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ALCHEMICAL ELIXIRS AND EGYPTIAN FREEMASONRY

P.D. Newman

In the first edition of our book, Alchemically Stoned: The Psychedelic Secret of
Freemasonry, we dedicated a couple of chapters to Cagliostro’s Egyptian Rite of
Freemasonry and his fascinating use of a sacramental libation of Acacia.1 For, many
species of Acacia are known to be rich sources of the powerful psychedelic compound
dimethyltryptamine or DMT, an entheogen with a long history of ceremonial use among
various tribes in South America, the Caribbean, and elsewhere. The following excerpt is
among the many expansions and additions that will appear in the forthcoming second
edition of Alchemically Stoned: The Psychedelic Secret of Freemasonry.

In addition to Cagliostro’s Egyptian Rite, a libation of Acacia also appears in La Tres


Sainte Trinosophie, a late eighteenth century Alchemical manuscript attributed to
Cagliostro.2 MS. No. 2400 in the Bibliotheque de Troyes, La Tres Sainte Trinosophie
was in Cagliostro’s possession when he was arrested in Rome. It has been described as
being

“Of the utmost significance to all students of Freemasonry and the occult
sciences… one of the most extraordinary documents relating to the Hermetic
sciences ever compiled. Though the libraries of European Rosicrucians and
Cabbalists contain many rare treasures of ancient philosophical lore, it is
extremely doubtful if any of them include a treatise of greater value or
significance.”3

Among several other cryptic Alchemical images, La Tres Sainte Trinosophie depicts
within its colorful pages a mystical bird, perhaps the mythical phoenix, perched on an
altar and holding within its beak a sprig of Acacia. That the sprig is indeed intended to
be a species of Acacia is evidenced by the clearly defined bi-pinnate compound leaf
structure, characteristic of Acacia and related species. Interestingly, even the bird here
appears to symbolize the Acacia. Its beak, for example, resembles nothing so much as
an Acacia thorn in both shape and color – thorns being one of the identifying traits of
most species of Acacia. In fact, the first century Greek physician, pharmacologist, and
botanist, Pedanius Dioscorides, who named the tree, did so after its most distinguishing
feature: akakia, ‘thorn.’4

In section six of La Tres Sainte Trinosophie, the same wherein the bird and Acacia
appear, we read:

1
Cagliostro’s Egyptian Rite refers to the Acacia as being the primal matter in a very specific
Alchemical operation. When properly executed, this operation results in the production of a “cubical
ashlar;” that is, the result is a purified, crystalline stone or salt that has been produced from the Acacia.
This stone is then dissolved into a “red liqueur,” which is afterward imbibed by the candidate for
initiation.
2
Some sources attribute the document to Saint-Germaine. But, as the presence of the sprig of Acacia in
the document indicates, Cagliostro is the more likely culprit.
3
Hall, p. 27
4
Gledhill, p. 33
“He handed me in a crystal cup a shining liquor of saffron hue; its taste was
delicious and it emitted an exquisite aroma. I was about to hand the cup back to
him after moistening my lips in the liquor, when the old man said: ‘Drink it all; it
will be thy only nourishment during thy journeys.’ I obeyed and felt a divine fire
course through all the fibers of my body. I was stronger, braver; even my
intellectual powers seemed doubled.”5

Compare to the following excerpts from the Apprentice and Companion lectures of
Cagliostro’s Egyptian Rite, where the Acacia is referred to as being the primal matter in
a very specific Alchemical operation. When properly executed, this operation results in
the production of a “cubical ashlar;” that is, the result is a purified, crystalline stone or
salt that has been produced from the Acacia. This stone is then dissolved into a “red
liqueur,” which is afterward imbibed by the candidate for initiation.

Cagliostro’s ritual states:

“The acacia is the primal matter and [when] the rough ashlar or
mercurial part has been purified, it becomes cubical ...It is thus that you
may bring about the marriage of the Sun and Moon, and that you shall
obtain...the perfect projection. Quantum suficit, et quantum appetite6.”7

“The candidate...shall drink [the red liqueur placed upon the Master’s
altar, thereby] raising his spirit in order to understand the following
speech which the Worshipful Master shall address to him at the same
time.

‘My child, you are receiving the primal matter... Learn that the Great
God created before man this primal matter and that he then created man
to possess it and be immortal. Man abused it and lost it, but it still exists
in the hands of the Elect of God8 and from a single grain of this precious
matter becomes a projection into infinity.

