One must distinguish between Rosicrucian ideas and Rosicrucian societies. The name derives from Christian Rosenkreuz (Rosycross), who is probably an allegorical figure (c.1378-1484). Between 1614 and 1616 four pamphlets described his travels in the East and his initiation into occult secrets. A Lutheran pastor, J.V. Andreae,* may have been the author of one or more. The pamphlets hinted at a Rosicrucian Fraternity with supernormal powers, but no such society can be traced, until in the eighteenth century several Rosicrucian groups were formed in Germany, Russia, and Poland. They were closely associated with Freemasonry,* and Masonic lodges still have an optional degree, established in 1845, known as the Rose Croix of Heredom, which includes the candidate's symbolic death and resurrection. In Britain this rite is Trinitarian and includes the reading of Isaiah 53. The American rite is given a wholly pagan interpretation.

The Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia was founded by Wentworth Little in 1865. Although not recognized by Masonry, this society limits its eight degrees to Masons only. Early in the present century H. Spencer Lewis founded the Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis (AMORC), which now is centered in California and advertises postal courses in good-class periodicals. Its publications include the “lost” Book of Jashar, an obvious forgery compiled by Jacob Ilive in 1751, and also a book of the Secret Teachings of Jesus. Its chief rival is the group associated with the late Max Heindel, also based in California.

Although there are secrets for initiates only, the indications are that they are gnostic-theosophical. An AMORC brochure suggests that it concentrates on developing psychic powers. Max Heindel has publications on the Rosicrucian Cosmo- Conception, dealing with the world's past evolution under the guidance of great creative hierarchies, and including lost civilizations of Lemuria and Atlantis. Reincarnations provide fresh experiences, rather than the working out of karma, as Theosophy holds. The cross is not the symbol of Christ's atonement, but represents the human body. In the rose at the center there is a chaste and pure vital fluid to overcome the passion-filled blood of the human race.

M. Heindel, The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception (1909); A.E. Waite, The Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross (1924); H.S. Lewis, Rosicrucian Questions and Answers (1932); J.K. Van Baalen, The Chaos of Cults (1956); F. King, Ritual Magic in England (1970).