The Martinist Seal.

Martinism is a form of mystical and esoteric Christianity concerned with the fall of the first man, his state of material privation from his divine source, and the process of his return, called 'Reintegration' or illumination.

As a mystical tradition, it was first transmitted through a masonic high-degree system established around 1740 in France by Martinez de Pasqually, and later propagated in different forms by his two students Louis Claude de Saint-Martin and Jean-Baptiste Willermoz.

The definition Martinism is a collective term used to describe both this particular doctrine, as well as the teachings of the reorganized 'Martinist Order' founded in 1886 by Augustin Chaboseau and Gerard Encausse (aka Papus).

It was not used at the tradition's inception in the 18th century.

This confusing disambiguation has been a problem since the late 18th century, where the term Martinism already was used interchangeably between the teachings of Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin and Martinez de Pasqually, and the works of the first being attributed to the latter.[1]


The three branches of the tradition

Martinism can be divided into three forms through which it has been chronologically transmitted:

  • The Elus-Cohens. This was the first, and explicitly theurgical way that 'reintegration' were to be attained.

The Elus-Cohens were founded by Martinez de Pasqually, who was Saint-Martin's teacher. The original Elus Cohens ceased to exist sometime in the late eighteenth or early 19th century, but it was revived in the 20th century by Robert Ambelain, and lives on today in various Martinist Orders, including the branch reinstigated by Ambelain himself.

  • The Scottish Rectified Rite or Chevaliers Bienfaisants de la Cité-Sainte (CBCS). This was originally a Masonic rite, a reformed variant of the Rite of Strict Observance which, in its highest degrees, uses Masonic-type rituals to demonstrate the philosophy which underlies both Martinism and the practices of the Elus-Cohens.

The CBCS was founded in the late 18th Century by Jean-Baptiste Willermoz, who was a pupil of Martinez de Pasqually and a friend of Saint-Martin. The CBCS has managed to survive as a continually practiced rite from its founding until the present day, both as a purely masonic rite, and as a detached rite which is also open for women.

  • The Martinism of Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin which is a Mystical tradition in which emphasis is placed on Meditation and inner spiritual alchemy. Saint-Martin disapproved of these teachings being called 'martinism' by his contemporaries, and instead explained it as a silent 'way of the heart' to attain reintegration.

Saint-Martin most likely did not organize this path as an 'order', but gathered small circles of students around him, where he transmitted his teachings. This heritage was reorganized into the 'Ordre Martiniste' in 1886 by Augustin Chaboseau and Gerard Encausse (aka Papus).

Martinezism: Martinez de Pasqually and the Elus Cohens

Martinez de Pasqually

Jacques de Livron Joachim de la Tour de la Casa Martinez de Pasqually was born in c. 1727 in Grenoble, France, and died in 1774 in Saint-Domingue while dealing with profane business. Martinez de Pasqually was active in Masonic organisations throughout France from the age of 28 onwards. In 1765 he established the Ordre des Chevelier Maçons Élus Cohen de L’Univers (Order of Knight-Masons Elect Priests of the Universe), which functioned as a regular Masonic obedience in France.

This order had three sets of degrees: the first were analogous to the symbolic degrees of conventional Freemasonry. The second were generally Masonic, though hinting at Pasqually's own secret doctrine. The third set were blatantly magical: for example by using exorcisms against evil in the world generally and in the individual specifically. In the highest degree, the Reaux-Croix, the initiate was taught to use Theurgy to contact spiritual realms beyond the physical.[2]

De Pasqually put forth the philosophy underlying the work of the Elus Cohens in his only book, Treatise on the Reintegration of Beings[3] which first uses the analogy of the Garden of Eden, and refers to Christ as "The Repairer". The ultimate aim of the Elus Cohen was to attain - whilst living - the Beatific Vision, through a series of magical invocations and complex theurgic operations.

