MASONIC SYSTEMS OF ALCHEMICAL DEGREES AND, SECONDLY, THE HERMETIC RITE OF BARON TSCHOUDY by A. E. Waite Book 4
BETWEEN the system of Pernety, the Benedictine, alchemist and convert of Swedenborg, and the Grades referred to Baron Tschoudy, alchemist and exponent of High-Grade theories which recall those of Masonic Templary, there is the correspondence by antithesis which may be held to subsist between the mystery of the New Jerusalem drawn into Ritual and the mystery of chivalry exalted into Grades of Adeptship. As in the one case we have learned something to our purpose from the literary memorials of Pernety, so in the other we shall obtain an adequate idea of Baron Tschoudy’s particular dedications by reference to his chief work, called UEtoile Flamboyant^ which for two or more generations after his period was held in considerable repute and passed through several editions. It has been mentioned by writers in England, but without suggesting that there was any familiarity with the text. There is a good deal of extrinsic matter which can be set aside for our purpose, and the rest lies within a manageable compass. I propose to consider it briefly under three heads, being (a) its theory concerning the origin of Masonry; (b) its connection ab origtne with chivalry ; and (c) its Hermetic purpose and relations.
The theory supposes, but with no reference to authority outside the personal warrants of the author, that there existed from time immemorial an instituted body described for purposes of concealment apparently under the title of Anights of the Morning and of Palestine. They were ancestors, fathers and authors of Masonry. Their date is not specified and their secret is not to be betrayed, but their antiquity was such that they were witnesses of all the vicissitudes which the kingdom of Judah had successively experienced. They had long expected that a star of peace would, in the words of Saint-Martin, rise over their country, their life and the life of that afflicted, rejected nation to which, in some obscure manner, it would appear that they always belonged. For themselves, at the uncertain period with which the thesis is concerned, they were still for the most part under the obedience of the Old Law. They were, moreover, dispersed in different secret retreats, wherein they awaited such a change on the face of things as would reinstate them in their ancient patrimony and would enable them there to erect a third holy Temple wherein they might reassume their original functions. These are not precisely intimated, but the scheme presupposed a restoration of sovereignty in Israel, and it is suggested that their work would be about the person of the king. They were not, therefore, a priestly caste, yet their particular liturgy is mentioned. A time came when they believed that the term of their exile was approaching ; this was occasioned by the preaching of the first Crusade, and more especially by the scheme for the safeguard of the Holy Places. The Knights of Palestine thereupon issued from their hidden retreats in the desert of the Thebaid, and they joined themselves to a remnant of their brethren who had remained in Jerusalem. The majority of these had abjured the principles of Jewish religion and followed the lights of the Christian faith. Their example led the others to adopt the same course ; they were, if possible, more anxious than ever for the restoration of the Temple, but now no longer to reinstitute the old sacrifices. Theirs would be the offices of mercy which the immolation of the Unspotted Victim had substituted for the old rites. It is said at the same time that they continued to respect those rites and to retain them in some obscure and seemingly modified way. The inference is that there is here a veiled reference (a) to some sect of Johannite Christians, (b) to the assumed perpetuation and conversion of a body like the Essenes, or (c) an independent presentation of Werner’s strange story concerning the Sons of the Valley, who were the secret instructors and protectors at a distance of the Knights Templar till they were led at last to abandon them. The result of this was that the chivalry perished at the hands of Pope and King.
Recognizing, as they are said to have done, that the rebuilding of the Temple was, under different aspects, the essential purpose of the first Crusade, the so-called Knights of the Morning, when the time came to make known their presence, represented that they were descendants of the first Masonic Craftsmen who had worked at the Temple of Solomon, and that they alone were the depositories of the true plans. It was in this manner that they were integrated in the alleged scheme of construction, that which they had in mind on the surface being a speculative architecture, which is said, however, to have disguised a more glorious intent. Presumably the suggestion here is that the Crusading Knights were drafted into a spiritual work in place of one which they had devised on the external plane. In any case, their instructors assumed the name of Freemasons ; the Christian chivalry was drawn towards an association which continued in a measure to subsist isolated and retired amidst the great hordes of ambition ; and for their further protection, as well as for the maintenance of their designs, the common cause adopted a fixed method of reception, of which Masonry is a reflection only. There were signs, pass-words and such modes of recognition; of all these the three Craft Grades are the nearest remaining memorial.
