This story can be found on a few place on the internet. When looking into the history of the “Dharma Workings” you can’t escape looking into the first British lodge of Le Droit Humain. The information that I find off- and online raises questions though, so I decided to compile my own little history from the sources I have found. This I can edit when I find new information.
Annie Besant (1847-1933) travelled to Paris to be initiated together with some other people on 27 July 1902. These were “Besant, Francesca Arundale and her nephew George, Ursula Bright and her daughter Esther and Colonel and Mrs Lauder.”
The rationale behind the selection of the group was afterwards described by Besant in a letter to Ursula Bright of 16 Nov. 1905: ‘Poor old Faulding! The very simple reason for not asking him and his wife to Paris was that we only wanted 7, and I chose those who were available at the moment, the Arundales, you and Esther and myself, and for the remaining two the Lauders, who could easily afford it. Everybody can’t do everything and go everywhere!
Thus can be read in Andrew Prescott’s essay Annie Besant and Freemasonry in the book Women’s Agency and Rituals in mixed and female Masonic orders edited by Jan Snoek and Alexandra Heidl. This book proves to be helpful as several authors quote from the minute books of Human Duty. Prescott says to quote letters of Besant from 1927, but the information can’t be (entirely) accurate as we will see.
After having been initiated in Paris some of the mentioned party went to London to found the first mixed gender lodge in the UK: Human Duty no. 6. Let us have a closer look.
The foundation of Lodge Human Duty No. 6
The Bulletin of Le Droit Humain has a lengthy report of the foundation of Human Duty in the September/October issue of 1902. The report opens with:
Here a few things stand out to me. First, the address I am pretty sure the text says: “28, Albemarle Street, Picadilly”. In the book More Light Lorente-Bull and Rees give a history of Human Duty saying:
Seven more brethern were initiated on 20 August 1902 and further initiations were conducted on 4 September. On 22 September a delegation arrived from Paris, led by the Grand Master Sr. Marie-Georges Martin and accompanied by her husband Georges Martin, to make preparations for the inauguration of a new lodge which was to take place on 26 September, to be called the Human Duty Lodge No. 6
On that date a Provisional Lodge was opened according to the usage of the Scottish Rite at the Temple, 24 Albemarle Street, London by Annie Besant. (p. 96)
This “24 Albemarle Street” can be found on a few websites as well. 28 Albemarle Street appears to be mentioned seldom in this connection. It looks like somebody misread the number and others copied it though.
I have been looking what this temple at 24 Albemarle street is/was supposed to be. I can find no Masonic connection. A jeweler is housed on that address since 1911. At 28 Albemarle Street -on the other hand- at some time there appears to have been the headquarters of the British branch of the Theosophical Society. This makes it more likely that this is the address were the installation of lodge Human Duty too place.
In Women’s Agency Ann Jessica Pilcher Dayton writes in her essay Freemasonry and Suffrage: “The formal Consecration of Lodge ‘Human Duty’ No. 6 took place in the Lecture Hall of the Theosophical Society.” This confirms my conclusion about the address.
Who were involved?
The Bulletin lists several names involved in the foundation of Human Duty. Pilcher Dayton mentions some as well and a newspaper clipping that found its way to the internet has a photo with names:
On the photo: S.M. Sharpe, Ursula Bright, William Lauder, Annie Besant, Ivy Hooper, Edith Ward Florence Faulding, Esther Bright, W. Faulding, Max Gysi, G.H. Whyte, Evelyn Lauder
According to the Bulletin the following people were present: Annie Besant, Francesca Arundale, William Lauder, Georges Arundale, Esther Bright, Eveline Lauder, Ursula Bright, Maud Foster, Regald Hodder
Pilcher Dayton: “The Master Elect Annie Besant took the Obligation, as did the Senior and Junior Wardens, Francesca Arundale and William Lauder. Evelyn Lauder, as Senior Deacon, surrounded by the other officers of the new Lodge then took an Obligation on their behalf.” This information comes from the lodge minutes which I suppose are written in English.
The Bulletin also names functions, but in French and abbreviated, and some more names. My Masonic French isn’t great, but I think the functions were :
Annie Besant ((R)WM), more about that later;
Francesca Arundale (1re Surv. / Sr. Warden);
William Lauder (2e Surv. / Jr. Warden)
Georges Arudale (P. Mast., written like that);
Esther Bright (Secretary);
Eveline Lauder (Gr. Exp. / Expert or Deacon);
Ursula Bright (Treasurer);
Maud Sharpe (Hospit. / Almoner);
Foster (Master of Ceremonies);
Reginald Hodder, (Couv. / Tyler).
The above raises a few points and questions. The function of Besant is not mentioned. She is mentioned as opening the lodge. Two points which I will come back to in this regard.
Georges Arundale (1878-1945) is mentioned as “P. Mast.” in the French text. This suggests that a ritual was used with a function unknown in France (in “Dharma” the Past Master has a role during the opening en closing of the lodge). Another option is that Arundale actually was Past Master. This is unlikely though, as Besant (as we saw above) says that she was initiated together with Georges Arundale in Paris in 1902. On the other hand, Besant also mentions niece Francesca Arundale traveling with them to Paris to be initiated, while Francesca had been initiated in 1895 or 1896 (and informed Besant about mixed gender Freemasonry). In any case, the “Scottish Workings of Craft Masonry” has a part for the Past Master, so it makes sense that the function is mentioned. Francesca Arundale (1847-1924) -by the way- is the sister of Maria Martin (1839-1910) who was originally named Maria Arundale. Maria Martin was close to Georges Martin, but not by marriage! Georges Martin was the second husband of Irma-Marie-Eugenie Laine (1815-1914) who -after her marriage- changed her name to Marie Georges Martin. Maria Martin also played her part in the early co-Masonic movement, such as introducing her sister who introduced Annie Besant.
