Faith, Hope and Charity ⬩ Fessler’s Rectified Rite ⬩ J. G. Findel ⬩ First and Third Degrees ⬩ Four Hypotheses of Origin ⬩ Frederick the Great ⬩ Frederick William II ⬩ Freemasonry in France ⬩ Fugitive Mark ⬩ Funeral Master
Faith, Hope and Charity
The three theological virtues, which in one important Grade of Masonry are confused unintelligently with the cardinal, are identical in the deeper sense of their symbolism with the three great Pillars by which every Lodge is supported emblematically, namely, Wisdom, Strength and Beauty. The quest of the Lost Word is followed in one of the High Degrees within a spiritual area which is delineated by these Pillars, and that which is hidden within them, leading to the term of quest, is symbolical of these virtues, connoting their inward md sacramental sense. In the proper understanding, that Faith which—according to St. Paul—is the substance of things hoped for, is the state that is desired by the wise, and seeing that Divine Faith can lead to Divine Attainment its profession with the whole heart and the whole will is the greatest act of wisdom which can be performed by man, because it leads into all truth and the great end of being. It is obvious in like manner that Hope is the foundation and maintenance of spiritual and moral strength, as it is also the spring of action. The aspirations of heart and mind, the ambition which is seed of achievement, are in such close alliance therewith that they appear almost its synonyms. In fine, Charity is that theological virtue which is most directly in correspondence with Beauty, which is indeed its nimbus and radiance. Charity, however, as it is understood and practised among us belongs rather to the active side of good-will: it is also compassion, kindness of heart, sympathy and whatsoever belongs to the workings of a generous nature. These qualities at least are modes and aspects of its consecration; but it becomes sanctified in the plenary sense when it is the activity of Love directed in paths of service, such Love being rooted in God as at once its end and beginning. Of this Love, Beauty is no longer the nimbus: the two have become one in very being. These findings are the prolegomena of eternal life.
Essence of these Virtues.—But the heart of their subject lies in the hiddenness behind the forms of words and the attempt to bring it into expression is its clothing in imperfect forms: the essence of grace and truth escapes therein. Having written failure before and behind these sentences, let me still attempt to say that Faith is the loyalty of the human mind in adhesion to its own postulate concerning the truth of God, in virtue of which the mind cannot be stultified in following the quest of God. Hope is the anchor of the heart cast on the all-sufficiency of God, so to stand about us on the path of quest that we on our. own part shall not fail therein. Love is the warrant of the quest; it is the search, the seeker and the term of search. It is that which was from the beginning our spur and motive, is now an inward sustenance which gives the power and the glory of going on, of being still upon the quest. So also will it still support us through all fruition of attainment, world without end in Love. It follows that Faith and Hope are swallowed up in Love, or that Love in its deep unfolding is Faith, Hope and Charity: it is “Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the First and the Last, which was and is and is to come, the Almighty.” These dogmas are the exotics of eternal life; the others are as Blue Masonry and these as the High Grades, as the head and crown of Masonry and the ne plus ultra Degree. They are the products of that Higher Pantheism for which God is all in all. If there be any one who can receive them among all the holders and keepers of the Great Rites, he is Prince of the Royal Secret and for him is laid up the couronne princière des Roses-Croix.
To Whom the Lesson Applies.—This is how it stands with the deep unfolding of theological virtues for the Wardens of those Mysteries which are sphered in an empyrean of sacraments above the rank and file of Most Wise Sovereigns and Grand Inspectors-General. It is “without detriment to ourselves and our connections,” because it belongs to another world of values, beyond the reach of rust and moth, where no thieves break in and steal. It is that place in which he who giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord, and there the Lord repays him. There also the right hand knows not what the left hand doeth, because the left dispenses on earth and the right receives from above. After this manner does the epopt make the Sacred Sign of Hathor.
Ladder of Jacob.—It will be seen in this high understanding that the theological virtues are, as the Lectures tell us, like certain rungs on the Ladder of Jacob; that the Angels go up and come down by these, in virtue of a general “bond of amity,” which bond is the hierarchic scale of correspondence between things above and below; between faith in the Great Architect of the Universe and union of the soul with God at the great height: between the Veil and the Holy of Holies; between the Volume of the Sacred Law—as typifying the source of spiritual doctrine and precept, wheresoever and whensoever it has been formulated, all the wide world over—and that Book laid up in the heart, when the heart has opened its door to Him Who stands and knocks. After such manner do Faith, Hope and Charity give “access to the Throne of Grace”; we are “justified” thereby and therein, are “accepted and, finally, received.”
Fessler’s Rectified Rite
Of all Masonic tasks the most utterly thankless is that of reformation in Ritual and its correlative, revision of principle: there is no wider door into the open arms of ingratitude. Of this historical truth Ignaz Aurelius Fessler offers a typical instance, but only as one among many: indeed, taken altogether, he fared better than some or most who have followed this thorny path. The spirit of reform was with him, apparently from an early period and long before he entered on his Masonic career. He was a Hungarian by birth and is said to have been of humble origin. He was also, and naturally, a son of the Latin Church. He was educated at the Jesuit Gymnasium of Raab, under the supervision of Antonius Mancini, a man of learning. The Jesuits must have concluded presumably that he was unfitted for their own ranks; but he had or believed himself to have some kind of religious vocation, for in 1773, and at the early age of seventeen years, he became a novice in the Capuchin monastery of Moa. He took minor Orders in due course and was ordained subdeacon at Vienna in 1777, proceeding two years later to the priesthood, when he was twenty-three years old. These dates are on the authority of Thory and others, apart from any means of checking, and they stand therefore at their value, with an atmosphere of doubt around them. Under the obedience of a strict monastic rule, it looks utterly unlikely that so young a man should have been thus hurried through the ecclesiastic curriculum, more especially with no future before him, as he was without means or influence. A secular seminary at the period would scarcely—one would think—have proceeded with such unreasoned haste. Woodford, moreover—but quoting no source as usual—records that in 1779, the date of his priesthood, he was in doubt on matters of religion, so that he could not have been exhibiting unusual fitness or a great light of sanctity. Two years later he was at Vienna—as we are told, for the completion of his studies—and there it is said that he resolved to throw off his shackles; but the course which he followed in view of the alleged object was to expose abuses and irregularities in his own Capuchin Order, by means of a printed communication addressed to the Austrian Emperor in 1782. Kenneth MacKenzie, in his characteristically crass manner, says that he was persecuted by his superiors; but it is evident that he had already passed himself out of their jurisdiction. Whatever his disaffections, it is evident that he was a man of great acquirements, according to his story, and in 1783, or a year later at most it is on record that the Emperor appointed him Professor Extraordinary of Languages at the University of Languages. I infer that the foundation of his acquirements in this direction was laid under the tutelage of Mancini. A promotion like this was of course a rebuff for the Capuchins, and they are said—but on what count I know not, unless it was that of libel—to have threatened him with legal proceedings. He fled thereupon to Breslau, and so closed his first experiment in reform. It does not seem to have reflected much credit on himself or to have produced any fruit at headquarters. At Breslau and thereabouts he betook himself to literature and teaching; he is reported also to have entered on the study of Spinoza, which in the caustic opinion of Woodford could have “done him no good.” What happened actually was that in 1791 he “was received into the Lutheran Church”—an infrequent result of Spinozism. A year later he completed his liberation from monasticism by marriage; but if the new bond was contracted on the path of personal reform, in this case also the experiment proved unprofitable and ended ten years later in divorce. A second undertaking in wedlock seems to have answered better. As regards the rest of his external life it is without consequence for my purpose, being that of a wandering professor whose past followed him, or alternatively some untoward star, from Breslau to Berlin, from Berlin to Kleinwall, from Germany to St. Petersburg, Saratow and Sarepta, but thence again to St. Petersburg, where he was made an Ecclesiastical Councillor—how and why must be left to those who can discover, for a position of authority in the Greek Orthodox Rite would not seem open to a member of the Lutheran Church. There, however, he remained for the space of six years, and there also he died on December 15,1839, aged eighty-three years. He was born at Czarendorf in 1756.
