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Rosicrucianism

Many writers have sought to discover a close connection between the Rosicrucians and the Freemasons, and some, indeed, have advanced the theory that the latter are only the successors of the former. Whether this opinion be correct or not, there are sufficient coincidences of character between the two to render the history of Rosicrucianism highly interesting to the Masonic student.

There appeared at Cassel, in the year 1614, a work bearing the title of Allgemeine und General-Reformation der Hansen beiten Welt. Benebst der Fama Fraternitatis des Lblichen Ordens des Rosencreuzes an alle Gelehrte und Hupter Europa geschrieben, Universal and General Reformation of the Whole Wide World, together with the Noted Fraternity of the Praiseworthy Order of the Rosy Cross, inscribed to all the Learned and Rulers of Europe.

A second edition appeared in 1615, and several subsequent ones; and in 1652 it was introduced to the English public in a translation by the celebrated adept, Thomas Vaughan, under the title of Fame and Confession of Rosie-Cross. This work has been attributed, although not without question, to the philosopher and theologian, John Valentine Andrea, who is reported, on the authority of the preacher, M. C. Hirschen, to have confessed that he, with thirty others in Wurtemberg, had sent forth the Famn Fraternitatis; that under this veil they might discover who were the true lovers of wisdom, and induce them to come forward.

In this work Andrea gives an account of the life and adventures of Christian Rosenkreuz, whom he makes the founder of the pretended Society of Rosicrucians.

According to Andrea's tale, Rosenkreuz was of good birth, but, being poor, was compelled to enter a monastery at a very early period of his life. At the age of one hundred years, he started with one of the monks on a pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulcher. On their arrival at the island of Cyprus, the monk was taken sick and died, but Rosenkreuz proceeded on his journey. At Damaseus he remained for three years, devoting himself to the study of the occult sciences, taught by the sages of that eity. He then sailed for Egypt, where he continued his studies; and, having traversed the Mediterranean, he at length arrived at Fez, in Morocco, as he had been directed by his masters of Damaseus. He passed two years in acquiring further information from the philosophers of Africa, and then crossed over into Spain. There, however, he met with an unfavorable reception, and then determined to return to Germany, and give to his own countrymen the benefit of his studies and researches, and to establish there a society for the cultivation of the sciences which he had acquired during his travels.

Accordingly, he selected three of the monks of the old convent in which he was educated. To them he imparted his knowledge, under a solemn vow of secrecy. He imposed on them the duty of committing his instructions to writing, and forming a magic vocabulary for the benefit of future students. They were also taught the science of medicine, and prescribed gratuitously for all the sick who applied to them. But the number of their patients soon materially interfering with their other labors, and the new edifice, the House of the Holy Spirit, being now finished, Father Christian, as he was called, resolved to enlarge his society by the initiation of four new members. The eight Brethren being now thoroughly instructed in the mysteries, they agreed to separate -- two to remain with Father Christian, and the others to travel, but to return at the end of each year, and mutually to communicate the results of their experience.

The two who had remained at home were then relieved by two of the others, and they again separated for another year.

The Society thus formed was governed by a code of laws, by which they agreed that they would devote themselves to no occupation except that of physic, which they must practise without pecuniary reward; that they would not distinguish themselves from the rest of the world by any peculiar style of costume; that each one should annually present himself at the House of the Holy Spirit, or send an excuse for his absence; that each one should, during his life, appoint somebody to succeed him at his death; that the letters R. C. were to be their title and watchword; and that the Brotherhood should be kept a secret for one hundred years.

At the age of one hundred and six years Father Christian Rosenkreuz died, and was buried by the two Brethren who had remained with him; but the place of his burial remained a seeret to all of the rest--the two carrying the mystery with them to the grave.

The Society, however, continued, notwithstanding the death of the founder, to exist, but unknown to the world, always consisting of eight members. There was a tradition among them, that at the end of one hundred and twenty years the grave of Father Rosenkreuz was to be discovered, and the Brotherhood no longer remain a secret.

About that time the Brethren began to make some alterations in their building, and attempted to remove to a more fitting situation the memorial table on which was inscribed the names of those who had been members of the Fraternity.

The plate was of brass, and was affixed to the wall by a nail driven through its center; but so firmly was it attached, that in tearing it away, a portion of the plaster came off and exposed a secret door. Upon removing the incrustation on the door, there appeared written in large letters the Latin words Post cxx Annos Patebo-- after one hundred and twenty years I will open.

