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ROSICRUCIANS

THE PURSUIT OF ESOTERIC WISDOM

ROSICRUCIANS OWE THE ORIGIN OF THEIR SOCIETY TO TWO men, only one of whom actually lived. He was a trickster whose youthful fraud developed into a global organization claiming to do good works yet functioning in curious secrecy.

The order began, or so the legend persists, with a young man born into a noble Germanic family in 1378. Possessed of a spiritual bent, Christian Rosenkreuz entered a monastery, determined to dedicate his life to deep reflection and service to God. When the monastic life failed to satisfy his spiritual needs, Rosenkreuz set off for the Holy Land, visiting Damascus and Jerusalem. At some point in his journeys he encountered Arab mystics, who taught him principles of alchemy and suggested a non-papal form of Christianity a hundred years before Martin Luther.

Returning home, Rosenkreuz and a number of followers launched a secret organization dedicated to exploring the powers of the occult, operating beyond the bounds of the papal church, and providing aid and comfort to the sick and needy. The members would travel widely in performance of their duties, achieving anonymity by dressing in the manner and style of the country whose citizens they were serving. Vowing to maintain the secrecy of their order for one hundred years, they would identify each other via symbols incorporating the rose and the cross, and meet annually at the order's secret headquarters, the Sancti Spiritus, Edifice of the Holy Spirit. To ensure the order's continuity, every member was instructed to name his successor, whose identity would become known only upon the death of the brother who nominated him.

The choice of the rose and cross as symbols launched the first of many debates about the movement. Were they a play on the founder's name, or were they chosen with a deeper purpose in mind? The rose symbolized a need for silence and secrecy; carved in the ceilings of rooms where clandestine meetings were held, its presence dictated that all conversation within that space must remain confidential—thus the term subrosa, meaning in secrecy or confidence. The cross, drawn with arms of equal length, was used by medieval alchemists to symbolize the material world. In combination, both symbols suggested that the order was engaged in trading secrets of alchemy and other magical activities, and their nomadic claim of helping the sick was actually a means of exchanging information in a furtive manner. A suspicious few connected the symbols with those used by early Gnostics, and later others pointed out that both the rose and cross appeared in the family coat of arms of Martin Luther. Still others saw the rose and cross as an adaptation of the red cross of the banished Templars, suggesting that Rosenkreuz and his followers were resurrecting that movement while introducing elements of the ancient Kabbalah into its teachings.

None of these discussions took place during the remarkably long life Rosenkreuz led, surviving to 106 years of age. Nothing else about Christian Rosenkreuz was notable to his contemporaries. There is no record of his existence, or of the brothers who followed him and shared his Christian mysticism. Until 130 years after his death, no record existed either of the man or the organization he founded. Had the movement he launched proved so successful at concealing its existence and true purpose?

The world first learned of Rosenkreuz and his organization in 1614, when a manuscript titled Fama Fraternitatis, des Loblichen Ordens des Rosenkreutzes (The Declaration of the Worthy Order of the Rosy Cross) began circulating in Germany. The following year, a second pamphlet appeared, expanding on the contents of the first publication and describing the discovery of Rosenkreuz's tomb in 1604. After 120 years, the manuscript noted, the body of the order's founder remained “whole and unconsumed,” surrounded by several books and ornaments interred with him.

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Cover of the Fama Fraternitatis.

Like a Boy's Club annual, a third publication on the same subject appeared the next year, published in Strasbourg and bearing the provocative title Di Chymische Hochzeti Christiani Rosenkreuz (The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreuz). Filled with so many references to the Templars that it was immediately condemned by the Catholic Church, The Chemical Wedding is written in Rosenkreuz's voice, describing his attendance at the marriage of a king and queen. Within their magnificent castle, the regal bride and groom celebrate the event with a strange ceremony involving the killing and restoring to life again of selected guests, using mysterious techniques of ancient alchemists.

While the earlier two publications had generated limited curiosity among readers, The Chemical Wedding launched a flood of interest. Soon Rosicrucian groups were appearing everywhere in Europe with many illustrious names among their membership lists, including prominent Englishmen Sir Francis Bacon, Robert Boyle and mathematician and mystic John Dee. The common interests of these three men led to their founding of The Royal Society, whose presidents over the years have included Christopher Wren, Samuel Pepys and Isaac Newton. The society exists to this day as Britain's national academy of science.

