What Is the Gold and Rosenkreutz Order
And What Comprises Its Esoteric Transmissions?
Copyright © 2002 David Griffin
The first mention of the Gold und Rosenkreutz (Golden and Rosy Cross) is in a publication by Samuel Richter in Breslau in 1710 entitled "The True and Complete Preparation of the Philosopher's stone of the Fraternity of the Golden and Rosy Cross." Richter was a Lutheran pastor who had studied theology in Halle apparently used the name Sicerus Renatus (sincerely reborn) as a motto in the Fraternity of the Golden and Rosy Cross. This important work describes not only a number of alchemical processes, but as well explains the constitution and rules of the Fraternity. At the time of Richter, the fraternity apparently consisted of a loose-knit group of alchemists sharing their work with one another. The fraternity appears to be have been widely spread and working in secret.
The further development of the Rosicrucian tradition in Germany in the 18th Century can only be understood against the background of the rise and spread of Freemasonry. Provincial Grand Lodges were established in Hamburg (1740), Hannover (1755), and Frankfurt am Main (1766). In Prussia, Frederick the Great became the first Grand Master of the Grand National Mother Lodge of the Three Globes in 1744 and a Grand Lodge of the Swedish Rite under Zinnendorf in 1770.
The rise of the hermetic rites of Freemasonry may be seen as a reaction to the materialism of the Enlightenment. The most important of these was the rite of the Strict Observance, a revival of the Knights Templar who were regarded as the guardians of secret wisdom. The Strict Observance was founded in 1755 by Karl Gotthelf Von Hund, and quickly established itself throughout the German principalities. It made much use of alchemical symbolism and promised the secrets of alchemical transmutation.
Thus when the loosely knot alchemical society was reorganized by Fictuld in 1757, it began to take on a more Freemasonic character. Following the rules of the fraternity, the order was reformed every ten years, the next time being in 1767, and then again at the general reformation of 1777. By the time that the fraternity had emerged from the shadows, been restructured along decidedly Freemasonic structure. Indeed admission to the Gold und Rosenkreutz Order (Fraternitas Aureae et Rosae Crucis) could only be granted to Master Masons.
The Freemasonic Gold und Rosenkreutz Order flourished in the German principalities during the last half of the 18th Century, rivaled only by the Rite of the Strict Observance. The order reached its pinnacle of influence when Prince Frederick-William II, the nephew of Frederick the Great and heir to the Prussian throne was initiated into the order on August 8, 1781. Reflecting the eminent stature of the Prince in the fraternity, he was given the order name of Ormesus Magnus, Ormesus being the name of the legendary founder of the order. When the Prince ascended the throne in 1786, the Prussian court became dominated by brothers of the fraternity.
The Fratres of the fraternity studied, taught, and practiced all aspects of the historical Rosicrucian tradition, including alchemy, theurgy, gnosticism, qabalah, hermeticism, astrology, and esoteric Christianity. Numerous traditional alchemical texts were studied by the Fraternity, including the works of Mathadanus, Fictuld, Gichtel, the Aesh Metzareph and the Aurea Catena Homeri. Qabalistic and hermetic texts also played an important role, such as the Knorr von Rosenroth's "Kabbala Denudata" and Georg von Welling's "Opus Magnum Mago-Cabalisticum et Theologicum."
The most important teachings of the Order, however, were represented in the grade rituals and transmitted in the documents of each grade. The grade structure of the Gold und Rosenkreutz Order was one of nine grades. This structure was eventually taken over and used by the Societas Rosicruciana In Anglia (SRIA) as well as by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (albeit with addition of one additional grade at the top) in the 19th Century.
The mystic numbers, mystic titles, symbols, etc. of each grade of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and of the RR+AC were as well taken directly from the Gold und Rosenkreutz Order. Our order's archives contain the entire esoteric corpus of this essential Rosicrucian order. Indeed, Gold und Rosenkreutz corpus has become a key element in the RR+AC's reformed curriculum since the general reformation of the order in 1999.
The nine grades of the Gold und Rosenkreutz Order are briefly outlined below. A few images from order archives are included as well.
Reproduced above are the first two pages of a secret 18th Century Gold und Rosenkreutz cipher manuscript containing instructions for the Order (from manuscript copy in order archives).
