THE INNOVATORS [The men who shaped modern American Freemasonry] by J. RAY SHUTE (From Collectanea vol. X (1975), pp. 95-127)
The founding of the North Carolina Lodge of Research, No. 666, A. F. & A. M., at Monroe, in 1930, was far more than the establishing of America’s first research lodge for it created the fountainhead and locus of a spreading concept of Freemasonry which was to result in the formation of most of the small Masonic groups in North America, the impact of which has been felt everywhere. It is difficult, nearly half a century later, with all of library and papers of the writer deposited in the Shute Masonic Collection of the Southern Historical section of the Library if the University of North Carolina, at Chapel Hill, to furnish dates and specific historical data of the early events and personalities so closely identified with what I have elected to call The Innovators.
A half century ago, and I am told that even today in some areas, Grand Lodges were ultraconservative, ruled by what properly be called cliques—due to the practice of the Grand Masters appointing their prodigies at the bottom of the official line, who with the passage of time, eventually became Grand Masters of Grand Lodge and, in turn, appointed future Grand Masters and, thereby, denying the Craft in general the right of selection of their governing officials. This undemocratic policy may have resulted in securing some outstanding men as Grand Masters, but it also guaranteed obtaining many incompetents in that office, whose only qualification was being that fortunate appointee of a friend to whom a permanent obligation was obvious. Since it was custom to appoint P.G.Ms. as chairmen of the more important committees, and to elect them as Grand Treasurer and Grand Secretary, the entire operating fabric of Grand Lodge was a “closed shop” and woe betide him who would seek to disrupt the plan. Change was opposed by the vested interest and innovation was not only frowned upon but it was usually bitterly contested, and prevented. A new idea had to have more than merit to have a chance of being adopted. Support had to be secured from the P.G.Ms., which was difficult and seldom obtainable. “change not the ancient landmarks” was more than a cliche. But was the rallying cry of opposition by the majority of the entrenched leadership. I remember one of those rare P.G.Ms. of North Carolina, who was intelligent and progressive, after losing a floor light to secure passage of a progressive measure, referring to the line of P.G.Ms. sitting in the East and voting against most progressive measures proposed, as reminding him of a row of buzzards sitting on a rail fence ready to pounce upon any new idea suggested or making its appearance! So mote it be.
This, then, was the climate within which application was made for Lodge 666 in 1930. Great care had been exercised in securing founders (twenty in number, as required’), so as not to cause hard ship to Monroe Lodge No. 244. With the exception of Walter C. Crowell and the writer, no founder had been active in 244. The other eighteen were not only inactive, but many were suspended or in arrears, due to lack of interest. There were brought into “good standing”—six or seven medical doctors and other professional men, et cetera—and 244 approved the application. We had two staunch friends at Grand Lodge, both P.G.Ms.: Edgar W. Timberlake, Jr., Chairman of the Jurisprudence Committee and John H. Anderson, Grand Secretary, K.Y.C.H. (four quadrants), and later General Grand High Priest. Timberlake was a former Dean and a member of the Law Faculty of Wake Forest College, situated a few miles from Raleigh, (now Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, N. C.) and beloved by all who knew him. Another member of the Jurisprudence Committee,’ who was later to be Grand Master as well as Master of 666, was a young Concord attorney, Luther T. Hartsell, Jr., K.Y.C.H. (four quadrants), who assisted greatly in the early years and made commendable contributions to the Innovators cause.
It was decided to make application for a regular lodge and not to reveal what we hoped to accomplish afterwards; this was done as a result of several meetings with those aforementioned and as a result of their suggestions. 666 was issued a dispensation and in time a charter. After a couple of years’ operation, 666 was granted the right of dual membership and authority to meet anywhere within the State upon invitation of a lodge within whose jurisdiction the meeting was to be held. The hurdle was success fully leaped and 666 began a career which made substantial contributions to Masonic research.
A child of the Great Depression, this very fact made possible the success of Lodge 666 and the collateral organizations which arose from the same environment and conditions. The one thing we all possessed in common was time on our hands which was utilized to the fullest and perhaps this one fact (which mayhap could not have happened at another period of time) enabled many of us to go abroad into early lodges, Grand Lodges, libraries, court houses and elsewhere and secure invaluable documents and records, photocopies, transcripts and correspondence for use by Lodge 666. Correspondence throughout the world lead to the accumulation of thousands of items which, otherwise, would have remained unknown to Masonic students. In the process of evaluating these sources of information we soon realized that the wealth of material which was being funneled into our archives was too diverse to he adequately studied and utilized by Lodge 666 alone and our transactions, “Nocalore”, too restricted to the Craft to furnish a suitable outlet therefore. We also discovered elsewhere in the Masonic world the existence of organizations such as the Allied Masonic Degrees, the Priestly Order of the Temple, Knights Beneficient of the Holy City, Grand College of Rites (in France), and others, unknown to Americans of our time. We had the time to work, think, hope and dream—to plan.
Dual membership enabled Lodge 666 to bring several good men in Monroe into active membership of the lodge, as well as such distinguished North Carolina Masonic students as Kennon W. Parham (my first cousin), J. Edward Allen, Luther T. Hartsell, John H. Anderson, E. W. Timberlake, Hubert M. Poteat, Charles H. Pugh, Frederic F. Bahnson, John A. Livingstone, Wallace E. Caldwell, Frank M. Pinnix, Early W. Bridges and others. The organization of the Correspondence Circle brought Masonic students from throughout America and the world into our activities, many of whom made outstanding contributions to the work.
As the sole surviving founder of Lodge 666, I feel that some thing from me about those early days and years is indicated before I, too, pass from the scene and my recollections are lost forever. Hence, these rambling thoughts from the past.
