Rosicrucianism, like Hermetism (or Hermeticism) and Gnosticism, is something that means different things, depending on whom you ask and about when you are speaking. Thus it is important to determine which Rosicrucianism. For original literary Rosicrucianism, there is the Fraternity of the Rose Cross described in the source materials, then following that there is the Rosicrucianism spoken about by others. Even later there is the Rosicrucianism, and Rosicrucian Orders, of the Victorian and Edwardian periods, and all those that they influenced, including Freemasonry's Rose Croix degree, Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (SRIA), Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), A∴A∴, Ancient and Mystical Order Rosae Crucis (AMORC), and so forth.
At the core, the Brotherhood of the Rose Cross described in the source material is simply a group of eight people, who are avowed virgins, bonded together by a brief code of only six points, to be of service to humanity, and preserve certain esoteric knowledge until such time as people in the West were ready to accept it. This band of brothers were to travel various lands as healers, and to do so gratis. Each brother was to select a successor to replace them in the brotherhood if they were to die, so the ranks would neither increase nor decline. Each brother had particular areas of esoteric expertise and they created books of that knowledge, collected into a philosophical library, which was kept sacred. These brothers were to be hidden from the world for the span of 100 years.
The simple, necessary and sufficient code of the Fraternity of the Rose Cross is:
1. That none of them should profess any other thing than to cure the sick, and that gratis;
2. None of them should be constrained to wear one certain kind of habit, but therein to follow the custom of the country;
3. That every year on the day C. they should meet together in the house S. Spiritus, or write the cause of their absence;
4. Every brother should look about for a worthy person, who after his decease, might succeed him;
5. The word C.R. should be their seal, mark, and character; and
6. The Fraternity should remain secret one hundred years.
Subsequent manifestations, of all kinds, of Rosicrucianism are more or less independent developments inspired by the idea of this literary brotherhood. The publication of the Fama and Confessio inspired quite a number of people to develop far more elaborate constructions nominally Rosicrucian. Most existing Rosicrucian groups are inspired by or offshoots from Freemasonry's Rose Croix degree, and thus pseudo-masonic in character, or come from the Rosicrucianism of SRIA and the Golden Dawn, which are late Victorian developments, but the latter of these two is incredibly important in the history of modern Western esotericism. As such, all these developed inspirations generally exhibit an accretion of much more complexity in both structure and belief, including initiatory systems and complex essential metaphysical tenets, typical of and imported from the Western Esoteric Tradition and late Victorian fraternal societies, but none of which is sufficient nor necessary to original, or essential, literary Rosicrucianism, in and of itself.
The publication of the original Rosicrucian documents contributed to a rising fever in the West, that continues, to find Adepts who could be petitioned by those worthy few, by virtue primarily of finding an Adept to be petitioned, who otherwise had not necessarily studied esotericism seriously, to bestow by fiat any number of revelatory esoteric Secrets and Mysteries upon the seeker.
The Rosicrucian Manifestos and period documents
- Fama Fraternitatis [PDF]
- Confessio Fraternitatis [PDF]
- The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz [PDF]
Readings elsewhere at the library
- Christian Rosencreutz, a biographical sketch by T Apiryon
- The Temple of Truth, part III of The Heart of the Master by Aleister Crowley
- Golden Dawn Library Project
Search the Hermetic Library
- Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn, started by Hermetic Library fellow Sam Webster
- Temple of the Silver Star, a Golden Dawn style order organized along Thelemic principles, within the College of Thelema of Northern California
- If I were to form a Rosicrucian Order… and Why I'm not Starting a Rosicrucian Order by Jeffrey S Kupperman
- Mystic Order of the Rose and Salon de la Rose + Croix of Joséphin Péladan
- The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz, trans. by Hermetic Library fellow Joscelyn Godwin
- The Rosicrucian Enlightenment by Francis Yates
- The Origins of Freemasonry: Scotland's Century, 1590 to 1710 by David Stevenson