The Complex History of the Rite of Memphis-Misraim
This blog-post will explore the spiritual and historical continuation of the Rite of Misraim, the Rite of Memphis and the Rite of Memphis-Misraim through the individuals that received and transmitted the Rites from their conception until the modern situation. There are many ways in which the Rite branched out which led to cross-pollination and fertilization that brought new, unique and interesting developments. We will try to give a general overview of the history and developments of the Egyptian Rites.
Within the context of the western esoteric tradition spiritual filiation is an important concept that describes the spiritual transmission from an initiate to a candidate. The transmission has both a spiritual and administrative dimension and is thought of as containing the invisible life-blood or spiritual current of the Tradition. Esoteric instruction is often transmitted orally and not written down. For these reasons the transmissions between individuals are considered significant in telling the history of an esoteric organization such as the Memphis-Misraim.
The Rite of Misraim emerges in Italy somewhere in the 18th century. It was developed in the country that was the birthplace of a renewed interest in Hermeticism during the rennaissance. This exciting period gives birth to the famous Italian hermeticists Pico de Mirandola, Marsilio Ficino and Giordano Bruno. What emerges in Italy begins spreading through Europe and influences the emergence of Rosicrucianism in Germany.
This renewed interest in hermeticism and alchemy during the Rennaissance continues within circles of scholars that are connected to the platonic academies in Italy with epicentres in the cities of Naples and Venice. It is within this millieu that we find the actors who will become fundamental to the emergence of the Rite of Misraim and its unique hermetic-alchemical approach to Freemasonry.
The first Masonic Lodge founded in Italy was Lodge Fidelitas, established in Calabria in 1723. This Lodge closed its doors shortly after its founding. The second Lodge was founded in 1728 in the city of Naples and with the name ‘The Perfect Union’. It was around this Lodge that a system of high degrees was developed that will become the Rite of Misraim.
Central figures to the development of these deeply alchemical high degrees are di Sangro, Tschoudy, Cagliostro, Bédarride, Joly and Ragon. We will start our exploration of the history through the biographical lense of these important figures.
Raimondo di Sangro
Raimondo di Sangro, prince of Sansevero, was one of the most eclectic men of the 18th century. Among his countless interests were alchemy and esotericism. He was born in Torremaggiore into a noble family. His father was Antonio, Duke of Torremaggiore, and his mother was Cecilia Gaetani of Aragon. His mother died shortly after his birth. He spent his earliest years in Naples and in 1720 he was sent to the Jesuit Clementino college in Rome to be educated. In 1726 he inherited the title of prince of Sansevero from his grandfather.
Di Sangro became Grand Master of the Naples based Grand Lodge on October the 24th 1750. His masonic ideas had their roots in the rich platonic and hermetic intellectual tradition of Naples and its humanist academies going back to the early Renaissance. The first degrees that contain di Sangro’s alchemical teachings come from Louis Theodore Henri Tschoudy who was his most prominent French disciple.
Baron Tschoudy was born at Metz in 1720. He descended from a family originally of the Swiss Canton of Glaris which had been established in France in the 16th century. The most important events of Tschoudy’s life connect him with the Masonic institution of which he became a zealous and educated student. He was one of the most active disciples of the school of Andrew Michael Ramsay, a Freemason who published his theory that Freemasonry had Templar origins in 1737 in his “Discourse pronounced at the reception of Freemasons by Monsieur de Ramsay, Grand Orator of the Order.”
Tschoudy was an officer in the Swiss Regiment of his uncle Marshal Leonardo Tschoudy. While he was stationed in Naples with the Regiment he became the Master of a Lodge under the jurisdiction of the afformentioned Grand Master Raimondo di Sangro and it is in this period that he received teachings that will become the foundation for his own Rite.
Tschoudy was the creator of the Rite of the Flaming Star and the degrees that he developed for his Rite became incorporated in the degree scale of the Rite of Misraim. It is likely that he received these higher degrees from Raimondo Di Sangri or that the degrees were developed within a group of students under Di Sangri’s guidance.
