The Rite of Strict Observance

Rite of Strict Observance

The Rite of Strict Observance by Burton E. Bennett

The Strict Observance: An Overview

The system of the Strict Observance grew out of what is known as Templarism. Templar Masonry commenced to grow up in France soon after true Freemasonry was introduced. This was about 1725. However, no Grand Lodge was established till 1752. It is not till then that we are on sure footing. What went before can only be approximated. The Strict Observance as a separate system was formed Germany and dates from about 1748. It was produced by a process of evolution. The Strict Observance, and our present Knights Templar Masonry, as well, cannot, even, be reliably understood without knowing something out the Crusades, and with the three great orders that they produced, the Teutonic Knights, the Hospitallers and the Knights Templar.

The Crusades were a series of wars carried on Western Europe to recover the Holy Land from the Moslems. They began in the 11th century and extended over a period of some five hundred years. The Christian Crusades utterly broke down in 1449, and in 1453 Constantinople fell before the Mohammedans. It has ever since remained under Moslem rule, as has the Holy Land, and all of Asia Minor, till the end of the Great War. During all of the time of the Crusades the Church of Rome largely governed the Western World. The Crusades mightily changed European History.

In one sense of the word the Crusades were a continuation of the age-old fight of the East against the West, and while, apparently, the West started it, and it was carried on offensively, still it was really defensive–the Christian world trying to stem the onrush of the Moslem hordes. It was a religious war–a war between the Christian and the Infidel. It was an attempt of the Roman Church, as a temporal power, to conquer the world with the sword, just as the Moslems were trying to do. It failed. The Moslems nearly succeeded in their aim. They took all of Asia Minor, all of civilized Africa, Sicily and other Mediterranean islands and even Spain in the West. They took a great part of Eastern Europe and reached as far West as Vienna. Here in 1683 they were finally stopped. But for the Crusades it is possible that they might have entirely overrun the Western World and suppressed the Christian religion, or, at least, absorbed it entirely within their system. The impartial student of history, comparing the civilization of the Moors in Spain with that of the Church and its Inquisition, which replaced it, must decide that the former was, by far, the preferable. The civilization of Medieval Europe certainly had little to commend it. However, taking a broad survey there can be no question that it is a mighty blessing that the West prevailed over the East, as it always had before, and that the beneficent religion of Christ was not replaced by the religion of Mahomet. No handicap, however great, can permanently stand before the onward progress of the Western division of the Aryan people, their intellect has become too great for this; too many brains stand at the perpendicular.

The Hejira took place in 622. Omar took Jerusalem in 637, and in Moslem hands it remained till the end of the first Crusade. The Church of the Sepulchre was fanatically destroyed in 1010. In 1071 the Seljukian Turks captured Jerusalem. Till then pilgrimages to the Holy Land were fairly easy and especially so up to the final separation of the Eastern and Western Churches in 1054. Now not only were the native Christians persecuted, but the Pilgrim Christians as well.

The Causes of the Crusades
It has been stated that the purpose of the Crusades was to recover the sepulchre of Christ from the Infidel. The underlying causes, however, were deeper and far greater. They were:

• the desire of the Papacy for conquest,
• the desire of the mercantile classes to open up trade routes to the East,
• the desire of the Byzantine emperors to recover their lost territories and
• the desire of princes to carve new kingdoms out of the East

The barbarians who overran the Roman Empire had hardly become settled among the ruins they had caused, and commenced to repair them, when Scandinavian pirates sailed up their rivers and sacked and plundered their towns just as they had sacked and plundered the mighty cities of the Empire. Some of these pirates finally settled down in Northern France and established the Dukedom of Normandy. In 1066 the Norman Duke, William the Bastard, conquered England and established his kingdom of England. In 1090 the Norman Duke Roger conquered Sicily from the Moslems and established his kingdom there. The Norman Duke Godfrey was one of the commanders in the first Crusade. On July 15, 1099, Godfrey took Jerusalem, and while the shrieks of the dying were heard and the rivers of blood still gurgled and eddied, he founded his Norman kingdom of Jerusalem. The traders, the princes, the Emperor and the Pope devoutly thanked God for the successful termination of so glorious a cause. But the Crusades for the purpose of conquering the world for Christianity, and extirpating the Infidel, was a complete failure. However, good came out of them–incalculable good. They helped to dissolve feudalism, to develop trade, to build up cities and to increase knowledge. It would be foolish to say that they were the cause of all this, but they certainly contributed toward it.