Bacon's identification with the Rosicrucians has inspired some surprising claims regarding his life and the influence of Rosicrucians on literature. Born in 1561, the precocious Englishman became a brilliant scholar and statesman, was appointed attorney-general under King James i, and was later selected to be Lord Chancellor. The king even assigned Bacon the responsibility of performing the final edit on the English-language version of the Holy Bible, the same King James translation so widely used today.

Two aspects of Bacon's life have fascinated students of secret societies. Charges of indulging in the bribery of public officials forced him from office. In retrospect, it's widely agreed that the charges were unfounded, and that Bacon was caught in a power struggle between King James i and the Commons. The uncertainty of Bacon's guilt and speculation that he had been a martyr to political intrigue adds an extra veneer of mystery to the plot. In any case, forced to retire in 1621, Bacon spent the remainder of his years paralleling the efforts of his contemporary Galileo by trying to break the hold of Aristotelian logic on scientific study and replace it with deductive reasoning. This was a man, apparently, whose intellect knew no bounds.

The second, more fascinating facet linking him with Rosicrucianism in the minds of many is his supposed association with Shakespeare. A small but obstinate cluster of scholars insists that Shakespeare could not have produced all the works attributed to him without assistance from a colleague more prolific, more skilled and more educated than himself. Stratford-on-Avon, they claim, could not have yielded the store of culture Shakespeare drew upon for his plays and poems. Moreover, they add, Shakespeare's parents were illiterate and their son had demonstrated no aptitude for study. “Where did Shakespeare acquire his knowledge of French, Italian, Spanish and Danish, to say nothing of classical Latin and Greek?” the skeptics demand, noting that his contemporary, Ben Jonson, claimed Shakespeare knew “small Latin and even less Greek.” They point to the few examples of his penmanship, all of them signatures, suggesting the man was “unfamiliar with the use of a pen, and it is obvious either that he copied the signature or that his hand was guided while he wrote.”

This is not the place for a to-and-fro discussion about the true source of the plays and sonnets that represent the core of English literature, but it demonstrates the degree to which many people search for, and find, evidence of covert incursion into everyday life. It also illustrates the far-fetched convictions of individuals who insist that our lives are manipulated by clandestine groups.

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Were the works of Shakespeare composed by the erudite Sir Francis Bacon, prominent Rosicrucian?

Literary scholars have their own explanations for many of the unanswered questions about Shakespeare's life and works, but conspiracy theorists focus on a subversive explanation. Building on the secrecy aspect of Rosicrucian philosophy, they insist not only that Bacon created all the works attributed to Shakespeare but that the greatest body of work produced by a single author in English literature is, in reality, an extended proselytization on behalf of Rosicrucianism.

Shakespeare, they contend, acted as a front for Bacon, a gullible or perhaps collaborative partner in a scheme to imbed Rosicrucian beliefs and principles into English culture. Bacon's immense library, they point out, contained all the sources for quotations and anecdotes that inspired the Bard of Avon's plays, many of which did not exist in English translations during his lifetime. The plays were created and performed not for their entertainment or commercial value, but as vehicles to communicate with other Rosicrucians. Or so the story goes.

Is it possible that the greatest single fount of English literature is merely a series of envelopes containing clandestine messages in murky codes? Consider a handful of the claims:

• Sir Francis Bacon's cipher number—his identity as a Rosicrucian—was 33. In Henry iv, Part One, the word “Francis” appears 33 times on one page.

• Acrostic signatures indicating Bacon's identity show up frequently in the plays. Note how Miranda's speech in act i, scene ii of The Tempest appears (italics added): You have often

Begun to tell me what I am, but stopt,

And left me to a bootless inquisition,

Concluding, ‘Stay: not yet.’

• The word hog frequently appears on page 33 of various portfolios of Shakespeare's plays.

• Watermarks on works by Shakespeare illustrate Rosicrucian or Masonic symbols, including the Rose Cross, urns and grapes.

• Mispaginations in many Shakespearian folios, consistent among various printers, represent keys to Baconian ciphers. These usually involve pages ending in 50, 51, 52, 53 and 54. Example: Both editions of the First and Second folios identify page 153 as 151, and pages 249 and 250 respectively as 250 and 251.

• Decorative designs on Shakespearian publications incorporate Rosicrucian symbols.

And many more.

