Order of the Asiatic Brethren
The Order of the Asiatic Brethren were also know as the Die Ritter des Lichts (Knights of the Light) AKA Order of Knights and Brothers of the Light ; Die Brueder St. Johannes des Evangelisten aus Asien in Europa (the Asiatic Brethren of St. John the Evangelist in Europe) banned 1785
An Advanced group of Freemasonry specialty Lodges which integrated Qabalistic teachings as well as true Masonic Brotherhood without regard to Religion. While one of the basic tenants of Freemasonry is the Brotherhood of Man under the All-Seeing Eye of God, " Let a man’s religion or mode of worship be what it may, he is not excluded from the Order, provided he believe in the glorious Architect of heaven and earth, and practice the sacred duties of morality. Freemasons unite with the virtuous of every persuasion in the firm and pleasing bond of fraternal love"
In practice, social divisions of Race, Creed, Nation and Religion have all been barriers to be overcome, and in every age new barriers are identified and torn down that Masons may meet On The Level, as Equals.
The Order of the Asiatic Brethren was specifically set up as German conservatism waned and the American Revolution set the stage for a new world order where all would be equal in opportunity, regardless of the accident of Birth. At the same time, Moses Mendelssohn was reforming the tribal attitudes of the Jews of Europe and a more "European" cultured Jew was appearing in the cities. This social upheaval was influenced by the French Revolution, it's Reign of Terror, Neopoleon's invasion of Germany, the establishment of Masonic Lodges under the Grand Orient of France Grand Lodge.
While the (all too brief) lesson of Religious Tolerance in Germany is of social significance, it's influence on Magickal thought in Europe immense. Under the organizational guidance of Hans Heinrich von Ecker und von Eckihoffem such Qabalistic scholars as Baron Thomas von Schoenfeld (born a Jew, Moses Dobruška later to become a Monk, Junius Frey), Ephraim Joseph Hirschfeld and his technically better brother Pascal translated many Qabalistic texts by hand, and assisted von Eker with creating advanced Masonic Rites based on those teachings. These were shared with Esoteric Freemasons in France, Russia and England. Carried by Traveling Men such as Count Apponyi and Johann Friedrich Falk to Magicians in both England ( Frederick Hockley, Kenneth R. H. Mackenzie) and the Continent Eliphas Levi and through him to Papus. When the American Magician P. B. Randolph brings it to the New World in the mid 1800's it has already been mixed with the Magic of Cornelius Agrippa and Francis Barrett into an Occult Philosophy recognizable today.
The Order of the Asiatic Brethren was the Masonic side of the academically minded Magical Order of the Golden and Rosy Cross (Orden des Gold- und Rosenkreutz)in Germany. It's influence on the Fraternitas Rosae Crucis AKA the Fraternity of the Rosy Cross in it's various disguises in France seems recognizable in it's degree system and mix of teachings. Both seem likely influences on the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and all it's descendants. That the French and English Orders that follow are more focused on Qabalah and Solomanic (Ceremonial) Magick than practical alchemy indicates their primary source was the Asiatic Brethren than the Golden and Rosy Cross itself, where practical, medicinal results in laboratory experiments and patenting the results was the focus.
It organized Melchisedeck lodges to perform the 1st 3 degrees of Freemasonry for non Christians so they could join this advanced Freemason society. In addition to Alchemy, these Qabalists studied instructions how to rule spirits, by breaking the seven seals. Although mixing Christian and Jewish symbolism, 3rd degree initiates were called “True Rosicrucians.”
It was structured with two Informational degrees, the Seekers received lectures, then 2nd degree “Sufferers” did physical experiments in Alchemy. The First Chief Degree of “Knights and Brother-Initiates from Asia in Europe" has many Masonic elements and an oath of Secrecy. The Second Chief Degree, Wise Masters taught qabalistic secrets. The Third, or Chief Degree was called the Royal Priests, or True Rosicrucians, or the Degree of Melchisedeck. Hints indicate it may have been instructions on the Holy Names of God and their uses in both Meditation and Magick. The highest degree, the Sanhedrim, a term taken from Rabbinical literature, ran the Order.
Duke Charles introduced it into Sweden in the 1780s, followed up by C A Boehman in the 1790s, who, after fighting with both the Golden and Rosy Cross (Orden des Gold- und Rosenkreutz) in Germany and Adam Weishaupt's Order of Illuminati in Bavaria, formed a masonic-magical society called DELU in Denmark with Prince Carl of Hessen.
Among it's practitioners was Johann Caspar Lavater, author of Aphorisms of Man, 1788, a hero of William Blake; Sir Ralph Hamilton; Carl Boheman;
Resources: a big tip of the hat to the Wethersfield and Southern CT State College Libraries for assisting in finding Jews and Freemasons in Europe 1723-1939 by Jacob Katz, 1970; http://www.hermetics.org/rose+cross.html; http://rosae-crucis.net/eng/currents/; http://www.mindspring.com/~hellfire/bishop/trad.htm ;