The Rose and the Cross
The story rivals anything written by Dan Brown.
In 1614, during the height of the religious wars ravaging Europe, an anonymous pamphlet entitled the Fama Fraternitatis was published in Cassel, Germany. It tells the story of one Christian Rosencreutz who, as a young man, wandered through the Near East learning the mystical wisdom of the Arabs and Egyptians. He and a few like-minded people formed a society called the Fraternity of the Rose Cross, or the Rosicrucian order.
This was followed in 1615 by another publication, the Confessio Fraternitatis. It told not only of a society that had obtained the secrets of enlightenment, but of a forthcoming reformation, returning the world to a state of grace. This pamphlet was also published anonymously and both works were privately -- and clandestinely -- circulated.
Then, a third document appeared in 1616 entitled The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosencreutz. This treatise consisted of an alchemical allegory describing a mystical ‘wedding’ ceremony. It was also published anonymously. However, most modern scholars believe the author to be Johann Valentin Andreae, a Lutheran minister from Wurttemburg who apparently was a devoted student of the ancient art of Alchemy.
At that time, Alchemy was not viewed as the physical transformation of lead into gold, but rather as a spiritual process in which the "leaden" soul of a person is enlightened, turning it into spiritual "gold." Current theory postulates that the alchemical jargon was actually a secret code known only to initiates, used to teach ancient esoteric concepts that would have been condemned as heretical by both the Catholic and Protestant churches.
Secret societies were constantly being formed during the 17th century as serious students of religion and philosophy, disgusted with the bloody conflicts between Christian sects, endeavored to find inspiration and wisdom from the Pagan, Gnostic and pre-Muslim teachings of the Middle East. The Italian Renaissance some two hundred years earlier had opened up trade routes to these lands and a number of wealthy Italians had paid a great deal of money not only for any lost manuscripts but for aspiring young scholars to translate them into Latin.
So, by the 18th century, scholars had a great deal of esoteric teachings from the Middle and Near East to work with and they banded together into secret societies in order to study these subjects away from the scrutiny of warring Christian churches.
In America, where religious freedom was enshrined in the Constitution, there arose a number of groups which called themselves Rosicrucian. The best known of these is the Ancient Mystical Order Rosea Crucis, otherwise known as AMORC, founded by H. Spencer Lewis in the 1915. But there were other esoteric lodges and groups calling themselves Rosicrucian, such as the Rosicrucian Fellowship founded by Max Heindel in 1909. Some of these groups employ rituals drawn from Freemasonry and other sources and others staying mostly as research and study organizations.
So, did Christian Rosencreutz’ magical order really exist or was it a hoax propagated by pamphleteers trying to take advantage of the hunger for esoteric truth amid the clash of dogmas? Nobody really knows, since by the very nature of what they were doing, the members of secret orders, no matter what they were called, were forced to maintain the strictest of secrecy in the face of torture and death – something that we in the 21st century have, thankfully, no experience of.
However, there are hidden trails we can follow and we might be able to find traces of them if we look hard enough,
Next up: The Golden Dawn