It was in this manner that the Masonic institution arose ; the Knights of Palestine were therefore the first and the true Masons ; they seem to have been distinct from that system which the author of this thesis claimed to sustain and admire under the name of the cossais Grades of St. Andrew ; it is said that the Order of Palestine is not in competition with these and is indeed quite independent an intimation that in some form it had continued to modern times. Such being the origin of the speculative art of building, it follows that it arose by the hypothesis in the midst of Crusading chivalry, but, while in it, was not fully identified therewith. The secret purpose in view is not so far disclosed, and the legend of the genesis breaks off at this point abruptly; we are left to imagine what followed in respect of the entrance of Masonic art into Europe and all its subsequent history. It will be seen (a) that the hypothesis has a considerable unacknowledged debt to the ChevaHer Ramsay ; (b) that, as I have shewn elsewhere, it is a memorial of Secret Tradition subsisting secretly in Palestine ; (c) that it makes no reference to the Knights Templar as such ; and I may add (d) that the only Order to which there is any allusion, and then on a single occasion, is that of St. John of Jerusalem another derivation from Ramsay. And now in respect of the hidden purpose, it is said without equivocation that the concern of the brethren in Jerusalem was research into Nature, profound meditation on its causes and effects, the design to develop and perfect Nature by means of art, for the simple purpose apparently of procuring resources which would enable the questers to prosecute that part of their design which has not passed into expression. The treatise attributed to Morien, which deals with the transmutation of metals, is said to be the work of one of the brethren, otherwise the ascetics, dwelling in the Thebaid. The inference is that, in the view of Baron Tschoudy, the art of Masonry is in reality the Hermetic art, behind which, however, there lies an undeclared mystery. We shall see presently whether there is any reason to suppose that this mystery corresponds to the spiritual side of the Hermetic secret. Regarded as a Masonic hypothesis, I suppose that in conception and expression it would be probably the worst of its kind, were it meant to be taken literally. It is obviously not, and my remaining point is to determine what the author understands by Alchemy, if anything, outside the transmutation of metals.
I may mention, in the first place, that the Thebaid solitary Morien is really Morienus Romanus ; his description notwithstanding, he is supposed to have written in Arabic, from which language his tract was translated into Latin by Robertus Castrensis. It is from this source that it came within the horizon of Baron Tschoudy. The original is unknown, but the author is understood to have been a Syrian monk whose proper name was Morianos ; and the Latin text, though it is in no sense really a translation, is considered a genuine reflection of eastern Alchemy. It is entitled Liber de Compositione Alchemic?^ and is a discourse between Morien, Kalid the King of Egypt, and Galip the King’s slave, or captive. It is an account of the search for the Hermetic Mastery on the part of the monarch, and of the manner in which the secret was communicated to him by the adept hermit. The instruction reiterates the old story that the matter of alchemical philosophy is one, though its names are many. It is a substance that is prized by the adepts, but is held as worthless by common men in their folly. The method of its treatment follows and a description of the vessel which is used. It is idle to recite these particulars, as the matter is naturally not specified, and though the work appears to be physical, there is no real criterion of judgment concerning its nature.
It is, however, on the basis of this tract that Baron Tschoudy has raised the superstructure of an Hermetic and Masonic Catechism belonging to the Grade of Adept^ or Sublime and Unknown Initiated Philosopher. He appeals naturally to other authorities, and was unquestionably acquainted with the texts which he quotes. The point does not concern us ; we have only to ascertain the nature of the work which he envisages and its connection in his mind with Masonry. The work is physical; the matter is to be found everywhere ; it is vile and originally is ” without native elegance ” ; ” should any one say that it is saleable, it is the species to which he refers, but, fundamentally, it is not saleable, because it is useful in our work alone.” It contains Salt, Sulphur and Mercury, but these are not to be confused with the vulgar substances which are known under such names to the whole world; “it must be sought especially in the metallic nature, where it is more easily available than elsewhere.” The three components must be extracted by a perfect sublimation, and thereafter follows “dissolution with purified salt, in the first place volatilising that which is fixed and afterwards fixing that which is volatile in a precious earth. The last is the vase of the Philosophers, and is wholly perfect.” The practical instruction ends at this point; the Masonic analogies are remarkable as lights on the philosophy of the subject. They are hereinafter enumerated chiefly to indicate the horizon which they cover.