Returning the next morning to renew their researches, they opened the door and discovered a heptagonal vault, each of its seven sides being five feet wide, and in height eight feet. The light was received from an artificial sun in the roof, and in the middle of the floor there stood, instead of a tomb, a circular altar, on which was an inscription, importing that this apartment, as a compendium of the univcrse, had been erected by Christian Rosenkreuz. Other Latin inscriptions about the apartment--such as Jesus mihi omnta; Legis jugum; Libertas Evangelii: meaning Jesuz is my all; the yoke of the law; the liberty of the Gospel--indicated the Christian character of the builder. In each of the sides was a door opening into a closet, and in these closets they found many rare and valuable articles, such as the life of the founder, the vocabularly of Paracelsus, and the secrets of the Order, together with bells, mirrors, burning lamps, and other curious articles. On removing the altar and a brass plate beneath it, they came upon the body of Rosenkreuz in a perfect state of preservation.

Such is the sketch of the history of the Rosierucians given by Andrea in his Fama Fraternitatis. Doctor Mackey says it is evidently a romance, and scholars generally assent to the theory advanced by Nicolai, that Andrea, who, at the time of the appearance of his book, was a young man full of excitement, seeing the defects of the sciences, the theology, and the manners of his time, sought to purify them; and, to accomplish this design, imagined the union into one Body of all those who, like himself, were the admirers of true virtues. In other words, that Andrea wrote this account of the rise and progress of Rosicrucianism for the purpose of advancing, by a poetical fiction, his peculiar views of morals and religion.

But the fiction was readily accepted as a truth by most people, and the invisible Society of Rosenkreuz was sought for with avidity by many who wished to unite with it. The sensation produced in Germany by the appearance of Andrea's book was great; letters poured in on all sides from those who desired to become members of the Order, and who, as proofs of their qualifications, presented their claims to skill in Alchemy and Cabalism. No answers, of course, having been received to these petitions for initiation, most of the applicants were discouraged and retired; but some were bold, became impostors, and proclaimed that they had been admitted into the society, and exercised their fraud upon those who were credulous enough to believe them. There are records that some of these charlatans, who extorted money from their dupes, were punished for their offense by the magistrates of Nuremberg, Augsburg, and some other German cities.

There was, too, in Holland, in the year 1722, a Society of Alchemists, who called themselves Rosicrucians, and who claimed that Christian Rosenkreuz was their founder, and that they had affiliated societies in many of the German cities But Doctor Mackey holds that it is not to be doubted that this was a selfcreated society, and that it had nothing in common, except the name, with the imaginary brotherhood invented by Andrea. Des Cartes, indeed, says that he sought in vain for a Rosicrucian Lodge in Germany.

But although the Brotherhood of Rosenkreuz, as described by Andrea in his Fama Fraternitatis, his Chemical Nuptials, and other works, may never have had a real tangible existence as an organized society, the opinions advanced by Andrea, took root, and gave rise to the philosophic sect of the Rosierueians, many of whom were to be found, during the seventeenth century, in Germany, in France, and in England. Among these were such men as Michael Maier, Richard Fludd, and Elias Ashmole. Nicolai even thinks that he has found some evidence that the Fama Fraternitatis suggested to Lord Bacon the notion of his Instauratio Magna. But, as Vaughan says (Hours unity the Mystics ii, page 104), the name Rosicrucian became by degrees a generic term, em. bracing every species of doubt, pretension, areana elixirs, the philosophers' stone, theurgie ritual, symbols, or initiations.

Higgins, Sloane, Vaughan, as well as several other writers have asserted that Freemasonry sprang out of Rosierueianism. But this is a great error. Between the two there is no similarity of origin, of design, or of organization. The symbolism of Rosicrucianism is derived from a Hermetic Philosophy; that of Freemasonry from an Operative Art. The latter had its cradle in the Stone-Masons of Strasburg and the Masters of Como long before the former had its birth in the inventive brain of John Valentine Andrea.

It is true, that about the middle of the eighteenth century, a period fertile in the invention of advanced Degrees, a Masonic Rite was established which assumed the name of Rose Croix Freemasonry, and adopted the symbol of the Rose and Cross. But this was a coincidence, and not a consequence. There was nothing in common between them and the Rosierucians, except the name, the symbol, and the Christian character. Doubtless the symbol was suggested to the Masonic Order from the use of it by the philosophic sect; but the Freemasons modified the interpretation, and the symbol, of course, gave rise to the name. But here the connection ends. A Rose Croix Freemason and a Rosicrucian are two entirely different persons.

