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Rosicrucianism gets its name from its veneration of the rose and the cross as symbols of Christ's resurrection and redemption. Its theological doctrine is one of a secret society of mystics, purportedly formed in late medieval Germany, built on esoteric truths of the ancient past which provide insight into nature, the universe, and the spiritual realms.



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Who Are the Rosicrucians?


Like most Americans my age, the first time I ever heard of the Rosicrucians was in the back of a comic book. Claiming that Benjamin Franklin, Isaac Newton, and Francis Bacon were Rosicrucians, their ads promised secret powers and a secret method for the mastery of life. Yes, Rosicrucian advertisements regularly ran in the back of comic books, along with ads for shrunken heads, sea monkeys and X-ray vision glasses. Unlike, I am fairly certain, any of my other friends, I actually filled in the the form and mailed it in to the Rosicrucians in San Jose, California.

When I didn't hear back from them in a couple of months, I sent another one in, and another; looking back, I imagine my parents had intercepted my mail because, one day when I picked the mail up from the box myself, I found an envelope addressed to me from the Rosicrucians. I am not able to tell you just what was in that envelope because it didn't make a lot of sense to me and, while I began reading it, I ended up skimming it. I was ten or twelve years old, and I can remember very long paragraphs, strange illustrations, and stuff that didn't make any sense to me. I doubt that I threw it away because I seldom threw anything away, but it disappeared; my mom probably found it. It was no great loss because, apart from a feeling that maybe I wasn't smart enough to make sense of it, there wasn't much there that interested me.

I don't know if they still advertise in the back of comic books because it's been a long time since I've looked at a comic book. Fifty years later, here I am, once again trying to make sense of the Rosicrucians.

The Rosicrucians are a secret society said to have originated in Germany during the early 1400s. Its founding is attributed to a German doctor and philosopher by the name of Christian Rosenkreuz, whose surname can be translated as rose-cross. Dr. Rosenkreuz studied in the Middle East. It is uncertain, but his influences may have been Sufism, with a dose of Gnosticism. Upon his return to Germany, he recruited a small group of friends and acquaintances, founding the Rosicrucian Order around 1407.

At the time of the death of its founder, the Rosicrucians had no more than eight members, all of whom were doctors and bachelors. Its members had taken an oath to heal the sick without payment of a fee, to maintain the secrets of the order, and to find a replacement for himself before his death.

Reportedly, three generations of members passed in such a manner before the organization decided to reach out to a larger public. The Rosicrucians published a couple of manifestos between 1607 and 1616, the first restricted to Germany, with the second distributed throughout Europe.

Interestingly, much like the comic book ads of the 1950s and 1960s, the organization's first manifesto was not taken seriously by many, but was regarded as a hoax. Its second manifesto gained some attention by hinting that the Rosicrucians were a secret brotherhood of alchemists and sages who were about to transform the landscape of science, religion, and the arts. Their statements were republished several times, along with a variety of pamphlets. Beginning in 1614, hundreds of manuscripts and books were published that discussed the Rosicrucian Order.

In the late 1700s, an affiliation between the Rosicrucians and the Freemasons developed, probably brought about by individuals who held memberships in both organizations. Both the Rectified Scottish Rite and the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite showed Rosicrucian influences. Egyptian, Druidic, and Greek mysteries were added to the Rosicrucian's alchemy system around 1782.

Various groups formed in the late 1800s and early 1900s, claiming Rosicrucian origins, some of which continue in existence today. Some of these groups profess to possess esoteric knowledge related to the teachings of Christianity, while others are associated with Freemasonry. Still others, such as the Order of the Golden Dawn, are considered to be initiating orders that emphasize Western mystery traditions while retaining many Eastern methods and teachings, and may not consider themselves to be Christian organizations.

What do the Rosicrucians believe? That is a question that may have been easier to answer a few centuries ago than it is now, as there are different branches, or orders, of Rosicrucians who do not necessarily hold to the same beliefs. However, one theme that is common the Rosicrucianism appears to be mysticism, or the idea that they possess secret knowledge.

To those on the inside of the Rosicrucians, their beliefs may indeed be clear. Secrecy, after all, is central to all Rosicrucian organizations. However, to those on the outside, Rosicrucian theology appears vague and undefined.

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