Mishkan ha-Echad

Sunday 8 November 2015

A Rosicrucian by Any Other Name, Part 2

As a follow-up to my previous blog post, questioning the supposed rule that a Rosicrucian cannot claim to be a Rosicrucian, I have discovered some additional references that really do make it clear that the Golden Dawn founders, at least, did not accept this view (and, indeed, violated it, if there ever was such a rule then to violate), and it was also not (and still is not) held by many others within the wider Rosicrucian community.

1. Mathers wrote an open letter that was published in the public occult journal Lucifer (run by the Theosophical Society) in 1889 (just one year after the founding of the GD), challenging a group called the Order of the Dew and the Light, which claimed to be the true and only descendants of the "Fraternitas Rosae Crucis."

He explicitly stated that he was writing "on behalf of the Metropolitan College of the Rosicrucian Society of England," openly named Woodman as head of that same order, and stated that Westcott was Secretary General. Mathers signed the letter with his full name, rank, and title.

At no point were mottos used here. All three founders were publicly declared as members of the SRIA, and thus were Rosicrucians. While Mathers does not explicitly state "I am a Rosicrucian" in this letter, it is clearly implied, and anyone reading it would have been certain that Mathers viewed himself as a Rosicrucian.

2. In a letter to the same journal, Westcott (signing with his real name) wrote the following (in response to an attack on the SRIA for its alleged focus on dinners and suppers, which Westcott obviously disputed):

"we Rosicrucians confess to taking dinners and even suppers also when we require them ..."

There is no room for ambiguity here. Westcott literally says that he, and other members of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia, are Rosicrucians.

3. In 1916, Mathers wrote an article for The Azoth Magazine (published in 1917), with the following title and byline:

The Real and True Rosicrucian Order
by its Head, The Comte de MacGregor de Glenstrae

While Mathers did not use his full name, it was pretty clear who he was, and what he claimed: that he was the head of the real and true Rosicrucian Order, and that, therefore, he was a Rosicrucian.

4. In an obituary for Mathers written by A.E. Waite and published in the public esoteric journal The Occult Review in 1919, Waite describes how he met Mathers around 1883 in the British Museum, and some of the first words Mathers said to him:

"I am a Rosicrucian and a Freemason; therefore I can speak of some things, but of others I cannot speak."

Here we see Mathers literally speaking the very words that some today suggest are forbidden (or somehow proof that the person is not what is claimed). Again, there is no ambiguity here, and no way to interpret this other than to say that clearly Mathers, like Westcott, did not believe in this supposed prohibition.

5. What of other Rosicrucian streams, however? While my focus is obviously on the GD side of things, I have been unable at present to find any other sources of this alleged rule. Indeed, I have found the opposite.

An organisation called the Fraternitas Rosae Crucis was established by Paschal Beverly Randolph in 1858, and one John B. Pilkington wrote about meeting Randolph to a Boston newspaper in 1861, stating these as Randolph's words:

"I am a Rosicrucian, and cannot accept money; keep it."

6. The Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (SRIA) openly claims to be a "society of Rosicrucian Freemasons," and publicly lists the names and contact details of the secretaries of its various colleges on its website. Again, no mottos. Real names. In doing so, the implication is that they are claiming to be Rosicrucians, and therefore see no problem with it.

Now, it is open to debate whether or not such public presentation is good or wise, or if it is becoming of such a Fraternity long held to be secret, and I can see the merits of such arguments (and counter-arguments). Even Waite wondered this in relation to Mathers' announcement to him.

Yet that debate is beside the point. The focus here is on whether or not it is Rosicrucian tradition that one cannot claim to be a Rosicrucian. I believe the numerous examples given above, and in my previous post, raise some serious doubts about this supposed prohibition.

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