Firstly, the big reason for these “Rosicrucian” organizations to take such a stance against magic is simply out of appeal to the greater mass. In comparison with the organized Golden Dawn community (and also the Thelemic) the big-name “Rosicrucian” organizations have a very large following which may be comparable to world-wide Freemasonry in magintude. Simply put, these “Rosicrucian” organizations are for the many, G∴D∴ is for the few. The level of training and study in any Golden Dawn organization will put most people off who have found comfort in any of the big name “Rosicrucian” organizations. On the other hand, as with Freemasonry, the big name “Rosicrucian” organizations are also quite wealthy and in most cases are able to present very impressive infrastructure and material means to present not only voluminous correspondence courses but also impressive grand scale lodge spacings, etc.
I happen to have a past in one of these big name “Rosicrucian” Orders, the A.M.O.R.C. (“Ancient and Mystical Order of the Rosy Cross”), but left that organization because of it frequently branding anything magical or occult as being “superstitious”, and contrasting it to mysticism. I soon went over to the B.O.T.A. (“Builders of the Adytum”), while still being a member of A.M.O.R.C., through some contacts there, and from B.O.T.A. into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (again through some contacts in the B.O.T.A.), as I lacked instruction on Ceremonial Magic in the former organization; thus out of necessity the one led into the other. The level of study and practice in the B.O.T.A. is on an entire different level compared to A.M.O.R.C. (already in its early levels), and the practical work in the G∴D∴ on yet a higher level of complexity compared to Paul Foster Case’s and Ann Davies’ correspondence courses in the B.O.T.A. Thus, my real WORK began with entering the Hermetic Order Order of the Golden Dawn.
But already in the B.O.T.A. you have traditional occult teaching in its courses which is based upon the Qabalistic and Hermetic system of the Golden Dawn (remember P.F. Case was a former Adept of the Rosicrucian Order of Alpha et Omega). One such example is the use of the Tarot (which seems to be lacking in A.M.O.R.C.), and later the Tattwas, which is clearly occult in its orientation. Ann Davies developed this further and made it even more “magical” in its application. In Case’s early papers for the School of Ageless Wisdom and his Chapter (the equivalent of G∴D∴ Temple) papers there are quite a lot of teachings regarding Ceremonial Magic. What Case opposed was the use of “Enochian Magic”, not magic per se. He taught the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram for his Zelatores, as an example.
Secondly, I don’t agree with the dichotomy of labeling something as “mysticism” and branding something other as “magic”. Theurgy truly transcends these two divisions, as it uses the aim of the former through the methodology of the latter. The only difference that I can perceive is that mysticism (at least in the West) tries to separate spirit from matter (soul from body) while magic involves matter as well as spirit. Thus Hermetic and Qabalistic Magic is more akin to Tantric Mysticism which uses “magic” and “alchemy” together with “yoga”, compared to the chaste ascetics of most yogic and Buddhist traditions. But on the other hand, the majority of the yogic practices use the system of the Chakras and Kundalini (the concept of Siva and Shakti), which again makes this more of an alchemico-magical practice than anything else. Thus the division between magic / alchemy on one hand and mysticism on the other is a typical western perspective and relatively late addition, sadly perpetuated through modern “Rosicrucian” organizations such as the A.M.O.R.C.
But I doubt that neither Harvey Spencer Lewis nor his son Ralph M. Lewis, the first Imperatores of A.M.O.R.C., did this out of ignorance but, as I have suggested, because they had the strong ambition of gaining a huge membership. This foremost goal it certainly has succeeded with and also used the financial means gained from this much impressively indeed. Orders of this magnitude have employees and a administrative staff who works full time to run their organization; they resemble corporations. Just take a look at Rosicrucian Park in San Jose, California. But I ask if a large membership roll should count as a true measure stick of a “successful” Rosicrucian Order or tradition? Is there really a need of a “Golden Dawn Park,” how appealing this though may be?
