WHAT IS ROSICRUCIANISM?
Most Masons, rightfully so, expand their Masonic light by exploring the York Rite and/or Scottish Rite. These Orders, in some cases, pick up where the Blue Lodge left off. As valuable as these Orders are, I was more intrigued by the mystical side of Masonry. As I studied books and articles and spoke with well-versed Masons, I began to see and hear words or names I had never heard of such as Rosicrucian, Christian Rosenkreutz, antiquity, Hermeticism, Kabballah (can be spelled differently), Paul Foster Case, Tree of Life, Golden Dawn, Aleister Crowley (ahem…), Ordo Templi Orientis, alchemy, Societas Rosicruciana in Civitatibus Foederatis, Samuel Mathers, Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia, Robert W. Little, Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis, Rosy Cross, William Wynn Westcott, Builders of the Adytum, Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, etc.
Rosicrucianism has its origins in Germany in the early 17th century as a religious, yet scientific philosophy that sought to explain the essence of God and nature. The movement was a component of the early Enlightenment and its challenge to the dogma of the Church, forcing its adherents to compile and profess their work in secret. Between the years 1607 and 1616, three treatises were published anonymously–the Fama fraternitatis or Fama, Confession of the Rosicrucian Fraternity, or Confessio and the Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz. In the early 18th century, the scientific ideals of Rosicrucianism began to make their way into the progressive social contracts that formed the basis of modern Freemasonry. From that point forward, Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry worked hand in hand to promote freethinking, social progressivism, and scientific discovery.[iii]
WHO IS CHRISTIAN ROSENKREUTZ?
Christian Rosenkreutz (Christian Rose Cross or C.R.C.) is the central, allegorical ‘founder’ of all Rosicrucian Orders. He was the main character in the three aforementioned treatises–Fama, Confessio, and the Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz–which were released in the early 17th century about 100 years after his alleged death. Legend states that his body was discovered years after his death in perfect preservation in the heptagonal chamber that is a common symbol of Rosicrucianism. According to legend, C.R.C. learned and discovered esoteric wisdom on a trip to the Middle East among Turkish, Arab, and Persian Sages, as well as Sufi or Zoroastrian experts in the 1400s.[i]
FREEMASONRY AND THE ROSICRUCIAN CONNECTION
The connection between Freemasonry and the Rosicrucians is a bit hazy at best. While they both promote similar tenets and philosophies, neither have an exact common denominator. As a matter of fact, Freemasonry today, for the most part, has evolved into a very exoteric order. Many of its members have no interest in any of the esoteric meanings of the symbols, numbers, directions, actions or items of the Blue Lodge. This, of course, is not true across the board. There is a great resurgence over the last 20 years in esoteric Masonry with the advent of the internet and, of course, anything Dan Brown has put out. On the other hand, the Rosicrucians have steadfastly remained very mysterious and secretive in their practices, especially the Masonic Rosicrucians. So much so that even many veteran Blue Lodge Master Masons have never heard of it or aren’t aware that some of the Master Masons in their lodge belong to a Rosicrucian Order.
As noted, there is no direct connection between the two. However, some claim that Freemasonry came from Rosicrucianism. It is highly unlikely that this is the case. Mainly due to the fact that, yes, we recognize 1717 as the official birth year of Masonry as we know it today; operative and speculative Masonry has been around for several hundred years before this. Some even pinpoint its origins back to the ancient times of Egypt, Babylon, and Greece. It is possible that some ideas were inadvertently exchanged between the two in the early years of the Orders (1600 -1750) but this is likely due to the individuals that were developing the two Orders were members of both.
Some of the clear differences would be that the Rosicrucians were Theosophists (not Theosophy), religious men whose doctrines were of spirits, of the elements, of numbers and heavenly bodies, and their influence on men.[i] The Freemasons were founded by builders, whose symbols are applied in architecture and is usually described as a peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory, and illustrated by symbols.
MASONIC ROSICRUCIAN ORDERS OF TODAY
As with all things historic and Masonic, there is a dispute as to who is or was the first Masonic Rosicrucian Order. While many say it is the Societas Rosicruciana in Scotia (SRIS), the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (SRIA) claims to be the longest, continuously going Masonic Rosicrucian Order. According to SRIA.info, The Societas Rosicrucian in Anglia is the oldest independent society of Rosicrucian Freemasons in the world, its members being Master Masons of Lodges recognized by the United Grand Lodge of England, founded between 1865-1867 in Aldermanbury, London by Bro. Robert W. Little, the Order has Colleges (similar to Valleys or Lodges in other appendant bodies) in the U.K., Australia, Canada, France, The Netherlands, and New Zealand. Membership requirements for the SRIA are to be a Master Mason in good standing under a Grand Lodge recognized by the United Grand Lodge of England and of the Christian faith.
