Martinez de Pasqually and the Elus Cohens
by Mike Restivo
We may say that no Masonic movement has exerted more influence in 18th century France than that initiated by Martinez de Pasquales, which became loosely known as Martinism. Martinez’ full name was “Jacques de Livron Joachim de la Tour de la Casa Martinez de Pasqually”, and that he was born in Grenoble, France, presumably in 1727. His father was born in Alicante Spain, and held a Masonic patent delivered by Charles Stuart, “King of Scotland, Ireland and England, dated 20th May 1738 and granting him as Deputy Grand Master the power to erect temples to the glory of the Grand Architect”. This patent, and the powers it confered, were transmissable at death to his son, “The Powerful Master Joachim Don Martinez Pasqualis, aged 28”. We see therefore, that at 28, Martinez was a Master Mason.
Martinez spent all his life working at the creation of a great spiritualized movement within the ranks of Freemasonry. When he eventually organized this movement as an Order, not strictly speaking Masonic, but composed exclusively of Masons, he gave it the name of “Ordre des Chevelier Maçons Élus Cohen de L’Univers”/“Order of Knight Masons, Elect Priests of the Universe.”
Martinez spiritual mission began probably around 1758, but there is no doubt that prior to that period, he had worked actively at the promotion of the Freemasonic Order as such. This was the time when the so-called High Degrees were being introduced into Freemasonry, to complement the three basic degrees of Symbolic or Blude Lodge Masonry. These grades were and are:
1st Degree - Apprentice
2nd Degree - Fellow-Craft
3rd Degree - Master Mason
The introduction of these High Degrees was often resented and disapproved of by Masonic authorities controlling the Symbolic Degrees. Martinez himself was actively engaged in creating Masonic grades as such, but worked at forming a kind of “side” organization which would have a more spiritual character than Freemasonry itself. To this organization however, he would only admit Master Masons who had taken the additional Masonic degree of “Elect”.
In 1754, he had founded in Montpellier, France, the Masonic Chapter “Les Juges Ecossais”/“The Scottish Judges”. Between 1755 and 1760, we find Martinez travelling extensively through France, recruiting followers for his own system. In 1760, he is in Toulouse, where he is received in the United Lodges of St. John (Loges de St. Jean Réunies). Later the same year, he is received in “Loge Josué”/“Lodge Joshua” of Foix, France, where he initiates several Masons and forms a Chapter called “Le Temple Cohen”/“The Priests’ Temple”.
In 1761, Martinez is in Bordeau, France, where, on the strength of his Stuart Patent and with the recomendation of the Comte de Maillial d”Alzac, of the Marquis de Lescourt and of the brothers d’Auberton, he is received in “Loge La Française”/“The French Lodge”. It is here that he opens his “Particular Temple” under the name of “La Perfection Élus Écossaise”/“The Elect Scottish Perfection”. The founder members are Comte M. D’alzac, Marquis de Lescourt, the two brothers d’Auberton, de Oasen, de Bobié, Jules Tafar, Morris and Lecembard. On May 26th, 1763, Martinez forwards his Stuart Patent to the Grand Lodge of France and informs them that he has “erected in Bordeaux, to the Glory of the Grand Architect, a Temple housing 5 Degrees of Perfection, of which I am the Trustee under the Constitution of Charles Stuart, King of Scotland, England and Ireland, Grand Master of all Lodges spread over the face of the earth”. The name of the Lodge is then changed to “La Française Élus Écossaie”/“French Scottish Elect”. On February 1, 1765, the Grand Lodge of France approves and charters this Lodge.
In 1765, Martinez leaves for Paris, France, where he stays with the Augustinian Friars on the “Quai de la Seine”. He meets there Bacon de la Chevalerie, de Lusignan, de Loos, de Grainville, J.B. Willermoz, Fauger d’Igéacourt, etc., to whom he delivers his first instructions. He founds with them on March 21, 1767 (Vernal Equinox), the Sovereign Tribunal of the Élus Cohen, with Bacon de la Chevalerie as his Deputy.
By 1770, The Rite of Élus Cohen has Temples in numerous cities, such as Bordeaux, Montpellier, Avignon, Foix, La Rochelle, Versailles, Paris and Metz. A Temple opened in Lyons, and thanks to the enthusiasm of Jean Baptiste Willermoz, this town will become the spiritual capital of the Order for many years.
