The History of the Rosicrucian Order
By G. H. Frater N.O.M.
(William Wynn Westcott)
The opening words of that part of the 5°=6° Ritual which deals with the History of the Order of R.C. are as follows:
‘Know them 0 Aspirant, that the Order of the Rose and Cross hath existed from time immemorial and that its mystic rites were practised and its hidden knowledge communicated in the initiations of the various races of Antiquity, Egypt, Eleusis, Samothrace, Persia, Chaldea and India alike cherished these mysteries, and thus handed down to posterity the Secret Wisdom of the Ancient Ages….’
This statement is one which comes home to every member of the 5°=6° Grade, for although, in a sense, one in that position, is but on the threshold of really serious Occult study and development it is still easy enough to trace the masterful manner in which our mystic knowledges has been consolidated; and the essential unity of the system speaks eloquently of the Wisdom which formulated it.
‘Albeit the manner of its introduction into mediaeval Europe’ is chiefly interesting to us. C.R. is the great figure-head around which has clustered the most romantic traditions of mediaeval Occultism. History has not passed down the real name of this unique character: for C.R. is obviously a fictitious or assumed name chosen for mystic purposes.
Born in 1378 and dying in 1484 a life of 106 years was apparently the term of his physical manifestation: and to his exertions and efforts, it is that we may ascribe the great reformation of Occultism in the West. Fired by a noble purpose and ensouled by divine energies, his was the beau ideal of a life of Occult usefulness: it recks little if the world knew nought of that obscure personality, but it was a matter of supreme importance to the progress of Western Occultism and the full significance of this observation will probably be only appreciated by you in proportion as you may advance hereafter. The first years of his eventful life were spent in study, both intellectual and occult, to be eventually followed by a series of initiations at several places (out of Europe) ‘Where there existed Temples of our Order.’ Thus were laid foundations ‘whereon to erect a more extended superstructure of practical application’ and, having chosen three other Fratres to share with him the heat and burthen of the day, the establishment of the Order was effected in Europe. With the principal features of their subsequent activity you are already familiar and it suffices to say that when our Founder ‘entered into his chamber’ his work was accomplished, and every member among us thereby placed under a lasting debt of gratitude.
It is to be observed that there are three important epochs in the history of the Rosicrucian Order: the first being the life period of Christian Rosycross, who died before the time of the Protestant Reformation—the second, the 120 years of silence and secrecy, being the period from 1484 to 1604—and, the third, the period subsequent thereto, and subsequent to the Reformation. It was during the latter period that the opening of the Vault formed the historical basis for the subsequent publication of the Frama Fraternitatis or a Discovery of the most laudable Order of the Rosy Cross the publication of which took place at Cassel in 1614, though this tract is dated 1610. This event called forth most intense curiosity and excitement and the enormous effect which it had upon the learned world of that time may be better understood when it is stated that no less than 6oo tractates exist at the Museum at Berlin, all criticising —either favourably or otherwise—the mysterious association revealed by the ‘Fama’. In 1614, then, public attention was for the first time directed to the Order and many thousands are said to have responded to the invitation proffered by the ‘Fama’: those who were admitted being bound over to keep the matter secret, and that larger proportion who received no response to their overtures believing the whole thing to be an illusion. 1
It will be obvious upon reflection that the ceremonial and allotment of Rituals and instruction in the Second Order as now existing, cannot be identical with that which obtained prior to the opening of the Vault because the principal symbolism of the 5° = 6° Grade chiefly centres around the discovery and opening of the Vault: this being so, it may be noted in passing that the two preceding epochs, already referred to, may be attributed by sequence of comparison to the Grades of 6°=5° and 7°=4° respectively: the former—a degree of death and solmnity—referring to the precedent stage of obscuration, during which silent study and meditation may be considered as the typical condition—the latter—the Grade of Adeptus Exemptus—being referred to the higher and more exalted rank and attainments of him who founded the Rosicrucian Order, as a new formulation of that Occult philosophy or Wisdom Religion which, we cannot doubt, has never been entirely absent since the manifestation of human intellect with a capacity for the apprehension of things Divine.
On comparing the Esoteric historical account given in the Fama with that contained in our 5° =6° Ritual, several important divergencies and discrepancies become apparent: for the Fama was written for the public and is therefore not absolutely correct. Instances of the ‘blinds’ introduced into the Fama occur where in the description of the Vault it is stated ‘This is all clear and bright, as also the seventh (the Seven Sides—the 7th was not different) side and the two heptagons …‘ And again later on—’Every Side or Wall is parted into ten squares every one with their several figures and sentences …‘ ‘Every Side or Wall’ is moreover represented as having a door for a chest wherein many things and books lay—including the vocabularium of Paracelsus who lived from 1493 to 1541—Or during the 120 years of closure before referred to. This was an obvious inconsistency—and was in fact an intentional blind inserted for the purpose of disappointing the critics of that day: (the critic is rarely or never an Occultist: the Society, to ensure the exclusion of such men, did cunningly when it authorised the publication of a tract, with a blot which would condemn it straight off in their eyes—and so kept such men from clamouring for admission). For, be it remembered, the Fama was an official manifesto, the publication of which was authorised by the Fratres then empowered. Subsequently, on account of the great stir roused by its publication, and especially on the assertion of some that the principles of the Order were subversive of the simple orthodox faith of Christianity, its publication by Valentine Andreas was authorised (in 1615) with a Supplement under the Title Confessio Fraternitatis R.C. ad Erudotos Europa. This was prefaced by an advertisement to the effect that the ‘gentle reader’ should find ‘incorporated in our Confession thirty-seven reasons of our purpose and intention, the which according to they pleasure thou mayest seek out and compare together, considering within thyself if they be sufficient to allure thee’. The point of this, however, is that examination of the contents does not reveal the thirty-seven reasons, nor do the Hebrew Letters representing that number form any Word which might seem to be the secret meaning, but by Temurah, two pregnant words are shown forth, thus LHB =30+5+2 = Flame, Lux. Light. Illumination and LGD =30+3+4 = ‘For the Society’, or army.
