Introduction

The Rosicrucian Order, AMORC

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I. Group Profile

  1. Name: The Rosicrucian Order, AMORC; Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis
  2. Founder: H. Spencer Lewis (November 25, 1883 - August 2, 1939), born in Frenchtown, New Jersey
  3. Year Founded: 1915, New York City (headquarters moved to San Jose, CA in 1927)
  4. Sacred or Revered Texts: The AMORC has no official sacred texts per se. However the writings of H. Spencer Lewis, who authored nineteen volumes, are considered of great importance.
  5. Size of Group: The AMORC is the largest Rosicrucian association in America. Membership figures are not officially released, but most sources place the number consistently at 250,000. The validity of this number, however, is not certain. The number may simply have been made up by someone and then widely copied and propagated as an accurate number. If the number comes unofficially from the AMORC, it may or may not include inactive members who paid for correspondence materials at some earlier date. Because the organization operates in secret, there is no way to verify the aforementioned figure. In 1995, AMORC listed itself as having 98 chartered lodges, chapters, and pronaoi in the U.S., 36 groups in Canada, and more than 1,200 worldwide (Melton, 1996: 718).

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II. History

Rosicrucianism : The actual origins of Rosicrucianism on the whole are somewhat wrapped in mystery and a topic of debate amongst historians. The fact that Rosicrucians are traditionally a "secret fraternity" makes accurate knowledge difficult to ascertain. Tradition places the origins of Rosicrucianism in ancient Egypt. References to Rosicrucianism in Europe began in 1115 AD, and the concept was first introduced to America in 1694 (Union of International Associations, 1996: 181).

The general term of Rosicrucianism refers to the grouping of ideas regarding magic, science, and religion formed from the combination of elements from Romanticism, the Enlightenment, Christian pietism, and Renaissance occultism. (Queen et.al., 1996: 575). The main thrust of this melange is the individual's mission to obtain secret yet "undeniably scientific" knowledge.

The Western genesis of Rosicrucianism is attributed to the legendary Christian Rosenkreuz, a German born in 1378 and introduced to occult mysteries during his travels in the Middle East. He founded the Order of the Rose and Cross in 1408 and purportedly constructed a sanctum as well as recruited a number of monks. However, both his esoteric wisdom and movement died as a mystery with him in 1484 (Queen et.al., 1996: 575).

There was a revival of Rosicrucianism in the early 17th century with the discovery of the lost tomb of Rosenkreuz. This revival is generally credited to the writings of Johann Valentin Andreae, a German theologian and Lutheran pastor. His works composed a sort of manifesto of the growing Rosicrucian movement in which he told the story of Rosenkreuz and various aspects of his secret order, as well as promoting reform and suggesting an occult synthesis of Christian pietism, Renaissance hermeticism, magic, and alchemy (Queen et.al., 1996: 575). Other sporadic works were published that claimed to be authored by a secret society of Rosicrucians. The Abbé de Villars published an attack on the Rosicrucians, thereby affirming that they did truly exist. He was murdered a few years later, allegedly by the Rosicrucians themselves (Melton, 1996: 152).

Rosicrucian lodges flourished in eighteenth century England. A good number of them were fraudulent endeavors but many were sincere attempts at forming genuinely Rosicrucian organizations. British Rosicrucianism had been influenced by the alchemist Robert Fludd, who had authored the Apologia Compendiaria Fraternitatem de Rosae Cruce in 1616. It is notable that most British Rosicrucians were pro-alchemy, a characteristic which would not carry over to the New World (Melton, 1996: 152).

