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nveiling the Copiale-manuscript: layers of fraternalism, ritual and politics in eighteenth century Germany

nveiling the Copiale-manuscript: layers of fraternalism, ritual and politics in eighteenth century Germany

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In 2011 data-linguists from Sweden and the US decoded a manuscript written in cipher, the content of which has been unknown for at least the last two centuries. This so-called Copiale-manuscript and the story of its code being broken with methods of new information technology received trans-national media coverage, but its content remains still to be explored thoroughly. The manuscript can roughly be divided into three main parts: one part is devoted to the fraternal order of ‘Oculists’, the aim of which is to disclose the secrets of freemasonry and to undermine its spread and recruitment. A second part reveals rituals of craft lodges as practiced in Germany at the time and the third part the Scottish Master’s degree, one of the first higher degrees of freemasonry with both a chivalric and sacerdotal element. Furthermore intriguing is a continuation of the Scottish Master’s degree that clearly demonstrates awareness of civil and political rights and the need to recover freedom from tyranny by means of violent rebellion. Last but not least alchemical workings are also addressed. What are the sources of the manuscript? Does it describe German early eighteenth century freemasonry accurately? Why do we find an anti-masonic edge? How can we interpret the religious and political motifs of the higher degrees exposed? All in all, by addressing these questions it appears as if the Copiale-manuscript is like a Russian doll and plays with secrecy and transparency. It reveals significant insights into the state of fraternalism, ritual and politics in German territories of the late 1740s that beg further investigation.

In 2011 data-linguists from Sweden and the US decoded a manuscript written in cipher, the content of which has been unknown for at least the last two centuries. This so-called Copiale-manuscript and the story of its code being broken with methods of new information technology received trans-national media coverage, but its content remains still to be explored thoroughly. The manuscript can roughly be divided into three main parts: one part is devoted to the fraternal order of ‘Oculists’, the aim of which is to disclose the secrets of freemasonry and to undermine its spread and recruitment. A second part reveals rituals of craft lodges as practiced in Germany at the time and the third part the Scottish Master’s degree, one of the first higher degrees of freemasonry with both a chivalric and sacerdotal element. Furthermore intriguing is a continuation of the Scottish Master’s degree that clearly demonstrates awareness of civil and political rights and the need to recover freedom from tyranny by means of violent rebellion. Last but not least alchemical workings are also addressed. What are the sources of the manuscript? Does it describe German early eighteenth century freemasonry accurately? Why do we find an anti-masonic edge? How can we interpret the religious and political motifs of the higher degrees exposed? All in all, by addressing these questions it appears as if the Copiale-manuscript is like a Russian doll and plays with secrecy and transparency. It reveals significant insights into the state of fraternalism, ritual and politics in German territories of the late 1740s that beg further investigation.

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nveiling the Copiale-manuscript: layers of fraternalism, ritual and politics in eighteenth century Germany

