Traces of a Hidden Tradition in Masonry and Medieval Mysticism

Isabel Cooper-Oakley



As researches into its history are pursued, it appears more and more probable that the Masonic movement, to state it generally, was a sort of broad, semi-mystic and largely moral movement, worked from certain unknown centres, and deriving its origin from some ancient and not generally known basis. That is to say, its basis was, and is, unknown to all of those who do not recognise a definitely spiritual guidance in the practical, mental, and moral developments which from time to time change the surface of society by the introduction of new factors into the evolving processes of which life consists. Researches into Masonic literature must be made in many languages and countries before this view can be firmly established for the general world, but to the student of Theosophy who is also a student of Masonry it becomes more and more apparent that the movement which is generally termed Masonic had its roots in that true mysticism which originated, as an ideal effort, from the spiritual Hierarchy which guides the evolution of the world; and that, however much the branches may be separated from the root-idea, there is nevertheless a mystic teaching in Masonry for those who will seek below the surface.

One such searcher into the origin of Masonry gives the following interesting and suggestive passage in his study on the discoveries respecting the obelisk made by Commander Gorringe, which tend to "prove that an institution similar to Freemasonry existed in Egypt," and the writer proceeds:

According to our reading of history, the priesthoods of Belus, or Baal in Assyria, of Osiris in Egypt, of Jehova in Palestine, of Jupiter in Greece and Rome, of Ahura-Mazda in Persia, of Brahma in India, and of Teutates in Britain, were primitive secret societies, who instructed and governed the primitive families and races. It little matters whether we call the members of those priesthoods Belites, Pastophori, Levites, Curetes, Magi, Brahmins, or Druids; they were connected by secret ties, and intercommunicated from the Indus to the Tiber, from the Nile to the Thames. Hence there ever has been, is, and ever will be Freemasonry on our planet. Masonry was ever more or less connected with priesthoods till about the thirteenth century of our era, when Masons declared themselves Freimaurer (Freemasons). Since about that period priesthoods have ever denounced and persecuted Freemasonry. [23]

The evidences of the basic mystic teaching can be largely traced by watching the eddies and under-currents which constantly break the smooth stream of ordinary Masonry. Frequently do we find other and smaller bodies, whose mystic aim was more marked and whose occult tendencies were more decidedly definite, springing up within the larger organisation. Some few members with deeper insight gather round themselves others with the same tendencies, and thus we find formations of smaller societies constantly taking place. It is the main features of some of these that we are now going to outline, and after we have briefly reviewed the sources from which some of the leading Masons draw their historical Masonic tradition, we can pass from the general outline to the smaller societies, and it will be seen that the same traditions re-appear in them.

And in corroboration of the hypothesis just enunciated, the words of a well-known Mason may be quoted, who in summing up an admirable lecture which had just been delivered by a Brother Mason spoke as follows:

A thoughtful consideration of our principal ceremony irresistibly leads us to the doctrine that was typified by the pastos in the King's Chamber of the great Pyramid, and connects with the main characteristic of all the mysteries, which embodied the highest truths then known to the illuminated ones.

. . . The twelfth century witnessed an outbreak of mystic symbolism, perhaps unparalleled in our era, and gave us the religious legends of the Holy Grail, which point to an Eastern origin; this period coincides with the greatest popularity of the Templars, whose fall is contemporaneous with the decadence noticed by the lecturer.

Without pressing the argument, I may suggest that some portion, at least, of our symbolism may have come through a Templar source, Romanist yet deeply tinged with Gnosticism; while at a later date the Lollards (supposed to be inheritors of Manichaeism) and who were but one of the many religio-political societies with which Europe was honeycombed, possibly introduced or revived some of these teachings…. One thing is certain, that satisfactory renderings of our symbols can only be obtained by a study of Eastern Mysticism: Kabalistic, Hermetic, Pythagorean and Gnostic.

Down the centuries we find enrolled the names of philosophic teachers who veiled their doctrines in figures similar to those in vogue among the Rosicrucians and still more recent students, and often identical with the signs we blazon on the walls of our Lodges and Chapters. [24]

Many Theosophical students will find such utterances of immense value, as showing the view held by a Masonic authority of such well-known repute as Mr. E. Macbean, I.G., with regard to some, at any rate, of the Eastern links with modern Masonry. [25] Mr. Gould, the lecturer, also made the following suggestive remarks:

With regard to the derivations of Masonry, there are, briefly, three possibilities.

It may have come down to us

  1. Through a strictly Masonic Channel.
  2. Through the Rosicrucians.
  3. Through a variety of defunct societies, whose usages and customs have been appropriated, not inherited, by the Freemasons.

The views thus put forward by these two authorities coincide perfectly with those of many German and Italian mystic writers of the last century and those preceding it. We will, therefore, investigate the early traditions in order to trace the links which bind them together, and join the chain to the yet more remote spiritual centre hidden, though not lost, in the clouds of time, and in piecing together the fragments of these esoteric links it is better to begin with the views of a well-known Italian Mason, for it is to the "Sons of the Widow" we must look for help in revivifying the ancient spiritual truths of a once esoteric Masonry. The writer from whom we quote believed profoundly in Masonry and writes of it as one who knows that it was a vehicle for conveying spiritual mysteries to the people: Thus he writes [26] of the early history of Masonry:

Three centuries had passed since the origin of Christianity when at this epoch of barbarism there arose in the same Persia whence so many teachings had gone forth, a philosopher who wished to lead back the confused spirit of men to the cult of the only true God. He was called Manes. Some of the uninstructed have regarded him as the first originator of our Order, and the creator of our doctrines.

Manes lived under the Persian King Sopares. He endeavoured to recall to life in their entire purity the mysteries and the religion of Zoroaster, uniting them with the pure compassionate teachings of Jesus Christ. The teachings of Manes were liberal, whereas superstition and despotism governed Europe. It is easy to believe that those who professed demagogic principles and a religion free from all that was chimerical would be persecuted. Thus the Manichaeans from about the fourth century were persecuted to the fullest by all the despots and by the Romish Priests. . . . The Holy Augustine, brought up in the mysteries of Zoroaster adapted to the holy teaching of Jesus, became his bitterest persecutor and the greatest enemy to the teaching of Manes which was known under the name of the religion of the Child of the Widow.

This hatred shown towards Manes by St. Augustine, and his zeal for the Christian Trinity doctrine, may have originated in the vexation which Augustine experienced at having been only admitted into the first degree of the mysteries of Manes. The Magi, who had recognised in him an ambitious and restless spirit, were thereby induced to refuse to him all advancement, and this in spite of his nine years study, which he made in order to be raised to the higher degree. This fact is sufficiently confirmed by Fleury, Baronius, and by Augustine himself in his confessions. After the death of Manes, twelve of his pupils went forth into all the parts of the earth and imparted his teachings and his mysteries to all people. They illumined as with a lightning-flash Asia, Africa, and Europe, as may be seen from Baronius, Fleury, Bayle, and others…. We have already said that still in the lifetime of Manes, his pupil Herman had spread his teaching in Egypt, where the Coptic priests and other Christians mingled it with the mysteries adopted from the Jews…. It was through these same Coptic priests and the Eastern Christians that both the mysteries of the Children of the Widow, and the cult of the great Architect came to us in consequence of apparently unforeseen events, and it will be seen that it was principally by means of the Crusades that they obtained a secure footing in the West. The mysteries maintained their existence under the name of the cult of the Great Architect of the Universe, a name that has its origin in the allegory of Hiram, which represented, in the mysteries, "the unknown God," the Eternal, and sole creator of all things and the Regenerator of all beings.

