James Ingall Wedgwood

Masonic Biographies

James Ingall Wedgwood

Born: Thursday, 24 May 1883
Died: Tuesday, 13 March 1951

The Freemason and Theosophist James Ingall Wedgwood was a dedicated theologian, liturgiologist, and ceremonialist who served as Presiding Bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church.

James Ingall Wedgwood was born May 24, 1883. He was therefore, a comparatively young man when in 1916 he took up the leadership in what was then the Old Catholic Church in Great Britain. He was a member of the well-known family of fine porcelain manufacturers, and though by no means wealthy, was a man of independent means. Wedgwood was an expert on organs and had a degree of Docteur  from the University of Paris.

We know comparatively little about his early years. The following extracts are quoted from a short autobiography which he wrote for the Adyar Bulletin (reprinted in "Theosophy in New Zealand", December, 1916):

My liking of ceremonial was one of these early interests. One of my earliest recollections is that of standing with my nurse in the old Parish Church at Folkstone and watching a procession. I remember, even now, how stirred I was at the sight of it, and how I questioned my nurse later, when at Bedford, I passed a building bearing the inscription 'Freemason's Hall.'  I had never heard that it was a secret society, there upon made up my mind to join it when I could.  

In due course I went to school (I was sent to a boarding school at the early age of five, being, I understand, more than a trifle unmanageable at home!), and on Sundays we went to the usual Anglican Church where there was no ritual worth mentioning. The services tired me, but from the very beginning I was always interested in the organ; and during the Psalms which were specially trying to my patience, I used to count the number of pipes visible in the organ case. Later I had a good deal to do with organ construction. But it was only after coming in touch with Theosophy that I realized that my chief interest in the organ, and music generally, centered round the magical and psychological effect of sound... But there was one important element in my childhood. My grandfather, Hensleigh Wedgwood by name, was one of the pioneers of the Spiritualist Alliance, and of the Society for Psychical Research...  

My mother was an extremely good clairvoyante (she figures in some of the Myers, Gurney and Podmore books), and knew H. P. Blavatsky. And so, although I knew nothing of Spiritualism or Theosophy, I heard of them, and took a great interest in the little I was told... My interest in the organ continued, and I liked to go to churches where there was good music. At about the age of seventeen, I strayed into a ritualistic church at East Clevedon, and heard a sermon which dealt incidentally with bowing the head at the name of Jesus. This interested me, and the Priest gave me a little book which soon turned me into a full-blown High-Churchman. I became a server at the altar and so gained some experience of ecclesiastical ceremonial. I had read a silly Protestant book called "The Secret History of the Oxford Movement", by one Walter Walsh; its effect was to fire me with enthusiasm to join all the supposedly secret societies therein "exposed". Those that I did join I found to be perfectly innocuous and really edifying, like the 'Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament' ... 

I became sincerely religious, and on that account was greatly troubled because I found that the ceremonial side of the worship appealed to me a great deal more than prayer, etc., which, in my ignorance of "rays" I considered a wrong state of affairs. Gradually I abandoned the idea of being an analytical chemist and thought to enter the Church. My people were at first opposed to this, and I was not sure of my vocation; so I decided to take up the study of music as the most useful preliminary for a Clergyman's work, and, as destiny would have it, I was led to become a pupil of one of the chief authorities on the old Gregorian music or Plainsong.


Wedgwood began his spiritual career by fulfilling one of his childhood dreams. At the age of sixteen, he was accepted as a "young Wolf" by a local Masonic Lodge. Very soon, the determined young man climbed to the various degrees, and after meeting John Yarker and Theodor Reuss joined other fraternal and occult Movements. Martinism was one of them, and it had a great impact on his philosophy by introducing him to the concept of Reintegration.

According to this concept, all creatures will one day return to unity with God, an idea Wedgwood included in the Liturgy of the Liberal Catholic Church.

By 1910, James Ingall Wedgwood had received all the degrees from two Egyptian Rites. From 33o to 94o in the Rite of Memphis, and from 33o to 90o in the Rite of Misraïm (including the 66th, which is alledgedly a Bishop consecration). He already had received all the degrees to the 33th of the Ancient and Accepted Rite of Cerneau from John Yarker himself, and the highest degrees of the Martinist Initiation by Theodor Reuss.

