The J.S.M. Ward Society


The J.S.M. Ward Society is a constituent society of the Apostolic Episcopal Church and a research centre of the Western Orthodox University, established in October 2016 and dedicated to the memory of Archbishop John Sebastian Marlow Ward (1885-1949), sometime Primate of the Orthodox Catholic Church and Archbishop of Olivet in the Catholicate of the West. The Society has as its honorary President J.S.M. Ward’s son Archbishop John Cuffe and is directly affiliated with St Cecelia’s Orthodox Catholic Church, Australia. The direction of its affairs falls to the Primate of the Apostolic Episcopal Church.

The J.S.M. Ward Society was established to secure the reputation of J.S.M. Ward as a pre-eminent theologian of the Catholicate of the West and to further interest in his theology as a critical contribution for the spiritual evolution of all people in the 21st century. It aims to publish online a number of works of J.S.M. Ward in newly edited editions, and to disseminate such biographical material and articles on aspects of his life as may become available.

Works of J.S.M. Ward

>>Gone West: Three Accounts of After-Death Experiences, by J.S.M. Ward, edited and with a commentary by John Cuffe
>>Life’s Problems and The Psychic Powers of Christ, by J.S.M. Ward, edited and with a commentary by John Cuffe

Who was J.S.M. Ward?

(An illustrated extract from “Joseph-Rene Vilatte 1854-1929: Some Aspects of his Life, Work and Succession” by John Kersey (European-American University Press, Dominica, 2011).

John Sebastian Marlow Ward[1] (1885-1949) was born the son of a priest in the Church of England, and educated at Merchant Taylor’s School and Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where he graduated in History in 1908[2]. Around that time, he published his first book, “Brasses”, a historical study of its subject, and continued research in history while working as a teacher. He was particularly interested in Freemasonry, and became both a senior Freemason and an authority on the subject such that he is still widely referenced in Masonic literature[3]. For some years he wrote the article on the Craft for the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

In 1914, following the death of his uncle, Ward underwent a mystic experience that introduced him to spiritualism, and regularly met his uncle on the spirit plane, publishing a book on these experiences called “Gone West”. When his brother Rex was killed in action in Flanders on Good Friday 1916, Ward undertook a spiritual quest to make contact with him in the afterlife. The successful result of this was published as “A Subaltern in Spirit Land”.

Ward’s eyesight prevented his serving in the war, but during that time he was sent to Rangoon, Burma, as Headmaster of the Diocesan Boys’ School, an Anglican foundation offering free education for Eurasian boys. Ward wrote to Lord Kitchener offering to raise a brigade from among the boys, only to receive the reply that England had no need of “half-castes”. A year on, the military situation had become sufficiently desperate that the Army reversed its position, but the demoralising effect of its initial rejection had meant that few were now prepared to fight.

Ward’s time in the Far East included travels to Ceylon and India, and studies with the Chinese Hung Society. In 1916, he was ordained a Brahmin High Priest in the Madura Temple in southern India, and that same year was forced for health reasons to return to Britain. Later, he found that this was because his servant had been attempting to kill him by mixing ground glass with his food.

In 1918, Ward obtained employment with the Federation of British Industry, and at the time of his resignation in 1930 was their Head of Intelligence. During this time he was active in spiritualist and Theosophical circles, though retaining membership of the Church of England. His first wife Eleanor Caroline (née Lanchester) died in 1926 at the age of sixty, and he met Jessie Page, who would become his second wife in 1927 and his major spiritual companion.


In 1927 both of the Wards had a dream in which “they were summoned into the presence of a great Angel, told that Christ was about to begin His Descent through the Celestial Planes to the Earth and asked to help in the Preparation for His Coming. This great Angel, of the order of the Thrones, was to become their constant Guide and helper in the years ahead.”[4] The Wards resolved to devote the remainder of their lives to this task, and to begin this work, John gave a series of lectures. These attracted several followers who then pooled their resources with the Wards, and bought Hadley Hall, a large house with grounds at 89, Park Road, New Barnet, North London[5].