Members of the SRIA are referred to as ‘frater,’ which is simply ‘brother’ in Latin. The members progress through three different Orders broken down into nine different grades (similar to degrees in the Blue Lodge). The First Order is broken down into four grades in this order: Zelator, Theoricus, Practicus, and Philosophus. The beautiful grades are impressively presented. [i] The Second Order consists of the grades Adeptus Minor, Adeptus Major, and Adeptus Exemptus. The Third Order consists of the grades Magister and Magus.
In the United States, the Societas Rosicruciana in Civitatibus Foederatis (SRICF) is the primary Masonic Rosicrucian group. The SRICF is very similar to the SRIA and SRIS, in which it was chartered into existence in 1880, except for two main differences. The SRICF is by invitation only and has limited positions per ‘College.’ Most states have one college and allow only 72 members per College. The exception to this rule is California and New York having two Colleges each due to their populations. Illinois and Texas also have two colleges. There is also speculation, rightfully so, that if a Master Mason solicits the SRICF for membership, they most likely will not even be considered for membership. As far as Masonic based Rosicrucian Orders, Scotland, Canada, France, Portugal, and Romania each have their own Masonic Rosicrucian Orders similar to SRIA, SRIS, and SRICF.
In 1888, a few decades after the creation of the SRIA, three Master Masons who were also SRIA members created a more practical magic(k) based Rosicrucian Order. It was created by Dr. William Westcott, S.L. MacGregor Mathers and William Woodman based on the enigmatic Cipher Manuscripts. Westcott and Woodman were both Supreme Magi in the SRIA in the early years. The Cipher Manuscripts are shrouded in mystery. They were ‘discovered’ by Dr. William Westcott and obtained in Germany from a likely fictional person called Fraulein Sprengel. According to the HOGD’s U.K. website, the likely origins of the Cipher Manuscripts were the SRIA and written specifically by Kenneth Mackenzie. When MacKenzie passed away in 1886, the papers were obtained from MacKenzie’s wife by Dr. Westcott. The original papers were written for a different esoteric group called the ‘Society of Eight’ which never fully materialized, and thus Westcott capitalized on this to form his own esoteric, Qabalistic society. The Manuscripts primarily contained the ritual outlines and teachings of the Order. The original and first warranted Temple was the Isis-Urania #3 of the Order of the Golden Dawn. [i]
As if the start of the Golden Dawn wasn’t sketchy enough at first, the Order eventually broke apart in 1903 due to disagreements, primarily involving Mathers and occultist Aleister Crowley but was survived by specific groups that share direct initiatory lineage. The Stella Matutina, A∴A∴ , and the Alpha et Omega operated through the 1930s and sporadically until the early 1970s. However, in 1977, one of the last remaining initiates into the Stella Matutina named Dr. Israel Regardie came into contact with Bro. Charles “Chic” Cicero and resurrected the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. [i] Bro. Cicero is a Master Mason in Florida and a member of the SRICF, York Rite, and other Masonic Rites and Orders. He is in the Grand Line for multiple Masonic organizations as well. His wife, Sandra Tabatha Cicero, is also heavily involved in the Golden Dawn. They have written and co-written several books as well as added new material to some of Dr. Regardie’s earlier works.