Having received proper authority to do so from Yarker and Reuss, James Ingall Wedgwood, founded in London an independent Martinist Lodge named The Temple of the Rose and the Cross. Martinism having welcomed women since the 1780's, this Temple includes at least two women as Major Officers he named in an autobiographic article in the American Magazine UBIQUE:

Mr. Armine Wodehouse wrote the original version of the beautiful hymn used at the end of the Solemn Benediction: 'Closed is the Solemn Hour' for a ceremonial movement called 'The Temple of the Rose and the Cross', of which Mrs. Besant, Mrs Hotchener (then Russak) and myself were the Principal Officers.

J.I. Wedgwood joined the Theosophical Society, and became very active in England, and as a Freemason helped the French Co-masonic Obedience Le Droit Humain to develop in England first, in Australia and other British Colonies. Simultaneously, he promoted Martinism and Egyptian Rites. His work was supported by the leaders of the Theosophical Society, as Martinism hab been a hidden part of it from its beginning: Mrs. Blavatsky had been initiated by her uncle in Russia, and this work had been expanded by Dr. Franz Hartman, an early worker of the Society, and renewed later by Mr. G. Macbean, during his residence at Adyar.

Wedgwood initiated Charles Webster Leadbeater to Masonry (Scottish and Egyptian), and to Martinism, some ten years later, in Sydney, Australia. And again some twenty years later, was one of the founders of The Souvereign Sanctuary of the Egyptian Rite of the Ancient Mysteries in Adyar, India.

In 1921, Mr. G. Macbean, a member of the Theosophical Society, was named ambassador of England to Parlermo. He had become a member of the Egyptian Rite in England, and worked with Wedgwood in the Rite of Memphis-Misraïm. The independant Sovereign Sanctuary of the Egyptian Rite of Palermo was chartered in 1887 by a Grand Lodge in Egypt. It was revived when Macbean accepted his election as Grand-Master. In spite of his efforts, the Rite didn't manage to become very active outside Italy. Pressures from the fascist government against all forms of Masonry became so hard that Macbean was forced to stop all activities of the Rite.

The Sovereign Sanctuary of Palermo went dormant again in 1925. But, before closing it, Macbean issued regularly a charter to five prominent members of the Rite and of the Theosophical Society:

  1. James Ingall Wedgwood (England),
  2. Charles Webster Leadbeater (Australia),
  3. George Arundale (England),
  4. C. Jinarajadasa (India), and
  5. Oscar Kolleström (Australia)

Macbean giving them " ...the authority to constitute a Sovereign Sanctuary of the Egyptian Rite at any convenient time, and in any convenient place ...". The Rite was never revived in Palermo. One of the survivors of the Palermo Sovereign Sanctuary, brought with him the original charter of 1887, and a copy of Macbean's charter (1925) when he emigrated to Brussels, Belgium, in the late 1960's. Both documents are currently kept in a private collection of Masonic documents in Brussels.

At the first opportunity, probably at the occasion of the international convention in december 1927, four of the original holders of the Charter met in Adyar and signed another document to replace the lost original. Wedgwood was absent due to poor health, but agreed with the procedure. Under the authority of this Charter, the "Sovereign Sanctuary of the Egyptian Rite of the Ancient Mysteries" was created as an "independent, non-Masonic organization" with a new Constitution, authorizing women to work in this Rite as full partners. Mrs. Annie Besant was appointed as its first Grand Master. Besides her, the members of this Sovereign Sanctuary were:

  1. Bishop George Arundale (England),
  2. Bishop Charles Webster Leadbeater (Australia),
  3. C. Jinarajadasa (India),
  4. The Rev. Prince Michad Tokaresvky (Poland),
  5. Mrs. Shrimati Rukmini Devi Arundale (India), and
  6. The Rev. Prof. J. van der Stok (The Netherlands).

James I. Wedgwood had to decline membership for health reasons. The new Sovereign Sanctuary authorized a revision of the Rite of memphis-Misraïm, and reduced the number of degrees from 95 to 7. It also absorbed the Martinist Succession and activities of the "Temple of the Rose and the Cross" and of the other Temples in Adyar and Sydney , opened by Wedgwood at the beginning of the 20th century. A few years later, N. Sri Ram (India), was also received as a member of this Sovereign Sanctuary. This second Charter was stolen from the Library of the Esoteric Section of Theosophy in Adyar, India, in 1945, probably by an employee This branch of the mouvement was officially closed by Mrs. Radha Burnier, its last Grand Master, in 1989.

