Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry


Valois College ⬩ Vaults beneath the Temple

Valois College

The authority—such as it is—for the existence of a Masonic Collegium under this name resides in John Yarker, and is likely to raise among the instructed a feeling approaching disdain; but there are certain matters connected with the claim, or arising from it, which it is preferable not to pass over. We can set aside in the first place the Yarker title itself, because it is an imaginary device. The reference is in reality to certain Knights of the Orient and Sovereign Princes of Masonry, who practised an Écossais Rite of Nine Degrees, identical at least by their titles with a system working at Lille in 1751, according to Kloss. Apparently on authority of his own Yarker says that it was established also at Marseilles so early as the year 1748. However, his Valois College is referred to the period between 1755 and 1762, during which it adopted two further Elect Grades, as well as those of Rose-Croix and Noachite Patriarch, or thirteen in all. Now, it appears—on the testimony of Speth—that Baron de Tschoudy certified in 1758, he being then at St. Petersburg, a Code of Fifteen Laws of Sovereign Princes of Masonry which he had received about 1755 under the signature of De Valois, Warden of the Seals of the Sovereign Grand Lodge of Knights of the Orient at Paris. Yarker states further that in 1762 this Grand Lodge changed over its title and became a Sovereign Council of Knights of the Orient. In 1766 De Tschoudy was still in active connection with this body, and is said to have revised the Ritual of the Third Degree, which related to Adonhiram. The system is termed democratic and opposed as such to the Templar interests of Clermont. At the last end it was taken into the general Receiving House of the Grand Orient. A work published in 1766 under the title Les Hauts Grades de la Maçonnerie is specified by Yarker as representing the Rite which he refers to the Valois College. It contained—superposed upon the Craft—three Elect Grades, three others relating to the Second Temple, and a tenth—identified as Patriarch Noachite, being those evidently of the Écossais Rite already mentioned.

Vaults beneath the Temple

In the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, who was of Cappadocia and was born circa 364 A.D., there is a legenda aurea concerning one of several attempts to rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem. It is said (1) that in the course of preparing the ground a stone slipped from its place; (2) that in this manner there was exposed the mouth of a deep cutting or well; (3) that one of the workmen was let down by a rope; (4) that on reaching the bottom he was up to the ankles in water; (5) that on examination he proved the place to be four-square; (6) that he met with a certain small column emerging above the water; (7) that a book wrapped in a linen cloth was laid thereon; (8) that when he was drawn up and the volume was examined, its first words, written in capital letters proved to be these: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” It was therefore a copy of the fourth Gospel. This story is the unacknowledged basis of the Grade known as Novice and Knight of St. John, in which, however, the gospel is supposed idly to have been lost to the Christian world for a long space of time. We may compare the Talmudic story of a subterranean vault supported by seven arches raised upon seven pairs of pillars and discovered by workmen engaged in preparing the ground for the building of the first Temple. It contained nothing at that time but was afterwards—according to the legend—made use of by Josiah as a depository for the Ark of the Covenant, when the destruction of the Temple was foreseen. At the building of the Second Temple other workmen are said to have rediscovered the vault and brought its contents to light. We come in this manner to see that the Cryptic Grades, the Royal Arch of Enoch and so forth are not modern inventions in respect of their traditional histories. The common basis of all is of course the literal existence of subterranean vaulted chambers beneath the site of the Temple. A foundation of this kind is not without its importance to our Emblematic Art, but it must not cloud the issues, which are of another order. In the proper understanding, our secret vaults are like our concealed treasures; they lie beneath temples which are not built with hands, and that which they contain is not the material Ark of a covenant passed away, but that which the Royal Arch terms the “Ark of our salvation.” It bears the true Mason to Eternal Mansions and the Everlasting Presence.