Meanwhile, in Bordeaux, in March of 1776, Lodge “La Française Elus Ecossaise” closes down. We note that Martinez’ secretary up to that date was one Father Bullet, padre to the Regiment of Foix. Fr. Bullet bore the Élus Cohen title of “S.I.”. History does not record under what circumstances, a presumably Roman Catholic, which alone uses the title “Father/Padre”, cleric, became a member of Martinez’ Order, as Roman Catholics were forbidden to become Freemasons under pain of excommunication although that penalty has recently been relaxed to that of “serious sin”.
In May of 1772, Martinez sails for San Domingo on the “Duc de Duras”, after having applied for a certificate of Catholicism. How he, a Mason and Grand Master of his own High Grade Rite, obtained such a certificate is not explained. He undertakes this journey in order to take up a legacy. On Tuesday, September 20, 1774, Martinez dies in Port-au_prince, Haiti. He leaves a son, then at the Lescar College, near Pau. This son will disappear during the French Revolution, 20 years later. He was baptised on June 24, 1768.
According to which set of documents one studies, the Order of Élus Cohen seems to have nine, ten or eleven degrees. A certain amount of development probably occured in the course of the Order’s existence, and that the degrees were modified, with certain aditions authorized by Martinez as his members progressed, between the early days and a later period. Here follows the more reliable constitution. The Order was divided into three main classes, followed by a secret grade:
The first class contained the normal 3 Degrees of Symbolic Masonry plus an additional degree of Grand Elect or Particular Master.
The second class contained the so-called Porch Degrees of Apprentice-Cohen, Fellow-Cohen and Master-Cohen. It was typically Masonic, but contained hints of an underlying secret doctrine.
The third class contained the Temple Degrees of Grand Master Élus Cohen, Knight of the East and Commander of the East. Under the appearance of Masonry, its Catechisms were based upon Martinez’ General Doctrine. The Doctrine is expounded in Martinez’ only book, The Reintegration of Beings, which is a pseudo-commentary upon the Pentateuch. Purifying diet, similar to that of the Levites of the Old Testament, and rituals of exorcism were employed against evil in the individual and collectively in the world.
The secret grade of the Order contained the degree of Réau-Croix, not to be confused with Rose-Croix, a term that was also known in Masonic and Rosicrucian circles at the time. In this Degree of Réau-Croix, the Initiate is put in touch with the spiritual planes beyond the physical, through Magical Invocation or Theurgy. He draws the Celestial powers into his and the earth’s aura. Auditory and visual manifestations, called “signs”, enables the Réau-croix to evaluate his own evolution and that of other “operators” and to determine thereby whether he or they have been re-integrated into their original powers. The grand object of the Order was to obtain the Beatific Vision of the Repairer, Jesus Christ, in response to Magical Evocations. Martinez conferred the title of “Sovereign Judges et Superièurs Inconnus de L’ Ordre”/“Sovereign Judges and Unknown Superiors of the Order”. They were: Bacon de la Chevalerie, John-Baptise Willermoz, de Serre, du Roy, d’Hauterive and de Lusignan.
Before his death, Martinez had appointed as his successor, his cousin Armand Cagnet de Lestère, General Secretary of the Navy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He had very little time to devote to the Order, and could just amange to manage the Elus Cohen Temples of Port-au-Prince and Léogane in Haiti. Divisions occured within the Temples in Europe. A. C. De Lestère died in 1778 after transmitting his powers to the “Very Powerful Master” Sebastian de las Casas. The new Grand Master did not attempt to reconcile the different branches of the Elus Cohen, nor to unify the Rite. Eventually, the Élus Cohen Temples became dormant.
The Doctrine continued to be transmitted from person to person within Kabbalistic Areopagoi composed of 9 members. In 1806, concerted Theurgic operations were still performed on the important dates of the equinoxes, the rituals thereof being a significant purifying work of the Réau-Croix. One of the last known direct representatives of the Élus Cohen was Destigny, who died in 1868.
After the Second World War, three S. I. Martinists, including Robert Ambelain (Sar Aurifer), its Grand Master, using Elus Cohen rituals that they had obtained from various sources, created a new “Martinist Order of the Élus Cohen” which practices the operative form of Élus Cohen Theurgy. It was years later put to sleep then revived 30 years later again, by Robert Ambelain.