The York Rite Degrees of Universal Co-Masonry

Masonic Articles and Essays

The York Rite Degrees of Universal Co-Masonry

Bro... Karen Kidd 3o

Date Published: 6/19/2019                        

The history of the York Rite Degrees practiced by The Honorable Order of Universal Co-Masonry.

When Brothers of the Honorable Order of Universal Co-Masonry, 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 mid-1950s. These degrees are the Mark, Royal Ark Mariner, and Holy Royal Arch. These degrees arrived in other parts of the Co-Masonic world before they arrived in the American Federation so their lineage 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."[1]

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.

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 mid-July 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. 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.[2]

Those degrees have been worked by the Order 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.[3] 

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, it has occurred each November, usually the week before Thanksgiving week.

[1] See Morning Star, Journal of the Eastern Federation of International Co-Freemasonry Third Quarter 1955 page 52.

[2] 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.

[3] 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.

More Masonic Articles

Explore articles and essays written by Freemasons about Freemasonry.

Read More

Interested in becoming a member of the worlds oldest Fraternal organization?

Read More
"If I have seen further than
others, it is by standing
upon the shoulders of giants."


Comasonic Logo

Co-Masonry, Co-Freemasonry, Women's Freemasonry, Men and Women, Mixed Masonry

Copyright © 1975-2024 Universal Co-Masonry, The American Federation of Human Rights, Inc. All Rights Reserved.