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Emanuel Swedenborg, a distinguished theologian of his age, and the founder of a sect which still exists, has been always mythically connected with Freemasonry. The eagerness is indeed extraordinary with which all Masonic writers, German, French, English, and American, have sought to connect the name and labors of the Swedish sage with the Masonic institution, and that, too, without the slightest foundation for such a theory either in his writings, or in any Credible memorials of his life.
Findel (History of Freemmasonry, page 329), speaking of the reforms in Swedish Freemasonry, says: "Most likely Swedenborg, the mystic and visionary, used his influence in bringing about the new system; at all events, he smoothed the way for it." Lenning speaks of the influence of his teachings upon the Swedish system of Freemasonry, although he does not absolutely claim him as a Freemason.
Reghellini, in his Esprit du Dogme de la FrancheMaonnerie, or Genius of the Tenets of Freemasonry, writes thus: "Swedenborg made manly very learned researches on the subject of the Masonic mysteries. He thought that their doctrines were of the highest antiquity, having emanated from the Egyptians, the Persians, the Magi, the Jews, and the Greeks.
He also became the head of a new religion in his effort to reform that of Rome. For this purpose he wrote his Celestial Jerusalem, or his Spiritual World: he mingled with his reform, ideas which were purely Masonic. In this celestial Jerusalem the Word formerly communicated by God to Moses is found; this word is Jehovah, lost on earth, but which he invites us to find in Great Tartary, a Country still governed, even in our days, by the patriarchs, by which he means allegorically to say that this people most nearly approach to the primitive condition of the perfection of innocence." But there is no work written by Swedenborg which bears either of those titles, Celestial Jerusalem or Spiritual World. It is possible that Reghellini alludes either to the Arcana Celestia, published in 1749-53, or to the De Nova Hierosolyma, published in 1758. The same writer, in his Maonnerie considree comme le rsultat d es religions Egyptienne, Juive et Chrtienne, or Masonry considered as the result of Egyptian, Jewish, and Christian Religions (ii, page 454), repeatedly speaks of Swedenborg as a Masonic reformer, and sometimes as a Masonic impostor Ragon also cites Reghellini in his Orthodoxe Maonnique (page 255), and recognizes Swedenborg as the founder of a Masonic system.
Thory, in his Acta Latornorum, cites "the system of Swedenborg"; and in fact all the French writers on Masonic ritualism appear to have borrowed their idea of the Swedish theosophist from the statement of Reghellini, and have not hesitated to rank him among the principal Masonic teachers of his time. Doctor Oliver is the earliest of the English Masonic writers of eminence who has referred to Swedenborg. He, too often careless of the weight of his expressions and facile in the acceptance of authority speaks of the Degrees, the system, as well as the Freemasonry of Swedenborg just in the same tone as he would of those of Cagliostro, of Hund, or of Tschoudy. Lastly, and in the United States of America, we had a more recent writer, Brother Samuel Beswick, who was evidently a man of ability and of considerable research.
He has culminated to the zenith in his Claims of the Masonic character of Swedenborg. He published at New York, in 1870, a volume entitled, The Swedenborg Rite and the Great Masonic Leaders of the Eighteenth Century. In this work, which, outside of its Swedenborgian fancies, contains much interesting matter; he traces the Masonic life of Swedenborg from his initiation, the time and place of which he makes in 1706, in a Scottish Lodge in the town of Lund, in Sweden, which is a fair specimen of the value of his historical statements. But after treating the great Swede as a Masonic reformer, as the founder of a Rite, and as evincing during his whole life a deep interest in Freemasonry, he appears to us to surrender the whole question in the following closing words of his work:
From the very moment of his initiation, Swedenborg appears to have resolved never to allude to his membership or to his knowledge of Freemasonry, either publicly or privately. He appears to have made up his mind to keep it a profound secret, and to regard it as something which had no relation to his publie life. We have searched his Itinerary, which contains brief references to everything, he saw, heard, and read during his travels, for something having relation to his Masonic knowledge, intercourse, correspondence, visits to Lodges, places, or persons; but there is a studied silence a systematic avoidance of all allusion to it. In his theological works, his Memorable Relations speak of almost every sect in Christendom, and of all sorts of organizations, or of individuals belonging thereto. But Freemasonry is an exception: there is a systematic silence in relation to it.
