Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Grand Priory of the Scottish Reformed & Rectified Rite of the United States of America


This particular article absolutely qualifies as the pinnacle of "inside baseball" Masonic topics. The arcane methodology of Masonic regularity and recognition can sometimes be a mind numbing experience, especially when obscure appendant groups claiming an "ancient" lineage get exported beyond their original borders.

The York Rite and the Scottish Rite, once you look outside of the confines of their orderly U.S. systems, can become a confusing minefield to negotiate. What we call the York Rite, in particular, has innumerable shoals and eddies among its many small, obscure, and largely invitational organizations that go far beyond the commonly known Royal Arch, Cryptic Masons and Knight Templar groups.

One such invitational group has been the CBCS, the Chevaliers Bienfaisants de la Cité Sainte, or Knights Beneficent of the Holy City. Outside of the U.S., CBCS is a system of the Rite Ecossais Rectifie (Scottish Rectified Rite), and considered to be the oldest continuously operating Christian chivalric Masonic Order in the world, tracing its roots back to Baron Karl Gotthelf von Hund's "Rite of Strict Observance" in Germany in the 1750s. By widespread agreement, even though it possesses its own degree rituals for the Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason degrees, like the Scottish Rite systems in the U.S. and most of Europe, it acknowledges that those degrees are the sole domain of Masonic grand lodges.

The CBCS confers the following degrees on its candidates:

• 4° Maître Ecossais (Scottish Master)
• 4.5° Perfect Master of St. Andrew
• 5° Ecuyer Novice (Squire Novice)
• 6° Chevalier Bienfaisant de la Cité Sainte (Knight Beneficient of the Holy City)
• 7° Chevalier-Profès (Professed Knight)
• 8° Chevalier-Grand Profès (Grand Professed Knight)


As with so many Masonic-derived systems, there are, naturally, conflicting organizations that all claim to be authentic. One line of descent is a Martinist order, founded by Jean Baptiste de Willermoz, based on the writings of Martinez de Pasquelly. Some have little or nothing to do with Freemasonry, and some also admit women into their ranks. Another offshoot was resurrected by Arthur Edward Waite.

Now comes the complicated part.

Since 1934, a charter has been held in the U.S. by the Grand Priory of America CBCS, which was granted by the Grand Prieuré Indépendant d'Helvetie (Great Priory of Switzerland) CBCS. The Grand Priory of America was established in Raleigh, North Carolina by Dr. William Moseley Brown and J. Raymond Shute II. As I said, this is an invitational group, and its constitution limited membership to just 81 in the U.S., dividing the country into three prefectures with 27 members each. Since its chartering, it seems there have never been any more than 45 or 50 members in the U.S. at any one time.

In 1927, the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the United States granted recognition to the Grand Prieuré Indépendant d'Helvetie as a Templar body. When the Grand Prieuré Indépendant d'Helvetie issued a charter to the Raleigh group to form the Great Priory of America, that placed it in direct conflict with the notion that all Masonic Knights Templar in the U.S. work under the authority of the Grand Encampment. In fact, the 1934 charter itself is worded, "Grand Prieuré Indépendant d'Helvetie de Province ORDRE TEMPLIERE." The way the jurisdictional problem got solved was that the Great Priory's leadership assured the Grand Encampment that it was nothing but a social club, conferred no Templar orders on its members, and did not exchange official representatives with other Great Priories. With that understanding, CBCS became a regular participant in the annual "Masonic Week" festivities in Washington D.C. (later Alexandria, VA) held every February. Instead of its deeply spiritual and esoteric degrees being conferred upon seekers of Masonic wisdom, it became little more than a title to be passed to the luminaries of American Masonry. Grand Masters of the Grand Encampment of the KT have, over the years, often been members of the Great Priory of America, seeing no conflict between the two groups because of the longstanding agreement.

As the years passed, Great Priory of America officers were officially invited to attend Knight Templar grand jurisdiction gatherings around the world. In 1994, the Grand Encampment declared CBCS to be an "independent Templar body" that was technically in violation of the sovereignty of the GEKT in the U.S. But as long as the high-sounding CBCS members just met for a fine dinner and conferred no degrees, the Grand Encampment turned a blind eye. Until this year.

In 2009, the Great Priory of America objected officially to a group of American Masons being initiated into the English CBCS by the Great Priory of Anglia (England) as infringing on "their" territory. If they were nothing but a supper club for Masons in need of more fancy dues cards in their wallets, why would they object to the English priory actually conferring degrees on Americans?