Masonic Career.—Fessler was made a Mason at Lemberg in 1783 and is said to have proceeded at once with characteristic zeal to the study of Masonic history and principles. Of his activities at Breslau—if any—we hear nothing at all in respect of authorised Masonry. But, like Christian Rosy Cross, he was pondering over reformation in his mind, amidst his teaching and writing. In or about 1789 he is affirmed to have established a Bund der Evergeten, or Society of Benefaction, on Masonic lines and to effect a moral reform, for which Masonry itself at that time—or in his opinion—was not suited. The plan came, however, to little; the association had practically no active existence, and it fell to pieces or dissolved in 1793. But it happens that there is an alternative story, which says that the Order or Society was established at Silesia in 1792 by Zuboni of Glogau and other people whose names signify nothing; that Fessler had no part in its foundation, though he “worked with it”; that it did not pass out of existence till 1801, as made evident by the fact that some of its members suffered imprisonment at Breslau in 1796—presumably on political grounds. In any case, Fessler scored another failure in reform. When he was living in Berlin he was affiliated to the historical Lodge Royal York of Friendship, his chequered career in which may be summarised as follows: (1) He was elected a member of the Sublime Council, a title which arose probably out of its High Grades, as it does not asssuredly belong to any Craft system of rule. (2) He was commissioned to revise and reconstruct the Rituals, which are said to have followed those of the French Rite. (3) Being concerned as a Lutheran with the pruning and reduction of official religious doctrine, he was anxious to make use of the same shears in respect of Masonic Degrees, leaving nothing but those of the Craft. (4) The Lodge ruled against him, and in the end he produced a revision of the whole series, which was approved, according to the story. (5) He proceeded thereafter to form a new constitution and after great difficulties he established the Royal York as a Grand Lodge in 1798, its jurisdiction extending over seven Daughter Lodges, increased—under his auspices—to sixteen in the brief space of three years. (6) He established also a Scientific Masonic Union for historical study of the Masonic subject. (7) We hear, moreover, of a second revision of Rituals, from which a Rite of Fessler emerged, but the accounts are confused and doubtful. I should infer that there was one reconstruction which held the field for a very short time only, being abandoned—according to another story—in 1800. (8) There is a report that prior to this Fessler had been elected Deputy Grand Master, which notwithstanding he is said to have received nothing but ingratitude as his reward. (9) In Masonry therefore he scored his third and final failure, his Rite passing into the archives. (10) In 1802 he resigned all honours and offices, all active connection with Masonry, save only on the side of research.
Rite of Fessler.—The authorities are the German Handbook, Thory, Clavel and Ragon; but I question whether any of these witnesses were acquainted with the Rituals themselves. Their materials—presumably in respect of Grades superior to those of the Craft—are said to have been drawn from (1) the French Rite, (2) the Ordo Roseae et Auræ Crucis, (3) the Strict Observance, (4) the Swedish Rite, and (5) the Chapter of Clermont. Alternatively, according to an independent exposition, the claims and symbolism of these and other systems were examined in successive Degrees. In any case the Ritual arrangement was as follows: (1) Entered Apprentice, (2) Fellow Craft, (3) Master Mason; and thereafter a Chapter of Higher Knowledge, working or otherwise conferring (5) the Holy of Holies, (6) Justification, (7) the Celebration, (8) the True Light, (9) the Fatherland, alternatively the Country or Home, and in fine (10) Perfection. It follows that so far as names are concerned the four High Grades of the French Rite have passed away altogether and that instead of reducing Degrees the Rite of Fessler extends them. Against all likelihood implied by the fact of their names, his Masonic hypotheses and researches are said to have been distributed as follows through his various Grades of Knowledge. (1) The so-called Holy of Holies was dedicated to a review of various speculations concerning the derivation of Freemasonry from the Knights Templar, Steinmetzen of Strasbourg, the German Rosy Cross, the Lord Protector Cromwell, and the Jesuits, which would signify a Jacobite origin. (2) In the Grade of Justification the claims of Écossais Masonry and the pretensions of the Chapter of Clermont were subjected to a critical review. (3) The Grade of Rose-Croix, the Rite of the Strict Observance, the Order of African Architects and the Initiated Brothers of Asia were sifted under the disconcerting title of Celebration. (4) The Swedish Rite, the strange medley of Zinnendorf and—out of all common correspondence—the Holy Royal Arch were examined under the titular criterion of True Light, as by one who carried a lantern through a labyrinthine wild of pageants. (5) But under the denomination of Fatherland Fessler transferred the research to the “Mysteries of the Divine Kingdom” and to the secret doctrines communicated by Christ to His disciples. After this manner was the Fellowship of the Royal York designed to be taken homeward and so attain (6) the Perfection of the whole system. It is said that this ne plus ultra was never actually communicated, which seems to befit the symbolism; but an untoward alternative affirms that it furnished a critical history of Freemasonry and all Mysteries comprehended thereby. One would have thought that this field had been covered with a certain fullness in previous ceremonial points.
Lectures versus Ritual.—It is of course possible that a German Professor of Oriental Languages may have metamorphosed Grades of action into Grades of simple disquisition, and in such case one can understand readily enough that the Royal York of Friendship grew weary of the lecture system. But on the whole I lean to the alternative mentioned previously, which is that of Thory, Clavel and Ragon, bespeaking at least some kind of ceremonial. It seems to correspond, moreover, with the views expressed by Fessler concerning his Grades—that they were “moral and aesthetic Mysteries.” He says also that they represented the tendencies of Masonry. Critical and historical discourses could scarcely answer to this description. For the rest, there is no point of any moment at issue on either side. The Rite of Fessler was almost stillborn, as I question whether we can place much reliance on Clavel’s statement that it was still practised by a few Prussian Lodges in or about the year 1840.
Authorities.—(1) Thory’s Acta Latomorum, Vol. I, p. 198, for the commission to Fessler on the part of the Lodge Royal York of Friendship, respecting the revision of Statutes General and Rituals. Seven other Brethren were appointed to assist him. The “new Rules”—sic, i.e. nouveaux réglements—were adopted on August 3, 1796, and all change was interdicted for three years. See also p. 313 for the rectification of the High Grades and for the formation of a scale of historical and moral instructions. (2) Clavel’s Histoire Pittoresque de la Franc-Maçonnerie. I have used the third edition: see p. 65 for the statement that Fessler’s Rite was practised at this period in Prussia and p. 189 for a very inadequate reference to the Rite itself. (3) Georg Kloss: Bibliographie de Freimaurerei, s.v. Fessler, in the Index, p. 418, and also the following bibliographical numbers: 553, for Fessler on the Eleusinia of the nineteenth century; 636; 2725-29 for the collected editions of Fessler’s Masonic Writings; and 2732 for the Scientific Masonic Association. (4) Ragon’s Orthodoxie Maçonnique and Manuel de L’Initté. It is to be noted that Fessler’s most important work on Freemasonry—or so at least accounted—-was circulated in manuscript and has not since been printed: it was by its title a Critical History of the whole subject and would appear therefore to have contained the knowledge communicated in his Grade of Perfection. There seems no question that the MS. was available to Lodge Members if not to other Masons for the sum of thirty pounds, each copy. When it is said that the Grade just mentioned was not conferred the meaning may be that there was no Ritual working. It may be mentioned that in Fessler’s opinion the hypothesis and Grades of Templar Masonry, as conferred originally—according to a prevalent tradition—by the Chapter of Clermont, were invented by the Jesuits, that all their allegories had reference to Jesuit history and to their claims on universal rule. There is not a particle of evidence to support this view, which is moreover improbable antecedently. Why should that ecclesiastical body which exists for the advancement of the glory of the Church—by all means and at all costs—set out under a Masonic aegis to exonerate and restore a chivalry which the Church condemned and destroyed?
J. G. Findel
Kloss is the German bibliographer of Freemasonry, the Handbook is still the most importamt German work of an encyclopaedic kind on the subject, and Findel is still, I believe, its chief German historian, though the publication of his most important work took place nearly sixty years since. He had considerable learning for his period and there is no question that he marked an epoch, or at least the beginning of a new order in Masonic antiquities. The translation of his History into English was the death-knell of the Oliver school of speculation and—speaking generally—the end of the dream period, so far as this country is concerned. That which had reigned previously was a spirit of unbridled imagination, apart from the spirit of research, Findel substituted a reasonable sense of evidence, a respect for facts and a recognition that they are vital, in this as in any field of history. In the higher as in the lower order, he was devoid of imaginative faculty, but he had the German collector’s patience, and he produced the first critical account of Masonry. His work has been superseded entirely by Gould’s Concise History, though I am not assigning hereby a place of permanent importance to the latter. There is nothing more ephemeral of necessity than are historical works on the Order; if the volume in question holds the field for the moment, I look, notwithstanding, to the future. But if Findel has yielded his place, as another may yield in turn, he is not without interest among records of the past, and I propose to summarise some of his findings as an important statement of the case in his day and generation.
