The Dharma Workings of Craft Masonry

Mixed gender Freemasonry only really set off when Annie Besant (1847-1933) got involved. History has it that she told Georges Martin (1844-1916) that she would only help out the newly founded Le Droit Humain if she could replace his atheistic ritual with another one. Things appear to be not that simple.

The eminent Masonic scholar Jan Snoek (1946-) dove into the history of the rituals of the Dutch federation of Le Droit Humain. He published an article in the Bulletin (internal publication of the federation at the time) and later (2014) in the Handbook of Freemasonry with Henrik Bogdan (1972-) saying that Besant used the rituals of the Grand Lodge of Scotland as her source to write her “Dharma Workings of Craft Masonry”.

In the mentioned Bulletin Snoek writes (translated from Dutch):

It is unclear at this time exactly what ritual she used, but it does look like it was not the best-known English ritual, the Emulation Ritual. Rather, the indications point toward a Scottish ritual. For example, the Presiding Master is called “Right Worshipful Master” instead of “Worshipful Master” and the altar with the Bible (and possibly other sacred books) is placed in the center of the lodge instead of directly against the Worshipful Master’s table. A number of smaller details also follow the practice followed in Scotland. Incidentally, Annie Besant did adopt some elements from the French ritual with which she herself had been initiated. For example, there is an “Orator” instead of a “Chaplain” whose judgment is sought in various situations, and a circle of drawn swords is formed around the Candidate during the taking of the pledge which is then repeated as a sign of the protection that Freemasonry will offer the new member in the future. (Personal communication from Kevin Tingay, letter dated 26-8-1996.)

I don’t know if Snoek studied the Dutch translation and/or the original English version, but much information in the quote seems to come from Arthur Edward Waite (1857-1942)’s New Encyclopedia of Freemasonry. Waite compares the rituals to his own, coming with another set of differences:

The English Ritual used by Universal Co-Masonry has been printed and had reached a second edition in 1908. It is called The Dharma Working of Craft Masonry, Dharma being the title of the Lodge at Benares.

The Ceremony of the Installation of the Worshipful Master and the Investiture of Officers has also been printed.

In the Ritual of the Three Degrees the variations from our own form are at once numerous and slight, but there are also certain new things introduced.

Some of them may be tabulated as follows:

  1. The W. M. is called throughout the Right Worshipful Master, following the Scottish fashion.
  2. The rubrics are much fuller.
  3. The Entered Apprentice is taken three times round the Lodge and is brought back on each occasion to the centre.
  4. The second circumambulation is opposite to the first, or against the sun; the third is the same as the first, or with the sun.
  5. In the Second Degree, after the usual circumambulations, the Candidate is placed in the centre and passes through five stages or experiences, corresponding (1) to work on the rough stone; (2) the arts; (3) Sciences; (4) the Humanities, and (5) apparently rest after work, with the idea of work to follow.
  6. In the Third Degree the Obligation is shortened and certain significant covenants are not found, presumably because women take it. The wording also differs.
  7. The wording differs throughout in many places and some of the prayers are changed.

In 1905 a small booklet appeared in Dutch from the “Theosofische Uitgevers Maatschappij”. This publishing house is one of several names that Duwaer & Van Ginkel used, Duwaer and Van Ginkel, who were both part of the first mixed gender lodge in the Netherlands. In any case, the booklet is called Schets van de geschiedenis der Vrijmetselarij en een verslag van de vorming van den Opperraad der Algem. Gemeenschappelijke Vrijmetselarij and subtitled Verhandeling van de Dharma loge te Benares. Voor Nederland bewerkt door H.J. van Ginkel. That’s a mouth full.
A discourse on the history of Freemasonry and a report of the formation of the Supreme Council (of Le Droit Humain), held for the Dharma lodge in Benares, India. It doesn’t say who held the talk, but there is a big chance that it was Annie Besant. In it is mentioned (translated from Dutch):

It is perhaps advisable, to announce here in passing, that the authoritative rites of all the lodges within British and Dutch territory, are those of the Scottish Fraternity, originally belonging to the “Grand Lodge of Scotland.” Although to some extent different from the French Ritual, it nevertheless shows a close resemblance to the rites prescribed by the Grand Lodge of England and these were adopted, with some modifications, as more suitable to the intentions, in order to relate more closely to the order of Freemasonry, with which the Co-Freemasonry on English territory was likely to come into contact

So Besant (but why does she mention the Dutch territory?) confirms that a ritual was taken from the Grand Lodge of Scotland. This doesn’t say which ritual of the GLoS though, as they have several.