The essential argument boils down to this: GPA CBCS claims its degrees are a system of the Rectified Scottish Rite, which is totally different from the Knights Templar, so they are clearly not Templars, and therefore not subject to the Grand Encampment's rulings. The Grand Encampment, on the other hand, points to the CBCS charter that clearly says "Ordre Templier", as well as the fact that other Templar grand bodies around the world recognize CBCS as a Templar body. And the CBCS ritual as adopted in the U.S. clearly makes the claim that its members "are the successors, or the spiritual continuators, of those valiant Knights who of yore founded the Beneficent Order of the Knights of the Holy City, and who bore so gloriously the title of Templars."

Ooops.

After meetings, letters, and not a few heated emails, Grand Master William H. Koon II of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the USA issued the following statement on May 5, 2010:

The Great Priory of America is an unrecognized Templar Order operating within the United States of America, in direct conflict with Section 3 of the Constitution of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the United States of America. Accordingly, membership in the Great Priory of America is incompatible with membership in the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the United States of America and any Grand, Subordinate, or Constituent Commandery under its jurisdiction or owing allegiance to the same.


Now, all of this would just be so much stuff and nonsense over nothing, except that some of the most respected Masons in the U.S. are members of the CBCS. Brothers Reese Harrison and Thomas W. Jackson serve as officers in the GPA, and both men are highly regarded in the Masonic community. All of this transpired last May, and the Grand Encampment publicly posted the exchange of letters, charter photos, official decisions and other documentation here.

Last week, just before Christmas, the Grand Encampment announced on its website that the Grand Priory of the Scottish Reformed and Rectified Rite of Occitania (in the south of France) has issued a new charter to the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the USA to form a new "Grand Priory of the Scottish Reformed and Rectified Rite of the United States of America." And the official program for the 2011 Masonic Week in Alexandria has been amended to show a meeting, by invitation, of the Grand Priory of the Scottish Reformed and Rectified Rite of the United States of America on Wednesday, February 9th at 8PM.

What makes this even more complex is that the Scottish Reformed and Rectified Rite of Occitania was only recently (1994 or 5) formed by Masons from the Grande Loge Nationale Française (GLNF), and is itself considered by many longstanding, recognized Templar organizations to be spurious and irregular. Much of this has to do with the seemingly chaotic patchwork of Freemasonry in France's conflicting grand lodges. The Grand Orient de France, the Grande Loge de France, and the Grande Loge Traditionnelle et Symbolique Opéra all had existing CBCS bodies for many years before the GLNF created their own. However, in 2008, a protocol was signed between the four French CBCS groups, agreeing to coexist and respect each others' workings.

What now remains to be seen is if the GPA continues to assert its independence, and whether its members will be expelled from U.S. Templary by the Grand Encampment; and if the regular, recognized world of Templary outside of the U.S. will consider the Grand Encampment's new charter from the SRRR of Occitania to be a shot across their own bows.

It should be an interesting Masonic Week.

=======================================

UPDATE
Part of the motivation in creating a new Priory in the U.S. under a charter held by the Grand Encampment is to be able to actually confer the degrees of the Rectified Rite legally, to open it up to more Masons seeking this spiritual and philosophical system of degrees, and to be something besides just an exclusive supper club. This has been successfully done in recent years in the Great Priory of England and Wales.

The Grand Prieuré Indépendant d'Helvetie actually approached the Grand Encampment in 2009 wanting to negotiate a new charter to allow this, but the Grand Priory of America objected to the idea. It was at that point they also objected to Americans receiving the degrees in England. Or anywhere else.

As for the regularity of the Grand Priory of the Scottish Reformed & Rectified Rite of Occitania: it was chartered in 1995 by the Grand Prieuré de Gaules, which was, in turn, chartered by the Great Priory of Helvetia in 1935 (lineage is everything in Masonry, and with the CBCS, all modern priories originate in Switzerland, where the Order fled after the chaos of the French Revolution). The GEKT was in fraternal accord with the Grand Prieuré de Gaules until the GLNF derecognized the Grand Prieuré de Gaules in 2000, to form their own Rectified Rite. Technically, the Grand Priory of the Scottish Reformed & Rectified Rite of Occitania got its charter from a grand priory the GEKT recognized at that time, which came from the GPofH. That makes it legitimate, in the eyes of the GEKT.

Meanwhile, the Grand Prieuré de Gaules split from the GLNF in 2000 to be its very own autonomous grand lodge of the Rectified Rite, which works its own degrees 1 through 8. It is independent and not aligned with any of the grand lodges or the Grand Orient in France, and does not cede control of the Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason degrees to any other governing body.

So.

If we are going to completely squeeze our pointy heads down the bunny hole of recognition, that means the Grand Prieuré de Gaules has, as of 2000, set itself up as a new, competing Masonic/Rectified Rite grand lodge in France (just what that country needs more of) that is open to Christians only. And if THAT is so, then all grand lodges that currently recognize the Grande Loge Nationale Française as the sole regular Masonic grand lodge in France need to derecognize the Grand Prieuré de Gaules as being a spurious Templar organization.