Thus does Reghellini da Schio write, as he traces the Masonic ancestry back to the pre-Christian period, and he continues:

Bossuet in his Histoire des Variations, IV., says that in the middle ages the Christian sects, and especially the Manichaeans and Gnostics, had concealed themselves as much as possible in the Orthodox Church itself: the remainder of the Manichaeans who had maintained themselves only too well in the East, crowded into the Latin Church. Montfaucon, VII., p. 271, says when he speaks of the religion of the Egyptians, that the heresy of the good and evil principles which had been upheld by Manichaeans, had at various times brought forth in the Church great disorder, and he asserts that in the East….these doctrines existed at the time of the Crusades, the long time that elapsed during the wars of the Crusaders gave them the opportunity of being admitted into all the mysteries of the Children of the Widow, the teachings of the Great Architect of the world, and of both principles….the Crusaders who had been admitted to the mysteries of the Children of the Widow and initiated therein, imparted them, on their return home, to their pupils in Europe during the sojourn of the Crusaders with the Mussulmans, all kinds of theological investigations were instituted. These led the Crusaders deeper into the faith in the Great Architect of the world…

And again in another passage (p. 46) he adds:

In spite of the religious and political changes that followed upon the conquests of the Saracens in Asia, Africa, and Europe; in spite of the persecutions introduced by them, the doctrines as to the unity of God was able to maintain itself by means of the Mysteries in Palestine, Syria, and Egypt, more especially, however, in the neighbourhood of Thebes; for here the Christians and Coptic priests preserved, in the lap of their solitude, the teachings communicated to them by Hesman, the pupil of Manes, a teaching which later passed over into Europe. [27]

Passing on from these important and interesting indications to the more detailed aspect of our subject we find that at a later period many of the semi-Masonic bodies had "Unknown Heads," and more especially those whose aims were avowedly occult, this being the term which was applied in Germany, Austria and Hungary to those organisations that did not make public the sources from which their teachings were derived, nor say from whom their inspiration came. To find the origin of such secrecy we must turn back to the early history of the Masonic tradition and sketch briefly what is told us by a Mason of the early part of this century, when dealing with this historic secrecy. He tells us:

We find among all the priests of ancient peoples, and in order that none but really capable and worthy men should be associated with their offices and studies, they instituted forms of probation and examination upon which followed some kind of initiation. Now as the oldest writers ascribed such mysteries and initiations to the Egyptian Priests, it is very probable that they already existed before the downfall of that people, for we find traces of them in equally ancient nations and perceive from the likeness of their fundamental principles and of the teaching and customs of their priests, that they must have had a common origin. Among the Chaldeans the Magi dwelt on the summits of the mountains, and among the Celtic races the Druids lived in the quiet solitude of the forests. Among the Indians and Ethiopians the Brahmins and Gymnosophists had localities specially dedicated to them, and among the Egyptians the Priests had intricate dwelling-places far beneath the surface of the earth. All had their symbols and distinctive signs, and owed their fame only to the secrecy of their initiation.

The secrets of Antiquity had a twofold aim. In the first case Religion was chosen as the object of care; the greater the mysteries the more eternally secret were they to be kept from the people. The aim in the second case was to guard the Wisdom of all things. He who would be initiated must be a man of upright character and true mental power. The sacred mysteries fell into decay with the Roman Empire, the flourishing and spread of the Christian religion being the chief cause of this decadence. The initiation into the mysteries of the Wisdom was however of much longer duration. They changed only from time to time either the name, the inner constitution, the degrees and various kinds of knowledge bound up in these, or even the nature of the union itself. The men, who were known under the name of Magi, or the White Masters, made one of their most important aims the true knowledge of the human heart, which lay always open before their eyes. To them alone was entrusted the bringing up of Kings and the great of the earth, for they alone could understand science as well as art, and careless of all prejudice taught a simple and natural Theology, which based itself upon the worship of a Supreme Being.

Because, however, their method of teaching was symbolical, many errors of which they were entirely incapable were ascribed to them on account of their numerous hieroglyphics. The Magi of Memphis and Heliopolis were held in such esteem, and their renown was so widespread that the greatest heroes of war, philosophers, and strangers of the highest rank journeyed to Egypt and sought to be initiated by the Priests in order to learn the secrets of the Priesthood. From among these priests Lycurgus and Solon drew a part of their system of philosophy; and Orpheus was also initiated by them, and by this means enabled to introduce into his own land, festivals from which the Greek mythology afterwards arose. Thales also was instructed by them, Pythagoras received from the same source his doctrine of Metempsychosis, Herodotus obtained much information, and Democritus his secrets. Moses also, who was brought up by the Magi, used his knowledge of the mysteries to free the Israelites from Egyptian bondage and lead them to the service of the true God. It is well known that Moses prescribed certain probation for his Levites, and that the secrets of the Priesthood were inaccessible to the rest of the Israelites, and this principle ruled till the time of Solomon. [28]

And this policy of silence was a wise one, for the bitter vituperations which were showered on the heads of the few who were the exoteric leaders in such organizations, demonstrated the wisdom which guarded the personalities of the real leaders. Such work was better done by small groups, and this appears to have been the view held by those leaders with whom the student does come into contact. Some few of these groups in the last century have already been cited, [29] but it will be as well to repeat their titles, which run as follows:

  1. The Canons of the Holy Sepulchre.
  2. The Canons of the Holy Temple of Jerusalem.
  3. The Beneficent Knights of the Holy City (The Strict Observance).
  4. The Clergy of Nicosia in the Island of Cyprus.
  5. The Clergy of Auvergne.
  6. The Knights of Providence (The Order of the Knights of St. Joachim).
  7. The African Brothers.
  8. The Knights of Light (The Order of Fratres Lucis).
  9. The Asiatic Brothers (The Order of the Knights of St. John of Asia).

These Societies do not belong to any one country in particular, for we find ramifications of them appearing, disappearing and re-appearing, like beacon lights, in Austria, Hungary, Italy, France, Sweden, and Russia. England was the least prolific soil in the early centuries for the implanting of this mystic seed. In Scotland and Ireland, however, that light shone more clearly than in England. But in Austria and the Danubian Provinces mysticism grew apace for a short and happy while, and so a few words about Austria in particular may be said before passing on.

Says Ludwig Abafi, in his Introduction to Pre-Historic Freemasonry in Austria and Hungary: [30]

It is proved that the Emperor Rudolph I., even in the year 1275, authorised an Order of Masons, whilst Pope Nicholas III., in the year 1278, granted to the Brotherhood of Stonemasons at Strassburg, a letter of Indulgence which was renewed by all his successors down to Benedict XII. in 1340. The oldest order of German Masons arises in the year 1307; next follow the so-called Vienna Witnesses of 1412, 1430, and 2435; then the Strassburg Order of Lodges of 1495; that of Torgau of 1462, and finally sixteen different Orders on to i5oo, and to the following centuries for Spires, Regensburg, Saxon-Altenburg, Strassburg, Vienna, and the Tyrol.

At this period the Roman Church appears to have made various futile efforts to retain a hold upon these Masons, but without tangible result. For the forces at the back of these movements prevented the destruction of a new free spiritual growth by the Roman power. At this period also came those great souls, burning for freedom, who worked the Reformation, [31] and although that work and those reforms were dwarfed of their full growth by the natural crudity and narrowness of the human mind, nevertheless the dogmatic and mind-killing power of Rome was materially thwarted, and the spirit in the teaching of the Master Christ set free from those trammels. At all events, Abafi proceeds:

Equally important in the formation of Freemasonry…. were certain religious communities and brotherhoods of the Middle Ages, which for the most part aimed at a return to the pure teaching of Christ, and at making its ethical form familiar to their adherents. One of these brotherhoods was that of the Waldenses, established by Peter Waldo in the year 1170 at Lyons. Their aim was the restitution of the original purity of the Church through the adoption of voluntary poverty, and other ascetic practices. But because of the doctrine of Transubstantiation they soon came into conflict with the Catholic Church, and as early as 1134 Pope Lucius III. excommunicated them, and Sextus IV. in 1477 proclaimed a Crusade against them. In spite of these attacks they have kept alive up to the present day, and have spread into several countries, namely into Italy, France and Bohemia, and in this latter country we shall meet them again under the name "Bohemian Brothers."