The Rosicrucians had a large number of symbols, some of which were in common with those of the Freemasons, and some were peculiar to themselves. The principal of these were the globe, the circle, the compasses, the square--both the working-tool and the geometrical figure, the triangle, the level, and the plummet. These are, ho vever, interpreted, not like the Masonie, as symbols of the moral virtues, but of the properties of the philosopher's stone. Thus, the twenty-first emblem of Michael Maier's Atlanta Fugiens gives the following collection of the most important symbols: A Philosopher is measuring with a pair of compasses a circle which surmounts a triangle. The triangle encloses a square, within which is another circle, and inside of the circle a nude man and woman, representing, it may be supposed, the first step of the experiment. Over all is this epigraph: Fac en mare et femina circulum, inde quadrangulum, hinc triangulum, Sac circulum et habebis lapidem Philosophorum. That is, Make of man and woman a circle; thence a square; thence a triangle; form a circle, and you will hatse the Philosopher's Stone.

But it must be remembered that Hitchcock, and some other recent writers, have very satisfactorily proved that the labors of the real Hermetic philosophers outside of the charlatans, were rather of a spiritual than a material character; and that their "great work" symbolized not the acquisition of inexhaustible wealth and the infinite prolongation of life, but the regeneration of man and the immortality of the soul.

As to the etymology of the word Rosicrucian, several derivations have been given. Peter Gassendi (Examination of Philosophy of Fludd, section 15), first, and then Mosheim (Ecclesiastical History iv, i), deduce it from the two words ros, deto, and crux, a cross, and thus define it: Dew, according to the Alchemists, was the most powerful of all substances to dissolve gold; and the cross, in the language of the same philosophers, was identical with light, or LVX, because the figure of a cross exhibits the three letters of that word.

But the word lux was referred to the seed or menstruum of the Red Dragon, which was that crude and material light which, being properly concocted and digested, produces gold. Hence, says Mosheim, a Rosicrucian is a philosopher, who by means of dew seeks for light, that is, for the substance of the philosopher's stone. But notwithstanding the high authority for this etymology, Doctor Mackey held it to be untenable, and altogether at variance with the history of the origin of the Order, as will be presently seen.

Another and more reasonable derivation is from rose and cross. This was undoubtedly in accordance with the notions of Andrea, who was the founder of the Order, and gave it its name, for in his writings he constantly calls it the Fraternitas Roseae Crucis, or the fraternity of the Rosy Cross. If the idea of dew had been in the mind of Andrea in giving a name to the society, he would have called it the Fraternity of the Dewy Cross, not that of the Rosy Cross. Fraternitas Roscidae Crucis, not Roseae Crucis. This ought to settle the question.

The man who invents a thing has the best right to give it a name. The origin and interpretation of the symbol have been variously given. Some have supposed that it was derived from the Christian symbolism of the rose and the cross. This is the interpretation that has been assumed by the Rose Croix Order of the Masonic system; but it does not thence follow that the same interpretation was adopted by the Rosicrucians. Others say that the rose meant the generative principle of nature, a symbolism borrowed from the Pagan mythologers, and not likely to have been appropriated by Andrea. Others, again, contend that he derived the symbol from his own arms, which were a Saint Andrew's cross between four roses, and that he alluded to Luther's well-known lines:

Des Christen Herz auf Rosen geht Whenn's mitten untertn Kreutze steht.

The heart of the Christian goes upon roses when it stands close beneath the cross. But whatever may have been the effect of Luther's lines in begetting an idea, the suggestion of Andrea's arms must be rejected. The symbol of the Rosicrucians was a single rose upon a passion cross, very different from four roses surrounding a Saint Andrew's cross.

Another derivation may be suggested, namely: That, the rose being a symbol of secrecy, and the cross of light, the rose and cross were intended to symbolize the secret of the true light, or the true knowledge, which the Rosicrucian Brotherhood were to give to the world at the end of the hundred years of their silence, and for which purpose of moral and religious reform Andrea wrote his books and sought to establish his sect. But the whole subject of Rosicrucian etymology is involved in confusion. The Rosicrucian Society, instituted in the fourteenth century, was an extraordinary Brotherhood, exciting curiosity and commanding attention and scrutiny. The members delved in abstruse studies; many became Anchorites, and were engrossed in mystic philosophy and theosophy. This strange Fraternity, asserted by some authorities to have been instituted by Roger Bacon near the close of the thirteenth century, filled the world with renown as to their incomprehensible doctrines and presumed abilities. They claimed to be the exponents of the true Cabala, as embracing theosophy as well as the science of numbers. They were said to delve in strange things and deep mysteries; to be enwrapped in the occult sciences, sometimes vulgarly termed the Black Art; and in the secrets of magic and sorcery, which arc looked upon by the critical eyes of the world as tending to the supernatural, and a class of studies to be avoided.

