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The Dead Rites of Masonry
by Bro. Burton E. Bennett
THE MASONIC paths of time are strewn with the bleaching bones of dead Rites.
Out of the many dead ones only one of them has ever been worked in America and that is the Rite of the Emperors of the East and West, or, as it is popularly known, the Rite of Perfection. It was brought here from France in 1761 by Etienne (Stephen) Morin. It cannot be traced as a separate Rite, through any of its classes here, later than 1807.
France furnishes more dead Rites than any other country. The Chapter of Clermont was formed in Paris in 1754 by the Chevalier de Bonneville. It consisted of seven degrees and was the first Rite of the so-called "high degrees." It lasted until 1758. The Knights of the East was formed in 1757 by the Masonic middle classes as a protest against the Chapter of Clermont, which was composed of the nobility. It lasted but a short time. The Emperors of the East and West dates from 1758. It was destroyed by the French Revolution. It flashed up during the Napoleonic Empire, but died out completely in 1804.
THE SCOTS Philosophic Rite dates from 1766. It was completely established by Lazare Bruneteau. Streams of it go as far back as 1740 to different schools of Hermeticism that worked under Masonic forms. In 1776 it constituted itself the "Mother Lodge." It consisted of eleven degrees. First came the three Craft degrees - Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason, then Perfect Master 4d, Select Philosophic Knight 5d, Knight of the Sun 6d, Grand Scots Mason 7d, Knight of Iris 8d, Knight of the Luminous Ring 9d , Knight of the White and Black Eagle 10d, and Grand Inspector Commander 11d. The philosophy of Pythagoras was taught in this Rite. Dr. Anderson says that "his (Pythagoras') mysteries were the most perfect approximation of the original Science of Free Masonry which could be accomplished by a philosopher without the aid of revelation." On account of its splendid membership and their fine literary labors it is just as well to overlook its hermetic and theosophic degrees. It heroically held out against the 33d, but succumbed in 1826, when it peacefully passed away.
The Rite of Strict Observance is one of the anomalies of Masonry. Rites with mythical founders, Rites based upon ancient mysteries, Rites founded by the patriarchs before the flood, Rites based upon forged constitutions, Rites possessing Ineffable Words, stolen from the Temple that enabled the possessor to perform the miracles that Christ performed - for it was averred that Christ stole them from the Temple and through them performed His miracles - are amazing enough to satisfy the most foolish and at the same time blasphemous enough to delight the most wicked; but here the members were obedient to unknown superiors, that they never saw, and that no one ever saw, because they did not exist. And all of this caused at last really honest men to fall through clouds of shame to unknown depths that are only realized by those with the most fervid imaginations. The Rite of Strict Observance was founded in Germany in 1761 and is based upon the supposition that the Ancient Knights Templar were not actually destroyed, but continued to exist secretly in Scotland, and that they joined the guilds of Masons there and thus really founded Freemasonry. The Observance Rite publicly proclaimed what was secretly said to be a fact, that is, that the Ancient Order of the Temple still existed. It is probable that it was in its inception a Jacobite scheme to further the cause of the Stuarts to regain the English throne and was dropped after the defeat of Culloden in 1746 . When Von Hund revived it in 1761, without any knowledge of the true facts, he was deserted by his supposed backers. It died out in Germany in 1792 and in France in 1811. The origin of many things often seem unaccountable as is attested in the present Swedish Rite of Freemasonry. In 1765 the Rite of the Strict Observance was transferred to Denmark, where it was modified in 1782. It was reformed, and by Royal Edict in 1855, this Reformed Rite became the Swedish Rite of Freemasonry.
THE GOLD Rosicrucians was founded in Germany in 1756 and this was joined the next year by a stream from the Chapter of Clermont of France. It took possession of the Grand Lodge of the Three Globes of Berlin in 1771. It is hard to understand this perversion of Freemasonry, but as we have some now that differ from it only in kind, study makes it understandable. The Rosicrucians maintained, of course, that they were the founders of Freemasonry. They maintained that knowledge of some one of their degrees enabled its possessor to make the elixir of life, of another to manufacture gold, of another to summon "the spirits from the vasty deep," of another to partake of the knowledge of God, etc. All of these degrees were obtainable for a price. The initiate never got the necessary degrees to do all of these things, or to do any of them, and was at the proper time refused advancement and dropped, unless he developed rascality of a high order so as to make himself useful in duping others, in which case he joined its leaders and became "high and mighty" with them.
The Philalethes was organized by Savalette de Longes in Paris in 1770 to probe the value of the different Masonic degrees. The plan was excellent. The system consisted of twelve degrees and worked the three first Masonic degrees, but did not recognize as Masonic the remaining ones. These were considered only for the purposes of study. The order joined with the Rite of Narbonne in 1784, a society formed for a, similar purpose, forming one body which was absorbed by the Grand Orient in 1806 and finally ceased to exist.
The Society of the Illuminati goes back to 1766. Its members were not at first Freemasons but later on were initiated into the order. The system was arranged into three classes and Freemasonry is found in the second class, the degrees of which were (1) Apprentice, (2) Fellow Craft, (3) Master and (4) Scots - divided into Major Illuminates and Directing Illuminates. It had as members many great men, but the Jesuits, as well as some other branches of Freemasonry, made war upon it and it was finally suppressed by the government. This ended Freemasonry in South Germany and it has never since gained any permanent foothold there.
THE ASIATIC Brothers was an Hermetic Rite and the Order of True Masons was an offshoot of an Hermetic Rite.
The Order of the Temple claimed a regular descent from the Knights Templar of Palestine.
