The Rosicrucians are a legendary and secretive order dating from the 15th or 17th century, generally associated with the symbol of the Rose Cross, which is also used in certain rituals of the Freemasons. Several modern societies have been formed for the study of Rosicrucianism and allied subjects, but in no sense are they directly derived from the "Brethren of the Rosy Cross" of the 17th century, though they are keen followers thereof.
History & origins
According to the legend, the Rosicrucian order was founded in 1407 by a German named Christian Rosenkreuz (1378 - 1484), who studied in the Holy Land under various occult masters. During his lifetime, the order was alleged to be small, consisting of no more than eight members. When Rosenkreuz died in 1484, the order died out, only to be "reborn" in the early 17th century. This legend is accepted to varying degrees by modern Rosicrucians, with some accepting it as literal truth, others seeing it as a parable, and yet others believing Rosenkreuz to be a pseudonym for some more famous historical figure (Francis Bacon is often suggested.)
According to a lesser known legend found in Masonic literature, the Rosicrucian order was created in year 46 when an Alexandrian Gnostic sage named Ormus and his six followers were converted by Mark, one of Jesus' disciples. From this conversion, Rosicrucianism was born by fusing primitive Christianity with Egyptian mysteries. Rosenkreuz would therefore only have been initiated into and become the Grand Master of an already existing order instead of being its founder.
In point of fact, what was known in the early 17th century as the "Society of Rosicrucians" (Rosenkreuzer) was most likely a number of isolated individuals who held certain views in common (which apparently was their only bond of union). There is no trace of a society holding meetings, or having officers. So far as the numerous works are concerned, it is evident that the writers who posed as Rosicrucians were moral and religious reformers, and utilized the technicalities of chemistry (alchemy), and the sciences generally, as media through which to make known their opinions. Their writings included a flavour of mysticism or occultism promotive of inquiry and suggestive of hidden meanings discernible or discoverable only by adepts.
The publication of the Fama Fraternitatis Rosae Crucis (1614), the Confessio Fraternitatis (1615), and The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz (1616) caused immense excitement throughout Europe, and they not only led to many re-issues, but were followed by numerous pamphlets, favourable and otherwise, whose authors generally knew little of the real aims of the original author (and doubtless in not a few cases amused themselves at the expense of the public). It is probable that the first work was circulated in manuscript form about 1610, according to historical records, but if so, there was no mention of the order before that decade. In fact, research indicates that all three documents, including the concept of the Rosicrucian Order, were probably the creation of theologian Johann Valentin Andrea (1586-1654). He subsequently described Rosicrucianism as a Ludibrium.
The authors of the Rosicrucian works generally favoured Lutheranism as opposed to Roman Catholicism. Others, like John Heydon , admitted they were not Rosicrucians, but under attractive and suggestive titles to their works sought to make Hermeticism and other curious studies more useful and popular, and succeeded, for a time at least.
Other famous persons considered to be Rosicrucianists were: Ramon Llull, Newton, Miguel Servet (well-known defender of the freedom of conscience) Leibnitz, Leonardo da Vinci, Descartes, Paracelso, Beethoven.
The curious legend, in which the fabulous origin of the so-called society was enshrined (Christian Rosenkreuz had discovered and learned the Secret Wisdom on a pilgrimage to the East in the 15th century), was so improbable, though ingenious, that the genesis of the Rosicrucians was generally overlooked or ignored in the writings of the time. And it is because those strange legends that it's hard to really know how rosicrucianism started, many of their legends being more metaphorical. For example the opening of Rosenkreuz's tomb is thought to be only a way of referring to the cycles in nature.
Influence on Freemasonry
The influence that Rosicrucianism had in the modernizing of ancient Freemasonry early in the 18th century must have been slight, if any, though it is likely that as the century advanced, and additional ceremonies were grafted on to the first three degrees, Rosicrucian tenets were occasionally introduced into the later rituals. So far, however, as the real foundation ceremonies of Craft Masonry are concerned, whether before or after the premier Grand Lodge was formed, it is most unlikely that such a society as the Freemasons would adopt anything of a really distinctive character from any other organization.
A large majority of modern Rosicrucians believe in the study of Spiritual Astrology as a key to the Spirit, designed toward spiritual development and self-knowledge, as well as an aid to healing through Astro-Diagnosis. 