It is true that he finds in this reticence of Swedenborg the evidence that he was a Freemason and interested in Freemasonry, but others will most probably form a different conclusion. The fact is that Swedenborg never was a Freemason. The reputation of being one, that has been so continuously attributed to him by Masonic writers, is based first upon the assumptions of Reghellini, whose statements in his Esprit du Dogme were never questioned nor their truth investigated, as they should have been, but were blindly followed by succeeding writers. Neither Wilkinson, nor Burk, nor White, who wrote his biography--the last the most exhaustively--nor anything in his own voluminous writings, lead aq to anx such conclusion. But the second and more important basis on which the theory of a Swedenborgian Freemasonry has been built is the conduct of some of his own disciples, who, imbued with his religious views, being Freemasons, carried the spirit of the New Jerusalem doctrines into their Masonic speculations. There was, it is true, a Masonic Rite or System of Swedenborg, but its true history is this:
About that period we find Pernetty working out his schemes of Masonic reform. Pernetty was a theosophist, a Hermetic philosopher, a disciple, to some extent, of Jacob Bhme, that prince of mystics. To such a man, the reveries, the visions, and the spiritual speculations of Swedenborg were peculiarly attractive. He accepted them as an addition to the theosophic views which he already had received.
About the year 1760 he established at Avignon his Rite of the Illuminati, in which the reveries of both theme and Swedenborg were introduced. In 1783 this system was reformed by the Marquis de Thom, another Swedenborgian, and out of that reform arose what was called the Rite of Swedenborg, not because Swedenborg had established it, or had any-thing directly to do with its establishment, but because it n as based on his peculiar theological views, and because its symbolism was borrowed from the ideas he had advanced in the highly symbolical works that he had written. A portion of these Degrees, or other Degrees much like them, have been called apocalyptic; not bemuse Saint John had, any more than Swedenborg, a connection with them, but because their system of initiation is based on the mystical teaehings of the Apocalypse; a work which, not less than the theories of the Swede, furnishes abundant food for a system of Masonico-religious symbolisrn. Benedict Chastanier, was also another disciple of Swedenborg, and who was one of the founders of the Avignon Society, carried these views into England, and founded at London a similar Rite, which afterward was changed into a purely religious association.
"The Theosophical Society, instituted for the purpose of promoting the Heavenly Doctrines of the New Jerusalem." In one of his visions, Swedenborg thus describes a palace in the spiritual world which he had visited. From passages such as these which abound in his various treatises, the theosophic Freemasons concocted those Degrees which have been called the freemasonry of Swedenborg. To no reader of the passage annexed can its appropriateness as the basis of a system of symbolism fail to be apparent.
I accordingly entered the temple, which was magnificent, and in the midst of which a woman was represented clothed in purple, holding in her right hand a golden crown piece, and in her left a chain of pearls. The statue and the representation were only fantastic representations for these infernal spirits, by closing the interior Degree and opening the exterior only, are able at the pleasure of their imagination to represent magnificent Objects.
Perceiving that they were illusions, I prayed to the Lord. Immediately the interior of my spirit was opened and I saw, instead of the superb temple, a Tottering house, open to the weather from the top to the bottom. In the place of the woman-state an image was suspended, having the head of a dragon, the body of a leopard, the feet of a bear, and the mouth of a lion: in short, it was the beast rising out of the sea, as described in the Apocalypse (xiii, 2). In the place of a park, there gas a marsh full of frogs and I was informed that under this marsh there was a great hewn stone, beneath which the Word was entirely hidden. afterwards I said to the Prelate, who was the fabricator of these illusions,"Is that your temple? "Yes," replied he, it is." Immediately his interior sight was opened like mine, and he saw what I did.
" How now, what do I see?" cried he. I told him that it was the effect of the celestial light, wish discovers the interior quality of everything, anal which taught him at that very moment what faith separated front good works was. While I was speaking, a wind blowing from the east destroyed the Temple and the image, dried up the marsh, and discovered the stone under which the Sacred Word was Concealed. A genial warmth, like that of the spring, descended from heaven; and in the place of that Temple we saw a tent, the exterior of which was very plain. I looked into the interior of it, and there I saw the foundation-stone beneath which the Sacred Word was concealed ornamented with precious stones, the splendor of which. diffusing itself over the walls of the Temple, diversified the colors of the paintings, which represented cherubims.
The angels, perceiving me to be filled with admiration; told me that I should see still greater wonders than these. They were then permitted to open the third heaven, inhabited by the celestial angels, who dwelt inlove. All of a sudden the splendor of a light of fire caused the Temple to disappear, and left nothing to be seen but the Lord himself, standing upon the foundation-stone--the Lord who was the Word, such as he showed Himself (Apocalypse i, 13 to 16). Holiness immediately filled all the interior of the spirit of the angels, upon Which they made an effort to prostrate themsell es, hut the Lord shut the passage to the light from the third heavers openiny the passage to the light of the second, which caused the Temple to reappear, with the tent in the midst.