The object of research among Hermetic philosophers is the art of perfecting that which has been left imperfect by Nature in the mineral kingdom, and the attainment of that treasure which is called the Philosophical Stone. In similitude herewith, the object of research among Masons is the knowledge of that art by which all that has been left naturally imperfect in human nature is brought to perfection and the attainment of the treasure of true morality. There is a sense therefore in which both arts are comprised in the first instance by a process of purification; the first matter of Alchemy must be separated from all its impurities, and this is symbolized by that which is removed from the Candidate for the Grade of Entered Apprentice before his admission to the Lodge. It is described as analogous to the superfluities or scoria which are stripped from the unknown matter in order to discover its seed.
Alchemy is an experiment which is performed on Nature, an experiment that is to say on a volatile spirit which performs its office in bodies and is animated by an universal spirit. The latter is veiled by the venerable emblem of the Blazing Star or Pentagram ; it represents the Divine Breath which vivifies all that lives. The perfect metallic state is found by the hypothesis in gold only, and gold is a material symbol of the perfect state in Masonry ; the latter is held to be attained, in its fulness, either in the Master Grade or alternatively in some other Grade which is the crown and end of any given Rite or system. The state of imperfection in the metallic kingdom is that of Saturn or lead ; the seed of this metal is one with the seed of gold, but it has been brought to birth in an impure region. The Candidate for Freemasonry, by the hypothesis, has also been born in a state of loss, imperfection and impurity, which state is summarized by the word ” profane.” On his initiation he enters the way of perfection, the way of transmutation, the golden way. The intention of Nature is always to produce gold in the metallic kingdom, but this is frustrated by circumstances, until the act of Adeptship intervenes and fulfils the design. The intention in the human kingdom is always to produce that which is understood by the idea of the perfect man, but this also is frustrated by circumstances, until Masonic art intervenes and fulfils the design.
From this point of view Masonry is an art of development, of building up, or of emblematic architecture, and it is the same also in Alchemy. The work in both cases is performed on a seed or substance pre-existing, which substance is life and the Spirit of life. It may be described in each case as the separation of the subtle from the gross, and this work is said to be signified by the number 3, “about which all Masonic science revolves.” The original state of the matter also in each case is that of the rude stone, the rough ashlar, the superfluities of which must be removed; in more Hermetic terminology, it is the primal chaos, the indiscrete and confused mass out of which a cosmos must be brought.
As the matter of practical philosophy is called by innumerable names, which are mostly those of well-known substances, it has to be understood by the student of art that there is here a veil or an evasion, because no material in its common or vulgar state is fit for the work of the Adepts. This again is signified by another use of the term Profane; a profane person is disqualified for the work of Masonry, and as common quicksilver is out of court in Alchemy because it lacks the principle of life, so in Masonry the uninitiated or cowan, as such, is out of court, and is kept beyond the Lodge, because he also wants the essential or living principle. As regards the term of research in Alchemy, it is explained that there are three conditions of gold : (a) astral gold, the centre of which is in the sun, and the sun communicates it to all inferior beings ; (b) elementary gold, which is the purest and most fixed portion of the elements and of the substances composed of these : all sublunary beings have a grain of this gold at their centre ; (c) vulgar gold, the most perfect metal in Nature.
This triple state is said to be represented respectively in Masonry by the symbolism of the Sun as it is found in the earlier Grades, by that of the Moon, and by the compasses and kindred Masonic jewels. Finally, the number 4, which is of particular importance in the Grand Ecossais Grade of St. Andrew, represents the perfect equilibrium and equality between the four elements of which the physical stone is composed. It represents also four processes indispensable to the completion of the Great Work. These are composition, alteration, mixture and union. When they are performed according to the rules of the art, there is begotten the lawful Son of the Sun, the Phoenix which is for ever reborn from its ashes.
