Friday, January 18, 2013

Where do the Prince Hall Affiliation rituals come from?


By Art deHoyos, 32°, K.C.C.H.

Where do the Prince Hall Affiliation rituals come from? This question has often been asked of me by Masons who are aware of my interests in tracing ritual origins and development. Some speculate that Prince Hall Masonry wrote its own rituals, others suggest that ritual exposés are a source; still others conjecture that copies of rituals were "discovered" by Prince Hall Masons, and yet others believe that sympathetic "mainline" Masons lent their support—if not copies of the rituals themselves. Which, if any, of these views is correct? The surprising answer is that—depending on the body in question—all of the above answers are correct.

It is generally known that the Grand Lodge of Missouri, PHA, uses Duncan’s Masonic Ritual and Monitor (1866) as its official ritual, while the Grand Lodge of Ohio, PHA, uses a ritual similar to its mainline counterpart. Again, Ohio’s Prince Hall Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons employs an early version of the mainline ritual, while its Grand Council Royal and Select Masters, PHA uses a cipher ritual once popular among mainline bodies. The Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order Nobles Mystic Shrine, or A.E.A.O.N.M.S. (the Prince Hall Shrine) ritual is an example of an auxiliary ritual which was copied from an early exposé, differing materially from the current "mainline" counterpart.

What of the PHA Scottish Rite?

An oft-encountered story maintains that Albert Pike shared his rituals with Prince Hall Masons. On January 16, 1945, Willard W. Allen, 33°, Sovereign Grand Commander of the United Supreme Council, 33°, SJ, PHA wrote about this to George W. Crawford, Lieutenant Grand Commander of the United Supreme Council, 33°, NJ, PHA.

He explained that Thornton A. Jackson (photo left), Sovereign Grand Commander United Supreme Council, 33°, SJ, PHA from 1887 to 1904 was a personal friend of Albert Pike. After Jackson mentioned to Pike how "seriously handicapped" the PHA bodies were for a lack of adequate rituals, Pike is said to have given him an autographed, complete set of the Scottish Rite rituals. The rituals were passed on to Jackson’s successor and eventually came into the hands of Robert L. Pendleton, who was Sovereign Grand Commander from 1911 to 1929.

The Pike rituals were said to have been revised and printed, but the original Pike set unfortunately disappeared following Pendleton’s death. At the end of his letter Allen noted, "The important fact however is that Pike did give Jackson a complete set of Scottish Rite rituals. Incidentally, it is not necessary to remind you of what practically all Masonic scholars know very well, viz., that in the closing years of General Pike’s Masonic career, he became a very staunch friend of Negro Masonry."*

On January 22, 1945, just six days after the above letter, a delegation of officers from The Supreme Council, 33°, N.M.J., and the United Supreme Council, 33°, N.J., PHA, met at the Masonic temple in New York. Of this meeting, Melvin M. Johnson, 33°, Sovereign Grand Commander, N.M.J., noted that, "A study of the rituals used by the United Supreme Council (Prince Hall Affiliation) for the Northern Jurisdiction and other evidence which has been furnished us demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that its rituals are authentic and recognized rituals of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite."

The Hiram

I am inclined to accept the story that Pike shared his rituals with Prince Hall Freemasonry. Although the original rituals presented by Pike to Jackson are presently lost, they were retypeset and published as set of five volumes entitled The Hiram. The Library of the Supreme Council, 33°, S.J., owns a copy of The Hiram, Book 5, which contains the 31° and 32° of the United Supreme Council, A. and A.S. Rite, S. and W. Jurisdiction U.S.A. This volume was autographed and certified in July 1898 by Pike’s friend, Thornton A. Jackson, 33°, and James O. Bampfield, 33°, Jackson’s Secretary General. Its contents were copied from a Pike ritual—though not the current one. Rather, its rituals are those of a cooperative effort written in 1857 with Charles Laffon de Ladebat in New Orleans, and published the following year.

In addition to a ritual of the degrees, The Hiram, Book 5 has other material that has been borrowed from Pike’s writings.

A Revision of Circa 1920?

According to Willard W. Allen’s letter, the early Pike rituals printed in The Hiram were used until about 1920 when they were revised by a "joint project" of the PHA Southern and Northern jurisdictions. From this we may very likely infer that the ritual displayed to the Supreme Council, N.M.J., in 1945 was the revised (circa 1920) ritual. However, an examination of the Prince Hall ritual used in 1945 reveals that it was not a revised Pike ritual, but rather, a copy of an early Northern Jurisdiction ritual. This is rather difficult to account for. Unlike the Prince Hall Association, the rituals used by the Supreme Councils, 33°, S.J .and N.M.J., differ substantially from each other. Why was this not noted by Melvin M. Johnson?

The Pre-1946 Ritual

If the ritual displayed to the Northern Jurisdiction in 1945 was the then current Prince Hall working, it would have consisted of a set of four volumes separately entitled Book of the Scottish Rite. I have studied the first three volumes, covering the fourth through the thirtieth degrees, and find that they are copied from The Secret Directory (1867), a ritual collection adopted at the formation of the present Supreme Council, 33°, N.M.J.

The PHA Book of the Scottish Rite is such a close copy of The Secret Directory that it includes most of its typographical errors. Other errors involved the typesetter’s misreading of the text, and/or his inability to read Hebrew. Also, unable to duplicate the Hebrew and Samaritan fonts, the typesetter occasionally omitted whole paragraphs. As for its name, the Book of the Scottish Rite borrowed this from Charles T. McClenachan’s "monitor," The Book of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite (1867), which was designed to supplement The Secret Directory.

