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A Brief Introduction to the Antient and Primitive Rite of Memphis and Mizraim or Egyptian Masonry

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Subject: A Brief Introduction to the Antient and Primitive Rite of Memphis and Mizraim or Egyptian Masonry 
                                    Gary Ford
   Most Freemasons never proceed beyond the first three degrees of the Blue
   Lodge. This Rite is of great interest because of the history and
   extraordinary number of degrees associated with it. The story of the
   Antient and Primitive Rite of Memphis and Mizraim and its associated
   organizations and personalities is indeed a colorful and interesting one.
   Latter 20th Century Masonic authorities have often accused this Rites
   founders and promulgators of running fee snatching Masonic diploma mills.
   They criticize its historical inaccuracies and overtones of mysticism. And
   yet good and sincere Masons have associated with it. And those who have had
   the opportunity to pour over some of its rituals have found real value here
   and there. Is it fee snatching and degree selling to give a man 10 or 20 or
   32 degrees in 1 or 2 weekends for a few hundred dollars? This is the common
   practice in the American "York" Rite and "Scottish" Rite and has been for
   many years. Are there no historical inaccuracies in the Masonic Craft
   Degrees or those of the "York" Rite and "Scottish" Rite? Of course, there
   are many. Have there never been any rascals among the ranks of "Regular"
   The Antient and Primitive Rite is an amalgamation of several Masonic Rites
   and numerous degrees. The primary Rites involved are the Ancient and
   Accepted Scottish Rite of 33 degrees, the Rite of Memphis of 90 degrees and
   the Rite of Mizraim of 96 degrees. Both Memphis and Mizraim Rites appear to
   have a large number of Degrees in common. Commenting briefly on these two
   systems in 1871 Brother Robert Macoy had the following brief entries:
   MEMPHIS, RITE OF Sometimes called the Oriental Rite. A modification of the
   Rite of Mizraim, organized in Paris, in 1839, by Messieurs Marconis and
   Mouttet. It afterward extended to Brussels and Marseilles, thence to New
   York. It was composed of 90 working and 6 official degrees. For a time it
   excited some interest in Paris, and then fell into obscurity until 1860,
   when it was reorganized, the 96 degrees reduced to 30, and then merged into
   the Grand Orient of France, where it is permitted to slumber. It may now be
   regarded as extinct.
   MISRAIM, Rite of. This Rite was introduced into France near the
   commencement of the present century. It made considerable progress, and in
   1817, application was made on the part of its friends to the Grand Orient,
   to accept it as a legitimate branch of Masonry. The application was denied,
   partly on the ground that the antiquity of the Rite had not been proved,
   and partly because of the 90 degrees which its ritual comprised 68 were
   already included in the French system. The rite of Misraim is interesting
   and instructive, but many of its degrees are too abstruse to be popular.
   The initiation is a reproduction of the ancient rite of Isis, and
   represents the contests of Osiris and Typhon, the death, resurrection, and
   triumph of the former, and the destruction of the latter. there are 90
   degrees divided into four series - symbolic, philosophical, mystical and
   cabalistic, and again divided into seventeen classes. The traditions of
   this system are full of anachronisms, historical events and characters,
   separated by hundreds of years, being made to figure on the same scene at
   the same time. The work entitled "De l'Ordre Maconnique de Misraim,"
   published at Paris, in 1835, by Mons. Marc Bedirride, purporting to give
   the history of the Order, is a mere romance, and full of puerilities.
   Nevertheless, many of the degrees are highly interesting and instructive.
                Most Illustrious Brother John Yarker 33 90 96
   In his book The Arcane Schools (William Tait, Belfast, 1909) Brother John
   Yarker writes : " The 'Rite of Mizraim' was first culminated and
   established in Italy in 1804-5, and consists of 90 degrees, collected from
   all sources, and is not without value; it was then taken to Paris by the
   brothers Bedarride. At one time it was looked upon favorably in this
   country (England), the Duke of Sussex was its recognized head in England;
   the Duke of Leinster in Ireland; and in Scotland the Duke of Athol was
   succeeded by Walker Arnott of Arleary, Esqre. ; but eventually they came to
   an agreement to abandon the Rite. No doubt they were influenced in this
   step by financial difficulties in Paris; someone has observed that it needs
   the fortune of a kingdom to carry on a Rite of 90 degrees with the
   necessary splendor. Some of the Templar Conclaves continued to confer it
   till recently; in Italy and some other parts it has been reduced to 33
   degrees, and designated the ' Reformed Rite of Mizraim.' In a quiet way it
   is still conferred in this country under its own Supreme Council." In
   commenting specifically on the Antient and Primitive Rite Yarker states :
   "The 'Rite of Memphis' has a similar record to that of Mizraim, and was
   established on the basis of the Rites of Primitive Philadelaphes and the
   Primitive Philalethes; occult branches of the systems of Paschalis and St.