Tschoudy saw the Flaming Star as an emblem of the “volatile spirit that carries out its work in bodies and that the universal spirit animates the divine breath, the central and universal fire that vivifies all that exists.” His thoughts on the Flaming Star give us a glimpse of the deeply alchemical and hermetic interpretations of his masonic ideas.
Several of Tschoudy’s degrees became incorporated in the Rite of Misraim and were placed at the very center of the degree system as the 47th, 51nd, 52nd, 53rd, 58th and 68th degrees. They are the most alchemical masonic high degrees that have ever been developed.
Alessandro di Cagliostro was an Italian adventurer and theurgist born the 2nd of June 1743 in Sicily. Cagliostro was the son of poor parents and grew up as an urchin in the streets of Palermo. Escaping from Sicily after a series of minor crimes, he traveled through Greece, Egypt, Persia, Arabia, and Rhodes and apparently studied alchemy.
For some, Cagliostro was an egotistic charlatan and for others he was a mysterious alchemist, healer and theurgist. He was well versed in alchemy, having, according to legend learnt it from the Order of the Knights of Malta. This is very unlikely because the Grand Master of the Order of Malta was decidedly anti-masonic.
In 1784 Cagliostro founds his Egyptian Rite of Masonry. He envisions a resurrection of the Mysteries of Isis and Osiris proclaiming that “All Initiation comes from Egypt.” It is important that we understand that by ‘Egyptian’ Cagliostro meant hermetic within a judeo-christian context. The initiation rituals of the Egyptian Rite of Cagliostro were brilliant. His Rite included the invocation of the seven archangels over the candidate and many described miracles and spiritual phenomena occuring during the initiation rituals.
Mathieu Ravignat mentions in his book ‘Quest for a Lost Rite’ that it is probable that the Chevalier Prince Luigi d’Aquino was his teacher. According to Cagliostro’s own writings it was indeed with him that he traveled to Naples at the time that d’Aquino’s brother was the National Grand Master of Neapolitan Freemasonry.
If Cagiostro received his alchemical teachings from Luigi d’Aquino in Naples, it is possible that Cagliostro’s alchemical Masonry had its origin in the academies of Naples. He spent much time in Naples in company of aristocrats. This makes it probable that he was also influenced by the hermetic school of Raimondo di Sangro. There are many similarities between Cagliostro’s masonic alchemical teachings and those of Baron Tschoudy. Their shared contact with the alchemist Raimondo di Sangri is a likely explanation for these similarities.
However, Cagliostro also had good contacts with alchemists and hermeticists who worked within the German tradition of Rosicrucianism and some of his alchemical ideas come from the Thesaurus Thesaurum, an alchemical treatise published by the Golden un Rosenkreuzer Order. Be it what it may be, Cagliostro was well connected with circles of alchemists and hermeticists throughout Europe and had received much esoteric knowledge through his travels.
Jean-Marie Ragon was a famous 19th century Freemason, author and historian. He was initiated into the Lodge Les amis du Nord at Bruges which was administered as a department of France at that time. He likewise belonged to the Lodge Le Phœnix of the Grand Orient de France and to the Rite of Misraim. He accused traditional Freemasonry of having materialized the original esoteric basis of the Tradition, a sentiment held by many Masons with an esoteric inclination during that time.
Ragon was associated with Francois Joly who developed a separate branch of the Rite of Misraim in France, which as we will see later is an important moment in the history for the Egyptian Rites. Through Joly, Ragon became a recipient of a transmission of documents from Naples where the Rite of Misraim had its origin. These documents related to the highest degrees of the Rite of Misraim of the 87th, 88th, 89th and 90th degrees. According to Ragon these degrees contained the complete esoteric science of Freemasonry once the understanding of the symbols and allegories was deep enough. He published a summary of these four degrees in his “Cours Philosophique et Interpretatif des Initiations Anciennes et Modernes” in 1841.
