The Operatives



- Kent Henderson, PJGD




I intend, in this paper, to discuss a number of additional Masonic Orders, a few of which you may be aware, and some, at least, of which you may not.


Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (SRIA)


My first offering of insight, perhaps, is into the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia, which is fairly well known in Victoria. It is more commonly known by its initials “SRIA”, or simply as the “Soc Ros”. The modern society of Masonic Rosicrucians was given its present form by Robert Wentworth Little in 1865 who (with others) founded the Society following the reputed discovery of certain manuscripts in the archives of The United Grand Lodge of England. It has now been established that Little in fact received the degrees in Scotland, but where the Scots got them from is unknown. Certainly, the SRIA was formed before the analogous body in Scotland. The SRIA is based upon symbolism and traditions of a much earlier German Rosicrucian society, which in turn claimed its origin from an immortal character, known as Christian Rosenkreutz, who was almost certainly mythical. As just noted, the SRIA subsequently gave rise to an analogous body in Scotland, and later still, to one in the USA.


The SRIA is an esoteric education society, with Colleges (currently nearly seventy) as ‘Lodges’ of it are called, located across England, and also in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, France and The Netherlands. Candidates need only be Mason Masons. Indeed, it can be argued (and by many it is) that the SRIA is not a Masonic Order at all; it merely requires its members to concurrently be Freemasons.


The Society, which is governed from London, is led by the Supreme Magus, and his Senior Substitute Magus and Junior Substitute Magus (analogous to the Grand Master, Senior Grand Warden and Junior Grand Warden in the Craft), and members of High Council. The High Council is composed of the High Council Officers (largely appointed by the Supreme Magus), and a representative (called a High Councillor) from each College.


Each College has a set of Officers, led by its Very Worthy Celebrant (i.e.: “Master”), who serves a one-year term. As is also normal in the Craft, the junior offices are largely progressive till one reaches the chair.


The Society is divided into three Orders, viz:

  • The First Order (Grades I to IV) – The Learners. Members of the First Order possess the appellation: Frater (plural: fratres). That said, certain officer-bearers (such as the Secretary, Treasurer, and Ancients) are designated Worthy Frater (but usually these officers have previously become members of the 2nd Order, and become VWFra.)

  • The Second Order (Grades V to VII) – The Teachers. Members of the Second Order possess the appellation: Very Worthy Frater.

  • The Third Order (Grades VIII & IX) – The Rulers. Members of the Third Order possess the appellation: Right Worthy Frater.


Colleges are grouped into (geographical) Provinces, which may have as few as one College, though the majority have several. Each Province is governed by a Chief Adept (“Provincial Grand Master”), assisted by his Provincial Suffragan (“Deputy Provincial Grand Master”). Where a Province has more than one College, the Chief Adept may appoint (subject to the approval of the Supreme Magus) Provincial Officers from amongst the Past Celebrants of Province’s Colleges, who assist him at Installations. The SRIA Province of Victoria holds an Annual Meeting, at which the Chief Adept appoints his Provincial Officers.


Across Australia and New Zealand there are five SRIA Provinces: Victoria (with six Colleges), South Australia (one), Western Australia (one), Queensland (one), and New Zealand (three). There are also two Rosicrucian Colleges in NSW, but these come under the Societas Rosicruciana in Scotia (SRIS) – Scotland. The SRIA and SRIS have the warmest fraternal relations, and fraters from either Society may readily visit each other’s Colleges, or as necessary, affiliate.


The Society possesses nine Grades (degrees), which are all worked. Promotion through the Grades of the Society is, by design, slow. The first four Grades (Zelator, Theoricus, Practicus, and Philosophus) are worked in a warranted College by its Very Worthy Celebrant and his officers, and the promotion of any Frater within the First Order is his sole prerogative. Given a regular attendance and interest by a frater, the progression is nominally one Grade per year (i.e: four years to the IV Grade), but in some Colleges the IV Grade is normally achieved by a new Zelator within two years. The minimum time lapse between Grades is six months.


