Secret Societies of All Ages: Vol 2 - Charles Heckethorn

XXII. Adoptive Masonry

466. Historical Notice.—According to one of the fundamental laws of Masonry—and a rule prevailing in the greater mysteries of antiquity—women cannot be received into the Order. Women cannot keep secrets, at least so Milton says, through the mouth of Dalila:—

"Granting, as I do, it was a weakness

In me, but incident to all our sex,

Curiosity, inquisitive, importune

Of secrets; then with like infirmity

To publish them; both common female faults."

But we have already seen that Cagliostro admitted women to the Egyptian rite; and when at the beginning of the eighteenth century several associations sprang up in France, which in their external aspect resembled Freemasonry, but did not exclude women, the ladies naturally were loud in their praise of such institutions, so that the masonic brotherhood, seeing it was becoming unpopular, had recourse to the stratagem of establishing "adoptive" lodges of women, so called because every such lodge had finally to be adopted by some regular masonic lodge. The Grand Orient of France framed laws for their government, and the first lodge of adoption was opened in Paris in 1775, in which the Duchess of Bourbon presided, and was initiated as Grand Mistress of the rite. The Revolution checked the progress of this rite, but it was revived in 1805, when the Empress Josephine presided over the "Loge Impe'riale d'Adoption des Francs Chevaliers" at Strasburg. Similar lodges spread over Europe, Great Britain excepted; but they soon declined, and are at present confined to the place of their origin.

467. Organisation.—The rite consists of the same degrees as those of genuine Masonry. Every sister, being a dignitary, has beside her a masonic brother holding the corresponding rank. Hence the officers are a Grand Master and a Grand Mistress, an Inspector and an Inspect ress, a Depositor and a Depositrix, a Conductor and a Conductress. The business of the lodge is conducted by the sisterhood, the brethren only acting as their assistants; but the Grand Mistress has very little to say or to do, she being only an honorary companion to the Grand Master. The first, or apprentice's, degree is only introductory; in the second, or companion, the scene of the temptation in Eden is emblematically represented; the building of the tower of Babel is the subject of the mistress's degree; and in the fourth, or that of perfect mistress, the officers represent Moses, Aaron, and their wives, and the ceremonies refer to the passage of the Israelites through the wilderness, as a symbol of the passage of men and women through this to another and better life. The lodge-room is tastefully decorated, and divided by curtains into four compartments, each representing one of the four quarters of the globe, the eastern, or farthermost, representing Asia, where there are two splendid thrones, decorated with gold fringe, for the Grand Master and the Grand Mistress. The members sit on each side in straight lines, the sisters in front and the brothers behind them, the latter having swords in their hands. All this pretty playing at Masonry is naturally followed by a banquet, and on many occasions by a ball. At the banquets the members use a symbolical language; thus the lodge-room is called "Eden,". the doors "barriers," a glass is called a "lamp," water "white oil," wine "red oil"; to fill your glass is "to trim your lamp," etc.

468. Jesuit Degrees.—The Jesuits, qui vont fourrer leur nez partout (who will cram their noses everywhere), soon poked it into Adoptive Masonry—for to get hold of the women is to get hold of the better half of mankind—and founded new lodges, or modified existing ones of that rite to further their own purposes. Thus it is that a truly monkish asceticism was introduced into some of them, by the Jesuits divided into ten degrees; and we find such passages in the catechism as these: "Are you prepared, sister, to sacrifice life for the good of the Catholic, apostolic Roman Church?" The tenth or last degree was called the "Princess of the Crown," and a great portion of the ritual treats of the Queen of Sheba. This rite was established in Saxony in 1779.