Rite of Misraim
This Rite of Misraim was founded in France by Charles Lechangeur, François Joly, Michel Bédarride and his brothers Marc and Joseph on 19th of May 1815.
Marc Bedarride was born in the South of France on the 4th of February 1776. He served in Napoleon Bonaparte’s Grande Armee and as an Officer during the Egyptian Campaign. After returning to Europe from the campaign he made his way to Naples where he was initiated into the Rite of Misraim in 1803.
Marc Bedarride claimed that pre-existing Lodges of the Misraim Rite existed in Naples, Venice and the Ionian Isles before he established the Rite of Misraim together with the help of his brothers in France.
The Beddaride brothers were responsible for the proliferation of the Rite of Misraim in France. They greatly expanded the number of degrees in just two years from 77 degrees in 1811 to 90 degrees in 1813.
François Joly was initiated into the highest degrees of the Misraim Rite in Naples in 1813 where he received documents that contained the four highest degrees of the Rite of Misraim. Today these four degrees are refered to as the Arcana Arcanorum.
When Joly returned from Naples he directly challenged the authority of the Bedarridés over the Rite of Misraim in France with the rituals that he had received. The reason for this challenge of authority was that the degrees that Joly received were different from those practiced by the Bedarride’s.
At the time of the initiation of the brothers Beddaride in Naples, the highest degree of the Rite of Misraim was the 77th degree. Marc Bedarride had been one of the Rite’s highest officers before leaving Italy. On his departure to France he thus unquestionably had the authority to establish the Rite in France.
Either way, with Joly’s assertion that the higher degrees of the Beddaride brothers were not traditional, there emerges a second rivaling Misraim Rite in France; one group maintaining the highest degrees from the Bedarride brothers, and the other group practicing the higher degrees that were transmitted to Joly in Naples. These two versions of the highest degrees of the Rite of Misraim are today refered to as the Paris scale and the Naples scale.
The relationship with the Grand Orient
The relationship between the Rite of Misraim and the Grand Orient of France was difficult. From 1882-1890 the Rite was recognized by the Grand Orient but the same Grand Orient had also attempted to close the Rite on two occassions prior to its recognition in 1817 and 1822. Despite the difficult relationship with the Grand Orient of France, the Rite of Misraim was a great success in Italy, France and Belgium owing to its alchemical and hermetic approach to Freemasonry.
Marc Beddaride is succeeded as Grand Master of France by Girault who appoints Osselin as his successor who transmits the Rite to Osselin Jr. before the Rite of Misraim is eventually closed in France. The last Lodge that works in the Rite of Mirsaim is ‘Arc en Ciel’ which closes their doors somewhere between 1902 and 1925. The Lodge had many Martinists as members including Paul Sedir and Marc Haven. Gerard Encausse applied for membership which was declined out of fear that he could gain too much influence in the Lodge due to his respectable status within the French occult scene. In a response to the rejection of Encausse’s application for membership many of the Martinists left the last surviving Misraim Lodge in France.
Rite of Memphis
The Rite of Memphis was founded by Jacques-Etienne Marconis de Negre and Samuel Honis who established the first Lodge ‘Les Disciples de Memphis’ at Montauban in 1815. Etienne Marconis de Nègre was a french freemason, born in Montauban on the 3rd of January, 1795, his parents being Gabriel Mathieu – Marconis and Marthe Nègre. He was initiated into the Rite of Misraim in 1833. Grand Master of the Rite of Misraim Hayere, successor of Beddaride, also gets involved in the development of the Rite of Memphis in 1856.
The mythological origins of the Rite of Memphis attract a lot of attention. It was claimed that Napoleon had received initiation and affiliation with the Rite of Memphis from a man who had descended from the ancient tradition of Egypt. This mytho-poetical history capitalizes on the fascination of the time with anything Egyptian and builds on the historical origins of Hermeticism in the period when Greek culture was in close contact with the Egyptian civilization. The idea that the western esoteric tradition had its roots in the ancient civilization of Egypt was exciting and was used to attract members.