General Thesis of Findel.—(1) Behind or within the historical fact of the incorporation Findel recognised some vital principle or spirit, about which he spoke vaguely, as “the idea of Freemasonry”—presumably the kinship of federation, having duties arising therefrom, which are in fact the Masonic virtues. (2) He held that this idea is as old as human civilisation and has its source in the human heart; again presumably, it is a practical recognition of brotherhood in social duty. (3) He is referring to this living principle and to its welding bond when he affirms that Freemasonry is to Masonic Brethren what religion is to the Church and what substance is to form. (4) Emblematic Freemasonry is the lineal descendant of everything that belonged in the past to the Operative Craft of Building, and yet—without justifying the statement—he affirms that its traces are also in the Ancient Mysteries. (5) They are more especially in Roman congregations of artificers and in the mediaeval Fraternity of Masons. (6) Its immediate and most direct masters are the German Stonemasons and Stonecutters. (7) A genealogy like this remains hypothetical enough, after every allowance has been made for the intercommunication between Building Guilds. (8) The hypothesis fails for want of a speculative element in German confraternities, because Emblematic Freemasonry arose in England, because the influence of German Stonemasons on Guilds in England is not in evidence, and because the speculative element in English guilds is not found in their records. (9) As regards what is called the transition, according to Findel, its main factors were (a) the spirit of the age, (b) the writings of Bacon, Comenius, Dupuy and the Rosicrucians, followed by Deism and the growing principle of religious toleration. (10) Deism in particular is held to have exercised so important an influence that Findel speaks of its having contributed essentially to the final transformation of Freemasonry from an operative to an universal speculative Society.
The Thesis Reviewed.—It is obvious that all great movements derive opportunity from a given spirit of the time which is favourable to the particular activity; I am entirely certain that those who effected the Transition were acquainted with the New Atlantis, if not the Restauratio and Novum Organum; that they knew something of Comenius and his great educational schemes; that they had read the Fama Fraternitatis R.C., at least in the English translation edited by Thomas Vaughan. It was obviously, moreover, in virtue of religious toleration that Jews were admitted to membership under the aegis of the so-called Revival: in the absence of such toleration, under the yoke of the Star Chamber, the Holy Office, or the theology of Knox and Calvin, Emblematic Freemasonry would have arisen at its proper peril, and the Grand Lodge of 1717 would have perished at Smithfield or Tyburn. These are commonplaces of the whole subject, and the Transition is not explained by their citation, any more than it is explained by the influence of the New Atlantis, Dupuy's work on the Trial of Knights Templar, or the Manifestoes of the Rosy Cross. But the last thing which accounts for the Transition is the Deism in the final decades of the seventeenth century and onward to the year of the Revival. The Pantheisticon of Toland represents nothing in correspondence with the mentality, moods and faith of the personalities who brought Emblematic Freemasonry into manifestation in 1717: so far as it is possible to say, there were no Deists at the Apple-Tree Tavern on the night of Revival; Desaguliers, Anderson, Payne, Anthony Sayer, the people who counted in the movement, were Protestants of their period, in one or other of its variations. Here is the proof positive which ousts Findel's supposition, and it does not stand alone, for there is ample evidence that when it came into being the Third Degree was Christian, and so were also the Lectures. The influence of Deism on Masonry was more than a century later and under the rule of the Duke of Sussex.
Deism and Masonry.—I have failed to ascertain the persuasions of Findel himself in matters of official religion; he may have leaned in the direction to which he attributed such imaginary importance; but we know only that he was an ardent admirer of Anderson’s banal clause on God and Religion in the first Book of Constitutions, declaring it to be “as sublime and magnificent as it is true to itself.” For Findel also Masonry was true to itself within the measures of the Craft Degrees; the “seed of Ramsay” was for him a corrupt seed; and he failed to discover anything outside “injurious effects” in the High Grades. Here is a characteristic position of the Deist and almost a distinguishing mark by which we may know him; it became, moreover, under the influence which I have noted already, the characteristic seal of the Union. For the Grand Lodge of England Masonry consists of three Degrees, including the Holy Royal Arch, because the Duke of Sussex and those like him were Deists. The explanation is simple and is resident in the fact that all High Grades which count are militantly Christian and Trinitarian. Speaking of the Grade of Rose-Croix Findel quotes an alleged statement of Baron Tschoudy that it is “the Roman Catholic Religion incorporated into a Degree.” For those who know the Grade and also the Latin Church it is nothing of the sort now, nor was it in the past, so far as I have been able to trace its records of Ritual; but it is a Grade of the glory of Christ and a Grade of the Holy Trinity, which is near enough to pass for Romanism in a Deistic mind.
Findel’s Masonic Philosophy.—It remains that according to Findel Freemasonry has by no means accomplished in the past and by no means fulfils in the present that which it is capable of doing. It represents, however, a sacred truth—-not otherwise formulated by the German historian—and as such it cannot dispense with an outward form, meaning symbols, ceremonies, Rituals. But these in his opinion must remain within the primitive measures of the Craft, though they should be remodelled and perfected to suit successive ages. It is therefore possible to make alterations in the body of Masonry. Findel served his purpose in his day and place, after what manner has been indicated: neither then nor subsequently, and now least of all, could consequence attach to his opinions; but as an intelligent collector of materials, with a critical judgment upon them, he deserves high praise, because such characteristics were very rare at that period in the domain of Masonic research.
Bibliography.—Findel’s works on Freemasonry are (1) Geschichte der Freimaurerie von der Zeit ihres Endstehens auf die Gegenwart, 2 Bde, 1861, 62; but there were of course later editions. (2) Geist und Form der Freimaurerie, 1874. (3) Die Grundsatze der Freimaurerie in Völkerleben, 1881. He founded Verein Deutscher Freimaurer. His first and most important work was translated anonymously into English under the personal supervision of the author, and appeared as History of Freemasonry, from its origin down to the present day, 1865. A second edition was issued in 1869. Findel is said to have been initiated in 1856; he was a professional literary man, writing on various subjects and having journalistic connections. I do not know the date of his birth, but he died at an advanced age in 1909.
First and Third Degrees
The considered object of the Grade of Entered Apprentice is to build up the Candidate by means of Masonic instruction and his own efforts as a house or temple of honourable and perfect life, recalling the aspiration of a Degree outside the Craft to integrate its members as living stones into a spiritual edifice which shall be meet for God’s service. Between such symbolical architecture and the Legend of Solomon’s Temple there is so little correspondence that the one was never intended to lead up to the other. The symbolism of the Entered Apprentice Degree is of the simplest and most obvious kind: it is also personal and individualistic. That of the Master Grade is complex and remote in its significance: it is, moreover, an universal mythos. My conclusion is that the Third Degree has been grafted on the others and did not belong to them originally. Furthermore there has been no real attempt to weld them, though they have been pulled together—as I have suggested—-into some kind of working sequence—as, e.g., by the exhortation which the Worshipful Master recites to the Candidate prior to the dramatic scene and by certain remarks addressed to him immediately after the Raising.
Number of Craft Degrees.—It will be seen that this suggests two favoured alternative hypotheses, advanced—tentatively or otherwise—by serious writers like Gould, namely, that original Emblematic Freemasonry, and presumably its operative counterpart, consisted either of one Degree or of two at the most. The suggestion is of a certain importance because it illustrates unawares the view which finds expression above. In critical analysis it by no means signifies that either the Entered Apprentice Degree or that of Fellow Craft—as now practised among us—is of superior antiquity to the Degree of Master Mason, but that there was a primitive form of reception and—by a bare possibility—of advancement that may have offered some root points of resemblance to the ceremonies which prevail now. It is of course entirely hypothetical, and as regards Emblematic Freemasonry it implies what is actually one of the main points at issue, the existence of an incorporated Speculative Art prior to the eighteenth century. There is otherwise no question that in Operative times both Apprentice and Craftsman or Fellow were pledged in respect of the Guild secrets. It is possible also, though there is no vestige of evidence, that there may have been even rough moral reflections—as e.g. on working tools, accompanied by the communication of what is known as the Mason’s Word, the fact of which is the earliest trace of an official or conventional mystery in all the records of the Craft. It goes back to the first half of the seventeenth century and has been quoted elsewhere in these volumes. It will be seen as my investigations proceed that a very late origin of the Third Degree is the conclusion which is practically forced upon us by the complete failure of the old reveries to survive the most temperate searching.