The Revision of 1946

By October 1945, the relations between the two bodies were friendly enough that Melvin M. Johnson extended further overtures to the United Supreme Council. He invited them to a meeting in Boston, adding, "There is no hurry about it, but I should very much like to have the meeting in the headquarters of our Supreme Council where we have some interesting things which you will like to see."

Among the "interesting things" may have been its rich collection of manuscript rituals, which included the 1783 Francken MS. (1783), the Frederick Dalcho rituals (1801–02), and other valuable items. I do not know which, if any, of these was shared with the United Supreme Council, but we do know that a relationship was established which resulted in a cooperative revision of the Prince Hall ritual.

According to a December 1949 letter by Crawford, a joint committee was appointed including among its members "two Presidents of outstanding Negro Colleges, two lawyers of recognized standing, one business man who heads an insurance company and other important business enterprises, and one distinguished physician recognized as the No. 1 colored citizen of his State."

The work of the Committee was completed in 1947, and the Committee was charged by these two cooperating Supreme Councils with the responsibility of printing the approved texts of the revised degrees (4°–32°).

McIlyar Hamilton Lichliter, 33° (1877–1961) was arguably the most knowledgeable student of Northern Jurisdiction Scottish Rite ritual during his lifetime. From 1944–1957, he served as Chairman of the Committee on Rituals and Ritualistic Matter. According to a letter written by Lichliter to Crawford in November 1948, he acknowledged helping the Prince Hall Scottish Rite "in the preparation of your book of rituals."

The revised Prince Hall Scottish Rite degrees are currently published as The Book of the Scottish Rite 4°–32°. According to its introduction, it is "the result of a joint undertaking" and is "essentially an abridgment" of the pre-1946 ritual. The Book of the Scottish Rite contains a slight abbreviation of the pre-1946 edition, with one exception: the Second Section of the 20°, Grand Master of All Symbolic Lodges, called "The Light of Patriotism (An Interpolation)," which was added in 1946.

The Thirty-Third Degree

The earliest Thirty-third degree ritual which can be traced directly to the Scottish Rite is in the handwriting of the Reverend Frederick Dalcho, one of the founders of the original "Supreme Council of the 33rd." The document, which was likely written about 1801, was the basis for subsequent versions and is now in the collection of the Supreme Council, 33°, N.M.J.

In 1868 Albert Pike completed his first revision of the Thirty-third degree ritual, basing his work on the ritual conferred on him in 1857. In 1870 Pike presented a copy of his revision "in two volumes handsomely bound" to Josiah H. Drummond, 33°, Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council, 33°, N.M.J. This ritual was used until Charles T. McClenachan revised the Pike ritual in 1880, although it still closely followed Pike’s content and structure. The McClenachan ritual continued to be used until it was revised by Melvin M. Johnson in 1938. Although minor changes were made to the Johnson ritual, it continues to follow the Pike pattern, although its content has been drastically altered.

The Prince Hall 33°

I do not know what ritual(s) were used to confer the Thirty-third degree in the Prince Hall Affiliation prior to 1948, but by that time the working relationship with the Northern Jurisdiction was such that Lichliter assisted in a revision of that degree. In February 1949 he wrote to Crawford, noting, "The galley proofs of your 33° are on my desk.... There are a number of suggestions I want to make to clarify the text and to guarantee a little more artistic arrangement. There are not too many actual typo-graphical errors."

The approved text was published as the Book of the Thirty-third Degree A.A.S.R. Tell-tale phrases identify McClenachan’s 1880 revision as the underlying text. However, the Prince Hall ritual is not a slavish copy of McClenachan’s revision. It has been abbreviated, it occasionally paraphrases, and it introduces an "optional interpolation." The quality of the revision makes it the crowing jewel of the United Supreme Council, as well as a testament of the cooperation between the two Supreme Councils.

It is not known if the Prince Hall Masons were aware of the 1938 Johnson ritual. It seems safe to assume that the Supreme Council, 33°, N.M.J., provided the United Supreme Council with the 1880 McClenachan revision, but they may have held back the Johnson ritual for the purpose of affording the Prince Hall Masons greater uniformity with other jurisdictions. It has been aptly noted that the Johnson ritual "differs substantially from the 33° conferred in the other Supreme Councils of the world."


From the limited access I have had to source documents, we can summarize the following:

1. It is probable that Albert Pike shared early versions of his rituals with Thornton A. Jackson. These rituals cannot now be found.

2. The rituals printed in The Hiram represent early Pike rituals.

3. I have not discovered evidence of the (possible) revision of circa 1920.

4. In 1945 the United Supreme Council satisfied the Supreme Council, 33°, Northern Jurisdiction, that its rituals were "authentic and recognized." The rituals evinced at this time (the Book of the Scottish Rite) were based on the Northern Jurisdiction’s own "Union of 1867" ritual.

5. The current "Revision of 1946" ritual is an abbreviation of the Book of the Scottish Rite, and retains several of its typographical and textual errors.

6. The current "Revision of 1946" was the product of a "joint Committee" of eminent Prince Hall Masons, and was submitted to review by the highest ranking officers of the Supreme Council 33°, of the Northern Jurisdiction.

7. The current Thirty-third degree ritual of the United Supreme Council is based on Charles T. McClenachan’s 1880 revision of Pike’s 1868 ritual.

*Documentation for all quotations and historical statements appears in the full version of this article as printed in Heredom, Volume 5, 1996, the transactions of the Scottish Rite Research Society, pp. 51–67.


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