But above all, by far, they show the strivings of man for an ideal, for the infinite, for immortality, as nothing on this earth has ever done before or since; they attempted to answer the age-old question as it has never been done before nor since–can mortality be shaken off for immortality, can the finite be merged in the infinite?

Military Orders of the Crusades

The Crusades produced the Teutonic Knights, the Hospitallers and the Knights Templar, and thus Templar Masonry, and so, in one sense of the word, they are the cause of the Strict Observance.

The Teutonic Knights of St. Mary’s Hospital of Jerusalem was one of the three great religious and military orders produced by the Crusades. It was founded during the third Crusade, and was the last one formed. Its hospital was founded by Germans. Very early in the history of the Order its members were all ennobled, and they have remained so ever since. It was never a universal Order, like the Templars and the Hospitallers. It was strictly national in character. Like the other two Orders it began as a charitable society, passed into a military one and finally reached sovereign power. In 1291 it was expelled by the Moslems from the Holy Land. In 1309 it established itself in what is now Marienburg, West Prussia. It had begun its work, however in Eastern Germany a hundred years before for the purpose of subduing and converting the heathens. The Knightly Order of Dobrzin, founded for the purpose of conquering the heathen Prussians, was merged in the Teutonic Knight 1235, just as an older organized for the same pose, was merged in it years before. The Order finally became a governing aristocracy, holding its lands in Eastern Germany as a fief of the Pope of Rome. The Grand Master became in reality a king with the Pope as Emperor. However, the monarch, if such it may be called, a limited one as a council of brethren had to be consulted in all affairs. The state was really the church, and the government was ecclesiastical in character. The country was governed somewhat as the States of the Church in Italy were governed before 1871, when the temporal power of the Pope was abolished. The greater part of their subjects were the conquered Prussian heathens from whom the present peasants are descended. They were serfs bound to the soil. 0f course their souls were now safe, but the only earthly right, if right it could be called, that they obtained through their conversion, was the right to work for the Knights, their masters, and fight for them in time of war.

The Order reached its height in the latter part of the 14th century. Its very rights weighted it down. Its neighbors envied its wealth, and wanted its territories. The Hundred Years War weakened it. Poland finally got West Prussia, and while East Prussia was left to the Knights, Poland became its overlord. Lutherism gave it its final blow. When the Hohenzollern Albert, Grand Master of the Order, turned Protestant, he secularized its territories into a Duchy under Poland. Later on all of the country East of Germany was secularized and the Order confined wholly to Germany. The German Grand Master became a Prince of the Empire.

The Order still continued on in its conservatism, always claiming its old rights. It maintained itself from its still large revenues from its estates in different parts of Germany. During the French Revolution, however, it was deprived of all of its estates, which went to the different principalities in which they were situated. It was suppressed in 1809, but in 1840 it was revived in Austria under the patronage of the Emperor of Austria, and so continued down to the ending of the Great War.

The Knights of Malta

The Hospitallers, known officially as “Knights of the Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem,” was founded at Jerusalem during the first Crusade. It has been known also as “Knights of Rhodes”, and as the “Sovereign Order of the Knights of Malta.” It was at first a charitable Order, while the Templars was from the first a military one. With the fall of the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem in 1291, the Knights retired to the island of Rhodes. In 1522 the Turks finally took Rhodes, and the Hospitallers removed to Malta. Here they remained till 1793, when Napoleon took Malta, and added it to the French Republic. This ended it as a sovereign power. While the Knights had to leave Malta, shorn of their old power and great wealth, they still continued on in different countries. The Knights took with them from Malta their precious relics–chief among them being the hand of St. John the Baptist, the miraculous image of Our Lady of Pherlemon, and a fragment of the true cross.

Some of the Knights went to Russia and elected the Emperor Paul I Grand Master, and the then Grand Master, Hompesch, resigned in his favor. A chapter of the Knights granted the Pope of Rome authority to name a Grand Master, which he did. When this Grand Master died the head of the Order was called a Lieutenant Grand Master till 1879, when Leo XIII restored the ancient title of Grand Master. The Order of St. Anthony and St. Lazarus were united to the Hospitalers in 1782.