I have put these analogies in the simplest language at my command, and as I do not think that there can be any difficulty in following them, so I incline to believe that their proper scheme will be apparent to most of my readers. The similitude at the root of the thesis is obvious enough, and in its way it is legitimate enough the perfection of metals in the one case by their conversion into gold, and the perfection of humanity in the other by its conversion under the graces of the moral law. It is not a comparison which carries with it any particular force or appeal, because it is the illustration of things that are greater by things that are lesser, and it has therefore no real office. It is faulty otherwise in the way that it is expressed by the writer. It does not suggest that metallic transmutation is the term of Masonic research, and it is hence without aim in practice. If, however, it were the intention of Baron Tschoudy to intimate that Masonry is the spiritual side of the magnum opus, then he has also and singularly missed his point. As he does, however, affirm that behind the imputed physical experiments of his so-called Knights of the Morning there lay concealed another intention, and as he states plainly that he was resolved to maintain the concealment, there is some warrant for considering the question a little further, by indicating certain points in the Hermetic Catechism in which the corners of the veil seem on the point of lifting. They are found in
a. The statement that God is the end of Nature and, inferentially, that God and not physics should be the object of the investigators of Nature.
b. The reference to the Divine Breath, which is the life of all being.
c. The hypothesis of the development of substances beyond the point of perfection which they attain in the natural order.
d. One mystical interpretation of the term “centre of the earth,” which is said not to be the common earth.
e. The analogies established with the ethical allegories of Masonry.
f. The fact that the substances made use of in Alchemy are distinguished from any of an ordinary kind, and, in particular, that the Mercury of the Philosopher is no earthly thing, even as Christ’s Kingdom was not of this world.
g. The use of mystical numbers.
h. The application of the so-called metallic elixir to the body of man as a principle of universal reconstruction, when the writer could not have ignored that the physical reconstruction of humanity can only be accomplished from within, or, as mystics would say, by a spiritual elixir.
i. The definition of the chief agent in the Great Work, which is described as a single corpuscle, and is obviously the Rosicrucian minutum mundum, the Microcosmos, or Man himself i.e., his inward and essential principle.
j. The transliteral interpretation of alchemical literature which is openly recommended.
k. The concluding references, which seem to stand at the end of the treatise like a key to unlock the whole.
I do not intend to dwell upon these points unduly, or to suggest that, because of any force which they possess, the Catechism is not in the main concerned with a dream of material transmutations and renewals. But the fact that there is something which the author has kept to himself, and his confession hereto, puts him in the same position as Elias Ashmole, the amateur of Hermetic philosophy, who saw that there were great things undeclared therein, about which he knew only enough to hold his tongue. They were also renewals and transmutations, but of another kind. The mystical side of Alchemy is in this sense the search for a Great Elixir, which is the Great Elixir of all, the quest of the Phoenix-state of life, of rebirth from the ashes of the simple life in Nature, and of the lawful Son of the Sun. The beginning of this work is a glorious spiritual dawn, its perfection is a high noon, and the sun does not set for ever. In this sense the closing lines of the Catechism are not without suggestion:
Q: When must the Philosopher begin his enterprise?
A: At the moment of daybreak, for his energy must never be relaxed.
Q: When may he take his rest?
A: When the work has come to its perfection (that is to say, in the Sabbatic repose which the spirit attains at the centre).
Q: At what hour is the end of the work?
A: High noon, that is to say, at the moment when the sun is in its fullest power, and when the Son of the Day- Star is in its most brilliant splendor (noon of the summer solstice being taken to typify the Divine in its utmost manifestation to the self-knowing spirit, the state of self-knowing being the consciousness that the spirit is indeed the Son of that Sun, lawfully begotten).
Q: What is the password of MAGNESIA (in other words, what is the electrical attraction by virtue of which the centre draws back those who came out of the centre) ?
A: You know whether I can or should reply I reserve my speech (the reason being that this is the Great Secret).
Q: Will you give me the greeting of the philosophers (signifying the inward certitude with which those who have attained the union recognize all others who have also attained) ?
A: Begin ; I will reply to you (but it is noticeable that the challenge changes at this, the initial point).
Q: Are you an apprentice philosopher (this is the Masonic substitute for that which is termed the greeting) ?
A: My friends and the Wise know me (an evasion : the true question and answer concern the state of knowing even as we are known, but it is not asked).
Q: What is the age of a philosopher?
A: From the moment of his researches to that of his discoveries, the Philosopher does not age (because the Great Experiment, in so far as it is undertaken in the time of this life, is made in a suspension between two chronological points, representing the mystic space of say half an hour, or any other duration, and between the two points a door opens into eternity).
