A Master-criminal and a Mason
By Dr Alan A Cooper
First published in August 1987
In the Provincial Grand Lodge (Southern Division) Spring Ball magazine
If your friend is interested in Freemasonry and asks you to propose him to a Lodge, be careful before you decide. If you refuse, you may find yourself portrayed as an arch-criminal; in fact, the world’s most evil character.
This happened to a Freemason called Moriarty, by reports, a wild Irishman interested in the occult, but no criminal. He was turned into that master-criminal who in fact was supposed to have killed off the world’s master detective, Sherlock Holmes of 221B Baker Street, London.
The creator of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan-Doyle, is said to have been interested in joining Freemasonry and also an occult group called the Golden Dawn, to which Moriarty belonged. Moriarty refused to sponsor him. Perhaps Conan Doyle chose the name of his friend not merely out of pique, but to identify the arch-criminal who was to kill Sherlock Holmes in his novels about Holmes and his faithful ally, Dr Watson. Conan-Doyle had been trapped, as it were, by his own creation in his many popular stories, written for the Strand Magazine of the early 1900s and felt he should go on to new creativeness. So Moriarty was born. And what a criminal!
But the real Moriarty lived until 1923. Born Theodore William Carte Moriarty in Ireland in 1872, he ran away to sea as a boy and eventually arrived in South Africa to join the civil service as a customs officer. In that occupation, he joined St Blaize Lodge, Mossel Bay #1938, and was initiated on 28 July 1903, passed on 25 August 1903 and raised o 29 September 1903. He resigned from the Lodge on 31 December 1907 for what cause is not known. He must have moved to Port Elizabeth before then for he was the founder master of the Irish Lodge Patricia #406 in 1906.
Of some erudition, he collaborated with a leading English Mason, known to us in the Western Division as our District Grand Master for many years, T.N. Cranstoun-Day, in writing a small booklet on ‘Masonic Etiquette’. The booklet was published with permission from both English and Irish District and Provincial Grand Masters and privately printed by H.W. Ware of Port Elixabeth in 1908. A copy of the booklet exists in the South African Library, Cape Town. It gives hints on Masonic behaviour in and out of Lodge.
Patricia Lodge was the last Masonic Lodge with which Moriarty was connected. He moved to England about 1911. It is not known whether he took back with him his wife whom he married in South Africa about 1905. It is said that Moriarty claimed a doctorate from Heidelberg University, but never went there.
On his return to England, he began to dabble in the occult. He fell into that area overlapped by Masonry, Theosophy and the Order of the Golden Dawn. He favoured what is known as Atlantean Christianity – mystical Christianity with overtones of Atlantean origin. He also claimed he was a Rosicrucian.He put these beliefs into profitable use by forming “the Science, Arts and Crafts Society”, a front for his mystical Christianity. His pupils – some 40 – had to buy and read his one and only work, “Aphorisms of Creation”, and believed presumably his claim he was in psychic touch with long-dead sages.
It would appear that the real and the fictional Moriarty were strange characters. Conan Doyle must have been very perceptive.