An order or organization devoted to the study and promulgation of an esoteric mystical gnosis. In 1610 a German named Hasselmeyer claimed to have seen a manuscript entitled The Story of the Brotherhood of the Meritorious Order of the Rosy Cross. This was published in 1614 and described how Christian Rosenkreutz two centuries earlier had traveled in Spain, Egypt and the near East, gathering information about a secret wisdom. He founded a brotherhood of four which was later increased to eight dedicated to the improvement of mankind, and the discovery of the one true philosophy. Because they were sworn to secrecy, little reliable information is available about their activities, but it appears that they engaged in work of helping and healing the needy. It is said that they had their own private language and magical alphabet. It seems that their thinking was much influenced by alchemy.
As is the case with many mystical organizations, the founder’s life is shrouded in mystery and it is difficult to disentangle fact from myth. Rosenkreutz was born in the year 1378 and it was claimed that he lived for 106 years. According to legend his tomb was hidden for 120 years; some fraternity members consider that Rosencreutz is a mythical figure or symbolical character.
The symbol of Rosicrucianism combines the Cross and the Rose, from which the Brotherhood takes its name. A single Rose is a symbol of completion, of consummate achievement and protection, the inclusion of four roses may indicate that perfection of the lower Quaternary (physical, etheric, emotional, lower mental) is sought. No exact match for the Cross is known, but the nearest seems to be the Teutonic Cross and this may reflect the alchemical association during the early years of the movement. In its exact form the Teutonic Cross is said to represent “center-seeking.” The superimposed complex of triangles may again have an alchemical significance.
Until the twentieth century the Rosicrucian Brotherhood preserved fairly effective secrecy concerning their beliefs and procedures; therefore it is difficult to establish with any decree of certainty how authentic are the claims of various commentators. Possibly it was believed that Truth is the Great Architect of the Universe and that there are three principles which are Salt, Sulfur and Mercury, all to be found in primal matter; figures included in their writings and probably their rituals include the interlaced Equilateral Triangles and the Blazing Star. Possibly the latter represented the subtle Quintessence which was thought to penetrate all things.
In modern times Rosicrucian organizations of various sorts have appeared in many countries. Some of these are quite aggressively active using modern promotional techniques to attract membership; some are very secret in their behavior, probably endeavoring to perpetuate the principles laid down in the 17th century. The more open ones seem to offer a synthesis of Jewish Kabalism, Alchemy, Christian Gnosticism and Egyptian Hermeticism.
It has been suggested that Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry have much in common and there is a degree in Masonry known as the Rose Croix degree.
Helena P. Blavatsky wrote:
- As the primitive Christian religion divided, in course of time, into numerous sects, so the science of Occultism gave birth to a variety of doctrines and various brotherhoods. So the Egyptian Ophites became the Christian Gnostics, shooting forth the Basilideans of the second century, and the original Rosicrucians created subsequently the Paracelsists, or Fire-philosophers, the European Alchemists, and other physical branches over their sect (See Hargrave Jennings’ The Rosicrucians). To call indifferently every Cabalist a Rosicrucian, is to commit the same error as if we were to call every Christian a Baptist on the ground that the latter are also Christians.
- The Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross was not founded until the middle of the thirteenth century, and notwithstanding the assertions of the learned Mosheim, it derives its name, neither from the Latin word Ros (dew), nor from a Cross, the symbol of Lux. The origin of the Brotherhood can be ascertained by any earnest, genuine student of Occultism, who happens to travel in Asia Minor, if he chooses to fall in with some of the Brotherhood, and if he is willing to devote himself to the head-tiring work of deciphering a Rosicrucian manuscript — the hardest thing in the world, for it is carefully preserved in the archives of the very Lodge which was founded by the first Cabalist of that name, but which now goes by another name. The founder of it, a German Reuter [Knight], by the name of Rosencranz, was a man who, after acquiring a very suspicious reputation through the practice of the Black Art, in his native place, reformed in consequence of a vision. Giving up his evil practices, he made a solemn vow, and went on foot to Palestine. . . (CW I:105-6).
- There were two very prominent Rosicrucian organizations active in the 20th century. The Rosicrucian Fellowship was formed in Oceanside, California, in 1912 by Max Heindel. Heindel was at one time a member of the Theosophical Society which he joined in 1907 at Los Angeles. It is not surprising therefore that, according to his book, The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception, much of his teaching coincided with classical theosophy.
- H. Spencer Lewis, in the early 20th century, went to France with the purpose of seeking the leaders of the Rosicrucian movement there. He claims that under their authority he inaugurated, in 1915, the Ancient Mystical Order of the Rosae Crucis, often abbreviated to A.M.O.R.C., which has grown to become a large organization, particularly in the United States.
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