Secret Societies of All Ages: Vol 2 - Charles Heckethorn

XVI. The Relaxed Observance

436. Organisation of Relaxed Observance.—In 1767, there arose at Vienna a schism of the Strict Observance; the dissentients, who called themselves "Clerks of the Relaxed Observance"—the nickname of Relaxed Observance had originally been applied by the members of the Strict Observance, as a term of contempt to all other rites—declaring that they alone possessed the secrets of the association, and Knew the place where were deposited the splendid treasures of the Templars. They also claimed precedence, not only over the rite of Strict Observance, but also over all Masonry. Their promises and instructions revolved around the philosopher's stone, the government of spirits, and the millennium. To be initiated it was necessary to be a Roman Catholic, and to have passed through all the degrees of the Strict Observance. The members knew only their immediate heads; but Doctor Stark, of Konigsberg, a famous preacher, and Baron Raven, of Mecklenburg, were well-known chiefs of the association.

437. Disputes in German Lodges.—Before the establishment of the Strict Observance, various German lodges had already introduced the Templar system; hence disputes of all kinds arose, and a convention was held at Brunswick on 22nd May 1775 to arrange the differences. Dr. Stark presented himself; he was a disciple of Schropfer and of Gugumos, who called himself high-priest, knight, prince, possessor of the philosopher's stone, of the secret to evoke the spirits of the dead, etc. Stark declared to the members of the convention that he was called Archimedes ab aquila fulva, that he was chancellor of the Grand Chapter of Scotland, and had been invited by the brethren of that supreme body to instruct them in the true principles of the Order. But when he was asked to produce his credentials, he refused. The Brunswickers, however, thinking that the brethren of Aberdeen might possess some secrets, sent a deputation thither; but the good folks of Aberdeen knew even less than their German friends, for they knew only the first three degrees. Stark, though found out, was not to be put down, but wrote a book entitled "The Coping Stone," in which he represented the Strict Observance as hostile to religion, society, and the state.

438. Rite of Zinzendorf.—This was not the first attack made on the system of Hund. In 1766, Count Zinzendorf, chief physician in the Prussian army, who had been received into the Strict Observance, was struck from the list of members of the lodge of the Three Globes. In revenge, he founded at Berlin and Potsdam lodges on the Templar system, which, however, he soon abandoned, and composed a new rite, invented by himself, and consisting of seven degrees, which was protected by Frederick the Great. The new Order made fierce and successful war both on the Strict and the Relaxed Observance.

439. African Architects.—About 1765, Brother Von Kopper instituted in Prussia, under the auspices of Frederick II., the Order of "African Architects," who occupied themselves with historical researches, mixing up therewith masonry and chivalry. The order was divided into eleven degrees. They erected a vast building, which contained a large library, a museum of natural history, and a chemical laboratory. Until 1786, when it was dissolved, the society awarded every year a gold medal with fifty ducats to the author of the best memoir on the history of Masonry. This was one of the few rational masonic societies. The African Architects did not esteem decorations, aprons, collars, jewels, etc. In their assemblies they read essays, and communicated the results of their researches. At their simple and decorous banquets, instructive and scientific discourses were delivered. While their initiations were gratuitous, they gave liberal assistance to zealous but needy brethren. They published many important works on Freemasonry.