A few words may be summarised from the same writer about some of the other mystic bodies in Bohemia and Hungary, lands full of occult tendencies. Among them are the following: "Die Brüder von Reif und Hammer," or the "Brothers of the Circle and Hammer," "Die Hackebrüdershaft," "The Brotherhood of the Hatchet," "Die Freunde vom Kreuz," or the "Friends of the Cross." This last society spread into the Netherlands, and had its greatest success in the latter part of the 17th Century. The "Brothers of the Cross" [32] were still holding their meetings in 1785: they had many members in Wallachia, and still more in Transylvania. [33] Brabbée in his Masonic studies says: It consisted principally of

Older men and those who were generally reputed wise, and therefore of the prominent leaders of the Brotherhood, who here, in the Metropolis of the Kingdom, formed a kind of stronghold of the "inner East."

The last expression is worthy of our notice, for it shows how the minds of men were turning, even in Masonic Circles, to the Eastern teachings. Abafi also says that a great and moulding force was exercised at this period on the form of Freemasonry by Jan Amos Komensky (latinised Comenius) who was born at Brünn, in Bohemia, in 1592, and who became a chaplain of the Bohemian Brothers in 1618. When the civil wars began Komensky lost wife, child, and property, and was exiled from Austria like all other non-Catholics. He escaped to Poland, turned his thoughts to educational matters, and became famous in Sweden, Hungary, and England.

Komensky was actively interested in the Rosicrucian movement, and joined John Valentinus Andreas in his work in that body. In 1650 Komensky was invited to Hungary and Transylvania by the Prince Ragozcy, where he stayed four years. It is doubtless partly owing to his influence that the Rosicrucian movement spread so widely in these countries. His philosophical and metaphysical views were so widely spread, that when Anderson [34] wrote his book on Freemasonry, he, according to Abafi, incorporated in his work a compilation of the most essential portions of the plans of Komensky. As Abafi phrases it:

It was reserved for an Austrian, a Moravian schoolmaster, the Chaplain of the Bohemian Brothers, to bestow ethical treasures upon a brotherhood in proud Albion, the home of the boldest intellects; to formulate the ideas, and to point out the way for a league which—after its transformation—was destined to embrace the noblest of all nations, and being brought to perfection by them, ordained to influence the whole of humanity.

The spread of mysticism in Austria and Hungary during the last century was astoundingly rapid; according to one authority [35] about five per cent, of the entire population belonged to the Freemasons, Rosicrucians, and other allied societies.

The vast majority of these Lodges must, he thinks, have been secret, for at the death of the Empress [36] only three legitimate and perfect Lodges existed. That is to say, only three Lodges in which Freemasonry as such existed without any more extended search into occultism. Another authority, Dr. Otto Henne-am-Rhyn, [37] promptly doubles this number, saying that there were 20,000 mystic students in Vienna. As this writer was an avowed enemy of mysticism, his views may be taken as not likely to exaggerate the numerical value of occult students.

In Austria mysticism had been aided by the kindly interest taken in such subjects by the Emperor Francis I. He had protected and favoured a very remarkable man called Seefels—or Sehfeld—a Rosicrucian and Mason, who had an alchemical laboratory at Rodaun, a small village about a mile from Vienna. This man was loved and respected by the whole neighbouihood for his kindliness, as well as feared for his powers, which were most remarkable. Seefels is mentioned by Schmieder in his valuable History of Alchemy, [38] as one of the "Seven true Adepts" who should appear in Europe in the course of the century. Schmieder also gives some very interesting proofs of his powers. But in spite of the Emperor's protection he was seized by the police and placed in the fortress at Temeswar in Hungary. A careful study of Schmieder's work would more than repay any student who desires to have evidences for occult powers made certain by history.

The following interesting notes [39] are quoted as showing the connecting link between the Continental mystic Masonry and England, of which but little has been heard in the outer world.

In a German tract, printed about 1803, and bound up with another tract of Fessler's, called Geschichte der Freimaurerei, occur the following startling statements, which I give to Masonic students for what they are worth.

  1. The Templars worked with the so-called "Magical Brethren" at an early period of their existence.
  2. A Rosicrucian MS. states that at Cologne, with the motto, "non omnis moriar," this Magical Union was created there in 1115.
  3. A MS. of Michael Mayer's still exists in the University Library at Leyden, which sets forth that in 1570 the Society of the old Magical Brethren, or "Wise Men" was revived under the name of Brethren of the Golden Rosy Cross.
  4. It is asserted that in 1563 the statutes of the Brotherhood were, on the 22nd of September, at Basle, at a meeting of seventy-two Masters of Lodges, revised, set forth, and printed; that the Lodges of Swabia, Hesse, Bavaria, Franconia, Saxony, Thuringia, and those on the Moselle acknowledged the headship of the Grand Lodge of Strassburg. That in the eighteenth century the Lodges of Dresden and Nuremberg were fined by the Grand-Master of Strassburg, and that the Grand Lodge of Vienna, of Hungary, and Stirrmark, the Grand Lodge of Zurich, which ruled the Swiss Lodges, referred to the Mother Lodge of Strassburg in all difficult and doubtful matters.

To these notes by a "Masonic Student" the following editorial note is appended:

There can be no doubt that the Theosophical and Magical Union above mentioned did exist as an organised Secret Society. The correspondence of Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim shows that he was a member of such a secret society, and it is further asserted that when he was in London he established a branch of it in that city. Fludd, as showing that secret societies existed in the Universities, has the passage "notwithstanding any allegiance which I may have vowed by a ceremonial Rite to Aristotle [40] in my youth." These societies used the double Triangles, or Seal of Solomon, and in the ruins of one of the old Temple Preceptories in France was found a copper medallion with the Lamb surmounted by this Cabalistic symbol.

Two points in this interesting note can be corroborated by further evidence. The Rosicrucian MS. mentioned in para. 2, is also mentioned on page 56 of a most valuable German book (to which reference has already been made) by Friedrich Gottlieb Ephraim Weisse, or Magister Pianco; it is called Der Rosenkreutzer in seiner Blösse (Amsterdam; 1780. Some extracts from it will not be without interest, for it refers to the older body of "Wise-Men," who were known as the "Unknown Heads" of many of the small societies. The conditions of entrance are briefly given as follows:

3. Whosoever wished to be admitted to the secrets, and afterwards to be initiated, must be a man of honour and of true spiritual power; and he must be already of considerable learning; for only those were accepted, of whom it could be hoped that they would be of great service to the Sacred Alliance….

10. The Initiates wore a triangle, symbolical of the three qualities of the Demiurgos—Power, Wisdom and Love….

The Masters of the second secret were Masters in the knowledge of all nature, and her forces, and divisions.

11. They were called Philosophers or the World-Wise. Their science was called the World-Wisdom….

12. These World-Wise occupied themselves in secret. No one knew where they met, or what they did.

14. But they had also secret sciences known only to the highest among them—called Magos, Mage, or the Wise Master, who taught the people of Divine things. He could do things which appeared quite supernatural. [41]

The author, speaking of the relation of Masonry to this older and more secret body, says:

Those Brother Masons (of the highest degrees) knew that they owed their brotherhood to the Initiations of the old Wise-Men; that the great part of their (the Masons') knowledge came from Them, and that without Their help they could do nothing. [42]

In another passage he says:

Long before the year 1118, there was a society which in the mysteries of the ancients took the place of the last and youngest grade, and which had the same position with the Tempelherren, who had adopted it with the other teachings of the Wise Ones.—They were the novices from all time. As in the time of the Inquisition against the Templars no one knew anything about the lower and last grades, and those who belonged to them had no public connection with them and thus lived without attracting any attention, they were overlooked in the cruelties of the time. One did not think of them. As the members of the Templars who escaped were few in number and died one after the other, the remaining members drew together to form a bond of friendship, to which end they drew up certain rules. This new society appeared in different forms and under different names, Cross Society or Brothers of the Cross, Noaites, and in later days adopted the name of Freemasons.

