The Author of Isis Unveiled Defends the Validity of Her Masonic Patent
Franklin Register, February 8, 1878
Notes by H.P.B. on an article by William Yeats
[Note: for some background, see “Honours to Madame Blavatsky,” by Charles Sotheran, Banner of Light, February 2, 1878; H.P.B. in her Scrapbook notes that “I have received from the Sovereign Grand Master General of the A. and P. Rite of England and Wales a diploma of 32nd Degree.” This seems to have occurred sometime in late 1875.]
Editorial.—We are gratified to be able to present to the readers of the Register this week, the following highly-characteristic letter, prepared expressly for our Paper by Madame H. P. Blavatsky, the authoress of Isis Unveiled. In this letter the lady defends the validity of her diploma as a Mason, reference to which was had in our issue of January 18th. The immediate cause of the letter from Madame B. was the multiplication of attacks upon her claim to that distinguished honor both before and since the publication mentioned. The field is open for a rejoinder; and we trust that a champion will appear, to defend that which she so vigorously and bravely assails.
That the subject-matter in controversy may be seen at a glance by those who may not be regular readers of our paper, we again print the text of her diploma. [see the facsimile copy of the diploma below]
To the Editor of The Franklin Register.
Dear Sir—I am obliged to correct certain errors in your highly complimentary editorial in The Register of January 18th. You say that I have taken “the regular degrees in Masonic Lodges” and attained high dignity in the order, and further add:
“Upon Madame B. has recently been conferred the diploma of the thirty-third Masonic Degree, from the oldest Masonic body in the world.”
If you will kindly refer to my Isis Unveiled (Vol. II, p. 394), you will find me saying: “We are under neither promise, obligation, nor oath, and therefore violate no confidence”—reference being made to Western Masonry, to the criticism of which the chapter is devoted; and full assurance is given that I have never taken “the regular degrees” in any Western Masonic Lodge. Of course, therefore, having taken no such degree, I am not a thirty-third degree Mason. In a private note, also in your most recent editorial, you state that you find yourself taken to task by various Masons, among them one who has taken thirty-three degrees—which include the “Ineffable”—for what you said about me. My Masonic experience—if you will so term membership in several Eastern Masonic Fraternities and Esoteric Brotherhoods—is confined to the Orient. But, nevertheless, this neither prevents my knowing, in common with all Eastern “Masons,” everything connected with Western Masonry (including the numberless humbugs that have been imposed upon the Craft during the last half century) nor, since the receipt of the diploma from the “Sovereign Grand Master,” of which you publish the text, my being entitled to call myself a Mason. Claiming nothing, therefore, in Western Masonry but what is expressed in the above diploma, you will perceive that your Masonic mentors must transfer their quarrel to John Yarker, jun., P.M., P.Mk.M., P.Z., P.G.C. and M.W.S—K.T. and R.C., K.T.P., K.H., and K.A.R.S., P.M.W., P.S.G.C., and P.S.Dai., A. and P. Rite, to the man, in short, who is recognized in England and Wales and the whole world, as a member of the Masonic Archæological Institute; as Honorary Fellow of the London Literary Union; of Lodge No. 227, Dublin; of the Bristol College of Rosicrucians; who is Past Grand Maréchal of the Temple; Member of the Royal Grand Council of Ancient Rites—time immemorial; Keeper of the Ancient Royal Secrets; Grand Commander of Mizraim, Ark Mariners, Red Cross of Constantine, Babylon, and Palestine; R. Grand Superintendent for Lancashire; Sovereign Grand Conservator of the Ancient and Primitive Rite of Masonry, thirty-third and last degree, etc., from whom the Patent issued.
Your “Ineffable” friend must have cultivated his spiritual perceptions to small purpose in the investigation and contemplation of the “Ineffable Name,” from the fourth to the fourteenth degrees of that gilded humbug, the A. and A. Rite, if he could say that there is “no authority for a derivation through the charter of the Sovereign Sanctuary of America, to issue this patent.”