The oldest house of the Order was in France. It is still occupied by the Order. In Italy and Germany it is now called the “Sovereign Order of Malta.” Applicants for knighthood must have sixteen quarterings of nobility and in Austria, before the Great War, also, the consent of the Emperor. The Grand Cross of the Order is a gold white enameled Maltese cross surmounted by a crown. There are two Protestant Orders of St. John of Jerusalem, branches of the parent Order –one in Germany and the other in England. These chapters joined in the Reformation, but for a long time continued their contributions to the head of the Order.

In Prussia members of the Order must be Protestants of noble birth and belong to the Evangelical Church. The Grand Cross there is a Mallese cross of white enameled gold with four black eagles between the arms. Since the Great War the Order has worked for the restoration of the monarchy. In 1924 von Hindenburg officiated at the knighting ceremonies of the Knights of St. John, but after he was elected president of the German Republic he told the Knights that he “resigned his functions.” In 1925 as president of the republic he forbade the former kaiser s son, Eitel Frederick, to officiate at the knighting ceremonies and ordered that they be held in a small chapel at Sonnenberg, instead of in the monarchist church at Potsdam, as usual.

In England the Order was never formally suppressed, and in 1888 Queen Victoria granted it a charter. In 1889 King Edward VII, then Prince of Wales was made Grand Prior. In Great Britain, as in Prussia, the sovereign is the head of the Order, and the heir to the throne Grand Prior. In England it is an aristocratic Order, but not to the extent that it is in Prussia. While members do not have to be Protestants they must believe in Christianity. The Grand Cross in Great Britain is, of course, the gold white enameled Maltese cross, but between the arms are placed two lions and two unicorns.

The first photograph ever taken of a chapter in session appeared in the London Graphic of Sept. 13, 1924. It was one of a meeting of the Priory of Wales at Powis Castle, Welshpool. It shows Knights and Esquires on the steps of the castle in full regalia, including the Right Honorable Lord Kylsant, Sub-Prior for Wales, who deputized for the Prince of Wales, who is Grand Prior.

The Knights Templar

The Order of the Poor Knights of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, or, as it is otherwise called, Knights Templar, was founded in Palestine in the 12th century by the Crusaders. The Order was a purely military one. It was made for the purpose of guarding the pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem. It order got the latter part of its name, “Temple of Solomon,” from the fact that the King of Jerusalem, Baldwin I, gave a part of his palace known as the “Temple of Solomon” for its use.

At the head of the Order was a Master of the Temple, afterwards known as a Grand Master. His authority was very great, and generally this word was law; but in extremely large matters- as declaring war, etc.-he had to consult the chapter. and the members decided by a majority vote. The celibate life members wore a white mantle with a red cross on it; the others a black or brown one, also with a red cross on it. Within fifty years after it was founded it was established in nearly all of the countries of Europe. Lands and manors and castles were given to the Knights by different kings in their kingdoms and the Pope allowed them to have their own churches and even churchyards in which the excommunicated could be buried.

They were even free from tithes and all local jurisdictions, and finally became a separate ecclesiastical society under the Pope. The result was “war” between them and the secular clergy, but as long as the Crusades continued they remained all powerful with the Papacy. Their object was to carry on the Crusades and wrest the Holy Land from the Infidel, and for this purpose they gathered money and recruits from all parts of Europe. It is now seen that when the Crusades were over it was the inevitable fate of the Knights Templar to fall. Until nearly the end of the 13th century, when the Moslems expelled the Christians from the East, the history of the Crusades is a history of the Templars.

In 1291 the Templars retired from the Holy Land to Cyprus, and ten years later the curtain was rung down on their vast theatre of action-Asia Minor.

The Knights who in the 12th century came together to protect the pilgrims going to and returning from Jerusalem, and took an oath to live in chastity, obedience and poverty, two hundred years later were the most influential, rich and powerful body of men in the world. When their last Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, came to Paris he brought with him 150,000 gold florins, and ten horse loads of silver. But this was a very small part of their immense wealth. They had castles and strongholds and estates in all parts of Europe, and they had a strict military organization connecting them together. They were the international bankers of the then known world. They were trusted with money and with its transmission to all parts of Europe, and the East on account of their great wealth, great protective power and their pious life. While they never exercised governmental power like the Knights in Prussia and in Rhodes, still they were really far more powerful-an ecclesiastical power that covered the entire civilized world. They never, apparently, were so high as just before they fell.