Between (a) the legend of the Knights of the Morning which seems to summarise in a single thesis all that was dreamed of the Holy Wars in Palestine and their Masonic possibilities ; (^) the serious, critical standpoint taken up in the work on the subject of the cloud of High Grades ; and (c] the Hermetic Catechism, I believe that UlLtoile Flamboyant* created a great impression. We shall see that the Catechism was imported into late Masonic Rites ; it was regarded by Eliphas Levi as the most luminous and unmistakable presentation of the alchemical Mystery that had been ever put into words ; and, reflected from him, some of its material passed into the lectures attached to the ANCIENT AND ACCEPTED SCOTTISH RITE by the illustrious Albert Pike. I think, on my own part, that it has a considerable and permanent value in the proper understanding of its materials.
In the course of his work, two Masonic High Grades are separated from all others for especial commendation by Tschoudy: (a) the cossais de Sf. Andr d’Ecosse, and (b) A Kight of Palestine; the first is said to be the antecedent of the second, which emanates from it directly. He is supposed to have collected these, with other chivalrous degrees, into an ORDER OF THE BLAZING STAR, but the evidence is doubtful. When a certain obscure Parisian instituted his COUNCIL OF KNIGHTS OF THE EAST, in opposition as it is said to the COUNCIL OF EMPERORS OF THE EAST AND WEST, Tschoudy was by repute the author of the rituals, but with this fantasy it will not be necessary to deal. They are said to have been a combination of Egyptian and Jewish doctrine, with some Christian elements. We have already met with Ecossais de Saint Andre as the apth Degree of the ANCIENT AND ACCEPTED SCOTTISH RITE. The authorship has been always referred to Tschoudy, and as I have no special ground for disputing it, I will only recall that it was one of the additional Grades superposed by the SCOTTISH RITE on the collection of the COUNCIL OF EMPERORS.
The Grade of Sublime and Unknown Apprentice Philosopher appears to have rested in theory, for I find no trace of its existence. The author of the Catechism was, however, attracted by the notion of Unknown Philosophers, derived probably from the Concealed Superiors of the STRICT OBSERVANCE, and he published their Statutes, shewing that, on the hypothesis of their existence, they were willing to admit persons of all religions, but could only communicate the Mysteries of true Philosophy to those who were awakened in respect of the Mystery of Faith. Members were supposed to adopt a Kabalistic name. If any such member pursued the Hermetic work to its perfect, fulfilment it would be his duty to certify the fact to his chiefs an old Rosicrucian regulation.
The association, whatever its nature, was therefore one of research and not of adepts in possession. It gave preference to those who could affirm their earnest desire for an acquaintance with the mysteries of chemistry, even ” a curiosity concerning them which goes down into the very depths of their souls.” On the one hand, however, they were to beware of sophistic experiments, an inclination to which, if discernible, would disqualify a Candidate for reception, and, on the other, it is obvious from the Statutes that the operations of the art were those of an exotic chemistry rather than of an ordinary kind. They were concerned with ” the wonders which can be wrought by fire.” The association on its own part promised nothing definitely to aspirants, though contrary to Masonic rule it was considered proper to imbue persons who were prepared with a desire to enter its ranks. It transpires at the same time that there were existing archives and that on the occasion of his reception the Candidate was placed in possession of an important secret which is termed in the Catechism ” the password of MAGNESIA.” It was communicated in the ” tongue of the Sages,” and it revealed ” the true and unique matter of which the Stone of the Philosophers is composed.”
The Statutes contain no suggestion concerning a Masonic aspect ; the method of recruiting was by means of a patron, who took his own sponsor into a kind of unofficial consultation by putting a hypothetical case, in which the name of the possible postulant at least in the absence of some special understanding was rigidly suppressed, an Unknown Philosopher having not only his identity concealed from the world without but, by a convention or presumption, if not in actual practice, from the world within the circle. The object was to protect by all measures of prudence those who should ultimately succeed in composing the mystic Stone. In the absence of such precautions, not only the particular vessel of high alchemical election but the Society at large might after a short time be “brought to the brink of ruin.”
