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Rosicrucians

Rosicrucians (rōzĭkrōˈshənz) [key], members of an esoteric society or group of societies, who claim that their order has been in existence since the days of ancient Egypt and has over the course of time included many of the world's sages. Their secret learning deals with occult symbols—notably the rose and the cross, the swastika, and the pyramid—and with mystical writings containing kabbalistic, Hermetic, and other doctrines. The first mention of a Rosicrucian group appeared in Fama fraternitatis (1614), possibly written by Johan Valentin Andreä (1586–1654), and the Confessio rosae crucis (1615), probably authored by the same person. These works described the travels of Christian Rosenkreuz and the development of the Rosicrucian society, mainly from Eastern and Arab origins. Some scholars believe that the name was used by Andreä in the hope that his writings would create a movement dedicated to social reform and esotericism, and that the description of the society was a work of imagination having symbolic or satiric intent. The society was variously called Brothers of the Rosy Cross, Rosy-Cross Knights, and Rosy-Cross Philosophers; its adepts are called Illuminati. There was much diffusion of ideas between the Rosy Cross and Freemasonry in England during the 18th cent. Rosicrucian symbolism figures in the writings of William Butler Yeats, particularly in the collection of poems entitled The Rose. American Rosicrucians, who date from Germantown, Penn. (1694), have splintered into a number of factions, including the the Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis; the Rosicrucian Brotherhood (Fraternitas Rosae Crucis); the Society of Rosicrucians (Societas Rosicruciana in America); and the theosophical Rosicrucian Fellowship.

See F. A. Yates, The Rosicrucian Enlightenment (1972); C. McIntosh, The Rosy Cross Unveiled (1980); M. E. Roberts, Gothic Immortals (1989); J. G. Melton, ed., Rosicrucianism in America (1990).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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