The Rosy Cross
(originally a Lutheran symbol)
ROSICRUCIANS. The name assumed by certain secret societies similar to the Freemasons, who venerated the emblems of the Rose (or perhaps the Dew, ros) and the Cross as twin symbols of the Lord’s Resurrection and Redemption. Early in the 17th cent. two anonymous writings, the so-called ‘Rosicrucian Manifestos’ were published in Germany, the Fama Fraternitatis (1614) and the Confessio Fraternitatis (1615). They were followed in 1616 by the Chymische Hochzeit Christiani Rosenkreutz, now ascribed to the Lutheran pastor J. V. Andreae (1586–1654), to whom the earlier works are also sometimes attributed. The ideas in these writings derive from the occult philosophy of the British mathematician and astrologer John Dee (1527–1608), as expressed in his Monas hieroglyphica (1654).
The Chymische Hochzeit narrates the fabulous story of a certain Christian Rosenkreutz, who, having learned the wisdom of the Arabs in the East, became the founder of a secret society devoted to the study of the hidden things of nature and an esoteric and anti-catholic kind of Christianity, which acc. to the author was still in existence. The books were taken seriously and aroused a very wide interest. A flood of literature about the mysterious society followed, and the curiosity kindled was so great that even men like R. Descartes and G. W. Leibniz tried in vain to get into touch with its genuine members, while a number of new societies with alchemistic tendencies actually came into being under their influence.
The peak of the "Rosicrucianism furor" was reached when two mysterious posters appeared on the walls of Paris in 1622 within a few days of each other. The first said,
"We, the Deputies of the Higher College of the Rose-Croix, do make our stay, visibly and invisibly, in this city (...)"
and the second one ended with the words
"The thoughts attached to the real desire of the seeker will lead us to him and him to us."
The best-known English representative of these tendencies was Robert Fludd (1574–1637), a London physician who spread Rosicrucian ideas in a number of medico-theosophical books. In the 18th cent. the name ‘Gold- und Rosenkreuzer’ (‘Gold- und Rosicrucians’) was adopted by a society started in Vienna which, spreading rapidly through Germany, Russia, and Poland, received only Freemasons of the master grade and generally followed masonic ideas. One of its most famous members was the Prussian minister, J. C. von Wöllner (1732–1800), through whom Rosicrucian ideas exercised a strong influence on Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia; but this society became extinct before the end of the 18th century.
The Fama Fraternititis, Confessio Fraternitatis, and Chymische Hochzeit, ed., with introd., by R. van Dülmen (Quellen und Forschungen zur Württembergischen Kirchengeschichte, 6; 1973). Fr. tr. of these works, with introd., by B. Gorceix, La Bible des Rose-Croix (1970). F. A. Yates, The Rosicrucian Enlightenment (1972), with Eng. tr. of the ‘Manifestos’, pp. 238–60 (and bibl. note, pp. 235–8). Most other lit. is uncritical, being mainly the work of authors of Rosicrucian leanings or profession, incl.: A. E. Waite, The Real History of the Rosicrucians (1887), with refs. to earlier Eng. lit.; id., The Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross (1924); W. E. Peuckert, Die Rosenkreutzer: Zur Geschichte einer Reformation (1928); and P. Arnold, Histoire des Rose-Croix et les origines de la Franc-Maçonnerie (1955); id., La Rose-Croix et ses rapports avec la Franc-Maçonnerie (1970). R. Kienast, Johann Valentin Andreae und die vier echten Rosenkreutzer-Schriften (Palaestra, 152; 1926); J. W. Montgomery, Cross and Crucible: John Valentin Andreae (1586–1654), Phoenix of the Theologians (International Archives of the History of Ideas, 55; 2 vols., Leiden, 1973), incl. photographic repr. of (1690) Eng. tr. of Chymische Hochzeit, vol. 2, pp. 288–486. S. Åkerman, Rose Cross over the Baltic; The Spread of Rosicrucianism in Northern Europe (Brill’s Studies in Intellectual History, 87; Leiden, 1998). A. C. Jones in HERE 10 (1918), pp. 856–8, s.v., with bibl.; W. Kühlmann in TRE 29 (1998), pp. 407–13, s.v. ‘Rosenkreuzer’.
HERE J. *Hastings (ed.), Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics (12 vols. + index, 1908–26).
TRE Theologische Realenzyklopädie, ed. G. Krause, G. Müller, and others (Berlin etc., 1977 ff.).