After Martinez de Pasqually's death, the Elus Cohens continued to operate for some time: however divisions started to occur between various temples, which became dormant during the first half of the 19th century. The last-known surviving Elu-Cohen from the original incarnation of the order, Destigny, died in 1868.[4]

Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin

Louis Claude de Saint-Martin, the unknown philosopher

Louis Claude de Saint-Martin was born 1743 in Amboise, France and died in 1803. He was originally a barrister before taking a commission in the army at Bordeaux. Saint-Martin was initiated into the Elus-Cohens in 1768 and was active in the organization for at least six years. Saint-Martin was initiated into the Reaux-Croix, the highest degree of the Order, and in 1770 became de Pasqually's secretary.

Saint-Martin became increasingly dissatisfied with the Elus-Cohens' use of Theurgic ritual, feeling that it was too sophisticated for the desired end. Instead, he personally favoured inward contemplation, or what he called "The Way of the Heart." Nevertheless, Saint-Martin continued to acknowledge Martinez de Pasqually's influence on his own system of thought. In addition, Saint-Martin drew much inspiration from the work of Jakob Boehme.[5]

In 1777, after failing to convince the Elus-Cohens to adopt a more contemplative practice, he cut back his involvement in the Order. He ceased all involvement in 1790.

Saint-Martin outlined his philosophy in several books, using the nom de plume of "The Unknown Philosopher." These include:

There has been some controversy whether Saint-Martin himself ever founded a formalised Order of Martinists. For example, 20th-century Martinist author Robert Ambelain initially claimed that Saint-Martin founded an order called the "Society of Initiates,"[6] but within a few years became disillusioned with the concept and stated that the Society of Initiates never existed.[7] Others allege that Saint-Martin became involved in a pre-existing society called the "Order of Unknown Philosophers."[8] It seems most probable, however, that although Saint-Martin did initiate disciples after a fashion, this was done on an informal basis: Martinism did not exist as an order per se until the efforts of Papus and Chaboseau (vide infra).

Willermoz and the Scottish Rectified Rite

Jean-Baptiste Willermoz

Jean-Baptiste Willermoz (born 1730, Lyon, France; died 1824 also at Lyon), was initiated into Masonry at the age of 20 in a lodge which operated under the auspices of the Strict Observance. He was initiated into the Elus-Cohen in 1767, eventually attaining the highest degree of the Order, and being named by de Pasqually as a "Superior Judge," one of its most senior officers.

Concerned about dissent in the order after the death of de Pasqually, Willermoz in 1778, together with two other Superior Judges, formulated the idea of creating two additional degrees for the Auvergne Province of the Strict Observance, which exemplified the philosophy, though not the theurgic practices, of the Elus Cohens, while working in the Knight Templar-oriented milieu of the masonic rite. The name of the rite was changed to Chevaliers Beneficient de la Cité-Sainte (CBCS). The degree structure of the rite was thus:

  1. Apprentice
  2. Fellowcraft
  3. Master
  4. Maître Ecossais/Scotch Master
  5. Ecuyer Novice/Squire Novice
  6. C.B.C.S.
  7. Chevalier-Profès/Professed Knight
  8. Chevalier-Grand Profès/Grand Professed Knight

Having reformed the French branch of the order, Willermoz in 1782 succeeded in persuading the German mother branch to adopt his reforms - though not without meeting considerable opposition from other branches of the Strict Observance, such as the Bavarian Illuminati of Adam Weishaupt.