Length of time and the involved issues consequent thereon made those initiated into the Mysteries at length perceive that they must introduce an entirely different organisation into the community, in order to bring it into line with Christianity.

Those associates who still remained over from the collapse [43] of the community of Initiates, and who were scattered about the world, began to make fresh projects for a general union. They took the laws of their community and the laws of the Christians, which are known under the name of the Bible, into a real assimilation. They began to institute a parallel between the books of Moses and the memorials of the Magi, and from all this they evolved a kind of association, provided with certain laws, which could fit in with the Christian.

The association was, as is always the custom with innovations, in the beginning somewhat dark and involved; it was saddled with various meanings and names, which it would be quite unnecessary to repeat here, but which were all of short duration, so that the first ones called it the association of Magi and its members the Magi Brotherhood and associates. And this first association was formed in the year 1155 and lasted till the year 1117, though it underwent changes from time to time. The Crusaders had given rise to many societies and orders amongst the profane, and associations had sprung up which had quite differing objects. Amid innumerable ones there arose in the year 458 the Knights, with whom the Magi Brotherhood united and shared their principles and secrets with them.

The writer speaks "as one having authority" and knowledge also.

Turning to the particular date mentioned in the notes from The Kneph, we find that about this period, or a few years earlier, the first documentary evidence of the appearance of the Asiatische Brüder is mentioned by the Baron Hans Ecker von Eckhoffen in his treatise, Authentischen Nachrichten von den Ritter- und Brüder-Eingeweihten aus Asien (Hamburg; 1788). These writings, he says, date from 1510; showing that a body of mystics was known at that period; these Knights of Asia also called themselves the Knights of St. John, and it is a curious fact to notice that one of the Masonic records which has caused an infinity of discussion, and also of dissension, amongst Masons, is the celebrated "Cologne Record" which is dated 1535, and in which an Order of St. John is noticed. This charter has been a veritable bone of contention between materialistic and mystic Masons, and much polemical literature has been published on the subject. The mystics hold it to be true on external and internal evidences; while the materialists reject it, as they reject all such evidence.

In the record there is the name of Philip Melancthon—the friend and co-worker of Martin Luther—who appears as a Brother in the Order of the Freemasons. This document bears witness also that a secret society was known in various parts of the world, which existed before 1440 under the name of the "Brotherhood of St. John," and since then, and up to 1535, under the title, the "St. John's Order of Freemasonry" or "Masonic Brotherhood."

This Society [44] was reformed and re-arranged in the year 1717, the generally accepted modern date of the materialistic and non-mystic Masons. It became more atheistic in its views, and more democratic in its tendencies. Amongst other deeply interesting matter, the "Charter of Cologne" contains the following passage:

The Brotherhood, or the order of Freemason Brothers, bound together according to St. John's holy rules, traces its origin neither from the Templars nor from any other spiritual or temporal Knightly Order, but it is older than all similar Orders, and has existed in Palestine and Greece, as well as in various parts of the Roman Empire. Before the Crusades our Brotherhood arose; at a time when in consequence of the strife between the sects teaching Christian morals, a small number of the initiated—entrusted with the true teaching of virtue, and the sensible exposition of the secret teaching—separated themselves from the mass. [45]

According to the record, the following reason was given for the adoption of the name: The Masters of this confederation were called the St. John's Brethren, as they had chosen John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Light of the World . . . as their original and example. [46]

There is a curious similarity between this document in its phrasing and style, and the remarks made in the book by Weisse, in his Der Rosenkreutzer in seiner Blesse, some passages of which have already been summarised.

Yet another well-known Masonic authority bears witness to the value of the Cologne Record. Thus Mackenzie writes:

The documents are still preserved in one of the Lodges at Namur. They have been very hotly debated. On the one hand, Oliver, Reghellini, and some others treat them as authentic, and the antiquaries of the University of Leyden certify that the paper on which the register of the Lodge at the Hague is written is of the same kind as that used in Holland in the beginning of the seventeenth century. Now this register refers to the Charter of Cologne as being in existence, so that the fraud, if a fraud, is two centuries old. [47]

Our chief interest in all this detailed evidence lies in the ever-recurring testimony that it bears to that older Fraternity, which was the inspiring body at the back. But we must now turn to some of the Societies which had "Unknown Heads," as given in our list.

J. M. Ragon, in his Orthodoxie Maçonnique, gives the following interesting account of one of these bodies, more information on which will be added from other sources.

Order of the Architects of Africa, or the African Brothers (1767).

This Order was composed of educated and well-principled brothers. Their lodges, in Europe, were all closed, excepting perhaps that of Constantinople (at Berlin).

Only one of their Grand-Masters was known; this was the councillor of war, Köppen.

Their first degree offered a more extensive and complete instruction than all the degrees of the Scotch systems together. They said that the Lodges of St. John neglected the great end, and that instruction was hardly to be had there, and that the Strict Observance did not know the grounds of the continuation of the Masonic Order. They occupied themselves with hieroglyphics, especially with those relating to Freemasonry, which they sought to know well. They made a mystery of their goal up to the seventh degree, which could only be gained by zeal, perseverance and discretion. Their secondary occupations were the sciences, especially history and antiquities, the study of which they considered indispensable for the true Freemason.

Their first degree was symbolically called the Architect or Apprentice of Egyptian secrets.

They called themselves the Africans, [48] because their studies began with the history of the Egyptians, in whose mysteries they found indications of Freemasonry, although they placed its origin much later, as to which the Crusades gave them no light.

Their customs were simple and noble. They never laid any stress on decorations, aprons, ribbons, jewels, etc., but they liked a certain luxury, and sententious inscriptions with a sublime but hidden meaning. In their assemblies they read treatises and communicated to each other the result of their researches.

Their banquets were simple, decorum prevailed, and instructive and scientific discourses were given at them.

Admissions were given without any fees. Earnest brothers who fell into distress received much assistance.

They have published many important documents in Germany on Freemasonry.

This Order was established in Prussia, in 1767, with the assent of Frederick II., called the Great.

Its degrees, to the number of eleven, were divided into two temples, viz.:

First Temple.

  1. Apprentice.
  2. Companion.
  3. Master.

Second Temple.

  1. Architect, or Apprentice of the Egyptian secrets (Manes Musae).
  2. Initiate in the Egyptian secrets.
  3. Cosmopolitan Brother.
  4. Christian Philosopher (Bossinius).
  5. Master of the Egyptian secrets, Aléthophilote (Friend of Truth).

Higher Degrees.

  1. Armiger.
  2. Miles.
  3. Eques.

The Grand Chapter gave each year, during the life of Frederick II., a gold medal of 5o ducats as a prize for the best treatise or discourse.

In 1806 only one Chapter of this system remained, that of Berlin ('Constantinople').

On the supposed Origin of the Order, Ragon writes as follows:

When Frederick IL came to the throne, seeing that Freemasonry was no longer what it had been, and appreciating what it might be, he conceived the plan of an Inner Order which might at the same time take the place of a Masonic Academy. He made choice of a certain number of Masons capable of comprehending his ideas, and charged them with the organisation of this body. Among these were to be noticed the brothers Stahl, de Gone, Meyerotto and du Bosc. They instituted the Order under the name of an extinct society, The Architects of Africa, and established statutes in accordance with the views of the King, who on his side granted privileges, and in 1768 had erected in Silesia, by his architect Meil, a building specially designed for the Grand Chapter, and endowed it with an ample fund, with a choice library and rich furniture, the whole being of an elegance worthy of the Order and of the King.

This Order, without pretending to dominion, teaching tolerance, professing the primitive principles of Freemasonry, and making a special study of its history, prospered in silence and in complete freedom. Its chief statutes were to fear God only, to honour the King and to be discreet, to exercise universal tolerance towards all Masonic sects without ever affiliating itself to any. It was for this reason that they never submitted to the act of obedience of the Baron de Hund, notwithstanding all the entreaties that were made to them to do so. In the admission of candidates they observed the strictest caution. It is said that Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick was refused because he meddled with sectarian affairs. They devoted themselves to active researches into the history of the mysteries, of secret societies and their various branches, and cultivated the sciences, chiefly mathematics. In their works, carried on often in Latin, reigned morality, a high tone, a solid and unostentatious teaching.