Promotion to the Second Order is the sole prerogative of the Chief Adept, although he annually accepts recommendations from his Colleges. In turn, the sole prerogative to recommend Fratres to the Chief Adept for promotion is vested in the College Celebrant, but in practice the Celebrant usually takes the advice of the College’s Executive Committee (although he does not have to).


A Frater of the IV Grade, to be considered for promotion to V Grade (Adeptus Minor) must have been a member of the Society for a minimum of four years. In considering a recommendation, the Celebrant generally requires that a frater under consideration must have been a regular attender at College meetings, and usually be serving in Office (that can be just as a Cellarius, i.e: Steward).


Under normal circumstances, the Chief Adept will consider a frater of the V Grade for promotion to the VI Grade (Adeptus Major) when he is due to become 3rd or 2nd Ancient of his College. Further, the Chief Adept will consider a frater of the VI Grade for promotion to the VII Grade (Adeptus Exemptus) when he is due to advance to the Chair as Very Worthy Celebrant (i.e: “Master”), or perhaps, to the Chair of Exponent (i.e: “Senior Warden”).


On occasions, the Chief Adept may also consider promotion of a frater to the VI or even to the VII Grade, even though he is not advancing to the Chair of his College, if he has rendered meritorious service to his College. The V and VI and VII Grade are normally worked each year, at different times, in Special Convocations of the Second Order held immediately prior to the regular meetings of a College.


Advancement to the Third Order (effectively “Grand Rank”) is the sole prerogative of the Supreme Magus, no Frater or College may make recommendations, although the Supreme Magus will consider recommendations from a Chief Adept. The VIII Grade – Magister – (Roman numerals) is held by fraters of that rank who are College representatives on the High Council. Fraters of that rank who are not High Councillors are designated 8o (Arabic). Normally, those fratres promoted to Magister are Past Celebrants who have given very long and exemplary service to the Society. Promotions are given by the Supreme Magus very sparingly, and currently in Victoria there are only about a dozen fratres who are Magisters.


The IX Grade (Magus) is only held by the Supreme Magus, and his two Substitute Magi. However, the Supreme Magus may, and occasionally does, promote Magisters to the Grade of Magus (plural: Magi) – honorus causa. Their status is then noted as 9o (Arabic). This, the highest Grade in the Society, is conferred very rarely, and currently there are only five Magi in the Province of Victoria. A Magus 9o (honorus causa) becomes a member of the High Council in his own right, whereas other High Councillors (whether VIIIo or VIIo), other than High Council Officers, must otherwise be the appointed representatives of Colleges.


The regalia of the Society basically consists of a pocket jewel. For I-IV Grades, fratres wear a white enameled gilt metal lozenge bearing a red cross with arms of equal length, suspended a green ribbon. V-VII Grade members wear an identical jewel except that the ribbon is of yellow silk. Past Celebrants and Members of the Third Order also wear red cloaks of various designs denoting their rank in the Society.


The Operatives


The full title of this Order is the Worshipful Society of Free Masons, Rough Masons, Walkers, Slaters, Paviours, Plaisterers and Bricklayers, but it is known by everyone as “The Operatives”.


The Constitutions of the Society state that the Order was founded in 1913, when Channel Row Assemblage was formed in London. It has been claimed that the Society is directly descended from still then lingering old operative lodges, but the veracity of this claim is disputed by some.


Certainly, the Operatives’ rituals are archaic in form and much fuller than that of the Speculatives, and they containing practical instruction of which only echoes are found in speculative ritual, thereby providing an interesting field of study for the serious Masonic student. There seven degrees in the Society, all of which are worked, namely:


             Indentured Apprentice

II°            Fellow of the Craft

III'           Super-Fellow, Fitter & Marker

IV'           Super-Fellow, Setter Erector

            Menatzchim, or Overseer

VI°          Passed Master

VII'          Grand Master Mason


There are at present over 60 Assemblages of the Society. The Order was brought to Australia in 1989, when I took over one hundred brethren to London, whereupon the six initial Assemblages for Australia were constituted over the course of a week.