But why, assuming there is any veracity to the suggestion, would Bacon and his colleagues undertake such a complex and obscure chore, using the (supposedly) undereducated and untalented Shakespeare as a beard, and for what nefarious motives? And how could Bacon create all the plays and poems attributed to Shakespeare while simultaneously producing his own vast body of work, including the final edit of the King James Bible? Manly P. Hall, author of a codex to ancient occult traditions and the wisdom of antiquity, suggests an explanation:

Bacon is not to be regarded solely as a man but rather as the focal point between an invisible institution and a world which was never able to distinguish between the messenger and the message which he promulgated. This secret society, having rediscovered the lost wisdom of the ages and fearing that the knowledge might be lost again, perpetuated it in two ways: (1) by an organization (Freemasonry) to the initiates of which it revealed its wisdom in the form of symbols; (2) by embodying its arcana in the literature of the day by means of cunningly contrived ciphers and enigmas.

Why be so secretive and complex? Hall has a reason:

Evidence points to the existence of a group of wise and illustrious Fratres who assumed the responsibility of publishing and preserving for future generations the choicest of secret books of the ancients, together with certain other documents which they themselves had prepared. That future members of their fraternity might not only identify these volumes but also immediately note the significant passages, words, chapters, or sections therein, they created a symbolic alphabet of hieroglyphic designs. By means of a certain key and order, the discerning few were thus enabled to find that wisdom by which man is “raised” to an illumined life.

Perhaps. But there remains a small problem of the origin of the Rosicrucian writings, and their author.

In the midst of all the early excitement over the Rosenkreuz books and the society that everyone wanted to join, establish, or resurrect when they first appeared, a Lutheran pastor named Johann Valentin Andreae made a startling confession: he had written The Chemical Wedding as well as the two preceding pamphlets. The entire tale of the Rosicrucians was a hoax, Andreae admitted, a mockery of alchemy and its zealous adherents that had spun out of control.

Christian Rosenkreuz had never lived, had never traveled to Palestine for ancient Arabic secrets, had never founded a secret order, and had obviously never been buried after his death at 106, only to be found 120 years later as whole as the day he had died. He and his adventures were the product of Andreae's imagination, nothing more. He had written the Fama as a prank, adding the second pamphlet and The Chemical Wedding when many people took the Fama seriously.

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The family crest of Johann Valentin Andreae, with roses and a cross on the shield.

It bore the ring of truth. Andreae had a reputation as a prankster; in his youth, he had been refused the right to complete his final examination after he was caught nailing a libelous note to the chancellor's door. With no degree, he spent the next few years hiking through Europe, returning to his studies and successfully writing his liturgical examinations at age twenty-eight. After Andreae's admission that he had conceived the character of Rosenkreuz and his organization like a modern-day mystery writer concocting the plot, setting and characters of a whodunit, people began to notice that his family's coat of arms was composed of roses and a cross. Could there be any doubt?

There was, among the most fervent members of the new order. If Andreae could claim that he wrote the Rosicrucian stories as a prank, some wondered, how do we know this so-called confession isn't the real prank? Or perhaps he wrote the books as a means of galvanizing people into doing good works and pursuing esoteric interests. Even if Rosenkreuz's life were entirely fictional, the argument went, it inspired an idea that could benefit the world, and a philosophy that could reward mankind with insight and spiritual value. Perhaps, it was proposed, Andreae declared that the league existed with the expectation that those who believed in its principles would create it. And they had. So what did it matter?

The debate continues. If, as seems likely, the tale of Christian Rosenkreuz and his secretive followers sprang entirely from Andreae's imagination, it was an idea whose time had come. But what inspired him to conceive of this tale in the first place? The answer may have been incinerated in Rome's Campo de Fiori on a February morning in 1600 when, after eight years’ imprisonment and torture, the mystic and former Dominican priest Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake on charges of heresy.

Bruno, one of history's most intriguing and mysterious characters, was the ultimate ecclesiastical rebel, a man who insisted on being free to ponder questions of spirituality and existence unbound by Church restrictions. Traveling widely in Europe and England, where he was received by the court of Queen Elizabeth i, Bruno's imagination and perception carried him into territory that was both uncharted by lesser beings and denied by papal authority. Rejecting beliefs in alchemy and supposed powers of the occult, Bruno trusted only his own deductive reasoning and focused insight. He perceived the universe as infinite space harboring other forms of life, and sharpened the concepts of Copernicus in understanding how the earth moved about the sun. He also pioneered the study and evaluation of statistics, proposed social assistance for the needy, and explored notions that in the sixteenth century were unfathomable by scientists and blasphemous to clerics, yet today are easily articulated by schoolchildren.

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The father of Rosicrucianism may be Giordano Bruno, whose dark statue broods over the Campo di Fiori in Rome.

