MAJOR SYNODS OF THE GNOSTIC CHURCH IN THE 19TH CENTURY
EGLISE PRIMITIF CHRETIEN & EGLISE GNOSTIQUE UNIVERSELLE
Any sincere treatment of the development of the Gnostic Church of France in the post renaissance period must inevitably focus upon an analysis of the movement of Eastern and Independent Catholic bodies in Europe. Thus the thrust of the present historical brief is meant to focus on these traditions. It is important to here remind our readers that what is known in the modern day as 'Eglise Gnostique Universelle' (as of WW II renamed Eglise Gnostique Apostolique) was in it's origin a union of Gnostic Schools of arcane tradition. These were the Valentinian, Carmelian, Johannite and Cathar schools which are in essential concordat with the various fraternal associations of esotericism of the day.
Primary among these being the Johannite school preeminence we will discuss at length in the present article.
The origins of the Templar Johannites is not at all unclear to the general reading of history. Having its foundation in France in 1811 the Order was known as L'Ordre du Temple, deriving from well-celebrated Masonic roots. This order became renown for the circulation of an obscure document, the Charter of Larmenius, among the high degrees of this order. The controversial document detailed a lengthy succession of Templarism from the founding of the order in 1118 originating from a small Gnostic faction in the Eastern or Byzantine Catholic Rite, and whose unbroken authority found its eventual succession to one Monsiegnuer Fabre Palaprat a Bishop of the Revolutionary Catholic Church of France and also Grand Master of the Order installed in 1804 A.D. The first part of the document is purported to have been written in Greek in the year 1154 and claimed the original Templar Commanders to have been initiates to a secret affiliation of primitive Gnostic Christians under the leadership of the Patriarch Theoclete who had made High de payens (the Grand master) heir to the Apostolic Succession of John the Divine. Furthermore, the document communicated a secret legend of succession through Our Lord Jesus through Moses who having gained certain Gnostic Initiation from the Magi of Egypt, transmitted the same down through the Essene discipleship to the Son of Man, wherefore He the Christ did likewise transmit unto His apostles and disciples. He transmitted His spirit to them, divided them up into several orders after the practice of John, the apostle of fraternal love, whom he instituted sovereign Pontiff and Patriarch. The document then diverts to the year 1118 and relates the consecration of Hugh de Payens in the sacred investiture of this awesome Apostolic and Patriarchal succession and its permanent fusion with the Order of the Temple of the East. The challenge of the document to follow as well as the anti-Masonic movements of post revolutionary Europe caused the relevance of this document to eventually fade from importance though its contents bearing great worthiness to scholarly analysis.
M. Matter was among those whose interest decidedly shifted from the question of the archeology of the Charter of Larmenius to the heritage represented in the document. Matter was convinced as was Eliphas Levi that the origin of the Johannite Church could be traced to the sect of ancient Christians known as the Mandai Iyahi or Mandean Gnostics, who originally dwelt on the River Jordan and were believed to have had ties to the Essenian communities in this area as well as the region of the Dead Sea. These Gnostics taught a doctrine familiar to that of John the Baptist whom they regarded as the Initiator of Jeshua ben Jusef (Jesus) and through whom their mystical doctrine and mission was delivered to John the Beloved Apostle. Among the peculiar symbols of this Order of the Mandai) also known as the Wise of John and Christians of John) was the figure of a severed head, a reminder of the martyrdom of their first teacher. In this connection we should note that among the long list of distortions collected by the Holy Inquisition against the Templar Order a reference to the veneration of a head interpreted as that of the devil or of Mohamet was chief among the accusations. Nevertheless whether under torture or not many Templars alluded to the figuring of their Grand Master by the head of an old bearded man.
