La Secte des Eveillés
(The Society of the Awakened)
By W. Bro. R. E. WALLACE JAMES, S.S.C.,
P.M. No.57, P.M. No.482, Prov. G. Treasurer, Midlothian;
Representation Grand Lodge of Saskatchewan, etc.
The Library of the Grand Lodge of Scotland is exceptionally rich in the collection of Rituals of Masonic and quasi-Masonic Degrees. The MS. Collection was originally in the possession of the Rite Ecossaise Philosophique at Paris, and was under the Curatorship of Claude Antoine Thory. It was still further added to by the acquisition of the MSS. belonging to the Lodge Amis Réunis otherwise known as the Philalethes, which became dormant about 1826. The collection subsequently passed into the hands of Dr. Charles Morison, of Greenfield, and upon his death was bequeathed to the Grand Lodge of Scotland, in whose custody it has since remained. Naturally, considering their origin, the MSS. are for the most part in French, and have not received that attention from Masonic students which we think they deserve. No doubt most of the Rites, to which the rituals belong, are long since dormant --some of them even, we have reason to believe, have never been actually practised -- but to the earnest delver in this Masonic mine the collection is rich, and will reward the searcher with many an unexpected treasure. We have at various times found this in our own experience, and on a recent occasion came across an interesting ritual of a Secret Society, which must -- if ever actually in existence -- have had a most powerful influence, not only upon its members, but upon the general public who might come within its toils.
Unfortunately the information regarding the Society is very meagre, and leaves much to be surmised regarding its origin and political (for it seems to have been political) aims. There is no doubt, however, that it was formed upon the basis of Freemasonry -- or rather we should say, to be more correct -- Illuminism, and for this reason it seems to us that any information regarding it will be welcomed by some members of our Craft.
We have no exact data to go upon, but a fair inference seems to be that the Society originated in the North of Italy, somewhere about the last decade of the Eighteenth century, or perhaps a few years earlier. In all probability it took its rise among some of the refugees from Bavaria who fled from that country subsequent to 1784, in consequence of the Edict of the Elector of Bavaria suppressing the Order of the Illuminati. Our MS. gives no indication that Italy was the birthplace, but are led to this belief from certain indications that the ritual, as we have it, is a translation from the Italian.
In most Secret Societies that we have any information about, members, upon their entry into it have some knowledge of raison d’tęre, and, in the event of an oath being required, extent of his obligations are disclosed to him in a more or distinct and explicit manner. Not so in this Society of the “Eveillés” where, on the contrary, everything is kept obscure. His fellow-members are unknown to him, and it is to some unknown power that he is compelled to swear a prompt and passive obedience. From the first, and for long years and until after many trials, the members never met except under the closest disguise, in fact it seems that none of the members of the lower grade of the Society were known to each other. It was only what may be called the Executive, who were personally acquainted with their co-workers. The head of the Society went under the designation of Emperor, and his subordinates Frére Pénétrant, Frére Savant Conducteur, Frére Savant Orateur, Frére Clairvoyant, etc. Those who were about to be admitted were known as “Dormeurs“ (sleepers), and by their initiation were said to be “Eveillé” (awakened). The sleeper was in absolute ignorance as to his proposer and seconder, and the preliminary steps were taken by the Society without his knowledge. The first he knew all of the Society was usually an intimation, surreptitiously conveyed to him, that he was wanted as a member by the Society, and with instructions to send his reply by hiding it in some secret place, e.g. among some ruins or under a stone in some secluded locality. When he carried his reply to the indicated place, he usually found another communication requiring a further reply to be left somewhere else. This correspondence might go on for years before any definite step was taken for his initiation, but at last he received a summons couched in some such terms as the following;
“The Imperial and very Potent Emperor of the Eveillés, invisible and unknown, nevertheless having perfect knowledge of you, warns you to Listen and Fear not! Take notice that you have been elected in that Invisible place from whence everything below is directed. You are destined soon to partake of that Glory which surpasses the conception of the Vulgar. We know your courage -- Listen! In such a place (here is pointed out, (some secluded spot) you will find full and ample information, if by your discretion you render yourself qualified to receive it. You will there find a stone with a figure traced thereon in charcoal. Lift this stone and you will learn what the Imperial Emperor has destined for you. To-morrow, at the close of the day, you are permitted to go, alone, to seek the mysterious instructions! Farewell.”
