Rosicrucianism Within the Royal Arch: Part One - Beginnings of the Invisible College

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
James E. Frey 32°

My Brethren, The philosophy and mythos of the Royal Arch is often considered the climax and heart of Ancient Craft Masonry.The Royal Arch is interesting because it is the first of the High Degrees to complete the Hiramic Legend upon the discovery of the Lost Word. The Royal Arch arose across Europe under mysterious circumstances and the very nature of its teachings caused the division from the Moderns and the Ancients. Where the Master Mason degree invokes death, the Royal Arch invokes resurrection. Its tenants are of a sacred and esoteric quality inspired by the teachings of the shadowy Rosicrucians, while its symbolism and depth bring the whole of the Ancient craft teachings into the apex of understanding. Throughout this presentation I will address the connection of Rosicrucian influence upon the symbolism of the Royal Arch degree, and how its inner esoteric teachings promotes the idea of individual spiritual attainment.

To understand how esoteric thought entered into masonry we have to revisit the period of the Renaissance. During the end of the Medieval period dozens of Ancient manuscripts began coming in from Persia that until that time were unavailable in the West. These manuscripts caught the attention of one of the most wealthy and prominent noblemen in Italy, Carlo Demenatchi. Demenatchi employed a scholar by the name of Marcilio Piccino to transcribe a number of manuscripts into Greek and Latin. Some of these manuscripts famously were treaties on Plato, but two others were the Corpus Hermeticum and the Asclepius of Hermes Trismegistus. These two texts are considered the foundation of Hermeticism, a philosophy that was assembled in Alexandria a century or so after the time of Christ.

At this time Alexandria was the cultural and intellectual center of the ancient world. Hermeticism The Italian Renaissance also saw the largest burst of publishing and printing than ever before these texts became readily available all throughout Europe, and made their way into academic circles in Germany. Even into the 1500s Alchemy, Hermetics, and Kabbalah were practiced and heavily researched by Germans creating a strain of thought that man has direct communication with God instead of through the church. But the developing protestant movement would become very cold toward esoteric ideas and it didn’t approve of the mysticism and ceremony found within the Roman Catholic Church. The reformers would consider Hermes and his teaches as pagan, and the ancient wisdom of the Kabbalah to be unacceptable.

With these new ideals taking popular form in Germany the mystic circles went underground in order to continue practice christianized Hermticism, Alchemy, and Kabbalah in peace. What developed was a Northern European Mystical system that sought to replace Hermes Trismegistus but keep a Christianized archetype of that Symbol, what would develop is known as Rosicrucianism. was presented as Grecco-Egyptian style religion that fascinated the Italian Renaissance. There was a rebirth in the interest of ancient philosophy and classical thought, especially the Hermetic tradition. Also round that time Pincho De Mirandola was translating the sacred texts of Hebrew Kabbalah , and the Alchemical practices began to become more prominent as a part of scientific research. The Reason these Hermetic and Kabbalistic texts were accepted by the largely Roman Catholic population was because of the similarities with Christian Thought. It is because of the Hermetic belief that Man is the reflection of Divinity, that the Church was rather sympathetic to the publishing of Hermetic texts.


James E Frey 32° classifies himself as a gentleman of the old world, which means he is known to stand in the great forests reciting poetry to fair-haired damsels while wrestling bears for sport. He is a District Education Officer for the Grand Lodge of Illinois, a Past Sovereign Prince of the of Danville AASR, member of the Oak Lawn York Rite, Medinah Shriners, Royal Order of Scotland, Quram Council Allied Masonic Degrees and initiate of the Golden Dawn Collegium Spiritu Sancti. He is also a guest lecturer on Occultism and Esoteric studies in masonry for the R.E.B.I.S Research Society.


  1. The appetiser you have presented is delicious. Please hurry on to the next course as I am very hungry.

  2. Quote"Where the Master Mason degree invokes death, the Royal Arch invokes resurrection"
    Disagree - MM invokes deathh and rebirth ?? resurrection; RA invokes the fulfilment of a journey.


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