These mystics, for whom great philanthropy is claimed, and not without reason, are heard of as early as the commencement of the fourteenth century, in the person of Raymond Lully, the renowned scholars and metaphysical chemist, who proved to be an adept in the doctrines taught at the German seat of Hermetic learning in 1302, and who died in 1315 Fidelity and secrecy were the first care of the Brotherhood. They claimed a kinship to the ancient philosophies of Egypt, the Chaldeans, the Magi of Persia, and even the Gymnosophist of India.

They were unobtrusive and retiring in the extreme. They were learned in the principles and sciences of chemistry, hermeticism, magnetism, astrology, astronomy, and theosophy, by which they obtained great powers through their discoveries, and aimed at the universal solvent--the Philosopher's Stone--thereby striving to acquire the power of transmuting baser metals into silver and gold, and of indefinitely prolonging human life. As a Fraternity they were distinct from the Cabalists, Illuminati, and Carbonari, and in this relation they have been largely and unpleasantly misrepresented. Ignorance and prejudice on the part of the learned as to the real purposes of the Rosicrucians, and as to the beneficence of that Fraternity, has wrought them great injustice.

Science is infinitely indebted to this Order. The renowned reviver of Oriental literature, John Reuchlin, who died in 1522; the famous philosopher and classic Scholar, John Pieus di Mirandola, who died in 1494; the celebrated divine and distinguished philosopher, Cornelius Henry Agrippa, who died in 1535; the remarkable chemist and physician, John Baptist Von Helmont, who died in lfi44; and the famous physician and philosopher, Robert Fludd, who died in 1637, all attest the power and unquestioned prominence of the famous Brotherhood. It is not the part of wisdom to disdain the Astrological and Hermetic Association of Elias Ashmole, author of the Way to Bliss.

All Europe was permeated by this secret organization, and the renown of the Brotherhood was pre-eminent about the year 1615 pressers Fama Fraternitatis, the curious work Secretioris Philosophiae Consideratis, and Cum Confessione Fraternitatis, by P. A. Gabella, with Fludd's Apologia, the Chemische Hochzeit of Christian Rosenkreuz, by Valentine Andrea; and the endless number of volumes, such as the Fama Ramissa, establish the high rank in which the Brotherhood was held. Its curious, unique, and attractive Rosaic Doctrines interested the masses of scholars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. With the Rosicrucians worldly grandeur faded before intellectual elevation. They were simple in their attire, and passed individually through the world unnoticed and unremarked, save by deeds of benevolence and humanity. The Modern Society of Rosicrucians was given its present definite form by Robert Wentworth Little of England, in 1866; it is founded upon the remains or the embers of an old German association which had come under his observation during some of his researches. Brother Little Anglicized it, giving it more perfect system.

The purpose of Robert Wentworth Little was to create a literary organization, having in view a base for the collection and deposit of archeological and historical subjects pertaining to Freemasonry, secret societies in general, and interesting provincial matter; to inspire a greater disposition to obtain historical truth and to displace error; to bring to light much in relation to a certain class of scientists and scholars, and the results of their life-labors, that were gradually dying away in the memories of men.

To accomplish this end he called about him some of his most prominent English and Scottish Masonic friends inclined to literary pursuits, and they awarded their approval and hearty co- operation. The aims, as officially declared, of the Rosicrucian Society of England and America are to afford mutual aid and encouragement in working out the great problems of life, and in searching out the secrets of nature; to facilitate the study of the system of philosophy founded upon the Cabalah, and the doctrines of Hermes Trismegistus, which was inculcated by the original Fratres Rosae-Crucis of Germany; and to investigate the meaning of symbolism of all that now remains of the wisdom, art, and literature of the ancient world.

The Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia was founded in England in 1865 by Frater Robert Wentworth Little, who was Secretary of the Province of Middlesex, and Secretary of the Royal Masonic Institution for Girls, an eminent Freemason with much literary talent, and Kenneth R. H. Mackenzie, who had received Rosicrucian initiation in Austria and had also secured authority there to form an English Rosicrucian Society. Frater Little had rescued some Rituals and other manuscripts from the storerooms of Freemasons Hall and, with these as a basis, he called together some of his most prominent English and Scottish Masonic friends who were inclined to literary pursuit.

The Metropolitan College was established by these Brethren in 1866. R. W. Little was chosen Supreme Magus, William James Hughan the Masonic Historian, and W. H. Hubbard as Substitute Magi.16 Herald The Right Honorable Lord Kenlis became Honor able President in England and Dr. William Robert Woodman the Secretary-General. At about the same time the Societas Rosicruciana in Scotia was founded though a previous organization was in existence before 1867.