In Australia, now have twelve Assemblages currently – four in Victoria, two each in New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania, and one each in Adelaide and Perth. New Zealand has three Assemblages.


Bodies are termed as Assemblages, consisting of one Lodge of each Degree, from Fourth to First, which is ruled by a Deputy Master Mason, who as a Senior Passed Master is the local representative of the (three) Grand Master Masons. Structurely, Assemblages are grouped into region under a Deputy Grand Master Mason, who is also Senior Passed Master of the VIo Lodge.


Lodges of the Vo are governed by a Deputy Master Mason Vo Lodge, and of the VIo by the Senior Passed Master. The VIIo Degree Lodge is under the direct control of the Grand Master Masons, and the VIIo is effective Grand Rank, which is given out very sparingly indeed.


Membership of The Operatives is limited to candidates who must be a Master Mason, a Mark Master Mason and a Royal Arch Companion in good standing. Once accepted, a candidate can progress to the Vo without additional qualification, but he must be an Installed Master in both Craft and Mark before he can be raised to the VIo. One must possess the VIo before ascended to the highest positions in an Assemblage, including Deputy Master Mason.


The Society is unique in that it has no past ranks. Once a member has served, for example, as Deputy Master Mason of an Assemblage, he does not become a “Past Deputy Master Mason”, but simply reverts to his Degree rank. The same applies Grand Officers. An actual Grand Master Mason, upon retirement, simply reverts to “A Member of the VIIo”.


The regalia is the Society is owned by the Assemblage. On admission as an Indentured Apprentice the candidate is invested with a thin pale blue cord. This is exchanged when he receives the II° for a ‘Square Guage’ of bronze which is again suspended from a pale blue cord. The IIIo  jewel of a ‘Fitter and Marker’ is a ’Running Stone Guage’ in bronze, which is again suspended from the cord. On advancement to ‘Setter Erector’ (IVo) the recipient acquires a jewel in bronze of a ‘Footing Corner Stone Guage’ that is affixed to the cord.


Promotion through the degrees is relatively slow, and at a minimum, from joining it takes at least two years, given a very regular attendance, to achieve the IVo. A further two years thereafter must elapse before promotion to the Vo. The regalia for it is a one-inch collar of pale blue ribbon that replaces the cord, from which hangs an ‘Elbow Square Guage’ of silver. Again, a further minimum two years must pass before promotion to VIo. On becoming a ‘Passed Master’ the previous jewel is replaced by a silver square. For the rarely-achieved VIIo, the silver square is replaced by a golden square. In addition to personal collar jewels, which indicate the rank of the wearer, each Assemblage provides officers’ jewels, which are worn on a pale blue collar two inches in width.


The first four degrees of the Society are have considerable echoes in the speculative Craft. If one can imagine what the First Degree might have been like several hundred years ago, then you approach the degree of Indentured Apprentice in The Operatives. The same applies to the Second Degree, Fellow of the Craft. In the Third Degree, Fitter and Marker, the candidate is operatively and symbolically fitting and marking the stones in the quarries, and thus it contains echoes of the speculative Degree of Mark Master Mason. The Fourth Degree, Settor Erector, sees the candidate on the temple site itself, and it contains a few echoes of the Holy Royal Arch Degree.


The Fifth Degree, Menatzchim, or Overseer, has no correspondence in speculative masonry. In it the candidate is examined in his technical knowledge before being obligated as an Overseer within the Society. The Degree of Passed Master is a very operative degree, quite magnificent, and again unique. The candidate is raised, but with truly operative connotations. In the rarely attained Seventh Degree, the candidate is enthroned as a Grand Master Mason. There are only three Grand Master Masons in practice, the First (SKI) and Second (HKT) hold office for five years and three years respectively, while the third is ritually slain in October of every year, when a new Third Grand Master is enthroned at the Annual Meeting of Grand Assemblage in London, following the ‘Enactment of the Drama’. Other brethren who achieve this Degree hold it honoris causa.


