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The Rite of Misraim

This Rite appeared for the first time in Venice in 1788. A group of Socinians (an anti-Trinitarian Protestant sect) requested a patent from Cagliostro, then from Trente4. Not wishing to practice the magical-kabbalistic rituals of the latter, they chose to work the Templar Rite. Cagliostro thus gave them only Masonic light; he held the first three Degrees of English Masonry, and the higher Grades of German Masonry which were strongly marked by the templar tradition. The name Mizraïm is simply the plural of Egyptian, the only reminder of this Egyptian Rite which transmitted to them the authority for the Obedience. It hived off rapidly to Milan, Genoa, Naples and appeared in France through Michel Bédarride, who have received the magisterial powers in 1810 in Naples, from Bro. De Lassalle.

From 1810 to 1811 the three Bédarride brothers successfully developed the Rite in France, to all intents and purposes under the protection of the Scottish Rite. Indeed, it could count several illustrious Masonic names at its head: the Comte Muraire, Sovereign Grand Commander of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, the Duc Decazes, the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, the Duke of Leicester, Lieutenant-General Baron Teste, etc. Just before the White Terror it quickly became the Masonic Obedience which transmitted the required mastership to the Carbonari, and this Rite amassed 22 Lodges in Paris, 6 at Lyons, 6 at Metz, 5 in Toulouse, 3 I Bordeaux, 3 in Geneva, 2 in Lausanne, and 1 at Courtray. Violently anticlerical5, antiroyalist, the police of the Restoration had it dissolved. Clandestine for eighteen years, it was restored in 1838, only to be dissolved once more in 1841. It arose once more from a clandestine existence in 1848. Mizraïm made its way towards joining with the Rite of Memphis in 1881, a fusion which was the work of Garibaldi.

The Rite of Memphis

The majority of members who accompanied Bonaparte on the Mission of Egypt were Masons from the ancient initiatic Rites: the Philalethes, the African Brethren, the Hermetic Rite, the Philadelphians, the Primitive Rite, not to mention the Grand-Orient de France. Having discovered a gnostic-hermetic survival in Cairo, and then the Druze Masonry encountered by Gérard de Nerval in the Lebanon which could be traced back to the Operative Masons who had accompanied the Templars – their protectors – there, the Brothers in the Mission to Egypt in consequence decided henceforth to renounce their Masonic lineage which came from the Grand Lodge in London, and to set out once more in a new Rite, which owed nothing to England, then Enemy Number One. Thus, under the guidance of Samuel Honis and Marconis de Nègre, the Rite of Memphis was born in Montauban, in 1815.

With great speed, just as the Rite of Mizraïm had brought together nostalgic Jacobeans and the Carbonari, the Rite of Memphis regrouped those in the pay of the exGrand Army and the Bonaparte-ists who remained loyal to the Eagle6. In 1816 the two Rites had the same Grand Master-General, which would permit a future fusion. Bt the Grand-Orient was still mainly composed of monarchists, its seal carrying the fleur de lys, and it secured the dissolution of Memphis. This did not last, and in 1826 this Rite took up its labors once more under the Obedience of the selfsame Grand-Orient. Dissolved in 1841, just like Mizraïm, Memphis also became clandestine, and only reappeared in plain view in 1848 with the Republic. Dissolved once more in 1850, reawakened in 1853, Memphis joined with the Grand-Orient in 1862, compelled to by a decision of the PrincePresident. Having many Lodges abroad by now, it attracted illustrious names, such as Louis Blanc and Garibaldi, who was soon to be the unifier of Memphis and Mizraïm.

The Rite of Memphis-Misraim

Up to 1881, the Rites of Memphis and Mizraïm proceeded in parallel and in concert, in a very extraordinary atmosphere; indeed, these Rites both began to gather Masons from the Grand-Orient de France and the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite who were interested in studies pertaining to the esotericism of Masonic symbolism, gnosis, Kabbalah, also Hermeticism and occultism. Now, these two Rites were the inheritors and depositaries of the old initiatic Obediences of the 18th Century: the Philalethes, the Philadelphians, the Hermetic Rite, the Primitive Rite, etc. And all this was represented in Mizraïm in 90 different grades, and in Memphis, by 95. How to administrate and make use of this great disparate ensemble? When Garibaldi was designated first Grand MasterGeneral ad vitam for the entire world (since Brothers abroad had not suffered political persecution as in France), he established a type of classification which was not at all hierarchical in the beginning, but which quickly became so. In fact, the 95 degrees of the Rite of Memphis-Mizraïm should be considered to be an ambulatory, where the old Masonic degrees which were no longer or rarely practiced, and not as a series of values, are to be found. Moreover, the accords of 1863 with the Grand-Orient of France, and 1896 with the Symbolic Scottish Grand Lodge, the future Grand Lodge of France only treated on the 33 classic degrees (the Rite of Perfection, followed by the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite). The higher echelons of Memphis-Mizraïm compulsorily practiced: the 9th Degree (Master-Elect of Nine), 18th Degree (Knight Rose-Croix), 30th Degree (Knight Kadosh), 32nd Degree (Prince of the Royal Secret), 33rd Degree (Sovereign Grand Inspector-General). The 66th, 90th and 95th degrees were conferred as honorific titles on senior Masons, in recompense for their valor and fidelity. The other degrees (Secret Master, Royal Arch, etc) are optional and left to the discretion of the Brothers of higher degrees.

Today, the Rite of Memphis-Mizraïm comprises around 5,500 Masons, the majority of laborers being located in South America. It possesses around a hundred Symbolic Lodges for the first three grades (not counting the higher echelons) in France,

Switzerland, Belgium, Netherlands, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Venezuela, Australia, etc. Since the General Grand Mastership of Garibaldi, the position has been successively secured by Theodore Reuss (also Grand Master of the Grand-Orient of Germany), Doctor Gérard Encausse (Papus), Charles Détré (alias Teder), Jean Bricaud, Constant Chevillon, Charles-Henry Dupont, Robert Ambelain, and Gérard Kloppel since 1984. In 1964 a grand Convent-General of the Lodges of South America decided that the seat of the General Grand Mastership would be obligatorily in Paris, and a Convent-General of the Lodges of Europe ratified this vote in 1965. The Convent of South America also expressed the wish that the Grand Master-General should obligatorily be French. This appears to be more difficult to impose. Remembering its deaths (the Grand Master Chevillon was assassinated by the Vichy Militia, and his Belgian alter ego, Brother Delaive, was decapitated with a hatchet by the Nazis), this Rite perpetuates their tradition of fidelity to democratic principles and to the initiatic sciences. Uncompromisingly Deist, it makes the definition of “Masonic religion” laid out in Anderson’s Constitutions of 1723, and considered in “general morality of honest men” its own. Its Symbolic Lodges work the Templar Rite (Mizraïm) or the Egyptian Rite (Memphis), but on their altars they join the Ruler with the traditional interlacing of the Compass and Square.