Napoleon’s Sorcerers: The Sophisians

Cover: Napoleon’s Sorcerers: The Sophisians
Darius A. Spieth

October 2007 • ISBN 978-1611493030 • $86.00

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During Napoleon’s rule, Freemasonic circles in France invented rituals that allegedly first took place in the temple structures of ancient Egypt. This book looks at the cultural environment and intellectual background of the one such pseudo-Egyptian secret society, the Sacred Order of the Sophisians. Founded in Paris in 1801, the Sophisian Order initially catered to veteran military leaders, Egyptologists, scientists, writers, and artists who had joined Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign (1798-1801). Soon the order branched out to attract new adepts from the world of the Parisian stage. This study is based on previously unpublished archival materials relating to the Sophisians, including the group’s so-called Golden Book at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. A richly illuminated manuscript envisioned by Marie-Nicolas Ponce-Camus, a student of Jacques-Louis David, the Golden Book features underground mazes, cave settings, pyramids, and temple structures as theatrical settings to re-create Ancient Egyptian initiation practices. The book includes seventeen color illustrations and forty-nine black-and-white illustrations.

About the Author
Darius A. Spieth is Assistant Professor of Art History at Louisiana State University.