When it was decided to receive a Postulant, it was ordained in the first place that “the light which enlighteneth from the Eternal” should be invoked in a public service, held in a consecrated place of religion, “according to the Rites of that faith which is professed by the person to be received.” In France this would obviously mean the offering of a votive Mass for that person’s intention, but in other cases, as difficulties were foreseen, the observance was so relaxed that it probably passed into desuetude. In the second place, the Candidate was sworn to preserve the Statutes inviolable, the secrets, “whatsoever may befall,” as also to keep faith with his brethren, with the laws of his land and with the sovereign who ruled over it. On his part, the patron who imposed the obligations, speaking in the person of the Order, assured the Neophyte of its friendship, its fidelity and its protection. An imputed disclosure of the great arcanum enigmatically or otherwise concluded the ceremony, which obviously took place between Patron and Aspirant only; after the reception it was open to the new member to become himself a patron. He was known, as I have intimated, by a Kabalistic name, and was made acquainted with the Kabalistic characters used in the art. On the anniversary of his reception, should he be of the Catholic faith and a Candidate of this kind seems more likely to have proved a persona grata he was to offer the Holy Sacrifice to God, as an act of thanksgiving, and that he might ” obtain from the Eternal the gifts of knowledge and illumination.”
I believe that this curious document represents a scheme in embryo and not the regulations of an actually incorporated body; and if, as I also believe, it was the unaided work of Baron Tschoudy, the presumptive inference therefrom is either (a) that his studies and experiments had, in his own faith at least, placed him in possession of the problematical First Matter of the Physical Work; or (b) that he had received a communication concerning it from a secret source of knowledge. It does not follow, and I see no reason to think, that in consequence of such knowledge he had performed what is called the Great Work in the particular department which concerned him. So also whether communicated or discovered by his own efforts there may have been mistake or deception concerning the First Matter.
It is just to add in qualification of my previous statement, that the statutes, here analyzed briefly, do contain a single casual allusion to the Grand Architect of the Universe, but it is made under such circumstances that it scarcely carries with it any Masonic suggestion ; but, on the other hand, we have seen that the Catechism belonging to the Apprentice Grade of the Order is obviously and persistently Masonic. It is therefore a matter of speculation how in the mind of the author it was proposed to bring the procedure of reception as delineated into consonance with ordinary procedure according to the mind of the Craft or the High Grades. This is one problem left over, and it will be seen that I have no pretension to deal with it. Another concerns the title of Unknown Philosophers, which I have sought to explain by the antecedents of Unknown Superiors in the RITE OF THE STRICT OBSERVANCE. It is not altogether adequate, and we have further to remember that the RITE OF ELECT COHENS was in existence at the period of Baron Tschoudy, though I question whether it can be regarded as in open evidence till after the appearance of Pasqually at Bordeaux, and even after UEtoile Flamhoyante was published. It may, however, be to this source that the title should be more correctly referred, but I suppose that in the last resource the question is not vital. It is more important to distinguish between the society described by Baron Tschoudy in 1763, when UEtoile Flamboyante was published, and another alleged ORDER OF THE UNKNOWN JUDGE-PHILOSOPHERS, the particulars of which are confined to a work of Ragon which did not appear till 1853. He calls it Jesuitical, Templar and a part of that system which was perpetuated in the ORDER OF CHRIST. The last allegation does not need refuting, and, if I speak my whole mind, I question whether the mysterious Judges had any corporate existence outside the perverse brain to which we owe the treatise called Orthodoxie Maqonnique. However this may be, Ragon affirms that the Order was divided into the two Grades of Novice and Judge Commander. The condition of reception was the possession of the Grade of Rose-Croix and the reception in the first instance took place in a vault. The Order claimed to be the ne plus ultra of Masonry, and to unveil its entire meaning. The Candidate was pledged, in the name of the most Perfect and Holy Trinity, to work for the triumph of the Order, for the regeneration of society, the liberty of all Brethren and the destruction of superstition together with all usurpation of the rights of man. With this object, the character of man was to be made his special study. The noviciate lasted for three years, during which time the initiate knew only his sponsor and the officer by whom he had been received. At the end of his probation he was qualified for admission to the Second Grade of Commander^ in which he was pledged to the practice of mercy, and was informed that the purpose of the Order was the reintegration of the Judge Philosophers in their true rights as the successors of the Temple. He was made acquainted with the analogy between the central legend of the Craft Grades and the martyrdom of Jacques de Molay, and with the vengeance sworn by the Order against the traitors in chief being the papacy, the principle of royalty and those who had profited by the conspiracy, namely, the Knights of Malta. In what manner the vengeance was to be accomplished does not appear in the Ritual, but in a general sense the Candidate undertook to protect innocence against the superstition, usurpation, tyranny, hypocrisy and savagery by which it was threatened. In some obscure manner these dedications were connected in the mind of Ragon with the study of the secret sciences, more especially on the Hermetic side. He published the Statutes of the Order, which in certain respects recall those of Baron Tschoudy, though it would be an idle task to specify the examples of analogy.