Don't they?

The real shame of this entire mess is that the truly moving and spiritually uplifting degrees of the Knights Beneficient of the Holy City are getting ground up in the gears of politics and egos, which are the very antithesis of Masonic lessons.

14 comments:

Bill Wojtas said...

Very good article. Definitely good information to have in hand and to keep following. As a member of the A&ASR and a soon to be member of the Commandery, it is good to have. Thanks!
Bill Wojtas - http://ordbillspolitics.blogspot.com/

The Patriot said...

What a shame. It would seem to me that this amounts to a lot of "chao ab ordo" to have so much in-fighting within our beloved brotherhood. I believe the redundant and overlapping bodies present two distinct problems: 1. They seem competitive, rather than complimentary to one another; 2. They risk dilluting the message of brotherhood and altruistic meaning of our fraternity.

All in all, it's a wholly unfortunate set of circumstances that will do little more than squander what wisdom we have to share with the world.

Chris Hodapp said...

I was once told by a member of another high-sounding invitational body that has its roots in a very old, esoteric tradition, but in much of the US is nothing but a dinner club for "past grands," that it was resurrected here because the "33rds let in too much of the riff-raff."

So much for seeking further light.

Rutgers University Alumnus said...

Waite's Grand Priory CBCS is most certainly Masonic. It was chartered by the Independent Great Priory in Helvetia some 30 odd years before the GP of England & Wales.

Johan said...

The Grand Priory de Gaules was ostracized by an organized agenda of an anti-Christian element that has slowly infiltrated the GLNF over the years. Remember, the GLNF was originally composed of only the Rectified Scottish Rite, having formed out fo an RER lodge. Once it brought in other rites (Scottish, French, etc) it slowly brought infiltrations of people who are of a secular humanist agenda, others who are of a dark occult and thelemic agenda and still others who are on the payroll for other foreign interests and others who have their own religious agenda. They began to attack the RER under the guise of "tolerance" and pretending to worry about what the visiting New York and American Masons (whom they know view Masonry as an instrument of universalism) would think about the very Christian RER craft degrees. They began to demand to take control and to change the rituals, rituals that had never been changed before. When Fontaine refused, they tried to slander him and to accuse him of having an inner Gnostic church (similar to the one used by some members of the Swedish Rite) and Martinist inner order. But even to this day, the GLNF maintains its own Martinist Order, one for the men and another that is androgynous for the male members and their wives.

The GPDG in turn left, choosing to work and maintain the substance of their lineage, rather than worry about the politics of recognition. They received no help from any other bodies, as everyone wanted to maintain their own regularity and not be criticized. So the GPDG took the soul and authority with them, transferring the archives, the charter and the College of Lyon Profes & Grand Profe with them. What was left behind were a few fellows looking to capitalize on their own act of loyalty by staying behind with the GLNF, and with the help of a few very high ranking American CBCS, the Grand Priory Rectifie was founded in France.

San Diego Freemason said...

I am confused (who wouldn't be?). If the four CBCS bodies in France recognize one another, does that not (by extension) imply some form of recognition by the GLNF of the GOdF and the GLdF?

MP said...

Oh, more fun with higher bodies and recognition issues!

I have never heard a good argument for why Memphis-Misraim is banned, under the guise of "the men who ran it in the USA subsumed it to the GCR in order to make sure no one could partake in their degrees" to paraphrase a Heredom article about it ... when there are GL's in the world who were working it BEFORE any of the GCR bodies were formed, and still work it.

Let's see, what else?
Oh, MSRICF claims to be a Freemasonic society dedicated to exclusively to historical research about Rosicrucianism. MSRICF is open by invitation only, and exclusively to high grade Freemasons, and requires that its members belong to no other Rosicrucian orders or societies.
Of course, a number of MSRICF members are ALSO members of The Invisible Temple No. 0, (R.R. et A.C.) a Golden Dawn group apparently remaining "invisible" to protect many its members from being thrown out of MSRICF.
Of course, a number of THOSE Masons are AASR SC Officers, as well as officers of the GCR.

But, hey, who cares about regularity of origin, when the SC's in the USA basically tell GM's which bodies they can and cannot allow Blue Lodge Masons to join ...

Chris Hodapp said...

@San Diego Freemason:

Like to think that, wouldn't you. The Grand Prieuré de Gaules WAS under the GLNF until 2000. When it went out on its own as a new Rectified Rite "grand lodge", they managed to make everybody mad. One word: "France."

Prexy said...