THE SWEDISH Rite of Freemasonry dates from about 1775. The three first degrees are Ancient Craft Masonry and to this is added some of the "high degrees." It contains a strain from the Rite of Strict Observance in its Templarism and has elements taken from Rosicrucianism.
Gustavus III, King of Sweden, formed the Rite and the King of Sweden has ever since been the head of it. The Rite consists of twelve degrees. The King is Grand Master of the Order and is the only one who takes the twelfth degree. It is called the "Vicar of Solomon." Only high nobles take the eleventh degree, called "Dignitary of the Chapter," and only persons of great prominence can receive the tenth degree, "Member of the Chapter." These three degrees really form a class by themselves. This class is called the "Illuminated Chapter" and the members of it "Brethren of the Red Cross."
The really working part of the Swedish Rite consists substantially of only nine degrees. The three Craft degrees are, of course, Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason. The fourth degree is called the "Scottish Fellow Craft" and is preliminary to the fifth degree, known as "Master of St. Andrew." This is what is known in the Modern French Rite as "Scotch Master," or Eccosais degree. The Eccosais system of degrees depicts the losing and the finding of the true word. They are what is known to us as Scottish degrees, or to be exact "Scots" degrees, for they are not Scottish at all. The degree of "Select Master" of the York Rite is an Eccosais degree. It is, also, seen in the instruction of the Royal Arch degree. The fifth degree entitles the recipient to official rank, which shows how closely Masonry in Sweden is bound up in the government.
THE SIXTH degree is "Friend of St. John," or "Knight of the East." The "Knight of the East," proper, depicts the erection of the Second Temple by the Israelites at Jerusalem when they were released from captivity at Babylon by Cyrus the Great, King of Persia. This degree is the "Knight of the Red Cross," the tenth degree of the York Rite. It is one of the degrees founded on the Revelation of St. John depicting the New Jerusalem with its twelve gates. It is the fifteenth degree of the Scottish Rite and the sixth degree of the French Rite.
The seventh degree is called "Knight of the West," or "True Templar." Templarism, until very recently, has been hard to understand because it is based wholly on fiction. In the Templar system the origin of Freemasonry is attributed to the templars of the Crusades. After the Moslems had conquered the Holy Land they profaned the holy places and the crusaders that were left were at the mercy of the Saracens and were cruelly persecuted by them. The Templars built up a system of Masonry in the Temple of Solomon and through it concealed the mysteries of the Christian religion. When the Templars were completely driven out of the Vast some of them took refuge in Scotland, where they established Masonry, and from there it was carried to England and to France. The moving cause of all this fabricated nonsense was to give Masonry ("High Degrees") a most commanding rank in both the political and religious world and make those who possessed these "high degrees" high and mighty Masons, to whom the great and noble, even, must look up.
The eighth degree, "Knight of the South," is an Hermetic degree and comes from the Gold Rosicrucians, who flourished during the last quarter of the eighteenth century, when they permeated Masonry. They claimed to be able to make gold, to prolong life and restore youth, to summon spirits from the vasty deep, and to partake of the power and knowledge of God. Outside of this mesmeric, spiritualistic and witchcraft society, only possible (to any great extent) in a superstitious age, there was no other, or real, Rosicrucian society, no matter what some Masonic writers have claimed. There were only men who believed along occult lines, and joined Masonry for the purpose of finding "lost secrets."
The ninth degree is called the "Favorite Brother of St. Andrew." This is another one of the mythical crusading degrees and was formed in France, probably, about the middle of the eighteenth century. This degree comes from one found in the Rite of Perfection. The twenty-ninth degree of the Scottish Rite comes from the same source.
OF ALL THE Orders of Knighthood only one is confined exclusively to Freemasons. When the Duke of Sundermanland, a zealous Freemason, ascended the Swedish throne he instituted the Order of Charles XIII, to which only Freemasons are admitted. The King of Sweden is the perpetual Grand Master and the number of Knights in it is limited to twenty-seven.
There are only five Orders of Knighthood in Sweden, and one of them was founded more than six hundred years ago. They are as follows: (1) Order of the Seraphims, founded in 1285; (2) Order of, the Sword, founded by Gustave I in 1522; (3) Order of the Polar Star, created in 1748 by King Christian I; (4) Order of Wasa, founded in 1772 by King Gustave III, and (5) Order of Charles XlllI founded by King Charles XIII in 1811.
FOR THE information of the curious, we also mention the following Rites: Order of African Architects, The Clerics, Rite of Elected Cohens, Rite of St. Martin, Elect of Truth, Reformed Rite or Order of Charitable Knights of the Holy City, Adoniramite Rite, Persian Philosophic Rite, The Order of the Mustard Seed, an order of religious Freemasons among the Moravian Brothers, the Rosaic Rite, Bahrdt's Rite, and the Electic Rite that had for its object the abolition of the high grades.
There are, of course, many other so-called Masonic Rites, and some of them have had both men and women members, but it would only burden the reader to enumerate them. Those who desire to pursue this subject further can delve into purposelessness to their heart's desire.
WHEN the phrase "Masonic Rites" is used its true meaning must not be confounded with its popular one. As a matter of fact Masonry has nothing to do with these Rites, but, unfortunately, they have much to do with Masonry. They have used Masonry only for their own selfish purposes, and to aggrandize themselves and to deceive honest men. They are manufactured out of whole cloth - generally stolen - and simply veneered with Masonry, to which the attention of the deluded is, hypocritically, constantly called. (The attention is called to the Masonry and not to the veneer.) Some are declared to be founded by mighty kings, some by valiant princes, some by powerful potentates, some by Holy Patriarchs, and some are declared to reach back into the dim and distant past-far into no man's time.
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Last modified: March 22, 2014