Knight Masons


The Degrees of the Red Cross of Babylon are next to capture our attention. Forms of these degrees are worked under varying Masonic authorities in England, Ireland and Scotland, and elsewhere.


The Degree has a relatively obscure history in England, being worked within a few old Craft lodges, as was not uncommon in the 18th century. It was one of the original degrees brought under the Grand Council of the  Order of the Allied Masonic Degrees of England, etc, upon its formation in 1880. Under England, the Red Cross of Babylon is considered one degree, work in two parts – the first in a “Royal Arch Council”, the second in “The Persian Court”. It relates the rebuilding of the Second Temple, and the return of Zerubbabel to Jerusalem – placing it historically before story of the Royal Arch Degree. The Degree is in some respects similar to the 15th, 16th and 17th Degrees of the Ancient and Accepted Rite.


In Scotland, the Red Cross Degree, known there as the ‘Baylonish Pass or Red Cross’ is worked under a Lodge & Council (which is attached to a Scottish Royal Arch Chapter) which also works the Ark Mariner Degree, and the Cryptic Degrees.


In Ireland, it was part of the Early Grand Rite, which later dissolved into the Knight Templars and Ancient & Accepted Rite in that country. In Ireland originally, the Red Cross of Babylon was at one time worked as a preliminary to the Knight Templar Degree. The Red Cross Degrees came close to extinction in Ireland, but were revived in 1925 by the Grand Council of Knight Masons formed in Dublin in that year. Under Ireland, the Red Cross of Babylon is divided into three degrees (plus a Chair Degree) and its working is far fuller than that worked either in England or Scotland. Under the Irish Grand Council of Knight Masons, the degrees worked are Knight of the Sword, Knight of the East, and Knight of the East and West. The first two are given to the candidate sequentially on the night he joins, while he receives the Knight of the East and West at a subsequent meeting.


In Australia, as a result of Masonic diffusion from the three Home Constitutions, the situation is slightly complicated. In all states except Victoria and Tasmania, the Red Cross Degree is worked as part of the Holy Royal Arch sequence. This is usually a variant of the Scottish Version of the ceremonies. In Victoria, the Red Cross degrees are exclusively worked under the Allied Masonic Degrees, descended directly from England. An additional complication is that Allied Degree Councils, directly under or descended from England, also exist in most other states. Thus, effectively, in those States a brother can gain two versions of the Red Cross of Babylon – under his Royal Arch Grand Chapter, and under the Allied Masonic Degrees. In Tasmania, there is no indigenous Grand Chapter. Therein, existing Chapters have Scottish warrants, and attached Scottish Lodge and Councils that, as noted above, work a form of the Red Cross degrees.


A number of Australian Masons have, in the past, attempted to warrant a Council of Knight Masons under Dublin, in Australia, but due the complications just mentioned, this has not been possible, as yet. However, a Council of Knight Masons will be consecrated in Dublin in June 2003 for Australia, and it will subsequently work in Launceston, Tasmania. The founding members, who previously joined the Order in Ireland, subsequently obtained the necessary permissions from the Craft Grand Lodge of Tasmania. Possibly, it will be the only Knight Masons Council ever warranted in Australia.


In the United States, and in Canada, the Red Cross Degree, which is similar to the Red Cross of Babylon version worked under England, is conferred as an essential preparatory degree before a Royal Arch Mason can be installed as a Knight Templar. Additionally, in 1936, a group of Masons in North Carolina brought the degrees from Ireland to the United States. Formerly under Ireland, the Councils in the United States formed the Grand Council of Knight Masons of the United States of America in 1967, which is in amity with the Grand Council in Dublin. Today, there are over seventy Councils of Knight Masons in the U.S.A. with more than 7000 members. However, the several Councils in the State of Ohio stood out, and today still remain under the Grand Council of Knight Masons in Dublin.