Their library and their archives obtained through the protection of the King and of persons of distinction, among others the Prince von Lichtenstein at Vienna, some real treasures of manuscripts and documents, which no Masonic branch can boast. (Découverte sur le Systéme de l'Ordre des Architectes Afrkains, Constantinople. Berlin; in 8vo, 51 pp., 1806.) This article is taken from the Masonic library of the very kind brother, Th. Juge. [49]

Few monarchs have more thoroughly protected the Mystic Schools within the Masonic body than Frederick II., King of Prussia, well named "The Great." Not only did he protect them, but he also actively sympathised with them. While still Crown Prince, he was initiated as a Mason at Brunswick in August, 1738, and was from that period the staunch protector of the Masonic Fraternity; nor did he omit to penetrate very deeply into the early traditions of Masonry, far more so, indeed, than many who have fewer duties to engage their time.

Frederick the Great was, however, by no means the vague and dreamy mystic of popular representation; his Academy and Schools were the centres of the most brilliant intellects of the period, while the choice of his friends, literary, philosophical, and mystic, testifies to the breadth of his knowledge, and it also illustrates the manifold sympathies of his nature, both as soldier and mystic, philosopher and scholar; though not saintly, by any means, he was thoroughly appreciative of ideals that were beyond him.

His sympathy with mystics is evidenced by his selection of a librarian, for he gave that post at the Royal Public Library in Berlin, with the title of Academician, to Dom Antoine Joseph Pernetty (or Pernety), a man who had been a Benedictine monk, [50] but having become—like many others—dissatisfied with the Order, he applied to the Pope for a dispensation from his vows. This was no obstacle in the eyes of the King, deeply interested as he was in the researches of this well-known Hermetist and Alchemist.

That the opinions of Dom Pernety were publicly known is demonstrated by a writer of the period, who says:

A remarkable trait in the character of this Academician was, that he believed in the philosopher's stone, the mysteries of the Cabala, apparitions, patagonians, witcheries, enchantments, the race of giants, etc. But, notwithstanding this inconceivable and ridiculous weakness, he was beloved by everyone, and the more as, to his other excellent qualities, he joined that of the most perfect discretion in regard to such affairs as were at any time confided to his secrecy; never did a word from his lips give room for the smallest explanation or disagreement. [51]

Such is the comment on this mystic's character by one who, while adverse to his opinions, nevertheless renders justice to a personality which some traduced.

Dom Pernety was for some time in personal relationship with M. de St. Germain; and later on, he founded the Académie des Illumines d'Avignon, which was essentially Hermetic in its aims, and had also a close connection with the Swedish system. This was a secret body, but it was also under the general Masonic regulations. It was also in close union with the followers of Martinez Pasquales, and that bond has been kept up, for some of the treatises written by Dom Pernety are now being published by the Martinists in America. To pursue this interesting topic would, however, lead us too far from our "Afrikanische Bauherren" and their protector, the King of Prussia, with whom our attention is at present engaged.

The most succinct account of the opinions held by the leading Freemasons in Germany at this juncture is given by Findel, who, although a pronounced antagonist, shows very lucidly the underlying mystic basis on which the outward Masonic forms were supported, and it is of value to these researches to quote his testimony in full, illustrating, as it unwittingly does, the hypothesis put forward, namely, that all the societies similar to the African Brothers, the Fratres Lucis and others of like calibre, were but the outward manifestations of hidden forces which were attempting to indoctrinate the whole Masonic body with true spiritual, mental and moral mystic knowledge. Says Findel:

The Grand Lodge of Germany [52] further assumes, [53] that in the Building Fraternities [54] of the Middle Ages, besides their art, a secret science was carried on; the substratum of which was a real Christian mystery, serving as a preparatory or elementary school and stepping-stone to that and the St. John's Masonry, which latter was not a mere system of moral philosophy, but closely allied and connected with this mystery. It was conceded, that the Freemasonry of our days (St. John's Freemasonry) sprang from the Building Fraternities of the Middle Ages, but at the same time asserted that in the early ages there existed a secret society which strove to compass the perfecting of the human race, precisely in the same manner, and employing similar means, as did the Swedish system, which in fact only followed in the wake of its predecessor, being concealed in the Building Fraternities, so that our society did not rise from them, but made itself a way through them. The secret science, the mystery, was very ancient indeed. This mystery formed the secret of the Higher Degrees of the Rite, which were not merely kept hidden from the rest of the confederation, but also from the members of the inferior degrees of the system itself. This mystery was fully confirmed by documents, which the Grand Lodge of Germany had in its keeping…. This secret legend is the same as that of the Carpocratians, which is that Jesus chose some of the Apostles and confided to them a secret science, which was transmitted afterwards to the priests of the Order of the Knights-Templars, and through them to the Building Fraternities, down to the present Freemasons of the Swedish Rite…. The Swedish system teaches that there have been men of all nations who have worshipped God in spirit and in truth, and surrounded by idolatry and superstition have yet preserved their purer faith. Separate from the world, and unknown to it, this Wisdom has been preserved by them and handed down as a mystery.

In the time of the Jews they had made use of the Essenes, in which sect Jesus was brought up, and had spent the greater part of His life. Having been instructed by Him in a more perfect knowledge of Holy things, they had amidst persecution taught in silence that which had been committed to their keeping. [55] At the period of the Saracens and the Crusades they were so greatly oppressed that they must ultimately have sought for protection from without. As fate, however, would have it, seven of them, Syriac Christians, pursued by unbelievers near Bastrum, were rescued by the Knights-Templars, and afterwards taken under their protection. When they had lived there for a certain time they begged for permission to dwell with the Canons or Prebendaries of Jerusalem, as the life there led agreed better with their own inclinations and habits. This was accorded them, and Andreas Montebarrensis effected a union of these Syrians with the Canons, to whom, out of gratitude, they imparted all their science, and so completely did they make the priests of the order the depositories of their secrets that they kept them and handed them over to others under certain conditions.

Thus, this secret knowledge, which was continually being added to, lived on in the very heart of the Order of Knights-Templars till its abolition. The clergy were dispersed with the persecution that ensued, but as the secular arm did not touch them as it did the Knights, they managed to rescue many of their secret writings, and when the Knights sought refuge in Scotland, they founded a chapter at Aberdeen, the first Prior of which was Petrus de Bononia. The science was disseminated from this place, but very cautiously, first to Italy, then to the extreme North (Sweden and Russia) and France. In Italy Abbot Severin had been the guardian of the True Science. [56]

Findel quotes all this history in a purely sceptical way, with adverse remarks of his own of doubt and derision. Nevertheless the history of this ancient secret teaching is true, and it coincides in its details with accounts which come to us from other sources. In order that the "Hidden Sources" may thus be more clearly kept in view, we will quote the words of a well-known Masonic writer, Mr. Lawrie:

Although it will be acknowledged by every unbiassed reader, that Freemasonry has a wonderful resemblance to the Eleusinian and Dionysian mysteries, the fraternity of Ionian architects and the Essenian and Pythagorean associations, yet some may be disposed to question the identity of these institutions, because they had different names, and because some usages were observed by one which were neglected by another. But these circumstances of dissimilarity arise from those necessary changes which are superinduced upon every institution, by a spirit of innovation, by the caprice of individuals, and by the various revolutions in civilised society. Every alteration or improvement in philosophical systems, or ceremonial institutions, generally produces a corresponding variation in their name, deduced from the nature of the improvement, or from the name of the innovator.

