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The Swedish Rite of Freemasonry

by Bro. Burton E. Bennett, Sc. D.
The Master Mason - January 1926

THE SWEDISH Rite of Freemasonry is a state institution. A Mason in Sweden is a man of note and of influence in the community. He is in a class apart and, in effect, belongs to a species of nobility. It was for the purpose of weakening the old nobility, and enhancing the power of the crown, that the present system was devised. Gustavus III, to further his political purposes, broke down the power of the old nobility, determined, among other things, to create an Order, a new kind of nobility, composed of men in all walks of life, irrespective of birth. He wanted a class of high-minded, successful, intellectual and learned men, of all professions and industries, who would wholly rely upon him for their leader. There was to be a chance for any of them to obtain the highest offices and the greatest honors in the nation. They could become nobles of high degree. Like Napoleon's soldiers, each of whom carried a marshal's baton in his knapsack, each of them would carry a patent of nobility in his pocket, which when unfolded, so that all could see, entitled him to a seat among the mighty and the great.

It is probable that his brother, the Duke of Sundermania, who was inclined to mysticism and who had given much study to the "isms" of that time, had much to do with preparing the ritual, and of conducting the Order. Gustavus was too great a man, with too many great things to do, to pay attention to such things. When the Duke came to the throne as Charles III, he rounded out the system by creating the Knightly Order of Charles III. Gustavus III, King of Sweden, was born January 24, 1746, a son of King Adolphus Frederick and Louise Ulrich, of Prussia, a sister of Frederick the Great. He was shot in the back by an assassin in the opera house in Stockholm on March 13, 1792, and died thirteen days later. He was one of the greatest of the European kings of the 18th century. He was interested in every branch of literature and art. He created the Swedish theater. He was the patron of poets and artists. His natural gifts were great; his manners charming. He was a great statesman and soldier. He found his country in anarchy, steeped in corruption, ruled by arrogant nobles fighting one another to see who could get the most, and left it a consolidated, great nation, prosperous and well governed. When he came to the throne its power had nearly reached the vanishing point. When he left it its power was supreme. He found his country one of no moment in the affairs of Europe. He left it one of the great powers of the Continent.

IT WAS only by a revolution created by himself that a new constitution was obtained that secured for him some real power and turned what was really a disunited republic of nobles into a strong, but limited monarchy. This was accomplished on August 20, 1772, by the estates giving in, as they had to, to Gustavus and his tried soldiers. Thus was Sweden released from what is known as the Northern System, with Russia as the controlling power. Sweden again entered into the natural stream of European progress. The administration was reformed. The appalling corruption was stopped. The whole course of judicial procedure was changed and torture in legal investigations abolished. Liberty of the press was proclaimed. The natural defenses of the country were developed, and the navy enlarged and made one of the greatest in Europe. Free trade in corn was had, and export tolls abolished. The poor law was reformed and absolute religious liberty proclaimed. A wise foreign policy was pursued. But it was not till February 17, 1789, that Gustavus was enabled, by a second coup d'etat, finally to crush the Rusophile nobility. The old nobility was ever after his bitter enemy. But they could not resist so great, talented and popular a king. They finally brutishly assassinated him. The loss to Sweden was irreparable. He left Sweden happy and prosperous, and one of the mighty powers of Europe. And so the last great monarch of Sweden passed to the great beyond to meet that other great monarch, Gustavus the Great, (Vasa), who when he died, in 156o, left the kingdom peaceful and civilized.

The rite is Christian in character. The story is that Jesus told secrets to some of his apostles that he did not tell to others, and, also, told secrets to the Essenes, of whom he was one; that these secrets were handed down as a mystery through the Essenes, and that at the time of the Crusades they were greatly oppressed by the Saracens, and while seven of them, Syric Christians, were fleeing from the Saracens they were rescued by the Knights Templars. They stayed with them in Jerusalem and imparted to the Templar priests their secrets. These were handed down in this Order till it was abolished and the priests dispersed. They were not molested to the extent that the seculars were, and with their secret knowledge they kept their secret writings. Some of them fled to Scotland, where they founded a priory, and from there their secrets gradually spread to the continent of Europe, and finally reached Sweden. The exact story in regard to the Templarism in the Rite is that they are descended from the Templars by way of the real Order of Christ of Portugal, and that Beaujeau, a nephew of DeMolay, took his uncle's ashes to Stockholm, buried them there and established the Swedish Templar system. The Rite, besides Freemasonry proper, is a mixture of Strict Observance Templarism, Rosicrucianism and Swedenborgism.