The Conspiracy Against The Templars

For a long time the princes of Europe had been plotting to wreck the Templars and seize and divide up their great wealth. They got the Hospitallers with them by holding out the bait of the Templars’ wealth. The Crusades being over they pretended that it was best to have all of the military Orders united. But they could not achieve their object. Finally trumped up charges of blasphemy were made against the Templars, and through them the acquiescence of the Church obtained. Their Grand Master and most of the Knights were arrested and the Order suppressed.

Jacques de Molay and many others were put to the most excruciating tortures, and in their agony confessed to everything that their tormentors desired. Under trial by torture, if on the trial one repudiated his confession he was forthwith put to death. But if he stood by his confession it was a plea of guilty, no matter how innocent he might be, and his tormentors did with his as they wished. Jacques de Molay, at his trial, rose to sublime heights (as did many other Knights) and as befitted a great man at the head of the mightiest Order in the world, repudiated his confession, declared his own and his Order’s innocence and offering up his prayers to God was burned alive amid the chants of priests of the Romish religion, with the acquiescence of the Pope of Rome, at the behest of greedy, soulless princes headed by the King of France.

The charges against the Templars were false as history has since abundantly shown. It was a dark day for Europe and Christian civilization when the Templars were destroyed. It established criminal procedure by torture, which continued down to the French Revolution; it established in the feudal mind the idea of witchcraft, and intercourse with the devil, which has only been overcome in comparatively recent times, and which curse we have had our part to bear as is witnessed in our Salemism; and, finally, it enabled the Turks to ravage Eastern Europe and oppress it continuously down to our own times-the end of the Great War.

The Strict Observance

The Rite of the Strict Observance is based on “Templar Masonry.” Its founders claimed that all Templars were Masons, that they founded – and that the time had come to proclaim it to the world, and to have the Order of the Temple given back all of its former possessions, and to have all of its former powers restored to it. But what is the legend of “Templar Masonry”? Perhaps the French Masonic writer, Beranger, in the following short description, depicts it as well as it can be done. He says:

“The Order of Masonry was instituted by Godfrey de Bouillon, in Palestine, in 1330, after the defeat of the Christian armies, and was communicated only to a few French Masons, some time afterwards, as a reward for the services which they had rendered to the English and Scottish Knights. From these latter true Masonry is derived. Their Mother Lodge is situated on the mountain of Heredom, where the first Lodge in Europe was held, which still exists in all its splendor. The Council General is always held here, and it is the seat of the Sovereign Grand Master for the time being. This mountain is situated between the West and the North of Scotland, sixty miles from Edinburgh.”

“There are other secrets in Masonry which were never known among the French, and which have no relation to the Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Degrees, which were constructed for the general class of Masons. The high degrees, which developed the true design of Masonry and its true secrets, have never been known to them.”

“The Saracens having obtained possession of the holy places in Palestine, where all the mysteries of the Order were practised, made use of them for the most profane purposes. The Christians then leagued together to conquer this beautiful country, and to drive these barbarians from the land. They succeeded in obtaining a footing on these shores under the protection of the numerous armies of the Crusaders, which had been sent there by the Christian princes. The losses which they subsequently experienced put an end to the Christian power, and the Crusaders who remained were subjected to the persecutions of the Saracens, who massacred all who publicly proclaimed the Christian faith. This induced Godfrey de Bouillon, toward the end of the thirteenth century, to conceal the mysteries of religion under the veil of figures, emblems and allegories.”

“Hence the Christians selected the Temple of Solomon because it had so close a relation to the Christian Church, of which its holiness and its magnificence made it the true syymbol. So the Christians concealed the Mystery of the building up of the Church under that of the construction of the Temple, and gave themselves the title of Masons, Architects, or Builders, they were occupied in building the faith. They assembled under the pretext of making plans of architecture to practise the faith of their religion with all the emblems and allegories that Masonry could furnish, and thus protect themselves from cruelty of the Saracens.”

