David and Jonathan, a friendship that has become almost proverbial as the ideal to be aimed for. They saved each other’s lives on countless occasions, and swore a covenant of eternal friendship. The bond that united David and Jonathan, and plays such a vital part in the lives of all Secret Monitors, is the fact that the Covenant was made in the presence of God.
And the very purpose of our Order is the practical expression of the paramount importance of each individual human being in the sight of God. We are His creatures, living in His creation, and the ritual of our Induction as Brothers of David and Jonathan insists that it is our inescapable duty to reflect in every way we can, as best we can, the concern and love the Almighty Friend of all friends has for all his creatures.
The Order, however, does not proclaim Brotherly love simply in the abstract, or as a desirable norm, for at every turn of life, at every crisis of fate a Secret Monitor may look, and will not look in vain, to the experienced among his Brethren who have pledged themselves to give him caution, to prompt him to good actions, to warn him from doubtful ones, to offer him skilful and effective advice, solace in time of sorrow, and to exercise watchful Brotherly care and concern over him and his family at all times.
This is an impressive and moving list of generous undertakings, and while we learn the arts of taciturnity and trust in the Craft degrees, the sense of reverence in the Royal Arch, the blessing of humility in the Mark, and the requirements of fearlessness and witness as Knights Templar, it is here, in this Order of the Secret Monitor, in the story of David and Jonathan, in the doings of Eliazar and Abiathar, and not least in the touching and unifying consecration of purpose that comes to all Princes of the Order, that freemasons can truly begin to grasp not only the urge to be loving brethren, but to be doers of the word and not hearers only.
Today, more than eleven decades later, we are the mother, or Primus Inter Pares, of all Sovereign Grand Conclaves in the world, and the members of our daughter and granddaughter Grand Conclaves, together with our nine Districts Overseas and the twenty-six Provinces here in the British Isles are spreading that word throughout the United Kingdom, in South Africa, South America, the West Indies, The Bahamas, Canada, Gibraltar, Spain, France, India, South East Asia, Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand.