THE AUTHOR OF ISIS UNVEILED DEFENDS THE
VALIDITY OF HER MASONIC PATENT
[Franklin Register, Franklin, Mass., February 8, 1878] *
EDITORIAL.—We are gratified to be able to present to the readers of the Register this week, the following highly-characteristic letter, prepared expressly for our Paper by Madame M. P. Blavatsky, the authoress of Isis Unveiled. In this letter the lady defends the validity of her diploma as a Mason reference to which was had in our issue of January 18th. The immediate cause of the letter from Madame B. was the multiplication of attacks upon her claim to that distinguished honour both before and since the publication mentioned.
The field is open for a rejoinder; and we trust that a champion will appear, to defend that which she so vigorously and bravely assails.
That the subject-matter in controversy may be seen at a glance by those who may not be regular readers of our paper, we again print the text of her diploma.
[See the Facsimile appended herewith]
To the Editor of The Franklin Register.
I am obliged to correct certain errors in your highly complimentary editorial in The Register of January 18th. You say that I have taken “the regular degrees in Masonic Lodges” and attained high dignity in the order, and further add: “Upon Madame B. has recently been conferred the diploma of the thirty-third Masonic Degree, from the oldest Masonic body in the world.”
If you will kindly refer to my Isis Unveiled (Vol. II, p. 394), you will find me saying: “We are under neither
* [The full name of this paper was Franklin Register and Norfolk County Journal and as far as is known, it was a weekly. Its Editor and Publisher in 1878 was James M. Stewart. Apart from a few copies. no complete files of it have ever been located, and the text of H.P.B.’s article has been copied from a cutting pasted by her in her Scrapbook, Vol. IV, pp. 174-75 (old numbering, Vol. II, 96-97).—Compiler.]
promise, obligation, nor oath, and therefore violate no confidence”—reference being made to Western Masonry, to the criticism of which the chapter is devoted; and full assurance is given that I have never taken “the regular degrees” in any Western Masonic Lodge. Of course, therefore, having taken no such degree, I am not a thirty-third degree Mason. In a private note, also in your most recent editorial, you state that you find yourself taken to task by various Masons, among them one who has taken thirty-three degrees—which include the “Ineffable”—for what you said about me. My Masonic experience—if you will so term membership in several Eastern Masonic Fraternities and Esoteric Brotherhoods—is confined to the Orient. But, nevertheless, this neither prevents my knowing, in common with all Eastern “Masons,” everything connected with Western Masonry (including the numberless humbugs that have been imposed upon the Craft during the last half century) nor, since the receipt of the diploma from the “Sovereign Grand Master,” of which you publish the text, my being entitled to call myself a Mason. Claiming nothing, therefore, in Western Masonry but what is expressed in the above diploma, you will perceive that your Masonic mentors must transfer their quarrel to John Yarker, jun., P.M., P.Mk.M., P.Z., P.G.C. and M.W.S—K.T. and R.C., K.T.P., K.H., and K.A.R.S., P.M.W., P.S.G.C., and P.S.Dai., A. and P. Rite, to the man, in short, who is recognized in England and Wales and the whole world, as a member of the Masonic Archaeological Institute; as Honorary Fellow of the London Literary Union; of Lodge No. 227, Dublin; of the Bristol College of Rosicrucians; who is Past Grand Maréchal of the Temple; Member of the Royal Grand Council of Ancient Rites—time immemorial; Keeper of the Ancient Royal Secrets; Grand Commander of Mizraim, Ark Mariners, Red Cross of Constantine, Babylon, and Palestine; R. Grand Superintendent for Lancashire; Sovereign Grand Conservator of the Ancient and Primitive Rite of Masonry, thirty-third and last degree, etc., from whom the Patent issued.
Your “Ineffable” friend must have cultivated his spiritual
perceptions to small purpose in the investigation and contemplation of the “Ineffable Name,” from the fourth to the fourteenth degrees of that gilded humbug, the A. and A. Rite, if he could say that there is “no authority for a derivation through the charter of the Sovereign Sanctuary of America, to issue this patent.”
He lives in a veritable Crystal Palace of Masonic glass, and must look out for falling stones. Brother Yarker says, in his Notes on the Scientific and Religious Mysteries of Antiquity (p. 149), that the “Grand Orient, derived from the Craft Grand Lodge of England, in 1725, and latterly, works and recognizes the following Rites, appointing representatives with Chapters in America and elsewhere: 1. French Rite. 2. Rite of Heredom. 3. A. and A. Rite. 4. Rite of Kilwinning. 5. Philosophical Rite. 6. Rite du Régime rectif. 7. Rite of Memphis. 8. Rite of Mizraim. All under a Grand College of Rites.”
The A. and P. Rite was originally chartered in America, November 9th, 1856, with David McClellan as G. M. [see Kenneth Mackenzie’s The Royal Masonic Cyclopaedia, p. 43], and in 1862 submitted entirely to the Grand Orient of France. In 1862 the Grand Orient vised and sealed the American Patent of Seymour as G.M., and mutual representatives were appointed, down to 1866, when the relations of the G.O. with America were ruptured, and the American Sovereign Sanctuary took up its position, “in the bosom” of the Ancient Cerneau Council of the “Scottish Rite” of 33 degrees, as John Yarker says, in the above quoted work. In 1872 a Sovereign Sanctuary of the Rite was established in England, by the American Grand Body, with John Yarker as Grand Master. Down to the present time the legality of Seymour’s Sanctuary has never been disputed by the Grand Orient of France, and reference to it is found in Marconis de Nègres books.