When comparing “Dharma” with “The Scottish Workings of Craft Masonry”, there are remarkable similarities, but also noticeable differences. More about that below.

The full title of the “Dharma” ritual is “The Dharma Workings of Craft Masonry” which sounds a lot like “Scottish Workings of Craft Masonry”. There are also pretty similar “Complete Workings of Craft Freemasonry” from England, but Besant opted for “Craft Masonry” rather then “Craft Freemasonry” and -as mentioned- a “Right Worshipful Master”.

Besant was initiated with the rituals that Georges Martin had written and it would be odd if she had not used them for inspiration. We’ll get back to that.

I had to search long and hard to find Besant’s text. This is odd. If Besant used it to found dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of lodges, why is it so hard to find it? In the end, I found it (online!) in the library of the University of Manchester (which has a few more things concerning the British federation).

The library has an entry with the year “19??” and an online version with 1919. The latter can’t be correct. Safe the language, the booklet looks exactly like the Dutch printing of 1904. Even the printers are the same, while the 3rd English edition of 1913 was printed by British printer. Just see these examples (English left, Dutch right):

Besant and others initiated the first Dutch co-Masons in 1904. In 1905 the first lodge (called “Cazotte”) was founded. Two of the people that were initiated were also book publishers and translators. One of them (Johannes Duwaer (1869-1944)) published his Masonic memoirs in the third issue of the Dutch Bulletin of 1933. He has the names of those initiated and those present and then he says:

The attributes were purchased and the Ritual used in England was translated; both the English and Dutch Ritual were printed at the Duwaer and Van Ginkel printing office.

The Dutch translation of the first degree finds its way to the second hand market every so often. This findability is lower for the second and third degrees, but I have copies of them too. It is even less so for the English version! It is not in the archives of the Dutch federation of Le Droit Humain even though they printed it themselves and even the British federation doesn’t seem to have a copy.

The Duwaer quote makes it very likely that the ‘Manchester edition’, it the one he is talking about, hence, from around 1904.

Not to be read online, but at least there is some information, but the London Museum of Freemasonry has a searchable catalogue. They have multiple versions the Duwaer printing. Also they don’t list the year of publication. Interestingly, this museum also lists the 1908 second edition. More about that in my article about the “Dharma Workings“.

Comparing rituals

Above I have named a few ‘candidates’ as possible sources for “Dharma”. I have compared the 1904 edition of “Dharma” with George Martin’s 1895 text (which was used for Besant’s initiation), the “Scottish Workings of Craft Masonry”, “The Complete Workings of Craft Freemasonry” and “Emulation”. It turns out that “Dharma” is largely the “Scottish Workings” with quite a few elements of Martin’s ritual and Besant’s own imagination. I don’t need the other rituals to explain elements of Dharma. Let’s have a look.

The opening of “Dharma” is almost literally the “Scottish Workings”, save some small differences at the end. For the initiation itself, Besant seems to have preferred Martin’s ritual on several points.

She added Martin’s questioning of the candidate and a testament. Martin has many more situations with questioning, Besant didn’t adopt most of them, but this one she did.
The candidate enters “noisily”, an element that can be found with Martin (or European continental rituals in general), not in the other rituals.
The same goes for the three “symbolical journeys” and elements thereof.
Most charges, tests, the oath, the place of the candidate, the charity question, etc. can mostly be found in the “Scottish Workings”, some also in Martin.