Among the local Innovators, now gone, were Walter C. Crowell, who died in office as Master Jan. 2, 1932, aged sixty-two; Junius S. Stearns, who lived to a ripe old age and served as Grand Master, R. & S. M.; S. Henry Green, who served as President of High Priesthood in N. C. and died in his eighties as Deputy Grand Master of N. C., R. & S. M., Potentate of Oasis Temple, A.A.O.N.M.S., etc.; J. Ed Stewart; Louie F. Hart; Andrew S. Melvin; William Richie Smith; Michel Saliba; Lee Griffin; N. D Saleeby and Edwin Niven. These were the men who gave so freely of their time and talents, which were many, and contributed so much to a new concept of Freemasonry and its allied institutions. They helped form the Supreme Quarry of the World, Masons of Tyre, the predecessor of the Allied Masonic Degrees; formed the Knights of the York Cross of Honour (seven of the above); introduced the Knight Masons of Ireland to America, as well as the Excellent Master, Royal Ark Mariner and Red Cross Knights from Scotland, together with the Thrice Illustrious Master, which was rewritten and made into an American institution; introduced the Priestly Order of the Temple to America, from New Zealand and confirmed from England.
The Innovators, headquartered in Monroe but a North Carolina phenomenon with associates throughout the nation and, in fact, in various parts of the Masonic world, had several very definite objectives and for a decade, between 1931 and the beginning of World War II, was a beehive of activity. These Freemasons felt that every Masonic organization should have a North Carolina sub ordinate body and this led to the organizing of he conclave of the Red Cross of Constantine and the North Carolina College, Societas Rosicruciana in Civitatibus Foederatis, plus the various small groups, and, even, a warrant for American Operative Lodge No. 1 is in the archives from England where the operatives were resurrected and an effort made, unsuccessfully I believe, to restore the Craft to its former glory!
Another objective was to secure authorized permission for every Masonic degree, grade and order in existence in other parts of the world which were not known and worked in the United States. This led to the introduction of the Allied Masonic Degrees, the Priestly Order of the Temple, the Knight Masons of Ireland, plus the Irish Royal Arch, Knights Beneficent of the Holy City (C.B.C.S.) and others. Those organizations needful of a governing body were acquired in groups of three, which in turn formed a governing body. Extraneous degrees were incorporated into the A.M.D., but dead rites and systems were incorporated into the Grand College of Rites, U.S.A. and fellowships in the college were conferred on students of ritual and a publication: Collectanea—utilized as a method of distribution of this interesting material for study and research. Miscellanea was published by A.M.D. and concerned itself primarily with individual degrees and historical research studies. Lodge 666, in addition to its Transactions: Nocalore, published books and other materials, reprints, facsimiles, et cetera. N. C. College, S.R.I.C.F. published its transactions under the title LVX. The writer edited all four of these publications as well as the publications of Nocalore Press.
Another objective of the Innovators was the honoring of those who made outstanding contributions to the so-called York Rite and The York Cross of Honour and the T.I.M. degree resulted and today are universally recognized, appreciated and disseminated worldwide. Honoring Masonic students and authors resulted in the formation of The Council of the Nine Muses, No. 13, A.M.D. and the Society of Blue Friars. Further encouragement of study and research in the York Rite resulted in the resurrection of the dormant, time immemorial Royal Arch Chapter, No. 4—Mount Ararat—and constituting it into a research chapter, with roving charter and dual membership and authorizing it, by permission of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Ireland and North Carolina, to operate with the ritual and nomenclature of an Irish Chapter, which meant that the presiding officer was not the High Priest but the King, and the ritual did not concern itself with the rebuilding of the Temple under Zerubabbel, but, rather, the repair of the Temple under Josiah—a most interesting difference. Few American Royal Arch Masons realize the difference in rituals of the Royal Arch. Only in America do we find the Imitation Ark, an invention of Thomas Smith Webb, father of the American Rite, and the best argument that the Select Master, which deals with said Ark, had to be an American invention and could not have been one of the stray European degrees claimed by the Charleston Rite of Perfection, and constituting their claim to disseminate the Cryptic Degrees, which they did in the mid-nineteenth century. Philip Eckel could be the originator of the Select Master, as he claimed authority over it as early as 1795 and operated a Select Masters Council in Baltimore and issued warrants for councils until 1824; he authorized Jeremy L. Cross to confer the degree and form councils in a warrant in 1817. The premier Cryptic Council is Roanoke No. 1, which was reorganized into Roanoke Council, No. 1, Royal, Select, Super Excellent and Thrice Illustrious Masters by Grand Council of North Carolina, to function as a research council; it was attached to Mount Ararat R. A. Chapter, which was attached to the North Carolina Lodge of Research, No. 666. Thus was research encouraged in North Carolina during the days of the Innovators. Evil times came and with them evil men, who tore down all of these monuments to a dream, which turned into a bigoted nightmare.
I have mentioned the three Royal Arch rituals utilized in the English-speaking world today, which are most different. This is a fertile field for research and should be encouraged. Regardless of the monumental research done by the late Philip Crossle, Secretary of Research Lodge CC, Dublin, with his theory of the Green and Red Degrees and what he called the Irish Rite, there is still much to be done there, also. This was one of the reasons why we secured the Knight Masons of Ireland and formed a close tie with the leaders in Dublin forty years ago; we simply could not adequately follow up on our early contacts, studies and research begun so long ago. For political, as well as religious, reasons the Masonic scholars of the London school wrote Ireland off the list of places for serious study long ago and except for Crossle and the eminent scholar Dr. Chetwoode Crawley, little has been done on research in Ireland.