The French Revolution curtailed the activities of the CBCS in France, although it was preserved in Switzerland. Today the CBCS, or "Scottish Rectified Rite" (Rite Ecossais Rectifié) has several "great priories" throughout the world: Switzerland, U.S.A., France, both the Waite's & Leslie Dring's great priories in England, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Portugal & Brazil with prefectures and lodges of Saint Andrew as well as Rectified Craft lodges existing everywhere from Italy to Brazil to Romania.[9]

The occultist A.E. Waite said of the Scottish Rectified Rite that he "had come to see the Régime Ecossais et Rectifié as maintaining, more than any other rite, the essence in ritual form of that secret tradition that 'tells us not alone that the Soul "cometh from afar" and that the Soul returns whence it came, but it delineates the Path of Ascent'." It was, for him, truly the secret tradition in practice.[10]

Papus and Chaboseau: the founding of the Martinist Order

The disciples of Saint-Martin spread the Doctrine of the Unknown Philosopher in France, Germany, Denmark and above all in Russia. It was through one of them, Henri Delaage, that in 1880 a brilliant young Parisian doctor, Gerard Encausse (Later to be known as Papus), became acquainted with the doctrines of Saint-Martin. Subsequently, in 1884, together with some of his associates, he established a Mystical Order which he called the Ordre Martiniste or the Martinist Order.[11]

The founding of the Order came about when Encausse met August Chaboseau in 1884. They discovered that they had both apparently received Martinist initiation through two different chains of succession which linked back to Saint-Martin and his original disciples. Papus claimed to have come into the possession of the original papers of de Pasqually and to have been given authority in the Rite of Saint-Martin by his friend Henri Viscount Delaage.[12] However, Encausse realised that there was a "missing link" in his own chain of succession: he and Chaboseau therefore "swapped initiations" to consolidate their lineages.

The Martinist Order which Papus founded was organised as a Lodge system, which worked four degrees:

  1. Associate
  2. Mystic
  3. Unknown Superior (S::I::/Supèrieur Inconnu)
  4. Unknown Superior Initiator (S::I::I::/Supèrieur Inconnu Initiateur)(Lodge/Heptad Master).

Of these, the first two introduce the Candidate to key Martinist concepts, while the third supposedly confers the actual Initiation which Saint-Martin gave to his original disciples. Martinists generally believe that to be an authentic initiate, one must be able to show a chain of Initiatic Succession which goes back to Saint-Martin himself. However, Restivo states that "Martinist authenticity is not contingent upon acceptance or initiation into a filiation or succession of other Martinists as no personal initiation chain from Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin exists in the sacramental manner of ordination as culmination of mastery in an Initiatic order."

About the rituals themselves, the following general points may be made:

  • The mystical Christianity of Martinism is emphasised by the fact that all lodges are opened by invoking Yeheshuah, (Hebrew: יהשוה) i.e. the Tetragrammaton, with the addition of the Hebrew letter Shin, which was first suggested by Reuchlin as a Qabalistic way of spelling Jesus.
  • Despite the Lodge structure of Martinism, the rituals themselves do not bear any resemblance to the symbolic degrees of Freemasonry. The rituals have their own milieu of dramatic and esoteric content. It has been claimed however that some of the rituals derived from the Egyptian Freemasonry of Cagliostro, and the Scottish Rectified Rite of Willermoz.[13]
  • The rituals contain elements of Martinez de Pasqually's philosophy, and passing references to the Qabalah, in addition to principles derived from Saint-Martin's own teachings.
  • The candidate at key points throughout the rituals is expected to answer on his or her own initiative. He or she is constantly encouraged to meditate on the symbolism presented.
  • The rituals often rely on the element of surprise to reinforce the points they make.

During the period up to the Second World War, the I::L:: or S::I::IV degree was exceptionally added as an endorsement or rank of distinction to the S::I::I:: degree for legates in new Martinist jurisdictions who were expected to eventually become Grand Masters. Later branches of the Martinist Order worked a fifth degree, I::L:: (Free Initiator/Initiateur Libre), which conferred on the candidate the power to initiate others into all four degrees in person, not requiring Lodge or Heptad group forms, and to establish a new and independent Martinist Order, as well as to act as the legate or representative or Grand Master of that new order. For example, the Rose†Croix Martinist Order (Ontario,Canada)[14]:

  1. Associate
  2. Mystic
  3. Unknown Superior (S::I::/Supèrieur Inconnu)
  4. Unknown Superior Initiator (S::I::I::/Supèrieur Inconnu Initiateur)(Lodge/Heptad Master)
  5. Free Initiator (I::L::/Initiateur Libre/S.I.IV) (Grand Officer/Grand Initiator).