Bruno's writings became widely circulated after his martyrdom, especially in Protestant countries where the Copernican theory and other concepts were being proposed without fear of punishment from the Inquisition. Andreae, an admirer of Bruno, may well have been inspired by the Dominican's rejection of alchemy as a serious subject for consideration, and his proposal of performing good deeds on behalf of the poor, free of oversight by the church. If The Chemical Wedding is seen as a reflection of Bruno's mockery of alchemy, and Rosenkreuz's directive to dispense charity without acknowledgment or Church involvement as an expression of Bruno's philosophy, this could answer the question of Andreae's inspiration.

Inspired by Bruno or not, the concept of Rosicrucianism continued to gain momentum well past Andreae's death in 1654, thanks to a combination of an old mystical attraction and a new mechanical contraption—the printing press.

Christians, Templars, Gnostics, Druids and early Kabbalah advocates had spread their word in the ancient oral tradition, supported by limited distribution of hand-copied manuscripts. Rosicrucianism was the first society of its kind to take advantage of Gutenberg's invention and its ability to produce thousands of copies of its tracts cheaply and quickly. Within a few years after the appearance of The Chemical Wedding, copies were being distributed, translated, and reprinted all across Europe with an impact far beyond that of similar philosophies distributed prior to Gutenberg. It had been one thing to hear a tale of magic whispered by a passing stranger; it was quite another to read the same tale, unsullied by new interpretations or ornamentations, on the printed page.

Exclusivity added another boost to the sudden spurt of growth. The ability to read was restricted to the best educated and most privileged class of society, and their embrace of Rosicrucian principles added veracity to a movement rooted in a hoax.

The wave of new adherents to the loosely established philosophy grew so fast and wide that the movement began simultaneously absorbing beliefs of other groups and splintering into competing factions, each division claiming to be the “true” fraternity of theFama. Hermetists, Gnostics, Pythagoreans, Magi, Platonists, Alchemists and Paracelsians, minor coteries all, huddled beneath the Rosicrucian umbrella even as mainstream members began to be absorbed within larger, more tightly constructed groups. With a philosophical interbreeding between Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry around 1750, the splinters became slivers when factions such as St. Germaine, Cagliostro, Schropfer, Wollner and others spun off from the mainstream. Within a century, certain Master Masons in the U.K. and U.S. had created “colleges” of a Masonic Rosicrucian society. Meanwhile, Rosicrucian members not associated with the Masons began referring to their organization as “The Brethren of Light.”

The dilution and fragmentation might seem to dim the prospects of the Rosicrucians’ survival, but the organization managed to widen its geographical reach if not its membership numbers. Most of the growth through the years from 1850 to 2000 came from supporters in the U.S., inspired by individuals such as George Lippard, who employed their often-bizarre backgrounds to create colorful and charismatic personas as Rosicrucians.

If you believe Rosicrucian claims, “precocious” fails to describe the man. After graduating from Wesleyan College at age fifteen, the Philadelphia-born Lippard determined that any preacher who failed to live under the same conditions as Christ was a charlatan. Not wishing to be associated with charlatans, Lippard became a law student under the tutelage of a future Pennsylvanian attorney-general. Four years of associating with lawyers seems to have persuaded Lippard to categorize that profession with men of the cloth. With that much cynicism in hand, Lippard believed the only pastime that suited him was journalism, and he began writing romances and nonfiction historical features for the prestigious Saturday Evening Post.

He still retained the adolescent ideas of an unbending morality, and in 1847 at age twenty-five he became a Rosicrucian as a means of combating the evil he encountered in life, including the American policy of slavery. Later, he launched the Brotherhood of the Union, a secret arm of the movement whose objective was to spread the basic principles of the Rosicrucians to a wider public.

Lippard published over a dozen books in his short life—he died at age thirty-four—and moved in exalted circles, claiming friendship with men such as Horace Greeley and Edgar Allan Poe, whom he might have influenced in the development of the mystery novel. Something of a romantic, Lippard spent much of his time in solitary walks along the banks of the Wissahickon River; he was even married on the river's banks at sunrise. Romantic notions aside, however, Lippard's greatest achievement lay in his embrace of Rosicrucian teachings and his impact on U.S. history.

According to Rosicrucian documents, Lippard met future U.S. president Abraham Lincoln soon after subscribing to Rosicrucian principles, and claimed he was responsible for arousing Lincoln's interest in abolishing slavery. If this is true—while Lincoln and Lippard appear to have met each other, no one except the Rosicrucians claim Lippard influenced the future president's actions—Andreae's prank had indeed changed the world.