The Masonic Schism in English-speaking Freemasonry resulted in a proliferation of degrees, spurious historical claims, a debasing of Masonic nomenclature, and general confusion amongst the Craft. Both Moderns and Antients were guilty of a multitude of errors and a situational impasse was created as a result which makes the task of the historian and ritualist well-nigh untenable at best. The Union of 1813 helped heal the breach but most of the damage had been done. The definition of “pure, ancient Freemasonry” in the Articles of Union consisting of EA, FC and MM, “including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch”, while clarifying matters for the future in an organizational sense, completely obfuscated the historical and ritualistic aspects of Freemasonry and formed an erroneous roadblock for the student. The assumption that the Royal Arch of 1813, and subsequently, contained the “Masters part” which had in former times constituted the summum bonum of the Craft is both untrue and absurd. That the Masters part was tampered with is generally accepted by the student, but to associate the ritual of the 1813 Royal Arch with the Craft makes no sense whatever. More tenable is the association of the elements of the Mark with the ancient ritual of being “Entered and Crafted”, which constituted the early speculative (and operative, for that matter) Masonic ritual. Lodge 666 had, perhaps, the largest, and certainly the most interesting, collection of Mark rituals in existence and was a field in which the writer devoted nearly a quarter of a century in research and study and once hoped to compile a book on the subject. This is a field of research demanding further study and more serious attention. It was in these important fields of research that the Innovators were so deeply involved and interested and which led to many of the acts and plans necessitating the various small and specialized groups which were created for specialized research. It was hoped that, in time, each group would become specialists in a restricted field of study and research, and, thereby, contribute significantly to a better understanding of the history and purposes of Freemasonry.
I turn now to a recollection of many, but by no means all, of the original Innovators who lived outside of North Carolina and who made such significant and lasting contributions to “the cause”, In the late 1920s, J. Hugo Tatsch, who had been associated with another of our old and beloved Innovators and who contributed so much to Freemasonry, Charles C. Hunt, Librarian of the famous Masonic library at Cedar Rapids, Iowa, went to New York as Vice President of the Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Co., Inc., in charge of the Masonic activities of the firm. As a librarian, he was well equipped to perform the task to which he had set his hand and he immediately involved himself with the handful of Masonic students throughout the country who wanted to “do something” about research, publishing, et cetera. He formed the Masonic Bibliophiles, which underwrote several limited editions in various Masonic and allied fields. He encouraged the North Carolina Innovators in establishing Lodge 666 and was the first member of the Correspondence Circle and contributed several papers to Nocalore. He reorganized the library of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts and discovered many valuable manuscripts and other data which contributed to Masonic history. He formed many valuable friendships in Boston which resulted in forging new ties there in the cause of the Innovators. Through Tatsch many new Innovators came into the Correspondence Circle of Lodge 666 and later into many of the small groups associated therewith. I will return to Tatsch later as he played a significant role in the formative era.
Another of the original Innovators and one whose contributions cannot be adequately appreciated without having been with him and associated in the many by-ways and side chapels of the Temple where he left such an imprint of his unusual abilities and talents was Harold Van Buren Voorhis, of Red Bank, N. J. He organized the Wahoo Band and the Order of the Bath and was in everything and a close friend of Tatsch, with whom he worked until death carried Hugo away from us, prematurely, and in November 1946, Voorhis became Vice-President of the Macoy Corporation. Voorhis went to Boston many times with Tatsch and they formed close friendship with Frederick W. Hamilton, former president of Tufts University, who was Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts and also the Supreme Magus of the High Council, Societas Rosicruciana in Civitatibus Foederatis, which had languished and consisted of only the Massachusetts College at that time. Voorhis was solely responsible, as a result of those early Boston associations, of reviving the S.R.I.C.F. and forming Colleges in New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Virginia, Long Island and elsewhere and on December 11, 1950 became the Supreme Magus ad vitam, an honor he so richly deserves. He, along with the writer and J. Edward Allen, of Warrenton, N. C., noted Fraternal Correspondent and Reviewer, are the only original Innovators living. Voorhis, I understand, while over four score and ten, as is Allen, still attends the various small groups annual meetings and it is good to know that he is still available for consultation and aid. Dr. William Leon Cummings of Syracuse, N. Y. was a Masonic Historian of note, and in constant touch with other Masonic Historians the world over. He made a life study of “The Morgan Affair”, which happened in the part of New York State where he lived.
While attending the annual meeting of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial Association, at Alexandria, Virginia, in 1930, Allen, Voorhis, Tatsch, Kennon W. Parham and the writer met one of the local volunteer receptionists who was later to become one of the staunchest Innovators in our group: Dr. William Moseley Brown was in the three Grand Lines of Virginia and subsequently was head of all three Masonic bodies, an honor few Virginians achieved. Brown was a college professor who served as Dean of Freshmen at his Alma Mater, Washington and Lee University, and later as president of Atlantic University at Virginia Beach, from which the writer was to receive a Master of Arts degree, honoris causa. While the recipient of Virginia’s highest Masonic honors, Brown knew nothing about the broad scope of American Freemasonry and especially the small band of Innovators, with whom he immediately associated himself and was to contribute such an enormous amount of vitality and acumen. He spoke German as fluently as English and was knowledgeable in Latin, French and Greek—it was said he was the best Greek scholar in U. S. I shall return to Brown later in this study.
Another of the original Innovators few contemporary members know of was Henry Van Arsdale Parsell, of New York, closely associated with Tatsch and Voorhis and who was the senior in age of all the Innovators and died August 23, 1962. He was a member of the Half Moon Lodge of Royal Ark Mariners, under the Sovereign College, and was a student of the occult, psychic research and an Archbishop of the Old Catholic Church, an institution few are familiar with. Voorhis surely is as Parsell officiated at his wedding in 1953. In the early days, the Innovators explored many pathways of knowledge and formed many interesting associations with groups and individuals throughout the world, who attributed to our general store of knowledge and helped broaden our vistas. An entire book could be written on this aspect of the general field of investigation of the original Innovators, but this cannot be touched upon here. Parsell contributed to Lodge 666, not only for publication, but books, mss., rituals, correspondence, a great extent. He sent us the original publications, transactions and other material of such arcane societies as the Alchemical Society of England, the Society of Psychical Research, the Rites of Memphis and Mizraim, etc. What a fund of information and knowledge he amassed over the years. I can see him now: a small white-haired man, with pince-nez glasses, which he wore on a black ribbon. He would, when reading was required, switch the glasses around and read through them backwards, an act I discovered from Voorhis was due to his being born with an eye that had to be removed. His first love was the Grand College of Rites, to whose archives he contributed many, many valuable documents, rituals and books. I hope Voorhis, before it is too late, will prepare a biography of Henry, for the particular edification of contemporary Innovators. We need it. Voorhis, as well as Allen, should prepare autobiographies very soon. [Voorhis has done so.]