Modern Martinism

In 1905, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia invited Papus to Tsarskoïe Selo to ask for advice on domestic difficulties that he was facing with revolutionaries. The First World War was disastrous for the Order. Papus died on the battlefield fulfilling his duties as a doctor, as did many other leaders of the Order.

After the war, the Order was almost extinct and the surviving members splintered into competing factions.

Many French Martinists supported Karl Wilhelm Naundorff's claims to the French throne. They joined the Synarchy movement and formed the Ordre Martiniste et Synarchie (OM&S). In 1931 Augustin Chaboseau joined Victor-Emile Michelet and Lucien Chamuel (the other two surviving members of the original Supreme Council of 1891) to resuscitate the Order that they had founded with Papus. To emphasise the difference between traditional Martinism and the many new groups that had emerged, they named their movement the Ordre Martiniste Traditionnel (OMT). Victor-Emile Michelet was elected Grand Master and Augustin Chaboseau succeeded him in 1939 until his death in 1946. Although he had received his Martinist initiations in the OMS, AMORC Imperator Ralph Maxwell Lewis was asked by the OMT in 1939 to bring Martinism to the U.S.A., and was granted the necessary charters and other documents.

The Second World War was as disastrous for the Order in Europe as the first. The Nazi regime suppressed all 'occult' groups and many Martinists died in concentration camps. The OMT in Europe and its American branch, the Traditional Martinist Order (TMO) still exists, but are reserved exclusively for members of AMORC. Martinism is still growing in popularity, and with the advent of the Internet, many new orders have emerged worldwide.[15]

List of Martinist orders

  • Ordine Martinista Antico e Tradizionale (OMAT)
  • Orden Martinista
  • Ordre Reaux Croix (ORC), encompassing the three branches of Martinism [1]
  • Ordre Martiniste et Synarchique (OMS), a synarchic order.
  • Ordre Martiniste Opératif (OMO)[2]
  • Belgian Martinist Order, aka Ordre Martiniste de Belgique, Belgische Martinistenorde.
  • Traditional Martinist Order (TMO), which operates under the aegis of AMORC. This has attracted controversy from other Martinist groups, as the TMO purports to offer a Self-initiation into Martinism correspondence course. This is criticised by other Martinists on the grounds that (it is alleged) properly speaking, one can only receive the true Martinist initiation in person from an initiator who has a chain of succession linking back to Saint-Martin.

Note: AMORC states to members that Initiations can only be conferred in Temples, but does offer a home study course, without initiations. Thus explaining you will not experience Martinism in full.


  1. ^ Baader, Franz von Ensignement secrets de Martinez de Pasqually
  2. ^ Restivo, Martinez de Pasqually and the Elus Cohens,
  3. ^ Pasqually, Martinez de, Treatise on the Reintegration of Beings
  4. ^ Ibid.
  5. ^ Saint-Martin, Theosophic Correspondence
  6. ^ Ambelain, R 1946, Le Martinisme,
  7. ^ Ambelain, R 1948, Le Martinisme Contemporain,
  8. ^ Restivo, M, Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin and the Supérieurs Inconnus,
  9. ^ Archives of Great Priory of America, CBCS
  10. ^ Restivo, M, Rectified Scottish Rite,
  11. ^ Brief History Of Martinism
  12. ^ Apiryon, Tau, (1995) "Docteur Gérard (Anaclet Vincent) Encausse"
  13. ^ Culbertson, C, Martinism - A System of Philosophic Thought?
  14. ^ Rose†Croix Martinist Order Home Page
  15. ^ This article contains GFDL material from (or is a derivative work of) the version of 2004-05-15 of the article "Martinism"

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