Abbey Church of Christ the King, Barnet (exterior)


The new community was called the Confraternity of the Kingdom of Christ and was initially under the aegis of the Church of England via the Bishop of St Albans, Dr Michael Furse. A medieval tithe barn was purchased in Kent, dismantled and rebuilt at New Barnet, where Furse dedicated it as the Abbey Church of Christ the King[6]. Within the community were three orders. According to Fr. Gregory Tillett’s account, the first was a six month Postulate, then a three year Novitiate, and following profession, lifelong vows of poverty, obedience and self-sacrifice. Members were not required to be celibate. First Order members devoted themselves entirely to work within the community, and on their profession took a Latin motto which became their name from then on. John Ward was Custos Custodiens, while his wife was Altius Tendo.

The habitual life of the community was regulated as precisely as a monastic house, with the day beginning at 5.15am and ending at 10pm. Members undertook work in the school, the garden or the house, with men reporting to John Ward and women to Jessie Ward.[7]


Ward and other members of the community at an exhibition of carriages in the Folk Park

The remainder of the grounds at Hadley Hall were turned into an English Folk Park that opened to the public in 1934[8]. This aimed to preserve the traditional heritage of England that was fast disappearing under industrialisation and mechanisation, and which it was prophesied would be altogether swept away under the new order. This was Britain’s first museum of social history. The Park included various exhibits illustrating the development of mankind (the Ethnographical Folk Park, added in 1935) and an extensive collection of over 90,000 antiques, some of which were Victorian items that had been donated by Queen Mary. There were reconstructions of prehistoric huts (the first such), an African village community and a seventeenth-century witch’s cottage. In 1936, some medieval timber-framed cottages from Hadley Green were reassembled at the Folk Park. The Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret were among the many pre-war visitors, and the Gaumont Film Company made a film of the Park[9]. The Park closed on the outbreak of war in 1940.


Ward at the reconstructed witch’s cottage at the Folk Park

Ward had been close to Poet Laureate John Masefield since the 1920s, and John Cuffe suggests that Masefield’s play “The Coming of Christ” (1928) might have some connexion with Ward’s work. Around this time, Ward submitted some hymns to Masefield for his comments, and according to Jessie Ward, Masefield reacted particularly favourably to “We sought Thee O God in the realms of Light”. “He said it was the most perfect example (of poetry) he had ever seen, the other hymn was pretty good, but that, he said, was perfect.” The publication of books also continued, notably “The Psychic Powers of Christ” and “Life’s Problems” and later “The Apocalypses of Brother Seraphion” and “Genesis the Accused”. The income from these books provided a significant source of financial support for the community.

The community included a number of experienced teachers, and as a result a school, St Michael’s College, was established. The College barely managed to cover its running costs, and closed after a few years. However, it did provide a means of introducing a number of future members of the community[10].

Ward’s spiritual teachings have been expressed by John Cuffe in the following twelve Principles:


We believe in One God, Unmanifested and Incomprehensible, from Whom and in Whom, all things have their being, even Time and Space: Who in the Beginning, manifested forth as the Trinity of One Substance, namely, God the Father, the Father of all souls, God the Holy Spirit, the Mother of all souls[11] and God the Son, the Elder Brother of all souls, Who in turn brought all Creation into being, from Whom descends continuously a stream of Divine Sparks that enter into matter to gain therein experience, so they may ultimately return to enrich the Godhead.


We believe in God the Father, the Father of all souls, and Creator of Heaven and Earth who has revealed Himself to Mankind in a myriad different ways, but Who has revealed Himself to us through the Holy Scriptures.


We believe in God the Son, the Elder Brother of all souls, Who is also their Salvator, and periodically descends into matter, in order to lead his brethren along the Path of Return, who most recently came to earth as Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who was born of the Virgin Mary and taught mankind the Way of Salvation, Who suffered death on the Cross, descended into Hell to aid those who had failed, and then raising even His material Body out of the grave, returned to earth life to teach His disciples and then ascended into Heaven.


