With the late 19th century Gnostic revival among the French occultists, we saw not only an introduction of the apostolic lineages into the growing assembly of occult orders at that time, but even the introduction of new Gnostic lineages into the collection of succession lines passed on from wandering bishop to wandering bishop.
With the slow fusion of wandering bishop lineages into the various constellations of orders and groups in Europe at that time, we might claim that the wandering bishop tradition went in some instances from a moving autonomous praxis to a ”landed” tradition that became framed by various esoteric and occult traditions.
The Gnostic lineages mentioned differ from the apostolic lineages in nature mostly in such a way as the Gnostic experience here represents an encounter with divinity or the Holy Spirit and at the same time where said lineages do not go back to Jesus, but another person’s epiphany, union with god(s)/saints or divine experience.
Some of these new Gnostic lineages would indeed be based upon epiphanies. That is, revelations that mystics received from deities usually bestowing upon them holy missions.
An example of this would for instance be Doinel’s church, the Eglise Gnostique, based upon a series of Gnostic revelations Doinel received from 1888 and onward, some of which happened in the Cathar ruins of Montségur. Vintras and the Church Eglise Gnostique Apostolique is another example of this phenomenon.
Another type of lineage might be said to be a kind of gnostic charismatic church, such as Maitre Phillipe’s lineage (Gnostic Therapeutic Philippeista) or Jean Sempé’s lineage (Gnostic Therapeutic Sempiesta), where the usage of magickal abilities and mystical gifts were an integrated part of the Church.
There are also those orders that have transitioned into Churches. An example of this might be Lucien-François Jean-Maine and his Memphis-Misraïm lineage.
With the introduction of the wandering bishop lineages into the French spiritual underground, we also see that subsequent orders and occult personalities have come into contact with, and in some cases united their orders with, said lineages. We shall be taking a closer look at this. The following are a few examples of such cases:
Bernard Fabré-Palaprat, Ordre du Temple and The Johannite Church
In 1804 several Frenchmen, including the former Roman Catholic priest Bernard Fabré-Palaprat, founded the Ordre du Temple and, using the Larmenius document, declared it to be a continuation of the medieval Templar Order, which was suppressed in 1312.
In 1812 Fabré-Palaprat formed the Johannite Church, introducing faith-based elements into his order.
The Johannite Church, properly known by its full name, l’Église Johannite des Chrétiens Primitifs (The Johannite Church of Primitive Christians), is a Gnostic Christian denomination. The Johannite Church received its full name in 1828 after Fabré-Palaprat’s claimed discovery of the Lévitikon gospels.
Fabré-Palaprat introduced a Johannite Mass in 1834.
Based on the book called the Lévitikon, which contains an esoteric lineage from Jesus to the Knights Templar, and hints that Jesus was an initiate of the mysteries of Osiris, which were passed on to John the Beloved, an apostolic lineage was introduced into the church.
In 1836 the order arrived at a schism, within which there were differences as to the role of the Church within the Order. The schism eventually resulted in the Order being split from its Church and both continuing and developing independent of each other.
Like many other spiritual and Gnostic movements of the time that expanded into Free masonic orders and bishop lineages, the Theosophy Society (TS) was no exception. The Theosophical movement was not only indirectly involved in the co-free masonic order Le Droit Humain, but even the church The Liberal Catholic Church.
Annie Besant, at the time (1907) the president of the Theosophical Society, managed to spread the co-masonic order Le Droit Humain internationally and eventually became the order’s Most Puissant Grand Commander.
She did not unite the Theosophical Society with the order Le Droit Humain, but endorsing it to the point of a de facto extension.
Other prominent Theosophists chose to pursue more ecclesial endeavors. Such Theosophists were Charles Webster Leadbeater and Free mason Wedgwood who were consecrated in the lineage of the former Roman Catholic priest, Bishop Arnold Harris Mathew. Leadbeater received his consecration from Wedgewood in 1916. Following the homosexual scandal of Bishop Willoughby and his subsequent suspension as a bishop within the Old Catholic Church in Great Britain, Matthew eventually dissolved the Church claiming that it had become too Theosophical. Wedgewood and Leadbeater later formed the Liberal Catholic Church (LCC).
Annie Besant would in 1919 be involved in an ongoing dispute (around the LCC) within the Theosophic Society concerning its apparent endorsement of a particular religion. She defended the Church and its standing within the TS.
Gerald A.V. Encausse (Papus), Martinism and the EGU
The Martinist movement was restarted by Papus in 1891. In 1892 Papus entered the newly formed Gnostic church of Jules Doinel: “L’Église Gnostique”. The Church changed its name several times over the years, primarily due to schisms, yet under the leadership of Bricaud it was renamed to the “Eglesia Gnostique Universelle” (EGU).
In 1911 Papus, signed a treaty under which he recognized the Universal Gnostic Church as the official Church of Martinism and together with Bricaud and Fugairon proclaimed the Eglise Gnostique Universelle (EGU) to be the Official Church of the Ordre Martiniste. The Martinist Order was to be the esoteric aspect of Papus’ organisation and the Gnostic Church represented the exoteric aspect.
