Why is this Centuries-Old Secret Society so Influential?
All you need to know about this controversial, deeply hidden secret society
“To be hidden amidst crowds is sublime—to come down hidden amongst crowds from distant generations, is doubly sublime.”
Thomas de Quincey, Secret Societies
“And that's what made it even more mysterious that there were these bodies of very scholarly, possibly magical or magician-like persons. And nobody could really track them down because nobody would admit to being one.”
Rosicrucians are one of the most definitive, and most controversial, of all the strange occult secret societies. Though they began shrouded in dark mystery, Rosicrucian ideas took hold of many influential people, and inspired other occult circles and secret societies.
They use secret symbols. They are associated with alchemy, magic, Freemasonry, and the Illuminati. Century after century they’ve been blamed, or credited, for shaping the Western world.
They’ve been blamed in a conspiracy as the cause of the Thirty Years War.
They’ve been credited for secretly creating the works of Shakespeare.
They’ve been theorized to be the basis for the famous Royal Society, the world’s oldest continuously existing scientific academy.
“In the centuries that have gone by since the Rosicrucian Order was first formed they have worked quietly and secretly, aiming to mould the thought of Western Europe through the works of Paracelsus, Boehme, Bacon, Shakespeare, Fludd and others.” – M. Heindel.
Mysterious origins and strange beliefs
I’m not going to go into a full history of the Rosicrucians, there are plenty of sources for that. In the briefest of summaries, the legend goes, from a series of three mysterious publications in the early 17th century, that a man named Christian Rosenkreuz traveled the world and learned the knowledge of he mysteries of the universe and magic, all the hidden knowledge, from wise sages across cultures and came back to Germany to form a secret society around this knowledge.
There were things members were expected to do, such as heal people free of charge and find a replacement for themselves to take over for them when they’re gone.
The original secrets of the universe
Rosicrucian belief brings the world’s spiritual traditions together in a satisfyingly unified way.
They claim that their knowledge originates from the combination of the well-known yet mysterious, powerful, mystical traditions of Egyptian, Indian Brahmanic, Persian Magi, Greek Pythagorian, the Mystery Cults, and others, presented in a different way to different people across the world and kept secret and encoded, hidden from a world that wasn’t ready.
But what kind of knowledge was it?
Hargrave Jennings, who wrote about the Rosicrucians, explains the Rosicrucian idea of unified, global, secret knowledge in his book, The Rosicrucians, Their Rites and Knowledge. He writes,
“There is … unaccountable connexion, in the old mythology, between the 'Woman', the 'Dragon', or the 'Snake' and the 'Sea...'”
“There are hints of deep mysteries, transcendent in their greatness: and beauty, lying under these things in some concealed, real way.”
Like Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth, Rosicrucian scholars point out the apparent similarities across the world’s beliefs, myths, and symbols, such as the Zodiac and Garden of Eden. Jennings continues:
“...the supposition of an identity, at some time, of these two figures, all drawn from the double sign 'Virgo-Scorpio' in the Zodiac. There is a strange confirmation of the account of Creation in the Book of Genesis, in the discovery of the 'Woman and Snake' in the most ancient Babylonian or Chaldæan Zodiac.”
Then he connects it all together...
“The Indian zodiacs and the Egyptian zodiacs repeat the same myth, slightly varied in certain particulars. The different versions of the story of the Temptation and Fall, in the main respects, are the same legend, only altered to suit ideas in every varying country.”
Max Heindel expands on this intercultural connection of ideas, all springing from the same “truth,” in The Rosicrucian Mysteries.
To him it’s more than just similarities across cultures, it’s corresponding to specific epochs of “spiritual waves”:
“...we shall find that at about six hundred years B. C. a great spiritual wave had its inception on the Eastern shores of the Pacific Ocean where the great Confucian Religion accelerated the progress of the Chinese nation, then also the Religion of the Buddha commenced to win its millions of adherents in India, and still further West we have the lofty philosophy of Pythagoras. Each system was suited to the needs of the particular people to whom it was sent.”
Heindel went even further, saying that those periods are always followed by a period of materialism, and that’s because humanity is meant to embrace the spiritual and material in a balanced way, never going too far one way or the other:
“It is a law in the universe that a wave of spiritual awakening is always followed by a period of doubting materialism, each phase is necessary in order that the spirit may receive equal development of heart and intellect without being carried too far in either direction.”
Still, the work of the Rosicrucians seems predominantly focused on the spiritual:
In the centuries that have gone by since the Rosicrucian Order was first formed they have worked quietly and secretly, aiming to mould the thought of Western Europe through the works of Paracelsus, Boehme, Bacon, Shakespeare, Fludd and others. Each night at midnight when the physical activities of the day are at their lowest ebb, and the spiritual impulse at its highest flood tide, they have sent out from their temple soul-stirring vibrations to counteract materialism and to further the development of soul powers. To their activities we owe the gradual spiritualization of our once so materialistic science.
Modern Rosicrucians and how to become one
Thus, the Rosicrucians had big ideas that would be highly influential in many circles, particularly when it saw a major resurgence in interest in the 19th century.
And in 1909, the Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis was formed, a society still in operation that you can join today.
Anyone looking at their website can see what they claim are their values, and how members can achieve better lives through their “wisdom”. These ethical values will look familiar to anyone with knowledge of the virtues idealized in Stoicism, Hinduism, and any number of other ancient ethical traditions that teach treating the world with respect, treating others with compassion, and trying to live a better life.
Not a bad goal, if you ask me.
More excerpts I found, links to read more, book recommendations, and a preview of next week.
Grandeur fades to him before such high intellectual grandeur. He is nearer to the angels, and the world has sunk infinitely below. His is the sky, and the bright shapes of the clouds of the sky: which he is going to convert, perhaps, into prisms, showering solid triumphs. He can well leave to common man his acres of mud, and the turbid pools spotted over them like the shining, showy discs of a snake. Man, under these enlightened philosophical circumstances, will only value the unseen kingdoms--glimpses of the immortal glories of which and of their Rosicrucian inhabitants he has obtained in his magic reveries.
Every person, in unconsciously repeating certain figures, which form an unknown language, heired from the ancient times; carries into futurity, and into all parts of the world, the same carefully guarded traditions.
The Rosicrucians: Their Rites and Mysteries by Hargrave Jennings
Chymical Wedding, one of three anonymous Rosicrucian manifestos from 1616 A.D.:
Bacon, Shakespeare, and the Rosicrucians
The Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross by Arthur Edward Waite
The Rosicrucian Mysteries: An Elementary Exposition of Their Secret Teachings by Max Heindel
The Rosicrucians: Their Rites and Mysteries by Hargrave Jennings
Rosicrucian Manual by H. Spencer Lewis
The Secret Doctrine of the Rosicrucians by Magnus Incognito
The Rosicrucian Prophecy by John Paul Davis
The secrets of Shamanism