STRICT OBSERVANCE, RITE OF. This was the third attempt at innovation upon the purer systems of Freema sonry by the Jesuits. It encouraged in its adepts the hope of coming into possession of the wealth of the ancient Templars. The chronological history of its Grand Masters is nothing more than the history of the generals of the Jesuits. It was established in Germany, in 1754, by Baron von Hund (Charles Gotthelf), and a few of his associates. Six degrees only were conferred. They were, 1. Apprentice; 2. Fellow Craft; 3. Master Mason ; 4. Scotch Master ; on the trestle-board of this degree were represented a lion, emblem of fearlessness, courage and calm fortitude; a fox, the symbol of prudence; an ape, signifying the faculty of imitation, and a sparrow-hawk, typical of swiftness. The Scotch Master, having been found worthy of advancement, was then received in the fifth degree as a Novice; and in the sixth was created a Knight Templar. This latter degree was divided into three branches, viz : Armiger, those who were not of noble birth or rank; Socii et Amici, or those who were already Knights of some order, and Equites, or Knights. Each Armiger, Socius or Eques, received on his initiation a knightly name, coat of arms and motto. Von Hund after ward instituted a seventh degree, styled Eques Professus, which he surrounded with an unusual amount of mystery, and conferred the degree on those only who could be of the greatest service to him or his schemes. The whole of Europe was apportioned into nine "Provinces," the seventh of which included the northern part of Germany, between the Elbe and Oder. The order was subordinate to a Grand Master, who was supposed to be unknown to all, except a few of the privileged knights, Von Hund being in reality the head of the order. The superior officer of each Province w as termed "ilecemeister," Von Hund assuming command of the seventh Province, under the distinctive title of Carolus Egues ab Ense. The Lodges were called Commanderies, the Masters being styled, " Commendatur donuts." The Masters were subordinate to the Prefects, and these again to Sub-priors and Priors. The seats of these officers were called by names taken from the rolls of the old Knights Templar and Knights of Malta. The Preceptory of Hamburg was termed Foenack; Copen hagen, Eydendorp; Brunswick, Brunopolis, etc. Many plans were concocted and attempted, in order to furnish a revenue to these office-holders. While Von Hund was in Paris, he actually contemplated the establishment of colonies in North America and on the coast of Labrador, and afterward in Russia. In 1768, he endeavored to dispose of his property to the order, at a very low price, in order to furnish dwellings for the officers, but, owing to the mistrust of the brethren, the arrangement fell through, and this plan cost him more than one-half his wealth. In 1766 a brother, by the name of Schubarth, proposed a so-called "Economical Plan," by which he proposed a regular system of graduated assess ments upon the Lodges, a sort of sliding-scale of fees, which, on paper, presented a beautiful design and an enormous result. The plan, however, failed, a large majority of the brethren not being sufficiently credulous to embark in the speculation. Some Lodges, however, who had, in accordance with the plan, commenced the collection of a fund for the above purpose, soon found themselves enabled to erect handsome halls for their accommodation, and thus laid the foundation for acquiring considerable property. Von Hund, as "Heermeister" of the seventh Province, dwelt at Sonnen burg, on his own estates, from whence he governed his Province and issued his decrees. This order was well organized, gave proof of great strength and exercised a powerful influence over all similar organizations during its existence throughout Europe. The Provincial Grand Lodge of Hamburg, which had been constituted by the Grand Lodge of England in 1740, went over to the Strict Observ ance in 1765, and each of its members was obliged to sign an act of obedience, abjuring its former system of York Masonry, and vowing implicit obedience and allegiance to the superiors of the order. The latter, fearing lest they might be persecuted in some way, as being the successors of an order which had been abolished by royal command, and desirous of insuring the existence of their order, began now to look around for some noble patron. The first reign ing prince who acceded to their wishes was the Margrave Charles Alexander, of Bayreuth, who was received as Egues a Munimento in 1766, and appointed as Protector Ordinis in Franconia. He arranged elegant rooms in his chateau at
Ai spach for the accommodation of the chapters, and had in contemplation the restoration of the Order of the Swan, (an order which flourished in the fifteenth century,) as a cloak beneath which should be concealed the actual Order of Templars. This plan was, however, suddenly abandoned, for what reason is not known. In the year 1767, a certain Dr. Stark, rejoicing in the cognomen of Frater Archidemides ab aquila fulva, made his appearance at Wismar, and pretended that he and some of his friends belonged to another branch of the Templar order, viz: the Clerical or ecclesiastical branch, who alone possessed the true secrets of the order, and that he had been invested with full powers by his superiors to take charge of the secular brethren. He exhibited a patent, in which he was styled "fils et frere des peres de la famille des Scavans l'Ordre des Sages par tous les gen&ations de l'univers," and which empowered him to initiate those whom he deemed worthy. The clerks, as they styled themselves, pretended to be descendants of the pious Essenes, who employed them selves in the study of the secrets of nature, and who had attained the highest perfection in this secret knowledge. After the institution of the Order of the Temple in the Holy Land, they became acquainted with some of the members of that order, among whom was a nephew of St. Bernard, by name Andreas Montisbarrensis. They then united with this order, obtained a rule from St. Bernard, and chose Andreas as their first ecclesiastical Prior. These clerical brethren became the guardians of the laws and mysteries of the order, and to them mainly was due its future im portance and wealth. At the dissolution of the order, their most secret documents and treasures were rescued by the Knight John Eures, and a part of these were still in their possession. Stark brought with him rituals, instructions, and other manuscripts, interlarded with Latin and old French sentences, which he pretended to have received in Auvergne, and which contained the forma and ceremonies of initiation of the Novices and Knights, as practiced in the French and Italian provinces. At that date, however, (1765-73,) no trace of the Strict Observance was to be found in those countries. It is most likely that Stark received his knowledge of the higher degrees in St. Petersburg, (1763 65,) and manufactured the rituals to suit himself. Toward the end of the year 1770, Duke Ferdinand, of Brunswick, was initiated as socii et amici into the Strict Observance, or i‘o-calleil Order of Templars ; and, in the following year, his brother, the reigning Duke Charles, was likewise initiated. These initiations reanimated the spirit of the whole order, which had for some time shown signs of being about to fall to pieces. In May, 1772, a general convention of the officers and deputies of the seventh Province was held at Kohlo, at which the clerical branch was also represented. Von Hund, by request, presented his patent, which, although no one was able to decipher, was pronounced genuine. The clerical branch was acknowledged by an act of union, signed on either part, and Duke Ferdinand was chosen Magnus Superior Ordinis and Grand Master of all the United Scottish Lodges. The ritual of the first four degrees, as practiced in the united Lodges, was adopted, the explanation of the same being made to conform with the actual object of the order. A directory, under the title of a capitular government, was also established at Dresden, in order to lighten the labors of the Heermeister, Von Hund. The seventh Province was now fully organized; up to this time it had been the only one. In 1773, Major Von Weiler, a Spica aurea, went to France, and instituted at Strasburg'. the fifth province, Burgundy; at Lyons, the province Auvergne; and at Mont pelier, the third Province, Occitania ; the principal seat, however, remained at Bordeaux. All these provinces recog nized the Duke Ferdinand as Grand Master. In 1776, Von Hund instituted the eighth Province of Southern Germany, and constituted several Prefectures. In 1775, a convention was held at Brunswick, at which Prince Charles of Hesse was acknowledged as Protector Ordinis, and the capitulary government was transferred to Brunswick for three years. Von Hund, having a presentiment of his approaching end, confided to the Duke Ferdinand all his papers, correspond ence, and the rolls and registers of the order, and on the 7th November, 1776, he died.