A writer in the Freemasons Quarterly Review (1844, page 21), says that there was a Masonic meeting in Constantinople, at which some Turks were initiated, but that the government prohibited the w future meetings. This must have been an irregular Lodge. Many and various authorities have founded Lodges in Turkey. Mention of Lodges at Smyrna and Aleppo occurred in a London newspaper as early as 1738. Oriental Lodge under the Grand Lodge of England has been active since 1856 at Constantinople.
A Grand Lodge of Turkey formed by Ionic, Anatolia, and Benzenzia Lodges was declared illegal in 1859 by the Grand Lodge of England.
A District Grand Lodge was established in 1861 with Sir Henry Bulwer, British Ambassador, as District Grand Master. A Supreme Council was opened in 1869 and a Grand Orient of Turkey in 1908.
Since 1894 the Grand Lodge of Hamburg has had a Lodge working in German, Die Leuchte am goldenen Horn, meaning Liszt at the Golden Horn, these last two words referring to the crescent-shaped strait, the Bosporus, on which Constantinople is situated. The Grand Orient of Italy has three Lodges, the Grand Orient of France one, all at Constantinople.
The Grand Orient of France has two Lodges at Smyrna, Homere from 1909 and Meles from 1913; Barkai from 1905 at Jaffa, and Moriah Lodge at Jerusalem since 1913. The Grand Orient has also had a Lodge at Beyrouth in Syria, Le Liban from 1858; and at Zahle, also in Syria, Etoile du Liban, meaning in French Star of the Laban, since 1913. The Grand Orient of Italy has Lodges at Adana and Angora, two at Smyrna, one at Syrian Tripoli, and another at Rodi.
In these Lodges many native Mohammedans have been initiated. The Turks, however, have always had secret societies of their own, which has led some writers to suppose, erroneously, that Freemasonry existed long before the date of its actual introduction. Thus, the Begtaschi form a secret society in Turkey, numbering many thousands of Mussulmans in its ranks, and none but a true Moslem can be admitted to the Brotherhood. It is a religious Order, and was founded in the year 1328 by the Hadji Begtaseh, a famous dervish, from whom it derives its name. The Begtaschi have certain signs and passwords by which they are enabled to recognize the "true Brethren," and by which they are protected from vagabond impostors.
A writer in Notes and Queries says, in allusion to this Society, that "One day, during the summer of 1855, an English merchant captain, while walking through the streets of a Turkish quarter of Constantinople, encountered a Turk, who made use of various signs of Freemasonry, some of which, the captain being a Mason, he understood and others he did not." It is, however, probable in this instances considering the date, that the Turk was really a Freemason, and possessed some higher Degrees, which had not been attained by the English captain. There is also another equally celebrated Order in Turkey, the Melewi, who have secret modes of recognition.
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