The different associations, for example, whose nature and tendency we have been considering, received their names from circumstances merely casual, and often of trifling consideration; though all of them were established for the same purpose, and derived from the same source. When the mysteries of the Essenes were imported by Pythagoras into Italy, without undergoing much variation, they were there denominated the mysteries of Pythagoras; and, in our own day, they are called the secrets of Freemasonry, because many of their symbols are derived from the art of building, and because they are believed to have been invented by an association of architects, who were anxious to preserve, among themselves, the knowledge which they had acquired. [57]

The Dionysia, or Mysteries of Bacchus, were intimately connected with those of Ceres and perhaps still more with Freemasonry, says Mr. Lawrie; the rites came from Egypt, and there according to Plutarch Ceres was the Egyptian Isis, and Bacchus was Osiris.

The Dionysian artificers or architects were an association of scientific men, who were incorporated by command of the Kings of Pergamus into a corporate body, some three hundred years B.C. They had the city of Teos given to them. The members of this association which was intimately connected with the Dionysian mysteries, were distinguished from the uninitiated inhabitants of Teos, by their Science, and by words and signs by which they could recognize their Brethren of the Order. Like Freemasons they were divided into Lodges which were characterised by different names.

From some circumstances which are stated in these inscriptions, but particularly from the name of one of the Lodges, it is highly probable that Attalus, King of Pergamus, was a member of the Dionysian Fraternity.

Such is the nature of that association of architects, who erected those splendid edifices in Ionia, whose ruins even afford us instruction, while they excite our surprise. If it be possible to prove the identity of any two societies, from the coincidence of their external forms, we are authorised to conclude that the Fraternity of the Ionian architects and the Fraternity of Freemasons, are exactly the same; and as the former practised the mysteries of Bacchus and Ceres, several of which we have shown to be similar to the mysteries of Masonry, we may safely affirm, that, in their internal as well as external procedure, the Society of Freemasons resembles the Dionysiacs of Asia Minor. The opinion, therefore, of Freemasons, that their Order existed, and flourished at the building of Solomon's Temple, is by no means so pregnant with absurdity, as some men would wish us to believe.

We have already shown, from authentic sources of information, that the mysteries of Ceres and Bacchus were instituted about four hundred years before the reign of Solomon; [58] and there are strong reasons for believing that even the association of the Dionysian architects existed before the building of the Temple.

It was not, indeed, till about three hundred years before the birth of Christ, that they were incorporated at Teos, under the Kings of Pergamus; but it is universally allowed, that they arose long before their settlement in Ionia, and, what is more to our present purpose, that they existed in the very land of Judea.

The difference in the ceremonial observances of these institutions, may be accounted for nearly upon the same principles. From the ignorance, or superior sagacity of those who presided over the ancient fraternities, some ceremonies would be insisted upon more than others, some of less moment would be exalted into consequence, while others of greater importance would be depressed into obscurity. In process of time, therefore, some trifling changes would be effected upon these ceremonies, some rites abolished, and some introduced. The chief difference, however, between the ancient and modern mysteries, is in those points which concern religion. But this arises from the great changes which have been produced in religious knowledge. It cannot be supposed that the rites of the Egyptian, Jewish, and Grecian religions should be observed by those who profess only the religion of Christ; or that we should pour out libations to Ceres and Bacchus, who acknowledge no heavenly superior, but the true and the living God. [59]

The connection [60] of the Afrikanische Bauherren with the Templars and their secret traditions is common to all those mystic associations [61] who claimed, like them, to have deeper truths and more spiritual knowledge in charge for the human race.

Seeing, then, that the African Brothers have this link with other mystic bodies, we can investigate the details of their system with interest, and we find that the members of this school were almost without exception learned men and persons of position and rank, often selected by the King as suitable members. Devoted to mystic research, in general they paid the closest attention to symbolism and hieroglyphs.

The description given of them by Ragon differs somewhat in detail to that given by Lenning, which runs as follows:

The double character of the Order confirms what we know about the tendency and ritual of the first four grades. They are as follows:

Grade 1. Pupil of the Egyptian secrets (Menes Musae). [62] Here the doctrines of the true Religion, as concealed under the hieroglyphs which were already in the Egyptian Mysteries, were brought forward for the pupil. The first degree shows already that Moses was held as an important teacher of these doctrines even to the Egyptians.

Grade 2. The Initiates of the AEgaeic secrets. Here Moses was presented as one of the greatest of the Wise Men of the world, who instructed the Jews in the doctrines of religion from his knowledge of nature and the world.

Grade 3. The Cosmopolitans (or citizens of the world) had for its object the necessity for self-knowledge, because most ethical teachers failed in teaching this, for they depicted all human nature as being utterly corrupt, while instead of this, human nature was capable through self-knowledge of, and self-respect for, its destiny, of becoming a great instrument for the work of God.

Grade 4. The Christian world-wise men (or Bossonians) —was the expounding of the intimate connection between man and the world, so that to call each of them the Temple,' and to call Christ the Foundation Stone was the True Religion.

Grade 5. Was practically that of the Alethophiles, or Friends of Truth, which was identical with the society of that name, and whose tendency is expressed in the name.

After these five, or lower student-grades, there follow three higher, or inner grades, of which, however, only the names are known in the outer world. According to what is told, they were the same as the Freimaurerei Ritterwesen…. The names are variously given and are of but little consequence, this Order was never a very large one, for the qualifications as to learning and education were somewhat restrictive at that period. It appears to have had its Lodges in Berlin, and also in Oberlavsitz; there were some of the same Lodges in Cologne, Worms, and also in Paris under the guidance of a certain Kuhn. He came into contact with Baron von Hund and his system of ‘The Strict Observance' of which Von Köppen was a devoted member. [63]

The brief mention of the highest grade, the Knights of Silence, or Everlasting Silence, is interesting, for it has reference to an edict which was published from the "Unknown Heads" suspending all studies and all work for a time—the limit of time was not specified. There will be more, however, to be said on this point at a later date. The Minister of War, Herr von Köppen, was aided in his work of organisation in the African Brothers by Herr von Hymmen, a Councillor of Justice in Berlin; both men were Rosicrucians, and von Hymmen was an adherent of the Baron von Gugomas, another celebrated mystic in the last century.

Von Köppen and von Hymmen published the well-known work, Crata Repoa, or Initiation in the Ancient Secret Society of the Egyptian Priests. [64]

Another leader of this confraternity was Karl du Bosc, one of the chamberlains at the Prussian Court. He was also connected with the Rosicrucians and some of the other mystic sects. It confirms the accuracy of our hypothesis when we find all these public officers working harmoniously in different organisations, aiding all for the general weal, knowing well that each Society represented, as it were, one facet of the precious stone of truth which lay hidden securely beneath the surface.

Turning now to the links which connect the African Brothers with other mystic fraternities we shall find the Deutsche Ritter, or Kreuz-Herren, akin to them; the origin of the last-mentioned association can be traced back to the year 1190, where their history is closely allied with another interesting body, viz., the Maltheser-Ritter, or Knights of Malta; coalescing again with these we find the well-known Johanniter-Ritter, or Knights of St. John, whose history is so intimately interwoven with the Johannite Masonry, dedicated as it was to the two St. John's, the Baptist and the Evangelist.

Further, we find a curious secret sect existing in Africa of which Mollien gives a most interesting sketch. He calls this sect "Les Almousseri," and connects their community with the Freemasons as follows:

In Foutatoro, and among the Moors, there exists a sort of freemasonry, the secret of which has never been revealed; the adept is shut up for eight days in a hut, he is allowed to eat but once a day, he sees no person excepting the slave appointed to carry him his food; at the end of that period a number of men in masks present themselves, and employ all possible means to put his courage to the proof; if he acquits himself with honour he is admitted. The initiated pretend that at this moment they are enabled to behold all the kingdoms of the earth, that the future is unveiled to them, and that thenceforward heaven grants all their prayers. In the villages where persons of this fraternity reside, they perform the functions of conjurors, and are called Almousseri. One day Boukari told me, after attesting the truth of what he was about to say by the most solemn oaths, that being in a canoe with one of these men, there fell such a heavy shower of rain that he would not depart; yielding, however, to the wishes of the Almousseri, he set sail; "torrents of rain fell on all sides," added Boukari, "but our bark remained perfectly dry, and a favourable wind swelled our sails. I asked this Almousseri to explain his secret, but he answered that if he revealed it his brethren would infallibly destroy him." [65]

From many sources it is evident that scattered communities [66] with mystic knowledge, existed in various parts of Northern Africa. Such communities having nothing to do, of course, with the fetish-worship of the negro tribes, but adhere to the Egyptian tradition of mystic teaching, for they are off-shoots of the Manichean and Coptic teachers who spread the secret doctrines of Manes in Northern Africa; his disciples carried on this line of work immediately after his death. They kept up also a communication with the mystics in Europe, for M. de St. Germain at one period of his travels was in Northern Africa.