The acacia which has been given to you at the degree of Master of
ordinary Masonry is nothing but that precious matter. And [Hiram’s]
assassination is the loss of the liquid which you have just received...’”9

We suspect that the “shining liquor of saffron hue” described in La Tres Sainte
Trinosophie is one and the same with the “red liqueur” mentioned in the rituals of
Cagliostro’s Egyptian Rite. Where the one generated a “divine fire” that coursed
throughout the body, increasing strength, bravery, and intellect in its wake, the other

5
Ibid. at pp. 53-58
6
“Take as much as you need and as much as you have appetite for.”
7
Faulks, The Masonic Magician: The Life and Death of Count Cagliostro and His Egyptian Rite, p.
214
8
By “Elect of God,” Cagliostro may mean the Elus Cohen of Martinez de Pasqually, claimed by Yarker
to have been the ultimate source for Cagliostro’s Egyptian Rite of Freemasonry.
9
Ibid. at p. 225
‘raised the spirit’ while ‘increasing understanding.’ All of these symptoms are consistent
with the effects of low to moderate doses of DMT and other classic hallucinogens, e.g.
mescaline, LSD, and psilocybin.

Truly, in 1966, James Fadiman and Willis Harmon conducted the Psychedelics in
Problem-Solving Experiment.

“The researchers administered low doses of mescaline...to professional


people (i.e., engineers, mathematicians, architects) who were highly
motivated to solve a problem they had been working on for three months
or more without success. Virtually all of the subjects reported making
significant breakthroughs and producing solutions that were validated by
independent tests and, eventually, commercial acceptance of their
solutions.”10

A more recent study, conducted by Thomas Anderson of the University of Toronto and
Rotem Petranker of the University of York, found that those who had taken “microdoses”
of psychedelic drugs, such as LSD and psilocybin, “scored higher on measures of
wisdom, open-mindedness, and creativity...”11

Following the turn of the nineteenth century, Cagliostro’s manuscript would go on the
influence the formation of a Masonic Lodge, Les Trinosophists, formed by Belgian
Freemason J.M. Ragon whom, Manly P. Hall imagines, could have known the author of
La Tres Sainte Trinosophie as a young man. According to H.P. Blavatsky,

“It is on the occult properties of the three equal lines or sides of the Triangle that
Ragon based his studies and founded the famous masonic society of the
Trinosophists...”12

Ragon writes:

“The first line of the triangle offered to the apprentice for study, is the mineral
kingdom, symbolized by Tubalc:. 13 The second line on which the ‘companion’
has to meditate, is the vegetable kingdom, symbolized by Shibb:. 14 In this
kingdom begins the generation of the bodies. This is why the letter G is presented
radiant before the eyes of the adept. The third side is left to the master mason,
who has to complete his education by the study of the animal kindgom. It is
symbolized by Macben:.15, etc., etc.”16

10
Brown, pp. 213-214
11
Smith
12
Ibid. at p. 29
13
The word implied here is Tubal-Cain, the father of metallurgy. Hence its association with the mineral
kingdom.
14
The word implied here is Shibboleth, meaning ‘an ear of corn’ or ‘a sheaf of wheat.’ Hence its
association with the vegetable kingdom.
15
The word implied here is Macbenac, said to mean “son of putrefaction.” Hence its association with
the animal kindgom.
16
Ibid. at pp. 29-30
Thus, even at the heart of Ragon’s Les Trinosophists, we find a highly suggestive
Alchemical treatment of Masonic symbolism reminiscent of Cagliostro’s Egyptian Rite.
One line in particular is worth scrutinizing: “In [the vegetable] kingdom begins the
generation of the bodies.” We take this sentence to mean that it is in the vegetable
kingdom, using plant Alchemy or spagyrics, where one will discover the secrets of
regeneration.

