Secret Societies of All Ages: Vol 2 - Charles Heckethorn

XXIV. Schismatic Rites and Sects

478. Schismatic Rites and Sects.—The pretended derivation of Freemasonry from the Knights Templars has already been referred to; but Masonry, the system, not the name, existed before the Order of the Temple, and the Templars themselves had masonic rites and degrees three hundred years before their downfall. Those who, however, maintain the above view say that the three assassins symbolise the three betrayers of the Order, and Hiram the, Grand Master Molay; and according to the ritual of the Grand Lodge of the Three Globes, a German degree, the lights around the coffin signify the flames of the pile on which Molay was burnt. To the Rosicrucians and to certain German lodges Hiram is Christ, and the three assassins, Judas that betrays, Peter that denies Him, and Thomas that disbelieves His resurrection. The ancient Scotch rite had its origin in other false accounts of the rise of the Order.

In the last century schisms without number arose in the masonic body. It would be impossible in a work like this to give particulars of all; we have already done so of several; a few more may be briefly referred to. The Moravian Brothers of the Order of Religious Freemasons, or Order of the "Mustard Seed," was a German rite founded, circa 1712, by Count Zinzendorf, the same who afterwards invented the rite already described in 438. Some authorities assert this Order of the "Mustard-Seed" to have originated in England in 1708, and thence to have spread to Holland and Germany, and to have been adopted by Zinzendorf, circa 1712-14, when he was a student at Halle. The mysteries were founded on the passage in St. Mark iv. 30-32, in which Christ compares the kingdom of heaven to a grain of mustard-seed. The brethren recognised each other by a ring inscribed with the words: "No one of us lives for himself." The jewel was a cross of gold, surmounted by a mustard-plant with the words: "What was it before? Nothing." The members met every year in the chapel of the Castle of Gnadenstadt, and also kept the 15th March and 16th April as holy days. Nearly all the degrees of the Scotch rite are schismatic. In like manner, all the English and American orders of chivalry, and their conclaves and encampments, are parodies of ancient chivalry.

In 1758, Lacorne, a dancing-master, and Pirlet, a tailor, invented the degree of the "Council of the Emperors of the East and West," whose members assumed the titles of "Sovereign Prince Masons, Substitutes General of the Royal Art, Grand Superintendents and Officers of the Grand and Sovereign Lodge of St. John of Jerusalem." The ritual consisted of twenty-five degrees, and as it was calculated by its sounding titles and splendour of ritual to flatter the vanity of the frivolous, it was at first very successful; and Lacorne conferred on one of his creatures, a Hebrew, the degree of Inspector, and sent him to America to spread the Order there. In 1797, other Jews added eight new degrees, giving to this agglomeration of thirty-three pompous degrees the title of "Ancient and Accepted Scotch Rite." The Grand Orient of France, seeing its own influence declining, proposed advantageous and honourable terms to the Supreme Grand Council which was at the head of the Scotch rite, and an agreement was come to in 1804. The Grand Orient retaining the first name, received into its bosom the Supreme Grand Council and the rich American symbolism. But the connection did not prosper, and was dissolved in 1805. Again, what is called Mark-Masonry in England is, by some masonic authorities, considered spurious; whilst in Scotland and Ireland it is held to be an essential portion of Freemasonry. These are curious anomalies. About 1869 His Imperial Highness the Prince Rhodocanakis introduced into England the "Order of the Red Cross of Constantinople and Rome," which, however, being violently opposed by the Supreme Grand Council of the 33rd, came to an untimely end soon after. The S.G.C. threatened any member of the "Ancient and Accepted" who should dare even to merely visit this new Order with expulsion from the fraternity. And the S.G.C. actually sent a "Sovereign Tribunal" to Manchester to try a brother, who had snapped his fingers at the Council and said he did not care for the "Sovereign." How it all ended is pleasantly related in the pages of The Rectangular, January and April 1871.

479. Farmassoni.—There is a Gnostic sect in Russia whom the Russians identify with the Freemasons, and therefore call "Farmassoni," a corruption of franc-masons. The Farmassoni regard priesthood and ritual as a pagan depravation of the faith and of the true doctrine; they seek, as much as possible, to spiritualise Christianity, and to ground it solely on the Bible and the inward illumination of believers. The earliest traces of them are to be found at the end of the seventeenth century, and their appearance coincides with that of certain German mystics and theosophists in Moscow. The most important of these was a Prussian sub-officer, who was carried to Moscow, having been taken prisoner by the Russians during the Seven Years' War.