We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Mother of all souls, Who descended upon the apostles and disciples of Our Lord in order to institute the One, Holy, Orthodox and Catholic Church on earth, and Who continues to inspire and guide that Church even to this day through the spiritual descendants of the apostles, the clergy, saints and mystics.


We believe in the One Holy, Orthodox and Catholic Church founded by Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit, led initially by the apostles of Christ, and ever after by their anointed successors and which teaches His Way of Salvation and shall continue to do so until He comes again.


We believe in the Way of Salvation, whereby, following in the Footsteps of Our Lord, and making use of the Sacraments of His Church, we are enabled to obtain forgiveness for our sins and assistance in paying our debts, so that ultimately we may finish our round of earthly lives and take our place among the Saints of God.


We believe in life after death; that our loved ones await us on the further shore, that they dwell initially on the Astral Plane in a condition determined largely by their standard of life when on earth, that they then pass to the Spirit Plane in which their condition is determined wholly by their spiritual state, and which ranges from Hell to Paradise; and that ultimately they will be reborn again on earth: and that this process shall continue until they earn the right to end their round of earthly lives.


We believe in the Divine Spark within each one of us, Eternal and indestructible, whereby alone we are enabled to break free from the shackles of material existence; that we gain experience on the Astral and Spirit planes after death on earth, only to return again, life after life until we have learned all that earth life can teach us. Even if at times we turn away from God, He will not abandon us, and ultimately we will be led to realise the folly of our sin; and taking the opportunities afforded to us, pay off our past debts by sacrifice and service, and following the Way of Salvation earn the right to end our lives on earth.


We believe that the Tester of Men and Angels, has been appointed by God to tempt and test all who seek to follow the Way of Salvation, to ensure that none who are unworthy approach the Throne of God.


We believe in Heaven, the abode of the Three Planes of the Saints and Nine Choirs of Angels and that it is the destiny of each Divine Spark to ascend this great spiritual ladder step by step until ultimately it returns to God, the Source from whence it came.


We believe in the promised return of Christ to reign as King over all the earth. That the time of His coming is drawing near and that it is the duty of all his followers to prepare themselves and others for that great Day.


We believe in the ultimate salvation of all Creation, that through sacrifice, suffering, and service all will eventually return to their Source, and the purpose of Creation thus accomplished, God will again become All in All, and ultimately withdraw from Manifestation once again. And that this process has been, is, and ever shall be, continually repeated throughout all Eternity. AMEN”

It can be seen from this that although Ward had a certain amount in common with the Theosophists of the Liberal Catholic Church, his vision was much more rooted in an Orthodox and Gnostic mysticism, and in teachings that were alleged to have been hidden or lost over the years, or that had been suppressed by authorities such as St Augustine. Unlike the Theosophists, non-Christian teachings had little practical part in Ward’s theology, although it was in theory open to their insights. The inner rituals of the community, which are conducted in secret, are derived from Masonic ceremonial and constitute steps towards the understanding of the spiritual evolution of mankind.


The Church of England had supplied Ward’s community with a chaplain, who had celebrated Holy Communion for them, on condition that members of the public were not admitted. In November 1934, the Anglican authorities claimed that this condition had been broken, and therefore withdrew their support[12]. It was also likely that the prophetic and millenarian nature of the community sat uncomfortably with the Anglican mores of the time.

Ward had predicted this event in a series of mystic visions that year, and John Cuffe tells us that these included that the “Anglican Church would expel his group; that Europe would be convulsed by war; that the British Empire was to be destroyed, that southern Africa would throw off White rule and that Islamic Fundamentalism would spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa. It also predicted destructive attacks on many key Western cities in various ways, including the poisoning of the water supply and in the case of New York, a devastating biological assault.” Among Ward’s missions was to “awake the British Lion”. The eventual failure of this last endeavour was to have a dramatic effect on Ward’s last years of ministry.

