The Fama Fraternitatis presented the legend of a German doctor and mystic philosopher referred to as "Frater C.R.C." (later identified in a third manifesto as Christian Rosenkreuz, or "Roses-cross"). The year 1378 is presented as being the birth year of "our Christian Father," and it is stated that he lived 106 years. Having studied in the Middle East under various masters, he had failed to interest the powerful people of his time in the knowledge he had acquired and so instead had gathered a small circle of friends/disciples who founded the Order of RC (this can be similarly deduced to have occurred in 1407).
The manifestos were and are not taken literally by many but rather regarded either as a hoax or as allegorical statements. The manifestos directly state: "We speak unto you by parables, but would willingly bring you to the right, simple, easy, and ingenuous exposition, understanding, declaration, and knowledge of all secrets". Others believe Rosenkreuz to be a pseudonym for a more famous historical figure, usually Francis Bacon.
The literary works of the 16th and 17th centuries are full of enigmatic passages containing references to the Rose Cross, as in these lines (somewhat modernised):
“ For what we do presage is riot in grosse,
For we are brethren of the Rosie Crosse;
We have the Mason Word and second sight,
Things for to come we can foretell aright.”
—Henry Adamson, The Muses' Threnodie (Perth, 1638).
Rose-Cross Degrees in Freemasonry
According to Jean-Pierre Bayard, two Rosicrucian-inspired Masonic rites emerged towards the end of 18th century, the Rectified Scottish Rite, widespread in Central Europe where there was a strong presence of the "Golden and Rosy Cross", and the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, first practiced in France, in which the 18th degree is called Knight of the Rose Croix.
The change from "operative" to "speculative" Masonry occurred between the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 18th century. Two of the earliest speculative Masons for which a record of their initiation exists were Sir Robert Moray and Elias Ashmole. Robert Vanloo states that earlier 17th century Rosicrucianism had a considerable influence on Anglo-Saxon Masonry. Hans Schick sees in the works of Comenius (1592–1670) the ideal of the newly born English Masonry before the foundation of the Grand Lodge in 1717. Comenius was in England during 1641.
The Gold und Rosenkreuzer (Golden and Rosy Cross) was founded by the alchemist Samuel Richter who in 1710 published Die warhhaffte und vollkommene Bereitung des Philosophischen Steins der Brüderschaft aus dem Orden des Gülden-und Rosen-Creutzes in Breslau under the pseudonym Sincerus Renatus. in Prague in the early 18th century as a hierarchical secret society composed of internal circles, recognition signs and alchemy treatises. Under the leadership of Hermann Fictuld the group reformed itself extensively in 1767 and again in 1777 because of political pressure. Its members claimed that the leaders of the Rosicrucian Order had invented Freemasonry and only they knew the secret meaning of Masonic symbols. The Rosicrucian Order had been founded by Egyptian “Ormusse” or “Licht-Weise” who had emigrated to Scotland with the name “Builders from the East”. Then the original Order disappeared and was supposed to have been resurrected by Oliver Cromwell as “Freemasonry”. In 1785 and 1788 the Golden and Rosy Cross group published the Geheime Figuren or “The Secret Symbols of the 16th and 17th century Rosicrucians”.
Led by Johann Christoph von Wöllner and General Johann Rudolf von Bischoffwerder, the Masonic lodge (later: Grand Lodge) Zu den drei Weltkugeln was infiltrated and came under the influence of the Golden and Rosy Cross. Many Freemasons became Rosicrucianists and Rosicrucianism was established in many lodges. In 1782 at the Convent of Wilhelmsbad the Alte schottische Loge Friedrich zum goldenen Löwen in Berlin strongly requested Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and all other Freemasons to submit to the Golden and Rosy Cross, without success.
After 1782, this highly secretive society added Egyptian, Greek and Druidic mysteries to its alchemy system. A comparative study of what is known about the Gold and Rosenkreuzer, appears to reveal, on one hand, that it has influenced the creation of some modern Initiatic groups and, on the other hand, that the Nazis (see The Occult Roots of Nazism) may have been inspired by this German group.