Cagliostro himself even prescribed a certain Alchemical retreat for the purpose of
effecting regeneration in some of his more advanced adepti. See the following ritual,
which comes from an Alchemical manuscript titled Thesaurorum Thesaurus (1580), a
document in use by der Orden des Gold und Rosenkreuzer, the first Rosicrucian Order
to surface following the initial publication of the Rosicrucian Manifestos. For
regeneration,

“the candidate will shut themself up in a house in the coutryside having a room
whose windows are to the south. The operation must begin in the full moon of
May; during the first sixteen days the food will consist only of light soups and
tender plants and the patient will always leave the table a little hungry. The
initiate will drink the May dew, collected from sprouting wheat on pure and
white linen. He will begin the meal with a large glass of dew and will finish it
with a biscuit or a simple crust of bread. The seventeenth day, at sunrise the
candidate for regeneration must extract a palette of blood, that is to say a light
blood-letting. Starting from this day, he will take some white drops of balm of
azoth, six the morning and six the evening, in increasing the dose two drops by
day until the thirty-second. The thirty-third day, after the same regime, he will
remain in bed until the end of the quarentine. He will take a grain of Materia
Prima. On first waking, after bleeding himself, he will absorb a first grain of
universal medicine, he will repeat this the following days. After an
unconsciousness of three hours, then convulsions, perspirations and
considerable evacuations, he will change the bed linen. He will then eat some
beef consomme which has had the fat removed, seasoned with refreshing and
laxative plants. The following day he takes the second grain of universal
medicine. A deep sleep will follow. The hair, teeth, the nails and skin will blacken
and be renewed. The thirty-eighth day, bathe with the abovementioned aromatic
herbs. The thirty-ninth day, he will swallow, in two spoonfulls of red wine, ten
drops of the elixir of Acharat. The fortieth day, he will return home rejuvinated
and perfectly recreated. Thanks to the strength thus acquired, the regenerated
man will be able to ‘propagate the truth, annihilate vice, destroy idolatry and
spread the glory of the Eternal.’”17

As to what these “white drops of balm of azoth” actually consist of, we can only
speculate. If they happened to be some form of an MAOI, it would make sense that
Cagliostro should allow this substance to build up in the system of the candidate prior to
the latter’s reception of the “grains” of “Materia Prima” and “universal medicine.” For,
the presence of MAOI in the system of the candidate would effectively activate the
DMT in or Alchemically extracted from a psychoactive species of Acacia. Another

17
Labourne
possibility is that the “drops” served as some sort of purgative, purging and purifying the
candidate prior to his administration of the “grains.” In either case, significantly, the
purgative properties of ayahuasca and its analogues have long been touted, with the
brew being known in some regions as simply “la purga,” “the purge.”

A grain is of course a unit of measurment used for dispensing drugs. We know from
Cagliostro’s ritual for his Egyptian Rite that the “Materia Prima” is a species of Acacia,
and the “universal medicine,” the tryptamine stone prepared therefrom by Alchemical
means. Moreover, the effects of the “universal medicine,” subjective no doubt, e.g. the
death and regeneration of the skin, nails, teeth, etc., are in keeping with something
known in anthropology as shamanic dismemberment, a phenomenon which is extremely
common to both shamanic initiation and high-dose tryptamine intoxication. Mircea
Eliade explains,

“Both spontaneous vocation and the quest for initiation involve...a more or less
symbolical ritual of mystical death, sometimes suggested by a dismemberment of
the body and renewal of the organs...equivalent to re-entering the womb of this
primordial life, that is, to a complete renewal [or regeneration], to a mystical
rebirth.”18

Terence and Dennis McKenna added in The Invisible Landscape:

“He will lie as though dead or in a deep trance for days on end. ...Invariably
during this prolonged trance the novice will undergo an episode of mystical
death and resurrection; he may see himself reduced to a skeleton and then
clothed with new flesh; or he may see himself boiled in a cauldron, devoured by
the spirits, and then made whole again [i.e., regenerated]; or he may imagine
himself being operated on by the spirits, his organ removed and replaced with
‘magical stones’ and then sewn up again.”19

The anthropologist-cum-shaman, Michael Harner, said in his book Cave and Cosmos:
Shamanic Encounters with Another Reality,

“One of the most mysterious and distinctive ways of becoming a shaman has
been through experiencing the dismemberment of one’s body in an altered state
of consciousness. Accounts of this kind of initiatory experience are relatively
common among Siberian tribes and Aboriginal Australian people.”20

What we’re seeing with Cagliostro’s retreat for regeneration, therefore, is nothing shy of
a sort of shamanesque Alchemical initiation, replete with an ayahuasca analogue, the
motif of shamanic dismemberment, and followed by a rebirth or regeneration experience.

