09 Jun

Legends of secret societies survive in every part of Europe at the opening of the eighteenth century. They existed for the prosecution of Theurgia as well as Goetia, for masonry as well as mystical philosophy. Speaking generally, their interest did not lie in the region of politics or polemics, but in that of study, experiment, and speculation ; and their chief care was the preservation and elucidation of ancient hermetic and traditional secrets. As a rule the Church had persecuted such societies, though her prelates had frequently condescended to the study of magic, and a few among them like Pope John XXII had spent long nights in alchemical experiment. It remained for the Utopians of the eighteenth century to interpret the symbolism of the secret societies, so to affiliate them, and so to 

organise the forces of masonry, mysticism and magic, as for a few years to unite them into a power capable not only of inspiring but of precipitating the greatest social upheaval of Christendom.

It is difficult to believe or understand, that bodies holding differing doctrines, adherents of many rites, disciples of divergent masters, ever co-mmingled for a day in their enthusiasm for the common cause; yet this singular and Hegelian amalgamation seems in practice to have taken place. The principal force in the trinity of masonry, mysticism, and magic was masonry, and it, like many other innovations, was introduced into France from England. Just as Voltaire and Rousseau derived their philosophy from English sources, and applied the theories they absorbed in a direct manner to the life of their own country, so did the French people derive their masonic institutions from England, and apply them for purposes of social regeneration in a fashion never even contemplated in the land of their origin.} The English Deists, Hume, Locke, and Toland, were responsible for the intellectual regeneration of France, just as the Legitimist lodges planted in that country after the Stuart downfall were responsible for the many lodges of tolerance, charity, truth, and candour which disseminated the seeds of the humanitarian movement on French soil. The Pantheisticon became the model of French societies. Until the sixteenth century masonic corporations in England and other countries consisted of three purely professional grades holding the secrets of the architectural craft, the mysteries of proportion, and the true canon of building. The epics in grey stone our cathedral towns enclose memorialise the tradition of the older masonry, and testify to the inviolability of its secret formulae. In every Catholic land, from Paris to Batalha, from Salisbury to Cologne, rise the conceptions of the masonic mind: serene, unchallengeable symbols of doctrines, mysteries, and myths, the venerable shrines of uncounted menories. During the sixteenth century England became the motherland of a newer masonry. Another spirit then permeated the craft ; mysteries as ancient as the canon of building and the lost word of the Temple, Egyptian rites and Greek initiations, were blended with the purer traditions of the past. Rosicrucians, like Francis Bacon and Elias Ashmole, joined the hitherto exclusively professional body. 

Out of this marriage of thoughts and aims arose the modern masonic system, of which England at the end of the sixteenth century alone knew the secret. So thoroughly was the old system transfused with speculative ideas that by 1703 it had been decided that the antique guild model of masonry should be abandoned for a scheme of wider comprehension, embracing men holding certain common ideals and aspirations irrespective of craft or art. By this decision masonry became really free; though the actual bases on which the future of the new "speculative," as the development of the old " operative" masonry, was to be established, were not laid down till 1717 by a commission of the Grand Lodge of London. Sir Christopher Wren, the last of the Grand Masters of the older organisation, was followed in his great office in two successive years by foreigners — A. Sayer and Desaguliers, who inaugurated a more cosmopolitan era, and assisted in weaving the strands of brotherhood between England and foreign lands. Though legend ascribes the English Revolution and 

the ascendency of Cromwell to masonic influence, records reveal and attest that the associative facilities masonic gatherings afforded were found favourable during the Civil War to the contriving of Royalists' plots rather than to the promotion of Republican schemes. Charles II. was a mason, James II. was championed by lodges, and both the Pretenders instituted rites with the object of accomplishing their own restoration.

The Legitimists first introduced Freemasonry into France. Lord Derwentwater, the brother of the Lord Derwentwater who had been beheaded in 1716, was one of the earliest masonic missionaries. Together with Maskelyne, Heguerty, and others, he founded the first lodge in France at Dunkerque in 1721, the year in which the Regent died. Other lodges were inaugurated in Paris in 1725, all with the intention of rallying supporters of the Stuart cause. These were granted charters from London, and were ruled over by a Grand Master, called Lord Harnwester, of whom little is known. 

The most interesting personality among the Legitimist votaries was Andrew Michael Ramsay, commonly called the Chevalier. The son of a baker, he was educated at Edinburgh University, and became tutor to the two sons of Lord Wemyss ; then going to the Netherlands with the English auxiliaries, he made friends with the mystical theologist Poiret, and in consequence of the latter's quietist influence, gave up soldiering, and went to consult Fenelon about his future. He soon became the Archbishop's intimate friend, as well as a convert to his Church, and remaining with him till his death found himself the legatee of all his papers, and thus the designated chronicler of his life. This life was published at the Hague in 1723, and in the following year Ramsay went as travelling tutor to the two sons of James Francis Edward. On his return to Paris he continued his tutorial work in other families, combining it with the most strenuously active masonic life. 

He professed to have derived his elaborate and numerous rites from Godfrey de Bouillon, and managed to popularise masonry and exalt it into a fashionable pursuit. Gradually the English lodges in Paris became a subject of curiosity and conversation in society, and so long as they remained concerned with the affairs of a foreign kingdom they were left undisturbed by the officials of their adopted country. When, however, Frenchmen began to enrol themselves as masons, and some exclusively French lodges were founded, the newspapers alarmed the public by announcing that Freemasonry had become the vogue.

His famous ORATION can be read here. 

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