Dogged by controversy from its inception, The Kneph was, from 1881 to 1900, the official journal of the Antient and Primitive Rite of Masonry in England. Although edited, first by Kenneth R.H. MacKenzie, and later by James Hill, the driving force was always John Yarker.
The controversies begin with the back page of Volume 1, No. 1, where a list of officers of the Antient and Primitive Rite was closely followed by a list of Honorary Members, Representatives, Temples, Chapters, List of Members and, curiously, Bronze Star of Merit awards. Unfortunately, the list for Bronze Star of Merit, Third Class--Literary, included the name of W.J. Hughan. Well-known masonic writer William James Hughan took exception to being associated with the Antient and Primitive Rite and an apology was duly inserted in issue No. 3. Recipients of the Bronze Star of Merit were not mentioned again, until the last issue in 1895 when the award was bestowed on the American Professor Martion Joyce.
By issue No. 2, the editor felt required to use the front page, and more, to defend the Kneph from what he considered the "invidious attacks" by The Freemason. The Freemason, it seems, had suggested that the Antient and Primitive Rite was either clandestine or a degree mill, and in any case, not masonic.
The Antient and Primitive Rite had no success in gaining recognition from the three premier Grand Lodges. In Vol. II, No. 21, 22 and 23 [August/September, October, December, 1882] editorials decry at length on the arrogance of the Grand Lodge of Ireland in denying recognition of the Ancient and Primitive Rite. By February of 1883, an editorial termed the Irish Grand Lodge position as "persecution" [page 13].
In 1890 [page 46] further notes are published criticizing the Grand Lodges of Ohio, Kentucky and Ireland, all of whom specifically prohibited their members from joining the A. & P. Rite.
The sole purpose of The Kneph was the promotion of the higher degrees. To do this, it required no great leap to the deprecation of the Craft degreesor at least their history and contemporary practitioners. Again in Vol. I, No. 3, the editor wrote responses to what he considered attacks on The Kneph by The Freemason. It would appear that The Freemason had been simply responding to disparaging remarks about Craft Freemasonry in the first two numbers of The Kneph.
The Kneph took the earliest opportunity, in issue No. 4, to take the offensive, and question the distribution of the monies dedicated to the Prestonian Lectureship. Later issues continued to criticize what they termed "Knife and Fork" freemasons.
In Vol. II, No. 19 [July, 1882] an editorial took the offensive again, referring to the United Grand Lodge of England as "the autocratic representatives of the whilom Boston quacks who rule the roast [sp] in England." Later, in No. 44 [November, 1885]:
A very learned Masonic correspondent writes that Masonry in all its grades is a number of showy ceremonies leading nowhere. This is about true of all Rites except that of the Antient and Primitive Rite of Masonry and Order of Memphis: it will live when the others are tipped into the dunghill of old time.
In jurisdictional matters, The Kneph was inclined to take the side of Cerneau Council over that of either the Northern or Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite, although a favourable review of Albert Pikes Morals and Dogma is given on page 80 of Vol. I, No. 10. Four years later, in issue No. 47 [August, 1886] the following attack is made on Albert Pike:
The Antient and Accepted Scottish Rite of the Cerneau regime is making thorough progress throughout America, and the illigitimate bodies of the thoroughly able Brother Pike, 33°, are all trembling to their fall. His 25 years labour to build up a system is as nought and his works but vanity. Some day the members of that Rite in England, Ireland and Scotland, who have been constituted under the Charlestonian system, will perhaps comprehend how egrariously they have been humbugged by a spurious body.
The journal also promoted the Swedenborgian Rite, the Egyptian, Memphis, and Mizraim Rites, and such forgotten bodies as the Ancient Order of Zuzimites.
In issue No. 5, the editor responded deprecatingly to the, justified, accusations that many of the members of the Ancient and Primitive Rite were not currently members of Craft lodges. He also reprinted a review from H.P. Blavatskys The Theosophist, in which she praised The Kneph.
Most issues of The Kneph were composed of collections of articles by John Yarker, defences by the editor (and the occasional salvo in response to perceived attacks), book reviews, and reports of meetings of any number of orders, chapters and lodges. Considerable space was given over in later issues to expositions on the esoteric meanings of masonic ritual and symbols.
A history and outline of principles of the Antient and Primitive Rite first appeared in Vol. I, No. 7 [July, 1881] on page 63, and was frequently reprinted, taking up a full page in several issues each year. In short, an unfounded claim was made to predate the establishment of the Grand Lodges in England. A more detailed history of the Rite during the 19th century can be found on page 154 of the November, 1884 issue, right after another criticism of The Freemason for allegedly misrepresenting the Antient and Primitive Rite.
In Vol. II, No. 15 [March 1882] p.116, the editor responded to criticism from the Voice of Masonry. The Freemason appears to have also maintained a steady criticism of the Antient and Primitive Rite, as rebuttals are common. Again, in Vol. V, No. 1, The Freemason is taken to task for criticizing A&P Rite members for not maintaining membership in Craft lodges.
There was also a certain amount of internecine squabbling, as the various jurisdictions and bodies in North America sorted out their relationships.
