HISTORICAL NOTES AND ACTIVITIES IN ITALY - Giancarlo Seri -
The Oriental Masonic order of the Ancient and Primitive Rite of Memphis and Misraim or more simply, Ancient and Primitive Rite of Memphis and Misraim, is a dual Masonic -Illuministic system that contains in itself various forms of the western initiatic tradition. It starts from the basis, which is Craft Freemasonry, all the way to reach the Rosicrucian heights of Gnosis, including the hermetic-philosophical-esoteric systems of the ancient Egyptian Hyerophants and the Priests of Mithras.
Our Worshipful Rite, because of its reference to Misraim (deriving from the word 'mizr' that signifies 'Egypt' in classical Hebrew) is also known as Egyptian Rite. This has caused some confusion with Cagliostro's Egyptian Masonry that although related to the A.P.R.M.M. by its study of mystical and theurgical practices, is deeply different. The two united Rites of Memphis and Misraim, form in their union an authentic order and not a simple Rite. The order was conceived with the purpose of collating in a single organisation, all the wisdom, knowledge and the evolutionary desire of initiates scattered in the numerous Ritual Bodies of higher Masonry and in the Illuministic and Chivalric Orders that were active in the early 18th century.
Since these notes have as only purpose the presentation, to Bro. Master Masons, of the operative ends of our worshipful Rite we can not deepen the historical aspect. However it is useful to say that the A.P.R.M.M. it is the result of the complex intertwining of the Rite of Misraim (or Egyptian), risen in Venice in 1801 from the work of Filatele Abraham, and immediately spread into Italy and France, and of the Rite of Memphis(or Oriental), founded by Etienne Marconis in 1839 in Paris, on the basis of reelaborating the degrees of the Misraim, including the oriental initiation and ritual style. Both our Worshipful Rite, and other Rites, are considered similar, because of a defined number of high degrees (and originating from the same period), came to the light after the French revolution. It is possible to state that all the masonic Rites, especially those practiced within the Grand Orient of Italy, came to the light, as Masonic Ritual Bodies, with the purpose of reorganising and centralising the numerous Rites practiced in the French and German Lodges prior to the revolution.
The A.P.R.M.M., differentiated itself, right from its conception, from the other Masonic Ritual Bodies, as for instance the Ancient and Accepted Rite and other similar ones, since it was structured to represent, in a single Ritual Body, the twofold masonic-illuministic system. Thus containing in itself the great western and oriental Iniziatic systems. It is essential to clarify that the path offered by the A.P.R.M.M., to the Brothers Master Masons, through its Ritual Chambers has as its primary purpose to furnish traditional tools for a secure individual spiritual growth. Furthermore the Masonic work, founded on the universal principle of aware, elective and spiritual cooperation, carried out by the Master Masons in the ritual Chambers, creates conditions for the generation of positive effects of a spiritual nature, not only within the Masonic structure, but also to the outside, that is on the whole Universe.
The return of these spiritual values on all the living beings, certifies and justifies the goal of our worshipful Rite. The diffusion of goodness and justice to all the levels of human and social life, the diffusion of true prosperity and happiness for all the beings, no longer needs to be a utopia. Other Ritual forms, instead, more or less similar to Our Worshipful Rite, immediately after their conception, suffered re-elaborations and drastic simplifications of the own philosophical ladder (of 33, or less practiced degrees), so much to twist the true purpose for which these ritual Bodies had been created. In fact these Rites having excluded from their ritual articulation the cabalistic, gnostic and hermetic degrees, mutilated the Masonic organisation in its totality, including the first section, craft Masonry, transforming it, against its grain, in a philanthropic and political association.
As far as it concerns us, in fact, philanthropy and deep social sensibility, accompanied always by the maximum respect of individual and collective liberties, are values that the initiate should have conquered already before receiving the Masonic light and certainly not afterwards. Such values must constitute the input (of the initiatic process) and not the output. They need to be the motivation and the tool and not the final objective. The end of the traditional work and ritual practiced in the various degrees of Our Worshipful Rite, is exclusively individual spiritual growth. It has never been and will never be the development of political or philanthropic activity, directly or indirectly in relation to the profane world, and any action of this kind, from the Brothers of the A.P.R.M.M., even if appreciable, must be considered exclusively as a personal/private activity.
Starting from 1881, the fusion of the two Rites (of Misraim and of Memphis) occured through the work of the Sovereign Grand Master, Grand Commander, Gran Hyerophant General Bro. Giuseppe Garibaldi, through an organic and harmonic integration. The two Rites were collected in one body under the denomination of "Oriental Masonic Order of the Ancient and Primitive Rite Of Memphis and Misraim; and to the 95 existing degrees, two others (of administrative character) were added, the 96th and 97th the former being more specifically for Sovereign Grand Masters, Grand Commanders of National Obediences, the position is "ad vitam" and is transmitted to a successor by investiture - the latter degree competes, instead, to the Sovereign Grand Master, Grand Commander, Grand Hyerophant General,
Sublime Master of Light, is prerogative of the Egyptian Grand Sacerdotal Magisterum the position is also "ad vitam" is transmitted to a successor, always by right of investiture.