Makers of the Craft Degrees.—I am of opinion further that all Symbolical Masonry, as it stands and is known among us, belongs to one and the same period, that it was the invention of persons who could have raised a material edifice as much and as little as he who writes these lines, but that it is not too precarious to suppose that, being Lodge members, they were acquainted with an old procedure in making Masons and perhaps of passing Fellows, and that they wove it into their symbolical versions of the First and Second Craft Degrees. I have said that they were Lodge members, but it was of course in the sense of Ashmole, Colonel Mainwaring, Sir Robert Moray and others: they were not operatives and belonged to a Lodge or Lodges which in the Operative sense was always at refreshment and never at labour, as none of them could carry the hod, lay bricks or dress stones. They were in a state of direct contrast to that allegorical Master-Builder of whom it is said that he was “skilful to work in gold and in silver, in brass, in iron, in stone and in timber”; but they had other qualifications and could “find out any device” in the veils of conventional allegory and in symbolical illustration. I think in my heart that they were not many but one: however this may be, what he or they gave us was Emblematic Freemasonry, a new lamp wrought in an old aspect, a new Mystery on a scale of which Guilds and Companies and Liveries had never dreamed, but with a time-immemorial claim, which was that of the Operative Art in the likeness of which it was fashioned.
The Third Degree.—I have headed this note with a reference to the First and Third Degrees, because the Second is after all nothing and leads of itself nowhere, neither to the Mysteries of Nature and Science nor yet to the Master Grade, as by any natural path or in virtue of any evidential development. In symbolism and interior message the Third Degree stands by itself and so only: as those which precede it are written in the likeness of Guild Masonry, so is this written and created, made and fashioned in the likeness of the Ancient Mysteries, concerned on the surface with the legend of a prototypical hero of architecture, as those were concerned with the legends of gods and goddesses, but with a personal and vital application to the Candidate, which was conveyed also by those. Iacchos was torn to pieces by Bacchantes and all Nature mourned, in common with his worshippers; but Iacchos rose again, and Nature rejoiced with them. Persephone was translated to the clouded regions of the underworld, but Olympus intervened and restored her to the light of day. The Craft Mason suffers a figurative death but is returned again to life under the auspices of that bright and Morning Star, Whose rising brings peace and salvation and “light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.” The rising of Iacchos may have disclosed but vaguely to most who frequented his Mysteries the perpetuity of life in death; the descent and rendering of Persephone may have shewn also to the majority no very clear picture of the soul’s story, its antenatal state according to Greek Mysticism, its descent into matter and its final delivery, as after many incarnations. But for Plato and those who followed, a great galaxy, of such was the message of the Mysteries. And so also for us: the majority of Master Masons carry away from the experience through which they have passed those lessons only that they are competent to learn, of honour in the face of death and dimly, as in darkness visible, of life beyond the grave. But to others, walking at however far a distance in the steps of Plato and the Platonic successors, there are offered other lessons, while to a few—it is but few at best—who have drunk at deep fountains of wisdom, who have seen another light than shines in Greek philosophy, it is given to understand the Mystery of the Craft Degrees and the personal experience therein according to the Ineffable Measures of the Mystery which is in Christ and of the experience which is reserved for those who can follow Him in the abiding inward presence of the Christ Mystical.
A Sum of Christian Theosophy.—I have given some intimations already on this subject, so unsearchable in any light derived from the kingdoms of this world, so clear and full in the light of the Mystical City and the Eternal Kingdom. There is always more to say; but he who follows this light and attains the end therein realises in his own person, within his own measures, the Birth, Life, Death and Resurrection of Christ, after the same manner that the story of the Master-Builder is realised personally by every Master Mason. The position cannot be put more plainly, and it matters nothing that it is a conspicuous elucidation of small things by great; it matters nothing whether the analogy was present in the minds of those who gave us the Ceremonies of Emblematic Freemasonry, as now worked and conferred. The truest understanding of anything is always that which is highest, and if that which is given me in the Craft is read by me in this light rather than in that of the rank and file of my Brothers, I am in the position of Plato and the sacred hierarchy on the intellectual thrones, who saw otherwise than Aristophanes and Lucian.
Mystical Death.—In common with some others, but not for the same reasons, I confess to a sense of insufficiency in respect of the ostensible purposes and interests of the Masonic experiment, but there is shadowed forth here another object and a higher concern, as if immanent in the whole. And this second sense of the Craft Mystery brings it into relation with other Instituted Mysteries which after traversing particular paths of symbolism cast aside these veils and communicate—so far as language will permit—the open truth of reality, being that method by which the individual soul enjoys in pure being the mode of universal life. Plotinus is the chief witness in Greek theosophy; the East is full of testimonies; while the golden chain of Christian witnesses begins with the Apostle to the Gentiles and is continued to our day. And seeing that this mode is attained in the sacred suspension of mystical death, or by souls withdrawn in the stillness, in a sleep of material life, the nearest analogy hereto in external symbolism is the figurative death of the Mason. Those who induce it know nothing and those who undergo it do not dream; but the world of symbolism cannot disavow the implicits of its own emblems: they are embraced on the contrary by the catholic scheme of the sacraments.
A Definition of Spiritual Masonry.—It is from this point of view and in this most high light that I have elsewhere defined Speculative Masonry as a hieroglyphical abstract or itinerary of the reintegration of the mind in God; and I postulate this definition here and now as my theosophical construction of a pregnant statement in the Questions before Passing—that Masonry is a beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols. For the one definition is not without the other and does not destroy the other: the conventional description is so true that those who repeat it seldom realise its meaning. They interpret morality after an elementary and artificial manner, as if it were comprehended by social good conduct. Here is the first step only in the Science which the mystic Thomas Vaughan once termed “both ancient and infinite.”
A Word to the Few.—The measure of the fullness of the stature of this doctrine is even for its preliminary acceptance by the logical understanding beyond the possibility of many, and I speak at this point therefore only to a small assembly of the elect and of those who are capable of election within the ranks of the Brotherhood, not doubting that the larger concourse which remains in the letter of the symbol—as in a porch of the Spiritual Temple—are also in the grace of the symbol, and are taken according to their capacity by a certain light and leading which shall befit them in the age-long process of initiation for the greater ends. In the meantime, let those who can suffer these sayings take in their hands once again the “perfect ceremonies” of the Three Degrees and read them in the light of this greater construction—from that summons to Open the Lodge—when all rise to participate in the emblematic form—to the consummation of the Third Degree, when it is “closed accordingly” because the Mystery is finished. They will begin to understand what is implied in the Questions before Raising by the Hidden Mysteries of Nature and Science, as well as the kind of House which is established in strength, to stand firm for ever.
Four Hypotheses of Origin
There are some respects in which Emblematic Freemasonry may be regarded more simply as a thing which was made rather than a thing which grew, and the grounds of such a conclusion are formulated in other sections. It is in any case certain that the Craft Rituals bear no trace of Operative Practice, though they are full of its moralities. On the contrary it is certain by internal evidence that they are the work—as we have seen—of men who had never hewn stones or had part in the erection of houses made with hands, and that their appeal and purpose were for others of their own category. They bear much the same relation to their alleged historical sources that Ruskin’s Stones of Venice bears to a builder’s handbook, the comparison being subject to one important qualification, that Ruskin’s work belongs to the category of great literature, which is not unfortunately the case with Craft Rituals or their developments in High Grades. The following hypotheses concerning the origin of Speculative Masonry have been advanced in the past and one of them holds the field at the present day. They are given here in summary form with the least possible comment, pending their analytical consideration in the places to which they belong, my purpose being to contrast them together in a group. The hypotheses are: (1) That Masonry is the last development and transfiguration of some simple Mystery current among the old Building Guilds; (2) that the notions and terms of architecture were adopted and utilised figuratively by a secret group of philosophical moralists, and that the final elaboration of their device is found in the Craft Rituals of the eighteenth century; (3) that the mediaeval Building Guilds were lineal descendants of the architectural fraternities of antiquity, who were initiates of the old Instituted Mysteries, and that there was hence always a speculative element in Masonry; (4) that the Knights Templar, to whom the esoteric traditions of antiquity had been communicated in the East, assumed the disguise of Masonry after their suppression and were the actual inventors and founders of the Speculative Art; (5) that Emblematic Freemasonry was the final issue and evolution of the Rosicrucian Fraternity, or that it was an experimental foundation of certain persons thereunto belonging.