Such passages as these might lead one to suppose that Swedenborg was familiar with the system ofMasonic ritualism His complete reticence upon the subject, however, and the whole tenor of his life, his studies, and his habits, assure us that such was not the case; and that if there was really a borrowing of one from the other, and not an accidental coincidence, it was the Freemasons of the advanced Degrees who borrowed from Swedenborg, and not Swedenborg from them. If so, we cannot deny that he has unwillingly exercised a powerful influence on Freemasonry.
In 1737 Lord Darnley, Grand Master of England, granted a Deputation for Geneva, in Switzerland, to George Hamilton, who, in the same year, established a Provincial Grand Lodge at Geneva. Warrants were granted by this Body to several Lodges in and around the City of Geneva. Two years afterward, a Lodge, composed principally of Englishmen, was established at Lausanne, under the name of L' Union Parfaite des Etrangers. Findel, on the authority of Mossdorf's edition of Lenning, says that the Warrant for this Lodge was granted by the Duke of Montagu; a statement also made by Thory. This is an error. The Duke of Montagu was Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of England in 1721, and could not, therefore, have granted a Warrant in 1739. The Warrant must have been issued by the Marquis of Carnarvon, who was Grand Master from April, 1738 to May, 1739.
In an old list of the Regular Lodges on the Registry of England, this Lodge is thus described: "Private Room, Lausanne, in the Canton of Bern, Switzerland, February 2, 1739." Soon after, this Lodge assumed a superintending authority with the title of Helvetic Roman Directory, and instituted many other Lodges in the Pays de Vaud.
But in Switzerland, as elsewhere, Freemasonry was at an early period exposed to persecution. In 1738, almost immediately after their institution, the Lodges at Geneva were suppressed by the magistrates. In 1740, so many calumnies had been circulated in the Swiss Cantons against the Order, that the Freemasons published an Apology for the Order in Der Brachmann, a Zurich journal. It had, however, but little effect, for in 1743 the magistrates of Bern ordered the closing of all the Lodges. This Edict was not obeyed; and therefore, on March 3, 1745, another, still more severe, was issued, by which a penalty of one hundred thalers, and forfeiture of his situation was to be inflicted on every officer of the government who should continue his connection with the Freemasons.
To this the Freemasons replied in a pamphlet entitled Le Franc-Maon dans la Rpublique, published simultaneously, in 1746, at Frankfort and Leipsic. In this work they ably defended themselves from all the unjust charges that had been made against them. Notwithstanding that the result of this defense was that the magistrates pushed their opposition no farther, the Lodges in the Pays de Vaud remained suspended for nineteen years. But in 1764 the primitive Lodge at Lausanne was revived, and the revival was gradually followed by the other Lodges. This resumption of labor was, however, but of brief duration. In 1770 the magistrates again interdicted the meetings. During all this period the Freemasons of Geneva, under a more liberal government, were uninterrupted in their labors, and extended their operations into German Switzerland.
June 1, 1769, nine Lodges assembled and formed on June 24 the Independent Grand Lodge of Geneva. Soon afterwards, however, the Craft came into disfavor in the country. In 1771 Lodges had been erected in Vevay and Zurich, which, working at first according to the French system, soon afterward adopted the German ritual. In 1775 the Lodges of the Pays de Vaud were permitted to resume their labors. Formerly, they had worked according to the system of the Grand Lodge of England, whence they had originally derived their Freemasonry; but this they now abandoned, and adopted the Rite of Strict Observance. In the same year the advanced Degrees of France were introduced into the Lodge at Basle. Both it and the Lodge at Lausanne now assumed higher rank, and took the title of Scottish Directories.
A Congress was held at Basle in 1777, in which there were representatives from the Strict Observance Lodges of the Pays de Vaud and the English Lodge of Zurich. It was then determined that the Freemasonry of Switzerland should be divided under two distinct authorities: the one to be called the German Helvetic Directory, with its seat at Zurich; and the other to be called the Scottish Helvetic Roman Directory, whose seat was at Lausanne.
This word Roman, or more properly Romunsh, is the name of one of the four languages spoken in Switzerland. It is a corruption of the Latin, and supposed to have been the colloquial dialect of a large part of the Grisons. Still there were great dissensions in the Freemasonry of Switzerland. A clandestine Lodge had been established in 1777, at Lausanne, by one Sidrae, whose influence it was found difficult to cheek. The Helvetic Roman Directory found it necessaryw for this purpose, to enter, in 1779, into a Treaty of Alliance with the Grand Lodge at Geneva, and the Lodge of Sidrae was then at length dissolved and its members dispersed.
The Helvetic Roman Directory published its Constitutions in 1778. The Rite it practised was purely philosophical every Hermetic element having been eliminated The appointment of the Masters of Lodges, who held office for three years, was vested in the Directory, and, in consequences men of ability and learning were chosen, and the Craft were skilfully governed. November, 1782, the Council of Bern interdicted the meetings of the Lodges and the exercise of Freemasonry.