For fear of overlooking many who made significant contributions to the Innovators in the formative years, I shall desist in my own desires to mention several who were “giants in the land” and stop here. Nor shall I mention several who associated with us and found it too hot and retired from the kitchen! Nor, indeed, shall I even elaborate upon the circumstances which lead to my own withdrawal from Freemasonry, other than to say that my reasons had nothing to do with religion, politics or disillusionment as so many have inferred, unknowingly. I left the Craft with nothing but love in my heart, especially for the Innovators. My reasons were valid and, in my opinion, absolutely necessary at the time. I hope that I will be remembered, as hoped Abou Ben Adam, as one who loved his fellow man.
In closing this rambling essay, I feel it necessary to mention one or two events that were so basic to our early successes. One was the union effectuated with the Sovereign College of Allied Masonic and Christian Degrees, which, while originating in Richmond, Virginia, had been removed to Norway, Oxford County, Maine, by Josiah H. Drummond, who really was our spiritual father in the Innovators, as he began a similar movement within American Freemasonry last century and which we have perpetuated and greatly enlarged. He can be called the father of the General Grand Council, R. & S. M. of the U.S.A, of the A.M.D. and other notable endeavors within the tradition of critical inquiry, research and historical integrity. Parsell was responsible for our getting in touch with the Norway brethren which, after much correspondence, resulted in Tatsch, Brown and me going to Norway and opening negotiations which resulted in the union. We were greatly aided by Raymond H. Eastman, a local Norway Select man, and Fred F. Smith a local banker. Web Parham developed dose relations with both these Norway brethren which extended over the years. Subsequent history is now recorded of our exchange with England and solidifying relations.
I cherish my warrant from the Grand Council of England as Past Senior Grand Warden.
Dr. Charles Ellwood, of the Duke University faculty, and I, a member of the Duke National Council, were members of the Directorate of the International League of Freemasons, in Geneva, and we had each been honored as the principal speaker at the League’s annual meetings in different European cities in the thirties. John Mossaz was the chief executive officer of the League and through him I opened a correspondence with a fellow-member of the directorate, John Nicole, Grand Chancellor of the Great Priory of Helvetia, C. B. C. S., in Geneva. Nicole, after sometime, notified me that I had the honor of being the first American and the second English-speaking Mason to be invited to receive the C. B. C. S. (the other being Arthur Edward Waite, England, who was considered as one of England’s outstanding poets and, perhaps, the greatest living Christian mystic, with whom I was to visit at his home in the same summer as I was to be crowned a C.B.C.S.). In my letter of acceptance I suggested that we would be perpetuating the ancient provision of Baron von Hund, who founded the Rite of Strict Observance (the Great Priory of Helvetia as originally the French Lange located at Lyons, France, which at the end of the Revolution was to suffer extinction, as the other Langes, and was removed to Geneva to exist under the same political tolerance which permitted years before the Protestant Reformation. Once established at Geneva, the Great Priory was brought into existence to administer the Order, which had several local Swiss subordinate bodies, but no lodges, and had remained to this day as the survivor of the Rite.), which, believe it or not, had provided for an English Lange (language) in America. My idea received official sanction and I proposed William Moseley Brown for admittance (his knowledge of German, as well as French, would enable translation of the ritual conferred upon us, etc.) and he was accepted. We raised funds for his expenses, as he was in financial straights, as usual, and we set sail for Europe in the summer of 1934.
Since this was the first visit by the Innovators to Europe, where there were so many people with whom we had corresponded and whom we needed to meet personally and discuss so very many matters of mutual interest, plans were laid carefully and letters dispatched setting updates for meetings, et cetera. Had I known then what I was to learn fifteen years later, I would not have arranged passage to and from Europe on the Hamburgh Amerika Lines. I must here digress to record a little-known fact concerning me.
As I have mentioned, I was a member of the directorate of the International League of Freemasons, in Geneva. The proceedings of that organization were printed and publicly distributed and the composition of that organization was not secret. Consequently, the leadership was known to all in Germany as well as elsewhere. But, one activity of the League was not publicized: the assistance to Jewish citizens of Germany who were trying to flee from the pogrom by Nazi Germany under the newly-elected Chancellor Adolph Hitler. Consequently, the secret police in Germany was well aware of the League’s humane but covert activities and the entire directorate was placed on the infamous “Black List” for liquidation—including my own name! Thus, it was sheer luck that I was not molested on my passage to and from Europe on German ships. On the outward trip, three of the stewards who served me in various capacities, on finding that I was from North Carolina, came to my stateroom and introduced themselves as having been members of the crew of the “Vaterland”, which during the first World War was interned at Wilmington, North Carolina, and they were interned in a special camp at Hot Springs, N.C., in the mountains in the far western part of the state. This gave us a sort of commonality which resulted in friendship. I invited them to come to our stateroom and smoke American cigarettes, which they could not otherwise do except in their own quarters in a remote part of the ship. Maybe this helped. The return I made alone, although our names became switched and my state room bore the name “Dr. W. M. Brown” rather than my own name. Bill’s name was not on the Black List. After World War II, President Truman (who was a member of A.M.D. and a K.G.C., as well as a P.G.M. of Missouri) appointed Ray V. Denslow, one of the original and valued Innovators, as one of a special team to bring back to this country the records of the Hitler regime deemed of value to the Allies; one of these documents was the Black List. At our next Washington meeting following Ray’s return to this country, Ray informed me of the fact that I had been marked for liquidation, and, for the first time, I realized how lucky I had been in 1934!
