Rituals of the First Four Grades

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Rituals of the First Four Grades: Societatis Rosicrucianæ Reipub Confoed. America by Charles Meyer and Harold V B Voorhis.

Charles Meyer Harold V B Voorhis Rituals of the First Four Grades

These rituals were originally issued to local Colleges of the Societatis Rosicrucianae Reipub. Confoed. America in 1881 by the Grand High Council under the authority of its Supreme Magus Charles E. Meyer, and Secretary General C.T. McClenachan. All except the Zelator grade ritual (being too “similar to that now used”) were published from 1939 to 1942 in The Rose Petal, an occasional organ of the New Jersey College of S.C.R.I.F., under the editorship of the Right Worthy Chief Adept Harold V.B. Voorhis. He also omitted the hand-drawn plates. An unnamed Kessinger editor has added the Zelator ritual from a manuscript source, again, without diagrams, as well as a five-sentence introduction and the titling in which the Reipub. of the order’s name has been unaccountably changed to Rebpub.

Although Voorhis describes the rituals as “supplementary,” the authorizing correspondence from Meyer seems to indicate that the Grand High Council expected them to be adopted uniformly throughout the order for the principal ceremonies of admission and advancement. Yet Voorhis insists that “there is no evidence that they were ever used ‘in full form.'”

Some of the ceremonial mechanisms are interesting, although the whole operation is conducted with conventional Masonic techniques. The rituals are devoid of hoodwinking, but in the first section of each grade the initiand is placed under a translucent veil of the characteristic symbolic color of the degree, providing what I cannot help but think of as an “Emerald City effect.” A fair amount of singing was involved, but the lyrics are included without scores or any other clues regarding the tunes. There is nothing in the way of strenuous ordeal or even startlement. Each grade includes a narrative set-piece that serves as a chapter in a cumulative Rosicrucian legend—evidently original with this rite—regarding the Magister Templi Gualdi in the mountain laboratories of the adepts.

The grade instructions attempt to embrace a comprehensive course of hermetic wisdom, including alchemy (chrysopoeia and iatrochemistry), astrology, and astronomy, with some very basic, Christian-oriented magical theology. Their efforts to communicate something like scientific facts, along with the technological pretense of the legend, keep the ritual from being anything that an educated initiate could take seriously today.

The lack of diagrams and the failure to provide any sort of roster of ritual offices are features that make it difficult to mentally construct the ceremonies from the rituals. Also, very brief opening and closing rituals are included only after all of the grade rituals—evidently in the sequence they were published by Voorhis, but unhelpfully to the reader who is also handicapped by not having a table of contents or even continuous pagination. [via]