Ward had tried for some years without success to persuade the Anglican authorities to accept him for ordination. Their retrogressive conservatism contrasted starkly with his High Church mysticism and progressive vision. Given the withdrawal of Anglican support, it was now necessary to find alternative means to nurture the spiritual life of the community. Accordingly, Ward now made contact with Mar Kwamin of the British Vilatte succession, who assisted by Mar Frederic Harrington ordained him priest on 12 September 1935 and consecrated him as Mar John on 15 September 1935[13].

However, when Mar Kwamin and Mar Frederic were unable to produce the documentary evidence of their own consecrations, and certain irregularities in the ceremony began to trouble him, Mar John visited Mar Kwamin’s consecrator, Archbishop Churchill Sibley of the Orthodox Catholic Church of the British Empire. Sibley apparently sought to discredit his episcopal offspring (he and Mar Kwamin had broken off relations within a short time of the latter’s consecration) and offered to reordain Mar John priest and reconsecrate him. This was done on 6 October 1935, and the Confraternity then came under Sibley’s overall authority with Mar John as Bishop-Auxiliary and Chancellor of the OCC. When Sibley died on 15 December 1938[14], Mar John succeeded him as Primate of the OCC, and the OCC subsequently recognised Sibley as a saint. The OCC did not normally ordain women to Major Orders, but Jessie Ward was set apart as a Deaconess and later ordained priest by Mar John[15].

churchillsibleyArchbishop Churchill Sibley of the Orthodox Catholic Church

The full story of relations between Mar John and Mar Georgius belongs properly to the overall context of the Catholicate of the West, but suffice it to say that the two men collaborated closely during the war years, with a number of significant ordination and consecration services taking place at Ward’s church. On 25 August 1945, at Barnet, Ward exchanged consecrations with Mar Georgius, Mar Johannus (William Eaton Jeffrey) and James Charles Ryan (Joseph K. Chengalvaroyan Pillai), all bishops of the Catholicate, and he received the title of Archbishop of Olivet within the Catholicate of the West.

ward-consecrates-mg-and-jeffery-25-8-1945On 6 June 1946 at Barnet, Mar John was consecrated by Mar David I (Wallace de Ortega Maxey) assisted by Mar Leofric (Charles Leslie Saul), Mar John (Syer), Mar Francis (Langhelt) and Mar Benignus (Richard Kenneth Hurgon), who were all then bishops of the Catholicate. On the same occasion, Mar John’s assistant Colin Mackenzie Chamberlain (Fra’ Filius Domini) was consecrated as Archbishop Gregory of Bethany by Mar Georgius assisted by the other prelates. He was listed as a bishop of the Catholicate of the West as of 1947, although this relationship was not to last[16].


During the war, the Barnet community was recognised by the government as a religious house and became a refuge for several evacuee children. One of these, Dorothy Lough (1926-63), subsequently wished to enter the community. In 1945, aged eighteen, she was admitted to the novitiate as Sister Therese after producing a written statement of consent from her parents[17]. According to Mar Georgius[18], the Anglicans then paid her father[19] to bring a court action against John Ward seeking an injunction to prevent him from “enticing” Dorothy Lough to continue in the community as a professed religious member. This injunction was subsequently granted by the court, which held that the parents had the right to revoke their consent at any time.

jessie-ward-and-dorothy-loughJessie Ward and Dorothy Lough

Mar Georgius goes on to say that Ward shewed him “a confession by certain persons (not parties to the action) who admitted that they had abused their position in the Post Office service at the behest of an Anglican clergyman, by indulging in telephone-tapping and opening and re-sealing correspondence sent to the Abbey, in order to pass on to him information which would assist the plaintiffs in the action; though the latter knew nothing of what was going on, and did not realise that their action was being used as a means of putting Archbishop Ward out of business. If this was not persecution, what was it?”