At the time Brown and I went to Europe, I was Grand Master of R. & S. M. in North Carolina and Bill was Grand Master of Masons in Virginia. I mention this, as it has relevance to my story of the trip. We first embarked for a week in Ireland, where we first visited my old friend and Secretary of Research Lodge CC, Dublin. We acquired many documents at Grand Lodge Temple on M Street. I was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Antiquaries, headquartered in Dublin, and had other associations there which I will not bother to mention here. However, our primary visit to Dublin was to meet Joe and George Hamill, brothers and co-managers of the Bank of Ulster at College Green. Joe was Grand Secretary of the Grand Council of Knight Masons of Ireland and George was an active member of that Body. We had dinner with the Hamills in their apartment over the bank (both were bachelors) and were invested by them with the grades of the Order. I in turn made them both Royal and Select and Super Excellent Masters “at sight”, which was a first in Cryptic Masonry and which, interestingly enough, the Grand Council of North Carolina approved but adopted a resolution by the Jurisprudence Committee later forbidding such acts in the future! Also, on returning home, I permitted Bill Brown, who had received his Cryptic Degrees in a Virginia R. A. Chapter, to join our Solomon of the Silver Trowel Council, No. 24, Monroe, without either surrendering his Virginia Chapter membership or submitting to the process of “healing”. This caused a furor throughout the country but led to most Grand Councils later adopting the same position.
Our Dublin visit was most successful and resulted in cementing our friendships there, receiving assurances for the introduction of the Knight Masons of Ireland into the United States and a promise of a reciprocal visit to Americas by the Hamills, which in fact occurred (George W. Hamill made the trip alone—he insisted that the initial W. represented Washington—untrue but pleasing!). We visited a lodge meeting and saw a father confer the Fellow Craft degree upon his son (a “left” tenant in His Majesty’s Royal Air Force, on leave, as he was introduced). We were struck by the lack of dramatics, but an adequate covering of all essentials. When we commented upon the differences between Irish and American ritual we were told that all degrees in the British Isles, including the so-called higher degrees, could be conferred in full within a room ten feet square. I had to recall the highly dramatized degrees at home when all-too-often members of “degree teams”, many not too well educated, would recite lengthy passages from Shakespeare, Pike, Thomas Smith Webb, and other sources— all contained in American rituals—without knowing, as a matter of fact, just what they were parroting and what the hell it all really meant, or, worse yet, misinterpreting what they had said by rote. I wonder why today, with audio-visual electronics, American Masonic bodies do not get professionals to dramatize all of the degrees (since this seems to be the central concept of what is important) on tape and let candidates sit in comfortable, air-conditioned lodge rooms and witness the degrees as our ritualists would like to have them performed. A covering obligation would then be all needed and we could mass produce candidates.
Our visit to Scotland was memorable. We were housed in the Queen Hotel in downtown Edinburgh, within easy reach of the places we had to visit. Not knowing the Scotch customs, we returned to our hotel after midnight, only to find ourselves locked out and we had to awaken the hall porter to let us in and we were firmly criticized for disrupting things. We made sure thereafter to return before the stroke of midnight. We were placed under the guiding hand of one of the most lovable men I have ever known: George A. Howell, former Surveyor-General of Scotland, and Grand Scribe E of the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter, of which I was a Past Third Grand Principal, as their Representative near the Grand Chapter of my own state. Associated with George was Sir John Sime, retired M.P. and Cabinet Member, then in his eighties, who took us everywhere and we met most of the Masonic leaders of Scotland. One interested Masonic scholar was Mason Allan, Supreme Magus of S.R.I.S., and in Public Works. In the absence of a research lodge in Scotland, he filled a gap and was the source of much information. Whatever you are looking for in Masonic ritual or history Scotland seems able to supply. No one can know when it all began: the hoary history of Harodim of Kilwinning and the real antiquity of the Royal Order of Scotland, whose Grand Secretary Sir Thomas Wynning was most gracious and concurred with us (we were both members of the Order) that when Albert Pike got a charter for a Provincial Grand Lodge and Chapter last century and in essence, though not acknowledged, attached them to the southern Supreme Council of the A.A.S.R., making it an adjunct and membership predicated upon Rose Croix, rather than the Royal Arch, he did violence to the traditions of the Royal Order. We discussed the need to have another Provincial Grand Lodge and Chapter operating properly and associated with the Royal Arch, which Tom thought Grand Lodge and Grand Chapter would approve if approved by the Washington Body, which we felt would be impossible under existing relationships between the two American rites. It was agreed that another Provincial Body should be associated with the General Grand Chapter, meeting at the same time and place and there conferring the Orders, et cetera. John H. Anderson, P.G.G.H.P., K.Y.C.H. (four quadrants) and Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of North Carolina, concurred in our expressed opinions at Edinburgh and while he was an original Innovator, he saw no means by which our hopes could be realized and we dropped that matter for future leaders to try again sometime.
The First Grand Principal of the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Scotland was the Right Honorable the Earl of Cassillis (later the Marquis of Ailsa) one of the oldest noble families in Scotland, dating back for centuries. He was most gracious to us and had us out to his castle at New Haile for luncheon, where a most amusing incident occurred, about which I still smile when I recall it. In 1933 the Earl of Cassillis and George A. Howell attended the triennial of General Grand Chapter (this was the session at which a complaint from the Grand Chapter of Massachusetts was considered alleging that the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Scotland had violated its prerogatives by chartering the three Lodges of Royal Ark Mariners and Councils of Red Cross Knights in North Carolina, notwithstanding that the General Grand High Priest, John W. Nielson, of Kansas, as well as the Grand High Priest of North Carolina, had expressed by letter their opinion that such procedure was in no way violative of American Royal Arch Masonry, since these degrees were not a part of our Capitular System. There was a hassle, due to misinformation and, to a degree, typical arrogance by some officials within the Royal Arch. John A. Anderson, at that time General Grand Scribe, gave a succinct explanation of the entire proceedings, as he was a part of the operation, which should have at least satisfied any fair-minded person. A resolution was passed in an effort to appease Massachusetts, but which was innocuous, at best.)