“As the mysteries of Masonry were in their principles, and still are, only those of the Christian religion, they were extremely scrupulous to confide this important secret only to those whose discretion had been tried, and who had been found worthy. For this purpose they fabricated degrees as a test of those in whom they wished to confide, and they gave them at first only the symbolic secrets of Hiram, on which all the mysteries of Blue Masonry is founded, and which is, in fact, the only secret of that Order which has no relation to true Masonry. They explained nothing else to them as they were afraid of being betrayed, and they conferred these degrees as a proper means of recognizing each other, surrounded as they were by barbarians. To succeed more effectually in this they made use of different signs and words for each degree, so as not only to distinguish themselves from the profane Saracens, but to designate the different degrees. These they fixed at the number of seven, the imitation of the Grand Architect who built the Universe in six days and rested on the seventh; and, also, because Solomon was seven years in constructing the Temple, which they had selected as the figurative basis of Masonry. Under the name of Hiram they gave a false application to the Masters and developed the true secret of Masonry only to the higher degrees.”

The Templar Myth

Templar Masonry is divided into four divisions each claiming a different descent from the Templars. (1) That of France which claims descent by way of a charter given by Jacques de Molay, before his death, to Johannes Larmenius creating him Grand Master. (2) That which claims descent from Pierre d’Aumont (who succeeded de Molay as Grand Master) who fled with a few knights to Scotland, and there established Masonry. From Scotland, it was carried to France, and there was formed the Chapter of Claremont, from which it went to Germany and made the Strict Observance which Von Hund so greatly developed. (3) That of the Scandinavian countries which claims descent by way of the real Order of Christ of Portugal that succeeded the Templars, through Beaujeau, a nephew of de Molay, who took his uncle’s ashes to Stockholm and buried them there, and established the Swedish Templar system. (4) That of Scotland which claims descent from the House of the Templars that was never abolished there. The Royal Order of Scotland was created for some of the Knights by Robert Bruce and the rest were united with the Hospitallers. At the Reformation a part embraced Protestantism and united with the Masons. The part that remained Catholic was ultimately joined by the Young Pretender and was carried to France. (5) That of England, all other parts of the British Empire, and the United States, which claims descent from the Knights in England who, when the Order was dissolved, buried themselves in the Masonic Fraternity, and were allowed to retain all of their secrets, and practice all of their ancient rites.

Of course all of the above is untrue. It is indeed the purest nonsense. These fabrications were made for the purpose of establishing an order not only that nobles of all countries could join, but that all who joined would believe they became ennobled. Designing men took advantage of it to obtain both money and power through “lost secrets”, occultism and magic. It was an age that believed not only with personal contact with God, but also with the devil; and the supposed secrets of the Ancient Masons furnished the seed for all this tremendous growth. The truth is that all Templar Masonry is descended from a Kadosh degree invented in Lyons, France, in 1743. Gould, the greatest and most learned of all Masonic historians, says:

“During the period I have just sketched (rise of High Degrees in France) it has always been maintained that Ramsey introduced a Rite of five degrees between 1786-38, called the “RITE DE RAMSEY” or “DE BOUILLON.” I trust that I have already demonstrated that he did nothing of the sort, but it may be added, that beyond mere assertions, echoes of Thory, there is not the slightest evidence that a “Rite de Ramsey” ever existed. The application is a comparatively modern one, not being heard of till Thory invented it. Nevertheless, about 1740, various Rites, or degrees, of Scots Masonry, did spring into existence, followed shortly afterwards by Scots Mother-Lodges controlling systems of subordinate Scots Lodges. At first these had reference to the recovery of the “lost word,” but before long additions were made. In 1743 the Masons of Lyons invented the Kadosh degree, comprising the vengeance of the Templars, and thus laid the foundation for all the Templar Rites. It was at first called Junior Elect; but developed into Elect of Nine, or of Perignan, Elect of Fifteen, Illustrious Master, Knight of Aurora, Grand Inquisitor, Grand Elect, Commander of the Temple, etc.”

The Rite of Strict Observance was carried from France to Germany as early as 1749. if not before. Von Bieberstein, as Provincial Grand Master, was succeeded at his death, about 1750, by Karl Gotheif, Baron Von Hund, and Alten-Grotkau. He was made a Mason in 1742. A year or so afterwards he met at Paris Lord, Kilmarnock, who interested him in Templarism, and he was initiated into the Order of the Temple. He was given a patent and directed to report to the Prov. Grand Master, Von Bieberstein, of the 7th Province in Germany.