My main question is this: is this action going to make this Rite any more accessible to the average Mason, or is it just going to be more of the same supper club baloney, except under the influence of the GEKT? If it's the former, then I suppose that this could be a good thing, provided that the structure and teachings of the RER are not watered down to make them more palatable to the masses. If it's the latter, then this comes off just looking like another high muckity-muck pissing match.

MP said...

I guess my biggest question is why do bodies which are NOT Grand Lodges (who CAN and DO tell their members which bodies are allowed in their jurisdiction) attempt to dictate what OTHER appendant orders exist?

Accordingly, membership in the Great Priory of America is incompatible with membership in the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the United States of America and any Grand, Subordinate, or Constituent Commandery under its jurisdiction or owing allegiance to the same.

You answr, in part, the so what, by insinuating it might cause tensions and hurt feelings among many senior and well respected Brethren in the USA.

I would ask again, so what?

It's about time Grand level officers see how these politics of territorial fighting in the appendant orders hurt EVERYONE involved, including those who aren't members of those app. bodies.

Ask any Massachusetts Mason about the Sword of Bunker Hill, which commemorates the death of one of our ancestral GM's.

Oh, wait, you can't - it's banned in MA.

Ask anyone about any group not mentioned in section 701 of MA GL Constitutions - those groups have been left off the list in order to not offend/step on the toes of, the Supreme Council in Lexington.

When PGMs start finding out that two orders they belong to are at odds with each other, either an under the table aggreement will be reached to let sleeping dogs lie, or they will start asking GL's to get involved and take sides.

It's a shame.

Laurent said...

Dear Brethren,

Please visit this website :
http://www.rite-ecossais-rectifie.org/in-english

This tells more than all we can speculate.

S&F

Moryason

a Valle sancta said...

Dear Laurent, I love the image at the bottom of the page you're indicating : putting Willermoz and Martines de Pasqually one facing the other is a good way to present the rectified rite :)
Thanks
Frat.
a Valle sancta

Willermoz said...

1- Dear brethren, English is not my first language, so excuse me if there are some errors.
2-"are the successors, or the spiritual continuators, of those valiant Knights who of yore founded the Beneficent Order of the Knights of the Holy City, and who bore so gloriously the title of Templars". This sentence is a CHANGE to the ritual wich official writing was defined in 1782.
3- The RER and it's inner Order (Order of the CBCS) does not proclaim to be a Templar Order.
4- That decision was taken in 1782.
5- The Inner Order proclaims to have the same origin of the Templar Order (and of the Essens, and of the Therapeutics at the time of Philon of Alexandria, etc).
6- Yes the Inner Order use templar simbology and organisation: a paradox? Maybe, but the Templars didn't created it...
7- The Inner Order have a valid templar linneage (from the scottish nobles that fled to France) since Baron von Hund received it in 1743.
8- However the RER and it's Inner Order doesn't want to continue the Templar Order or replicate it (like it is said in our rituals and in the writings of our "reformers and founding fathers" like Jean-Baptiste Willermoz, Louis-Claude Saint Martin, Joseph de Maistre, etc.).
9- The goals of RER are the quest of "the thing" from wich the Initiation comes.
Fraternnaly,
Nonnus, in ordine eques Cordi Ardens

Johan said...

The whole point of this move by the GEKT is to make the Rectified Scottish Rite available to those spiritually inclined Christian Masons in search of Reintegration. This much should be obvious to the even the most uninformed of persons. No longer will American Masons be criticized for confining the Rectified Scottish Rite to a small, bitter group of old men in an ivory tower eating shrimp and not giving a toss about the spiritual charity and synarchic and sublimely theurgic doctrine of the CBCS. Now it will be worked in FULL without persecution.

And, the SRICF is the correct name for the Societas Rosicruciana. Drop the 'M'. And, speak with actual members and you will know that young men are thriving in this institution of spiritual study, ritual and research, and the Great Work is accomplished within the confines of most of its Colleges. The example starts at the top, and ever since 2005 under MW Thurman C. Pace Jr., the SRICF High Council has given esoteric lectures, stressed secrecy, conferred full form grades, taught Rosicrucian spirituality and raised the bar internationally when it comes to research in related fields. Less and less are the senior Mason types promoted in the SRICF, unless they are themselves seekers and demonstrating understanding of the spiritual realm.

The standards for the new Great Priory of CBCS in America under the GEKT will be in lines with the RER Rules written by Willermoz. Being a big shot in your Grand Commandery or even in Grand Encampment, does not mean that you will ever received the RER degrees. Gong chasers need not apply. But, demonstrate a sincere interest in Willermozism, Martnism, rectified Masonry, esoteric Christianity or the Elus Coen, and you will find an invitation extended to you to participate in a cohesive system that develops you through intense ritual, intense study and highly formal standards. Unknown Superiors as spiritual professed guardians are already in place to guard the portals. The merely curious will be directed elsewhere.