The most extensive system of Masonic degrees ever worked, the Rite of Memphis and Misraim was the creation of John Yarker, the great promoter of fringe Masonic degrees and rites in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Yarker systematically gathered Masonic rites and high degrees from every available source, and the then-independent rites of Memphis and Misraim were among those that came into his hands. Both rites claimed ancient Egyptian origins, and both had a vast array of degrees – 90 in the Rite of Misraim, 95 in that of Memphis. Yarker hit on the scheme of combining the two, taking the best degrees from each to form the monumental 96-degree Rite of Memphis and Misraim, also called the Antient and Primitive Rite. See high degrees; Rite of Memphis; Rite of Misraim; Yarker, John.

Yarker’s Sovereign Sanctuary of the Rite of Memphis and Misraim was founded at his hometown of Manchester in 1872 and immediately began conferring charters and patents (certificates of initiation) far and wide. Yarker also produced a magazine for the rite, The Kneph, which published occult and Masonic articles. The sheer cumbersomeness of its 96 degrees of initiation limited the appeal of the new rite, but a number of significant figures in the European occult community acquired Rite of Memphis and Misraim credentials. The most important of these was Theodor Reuss (1855–1923), who used the Rite as the basis for a quasi-Masonic magical secret society of his own, the Ordo Templi Orientis. See Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO); Reuss, Theodor.

The Rite remained essentially Yarker’s during his lifetime. Shortly after his death in 1913 his Sovereign Sanctuary became the center of a tug of war between Theosophical leaders Annie Besant and Charles Leadbeater, who wanted to annex it for Co-Masonry, and a group of Yarker loyalists backed by Aleister Crowley. The Theosophists were foiled, but the Rite passed into dormancy thereafter. It has since seen several revivals, but none of them have managed to attract more than a handful of followers. See Co-Masonry; Crowley, Aleister; Theosophical Society.


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