Secret Societies of All Ages: Vol 2 - Charles Heckethorn

XXIII. Androgynous Masonry

469. Origin and Tendency.—Gallantry already makes its appearance in Adoptive Masonry; and this gallantry, which for so many ages was the study of France, and was there reduced to an ingenious art, manufactured on its own account rites and degrees that were masonic in name only. Politics were dethroned by amorous intrigues; and the enumerators of great effects sprung from trifling causes might in this chapter of history find proofs of what a superficial and accidental thing politics are, when not governed by motives of high morality, nor watched by the incorruptible national conscience. And Androgynous Masonry did not always confine itself to an interchange of compliments and the pursuit of pleasure; still, as a rule, its lodges for the initiation of males and females—defended by some of their advocates as founded on Exod. xxxviii. 8—are a whimsical form of that court life which in France and Italy had its poets and romancers; and which rose to such a degree of impudence and scandal as to outrage the modesty of citizens and popular virtue. It is a page of that history of princely corruption, which the French people at first read of with laughter, then with astonishment, finally with indignation; and which inspired it with those feelings which at last found their vent in the excesses of the great Revolution. Every Revolution is a puritanical movement, and the simple and neglected virtue of the lowly-born avenges itself upon the pompous vices of their superiors.

470. Earliest Androgynous Societies.—Some of these were founded in France and elsewhere by an idle, daring, and conquering soldiery. As their type we may take the Order of the "Knights and Ladies of Joy," founded with extraordinary success at Paris in 1696, under the protection of Bacchus and Venus, and whose printed statutes are still in existence; and that of the "Ladies of St. John of Jerusalem," and the "Ladies of St. James of the Sword and Calatrava." They, as it were, served as models to the canonesses, who, till the end of the last century, brought courtly pomp and mundane pleasures into the very cloisters of France, and compelled austere moralists to excuse it by saying that it was dans le gout de la nation.

471. Other Androgynous Societies.—In the Order of the "Companions of Penelope, or the Palladium of Ladies," whose statutes are said to have been drawn up by Fenelon (with how much truth is easily imagined), the trials consist in showing the candidate that work is the palladium of women; whence we may assume the pursuits of this society to have been very different from the equivocal occupations of other Orders. The Order of the "Mopses" owed its origin to a religious scruple. Pope Clement XII. having issued, in 1738, a Bull condemning Freemasonry, Clement Augustus, Duke of Bavaria and Elector of Cologne, instituted, under the above name (derived from the German word Mops, a young mastiff, the symbol of fidelity), what was pretended to be a new society, but what was, in fact, only Freemasonry under another name. Immediately after their establishment the Mopses became an androgynous order, admitting females to all the offices except that of Grand Master, which was for life; but there was a Grand Mistress, elected every six months. Their ceremonies were grotesque. The candidate for admission did not knock, but scratch at the door, and, being purposely kept waiting, barked like a dog. On being admitted into the lodge he had a collar round his neck, to which a chain was attached. He was blindfolded, and led nine times round the room, while the Mopses present made as great a din as possible with sticks, swords, chains, shovels, and dismal bowlings. He was then questioned as to his intentions, and having replied that he desired to become a Mops, was asked by the master whether he was prepared to kiss the most ignoble part of that animal. Of course this raised the candidate's anger; but in spite of his resistance, the model of a dog, made of wax, wood, or some other material, was pushed against his face. Having taken the oath, he had his eyes unban daged, and was taught the signs, which were all of a ludicrous description.

In 1777 there was established in Denmark the androgynous order of the "Society of the Chain," to which belongs the honour of having founded, and of maintaining at its own expense, the Asylum for the Blind at Copenhagen, the largest and best managed of similar institutions in Europe. The Order of "Perseverance," the date of whose foundation is un known, bnt which existed in Paris in 1777, and was supported by the most distinguished persons, had a laudable custom, which might be imitated by other societies, viz., to inscribe in a book, one of which is still extant, the praise worthy actions of the male and female members of the association. But one of the most deserving masonic androgynous institutions was that of the "Sovereign Chapter of the Scotch Ladies of France," founded in 1810, and divided into lesser and greater mysteries, and whose instructions aimed chiefly at leading the neophyte back to the occupations to which the state of society called him or her. To provide food and work for those wanting either, to afford them advice and help, and save them from the cruel alternative of crime such was the scope of this society, which lasted till the year 1828. The fashion of androgynous lodges was revived in Spain in 1877. From the Chaine cC Union, a masonic publication, we learn that several such lodges were formed about that date, receiving ladies of the highest rank. Thus the Countess Julia A , belonging by birth to the Austrian-Hungarian nobility, and by her connections to Spain, was initiated into the lodge Fraternitad Iberica on the 14th June 1880; and the Grand Orient of Spain initiated ladies into all the mysteries of masonry, just as if they were men.