Many researchers of higher Freemasonry have tried to compare the degrees of the A.P.R.M.M. to those of the other Masonic Ritual Bodies. Obviously making comparisons is always very difficult, especially in this field, nevertheless we will try to give some indications to facilitate the orientation to this topic of study.
I. The teaching of the A.P.R.M.M. already begins from the first degree of Craft Masonry, while other Rites usually start after the Ill degree.
2. It cannot be said that the 95 degree of the A.P.R.M.M. can correspond to the 33 degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, even if in some masonries in other countries, for reasons that it would be in this too long to explain in this context, these correspondences have been accepted. As far we can see there do not exist possible direct equivalences between the degrees Our Worshipful Rite and those practised by the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite. To affirm that the two Rites in matter are similar is surely not correct in as much as neither in the initiatic path nor in the operational finalities there exists some agreement. These two ritual masonic bodies are deeply different.
3. The A.P.R.M.M. is of Chivalric and illuministic character, deeply rosicrucian and hermetic, with particular cabalistic functions, that does not in its higher degrees have correspondences with the other degrees practised in Ritual Masonry. Should Brother Master Masons wish to verify this personally the practice and the experimentation of some rituality of Our Worshipful Rite is recommended, as well as the rituality of other Rites.
The Initiatic Teaching of the Ancient and Primitive Rite of Memphis and Misraim
The philosophical ladder of Our Worshipful Rite is composed of 95 degrees or, it would be be better to say 'steps'. These different levels of Masonic work, even if they can seem redundantly numerous, they must be always considered as a project to be realised in stages, in which the Master Mason undertakes a descent in the depth of his own being. However, if the possibilities, in terms of paths, are innumerable, the journey always leads, inevitably, to the conclusion of the Great Work. To have a correct understanding of the Corpus used by the A.P.R.M.M., it is opportune to consider it, in his complex structural unity as a repository of masonic degrees that are no longer practiced, due to various circumstances, in contemporary masonry
Also, to avoid dissipating time and energy, it must be explained that the multiplicity of the degrees to practise doesn't correspond to an equal multiplicity of occasions to administer some type of power:
the degrees don't have political or other kind of value except educational-initiatic; the gradual advancement corresponds only to the gradual attainment of the objectives of the different stages of the initiatic run. The rituality of the A.P.R.M.M. it is only a precious opportunity of study and deepening of all spiritual currents that have transited within Universal Freemasonry, from its to rise to today.
One of the objectives of our studies is the acquisition of the principles of Classical Gnostic Tradition, being so little diffused and superficially treated during the work of Craft Masonry. When we speak of Classical Gnosis we refer to the doctrine that is founded on the followings principles: pre-existence of the souls; descent in carnal forms; consequent abandonment of the PLEROMA (superior world, beyond the senses) for the KENOMA (inferior world of the form) and, subsequently, the possibility re-ascending again it toward the PLEROMA; study of the arcana of a posthumous existence, evoked in the ritual Masonic symbolism with the expression Eternal East. The study of these arcana that follow the first three degrees of Craft Masonry will be faced through opportune rituals containing symbols and elements deriving from ancient traditional disciplines (for instance, the Alexandrian Gnosis and the Jewish Qabalah) and characterized by signs, marches, passwords traceable to the ancient oriental traditions (like Tao ism and Tibetan Buddhism).
We will not dwell on the numerous symbolic references, used in the ritual Chambers, relative to the socalled occult sciences like the alchemy, astrology and Theurgy. At the same time, for those that succeed in listening to the voice of their own "internal essence", the specific ritual activity also represents an extraordinary and concrete possibility to acquire and to understand the knowledge of the "Royal Secret". The Fundamental characteristic of Our Worshipful Rite is, finally, its firmly deist and spiritual intimate nature. It is the definite acceptance of the fundamental principle of the eternity of the spirit and the immortality of the soul or, of some survival after the death of the physical body. This is the extent of the dogma of the A.P.R.M.M. In fact it is not tied to nor does it depend on any religion and leaves to every member total freedom of opinion and thought.
Operative Structure of the Ancient and Primitive Rite of Memphis and Misraim
The operative ritual structure of Our Worshipful Rite, developes, in 4 Sections: Symbolic section; Philosophical-cabalistic section; Gnostic-hermetic section; Hermetic section. Each section having its own characteristic and specific function, is composed in turn, by one or more Ritual Bodies that are, partly, practiced ritually and, partly, studied and conferred by communication.
