Rectified Scottish Regime
Jean-Baptiste Willermoz, born in Lyons, France on 10th July 1730, was 20 years old when he became a Freemason. In 1752, he was appointed Worshipful Master of his Lodge. In 1753, he founded the Lodge "La Parfaite Amitié", of which he was elected Master on the feast day of St. John, 24 June 24 1753. In 1756, this Lodge joined the Mother Lodge of Lyons - its charter from the Grand Lodge of France is dated 21 November 1756. On 4 May 1760, with the approval of the Grand Lodge of France, a Provincial Mother Lodge called "Grand Loge des Maîtres Réguliers de Lyon" was founded and Willermoz was its Provincial Grand Master from 1762 to 1763 afterwards becoming the Archivist and Keeper of the Seals. In 1763, he founded the "Souverain Chapitre des Chevaliers de L"Aigle Noir - Rose-Croix".
In May of 1767, Willermoz went to Paris, where he met Bacon de la Chevalerie, Deputy Grand Master of the Elus Cohen. He was initiated by Martinez de Pasqually himself in Verailles, France. In 1772, Willermoz learned of the existence of a German Masonic Order called the "Strict Templar Observance" and on 14 December 1772, Willermoz applied by letter for affiliation. He received an answer dated 18 March 1773 from Count Weiler. The Duke of Brunswick replaced Baron von Hund as the head of the Strict Observance. From the 11th through the 14th of August 1772, Count Weiler was in Lyons where he had come to personally establish a Strict Observance Lodge called "Loge Ecossaise Rectifiée 'La Bienfaisance'". In December 1777, three years after the death of Martinez de Pasqually, Rudolphe Saltzmann, "Master of the Novices of the Directoire of Strasbourg" arrived in Lyons, where he was received as an Elu-Cohen. We know that at the time, the Order of Elus-Cohen was suffering from internal dissentions and from a lack of leadership. Like many other sincere members, Willermoz saw that the Order was doomed and was anxious to preserve all that could be saved. With the help of Saltzmann, and with the approval of Bacon de la Chevalerie, Willermoz conceived a plan to implement the Secret Doctrine of the Elus-Cohen in the Rite of the Strict Observance. This he planned to do by adding to the degrees of the Strict Observance, a higher degree, called "La Profession", called such because its members would be "professed", i.e. under chivalric vows. It contained two secret degrees in which the doctrine of the Elus-Cohen would be transmitted, thus alleviating the disparition of the Réau-Croix but not implanting the theurgic operations of the Elus-Cohen into the Strict Observance.
A general meeting called the Convent of Gaul was held in Lyons from 25 November to 10 December 1778 at the instigation of Willermoz. It was decided to reform the Auvergne Province of the Strict Observance, the French Templars taking the name of "Chevaliers Bienfaisants de la Cité Sainte" or "Knights Beneficent of the Holy City", commonly referred to as "C.B.C.S.". It was absorbed into the "Rectified Scottish Rite" as follows:
1st Degree - Apprentice
2nd Degree - Fellowcraft
3rd Degree - Master
4th Degree - Maître Ecossais/Scottish Master
5th Degree - Ecuyer Novice/Squire Novice
6th Degree - C.B.C.S.
7th Degree - Chevalier-Profès/Professed Knight
8th Degree - Chevalier-Grand Profès/Grand Professed Knight
After this reformation, Willermoz decided that it would be right to expand this revision into the bosom of the Mother branch of the German Strict Observance. It was with this initiative in mind, that he went to the Convent of Wilhemsbad in 1782. He found supporters of his plan in the Princes Ferdinand of Brunswick and Charles of Hesse, but found stiff opposition on the part of the Illuminati of Bavaria (founded by Adam Weishaupt) and met hostility in the character of Francois de Chefdebien de Saint-Amand, representative of the Order of the Pilalethes, as well as resistance from Savalette de Lange. After heated arguments, Willermoz and his supporters won the day, and succeeded in having the title of C.B.C.S. adopted by all members of the Inner Order. A committee was formed under Willermoz to prepare the high degree rituals and those of the secret degrees of the Profession. This work was well advanced when the French Revolution interrupted Willermoz' task. The "Rectified" temples of the C.B.C.S. and the temples of the Elus-Cohen which were still active had to suspend their works, the brethren being dispersed by the events of the period. After the Revolution, in 1806, the C.B.C.S. became active again in France and they soon joined the Grand Orient with which the Strict Observance had friendly relations. The Elus-cohen had not 'officially' resumed their Work. Their last Grand Master, Sebastian de las Casaa, had the archives of the Order handed over to the Philalethes. In 1806 moreover, Bacon de la Chevalerie, "Deputy Grand Master of the Northern Hemisphere", sat in this capacity in the Grand College of Rites of the Grand Orient of France. He tried to obtain the authorization to re-organize the Order of Elus-Cohen within the Grand Orient, but was refused. The Rite of Knights Beneficent passed into Switzerland when the Directoire of Burgandy transmitted its powers to the Directoire of Helvetia. It is from this Swiss Jurisdiction, now headed by the Grand Priory of Helvetia, that the C.B.C.S. would be re-activated in France after World War II. On 5 May 1824, Jean-Baptist Willermoz died in Lyons.
For the famous occultist A.E. Waite, the Rectified Scottish Rite was the one Rite he craved the most. He "had come to see the Régime Ecossais et Rectifié as maintaining, more than any other rite, the essence in ritual form of that secret tradition that 'tells us not alone that the Soul "cometh from afar" and that the Soul returns whence it came, but it delineates the Path of Ascent'." It was, for him, truly the secret tradition in practice.
There are, at present, officially recognized bodies working the R.E.R. in France, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, U.S.A. and Spain, and now Brazil the There is much interest in the Rite being practiced elsewhere has been duly noted.