It sounds very grand, no doubt, to be a thirty-second degreeist, and an “Ineffable” one into the bargain; but read what Robert B. Folger, M. D., Past Master thirty-third, says himself in his The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, in Thirty-Three Degrees: “In reference to the other degrees,
five or six in number, which are additional, those (with the exception of the Thirty-third, which was manufactured at Charleston) were all in the possession of the Grand Orient before, but were termed, like a great many others, ‘obsolete’.”
And further, he asks: “Who were the persons who formed this Supreme Council of the Thirty-third degree? And where did they get that degree, or the power to confer it? . . . Their Patents have never been produced nor has any evidence ever yet been given, that they came in possession of the Thirty-third degree in a regular and lawful manner” (pp. 92, 95, 96).
That an American Rite, thus spuriously organized, declines to acknowledge the Patent of an English Sovereign Sanctuary, duly recognized by the Grand Orient of France, does not at all invalidate my claim to Masonic honours. As well might Protestants refuse to call the Dominicans Christians, because they—the Protestants—broke away from the Catholic Church and set up for themselves, as for A. and A. Masons of America to deny the validity of a Patent from an English A. and P. Rite body. Though I have nothing to do with American modern Masonry, and do not expect to have, yet, feeling highly honoured by the distinction conferred upon me by Brother Yarker, I mean to stand for my chartered rights, and to recognize no other authority than that of the high Masons of England, who have pleased to send me this unsolicited and unexpected testimonial of their approval of my humble labours.
Of a piece with the above is the ignorant rudeness of certain critics who pronounce Cagliostro an “impostor” and his desire of engrafting Eastern Philosophy upon Western Masonry “charlatanism.” Without such a union Western Masonry is a corpse without a soul. As Yarker observes, in his Notes on the Scientific and Religious Mysteries of Antiquity [p. 157]:
“. . . As the Masonic fraternity is now governed, the Craft is fast becoming the paradise of the bon vivant . . . the
manufacturer of paltry masonic tinsel . . . and the masonic ‘Emperor’ and other charlatans who make power or money out of the aristocratic pretensions which they have tacked on to our institutions—ad captandum vulgus . . .”
H. P. BLAVATSKY.
[The above article from the pen of H.P.B. was preceded by articles written by others in the January 18 and February 1 issues of The Franklin Register. Unfortunately, they have not been preserved, and so cannot be consulted.
The circumstances under which H.P.B. received her Masonic Patent are described as follows by John Yarker who issued it:
“In the year 1872 I printed, at my own cost, a small book entitled, Notes on the Scientific and Religious Mysteries of Antiquity; the Gnosis and Secret Schools of the Middle Ages; Modern Rosicrucianism; and the various Rites and Degrees of Free and Accepted Masonry. At this time, I was Grand Master of the Ancient and Primitive Rite of Memphis, 95°; and before that of the combined Scottish Rite of 33°, and Mizraim of 90°; and among our initiates, 32°-94°, was Brother Charles Sotheran who left England and settled at New York. This brother lent a copy of the book just named to Madame Blavatsky, and she was good enough to refer to it in her Isis Unveiled, with some complimentary remarks . . .
“However, at the request of Bro. Sotheran I sent Madame Blavatsky the certificate of the female branch of the Sat Bhai (Seven Brothers, or seven birds of a species, which always fly by sevens); it was a system organized at Benares in India by the Pundit of the 43rd Rifles, and brought to England by Major J. H. Lawrence-Archer, 32°-94°. This led to a letter from Col. H. S. Olcott, setting forth the very superior qualities of Madame to the certificate sent, and vouching that she was proficient in all masonic sciences. On the 20th of August, 1877, the, then newly established Theosophical Society of New York sent me by the hands of Col. Cobb a certificate of Honorary membership accompanied by a pretty gold Jewel of the Crux Ansata of Egypt entwined with a serpent in green enamel.
“Both the Rites of Memphis and Mizraim as well as the Grand Orient of France possessed a branch of Adoptive Masonry, popular in France in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and of which, in later years, the Duchess of Bourbon held the rank of Grand Mistress. We accordingly sent H.P.B.
on the 24th of November, 1877, a certificate of the highest rank, that of a Crowned Princess 12°, said to have been instituted at Saxe, in the last quarter of the eighteenth century. The publication of this certificate led to newspaper questions and attack. The Franklin Register of 1st of February, 1878, contained an article by Bro. Leon Hynemann vouching for the reality of my signature, and another by Bro. Charles Sotheran who vouched for the possession by H.P.B. of Masonic initiation, and this was followed the next week (8th of February) by a slashing article from the pen of Madame herself against her calumniators. . . .”*
The facsimile of the Diploma shows it to be the standard ornate form of the Ancient and Primitive Rite, the name and degrees being filled in pen and ink. The Diploma states, however, that the degrees and titles conferred upon H.P.B. are those of the Rite of Adoption. The various Rites of Adoption were not recognized as being Masonry by the Masonic bodies of France, Great Britain, and America. Guillemain de Saint-Victor, French Masonic writer, author of Handbook of the Women Freemasons or the True Freemasonry of Adoption, is quoted in Mackey’s Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry as follows:
“It is a virtuous amusement by which we recall a part of the mysteries of our religion; and the better to reconcile humanity with the knowledge of its Creator, after we have inculcated the duties of virtue, we deliver ourselves up to the sentiments of a pure and delightful friendship by enjoying in our Lodges the pleasure of society—pleasure which among us is always founded on reason, honor, and innocence.”
A full discussion of Adoptive Masonry and the other Rites mentioned in the article may be found in the Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry by Albert G. Mackey, ed. by Robert I. Clegg. Chicago: The Masonic History Co., 1929.—Compiler.]
* Universal Masonry, Vol. 1, No. 4, October, 1910.