The Rectified Scottish Rite (Rite Eccosais Rectifie – RER) is the oldest continuously extant chivalric Masonic Order in the world, having adopted its current structure in 1778. It is also known, particularly outside Europe, as the CBCS – and acronym of the French words for the pinnacle degree of the Order. A Christian Order, it possesses impressive archaic rituals. It arose out of the remnants of Baron von Hund’s 1754 ‘Rite of Strict Observance’. The modern form of the RER by the ‘mother’ Great Priory of Switzerland (Grand Prieure Independent D’Helvetia – GPIH) in 1782. The Rite spread rapidly over Europe in the next thirty years but then waned just as rapidly and by the middle of the 19th Century it existed only Switzerland. However, other regular Great Priories began to emerge: USA (1934), France (1935), England (1937), Germany (1959), Belgium (1986), Spain (1997), Portugal (1998) and Italy (1998).


The principal reason for this expansion, prior to World War II, was the perceived threat to Switzerland of the German Nazis. Warrants for Grand Bodies were thus given to the USA, France and England so that, if Switzerland was subsequently invaded, the Rite would survive.


Membership of the Rite has always been very tightly held. In America, there is one lodge, which meets annually, but effectively does not work the degrees of the Order. Membership is limited to two members from each American State, one hundred in all. We one member dies or resigns, the remaining member in that State nominates his successor.


In England, the Order is controlled by the Great Priory of the Temple. It has one lodge, limited to thirteen members, which are drawn only from the top Great Priory officers. Again, it does not work the RER ceremonies, and usually only meets (rarely) to receive a new candidate. Interestingly, there is a second RER Great Priory in England. As the existing English Great Priory (dating from 1937) was unheard of and thought to be extinct, after WWII senior members of the SRIA in London applied to Switzerland and gained a warrant for a Great Priory. Subsequently, the original, still existing RER Great Priory under the English Knight Templars, not surprisingly took a dim view of this development. However, as the second Grand Warrant could not practically be withdrawn, both still exist. The SRIA version meets annually in London, and under a tacit concordant with the Knight Templar version, it too is limited to a maximum thirteen members. The SRIA version does work the RER ceremonies.


The problem in England was, and remains, of course, that it was virtually impossible to become a member of the Order. About fifteen years ago, the RER Great Priory of Belgium erected an English-speaking lodge under it, in Belgium, for the specific purpose of admitting English Masons. Subsequently a second lodge was formed, and late last year, a third. They all meet twice per year on Saturdays, and English members thus cross the Channel twice per year to attend. A concordant was struck between the KT Great Priory of England and the RER Great Priory of Belgium, that any English Mason joining in Belgium must first be approved by the English Knight Templar Great Vice-Chancellor – though I understand it is unusual for a proposed candidate to be rejected through this procedure.


In 1998, I was accepted into one of the English-speaking RER lodges in Belgium, and later assisted a few other Australian Masons to join. After not inconsiderable efforts by a number of people in both Belgium and here, the National Grand Master of the RER Great Priory of Belgium, with retinue, flew to Australia in July 2001 and consecrated an RER Lodge, under Belgium, in each of Launceston, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth. He is returning in July this year to consecrate a lodge in Brisbane. The Australian RER lodges each meet twice per year, and generally take one, or occasionally, two candidates per meeting. A candidate in Australia must be a financial Knight Templar to gain admission. It is anticipated that only one RER lodge will be formed per Australian State.


