Rosicrucian Writings Online

Rosicrucianism, An Art and A Science

By The Imperator
[H. Spencer Lewis]
[From The Rosicrucian Digest May 1932]
IN so many of the ancient manuscripts we read of "The Art of the Rosy Cross," and in others we read of "The Practice of the Rosicrucian Sciences." Nowhere do we read of any Rosicrucian religion, Rosicrucian theology, or Rosicrucian churchisms.
It appears from comments made in public occasionally and in some modern writings that persons who are not correctly informed believe that Rosicrucianism is a religious philosophy, purely and simply. This is a very serious mistake and is responsible for many of the erroneous conclusions reached by these persons.
Persons who think that the teachings and doctrines of Rosicrucianism are purely spiritual and deal more essentially with religious ideals are always shocked when they learn that some Rosicrucians are dealing with the practical problems of life. They are shocked when they read in the advertisement that the organization offers to help men and women meet the practical problems of life. They are shocked when they find men and women in the organization studying for the purpose of improving their social, business, financial, or intellectual position in life, rather than their spiritual position exclusively.
Many of these persons become critical of the organization and insist that "since the Rosicrucian organization is a spiritual organization, it ought to conduct itself along purely spiritual lines." The mistake in this argument is the assumption that the Rosicrucian organization is purely spiritual.
This sort of criticism has annoyed me at times, and I have spent days and weeks searching through the oldest Rosicrucian manuscripts available to find where there is any warrant for this false belief. I have communicated with the oldest living representatives of the organization in various parts of the world. I have hunted through the writings of some of the oldest representatives of the organization who were active in the organization in the days of its glorious achievements of the last cycle. Nowhere do I find warrant for this assumption that Rosicrucianism is a religious philosophy or a religious cult or movement. Nearly everyone of the ancient masters spent much time in laboratories and workshops dealing with the arts and sciences. If we extract from the ancient records and writings all of the hours of labor devoted by the great Rosicrucian Masters to chemistry and alchemy, we will find only a few hours left which were devoted to philosophical speculation or religious meditation. Then at a previous period we find that most of the time spent by the Masters was devoted to the art of medicine and to astronomy and to biology and even to such sciences as botany.
While it is true that many eminent monks, friars, and even Jesuit priests were connected with the organization at one time and wrote much on the subject of Rosicrucianism, we find that these theologians and spiritual persons were attracted to the Rosicrucian Order not because of its spiritual teachings, but because of its practical teachings. Such a person as Roger Bacon, the eminent friar and monk, was attracted to Rosicrucianism, not because of its spiritual teachings, but because of its practical teachings. Such a person as Roger Bacon, the eminent friar and monk, was attracted to Rosicrucianism, not because it could possibly add one iota of knowledge to the great wisdom he possessed along spiritual lines, but because it afforded him an opportunity to exercise some of his hobbies, and these hobbies dealt with chemistry, physics, and practical subjects, and he found little or no opportunity to enlarge upon them and develop them as sciences in connection with his theological and religious training.
Of course, Jakob Bohme is an outstanding exception to the general rule, and it is fortunate for us that there were notable exceptions. The exceptional men--and some women--were so steeped and absorbed in the material affairs of life in order to earn a living that spiritual meditation became their hobby and their relaxation, and they became interested in Rosicrucianism because they hoped it would afford them an opportunity to add to their spiritual knowledge in a manner not otherwise available to them.
These types of persons received from the Cosmic marvelous illuminations and revelations regarding spiritual laws which they added to the Rosicrucian storehouse of wisdom. But because these great lights of spiritual wisdom--easily counted on the fingers of two hands--became famous as Rosicucians, there is no reason for us to ignore the thousands of others who were practical workers in the practical arts and sciences and look upon Rosicrucianism as a school of spiritual wisdom exclusively.
Even the famous pamphlets of 1610 and 1614 issued in Germany and other countries at that time and which startled the world into a realization of the existence of the Rosicrucian Order did not proclaim its plans of world-wide reformation along exclusively spiritual lines. In fact, from our modern point of view these pamphlets proclaimed more of the socialistic doctrine and a socialistic philosophy than a spiritual or religious one.
