What is the original Egyptian Freemasonry?
What is called “Egyptian Freemasonry” was organized and practiced in Europe in the late 18th century. The Egyptian degrees of the Sophisians were created by Master Masons to provide a deeper understanding of the real roots of the Masonic Tradition. These initiates used the ancient Mediterranean Mysteries to provide efficient keys that allow a truly effective inner development of the adepts.
Several Masonic groups, Orders, and Grand Lodges were created in Europe, mostly in France. The most important are: the African Architects (1767), the Primitive Rite of the Philadelphians (1780), the Rite of the Perfect Initiates of Egypt (1785), the Sacred Order of Sophisians (1801), and the Friends of the Desert (1806). Several years later, new Masonic Orders linked to this early tradition appeared. They were called “Misraïm” and “Memphis.”
The Sacred Order of the Sophisians was created in France in 1801.
At the end of the 18th century the French General Bonaparte led his army in Egypt and the Middle East to counter the influence of Great Britain. Besides military personnel, many scientists and engineers were exploring Egypt. Several were Masons, including the General Jean-Louis-Ébénézer Reynier. Indeed, his main activity was to fight, but as a Freemason, he discovered something unexpected.
While visiting the temples and meeting with natives of this country, he realized that the real heart of Freemasonry was a lot more ancient than the Masonic assertions taught during the initiations he had previously received. The great Goddess who had been worshiped for hundreds of years after the end of the Egyptian civilization lifted her veil for him. He experienced a deep spiritual experience and came back to France with the strong will to recreate the Isis cult under the veil of the Masonic Tradition.
The General gathered several brothers to begin organizing of a small group. Rapidly, this Egyptian Masonic ritual gathered Egyptologists, scientists and writers who accompanied Napoleon during his military campaign of Egypt. Several artists, at this time both men and women, were initiated and joined the ranks of the Sophisians. A former soldier, lawyer, then playwright, Jean-Guillaume-Antoine Cuvelier (1766-1824) joined the group and started to organize it. With the General he opened a Masonic lodge which was the veil of the Sacred Order of the Sophisians. Its goal was to reawaken the cult of Isis under the shape of an initiatic Order and adapt it to the present time.
Indisputably, this Masonic Order is the one that most clearly expressed its attachment to Egypt. It was the one who gathered the most specialists of the new science called Egyptology. The Great Goddess Isis was the center of these ceremonies. But the founders were not trying to create a simple enactment of a lost world. The rituals were not merely symbolic: as in the past, they involved invocations, ritual gestures and more to create a real theurgic process. This Masonic Order wearing the beautiful name of “Sacred Order of Sophisians” was intended to perpetuate the cult of the Goddess Isis; thus; its rituals were performed under the auspices of Isis and Horus.
Initiatic degrees and teachings were then organized to allow Freemasons to advance towards the real heart of the initiation. For many years, this Order flourished and apparently disappeared, until today.
Characteristics of the ritual of the Sophisians
A traditional initiation has always been used to help the candidate accomplish a real inner transformation.
The symbols enacted are not just empty and powerless representations. Some, coming from the origins of the Western tradition, are more effective. However, it is imperative to know how to animate them on the invisible plane. As such, they will become truly active. Here, we are entering a dimension of High Magic or more exactly Theurgy (remember that this word means Divine Work).
Knowledge and use of these laws allows initiations to have a genuine transformative and protective power.
The Sacred Order of the Sophisians has always denounced as low and negative magic, any bloody pact and any pronunciation of degrading oaths. No reason, even symbolic, justifies such actions, which are dangerous in every respect.
In order for an initiatic progress to be real and effective on the invisible level, group and individual practices are necessary. This highly sacred ritual was and continue to be associated with a symbolic theoretical work, common in continental Freemasonry.
To go further
Two books are talking about the Sophisians.
Keep in mind that you will not find in these books, the rituals or ceremonies, but you will learn more about this tradition.
- Napoleon's Sorcerers: The Sophisiansm by Darius A. Spieth
- "Esoteric Freemasonry, Rituals & Practices for a Deeper Understanding" by Jean-Louis de Biasi. (See below)