There is no doubt, that as a Catholic Bishop, Wedgwood was a reformer. Not only a doctrinal reformer, but also as ceremonialist. It is therfore not surprizing that he has tried to reform Masonry, more or less along the same lines. But, because of the structure of Masonry, his reforms didn't survive him. In his experiements he tried to use his experience first as a Martinist by re-introducing the concept of the Unknown Masters, similar to the doctrine of the French Theosopher Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin, then as a ceremonialist by using stones worn by the Officers of the Lodge, in a method similar to the one he used while revising the Tridentine Liturgy . Not supported by regular Obediences, not even by the Droit Humain, he worked with independant groups. Most of the material was destroyed during World War II, when the house of M. Lemestre, a theosophist, was totally destroyed. A very small part of the material was published by a Belgian Masonic writer and theosophist named Marille in his very rare book: L'Art et les Mystères (Art and the Mysteries).

While working for the French Obedience Le Droit Humain, Wedgwood stayed in France for quite awhile. He met with most of the prominent members of that Obedience and of others, of the Theosophical Society, and of the Martinist Movement, with Augustin Chaboseau in particular. Chaboseau was also a leader of the Eglise Gnostique Apostolique, which was a resurgeance of the Liberal Catholic Mouvement of the 1820's headed by Lammenais, and condemned by Rome in the Encyclical Letter Mirabili Vos. When elected to the Episcopate in London, Wedgwood was first reluctant to accept the Consecration from the hands of Bishop Willoughby, the Old-Catholic Bishop appointed to elevate him. He took time to evaluate other options, mainly a Consecration by his friend Chaboseau. After a careful look at the Apostolic Succession of the Eglise Gnostique Apostolique, Wedgwood had some doubts of its validity, and was finally was consecrated in London. Furthermore, the dogmatic position and the doctrine of that Church had become quite remote from his orientation.

It is during that time, that Wedgwood presented a thesis on music, at la Sorbonne, in Paris, and was credited with a Doctorat en Sciences from that University. His thesis was lost for decades and recently re-discovered by a French member of the Liberal Catholic Church.

After having spent some time at St. Alban's, Nottingham, the young Wedgwood moved to York where he continued his studies under the organist of York Minster. It was at this time that he attended a lecture by Mrs. Besant and decided to join the Theosophical Society. We now continue in Wedgwood's own words:

From that time forward I renounced all thought of church work and of a church career, and having just enough income on which to live decided to devote myself to work in and for the Theosophical Society. From 1911-1913 I acted as General Secretary of the Society in England and Wales, relinquishing that office to become Grand Secretary of the British Jurisdiction of the Co-Masonic Order. So much for preliminary history.

In 1913 a letter appeared in one of the London daily newspapers dealing with the habits of birds. The letter caught my eye especially because it was signed by Archbishop A. H. Mathew, of whose existence as an Old Catholic Bishop in England I knew vaguely. Something impelled me to write to him to ask for particulars of the Church of which he was head. He sent a very friendly answer. The idea of taking Orders re-entered my head. I told him something of the story of my life, of my interest in church work and of the studies I had made. He asked me to go and see him, and at once accepted me. I was re-baptized and reconfirmed by him sub conditione, given the Minor Orders, those of Subdeacon and Deacon, and finally ordained by him as Priest on July 22, 1913. These ceremonies all took place in an oratory which I equipped in my rooms at 1 Upper Woburn, London, opposite the Headquarters of the T.S. where I worked as General Secretary. The following two years saw the ordination to the Priesthood by Abp. Mathew of other members of the Theosophical Society.

In the autumn of 1914 I went to Adyar, India to the Headquarters of the T.S. on the invitation of Mrs. Besant, and in the following year visited Australia. I was at the time Grand Secretary of the Order of Universal Co-Masonry for the British Jurisdiction, and I went there largely in connection with that work. It was in that year, 1915, that I had the privilege of initiating C. W. Leadbeater into Freemasonry. I talked with him about my ordination and he came to various celebrations of the Eucharist by myself. He was greatly impressed by the power for good which such ordination bestowed and with the splendid scope that the celebration offered for spreading spiritual blessing abroad on the world.