Notably, a species of Acacia actually did play a significant role in the Egyptian religion.
Repeatedly depicted in Egyptian art, the Acacia truly was considered sacred as it was
the tree wherein the body of Osiris was said to have been encased; that is, the deity was

18
McKenna, The Invisible Landscape, p. 25
19
McKenna, Food of the Gods, p. 5
20
Harner
literally believed to reside within the tree. Jerry B. Brown, Ph.D., a founding professor
of anthropology at Florida International University in Miami, asserts:

“there is...evidence [in ancient Egypt] of knowledge of...the acacia tree,


one of the most prominent trees in ancient Egyptian art due to its
association with the death and rebirth of the god Osiris. Egyptian myth
attributed the rebirth of Osiris and every subsequent pharaoh to the
sprouting of the DMT-containing acacia tree out of the coffin in which
Osiris was buried.”21

Ben Christie adds that:

“Acacia nilotica contains Dimethyltryptamine, or DMT [and] is


portrayed hugely in Egyptian mythology. It is referred to as the tree of life,
and from under this tree the first gods of Egypt were born. Osiris, god of
the underworld, rebirth, and the spirit, was also born from an Acacia
nilotica tree. Osiris is also believed to live inside the spirit of all Acacia
nilotica trees. ...In modern archaeology of Egypt, Acacia nilotica has
been found in a huge percentage of the tombs unearthed.”22

Cagliostro’s fixation on the sprig of Acacia as the prima materia in his personal
Alchemical brand of Egyptian Freemasonry is thus not without warrant.

John Yarker argued that Cagliostro’s Rite was lifted wholesale from Martinez de
Pasqually’s Elus Cohens.

“The Rite of Cagliostro was clearly that of Pasqually, as evidenced by his


complete ritual, which has recently been printed in the Paris monthly,
L’Initiation; it so closely follows the theurgy that it need leave no doubt
as to whence Cagliostro derived his system.”23

And, Pasqually’s Elus Cohen is possessed of it own potential allusions to the


psychedelic experience. According to Rene Le Forestier, the incense blend used by
Martinez de Pasqually and his order Elus Cohen24 included, among other psychoactives,
“spore of agaric.”25 Members of Elus Cohen were prone to seeing “passes” of “luminous
glyphs” and visions of the mysterious La Chose, ‘The Thing,’ during ritual.26 As Tobias
Churton, a lecturer at Exeter University, estimates, “The Thing was really nothing less

21
Brown, p. 211
22
Christie
23
Ibid. at p. 175
24
The Elus Cohen was the first real high-grade system of Freemasonry. Essentially theurgic in nature,
the Elus Cohen was the ultimate source for both Louis Claude de Saint-Martin’s system Martinism,
officially organized by Papus as the Martinist Order, and Jean-Baptiste Willermoz’ system CBCS, the
apex of the Rectified Scottish Rite.
25
McIntosh, Eliphas Levi and the French Occult Revival, p. 21-25
26
Churton, The Invisible History of the Rosicrucians
than Wisdom personified – the divine Sophia.”27

Still, one would be excused for mistaking Cagliostro’s Egyptian Rite for an earlier
Egyptoid Masonic order founded by one Karl Friedrich von Koppen, an officer in the
Prussian army, known as Afrikanische Bauherren (African Architects). According to
Henrik Bogdan,

“One of the earliest propagators of Egyptian Masonry was Karl


Friedrich von Koppen (1734-1797) who founded the Order of the
Afrikanische Bauherren in 1767. This order was based on a short text by
Koppen and Bernhard Hymmen (1731-1787), entitled Crata Repoa. In
this text, the authors presented an alternative history of Freemasonry in
which the first Grand Master was identified as the biblical Ham, who had
immigrated to Egypt and there taken the name Menes. In Egypt Menes
received a secret knowledge, which has been passed on and preserved by
generations of Freemasons all the way to the eighteenth century.
Allegedly, the Order of the Afrikanische Bauherren was based on this
secret knowledge. The Rite comprised a total of [seven or] eleven degrees
divided into three group or Temples.”28

Graham Hancock described the Crata Repoa as “a strange Masonic tract.”