According to the writings of the Masonic historian E.J. Marconis de Negre, who together with his father Gabriel M. Marconis is held to be the founder of the "Rite of Memphis-Misraim" of Freemasonry, based on earlier conjectures (1784) by a Rosicrucian scholar Baron de Westerode and also promulgated by the 18th century secret society called the "Golden and Rosy Cross", the Rosicrucian Order was created in the year 46 when an Alexandrian Gnostic sage named Ormus and his six followers were converted by one of Jesus' disciples, Mark; their symbol was said to be a red cross surmounted by a rose, thus the designation of Rosy Cross. From this conversion, Rosicrucianism was supposedly born, by purifying Egyptian mysteries with the new higher teachings of early Christianity.
According to Maurice Magre (1877–1941) in his book Magicians, Seers, and Mystics, Rosenkreutz was the last descendant of the Germelshausen, a German family from the 13th century. Their castle stood in the Thuringian Forest on the border of Hesse, and they embraced Albigensian doctrines. The whole family was put to death by Landgrave Conrad of Thuringia, except for the youngest son, then five years old. He was carried away secretly by a monk, an Albigensian adept from Languedoc and placed in a monastery under the influence of the Albigenses, where he was educated and met the four Brothers later to be associated with him in the founding of the Rosicrucian Brotherhood. Magre's account supposedly derives from oral tradition.
Around 1530, more than eighty years before the publication of the first manifesto, the association of cross and rose already existed in Portugal in the Convent of the Order of Christ, home of the Knights Templar, later renamed Order of Christ. Three bocetes were, and still are, on the abóboda (vault) of the initiation room. The rose can clearly be seen at the center of the cross. At the same time, a minor writing by Paracelsus called Prognosticatio Eximii Doctoris Paracelsi (1530), containing 32 prophecies with allegorical pictures surrounded by enigmatic texts, makes reference to an image of a double cross over an open rose; this is one of the examples used to prove the "Fraternity of the Rose Cross" existed far earlier than 1614.
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, various groups styled themselves Rosicrucian. The diverse groups who link themselves to a "Rosicrucian Tradition" can be divided into three categories: Esoteric Christian Rosicrucian groups, which profess Christ, Masonic Rosicrucian groups such as Societas Rosicruciana, and initiatory groups such as the Golden Dawn.
Esoteric Christian Rosicrucian schools provide esoteric knowledge related to the inner teachings of Christianity.
The Rosicrucian Fellowship, 1909/11. Teachings present the mysteries, in the form of esoteric knowledge, of which Christ spoke in Matthew 13:11 and Luke 8:10. The Fellowship seeks to prepare the individual through harmonious development of mind and heart in a spirit of unselfish service to mankind and an all-embracing altruism. According to it the Rosicrucian Order was founded in the year 1313 and is composed of twelve exalted Beings gathered around a thirteenth, Christian Rosenkreuz. These great Adepts have already advanced far beyond the cycle of rebirth; their mission is to prepare the whole wide world for a new phase in religion—which includes awareness of the inner worlds and the subtle bodies, and to provide safe guidance in the gradual awakening of man's latent spiritual faculties during the next six centuries toward the coming Age of Aquarius.
According to masonic writers the Order of the Rose Cross is expounded in a major Christian literary work that molded the subsequent spiritual views of the western civilization; The Divine Comedy (ca. 1308–1321) by Dante Alighieri.
Other Christian-Rosicrucian oriented bodies include:
Anthroposophical Society, 1912
Lectorium Rosicrucianum, 1935
Archeosophical Society, 1968
Freemasonic Rosicrucian bodies providing preparation either through direct study and/or through the practice of symbolic-initiatic journey.
Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, 1801
Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia, 1866, in Scotia (SRIS; Scotland), in Civitatibus Foederatis (MSRICF/SRICF; United States) etc. This Masonic esoteric society reprinted the Rosicrucian manifestos in 1923. A well-known member was A.E.Waite
These groups generally speak of a lineal descent from earlier branches of the ancient Rosicrucian Order in England, France, Egypt, or other countries. The inner structure of these groups is based upon grades, initiations and titles.
Fraternitas Rosae Crucis, 1861
Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, 1888
Order of the Temple of the Rosy Cross, 1912
Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis, (AMORC), 1915
Rosicrucian Order Crotona Fellowship, 1924
Rose Cross Order / Orden Rosacruz, 1988
Ancient Order of the Rosicrucians, 1989
Confraternity of the Rose Cross, 1996
Sodalitas Rosae Crucis (S.R.C.) et Solis Alati (S.S.A.), 2002/3
Order of the Hermetic Gold and Rose+Cross, 2002
Knights of the Militia Crucifera Evangelica, 2002
Oriental Rosicrucian Order, 2002