2 – Rosicrucians
A society that springs from the same time period and the same religious background as the Freemasons is the Rosicrucians, a similarly secretive organisation. Indeed, Rosicrucianism is seen as one of the major influencers on the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, one of the various ways by which Masonry is organised around the world.
The Rosicrucians, like the Masons too, are openly secret: their existence in general is not concealed, their members are openly known to be Rosicrucians – they even briefly put advertisements in newspapers claiming to offer insights into the nature of life that could assist with memory and strengthen will power. They’ve been going for well over 100 years in their current forms around the world, which are diverse and diffuse, but can chart an ideological history that begins in the murky mists of time. Or the early 17th century, depending on who you believe.
What is generally accepted is that the people who would go on to call themselves Rosicrucians formed around two separate texts, published over nine years from 1607 onwards in the Holy Roman Empire. They told of the life and legend of 14th century figure called Christian Rosenkreutz, a doctor and supposed traveller who had ventured to the Middle East and returned with knowledge of Eastern esotericism, drawing on Islamic, Jewish, Kabbalistic and Zoroastrian traditions.
With nobody willing to take him up on his new found wisdom on his return, Rosenkreutz was said to have founded the Fraternity of the Rosy Cross to further his beliefs. Their members had to be doctors, single and willing to help the sick for no return. When the Rosicrucian Manifesto was published in the 1600s, immediate comparisons were made with the works of various philosophers of the time, notably hermeticists such as John Dee and Heinrich Khunrath, who held that there was one religion, given by God to man, and that all religions were derivations of that.
The manifestos claimed the existence of a secret society descended from Rosenkreutz and moreover, that the membership was filled with sages and alchemists. One enthusiast, the Scottish poet Henry Adamson, wrote:
“For what we do presage is not in grosse,
For we are brethren of the Rosie Crosse;
We have the Mason Word and second sight,
Things for to come we can foretell aright.”
The society’s existence was oft debated, but the legacy of the image of the rosy cross was to fill literature of the time, and the influence of their symbols on other groups, particularly the Freemasons, was huge. The manifesto’s mentions of a “universal reformation of mankind” to come from a knowledge of science that would only be released when society was intellectually ready to cope with it may not have yet happened, but perhaps the Rosicrucians are still sitting on the information and waiting for their moment.