Who were the Élus Coëns

Who were the Élus Coëns, and why did they influence so many? What follows is a brief introduction into the complex world of Martinez Pasqually and his Order. 

The full title of the Order of Élus Coëns is impressively mysterious: Ordre des Chevaliers Maçons Élus Coëns de l’Univers (Order of Knight-Masons Elect Priests of the Universe).

Élus Coëns translates as ‘Elect Priests’ and was intended as an elite esoteric Christian Order for Masonic associates of the founder Martinez de Pasqually. 

 

 

Born Jacques de Livron Joachim de la Tour de la Casa Martinez de Pasqually c. 1727 in Grenoble, France, there are scant biographical details attributed to him.

Like many of the esoteric ‘Masters’ of the Enlightenment era, he bore several different titles, which no doubt perpetuated the confusion around his identity and contributed to his character as something an enigma.

It is believed that he was a Jew – his family of Spanish origin – who converted to Catholicism.

Not much is known about his early life, except that he was in the military.

Once he became known in Masonic circles around the 1750s, there is far more information to draw upon, most notably his establishment of l’Ordre des Chevaliers Maçons Élus Coëns de l’Univers in 1767.

In his work La philosophie mystique en France à la fin du XVIIIe siècle; Saint-Martin et son maître Martinez Pasqualis [sic] (Mystical Philosophy in France at the end of the 18th century: Saint Martin and his master Martinez Pasqualis), French philosopher Adolphe Franck said of Pasqually:

All his life is passed in the shade of lodges or secret associations founded in the interest of free mysticism. He presents not as a disciple, but as a master, who has his supply of truths ready-made, and who holds it from above. He brings reconciliation, of fusion, and undoubtedly also of personal domination. Such is the cause of his short and mysterious appearances, sometimes in Paris, sometimes in Lyon, sometimes in Bordeaux.

The focus of the Order was on ‘establishing an invisible church, independent of any earthly structure, to find the path that leads to the hidden knowledge of nature in anticipation of the coming destruction of the material Church’.

Simplified, they followed a progressive initiatory tradition, similar to other esoteric or Rosicrucian Orders that offered a system that would lead to direct knowledge of God, to obtain the primordial unity lost since the fall of Adam.

The Order was worked as a high-degree system based on the Blue Lodges of Freemasonry:

‘maître parfait élu’, then the grades Coën proper: apprentice Coën, fellowcraft Coën, and master Coën, Grand Master Coën or Grand Architect, Chevalier d’Orient or Knight Zorobabel, Commandeur d’Orient or Commander Zorobabel, and finally the last degree, the supreme consecration of Reaux Croix.

The first set of degrees were generally Masonic, but the third were blatantly magical.

There was use of 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.

Pasqually’s mystical philosophy was contained within his work Treatise on the Reintegration of Beings into Their Original Estate, Virtues and Powers both Spiritual and Divine (Traité de la Réintégration des êtres dans leurs premières propriétés, vertus et puissance spirituelles et divines).

The system involved communication with spirits, angels and other celestial beings, perhaps with echoes similar to the Elizabethan Enochian workings of John Dee and Edward Kelley – the aim was to enlist the help and support of these entities.

His teachings include Judeo-Christian traditional themes, but from an esoteric viewpoint, with CabbalisticHermetic, and gnostic influences.

After his death in 1774, Pasqually’s doctrine was continued by his most devoted followers, Jean-Baptiste Willermoz and Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin.  

 

Prunelle de Lière’s Élus Coëns Notebook with seals of spirits – good and bad.
IMAGE LINKED:  wikimedia Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

The Influence of Pasqually and the Élus Coëns on other Order

It needs to be noted that the term ‘Martinism‘, as we commonly perceive it, has come to apply to both Martinez Pasqually’s doctrine and the teachings of the Martinist Order founded in 1886 by Augustin Chaboseau and Gérard Encausse (see below).

This confusing disambiguation has been a problem since the late 18th century, where the term was already used interchangeably between the teachings of Saint-Martin and Pasqually – the works of the first being attributed to the latter.

Pasqually’s philosophy and rituals were to influence more than a handful of other esoteric or para-Masonic Orders, including:

 

  • The Rectified Scottish Rite or Chevaliers Beneficient de la Cité-Sainte (CBCS) – a reformed variant of the Rite of Strict Observance
  • Count Cagliostro and his Egyptian Rite of Freemasonry
  • L’Ordre des Supérieurs Inconnus (Order of Martinists) – established by Gerard Encausse (Papus) and Augustin Chaboseau in 1884
  • Ordre Martiniste des Élus Cohens (established 1946)
  • Ordre Reaux Croix (established 2002)  

 

Jean-Baptiste Willermoz, unknown origin in the Public Domain
IMAGE LINKED:  wikimedia Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

 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 Élus Coëns in 1767, attaining the highest degree of the Order, and being named by Pasqually as a Superior Judge.

Concerned about dissent in the Order after the death of Pasqually in 1774, Willermoz, 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 Élus Coëns, while working in the Knight Templar ceremony of the Masonic rite.

The name of the rite was changed to Chevaliers Beneficient de la Cité-Sainte (CBCS).

Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin
IMAGE LINKED:  wikimedia Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Alongside Willermoz, another of Pasqually’s disciples was Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin, (1743-1803).

Saint-Martin was initiated into the Élus Coëns in 1768 and was active in the organization for at least six years, being initiated into the Reaux-Croix, the highest degree of the Order.

However, he became increasingly dissatisfied with the use of theurgic ritual, and favoured inward contemplation, or what he called ‘The Way of the Heart’.

Like Willermoz, after Pasqually’s death, he became disenchanted with the Order and finally ceased all involvement in 1790.

Saint-Martin went on to expound his philosophy in several books – his moniker was ‘The Unknown Philosopher’.

His followers and admirers were to continue his work in various Martinist groups and Orders. 

 

Count Cagliostro, photogravure, from engraving by Bartolozzi.
IMAGE LINKED:  wikimedia Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Count Alessandro di Cagliostro (1743-1795) famed for his Egyptian Rite, was another Freemason to be influenced by the work of Pasqually and the Élus Coëns.

His adoptive rite were based on the three degrees of Masonry but were embellished with the same elements of esoteric Christianity, kabbalah and theurgy as Pasqually’s.

Willermoz did not view Cagliostro favourably and discouraged the members of the Chevaliers Beneficient de la Cité-Sainte from supporting Cagliostro’s mother lodge of the Egyptian Rite in Lyon.

 

 

Gérard Encausse – By Deucaleon – Biographies, Public Domain
IMAGE LINKED:  wikimedia Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Gérard Encausse (aka Papus) and Augustin Chaboseau: 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, he established l’Ordre des Supérieurs Inconnus, along with Chaboseau.

Robert Ambelain – By Claude Vigourou – Foto Frickr:
IMAGE LINKED:  wikimedia Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

The Élus Coëns was more recently revived by Robert Ambelain in 1942 (under the name Ordre Martiniste des Élus Cohens); he became leader of the Order in 1946, but it was officially closed in 1964.

Ambelain had obtained some rare documents, amongst them the most well-known is the Manuscrit d’Alger (The Algiers Manuscript), which he later donated to the Bibliothèque nationale de France with instruction that it was not to be distributed.

However, the document was released for public view and a translation of the manuscript by Stewart Clelland was published by Lewis Masonic in 2021 under the title ‘The Green Book of the Élus Coëns’.

By GTRus – Own work
IMAGE LINKED:  wikimedia Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

The Ordre Reaux Croix (ORC) – founded in 2002 by a group of Norwegian Martinists. According to sources: ‘The teachings of the order are based on three pillars: Christian mysticismkabbalah, and Martinism as established by Louis-Claude de Saint-MartinMartinez de Pasqually and Jean-Baptiste Willermoz.

As opposed to many contemporary Martinist orders, the teachings of the ORC, both current and forthcoming, based directly on the teachings of the former.

It is thus transmitted within the framework of Christianity. Nevertheless, the order invites ‘all men and women of desire of goodwill, and a belief in a divinity’, independent of religious denomination.’

ORC is an international Order, with its Grand Lodge in Norway, and jurisdictions in Sweden, United States, Canada, Argentina, Spain, Greece, Brazil and England.

Sources:

Franck, Adolph, La philosophie mystique en France à la fin du XVIIIe siècle; Saint-Martin et son maître Martinez Pasqualis, 1866

Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopaedia, under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

The Green Book of the Élus Coëns

by Stewart Clelland

The Green Book of the Élus Coëns is the most fascinating insight yet into the secrets and mysteries of the eighteenth century’s most esoteric of masonic societies – The Order of Knight-Mason Elect-Cohens of the Universe.

This pioneering English translation of the Coën grimoire known as the Manuscript d’Alger (c.1772) details the inner workings and highest degrees of Europe’s first-ever fully formed magical order.

Representing the inner circle of most Martinist streams of Freemasonry today, the Order of the Élus Coëns teach an advanced form of ceremonial magic.

However, the original system has been lost and corrupted for centuries. Presented here for the first time, these original rites of the Élus Coëns instruct the initiate in how to enter into relations with angelic entities, which are sympathetic to Mans fallen state and who can aid him upon the path to reintegration with the Divine.

After the death of the Orders founder in 1774, the teachings of the Élus Coëns were doomed to fade into the mists of history – this new volume sheds the most illuminating light so far on this fascinating hidden aspect of masonic history.

Detailing the inner workings and highest degrees of the Order, this fascinating manuscript enlightens the reader in the true, very visceral nature of the Order.

Requiring the utmost commitment, and a decidedly monastic lifestyle, the Order prescribed everything from hairstyle to diet.
Far from the everyday festivities of mainstream Freemasonry, the Élus Coëns were spiritual warriors engaged in magical combat with angelic and demonic entities.

This new volume allows the English speaking world a look inside this secret hidden tradition and a peek behind the curtain of French Enlightenment Occultism.

This work gives access to many brethren and historians, to an obscure but important part of masonic history created during the age of Enlightenment, and is a significant contribution for brethren who have a fascination with esoteric rituals of the past.

We think a great many of our brethren will be interested in this publication.  

 

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