Egyptian Masonic Rite, a magical ritual was devised by Count Alessandro di Cagliostro who claimed that Egyptian Masonry held the key to the Philosopher’s Stone and those participating in it could discover their «primitive innocence,.» Cagliostro admitted both men and women into his lodge. His wife assisted in the initiation of the female neophytes. She would say, «I breathe upon you this breath to cause to germinate in you and grow in your heart the truth we possess; I breathe it into you to strengthen in you good intentions, and confirm you in the faith of your brothers and sisters…»
Later, the women put on white robes and participated in a ceremony where they were encouraged to cast off the «shameful bonds» which their male masters imposed on them. They were subsequently led into a garden then later to a temple where they experienced an «initiatory» encounter with Cagliostro himself. Naked, he descended on a golden sphere through the roof of the temple and ordered the neophytes to disrobe in the name of Truth and innocence. He then explained to them the symbolic nature of their quest for self-realization before he mounted the golden ball and ascending through the temple vault.
As it has been pointed out that the intentions of Cagliostro and his wife in bestowing these gifts were not purely altruistic. It seems there was an 100 louis fee to participate, however, most who did belonged to the Parisian aristocracy and could well afford it.
Definition and meanings
The Egyptian Masonic Rite created by Count Alessandro di Cagliostro is a notable episode in the history of esoteric and Masonic traditions, blending elements of mysticism, ritual magic, and what some might consider theatricality.
Background of Cagliostro and the Egyptian Masonic Rite
- Count Alessandro di Cagliostro: A controversial figure in the 18th century, Cagliostro was known for his involvement in various mystical and occult practices. He claimed to possess secret knowledge and powers, including the key to the Philosopher’s Stone.
- Egyptian Masonry: Cagliostro’s Egyptian Masonic Rite purportedly combined traditional Masonic elements with ancient Egyptian mystical practices. He claimed that this rite could lead to self-realization and a rediscovery of «primitive innocence.»
Ritual and Initiation Practices
- Inclusion of Women: Uniquely for that era, Cagliostro’s lodge admitted both men and women. This was a significant departure from mainstream Masonic practices of the time, which were exclusively male.
- Role of Cagliostro’s Wife: Cagliostro’s wife played a crucial role in the initiation of female neophytes. She would perform a ritual involving breathing upon the initiates to impart truth and strengthen good intentions.
- Ceremonial Elements: The initiation ritual involved wearing white robes, symbolic actions to cast off male-imposed «shameful bonds,» and a staged encounter with Cagliostro in a temple setting.
- Naked Ascension: Cagliostro, appearing naked and descending on a golden sphere, conducted a ritual that involved the neophytes disrobing in the name of Truth and innocence, followed by a lecture on self-realization. He would then ascend through the temple vault, symbolizing a spiritual journey or enlightenment.
Controversy and Criticism
- Altruistic Intentions Questioned: While Cagliostro presented these rituals as a path to spiritual enlightenment, there were suggestions that his and his wife’s intentions were not entirely altruistic.
- Financial Aspect: Participants, often from the Parisian aristocracy, were required to pay a substantial fee (100 louis) to partake in these rituals, raising questions about the motivations behind these elaborate ceremonies.
- Cagliostro’s Influence: Cagliostro’s practices and the Egyptian Masonic Rite he devised had a lasting impact on the esoteric and occult traditions of Europe, blending Masonic ritual with mysticism and performance.
- Reflection of the Era: The popularity of such rites among the aristocracy reflects the fascination with mysticism, occultism, and alternative spiritual practices in pre-revolutionary France.