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The Rosy Cross (also called Rose Cross and Rose Croix) is a symbol largely associated with the semi-mythical Christian Rosenkreuz, alchemist and founder of the Rosicrucian Order. The Rose Cross is said to be a cross with awhite rose at its centre and symbolizes the teachings of a tradition formed within the Christian tenets
What think you, loving people, and how seem you affected, seeing that you now understand and know, that we acknowledge ourselves truly and sincerely to profess Christ, condemn the Pope, addict ourselves to the true Philosophy, lead a Christian life, and daily call, entreat and invite many more unto our Fraternity, unto whom the same Light of God likewise appeareth?
It has several meanings, depending on the source. Some groups, such as the Ancient and Mystical Order Rosae Crucis, from a non-sectarian or non-religious view, suggest that the rosy cross predates Christianity, where "the cross represents the human body and the rose represents the individual's unfolding consciousness.
The Rosicrucian Fellowship and kindred groups of rosicrucianists, promulgating an Esoteric Christian viewpoint, hold that the Rosicrucian Brotherhood was founded in the early 14th century, or between the 13th and 14th centuries,as an Invisible College of mystic sages, by a highly evolved entity having the symbolic name of Christian Rosenkreuz in order "to prepare a new phase of the Christian religion to be used during the coming age now at hand, for as the world and man evolve so also must religion change".
Paracelsus, who was called the "Luther of Medicine", describes these mystics sages as "persons who have been exalted (verzueckt) to God, and who have remained in that state of exaltation, and have not died (...) nobody knew what became of them, and yet they remained on the earth". Modern groups and researchers of the "Rosicrucian Enlightenment" suggest that there is much evidence that the Rosicrucian Order not only has made herself known in the early 17th century through the Rosicrucian Manifestos, but has been active since the beginning of the Renaissance period, not only as an hermetic Order, but also through forerunners – geniuses of the western world, sometimes also known to be Freemasons – in the literary, cultural, ethical, political, religious and scientific fields.
In the late 18th century, Karl von Eckartshausen, a German Christian mystic, describes the true Adepts of the Rose Cross in the following terms: "These sages, whose number is small, are children of light, and are opposed to darkness. They dislike mystification and secrecy; they are open and frank, have nothing to do with secret societies and with external ceremonies. They possess a spiritual temple, in which God is presiding". Later, in the early 20th century, Max Heindel, a Rosicrucian Initiate, emphasizes that the roots of the Brothers of the Rose Cross, immersed in the western mystery tradition, are almost impossible to be traced as "theirs is a work which aims to encourage the evolution of humanity, they have labored far back into antiquity--under one guise or another".
It has also been suggested that the rose represents silence while the cross signifies "salvation, to which the Society of the Rose-Cross devoted itself by teaching mankind the love of God and the beauty of brotherhood, with all that they implied." Others saw the Rosy Cross as a symbol of the human process of reproduction elevated to the spiritual: "The fundamental symbols of the Rosicrucians were the rose and the cross; the rose female and the cross male, both universal phallic [...] As generation is the key to material existence, it is natural that the Rosicrucians should adopt as its characteristic symbols those exemplifying the reproductive processes. As regeneration is the key to spiritual existence, they therefore founded their symbolism upon the rose and the cross, which typify the redemption of man through the union of his lower temporal nature with his higher eternal nature."
It is further a symbol of the Philosopher's Stone, the ultimate product of the alchemist.
The Rosy Cross is also a symbol found in some Masonic Christian bodies and employed by individuals and groups formed during the last centuries for the study of Rosicrucianism and allied subjects, but derived from the adoption of a red rose.
The Degree of Rose Cross teaches three things;—the unity, immutability and goodness of God; the immortality of the Soul; and the ultimate defeat and extinction of evil and wrong and sorrow, by a Redeemer or Messiah, yet to come, if he has not already appeared.
He goes on to give an explanation of what he believes to be the symbolism of the Rose Cross in that degree:
But [the cross's] peculiar meaning in this Degree, is that given to it by the Ancient Egyptians. Thoth or Phtha is represented on the oldest monuments carrying in his hand the Crux Ansata, or Ankh, (a Tau cross, with a ring or circle over it). [...] It was the hieroglyphic for life, and with a triangle prefixed meant life-giving. To us therefore it is the symbol of Life—of that life that emanated from the Deity, and of that Eternal Life for which we all hope; through our faith in God's infinite goodness. The ROSE, was anciently sacred to Aurora and the Sun. It is a symbol of Dawn, of the resurrection of Light and the renewal of life, and therefore of the dawn of the first day, and more particularly of the resurrection: and the Cross and Rose together are therefore hieroglyphically to be read, the Dawn of Eternal Life which all Nations have hoped for by the advent of a Redeemer."