STRICT OBSERVANCE Templarism became a power in the Masonic world in Germany about 1750. It is claimed that the time had come to revive the Order of the Templar, which had only been dormant, and to have it restored to its former power and glory. It was claimed that the Templars founded Freemasonry, and that all of the mighty and mysterious secrets of the ancient past were deposited with them and were now in their possession.

Rosicrucianism dates from the early part of the 17th century. Those who believed in it were moral and religious reformers, who used the sciences of that day to further their opinions. It savored of mysticism, ocultism and hidden secrets, only known to the reformers. The story is that Charles Rosenkreuz, in the 15th century, in his travels, discovered the secret wisdom of the East, and brought it with him to Europe. It had very little influence on real Freemasonry, but it helped to make the so-called "high degrees."

Swedenborgism, however, has so interwoven itself with the "high degrees" of all systems, and by this I mean those degrees above that of Master Mason, and below the Knights, that it cannot be passed over lightly or explained in a few words. It must be understood to understand this so-called part of Freemasonry.

Emmanuel Swedenborg was born at Stockholm, Sweden, on January 29, 1688. He lived to be 104 years old. His father was a Bishop of the Lutheran Church and a professor in the University of Upsula. Swedenborg, after graduating from the university, traveled extensively over Europe. His original name was Swedberg, but on account of his great contributions to science and philosophy he was ennobled. There was added to the first part of his name an "en," the equivalent of the German "von," and the latter part was changed to "borq."

As a scientist he was astonishingly ahead of his time. His work in geology and paleontology is enough alone to perpetuate his name. His theory of light and cosmic atoms are astounding for their correctness. He was the first to attempt to establish a system of crystallography. He invented a method of determining longitude at sea by observations of the moon among the stars. He was the first to employ mercury for the air pump. He experimented with the power of ship models, invented an ear trumpet, and improved the common stove. He studied machine guns and turned his attention to flying machines, and many of his ideas and conclusions square with the results of today. He tried to discover the nature of the soul and spirit by studying human anatomy, and contended that the divine spirit ruled all. Professor Neuberger, of Vienna, in 1901, stated that Swedenborg anticipated the modern view of the functions of the brain, the magnitude of which is not now realized. He announced the modern view that the activity of the brain is the combined activity of the individual cells. Modern scholars agree with him as to the physiological action of the spinal cord. And, strange as it may appear, his views as to the ductless glands are those that we are coming to find out now.

AS SWEDENBORG neared the age of fifty years a great change came over him. Up to this time he had been a true scientist and philosopher - one of the greatest in the world. He now became a mystic, and all of his attention thereafter was given to psychical and spiritual research. He commenced to have visions and averred that he talked with God. He stated that the Lord appeared to him and said: "I am the God, the Lord, the Creator and Redeemer of the world. I have chosen thee to unfold the spiritual sense of the Holy Scripture. I will Myself dictate to thee what thou shall write." He wrote some fifty volumes. He founded no church. He called his doctrines that of the New Church, in which all members of all denominations could unite. Some of his followers, however, organized the New Jerusalem Church, now of small membership, but found in nearly all parts of the world. The doctrines of the New Church are as follows:

1. That there is one God in whom there is a divine trinity; and that he is the Lord Jesus Christ.

2. That a saving faith is to believe in, him.

3. That evils are to be shunned because they are of the devil and from the devil.

4. That good actions are to be done because they are from God.

5. That these are to be done by man as from himself; but that it ought to be believed that they are done from the Lord with him and by him.