472. Various other Androgynous Societies.—The Society of the "Wood-store of the Globe and Glory" was founded in 1747 by the Chevalier de Beauchene, a lively boon companion, who was generally to be found at an inn, where for very little money he conferred all the masonic degrees of that time; a man whose worship would have shone by the great tun of Heidelberg, or at the drinking bouts of German students. The Wood- store was supposed to be in a forest, and the meetings, which were much in vogue, took place in a garden outside Paris, called "New France," where assembled lords and clowns, ladies and grisettes, indulging in the easy costumes and manners of the country. Towards the middle of the eighteenth century, there was established in Brittany the Order of the "Defoliators."

In the Order of "Felicity," instituted in Paris in 1742, and divided into the four degrees of midshipman, captain, chief of a squadron, and vice-admiral, the emblems and terms were nautical: sailors were its founders, and it excited so much attention, that in 1746 a satire, entitled, "The Means of reaching the highest Kank in the Navy without getting Wet," was published against it. Its field of action was the field of love. A Grand Orient was called the offing, the lodge the squadron, and the sisters performed the fictitious voyage to the island of Felicity sous la voile des freres et pilotes par eiix; and the candidate promised "never to receive a foreign ship into her port as long as a ship of the Order was anchored there."

The Order of the "Lovers of Pleasure" was a military institution, a pale revival of the ceremonies of chivalry and the courts of love, improvised in the French camp in Galicia. From the discourse of one of the orators we select the following passage: "Our scope is to embellish our existence, always taking for our guide the words, 'Honour, Joy, and Delicacy.' Our scope, moreover, is to be faithful to our country and the august sovereign who fills the universe with his glorious name, to serve a cause which ought to be grateful to every gentle soul, that of protecting youth and innocence, and of establishing between the ladies and ourselves an eternal alliance, cemented by the purest friendship." This society, it is said, was much favoured by Napoleon I., and hence we may infer that its aim was not purely pleasure; at all events, it is remarkable that a society, having masonic rites, should have given its services to the "august sovereign" who had just withdrawn his support from genuine Freemasonry.

473. Knights and Nymphs of the Rose.—This Order was founded in Paris in 1778 by Chaumont, private secretary to Louis- Philippe d'0rle"ans, to please that prince. The chief lodge was held in one of the famous petites maisons of that epoch. The great lords had lodges in their own houses. The Hierophant, assisted by a deacon called "Sentiment," initiated the men, and the Grand Priestess, assisted by the deaconess called "Discretion," initiated the women. The age of admission for knights was "the age to love," that of ladies "the age to please and to be loved." Love and mystery were the programme of the Order; the lodge was called the Temple of Love, which was beautifully adorned with garlands of flowers and amorous emblems and devices. The knights wore a crown of myrtle, the nymphs a crown of roses. During the time of initiation a dark lantern, held by the nymph of Discretion, shed a dim light, but afterwards the lodge was illuminated with numerous wax candles. The aspirants, laden with chains, to symbolise the prejudices that kept them prisoners, were asked, "What seek you here?" to which they replied, "Happiness." They were then questioned as to their private opinion and conduct in matters of gallantry, and made twice to traverse the lodge over a path covered with love-knots, whereupon the iron chains were taken off, and garlands of flowers, called "chains of love," substituted. The candidates were then conducted to the altar, where they took the oath of secrecy; and thence to the mysterious groves in the neighbourhood of the Temple of Love, where incense was offered up to Venus and her son. If it was a knight who had been initiated, he exchanged his crown of myrtle for the rose of the last initiated nymph; and if a nymph, she exchanged her rose for the myrtle crown of Brother Sentiment. The horrors of the Revolution scattered these knights and nymphs, who, like thoughtless children, were playing on a volcano.