A contemporary of Lippard, Paschal Beverly Randolph, was also acquainted with Lincoln and had an even greater influence on Rosicrucian activities in the U.S. Randolph's life story has all the drama of a nineteenth-century romantic novel awaiting its conversion into a Hollywood drama. Claiming a mixture of Spanish, East Indian, French, Oriental and “Royal Madagascar” blood (he vehemently denied rumors that he was descended from a dalliance between an Afro-American slave and white plantation owner), Randolph spent time in a New York poor-house before being informally adopted by a failed actress and her husband. Like Lippard's disillusionment with religion and lawyers, this experience scarred Randolph, who claimed he witnessed the husband forcing his wife into prostitution as a means of earning household income. “Thus, at less than ten years old,” Randolph wrote, “I had become proficient in knowledge of the shady side of human nature…. Up to my fifteenth year, I was cuffed and kicked about the world.”

After wandering the globe for several years, during which he became an accomplished journalist, Randolph grew interested in the Rosicrucian movement. He first joined the organization in Germany before returning to the U.S. in 1851 where he, like Lippard, was also introduced to Lincoln. Unlike Lippard, Randolph never claimed to having persuaded Lincoln to take a stand against slavery, but the two men established a close relationship. In fact, Randolph had been invited to travel with the train carrying the president's body back to Illinois following Lincoln's assassination, but he was ordered off because of his Afro-American appearance.

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Paschal Beverly Randolph. His close relationship with Abraham Lincoln did not qualify him to ride on the funeral train.

Soon after, Randolph was awarded the title of Rosicrucian Supreme Grand Master for the Western World at a German conclave. He founded the Fraternitas Rosae Crucis as the true center of Rosicrucianism in America, and dedicated the rest of his life to promoting Rosicrucian ideas of achieving ultimate wisdom via ancient mystical means, and writing books—many books. Rosicrucian historians claim he wrote and published over two dozen books and pamphlets, most of them proselytizing the Rosicrucian association with love, health, mysticism and the occult. Boasting titles such as Dealing with the Dead (1861), Love and Its Hidden History (1869) and The Evils of the Tobacco Habit (1872), Randolph managed to attract a number of readers who normally might pass up the opportunity to absorb thoughts of oriental mysticism and medieval occult practices.

In the end, Randolph's life proved to be almost as tragic as Lincoln's. In 1872, he was arrested and charged with the crime of promoting “free love” and immorality, a charge, court documents revealed, that had been trumped up by former business associates seeking copyright privileges of his books. Although eventually acquitted, Randolph never overcame the humiliation of defending himself, and was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Just 49 years old, Randolph had managed to elevate the awareness and power of the Rosicrucian movement throughout the U.S., and the momentum of his work carried it well into the next century.

Randolph may have helped improve the state of the Rosicrucians, to the point where it ranked second in membership numbers to the Freemasons, but he couldn't overcome the splinter effect that plagued the group from the beginning. Each offshoot imposed its own beliefs and restrictions on members. These variations were often the result of cultural differences between nations, and by the early 1900s American Rosicrucianism had evolved into a branch distinct from other countries.

Each of the various organizations claimed to be the true home of the movement. The most prominent included Randolph's Fraternitas Rosae Crucis; the Societas Rosicruciana in Civitatibus Foederatis (sricf), a smallish group that originated with British and Scottish Masons and required Masonic membership prior to acceptance; the Societas Rosicruciana in America (sria), a sliver from the splinter sricf that accepted non-Masons as members; The Rosicrucian Fellowship, launched in Oceanside, California, to promote mail order courses in astrology and the occult; the Rosicrucian Anthroposophic League, dedicated to investigating the occult laws of nature and helping mankind “attain self-conscious immortality, which is the crowning feat of evolution”; Lectorium Rosicrucianum, an American cousin of a branch originating in the Netherlands whose objective is to disseminate the teachings of its founder, J. Van Rijckenborgh; the Ausar Auset Society, created to foster Rosicrucian values exclusively to Afro-Americans; and the Ancient and Mystical Rosae Crucis (amorc).

Of these, amorc claims the largest, most active membership, the only “true believers” in principles extending back to the organization's roots. Its founder, a man named Harvey Spencer Lewis, spent much of his life moving back and forth both spiritually and geographically. Born in New York City in 1883, Lewis pursued occult interests there and in France and Florida before settling in San Jose, near San Francisco. The amorc's San Jose headquarters complex includes Rose-Croix University, a planetarium, the Rosicrucian Research Library and, most prominent of all, the Egyptian Museum, which has become a prominent local tourist attraction in its own right.