Rosicrucianism was introduced to America with The Chapter of Perfection, a Rosicrucian association established by German settlers in 17th century Pennsylvania (Queen et.al., 1996: 575). They derived their teachings from the mystic Jacob Boehme, the Kabbalah, and several German psychic visionaries (Melton, 1996: 152). The Chapter of Perfection was successful for a generation, but began to die away after the death of its leader Kelpius, leaving no notable legacy (Melton, 1996: 153). There was virtually no further reference to the presenceof Rosicrucians in America until the nineteenth century, when Pascal Beverly Randolph, the founder of the oldest Rosicrucian body in the U.S. - the Fraternitas Rosae Crucis, appeared. Randolph was an occult theorist who provided America with the first major system of alternative occult thought - including such concepts as reincarnation and occult sexuality (Melton, 1996: 153). A number of writers during this time wrote books that emphasized the links between Rosicrucianism and magic or popularized such stereotyped ideals as the "elixir of immortality" and various alchemical wonders (Queen et.al., 1996: 575).

A number of other Rosicrucian groups developed in America in the early 20th century and later, including the AMORC.

AMORC : A.M.O.R.C. stands for the Ancient and Mystical Order Rosae Crucis, and is an esoteric fraternal group founded by H. Spencer Lewis in 1915.

H. Spencer Lewis was born in New Jersey, and raised in New York, where he practiced as a Methodist. He was an artist and a writer and did work for the New York Herald. He formed the New York Insitute for Psychical Research in 1904, also serving as president. This institute dealt with a range of occult topics but focused on Rosicrucian teachings, and was internally referred to as the Rosicrucian Research Society (Melton, 1986: 156).

Lewis was also affiliated with a number of British occult orders, including Aleister Crowley's Ordo Templi Orientis (Lewis, 1998: 43). His involvement with these groups would later be reflected in his inclusions of similiar materials in the teachings and symbolism of the AMORC. The Rose Cross emblem, as well as a number of other emblems, were taken from Crowley's Equinox periodicals (Melton, 1996: 717).

In 1908, Lewis became acquainted with Mrs. May Banks-Stacey, a British Rosicrucian and appointed legate of the Order in India. She put him in contact with the European Order, and in 1909 Lewis was initiated into the International Rosicrucian Council in Toulouse, France and thereby given authority to begin organizing a new order in America (Lewis, 1998: 43). He returned to America, gathered a group of people, and began holding meetings. Mrs. Banks-Stacey provided him with further papers and the jewels of the Order (Melton, 1986: 157). The group brought together by Lewis met for six years and then launched its massive publicity campaign as well as announced its formation with the publication of The Great Manifesto of the Order in June 1915.

In August 1917, the Order held its first national convention in Pittsburgh. This convention was instrumental in determining the stable future of the Order because it approved a plan for developing correspondence lessons. These lessons were written by Lewis and permitted the Order to spread throughout the country and throughout the world (Melton, 1986: 157).

On June 17, 1918, the AMORC headquarters were raided by the police and Lewis was arrested for the selling of fraudulent books and collection of money under false pretenses. These charges were eventually dropped, but Lewis moved the headquarters to San Francisco later that year (Melton, 1986: 157). The headquarters were moved again in 1925 to Tampa, FL where they remained for two years and the radio station WJBB was managed by the Order (Melton, 1986: 157).

The AMORC headquarters found its final home in San Jose, CA in 1927. Lewis reincorporated the order in California and attempted to incorporate it with the Pristine Church of the Rose Cross, an affiliated religious group for which he had served as bishop. This incorporated church lasted only a few years as the AMORC began to emphasize its fraternal structure and discarded any religious semblances (Melton, 1986: 157).

The AMORC was rapidly growing and this led to conflict with other Rosicruician organizations. In 1928, the Fraternitas Rosae Crucis challenged the AMORC's right to call themselves "Rosicrucian". Lewis then accused the FRC's leader R. Swinburne Clymer of fraudulent behavior. This tension has lasted to the present day, and has also involved the Rosicrucian Fraternity in Oceanside, California (Melton, 1996: 717).

By 1934, the AMORC's jurisdiction had expanded to include all of the western hemisphere. In July of 1934 a Rosicrucian student research center, the Rose-Croix University of America, was dedicated by Lewis. In 1936 a planetarium was opened, and in 1939 the Rosicrucian Research Library was opened (Melton, 1986: 157).

