The Confraternity of the Rose Cross is a Rosicrucian fraternal order and school of mysticism. Our aim is to offer a system of study to people who have felt an urge from within to consciously advance themselves along the path of spiritual evolution. Also, it needs to be understood that we are more than a school of mysticism disseminating teachings. We are an initiatic Order in the Rosicrucian tradition. Those with "traditional" minds can look at us as a Rosicrucian traditional culture living in a contemporary society. Altogether we are a mystical, cultural, and educational organization dedicated to the spiritual advancement of humanity.
The CR+C offers a systematic study program to assist and guide students on their path to spiritual truth and personal enlightenment.
From the perspective of our tradition, we assist students to develop a living philosophy so that they become successful in both the spiritual quest and being a constructive member of society. We teach a well recognized truth that the greatest learning comes from Service. By teaching the R+C laws of moral integrity and responsibility, we aim to help not only in spiritual advancement of the individual, but humanity in general.
From the perspective of the student's spiritual path, the CR+C teaches a mystical approach. It is recognized that there are basically two approaches to spiritual advancement -- the mystical and the occult. The occult approach uses the human will and intellect to advance along the spiritual path; the mystical approach uses our subtle mind to directly experience the Source of all Being. It is this direct experience of God, Oneness or the Cosmic that mystics seek. In our approach we assist the student in awakening to the subtle mind -- the mind of soul and spirit -- and enter into the world of mysticism.
From the perspective of ontology, we teach mystical pantheism. This means that the all-pervading Essence infuses all things, and that all things are an integral part of the One Essence. Being a part of the Oneness means that we can attain direct knowledge of that Essence. This concept is fundamental to mysticism.
We recognize the fact that all learning must necessarily come from within each individual student. Therefore, we must say that we would rather assist one to learn for oneself. To that end we help students to become independent thinkers and philosophers who shape their own beliefs.
Finally, we certainly share something in common with all mystics, philosophers and scientists of the past and present -- the never-ending quest "to know what there is to be known."
It's a doctrine stating that knowledge of the omnipotent Oneness can be acquired through direct experience. In the light of this statement a mystical experience is the individual knowing of the Essence, Source, or God. It is necessary to mention that the mystical approach does not require that one possess psychic abilities or an evolved intellectual understanding.
What is significant about a mystical experience is that it is noetic. When we have a mystical experience we just know, not think we know, but just know. Most of the time we can't clearly describe or rationalize this experience because it transcends our physical reality and limitations of language. However, in our hearts we know what we have realized and there is no doubt about it. In other words, the experience leaves us with knowing and certainty. Mysticism is the art of such knowing. It is a process of enlightenment.
What is very appealing about mysticism is its simplicity. The potential for knowing exists in every human being, and the experience of enlightenment is present everywhere.
The CR+C teachings are disseminated in the form of what we call "monographs." Monographs are instructional booklets of just a few pages. They are mailed quarterly, and you are expected to study one monograph a week in the privacy of your home -- so you get 12 monographs per quarter. It's an incremental study system by which you progress through the R+C Degrees. Keep in mind that Rosicrucian studies require more than just an intellectual comprehension of the written materials, they are a process of awakening to the subtle aspects of our being.
Traditionally the Rosicrucian Movement has stood for freedom and personal responsibility. The Freedom to choose and enquire into Truth without fear or oppression of a governing body, with the emphasis on the personal responsibility to act appropriately. That is why Rosicrucians have always fought against oppression and religious, social or intellectual intolerance. Historically, the Movement worked towards the establishment and perpetuation of a condition in which all people can freely follow their own paths to enlightenment.
Being a mystical order, the CR+C teaches a mystical approach to the student's spiritual quest. It's a process of awakening to who we already are, to our spiritual essence. This process of mysticism is universal and beyond, or independent of, any religion. If there is or was any relationship between the two, it has been mysticism influencing religious thought.
There might be some confusion in this regard coming from the name of the founder of Rosicrucianism. Father CRC (Christian of the Rose Cross), by his birth and upbringing, was a Christian. After his journey to the East and after forming the first Rosicrucian cell, he chose to present some of the Rosicrucian concepts in the context of the dominant religion of his time, Christianity. Later, his successors kept the name of CRC in respect of their founder and the R+C Tradition. These factors alone could be responsible for an improper association of "Christian mysticism" with Rosicrucianism, typically by a casual reader.
