Online Encyclopedia

ROSICRUCIANISM

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V23, Page 737 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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ROSICRUCIANISM. What is known as the Society of Rosicrucians (Rosenkreuzer) was really a number of isolated individuals who early in the 17th century held certain views in common (which apparently was their only bond of union); for of a society holding meetings, and having officers, there is no trace. So far as the numerous works are concerned it is evident that the writers who posed as Rosicrucians were moral and religious reformers, and utilized the technicalities of chemistry (alchemy), and the sciences generally, as media through which to make known their opinions, there being a flavour of mysticism or occultism promotive of inquiry and suggestive of hidden meanings discernible or discoverable only by adepts. The publication of the Allgemeine and General-Reformation der ganzen weiten Welt (Cassel, 1614), and the Fama Fraternitatis (Cassel, 1615) by the theologian Johann Valentin Andrea (1586-16J4), caused immense excitement throughout Europe, and they not only led to many re-issues, but were followed by numerous pamphlets, favourable and otherwise, whose authors generally knew little, if anything, of the real aims of the original author, and doubtless in not a few cases amused themselves at the expense of the public. It is probable that the first work was circulated in MS. about 161o, for it is said that a reply was written in 1612 (according to Herder), but if so, there was no mention of the cult before that decade. The authors generally favoured Lutheranism as opposed to Roman Catholicism. Others, like John Heydon, admitted they were not Rosicrucians, but under attractive and suggestive titles to their works sought to make Hermeticism and other curious studies more useful and popular, and succeeded, for a time at least. The curious legend, in which the fabulous origin of the so-called society was enshrined (that a certain Christian Rosenkreuz had discovered the secret wisdom of the East on a pilgrim-age in the 15th century), was so improbable, though ingenious, that the genesis of the Rosicrucians was generally overlooked or ignored, but the worthy objects of the fratres were soon discovered and supported by several able men; the result being a mass of literature on the subject, which absorbs some 8o pages of Gardner's Catalogue Raisonne of Works on the Occult Sciences (London, 1903). The influence that Rosicrucianism had in the modernizing of ancient Freemasonry early in the 18th century must have been slight, if any, though it is likely that as the century advanced, and additional ceremonies were grafted on to the first three degrees, Rosicrucian tenets were occasionally introduced into the later rituals. So far, however, as the real foundation ceremonies of Craft
End of Article: ROSICRUCIANISM
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