The degrees of the Rite are nominally seven but the first three are accepted as equivalents of the degrees of the Craft and are ceded to the authority of the Craft to solely administer (similar to the procedure in the Ancient and Accepted Rite). The degrees worked by the RER are then: Scottish Master, Scottish Master of Saint Andrew (effectively two parts of one ceremony), Squire Novice and Knight Beneficent of the Holy City (CBCS). The degrees of Saint Andrew provide a Christian interpretation to the Solomonic and Second Temple traditions. The degree of Squire Novice recounts a legend concerning the conversion to Christianity of sages in the Holy City by St Mark. It covers the traditions of their initiation and secret oral transmission of their doctrine culminating with the emergence of the Knights Templar. The degree of Knight Beneficent of the Holy City reveals that the Christian doctrine predates the Christian era and that good works pave the way to heaven, a better society and true enlightenment. After being admitted to the degrees of St Andrew it is normal that a two-year period pass before a member is considered for admission to the degree of Squire Novice. A similar period must lapse before a Novice can be considered for investiture and arming as a Knight Beneficent of the Holy City.


The members of the Rite, under the Great Priory of Belgium, wear different regalia appropriate to rank. The brethren of St Andrew wear an apron and collar with a suspended jewel of significance. Squire Novices wear a tunic and a collar suspending a St. Andrew jewel. Knights wear a tunic and mantle, a sash suspending the St Andrew jewel, and a collarette suspending a Templar Cross, plus gloves and a sword.




The Order of Eri is one of the most elite Masonic orders. It is supposedly derived for a ancient Order in Ireland, consisting of freemasons, and it is said to have been erected and patronised by the Kings of Ireland. Just how it reached its present existence is not entirely clear, but is evidently dates to the mid 1850’s in its current form. There has also been an American connection at some stage, as the “Red Branch of Eri” degree is one of those controlled under USA Grand Council of the Allied Masonic Degrees.


The Order under England only possesses three lodges, known as Faslairts. Two work in England, the other in Melbourne. There are three degrees of the Order, all worked successively on a candidate on the night he joins, viz: 1. Man-at-Arms. 2. Esquire. 3. Knight.


A Faslairt, which are headed by its Enlightened Knight Commander, only meets twice per year, and usually only take one candidate per meeting. Membership is strictly by invitation, and to be invited to join one must hold a minimum of the Fifth Grade in the SRIA, though in Melbourne effectively one must hold the VII Grade therein, and be a Past Celebrant. In England, the VIII Grade is the usual prerequisite.


Legend relates that the Order, comprising freemasons, was founded in 1697 BC by the then King of Ireland, Brian Boru. An ancient book entitled The Annals of the Four Masters of Ireland tells of the Knights of the Collar of Eri as instituted by King Eamhium and his eight princes over the armies of the four provinces, ie. Ulster, Munster, Leinster and Connaught. The ancient Knightly Order was comprised of Ollamhs who were the teachers and hospitallers, the Brehons who as judges ensured that the laws were correctly administered, the Crimthears being priests who attended to the religious and moral education of the people, the Bards as historians who preserved the memory of the noble deeds of their ancestors and the later Heralds who assisted in developing the Arts and Sciences. Much of the modern ceremonies are couched in Bardic Verse and include much ancient Irish lore.




This Oriental Order is founded upon the literature supplied by a Dr Maurice Vidal Portman, a learned student of Oriental lore, an occultist, freemason and politician who spent a considerable time on the staff of the Diplomatic Corps in India during the late 1800s. He made himself familiar with the literature and ritual observances of the Eastern Indian peoples, whether Brahmins, Buddhists, Jains or Mohammedans, and gained much curious lore from religious devotees of all creeds. The Order in its first form was not widely known and for some years was in abeyance, but in 1902 the original material was recast into a series of degrees. The degrees as now worked are as follows: 1. First Degree. 2. Passing Degree 3. Second Degree. There are only two lodges of the Order, both in England, one of which meets in London. My understanding is that currently waiting list to join this Order is about eight years.


The Order possesses rituals that illustrate the old world religions and notable mythologies of India, with sidelights from the cults of ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. These are presented a series of ceremonies and lectures that confer instruction on the oriental ideas of theology. A practice that is of special significance to the Order is the regular observance of the ceremonies of the Vernal and Autumnal Equinoxes.