Theodore Reuss and the O.T.O.
With Theodor Reuss’ consecration in 1909 by the hands of Papus, the stage was set for many subsequent occult orders united with the bishop lineages. Theodore Reuss took over the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica (E.G.C.) from Papus, Bricaud and Fugarion when they changed the name of their church from the EGC to the EGU. The EGC then became Reuss’ ecclesiastical arm of his occult order, the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO). When he in turn initiated Aleister Crowley into the O.T.O., he presumably also passed on the bishop lineages by consecration. According to some, this happened in 1912. This, however, still remains undocumented.
Crowley’s version of the O.T.O., the Mysteria Mystica Maxima, continued the E.G.C. as being the ecclesiastical arm of the O.T.O. Other national charters of the O.T.O., e.g. the Swiss O.T.O., also continued the E.G.C. in a likewise manner. After a visit to Moscow, Russia in 1913 Crowley wrote the EGC Mass, officially under the influence of the Liturgy of St. Basil of the Russian Orthodox Church.
On the 17th July 1920 Reuss and Bricaud attended the Congress of the World Federation of Universal Freemasonry in Zürich, which lasted a few days. Reuss, with Bricaud’s support, advocated the adoption of the religion of Crowley’s Mass (Thelema) as the ”official religion for all members of the World Federation of Universal Freemasonry in possession of the eighteenth degree of the Scottish rite”.
This was not received well. Reuss left the Congress the next day. Consequently, this is a contributing factor to why the OTO no longer calls itself a Freemasonic body today.
Current day O.T.O.
Sometime during the late 1980ies, the leader of the Califate version of the O.T.O. (i.e. re-started O.T.O.), William Breeze (Hymeneus Beta), sought to reinforce his lineage(s) by seeking consecration from other Bishops who might help with such an endeavor. Besides the consecration received within the E.G.C. lineage, W. Breeze received consecrations from Allen Greenfield and Jack Hogg, both having lineages that could be retraced to Michael Bertiaux.
Later it would seem that the O.T.O. would move away from the importance of having Apostolic and Gnostic lineages, and endorse their own lineage back to Aleister Crowley as the only true and sole lineage of importance.
Originally, the two organizations, the initiatory O.T.O. and the ecclesiastical E.G.C., were in union but kept separate as two distinct organizations. Under the leadership of W. Breeze, these two organizations underwent a more or less fusion with each other, so that ordinations and consecration are now obtainable only via undergoing certain initiatory degrees.
Harvey Spencer Lewis and the AMORC
Another order that was partially based on a Memphis-Misraim charter given by Theodore Reuss was the order known as Ancient and Mystical Order Rosæ Crucis (A.M.O.R.C.). Reuss had given a M.’.M.’. charter to Harvey Spencer Lewis. It is presently unknown if Spencer Lewis ever received the wandering bishop lineages (i.e. the Apostolic and Gnostic lineages) from any of the French Gnostics or their bishops. However, he did receive what is presumed to be ”Gnostic” lineages from Rt. Rev. Mazzini-Ananda. Mazzini-Ananda established his syncretic church, a mixture between Catholicism and Buddhism, sometime in the 1910s. He created two churches all together, and they were called: The American Buddhist Church of Dharma and The Church of Universal Truth.
It is uncertain where and when Mazzini-Ananda was consecrated. He presumably consecrated Spencer Lewis sometime in 1905.
In the early 1920ies Spencer Lewis established the Pristine Church of the Rose Cross.
The Church was non-sectarian, yet in the broadest sense of the term, Gnostic. Started parallel yet not united with his Order (A.M.O.R.C.), the Church was inaugurated in the early 1920ies and continued until 1931. It had regular services and many members were also members of the A.M.O.R.C.
The Church was never united with the Order, as the Order was specifically non-religious.
Bishop Lewis had many radio sermons that he sent on Sundays from Rosicrucian Park in San Jose. This was the first Radio Church in the Western United States and it was very popular.
It would seem that the Church came into a conflict with some of the AMORC members on the same grounds that the Liberal Catholic Church was in bad standing with some of the Theosophical Society members, namely that these organizations endorsed universal spiritualism and not a sectarian religion. Harvey Spencer Lewis later dissolved the Church and dedicated his time to the Order instead.
It is unknown if he ever consecrated bishops during the time the Church existed.
Bishops within the Memphis-Misraim system
Within the Free-masonic system called Memphis-Misraim there are 99 degrees. One of these degrees, the 66th degree, also known as the “Patriarch Grand Consecrator”, is said to equate to an episcopal consecration. It is unclear if there ever was an apostolic lineage as a foundation to this degree, or if it has anything to do with the wandering bishops at all.