After the death of Monsiegnuer Palaprat in 1838, the succession of the Eglise Des Chretiens Primitif and the Ordre du Temple was transmitted to Monseiguer Chatel who received the title of 'Bishop Primate of the Gauls' and who continued the succession and the circulation of its doctrine and relics including the Levitikon, a Bogomil text of the Johannine Gospel, and the Charter of Larmenius in secret. Nevertheless the influence of such literature remains the important province of speculative French Templarism, and the works of His Beatitude Bishop Palaprat comparable to the mysticism of Don Martinez d'Pasquales. The secret synod that brought the Charter of Larmenius and the Levitikon to light had a distinct effect upon the life of the Gnostic circles in France until its eventual suppression by the civil authorities of the so-called second empire of France now once again under the persuasion of the Roman Rite Church. The remaining half of this century saw disillusionment and disarray in esoteric circles with the founding of L'oerve de la Misericorde by Pierre Eugene Michel Vintras whose spiritualistic practices led to numerous abuses and further governmental challenge to esoteric movements in France. The Gnostic would not find further opportunity for cohesion in France until later when under Gerard Encausse, Paul Sedir and Francois Chamuel would succeed in calling together the Gnostic Universal Church at the century's end.
THE NEW SYNOD
The latter quarter of the 19th century saw a tumultuous political, economical and social climate pervading most of the European continent. The activities of revolutionaries in Russia and in France, the rise of the socialist's commune and its open hostility to the Roman Catholic Church took the center stage in the European Theatre. In particular response to the 'anti-clerical movement ' in France and other Latin countries under socialist influence, the Roman Church attempted to counter with a movement of its own known as the 'anti-Masonic congress' which sought to discredit the Ferry-Grivey government on the grounds that it was a plot engineered by the Grand Orient of France, to install an official religion of atheism to the nation with a certain under current of Satanism. Against this curious backdrop, France experienced such lunatic episodes as the Naundorff attempt to revive the Bonapartist and Bourbonist monarchy and the most bizarre and over publicized Diana Vaughn affair whose eventual exposure in the press (chiefly due to Papus and his associates) caused the unraveling of the anti-Masonic congress.
In the more intimate esoteric circles of France a greater gathering of influences was occurring. The young Theosophical Society of Madame Blavatsky' founding was flourishing in Paris. Likewise the Orders of Martinism and Rosicrucianism were founding numerous salons throughout the country and the continent at large. In Britain a resurgence of Celtic romanticism was underway guided by the literary genius of such men as W. B. Yeats, George (AE) Russell and William Sharp and in France the founding of a Welsh Gorsedd! Even the now perpetually stalked Vintrasian sects were bearing new colors and a new mystical liturgy known as "The Sacrifice of Glory of Melchizedek". It was thus apparent that the atmosphere in Europe at least from the point of view of the esoteric and Gnostic bodies had much improved and that fair weather approached for yet synodic activity.
Between the years of 1888-1891 while Gerard Encausse "Papus" and his associates P. Sedir and L. Chamuel were forming a Supreme Council to gather and unite Martinist Initiates from around the world, one Jules Doinel claimed special revelation from an apparition of the "Aeon Jesus" and two Bogomil Bishops (this in synchronicity with a rare find of an ancient Cathar document) established L'Eglise Gnostique Universelle. Papus and the S.C. of the Martinist Order were among those who were received into the Episcopate of this reformed body. A short time afterwards these men received re-consecration from Abbe Julio (Tau Julius) otherwise known as Julius Houssaye in order to further secure Apostolical credential and assure the success of this new Gnostic union. In January of 1901 AD Fabre Des Essarts a poet of the symbolist movement and close friend of Abbe Julio entered into union with Jules Doinel and was consecrated to the Episcopate of the Universal Gnostic Church at the home of lady Caithness (Marie Countess of Caithness). Soon a flow of personages began to become attracted to the new Church including one Doctor Fugarion (later to be consecrated Tau Sophronius) and a certain young ex seminarian, Jean Bricaud who was to receive the Episcopate of the Diocese of Grenoble-Lyon where the Church held its Holiest See. This new conglomerate soon received the attention of Roman Catholic authority and in an Apostolic letter Pope Leo XIII characterized the union as a revisitation of the Albigensian teaching however he had declared their apostolic authority to be legitimate as instituted vis a vis by the ancient Syro-Antiochene Catholic Rite with which the Church had been infused.
This new re-assemblage of Gnostic Bishops in France quickly drew to their circle the attentions of others claiming unique succession from Gnostic heritage having laid in dormancy for years, even centuries. These are the College of Albi Brethren (Cathars), the Gnostics of Carmel (some of whom abided with the Vintrasians for a time), the Johannites who remained active within the structure of Masonic Chivalry, and the Valentinians who were allied to many of the Rosicrucian fraternities. Thus was the pattern of unity's weave spun amongst ancient brethren once smitten by the scourge and stake, now to find it's Aeon of Be With Us!
