Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Martinezism, Willermozism, Martinism and Freemasonry [Amazon, Publisher] by Gérard Encausse, aka Papus, trans Piers A Vaughan.
This short book is a polemical history of esoteric societies in modern France, written by Gerard Encausse (“Papus”), organizer of the Martinist Order in the late nineteenth century. It has been recently translated into English by Piers A. Vaughan, and features on its cover the seal of the Martinist Order of Unknown Philosophers, to which Vaughan declares his adherence (8).
Encausse denominates top-down dispensaries of occult wisdom as “Illuminist,” as distinguished from the Masonic style of sodalities organized through lodge-elected leadership. The opening sections of the book are chiefly concerned to trace the genealogy and form of “contemporary” (i.e. 1899) Martinism from its Illuminist sources. This exposition includes counters to the various fin de siecle slanders of Martinism from church sources and conspiracy-mongers such as Gabriel Jogand (“Leo Taxil”).
The Rosicrucians (Elias Ashmole in particular) were the creators of Freemasonry, according to Encausse, and he sees a vengeful Templar current running in tension with the benevolent Rosicrucian one, with each contributing distinctly to the various Masonic high grades and rites. He offers a symbolic overview of the contents of advanced degrees in the Rite of Perfection and Scottish Rite, which contains some interesting observations, and he is especially concerned with the Rose-Croix degree because of its putative relationship to Martinism.
Encausse deplores the atheist trajectory of the French Grand Orient and prophesies its demise. He also mocks the tiny and senescent Rite of Mizraim, for which he would later (1908) obtain a sort of organizing authority in the form of a patent to establish a “Supreme Grand Council General of the Unified Rites of Antient and Primitive Masonry for the Grand Orient of France and its Dependencies at Paris” from O.T.O. Caput Ordinis Theodor Reuss.
On the very last page of the book, Encausse characterizes Martinists as “resolute synarchists,” alluding to the socio-political program of Alexandre Saint-Yves d’Alveydre, which later became more strongly associated with Martinism, especially by its detractors. This connection was a chief concern of the academic study Beyond Enlightenment by David Allen Harvey, but this one brief mention is the first time I have observed it in a primary text of the period.
Vaughan’s translated text is adequate for English readers, although the book appears to have been prepared hastily. There are clumsy vestiges of French idiom and typographical errors on almost every page, giving “is” for “it” and “in really” for “in reality,” for example. Occasionally a word seems to be missing, and there are grammatical failures. But Vaughan’s knowledge of the subject matter, with which he boasts twenty years of initiated experience, appears quite sound. His editorial footnotes are helpful and lucid.