After the sleeper (Dormeur) had received this letter, there was placed, under the stone from which it had been taken, a pair of spectacles having only a single glass, along with the following instructions;
“The Imperial Emperor again addresses you - Proceed! Haste! and happiness awaits you I Come in peace and confidence to the place which I have chosen and, above all things, keep silence regarding that which is to be revealed to you, because a simple thought of unfaithfulness will be perceived. Return again to-morrow at four minutes past ten o'clock at night to the same place that you have found. After having received your instructions, if you are willing to proceed - you will pronounce with a loud voice the single word ‘Yes’! If your inclination is to continue asleep, and if you desire to renounce our mysteries, you will pronounce the word ‘No’! Listen for a reply to your announcement, after which retire without any fear.”
An Eveillé was in hiding so as to be able easily to hear the “Dormeur” pronounce Yes or No. If the reply was No -- deep silence reigned over the place. If the “Dormeur” replied Yes --indicating that he was willing to proceed -- the “Eveillé” instructed him to go to a certain spot near at hand, where he would find hidden a letter with further instructions. This letter would be in some such terms as these;
“You have acted prudently in not rushing forward to my place of hiding --Persist-have Courage-- and fear nothing. With these qualities you will share the benefit of those of my elect who have found themselves in the Invisible Place. At half-past eleven to-morrow night be at (here some other place is indicated). There you will find a person your eyes have never before seen, advance towards him, and, if you deserve it, you will receive every satisfaction. Beware of compromising yourself, and place yourself entirely in his confidence. Remember that my eyes are everywhere. You cannot deceive us.”
A Frére Eveillé under a disguise, meets him at the appointed place at the hour fixed. He accosts the “Dormeur” and demands of him if he consents to be received among the “Eveillés.” If he replies in the affirmative a certain amount of warning is given to him, and a place of meeting is appointed at some future date in the middle of the night. At this rendezvous he is again met by the “Eveillé” who conducts him to the house of the Society. On the way to the house the Conductor endeavours to inspire the “Dormeur” with confidence, but nevertheless maintains a serious deportment. On arriving at the door the Conductor knocks, but receives no reply. “They must be absent,” says the “Frére Eveillé.” “We will enter and await their return.” On entering the house is in perfect darkness, the “Dormeur” is introduced into a room where he is told to wait. The Conductor then leaves him after warning him to keep silent whatever happens. He is left alone for a space of perhaps an hour, when voices are heard as if in argument, then the clashing of swords and the groaning of a man who has been assassinated. Our “Eveillé” disguised as an old and decrepit man carrying a lamp enters the room, and pretending astonishment at finding the “Dormeur” demands to know who he is. He then says to him, “Quick, follow me,” and conducts him through several dark passages where they stumble over a bloody corpse.
“Help me,” he says to the “Dormeur” “to bury this corpse, let us carry it to the garden and bury it before they return.” While carrying this burden they are arrested by loud cries and the sound of a horn. “We are discovered,” says the Conductor, “it is the Emperor and his band.” After saying this he slips away, leaving the “Dormeur” with the corpse. “Who are you,” says the Chief, “and what has induced you to commit this murder?” “Seize him and conduct him to the Council Chamber where he will be judged.” The rest of the masked men throw themselves upon the “Dormeur” and, loading him with chains, lead him into a subterranean hall prepared for a Court. There the “Eveillés,” dressed in black robes, are ranged round about on a green carpet, and the Emperor takes his seat at one end of the Hall. The witnesses, and particularly the old man whom we have mentioned, accuse the “Dormeur” with having stabbed one of the guard. The President collects the votes. They are all for death, and the “Dormeur” is sentenced to be hanged. The guards conduct him to a lonely part of the garden, where he perceives by the light of torches a gibbet from which he is to be hanged. While his eyes are being bandaged he is bound by two strong leather bolts, one round his loins and the other under his armpits, and a rope is placed round his neck. He is then made to climb backwards the fatal ladder, and at the decisive moment he is launched there from into space, and hangs suspended by the armpits from the gibbet. The rope round his neck being unattached. Shortly thereafter the “Dormeur” is taken down from the gibbet. He is declared innocent of the murder, but has to submit to various questions and repulsive obligations. He is accused of the seven cardinal sins from which he must clear himself by oath. In short -- after three or four hours of torments of all kinds he is received as an awakened one (“Eveillé”). He is given the password which is Je songe (I dream), and the two signs called the “Caution” and the “Recognition.” These signs are not explained in the manuscript, from which and from various other indications of incompleteness, we are led to the belief that it is only a draft and not a finished production. Such, however, roughly, are the formalities which are said to accompany initiations into the "Secte des Eveillés.” What the exact objects of these horrible mysteries really were we are unable to say. Our MS. gives us no details beyond what appears in the foregoing narrative.
If this Society was not political, then there seems to be little doubt that it was nothing more than a band of robbers, whose chief appears to have had rather a more advanced idea of -- shall we say --picturesque effect than most of this class.
This article has been reproduced from "The Treasury of Masonic Thought" published in 1924.