There are now only a few points to complete the considerations of this section. The connection which UEtoile Flamboyante sought to establish with the Secret Tradition in Israel through the so-called Knights of the Morning, and with Alchemy as a part of the tradition, suffers comparison with an alternative hypothesis which was current about the same period, and traced the Fraternity to another secret association, under the name of the Dionysian artists. These, in the mind of the hypothesis, arose in Syria, and in some occult manner were acquainted with the Essenian sect, which constitutes the claim of this particular dream to a word of notice here. I will put its chief contentions in the words of the witness. ” It is advanced that the people of Attica went in quest of superior settlements a thousand years before Christ, that they settled in Asia Minor, the provinces which they acquired being called Ionia. In a short time these Asiatic colonies surpassed the mother country in prosperity and science ; sculpture in marble and the Doric and Ionian Orders resulted from their ingenuity. They returned to instruct their mother country in a style of architecture which has been the admiration of succeeding ages. For these improvements the world is indebted to the Dionysian artificers.” By the scope of this hypothesis, the persons in question were, however, something more than builders of the ordinary kind. They carried with them their Mysteries into Ionia, and these were the Mysteries of Bacchus. They were further an association of scientific men, who possessed the exclusive privilege of erecting Temples, theatres and other public buildings in Asia Minor. ” These artists were very numerous in Asia, and existed under the same appellation in Syria, Persia and India. They supplied Ionia and the surrounding countries, as far as the Hellespont, with theatrical apparatus by contract, and erected the magnificent Temple at Teos to Bacchus, the founder of their Order. About three hundred and sixty years before the birth of Christ, a considerable number of them were incorporated by command of the kings of Pergamos, who assigned to them Teos as a settlement, it being the city of their tutelary god. The members of this association, which was intimately connected with the Dionysian Mysteries, were distinguished from the uninitiated inhabitants of Teos by the science which they possessed, and by appropriate words and signs by which they could recognise their brethren of the Order. Like Freemasons, they were divided into Lodges, which were distinguished by different appellations, . . ., and each separate association was under the direction of a master, or president, and wardens. . . . They used particular utensils in their ceremonial observances, some of which were exactly similar to those that are employed by the Fraternity of Freemasons. … If it be possible to prove the identity of any two societies from the coincidence of their external forms, we are authorised to conclude that the Fraternity of Ionian Architects and the Fraternity of the Freemasons are exactly the same ; and as the former practised the Mysteries of Bacchus and Ceres, it may be safely affirmed that in their internal as well as their external procedure the Society of Freemasons resembles the Dionysians of Asia Minor.”
We are not at this day so learned or perhaps so readily convinced as some of our precursors in the past, and we are not therefore so familiarly acquainted with the procedure, external and internal, of building guilds in Asia. The hypothesis is of course negligible, and if it were worth while to say so, it is not even in tolerable harmony with its own assumptions. The claim is (a) that the work of these Craftsmen was to be found in Judea prior to the period of the Temple, which was erected in the Ionic style ; (b) that they can be traced through the Fraternity of Essenes, though the Essenes were a contemplative Order ; (c) that they were continued through the Templars, though the Templars were not architects, notwithstanding their attributed design of restoring to despoiled Zion the glories of its emblematic Temple ; and (d) that they are ultimately brought down partly through Eastern perpetuation but in part also through the architects of Byzantium to ” that trading association of architects ” which appeared during the dark ages under the special authority of the See of Rome.
The inference is that in addition to the literal art of building, the emblematic mysteries of Greece and Asia were also handed down, under whatever changes, and that thus through Orders of Chivalry and even through contemplative Orders – there has been derived to symbolical Freemasonry some part of that mystery which is still at work among us. Baron Tschoudy died at Paris in 1769, but I have dealt with him subsequently to Pernety, that I might remove an alchemist from the consideration in the first place whose hand in the Hermetic Degrees is not so clearly indicated as is that of a contemporary who happened to die earlier, and indeed before his time.