The Rosicrucians

IN 1614, A PAMPHLET called Fama Fraternitatis Rosae Crucis, was published. It described a secret brotherly order of non-Catholic Christians who were striving for knowledge of alchemy and magic. This group, known as the ‘Rosicrucian Brotherhood’, was said to be founded in 1408 by a former monk and nobleman Christian Rosenkreuz. Rosenkreuz was thought to have travelled through Damascus, Jerusalem and Fez, and had acquired knowledge of magical Arabian
learnings and Egyptian spiritualism. The Rosicrucian movement he inspired was believed capable of making gold, and was devoted to the secret study of nature’s mystical properties. They were said to be concerned with encouraging the enlightenment of Mankind, and waiting for the day when it would be free of the shackles of the organised Church. Entry into the order was said to be a secret process, and only special, chosen individuals would be admitted. The brotherhood’s background and direction were confirmed in 1615 with the publication of the Confessio Fraternitatis, or ‘Confession of the Brotherhood’, and the ‘Third Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreuz’. These writings created much interest in the movement, and divisions of the order were instigated throughout Europe. It is generally felt that the Rosicrucians may have been one of the precursors to the Freemason fraternity, but how much reality is behind their mythical heritage?

Some sources suggest there may have been some groups similar to the Rosicrucians dating from around the twelfth century AD in Europe and Asia. However, the brotherhood detailed in the texts of the 1610s was purely the fictional work of John Valentin Andrea, a Lutherian philosopher and theologian. Andrea admitted writing the pamphlets as a satire of the prevalent deep interest in mysticism and occultism. By combining contemporary muses of knighthood, far-off lands and romantic notions, it is claimed Andrea was trying to promote anti-Papal, Protestant ideas. Certainly, he denounced the whole issue of Rosicrucians as mere folly for the rest of his life, even though the order’s sacred symbol of a rose in the centre of a cross was actually taken from Andrea’s own family shield. But Andrea’s work began something he never intended, and the original satirical works ended up being viewed seriously. In the late seventeenth century, new Rosicrucian groups claiming direct descent from those mentioned in Andrea’s writings sprang up across Europe. In the mid eighteenth century Rosicrucianism apparently helped to establish the Freemasonry movement. It is said that Saint-Germain the Deathless was instrumental in both organisations and certainly his claimed abilities in alchemy, medicine and transmutation would have been of immense interest to the early followers. The Scottish Masonic movement is believed to have retained many Rosicrucian influences, and in 1866 centres of Masonic Rosicrucianism were created throughout Britain and America.

These Rosicrucian movements have continued to this day largely as a select branch of the Freemason community, and around 1910 Harvey Spencer Lewis founded the ‘Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis’, or AMORC, in California. Now generally accepted as being the main world-wide division of the movement, it has followers and lodgers across the world. The AMORC headquarters in San José is believed to be a massive complex that houses a museum, temple, auditorium, planetarium, art gallery and library. Most of their practices are held in the utmost secrecy, and entry into the Order is said to be limited to select, highachieving freemasons. Many conspiracy theorists claim that other Rosicrucian orders try to entice people into their groups through suggestive advertising and false claims. The stated aim of AMORC is to encourage the spiritual liberation of people so that individuals can find their own free versions of God. The original idea of reducing the need for organised, church-based religion still persists. Rosicrucian followers are also believed to strive for knowledge in the secrets of nature; in the symbolic properties of art, literature and ancient history and in developing the psychic abilities of Mankind. Critics of the movement claim they promote anti-Christian doctrines. As with many secret organisations, the imaginations of the curious can create theories far more outlandish than the truth. And in this area Rosicrucians are unique, as it seems it was the fiction-driven creative mind of John Andrea that actually instigated the movement in the first place.

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