In the meantime Abp. Mathew had consecrated F. S. Willoughby as Bishop. In September, 1914 he had addressed a letter to his clergy saying that in view of his advancing years it seemed to him desirable that 'immediate steps should be taken to preserve the valid Episcopal succession in our portion of the Church from risk of loss.' The election then held resulted in the consecration of the Rev. F. S. Willoughby by Abp. Mathew on October 28, 1914. My name came second in the voting and it was understood that I was to be consecrated on my return, so that there should be bishops to the canonical number of three. Abp. Mathew then tendered his 'unconditional submission' to the Roman Church. The announcement appeared in The Times during the last days of 1915.

I was myself consecrated bishop on February 13, 1916 by Bishop Willoughby, assisted by Bishops King and Gauntlett. Our Oratory was much too small for the occasion and we made use of the Co-Masonic Temple in London.

Our situation was not an easy one. We had not entered the movement with any idea of starting another Church.. Nothing was further from my mind. We found ourselves in relation with a devout and earnest congregation who had learned to value greatly the spiritual privileges which the movement afforded them. A few months later I was once more on my way to Sydney to take counsel with C. W. Leadbeater. The worldwide journeying was decidedly expensive, but I realized some capital in order to make it possible. Bishop King was left in charge of the work in England and admitted some good workers to the Priesthood. Mr. Leadbeater saw great possibility for usefulness in the movement and placed his services unreservedly at our disposal. He was consecrated Bishop on July 15, 1916, having previously received conditional baptism and confirmation and the earlier Orders, again conditionally, at my hands.

There now began one of the happiest and most interesting phases of my life. The many and sundry rites of the Church were carefully studied and through these researches were laid the foundations of our existing Liturgy and of the valuable and interesting book later published by our great colleague, The Science of the Sacraments. We agreed that in the work of the revision of the Liturgy there should be no question of departing from the general outline of Christian thought and worship. Ours was a Christian church and we intended to keep it such. And we followed the general plan of the Roman Liturgy which had been in use in our Church and which we found to be the most suitable as a basis for work.

The work on the Liturgy was interrupted by a good deal of traveling about needed for the founding of our movement in different countries. It may be small so far as membership is reckoned in terms of numbers, but it makes its own distinctive contribution within the fellowship of Christian and serves its own good and intrinsic purpose as an instrument in the service of our common Lord and Master.

The above short extracts are quoted from an article by Bishop Wedwood in the February, 1937 issue of UBIQUE, the magazine of the American Province. The same article is reproduced in: "The Beginnings of the Liberal Catholic Church" (St. Alban Press, 1976).

During the first World War, Wedgwood traveled everywhere, accepting any and every opportunity to lecture and to open new Church Centers. In the United States, there was much interest for the new Church. The August and September 1917 issues of the Theosophic Messenger , announced his arrival, and advertizement written by Wedgwood to increase the interrest for the Liberal Catholic Church. He also spoke in New York, at the Theosophical Convention, and in other cities of the United States. He got a special invitation by Mr. A.P. Warrington, to speak at the Krotona Institute, then located in Hollywood, California. Warrington, the founder of Krotona, was a firm believer of Christ's return on earth, and according to his vues, the Old Catholic Church was the logical channel for His return, consequently Wedgwood was the obvious choice for the foundation of that Church in California.

But Wedgwood had to face a diplomatic situation that was potentially embarassing. Several mouvements, also named "Old-Catholics" were already established in the United States. The "Old Roman Catholic" Church had been established by Archbishop Carmel Henry Carfora, who had been consecrated by Bishop Prince de Landes Berghes et de Raches on Octobre 4th, 1916. De Landes also derived his Orders from Archbishop Arnold Harris Mathew who had consecrated him in London on June 29th, 1913. There was also an "American Catholic Church", presided by Archbishop Frederic Ebenezer John Lloyd, a former Episcopalian Priest elevated to the Episcopate by Archbishop René Villatte on Decembre 29th, 1915. At that time, these two bishops were the heads of Churches Wedgwood had to deal with.

As a precaution, Wedgwood had written to Lloys and Carfora that, because the Old-Catholic Succession was already established in the United States of America, he was ready to recognize the Priests they had ordained, if they would accept the Declaration of Principles of the Old-Catholic Church in England. When he arrived in Los Angeles, Wedgwood was informed that Archbishop Carfora hadn't responded. Archbishop Lloyd had found the , pour sa part, trouvait Declaration of Principles acceptable, and was ready to cooperate. Only a few days later, unwilling to submit to a foreign Bishop, Lloyd changed his mind and presented his own theological requirements unacceptable to Wedgwood, whose first reaction was to travel back and forth to resolve the issue by a face-to-face meeting. However, the trip was too difficult and Wedgwood wrote to Lloyd, exposing his problem and had no intention to be discourteous, but as he had to travel to Chicago a little later, he was hoping the difficulties could be resolved. Wedgwood went on with the Ordination of the first three Priests in the United States on August 14th, 1917: Robert Kelsey Walton, Gregory Samuel Lines, and James Grattan Mythen, in the historical Episcopalian Church, at Echo Park in Los Angeles.

