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Rosicrucianism

ROSICRUCIANISM. What is known as the Society of Rosicrucians (Rosenkreuzer) was really a number of isolated individuals who early in the 17th century held certain views in common (which apparently was their only bond of union); for of a society holding meetings, and having officers, there is no trace. So far as the numerous works are concerned it is evident that the writers who posed as Rosicrucians were moral and religious reformers, and utilized the technicalities of chemistry (alchemy), and the sciences generally, as media through which to make known their opinions, there being a flavour of mysticism or occultism promotive of inquiry and suggestive of hidden meanings discernible or discoverable only by adepts.

The publication of the Allgemeine und General- Reformation der ganzen iveiten Welt (Cassel, 1614), and the Fama Fraternitatis (Cassel, 1615) by the theologian Johann Valentin Andrea (1586-1654), caused immense excitement throughout Europe, and they not only led to many re-issues, but were followed by numerous pamphlets, favourable and otherwise, whose authors generally knew little, if anything, of the real aims of the original author, and doubtless in not a few cases amused themselves at the expense of the public. It is probable that the first work was circulated in MS. about 1610, for it is said that a reply was written in 1612 (according to Herder), but if so, there was no mention of the cult before that decade. The authors generally favoured Lutheranism as opposed to Roman Catholicism. Others, like John Heydon, admitted they were not Rosicrucians, but under attractive and suggestive titles to their works sought to make Hermeticism and other curious studies more useful and popular, and succeeded, for a time at least.

The curious legend, in which the fabulous origin of the so-called society was enshrined (that a certain Christian Rosenkreuz had discovered the secret wisdom of the East on a pilgrimage in the 15th century), was so improbable, though ingenious, that the genesis of the Rosicrucians was generally overlooked or ignored, but the worthy objects of the fratres were soon discovered and supported by several able men; the result being a mass of literature on the subject, which absorbs some 80 pages of Gardner's Catalogue Raisonne of Works on the Occult Sciences (London, 1903).

The influence that Rosicrucianism had in the modernizing of ancient Freemasonry early in the 18th century must have been slight, if any, though it is likely that as the century advanced, and additional ceremonies were grafted on to the first three degrees, Rosicrucian tenets were occasionally introduced into the later rituals. So far, however, as the real foundation ceremonies of Craft xxni. 24 Masonry are concerned, whether before or after the premier Grand Lodge was formed, it is most unlikely that such a society as the Freemasons would adopt anything of a really distinctive character from any other organization.

In The Muses' Threnodie by H. Adamson (Perth, 1638) are the lines " For what we do presage is riot in grosse, For we are brethren of the Rosie Crosse ; We have the Mason Word and second sight, Things for to come we can fortell aright.

Dr Begemann considers that possibly during the decade from 1720 to 1730 a kind of Rosicrucian or Hermetic influence took place in the lodges of London, some additions to the ritual of that period not having been derived from operative masonry; but in the previous century no such influence is traceable. Several modern societies have been formed from time to time (some of which are still flourishing in Great Britain) for the study of Rosicrucianism and allied subjects, but in no sense are they directly derived from the " Brethren of the Rosy Cross " of the 17th century, though keen followers thereof. By far the most important of these is the " Societas Rosicruciana in ^nglia," with headquarters in London. The Supreme Magus, Dr William Wynn Westcott, has written its History (1900), with other important works on the subject, and the published Transactions of the Society are most valuable.

The Rosicrucians, their Rites and Mysteries, by Hargrave Jennings (three editions, 1870-87); The Real History of the Rosicrucians, founded on their own , Manifestoes and on Facts and Documents collected from the Writings of Initiated Brethren, by A. E. Waite (1887); and The Arcane Schools, by John Yarker (1909), may be consulted with advantage, though not authorized publications of the Society. (W. J. H.*)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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