I have no actual ambition to hang out A.M.O.R.C. in particular but rather want to address the phenomenon itself, that of shunning magical practices. As I have a personal experience of A.M.O.R.C. I must use this organization as an example for any big name “Rosicrucian” organization. To their credit, they are the biggest “Rosicrucian” Order to date, and probably will be for quite some time. And in their defense it must be stated that I never advanced past their Atrium (ante chamber) level, which is the equivalent of the Neophyte Grade of the Golden Dawn (the name of “neophyte” being used for members in the Atrium). Thus I have no experience of their Temple work and higher degrees. But I did work as a voluntary in the Nordic Grand Lodge of A.M.O.R.C. and on a daily basis met its leadership for several months. Thus I believe I’m well acquainted with the mentality as may be encountered there, and also of its inner echelons.
Therefore I must ask if the practices taught in the A.M.O.R.C. actually may be branded as typical “mystic”? The so-called “Liber 777” practice is nothing less than the creation of an “astral temple”, which smells lots as occultism if you ask me. Thus the use of imagination has an important place in the A.M.O.R.C. practice, such as in healing work. I also encountered the instruction of keeping a journal of my daily work and was taught the basic principles of meditation, including using the god-form posture. Much of this may also be found in most Golden Dawn based occult shools.
There are also some vague references to Alchemy in the history of A.M.O.R.C., for example a purported Alchemical transmutation of Zinc into Gold made by H.S. Lewis in New York on June 22, 1916. This feat was performed before an audience composed of members of his Order, one scientist and one journalist, who were told that all of the laws necessary for such an accomplishment were clearly stated and explained in the first four degrees of the Order. A chosen group of 15 brought with them selected and secret, but non-toxic, ingredients which was then mixed together. The “transmutation” purportedly took sixteen minutes to perform and inflicted second and third degree burns to Lewis’ hands. Only half of the zinc brought to the meeting was “transmuted” and the other half was used to compare it to the “transmuted gold”. However, the only reference we have of this event was written by H.S. Lewis himself for the organization’s magazine The American Rosae Crucis, so we must take the veracity of this account with more than one pinch of salt. But it is interesting nevertheless, as it shows that the practice of Alchemy is seen as being an integrated part of the Rosicrucian tradition.
Furthermore, A.M.O.R.C. taught alchemy through the 1930’s and 40’s and again in the late 80’s, but in this it used a scientific approach to Alchemy rather than occult. Frater Albertus (Dr. Albert Richard Riedel) was involved in these Alchemical classes, which wasn’t part of the standard curriculum of the A.M.O.R.C. but rather constituted an extracurricular activity that was soly reserved for a selected few. However, reading Frater Albertus’ own works I cannot find much of the A.M.O.R.C. spirit in his books. Albertus clearly appropriated the Qabalistic model according to the Golden Dawn as well.
I admire Frater Albertus much, as well as one other former A.M.O.R.C. luminar, Jean Dubuis. The latter fully embraced the Golden Dawn system and even pioneered the revival of the Golden Dawn in France in the late 1970’s. His Qabalah correspondence course is nothing less than a Golden Dawn course, and blends the occult and magical teachings of the latter with that of the invaluable Alchemical courses. The only trace of influence from A.M.O.R.C. in Dubuis’ lessons that I can find is the use of mirrors in some of the meditations. Other than that I also find some Martinist teachings – the way of the heart – as Dubuis seems to have been mostly involved with the Martinist part of A.M.O.R.C. But the greater majority in his courses on Esotericism and the Qabalah is clearly Golden Dawnish.
Regarding Alchemy being scientific, of course it is; it is a science and art. But not “scientific” according to today’s paradigm of positivist empiricism. It is a ‘scientific spirituality’ of a holistic type, which clearly integrates Theurgy into its practice, at least if you study the classics. This doesn’t show in Frater Albertus’ books, but nevertheless in his classic The Alchemist’s Handbook he cites an entire document from a conference held by members of the Gold- und Rosenkreutz Order. This Order, also known by its Latinized name Fraternitas Rosae et Aureae Crucis, or R. et A.C., is the only historically tangible organization we can speak of being “originally Rosicrucian”. As a matter of fact it was at the A.M.O.R.C. facilities in Sweden that I first encountered its much renowned work Geheime Figuren der Rosenkreuzer, aus dem 16ten und 17ten Jahrhundert (“Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians”) from 1785. This important work, which is quite influential to the Golden Dawn Tradition, was regarded by the A.M.O.R.C. to be a Rosicrucian manifesto, on par with the first two from 1614 and 1615 – Fama et Confessio Fraternitatis. It is interesting to note that this particular German Order not only was greatly admired by H.S. Lewis but also taught and practiced both Alchemy and Magic. The fact is that Theurgy or Magic was the capstone of their entire system – alchemy thus being but a preparation for Theurgy.
