History of the Rites of Memphis-Misraïm
Historically, this Masonic Obedience, that celebrated its bicentennial in 1988, originated when the two rites of Memphis and Misraïm were merged in 1881 by Garibaldi, who became its first Grand Master. The Rite of Misraïm had been founded in Venice in 1788. Its filiation came through Cagliostro who had entrusted it with the lower (first) Degrees of The Grand Lodge of England and the higher Degrees of German Templar Masonry. The Rite of Memphis was constituted in Montauban in 1815 by Freemasons who had taken part in the Mission to Egypt with Napoleon Bonaparte in 1799. To these two rites were added initiatic Degrees which came from esoteric obediences of the 18th Century: The Primitive Rite, The Rite of Philadelphes, etc.
During the 19th Century, the Carbonaris recruited members in Misraïm and Memphis. They had numerous Lodges in France, and some of their dignitaries were very influential persons, such as the Duke Decazeo and the Count Muraire, who were both Grand Commanders of the Scottish Rite.
In France, the Obedience is the meeting place of Masons who share an attraction for esoterics, hermeticism, symbolism, etc. There are about 90 Lodges in France, not counting the higher Degree workshops. In these Workshops are a few hundred members among whom we find Masons from all Obediences who are most qualified in the field of esoterics, Some are even at the helm of other, more secret organizations.
The Rite of Memphis-Misraïm perpetuates the tradition of attachment to the principles of tolerance and freedom of thought which made it the refuge and recruitment ground of the Carbonaris during the Reign of the White Terror in the 19th Century.
THE RITE OF MISRAÏM
The first mention of the Rite was in Venice in 1788, A group of Socinians (an anti-trinitary Protestant sect) asked a patent of constitution from Cagliostro who was then in Trieste (He came to Venice and stayed for six weeks). They did not want to participate in his Magical-Kabbalistic rituals, so they chose to work at the Templar Rite. So Cagliostro conferred their only Masonic Light. He had the first three Degrees of English Freemasonry and the higher Degrees from Germany, which was greatly influenced by the Templar tradition. The name of Misraïm is the plural form of Egyptian, which is the only reminder of this Egyptian Rite which gave their obediential personality. It spread rapidly to Milan, Genoa, Naples, and appeared in France with Michel Bedarride who had received the Grand Mastery (ultimate powers) in 1810, in Naples, from B. DeLasalle. From 1810 to 1813, the three Bedarride brothers successfully developed the Rite in France, almost under the protection of The Scottish Rite. Indeed, it had illustrious Masons at its helm: the Court of Muraire, Sovereign Grand Commander of The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite; the Duke Decazeo, the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, the Duke of Leicester, the Lieutenant-General from Teste, etc.
During the White Terror, Misraïm quickly became the Masonic Obedience which transmitted the required Third Degree to the Carbonari, and this group then had 22 Lodges in Paris, 6 in Lyon, 6 in Metz, 5 in Toulouse, 3 in Bordeaux, 3 in Geneva, 3 in Lausanne, and 1 in Couriray. The police of the restauration obtained its dissolution because it was fiercely anticlerical and anti-royalist. After being clandestine for 18 years it was restored in 1838 and dissolved once more in 1841. Again brought out of the underground in 1848, Misraïm evolved towards its merger with the Rite of Memphis in 1881. which was the realization of Garibaldi.
THE RITE OF MEMPHIS
Most of the members who accompanied Bonaparte on the Mission in Egypt were Masons belonging to the old initiatic Rites: Philaletes, African Brothers, the Primitive Rite, and all were Masons of the Grand Orient of France. Having discovered in Cairo a Gnostic-Hermetic survival, and in Lebanon the Druse-Masonry that Gerard de Nerval had also met, and which dated back to the operative Masonry which had accompanied their protectors, the Templars, the Brothers of the Mission in Egypt decided to renounce the Masonic affiliation which had come from the Grand Lodge of England and to start again with a new Rite that would owe nothing to England, who was then the number one enemy. And thus was born the Rite of Memphis in 1815, in Montauban, under the direction of Samuel Harris and Marconis de Negre.