  1. 1. Unveiling the Copiale-manuscript: layers of fraternalism, ritual and politics in eighteenth century Germany Dr. Andreas Önnerfors, Reader in the History of Sciences and Ideas, Gothenburg university, SWEDEN andreas.onnerfors@gu.se
  2. 2. Copiale-manuscript, Order of Oculists, 1740s
  3. 3. Copiale-manuscript, facts • 105 pages (preserved in Uppsala, Sweden) • Multiple substitution cipher, cipher with logograms and other elements of coding (e.g. blank spaces) • De-ciphered in 2011 by Swedish-American data-linguists (Uppsala - LA) • First content analysis carried out by Andreas Önnerfors • International media coverage (WIRED magazine, NY Times, El País etc.)
  4. 4. De-ciphering the code
  5. 5. Homepage with articles and resources http://stp.lingfil.uu.se/~bea/copiale/
  6. 6. The anatomy of the manuscript • Oculist-Order, p. 1-27 • Masonic degrees I-III, p. 27-68 • Scottish Master, p. 68-99 • “Key lodge”, p. 100-104 • Alchemical lodge, s. 104-105
  7. 7. Seal of the Oculist-Order
  8. 8. Samuel Prichard’s Masonry Dissected, 1730
  9. 9. Third degree exposure (Bernigeroth, Leipzig 1745)
  10. 10. Scottish Master • Practiced in the “French” lodge (which? L’Union in Berlin?) • In the “other German lodges” (which?) • In Braunschweig and Berlin (names?) • “Key-lodge”: a continuation of the Scottish Master?
  11. 11. Scottish Master (SM) - motifs I • SM is the original fourth degree, as the Royal Arch in Britain, a narrative continuation of the Third degree • Main theme: the re-discovery of the lost Master-word in the debris of Solomo’s Temple (during Christian mediaeval times) • Approximately simultaneously another degree is developed, “Maître èlu” = selected Master, centred around the discovery and punishment of Adoniram’s murderers. This degree is later placed in between III and the original IV as an intermediate motif. • IV turns into degree V or VI, with clear chivalric (and sacerdotal?) motifs.
  12. 12. Socttish Master – motifs II • For the so-called ”French lodge” (most likely L’Union in Berlin, established 1742, working in French) a tracing board is described that is very similar to the one a Danish brother Dahle took with him to Copenhagen in 1747. • Main theme: Hiram’s identity as a priest with access to the Holiest of Holy. The candidate is purged with water as a Levite and is granted access. Hiram is, according to different versions of the legend, buried in the Sanctum Sanctorum.
  13. 13. Scottish Master - motifs III • German Scottish lodges: fixed number of members, previous activity as lodge officers (past rank). Number 4 is central. • Tracing board is different from the earlier description and is more like this (Mollier 2015). • Initiation starts with Levite water purification in order to get access to the Holiest of Holy. • Subsequently, accolade and anointment as knight with a ”battle sword” (”Schlachtschwert”) • Apron is described very similar to the one depicted below (Mollier 2015) • Motto: ”Dulcia post Amara”, ”The Sweet after the Bitter” • Is this Scottish Master a combined sacerdotal-Chivalric degree?
  14. 14. Scottish Master- motifs IV • Lodges in Berlin and Braunschweig work similarly • Tracing board most in accordance to the ”conventional” Master’s degree with some elements from the ”French”, however temple debris in the centre (maybe like this one, another Danish from 1748) • In this version we receive the most comprehensive account of how the old Master’s word was re-discovered. This account is in principal in accordance with the one Dahle in 1747 received for Copenhagen. Curiously it appears to be a continuation of the English version of the Hiramic legend where 15 Fellow craft search for Hiram (whereas in L’Ordre and all French/Swedish versions it is 9 masters). • Also here it is evident that Hiram is buried in the Sanctum Sanctorum.
  15. 15. The “Key-Lodge” (Schlüsselloge) I • What makes the Copiale-manuscript unique is the continuation of the SM-degree, the so-called ”key-lodge” (Schlüsselloge) • Main theme: tyranny has taken natural liberty from man, freemasons/the Order are called at arms to regain it (liberty) • Tracing board: olive branch, drum, Fama with her trumpet, calling the freemasons, a three-headed monster (Cerberus?) and a mountain symbolizing tyranny, three snakes (an elaborated caduceus?) standing for positive qualities (nature, righteousness, fearlessness), spears, pistols, flags (the masonic coats of arms) • Who exactly is referred to in the catechism of the degree? • Q: How were you accepted into the Key-lodge (auf- und angenommen)? • A: I am born out of the body of a women [womb?], which is: free, subjected to no one and not placed under any human law, but only following and subordinate to God himself. Mere speculation: • Is this a Christocentric interpretation of freemasonry, focussing on Passion? • Is this a form of liberation theology? • Does the degree relate to the Jacobite rising 1745/46?
  16. 16. “Lodge of Consolation” • Alchemical workings in a lodge (Konsolations-Loge) with a separate tracing board, ceremonies and signs are described • Their aim is the ”fixation of Mercury” • Works currently only in Halle
  17. 17. Summary • Why did the Oculists use the organizational form of a secret society in order to expose another secret/society? A Trojan horse/false flag operation? A double play with secrecy and sociability? • How do the Oculists relate to Anti-Masonic societies at large? Starting from the 1720s Britain (Gormogons) to Pietist anti-masonry. • The exposure of craft degrees, if real and based upon true accounts from German lodges at the time, demonstrates that German freemasonry in the early 1740s was exposed to both English and French influences and hence a double stream of inspiration pointing at future divisions. • The SM-degrees exposed demonstrate that non-printed exposures circulated at the time and can fill in “blank spots” in our knowledge about the circulation of ideas within freemasonry. • The SM-degrees circulated point at influence from both French and more surprisingly English sources (needs to be researched closer) • The SM-degrees demonstrate that the sacralisation of higher degrees into a distinctly Christian character occurred before both the Strict Observance and the Swedish Rite and hence probably prepared the ground for their introduction. (sacerdotal and chivalric elements, pointing at the future development of pure Chapter-degrees) • The continuation of the SM-degree within the Key-lodge point clearly at the circulation of political ideas within freemasonry • The description of a lodge working with alchemical motifs points at the early prevalence of hermetic ideas circulating in German freemasonry even before the introduction of SO and Swedish rite

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