Von Hund as Grand Master

When Von Hund succeeded Von Bieberstein, at his death, as Provincial Grand Master, the Strict Observance began to assume a commanding position in the Masonic world. We can trace its beginnings back to Lord Kilmarnock. Grand Master of Scotland, in 1742- 43. Kilmarnock in Scotland was made a barony, under the Boyds, the ruling family, in 1591, and was made an earldom in 1661. Lord Kilmarnock was working in behalf of the exiled house of Stuart, and used the Templar system for that purpose. Von Hund probably knew nothing of this and was honest in what he did. Lord Kilmarnock was the last Boyd to bear that title and was beheaded on Tower Hill, London, in 1746, for his share in the Jacobite uprising.

In 1751 Von Hund began to give particular attention to the restoration of the Order of the Temple. and evidently considered it his life work. He commenced to make Knights and divided all Europe into nine Provinces, to-wit: (1) Arragon, (2) Auvergne, (3) Occitania, (4) Leon, (5) Burgundy, (6) Britain, (7) Elbe and Oder, (8) Rhine, and (9) the Archipelago.

The Rite of Strict Observance consisted of six degrees, namely, (1) Apprentice, (2) Fellow Craft, (3) Master Mason, (4) Scottish Master, (5) Noviciate, and (6) Templar. The first three degrees was Ancient Craft Masonry. The fourth degree depicts the method used to preserve the “lost word”, which was cut on a plate of pure metal. put into a secure place. And centuries afterwards recovered, so it was asserted. It of course belonged to the Eceossais system of degrees (Scots system). The select Master of the American Rite belongs to the same system, and its teachings are found in the Royal Arch Degree. It is the fifth degree of the French Rite. The thirteenth degree of Scotish Rite also belongs to this system. The fifth degree is preparatory to the real Templar degree and the sixth degree is the real Knighthood. Later another degree called the Professed Knight was, it is said, added to Hund’s system. Only noblemen were eligible to Knighthood, although others could be made companions by paying very large sums of money.

The Imposter Johnson Appears

In 1763 a fellow named Leucht, going under the name of’ Johnson, who had got hold of some Masonic papers relating to Masonry proper, as well as the “high degrees”, appeared at Jena where there was a Clermont Chapter practicing the Templar degrees in the Strict Observance system, and stated that he had a commission from the Sovereign Chapter in Scotland to reform the German Lodges and impart the true secrets of Masonry, and that these secrets enabled their possessors to prepare the philosopher’s stone. He obtained Iarge sums of money from the members. It was soon seen that he was a charlatan. He fled, but later on was arrested and died in prison. Even this episode did not harm the Strict Observance, rather it spread its fame. probably on account of Von Hund’s high standing and well known honesty. It took on a most wonderful growth. It became practically the only Masonry in Germany and spread into Holland and Russia and into France, Switzerland and Italy as well.

In the Strict Observance the real rulers of the Order were unknown, and on joining it an oath of obedience was made to the Order and to the Unknown Superiors. who at the proper time and in the proper place would make themselves known, when the Order would be restored to all its pristine glory. Von Hund probably thought that the “Young Pretender” (also known as the “Young Chevalier” and the “Count of Albany”). Prince Charles Edward, was the Grand Master. While it was probably a political scheme in his behalf in the first place it was dropped after his defeat at Culloden in 1746, and all of the time since then Von Hund was working honestly in the dark without any backing whatever. The Knight of the Red Feather, whom he asserted he met in Paris, and whom he supposed was the Grand Master of the Order, was, as far as Von Hund was personally concerned, only a red devil.

The Rite of the Strict Observance reached its highest point when the Princes of Germany joined it. The Lodge of the Three Globes of Berlin, Prussia, with its subordinate lodges, the English Provincial Grand Lodge and the Lodges of Denmark, also joined it. However Zinnendorf, who was a member and active worker, resigned in 1766 to introduce the Swedish system into Germany. It grew rapidly and soon became a real rival to the Strict Observance. The members began to want to realize something out of their membership. They wanted to know who the “Unknown Superiors” were. They really wanted to receive that Occult knowledge which all of the knights of the order believed the rulers possessed – the heritage of the Order of the Temple. While all of this seems nonsense to us, it was not to them. It was the fault of the age, for all believed in occult science, and those who delved into it believed that the great secrets belonged to the Masons. but to which branch they did not know, and how to find the right one was their constant aim.