If we take the book written by Sir Francis Bacon entitled, "The New Atlantis," we will find this eminent Rosicrucian following right in line with the pamphlets of 1610 and 1614 and promulgating a scheme for the salvation of the world or the advancement of civilization along socialistic, scientific, humanitarian lines, rather than purely spiritual or religious.
The Rosicrucians who came to America in 1694 in accordance with the very plan outlined by Bacon in his "New Atlantis" did not come here to spiritualize America, but to bring many practical sciences and arts to the new country. In picking very carefully the limited number of specialized persons to compose the pilgrimage to America, they did not confine themselves exclusively to theologians, although they did add to the party two or three of the most eminent, reformed, modernistic theologians to be found in Europe. But they saw to it that they had men who were scientists and practical workers in every one of the practical occupations of the day. They saw to it that there was a man who could build organs, a man who could make paper, a man who could institute a botanical garden, a man who was an expert at astronomy, another who was an expert in chemistry, another who was an expert in physics, another an expert in music, and so on down the entire line of distinctions of the very practical sciences.
Their first great work in America was to establish various trades and industries and to teach these and to show the new inhabitants of the New World how to begin their careers of practical work. Religious philosophy was but two per cent of the great work accomplished by them while morals and ethics generally represented about twenty-five per cent of their work, and the remainder pertained to the practical work of living a useful life in the New World.
In the traditional history of the organization we read on each occasion of the opening of the "tomb" of "C. R-C" that instructions were found for the operation of the Order in its new cycle, and these instructions dealt far more completely with the doing of practical things than with any purely devotional service of a religious nature.
Nor was the Rosicrucian Order ever intended to be circumscribed by social or cultural standards. The portals of the organization were open to everyone, and if we read the history of the organization, we find that everyone regardless of color, sect or creed, and regardless of social, financial, or ethical position in life, entered those portals and became a welcome associate. How could it possibly be otherwise? Since the very teachings of the Order recognize only one universal soul existing in all beings, and recognize as the real part of man only the soul, there could be no serious distinctions or differentiations on purely material lines.
As stated above, the earliest pamphlets printed for public distribution by the organization proclaimed the ideals of the organization to be in favor of a world-wide reformation of all thinking persons. There was no attempt to limit the propaganda of the appeal to those who were of some superior worldly station. Most certainly, no humbler Neophyte ever crossed the threshold of the organization than Jakob Bohme, the very poor and very plebeian cobbler of shoes. Yet, he is idealized in the Rosicrucian literature and idealized in our hearts today. There are some at the present time outside of the organization and possibly inside of it who would probably raise their hands in protest against the admission into the organization today of such characters as Jakob Bohme.
Even Dr. John Dalton was nothing but the type of person that some of our snobbish social lights of today would not think of associating with in any organization, for Dr. Dalton was such a devotee to his sciences and arts that he neglected his personal appearance, his clothing, and even his whole environment, and looked more like a tramp of the streets than an eminent scientist and was the laughing stock of his scientific associates who could not believe that a man of his unkempt appearance could possibly have any illumination or any new or original thoughts. It was not until years after they had debarred him from any position of equal standing in the scientific organizations of Europe that they had discovered they had made the greatest error of their lives.
It is true that we speak much of Divine laws which we are studying in the Rosicrucian school. But when you come to analyze them, you find that from the Rosicrucian point of view every law is a Divine law since God created it. We look upon the bursting of the seed in the soil and the process of reproducing itself as typical of Divine law. Yet the study of botany belongs to the sciences and not to religion. Just because we are dealing with the soul and its incarnations and analyzing the process and finding duplicates of these laws in other parts of nature, it does not mean that we are studying a spiritual science or a religious doctrine, but Divine natural laws.
When the Rosicrucian pays adoration to God and prays to Him and communes with Him, he is not doing so in a religious sense, but in the sense of a natural appreciation of his intimate association with God and in recognition of God's universal direction and control of all of the laws of the universe.