Besant also added elements. The Scottish prayer became a pretty Theosophical “invocation”.
Besant added texts about mysteries of old, offerings to elementals and most strikingly, the creating, conceiving and constituting of the candidate.
What is also odd, only in “Dharma” does the Senior Warden ask for L. for the candidate. Perhaps a typo, as in all British rituals it is the Junior Warden who does so.

In the closing, Besant added the ‘Martinian’ questions if anybody has anything to say. Both the “Scottish Workings” and the “Complete Workings” don’t have this element. “Emulation” does, but since this can also be found in Martin, we don’t need “Emulation” to explain this element. As a side note, Emulation was only first published (officially at least) in 1967, so Besant shouldn’t have been able to use it.
For the rest of the closing, “Dharma” mostly follows the “Scottish Workings” with the difference that in “Dharma” the ‘how should we meet, act and part’ has been switched with the secrets with FFF.

So, the conclusion that Besant used the “Scottish Workings of Craft Masonry” together with the ritual that she knew from her own initiation grows stronger.

An alternative theory

A few texts can be found online written (or originally spoken) by Jeanne Edith Margaret Heaslewood. A text you can find on several places is “A brief history of the founding of co Freemasonry” which was supposedly a lecture given by Heaslewood in 1999. In it, she writes:

The Craft Lodges in the British Federation soon adopted Rituals written in English rather that in French and were working Emulation, Verulam and the Dharma ritual (from India) which later became the Lauderdale ritual similar to the Bristol workings (as I understand it).

“Dharma ritual (from India)”. This could refer to the fact that Besant founded a lodge called “Dharma” in Benares, India. Heaslewood has a more interesting article with the title “The Rituals of Freemasonry as performed together by Men and Women”. Here she is listed as “Grand Secretary, Grand Lodge of Freemasonry for Men and Women”.

From the article about the rituals I want to draw your attention to the following remark:

Dr. Annie Besant, following her Initiation, Passing and Raising into the Universal Mixte Masonry of France in 1902, decided that Freemasonry had definitely something to offer to men and women working in a lodge together and given the same privileges and pattern of working. Consequently she brought to England in 1902 Universal Freemasonry, the title of which was eventually translated to The International Co-Freemasonry Le Droit Humain. At that stage, the first ritual was a translation of the ritual used in France by the LDH Order. In 1903 Dr. Besant started a Triangle in Benares, India together with her good friends, Franscesca and George Arundale (who were responsible for taking her to Paris to join Universal Mixte Masonry in the first place). It was in Benares in 1904 that the Dharma Ritual came to light and together with Dr. C. W. Leadbeater, she wrote into the Dha[r]ma Ritual the special working of the offerings of the elements to be changed into the Elementals.

“At that stage, the first ritual was a translation of the ritual used in France by the LDH Order.” The first lodges that Besant started, didn’t yet use her own ritual, but that of Georges Martin. Only when she founded the Dharma lodge in India, work on a more Theosophical ritual was undertaken. The next paragraph is even more striking.

The Dharma Ritual was originally a masculine ritual, founded in India. There are in existence two different versions dated 1904. Dr. C. W. Leadbeater was also a fellow member of the Theosophical Society of which Dr. Besant was the International Head as well as a recent Freemason; he was also interested in this new exciting society. The Dharma Ritual was the accepted ritual of the group and its connotations very much to their thinking, so that it could be changed to suit the then source of imagination or magic which was considered more suitable to the growth of the mixed (men and women) Freemasonry of the Indian Continent. Therefore Leadbeater, together with Annie Besant, added to the Dharma Ritual the embellishments of the offering of the Elementals and the Mystic Charges. The two following degrees, that of the second and third degree, were also given a more dramatic or magic favour. In fact, the changes can be found more fully written up in Leadbeater’s book, The Hidden Life in Freemasonry. In this book, Leadbeater explains clearly all the magic of the words of the changes made to the Dharma Ritual. One clearly understands the meaning of the changes from this book.