As the Rite of Misraïm regrouped the Jacobites who were nostalgic of the Republic and the Carbonari, the Rite of Memphis very quickly regrouped the semi-retired of the ex-great army and the Bonapartists faithful to the Eagle. The two Rites, moreover, had the same Grand Master in 1816, a prelude to the future merger. But the Grand Orient was then monarchist in its majority, its seal was comprised of the Fleur-de-Lis, and it succeeded in obtaining the dissolution of Memphis. But that did not last, however, and in 1826 this Rite took up its work again inside the same Grand Orient. Dissolved in 1841, just like Misraïm, Memphis also became clandestine and returned from the underground only in 1848, with the advent of the Republic. Dissolved again in 1850, reactivated in 1853, Memphis joined the Grand Orient in 1862 because it was obliged to do so by a decision of the Prince-President. With numerous Lodges abroad, it had illustrious people within its ranks, such as Louis Blanc, and Garibaldi, who soon became the unifier of Memphis and Misraïm.
THE RITE OF MEMPHIS-MISRAÏM
The Rites of Memphis and Misraïm, until 1881, followed parallel roads and even in concert in the same particular climate, Indeed, the Rites begin to regroup Masons of the Grand Orient of France and of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite who were interested by the studies of the esoterics of Masonic symbolism: Gnosis, Kabbalah, even Hermetics and Occultism. Now, these two Rites had inherited and were the depositors of the old initiatic Obediences of the 18th Century: The Rite of Philalethes, The Rite of Philadelphia, The Hermetic Rite, The Primitive Rite, etc., and all this represented, in Misraïm: 90 Degrees; and in Memphis: 95 Degrees. How to administer and use this ill-assorted ensemble? When Garibaldi was appointed the first International Grand Master, "ad vitam" (the Brothers abroad had not suffered the political persecutions like in France), a kind of classification was made, which was not hierarchical in the beginning but which quickly became such. In fact, the 95 Degrees of the Rite of Memphis-Misraïm should be considered an ambulatory where rest old Masonic Degrees that are not practiced anymore, or very little, and not as a scale of values. Furthermore, the agreements of 1863 with the Grand Orient of France, and of 1896 with the Grand Lodge of the Scottish Rite, which was to become the Grand Lodge of France, speak only of the classical 33 Degrees (Rite of Perfection, followed by the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite).
The Memphis-Misraïm higher Degree Workshops must work: the 4th Degree (Secret Master), the 9th Degree (Master Elect of Nine), the 13th Degree (Royal Arch), the 14th Degree (Grand Elect of the Sacred Vault), the 18th degree (Knight Rose-Croix), the 28th Degree (Knight of the Son), the 30th Degree (Knight Kadosh), the 32nd Degree (Prince of the Royal Secret), and the 33rd Degree (Sovereign Grand Inspector General). The 66th Degree (Patriarch Grand Consecrator) is conferred only to certain Brothers who could be called upon to act as Consecrator, and a certain particular preparation is required. Some have compared it to an Episcopal Consecration.
The 87th, 88th, 89th, and 90th Degrees comprise what is referred to in textbooks as the Arcana Arcanorum. Those who are admitted to the 95th Degree become the protectors and conservators of the Rite as their name, Patriarch Grand Conservator, indicates. It is among them that the International Grand Master chooses the members who serve on the International Sovereign Sanctuary, supreme governing body of the Rite.
Additionally, the 66th, 90th, and 95th Degrees may be conferred on Masons in recompense for their valor, their knowledge, and their fidelity; the 95th Degree confers upon them the right to sit on the "Council of Sages" in their quality as Grand Conservator of the Rite.
Other Degrees, such as the Royal Arch, are not mandatory and are left to the choice of the Brothers. Knighthood (Chivalry) is transmitted to certain Brothers with the 20th Degree (Knights Templar or Knight of the Temple), descended directly from the Ancient Strict Templar Observance and the Knights Beneficent of the Holy City of Jean-Baptiste Willermoz.
The Lodges of Memphis-Misraïm work the Egyptian Rite. On their altars, they add to the traditional interlacing of the Compass and the Square, the Rule, symbol of the Grand Architect of the Universe and of Divine Law.
Since March 1990, the President of the National Council elect insures the administration of all the Blue Lodges of the Rite in France and in the Associate Countries.
On May 10th 1991, the French Obedience was admitted into C.L.I.P.S.A.S. (Centre of Liaison and Information of the Masonic Powers, Signatories of the Call of Strasbourg), thus registering its action on the sides of European and liberal Freemasonry.
The Rite of Memphis-Misraïm perpetuates its traditions of fidelity to democratic principles and to the initiatic Sciences.