Some criticism has been made regarding the fact that there are dues connected with the Rosicrucian work, and the persons who make these criticisms bluntly proclaim "spiritual truths should not be sold or paid for, and a religious teaching should be given freely." That idea is entirely wrong and is based upon the assumption that Rosicrucianism is a religious or a spiritual school of religious philosophy. The Rosicrucian institution is a practical university teaching the practical arts and sciences. It is dealing with the material welfare of life more completely and more intimately than it is attempting to deal with any phases of religious philosophy. Furthermore, the dues do not pay for the teachings, but for the thousand and one other benefits of membership, and the teachings are held as wholly independent of any fees or dues. But even if the teachings were put upon a tuition basis, it would not be a matter for criticism since the organization does not claim to be and has never attempted to be a school or seminary of religious or spiritual thought.
Neither Jesus nor any of the great Masters before Him or after Him ever manifested any of this modern attitude of discrimination on social or material lines. To these Masters the least of our brethren were equal with all of us in the need for and the worthiness of receiving the practical help which such an organization as the Rosicrucian Order can give. The parable of the ninety and nine is an old one and constitutes one of the foundation principles of the Rosicrucian organization. He or she who is so weak, so humble, so low down in the scale of worldly recognition as to be a mark of pity or criticism is one who is truly worthy of all the help that our organization can give, and that is why we are proud of the fact that not only in the present cycle, but in previous cycles, the work of the organization continued in asylums, institutions, prisons, and places where the so-called sinful and illiterate are to be found.
Another criticism made by those who do not understand the real principles of the organization is that the organization today is flooding the country with too much literature, too much propaganda, too much talk about itself and its plans and ambitions. These persons forget that since the art of printing was made practical, the Rosicrucian Order was the first to use printing in a national sense, for the early pamphlets of 1610 and 1614 were translated into many languages and scattered broadcast like seeds blown over the entire continent of Europe. To these were added other pamphlets of explanation and endorsement. For fifteen or twenty years the whole of Europe read more about and heard more about the Rosicrucian organization than it had ever read or heard about any other world-wide movement in the whole of the history of civilization. These pamphlets were addressed to all of the people of the world regardless of distinction or position. The pamphlets announced "a world-wide reformation," and these pamphlets undoubtedly constituted the largest individual system of propaganda ever instituted by man. Is that not a precedent by which we can gauge our present activities? There was no attempt to hide the existence of the organization or the nature of its activities, hopes and ambitions from the public mind. Everything was done to make the organization become talked about and talked over the breakfast cup of coffee and in the twilight hours around the fireside. The fact of the matter is that the fulfillment of the desires of the Rosicrucian organization can be added only by world-wide publicity and by the enrollment of the interest if not the active participation of entire nations of people.
Those who think that our present propaganda, that is, distributing tons upon tons of literature weekly into every part of North America is an astonishing violation of the supposed rules of conservatism, will learn, if they live a few hours more, that is nothing compared to the propaganda that will take place in this country before another twenty-five years have passed. By that time, even the most conservative churches will be carrying on similar forms of propaganda and we will have entered into an age of nation-wide discussion of existing organizations with a realization that only a nation-wide comprehension of the activities of any organization will bring about the possibilities of its fundamental plans.
Real Rosicrucians are never concerned with what an individual has been or may be at the time he makes application for membership into the portals of the fraternity. The primary thing to consider is his worthiness to enter because of his sincere desire to improve himself. If sincerity and honesty of purpose marks the motive back of his application, he is truly worthy regardless of his social or financial position in life. The important thing for us to consider is what the individual becomes after being in the organization a certain length of time. If the individual becomes illuminated, reformed, redeemed, regenerated, reborn and re-established in the Divine harmonious relationship with the Cosmic in which he was born into this life, then the organization can consider that it has done a noble work. Too many of those who criticize the admission of the poor and humble into the organization are in it themselves only because of the broad-minded, tolerant view that the organization takes of worldly distinctions; and if the organization were truly as conservative and restricted in its membership as some of these critics now insist it should be, they themselves, would not be in it to find out what sort of members it has, for they would have probably been the first to have been rejected when their applications reached the Board of Censorship. But we hope in time to change their view-point and to bring about a broadening of their vision and a widening of their consciousness until they develop the true Rosicrucian universal spirit of love for all human beings under the Fatherhood of God.
The overemphasis of spiritual truths is merely a tendency toward religious cultism and finds no response in the heart of the organization in any land.

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