Some reference has been made to the fifth grade of the African Bauherren system, namely the "Master of the Egyptian Secrets "; "Alethophilote" or "Friend of Truth." This grade is given as the eighth by Ragon, [67] and Lenning in his encyclopaedia says:

There appears to have been some connection between this grade and the little known society of the "Aletho-philotes" in Berlin. This is probably the earlier sect which is alluded to sometimes, and it was founded, so far as is known, by the Graf von Manteuffel in 1736. [68]

The details of this system will be of interest to students, as it throws some light upon the older association, of which very little is told; they are given by Kundmann as follows:

  1. Let Truth be the sole aim of your understanding and of your will.
  2. Consider nothing true, consider nothing false, if you are not convinced about it by adequate reasons.
  3. Be satisfied with this, that you know and love the Truth; seek to impart it, that is to make it known and agreeable to your fellow-citizens. He who buries his experience, buries a thing which has been committed to his care for the furtherance of the glory of the Highest; and he thus diverts its use from humanity, which might have profited therefrom.
  4. Do not deny your love and help to those who know the Truth and are seeking it themselves, or who are honestly trying to defend it. It would be too disgraceful and contrary to the actual vocation of an Alethophilote (Friend of Truth) if you were to deny protection and defence to those whose object is one with yours.
  5. Never contradict a truth when you see that you are being overborne by others whose insight is more keen than yours. An Alethophilote would be unworthy of his name if he undertook to combat the Truth out of pride or conceit, or from any other unreasonable cause.
  6. Be pitiful with those who either are ignorant of the Truth, or who have incorrect perceptions of it; instruct them without bitterness, and seek to bring them into the right way solely by the strength of your arguments and by no other way. You would disgrace the Truth and make it appear suspicious if you were to fight for it and defend it with any other weapons but those which Reason gives into your hand. [69]

It is an interesting, but somewhat difficult, matter to understand the reason why such bitter war was carried on against bodies of men with tenets so high and aims so pure. As each of these semi-Masonic sects is investigated the astonishment of the student increases at the groundless accusations with which the ordinary historian is content.

In the passage quoted from Findel, he gives the traditions and Masonic tenets held by the Grand Lodge of Germany, and also by the Afrikanische Bauherren, these bodies being practically identical, the latter being but a more advanced and occult section of the Mother-Lodge. In the passage just referred to the Carpocratians are particularly alluded to; this Gnostic sect is of especial interest to students of Theosophy, seeing that metempsychosis—or re-incarnation—was one of their tenets; and if we summarise a well-known authority on the subject we get an identity of view which is remarkable.

These sectarians called themselves Gnostics. In most respects the teaching of their Founder coincides with that of Basilides. He held there was one principal virtue from whom proceeded all other virtues and angels who founded this world; that Jesus Christ was not born of a virgin, but a man truly born of the seed of Joseph, though better than other men in integrity of Life…. Virtue was given Him by the Great First Cause whereby He retained the recollection of things seen in a former state of existence…. Metempsychosis and the pre-existence of the soul was an integral part of the system. [70]

There is much more of interest in the summary given for the student of Modern Gnosticism or Theosophia, and it can also be readily seen that if the tenets of the Carpocratians were held by the African Brothers, the Templars and other mystic sects, then there was indeed a vital necessity for secrecy and silence, since these heretical views brought about the destruction of the Templars in the Middle Ages, and would have called forth the direst wrath not only of the Catholic, but also the Protestant authorities.


  1. Weisse, M.D. (John A.), Obelisk and Freemasonry, p.p. 94, 95. New York; 1880.
  2. Ars Quatuor Coronatorum. Transactions of the Lodge Quatuor Coronati, No. 2076. III., Part i., p. 31. London; 1890.
  3. Another Masonic authority says:—"A little later, or about the year 200 A. D., the most noteworthy Gnostic sect was a Persian branch, the Manichees; it was divided into three classes— Auditors, Elect, and Perfect, and the sect was ruled by twelve Apostles, with a thirteenth as President. Manicheism was always a source of trouble to the Church, and St. Augustine between the years 374 and 383 A.D., was an "Auditor," but for some reason could not obtain advancement, and so abandoned the system. The Rite had a Theosophical Gospel which taught that the basis of all religion was one. In 657 they had changed their name to Paulicians, and later Cathari (purified), Euchites, Bogomiles, and in more recent times still, Lollards. We could quote numberless authors of the early period of the Church to prove the origin of these sects from the Eastern Magi, but it is unnecessary and space forbids. In a few words, they were a secret speculative society with degrees, distinguished by signs, tokens and words like Freemasonry, and the Church of Rome from the 4th to the 19th century has hated them with the hatred of death, butchering and burning them by tens of thousands; for Christianity has shed more blood than any other faith. Yet the fathers often admit their great purity of life, but that was their sin against a corrupt priesthood and unpardonable. The Templars were Gnostics, on the evidence of the Papal trials in 1313, and Hugh, G.M. 1118, is said to have received initiation from Theocletus, Patriarch of St. John the Baptist and the Codex Nazareus." The Kneph, Vol. V., No. 4, 1885. "Records and Documents relating to Freemasonry as a speculative society," by John Yarker, P. M. , P. M.M.K. , P. Z. , P. E.C. , P. R. G. C. , &c. Chapter IV.—" Secret Theosophical Societies."
  4. The quotations are taken from the German edition of the work of Reghellini da Schio, La Maçonnerie considérée comme le Résultat des Religions Égyptienne, Juive et Chrétienne. Paris, 1883.

    See also Eckert (Edward Emil), Die Mysterien der Heidenkirche erhallen und fortgebildet im Bunde der alten und der neuen Kinder der Wittwe. Schaffhausen, 1860. Chap. vi., p. 77. "Die Manichäer oder die Kinder der Wittwe in Abendlande als Johannes-Brüder-und Schwesternschaft."

    In this chapter Eckert traces the connection of the Manichaeans or the "Children of the Widow" to the Johannes-Brüder of the West, and links them also to the German Building Corporations and Societies.