Could this mean that Besant did not base her Dharma ritual on Scottish rituals or Emulation, but that she simply translated an Indian ritual that she liked better than that of Georges Martin? Heaslewood also says that “added to the Dharma Ritual” “embellishments” were made. So there had to be a more minimalist first version of Dharma.

Were these two originally male Dharma rituals, rituals of existing Masonic orders in India or was Besant involved in the process of writing them? (But why would she write rituals for men-only lodges?) Only in that case, the whole Snoek/Bogdan theory about Scottish origins make any sense. On the other hand, there is more information in the direction that Dharma has British origins than Indian.

When we look at the foundation of the first British lodge “Human Duty“, a strong suggestion rises that Besant was initiated in Martin’s ritual, used a Scottish ritual for her own installation and the installation of the London lodge, then appeared to have used a translation of the Martin ritual for a while until working on the Dharma rituals in India.

Either the use of a (presumably) Scottish ritual or that of a possible variety to the Martin ritual is known as “Besant concord” (or alternatively “Besant accord”).

Editions of Dharma

As we saw, Duwaer & Van Ginkel printed the first edition of the “Dharma Workings” in (or around) 1904.

There isn’t much printed on the title page as you can see. The next page says: “privately printed for the Dharma lodge, Benares City”. All the way to the back you can see that this edition was printed by Duwaer & Van Ginkel printers, Amsterdam.

Waite mentions that there was a second edition in 1908. As we saw, the London museum of Freemasonry indeed has a 1908 edition in their catalogue. The record says:

The Dharma working of craft masonry : containing the Entered Apprentice, Fellow-Craft, and Master-Mason’s degrees, with their respective charges, including explanations of the three tracing boards, illustrated by three engravings.

Also interesting: “Published: Manchester : Marsden and Co., Ltd., 1908.” and perhaps even more so: “Edition: 2nd ed., rev. & enl.” So already the second edition was revised and enlarged. It is a book with the following dimensions: “150 p. : front., ill. ; 14 x 9.5 cm.” The museum got the copy: “Library’s Copy: Donated by the Nine Muses Lodge”.

It would be interesting to see this 1908 edition in order to see the differences to the first edition. Anybody here from London?

Then there is a third edition.

This one was published by yet another publishing house William McLellan & company from Glasgow, so yet another publisher. This booklet says: “Third Edition (Revised and Enlarged) of the “Dharma Workings” 1913″.
The title page statement is much different from the second edition:

Universal Co-Freemasonry. The Workings of Scottish Rite Freemasonry in the Symbolic or Craft Degrees. Issued under the sanction of the Deputy of the Supreme Council of Universal Co-Freemasonry for Great Britain and its Dependencies

This edition is somewhat larger, 14×11 cm, but has fewer pages, 92 for the first degree.

I haven’t figured out yet if there are later edition of the “Dharma Workings” or that other rituals were based on the “Dharma Workings” from then on, like how it went in the Netherlands.

No conclusion yet

Here we have two theories to the origin of “Dharma” which are (almost) impossible to reconcile, but the Scottish origin gains in probability.

“The Scottish Workings of Craft Masonry” must have had a big influence on “Dharma” as we have seen. Just compare the opening of the lodge in both texts and little doubt remains (see below). As mentioned, comparing the texts, brings also differences to light, but in combination with Martin’s ritual the cursory look at “Dharma” appear to be explainable.

But why Scottish rituals? Did Besant have people in her surroundings who where members of the Grand Lodge of Scotland? Heaslewood says that Leadbeater was “a recent Freemason” when he heard of Besant’s Masonic endeavors. Was he perhaps member of a GLoS lodge? Did Besant have other Freemasons in her surroundings? Or did she just go out shopping and happened to be able to lay her hands on the Scottish rituals? In another article I looked into the people involved in the foundation of Human Duty, but I found no candidates to explain the introduction of Scottish rituals. Currently there is just the flimsy suggestion that Besant took the word “Écossaise” (‘Scottish’) in the original name of Le Droit Humain literally.

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