The Clerks of the Strict Observance

An Order called the Clerics turned up and it was supposed for a time that the “lost secrets” were with it. But nothing was found there, and it was determined to have a general convention for the purpose of examining into everything, so as to get on the right road. All still firmly believed that the Unknown Grand Master and his Councilors possessed all occult science and that a way could be devised to reach them. This convention took place at Brunswick and was in session from May 23 to July 6, 1775. But nothing came out of it except extreme dissatisfaction to all, and it was agreed to fully examine into both the descent of the Order and the Grand Mastership of the Young Pretender. Baron Von Hund while intimating who the Grand Master really was, with tears in his eyes refused to state directly, saying that he had taken an oath, on his sword and honor, never to do so; but as those who were in authority seemed to be determined to divulge nothing, it might be well to elect a Grand Master and take all matters into their own hands. This course produced a charlatan greater, if possible, than Leucht.

Baron Von Gugumos was at the Brunswick convention and told different members of it that they were all on the wrong track; that the Strict Observance was an imitation, or rather, only a branch of the true Order, and possessed none of the real secrets; that the Patriarch of the Greek Church at Cyprus was the Grand Master of the Order and that there reposed all of the mighty secrets of the alchemists that had been preserved from the most ancient times by the Templars. Some of the princes and others were initiated into his Order, and he promised to get the Patriarch to disclose to them all of the alchemical secrets. Much enthusiasm was aroused, and it was thought at last that they were on the right track.

The Convention of Wiesbaden

A convention, at the suggestion of the Baron, was at Wiesbaden on Aug. 15, 1776, with the consent the Prince of Nassau-Usingen, but without that of the Duke of Brunswick. Among those present was the sovereign, the Duke of Nassau; also the Duke of Gotha, the Landgraves Ludwig and George, and many other nobles of lesser note. At one time there was not less than twelve reigning sovereign Princes of Germany members of the Rite of the Strict Observance, and they were the most active members seeking “lost secrets”. It is no wonder that Gugomos had everything his own way, when so many in authority believed in magic and alchemy and, in fact, in all of the occult sciences. Gugomos produced an impressive patent, made for him by some scholar, and made a mystic speech. He reinitiated them into the “real Order” and sold them shoddy regalia and brass jewels at exorbitant prices. In the language of the present day, “he made a killing.” Some had doubts and wanted him then and there to perform his magic feats. This, he said, he would gladly do if they would build the necessary sacred shrine,. and that, while this was being done, he would go to Cyprus and get the necessary sacred wands and altars. It was necessary, he explained, to have a secret and proper sanctuary for the delivery of the oracles, and then again the recipients must be properly prepared. He went but he never came back.

Baron Von Hund died on Oct. 28, 1776, and as might be expected confusion ensued. His effects were care-fully examined, but nothing was found that could throw any light on the Order or its Grand Master, except that the Baron believed that it was the Young Pretender. But Prince Charles Edward on being questioned later on in Italy about it, stated that he knew nothing about it and was not even a Mason.’

In 1782 the Rite of Strict Observance was reorganized by Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick, who was elected Grand Master General. The next year, however, the Lodge of the Three Globes of Berlin, with all of its subordinate lodges and the Hamburg Lodges, withdrew from the Strict Observance. On July 3, 1792, Prince Ferdinand died, and the Order died with him except in France and Denmark. In Denmark in 1792 Prince Karl of Hesse was appointed Grand Master of Denmark by royal decree. In 1808, in France, Prince Cambaceres, Arch Chancellor of the Napoleonic Empire and Grand Master of the Grand Orient, became Provincial Grand Master. The Rite continued being worked in the Rectified Rite, under the Grand Orient, till 1811, when it completely died out. Prince Karl of Hesse died in 1836 and in 1855 the Danish lodges adopted the Swedish Rite, and with this the Rite of the Strict Observance breathed its last breath.

About Us was started in the fall of 1997 by Stephen Dafoe, a Canadian author who has written several books on the Templars and related subjects.

Read more from our Modern Templars Archives – Templar History