Who were the Rosicrucians? What does the symbol of “the rose and the cross” really mean? Why was the early 17th. c. Rosicrucian Enlightenment so fundamental to the founding of the Invisible College, which became the great scientific academy, the Royal Society of England? Why is Rosicrucianism connected to such illustrious figures as John Dee, Robert Boyle, Elias Ashmole, Robert Fludd and Sir Francis Bacon? Such questions have aroused the curiosity for many for quite some time.
The Rosicrucian movement, often called Rosicrucianism, first officially surfaced in 1614 Kassel, Germany, with the publication of Fama Fraternitatis, des Loblichen Ordens des Rosenkreutzes (The Declaration of the Worthy Order of the Rosy Cross). The name “Rosicrucian” is derived from its symbol, a combination of a rose and a cross. It has been largely conceived of as a type of mystical Christianity by many writers in the past, some pointing out relevant connections to Gnostic thought and alchemical philosophy.
The Fama Fraternitatis had been circulating in manuscript form for several years prior to its initial publication in 1614. The Fama Fraternitatis revealed the existence of a fraternity founded by Christian Rosenkreuz, who was said to have lived in the 14th and 15th centuries, and who had travelled extensively in the East, before returning to Europe with new wisdom and knowledge. Members of the Rosicrucian movement were secretive about the fact, and were said to travel incognito, healing the sick, and spreading this special esoteric knowledge to others. Upon the death of Christian Rosenkreuz, even his place of burial was kept secret. However, the Fama stated that the burial vault of Christian Rosenkreuz had been found by the new brotherhood of Rosicrucians, and that this implied the beginning of a new age. Naturally, this unusual publication stimulated much discussion and interest in its time – the early 17th century.
The year after the publication of the Fama Fraternitatis, the Confessio Fraternitatis was also published at Kassel, Germany, again by an unknown author and, this time, in Latin instead of German. It repeated the message of the Fama, emphasizing a new age, the hope of a reformed world with less papal tyranny, and the mysterious and powerful knowledge of the Rosicrucian brotherhood.
A further year later, in 1616, a third tract was published, this time in Strasbourg, Germany, entitled Die Chymische Hochzeti Christiani Rosenkreuz (The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreuz). This, many researchers believe, was actually written by a Tubingen Protestant theologian name Johann Valentin Andreae, who may also have helped to write the Fama. In the Chemical Wedding tract, Christian Rosenkreuz himself narrates the text and describes his experiences as a guest – and not the bridegroom, as the title suggests – at the wedding of a king and queen who live in a magnificent castle. The whole event develops into a type of initiation, where the guests are subjected to many tests and some are killed and revived again, due to a special alchemical operation. This publication has many fascinating and unusual arcane symbols, many of which are still being studied today. But after the publication of these three tracts, controversy arose in Germany. Some people wanted to join, others claimed to be members, and soon so much material was in existence, that the entire matter became very confusing. Overall, Rosicrucianism is a very complex topic, and must be looked at in the context of many cultural and intellectual strands in order to be studied properly.
Overall, Rosicrucianism and its concepts are connected with various Hermetic and Gnostic traditions, and the history of alchemy in Europe. It is associated with illustrious figures such as John Dee of Elizabethan England, Elias Ashmole, Robert Fludd, Robert Boyle, and Sir Francis Bacon. It is also intimately connected with the founding of the Invisible College, which eventually became the Royal Society, the great scientific academy which had a seminal influence in the development of science and scientific thought. It is thus worthy of the wider and more serious academic study which it is now beginning to attract.
Dr Karen Ralls
- Ralls, K., Medieval Mysteries: History, Places and Symbolism, Ibis Press/RedWheelWeiser, FL, 2014
- Ralls, K., The Templars & the Grail: Knights of the Quest, Quest Books, Chicago, USA, May 2003
- Ralls, K., & Robertson, I., The Quest for the Celtic Key, Luath Press, Edinburgh, 2002;
To get started…
- McIntosh, C., The Rosicrucians, Crucible/Thorsons: Wellingborough, 1980; rev. ed., 1987. [Forward by Colin Wilson]
- McIntosh, C., The Rose Cross and the Age of Reason: 18th-century Rosicrucianism in Central Europe and Its Relationship to the Enlightenment, E.J.Brill: Leiden, 1997
- Yates, F.A., Rosicrucian Enlightenment, Routledge and Kegan Paul: London, 1972 [Note: This book contains Thomas Vaughn’s versions of the Fama and Confessio]
Image from Geheimer Figeren der Rosenkreuzer
For a detailed, more comprehensive listing of many bibliographic sources – both academic and general sources – on the Rosicrucians and related topics, including books, journal articles, and periodicals, please see the extensive bibliography, Recommended Reading Lists and Appendices in Medieval Mysteries, Ibis Press/RedWheelWeiser, Lake Worth, FL, 2014, Gothic Cathedrals: History, Art, Places and Symbolism, Ibis/RedWheelWeiser, Lake Worth, FL, 2015, and The Knights Templar Encyclopedia, The Career Press, NJ, 2007, titles by Dr Karen Ralls.
Illustrated lectures and more detailed seminars
by Dr Karen Ralls can be arranged.
Please contact Ancient Quest for details.
Ancient Quest, and Dr. Karen Ralls, do not necessarily agree with, or endorse, material in the publications noted above, but provide this list as a general introduction to learning more about this topic.