When the conversation turns to “secret societies” of course it starts with the Freemasons, the Skull and Bones, and the so-called “Illuminati.” Then, more often than not, the Rosicrucians are mentioned, and rightly so, as this ancient secret society may lie at the origin of all or most of the others.
What is this ancient and mysterious sect of Christianity, and how much about “Rosicrucianism” is legend, and how much reality?
Rosicrucianism is a broad term that refers to the study of particular doctrines or the membership in a secret society connected with Christian Rosenkreuz. Rosenkreuz, whose last name means rose-cross, supposedly founded the Rosicrucian Order, around the early 1400s.
The sect’s existence was made public in the 18th century, but its history is much older. On March 3, 1623 the inhabitants of Paris, France discovered several mysterious posters hanging on the streets’ buildings. This was the announcement to the world, declaring the existence of a previously unknown esoteric Christian order called the Brotherhood of the Rose Cross.
A manifesto that was circulated around that time, entitled the Fama Fraternitatis (The Fame of the Brotherhood) told of the legend of Christian Rosenkreuz. According to the manifesto, Rosenkreuz was apparently a doctor and German mystic who lived in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. He spent time wandering throughout the Middle East and learning about mysticism from the Arabs.
He was said to have found enlightenment there and returned to Germany to spread his teachings to prominent figures in Europe. Instead, he was laughed at and dismissed.
Undeterred, Rosenkreuz began his own secret Rosicrucian order with a small handful of friends and disciples. Each member was male, a doctor, a bachelor, and a virgin. These men formed the Fraternity of the Rose Cross and built a temple called the Spiritus Sanctus, in which they were supposed to meet together once a year.
Each member would find someone to be his successor, and they would use the letters C.R. as their mark. They also agreed that this order would remain secret for one hundred years.
This society was supposedly a brotherhood of alchemists and sages who were preparing themselves to transform the political and intellectual environment of Europe. This upcoming reformation of the age would return it to a state of grace.
The Rosicrucians hold a complicated belief system integrating fifteen unique esoteric charts denoting the elements; their relationship with the earth, and the co-dependent relationship this has with Schamayim–the Hebrew word for “heaven”. They place great spiritual importance on the paganistic “five elements”: earth, wind, air, fire, water, and the spiritual essence. Rosecrucianism combines elements of Christianity, Hermeticism, Mysticism and Kaballah.
The legend of Christian Rosenkreuz, and the original manifesto are dubious, at best. Many say Rosenkreuz himself never existed, and the whole thing was little more than a joke, played on a gullible and superstistous populace.
And yet, real or not, Rosicrucianism inspired a variety of works from such men as Heinrich Khunrath, Michael Maier, Elias Ashmole, Robert Fludd, and Thomas Vaughan among others. Many of these works defended Rosicrucianism, and several other societies sprang up in response to the discourse about it – particularly the Free Masons. Many of these societies had an element of occultism in them.
Masonic historians have drawn up their own accounts of Christian Rosenkreuz and the origins of Rosicruciansim. Moreover, many groups have adopted the symbolism of the cross and the rose, including the Knights Templar.
Although its historical basis is open to speculation, Rosicrucianism has all the elements we associate with secret societies: exclusive membership, questionable origins, and somewhat fantastical, mystical teachings.
According to Ancient Pages, the Rose Cross existed well before a cross was ever used as the defining symbol of Christianity. The Rose Cross has been used by many groups but was most notably adopted by the Rosicrucians. Freemasons and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn have also used the Rose Cross symbol, embracing it as a powerful way to evoke concepts of divinity.