Regardie says of the rosy cross in The Golden Dawn:
Established in 2004 the temple of "The Rose-Cross" is a Lamen or badge synthesizing a vast concourse of ideas, representing in a single emblem the Great Work itself—the harmonious reconciliation in one symbol of diverse and apparently contradictory concepts, the reconciliation of divinity and manhood. It is a highly important symbol to be worn over the heart during every important operation. It is a glyph, in one sense, of the higher Genius to whose knowledge and conversation the student is eternally aspiring. In the Rituals it is described as the Key of Sigils and Rituals.
This lamen is a complete synthesis of the masculine, positive, or rainbow scale of color attributions, which is also called the Scale of the King. The four arms of the cross belong to the four elements and are colored accordingly. The white portion belongs to the Holy Spirit and the planets.
The petals of the rose refer to the twenty-two paths on the Tree of Life and the Twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. It is the cross in Tiphareth, the receptacle and the center of the forces of the Sephiroth and the paths. The extreme center of the rose is white, the reflected spiritual brightness of Kether, bearing upon it the Red Rose of Five Petals and the Golden Cross of Six Squares; four green rays issue from around the angles of the cross. Upon the white portion of the lamen, below the rose, is placed the hexagram, with the planets.
Around the pentagrams, which are placed one upon each elemental colored arm, are drawn the symbols of the spirit and the four elements. Upon each of the floriated (the arms) of the cross are arranged the three alchemical principles of sulfur, salt, and mercury. The white rays issuing from behind the rose at the inner angles between the arms of the cross are the rays of the divine light issuing and coruscating from the reflected light of Kether in its center; and the letters and symbols on them refer to the analysis of the Key Word - I.N.R.I.
The Tau and the circle together make one form of the Rosy Cross, the uniting of subject and object which is the Great Work, and which is symbolized sometimes as this cross and circle, sometimes as the Lingam-Yoni, sometimes as the Ankh or Crux Ansata, sometimes by the Spire and Nave of a church or temple, and sometimes as a marriage feast, mystic marriage, spiritual marriage, "chymical nuptials," and in a hundred other ways. Whatever the form chosen, it is the symbol of the Great Work.
Crowley also makes clear that this process is reflected in the sexual act as well:
So we need not be surprised if the Unity of Subject and Object in Consciousness which is samādhi, the uniting of the Bride and the Lamb which is Heaven, the uniting of the Magus and the god which is Evocation, the uniting of the Man and his Holy Guardian Angel which is the seal upon the work of the Adeptus Minor, is symbolized by the geometrical unity of the circle and the square, the arithmetical unity of the 5 and the 6, and (for more universality of comprehension) the uniting of the Lingam and the Yoni, the Cross and the Rose. For as in earth-life the sexual ecstasy is the loss of self in the Beloved, the creation of a third consciousness transcending its parents, which is again reflected into matter as a child; so, immeasurably higher, upon the Plane of Spirit, Subject and Object join to disappear, leaving a transcendent unity. This third is ecstasy and death; as below, so above.
The rosy cross is further symbolic of the grade of Adeptus Minor in the A.'.A.'., the Qabalistic sphere of Tiphareth on the Tree of Life, the magical formula INRI, and the concepts of Light (LVX) and Life.
The members of the Fifth Degree are responsible for all that concerns the Social welfare of the Order. This grade is symbolically that of beauty and harmony; it is the natural stopping-place of the majority of men and women; for to proceed farther, as will appear, involves renunciation of the sternest kind. Here then is all joy, peace, well-being on all planes; the Sovereign Prince Rose Croix is attached equally to the higher and the lower, and forms a natural link between them. Yet let him look to it that his eyes are set on high!
The Fellowship of the Rosy Cross was a Christian mystical organization established by Arthur Edward Waite in England in 1915. It developed out of the breakdown of Independent and Rectified Rite of the Golden Dawn. It was based on Waite's complicated ideas and its rites reflected his interest in the history of the Rosicrucian Order, Freemasonry, and Christian mystical teachings through the ages. Most of its members were Freemasons or theosophists. One of its most noted members was the novelistCharles Williams who was a member from 1917 to at least 1928 and possibly later. There were plans to establish a branch in the United States but they appear never to have been fulfilled. The order ended with Waite's death in 1942. Arthur Edward Waitewrote also a book entitled The Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross which presents the brotherhood as a Christian order dating from the Middle Ages.