We frequently hear of an alleged connection between Freemasonry and so-called “Rosicrucianism” brotherhoods. In the course of the last couple of centuries there have been many hundred claims set up to the title of “Society” or “Fraternity” of the Rosy Cross. Any brother who feels inclined to dip into the question of extinct Masonic rites and degrees, by a short course of Mackey’s Masonic Encyclopedia, will be, if not already informed, astonished to find that all the Masonry we are officially aware of today is but a mere fragment of all that has at one time or other figured as of impressive importance to the craft.
In the archives of the Scottish Rite are preserved evidences of the voluntary abdications of a number of imposing Masonic “rites” that once enjoyed high favor and numerous membership, but which eventually dissolved, under pressure of internal dissensions, and the larger hope embodied in the rise of a body so constituted as to obviate the possibility of unbecoming strife and other weaknesses.
At the present moment the empty dignities and now meaningless powers of obsolete rites are occasionally heard of as passed from hand to hand, for trifling money considerations, wherever a gull can be induced to believe that he is receiving high Masonic degrees, even though the same may be conferred upon him by a single individual “by virtue of powers,” etc., in a basement dining room or hall bedroom.
The chief significance that attaches itself to the revival of interest in the Rosicrucian’s lies in the fact that, according to the strict spirit of the ancient brotherhood, there can be but one organization in existence entitled to their name and secrets, and that organization never had nor, it is claimed, never will have any public or exoteric existence. It is not the sort of club or society that has officers, holds public or even private meetings and elects eligible persons to membership.
The true Rosicrucian may never meet another of his mystic order on the physical plane. He is not initiated in a hall or chapter room after having paid a fee ; but it is made known to him by occult means that he has been found worthy of admission into this literal band of immortals, and thereafter he is shown how to project his perceptions on to a higher plane upon which it is possible for him to meet, know and commune with all his fellow members, who assemble like witches upon a sabot, in a twinkling of an eye, by merely willing to do so, no matter where their physical bodies may happen to be sojourning.
In fact, the first public gossip concerning the Rosicrucians and their wonderful powers began to be bruited about at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Membership in the fraternity was attributed to various alchemists by the herd, and claimed by numerous charlatans on the other hand. Many tales are told of the discovery of weird underground vaults in otherwise deserted places, which upon being opened were found to be brilliantly illuminated by perpetually burning lamps-that is to say, until extinguished by the admission of outer air. These were said to have been the secret meeting places of the Rosicrucians.
From the very nature of Rosicrucianism as described, however, that of tradition must necessarily be spurious, as the mere fact of publicity, upon however private or restricted a scale is sufficient to stamp it as such. The existence of Rosicrucianism might be claimed, and certain highly endowed scholars and scientists be suspected-nay, openly charged-with being members of its charmed circle; but no genuine record exists of any ancient Rosicrucian Society upon which any theory of continuity might be based by a modern group of students of the occult.
There is quite a successful modern Rosicrucian Society in London, the moving spirit of which was the late Dr. Wynn Westcott, formerly coroner for the County of Middlesex. As a research body, disinterring many interesting legends about the reputed Rosicrucian’s of the Middle Ages, this latter day society has done good work.
It all sums up in the state of mind of the person most interested. An old Potsdam pensioner once wrote King Frederick the Great in much distress over the suppression of a military decoration, the only one he had ever received. The king smilingly wrote on the margin of the complaint, “Pensioner X has herewith our royal permission to wear all the abolished decorations he likes.”
Just as the evolutionary process, through which all organic beings have arrived from lower forms to present high states of development, may be traced in the structures of those beings themselves, so the structure of any mystical order claiming extraordinary antiquity will reveal the foundation of its claims to the student, irrespective of any personal contentions.
Our own craft has hardly departed from the use of ancient monitors and lectures connecting Masonry with the beginnings of the human race – Adam, Seth, Enoch, Noah, Moses, and other patriarchs-which had become a laughing stock among our strenuous modernists, when it begins to transpire that the structure of Freemasonry is superior to her traditions, and that he who knows Masonry structurally will have no difficulty whatever in comprehending all these curious connections as apt and purposeful.
When this knowledge becomes more common to the fraternity we shall be in a position to understand the difference between that which guarantees the genuineness of our own antiquity and the claims that any mystical brotherhood may at present set up, of surpassing age, royal descent, and the possession of the fundamental arcane of the universe, without the average Mason’s being able to prove that his pretensions have any greater value than those of the newcomer.