Freemasons and the Rose Cross

Nevill Drury

in Stealing Fire from Heaven

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780199750993
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199894871 | DOI:
Freemasons and the Rose Cross

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Freemasonry and Rosicrucianism both played a pivotal role in the formation of the nineteenth-century Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn—a key organization associated with the modern magical revival. This chapter provides background information on both esoteric movements. The formation of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717 represented the beginning of “speculative” Freemasonry. This present-day fraternal form of Freemasonry does not require that its members be working stonemasons. Freemasonry as a tradition derived originally from the secret practices of highly skilled stonemasons and cathedral builders who worked on large-scale constructions in Italy, France, Spain, Germany, and England during the early Middle Ages. However, within the modern magical context it is Freemasonry’s system of ritual initiatory grades that has been most influential. The three founders of the Golden Dawn—Dr. Wynn Westcott, Samuel Mathers, and Dr. William Woodman—were all Freemasons, and the Golden Dawn itself adopted a Masonic grade structure based on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. Rosicrucianism, meanwhile, provided the inner spiritual focus of the Golden Dawn—the latter’s inner Order was known as the Red Rose and Cross of Gold. The elusive Rosicrucian fraternity first announced their existence in Germany with the release of four pamphlets in 1614–1616. The last of these—an allegorical work titled Die Chymische Hochzeit Christiani Rosenkreutz [The Chemical Marriage of Christian Rosencreutz (or Rosycross)]—is especially important in the context of contemporary magical thought because of its alchemical themes and spiritual rebirth symbolism and its direct influence on the Inner Order ritual grades of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The German Rosicrucian fraternity proposed that the faults of the Christian Church could be reformed through the accumulated sacred knowledge held at that time by a number of learned magicians, Kabbalists, physicians, and philosophers. In some ways the Golden Dawn can be considered its modern British counterpart—the Golden Dawn had many Christian members and, like the seventeenth-century Rosicrucians, their interpretations tended toward esoteric gnosis—sacred “inner” knowledge far removed from doctrinal orthodoxy.

Keywords: Freemasons; Rosicrucians; Grand Lodge; Golden Dawn; Dr. Wynn Westcott; Samuel Mathers; Dr. William Woodman

Chapter.  6658 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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