About Egyptian Masonic Rituals
Birth of the Egyptian Masonic Rite
The first period of the history of Egyptian rites dates back to the 18th century. At that time, France had only one main Masonic Organization called the “Grand Orient of France,” structured in 1773.
The large organizations used a basic and common ritual; in addition, several of them created various rituals inspired by Qabalah, Hermeticism, or ancient esoteric traditions. Original sets of degrees were organized, incorporating elements coming from Mediterranean traditions and preceding the official birth of Freemasonry.
The combination of Hebrew and Christian Qabalah, Neoplatonism, Hermeticism, and other Western philosophies with Freemasonry gave birth to this original expression called Egyptian Freemasonry.
Birth of the rituals of “Misraim” and “Memphis”
The second period of this history started at the beginning of the 19th century and ended with the emergence of new organizations. The Egyptian rite of Misraim, a small organization, was constituted as Supreme Masonic Power in 1815. To be able to exist as a Grand Lodge, the three first degrees common to every Masonic Lodge were needed. Consequently, the Grand Officers created these rituals using ancient symbols to highlight their specificity. Gradually, the Egyptian rites developed a proper administrative and initiatory organization. Some of the contemporary Egyptian Masonic organizations continued to use this structure, while others moved closer to a more democratic functioning.
From 1810 to 1813, two brothers named Bédarride developed the rite of Misraïm in France. Without developing controversial details of the origin of their lineage, their system apparently convinced various masons, and several Lodges were created. But various human problems limited the growth of this movement; consequently, the rite of Misraim experienced swings of ups and downs until 1848. The "Grande Loge Misraimite" was permanently closed in 1899.
The rite of Memphis was created shortly before 1838, by Jean Étienne Marconis de Nègre (1795-1868). As for the rite of Misraim, its origin is uncertain. Marconis' authority could have come from his father through a Grand Lodge working with the rite of Memphis that would have kept up his work from 1815 to 1816. His father would also have been Grand Master of the Rite of Misraim. Thus, J. E. Marconis de Nègre became the first Grand Master and Grand Hierophant of this new Masonic organization. This Order expressed clear republican sympathies and, for this reason, had problems with the justice system.
The association of the two rites
While the rite of Memphis was integrated into the Grand College of Rites of the Grand Orient of France, the Sovereign Sanctuary of Memphis in the USA received an official recognition of the Grand Orient of France and took the name of "Ancient and Primitive Rite of Masonry." Seymour was the Grand Master when several lodges were opened in the USA, and in other parts of the world. In 1872, Seymour established a Sovereign Sanctuary for Great Britain and Ireland with John Yarker as Grand Master. In 1881, Yarker received a charter from the reformed rite of Misraim of Pessina, in exchange for a Memphis charter. At the same time, the Italian General Garibaldi was named Grand Hierophant of the two rites, beginning what can be defined as the third period in the rite’s history. The official association of these two rites can be dated by this exchange of charters, as well as moral support from Garibaldi. In fact, at Garibaldi’s death, Yarker became Grand Hierophant General.
In France, Yarker granted a charter to Dr. Gerard Encausse (known as Papus),allowing him to open the Lodge called “INRI” working with the rite Swedenborgian. This development can be considered the fourth period of the rite’s history. In 1906, a new Charter authorized this lodge to become a Grand Lodge. In 1908, the Grand Master Théodore Reuss allowed Papus and Teder to open the Lodge Humanidad, which became the Mother Lodge for the ancient and primitive Oriental Rite of Memphis-Misraïm in France, replacing the Swedenborgian Grand Lodge.
From 1908 to 1916, Papus remained Grand Master of the Sovereign Grand Council General of the Rite of Memphis-Misraïm for France, followed by Téder from 1916 to 1918. Then came Jean Bricaud (1918 to 1934) and C. Chevillon, until he was assassinated on March 25, 1944, by the French Militia. Generally called the Milice, this was a political paramilitary organization created on January 30, 1943 by the Vichy regime (with German aid) to help fight against the French Resistance during World War II. The Milice was also violently anti-Masonic.
After the Second World War, in February 1945, Henri-Charles Dupont became director of the Order, until shortly before his death in 1960, when he gave it over to Robert Ambelain, marking the fifth period in the rite’s history. Ambelain, who became Sovereign Grand Master General, reestablished the rite of Memphis-Misraim in June 1963, writing new rituals and presiding over the organization with more or less success until the end of his life in 1997.
After Ambelain’s death, these Masonic organizations of Memphis-Misraim had several splits, usually due to personality clashes. Gradually, the various forms of Egyptian rites were reduced to the modern version created by Robert Ambelain. Then at the beginning of the 20th century, the Grand Orient of France decided to accept the reopening of the rite of Memphis-Misraim within its federation of rites. This effectively emphasized the fact that these Egyptian rites could not be limited to organizations claiming ownership through countless and contradictory charters and certificates. Today, the Egyptian rites are again what they were at the beginning: an original ritual heritage coming from the research of Freemasons who are passionate about the ancient ceremonies of the Western tradition. This is what our Grand Lodge is doing today, using Egyptian rituals and documents received from the hands of European Grand Officers.