When Brothers of the Honorable Order of American Co-Masonry, the
American Federation of Human Rights met for a workshop this past November at the
Order's Grand Temple in Larkspur, Colorado, they did more than work the York
Rite Degrees. They became links in the chain that began with those Brothers who
came before them and will continue on in those Brothers yet to be.
It isn't clear how long American Federation Brothers have met in
November to work York Rite Degrees but it seems they've worked them as a group
since the mid1950s. These degrees are the Mark, Royal Ark Mariner, Excellent
Master and Holy Royal Arch. These degrees arrived in other parts of the
Co-Masonic world before they arrived in the American Federation so their linage
must be traced offshore.
When Co-Freemasonry became a worldwide movement in the very early
20th Century, it was at first strictly a Scottish Rite body, working degrees
numbered from the first to the 33rd. This changed in February of 1908 when Annie
Besant, then Deputy for the Supreme Council of International Co-Freemasonry in
Paris, approved the working of the Mark Degree in February of 1902. Besant
approved the Mark degree be conferred "according to the Scottish practice -
within the Craft Lodge."
The Holy Royal Arch and Excellent Master degrees seem to have
arrived in the British Federation shortly thereafter. These two degrees, along
with the Mark, seem to have been somewhat irregularly worked in the American
Federation over the next couple of decades but did not regularly arrive until
July of 1939. And when they did arrive, they came not from the British
Federation from the Eastern Order, specifically from India./p>
Edith Armour, then Grand Commander of the American Federation, was on her first
nationwide tour of Co-Masonic Lodges when these degrees arrived. She was at the
Lodge in Wheaton, Illinois in midJuly of 1939 when she wrote to the Order's then
Secretary/Treasurer, Zenobe Delwarte in Larkspur. "With regard to the Mark and
Royal Arch, I have some good news for you," Armour wrote in her July 23, 1939
letter to Delwarte.
"I got Bro Jinarajadasa to confer the degrees of Mark Master Mason, Excellent
Master and the Holy Royal Arch of Jerusalem on myself and the following
Brethren: Cooper, Snodgrass, Cook, Logan, Zimmers, Campbell, Mequillet, Elise
Staggs, Herbert Staggs, Poutz and myself<sic>. He conferred also the chair
degrees of the Mark Lodge and Royal Arch Chapter on me so that now I am in a
position to go ahead and initiate people. He was very happy to do all this, and
it will be of tremendous help to us in getting these Bodies started. Exc. Bro.
Juul van Regteren Altena of Java assisted him as she also in in possession of
Those degrees have been worked in the American Federation ever
since, with the Mark being worked today in four Mark Lodges in the Americas.
The Royal Ark Mariner degree seems to have taken a little longer to
arrive in North American. Like the other degrees, it arrived first in other
parts of the Co-Masonic world. It first tried to arrive in the British
Federation in 1910 when Keystone Mark Lodge was formed. The idea, then, was to
"moor" the Royal Ark Mariner Lodge to the Mark Lodge, as is commonly done in
Lodges under the United Grand Lodge of England. Unfortunately, the degree then
arrived without the secrets, so those plans fell through.
It wasn't until late 1944 when "A Brother of the English Obedience .
. . expressed his willingness to communicate" the secrets of that degree with
Brothers of the British Federation. The offer was accepted and the resulting
Royal Ark Mariner Lodge was moored to Keystone Mark Lodge "as originally
intended." The degree seems to have arrived in North America within the next
decade or so.
Annual November workshops in Larkspur, specifically for the working
of these degrees, began soon after that. Though records are scarce, it seems the
timing of the November workshop was set to offset the other two annual
workshops, one in April and the other in August, both dedicated to the Blue
Lodge and Scottish Rite. It seems it started only sporadically as an annual
event but in the last few decades has occurred each November, usually the week
before Thanksgiving week.
This past November, two American Federation Brothers received the
Mark, five received the Royal Ark Mariner and five received the Excellent Master
and Holy Royal Arch degrees. And so took their place among those Brothers who
received those degrees before and those who will receive them in future.
See Morning Star, Journal of the Eastern Federation of International
Co-Freemasonry Third Quarter 1955 page 52.
Determining the exact day these degrees arrived, at present, is very
difficult. The letter to Delwarte announcing the degrees had arrived is
dated 23 July 1939. Based on other letters in the archives of the Order
in Larkspur, Colorado, Armour arrived in Wheaton by July 11. Other
letters from Armour, writing from Wheaton, are dated July 11 and 17 with
no mention of these degrees. Certain the degrees arrived in the Order in
July of 1939, probably sometime between July 17 and 23, but the exact
day remains elusive. Further research may pinpoint the date further but,
for now, this is the best information available.
See "BRITISH FEDERATION REPORT OR THE WORD DURING THE YEARS 1940-45".
See also same document for notes of Provisional Supreme Council meeting
December 4, 1944. Both are preserved at the British Library, Folder 5 of MS 88999, formerly known
as deposit 10305.