Rosicrucian is a term that is also used to describe an idea, icon, person or group that is either Gnostic Christian or simultaneously Christian and trans-Christian. For example, a cult that centers around the Virgin Mary yet openly or secretly identifies her to the Virgo constellation of the Zodiac.
In The Muses' Threnodie by H. Adamson (Perth, 1638) are the lines: "For what we do presage is riot in grosse, for we are brethren of the Rosie Crosse; We have the Mason Word and second sight, Things for to come we can fortell aright."
- 1614: Fama Fraternitatis
- 1615: Confessio Fraternitatis
- 1616: The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz
In 1623 the Rose-Croix of Paris placed mysterious posters on walls. The posters included the text: "We, the Deputies of the Higher College of the Rose-Croix, do make our stay, visibly and invisibly, in this city (...)" and "The thoughts attached to the real desire of the seeker will lead us to him and him to us".
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, various groups styled themselves Rosicrucian. Almost all claimed to be authentic heirs to a historical Rosicrucian tradition.
- Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis - AMORC
- Confraternity of the Rose Cross - CR+C
- Fraternitas Rosae Crucis
- Societas Rosicruciana
- Rosicrucian Order Crotona Fellowship
- Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia
- Rosicrucian Fellowship (The)
- Order of the Temple of the Rosy Cross
- Lectorium Rosicrucianum
- and others.
- Christian Bernard (1951 - ): current (2004) Imperator of AMORC; presented the Positio Fraternitatis Rosae Crucis in 2001 (AMORC Rosicrucian Year 3354).
- Gary L. Stewart: Imperator of AMORC from 1987 to 1990; founded the CR+C in 1996.
- Harvey Spencer Lewis (1883 - 1939): founder and the first Imperator of AMORC from 1915 until 1939; also founded the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum (1929).
- Julie Scott (1958 - ): current (2004) Grand Master of the English Grand Lodge for the AMORC.
- Max Heindel (1865 - 1919): founder of The Rosicrucian Fellowship (1909); author of The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception (1909), The Rosicrucian Mysteries (1913) and many other esoteric Christian and spiritual astrology books.
- Paschal Beverly Randolph (1825 - 1875): founder of the Fraternitas Rosae Crucis (1858).
- Ralph Maxwell Lewis (1904 - 1987): the son of Harvey Spencer Lewis; was the Imperator of AMORC from 1939 to 1987.
- Reuben Swinburne Clymer (1878 - 1966): succeeded Edward H. Brown as Supreme Grand Master of Fraternitas Rosae Crucis in 1922.
- Francis Bacon: Rosicrucians report that Bacon was their Imperator in the past.
- Hargrave Jennings: Jennings advanced an eccentric solar-phallic interpretation of the brotherhood in The Rosicrucians: Their Rites and Mysteries.
- Umberto Eco: "Serendipities : Language and Lunacy" (1998).
- Christian Rosenkreuz
- Age of Aquarius - Astrology
- Christian mysticism
- Esotericism - Mysticism - Occultism
- List of occultists - List of spirituality-related topics
- Western mystery tradition
- AMORC USA
- AMORC Directory of Grand Lodges
- Ancient Rosae Crucis (The), ARC
- Cénacle de la Rose+Croix (CR+C France)
- Confraternity of Rose Cross
- Divine Source RoseCroix
- Fraternitas Rosae Crucis (The)
- Lectorium Rosicrucianum
- Rose Cross Order
- Rosicrucian Fellowship (The)
- Rosicrucian Fellowship (The) - International Website
- Rosicrucian Salon
- SVMMVM BONVM Organization (The)
- World-Wide Rosicrucian Fraternity
- Christian Rosenkreuz and the Order of Rosicrucians
- Manifestations of the Neo-Rosicrucian Current
- On the Islamic Origin of the Rose-Croix
- Sir Francis Bacon and The Rosy Cross
- The Father CRC Archive
- The Founder of Rosicrucianism
- The Mission of Christian Rosenkreutz
- Who are the Rosicrucians?
Web links (various)
- A Rosicrucian Journal - 2000 C.E. at The Four+Corners
- Bacon's 'Secret Society' - The Ephrata Connection
- CULTWATCH: Rosicrucians
- The Alchemy Web Site: Rosicrucianism
- The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz (complete text in French; from Project Gutenberg)