Secret Societies of All Ages - Charles Heckethorn

IV. Martinism

266. Martinez Paschalis.—The influence of the writings of Jacob Bohme, though perceptible in all mystic degrees founded since his day, is most visible in the mystic Masonry called "Martinism," from its founder, Martinez Paschalis, and its reformer, the Marquis of St. Martin, the "Unknown Philosopher." Martinez Paschalis was a Portuguese and a Jew, but having turned Christian after the manner of the Gnostics of the first-centuries, he began in 1754 to assemble disciples in various French cities, chiefly Marseilles, Bordeaux, Toulouse, and Lyons, none of whom rose to the degree of epopt, or knew the secrets of the master, though he inspired all with the greatest respect and devotion towards himself. His secret doctrine appears to have been a confused medley of Gnosticism and Christianised Judaism, not excluding the cabala, which in fact is found more or less in all theosophic speculations, even in those of Bohme; though his followers, as well as his opponents, from not understanding him, have attributed to him many erroneous opinions which he never entertained. Paschalis laid great stress on the omnipotence of will—this is a point constantly insisted on, its truth being demonstrated from the deepest ground, by Bohme.

With this writer he taught that intelligence and will are the only active forces of nature, whose phenomena man can control by willing energetically; and that man in this manner can rise to the knowledge of the supreme Ens. With these principles, Martinez condemned all empires founded on violence, and all societies based on convention. He longed for a return to the patriarchal times—which the more enlightened, however, look upon as times of rank tyranny and he also formed other conceptions which we shall see more fully developed by the Illuminati.

The life of Martinez, like his doctrines, is full of gaps and mysteries. He arrived in a town no one knew whence, he departed no one knew whither; all at once he was seen where least expected. From 1768 to 1778 Paschalis resided either at Paris or at Lyons. Then he suddenly crossed the ocean, and died at St. Domingo in 1779. These sudden appearances and disappearances were perhaps needed to maintain his prestige. De Mattre, who had much intercourse with his disciples, states it for certain, that the Order founded by him, and called the "Rite of the elected Cohens or Priests," had superior degrees unknown to the members of the lower grades. We know the names of nine degrees, though not their rituals: they were—Apprentice, Fellow-Craft, Master, Grand Elect, Apprentice Cohen, Fellow-Craft Cohen, Master Cohen, Grand Architect, Knight Commander. The zeal of some of the members, among whom we find Holbach, Duchamteau, and St. Martin, caused the Order to prolong its existence some time after the death of the founder.

267. Saint-Martin.—We have seen that St. Martin was A disciple of Paschalis; he was also, for his day, a profound expounder of the doctrines of Bohme, some of whose works he translated. He to some extent reformed the rite of Paschalis, dividing it into ten degrees, classed in two temples. The first temple comprised the degrees of Apprentice, Fellow-Craft, Master, Ancient Master, Elect, Grand Architect, and Master of the Secret. The degrees of the second temple were Prince of Jerusalem, Knight of Palestine, and Knight of Kadosh. The order, as modified by him, extended from Lyons into the principal cities of France, Germany, and Russia, where the celebrated Prince Repnin (1734-1801) was its chief protector. It is now extinct.