Bishop Wedgwood arrived in Chicago in Septembre, and tried to meet with Archbishop Lloyd, but was informed that "the Archbishop was not in town". Common friends told Wedgwood that as he had ignored Lloyd, in consecrating the three Priests, he was now ignored himself... Wedgwood gave several lectures in Chicago, then went to the Theosophical Convention in New York with Edwin B. Beckwith, a physician of Chicago. On Octobre 4th, 1917, in New York, Wedgwood ordained him to the Priesthood, at the same time as Ray Marchall Wardall, a lawyer from Seattle.

On August 13th, 1918, Wedgwood stopped again in Chicago, on his way to Los Angeles. Two days later, he confirmed 32 people, in spite of heatwave. In the afternoon, the Rev. George O. Butler, a former Anglican Priest spoke to Wedgwood about his doubts on the validity of his Orders, and asked him to confirm them. Wedgwood re-ordained Butler sub conditione to all Minor Orders, to the Diaconate, and the Priesthood. After the Service, the Rev, Beckwith helped the Bishop to pack his suitcase, and accompanied him to the railroad station, on his way to Los Angeles...

The Old-Catholic Synod met in London during the Automn of 1918. One of the topics on the agenda was that the name of the Church, which was at the time: The Old-Catholic Church (former the Old Roman Catholic Church) in Great Britain , was no longer adequate. After lengthy deliberations, the Synod adopted the name: The Liberal Christian Church (Old Catholic). Leadbeater was in agreement, but Wedgwood announced that the name didn't render justice to the Church, because the word "catholic" was missing, and that the word described these Churches distributing the seven Sacraments, and possessing an indisputable Apostolic Succession. The American members proposed the name Gnostic Catholic Church. Wedgwood who had contacts with the Gnostic Apostolic Church in France, rejected the proposal. Finally, the name The Liberal Catholic Church (Old-Catholic) was adopted because it reminded the Dutch origin of the Church on one hand, and the progressive character of the mouvement, on the other.

In April 1919, four Liberal Catholic places of worship were open in the United States. The Saint Alban Church in Hollywood had more than 200 members. But six months later, frictions between members of the Theosophical Society who were also members of the Church, and those who were not, became so severe, that the Krotona Institute requested the Church to leave the premices. The Rev. Walton sent a letter to all the Liberal Catholic Communities asking them to refrain celebrating Services on the premices of the Theosophical Society. If this situation reduced the growth of the Church for awhile, it also was at the origin of its independant development in North America.

The completed "Liturgy according to the use of The Liberal Catholic Church" was published in 1919. This period and the years that followed were an extremely busy time for Wedgwood. He often traveled from place to place lecturing about the Church, forming Centers and ordaining Clergy wherever suitable candidates could be found.

Once the Church had begun to grow it seemed almost inevitable that it should be attacked from various quarters. These attacks lasted from about 1918 to 1924 and were generally directed against the Church, but at a later stage also against Bishops Wedgwood and Leadbeater personally. After some six years of constant pressure of work and much traveling his health was affected and the first signs of an illness which in later years would severely limit his work became apparent. At this time there was a split in the Theosophical Society in Sydney in connection with attacks on Bishop Leadbeater and the Church.

On March 7, 1922, Wedgwood wrote to Mrs. Besant:

I am writing to tell you that I have decided, after some weeks of careful consideration, to sever my connection with the Theosophical Society, the Co-Masonic Order and the Liberal Catholic Church, and to retire into private life. 

I am heartily weary of the campaign of slander and malicious intrigue, which has now persisted for some years and is growing ever more unscrupulous and personal. It does incalculable harm to the Theosophical movement as a whole, and has the effect of frustrating work among those classes of the community that one specially wishes to reach.

