A short-lived rival to Freemasonry, the Ancient Noble Order of Gormogons surfaced in the fall of 1724, announcing itself to the world in a London newspaper. The announcement claimed that the Gormogons were founded “many thousand years before Adam” by Chin-Quaw Ky-Po, the first emperor of China, and had just been brought to England by a Chinese mandarin. The article solicited new members but warned them that Freemasons would only be admitted if they renounced Masonry and were expelled from their lodges. A later article announced that the same mandarin was on his way to Rome, where he expected to initiate the Pope and the entire College of Cardinals into the Gormogons. See Freemasonry.
Behind these claims lay a complex political drama. The founder of the Gormogons was Philip, Duke of Wharton, a leader of the Jacobites, the supporters of the exiled House of Stuart. Wharton had a complex career in the secret societies of early eighteenth-century England. He founded the Hell-Fire Club in London in 1719 and closed it down in 1720. Apparently reformed, he was elected Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of England in 1722, but stormed out of Masonry the following year upon the publication of the first Book of Constitutions, which committed the Craft to “obedience to the civil government” and closed lodges to religious and political agitation. The Gormogons was his attempt at a rival organization, linked with the Stuart cause. See Hell-Fire Club; Jacobites.
The Gormogons carried on a lively propaganda campaign against Freemasonry, backed by money from Jacobites in the gentry and nobility. The order was never more than a private project of Wharton’s, however, and on his death in 1731 the Gormogons seem to have quietly disbanded. The idea of a Stuart Masonry, however, was taken up in France a few years later with Andrew Ramsay’s famous oration of 1736 and the creation of the first versions of Templar Masonry. See Knights Templar; Ramsay, Andrew Michael.
The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Societies : the ultimate a-z of ancient mysteries, lost civilizations and forgotten wisdom written by John Michael Greer – © John Michael Greer 2006