There could be a few reasons for this attraction. A good place to begin is to look at the rebirth of the Rosicrucian movement in 17th century Europe. What's significant about it is the timing of the publication of the Rosicrucian manifestoes, which together with the political and religious climate of medieval Europe provides some clues to the answer. For many centuries Europe was in a grip of an unprecedented oppression of freedom of thought, science, religion, and individual pursuit of truth. It is estimated that several million people -- men, women and children - were killed by the organized crusades against those who had a different point of view ("heretics"), or burned at stake by the Inquisition. These were the Dark Ages of Europe and human civilization. Europe needed a change, a restoration of freedoms in society, and a traditional institution to guide humanity towards spiritual truth and personal enlightenment. That's when the Rosicrucians came into the picture. The Rosicrucian manifestoes were an open challenge to the religious oppression of Europe, and their fundamental goal was to restore freedoms. Additionally, the manifestoes offered a specific process and guidance for an educational, moral and scientific reformation of society.
For its own survival the Order had to operate in total secrecy. This very fact gave birth to a multiplicity of speculations about the Order, and made it vulnerable to misinformation spread by the enemies of freedom. Today, there are still in circulation some of those stories that have more to do with fantasy than with the reality of the Rosicrucians. That reality is, and always was, the establishment and perpetuation of a condition where all have an opportunity to pursue Truth freely and in accordance with their own conscience. In essence, and probably on a subconscious level, that is one thing that keeps attracting public attention.
Our R+C lineage goes back to Dr H. Spencer Lewis, who received this lineage in Europe. There are other R+C lineages, originated in the 17th century Rosicrucian schism, that are being perpetuated by different Rosicrucian organizations.
The CR+C offers the originals. It is true that the original teachings of H. Spencer Lewis (referred to further as HSL) differ from those issued by AMORC in later years. To help arrive at a proper understanding of the differences, we would like to offer the story of these teachings related by Imperator Gary L. Stewart to one of the inquirers, that has been adapted to fit the format of these pages.
HSL started writing the monographs in 1915 and wrote at a rate of approximately one per week, although in 1916, 1917 and 1918 his writing was very irregular. He continued writing until his transition in1939, about half way through the 12th Degree. So when we use the term "original" monograph, the Degree we are referring to is also relevant. An original 12th Degree monograph could be 1938 whereas an original First Degree monograph would have been 1918. In the 30's when the monographs started to undergo revisions, naturally, that would only apply to monographs written prior to the date of the revision. (Nevertheless, in the CR+C monographs, Gary L. Stewart in his addendums clearly indicates what has happened with a particular monograph.)
The revisions in the 30's primarily meant that additional paragraphs were added and very seldom was something deleted. Concepts weren't changed, necessarily, but in many cases, they were confused and, consequently, instigated later changes. It really wasn't until the 40's, but mostly the 70's, 80's and now 90's that major conceptual changes started to take place.
Prior to 1924, there was no home sanctum membership and members had to go to a Lodge to receive their instructions orally. In 1924, the Order began to centralize and started home sanctum membership where members received the monographs by mail. At around that time the monographs went into editing to reflect the new structure. Things like " and now the Master should read this paragraph again ..." were changed to "and now you should reread the previous paragraph." This type of editing was done by others than HSL, as he was engaged in writing new monographs. Over a period of time, editors began to change and confuse some of the doctrinal subjects by trying to "clarify" them, to help explain "difficult" topics, but in reality they began confusing and changing things. It was mostly in the 70's, 80's and then 90s that major conceptual changes took place.
As an example of some of these changes, in the 30's AMORC started adopting the word 'psychic' to replace 'Spirit' (sometimes, the word 'astral' replaces 'psychic'). In so doing, they kind of lost the entirety and scope of what the human Spirit is (or, in this case, the psychic body).
Looking at the conceptual changes, it was in the 1940's (after HSL death) that AMORC began to emphasize a more scientific approach to Rosicrucianism -- sort of an exegesis of the 17th c. style of English Rosicrucianism championed by Sir Francis Bacon's inductive method which was in contrast to Dutch and French Rosicrucianism which emphasized pure mysticism and German Rosicrucianism that tended more toward alchemical work. In the 1960's AMORC began to adopt a more Jungian psychological interpretation to mysticism, which in my opinion has little to do with traditional and classical Rosicrucian thought. After 1990, that style was reinterpreted by the present day AMORC. AMORC relies upon intellectual dualism as being the foundation to their epistemological and ontological approach. The CR+C, on the other hand, perpetuates pre-17th c. Rosicrucian tradition of pure mysticism that was maintained in the 17th c. by the French and Dutch Rosicrucians. This was the lineage that eventually initiated H. Spencer Lewis, and this is the approach that he first gave to the AMORC teachings from 1918 until his death in 1939. That is also the approach followed by the CR+C.
