Wednesday, May 10, 2017


Rosicrucian traditions

 In 1898, Papus, Paul Sédir and Marc Haven, confronted with the remarkable powers of Maïtre Philippe who worked without benefit of membership of any initiatory society, took the surprising step of starting another one, called the Fraternitas Thesauri Lucis (or F.T.L). It was based largely on the work of Sédir, whose research produced a book on the subject – Histoire des Rose-Croix – published in 1910, with a posthumously published expanded version (Histoire et Doctrines des Rose-Croix) in 1932, neither of which are currently easy to come by. And not terribly easy to read if one has. But are at least packed with facts.

 Rosicrucian origins extend back over centuries and many who have written about them have done so from a standpoint of ignorance and hostility or ignorance and wonder. Sédir decided to begin with remote origins and predecessors and saw the Rosicrucians as deriving from three traditional currents – the Gnostics, the Catholic church and Hermetic tradition.

Gnosticism was developed by the Cathars, Vaudois, Albigenses and Templars, and ultimately   by Dante in the Divine Comedy. The Catholic element was represented by certain monks in contemplative orders. And the Hermetic stream, from Egypt and the classical world, included alchemy and the Jewish kabbalah.

Gnostic theories contained the remnants of polytheism and Dante’s great poem was almost a declaration of war on the Papacy by a revelation of the Mysteries; an application of the figures and numbers of the kabbalah to Christian dogma by means of a journey conducted by Virgil (wisdom) and Beatrice (love) through the supernatural worlds, like an initiation into the mysteries of Eleusis or Thebes. Dante escaped the abyss over the portal of which was the despairing injunction “Abandon hope all ye who enter here!” by climbing back to the light in a topsy turvy kind of way, using the grotesque figure of the devil and his works as part of the ladder. Hell was only a barrier for those who did not know the way of return.

 Religious cloisters in the Middle Ages could be favourable to mystical and occult thought, with such great names as Thomas Aquinas, Arnold of Villeneuve, Albertus Magnus, the Lullys, St Bonaventura and others. The secular clergy and even some Popes provided help and protection as a number of royal letters in England confirm. Ripley reveals that the church (abbey?) at Westminster was a meeting place for alchemists. And in1503, Trithemius asserted that many books on magic and conjurations that he had read had affirmed his Christian faith. Whilst The Imitation of Christ by Thomas â Kempis (1604) was regarded as a Rosicrucian document and guide for neophytes, although it may not read quite like that nowadays.  

On the Hermetic side we also have recent efforts by Papus, Stanislas de Guaita and Josephin Peladan forming groups of their own under a kabbalistic and Rosicrucian banner, with varying degrees of success and failure, at which we have taken a passing glance. It will be seen that a lot depends on the spiritual and psychological maturity of its members. Those directly involved probably being the least reliable judges of that. “Man, know thyself!”  (No sexism where none intended).

Alas, we know little of the content or history of the F.T.L. Which is maybe how things should be!

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