Rosicrucianism has always interested me but the more I read about it, the less I understood. Even the explorations of a really smart man like Robert Anton Wilson seemed endless, and I still haven't read all his books. While reading "Rosicrucianism Enlightenment Revisited," edited by Ralph White, I realized that you can't really understand Rosicrucianism, you can only experience it. And it is extremely hard to reduce to a thesis--like everything else important.
But anyway, I thought I'd copy out a few passages from the book, which explained a few things to me.
In an afterword by White, "The Roscrucian Legacy," I found this comparison to a Rosicrucian-inspired story "Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis, Tertius" by Jorge Luis Borges.
Borges puts his finger on something that is essential to the Rosicrucian movement and makes it highly unusual. Here was a group of people who decided to change the world, not by force of arms or by founding a new religion or political party, but by creating a mythology and hoping the real world would imitate it, which in fact was what happened.
As a historian, what has always interested me is the interface between history and myth--the way in which the two are intertwined, the way myth influences history and vice versa, the way myths have their own history and their own evolution.
The first quarter of the seventeenth century was the turning point in the intellectual history of Europe. It was the time when religions and magical systems of earlier centuries reached their apogee and the world was anxiously awaiting an entirely new development. This millennial atmosphere that pervaded the inquisitive minds of the learned produced the ephemeral phenomenon known as Rosicrucianism. Ever since the publication of the two Rosicrucian manifestos -- Fama (1614) and Confession (1615)--there has been an unending debate on whether the Rosicrucian Order really existed as a formal organization. While this question may never be conclusively answered, it is now pretty certain that even if there had been a fraternal order with initiatory rituals, degrees, and teachings calling themselves "Orden Des Rosenkreutzers" prior to the publication of the manifestos, it was of relatively little importance. It may even be said that its very inexistence or insignificance was responsible for its enormous success, creating increased interest and the atmosphere of secrecy through the failure to contact that elusive group of adepti by many "eridites of Europe" to whom the manifestos had been addressed. The symbolic meaning of the order's name, which could not be fully rationalized, proved to be so enchanting that it was used by various occult and Freemasonic groups and is still around today.
The objective of many scholarly analyses of that phenomenon was to elucidate the authorship of the manifestos and membership of the fraternity. This effort produced several critical surveys of relevant publications from the period and other sources, but the results were inconclusive or debatable. In order to give the research on Rosicrucianism a new perspective, Frances A.Yates suggested that the term could be applied to a "certain style of thinking which is historically recognizable without raising the question of whether a Rosicrucian style of thinker belonged to a secret society. In fact, the development of such an approach could already been seen in earlier studies and is now generally recognized as valid. Rosicrucians, in this sense, were therefore all those great minds of the early seventeenth century who were steeped in the earlier hermetic tradition and at the same time sense the need for the future experimental method, believed in the need for secrecy in alchemical studies and yet understood the importance of exchange of one's findings with others, accepted the rules of feudal society and still hoped for a new utopian reformation. They were typically Paracelsian physicians and alchemists trying to reconcile the spiritual and material aspects of their science, the unity of which had already been undermined by the Renaissance, and also prolific writers of books that veiled more than they revealed.
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