480. The Gormogones.—This Order was founded in England in 1724. The names and birthplaces of the members were written in cipher, and the Order was said to have been brought by a Chinese mandarin (a Jesuit missionary?) to England, it being in great repute in China (Rome), and to possess extraordinary secrets. It held a chapter at the Castle Tavern, London, but was dissolved in 1738. It is supposed to have been an attempt of the Jesuits, by the help of masonic ceremonies, to gain converts to Catholicism, and that Ramsay, the inventor of the so-called higher degrees, had something to do with it. I have vainly endeavoured to trace the origin and meaning of the term Gormogones. According to one account I have seen it was also called the Order of the Gormones, and was said to have been instituted for the reception of individuals not considered sufficiently advanced for admission to the lodges.

481. The Noachites or Noachidce.—This Order, founded in the last quarter of the last century, assumed the high-sounding title of "The Fraternity of the Royal Ark Mariners, Mark, Mark Master, Elected of Nine, Unknown, Fifteen, Architect, Excellent and Superexcellent Masons." They professed to be the followers of Noah—which no doubt they were in one respect—and therefore also called themselves Noachites or Noachidae. Their president, Thomas-Boothby Parkyns, Lord Rancliffe, bore the title of Grand Noah, and the lodge was called the Royal Ark Vessel. The brother mariners in the lodge wore a broad sash, representing a rainbow, with an apron fancifully decorated with an ark, dove, etc. Their principal place of meeting was at the Surrey Tavern, Surrey Street, Strand. They had a poet, Brother Ebenezer Sibley, who was a doctor of medicine and an astrologer to boot, who, like too many masonic poets, wrote indifferent couplets. This Order must not be confounded with the "Noachite or Russian Knight," which is the 21st degree of the Ancient Scotch rite.

482. Argonauts.—This Order was founded, for his amusement, by a Freemason, Konrad von Rhetz, residing at Riddagshausen, near Brunswick. He had been the master of a lodge of the Relaxed Observance, but fell out with his brethren, and ceased from visiting any lodge. Near his residence there is a large lake with an island in the centre. On this he built a temple and provided boats to carry visitors to it, where, if they desired it, they were initiated into the new Order. Persons of position and of either sex might claim reception as a matter of right, and many Brunswick Freemasons belonged to it. The Grand Master, or Grand Admiral as he was called, entertained all visitors free of expense, nor was there any charge for initiation. The greeting was "Long live pleasure!" The temple was built in the antique style, though with quaint decorations and a few paintings and engravings. There were also cupboards containing the insignia of the Order. The officers were styled Steersman, Chaplain, and so on; the others were simple Argonauts. The jewel was a silver anchor with green enamel. On the founder's death in 1787 the Order was dissolved; no trace remains of the temple.

483. The Grand Orient and Atheism.—In 1877 the Grand Orient abolished in the lodges the acknowledgment of a belief in God, introduced into the ritual in 1854, which has led to a rupture between it and the Grand Lodge of England. The influence of Masonry, both social and political, in France being universal, it is the foundation and support of the war made on the priesthood with a view chiefly to deprive them of the education of youth. The Spanish and Dutch Grand Lodges approved of the action of the Grand Orient in suppressing the name of God in the ritual of admission. There is no doubt that Continental Masonry aims at the abolition not only of the Roman Catholic Church, but of the human mind's blind surrender to any creed whatever.

484. Ludicrous Degree.—The following lodge was actually established about 1717. Some joyous companions, having passed the degree of craft, resolved to form a lodge for themselves. As none of them knew the master's part, they at once invented and adopted a. ritual which suited every man's humour. Hence it was ordered that every person during initiation should wear boots, spurs, a sword, and spectacles. The apron was turned upside down. To simplify the work of the lodge, they abolished the practice of studying geometry, excepting that form mentioned by Hudibras:—

"For he, by geometric scale,

Could take the size of pots of ale;

Resolve by sines and tangents straight,

If bread or butter wanted weight."

Some of the members proved that a good knife and fork in the hands of a dexterous brother, over proper materials, would give greater satisfaction and add more to the rotundity of the lodge than the best scale and compass in Europe; adding that a line, a square, a parallelogram, a rhombus, a rhomboid, a triangle, a trapezium, a circle, a semi-circle, a quadrant, a parabola, a hyperbola, a cube, a parallelepipedon, a prism, a prismoid, a pyramid, a cylinder, a curve, a cylindroid, a sphere, a spheroid, a paraboloid, a cycloid, a paracentric, frustums, segments, sectors, gnomons, pentagons, hexagons, polygons, ellipses, and irregular figures of all sorts, might be drawn and represented upon bread, beef, mutton, ham, fowls, pies, etc., as demonstratively as upon sheets of paper or the tracing-board, and that the use of the globes might be taught and explained as clearly and briefly upon two bottles as upon any twenty-eight inch spheres.