Thus there is abundant evidence that the practice of ritual magic isn’t contrary to the spirit of Rosicrucianism. On the contrary, Magic, Alchemy and Astrology, called the “Trivium Hermeticum”, must be seen as a whole. Divorce Alchemy away from the other two you will reduce it to a simple “spagery” or “pseudo-chemistry”. The Alchemical credo is “Ora et Labora”, meaning “pray and work”. In this context the prayer is an invocation of the Higher, ergo Theurgy.
This is why I won’t consider the majority of the “Rosicrucian” organizations as representing Hermeticism at all, at least not in the A.M.O.R.C. monographs that I have studied. What is left of Rosicrucianism if you divorce it from its Hermetic roots? There are of course individuals in these organizations that have a good understanding of hermeticism, but I ask if this knowledge of theirs comes from their Order itself? Why isn’t Alchemy taught regularly and in A.M.O.R.C.’s official monographs? Also, why is the Holy Qabalah only taught as an un-official side course as well? What is left of Rosicrucianism if you divorce it from the Qabalah?
Before I end this exposé on Magic in the Rosicrucian tradition, I would like to explain myself why I consider the R. et A.C., or Golden Rosy+Cross, to be “the only historically tangible organization”. With this I mean the “earliest” and “foremost” organization which can be historically proven without a doubt, which has had the most tangible impact upon the Neo-Rosicrucian movement since the middle and late 19th Century (including the A.M.O.R.C. and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn).
Regarding the circle in Tübingen and the Die Unzertrennlichen, which is supposed to predate the Golden Rosy+Cross and purportedly to have produced the original Rosicrucian manifestos from the early 17th Century, all we have of “proof” of an actual organization (in contrast to a one man show, perhaps with some aid of friends) is speculations. There surely are prominent individuals from the 16th and 17th Century being seized by a common spirit, but do we have historical proof of them actually being part of a common fraternity? Not by academic criteria. But in the Golden Rosy+Cross we actually have traces and facts which may be proven historically, or at least being worthy of historical research. That’s why I am referring to them as the “only historically tangible organization”.
Regarding the earliest date of their origin, let me again direct the attention of the reader to the Latinized name for the Golden Rosy+Cross, the Fraternitas Rosae et Aureae Crucis (which was in use by the German 18th Century Golden Rosicrucians). The Samuel Richter (who used the pseudonym ‘Sincerus Renatus’) pamphlet Bereitung des Philosophischen Steins der Brüderschaft aus dem Orden des Gülden-und Rosen-Creutzes (“The True Preparation of the Philosopher’s Stone of the Fraternity of the Golden Rosy Cross”), dated from 1710, isn’t the earliest source of this name. I suggest looking at this little paper written by the renowned Swedish scholar Susanna Åkerman. Thus we see here a possible Italian circle of alchemists referring to themselves as the Golden Rosy+Cross. This evidence taken together with the legendary book Thesaurus Thesaurorum A Fraternitate Rosæ et Aureæ Crucis Testamento Anno 1580 creates a quite solid picture of a Golden Rosy+Cross Order which predates Samuel Richter’s pamphlet by at least a half century.