He lives in a veritable Crystal Palace of Masonic glass, and must look out for falling stones. Brother Yarker says, in his Notes on the Scientific and Religious Mysteries of Antiquity (p. 149), that the “Grand Orient, derived from the Craft Grand Lodge of England, in 1725, and latterly, works and recognizes the following Rites, appointing representatives with Chapters in America and elsewhere: 1. French Rite. 2. Rite of Heredom. 3. A. and A. Rite. 4. Rite of Kilwinning. 5. Philosophical Rite. 6. Rite du Régime rectif. 7. Rite of Memphis. 8. Rite of Mizraim. All under a Grand College of Rites.”
The A. and P. Rite was originally chartered in America, November 9th, 1856, with David McClellan as G. M. (see Kenneth Mackenzie’s The Royal Masonic Cyclopaedia, p. 43), and in 1862 submitted entirely to the Grand Orient of France. In 1862 the Grand Orient vised and sealed the American Patent of Seymour as G.M., and mutual representatives were appointed, down to 1866, when the relations of the G.O. with America were ruptured, and the American Sovereign Sanctuary took up its position, “in the bosom” of the Ancient Cerneau Council of the “Scottish Rite” of 33 degrees, as John Yarker says, in the above quoted work. In 1872 a Sovereign Sanctuary of the Rite was established in England, by the American Grand Body, with John Yarker as Grand Master. Down to the present time the legality of Seymour’s Sanctuary has never been disputed by the Grand Orient of France, and reference to it is found in Marconis de Nègres books.
It sounds very grand, no doubt, to be a thirty-second degreeist, and an “Ineffable” one into the bargain; but read what Robert B. Folger, M. D., Past Master thirty-third, says himself in his The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, in Thirty-Three Degrees:
“In reference to the other degrees, five or six in number, which are additional, those (with the exception of the Thirty-third, which was manufactured at Charleston) were all in the possession of the Grand Orient before, but were termed, like a great many others, ‘obsolete’.”
And further, he asks:
“Who were the persons who formed this Supreme Council of the Thirty-third degree? And where did they get that degree, or the power to confer it? . . . Their Patents have never been produced nor has any evidence ever yet been given, that they came in possession of the Thirty-third degree in a regular and lawful manner” (pp. 92, 95, 96).
That an American Rite, thus spuriously organized, declines to acknowledge the Patent of an English Sovereign Sanctuary, duly recognized by the Grand Orient of France, does not at all invalidate my claim to Masonic honors. As well might Protestants refuse to call the Dominicans Christians, because they—the Protestants—broke away from the Catholic Church and set up for themselves, as for A. and A. Masons of America to deny the validity of a Patent from an English A. and P. Rite body. Though I have nothing to do with American modern Masonry, and do not expect to have, yet, feeling highly honored by the distinction conferred upon me by Brother Yarker, I mean to stand for my chartered rights, and to recognize no other authority than that of the high Masons of England, who have pleased to send me this unsolicited and unexpected testimonial of their approval of my humble labours.
Of a piece with the above is the ignorant rudeness of certain critics who pronounce Cagliostro an “impostor” and his desire of engrafting Eastern Philosophy upon Western Masonry “charlatanism.” Without such a union Western Masonry is a corpse without a soul. As Yarker observes, in his Notes on the Scientific and Religious Mysteries of Antiquity [p. 157]:
“. . . As the Masonic fraternity is now governed, the Craft is fast becoming the paradise of the bon vivant . . . the manufacturer of paltry masonic tinsel . . . and the masonic ‘Emperor’ and other charlatans who make power or money out of the aristocratic pretensions which they have tacked on to our institutions—ad captandum vulgus . . .”
H. P. Blavatsky.
[Note: see “Universal Masonry,” October, 1910, for a letter from John Yarker on H. P. Blavatsky, including his account of sending the diploma to her.]
[H.P.B.’s Masonic Diploma]