In May 1922, Bishop Wedgwood resigned as Presiding Bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church, following accusations of sexual misconduct made by the Rev. Reginal Farrar, an English Liberal Catholic Priest. True to the occult rule forbidding to defend yourself, Wedgwood refused to make any public statement, but Bishop Cooper defended him actively. However, it took more than a year before Wedgwood could actually retire as Presiding Bishop. He was still too involved in the affairs of the Church, which at that time included negotiations with various Churches on the Continent of Europe. He also had to arrange by correspondence with the other Bishops for a successor. Finally, at the end of March, 1923, he cabled Bishop Leadbeater in Sydney:

My resignation effective, you unanimously elected. Wedgwood.

But Wedgwood's work for the Church was by no means finished. By the middle of 1924 his health had improved and both Mrs. Besant (who had refused to accept his resignation from the Theosophical Society) and the Bishops, Clergy and members of the Liberal Catholic Church wanted him back in the work. Mrs. Besant happened to suggest to some Dutch members that a quiet place might be found where Wedgwood could train people in ceremonial work.

A Dutch member, Mrs. Mary van Eeghen, who had recently been baptized in the Church, heard of the plans for Bishop Wedgwood, and offered her beautiful country house and estate at Huizen for his use. Earlier, in 1920, the great Indian sage and poet Rabindranath Tagore, when on a visit to Europe had stayed at her house. To quote Bishop Vreede:

It was soon arranged that Bishop Wedgwood would come to stay (for three weeks!) to see whether the surroundings suited him. On August 1, 1924, the Bishop arrived. The same room which Tagore had occupied was assigned to the Bishop together with the room opposite (called the Sea-room).

Every morning the hostess heard some furniture being moved and so she asked whether the arrangement of the furniture did not suit the Bishop. Then he told her that he celebrated the Eucharist every morning and that he had to move and arrange the big table to use it for his altar. Soon some people attended these celebrations and Mrs. van Eeghen then offered to build a little chapel for her guest in the garden, where everything could remain in its place after the service was over. The Bishop gladly accepted and the plans were drawn up and executed so quickly that on September 21, the chapel was ready.

This little chapel was consecrated and dedicated to St. Michael and All Angels on September 29. It was the beginning of one of the most active and creative periods in Wedgwood's life. But the results achieved came only after much concentrated effort. Mrs. van Eeghen wrote:

When visitors come to the center and admire the wonderful atmosphere and speak about the beautiful influence they can feel I always see in my thoughts a solitary figure who in the autumn and the winter of 1924-1925 went to that little chapel through the rain and snow and storms and who meditated there for many an hour.

Mrs. van Eeghen made notes from Bishop Wedgwood's first sermon at St. Michael's delivered on January 25, 1925, from which we quote:

The service since the Reformation in the Protestant churches has tended more to concentrate on the needs of the individual soul to get straightened in its relation to God. The people come to church for their souls' own edification and help. In the Liberal Catholic Church also there are many beautiful services to help people in this way. But the central thought in this Church is the bringing together of many people in one act of worship, to bring the many together in harmony-so as to form good channels through which Christ's living Presence can pour through.

The first half of the ceremony of the Holy Eucharist in intended to bring all the love and adoration to the altar to be offered unto the Lord. And this great outpouring of self to God opens up the Channel for Force to flow back unto the people. The great thought in every member of the congregation must be to merge himself in all the others, to take the others along in the wave of love one sends out to God, to enfold all in the arms of love. The prayers of the Service have been carefully repaired and the words are meant to serve as channels of our thoughts and we must put the full force of all our experiences of meaning into each word as we say it. When for instance we use the word 'peace', we must think of the greatest sensation of peace we know of.

We must turn ourselves entirely towards Christ and we must be filled with all possible love and devotion towards him. The hymn sung at the most holy moments of the whole service "Thee we adore, 0 hidden Splendour Thee" must be used as a vehicle for the utmost we can bring ourselves to the altar of Christ. We must dwell in the words, think of their meaning and fill them with all we can put into them of ourselves.

Each prayer when used by us must be realized and our very lives must be breathed into the words; we must feel ourselves one with all the congregation, not assert ourselves too much nor hold back too much, not individualize the prayers for ourselves but rather put ourselves into the consciousness of all the other members of the congregation.

This sermon can be said to contain the general idea of what Wedgwood taught in his Huizen years. Soon the congregation increased and many Clergy and members came from all over Europe, even from all over the world to be near Bishop Wedgwood and to be taught by him. There are still Clergy in our ranks who will remember those Huizen days as highlights of their careers.