There is another reference to Paracelsus in the Fama which has a curious interest: it runs ‘although he was none of our fraternity, yet, nevertheless hath he diligently read over the Book M., whereby his sharp ingenium was exalted.’ Now Paracelsus was taught by Johann Trithemius of Spanheim, Abbot of Wurtzburg, and Solomon Trismosin: he also travelled in the East, and being taken captive in Tartary (Compare with H.P.B’s initiation in Thibet.—Paracelsus was not a Rosicrucian yet after initiation taught very similar tenets—he found another allied Temple in the East) was initiated there; he is moreover said to have received the Stone in Constantinople from one Sigismund Fugger.
Although the Fama is in some cases deficient in its historical account, it contains here and there redundant description, which affords food for reflection : — thus, it is said ‘In another chest were looking-glasses of divers virtues, as also in other places were little bells, burning lamps, and chiefly wonderful artificial songs. . . .‘—The latter are of course, the Mantrams of the Easterns, Carinina or incantations,—instructions on the vibratory mode of pronouncing divine ames.
The only other important Rosicrucian publication was a very curious work entitled the Hermetic Romance, or the Chymical Wedding, which likewise excited much controversy : — it is full of perplexities (for the casual reader) though the meaning is entirely allegorical and only to be seized by violence. Of this class of study, all that can be said is ‘Sometimes a light surprises the student on his way.’ The date of publication was 1616, the year following the appearance of the ‘Confessio Fraternitatis’.
I should mention that an English translation of the Farna was done in London by Eugenius Philalthes. (Thomas Vaughan) in 1652;—he was at that time Supreme Magus in Anglia, or Chief Adept in charge in our phraseology.— In conclusion it only remains for me to point out that while the historical element has a unique interest for every member of the 50 = 6° Grade of the Second Order; this in itself is a minor consideration as compared with the mystic symbolism involved therein. The 120 years has other references, as the 5° =6° Ritual itself testifies. This was the number of Princes, which Darius set over his Kingdom,—and Daniel was a Magus among the Chaldees;—while another hint as to its meaning lies in the suggestion as to how that number was arrived at.
In the 5 = 6° Grade the symbolism of the Rainbow Colours is especially exemplified,—a range of Colour which may be said to be the most apparent and obvious: —while the 6° = 5° Grade is of interest to many of us, especially because the colouring is different. The 7° = 4° refers still further back and possesses an even more arcane symbolism.
It is especially desirable that when our brethren meet, the ancient form of salutation should be preserved : — thus on meeting they should salute each other in the following manner ‘Ave Frater’. The second shall answer ‘Roseae Rubeae’, whereupon the first shall conclude with ‘et Aureae Crucis’.
It was also the ancient custom after having thus discovered their position, for one to say to the other Benedictus Dominus Deus noster qui Dedit nobis signum—(uncovering Cross or Seal). This latter form should also be observed on all formal occasions and especially when Fratres meet who are little acquainted with each other.
Members are moreover further requested to endeavour upon all occasions when taking leave of each other to use the old formula Vale, adding Sub umbra alarum tuarum, Jehovah! 2
The effect of the foregoing observance is to directly maintain the psychic link which has ever served to bind the Members of this Ancient and Honourable Order one to the other;—in this light it is something more than a mere form.
The following beautiful sentences were inscribed upon the Tablet. At the head was written. Ganuin Pectaris IH SH VH insitum. A grain—or seed, sown or planted—in the heart of Jehoshua (The worn out physical body—laid aside—from whence has escaped the Spiritual entity which shall function in a spiritual body—as Paul said; until—if ever—it be again required to clothe itself with skin, and come down—again to teach and guide others) in commemoration of Frater C.R.C. our prototype.
Pater dilectissimies Most loved father!
Frater Suavissimus = Most courteous brother!
Preceptor fidelissimus = Most faithful instructor!
Amicus integerrimus = Strongest friend!
Well indeed shall your life have been spent in helping the world, and teaching others, if you can earn such an Epigraph.
1. The sudden publication by a secret Lodge of Students of a Manifesto, and semi-public initiation to Occultism such as then occurred has been recently repeated, for similar reasons by the Eastern School which in 1875 sent from India the learned woman H.P.B.an initiate to make a semi-public Propaganda and also to admit a few selected persons to Esoteric teaching issued from a lodge of concealed instructors whose published names are probably substitutes, mottoes, or symbols.
2. A wand to guide you and protect you in the ascent of the Mountain is the Staff of Hermes, about which the twin Serpents of Egypt twine: above the wings of Binah and Chokmah—shrouding the sacred Diamond lying on the Crown of Kether—the Supernal. Sub umbra alarum tuaruin; beneath the rays of spiritual Understanding emanating from Divine Wisdom, you may indeed be safe, trusting to the protection and aid of the High and Holy Powers summed up in the great Name JHVH. (Original Note.)