Composed from Ritual Bodies denominated Lodges. The objective of this section is the study and the practice of the first three degrees of Universal Freemasonry. It has its own rituals but currently Our Worshipful Rite practises the Symbolic Section, on the basis of the protocol of agreement (undersigned February 14th 1986 and, a second time, June 2nd 1988), in conjunction with the Masonic Community of the Grand Orient of Italy.
This section is composed by 30 Ritual Chambers of which 9 are ritually practiced, while the others are not and the degrees to them corresponding are conferred by communication (on the sword).
The 9 practiced Chambers are:
4° degree, College of the Discreet Teachers
7° degree, Chapter of the Sublime Masters, Great Elects, Knights of the Vault of Perfection
8° degree, Chapter of the Sword Knights
9° degree, Knight Elect of Nine, Sublime Minervale
11° degree, Senate of the Knights of the Eagle and the Pelican , Rose-Croix Princes
16° degree, Senate of the Knights of the Sun, Sages of Truth, Adept Princes
21° degree, Senate Supreme Commanders of the Stars
30° degree, Senate of the Knights of the Black and White Eagle, Kadosch Knights
33° degree, Supreme Counseil of Sovereign Grand Inspectors
Gnostic - Hermetic Section
This section is composed of 38 Ritual Chambers, of which only the 66 degree is practiced, Grand Consistory of Great Consacrator Patriarchs. The teaching in this Section finds its study and its research in the classical gnosis and its derivations.
The hermetic section represents the conclusion of the initiatic path that the Brother Master Masons have accomplished -as workers of the Royal Art - in the traditional journey, through this immemorial and mysterious repository, that is the Ancient and Primitive Rite of Memphis and Misraim. In this section, composed by 24 Ritual Bodies, the following are ritually practiced:
90°degree Great Counsel of Sovereigns Principles, Sublime Patriarchs, Masters of the Great Work.
91° degree, Grand Tribunal of Sovereigns Principles, Grand Defenders of the Order and the Rite.
94° degree, Gran Mystical Temple of the Sublime Patriarchs of Memphis.
95° degree, Sovereign Sanctuary of Sublime Patriarchs, Grand Conservators of the Order.
From what has been said, even if broadly, it is hoped that the Brother Master Masons appreciate that the Ancient and Primitive Rite of Memphis and Misraim is aimed only to those initiates whom, patiently following the many occasions of inspired meditation, intend to discover the channels of force that allow ones perfect resonance with the higher planes of existence and with the transpersonality of the being. The objective of our Worshipful Rite is to constitute a real but invisible thread that ties the lower with the higher. It offers the key to the arcana, to all the men of good will, so that these same arcana can be unveiled and practiced.
We do not expect that, in a few pages we have succeeded in clarifying the history and the interlacements of events that, in their whole constitute the memory and the roots of our Worshipful Rite. Yet we are sure to have provided the Brothers that benevolently follow and esteem us, with valid tools of understanding that can be certainly useful to get a better idea on the role and the activity of the A.P.R.M.M. in the today's Italian Masonic Community.
Our work of research and explanation cannot be considered exhausted, obviously, with the diffusion of the present document, but it could start off a series of research and publications that could be put to good use by those that want to deepen this type of knowledge.
It seems us proper to conclude with the affirmations brought in the introduction of the Statutes and General Rules of the Ancient and Primitive Rite of Memphis and Misraim:
MAN, YOU HAVE TWO EARS TO HEAR THE SAME SOUND, TWO EYES TO PERCEIVE
THE SAME OBJECT, TWO HANDS TO PERFORM THE SAME ACTION.
IN THE SAME WAY THE MASONIC SCIENCE,
THE SCIENCE "PAR EXCELLENCE", IS ESOTERIC AND EXOTERIC.
ESOTERICISM CONSTITUTES THE TIIOUGHT, EXOTERICISM THE ACTION.
EXOTERICISM IS LEARNED, IT IS TAUGHT, IT IS GIVEN;
ESOTERICISM IS NOT LEARNED,IT IS NOT TAUGHT, IT IS NOT GIVEN
To all those that seek goodness, beauty, justice and truth, we wish Health, Prosperity and Fraternity.
Giancarlo Seri 33:. 90:.97:.
Sovereign Grand Master of the A.P.R.M.M.
Note: Brothers that would like ulterior information on the publications of the A. P.R.M.M. or for possible affiliation applications write to:
Post Office box (Casella Postale) 1649, Branch (Succursale) 5, - 06123 Perugia
Telephone communications with the Grand Secretary of the A.P.R.M.M: via the Masonic Hall of the Grand Orient of Italy (Plaza Piccinnino, 9-06100 Perugia) tel. 075/5723828 from 17.00 to 22.00 except
Saturday and Sunday) - Fax 075/5732734 (active 24 hours).