Unexplained Mysteries


by anthonynorth on September 12th, 2007


When we talk of cults we talk of strange, secretive organizations that seem to live separate from society. However, perhaps the reality is that such cults are more an element of society than we think. Yes, they are secretive, and perhaps strange, but the history of cultish behaviour offers the possibility that they are an actual reflection of what it is happening in mainstream society. The Freemasons and Rosicrucians show this process in action.


We have all heard of Freemasons, but what are they? Thought to be born out of the mystical building techniques of King Solomon, ritual is based on the murder of the Biblical architect, Hiram, by three of his workmen because he refused to reveal the Secret Word of God. Thus enshrining silence in the Masonic code, the organisation was more likely an advancement of the craft Guilds that arose in the Middle Ages to protect building skills, particularly in the Gothic cathedrals. Masonic lodges, complete with secret handshakes, arose in the 18th century, the Grand Lodge of England forming in 1717. Said to comprise 33 degrees of membership, three of the degrees are open, the remaining thirty descending Freemasonry into supposed darker regions. The early major politicians of America were Masons, including George Washington, and the dollar bill includes their sign of a pyramid with the All Seeing Eye above it. This is symbolic of the Great Architect of the Universe. Whether Freemasonry is a cult or simply an excuse for bored middleclass men to have pretend secrets will be forever debated.


Freemasonry is one of the more interesting cults, in that it is seen as alternative, yet made up of what can best be described as the Establishment. Rumours constantly arise that the cult contains a network of fraternity, where Masons rise up the promotional ladder quicker than non-Masons. Whether true or not is irrelevant to the fact that, in Freemasonry, we see an alternative reflection of the rise of the middleclass as prominent in society. A society - ANY society - seems to need a cultish reflection of itself.


We can see this on-going reflection in the Rosicrucians, a secret occult order supposedly founded in the Middle Ages to turn back the tide of existing knowledge, as imposed on us by the likes of Aristotle. The cult was, in other words, anti-science and, in particular, anti-Catholic, in that Catholicism had attempted to increase its hold on knowledge by amalgamating much of Aristotle’s theories into mainstream Christianity. Named after its emblem, which combines a rose and a cross, its founder was said to be one Christian Rosenkreuz, supposedly born in 1378. Almost certainly an allegorical figure, he and his order caused quite a stir in Europe with the publication of three anonymous pamphlets in the early 17th century. These were the ‘Fama Fraternitatis’ (Account of the Brotherhood, 1614), ‘Confessio Fraternitatis’ (Confession of the Brotherhood, 1615), and ‘The Third Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreuz’, 1616. In essence, the pamphlets are esoteric and alchemical, dealing with initiation into a new spirituality by embracing quasi-Christian and eastern elements.


However, they are also revolutionary as they clearly promote Protestantism, a new ethics, and attempt social engineering to the point of a new politics to establish an ideal commonwealth throughout Europe. This led to the establishment of a Rosicrucian order in Philadelphia in the mid-l7th century, with the migration to America of fundamentalist Protestants. Throughout the 18th century further tracts appeared. Several groups claimed Rosicrucian roots from Germany to Russia. Creating much interest in occultism, the mixture of secret societies and political change also led to much paranoia, the Rosicrucians being at the heart of many conspiracy theories of the time. Christian Rosenkreuz himself gained a biography. At age five he went to a convent to study the humanities, and at sixteen he continued his education in Arabia. Learning Magic, he went to Spain, where he was greeted by the Moors, and eventually back to Germany. Beginning the Rosicrucian Fraternity, they built a secret Spiritus Sanctum in 1409, his followers going on secret missions following his death in 1409 at the age of 106.


The reality of the Rosicrucians was, however, that it was initially a huge hoax, the writer of the initial pamphlets said to be Lutheran pastor Johan Valentin Andreae, who died in 1654. But a myth, once established, continues to breed; particularly when there is a need in society for a cultish, if chilling, reflection. In 1604, the ‘brothers’ were said to find their founder’s tomb, surrounded by magical symbols, and his body perfectly preserved. In 1909 Harvey Spencer Lewis founded the Ancient mystical Order Rosae Crucis, or AMORC, in San Jose, California. Claiming to have been initiated in France, Lewis began an international fraternity based on a system of lodges aimed at increasing human potential, esoteric knowledge and psychic powers. The brother can rise through twelve ‘degrees’, the last three involving the psychical, raising consciousness. Lewis also devised a new history for the order, founded in Egypt in the 2nd Millennium BC and practiced secretly by the pharaohs. The fraternity survived in the Middle East through Solomon, and the Master Jesus was the last in the initial phase of the Rosicrucians.


In the Rosicrucians we can see a cultish reflection, born from a hoax, but nonetheless taking into itself the fears and hopes of a society on the change. Initially, it was fuelled by the rise of Protestantism, became the vehicle through which conspiracy theory thrived, and in its later incarnations, reflected the mysticism of the new spirituality of the 20th century which birthed New Age. Society always needs an inner, cultish reflection of itself, and through it we can understand society better than any sociologist could do.

© Anthony North, September 2007

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