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Book Review:

The Rosicrucians:
The History, Mythology, and Rituals of an Esoteric Order

by, Christopher McIntosh


“Who but the Rosicrucians could explain the Rosicrucian mysteries! And can you imagine that any members of that sect, the most jealous of all secret societies, would themselves lift the veil that hides the Isis of their wisdom from the world?” Those eloquent words were written by Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton on his novel Zanoni: A Rosicrucian Tale, and they adequately sum up my feelings towards this book, and its author, Christopher McIntosh. The depth of understanding that is expressed in this work makes me feel that he approached this subject with more disinterest than interest, and if I may be so bold, I dare say that he has failed to penetrate the mysteries. He has stood right there with the answers staring him in the face and has allowed the most significant details to fly right past him. The author himself makes a revealing confession, quoted in Colin Wilson’s Foreword to the book as saying, “When I began [the book], I was going through a phase of rather dry, scholarly objectivity in my attitude towards such subjects, and I extended to examine Rosicrucianism simply as a rather curious historical phenomenon, without really expecting to find that it contained a teaching of any real depth or coherence. Since then, not only has my attitude changed - I have become much more pro-occult - but I also found during my researches that Rosicrucianism goes deeper than I had realized, and does contain something valuable and coherent.” It shows the lack of depth in the author’s character, and makes one wonder how he could have possibly gleaned a full understanding of this subject after having approached it with such an attitude. Anyone who underestimates the Rosicrucian mysteries has shown himself not worthy of receiving them - for they encompass the whole of creation, the secrets of life and death, God and the Devil, and the sexual union of Male and Female. Woe be to the fool who sees in the joining of the cross with the rose a mere metaphor, a lofty philosophical precept with no correspondence in physical reality. That is why they keep the mysteries of the Rose-Croix, and therefore the Philosopher’s Stone, an inviolable secret, protected from the prying eyes of the Profane, lest they mangle its beauty with their clumsy fingers, as McIntosh has done. For the uninitiated, it is poison. For the Chosen Few, it contains the Elixir of Life.

To be fair, McIntosh does an adequate job of recounting the history of the Rosicrucian movement, from the sudden emergence of Johann Valantin Andrae’s Fama Fraternitatis and The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz to the modern AMORC. McIntosh unflinchingly swallows the cover story that the “Rosicrucian Manifestoes” were composed by Andrae as a joke, and that the whole Rosicrucian movement started as a hoax, relating this to the readers as a Gospel truth without even mentioning the popular theory that they were composed in conjunction with the Priory of Sion, which Andrae was the Grand Master of and which called itself by the nickname “The Order of the True Rose Cross.” centuries before the appearance of the Manifestoes. The closest he’ll come to giving them any credit is to admit that a real secret society, Orden der Unzeittiennlichen, may have been behind them, but the evidence for this is even more sketchy than the Priory of Sion claim. Next the author goes on to explain how Rosicrucianism spread, morphed, and influenced society for the next 200 years, manifesting itself in undeniably real Rosicrucian order like the Golden and Rosy Cross of the 1700s. Here again, the author misses the mark and shows his shallow understanding. HE claims that alchemical secrets only became central to the Rosicrucian mysteries sometime around this later date! “The Rosicrucianism of the Andrae era was only partly concerned with alchemy, but later revivals of the Rosicrucian idea were to lay great stress on their claims to possess the secrets of transmutation and the knowledge of the Philosopher’s Stone.” How could anyone who’s actually read The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz doubt that it is a wholly alchemical allegory? The author shows his ignorance again as he describes how Rosicrucianism was co-opted into certain Masonic rites (such as the Strict Observance and the Rose Croix of Heredom) seeing this as an odd, unnatural union, instead of a RE-union of two separate manifestations of the same occult tradition. He sees Rosicrucianism as hopelessly conservative and Christian-oriented, when of course any conservative Christianeven today would shy away from it as “witchcraft”, and he sees it as the antithesis of the more Rationalist Atheism and Anarchism of Adam Weishaupt’s Illuminati, also influenced by Freemasonry. He treats such important figured of Rosicrucianism like A.E.Waite, Joseph Peladan and Marquis Stanislas de Guaita as hopeless Protestant fanatics, mainly because they continued to profess a belief in the teachings and person of Jesus Christ. if we were to examine the actual details of the Christianity that these men practiced, you would find it to be a great deal deeper, more meaningful and more esoteric than the Christianity that your Aunt Celia practices, but McIntosh fails to point out these subtle differences. He also gives the Rosicrucians little credit for the political upheavals that their beliefs and teachings caused during their heyday, seeing Rosicrucianism as merely a product of the Enlightenment, rather than one of its main causes.