The use of the court action to generate much unfavourable press attention for Ward and the community certainly suggests motivation beyond the surface detail of the case. A  number of Freemasons who might have been expected to speak in Ward’s defence failed to do so, instead siding with the Anglicans. The stress on Ward was such that he suffered his first stroke in 1946; a second in 1949 was to kill him. The effect of the loss of the case was to render him bankrupt, but fortunately, having taken a vow of poverty, he did not own the Abbey or indeed any significant possessions. The Abbey was the property of the community as a whole, and as such was protected.

There is no doubt that Dorothy Lough had a special role within the community’s mystic vision, although exactly what that was is not clear. Members of the community have explicitly denied the suggestion that she was to be a vehicle for the Coming Christ. The fact remains that her protection was uppermost in the community’s priorities. She had no wish to return to her father, and to prevent this, members of the community arranged to hide her in a number of safe-houses in London. In the longer term, though, they were not prepared to continue without her, and so the community, consisting at that time of the Wards and thirteen members, sold the Abbey and a number of its assets and scraped together enough money to enable them to move to Cyprus[20], with Dorothy Lough having been provided with a false passport. She was to continue to live secretly within the community, and when she died in Australia the fact was reported to the rest of the community in England only many years after it had happened[21].

Ward was a good friend of the founder of modern Wicca, Gerald Gardner (1884-1964); their contact may have been through Co-Masonic or Rosicrucian[22] circles (the Rosicrucian Crotona Fellowship, in which Gardner was active, had significant ties with the Alice Bailey Arcane School, which in turn had a number of points in common with Ward’s teachings)[23]. Gardner had been ordained priest by Mar Doreos (Dorian Herbert), who was briefly a bishop of the Catholicate of the West, though by this time neither he nor his consecrator professed anything greatly resembling orthodox Christianity. In 1946, during the sale of the Abbey, Gardner purchased from Ward the seventeenth-century cottage which had been used at the Abbey as a reconstruction of a witch’s cottage. He had this removed to his land at Bricket Wood, near St Albans, where he reassembled it in the midst of some woodland and used it for Wiccan ceremonial.

Gardner owned a farm on Cyprus, which he generously donated to Ward’s community. However, the land was barren, and they were soon forced to move to a nearby property where they began a citrus farm. As Cyprus became increasingly anti-British in the wake of the enosis independence movement, the position of the community became more precarious.

In the view of the community, their rejection by England had delayed the Coming of Christ. This caused the Wards to reflect increasingly on their mortality, and to realise that it was necessary to plan for the future through having children who would carry the work forward. However, Jessie Ward was long beyond child-bearing age. It was thought at one point that, with Biblical precedent, this would provide no obstacle to her pregnancy, but when this proved not to be the case, an alternative plan had to be formed.

The community looked to Genesis 16:2, where Sarah had asked her husband Abraham to sire a son with her handmaid Hagar, and with Jessie Ward’s full consent, two younger women from the community offered themselves as bearers of the children. It was agreed that one of the two unmarried men in the community would marry whichever woman fell pregnant in order to legitimise the children and also provide a father-figure given that Ward was now himself nearing the end. In the event, both women became pregnant by Ward, and both men married them, but Sister Mary miscarried shortly afterwards.

Accordingly, Ward’s son John Reginald Cuffe was born to Sister Ursula (Doris May Ball[24]) on 29 March 1949, she having married Fr. Maurice Cuffe on 25 November 1948. Ward’s last book was “The Book of John Reginald”, a handwritten work dedicated to his baby son. On 2 July he suffered a second stroke and died.


[1] In what follows, the author is indebted both to personal contact and correspondence with Bishop John Cuffe, who is Ward’s son and a current bishop within the OCC, and to the commemorative website prepared by Bishop Cuffe on his father at (retrieved October 2009).

[2] He took the MA in February 1925 and was also a Fellow of the Royal Economic Society and of the Royal Statistical Society.

[3] His series of Handbooks to the degrees of the Craft were consulted at in October 2009.

[4] Cuffe, John Life and works of J.S.M. Ward, accessed at in October 2009.

