Teophilus Schweighardt Constantiens, 1618
According to the legend, the Rosicrucian order was founded in 1407 by a German named Christian Rosenkreuz[?], who studied in the Holy Land under various occult masters. During his lifetime, the order was alleged to be small, consisting of no more than eight members. When Rosencreuz died in 1484, the order died out, only to be "reborn" in the early 17th century. This legend is accepted to varying degrees by modern Rosicrucians, with some accepting it as literal truth, others seeing it as a parable, and yet others believing Rosenkreuz to be a pseudonym for some more famous historical figure (Francis Bacon is often suggested.)
In point of fact, what was known in the early 17th century as the "Society of Rosicrucians" (Rosenkreuzer) was most likely a number of isolated individuals who held certain views in common (which apparently was their only bond of union). There is no trace of a society holding meetings, or having officers. So far as the numerous works are concerned, it is evident that the writers who posed as Rosicrucians were moral and religious reformers, and utilized the technicalities of chemistry (alchemy), and the sciences generally, as media through which to make known their opinions. Their writings included a flavour of mysticism or occultism promotive of inquiry and suggestive of hidden meanings discernible or discoverable only by adepts.
The publication of The Fama Fraternitas of the Meritorious Order of the Rosy Cross (1614), The Confession of the Rosicrucian Fraternity (1615), and The Chumical Marriage of Christian Rosenkreuz (1616) caused immense excitement throughout Europe, and they not only led to many re-issues, but were followed by numerous pamphlets, favourable and otherwise, whose authors generally knew little of the real aims of the original author (and doubtless in not a few cases amused themselves at the expense of the public). It is probable that the first work was circulated in manuscript for about 1610, according to historical records, but if so, there was no mention of the cult before that decade. In fact, research indicates that all three documents, including the concept of the Rosicrucian Order, were probably the creation of theologian Johann Valentin Andrea[?] (1586-1654).
The authors of the Rosicrucian works generally favoured Lutheranism as opposed to Roman Catholicism. Others, like John Heydon[?], admitted they were not Rosicrucians, but under attractive and suggestive titles to their works sought to make Hermeticism and other curious studies more useful and popular, and succeeded, for a time at least.
The curious legend, in which the fabulous origin of the so-called society was enshrined (Christian Rosenkreuz had discovered the secret wisdom of the East on a pilgrimage in the 15th century), was so improbable, though ingenious, that the genesis of the Rosicrucians was generally overlooked or ignored in the writings of the time.
The influence that Rosicrucianism had in the modernizing of ancient Freemasonry early in the 18th century must have been slight, if any, though it is likely that as the century advanced, and additional ceremonies were grafted on to the first three degrees, Rosicrucian tenets were occasionally introduced into the later rituals. So far, however, as the real foundation ceremonies of Craft Masonry are concerned, whether before or after the premier Grand Lodge was formed, it is most unlikely that such a society as the Freemasons woud adopt anything of a really distinctive character from any other organization.
In The Muses’ Threnodie by H. Adamson (Perth, 1638) are the lines— "For what we do presage is riot in grosse, for we are brethren of the Rosie Crosse; We have the Mason Word and second sight, Things for to come we can fortell aright."
See also: Esotericism