H. Spencer Lewis was the Grand Imperator of the AMORC until his death. His son Ralph M. Lewis was Grand Imperator from 1939 until his death in 1987. Gary L. Stewart was designated to be the next Grand Imperator, but he was removed from the position in 1990 due to charges of embezzlement. Christian Bernard replaced Stewart as Grand Imperator (Lewis, 1998: 43).

The AMORC study program, which is conducted by correspondence, remains the means by which one becomes a member of the fraternal group. The system of Rosicrucian correspondence study involves a packet of lessons referred to as monographs, each ranging from approximately 6-8 pages. There exists a manual that serves as a weekly guide to these monographs and lessons, which includes diagrams and plates to help elucidate the material. There are three publications put out by the Rosicrucian Order: The Rosicrucian Digest, The Rosicrucian Forum, and The English Grand Lodge Bulletin . These provide information that either supplement one's Rosicrucian studies or contain other materials of interest to members. The Rosicrucian Order also has a general interest in a varied range of esoteric texts, and other cultural or intellectual subjects.

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III. Beliefs of the Group

The Rosicrucian Order, AMORC mission statement, as found in Mastery of Life:

The Rosicrucian teachings enable people to find themselves, turn their lives, and influence the universe. We are educators, students, and seekers devoted to exploring inner wisdom and the meaning of life. We offer an ancient time-tested system of study and experimentation which reveals the underlying principles of the universe. Our method offers practical tools applicable to all aspects of life. The Rosicrucian teachings allow individuals to direct their own lives, experience inner peace, and leave their mark on humanity.

For the entirety of the Mastery of Life pamphlet and further insight into Rosicrucian beliefs, go here for a pamphlet which provides an introduction to the Rosicrucian Order, AMORC, and an overview of the various aspects of membership, including a description of the correspondence lessons.

There is a certain aura of secrecy and mystery enshrouding the AMORC. There is no obligation upon the members to keep the laws and principles which they learn in secret. The leadership of the AMORC believes it is more important to set into operation these laws and principles rather than explaining their inner workings to one outside of the Order (Lewis, 1938: 44). The AMORC takes no definitive stance on the religious doctrines of any church or religious movement and states that its teachings do not contradict anything in the Bible, but rather new knowledge is revealed that provides a practical guide to living the right life that the teachings of various churches espouse (Lewis, 1941: 262). The Rosicrucian teachings strive to create a liveable philosophy incorporating various aspects of science and mysticism, and seek to free society of the enslaving power of superstitions (Union of International Associations, 1996: 181).

The AMORC views itself as a continuation of the ancient schools of Amenhotep IV and Solomon. The system of their fraternity operates on 180 year cycles, alternating between silence and secrecy, then public operation. The Order shifted to a public cycle beginning in 1909 (Melton, 1996: 717).

The AMORC claims it is not a religion and that a specific code of belief or conduct is not required, and becoming a Rosicrucian student does not mean one has to change one's previous religious beliefs or affiliation. The Rosicrucian path provides the means to awaken one's innate potential for higher knowledge, which lays dormant without enlightenment. Natural laws are learned and applied which allow one to experience an aware union with Divine or Cosmic Consciousness. The AMORC allows the student to decide what this deity is, and this type of freedom of personal interpretation is extended to everything that is presented in the teachings ( Mastery of Life pamphlet: 5).

Rosicrucian teachings are centered on the "mastery of life", as the name of their major pamphlet suggests. The concept of "mastery of life" consists of the belief that man's success is through his ability to use his mental imaging powers to bring forth concrete reality. Metaphysical as well as physical philosophy aid the Rosicrucian student in using and improving his own natural talents. Rosicrucian students are taught to image things like health, wealth, and happiness by means of correspondence lessons, presented in booklets called "monographs" (Lewis, 1998: 43). These lessons are mailed on a monthly basis to members and introduce a variety of concepts, as well as providing supplementary exercises and experiments to implement what is learned. Members may also attend local centers for group activities and discussion of the materials (Melton, 1996: 717).

