The Rosicrucians! The most famous “secret” order of them all, Rosicrucianism inspired a thousand other esoteric movements, the greatest minds of 17th century Europe, and the hearts and souls of hundreds of thousands of contemporary spiritual seekers. We penetrate into the mystery of the Rosy Cross with Dr Jeffrey S. Kupperman, professor, icon painter and creator of shinys, iconoclast, writer, the founder of the Ekklesia Neoplatonismos Theourgia , and most definitely NOT the secret chief and grand imperator of the Open Source Order of Rosicrucians.
The show opens with Father Tony delivery of God’s honest tooth about my mouth: loyal Talk Gnosis watchers and listeners will see me gap-toothed with a bit of a lisp for the next few episodes…however I won’t be on opioids for future installments (it was good to watch this one again, as I don’t remember it much thanks to taping soon after surgery).
Father Tony starts off with the perfect stater for the Doctor: where did the Rosicrucians come from and who was Christian Rosenkreuz?
Well, the short answer is we don’t know.
The longer answer is there’s legends and conjectures of them staring in Egypt some 12 hundred years ago, as a Sufi or an Arabic mystic association in the far East, and/or as a secret order with in the Knights Templar in the 1200s. The rose (and even the rose and the cross together) is a common symbol in Western religion, so there’s a long tradition of speculatively “co-opting” figures and movements into the Rosicrucian family. Basically, anyone tangentially associated with roses has been signed up post-mortem: Dante mentions the rose of creation and Martin Luther had a rose cross in his coat-of-arms so some have claimed them as Rosicruicans…is it likely they are…well…
Then I crack a terrible joke about all the gardeners who’ve been co-opted after their death into Rosicrcurians Order but now I blame it on the morphine.
Who was Christian Rosenkruez? Possibly a symbolic allegorical figure (we don’t even get his name till the 3rd Rosicrucian document, before that he’s Brother C.R.C.) but according to the story he’s a son of a noble family in the 15th century who travels the Earth studying and studying Kabbalah and mysticism and collecting all of the world’s wisdom into a spiritual system. He gathers a group of disciples and forms an order of like-minded adepts who are dedicated to “cure the sick and that for free”.
Dr. Kupperman’s theory, his personal theory, is that C.R.C is largely based on Marsilio Ficino, the great Renaissance philosopher and Neoplatonist, whose influence still looms over us. But at the end of the day Rosenkruez (even if he did once live) seems to be an amalgam of figures both real and mythical.
In 1614 the first historical traceable and “real” evidence of Rosicrucians explodes into our reality. A mysterious manifesto is published telling the biography of C.R.C. and explaining the mission of the order he founded, and letting people know they too can join the Rosicrucians. It’s followed another mysterious document, the Confessio Fraternitatis, which dives more deeply into the philosophy of the order, then a 3rd arrives, the Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreuz, and it’s a trippy metaphorical travelogue full of allegorical symbolism following Christian Rosenkreuz on a 7 day journey to the wedding of a King and Queen.
Dr. Kupperman emphasises how the manifestos focus on healing and performing healing free of charge as a central tenet and that sadly this aspect is lacking from many modern organisations that use the R.C. name. Is this spiritual or physical healing…the manifestos probably meant both!
Welcome to Part 2! We get into it by asking about the common idea that this was all a hoax! That there was no Rosicrucian order and these documents were written just to rile people up (and again, I can’t emphasise enough that these manifestos set Europe on fire! They were the sensation of the 17th century). It all gets tricky as the manifestos claim that members of the order aren’t supposed to let people know they’re members. And we do have many reports of people trying to join and saying they had no luck.
Count Michael Maier, contemporaneously writing at the time of Rosicrucian fever, speculates that the entire point of the docs was to inspire the creation of Rosicucian orders and get like-minded people together to do “Rosicrucian things”. It was using myth and story to make the world a better place and to manifest the ideals of the manifestos into reality (which is what happened! Be there a real mysterious order behind it or not).
So, this sounds like a bunch of esoteric hubabloo but Rosicruicanism is linked to both science and political Utopian ideals. For hundreds of years In England (right up to now) one of the primary organisations for science and medicine has been the Royal Society of Physicians which was originally created as a Rosicrucian group inspired by the manifestos.