[5] Since 1947 this has been the Abbey Arts Centre and a private residence. The church is still intact, but has been deconsecrated. Much of the collection of ethnography and antiques had to be sold to enable the removal of the community to Cyprus in 1946. 4,500 items from the collection survived the travels and are now at the Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology, Queensland, Australia, which members of St Michael’s Church, which derives from Ward’s community, founded.

[6] Tillett, Gregory Esoteric Adventism in Trompf, Garry W. Cargo cults and millenarian movements: transoceanic comparisons of new religious movements Berlin, Mouton de Gruyter, 1990, p 153. The author is a priest in the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate.

[7] Tillett, op. cit., p 155

[8] A four-page pamphlet was issued in 1934 entitled The Abbey Folk Park & Museum : (the first folk park in Great Britain), at the Abbey of Christ the King.

[9] According to the Abbey Museum, Queensland. However, the present author’s search of the Gaumont/Pathé archives has not uncovered this film.

[10] Of the thirteen members who left England with Ward in 1946, at least seven had initially encountered the community through St Michael’s College.

[11] Mar Georgius regarded this identification of the Holy Ghost as the Second Person of the Trinity and with the feminine as heresy, and invented the term Gynoparacletianism to describe it. Regarding his association with Ward, he says that he was not aware of this belief, nor of Ward’s belief in reincarnation, until some time later. This is surprising given the fact that the two men were at one point in regular contact.  In Varied Reflections, p 16, he writes immediately before this, “I always found Archbishop Ward a very learned and interesting companion, and we got on well together. So much so, that when he was miserable or disheartened, his wife used to send one of the Community to me, to ask me to come and cheer him up.”

[12] Mar Georgius, Episcopi in Ecclesia Dei and Father Brandreth, Glastonbury, Patriarchal Press, 1962, p 22

[13] Tillett, op. cit., p 155

[14] He was buried in High Barnet cemetery, probably as a result of Ward’s influence, since he had no other known ties with that area.

[15] According to John Cuffe, she only celebrated the Eucharist when no other priest was available.

[16] Anson p 289 records that Mar Georgius afterwards held that this consecration had been invalid “through no fault of his own” but through “lack of unity of operation”. This did not prevent his full assent at the time of the event, however, and it is difficult to see how his objections could have been sustained. Brandreth 2nd ed. p 81 note 5 records that “The grounds for the decision [of Mar Georgius] are complicated and connected with the strange nature of the ceremony at which the consecration took place. J.S.M. Ward…claimed later to be the consecrator of Chamberlain, in spite of having said no prayer of consecration. Chamberlain accepts this view, as does W. Martin Andrew, the one bishop [at that time] consecrated by him.” The episode should be seen in the context of Mar Georgius’s troubled relations with the OCCE during the latter part of the decade, as have been discussed elsewhere.

[17] Mar Georgius, Varied Reflections, p 17 “from the reports of the case, I could see clearly that as the parents of the girl had given their consent in writing to her joining the community, it could not be said that she was “enticed”.

[18] Mar Georgius, Episcopi in Ecclesia Dei and Father Brandreth, p 22

[19] John Cuffe states that her father had previously sexually abused her. accessed October 2009. Apparently, the Anglicans funded the King’s Counsel who represented Lough’s father.

[20] Mar Georgius (Varied Reflections, p 17) says that the move to Cyprus was largely on his advice that the community place itself beyond the jurisdiction of the English courts so that Sister Therese could then rejoin them lawfully.

[21] Tillett, op. cit., p 156. Cuffe explains that her death was due to her refusal of a blood transfusion on religious grounds.

[22] Ward was admitted to the Rosicrucian Order on 22 March 1921. Mar Frederic Harrington was also an active Rosicrucian and headed a Rosicrucian jurisdiction that would in due course pass to Mar Georgius.

[23] See Hutton, Ronald The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2001, for discussion of the influences on Gardner’s spirituality.

[24] At the time of writing, she is still alive at St Michael’s Caboolture. She was organist to the community.