Lucien-François Jean-Maine and the Memphis-Misraïm
As if things were not complicated enough, one of the developments from the French Gnostic underground turned the co-free masonic system Memphis-Misraim into a Gnostic wandering bishop lineage. The history of the Ecclesia Cabalistica Gnostica de Memphis-Misraïm goes back to 15th August 1899 where Lucien-François Jean-Maine (Ogdoade-Orfeo I) was made a bishop of the Église Ophite des Naaseniens by Paul-Pierre de Marraga (Orfeo VI).
Influenced by Gnosticism, Martinism, Voudon, the “Fraternitas Lucis Hermetica” (F.L.H.) and Theodore Reuss’ O.T.O., the Memphis-Misraim system was transformed from a masonic system to a magickal system that encompassed the method of consecrational transference of initiatory energies.
In order to differentiate between the regular (masonic) Memphis-Misraim system and the “irregular” (i.e. magickal) Memphis-Misraïm system, it was decided that the new version was to make usage of the name, yet written with an ” ï “. This lineage has been recently developed and improved by the workings of Allen Greenfield and the Free Illuminists.
Michael Paul Bertiaux and the EGS
The Ecclesia Gnostica Spiritualis (E.G.S.) church has its roots in France, Spain and Haiti. The teachings are based on the direct contact of the individual with the spiritual planes. The current patriarch of the Church is Michael Paul Bertiaux, who also presides over several orders, among them the O.T.O.A., the Choronzon Club and the L.C.N. These orders exist parallel to the E.G.S. but are not united with the Church as such. The Church, like many other contemporary gnostic churches of today, presides over many different apostolic and gnostic lineages.
Bishops and the Golden Dawn
A more recent development has been noted within the Golden Dawn Egregore.
Most probably unrelated to the schisms within the Golden Dawn orders, members from some of the different fractions have become Martinists and Gnostic bishops. Most noteworthy Golden Dawn leaders to become bishops are perhaps Chic Cicero and David Griffin.
It would seem that David Griffin, leader of a Golden Dawn order, has worked together with Dr. Robert Word and Jean-Pascal Ruggiu, thereby coming across consecrations. Even here we see an approximation but not union between an occult order and the bishop lineages.
Paul Foster Case, the B.O.T.A. and the LCC
Although Paul Foster Case was not a bishop, one might claim that he was well on his way to become one prior to his demise in 1954. Case was ordained a priest by Bishop Charles Hampton in the Liberal Catholic Church in Ojai, California, in 1937, and served parishes throughout the southern California area. How much an influence his involvement with the LCC had on Builders of the Adytum (B.O.T.A.) is unclear.
Gerald Gardner and the Wicca
Gerald Gardner had a good friend in Rt. Rev. J.S.M. Ward who consecrated Gardner as a Bishop, most probably sometime during the early 1940’s. Gardner would wear a clerical dog collar during services at Ward’s ”Ancient British Church”. Gardner was later consecrated sub-conditione during a visit to Cyprus in 1949 by Colin Mackenzie.
There are no clear influences of the bishophood bearing down upon Gardner’s version of Wicca, yet Gardner did legally register his covenstead at Brickett Wood in Hertfordshire with the term ”Ancient British Church”. In spite of lacking evidence, one might claim that certain influences are detectable nevertheless, in e.g. Gardner’s claim that “Only a witch can make a witch” which parallels one of the consecration requisites in the sense that only a bishop can consecrate a priest to a bishop.
Other noteworthy occultists that had Orders and Churches are:
- Dion Fortune, the Society of the Inner Light and her church Guild of the Master Jesus
- Samael Aun Weor and the Santa Iglesia Gnostica Cristiana Universal (SIGCU)
- Arnold Krumm-Heller, FRA and his gnostic lineages
- Roger Caro, the FAR+C and the Eglise Universelle de la Nouvelle Alliance
- Leonard Stevens, Society of the Guardians and the Gnostic Guardian Church of Grace and Blessing
- Gerald del Campo, Order of Thelemic Knights and the Thelemic Gnostic Church of Alexandria
- Lucia Leokadia Grosch, the S.R.I.A. and the Holy Orthodox Church in America
- Leonard Barcyncki, the Aurum Solis and the Paracletian Catholic Church.
As the above examples show, the apostolic bishop lineages and the Gnostic equivalent have merged with the initiatory orders of this last century to a greater or lesser degree, and in the process ”landed” significant parts of the wandering bishop tradition. These lineages appear to have been a more or less hidden undercurrent within the occult sub-culture and in some circumstances contributed to the internal legitimacy and esoteric depth of the occult underground. Most surprisingly, this Neo-gnostic revival has presented a fresh influx of gnosis into an otherwise fixed and conformed tradition of succession lines, thereby reviving not only a Gnostic underground but even in some cases revitalizing and transforming anti-Gnostic traditions within the successions lines at that.
Originally appeared here: https://sites.google.com/site/gnostickos/orders
Image: Liberal Catholic Church: https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/beginnings-liberal-catholic-church-1865990046
See also the review of “Wicca and the Christian Heritage – Ritual, Sex and Magic” – Joanne Pearson (originally reviewed in Wiccan Rede 2007)
Of further interest: https://www.parareligion.ch/dplanet/html/parsifal.htm