BUILDERS OF THE ADYTUM (BOTA)
The Builders of the Adytum, or BOTA, has some personal interest for me in its historic context because the founder, Bro. Paul Foster Case, was born and raised, literally and Masonically, in the town I currently live in; Fairport, NY. As a matter of fact, the current Fairport lodge is literally about 50-75 yards away from my home. Bro. Case was initiated into the original Golden Dawn’s off-shoot called the Alpha et Omega in 1918 at the Thoth-Hermes Temple in New York City. Due to a falling out with the then Imperatrix of the Alpha et Omega, Moina Mathers, he was removed from the Order. [i]
BOTA was created by Case in 1922 and had some of the same elements of the Golden Dawn, Freemasonry, and Rosicrucianism, but the difference was that it lacked the Enochian Magic aspect of the original Golden Dawn and Alpha et Omega. Case felt the Enochian Magic used in the Golden Dawn was not only dangerous to the practitioner, but it's lectures and the like were plagiarized from works readily available at any library, taking away elements of its authenticity. Case’s BOTA group was considered ‘Golden Dawn-Lite’ and was less practical magic than mysticism. It's primary focus being on the practical side of occultism, dedicating much of the study to Tarot and it's relation to psychology. Bro. Case was also an author of several books to include The True and Invisible Rosicrucian Order and The Masonic Letter G. Another contribution to esoteric, western magic, and Rosicrucianism was his development of the BOTA tarot deck. [ii]
The Builders of the Adytum is not an invitational Order as the HOGD or SRICF. It exists in two avenues, a 14-year correspondence course as well as in-gatherings and lodges that exist sporadically around the world. The courses are open to women or men of all backgrounds. The non-profit group is headquartered in Los Angeles, California, and is still active to this day.
ALEISTER CROWLEY, ORDO TEMPLI ORIENTIS, AND ROSICRUCIANISM
Most people familiar with our Labor are aware of Aleister Crowley and the stories that have been passed down about him. One question about him that is answered most ambivalently is whether or not Aleister Crowley was a Freemason. As a matter of fact, he was, indeed, a Freemason. He was so, at least by the standards of the then ‘irregular’ Grande Loge de France in which his Anglo-Saxon Lodge No. 343 belonged to. The Grande Loge de France became unrecognized by the United Grand Lodge of England on the 29th of June, 1904. Crowley was entered into his lodge on the 8th of October, 1904. [i]
While Crowley was never regularly initiated into a Masonic Lodge or a Masonic Rosicrucian Order, in 1898, he was initiated into the Outer Order of the original Golden Dawn. There is debate as to whether or not he was ever entered into the Inner Order, or Ruby Rose and Golden Cross (R.R. et A.C.). This dispute was primarily due to the ever-present controversy that always seemed to follow Mr. Crowley.
Today Aleister Crowley’s influence can still be found in the over 50 O.T.O. camps, oasis, and lodges throughout the U.S. Gnostic Masses are held publicly at the O.T.O. lodges and allow for anyone to view them. The statement “Do what thou wilt” is often mistaken by both members and non-members to basically mean indulge in whatever you please without regard to others and their well-being. This has been one of the many black-eyes on the organization and has, at times, drawn in less than desirable petitioners. The statement is actually meant ‘to will’ something into happening. This is similar to the current mindfulness that many people practice today; finding their true purpose. In other words, if you want something to happen, you can invoke your ‘will’ upon that need, and it can be accomplished.
As you can see, the Rosicrucians cover a huge area in our esoteric studies. With that, many seasoned Freemasons may never hear any more about it than it is some sort of mail-in correspondence, self-improvement course. To some degree, that is true, but the rabbit hole goes much deeper than most realize. Taking on Masonry alone can be daunting to any scholar, but to add in the Rosicrucian elements makes the task even more daunting. I have only barely skimmed the surface of the topic in hopes to inspire others to read into and discover the many Orders spoken about here. If to know everything on the matter is ten miles, I have barely taken the first few steps. It is an exciting journey that has allowed me to ponder and think of things I never would normally have even considered.
There are other Rosicrucian groups not really mentioned, such as perhaps the most famous, the AMORC. Others include Traditional Martinist Order, Order of the Golden Dawn, Servants of the Light, etc. Choosing the best Rosicrucian group for any one individual is subjective and should not be taken lightly. Being a member of one of these Orders, at the very least, will usually open up your Masonic knowledge and allow for light in extension to your Blue Lodge studies. In theory, some of them can even change your life for the better and allow for true, personal growth.
Brother J. Clint Lewey lives in the greater Rochester, NY area, and is a fourth-generation Freemason. On the 17th of March, 2015 he was raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason at Edmond Lodge #37 in Edmond, OK. Brother Clint is currently a member of Fairport-Flower City Lodge #476, Hiram Royal Arch Chapter #62 and SRICF New York College-Buffalo. He is allowed to divide his working hours serving Veterans in crisis at the Canandaigua, NY VAMC as well as serving his country in the military as a reservist. Bro. Lewey is happily married with two younger children.