The Helvetic Roman Directorys to give an example of obedience to law, however unjust and oppressive, dissolved its Lodges and discontinued its own meetings. But it provided far a maintenance of its foreign relations, by the appointment of a committee invested with the power of conducting its correspondence and of controlling the foreign Lodges under its obedience. There was a conference of the Swiss Lodges at Zurich in 1785 to take into consideration certain propositions which had been made by the Congress of Paris, held by the Philalethes; but the desire that a similar Congress should be convened at Lausanne met with no favor from the Directorial Committee. The Grand Orient of France began to exert an influence, and many Lodges of Switzerland, among others ten in Geneva, gave their adhesion to that Body. The seven other Genevan Lodges which were faithful to the English system organized a Grand Orient of Geneva, and in l789 formed an alliance with the Grand Lodge of England. About the same time, the Lodges of the Pays de Vaud, which had been suppressed in 1782 by the government of Bern, resumed their vitality.
But the political disturbances consequent on the French Revolution began to exercise their influences in the Cantons. In 1792, the Helvetic Roman Directory suspended work; and its example was followed in 1793 by the Scottish Directory. From 1793 to 1803, Freemasonry was almost dead in Switzerland, although a few Lodges in Geneva and a German one in Nuremberg continued a sickly existence.
The Grand Orient of France chartered on September 14, 1802, Hope, or L'Esprance, Lodge at Bern, which, in 1818, became an English Provincial Grand Lodge and on June 24, 1822, formed with several others the National Grand Lodge of Switzerland. In 1813 Hope Lodge had initiated Prince Leopold of Saxe Coburg Gotha, afterwards the first King of the Belgians. With the cession of the Republic of Geneva to Franee, the Grand Lodge ceased to exist, and all the Lodges were united with the Grand Orient of France. Several Lodges, however, in the Pays de Vaud, whose Constitution had been irregular, united together to form an independent Body under the title of the Grand National Helvetic Orient. Peter Maurice Glaire introduced his modified Scottish Rite of seven Degrees and was at the age of eighty-seven elected its Grand Master for life.
Glaire was possessed of great abilities, and had been the friend of Stanislaus, King of Poland, in whose interests he had performed several important missions to Russia, Prussia, Austria, and France. He was much attached to Freemasonry, and while in Poland had elaborated on the Scottish system the Rite which he subsequently bestowed Upon the Helvetic Orient. In 1820 there were nineteen Lodges, which worked under four different Obediences, the Scottish Directory, the Grand Helvetic Roman Orient, the English Provincial Grand Lodge, and the Grand Orient of France. besides, there were two Lodges of the Rite of Mizraim, which had been introduced by the Brothers Bedarride.
The Freemasons of Switzerland, weary of these divisions, had been long anxious to build a firm foundation of Masonic unity, and to obliterate forever this state of isolation, where Lodges were proximate in locality but widely asunder in their Masonic relations. Many attempts were made, but the rivalries of petty authorities and the intolerance of opinion caused them always to be failures. At length a movement, which was finally crowned with success, was inaugurated by the Lodge Modestia sum Libertate, Moderation with Freedom, of Zurich. Being about to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of its existence in 1836, it invited the Swiss dodges of all Rites to be present at the festival.
There a proposition for a National Masonic Union was made, which met with a favorable response from all who were present. The reunion at this festival had given so much satisfaction that similar meetings were held in 1835 at Bern, in 1840 at Basle, and in 1842 at Locle. The preliminary means for establishing a Confederacy were discussed at these various biennial conventions, and progress slowly but steadily was made toward the accomplishment of that object. In 1842 the task of preparing a draft of a Constitution for a United Grand Lodge was entrusted to Brother Gysi-Schinz, of Zurich, who so successfully completed it that it gave almost universal satisfaction.
The Grand Lodge Alpina of Switzerland was created in July, 1844, from a fusion of the National Grand Lodge with the Grand Directory of Lodges working the Scottish Rectified Rite, the latter following a Templar Ritual, and dating its activities from 1779. This as a Grand Priory became later in aetive friendly association with the Supreme Council. Brother J. J. Hottinger was the first Grand Master.
Here we may observe that in some countries there has been a tendency to a greater freedom with these time-honored words indicating the Deity, even to substitute something else not so rigid in its definite meaning. As for example, at the seventy-fifth Assembly of the Grand Lodge Alpina, held at Zurich, Switzerland, on Saturday, May 21, 1927, under the presidency of the Grand Master, Dr. Fritz Brandenberg, a motion was made to substitute the word "Divinity" for "God" in the first article of the Constitution, which reads: "The Freemason reveres God under the name of T. G. A. D. T. U." 'the motion was lost by a majority of 69 votes, 23 voting in favour and 92 against (see Freemason, London, June 11, 1927).
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