Narbonne Primitif, Misraïm, Memphis 'Egyptian' Hermetic rites and their integration
To try and present some historical and current pictures on the state of this (or these) rites is fraught with partisan views combined with scant published historical work. In any case, here I am not attempting to present a description of the vast interweaving of the various rites that eventually integrated in some constitutions.
It may be worth noting that though the Memphis-Misraïm rite is best know following their merging under Giraboldi, the Memphis rite still exists independently, as does, I have been told, the Primitif (Narbonne) rite.
Basically, what we have here are various rites and episodes of expansion and integration. What unites each of these various rites is their emergence in the mid to late 18th century, their interests and incorporation of Hermetic thought and Egyptian symbolism, and the influence of the symbolic degree structure expanded but arising out of other expanded degrees such as the 33 degree Ancient & Accepted 'Scottish' rite.
In a nutshell, then, consider that in the beginning of the 18th century emerges Anderson's constitutions that effectively forms the written backbone of Modern Freemasonry. In the 1750s develops in Narbonne (in the South of France) a rite designated 'Primitif' and more esoterically and Hermetically oriented. In the early 1800s develops the 'Scottish' rite with its numerous degrees (by the standards of the day).
These are expanded and integrated in various ways in different parts of the world, but especially in Continental Europe and North America, during a period at times referred to as the 'Egyptian craze', combined with the development of the Enlightenment. The Memphis rite develops to 96° and the Misraïm to 90°. Out of this a rite is syncretised that considers esoteric hermetic elements as being essential to the foundation and inner workings of Freemasonry: the Ancient & Primitive Rite of Memphis-Misraïm.
Grades or degrees of the Ancient & Primitive Rite of Memphis-Misraïm
Differing constitutions appear to have some differences, including whether there are 95°, 96°, 97° or even 99° effective grades or degrees.
I list here the degrees actually worked by some of the most prominent amongst these, the degrees not listed being 'conferred' when working the ensuing degree (for example, the 15°-17° being 'conferred' during the 18°). Please note that there are variations (eg, the 13° and 22° form part of the conferred degrees in some constitutions, and conversely the 20° is at times worked).
During the latter part of the 19th century, some form of 'reconciliation' was sought between the Ancient and Accepted 'Scottish' Rite of 33 degrees on the one hand, and the Ancient and Primitif Rite of Memphis Misraïm of 95+ grades on the other. For example, equivalences were suggested between the 63rd APRMM and the 18th AASR. Though some constitutions were happy to make such adjustments, others were not, as for the APRMM, its view is that the post-33 grades are considered of an essentially different type of work to that of the 14th-33rd.
This has lead to various further developments and views of the relationship between the APRMM and the AASR, and helped to 'clarify' the views of those who do not see a possible correlation between the APRMM and the AASR: a threefold division of Freemasonry into the 'Craft', the 'Knightly', and the 'Hermetic' grades — the 'Blue' incorporating the 'Blue' 3 degrees as well as Mark, Chapter, Ark Mariners, and various other workings; the 'Knightly' reflected in the 14th, 18th and 30th of the AASR as well as the KTs, Knights of Constantine, and other such workings; and the 'Hermetic' the higher or 'Philosophical' grades of the APRMM and, I would claim, its reflection in such Masonic Societies as the SRIA (see below for more on this).
Of interest may also be a page I have prepared comparing the various grades from a variety of Memphis, Misraim, and Primitif Rites. These was originally side notes for a paper I delivered the Victorian Lodge of Research – 218 in 2007. ⇒ Table of Degrees for APRMM (to be uploaded)
Possible relationship of APMM rite to SRIA
In looking at the rituals of both the SRIA and the APMM, what is striking is some of the very close proximity of words, of suggested study, and of lectures — and this by even looking at materials published in 1879. What I am personally lead to suggest is that the SRIA developed from an APMM impulse, but in a land hostile to yet further Masonic expansions. This is further supported by the incredible discrepancy that exists between the 'proto-ritual' of the SRIS/SRIA, and its modern established ones (which, again, bear in parts striking similarities or influence from the APMM). There are further connections between the APMM and SRIA through some of the latter's founders, themselves involved in the former. Again, a growing suspicion that the formation — or rather the development — of the SRIA is basically a version of the MM rite re-clothed in Christian form and strictly separated, for obvious Masonic political reasons, from any appelations that would otherwise see it in direct competing conflict with either the AAR (Ecossais) or various Knightly orders.
Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia - SRIA
Being quite fond of the SRIA, I may as well mention some of its peculiarities here.
Firstly, it was formed in the 1860s, and has slowly spread to various parts of the world. Its 'sister' organisations include (amongst others) the SRIS and SRICF, each with minor differences.
Its grades are based, and reflect to some extent, an ascent upon the Kabalistic Tree of Life. This is one element that the Golden Dawn, whose founding members were all SRIA members, adapted — the SRIA's and the GD's rituals and views, however, are radically different, each having a different foundation.
Each grade of the SRIA requires that one studies and gains some familiarity with one or another of the major areas of the esoteric corpus of the western world, including Kabalah, Alchemy and Philosophy. Here one may also see how the SRIA has some continuing similarities to the Memphis-Misraim rite.
It should be noted that the SRIA has a number of offshoots in especially North America. In addition, the Society has recently (2007) undergone a schism in the UK, with each branch seemingly having different advantages and strengths. One branch has retained the name 'SRIA' as well as effectively retaining its current structures - though there have been a number of small changes in its administration and constitution that I do not favour (despite remaining a fond and active member).
The other branch has named itself the Order of the Rose and Cross (OCR). Originally formed from an SRICF charter that was revoked within months, it has opened its membership to both men and women, and that without Masonic qualifications (as it should!). My only two small 'hesitations' (even that is too strong a term) are that, firstly, it lists Waite amongst a quite select list of 'fire philosophers' (it seems to me that if someone from the era is worth a listing, it would be Rudolf Steiner rather than Waite!); and secondly, that membership requires a professed Christian faith - this, as in other places that I write, seems to be a confusion between stating that the Order is Christian, rather than its members.
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