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Baron von Hund
The Rite of Strict Observance

Much has been written—by mason and non-mason alike—about the supposed roots of Freemasonry in the Knights Templar of the crusades. Where did this idea come from? The Chevalier Andrew Michael Ramsay (1686/06/09-1743/05/06) promoted the idea of a crusader origin but he was not the first, nor did he single out the Templars.
While the true originator of the theory may never be known, three promoters are credited: C. G. Marschall von Bieberstein, Karl Gotthelf Hund, Baron von Hund und Alten-Grotkau (1722/09/01 - 1776/10/28), and Johann Auguste von Starck (1741/10/29 - 1816/03/13). Gould also notes: "In 1743 the Masons of Lyons invented the Kadosch degree, comprising the vengeance of the Templars, and thus laid the foundation for all the Templar rites."1 Of them all, Von Hund, and his Rite of Strict Observance, had the greatest influence on the Freemasonry of his time, and on the additional degrees to the present day.
Of the Strict Observance, Gould says, "For twenty years from its birth it either lay dormant, or made only infinitesimal progress; during the next twenty years it pervaded all continental Europe to the almost entire exclusion of every other system; within the next ten it had practically ceased to exist.... The whole system was based on the fiction that at the time of the destruction of the Templars a certain number of Knights took refuge in Scotland, and there preserved the existence of the Order."2
French masonic historian Claude Antoine Thory wrote that Von Hund took his Templar degrees in the Chapitre de Clermont, established by the Chevalier de Bonneville on 24 November 1754, but this is demonstrably false. Von Hund left France for the last time in 1743 and erected his first Templer Chapter in Unwurde in 1751. 3
While Gould, and most masonic scholars, discount Hund's claims to having been initiated into the Templars circa 1742, the topic remains controversial. He may well have been the unwitting dupe of Stuart intrigue in Paris and a Jacobite scheme that collapsed after their defeat at Culloden in 1746. He certainly received his first instructions from Lord Kilmarnock so he was not the creator of this Templar Order, but its promoter and developer.
Hund's forerunner in Germany had been the shadowy C. G. Marschall von Bieberstein who founded two lodges, the Lodge of the Three Hammers in Naumberg in 1749, the other in Dresden, whence come the earliest records of the conferral of chivalric titles. Hund acknowledged Marschall's precedence and did not assume the office of Provincial Grand Master until after Marschall's death.
The Seven Years War of 1756 to 1763 slowed the progress of the order and by war's end there were no more than thirty Knights.
In 1763 one Johnson, "a consummate rogue and an unmitigated vagabond"—who was probably either named Becker or Leucht, a valet of a Mr. Johnson who had received certain Templar degrees—convinced the Clermont Chapter in Jenna that he was an emissary of the Order of the Temple, deputed to organize the Order in Germany. Hund was inclined to believe him and published his recognition of Johnson's position on 3 January 1764. The imposture continued until after the Altenberg Convent of 26 May 1764 when Hund was appointed by Johnson as the future Superior. Hund, who was neither charlatan nor fool, exposed Johnson's fraud, had him arrested on 24 February 1765, and, although never brought to public trial, confined in the Wartburg on 18 April where he died 13 May 1775.
The Convent acknowledged Hund's authority and the order grew until there were branches in Russia, Holland, France, Italy and switzerland with a membership containing many of the princes of Germany, who were prepared to swear fealty to the Order, the Unknown Superiors and the Provincial Grand Master, Von Hund.
But harmony did not prevail. A major promoter of the order at this time, Johann Wilhelm von Zinnendorff (1731/08/10-1782/06/06) resigned in 16 November 1766 in order to promote the Swedish system which later became the National Grand Lodge in Berlin, and a potent rival to the Strict Observance.
Also by this point, the members of the strict Observance became tired of waiting for instruction in the secret teachings from the Unknown Superiors. Hund was too honest to invent something but was waiting for some sign. On 17 February 1767 a new Order, Clerici Ordinis Templarii, attempted to fill the vacuum. Among others, [Jean Auguste] Starck (1741-1816), established at Wismar the Lodge of the Three Lions and created the fiction that the Knights Templar were divided into military and sacerdotal members, with the latter possessing a secret mystic learning that they had preserved. Starck claimed to be the emissary of these Clerical Templars. Hund believed him and an alliance was proposed which was formalized at the Convent at Kohlo, 2 - 24 June 1772. By 1775 some uncertainty of Hund's authority and a dissatisfaction with the Clerics' failure to reveal their mystic knowledge lead to a Convent at Brunswick, 23 May - 6 July 1775.
The convent dissolved with general dissatisfaction and a determination to probe the Templar descent, laying the ground for yet another imposter, Gugumos, who had first appeared at the Brunswick Convent, dropping hints of special knowledge. On 19 April 1776 he issued an invitation to a Convent at Wiesbaden, to be held 15 August 1776 where he gave a long and obscure speech on the practice of the occult sciences. The convent broke up on 4 September 1776 with many members paying large sums to be re-initiated and presented with new regalia and jewels while others insisting that he first demonstrate his skills. His fraud soon exposed, Gugumos fled to Holland, later dying in Munich in 1818.
Von Hund died 28 October 1776, his personal estates greatly reduced by his expenditures in promoting and supporting the Order.
Deputies of the Grand Lodge of Sweden met with deputies of the Strict Observance Directory in Hamburg on 28 April 1777 to promote the election of the Duke of Sudermania, Karl, as Deputy Grand Master of the Strict Observance, he already being Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Sweden.
A Convent was held at Wolfenbüttel, 28 July 1778 - 27 August 1778, where the act of union was confirmed and Karl elected. The Clerics withdrew from the system, while lodges under the Grand Lodge of the Three Globes retired from the Strict Observance. But some Danish lodges as well as other Chapters protested and another meeting was held in Brunswick, 24 August to 9 December 1779, where the Act of Union was replaced by a pact of amity and reciprocity.
The Unknown Superiors had still failed to reveal themselves, rosicrucian groups were seducing their members and the Duke of Sudermania resigned 20 April 1780. A Convent at Wilhelmsbad, 16 July 1782 - 1 September 1783, resolved and declared that the freemasons were not the successors of the Templars, and that the playing at Knights Templars was to be discontinued. A general reworking of the ritual resulted and, in effect, the Strict Observance ceased to exist.

1.Robert Freke Gould, History of Freemasonry,vol v, p. 141. Also see Claude Antoine Thory (1759/05/26 - 1827/10/?), Acta Latomorum, ou Chronologie de l'Histoire de la Franche-Maçonnerie française et étrangère ... ouvrage orné de figures. Paris, 1815. vol. i, p. 52.
2.Gould, vol v, p. 99. Also see pp. 100-113.
3.Gould, vol. v. p. 94. Cf. Georg Burckhardt Franz Kloss (1788-1854/02/10), Geschichte der Freimaurerai in Frankreich, : aus ächten Urkunden dargestellt. (1725-1830) Darmstadt : G. Jonghaus, 1852. vol. i, p. 21.


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