The Rosicrucian Tradition
The Rosicrucian tradition is a flowering of Hermeticism, a rose blossoming upon the cross of the Hermetic tradition. The rose may also be seen to symbolize the soul and the cross, the body and the four elements. In other words, the human soul crucified on the cross of the material plane. This rosy cross may be similar to the Egyptian use of the ankh.
According to a legend of the 18th century Golden and Rosy Cross order in Germany, the Rosicrucian order was created when an Alexandrian Gnostic sage named Ormus and his six followers were converted by Mark, one of Jesus' disciples. From this conversion, Rosicrucianism was supposedly born, fusing early Christianity with Egyptian mysteries.
Historical research indicates the origin of the Rosicrucian tradition in a group of German Protestants between 1607 and 1616 (early 17th century), when three anonymous documents were elaborated and published in Europe: Fama Fraternitatis Rosae Crucis, Confessio Fraternitatis, and Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz anno 1459. The publications of these documents caused immense excitement throughout Europe. These works declared the existence of a secret brotherhood of alchemists and sages who were preparing to transform the arts, sciences, religion, and political and intellectual landscape of Europe while wars of politics and religion ravaged the continent. It is probable that the first work was circulated in manuscript form about 1610, even though there was no mention of the order before that decade.
In his autobiography, Johann Valentin Andreae (1586–1654) claimed the anonymously published Chymische Hochzeit (Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz) as one of his works. The German “Gold und Rosenkreuzer” (Golden and Rosy Cross) was first mentioned by the alchemist Samuel Richter (Sincerus Renatus) in Prague in the early 18th century, then appeared as an organized order open only to Master Masons in 1756. This group, under the leadership of Hermann Fictuld, reformed itself extensively in 1767, and again in 1777 under the leadership of its Imperator, "Phoebron" (Dr. Bernhard Joseph Schleiss von Löwenfeld). The Order was organized in local circles, which practiced the Hermetic triad of disciplines; alchemy, theurgy (magic), and astrology.
Many elements of the Gold und Rosenkreutzer were incorporated in 1888 into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, including its grade structure (Juniores, Theoretici, Practici, Philosophi, Minores, Majores, Adepti exempti, Magistri und Magi.), titles, passwords, etc.
Contrary to modern misunderstanding, Rosicrucian spiritual practice is not some mystical mélange of New Age and self-help notions from pop psychology as has been popularized by certain, modern, pseudo-Rosicrucian groups. Indeed, there is precious little to be found in most nominally Rosicrucian modern groups, except their common misuse of the name. From the beginning, legitimate Rosicrucian schools have at all times taught and practiced the Hermetic triad of disciplines (Trivium Hermeticum): alchemy, astrology, and theurgy (magic), as was the case, for example, with the German Golden and Rosy Cross order in the eighteenth century.
Today, the R.R. et A.C. the Rosicrucian Second Order of S.L. MacGregor Mathers Alpha et Omega likewise practices this entire Hermetic triad of disciplines; alchemy, theurgy (magic), and astrology, and is unique among modern Golden Dawn and Rosicrucian groups in that it is the only one teaches the supreme keys of Hermetic Inner alchemy in its higher grades.
The Legend of Christian Rosenkreutz
According to legend, Christian Rosenkreutz was the founder of the Rosicrucian order who discovered and learned Esoteric Wisdom among Arab sages as a pilgrim to the East, supposedly in the early 15th century (see section below on Symbolism) ; returned and founded the "Fraternity of the Rose Cross" with himself (Frater C.R.C.) as Head of the Order. Under his direction a Temple, called Sanctus Spiritus, or "The House of the Holy Spirit", was built.
It is described that his body was discovered by a Brother of the Order, in a perfect state of conservation, 120 years after his death (which occurred in absolute secrecy) - as Rosenkreuz had predicted - in a chamber erected by himself as a storehouse of knowledge. It is described that on the Sarcophagus in the centre of the Crypt of Christian Rosenkreutz were written, among other inscriptions, the words “Jesus Mihi Omnia, Neqauquam Vacuum, Libertas Evangelii, Dei Intacta Gloria, Legis Jugum”, testifying to the builder's Christian character. Rosenkreuz's crypt, according to the description presented in the legend, seems to be located in the interior parts of the Earth, recalling the alchemical motto VITRIOL: "Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem ("Visit the Interior Parts of the Earth; by Rectification Thou Shalt Find the Hidden Stone."). This legend figures prominently in the Golden Dawn’s Rosicrucian Second Order, the R.R. et A.C.