Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Creation Theories of Masonic Templary: Rite of Strict Observance

Continuing on my research of Masonic Templary, let us delve into the theories of the supposed roots of Masonry stemming from the Knights Templars of the Crusades. We'll start this series off by discussing the Rite of Strict Observance.

The Legend of Pierre d'Audmont

Legend says that Pierre d’Aumont, the Preceptor of Auvergne, with a number of knights fled to Scotland disguised as operative Masons. On arrival they created a new order to preserve the traditions of the soon to be disbanded Knights Templar. This new order they named Franc Ma├žons. This order would later be known as Free Masons when they travelled to England.

Truth is that the Preceptor of Auvergne was not Pierre d’Audmont, but rather Imbert Blanke who did indeed flee to England after dodging the arrests of 13 October 1307. He was there arrested and later played a role in defending his Brethren in the courts. Many Masonic scholars such as Stephen Dafoe point out the absurdity of this legend, particularly the etymology of the name of Freemason. Albert Mackey believes that it was through Ramsey’s Oration that this legend of Templar continuation was able to take hold, but dismisses it as rubbish having no “particle of historical evidence”. Although he does admit that this legend has had a large influence on the modern Masonic organization particularly with the incorporation of Templar Orders.

The legend of Pierre d’Audmont is said to be the brainchild of the Rite of Strict Observance, which was largely promoted by Karl Gotthelf von Hund in Germany between 1751 and 1754.

The Rite of Strict Observance

A decade prior, a few German Lodges had started giving their Entered Apprentices and Fellowcrafts the names of French Knights. Most of these Lodges were in Dresden, but von Hund founded one of these Lodges on his estates East of Dresden around 1751. It was from the close ties of these Lodges that the Rite of Strict Observance was created.

It was said that the Rite originated with C.G. Marschall von Bieberstein, who had founded two of the Lodges in Germany; one in Dresden and one in Naumber called “Lodge of the Three Hammers”. Von Hund is said to have taken over after von Bieberstein died in 1750. Under von Hund’s watch, the Rites degrees consisted of: Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, Master Mason, Scottish Master, Novice, and Knights Templar. The Scottish Master degree concerned itself with the preservation of the lost word of Freemasonry which had been cut on a plate of pure metal, placed in a secure location, and centuries later discovered. This was not an exclusive belief as the Ecossais degrees used this, which had sprung up after Ramsey’s Oration.

One of the most strange aspects of the Rite of Strict Observance was that the adherence had to swear an oath to blindly follow the directives of unknown superiors who ruled the order. This invisible leader was said to have possibly been Charles Edward Stuart, the Young Pretender. This was the same man whom Ramsey had tried to tutor some year prior. There is a lack of evidence that supports this idea, but nonetheless the invisible rulers communicated through von Hund.

The order did not develop any wide-spread appeal for a couple of decades, possibly due to the Seven Year War. From 23 May to 6 July 1775, a convention was held in Brunswick as there was a lot of confusion among the members. Even though they met for some time nothing really came of it other than more confusion among the members. Another convention was called on 15 August 1776 in Wiesbaden at the request of a Baron von Gugumos. During the convention though the members suspected the Baron was a fraud and demanded the Baron do what he promised. The Baron left the convention and never returned to do what he promised.

The End

After von Hund’s death in 28 October 1776, the Rite began to go downhill. The Duke of Sudermania, Grand Master of Swedish Grand Lodge, was elected and installed as Deputy Grand Master of the Rite in 1778. Two years later he resigned. From July 1782 to September 1783, there was a convention held in Wilhelsmbad where it was resolved that the Freemasons were not descendants of the Templars, that there were no “unknown superiors” to hand out instruction, and soon after the Rite came to an end.

The Rectified Scottish Rite

It should be clarified that the Rite did not die out entirely. It was to be absorbed into an order called the Rectified Rite created by Jean-Baptiste Willermoz in 1774. Willermoz had been initiated into the Rite of Strict Observance in 1773. Although based on the Rite of Strict Observance, this Rectified Rite consisted of Scottish Master, Esquire Novice, Knights Beneficent of the Holy City, Professed and Grand Professed. This Rite is still practiced today, but the last two degrees are not always conducted.

The Rectified Scottish Rite exists in Belgium, France, the UK, and the US. There has been recent scandal with the creation of the Grand Priory of America as not all the Grand Masters of the US Grand Lodges all recognize it as they say they did not receive their charter from a legitimate and recognized Priory. This tale is still playing out.

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