First among resolves of the new Church was the election and ratification of Fabre Des Essarts as the Patriarch of the Holy Alliance and so did he become Holiness and Beatitude Tau Synesius I. Many important matters lay before the Patriarch of the new century, matters of great interest to the esoteric societies of the day, who watched with interest and anticipation. On December 7th, 1906 in their Sanctuary of the Gnosis at the Prefecture of the Seine in Paris a Constitutional Synod was convoked to declare the doctrine of the Gnostic Universelle Ecclesia publicly before the world. Thus having met and accomplished the promulgation of Doctrine of a new Constitution for the Church, an array of dignitaries entered into commitment with the with the new Sanctuary of the Gnosis including the Grand Masters and Hierophants of the Ancient and Primitive Rites of Memphis and Misraim as well as several Orders of the Rose-Croix. Among those who clamored to its rolls were Doctor Krumm Heller (Tau Huirachoca), Rudolph Steiner and Jonathan Yarker to mention but a few. Thus the Gnostic Church had put its mark upon the foundations of the new millennium and restores the Divine measure to those who would guard it safely in the face of two great world wars, which would come to test the new order.
Throughout the period of collective and massive war between 1914-1945 the new Gnostic order found itself limited geographically and in practicality to the borders of France, Austria, Belgium and Britain. However, under the leadership of Tau Harmonius I (Constant Martin Chevillon) Patriarch and successor to jean Bricaud (Tau Jean I) the Gnostic Ecclesia began to take her position of pre-eminence among other of the Continental Initiatic orders, to the extent that such orders as those of Martinism, Antiqua Ordo Rosicrucia and Memphis Misraim Rite Masonry were in solid alliance with or under governance of the Bishops who composed the "Sanctuary of the Gnosis". The assassination of Tau Harmonius I by collaborationist under the command of the Nazi Klaus Barbie, momentarily inhibited the activities of the Gnostic Church which in consequence of this event accepted refuge for the Chancery of the Church in Brazil(1), so that by 1946 the Ecclesia was able to spread its sphere of influence quickly to the Americas, Africa and far Asia. Furthermore the decade of the 1950's saw a healthy revival of the intimate association of the Ecclesia and its patrons in Templar, Rosicrucian and Egyptian Masonic Orders. The Sanctuary of the Gnosis had thus become so revived, reconstituted and rebroadcast.
Thus the Eglise Gnostique (Universelle) Apostolique attend to the threshold of the new aeon of Sayoshant with its credentials intact that is no less than two successions of Apostolicity(2), four schools of Gnosis and a host of ancient and traditional orders of initiation. It is to us ancient tradition of John no small irony that the smoke of two universal wars clears and cools the new age awakens and with it the earth gives forth from its womb ancient scrolls from an Egyptian desolate desert. Perhaps as a rejuvenating reward for the past faithfulness of it's humble Hierophants, true builders of the mystic and cosmic temple of the highest and unknown God, merely awaiting the proper time and the proper tools by which the promised heavenly city would be erected. Such is the history of a Church uniquely young as even the ever-coming son and a daughter of the Just nevertheless older than the oldest a mother of all religions a womb of the earliest intuition and light, a bread mashed from the kernel innumerable seeds.May God be with all who are truly in the Gnosis. AMEN+++
Tau Charles Harmonius II
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J. S. Hyland & Company, The Great White Shepherd of Christendom; the Life of Pope Leo XIII. (Chicago) 1903.
Clymer, R.S., The Book of the Rosicrucia. (Beverly Hall, Quakerstown) 1946.
Anson, Peter F., Bishops at Large. (Faber & Faber) London 1964.
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1 This was by way of invitation from Dom Antidio Vargus; Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boto Catu, interdicted by Pope Pius XII in 1943 formed the Roman Catholic Church of Brazil along Old Catholic lines.
2 One could calculate three if accepting the succession of the Constitutional Catholic Church (Episcopal Church) of France.