The Hermetic Order of Martinists (HOM) has a new website this summer. HOM is a Martinist Order that is only open to Master Masons of a Lodge under the authority of the United Grand Lodge of England, or of a Grand Lodge recognised by them, who are trinitarian Christians and are members of the Societas Rosicruciana In Anglia (SRIA). The Hermetic Order of Martinists (HOM) was developed from the French Ordre Martiniste et Synarchique (OMS) in 1984 by Louis Bentin, Grand Master of the Britannic Grand Lodge of the OMS.
Most American Masons (and non-Masons alike) have rarely, if ever, heard of the Martinists. Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin was a poor French nobleman who was born in 1843. As a young believer in mysticism, he traveled throughout Europe, making many converts. He was briefly imprisoned during the French Revolution, but survived because local authorities were in desperate need of schoolteachers. Louis-Claude was only too happy to oblige and become one.
Over the years, he became a student of an 18th century Kabbalist named Joachim Martinez Pasquales, and later translated several obscure 17th century works by a German mystic, Jacob Böhme, into French. Böhme, known as “The Teutonic Philospher,” had theorized that in order to achieve a state of grace, Man had to fall away from God and do battle with the demons and evil angels who caused the sins of the world. Only after spiritual victory over these evils could Man again return to God’s good graces.
Using both authors as his inspiration, Saint-Martin developed his own philosophy about Life, the Universe and Everything, called the “Way of the Heart.” Saint-Martin’s writings were signed by the enigmatic name of the Unknown Philosopher, and they quickly became popular. Study groups began to pop up, called the Society of the Unknown Philosopher. One of Saint-Martin’s biggest objections to the occult, esoteric and fraternal societies of Europe at the time was their refusal to allow women as members, and his was one of the first to grant women equal membership status.
Saint-Martin ‘s writings slipped into obscurity after his death in 1803, but an enthusiastic student would rediscover them and change all that. Gerard Encausse (who went by the name of Papus) resurrected . Because of Saint-Martin, they came to call themselves Martinists. Not surprisingly, there was much crossover between the usual suspects involved in 19th century esotericism: Rosicrucians, Freemasons, Gnostics, and these new Martinists. In 1888, Encausse formed a mystery school called the Ordere Martinist, and by 1900, there were chapters in a dozen countries, with hundreds of members.
World War I killed off the principal leaders of the Order, and the central organization dissolved. But a small sect of Martinists became enamored with a movement called Synarchy, an attempt to influence European countries by means of secretive, philosophical societies. Synarchie had been promoted in the 1890’s by an occult mystic named Alexandre Saint-Yves d’Alveydre, who claimed he was receiving telepathic messages from Shangri-La, directing his actions for world takeover. A small clot of enthusiastic Martinists got excited at the prospect of infiltrating the governments of Europe, most especially the notion of restoring the monarchy in France, and formed the Ordre Martiniste Synarchie. World War II all but destroyed Martinist societies (and hundreds of others) in Europe as the Nazis outlawed them, and imprisoned or executed most members of so-called “secret societies” that the regime hadn’t created themselves.
There are several groups of Martinist-derived orders around the world today. The Traditional Martinist Order had made its way to the U.S. through Rosicrucian groups in the 1930s, and it survives today. The Internet has done much to spread Saint-Martin’s philosophies, and new groups have appeared recently along with the traditional ones. They cover a broad range of philosophies and disciplines, with some incorporating Rosicrucian influences, some borrowing from the Memphis-Mizraim branch of Freemasonry. And some simply adhere strictly to Saint-Martin’s philosophies.