The Pilgrim Preceptors is another of the more remote English Masonic Orders, of which I have minimum knowledge. Its lodges are called Conclaves, and it is an extension of the Holy Royal Arch. Regalia is, indeed, that of a Royal Arch Companion, plus a collarette and jewel. There are two degrees in the Order, that of Pilgrimage and Preceptor. The legend of the Order concerns the Fourth Grand Lodge in Jerusalem, and the coming of Christianity to Britain.




Hermetic Order of Martinists (HOM) is a purely Masonic branch of the Martinist Order. Martinism is a Christian mystical philosophy based upon the books and letters of Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin (1743 to 1803). In general, a Christian mystic is someone who is deliberately performing the virtues expressed by the life of Jesus Christ. Generally however, the Christian mystic, indeed the mystic of whatever religion, engages in a spiritual discipline over and above everyday religious observances. A mystic is one who seeks to raise his or her consciousness for the purposes of greater affinity with God.


During his lifetime, Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin founded no group or fraternity for the study of the higher mysteries of religious experience. However, both before and after his death, circles of admirers of Saint-Martin’s works were formed for the purpose of discussing and perhaps his philosophy.


In 1891, the Martinist Order was founded in Paris, France, by a Supreme Council. Several Martinist Orders presently exist, aside from the Masonically attached version, and Martinism is heavily associated with the American AMORC Rosicrucian organisation. Indeed, the Masonic-associated Order of Martinists also has some philosophical similarities with the Masonic Rosicrucians. Candidates are for the Order must be SRIA members, but only of the Zelator (1st) Grade.


The Martinist Order in general is organized on the Lodge System, similar to Freemasonry, although no effort is made to encroach upon its symbols and teachings. After having been found sincere and desirous of study of the principles of the Order, a candidate successively progresses through three Grades, viz: Initiation, Second Degree, and Third Degree. The Lodge system provides a psychological environment to encourage the perception and appreciation of higher spiritual principles. It is presumed that after the Third Degree, upon which official study terminates, the Martinist is fully capable of continued self-study and practice and indeed is prepared to lend a helping hand in charity and philanthropic service to the rest of humanity. Meetings are called Conventicles. Regalia consists of a surplice, cloak, and collar. It would appear that only one lodge of the Masonically associated Order meets in England, in London.


St. Thomas of Acon


The Commemorative Order of St Thomas of Acon is of English origin. It ritual was discovered in the archives of London’s Guildhall Library some years ago. This was reportedly the only English order devised during the Crusades, and it evolved, so far as appears known, to provide decent burials to those who had fallen in the Middle East. It certainly survived the Crusades, as an actual report, also located in London’s Guildhall, describes the Installation of the Master in 1510. At this time the order was evidently at a low ebb, and it appeared that none the knights wanted to accept the position of Master. Thus the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral (then the Patron of the Order) selected a vicar, whom the Dean had dragged to the centre of a chapel and was told that he was to be the Master, whether he liked it or not. This actual incident is incorporated into the current Acon Ritual. The Acon ritual largely centers on the life and death of St. Thomas a Becket.


In terms of the modern Order, it first Chapel was formed at Blackheath, London, in 1974, and in its present ceremonial it preserves both the Military and the Monastic aspects of the original Order. The Order decided to expand only in 1998, when thirty-eight candidates were admitted to the Blackheath Chapel, and were charged to go forth and multiply. Since that date twenty-one further Chapels have been formed (eighteen in the United Kingdom, two in the U.S.A., and one in Canada). At the start of 2002, the Order possessed over 600 members, and is still expanding rapidly.


When one is installed a Knight of Acon, the member takes a knighthood title. This must be based on some geographical association with him – where he was born, or has lived, as examples. The regalia of a Knight of Acon is not too dissimilar from that of a Knights Templar. At the present time, the Order of Acon does not exist in Australia.