Wedgwood trained not only the Clergy, but also the congregation. Everything had to be just right: the ceremonial, the music, the tempo, the words spoken. And not only the physical side of the work had to be correct, graceful and precise. The thoughts and emotions of all participants had to be just right. Strong, concise, controlled. Here was a great ceremonialist and perfectionist at work. And hundreds, nay thousands of Clergy and members, from being untrained, willing but vague newcomers, changed into understanding and skillful co-workers in the great work for Christ during those years through the efforts of Bishop Wedgwood. In 1926 he was appointed Bishop-Commissary for Europe.

During the summer congregations of several hundred were not unusual . At a Priests' conclave in 1927 there were 61 Priests present from 22 countries. The original chapel was enlarged several times. In 1928 a new church was built which could seat over 300 people. On August 15 the Rev. A. G. Vreede was consecrated Bishop in the new church by Bishop Wedgwood, assisted by 4 colleagues.

About a week later, dramatically sudden, disaster struck. A terrible thunderstorm raged and lightning struck the church, which in a short time was totally destroyed by fire. A workman working on the lightning conductor that day had forgotten to connect the wires. The services were continued without interruption in the combined lecture hall and Masonic Temple on the estate, but it must have been a heavy blow to Bishop Wedgwood. In spite of adversity, the 1928 Priest conclave took place as planned, during which the newly consecrated Bishop Vreede, assisted by Wedgwood and three other Bishops, ordained eight Priests. The conclave ended with a Holy Eucharist concelebrated by fourty Priests. After the closing, Bishop Wedgwood traveled to Vichy, France to enjoy a well deserved vacation.

This event marked the end of an era. Soon many Clergy and people began to leave the Church, influenced by Krishnamurti's teachings. After some time he settled at Camberley (near London) where he celebrated daily (when able) in the small chapel on the estate.

In March 1931, Wedgwood's illness again became apparent and grew worse as time went on. According to his doctors, there was little chance for him to fully recover. They prescribed complete rest. and Wedgwood was admitted to a hospital, while Catholic Liberals in the entire world began to pray for the man who had worked so hard to establish their Church. But, he recovered quite rapidly. Later it became apparent that this episode of Wedgwood life was the first indication of the troubles he experienced later. His health fluctuated considerably during the following years, and he became a source of worry for those who took care of him. By mortgaging Saint Michael's Center in Huizen, a center was created: Tekels Park, Camberley, in Surrey, England, where Wedgwood could return to rest when his illness overcame him. There he could answer his considerable mail and work in peace. He was answering over a thousand letter a year. When he was in Huizen, two secretaries bearly managed to help him. When one of them had to return to London, Wedgwood decided to send a circular letter to his correspondant, in an effort to reduce his workload.

He still occasionally wrote articles and was often consulted by Bishop Pigott (our 3rd Presiding Bishop) and by some of the English Clergy. His interest in the Church was as strong as ever during the last years of his life. He died in 1951, 67 years old.

The Church lost with him not only its first Presiding Bishop, but also a great theologian, liturgiologist and ceremonialist. But, he left us in our beautiful liturgy a worthy memorial to himself and his great colleague, Bishop Leadbeater.

Looking again at the earthly life of James Ingall Wedgwood, we see that it fell into five distinctive periods:

  1. His Anglican High Church period with training in ceremonial and as an organist.
  2. The period of his work for the Theosophical Society and Co-Freemasonry.
  3. The period of building up the Liberal Catholic Church and writing its Liturgy.
  4. The period of intensive ceremonial training of church workers at Huizen.
  5. The last period of his life at Camberley when illness prevented any sustained work.

Finally, we shall quote from some personal appreciations by two of our Priests who knew him well. First the Rev. G. Nevin Drinkwater, B.Sc., who knew Bishop Wedgwood both in England and during the Huizen period:

An outstanding ceremonialist, it was remarkable what the Bishop could get out of the congregations and clergy he trained. He was particular about details. While some of these owed their importance to recondite reasons, others arose through the need to have an agreed procedure when a number of people are working together. A ceremonialist was not one, as he represented the matter, who was wondering what to do next. The details should be as automatic as driving a car, leaving the consciousness free to concentrate at higher levels. This meant hard work on behalf of all those concerned, but the results were outstanding. Over and over again the bishop stressed that the secret of the spiritual life was to forget oneself in the service of others. Acting on this principle in the liturgy, each should forget himself and worship as one body corporate. 

