Freemasonry in Egypt
Freemasonry first appeared in Egypt on 1798, introduced by French Masons in Napoleon’s conquering armies. Napoleon was initiated June 12-19 1798 in the Army Philadelphe Lodge, Malta (Napoleon appointed his brothers to Masonic office: Louis was named Deputy Grand Master in 1805; Jerome was Grand Master of the Grand Orient Westphalia; the eldest, Joseph was made a Freemason at the Tuilleries in April of 1805, and appointed Grand Master of the Grand Orient of France; and Lucien was a member of the Grand Orient of France.) and he used the Craft to befriend the people by first showing every respect for their religion and then mixing with them socially in an international brotherhood. He published pamphlets about respecting the Moslem religion and in founding the Isis Lodge, into which several eminent people were initiated.
Napoleon in Egypt
The name “Isis” was adopted after the mysterious Rites of the Priests of Isis, sister and wife of Osiris, a prominent figure in Egyptian mythology. It practised the Ancient and Primitive Rite of Memphis, named after the place where the fraternity of priests met and which was the great school of wisdom and mysteries of the Egyptians. The Ancient and Primitive Rite of Memphis continues the hermetic and spiritual teachings of the ancient Egyptians. The Rite is known to practise 95 degrees, each with their respective secrets and ceremonies.
General Kleber in Egypt
Isis Lodge prospered under its first Master, General Kleber, until he was murdered in 1800. At this time, following the withdrawal of the French, Freemasonry seems to have gone underground.
In 1830, some Italians formed the Carbonari Lodge in Alexandria. This Lodge was altogether political and, as its activities were closely watched by the Government, its meetings were held in complete secrecy. It proved popular, however, and a further Lodge Ménés, working the Memphis Rite, was founded which also prospered.
One of the most active members, of the Rite of Memphis was Samuel Honnis, he founded a number of French Lodges in Alexandria, Ismailia, Port Said, Suez and Cairo, including the Al Ahram in Alexandria in 1845. This was recognized by the Government and many Senior Officials were initiated into it, including the famous Emir Abd el Gazairi, who fought the French in Algeria and, whilst exiled in Syria, gave refuge to and saved hundreds of Christian families during the Damascus massacres. Another famous member of the Rite of Memphis was Salvatore Zola. He also founded the first Italian Lodge to work the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite in Alexandria in 1849.
In 1836, the Sovereign Sanctuary of the Rite of Memphis in France issued a Warrant for a Provincial Grand Council in Egypt and
several more Lodges were founded in Egypt under the Italian jurisdiction and others up to 1862, all of which worked in perfect
harmony with the French Provincial Grand Lodge.
However, Egyptian Masons who found themselves working under such varied Constitutions, decided to have one of their own. In 1864, a Provisional Warrant (confirmed in 1866) was granted by the Grand Orient of Italy creating the Grand Orient of Egypt to work the higher Degrees and a National Grand Lodge of Egypt to work the first three Degrees.
This placed order between the many rites and Constitutions and this Masonic Authority gradually became recognised worldwide. Prince Halim (an Initiate of Bulwer Lodge of Cairo) was made Supreme Grand Commander and was succeeded by Salvatore Zola.
The Khedive Ismail, one of the greatest figures in 19th century Egypt, although not a Mason, patronised the order as a prominent humanitarian organisation and allowed his son Tewfik to be initiated.
Khedive Mohammad Tawfik
Son of Ismail Pasha Governed Egypt from June 26, 1879 to January 7, 1892.
In 1881, The Khedive Tewfik Pasha became Grand Master and held sway over more than 500 Lodges working in English, French, Greek, Hebrew, Italian and Arabic, and obtained recognition for the Grand Lodge of Egypt from most of the recognised Grand Lodges of the world. Bro. Mousa Sindaha’s research shows that The Khedive Tewfik in fact assigned his duties to Hussein Fakhry Basha, the Minister of Justice, and that the number of Lodges was nearer 56 than 500. In 1891, The Khedive Tewfik Pasha ceded his Office to Idris Bey Ragheb.
The Legendary and Traditional History of the Rite ascribes its origins:
(1)To certain Greek Initiates who, in the year 1060 B.C., are supposed to have emigrated to Asia Minor and founded at Byblos (identified with the Gebal of Scripture) Dionysian Mysteries;
(2)To a certain Egyptian named Ormus, who being converted to Christianity by S. Mark in the year A.D. 46 is alleged to have founded, with the help of the Essenes, a School for the unification of the Egyptian Mysteries with the New Law;
(3)To an Order of Chivalry, the Knights of Palestine, founded in Palestine in A.D. 1118 and transferred to Scotland in 1150, where a Grand Lodge was founded in Edinburgh with the object of reviving the Wisdom of Ormus; modern Masonry is alleged to be derived from it;
(4)To various Primitive Rites started in France in the eighteenth century and specially to that of the Philadelphes, founded at Narbonne in 1780, which with the illustrious Rite of Philalethes having similar objects, joined the Grand Orient of France and its Council of Rites in 1786; as did also before, or after that date , various other Rites such as those of the Emperors of the East and West and the Knights of the East.
Note: The Philalethes where organized by Savalette de Longes in Paris in 1770 to probe the value of the different Masonic degrees. The plan was excellent. The system consisted of twelve degrees and worked the three first Masonic degrees, but did not recognize as Masonic the remaining ones. These were considered only for the purposes of study. The order joined with the Rite of Narbonne in 1784;
(5)To the influence exercised over some of the above named by the great French mystic, Louis Claude de St. Martin, and by his quondam guide in Masonry , Martinez de Pasqually, “the great Adept in transcendent Masonry”;
(6)To the conveyance of French Masonry to Egypt by the Napoleonic troops in 1798 and to the foundation in Cairo, at the time, of a Memphis Lodge by Napoleon after his, and General Kleber’s affiliation to the Egyptian Mysteries, at the Pyramid of Cheops, by a venerable Sage, who invested them with a ring as a symbol of the Union between East and West;
(7)To Samuel Honis who, having been initiated in the aforesaid Memphis Lodge in Cairo and being later left custodian of its Archives, carried the Rite ready made to France and, with the aid of Gabriel Mathieu Marconis de Negre, Baron Dumas, Marquis de Laroque, Hypolite Labrunie and others, founded at Montauban, on April 30th, 1815 a Grand Lodge which, on the following 23rd of May, was constituted under the name of Disciples of Memphis, but later, on March 7th, 1816, became dormant. The Rite is said, however, to have been partially revived in 1826 and placed under the obedience of the Grand Orient of France.
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The Ancient and Primitive Rite
"Preserving the ancient mysteries of masonry"
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