Let’s clear up the matter once and for all:
Are Rosicrucians Christian or NOT?
After announcing my intention to review all of the Rosicrucian Orders in my last blog post a few objectives were also clearly set out in order to complete the process. The first of these objectives is to determine the real nature of the Rosicrucian Order. After all how can anyone hope to clearly review those varying pedigrees without having some sort of measuring stick by which to judge them?
Just to recap, I am going to review each order, award them with star ratings and a points system, based upon their merits, teachings and community spirit. They are going to be placed under the microscope.
We have to turn to the original sources that inspire the movement, particularly the Rosicrucian manifestos of the early 1600’s and start from there. Several symbols and orders may prove valid going into the 1700’s, in an era when alchemy was still practiced and the original Rosicrucian ideals were still fresh in their European minds. Today what we are going to focus on is an often heated argument, concerning the real core of the Rosicrucian teachings; are Rosicrucians really Christian?
This question raises some issues. Are Rosicrucians really Christians at a hardcore level, and if so does that mean you have to be a Christian in order to be a Rosicrucian today? Several Rosicrucian Orders today have nothing to do with Christianity and often make no or little mention of Jesus Christ himself. In some circles the big J.C is a taboo name conjuring up images such as torture, Templar hunting and witch trials.
For some what the church has done has become so negatively ingrained it is impossible for them to accept Christian symbols. Being a NZ Maori I can relate to these issues as they are still being addressed back home. As a result of these ongoing issues you today see more interest in bodies like the RR et AC, which blends Osiris with Christ and you can understand how many seekers find this ‘Solar’ way of approaching Christ as being more ‘palatable.’ But this ain’t your mother trying to make you eat your vegetables kids.
Now, I’ve seen Adepts in various orders try to address this issue and normally they answer ‘YES the Rosicrucian current is CHRISTIAN.’ But hold up a minute. Is that really an informed summation?
I think not. I am going to clear up this issue once and for all. My qualifications to undertake this task is that I’ve been carefully tutored in Germany over a seven year period by the last surviving Pansophist. He spoke openly about forgotten elements of the original tradition and today I’m going to highlight one of those for you as well, seeing that the Christ-or-NOT debate needs silencing once and for all.
In order to break down this argument you’ll get two phases:
Phase One: What Most People Know About the Early Rosicrucians.
The three main manifestos of the Rosicrucian Brotherhood:
The Fama Fraternitatis – 1614
The Confession of the Rosicrucians – 1615
The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreuz – 1616
There is a forth manifesto worth examining which I discuss here. Now, to be clear, these original Rosicrucian manifestos do mention the importance of Christ, and they are quite explicit at that:
The Fama says that upon the round altar of Christian Rosenkreuz was written:
‘Jesus mihi omnia.’ Which means ‘Jesus is Everything to Me.’
The Confession also affirms Christ saying:
‘We sincerely confess Christ.’
The Chemical Wedding on the other hand:
Makes no mention of Christ, no mention of the word Jesus. Nothing. Nada. Nil.
However, it is about the same character Christian Rosenkreuz, whose name says it all.
That pretty much sums it up for most people. Many Adepts are happy to settle for the obvious. Yet the riddle of the Jesus puzzle in our tradition does not stop there, because as you shall see in phase two; there is something very UN-CHRISTIAN about certain symbols and gods that appear in the Rosicrucian manifesto tradition. Yes there are actually pagan gods and pagan sages tied to the early tradition!
Yet you have to wonder at what sort of Christianity do the manifestos imply, and what kind of Jesus figure for that matter? A real person or an internal Christ Consciousness? Are we to conclude that the Rosicrucian mysteries are simply Christian, as if merely a blend of alchemical mysticism linked to the Protestant Christianity that abounded in Germany? Does this invalidate any Order that replaces Christ with more Egyptian solar symbols as well?
It would appear that Jesus seems absolutely necessary and to this I would have to agree in terms of reviewing the Rosicrucian Orders. A Jesus symbol should at least be present and some wisdom should be gleaned from Christ in one form or another. That is why in my reviews of the Orders; if any particular Order fails to show they have sufficiently represented the Christ mystery, they will lose points.
That’s right. I will rate their ‘traditional Adherence Score’ lower for failing to represent a Christ symbol.
Now, here is the part that 99% of people calling themselves Rosicrucians don’t know.
Phase Two: PAGAN GODS: What You Didn’t Know About the Rosicrucians.