Notes on the Hypotheses.—The third hypothesis has long since been set aside as fantasy; the fifth is a variant of the second and may be joined as one therewith; the fourth is that which enlisted the chief interest and focussed the general thesis of the most important High Grades, all of which originated in the idea of chivalry as in one sense or another lying behind Masonry, at once its motive and its source. The first, which carries the seals of surface probability and the appeal of common sense, is adapted to those minds that are content to regard Masonry as a ceremonialised system of morality, and—in one of its several forms—it is now the accepted explanation of the Masonic historian and of Lodges which pass as learned. It obtained great diffusion from the days of Grandidier, who first hazarded the suggestion that the German Steinmetzen were the true ancestors of the Order, since whom there has been developed a complete chain of transmission, beginning, as we have seen otherwise, with Dionysian Artificers, and proceeding so forward through Roman Collegia, Comacini and mediaeval Building Guilds, all over Western Europe.
Ancient Guilds and Ancient Mysteries.—But those—who have been many in the past and a few are yet among us—for whom the Rites and symbolism of Emblematic Freemasonry connote and indeed embody something more than ethical propositions, that they connect in some manner not perhaps determined with the catholic object of initiation, have always looked with suspicion on their reference to a trade guild in respect of origin. It was perhaps this sense of insufficiency which prompted the French manufactories of Masonic legend to assume that the old Temple Builders were a secret confraternity perpetuated through many centuries, who in Egypt, Assyria, Judea, in Greece and Rome, maintained Holy Houses for the Mysteries in which they participated themselves, and erected subsequently all over Europe the Cathedral Churches of Christendom, still keeping in the crypts not only the peculiar secrets of their building art—as if the words of a Master-Builder—but also the religious doctrines and practices of Thebes and Eleusis, of Isis, Dionysius and Ceres. These are reveries of the romantic spirit, with no particle of historical basis; but they illustrate the reluctance of the past to connect great institutes of symbolism with trade unions, and they are right in the sentiment which inspired them, however mistaken in fact. There are many respects in which the current, approved and popular explanation as to the origin of Masonry is as void of evidence to support it as the imaginative traditional histories of the High Grades, the oration of Chevalier Ramsay, or the eloquent thesis of Baron Tschoudy in L’Étoile Flamboyante. In other words, if Speculative Freemasonry is the last transfiguration of some antique show belonging to the Building Guilds—which have left no record concerning it—the conditions of such transfiguration, in the absence of all evidence, are as much outside our knowledge as are the circumstances under which Templarism or Rosicrucianism became changed into or assumed the veil of Masonry, supposing for one moment that we could accept the hypothesis of its Rosicrucian or Templar origin. The received opinion bears therefore no marks of finality, and the whole question stands liable (1) to be reopened by any new facts which may be brought to light in research, (2) to lapse altogether for want of anything to support it, and (3) to be replaced—also for the moment—by any other plausible speculation which may enter the lists against it. There is meanwhile one fact and one only in patent evidence before us—that in the early part of the eighteenth century, but post 1717, we find certain Symbolical Rituals suddenly in use in London, having all sorts of claims respecting antiquity, but with no antecedent history behind them. They spoke, as they speak still, the language and embodied the set of moral and mental feelings of their period: in the logic of the case, the onus probandi lies on those who say that they are of time immemorial, whether as to form or substance.
Frederick the Great
The Masonic consequence of Frederick II, King of Prussia, centres above all in the allegation that he was the instigator, author or patron of a so-called Masonic reformation which extended the twenty-five Grades of the Rite of Perfection to thirty-three under the denomination of the Scottish Rite, Ancient and Accepted—Ritus Scoticus, Antiquus et Acceptus. The original Rite was dead so far as France was concerned, but one of the stories states that it was carried to America by a Jew in 1761, where it remained—in the archives or otherwise. It was taken also to St. Domingo at an uncertain date before or after the Revolution. These matters belong obviously to a consideration of the Scottish Rite, but they offer a point of departure in the present case. There was of course a Charter or Warrant which authorised the foundation and consecrated the initial activities of the Supreme Council placed at the head of the Rite. There was no colourable reason for its construction in the Latin language and there was not only nothing to justify Frederick the Great in describing himself as Supreme Protector and Grand Master Universal of all Masonry, but no real likelihood that he would attempt so to do. It is in such manner, however, that the document opens and in such tongue that it was written. In view of the available text and of the criticism which it has received, it is not less than certain that the document is fraudulent. I have heard somewhere that Albert Pike was prepared to stake everything on the fact of its authenticity, but the one needful and essential thing which it was not in his power to risk was his own critical faculty, for this had been denied him.
Of Fraud in Titles.—There have been several documents of the same kind on Masonry, and not one of them all is genuine—the Charter of Larmenius, the wonderful patent of the Jacobite Chapter of Arras, and the ridiculous Charter of Cologne. So also in circles more secret than those of the Masonic Order I have met with documents written on watermark paper of a certain year, but their internal evidence proves that they are later by a very long period—the better part of a century. By these things and by others like unto these that are less or more in evidence we may judge of those that are not, and without much fear of error, as for example that Hieroglyphic Licence, which no one has seen, issued to Martines de Pasqually by no man knows whom and carried about by him in proof of his Masonic mission during the first years of his activity. I believe that Pasqually was a spiritual leader of men after his own kind and that his Rite had aspects of importance, but in the Licence my honour compels me to register that I do not believe, any more than in the claim of von Hund respecting Unknown Superiors or in the initiation of the Young Pretender. One will begin to accept such things after and not before it has been shewn that there was a Greek original for the Spanish Dial of Princes and that it was written by Marcus Aurelius. But the antiquity of the Rowley poems is nearer to demonstration than this.
Masonic Connections.—As regards Frederick the Great it is certain that he was made a Mason surreptitiously during the life of his tyrannical father; that he was quite sympathetic towards Masonry when he ascended the Prussian throne; that at the foundation of the Grand Lodge of the Three Globes he became its patron; that on two or three special occasions he wrote about Masonry two or three cordial letters in rather indifferent French; and that as a general result no difficulties impeded the growth of the Order within his dominions, more especially in Berlin. But his active interest had ceased, if indeed he could be said to have had any, beyond the fact that it seemed worth his while to join in secret, because it would have been so highly displeasing to his father had the fact come to be known. He was very much afraid of the able but upstart Elector of Brandenburg who became first King of Prussia, and he took all precautions possible that he should be kept in the dark, being also amused thereby. He was the last type of mind to be concerned in Freemasonry on its own merits.
Masonic Importance.—It follows that Frederick the Great is of very moderate importance from any Masonic point of view, and if some Supreme Councils still produce him in the Chair of the Thirty-third Degree, represented by the Grand Master therein, the fact is of no consequence and makes for nothing. The case of the forged Charter is much too bad for its long lost cause to find a forlorn hope therein. Finally, the Scottish Rite at its best, here and in America, is much too important to need that dubious aid. I believe that any claim on the Charter has been abandoned long since in England. Its title to existence as custodian of the Rose-Croix Grade is a living thing, and even if Frederick the Great—false poet and shallow moralist —had inscribed the instrument foisted upon him with his own hand, it would be merely a scrap of parchment at this day.
Authorities.—It is, I may assume, needless to say that the authorities for the life and times of Frederick the Great would form a large library. The memorable work of Thomas Carlyle is more than sufficient for any ordinary reader. The printed catalogue of the British Museum under the King’s name is of itself a great study in bibliography. A less ambitious effort would be to consult the List of Books appended to Mr. Norwood Young’s Life of Frederick the Great, 1919, which is of service otherwise as a monograph. The Histoire Pittoresque of Clavel may be consulted about the Latin Charter. See also Woodford’s Cyclopaedia of Freemasonry, which contains sound criticism, so far as it goes.
Frederick William II
Frederick the Great was distrusted eminently by his father and provided substantial reasons, but it may be supposed that he would have been exonerated in his reign, could the old Elector of Brandenburg and first King of Prussia have survived somehow to see it. The nephew and heir-apparent of Frederick the Great was distrusted eminently by his uncle and during the eleven years that he was seated on the Prussian throne the uncle would have been more than justified from his own standpoint. Frederick William was forty-two years old when he ascended that throne. Any comparison between the two personalities concerns us only to establish a contrast of character. Except in literary matters, when he looked up to Voltaire, it may be said that Frederick the Great had no advisers; his successor was in their hands. The one led a life of separation from his wife and no other woman entered therein; in Frederick William II the sense-life was very strong and mistress followed on mistress. The uncle was a strong man and ruler, the nephew weak. The first was soured early, was hard, self-centred, irrevocably convinced of the essential wickedness of human nature, and—to sum up—he was an infidel. The second was amiable, a believer both in God and man, a kind of Christian doctrinally, but one who yielded over-easily to the will of others and was over-anxious to please. In respect of his personal failings of the moral order, he was always dropping down “like ruins to repent” and returning always with a haunted conscience to his sins. But the most salient point of contrast between the great and the little king resides in the fact that any notion of the world to come was apparently quite foreign to the mind of Frederick, whereas Frederick William is said to have been possessed by a “keen desire for definite and tangible assurance of the things unseen.” At a later date he would have been unquestionably an ardent spiritualist.