This Order appears to be of Scottish Origin, and was brought to America in 1933 by the Marquis of Ailsa, the First Grand Principal of Scotland’s Grand Royal Arch Chapter. It was subsequently incorporated into the American Allied Masonic Degrees, where (as for the USA Allied Degrees in general) one must first hold the Royal Arch Degree.


In Scotland, there are three ‘Cork’ Lodges, two in Glasgow and one in Fife; while in England the three reporting existing therein meet in Hertfordshire, Kent, and Buckinghamshire. There is also a Cork Lodge in Belgium, meeting in Brussels. There does not appear to be any central administration of the Order, with each lodge acting independently. In every sense, the Cork Degree is a humorous Order, though it does possess a reasonably extensive ritual, which is basically a satire on the story of Noah. Its purpose is wholly charitable, with all monies raised at meetings donated to selected childrens’ charities.


The Order has been brought to Australia. It was worked for the first time in Perth last September, prior to a meeting of the Rectified Scottish Rite Southern Cross Prefectory (aka ‘Provincial Grand Lodge of Australia’), when the Worshipful Admiral (i.e.: ‘Master’) of the Cork Lodge in Belgium was present. The Southern Cross Cork Lodge will meet from time to time in different parts of Australia.


The basic rules of the Order are as follows:


  • The Cork Degree can only be given in a place regularly used for Masonic Meetings, and after a meeting of a Masonic Body has been held and concluded. It cannot be conferred on any person who is not a Mason, nor upon any Mason who is not in good standing.

  • A Mason is not eligible for the degree unless he is a Master Mason and is either a Companion of the Holy Royal Arch, or a Warden, Master or Past Master of a Craft Lodge.

·         No one can confer the Degree unless he is, or has been, in the chair of First Principal in a Royal Arch Chapter, or has served as Master of some other Masonic Body, which restricts its membership to Companions of the Holy Royal Arch.

·         The Degree cannot be conferred unless at least three Cork Masons are present.

·         Smoking during the working of the degree is permitted (if permitted in the premises) and liquid refreshment of some kind is compulsory.

·         The jewel of the Degree is a piece of cork within a silver ring, the hole 5/6ths of an inch in diameter and 1/8” of an inch in thickness, and it may bear letters or figures to indicate where the owner obtained the Degree.

  • One must appear to join the Order in a hat (the sillier the better)




This last Order to capture our attention is, like the Cork Degree, one of humour and charitable ends. The origins are The Squareman is a bit obscure. This Order is wholly a Scottish creation, where it is based. There are eleven “Sheds” (aka ‘lodges’) of the Order, of which ten are in Scotland. The eleventh is located at Wokingham in England, where it was formed about ten years ago. Reputedly, Grand Shed, the controlling body, will not allow any further Sheds to be formed outside of Scotland. I joined Wokingham Shed No. 11 in 1998 during a visit to England.


A Shed is lead by its “Worthy Deacon”, a new one of which is installed every year. Candidates must be Mark Master Masons. The ritual is extroverted, and very humorous (except, perhaps, unless you are the candidate), but the second half of the ceremony has a serious side. Many of the offices have Scottish connotations, and much of the ritual is in “Scottish English”. The major purpose the Order is charitable, and goodly sums are always extracted from members in general, and from candidates in particular, during the ceremony. Grand Shed attends the installation of each constituent Shed annually.


The administration of the Order is interesting. Each of the eleven Sheds has one active Grand Officer, who each step up one position every year till eleven years later he becomes Grand Master. Upon the retirement of the Grand Master the Shed from whence he came elect a replacement Grand Officer who starts at the bottom of the Grand Lodge line. Thus, every Shed has a Grand Master, in turn, every eleven years.




A comparative diagram between the English and American Allied Masonic Degrees

Life is 10 percent what you make it and 90 percent how you take it
- Irving Berlin, Freemason


Site maintained by Nathan Daw Quadros. Last updated 30/7/03.