SWEDENBORG was not a Mason, never spoke of Masonry, never mentioned Masonry in any of his writings. Yet some "high" Masons took much of the material for some of their degrees from Swedenborg, and particularly from the following vision:

I accordingly entered the Temple, which was magnificent, and in the midst of which a woman was represented clothed in purple, holding in her right hand a golden crown piece and in her left a chain of pearls. The statue and the representation were only FANTASTIC REPRESENTATIONS; for these INFERNAL SPIRITS, by closing the interior degree, and opening the exterior one, are able at the pleasure of their imagination to represent magnificent objects. Perceiving that they were illusions, I prayed to the Lord. Immediately the interior of my spirit was opened, and I saw, instead of the superb Temple, a tottering house, open to the weather from the top to the bottom. In the place of the woman- statue an image was suspended, having the head of a dragon, the body of a leopard, the feet of a bear, and the mouth of a lion; in short, it was the beast rising out of the sea, as described in the Apocalypse XIII, 2. In the place of a park, THERE WAS A MARSH FULL OF FROGS, and I was informed that under this marsh there was a GREAT HEWN STONE, beneath which the WORD was entirely hidden. Afterwards I said to the prelate, who was the fabricator of these illusions, "Is that your Temple?" "Yes," replied he, "it is." Immediately his interior sight was opened like mine, and he saw what I did. "How now what do I see?" cried he. I told him that it was the effect of the celestial light, which discovers the interior quality of everything, and that which taught him at that very moment what faith separated from good works was. While I was speaking, a wind blowing from the EAST destroyed the Temple and the image dried up the marsh, and DISCOVERED THE STONE UNDER WHICH THE SACRED WORD WAS CONCEALED. A genial warmth, like that of the spring, descended from heaven; and in the place of the Temple we saw a tent, the exterior of which was very plain. I looked into the interior of it, and there I saw THE FOUNDATION STONE BENEATH WHICH THE SACRED WORD WAS CONCEALED, ornamented with precious stones, the splendor of which, diffusing itself over the walls of the Temple, diversified the colors of the paintings, which represented cherubim. The angels, perceiving me to be filled with admiration, told me that I should see still greater wonders than these. They were then permitted to open the THIRD HEAVEN, inhabited by the celestial angels, who dwelt in LOVE. All of a sudden the splendor of a LIGHT OF FIRE caused the Temple to disappear, and left nothing to be seen but the Lord himself, standing upon the FOUNDATION STONE - the Lord, who was the WORD, such as He showed Himself. (Apocal., 1, 13- 16.) Holiness immediately filled all the interior of the spirit of the angels, upon which they MADE AN EFFORT to prostrate themselves, but the Lord SHUT THE PASSAGE TO THE LIGHT from the THIRD heaven, OPENING the passage to the light of the SECOND, which caused the Temple to reappear, with the tent in the midst.

IT IS said that Count Wrende Sparre, who had been admitted to Freemasonry in both England and France, established a Lodge of Masons in Stockholm in 1731. If so it was short lived, for Masonry was prohibited in Sweden in 1738. However, it was soon readmitted.

In 1746, what is known as the Mother Lodge of Sweden, "St. John Auxiliary," existed in Stockholm, but it was not regularly constituted till 1752. This was done by Count Porse. It is thus seen that by 1746, at least, Masonry became firmly established in Sweden.

On December 25, 1759, the Grand Lodge of Sweden was formed by Count Eckleff. He was, probably, elected its first Grand Master. The only addition to true Freemasonry appears at this time to have been one Scots Lodge. While the "high" degrees made their appearance the next year, they made no great impression for several years. By 1766, however, they had grown into the Swedish system so far that the Rite was remodeled into its present form. But it, probably, consisted of only eight degrees, the last one containing the Templar legend. In 1780 the Rite was rearranged and remodeled, divided into different classes, and, with the exception of the last class, which was created in 1811, assumed the form that it has since maintained.

The Rite consists of five classes, to wit: (1) St. John's Lodges (Craft degrees), (2) St. Andrew's Lodges (Scots degrees), (3) Chapter degrees, (4) Chapter Dignitaries of the Red Cross (Knights and Commanders), and (5) Order of Charles III. This last class, however, does not apply to Norway, Denmark, and the greater part of northern Germany, governed by the Grand Lodge of Germany, where the Swedish Rite is also worked. Neither does the Swedish governmental system apply, the really working part of the Rite being of only nine degrees. Probably about 100,000 persons practice the Swedish Rite.