The true extent of Mr. McIntosh’s ignorance shows, however, in the next to last chapter, entitled “Modern Rosicrucian Movements.” When describing the original teachings of Paschal Beverly Randolph, whose followers founded the Ancient and Mystical Order Rosae Crucis (AMORC), the largest Rosicrucian group on the planet, he actually allows for two very fascinating paragraphs on Randolph’s doctrine of sex magick! He quotes from Randolph’s book Eulis!, where he describes his initiation into sex magick by an Arabic woman he met in Jerusalem, who “I made love to and was loved by... actually discovering the Elixir of Life; the Universal Solvent, or Celestial Alkahest; the water of beauty and perpetual youth, and the Philosopher’s Stone, all of which this book contains; but only findable by him who searches well.” Obviously, McIntosh is not among that august group, judging from his commentary:

“It is interesting that Randolph, having discovered sexual magic independently, should have come to the conclusion that this was the true basis of Rosicrucianism... Sexuality is a curiously recurrent theme among Rosicrucian apologists, and Randolph clearly regards it as central to the whole philosophy.” Why is that ‘interesting’ and ‘curious’, McIntosh? Are you that much of an ignoramus that, after years of studying Rosicrucianism in preparation for this book, you have not picked up on the fact that sex is central to the whole philosophy? McIntosh continues his comment, blissfully unaware of the implications of what he’s saying. “The basis of this system is the common occult belief that, in sexual union, the male and female secretions unite to form a powerful current.” If McIntosh had made a thorough study of alchemy, of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the OTO, and Aleister Crowley, as he should have in preparation for this book, this would not seem so unusual to him. He should have definitely looked into this after discovering that H. Spencer Lewis, founder of the AMORC, had been involved in the German OTO and had also been credited with completing a real and actual alchemical transmutation of metals. Furthermore - and this is really telling - Lewis had an extended rivalry going with the leader of another Rosicrucian group, R. Swinburne Clymer of the Federation Universelle des Ordres, Societes er Fraternites des Inities, and the bone of contention had to do with their varying methods for practicing sex magick. As McIntosh writes:

“ ...of sex Clymer admits that, “The mystery of sex is the hidden and little-understood principle underlying nature, and that the Randolph Foundation of the authentic Rosicrucian Fraternity... does teach the high law of generation and regeneration - the sex doctrines of the White Brotherhood. This, he emphasizes, is a healthy form of sex teaching. But Clymer waxes apoplectic when describing what he calls ‘The Black Magic-Sex teachings of Crowley and the modernized OTO.’ If there is any doubt in your mind that the AMORC (which publicly disses Crowley today while still making use of their copyrighted Gnostic seal as their own insignia) has co-opted the teachings of Crowley into their rites, this should dispel it. McIntosh quotes from one of their published “Temple Lectures” for the 11th Grade of the Order: “This leads me to a point where I may safely and confidentially comment on one of the Ancient Rosicrucian laws which we have refrained from using in any of the lower grades because it is so apt to be misunderstood. That law is this: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law: love is the law, love under will.” Ancient though this phrase may be, I am inclined to believe that the Rosicrucians got it from Crowley and not the other way around.

To give McIntosh his due, this is a quick and simple book to read, just perfect for the novice who needs a basic introduction to the whole subject. And since he was obviously coming from the point of view of a complete outsider, it’s understandable that he treated the subject so shallowly, although I would have hoped that he would have come out of this with a more complete understanding after having dived into it so deep. If you are looking for a complete elucidation of the Rosicrucian mysteries, McIntosh isn’t going to spell it out for you, because he obviously doesn’t get it himself. He introduces fantastic information and then moves onto the next subject without explaining the importance of what he’s just said. But the keen reader will pick up on these pearls of wisdom buried in the mire, and if adept, will be able to transmute this base material into gold. For that reason alone (in addition to the beautiful pictures provided), this book is recommended.

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