Political developments and masonic opposition in France caused the activities of the Rite of Memphis to be transfered to John Yarker in London. Under the governance of Yarker an attempt was made to develop the Rite into a new direction. John Yarker, who had received a simple variation of the Scottish Rite from Marconis, began writing out many of the higher degrees for the Rite of Memphis resulting in 14 unique degrees that do not belong to the realm of Scottish degrees.
The fascination of the time period with Egypt is echoed in the rituals that are written by Yarker. They are saturated with influences from the Eulisinian, Egyptian and Mithraic mysteries. While the Rite of Misraim was primarily Hermetic in the Judeo-Christian sense, the Rite of Memphis develops with overt pagan and kemetic elements.
In 1863 Marconis establishes the Rite of Memphis in Egypt. Soluttore Avventore Zola, born in Turin, who was the Grand Master of the Grand Orient in Egypt for over a decade, becomes Grand Master for the Rite of Memphis in 1874. Zola will play a crucial role in the eventual fusion of the Rite of Misraim and the Rite of Memphis when he confers the 95th and 96th degree of the Rite of Memphis on Joseph Garibaldi.
Rite of Memphis-Misraim
The fusion of the Rite of Misraim and the Rite of Memphis has been made possible by John Yarker who received a charter from the reformed Rite of Misraim in exchange for a charter from the Rite of Memphis which Yarker had received from Marconis. The fusion of the Rite of Misraim and the Rite of Memphis can be dated to this exchange of charters which was morally supported by Joseph Garibaldi who had previously received the highest degrees of the Rite of Memphis in Egypt.
Joseph Garibaldi was born in Nice in 1807 and was a sea captain for the Italian navy and commander of the Italian Legion in Uruguay. He became known as the great Italian liberator and is seen as the founder of the modern Italian state. In 1864 Garibaldi was Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Italy and later he also becomes Grand Master of the Rite of Memphis in Italy. His moral support to the union of Rites was foundational to the establishment of the Ancient and Primitive Rite of Memphis-Misraim in 1881.
Theodor Reuss contacts John Yarker with assistance from William Wynn Westcott. Reuss, along with his associates Franz Hartmann and Henry Klein activates the Rite of Memphis-Misraim in Germany. He becomes crucial in transmitting the Rite of Memphis-Misraim to Gerard Encause in 1908 to establish the Rite in France. Gerard Encausse is appointed Grand Master and Charles Detre becomes Deputy Grand Master which leads to a whole new development of the Rite of Memphis-Misraim.
The Rite in France and Belgium
With the emergence of the Rite of Memphis-Misraim in France new developments will take place. The first Grand Master of the Rite will be Gerard Encausse, a famous french occultist and physician. Encausse, also known as Papus, was a famous french occultist and physician and the founder of the Martinist Order and the Kabbalistic Order of the Rose Croix. Papus was also an ordained Bishop in the Gnostic Church of France, a neo-Gnostic Church set up by the occultist and Freemason Jules Doinel in 1890.
Despite his very active life as an occultist no Grand Lodges in England or France would accept him as a mason out of the fear that any of his occult organisations might be a quasy-masonic obedience of irregular Freemasonry. Within his Martinist Order there was a Lodge which openly studied French Freemasonry. The book “What a Master-Mason Must Know” gives the reader genuine insight through the study of the masonic passwords in the light of the Kabbalah, an esoteric analysis of the legend of Hiram, an account of the Craft degrees and the origins of the Scottish Rite.
Encausse’s initial intention was to create an umbrella-organisation that could unify the various esoteric groups that he had set up. After he received his warrant from Reuss in 1908 he immediately incorporated the Rite of Memphis-Misraim into his Martinist Order and the higher degrees of the Kabbalistic Order of the Rose Croix became reserved for Masons of the Rite of Memphis Misraim who held a high degree.