Masonic and Rosicrucian Life.—We do not know what drew him within the ranks of the Masonic Brotherhood, while he was as yet only Prince of Prussia. It may have been as a step to higher things, for in certain branches at least of the Rosicrucian Order, the Masonic qualification was a pre-requisite of Candidates at and before this period. In any case he joined this Secret Order, which was extending its ramifications through the chief countries of Europe and was then especially active in Germany and Russia. It fell out in the end that Frederick William II belonged henceforward rather to Rosicrucians than Masons, though I do not pretend that these two concerns really stood apart from one another in the later years of the eighteenth century. One of the alleged signatories of the forged Masonic Charter attributed to Frederick the Great was Wöllner, a prominent Rosicrucian at the Court of his successor for a number of years. I do not accept the signature or anything else in the Charter, but the connection of the two Orders in the mind of the age is illustrated by the selection made. There were otherwise several centres at which the two Fraternities found meeting-points, with or without intention, and they belonged to one another at the root, possibly more than either realised at that time of the world and certainly far more than the Masonic Brotherhood understands at this day, when there are few in the vast body-general of the Rites who understand anything fundamentally. Frederick William II belonged to that Lodge of the Golden Keys in which Zinnendorf is said to have practised his variant of the Swedish Rite. When he became a Rosicrucian he was given the Figurative Name of Ormesus Magnus, the remarkable connotations of which are unlikely to be recognised by any one in the public ways. Ormesus was a traditional founder of the Rosicrucian Order according to one of the mendacious myths manufactured in the eighteenth century, in the hope of putting back the chronology of origin to the beginnings of the Christian era. I am dealing with this invention and with the whole of Rosicrucian history outside these volumes. It remains only to say that an interesting monograph has appeared within recent years on Frederick William II, under the title of A Mystic on the Prussian Throne, 1912. It must be said, however, that the author, Mr. Gilbert Stanhope, has missed a great opportunity to deal with materials belonging to both Orders which lay ready to his hands or could have been found without much further research than he has undertaken in other directions.
Freemasonry in France
A study of Freemasonry in France within the present limits must be concerned with broad and general principles. It is not of palmary historical consequence at this day to determine when the Order was established originally in that country, who carried the warrants and whether there were any warrants in our modern understanding of the term. The question of Jacobite Freemasonry in France has been discussed in another section. The French story of the Craft Degrees is the story of a Rite which was overshadowed on all sides by the developments of the High Grades and was modified or transformed by these; but their particular history is that of the great Rites, each of which must be taken of necessity apart. We are concerned therefore (1) with the facts of the foundation of French Freemasonry, leaving rival claims and hypotheses for final determination as and when more satisfactory evidence may be forthcoming; (2) with the principles of transformation at work, being those governing the institution of the High Grades; (3) with the body of Ritual and Symbolism which has issued therefrom; (4) with the religious and political aspects of existing predominant Rites; and (5) with their relation to Freemasonry at large in other parts of the world, but more especially in the United Kingdom and the Colonies and Dependencies of the British Crown. It will be seen that these heads of consideration might outline the subject-matter of a substantial volume, of which however I can give only a first draft in shorthand.
New Views on the Revival.—Without forestalling conclusions which will be reached at a later stage, the development of Emblematic from Operative Freemasonry took place either within the bosom of the London Grand Lodge of 1717 or that foundation registered and published the accomplished fact of the development. In either case Emblematic Freemasonry emerged with a claim to antiquity and an immemorial past behind it. Both virtually and ostensibly its bid for recognition was made on the basis of this prestige, and however little antecedently it had dwelt within the common ken, such prestige was at once its warrant and the title of its future fortune. The more obscure and hidden it had been, the greater was the impression that it produced. As Paris woke up one morning and found to its amazement that the Compagnonnage had existed for centuries in France, substantially unknown outside its own trade circles, so London was awakened by the meeting at the Apple-Tree Tavern—and all that which followed—to the fact of Freemasonry in its midst, and, unlike the Compagnonnage, to an institution of wider appeal than the guild of any City Company. It was this which brought ducal and afterwards royal Grand Masters to the head of its affairs in England; it was under such auspices that it began to pass very quickly, but at first in a casual or spasmodic manner, across the English Channel into continental countries; so also it went overseas to the colonial possessions of England; while so also and speedily it came about that the London Grand Lodge had an irresistible claim upon the vestiges of Operative Lodges all over the United Kingdom. It had something to give which was at once old and new, something ex hypothesi which had been always theirs but of which unaccountably and save in splintered fragments they had known nothing till now. With all its defects and all its preposterous fables, indeed because of the latter, which in the main was an heritage from the past, Anderson’s first Book of Constitutions riveted the claims, and there is nothing to compare with its influence on the future story of the Order until there arose in France itself those pregnant developments which gave it a new motive, a new aspect, destiny and horizon. These were the circumstances under which Emblematic Freemasonry was carried across the Channel.
Early French History.—Under what conditions and by what ambassadors the Masonic glad tidings were first carried into France lies behind something more than the usual uncertainty which involves most foundations abroad. It is easy to set aside the obviously lying inventions, as for example—that a Lodge was founded at Arras in 1687 and at Bayonne about the same period. I pass over also some loose statements of French writers—the author of Le Sçeau Rompu, who affirms that Freemasonry entered France in 1718; of Abbé Robin, who says that it can be traced no further back than 1720; and so forth. More circumstantial stories are as follows: (1) that a Lodge of Brotherhood and Friendship was established at Dunkirk in 1721; (2) that Lord Derwentwater, at an uncertain date between 1716 and 1736, was the first to open a Lodge, which he did in La Rue des Boucheries, St. Germains, with some other Englishmen; (3) that this event has been referred to 1725, to April 3, 1732, and to 1736; (4) that he became Provincial Grand Master, which is impossible, since he was under the sentence of death for his share in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715 and would have been beheaded at that time—except for his escape to France—as he was on his return to England in 1716; (5) that on June, 24, 1738, there was a Masonic Festival at Limaville, and the Duc d’Autin was then installed as Grand Master in place of Derwentwater. As a point of comparative certitude amidst all this medley, it appears from the Freemason’s Pocket Companion for 1736 that a French Lodge No. 90, on the Register of the Grand Lodge of London, was in existence at this date; that it met every Wednesday at the Louis d’Argent Restaurant in La Rue des Boucheries; and that it was constituted on April 3, 1732. Other accounts connect it with the name of James Hector Maclean. We hear also of a Paris Lodge in the Rue de Bussy and of a Lodge at Valenciennes. There seems no question that in 1738 the Duc d’Autin was in a position of authority similar to that of Grand Master or that he bore this title and had presumably a certain number of Lodges under his obedience. He died in 1743 and was succeeded by the Comte de Clermont. In that year also it is said that the London Grand Lodge authorised and warranted for the first time a French Masonic headship under the denomination of La Grande Loge Anglaise de France. I assume that this legitimised the position of the Comte de Clermont, supposing that it ever occurred.
Sketch of Later Events.—The Order spread in France amidst the usual feuds and rivalries of an inchoate period: there were also the disturbing elements arising from Papal Bulls and occasional—if rare—intervention on the part of the police in Paris. According to French historians, an independent Grande Loge Nationale de France was created in 1756, with the Comte de Clermont still at the head of affairs. In 1771 Philippe Égalité, Duc de Chartres and subsequently Duc d’Orléans, became Grand Master, and two years later, or on December 27, 1773, the Grand Orient de France was founded, hypothetically to replace the Grande Loge, but they continued to subsist side by side till all Masonic workings were suspended by the French Revolution. Thereafter they rose from their sleep together, but on June 28, 1799, an Act of Union absorbed the Grande Loge into the bosom of the Grand Orient.
Conclusion on this Part.—Such, and in barest outline, is the general history of Freemasonry in France prior to the dawn of the nineteenth century, but separated purposely from the debate of factions, the embroilments of competitive obediences, the dejections and disillusions resulting from negligent or incompetent Grand Masters and from detested substitutes like Lacorne. It brings me to my proper point of departure for the purposes of this section.
