Historical Considerations on Memphis Misraim and Cagliostro
In so far as we have examined the M.M stream is both Egyptian Masonic and Rosicrucian and for those interested in the finer historical details this section is given. One cannot escape any examination of our foundations without speaking of our illustrious founder the Count Cagliostro. It is this figure who having realised the Egyptian nature of the third degree ceremony, and noting its death and resurrection drama as a reflection of the ancient mysteries, decided to re-awaken masonry as Egyptian Freemasonry.
Born in 1743 his life is surrounded with many complications and mystery, least not of all, many have falsely associated him with the criminal Joseph Balsamo. This is largely due to the fact that because Cagliostro was such a visionary the Inquisition had him arrested and he became the last person condemned to death on charges of Freemasonry and sorcery in 1795. It was they who, after arresting him, began a long propaganda campaign which served to smear Cagliostro’s name up until recently, thanks to research done by serious scholars.
For example Baron von Gleichen, a man of irreproachable integrity and wide experience, declared that ‘Cagliostro's Egyptian Masonry was worth the lot of them, for he tried to render it not only more wonderful, but more honourable than any other Masonic Order in
Europe.’ Cagliostro, High Initiate as he was, considered himself a brother to both rich and poor, whether cultured or ignorant, Arab or French. He declared:
‘I am not of any time or of any place; beyond time and space my spiritual being lives an eternal existence. I turn my thoughts back over the ages and I project my spirit toward an existence far beyond that which you perceive, I become what I choose to be. Participating consciously in the Absolute Being, I arrange my actions according to what is at hand. My name defines my actions because I am free. My country is wherever my feet stand at the moment. Put yesterday behind you if you dare, like the forgotten ancestors who came before you, give no thought to the morrow and the illusionary hope of greatness that will never be yours, I will be what I am.’
Cagliostro was a visionary, and a true believer in the spirit of humanity. He taught that we could become morally regenerated, and perfected into an angelic state of being, and believed this was possible for all humanity. Demonstrating his occult powers, healing the sick (that is to say, healing them free of charge) and making many prophesies that later became true, he was welcomed, applauded and famous during his time. Everywhere he went he was known for his generosity and noble spirit. Trailing behind him the enigma of his mystery also followed, for he was also a close friend with the Count St Germaine, the immortal alchemist, a man who never died but who had been in public appearance, some say for over 250 years. It was the St Germaine who charged Count Cagliostro with the re-awakening of the Isis and Osiris mysteries and charged him to establish the Memphis Misraim system of Egyptian initiation, to reawaken humanity to its highest light.
Opening his Egyptian Rite in approx 1780 his Egyptian Rite of Misraim promised:
1) Morale Regeneration or self perfection
2) To have communication with Angels and Saints
3) To have Physical Regeneration
It was these ideals which the Catholic Church saw as such a threat, for Cagliostro was removing the Church from the equation showing that he was far ahead of his times! Unfortunately they saw him as such a great threat that on arriving to
, where he had established a lodge, the Inquisition arrested him, tortured him and Cagliostro died, according to official records in 1795. Yet according to Masonic tradition, the Freemasons helped him escape and the announcement of his death was Italy Vatican propaganda.
To examine his Egyptian Rite in more detail we must consider some of the differences he established between regular Freemasonry and his Egyptian Freemasonry. Firstly, the Memphis Misraim was not always called by this name. The original name was Misraim, or Egyptian Masonry, and this was the original rite of 1780 as established by Cagliostro. The Rite of Memphis is a later version of the rite established in 1838. The main difference was that the later Rite of Memphis was closely rooted in the Knights Templar tradition, whereas the Rite of Misraim was strictly Egypto-Hermetic. Cagliostro’s Rite of Misraim became the depository of Persian, Indian, Egyptian and all Greek knowledge available at the time. Memphis-Misraim is therefore a combination of the two Egypto-Templar Rites together.
He chose the name Misraim because not only was this Misraim the ‘grandson of Noah,’ but legend says he was also a survivor of the lost civilisation of Atlantis. This figure Misraim is also called Menes in the archives of our tradition. According to Herodotus born in 484BC, Menes founded the first dynasty of
. He is largely thought to have been a mythical figure much like Egypt and Rimus of Rome, but nonetheless Cagliostro’s attachment of the school to this name denotes its authentic philosophical origins. Many of these legends are therefore rooted in ‘traditional history’ and were circulated in M.M as the mystic origins. Romulus
Cagliostro during his time travelled throughout the world, visiting
Egypt, Greece, Persia, India and collecting a vast array of wisdom from mystics. In his own accounts Cagliostro attested he received an initiation in Ethiopia which he transmitted to his Egyptian Masonry but in my opinion his more important initiation came from St Germaine. In this account the Count Cagliostro and his wife were both initiated together, hence Cagliostro also admitted women into his Egyptian Rite, saying that women participated in the ancient Mystery Religions and therefore in belonged to Egyptian Freemasonry if it was truly to reflect the ancient mystery schools. He truly was re-awakening the mysteries of Egypt Isis.
Originally Cagliostro divided his Egyptian Rite into five classes of study being:
5) Cabalistic Theurgy
This was the order of initiatory progression for his grand scheme of Hermetic Illumination. Many of the degrees of initiation involved lectures on ancient long forgotten wisdom. The highest degrees that were taught were known as the Arcana Arcanorum, a secret system of alchemical regeneration taught only to Mystics. This was undertaken as the fifth class of study, being ‘Cabalistic Theurgy’ whereby angels and a Morale Regeneration was obtained, awakening a heightened state of consciousness in the operator. The word ‘Theurgy’ means ‘divine art’ and is the operative ceremonial magical practice of invoking higher forces for inner purification and spiritual regeneration. Normally these ritualistic practices are accompanied by visions and divine manifestations, such as angelic evocations, which confirm upon the operator inner initiations and rectifications. Many of the manifestations, being clouds, sparks of light, angelic voices, ancient symbols etc that appear in the air, often draw the operator through a dramatic spiritual ordeal, like a test, which being difficult leads to a new state of awakened compassion and joy..