After the triennial, the Earl, who greatly admired President Roosevelt, expressed a desire to meet the chief executive and such a meeting was arranged, to the delight of his lordship and off to the White House he went. On this visit his lordship lost his jewel-encrusted thirty-third degree ring (there are only nine 33°s in Scotland). The ring was never found. His lordship and his wife, the Countess, planned to go from Washington by train to Boston, from whence they sailed to Scotland. George Howell came down to North Carolina for a weeks stay with the Innovators. I had the pleasure of having him as a house guest. We took him over the mountains and throughout the State and his was a memorable visit to himself and to us.
On the evening prior to the train departure, the Countess called me aside in the lobby of the Willard Hotel and told me that his lordship was a “two bottle man” and had run out of spirits and the country being under prohibition, she knew not how to get him a bottle to last him for the trip to Boston where they would board ship and have everything they needed. I told the countess that I was sure we could find something amongst the North Carolinians in Washington and hied me off to the Raleigh Hotel, headquarters of our delegation. John Anderson had two fruit jars of “Craven County corn”, one of which he gave me for his lordship. I carried it to the countess, but warned her of the potency of North Carolina “white lightning”. Now back to that luncheon at New Haile, Scotland. As we were seated at table, the countess turned to me and asked: “Mr. Shute, do you recall last year in Washington when you secured a jar of native spirits for his lordship?” I replied I well remembered. “Well,” said she, “the next morning, on the train, his lordship arose and immediately poured himself a generous portion of the spirits you gave him and downed it neat. It took him two weeks to cool off his belly!”
We left Edinburgh early on a Sunday on the Flying Scotsman, as I recall, and George Howell, Sir John Sime, and others, were there to see us off. They had sandwiches for us, (an unknown item in that part of the world at that time.) Sir John, after being with us until the wee hours of morning the night before, had gone home, and then with his own hands prepared labels for the two small bottles of Scotch he presented us with. Mine bore the legend “Tears of Loch Lommond”, symbolic of the sadness of our departure. I was deeply and understandably impressed. The companions of Edinburgh had treated us royally and we had profited greatly from our visit. What a wealth of material lies unexamined in various archives, and elsewhere, in Scotland. The Royal Order, Supreme Grand Chapter, Grand Lodge, the old Early Grand Rite, with its multitude of rituals and other data; the early Templar materials, the Operatives, et cetera. The ties between Scotland and our group should be maintained by all means.
Arriving in London, after a day’s journey by train, we established ourselves in the Shaftesbury Hotel (bachelors only!), located at the circus described by Dickens as “the place of the seven dials.” I returned to this spot in 1952 and it had been bombed out during the blitz of London, a sad sight indeed. In England few lodges are in operation and few officials on duty during the summer and we had not anticipated many contacts there as we went to the headquarters of the famous research lodge, Quatuor Coronati, and found its distinguished Secretary, William J. Songhurst, on hand. I had, in my then capacity as Secretary of America’s premier research lodge, exchanged correspondence with Songhurst and expected a cordial welcome. As Grand Master of the Cryptic Rite and Bill, as Grand Master of Masons in Virginia, felt that we were due and doubtless would receive some attention and cooperation. Alas and alack, such was not the case. He was pompous and, to us at least, arrogant. In fact Bill lost his temper when he presented his card as Grand Master and requested to visit Grand Lodge headquarters and was rebuffed. Bill told Songhurst that he did not intend having the office of Grand Master of Virginia treated in so slight a manner. On asking Songhurst—incidentally, he was Supreme Magus of S.R.I.A., too—if he had ever visited America, he replied that he had visited America recently (he said he visited Buenos Aires in 1898!).
Our London visit was not wasted by any means. We had arranged a meeting with Arthur Edward Waite at our hotel for our first evening. He and his second wife joined us for dinner and remained until quite late as we had so very many things to discuss. He and I had corresponded for years and did for years after. He invited us to his home on Maida Vale the following day to begin receiving the various degrees (nine, I believe) of His Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross, an androgynous order which I suspicioned as being a revival of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, with new rituals by Waite, which he declared to be his most important writings. Since the Order was not Masonic, we accepted and for the next four days went through the various ceremonies which were, indeed, most impressive, although I must confess that having as our guide (a sort of Senior Deacon) an attractive young lady was a novel experience. While anathema to S.R.I.A., Waite’s group attracted many members of that group on a sub rosa basis (one official called us aside and told us he was an official of High Council, S.R.I.A., and that he would appreciate our not mentioning his membership in the Rosy Cross, a confidence we honored through the years. Waite gave us printed copies of all rituals, each in book form and authorization to promulgate the order in North America, which never was pursued.
Voorhis had corresponded with Waite for years and published the most definite bibliography of his books extant. We conveyed greetings and news from Voorhis and discussed many matters in which there was a mutuality of interest. I secured permission to print several writings of Waite and to reprint articles, poems and other papers which previously, many years previous, had appeared in The Unknown World, The Transactions of the Alchemical Society, and elsewhere. Subsequently we published five poems, under the title “A Mystagogical Quintology”, on the soul which had originally appeared in “The Unknown World”. We also published a book: The Alchemical Papers of Arthur Edward Waite and a small booklet, in handset type, on Saint Martin, as well as some stray papers unknown to Waite collectors. Just this year (1974) I was the recipient of letters from a student who was preparing a biography of Waite in England (a non-Mason) and was able to supply several items for him which he had not run across in his researches.