Towards the end of Papus life, in 1916, the authority of his organisation is given to Charles Detre. Under Detre the Blue Lodge of the Memphis-Misraim becomes an antechamber to the Martinist Order by restricting membership of Martinism to Master Masons (of the Rite of Memphis-Misraim).
In 1919 Detre transmits the position to Jean Bricaud and with a new warrant from Theodor Reuss they establish the Sovereign Sanctuary for France on the 10th of September 1919. The succession of Jean Bricaud leads to disturbances that cause the Italian Martinists to separate and become autonomous from the French Martinists and a similar difference of opinion exists within the context of the Rite of Memphis-Misraim.
The 66th degree of Grand Conservator, written by John Yarker, transmits the authorisation to consecrate masonic Temples with a strictly masonic ritual. Bricaud continues the development of the umbrella-organisation by writing a different 66th degree to bridge the Gnostic Church of France into the Rite of Memphis-Misraim. With this new 66th degree that is written by Bricaud the consecration of Masonic Temples gains a Gnostic theurgic dimension.
Rombauts & Mallinger
During Bricaud’s period as Grand Master the group of Rombauts in Belgium separates from the Sovereign Sanctuary of France to become autonomous. Rombauts forms a commission to study the origins of the Rite and he places Brother Jean Mallinger at the head of the commission.
The Belgians discovered Ragon’s “Cours Philosophique et Interpretatif des Initiations Anciennes et Modernes” published in 1841. Under Rombauts leadership they reconstruct the four highest degrees that constitutes the Arcana Arcanorum of many modern Memphis-Misraim groups today.
The reconstructions developed by Jean Mallinger and Armand Rombauts were largely drawn from the teachings of their Pythagorean organisation “Ordre Hérmetiste Tétramégiste et Mystique” founded by Emile Dantine, Jean Mallinger and Francois Soetewey in 1927.
The Arcana Acanorum degrees are considered the pinacle of the Egyptian Rites. These four degrees are accompanied by oral instructions which cover a system of Theurgy and Alchemy to create the Body of Light, a subtle spiritual body. Many Rosicrucian organisations have since adopted these teachings as their highest secret.
The Belgian Lodges, under the leadership of Jean Mallinger, start to contact other Lodges that do not recognize the leadership of Jean Bricaud in France. Among these contacts are Raoul Fructus, Jean-Henry Probst Biraben and Georges Lagrèze. In this way the developments of the Arcana Arcanorum are also transmitted to Propst Biraben in 1947 who is succeeded by Dubois in 1958.
Second World War
Constant Chevilon succeeds Jean Bricaud at his death in 1934. Chevillon created the rituals for an Adoptive Rite which was introduced under his leadership to give women access to initiation into the Memphis-Misraim. Chevillon considered that women are an integral part of humanity. Through the first three degrees of this feminine Rite, women could be allowed the possibility to accede to the higher degrees.
During the occupation, the Nazis prohibited all masonic activities. Constant Chevillon did not want to continue the Rite in secrecy which caused the Rite of Memphis-Misraim to go dormant. As the War progressed, the arrests began and several Freemasons would lose their lives, among which was the Grand Master of Egyptian Masonry in Belgium, Gaston Delaive. In 1944 Constant Chevilon, Grand Master of the Sovereign Sanctuary of France was also captured, tortured and shot by a firing-squad, formed by French Nazi collaborateurs.
Robert Ambelain was an Apprentice when the war broke out and this saved him from being persecuted because the Nazi’s only kept lists of Master Masons. Together with Georges Lagreze, a Mason who had received a warrant from Yarker in 1909, they led a French underground circle of high grade Masons and Martinists during the war and even reconstructed the Elus Coens in 1943. In the period of the Second World War Ambelain receives the highest degrees of the Rite of Memphis-Misraim from Lagreze who also appoints him Deputy Grand Master in 1944 through the warrant that Lagreze had received previously from Yarker.