474. German Order of the Hose.—Another order of the Rose was founded in Germany in 1784 by one Francis Matthaus Grossinger, who ennobled himself by assuming the title of Francis Rudolph von Grossing. He was born in 1752 at Komorn, in Hungary; his father was a butcher, his mother the daughter of a tanner. Grossing was a Jesuit, but on the suppression of the Order he led a wandering life, and eventually reached Vienna, where he obtained the protection of the father confessor of the empress, who in 1777 granted him a pension of six hundred florins, which, however, he lost by her death. He then lived by all kinds of swindling, and finally founded a philanthropic order, which, after the name of the supposititious grand mistress, the Lady of Rosenwald, he called the "Order of the Rose." He was very successful at Halle, where he lived, in initiating dupes, on whose contributions he lived in great style. "When he became too notorious at Halle he transmigrated to Berlin, where he continued his expensive style of living, got into debt, was arrested, but made his escape, after having swindled the Berliners out of twenty thousand dollars.

475. Pretended Objects of the Order.—The Order professed to pursue the loftiest philosophic and educational objects. None but men and women endowed with noble souls were to be admitted, and no member was to reveal the name of any other member, nor what was discussed in the lodges, to outsiders. Masonry was the model for the Order of the Rose, the latter adopting all the good, and rejecting all the bad of the former. The ribbon of the Order consisted of pink silk, both ends terminating in three points; it was marked with a rose, and the name of the member, with the date of his or her reception. Under this was a large seal, displaying a rose, surrounded by a wreath of the same flowers; the ribbon was further adorned with a kind of silhouette, supposed to represent the Lady of Rosenwald, so indistinct and blurred, as to look more like a blot than a portrait. Members also were furnished with a small ticket, giving the explanation of certain terms used by Grossing in his "Rules and Regulations"; thus Freemasons were called " Gamblers"; Jesuits, "Foxes"; Illuminati, "Wasps"; Ghost-seers, "Gnats," etc. The "Rules" were called "A Shell or Case for Thorns"; members, to recognise each other, would say, "Thorns," to which the other would reply, "Forest," after which each would produce his ribbon and ticket. In 1786 the Order counted about one hundred and tweuty members, but having no innate vitality, being, in fact, but a company of triflers, many of them withdrew on finding the whole Order but a scheme of Grossing to put money into his pocket, and so it was swept away into the limbus of fashionable follies.

476. Order of Harmony.—The Order of the Rose having collapsed, Grossing in 1788 founded, under a fictitious name, the "Order of Harmony." He published a book alleged to be translated from the English, and entitled, "Harmony, or a Scheme for the Better Education of the Female Sex," and wrote in the Preface, "This 'Harmony' is not to be confounded with that Chateau en Espagne, with which the founder of the Order of the Rose for some years deluded the ladies of Germany." The Order of Harmony was said to have been founded by Seth, the third son of Adam, to have reckoned among its members Moses and Christ, and to be the refuge of persecuted humanity and innocence. The founder abused princes and priests, proposed the establishment of convents, in which ladies were to take the vows of chastity, obedience, and poverty, but only for a year at a time; a bank was also to be founded in connection with them. And the writer finally proposed that a monument should be erected to the promoter of the Order as a benefactor of mankind! When Grossing was arrested in 1788 at Rotenburg (Prussia), for all kinds of swindling transactions, a number of diplomas were found among his papers, with the names of ladies who were to be admitted to the Order filled in. But the interference of the vulgar police brushed the bloom of romance off the scheme, and the Order of Harmony perished, a still-born babe! Grossing, however, managed to effect his escape, by making his guards drunk; what became of him afterwards is not on record.

477. Masons Daughter.—This is an androgynous degree invented in the Western States of America, and given to master masons, their wives, and unmarried sisters and daughters. It refers to circumstances recorded in chapters xi. and xii. of St. John's Gospel. In these women's lodges the banqueting hall is divided into East, West, South, and North sides (the four walls); the grand mistress sits in the East; the temple or lodge is called Eden; the doors are called barriers, the glasses, lamps, the wine is called red oil; to put oil in the lamps is to fill the glasses, to extinguish the lamp is to drink the wine, to "fire!" is to drink. The sign is to place the hands on the breast, so that the right lies on the left, and the two thumbs joining form a triangle. The word is "Eve," repeated five times. Gentlemen are allowed to be present. As the reader will have observed, the degree is an imitation of the Loge Imperiale d'Adoption des Francs Chevaliers, described in 466.