The first grade, that of the Juniorus, is a late addition to the Gold und Rosenkreutz system, originally having begun with Theoricus. This grade continues in the style of the three degrees of craft Freemasonry, containing the teaching of the grade lies in the ritual itself, in which the three degrees of craft Masonry come to be understood in an alchemical light. (Note that the Hermetic Order of the golden Dawn changed the name of this grade to Zelator).
The second grade, that of the Theoretischen Brüder, begins the real work of the order. In this grade the initiate does not yet begin to practice alchemy, but receives certain alchemical instruction in the ritual and later studies alchemical theory.
In the third grade, that of Practicus, the initiate begins actually to practice laboratory alchemy. Instructions are given for certain basic alchemical procedures which must be mastered before the candidate may be advanced. The primary alchemical tasks of this grade are to produce a menstrum and a regulus using the dry way.
In the fourth grade of Philosophus, the initiate is given additional alchemical instructions and tasks, especially concerning the production of the "lapis minerali" through the wet way. The Freres Ainées de la Rose+Croix (FARC) also use the wet way.
Reproduced above is the title section of the first page of the secret instructions for the fourth grade of the Gold und Rosenkreutz Order (from manuscript copy in order archives).
In the fifth grade, the Minor Adept is led through an elaborate ritual wherein he receives additional qabalistic and alchemical instruction. There are additional written instructions for alchemical tasks associated with this grade. The principle alchemical work of this grade involves the production of a medicinal stone.
In the sixth grade, there is no ritual for the Major Adept. There are additional written instructions for alchemical tasks associated with this grade. The principle alchemical work of this grade involves the production of aurum potabile (drinkable gold) by using the secret fire.
7. Adeptus Exemptus
In the seventh grade, there is no ritual for the Exempt Adept. There are additional written instructions for alchemical tasks associated with this grade. The principle alchemical work of this grade involves the production of the philosophers' stone using philosophic vitriol (emerald of the philosophers) and includes instructions for multiplication and the transmutation of metals.
8. Magister Templi
The secret instructions of the eighth grade of the Gold und Rosenkreutz Order is entitled: "Generales Constitutiones Octavi Gradus, FA+RC." It should be noted that it was permitted to reform any aspect of the order at any general reformation (every 111 years, 1666, 1777, 1888, and most recently 1999). According to ancient Rosicrucian rules, however, it has always been and still remains expressly forbidden ever to change the content of the instructions of the eighth grade of Magister Templi, as the instructions therein contain the secret preparation of the philosophers stone using the royal way.
Reproduced above is the signature of Phoebron, former Imperator of the Gold und Rosenkreutz Order, from the page of the secret instructions of the eighth grade of the FA+RC containing the oath of the Magister Templi (from manuscript copy in our order's archives). It should be noted that Phoebron was actually Dr. Bernhard Joseph Schleiss von Löwenfeld.
The grade of Magus was the ninth and final Grade of the Gold und Rosenkreutz Order system. The heart of the Gold und Rosenkreutz theurgical (magical) system was reserved for the grade of Magus. This is because they believed that one first had to attain the philosophers' stone before sublime theurgy could have any value. Documents in order archives clearly demonstrate a connection with the magic of the Golden Dawn. For example, the formulae for the consecration of the magical implements of the RR+AC are derived directly from a consecration rituals of the G+RC.
This tenth grade is a 19th Century construct of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn which added an additional grade to fit the Gold und Rosenkreutz nine grade system onto the ten Sephiroth of the Qabalistic tree of life.
The Gold und Rosenkreutz order was primarily concerned with alchemy, whereas the Golden Dawn has primarily developed the therugical (magical) aspect to the Hermetic triad of discipliines known as the "Trivium Hermeticum" (alchemy, theurgy, and astrology). These have at all times been the triune operative diciplines of not only of Hermetic practice, but also of the Rosicrucian spiritual prictice. Whereas it is clear that the Golden Dawn is very different than the Gold und Rosenkreutz order, it also remains clear, however, that there is a continuity of development between the two orders, and that each stand in a unique place in the historical chain of the Hermetic and Rosicrucian traditions.