Upon closer examination of the manifestos there is something going on that most people have entirely missed. After reading this I am sure you will no longer refer to Rosicrucians as simply Christian.
You see, while choosing to represent an apparent Christian tradition, the writers of the manifestos also chose to incorporate themes and symbols that are very un-Christian. In fact viewed through the lens of strict Christianity these themes are outright blasphemous and pagan. What is really happening is that the Rosicrucian manifestos are only Christian at a surface level. There are deeper layers to see.
Let’s examine the Fama and the Chemical Wedding one more time.
The Fama Fraternitatis is in fact a written response to an earlier document circulated in Italy. As Arthur Waite points out, in 1614, the same time as the Rosicrucians announced their existence in Germany, a pamphlet was anonymously published in Germany, it was titled: ‘Die Reformation der Ganzen Wieten Welt’ meaning: ‘The Reformation of the Whole Wide World.’
It contains a proposition for the founding of a secret brotherhood, which should have as its main objective the spiritual health of humanity. It is in fact a German translation an Italian work by Trajano Boccalini telling the same story. The original Italian title is none other than ‘A Universal Reformation of the Whole Wide World, by Order of the God Apollo, to the Seven Sages of Greece.’
Did you get that? By the command of Apollo, not Christ, not God, but a golden haired sun deity.
Arthur Waite writes that it has been ‘reprinted with the society’s manifestos’ and that ‘it is cited by various authors as the first publication of the Fraternity.’ Need I say more?
Inside the pamphlet we learn that the god Apollo has become dissatisfied with humanity, he begrudges our social and philosophical condition, so much that in his eyes we have fallen into a state of cultural vulgarity. His solution is to send out the Seven Sages of Greece, who in their wisdom should form a secret society which shall rescue us by enlightening and reforming culture and humanity.
Answering this pamphlet, the Rosicrucian Fama then appears on the scene, telling the story of the formation of a secret brotherhood led by a person known as Christian Rosenkreuz. Their goal? The reformation of the world of course!
Yet it is not only a written response it is a symbolic mirror, as the Fama tells us of mystic brothers surrounding Christian Rosenkreuz who are seven in total. So why seven sages and seven mystics?
Solon of Athens
Chilon of Sparta
Thales of Miletus
Bioas of Priene
Cleobulus of Lindos
Pittacus of Mitylene
Periander of Corinth
According to the tradition of the Seven Sages of Greece guarded a cup that was sacred to their god Apollo, a golden cup of immortality which seems to be represented in the immortal state of the incorruptible body of C.R.C who lies inside the seven sided tomb. Clearly the seven Rosicrucian brothers who began the Order take on the positions of the Sages of Greece as living manifestations, with CRC himself in the place of Apollo; god of the muses and the ancient Liberal Arts.
Now, as Arthur Waite points out, most early examiners of the Rosicrucian movement viewed the Fama not as the first of the manifestos like readers do today, but instead saw it as the second, the first being this document detailing the commands of Apollo and his noble wish for our cultural reformation.
That doesn’t sound very Christian does it?
The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreuz contains an additional pagan enigma.
In it our founding father C.R.C witnesses a vision of the goddess Venus:
“I looked back, and behold it was a fair and glorious lady, whose garments were all sky-colored, and curiously (like Heaven) bespangled with golden stars; in her right hand she bore a trumpet of beaten gold, on which a Name was engraved which I could well read but am as yet forbidden to reveal it. In her left hand she had a great bundle of letters of all languages.”
let’s face it. The ‘lady with the horn’ ain’t that Christian either. But how do I know she is Venus?
Well there are several reasons. The first being that later in the Chemical Wedding we read:
‘Here lies buried Venus, that beauty which has undone many a great man both in fortune, honor, blessing and prosperity.’
But how can we know for sure the lady with the horn is Venus?
Well as it turns out the Chemical Wedding again borrowed symbols from an earlier work. This time the Rosicrucian writers were borrowing from a work known as the ‘Little Book of Black Venus,’.
This image is the original cover image from this old magical treatise. The book is quite interesting because clearly Venus is shown holding the horn and as the Chemical Wedding states above: “In her left hand she had a great bundle of letters of all languages.” What’s more this book dated 1580 is attributed to John Dee; said to be a key inspirational figure behind the Rosicrucian movement.