While modern society divides “science” from “religion” people in this time saw them as a continuum and what we call astrology would be part of astronomy or what we call alchemy would be lumped in with chemistry. It’s all part of understanding creation and the Rosicrucianism of the 1600s (and later) emphasises the study and practice of these disciplines. In this worldview God gives 3 revelations: the Bible, Christ, and the world its self. Studying the world and knowing it better leads one to know God.
Utopianism is hinted at in the manifestos and the embracres of the thought tease out these themes and see Roscircuianism as the first step to making a perfect world. Examining the concrete examples of how the Rosicrucians changed society Dr. Kupperman points to contemporary UK’s free health care which can be traced to the Royal Society and the order to heal and to do it for free.
Next, it’s historian Francis Yates’ thesis of the Rosicrucian Enlightenment—that the Rosicrucians and Hermeticists basically brought us everything that’s good through the period known as the Enlightenment. While the good doctor states her idea is overstated and mostly debunked—it’s allowed us to see the links between mystical thought and making the world awesome, both now and then.
Then we talk about alchemy and inner contemplative alchemy and hermeticism and how this all ties up into Rosicrucians and this is the place in every roundup where I advise you to fire up the episode for yourself to get this Gnosis delivered unmediated straight on into you!
Part 3! It’s all about later orders that either derive teachings, inspiration, or alleged lineages from the Rosicrucians. First the Freemasons: many “higher” degrees of Freemasonic appellate bodies have Rosicrucian names and symbolism and transmits themes from Rosicrucian ideology. Then it’s time for Martinism! While they may not be direct descendants of the Roiscrucians many branches of Martinism include RC thought, symbols, and ideas, into their rituals and teachings.
Then it’s onto the 1800s and the Golden Dawn, one of the most influential societies on all of Western Esotericism and Magic. They formed an inner order, accessible to those who did the Golden Dawn degrees and who were found worthy, that they claimed was founded directly by the Rosicrucian Order. It has degrees with initiation rituals and symbolic plays where a member actually performs as Christian Rosenkruez and it takes place in his tomb. This gets passed onto Thelema and the O.T.O and A∴A∴ through Crowley who had been involved in the Golden Dawn and was particularly in love with Rosicrucian symbolism.
We’re now into the 20th Century and anyone who’s read comic books, Rolling Stone, or strange esoteric magazines knows about The Ancient and Mystical Order Rosæ Crucis AKA AMORC. This is a mail order esoteric fraternity, famous (or infamous) for their advertisements who claim to be the one-and-only direct continuation of the one-and-only Rosicrucian Order. I’d write more about them, but I don’t want to be sued so if you want to know more about them hit play on episode 3 of this series above…if a lawyer asks about this show my excuse was I don’t remember because I was on painkillers.
Part 4! We continue on the topic of how to define Rosicrucianism and how it should or shouldn’t change with the times. As there’s no central authority and these secret groups are uhhhhh secret it’s a tough and fascinating question. We next leap into the actual Rosicrucian symbols. The Rose Cross its self has many meanings in these circles and in some systems it’s been embraced and elaborated upon as a representation of all of creation.
We ask a Talk Gnosis classic question How Gnostic is Rosicrucianism? and Dr. Kupperman tells us it’s not really Gnostic in the classic sense, however it has plenty of Platonism and Neoplatonism. And it is a major element of modern Gnosticism influencing contemporary Gnostic churches and groups AND there is an argument that there’s a Rosicrucian emphasis on Gnosis.
We close with a discussion on the secretive and powerful Open Source Rosicrucian Society that Dr. Kupperman did not start and that totally exists. The aims of Rosicrucianism are laudable: making the world a better place, healing people, and dissemination knowledge. Maybe this is best done by a society of like-minded folks, perhaps group modelled after the modern ideals of open source.
And that’s the perfect ending to a perfect instalment of Talk Gnosis. As always drop us a line in the comments if you have any question, comments, or if you’re a member of the Hidden Brotherhood and you’d like to sign us up.