In Vol. II, No. 14 [February, 1882] page 107, Samual Beswick, Grand Master of Ceremonies, Sov. Sanc. of British America, Dominion of Canada, wrote a lengthy letter to the editor expressing surprise that Alexander Mott called himself the Grand Master of the Continent of America. Alexander Mott replied, claiming jurisdiction for the Continent of America in Vol II, No. 18 [June 1882] page 138. A detailed acccount of this, and other controversies, can be found in Vol. IV, No. 2 [May, 1884] pages 124-126, with an update on page 136 of the August issue and a rebuttal from Canada on page 154 of the November 1882 issue.
On another front, the 1889 edition warns Bodies of the Ancient [sic] and Primitive Rite of Masonry in Great Britain and Ireland against admitting members from Scotland. Another A. & P. Rite Body chartered by one Wilson in Boston had sprung up in Scotland, in competition to Yarkers Rite.
By 1888 The Kneph was reduced to an annual, soon to be published every two years, with the last issue appearing in 1895. These last few issues of The Kneph abound with concerns about diminishing membership and pleas for payment of subscription fees.
To the end, Yarker refused to recognize that there was little interest for his array of degrees, maintaining that "the English Craft is not educated up to the standard of the A. & P. Rite" [October, 1893]. Never quitting his efforts, in 1895, he announced that he had been granted a Patent for the Order of Martinists.
Although no further numbered issues of The Kneph were to appear, Yarker, on November 14, 1896, had published a broadsheet with a reprint, from The Freemasons Chronicle,of his article "Freemasonry and Devil-Worship" on one side, and on the reverse a reprint of his 1881 treaty to recognize Garibaldi as the Imperial Grand Master.
The very last Kneph, dated September, 1900, was titled, "Manifesto of the Sovereign Sanctuary, 33-95, Great Britain, Ireland, etc." This was one last attempt to present the claims for the legitimacy of the A. & P. Rite, and one last criticism of Craft Freemasonry for not accepting these claims. John Yarker continued to write and publish until his death in 1913.
Garibaldi Vol. I, No. 9, page 72:
The Kneph advocates the creation of General Garibaldi as Supreme Chief of the Order for the world....
In Vol. II, No. 16, Jean Baptista Pessina writes to describe a fete in honour of Garibaldi. In Vol. II, No. 18, a lengthy Memorium is printed. In Vol. II, No. 19 [July, 1882] page 151, a funeral oration is reprinted.
Gnostic and Masonic Mysteries, Geneology Chart of the: Vol. VI, No. 1. [February, 1886] pages 8,9.
Illustrations: This website contains a number of illustrations gleaned from The Kneph, as well as print quality reproductions of Principal Officers' Jewels.
Rite of Memphis in Egypt--Article on: Vol. I, No. 11 [November 1881] page 1.
Yarker, Johnbiography: Vol. II, No. 15 [March 1882] page 114. Born in April 17, 1833.
Yarker, John L.In Memoria: Vol VIII, No. 1 [September, 1888] page 10. 1858-1888. There is no mention that he was the son of John Yarker.
The following volumes, in the possession of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia Library, have been consulted in the preparation of these notes:
The Kneph. Official Journal of the Antient and Primitive Rite of Masonry. Kenneth R.H. MacKenzie, ed. Vol. I, No. 1. - Vol. II, No. 14: January 1881 - December 1882. [page size 7" x 9 3/8"] Bound in red hardcover, printed by the Crown Printing Company, Crown Court, Milton Street, London, E.C.. Published for the Sovereign Sanctuary of the Antient and Primitive Rite of Masonry for Great Britain and Ireland, by Bro. James Hill, at 6, Little Britain, E.C..
The Kneph. Official Journal of the Antient and Primitive Rite of Masonry. James Hill, ed. Vol. III, No. 1. - Vol. IV, No. 4: January 1883 - November 1884. [page size 7" x 9 3/8"] Bound in red hardcover, printed by the Crown Printing Company, Crown Court, Milton Street, London, E.C.. Published for the Sovereign Sanctuary of the Antient and Primitive Rite of Masonry for Great Britain and Ireland, by Bro. James Hill, at 6, Little Britain, E.C..
The Kneph. Official Journal of the Antient and Primitive Rite of Masonry. James Hill, ed. Vol. V, No. 1. - Vol. VII, No. 4: January 1885 - November, 1887. [page size 7" x 9 3/8"] Bound in red hardcover, printed by the Crown Printing Company, Crown Court, Milton Street, London, E.C.. Published for the Sovereign Sanctuary of the Antient and Primitive Rite of Masonry for Great Britain and Ireland, by Bro. James Hill, at 6, Little Britain, E.C..
The Kneph. Official Journal of the Antient and Primitive Rite of Masonry. John Yarker, ed. Vol. VIII, No. 1 [No. 53], September, 1888.; Vol. VIII, Yr. IX [No. 54], August, 1889.; Vol. VIII, Year X [No. 55], September, 1890.; Vol. VIII, Year XI [No. 56], July, 1891.; Vol. VIII, Year XII [No. 57] October, 1892.; Vil. VIII Year XIII [No. 58], October, 1893.; Vol. VIII, Years XIV-XV [No. 59] August, 1895.; Unnumbered "Manifesto." July 28, 1900. [consecutively numbered pages 1-64. unnumbered final edition of 4 pages. page size 7' x 9 3/8"] Bound in red cloth, printed by the Crown Printing Company, Crown Court, Milton Street, London, E.C.. Published for the Sovereign Sanctuary of the Antient and Primitive Rite of Masonry for Great Britain and Ireland, by Bro. James Hill, at 6, Little Britain, E.C..