On the basis of facilities alone, amorc rightfully calls itself the world's largest Rosicrucian order. Although the organization refuses to divulge the size of its membership, it lists lodges in ninety countries, holds annual conventions, and publishes two magazines, one for the general public (The Rosicrucian Digest) and one restricted to members only (The Rosicrucian Forum).

AMORC TAKES great pains to identify itself not as a religious order but as “a non-profit educational charitable organization,” helping its members “find a greater appreciation of the mystical principles underlying their individual religions and philosophical beliefs.” The order claims its members “are practical men who believe in progress, law and order and self-development…. [They] frown… on all wrong-doing, seek… to elevate man in his own esteem [and] teach… due and loyal respect to woman, the laws, society and the world.” This is a club John Wayne might have been proud to join.

The description grows even more righteous. Its spiritually minded members must possess three virtues: a pure life, “virile and strong but unsullied”; a desire “to penetrate the mysteries of nature”; and a willingness “to sacrifice for one's development while helping others along the path.”

Amid all this righteousness and splintering, the belief system of Rosicrucianism appears to be overlooked. In fact it is, for a simple reason: it does not exist.

Rosicrucians are quick to identify their ideal personality characteristics and values, but they refuse to document anything as inflexible as a creed or doctrine, claiming they offer not a formula but a search. As amorc puts it:

We do not propose a belief system, nor a dogmatic decree, but a personal, practical approach to living that each student must learn and master through their own experiences. Our teachings do not attempt to dictate what you should think—we want you to think for yourself. What we provide are simply the tools to enable you to accomplish this.

One unusual aspect of Rosicrucianism is its emphasis on modesty. Other organizations may delight in attracting attention—consider the Shriners—but Rosicrucians prefer anonymity. According to Reuben Swinburne Clymer, who became a Rosicrucian Grand Master at the tender age of 27 and published several books that amount to a Rosicrucian manifesto:

“A true Rose Cross does not indulge in secret hand signs or shakes, celebrations, vain displays of wealth… or meaningless rituals. Rather, a Rose Cross is a person (male or female) who is silent in his work and discreet in his speech (no bragging, ‘I am a Rose Cross’). He also performs good works, is a servant to all, and remembers that ‘goodness, not knowledge, is power.’”

And for those who may confuse Rosicrucian values with those of the Masons, Clymer scolded: “Unlike Masons, Rosicrucians have no special rings, nor do they (like some clandestine orders) wear rose crosses or possess any items which stand out in society. True Rosicrucians do not care to be known as such. They prefer to study and work, rather than be paraded before the curious mass.” Then Clymer adds an effective analogy: “A gold coin passes very quietly through the world, but your counterfeit makes a great noise wherever it may chance to be; so with pseudo-Rosicrucians.”

Without doubt, doing good work for society and concealing it within a cloak of modesty is a commendable quality. It does, however, introduce a serious flaw. If your good works are all done in secrecy, the outside world sees no evidence of your charity. And, given the public's inclination to equate secrecy with evil, the opposite effect may occur: instead of admiration, you create suspicion.

As much as the Rosicrucians may assure everyone that all members represent the highest moral quality, seek the purest spiritual achievements, and act in the most modest manner regarding their good works, they are prone to secrecy in a manner that appears to contradict many of their esteemed qualities.

In a 2005 issue of Rosicrucian Digest, a writer named Sven Johansson, identified as Grand Master Grand Lodge of the English Language Jurisdiction for Europe and Africa, identifies the Seven Elements of Mystical Development. (The elements themselves are not all that mystical. According to Johansson, they include Imagination, Concentration, Visualization, Meditation, Contemplation, Psychic Participation, and Cultivating the Experience of God, with “God” defined as “the greatest and most all-inclusive reality there is.”)

Johansson's lengthy and meandering article, readers are informed, was drawn “from discourses presented by the Grand Masters and the Imperator at the World Peace Conference.” The discourses were originally planned to be published as a book, but “because some of the discourses include information from upper degree monographs,” it was decided not to reveal their contents.

Why the secrecy? Are “upper degree monographs” too difficult for the average individual to comprehend? Or do the various Grand Masters gather to discuss aspects of life, in and out of Rosicrucianism, that they prefer remain concealed?

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