THE FIRST class consists of three degrees: (1) Entered Apprentice, (2) Fellow Craft, and (3) Master Mason. The second also consists of three degrees: (4) Scottish Apprentice, (5) Scottish Fellow, and (6) Scottish Master. The third class, as well, consists of three degrees: (7) Knight of the East or Prince of Jerusalem. The Knight of the East is found in nearly all Rites. It is the fifteenth degree of the Ancient and Accepted Rite, the sixth degree of the French Rite, the forty-first degree of the Rite of Misraim, and the tenth degree (Knight of the Red Cross) of the American Rite. The Knight of the Red Cross really belongs to the Royal Arch degree. It depicts incidents in the story of the building of the Second Temple at Jerusalem. The Prince of Jerusalem, on the other hand, is the sixteenth degree of the Ancient and Accepted Rite, and the forty-first degree of the Misraim Rite. This is a continuation of the story of incidents in the building of the Second Temple. The second one is (8) Confident of Solomon or Knight of the West. This degree is said to unfold the Templar legend. The Knight of the West is also the name of the forty-second degree of the Rite of Misraim. The third class, again, consists of three degrees. Instead of degrees, however, they are really titles of honor. They are as follows: (10) Confident of St. Andrew or Perfect Templar, (11) Knight Companion of the Red Cross, and (12) Vicar of Solomon. This is the governing class of the Order and the Vicar of Solomon, who is always the King of Sweden, is the head of it. The Vicar has charge of the ritualistic work, while the Grand Master has charge of all business affairs. These two offices may, or may not be, centered in one and the same person. Generally the heir apparent is the Grand Master. It is asserted that all princes are born Freemasons. The King, as Vicar of Solomon, is really a Protestant pope, and it was so intended.

THE VICARIUS SALOMONIS (Vicar of Solomon) dates from about 1780. The Duke of Sundermania became Grand Master in 1773. In 1775 King Gustavus III became a Grand Lodge member, and under the name of "Protector" assumed control of Masonry. This Protectorship grew into Vicarius Salomonis.

The fifth class is the Order of Charles XIII, created May 27, 1811. This is an Order of Knighthood. It is composed, besides the sovereign and princes of the blood, of three of the great church dignitaries of the realm, and twenty-seven Masons who have reached the tenth degree. This Order greatly resembles the Supreme Councils and Grand Orients of the thirty-third degree, as its members are chosen to a great extent in the same manner as are honorary thirty-thirds. It also may be compared to the official governing degrees of the Rite of Memphis, which are all above the ninetieth degree, and the Vicar of Solomon is about the same as the Grand Hierophant, who holds his position for life, and is the only member taking the ninety-seventh degree.

Sweden has five Orders of Knighthood, to wit: (1) Order of the Seraphim (the "Blue Ribbon"), the creation of which is attributed to Magnus I in 1280. The Order is limited, exclusive of the king and princes of the blood, to eight foreign and twenty-seven Swedish members. The collar of the Order is formed of alternate gold seraphim and blue enameled patriarchal crosses. (2) The Order of the Sword (the "Yellow Ribbon"), which is the principal military order. It was created by Gustavus I (Vasa) in 1522. There are five classes with subdivisions. The badge is a white cross in the angles of which are gold crowns. The points of the cross are joined by gold swords entwined with gold and blue belts. In the blue center is an upright sword with three gold crowns. The whole is surrounded by the royal crown. The ribbon is yellow with blue edging. (4) Order of Vasa (the "Green Ribbon"). This Order was created by Gustavus III in 1772. It consists of three classes with subdivisions. It is given for services rendered to industries and manufactures. The white cross bears on a blue center the charge of the house of Vasa, a gold sheaf shaped like a vase with two handles. (5) Order of Charles XIII (the "Red Ribbon"). The insignia are a red enameled cross, bound in gold surmounted by a regal crown, worn on a red ribbon as a collar round the neck, and a smaller, but similar cross, minus the crown, on the left breast.

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