As he put it: "Ceremonial is the intelligent use of form that it might find the best expression of the life. Matter is just as important as spirit. We must spiritualize our view of matter. If you receive the blessing of Christ through the Host, you make of matter a vehicle of the spirit. The Eucharist has one stupendous purpose, this is nothing less than in bringing our Blessed Lord into repeated incarnation."

The Lord is to be found in nature and in the depths of our own hearts, but it is especially easy to find him at the altar. By offering him our very highest and outward turned devotion at the elevation of the Host, the Chalice, and of the monstrance, as at other times, we can come to know the Lord if we have not already done so. This devotion is to be offered as from all and not just from each as a separate individual, for the church is the body of the Lord, his corporate vehicle. Illustrating one aspect of this principle, the bishop explained that in his early days he used to experience a certain dryness at the reception of the Host. There was not the feeling coming from it which he expected. But one day he realized that after communion he should ray out on all he met, and this immediately transformed the situation. Thus may we come to know him who is the King of the angels, the Babe of Mary, the white vision of the Mount, and the Morning Star rising in our hearts. To know this is to know Eternal Life. Death has no more dominion over us.

Secondly we shall quote the Rev. Oscar Köllerström who as a boy knew Wedgwood in the early days in Sydney, worked with him in the Egyptian Rite at Adyar, and later stayed in Huizen with Wedgwood. Köllerström later trained as a psycho-analyst under Dr. Groddeck, one of the originators of psycho-analysis. Dr. Köllerström moved to London, when Wedgwood retired, and served as one of his physicians.

To me it was just like bursts of organ music to someone who had not known about music. At least that was the sort of impression I got when he arrived into the very midst of our lives, and started standing us all on our heads. A little later we realized that he was really standing us the right way up. . . What I am trying to say is that he really did arrive into the very midst of our lives. He was so completely natural, so free of any nonsense or affectation that he was like an old friend from the very start. . .

Indeed I have never worked with anybody who gave one a greater sense of freedom, not only in one's personal relationship with him, but in the work itself. The sacraments bound one to the heart of things, to reality, tradition, to the life divine, They bound, he left one free. Undoubtedly this was the clue to his authority, his brilliant leadership, and his power to convert. And then everything began to happen. I was the blessed witness of a sacramental act of creation. I sat in the same room in which, day after tremendous day, those two men worked out and planned The Liberal Catholic Liturgy--though it was nearly all Bishop Wedgwood's work--planned, for the first time in two millennia, a Christian and sacramental worship that opened wide the way to communion with all other faiths, indeed with all individual interpretations. The bond with God incarnated in freedom, there before my amazed eyes. Our oak sideboard became the first altar of the new faith, and after the services were over, the dining room furniture would be reassembled for a great meal. My mother would sometimes leave the service immediately after communion to see about the cooking, for in those days there was always at least a dozen to feed.

It was all so intimate, personal, and natural, and there was much tumultuous rush of doings-my mother making vestments, the preparation of the hymn book, endless typing, and the running of errands, buying a church, and-vivid in memory-the great day when I took my first minor orders. What with the candles, and the incense, and the singing, I was intoxicated anew each day...

I could never, though dead on every lane of being, never forget my arrival at Huizen. Description would bore as well as falsify the magic and ecstasy of the moment. He was the same man, but he had become nothing. There was nothing but the over-shadowing reality of sacramentalism. He had disappeared into it, and there seems nothing to say about him. Cambridge dropped out of my horizon, and all that happy autumn was a springtime of spirit. At midnight mass, on Christmas Eve, 1924, he ordained me to the priesthood. Throughout this greatest moment of my life, he, the pontiff conferring the Order, remained the unaffected human person I loved.


He carried on the good work with a tenacity of devotion that stood out to the very end of his terrible illness. And difficulties arose for him, not only from within, but from without also. Yet there remains one word about him that cannot be too often quoted. Groddeck himself saw him when he was most distressed. Groddeck said that he had seen many people in this condition, and that it had always brought out horrible qualities, yet that in this case there was nothing but the most saintly thought of others. Groddeck affirmed:

Er ist ein wahrer Heilige, ein wahrer Heilige (He is a veritable Saint).

Such was the man who was the real founder of the Liberal Catholic Church. 


More Famous Freemasons

Explore Famous Freemasons

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.