The book Thesaurus Thesaurorum, which is brimmed with alchemical and theurgical operations (of which one is very similar to the so-called “Abra-Melin operation”), and which may have an Italian origin, dates itself back to 1580. However historians often consider that being a typo for 1680. A.E. Waite, who was something of a sceptic to most extravagand claims, suggests this even being a typo for 1780. However, in this particular case, Waite was clearly prejudical. Christopher MacIntosh, the author of The Rose Cross and the Age of Reason, has the following to say regarding the Thesaurus Thesaurorum:
An important manuscript in this connection is the “Testamentum der Fraternitet Roseae et Aureae Crucis” in the Austrian National Library, Vienna. This is clearly based on Sincerus Renatus, or on the same sources from which he drew, since many of the rules and procedures in it, such as the forms of greeting, are identical to those described by Renatus. At the same time there are significant changes. For example Renatus gives the total number of brethren as 63, while the Testamentum raises it to 77. As to the date, a note on one of the endpapers records that the manuscript was acquired by Johann Adalbert, Prinz de Buchau [sic], in 1735.First of all, MacIntosh says that Samuel Richter’s “A True Preparation” and the “Thesaurus Thesaurorum” can be based upon a common source as well, predating both manuscripts. In this regard I fully agree with him. Secondly, the date 1735 clearly dismisses 1780 as the actual date. Most scholars that I have read believes it to be from 1680. I personally believe it to predate 1710, and perhaps even 1680. I have a friend who is a Swedish scholar and he clearly believes that Samuel Richter was initiated into the Italian branch of the Golden Rosy+Cross. I have no reason to disbelieve him, nor any of MacIntosh’s or Åkerman’s findings.
Personally I believe there indeed was a network of early initiates which may be called “Rosicrucian”, writing pamphlets and manifestos, etc., such as the Tübingen circle from late 16th and early 17th Century. The Golden Rosy+Cross of late 17th Century Italy (and possible France), and of 18th Century Germany, represents the next phase of the Rosicrucian movement, which ties in to the first wave as represented by the Fama Fraternitatis. We see initiates who has become disillusioned and have their foundations shaken by the Thirty Years War. We see initiates who are disappointed by the Lutheran reformation, which has taken religion back to the letter of the Holy Book, threatens with damnation in hell and shuns mysticism. We also see initiates who watches an “enlightenment”, initially showing promise (remember that alchemists like Isaac Newton pioneered modern science and Descartes openly applied for membership to the Rosicrucian Order) but now instead disrespecting and deriding spirituality, religion, and especially the occult arts, such as astrology, magic and alchemy; simply put becoming “god-less”.
Movements and philosophies change, and adapts to the currents of time, also the Rosicrucian one. We see in the Golden Rosy+Cross a movement who wants to trace their tradition back to the roots of Hermeticism and the Qabalah. We see a movement who emphasizes the practice of operational Alchemy and Theurgy (Magic), in contrast to both organized religion and empirical positivist science, who believes in a tangible transformation of natural humanity into divinity. Not metaphorically but actually, comparable to the Eastern traditions (remember Samuel Richter’s allusion to the original Brethren moving to India). According to Christopher MacIntosh, the Golden Rosy+Cross represents a movement which must be considered being a third force in relation to the Catholic Church and enlightenment. I happen to agree with him.
I don’t believe the Golden Rosy+Cross to be Catholic at all, as sometimes has been asserted, but rather all inclusive when it comes to the Christian religion (admitting both Catholics and Lutherans, and what ever). If anything, I would label the German Golden Rosy+Cross as Pietist (which is a Lutheran reformation within the reformation). If anything, the Golden Rosy+Cross wanted a further reformation of Christianity, or at least attracted Christians of this bent (such as the pietists). The Fratres Lucis (which grew out of the Golden Rosy+Cross) even went futher to include also the Jewish.
Thus I prefer to look upon the Thirty Years Wars (the actual First World War) as a calcination of European culture, ideology, philosophy, etc. I believe it is hard for us today to understand what impact that war had upon the mentality of the European mind, especially amongst the intellectuals (and thus initiates); one may compare this with how the Second Word War has changed the European mentality. The Rosicrucian pamphlets between 1614-16 represent a stance typical prior to the outbreak of the War (polemicising to the extreme), while the Golden Rosy+Cross of Italy and Germany represents the post War mentality (weary of conflict, trying to see a common unity within the Christian world).
Strangely enough, one doesn’t find any traces at all relating to the Christian religion nor to Christian symbolism in the teachings of the above mentioned big-name “Rosicrucian” organizations, contrary to the Ordo Rosae Rubeae et Aureae Crucis (R.R. et A.C.), Golden Dawn’s Second or Inner Order, which continues the Rosicrucian tradition of the Fraternitas Rosae et Aureae Crucis (R. et A.C.).