“The Crata Repoa...purports to contain authentic reproductions of


initiation rituals performed in the Great Pyramid by ancient Egyptian
priests. As odd as it may seem, this peculiar ‘Egyptian’Masonic society
of African Architects received the sponsorship of Frederick II...”29

To this passage, Philippa Faulks adds:

“These rituals are now thought to have been inspired by Jean Terrasson’s
Masonic novel The Life if Sethos published in 1731, which included large
amounts of information gleaned from Greek texts relating to the
mysteries of Egypt. It is likely that Cagliostro was familiar not only with
the novel but with the rituals then incorporated into various Masonic
Lodges throughout France during the mid-1700s.”30

Finally, from Christian Rebisse,

“The first degree of the African Architects is that of Pastophoris. It


corresponds to the apprentice grade. The disciple was initiated into the
mysteries of the hieroglyphs and dressed like an Egyptian. In the second,
Neocoris, he was given a caduceus and taught to cross his arms over his

27
While the spores of A. muscaria are not psychoactive, the fact that the mushroom is referenced at all
is worthy of mention. Moreover, one wonders what became of the fruiting bodies from which the
spores were harvested.
28
Bogdan, p. 101
29
Hancock, p. 413
30
Ibid. at pp. 41-42
chest in the attitude of Osiris. In the third degree, Melanophoris, which
corresponded to that of Master, he was confronted by the kingdom of the
dead and placed before the sarcophagus of Osiris. The degrees of
Christophorus and Balahate followed, where he was initiated into
alchemy. Then came the degree of Astronomus and that of Ibis
[Propheta?] which related to Hermes Trismegistus. ...The order
possessed a rich library and chemical laboratory. In 1773, lodges of this
rite existed in Berlin, Switzerland, and France.”31

Like Cagliostro’s Egyptian Rite, the Crata Repoa (and assumedly Afrikanische
Bauherren which it inspired) is possessed of its own mystical libation. In the seventh
and final degree, titled Propheta, the member was called “Saphenath Pancah, i.e., a man
who knows the secrets.” He was then “given a drink, called oimellas, and told that now
all trials were over.”32

Could Von Koppen’s mysterious “oimellas” have been an early version of Cagliostro’s
entheogenic libation of Acacia? Based on an etymological analysis of the word,
Heckethorn suggests that oimellas implies a combination of simply wine (oi = oinos,
wine) and honey (mela, honey). While this, of course, is purely speculative on
Heckenthorn’s part, it remains that both wine and honey are known to have been
commonly used as carriers for entheogenic additives such as cannabis, opium,
belladonna, and even psychedelic mushrooms. Honey, for example, is a known carrier
for psilocybin mushrooms, while wine has a long history of being infused with all
manner of inebriants.

Remarkably, according to professional Alchemist Erik J. LaPort, the method by which


eighteenth century Alchemists would have extracted DMT from organic sources was a
version of Paracelsus’ Primum Ens technique involving the use of ether in conjunction
with – wait for it – pomegranate wine vinegar and honey!33 Oinos and mela, indeed!
LaPort, explains,

“The Primum Ens technique using chloroethane or ether is perfectly in-


line with European Alchemy… It matches the chemical terminology and
traditions of the period in Europe under discussion. [Chloroethane or
diethyl ether] is floated on a layer of honey or honey-vinegar (prior to
adding this to water or wine), and evaporated [over low heat], all the
plant-actives will migrate into the acidic honey or honey-vinegar layer,
which can then be easily combined with water or wine to whatever ratio
ones desires to finish the elixir. The ancients would have used ‘acacia
honey,’ which is a light and highly translucent honey...plus either red
wine or pomegranate vinegar.”34

If we are to believe the records of the Inquisition, Cagliostro learned of the secrets of
Egyptian Masonry from a manuscript he acquired from a London bookseller named

31
Rebisse, pp. 112-113
32
Heckethorn, p. 56
33
Privately communicated
34
LaPort, The Grand Deacon’s Instructions for Creating the Perfected Ashlar, privately circulated
George Coston in the spring of 1777. As Crata Repoa had been published roughly a
decade prior, it is perhaps likely that the manuscript Cagliostro acquired from Coston
was in fact none other than Von Koppen’s Egyptoid text.

Whatever the case, it is clear that an elixir of Acacia lies at the heart of both Cagliostro’s
Egyptian Rite and La Tres Sainte Trinosophie – and likely of Von Koppen’s
Afrikanische Bauherren and Crata Repoa. While it is common knowledge that such
elixirs are central to Alchemy and Rosicrucianism, as our research in Alchemically
Stoned: The Psychedelic Secret of Freemasonry is designed to demonstrate, they’re also
of great import in certain corners of the Craft.

WORKS CITED

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