What is Martinism?
The Martinist Order is an esoteric Order strictly on the Lodge system perpetuating a chain of Initiation which came through Martinez de Pasqually and Louis Claude de Saint Martin, both Brothers of the Rose+Croix in the 18th century. The teaching generally is a system of philosophic thought, essentially a Christian Gnosis, which is chiefly based on the doctrinal tenets of work called, "Treatise on the Reintegration of Beings into their original virtues, powers and qualities," written by Martinez de Pasqually. This work gives a particular interpretation of Creation, of the Hierarchy of Beings, of the Fall of Man and the way for Man to regain his original status in the scheme of things so as to be re-established in his initial state and privileges. Martinez de Pasqually considers Man to be in exile in this earthly existence deprived of all his real powers. Man's main aim must be, therefore, to work at becoming restored to the condition that was his originally. This he can achieve by following a certain technique which constitutes the secret part of Martinez Pasqually's doctrine.
L. C. de Saint-Martin introduced a more contemplative character to Martinism. He moved away from the theurgic practices of his Teacher to find a more spiritual means to achieve the same result, thus he developed what is known in Martinism terminology the "Inner Way" of Reintegration.
The similarity of names between Martinez and Saint-Martin has led to much confusion as to whose followers were, and still are, MARTINISTS. The answer is quite simple: BOTH. Their respective followers share belief - the Divine Glory of Man's Origin - and the same aim: to regain that glorious Divinity. Only their methods vary, some following the technique of theurgic operations, the others that of inner guidance and illumination.
The ANCIENT MARTINIST ORDER has full powers to establish Lodges wherever sincere and capable students of the Path can gather together and invoke Divine Power.
The true Order never advertises itself, for such action would not achieve its purpose which is Initiation. Initiation cannot be bought but it can be transmitted personally by those in the direct chain of authority to students who are properly prepared. All who are ready to enter the Brotherhood are permitted to find their way in. The Martinist Order has members of both sexes in keeping with Saint-Martin's way of extending Spiritual Light.
The Order consists of simple adherents and of "Initiates" divided in three grades, two probationary degrees and one grade. This grade, the S I or "Unknown Superior" (also called "Unknown Server") is only granted to members who show themselves worthy by their behaviour in their daily life, as well as by their special knowledge (concerning the doctrine and workings of the "Passed Masters" of Martinism - hermetic traditions) and in general by their support for Martinist principles. Only the grade of S. I. can under certain conditions grant the right and the power to initiate according to the Tradition.
The AMO as, at least, two different classes:
The external class, which is a school of instruction (similar to what in the past was known as school of mysteries), for the first two degrees, which meet in a Circle, Heptad, or Lodge.
The internal class only accessible to the S.I. who meet in a "Chapter" and whose will is to be part of the chosen community named by the Eckhartshausen as the "Inner Sanctuary," "Society of the Elect" or "Inner Church" (Also Lopoukhine's), which is aware of the universal and central character of esoterism and for which "the present possession of God, of Jesus-Christ in us, is the centre to which all mysteries, as the rays of a circle, focus." (D'Eckhartshausen: La Nuee sur le Sanctuaire).