Back to the French function list. “Gr. Exp.” is probably something like “Grand Expert”, but what does an “expert” do in lodge? A. Pilcher Dayton writes that Evelyn Lauder was Senior Deacon, which supposedly comes from the minutes of lodge Human Duty, so I suppose this is correct.
Then there are some functions missing. If Lauder was Senior Deacon, where is the other deacon? Also there is only one Tyler listed, but I have reasons to believe that in this case there should have been. Moreover, “Tyler” is usually the “Outer Guard” while in rituals with only one Tyler, there is only the “Inner Guard”.
Let us have a look at the people listed above, perhaps one already was a Freemason when Human Duty was installed. We need only to look at the men, obviously. William Lauder was initiated together with Besant in Paris as we saw. Next man in the lists is Max Gysi. Unfortunately I can’t find much about him. It appears he was a Swiss architect who has cooperated with Rudolf Steiner on several occasions and he translated Steiner’s work to English. In the report in the Bulletin of the installation of Human Duty, is he mentioned as “prof. M. Marx Gysi, MM. This seems to imply that he was a Master Mason, but I doubt that would be in a Scottish lodge. W. Faulding could be (quoting Pilcher Dayton again): “Alfred Faulding, London General Secretary of International Co-Masonry”. He is not in the lists with functions. There is also an A.J. Faulding with a Theosophical connection and I can’t find a bridge between “W” and “Alfred”. In her dissertation (accessed 12-1-2023) Pilcher Dayton says that Alfred was affiliated to Human Duty in 1903, so W. Faulding must be another Faulding, perhaps the wife. Be that as it may, Pilcher Dayton quotes a letter of Besant how the party of seven went to Paris to be initiated. In that quote she also says: “Poor old Faulding! The very simple reason for not asking him and his wife to Paris was that we only wanted 7”. It would be odd to even think about asking someone for an initiation if (s)he already was a Freemason. George Herbert Whyte (1878–1917) is easier to track than the previous persons. It appears he was a somewhat famous military man born from parents who were Theosophists. I found no information that we was a Freemason before Human Duty. Reginald Hodder appears to have been a military man as well, but I can’t find much more. The name “Hodder” appears as half of the name of a Theosophical publishing house and he wrote a handfull of texts but that is all I could find.
The reason I did the above is because I’m searching for the reason why a Scottish ritual would be used during the installation of Human Duty. (See below.) If one of the men present was member of a Grand Lodge of Scotland lodge and helped Human Duty, that could explain why a certain ritual was used. So far only indications that a Scottish ritual was used, but I was something stronger. Let’s move to the next point.
Lorente-Bull and Rees write that Besant was installed as “Right Worshipful Master”. This is an important detail, because in combination with the remark that the “Provisional Lodge was opened according to the Scottish Rite” would imply that a Scottish ritual was used (English rituals have a “Worshipful Master”, not a “Right Worshipful Master”). Pilcher Dayton also calls Besant “Right Worshipful Master” and I assume she uses the term that is mentioned in the minutes. The Bulletin shortly confirms the point about the ritual saying that “The Work is opened in the usual manner of the Scottish Rite”. I haven’t found a reference to “Right Worshipful Master” yet though. The passage that Lorente-Bull and Rees appear to refer to says:
Which -I think- means that she was chosen as “Vénerable” of lodge No. 6. I’m not sure what the “R.” in front of the symbol for lodge is, but it is quite a stretch to read “Right” there. The character more likely refers to the lodge-symbol (“Respectable” lodge for example). Later is the text, references to Besant are using “Vén.” Pilcher Dayton quotes the Human Duty minutes saying: “The Master Elect Annie Besant took the Obligation”, which is probably what the French text has as “élue Vén”. The suggestion that the Bulletin is a French translation of the lodge minutes that Pilcher Dayton saw, grows. The remark that Besant was installed as “Right Worshipful Master” is repeated on several places on the internet. For now I think I’ll take Pilcher Dayton’s word for it, assuming she read it in the Human Duty minutes.
Which ritual and why?
My biggest question remains unsolved: was indeed a “Scottish Rite” ritual used and if so, why and which one? The fact that the ritual of Georges Martin wasn’t used, appears to be the agreement that is referred to as “Annie Besant concord” or “Annie Besant accord”. An odd thing remains though. According to Lorente-Bull and Rees: “The ritual first used [in the new lodge] was a translation of that used in France.” Also this information can be found here and there, but that would mean that Besant was initiated in the French ritual, installed her first lodge with a Scottish ritual, worked for a while in the translation of the French ritual in het lodge(s) and then set out to write the “Dharma” ritual which contains elements of Scottish ritual, Emulation and the ritual of Georges Martin.
Let me quote Pilcher Dayton yet another time: “The title of the Lodge was to be “‘The Scotch Symbolical Worshipful Lodge of England: Droit Humain’, No. 6 ‘Human Duty’” which she supposedly read in the minutes too. This is not all that surprising, as the first name for Le Droit Humain was: “la Grande Loge Symbolique Écossaise Mixte le Droit Humain”, or ‘the Symbolic Scottish Mixed Grand Lodge le Droit Humain’, after George Martin’s “Grande Loge Symbolique Ecossaise”. Would Besant have taken the “Ecossaise” so seriously that she set out to find a Scottish ritual for the installation of her first lodge?
As you can read in my article about the “Dharma Workings“, a big inspiration appears to have been the “Scottish Workings of Craft Masonry”. Yet the above did not make it any clearer if this was indeed the ritual used and why.
Hopefully I will find more information to get a clearer picture.