The Growth of Rites.—That which went over to France was simple Craft Masonry, a fragmentary observance in Three Degrees, which proclaims loudly at the end of all that its experiment is not finished, which is left in expectation of coming time and circumstance to unfold that which will complete it. It is to be observed in this connection that at whatever period of Masonic evolution in England the Holy Royal Arch came into being there is no record that it visited France as such, taking up a local habitation and making those claims with which we are acquainted, at least until long after the eighteenth century had melted into the past of the ages. This notwithstanding, there is no question that either its traditional history went over or that the root-matter was met with independently and was woven into another ceremonial, as will be found when I come to the consideration of the Royal Arch of Enoch; but this fact is beside the present question. My point is that the Royal Arch, or any other Degree claiming to finish the quest of Craft Masonry and to restore all things, never travelled from England into France prior to the French Revolution, by which time the whole continent of Europe had done its work, so far as Ritual and Symbolism are concerned. Once more, therefore, that which went over to France was simple Craft Masonry; but that which arose therefrom was the most mighty growth of Rites, Grades, ceremonial observances and symbolism that the world has ever seen. There is more, however, than this, for that which arose in France flowed over into Germany, and between these two countries were colonised Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and afterwards the habitable globe, though not in the eighteenth century. It should be understood that I am not concerned here in affirming that the whole growth was valuable, for I am dealing at the moment with the bare question of fact, and if I speak of it generically almost in superlative terms it is because of the pearls of great price which are found in the shells of the Rites and the beauty of the mother-of-pearl; it is because of the great and glorious intent which motived many of the schemes. I care nothing at all if the fourteen hundred Grades in the chaos of Ragon’s numeration are mostly dust and scattermeal; but there is the Grade of Rose-Croix; the Grades of Spiritual Chivalry are also there; the mighty portent of the Strict Observance shines amidst clouds of false seeming; the Mystic City of the Knights Beneficent lights up the waste of symbolism, “as a moon on the lost through obscurity dawns.”
The Oration of Ramsay.—It was out of one little seed that—directly or indirectly—all this forest of a mystical Broceliande sprang up in the short space of something like fifty years. That seed was a now world-famous Oration delivered by Chevalier Andrew Michael Ramsay in 1737 at the Orient of Paris, in that Lodge of St. Thomas to which I have referred previously. The account of it belongs to a later section, and I can say here only that it represented Emblematic Freemasonry as originating in Palestine during the Crusades among the cross-bearing knights, and presumably—for it is not altogether clear—under the bannner of St. John of Jerusalem or otherwise of those Knights of Lazarus to which Ramsay himself belonged. All Masonic Chivalry arose out of this very curious affirmation, delivered ex cathedra by a cultured Christian gentleman who was the tutor of royal princes and behind whom stood the saintly and illustrious Fénelon. No hypothesis seeking to account for Masonry was more utterly at issue with all that stands for likelihood, none was more apart from evidence, and none moved the Brethren of its period or the unborn multitudes to come like this most fond dream. It has to be remembered that—as in the case of Craft Masonry, so in the High Grades and the Great Additional Rites—the false claim of a manufactured legend was the basis, almost invariably, on which every particular House of Symbolism was built up by its architects. We have to look at this fact from a different angle of vision than historical research can be regarded from at this day, though even a historian like Froude must have believed presumably that he was presenting an accurate picture of Mary Queen of Scots and a poet like Swinburne must have apologised successfully to himself for his dead and villainous dramas on the same illustrious lady. We adjudicate rightly when we relegate things like these at this date of the world to their proper place in the brothels; but there is a sense within certain limits in which the early craftsmen, who fashioned Masonic antiquities out of the available rough ashlars, call to be judged differently. I do not doubt that the father of lies in Masonry, and prototype of all historical procedure in that most clouded region, accepted many old fables of the Operative period as true in fact and believed that some of his own inventions were accurate inferences from the past. In the second edition of his Book of Constitutions he produced a List of Grand Masters by request of the Grand Lodge which cannot belong to such category, though it is difficult to determine how far his muddled head may not have deceived himself, even in this case. So did the great Fraternity emerge before the public eye amidst a maze of fables, even as early Rosicrucianism originated with a traditional history, comparatively sober indeed but an excursion into pure romance, though not untinctured with allegory. The factitious aspect of the Rosy Cross was accepted as literal truth and the symbolical aspect never came into view. When Desaguliers or others of that circle produced the Craft Grades, less or more in their present form, sincerity was doubtless saved by a mental relegation of the traditional history within the allegorical veil: it was not intended to be literal, but again it was taken literally, with such results that no one in the eighteenth century could have placed his hand on the allegory and shewn its exact location.
Masonic Historical Myths.—The traditional histories of the High Grades may be classed broadly thus: (1) those which are drawn by expansion from the Craft Legend and by which it is embedded deeper on the literal side: arising out of a fatal misconception, they are nothing and convey nothing; (2) those which are concerned with the building of the Second Temple, being that of Zerubbabel, and these contain very curious symbolical material vested in the guise of history; (3) those which are represented by certain Grades of St. Andrew; (4) those which are concerned with the restoration of the Master-Word in Christian Symbolism, like the Grade of Rose-Croix; (5) those Grades innumerable of Masonic Chivalry which are lineal descendants of Ramsay’s epoch-making Oration, but are not Templar Grades; (6) those which exist to establish a connection between Freemasonry and the Order of the Temple. I set aside the traditional and pseudo-historical elements in Hermetic, Kabalistic and Magical Grades, as they are no part of our present concern; but most of them dispensed with histories, and their traditions—such as they are—belong to their subject-matter. Of all and sundry in the classes which I have listed otherwise, it should be understood that they are historical in the antithetical and counter sense, meaning that they are false history; they are traditional furthermore in the sense of manufactured myth, being stories foisted on the past and not grown out of it, except in a few very rare instances where a root is found in ancient lore, as in the case of the Pillars of Enoch, described in the Royal Arch of Enoch from Talmudic sources. Finally, of all and singular, with perhaps this one exception, they form no part of a veil of allegory, and they are not an illustration of symbolism, though it may happen that a few of them can be read and taken as such—so to speak, at the interpreter’s own risk.
Scope of the Criticism.—The great Rites of French origin and the great Grades are analysed at their proper points in these volumes: there is no need to specify them here, even by their titles. Had France produced nothing but the Rose-Croix of Heredom and Kilwinning it would have added to Masonry that kind of transforming tincture which it could not have received in England during the eighteenth century, and such a completion under the Christian aegis as the literati of that period in these islands had not the faith to offer. But there were many others, and there was the kind of inspiration which went to the making of the whole, the kind of influence which—as we have seen—prevailed so far and wide that its results are found everywhere, even to this day. I have dwelt upon what is called conventionally “the seamy side” that I may not appear—as in this place only—an indiscriminate apologist. The historical criticism that applies in respect of the Rite of the Strict Observance—which was French in its motive and to some extent in its origin, although German in development—obtains, caeteris paribus, in the case of other Rites. There are some also in which mendacity and nothing else lay to the root of all. I should place the Egyptian Masonry of Caglaistro in this category, though he may have believed that he was reflecting truly the wisdom and mystery of Egypt. Hereof are the blots on the ’scutcheon of High Grade Masonry, and hereof is the substance of its priestcraft—a story of false decretals, as one might say, world without end. And yet it transformed Masonry, the witnesses of which in Great Britain are the Grand Obediences outside the Grand Craft Lodge, which that Lodge does not recognise as Masonry, though the Head of the Craft in England is the head also of important High Grades.
An Age of Eclipse.—Having established in this manner the glory of Freemasonry in France a word must be added concerning its occultation, which ended in the eclipse of 1877. Notwithstanding an anti-catholic spirit that was growing from generation to generation and could not do otherwise than grow, having regard to the sad estate of the sacred Gallican Church, the Freemasonry of France was Christian in the eighteenth century. Outside Blue Masonry, the Great Rites were almost militantly Christian: witness in particular the Rite of Philalethes, the Council of Emperors, the Rite of Elect Cohens—all the chief obediences. Masonic, Kabalistic, Hermetic Grades, even the things called Magical were flowed over by this light. The liberty, equality, fraternity were strands of the yoke of Christ; the Christian Mysticism of Saint-Martin was permeating in many directions, and a day dawned when it took over the magnificent Templar chivalry of the Strict Observance and worked thereon as great a transformation as the catholic scheme of the High Grades had worked on the Craft itself. We meet of course with minor and mostly negligible obediences which represent Voltairean free thought, but they never emerged into prominence.