The College of Manchester, Liverpool, and the Northern Counties was formed in 1871, and in 1877 the Order was planted in the Dominion of Canada. Dominican College, No. 1, was instituted on March 16, 1878. In 1877 the Yorkshire College was formed but was re-formed as the Yorlc College in 1879 under Thomas Bowman Whytehead as Chief Adept. Frater R. W. Little died in 1878 and Dr. William Robert Woodman became Supreme Magus. During his rule the Province of Northumbria and College of Neweastle were consecrated with Frater Charles Fendelow as Chief Adept,. At this time also the Demiurgus College at Wielbourne R Australia, was formed. The Continental Rosicrucian Lodges were reformed under a revised Constitution in 1890; the Woodman College, Bradford, consecrated in 1908; Robert Fludd College, Bath, 1909; Hallamshire College, Sheffield, 1910; Laneashire College, 1910; Birmingham College, 19l5, and others in South America, India, and other British Colonies.

A group of American Brethren in July, 1878, received admission to the York College in England, and later obtained a Warrant from the Society in Scotland. An organization was effected in the United States and was officially recognized by the Supreme Magus in Anglia, June 1880. Four Colleges were consecrated, Philadelphia, under the then Supreme Magus, Charles E. Meyer; New York, under Albert G. Goodall; Massachusetts, under Alfred F. Chapman, and Baltimore, under Thomas J. Shryoek. In 1887 Charles E. Meyer was Supreme Magus; Charles Roome and A. F. Chapman, Substitute Magi, and Charles T. McClenaehan, Secretary General. The Colleges, in 1912, for example, were six, each one dominating a State and located at Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Baltimore, Burlington in Vermont, and Duluth, Minnesota. Among pioneer officers in the United States were Thomas J. Shryoek, Baltimore, Supreme Magus; Eugene A. Holton, Boston, Senior Substitute Magus; Trevanion W. Hugo, Duluth, Junior Substitute Magus; Joseph W. Work, Boston, Treasurer General, and Benjamin W. Rowell, Boston, Secretary General. Frater Holton later became the Supreme Magus.

The governing Body is the High Couneil comprising the following officers, the Supreme Magus being elected for life:

1. Supreme Magus, Master General 2. Senior Substitute Magus 3. Junior Substitute Magus 4. Treasurer General 5. Secretary General 6. Primus Ancient 7. Secondus Ancient 8. Tertius Ancient 9. Quartus Ancient 10. Quintus Ancient 11. Sextus Ancient 12. Septus Ancient 13. Precentor 14. Conductor of Novices 15. Torch Bearer 17. Guardian of Caverns 18. Medallist

The officers of a College are in title, and take rank as follows: 1. Chief Adept 2. Celebrant 3. Suffragan 4. Treasurer 5. Secretary 6. Primus Ancient 7. Secondus Ancient 8. Tertius Ancient 9. Quartus Ancient 10. Conductor of Novices 11. Organist 12. First Herald 13. Second Herald 14. Torch Bearer 15. Guardian of Caverns 16. Medallist.17. Acolyte

The several grades are arranged in three sets, the First Order being: First Grade............................Zelator Second Grade........................Theoricus Third Grade ..........................Practicus Fourth Grade ........................Philosophus

The Second Order of the grades is as follows: Fifth Grade.............................Adeptus Junior Sixth Grade ...........................Adeptus Senior Seventh Grade.......................Adeptus Exemptus

The Third Order comprises two grades which are conferred only in a High Council and are of an official character, the Chief Adept, for instance, by virtue of an appointment being a Provincial Magus: Eighth Grade ..........................Magister Templi Ninth Grade ............................Chief Adept

These particulars as to offices and grades are taken from the Constitution adopted in the United States of America on September 18, 1882; October 7, 1908, and June 14, 1912.

"The name Rosicrucian" says Frater William Wynn Westcott, whose historical notes are freely used in the compiling of these paragraphs, "has suffered greatly from the pretensions of men, who falsely claiming membership, have made exaggerated, false and unreasonable statements recording the powers and possessions of the Fratres of the Rosy Cross." No true Rosicrucian has asserted his power to make Gold at will, or to possess such an Elixir of life as could enable men to avoid death altogether, or indefinitely, as charlatans have asserted. Poets and writers of romance have also shed a halo of unreality about the Rosicrucians, as we find in the volume called the Count de Gabalis, in the Urldine of La Motte Fouqu, and Pope's Rape of the lock.

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