Forty years ago, when we visited with Waite, he had already withdrawn from regular Freemasonry and his various writings were most critical of the “establishment”. He referred to S.R.I.A. as “a zaney’s cap”, much to the infuriation of Dr. W. Wynn Westcott, then Supreme Magus. He certainly was persona non grata in Scottish Rite circles for his revelation of the plagiary of Albert Pike in his “Morals and Dogma”, in which scores of pages, even the introduction, of Eliphas Levi’s book, translated and published by Waite, passages from Werner’s Royal Valley, and many others, were brought to the attention of students. In all, W wrote, translated and edited more than a hundred books, many voluminous, which today are collector’s items demanding most fabulous prices in the market. Certainly, our visit with Waite I consider as one of the highlights in my life and an experience which I shall never forget. To remember that I literally sat at the feet of the greatest Christian mystic of them all and from his lips received what he considered his greatest of all contributions. This is not an experience that one could possibly forget ever.
After leaving London, we rested for a couple of days in Brussels and proceeded to Paris, where we were graciously received and cared for by the leaders of the Independent, Regular and National Grand Lodge of France and the French Colonies, an Anglicized miniature of London which permitted French Masons to belong to lodges which were recognized throughout English- speaking Freemasonry, although in fact its origin, as that of the Grand Lodge of France, which was created by the Supreme Council, A.A.S.R., of France (a child of the Charleston Supreme Council), could hardly be called legal or proper, using criteria and standards usually applied in such matters.
William J. Coombes, who lost a leg in the R.A.F. over France in the first World War, remained in Paris, as did so many English men, and established himself in business—an ice plant. He was Secretary of the research lodge, St. Claudius, No. 21, and a friend of mine, with whom I worked for many years. He translated and I annotated “The Sanctuary of Memphis”, published by our Grand College of Rites, of which he was a Fellow, and a valuable contribution concerning the “Rite of Memphis”. While a limited edition, copies are still extant.
We secured a wealth of material in Paris: books, pamphlets, original and Photostatted copies and transcripts of letters, rituals, manuscripts, and documents, many of which were later printed in the various publications of the Innovators in America. Our visit was most productive. However, we walked a tightrope and had to be careful, as on our return trip to Paris, we were with officials of the Grand Orient, the original and legal source of Freemasonry in France, and its associate Bodies. Grand Orient is not recognized by many English-speaking Grand Lodges, due to a lack of knowledge of Freemasonry in general and of French Freemasonry in particular. This is not the place to attempt to expand upon this thesis, but some mention should be made at least about the matter, in a sentence or two, which I now offer.
The Grand Orient of France was the recognized governing Body of Freemasonry in France until it removed the Volume of the Sacred Law from its altars in 1877, and ceased requiring a belief in (the orthodox concept of) God by it candidates, as required by the Grand Lodge of England “after the Royal Family became patrons of the Craft”. The King of England is both the head of government and of the Established Church and, as head of Freemasonry, naturally a consistency had to be maintained, although until that time Grand Lodge had perpetuated the position of the Operatives and employed the terminology of Deism, not of orthodoxy. “The Grand Architect of the Universe” was an entirely different concept of deity and in contradistinction to the theism of orthodoxy. Voltaire and other distinguished French Masons were the early humanists who, rather than postulating a deity who wound up the clock and then retired from the scene, simply saw no reason to engage in semantics and discontinued using the term “God” altogether. They were more honest than many other intellectuals, who continued to use a term which, when asked for its meaning, simply defined it out of existence with symbolism and platitudes. Another event further removed the Grand Orient from recognition: the civil law was changed following the end of the Napoleonic dynasty in France eliminating secret societies and only those who made their records, and rituals, available to the police were permitted to continue functioning; membership lists were open. At the same time, in America, as a result of the Revolutionary War, there was a wave away from everything connected with the Mother Country, not only Masonic, but in all areas of American life. So, as our lecturers, who were responsible for the creation of d the dissemination of existent degrees, the preparation of “monitors” and lecturing to local groups, began inserting their own interpretations into ritual, we find a trend toward the Christo-centric concept of deity within all bodies, even Craft Lodges, which violated, really, the landmarks and customs of Freemasonry in its deistic orientation.
We arrived at last in Geneva, where important events were to transpire. As preparatory papers were signed and preparations made for our induction into the Great Priory of Helvetia it was discovered that, under existing laws, as was true in Supreme Councils of the A.A.S.R. (with many of whom Great Priory had a concordat making the 33rd degree of the A.A.S.R. and the C.B.C.S. of equal acceptance and memberships exchangeable) no one could receive the ultimate order, or ne plus ultra, under the age of 33, and I had not yet reached that age! While Great Priory issued a waiver to permit me to receive the highest order, I could not become the Great Prior of the proposed Great Priory of America for about two years (this will answer the question so often asked me and which, until now, I never explained, why I was not the first Great Prior in an Order that was exclusively my own brainchild!) So this is now revealed. The Supreme Council A.A.S.R., under the Grand Council of Rites, of France, issued a waiver for the same reason and presented me, as well as Bill, with a diploma of the 33rd degree; my diploma was No. 7, which indicates that over a century so few had received this honor. I was truly appreciative and had I retained my membership in the American Scottish Rite, I suppose I would have been the subject of disciplinary action by that authority!
The meeting of Great Priory was held in quarters of the University of Geneva (in Switzerland the C.B.C.S. is considered as an equivalent of civil knighthood in a kingdom). The meeting was packed with distinguished men from France, as well as Switzerland. The age level was perhaps seventy, one—a poet and member of the faculty of the university, as well as an active participant in the ceremony—was ninety! The Grand Orator of France delivered an oration which was replied to by me – Bill Brown acting as interpreter. It was most impressive and an event which shall always linger with me.