Descensus Averni.—It came about, however, that the leaden epoch of the early nineteenth century fell upon the world of France, as it fell also on England: it came about also as a consequence that the Christian Grades were philosophised and that a colourless theism replaced Trinitarian dogma; an invertebrate doctrine of universal good-will was brawled from every rostrum and every oratorical chair; but it was of that kind which bids one look to one’s pockets and for a jack-knife in the boot of the other man. Yet a little while and the Revolution of 1848 uncovered advanced politics seething in the Lodges of Paris. Yet a little while and the Official Bulletins of Masonic obediences proclaimed war on religion; and presently to such a pass came the great objects and sublime principles of brotherly love, relief and truth that a grave social stigma attached to those who permitted themselves to be made Masons under the obedience of the Grand Orient, or even the Grand Lodge of France. It may seem almost incredible, but the thing could be done no longer in a social order with certain pretensions to self-respect—little as, generally speaking, it recked of religion or God.
France Alters its Constitutions.—The bourgeois dynasty of Napoleon fell for ever in 1870 and the infidel republic rose, widowed of the Divine Spouse and without God in the world. It transpired therefore in 1877 that as no one in the Grand Orient believed in God, that as religion was synonymous with priestcraft, while the Bible was a sacerdotal charter, the Name and Symbols of the Great Architect of the Universe were removed from all the Lodges, and no one exacted from another that faith which he repudiated himself. The Mother-Lodge of the whole world, in common with other obediences, remembered what Masonry stood for and from what it was held to have descended: they left French Freemasonry, as later on that of the Latin countries at large, to the intellectual Ishmaels and Pariahs.
Present Position of French Freemasonry.—The Masonic Obediences are (1) The Grand Orient of France, ruling about 465 Lodges and numbering about 35,000 Members; (2) The Grand Lodge of France, dating from 1895 and working the Craft Grades only. The Lodges under its obedience are a little over 150, the Roll of Membership being about 8,500; (3) The Supreme Council of the Thirty-third Degree, Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite; (4) The Grand Lodge, National, Independent and Regular, of France and its Colonies, instituted in November, 1913, “for the purposes of French Freemasons who desire a rapprochement with Masonic Obediences in other countries.” The conditions of membership include belief in the Grand Architect of the Universe, and the Bible is placed on its altars. It was recognised immediately by the Grand Lodges of England and the United States. There are very few Lodges at present under this Obedience. See Deux Siècles de la Franc-Maçonnerie, published at Berne by the Bureau International de Relations Maconniques, 1917.
The Grand Orient and American Masonry.—In the year 1919—owing chiefly to new relations brought about by the war—it is on record that five American Grand Lodges recognised the Grand Lodge of France and also the Grand Orient; that six others acknowledged the Grand Lodge of France only; that seven permitted their members to visit Lodges under the obedience of both Bodies, while four had licensed the practice only in respect of Lodges under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of France. On the other hand, four American Grand Bodies had made a decided stand against any measure of recognition, eleven had considered the matter without taking definite steps in either direction, and finally there are thirteen in which the subject does not appear to have been brought forward. Such a position is anomalous and in operation may prove difficult; but these objections pass out of sight in the face of those other and higher considerations on which it is to be regarded as not less than deplorable that recognition has been extended at all, until French Freemasonry has consented to revise its constitutions.
The French Rites.—I have said that the Grand Lodge of France works only the Craft Degrees. It is an offshoot of the Supreme Council, and according to one account it has never recognised the constitutional modification of 1877. The Supreme Council has of course the custody of the Scottish Rite, comprising Thirty Degrees outside those of the Craft; it communicates by word of mouth those which intervene between Master Mason and the Eighteenth Degree of Rose-Croix, as also those in like manner which intervene between the Eighteenth and the Thirtieth. The Rose-Croix and Kadosh are philosophical Grades so-called—that is, non-Christian. As regards the three highest Degrees of the Rite, no information belonging to recent times is available. The Grand Orient, under various modifications, has worked what is called the Modern French Rite since 1786. It comprises (1) Apprentice, (2) Companion, (3) Master, (4) Elect, (5) Scottish Master, (6) Knight of the East, and (7) Rose-Croix. The ritual and ceremonial state of these Degrees, apart from Divine sanctions and apart from forms of prayer, must be left to the imagination, for no particulars are available in respect of some, nor is there space or need to consider them in this section. The National Grand Lodge works the Craft Degrees and, I believe, the Holy Royal Arch; it is said to be in communion with the Régime Écossais Ancien et Rectifié, which culminates in the Knights Beneficent of the Holy City; but I have not heard that it has adopted on its own part any High Grades.
Bibliography.—Thory’s Acta Latomorum of 1825 is still an useful if not a very accurate work for the story of Freemasonry in France up to that date; but it should be taken in connection with Annales Originis Magni Galliarum Orientis, otherwise l’Histoire de la Fondation du Grand Orient de France, Paris, 1812, by the same author. For the introduction of Masonry into France, see also l’Encyclopédie Méthodique, s.v. Francmaçonnerie; the article was written by the astronomer Lalande. Other works of moment in the same connection are (1) l’Instruction Historique of 1783, issued by the Grande Loge de France; (2) Abbé Claude Robin: Recherches Sur Les Initiations Anciennes Et Modernes, 1779; (3) T. G. Kloss: Geschichte der Freimaurerei in Frankreich, 1852, characterised by the exhaustive patience of German research; (4) Findel’s History of Freemasonry. There is no need to add that the two histories of Gould are sources of information which are ready to the hand of every one. On the circumstances which led the Grand Orient in 1877 to “amend” the first Article of its Constitution of Masonry see Rapport du F.: Desmons sur un voeu tendant à supprimer, dans la Constitution du Grand Orient de France, toute affirmation dogmatique; Paris, 1901.
A simple mode of communication is not dignified under any rational obedience with the title and position of a Degree. Here is a judgment in brief on the Early Grand Rite, which has raised the device entitled Fugitive Mark to the rank of Twelfth Degree in its system; but it is only a side judgment, for the system is condemned otherwise on more serious counts. The thing connects by its name with Mark Masonry, but we are dealing in this case with a mark which is no mark, for the paper which should contain it is blank. The little secret is not communicated, however, in a Lodge of the Honourable Degree but in that of Royal Ark Mariner, with Father Noah officiating, who has observations to offer on the persecutions of Masons “at the hands of both priestly and secular authority,” but remembers also that we are living in a free country, “when to be a Mason is counted no mean honour.” A little sense of the ridiculous would have saved this unhappy Rite from many enormities. The blank or Fugitive Mark is said to be of very ancient origin, and—recognising fully that the mere affirmation has no evidential value—it is so simple, and at the same time so secret, that it may be well of considerable age. It is a Sign of Distress communicated in two forms, one of which I have mentioned in terms of substitution. They would prove efficient enough even in these days, but he who should give them would never receive an answer—unless perchance from two or three shepherds among rain-worn hills of Ayrshire.
There is more than one Funerary Ritual extant in Masonic Ceremonial, and the procedure—for example—in France differs from that in England. America, moreover, has an observance peculiar to itself. There is no need to say that the distinctions are without detriment to a general likeness, which obtains naturally and of obvious necessity throughout. With so-called Masonic Nuptials and Baptismal Rites, these things form what may be termed a class of Ceremonies pro Re Naia, and it cannot be said that there is any one of them which is marked by particular felicity of design, expression and so forth, or which can be called spiritually conceived. They are all less or more in abeyance for lack of innate vitality, and it is well perhaps that they have fallen into desuetude, awaiting that time when there shall arise in the field or kingdom of Masonic Ritual some Prince of its Royal Secret who will either give life and a deeper meaning to the old forms or furnish a new spirit with a glorious vesture.
The Legend.—So far as I am aware, it has been left to the Early Grand Rite to convert a Funerary Ritual into a Grade conferred under pledges—perhaps the most signal folly which has been conceived among the multitude of vain observances included among Side Degrees. The Candidate is covenanted to communicate its Mysteries only to members of the Rite, and on his own part is recompensed by the Legend of the Grade, which seems reminiscent of a familiar tale of Faerie called The Babes in the Wood. This Masonic substitute celebrates the good offices of a raven which “covered the body of the murdered Abel with leaves and twigs,” when Cain fled from the scene of his fratricide. The symbol of a Funeral Master is therefore “a corbie crow.” It counts as the Fourth Degree of the Early Grand Rite.