Correspondence Lessons: New Rosicrucian students, referred to as Neophytes, are presented with three introductory "Degrees", also referred to as Atrium lessons, which provide a summary of the course of study. After this introduction, there are an additional nine more Degrees. These twelve total Degrees take about five years to complete. The Degrees are arranged in a hierarchical manner - information presented in an earlier Degree will help to enrich the learning and comprehension of a succeeding Degree ( Mastery of Life pamphlet: 9).

One of the first concepts taught to Neophytes is that humans are dual beings, with a physical and a psychic sense. The Atrium lessons are meant to awaken and develop the psychic capacities ( Mastery of Life pamphlet: 11). The lessons explore such topics as "The Creative Power of Visualization", "Influence of Thoughts on Health", "Perceptions of the Aura", and "Reincarnation and Karma".

After completing the Atrium lessons, students are no longer Neophytes and leave the Atrium to enter the Temple. The Temple lesssons expand upon the principles learned in the Atrium lessons, as well as providing practical applications for these principles ( Mastery of Life pamphlet: 13). The Temple lessons include such concepts and topics as "polarity and its relationship to the subatomic world", ontology, classical philosophy, healing techniques, psychic projection, and themes of immortality.

After the Ninth Temple Degree (the last in the series) is completed, the Rosicrucian student's studies continue, as the learning and exploration of the laws of the universe are a lifelong endeavor ( Mastery of Life pamphlet: 17). Therefore the Atrium and Temple lessons provide a foundation for one's knowledge, yet one must continue to develop and practice the Rosicrucian techniques, incorporating them into one's own life.

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IV. Contemporary Issues and Controversies

The average Amercian is probably not familiar with the Rosicrucian Order, AMORC, nor would it illicit any immediately negative sentiments. This is most likely due to the relatively low-key and intellectually-minded nature of the group. AMORC does not involve itself in political or religious controversies and has no immoral practices so it does not attract much attention (Lewis, 1941: 190). It has never been officially or unofficially condemned by Catholics or Jews (Lewis, 1941: 244).

Any serious conflict has come in the form of internal controversies, as in the embezzlement charges against Gary L. Stewart, the Grand Imperator succeeding Ralph M. Lewis. Stewart became Grand Imperator in 1987 but was removed from the post by vote of the AMORC Board of Directors and charged with embezzlement. The Board had learned of Stewart's intent to transfer $3 million in Rosicrucian funds to a bank account in Andorra, and that he had already transferred it to a Pittsburgh bank (Thompson, 1990b: B12). Stewart denied all allegations against him and claimed that the transfer of funds was approved by the Board and had been an investment for starting a new Grand Lodge in Spain (Thompson, 1990b: B12).

This money was eventually returned to the Rosicrucian account by court order and Stewart began his own group called the Order Militia Crucifera Evangelica. He still considers himself the Rosicrucians' spiritual leader for life (Heltzel, 1993: A10). There is a small controversy over whether Stewart's removal from his post had less to do with money than with the internal politics of the group. There were supposedly two factions within the organization, and a number of people wanted Stewart out of the group due to his attempts to modernize the organization (Heltzel, 1993: A10).

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Other Rosicrucian Groups/Sites:

Related Sites:

Anti-Rosicrucian Sites:

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VI. Bibliography

Books:

Articles:
All articles were found and accessed through the Lexis-Nexis electronic database To access these materials, search for simple keywords such as "Rosicrucianism", "AMORC", etc.

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Contact Information:

Rosicrucian Order, AMORC
1342 Naglee Avenue,
San Jose, CA 95191 USA
Phone: (408) 947-3600
Fax: (408) 947-3677


Created by : Yoora Chang
For Soc 257 : New Religious Movements
Spring 1999
University of Virginia
Modified: date

Last edited by:
Shirley Rollinson
December 17, 2012


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