   Martin, in which the grades were not clearly defined, but each of the three
   sections into which they were divided had power to add any suitable degrees
   useful for its aims. An Egyptian system of Masonry was foreshadowed in the
   pamphlet of 'Master of Masters,' Paris 1815. Freemasonry had been
   introduced into Egypt by the armies of Buonaparte, and from thence where it
   gathered some additions, was transplanted to Montauban in France, 1816, by
   the Brothers Marconis, Baron Dumas, Petite, Labrunie, Sam Honis of Cairo,
   etc. After an interval of sleep it was revived at Brussels and Paris by
   Jacques Etienne Marconis, surnamed de Negre, son of Grand Master Marconis;
   its revival at Brussels took place in 1838, and at Paris in 1839, with the
   assistance of the elder Marconis, under the designation of the Antient and
   Primitive Rite of Memphis divided into three Sections, and 95 or 97
   degrees. At an early period it was introduced into America, Egypt and
   Roumania, the former chartered a Sovereign Sanctuary for Great Britain and
   Ireland in 1872, and in the two latter countries it is the only Rite held
   in much esteem. It requires in this country, that its neophytes should
   already be Master Masons, and in this year of grace is spread into almost
   all countries, with whom representatives are appointed. It introduced the
   Rite into Germany in 1905, where it has numerous Craft Lodges, and Paris is
   in course of re-establishing itself."
                             Brother J. E. Marconis
                              Grand Hierophant 97
   It is interesting to note that the German body referred to above was under
   the control of one Theodore Reuss. Among other things Reuss was a music
   hall singer, journalist and a spy . He used the charter supplied by Yarker
   to establish a "Masonic Academy" which became known as the Ordo Templi
   Orientis or O.T.O. and taught a form of "Sex Magic" to its members which
   included both men and women. An American group claiming decent from this
   order still exists. During the course of some of their ritual work the
   Masonic titles of grades originating from the Antient and Primitive Rite
   and other Masonic Bodies are still conferred. There is no Masonic
   qualification to join this organization which confers its grades on both
   men and women. Many of its members from the highest on down firmly believe
   themselves to be Freemasons. See the Clandestine OTO link below. It must
   also be said that although the Antient & Primitive Rite has been declared
   dead and defunct many times that it still continues to exist to this day in
   many forms throughout the world. Masonic orthodoxy has failed to eliminate
   these dazzling Rites with their lengthy lists of cool titles.
                                 Theodor Reuss.
            He was Aleister Crowley's predecessor as Head of the OTO.
   The following is a list of the Degrees of the Ancient or Antient and
   Primitive Rite of Memphis and Mizraim as reduced to thirty-three Degrees.
                  The Degrees of the Ancient and Primitive Rite
                       Section 1.- CHAPTERS OF ROSE CROIX.
   4. Discreet Master.
   5. Sublime Master.
   6. Sacred Arch.
   7. Secret Vault.
   8. Knight of the Sword.
   9. Knight of Jerusalem.
   10. Knight of the Orient.
   11. Rose Croix.
                   Section 2.- SENATE OF HERMETIC PHILOSOPHERS
   12. Knight of the Red Eagle.
   13. Knight of the Temple.
   14. Knight of the Tabernacle.
   15. Knight of the Serpent.
   16. Knight of Kadosh.
   17. Knight of the Royal Mystery.
   18. Grand Inspector.
   19. Sage of Truth.
   20. Hermetic Philosopher.
                          Section 3.- SUBLIME COUNCIL.
   21. Grand Installator.
   22. Grand Consecrator.
   23. Grand Eulogist.
   24. Patriarch of Truth.
   25. Patriarch of the Planispheres.*
   26. Patriarch of the Vedas.
   27. Patriarch of Isis.
   28. Patriarch of Memphis.
   29. Patriarch of the Mystic City.
   30. Sub. Master of the G. W., P. P.
   * This is one of my favorite titles of the bunch. But can you imagine the
   reaction of one's spouse upon being informed of this new title? " My dear,
   I am now a Patriarch of the Planispheres!" "Sure you are, now go take out
   the garbage, Patriarch." Oh well, you're never a prophet in you're own home
   I guess.
                              Section 4.- OFFICIAL.
   31. Grand Defender of the Rite.
   32. Sublime P. of Memphis.
   33. Sov. Grand Conservator of the Rite.
   In the article on the Antient and Primitive Rite in his Royal Masonic
   Cyclopedia, Kenneth Mackenzie gives an identical list of degrees but goes
   on to state "In England, however, these rites are varied; thus - 16. Sage
   of Truth. 17. Hermetic Philosopher. 18. Knight Kadosh. 19. Royal Master.
   20. Grand Intendant." It was from the John Yarker body in England that
   Theodore Reuss, Carl Kellner and others obtained the charter for the
   Antient and Primitive Rite which Degrees they attached to their Ordo Templi
   Orientis. For a list of the degrees of the Oriental Rite of Memphis as well
   as those of the Rite of Mizraim see the Big Degree List link below. See
   also the Clandestine Masonry of the O.T.O. link below.
   Baphomet, devil-god of the Masonic Templars? No, just another
   romanticization of our old friend Eliphas Levi. It sure is a cool
   illustration though and has been much copied. When I was a boy I had a
   large copy of this that was about 6 feet high and 5 feet wide. It was
   silkscreened in black on a shiny, purple material. It sure looked great on
   the wall with the old blacklight and all of my friends were very impressed.
   In the mid 1970's I sold it at a flea market to a fellow with a punk band.
   Now I don't know why I let it go but my wife sure is delighted to have one
   less piece of weird junk around the house. And no, I am not now nor ever
   have been a satanist.
      Home | Clandestine Masonry of the OTO | Big Degree List | Golden Dawn
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                           Updated September 10, 1997
                           Copyright 1997 by Gary Ford
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