After receiving all the documents necessary to the formation of the Great Priory of America, we were permitted, for several days, to explore, copy and receive many original documents, within the archives of Great Priory. When one remembers that much of the archives were removed to Geneva from Lyons, France, as mentioned before, it is understandable what a wealth of material was there for the student. Others simply must return to Geneva and explore further, bearing in mind that a knowledge of French will be absolutely necessary.
On our return to Paris, we spent a considerable period of time at the Grand Council of Rites, where we secured many valuable and deeply appreciated documents, et cetera. When one recalls that this Grand Council of Rites, under French law, is the legal depository of all degrees, orders, rites of initiation, both Masonic and otherwise, and that the archives cover a period of two centuries, it is clearly perceived what could have been acquired had we been able to have devoted at least a month in the storehouse of information. But, as is often the case, we had used up both our time and our money and had to return, Bill remaining another week and I returning alone, with memories that may fade somewhat but never be lost.
I arrived in Durham, N.C. the night before the great convocation of the North Carolina College, S.R.I.C.F., in the cathedral chapel of Duke University, where a program in English, generously interspersed with German, French, Latin and Greek constituted most outstanding program of its kind I have ever witnessed One of our Innovators, Dr. Hubert McNeil Poteat, of Wake Forest College faculty, one of the nation’s foremost organists, gave a natal, including The New World Symphony by Dvorak, on the vent organ of the chapel and all agreed that the meeting was most outstanding and appreciated. I finally reached Monroe, exhausted the trip, but overflowing with enthusiasm and began evaluating and preparing for use the many most valuable items secured abroad.
One of the earliest foreign associates and Innovators was 3 Grand Master S. Clifton Bingham, Christchurch, New Zealand. He was head of the local College, S.R.I.A., and Secretary of the lodge, Masters & Past Masters Lodge. Our correspondence was voluminous over the early years. When I knew him he was a retired Director of Public Works and devoted most of his time to Freemasonry. He had received most degrees and orders worked in the English-speaking world and had a large collection of rituals of dormant and dead degrees, orders, rites and systems collected over half a century of time from all over, copies of which eventually found their way to Monroe. It was from Clifton that we originally obtained the Priestly Order of the Temple, the laws of which permitted a surviving Seventh Pillar to confer the orders and erect Tabernacles. Under this authority he issued warrants (three in number) to North Carolina for the erection of Tabernacle which formed the Grand College of America. Later we discovered that there was a Grand College exercising legal jurisdiction within and over the British Empire, located at Newcastle-upon-Tynne, England, with whom we opened correspondence and which, we felt, should be visited and exchanges of representatives made, any regularizing of our own organization made and relations established. As a State Senator, I was at the General Assembly in Raleigh for a period of five months, from January through May and could not leave the country. We requested one of our original North Carolina Innovators, J. Edward Allen, of Warrenton, to make the trip. He was eminently qualified. He was Superintendent of city and county public education, a member of the Board of Trustees of Wake Forest College, K.Y.C.H. (four quadrants), perhaps the most respected Fraternal Correspondent and Reviewer (all four bodies) that North Carolina ever had. A national figure and a dedicated Freemason. He could not have been better suited to visit the British Isles, which he did, and continue our associations with the various Bodies there with whom we were in fraternal relations and with whom we worked in a common cause. He could, and indeed did, regularize our Priestly Order and we have been in relations with England and exchanged Representatives ever since He received the past rank of VIIth Grand Pillar and was our official Representative for many years. He has reported on that visit elsewhere, but perhaps will, as I have tried to do in this manuscript, give a more detailed account for posterity. Since 1967, M.E. Harold V. B. Voorhis, one of the Innovators, has been the Grand, Representative of the English Body in the U.S.A.
The following year, as I recall, another North Carolinian was sent over: Frederic F. Bahnson, Winston-Salem, who at the time, I believe was Grand Commander of K. T. Fred was president of the Bahnson Company, manufacturers of humidifiers and other industrial equipment His grandfather had been Bishop of the Moravian church (Unitas Fratrum) and his wife the sister of the president of R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. Fred’s love was the chivalric orders and he contributed greatly to the C.B.C.S. and the Priestly Order He made the rounds and reported a successful continuation of our European associations. He was an excellent representative There were others, of course, who represented us in Europe and kept up our associations. But World War II disrupted everything and I have no firsthand knowledge of things after that.
So, concluding, what is it all about; have the Innovators really accomplished anything worthwhile and enduring? Yes, they most assuredly have, in my humble opinion. They have given American freemasons the opportunities of having available all associations existing throughout the world; they have, after four decades, made now acceptable many small groups which were formerly suppressed and stifled; they have created honoring bodies which assure recognition to those worthy of honors; they have demonstrated the value of research and study of both the history and ritual of Freemasonry.
Above all, I think, we have indicated the inherent freedom of the human spirit which should refuse to be bound by tradition or custom, or even laws. We have come to realize that all values are relative and not absolute and that truth, goodness and beauty are worthy goals for the Philalethese which, with love added, make for a happy and meaningful life, provided these values are shared. It makes the Red Cross Knights (a Capitular and not a Chivalric Order and the essence of the Knight Masons of Ireland) the holders of the key: Magna est Veritas et prevalebit—loosely translated “Great is Truth, which prevails”. This then, should be the of the ideal which motivated the Innovators and they, like John Milton, believe that Truth will not be overthrown in any contest, where Truth is not bound or hampered. It is to us to see that Truth remains unfettered and free.
NOTE—This manuscript has been prepared primarily for J. Edward Allen and Harold V. B. Voorhis and may be used by them, if at all, in any way that they deem advisable. If published, careful editing for corrections in spelling and punctuation is indicated, as I have done the best I can with my eyesight being what it is.
J. RAY SHUTE Monroe, N. C. Monroe, N.C. 10 October 1974
(Edited and Research on Names by Harold V. B. Voorhis. Corrected and formatted for digital publication by Aaron M. Shoemaker, KGC.)