    Chap. vii., 307. In this chapter he links them by their signs and symbols to the Cologne Masonic body of 1535.
  5. "Acerrellos" Rossler (Karl) Die Freimaurerei in ihrem Zusammenhange mit den Religionen der alter Aegypter, der Juden, und der Christen: II., p. 11. Leipzig, 1836.
  6. Sarsena, oder der Volkommene Baumeister, enthaltend die Geschichte und Estehung des Frei-Maurerordens. Bamberg, 1816. The author of this work is not definitely known, but another Mason, Herr Z. Funck, wrote, in 1838, the Kurze Geschichte des Buchs Sarsena, Bamberg, and said of the above work: "There are few books which on their publication caused so great a sensation as did this one….the author of this work was an old experienced Freemason." The publisher says that 1500 copies were sold in the first month, and it went through five editions; it caused, moreover, a miniature Masonic warfare. Written by one who knew what Freemasonry should be, it naturally raised the violent opposition of those who wished to drag it away from its mystical standpoint.
  7. The Theosophical Review, xxii. 311.
  8. Geschichte der Freimaurerei in Oesterreich und Ungarn. Buda-Pest, 1890-1891. Pt. I., p. 8.
  9. Such, for instance, as John Tauler, the famous Dominican (born 1290, died 1361), who formed a mystical fraternity, the members of which recognized each other by secret signs. Then we have Nicholas of Basle, with his four disciples, the beginning of the "Friends of God." These men kept a watch on all that was going on in the world, and they had special messengers who had certain secret signs, by which they recognized each other; Nicholas was burned as a heretic. Much information concerning this sect is given in a MS. called The Book of the Five Men. (1377). See for details, Jundt (A.), Les Amis de Dieu au XIVme Siécle. Paris 1879.
  10. Sometimes called Fratres de Cruce.
  11. Brabbée (Gustav), Sub-Rosa Vertrauliche Mittheilungen aus dem Maurerischen Leben unserer Grossväter, p. 25. Wien, 1879.
  12. James Anderson, D.D„ whose work was published in 1723, under the title The Constitutions of the Freemasons; containing the History, Charges, Regulations, etc., of that Most Ancient and Right Worshipful Fraternity, for the use of the Lodges. A second edition, revised, was published in 1738.
  13. Freimaurer; Heft. I., p. 10, ed. by von Andrée. Gotha, 1789.
  14. Maria Theresa, wife of Franz I., and the mother of Joseph II. of Austria.
  15. Henne-am-Rhyn (Otto), Kulturgeschichte des Zeitalters der Aufklärung, v., p. 244. Leipzig, 1878.
  16. Schmieder (C. C.), Geschichte der Alchemie, pp. 527-542, 1832.
  17. See The Kneph, vol. iv., 3. August, 1884. "Masonic Notes."
  18. Says Accelleros (Dr. Karl Rossler) "The Gnostic principles were spread under the form of Aristotelean Philosophy at Paris and elsewhere."—Die Freimaurerei in ihrem Zusammenhange mit den Religionen der alten Aegypter, der Juden und der Christen, IL, p. 63. Leipzig, 1836.
  19. Op. cit., pp. 28, 30-32.
  20. Op. cit., p. 54.
  21. The writer is referring to the persecutions of the "Magian Brothers," who followed Manes the Reformer.
  22. The present Freemason body.
  23. Freimaurer Lexicon, Gadicke (J. C.). Berlin; 1818.
  24. J. G. Findel's History of Freemasonry, p. 721. Translated from 2nd German ed. with preface by G. von Dalen. London; 1866.
  25. The Royal Masonic Cyclopedia, p. 126. London; 1877.
  26. This tradition came from Egypt and passing along North Africa, swept over into Spain, and was at the foundation of the great Arabic mystic development which has made Spain immortal. The true name of this African tradition is Manichaeism, and in the Church of North Africa the Gnostic teaching lived for many a century: and among the Copts the tradition yet endures.
  27. Ragon, op. cit., pp. 239, et seq.
  28. Benedictine Monk of the Congregation of Saint-Maur, Abbot of Burgel in Thuringia, Librarian of the King of Prussia: author of Les Fables égyptiennes et grèques devoileés et réduites au même Principe, Le Dictionnaire Mytho-Hermétigue, and other treatises on Alchemy.
  29. Original Anecdotes of Frederic II., King of Prussia, translated from the French of Dieudonne Thiébault, Professor of Belles-Lettres in the Royal Academy of Berlin, II., p. 383. London, 1805.
  30. This Lodge "Zu den drei Weltkugeln" (The Three Globes) was established by Frederick II., who was its first Grand Master. It became the Grand Mother Lodge of Germany in 1744. It was also the protectress of the mystic element in Masonry for many years."
  31. Findel had been disputing the point held by the "Grand Lodge," viz., that the links of true Masonry are to be found not in England, but in Scotland.
  32. It has been argued with much force and apparent truth, that the building art was, in times of remotest antiquity, regarded as sacred, and existed under special concession and care of the native priesthood where it was practised, but this allegation cannot be accepted without qualification." Fort (George F.), The Early History and Antiquities of Freemasonry. Philadelphia, U.S.A., 1875, p. 363. And again, Mr. Fort tells us (p. 374) that in the years 643 and 729, "the inhabitants of Como had already attained to so high a degree of skill as to be designated Magistri Comacini, or Masters of Como." He further points out that their knowledge was obtained from the East, and directly from Byzantium, and then goes on to say "the secret arts thus obtained by the Teutonic races were perpetuated in fraternities or Guilds, whose existence ascends to the oldest forms of Germanic government."
  33. Compare with this statement, that a comparatively small body of ?nen had received the inner teaching, and had a mission to hand it on, what was quoted about the "World-Wise Men" in the Theosophical Rezriew, xxiii. 354.
  34. Findel (J. G.), History of Freemasonry, translated from the second German edition, by C. von Dalen, pp. 316-318. London, 1866.
  35. Symbols derived from the art of building, were also employed by the Pythagoreans, for conveying instruction to those who were initiated into their fraternity. See Proclus in Eucl. lib. XI. def. 2, etc.
  36. According to Playfair's Chronology, the Temple of Solomon was begun in 1016 and finished in 1008, B.C. The Eleusinian mysteries were introduced into Athens in 1356, B.C., a considerable time after their institution.
  37. Lawrie, (Alexander), The History of Freemasonry, drawn from authentic sources of information, with an account of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, p. 28 et seq. Edinburgh, 1804.
  38. They have both a common bond in Manichaeism, the Templars were "Sons of the Widow" in the earlier times, as well as the African Brothers. Both bodies again hold the Egyptian line of tradition, andmwere versed in its grand symbology and hieroglyph.—Lenning (C.). Allgemeines Handbuch der Freimaurerei, I., p. 7. Leipzig, 1863.
  39. "There is no portion of our annals so worthy of investigation as that which is embraced by the middle ages of Christendom when the whole of Europe was perambulated by our Brethren, in associations of travelling artizans, under the name of' Free and Accepted Masons,' for the purpose of erecting religious edifices. There is not a country of Europe, which does not at this day contain honourable evidences of the skill and industry of our Masonic ancestors. I therefore propose, in the present article, to give a brief sketch of the origin, the progress, and the character of these travelling architects. Clavel, in his Histoire Pittoresque de la Franc-Mafonnerie, has traced the organisation of these associations to the collegia artificum, or colleges of artizans, which were instituted at Rome by Nutria, in the year B.C. 714, and whose members were originally Greeks, imported by this law-giver for the purpose of embellishing the city over which he reigned. These associations existed in Rome in the time of the Emperors. They were endowed with certain privileges peculiar to themselves, such as a government by their own statutes, the power of making contracts as a corporation, and an immunity from taxation. Their meetings were held in private, like the esoteric schools of the philosophers. Their presiding officers were called "magistri." They were divided into three classes, corresponding with the three degrees of Freemasonry, and they admitted into their ranks as honorary members persons who were not by profession operative Masons. Finally, they used a symbolic language drawn from the implements of masonry, and they were in possession of a secret mode of recognition."—Mackey's Lexicon of Freemasonry. Charleston, 1845, p. 316.
  40. Ragon gives "Manes" where Lenning uses "Menes."
  41. Lenning (C.), Allgemeines Handbuch der Freimaurerei, pp. 7-8. Leipzig, 1863.
  42. Crata Repoa, oder Einweihungen in der alten geheimen Gesellschaft der Aegyptien Priester. Berlin, 1770.
  43. Mollien (G.), Travels in the Interior of Africa, translated from the French, edited by T. E. Bowdich, p. 161. London, 1820.
  44. These communities were chiefly Moors and Arabians, and we touch the Sufite mystic tradition along this line.
  45. See The Theosophical Review, xxiii., 358.
  46. Lenning (C.), Allegemeines Handbuch der Freimaurerei, i., 15. Leipzig, 1863.
  47. Kundmann, Die höhen und niedern Schuln Deutschlands, p. 769. Breslau, 1741.
  48. Blunt (John Henry, D. D.), Dictionary of Sects and Heresies, p. 102. London, 1891. See also Mead (G. R. S.), "Among the Gnostics of the First Two Centuries," Lucifer, xx. 207.