After the War
The sudden death of Chevillon prevented him from appointing a successor. Thus in 1944, after the liberation of France and Chevillon’s assisination, the Grand Mastership was entrusted to Henri Charles Dupont. Dupont died in 1960 and left his succession to Robert Ambelain.
During Ambelain’s period as Grand Master many charters are handed out to Lodges which results in the emergence of different branches of the Rite. It becomes quite difficult to capture their specific developments and therefore we have chosen to limit ourselves to a general overview of the situation in France.
Ambelain continued the development of the umbrella organisation that Papus envisioned whereby initiation into the Rite of Memphis-Misraim was required in order to pass into several Rosicrucian Orders such as Martinism, Easia-Easie, the Kabbalistic Order of the Rose Croix and the RC d’Orient. Many Egyptian Rites still operate several Rosicrucian side-Orders alongside the Masonic rituals.
In 1984 Gerard Kloppel succeeds Robert Ambelain. Kloppel resigns in 1998 transferring the position to Cheikna Sylla. On the 2nd of March 2000 Gerard Kloppel organizes the International Sovereign Sanctuary, deciding to dismiss Cheikna Sylla who did not recognize this decision including his successor Willy Raemakers. Before dying Gerard Kloppel also transmits his succession to Castelli in 2008 which leads to a situation of disagreements about who has legitimate succession and who doesn’t. Today the landscape of the Egyptian Rites is diversivied with several groups that hold various historical and spiritual filliations.
The history of the Rite of Memphis-Misraim is complex and at times overwhelming. We have attempted to make the article as readable as possible with the amount of information that had to be presented. We added flowcharts to provide structure and give the reader a helpful reference. Despite our efforts there is still much that has been left uncovered. We have attempted to explain as much as possible to help the new reader get a bearing. It is however unavoidable that the reader will have to further explore facts, people and organisations mentioned in the article.
Initiatic Traditions of Old Egypt
Lodge Seshat was consecrated and given a charter by the Grand Master of the Sovereign Sanctuary of Initiatic Traditions of Old Egypt of the United Kingdom on the 21st of August 2022 by Grand Master L:.G:.B:. who received the full transmission with all rights and authorities on the 11th of September 2018.
One of our founding members met an Initiate of the Western Mysteries in Germany in the summer of 2019. Through the help of this friend our founding members were brought in contact with the Initiatic Traditions of Old Egypt who have helped us establish our Lodge and have pledged to help us develop the Rite in the Netherlands.
The Sovereign Sanctuary of Initiatic Traditions of Old Egypt was established by Rene Jacques MARTIN, the founder of GLISRU, a multi-Rite Obdience, in the 1970’s. He possessed the filiations of the Rite of Misraim transmitted by Henri DUBOIS and the filliations of the Rite of Memphis traditionally received from Belgium by Jean Henri PROBST BIRABEN. The Sovereign Sanctuary gathered at its origin various filiations of which also as the Ancient and Primitive Rite of Memphis-Misraim of Robert AMBELAIN transmitted by Rene CHAMBELLANT.
After the passing to the Eternal East of Rene-Jacques MARTIN the Sovereign Sanctuary was put to sleep and reawakened on October the 17th 2004 by the T:.Ill:. and S:.F:. J:.C:. who holds the 95th degree transmitted on the order of the Great World Master T:.Ill:. and T:.S:.F:. Cheikna SYLLA in November 1998.
The name Sovereign Sanctuary of the Initiatic Traditions of Old Egypt was a name given on the 27th of August 2012 after the original name Souverain Sanctuaire des Gaules des Sublimes Ordres Universels d’Egypte was misappropriated by a dissident member who had the name registered and filed with the INPI, the French industrial property agency.
After having severed the relations with GLISRU, The Sovereign Sanctuary of Initiatic Traditions of Old Egypt decided to only be a Conservatory of the Traditions which were transmitted to it, granting Patents to independent Lodges who make the request with which the only connections are the obligation to implement the Rituals validated by the S:.S:. without any financial obligation.