This Order in Freemasonry is based on the friendship of David and Jonathan. The land of Canaan, or Israel, as it is known today, is a tract of hill country with a narrow coastal belt on the Eastern Mediterranean. When the Children of Israel returned to Canaan from Egypt (circa 1320 BC) they found the country parcelled-out into petty kingdoms, whose people regarded the Israelites as interlopers. There was perpetual warfare between rival tribes for over 200 years but the Israelites, who were ruled by Judges, ultimately had possession of a block of territory from Dan to Beersheba.
From this period on, we have the kingdom of Saul, and then ultimately David; the son of Jesse the Bethlehemite. David distinguished himself not only as a warrior but as a musician. His encounter with Goliath is known to all of us. His success, however, made Saul jealous, and with the help of Jonathan, David was saved from the treachery of Saul. The shooting of arrows is part of this story, as well as the various refuges occupied by David. Jonathan visited David in these refuges and renewed the covenant between them. Jonathan was killed in a disastrous battle against the Philistines near Mount Gilboa (1018 BC). Saul committed suicide, and David was finally accepted as king by the people of Judah.
Origins of the Order
Based on this Biblical history, the Order has been developed. We should be aware that speculative masonry in the 17th and 18th centuries gave rise to the invention of many post-Craft degrees. Particularly in Scotland were these degrees prevalent and the Early Grand Scottish Rite at this time collected degrees from the 4th to the 44th. The 16th degree was the ‘Order of Brotherly Love’, and in the late 17th century, this Order was taken from Scotland to New York, where various interpretations were given to both the French and Dutch Freemasons over the next hundred years or so. The rite worked in the 19th century could be called ‘The Secret Monitor or Trading Degree’. Around 1890 the Sovereign College of Allied and Christian Degrees for America took the Order under its aegis and candidates had to be Ark Mariners of good standing.
This now brings us to the History of the Order in Great Britain. After serving on the Federal side as a surgeon in the American Civil War, an Englishman, Issachar Zacharie, settled in California and took a prominent role in Masonic affairs. He returned to London in 1875 and set up practice in Brook Street, Mayfair. He made many Masonic contacts, and was advanced in the Bon Accord Mark Lodge in 1882. Here he met other Brethren who had received the Degree of Secret Monitor in various places. Amongst these was one C F Matier who had received the signs etc. from an American brother in 1865. At this period the communication of the signs etc. seems to have been a simple and personal ceremony. Brother Zacharie discussed with these brethren the possibility of working the degree in England, as a result of which a Conclave of the Order was formed in May 1887 which ultimately became Premier Conclave No 1.
The last 200 years
From this step the Grand Council of the Order was formed with Bro Zacharie as the Grand Supreme Ruler, which office he filled from 1887 to 1894. Model by-laws were discussed and adopted, and Bro W I Spratling was appointed Grand Recorder which office he held from 1887 to 1927. The University of London Conclave No 2 was founded in late l887 and this was soon followed by other Conclaves.
It is perhaps not surprising that the success of Bro Zacharie’s Secret Monitor organisation should arouse jealousy and competition. The Grand Council of the Allied Masonic Degrees and the Sovereign College of Allied and Christian Degrees for America were both concerned. It should be pointed out that by then the Order of the Secret Monitor in England was working the three degrees, namely Induction, the Princes Degree and the Chair Degree of Supreme Ruler: whilst in America only one degree was practised.
The outcome of these discussions was that the Grand Council of the Allied Masonic Degrees took the Order of the Secret Monitor under its aegis in 1898, but nevertheless, the original Grand Council of the Order of the Secret Monitor remained in existence. However, in 1931 the whole matter was settled when R W Bro Napier-Clavering was the Grand Supreme Ruler of the Order of the Secret Monitor as well as the Grand Master of the Allied Masonic Degrees, and the latter Council officially recognised the former as a separate Grand Council.
As an item of interest, those members of the Allied Masonic Degrees who possess an old bar of the jewels for each degree, may find that it also includes the first degree jewel of the Order of the Secret Monitor – indeed some may include the Royal Ark Mariner Jewel. Another interesting ‘side’ degree associated with the Order is that of the Order of the Scarlet Cord and the Trading Degree. These are truly ‘side’ degrees and of interest to the Masonic historian