Clearly Apollo and Venus are not very Christian… But it’s not like I am ruining your childhood beliefs kids.
Those who have been telling you that the ‘Rosicrucians are strictly Christian’ really only refer to the surface aspects of the manifestos as evidence. Yet there is clearly more source material at work behind those treatises and their symbols have crept into those documents. In short merely pointing at the manifestos without looking at these other symbols/influences is missing the forest for the trees.
My essential conclusion therefore is that the Rosicrucians were not Christians exactly. They were Hermetic-Christians in their doctrine and spirit. Hermetic-Christianity is a more precise term.
As the term Hermetic implies the wisdom of Hermes is at work, dawning knowledge from a more ancient time, which relies on the wisdom of pagan sages just as much as it does Christian prophets. Like Gnosticism Hermetica deals with Gnosis, and yet we should bear in mind that the Gnostics themselves were haters of Nature, as they considered Nature a trap and prison to the soul from which they sought escape. The Hermeticists on the other hand saw Nature as a revealer of the Wisdom of God, and the Rosicrucians can be clearly seen as adopting this view of Nature. In fact if you read the manifestos carefully both Jesus and Nature are considered the way to godhead and enlightenment. So against the grain of the majority, I believe Rosicrucians were closer to Hermeticists rather than to Gnostics.
This also suggests that Gnosticism is a poor substitute for providing teachings to Rosicrucian students.
In many ways what I have uncovered here in fact validates those Rosicrucian Orders out there that do use Egyptian and Greek symbols in their rituals. Certainly in the Golden Dawn RR et AC, which is their Rosicrucian Inner Order, C.R.C/Christ/Osiris are considered as three veils of one universal solar god principle. Christian Rosenkreuz is the human figure, which is initiated through the spirit of Christ delivered through the vehicle of the Egyptian mysteries of Isis and Osiris. That sounds more in line with the spirit of the manifestos. Several other Egyptian influenced Rosicrucian Orders exists, such as the FAR+C of France and the Cromlech Temple, not to mention personal friends of mine who belong to the Ordo Rosae Aurae in Germany under Martin Erler, which is Neoplatonic and Egyptian. All in all I find these orders far more versatile which is clearly in the spirit of the original R.C brotherhood.
This is why in my following reviews of the many Rosicrucian Orders I shall place emphasis on the necessity of having a Christ symbol as the manifestos state, yet keeping with the flexibility of the universal syncretic and inclusive Hermetic thinking of the original Rosicrucians. Different Orders will be measured against this index, showing how Hermetic-Christian they are, to varying degrees.
This aspect of the reviews will count for 20 points out of 100 and this score will be called ‘Adherence to the Original Manifestos’ covering several aspects of that Order’s adherence and representation of the original manifestos and the very symbols, diagrams and teachings set out therein. Other aspects of the manifestos will be considered under this score which I shall address in my next blog post.
I should point out however that for some of you this particular score may get ugly because this will play out somewhat negatively for Orders that beat a strictly Christian drum, that choose to be strictly Protestant, Anglican, or Catholic, and reject any notion of this Hermetic spirit. Orders that are exclusively Christian to the extent of failing to recognize the importance of broader Hermetic symbols will be scored down as it shows they haven’t quite keyed into the original intentions and versatile thinking behind the original movement. I am looking to score and award representations of Hermetic-Christianity.
I welcome any feedback and assistance in better defining the Rosicrucian current and completing these reviews. My goal here is not to discredit any Order, but rather to establish a clear standard by which to measure every Order by the same rule. In creating this score I have drawn from my own Pansophic knowledge derived from my time in Germany. It was my mentor who was kind enough to point out that the Rosicrucians were clearly far more progressive than their Protestant contemporaries in Germany. Indeed we have found; Christian they were, yet coupled with ancient gods, pagan symbols, and answering to a call from Italian Neo-Platonists. To me the Rosicrucian enigma is beautiful and through these posts I hope the tradition is becoming clearer for you and that we may relive its mystery.
Your friend on the path.
Samuel Timoti Robinson
Grand Hierophant of the Mystica Aeterna.
This section offers commentaries on my blog post from Rosicrucian brothers and sisters from other Rosicrucian Orders. Hailing from several organizations this section brings us together in a new incentive, started right here at the Mystica Aeterna, in order to help develop sharing and community throughout our beautiful tradition, no matter our differences, forming us into one Rosicrucian brotherhood, of connection, compassion and sharing.