Doctrinally, we are what can be classified philosophically as mystical pantheists (as opposed to rational dualists) that function in the objective world by following a triune manifestation epitomized by the Law of the Triangle. In short, we believe in the triune nature of the human being as being composed of body, spirit, and soul with the intellectual mind being part of the body and the intuitive mind being an aspect of the spirit/soul combination. AMORC on the other hand see things as being dualistic -- body and soul. That would probably be the main difference between the CR+C and present day AMORC insofar as doctrine is concerned, but there are an endless number of other and more minor differences as well -- as was the case in the 17th c. schism of Rosicrucian interpretation. The CR+C follows the lineage expressed by father CRC in the 13th and 14th centuries.
In my (webmaster's) opinion the CR+C teachings, which include the original writings of HSL and Gary L. Stewart's addendums, are a jewel among today's R+C teachings. In part, this is so because of the very clear line of mysticism held together by Gary L. Stewart's addendums.
There is no such thing as an official CR+C position on a given subject. We don't tell students what to think, rather we teach them how to think. Our aim is to help students to become independent thinkers and philosophers who shape their own views and beliefs.
To answer this question, I would like to paraphrase Gary L. Stewart's response to a similar question.
The true Rosicrucian "Order" is what is in one's heart, meaning a true Rosicrucian can exist in any Order. The organization is merely a vehicle in which the essence of the R+C manifests. In other words, an organization, by virtue of the intent and motives of its members can tap into R+C essence and be true. By the same token, an organization can become lost if its members forget what is important. With this in mind let's look at how a Rosicrucian organization comes into being.
Rosicrucianism is a traditional and initiatic movement that sometimes solidifies into an Order or organization for a period of time. This means an individual or small group of individuals who have been properly trained and initiated into the Rosicrucian system will work together for a common purpose and objective. This is effectively how some of the Rosicrucian orders started at the beginning of the 20th century -- like AMORC, the Rosicrucian Fellowship, the original Cabbalistic Order of the Rose Cross, etc.
What truly points to authenticity of a Rosicrucian organization (besides its lineage) is the attitude expressed by that organization and its deeds. The R+C Tradition is very specific about these aspects. Therefore we can say that what makes a true Rosicrucian Order are the members, what they are in their hearts, and not the administration. The organizations, which can be likened to the physical body, tend to grow old, corrupt, and eventually die. However, it must be remembered that the tradition and initiation leading to inner self-development of the sincere individual is the Soul and Spirit of the R+C path. This is what perpetuates the Rosicrucian Movement despite what an organization does or doesn't do.
With this in mind, it shouldn't really be all that surprising that there are several Rosicrucian groups around. Some are legitimate by virtue of the attitude expressed, and that means they are open and tolerant, encourage their members to seek truth and apply it according to individual interpretation, are not oppressive, suppressive, arrogant, etc. Some are bogus because those ideals are not properly represented. To find which is which you need to feel your way around them. Some good advice would be to measure the worth of an Order by how you intuit it and by how its members respond to your queries. A genuine Order will try to answer your questions as openly and honestly as possible; they will not try to influence you one way or the other, and they will not talk down to you (as an example, "we cannot discuss such and such matter with you because you haven't studied our higher Degrees, because you are not a member, etc.").
Also, keep in mind that there are different types and lineages of Rosicrucianism and for the most part, the devisiveness comes from differences in the interpretation of R+C ontology. But the one thing which is really the earmark of true Rosicrucianism is the emphasis on freedom and personal responsibility. If you find any type of suppression of those tenets from any R+C group, then you will know that group does not represent the Rosicrucian ideal nor any of its traditional lineages.
The CR+C does not conduct studies or comparisons of the existing Rosicrucian orders. We assume that each order does their best in representing the ideals of the R+C Tradition. We choose to focus our efforts on the future of the Rosicrucian movement and the fulfillment of its objectives. In the light of the above statement we can only reiterate our own commitment to the Laws of the R+C as presented in Fama Fraternitatis, and to the 17th century R+C manifestoes as founding documents. In the same light we choose to perpetuate the original Rosicrucian teachings as they were initially presented by Imperator H. Spencer Lewis (commencing in 1915). In short, our intent is to accomplish qualitative Work in a quiet fashion.
Yes, you can be a member of the CR+C and another organization. However, you are expected to uphold the oath and duties you took upon yourself in the other Order as well as in the CR+C. Keep in mind that any idea of limiting a member's affiliations is against the ideals of the Rosicrucian Tradition, and specifically against the ideal of free pursuit of truth and Light.
OMCE (Order of the Militia Crucifera Evangelica) and CR+C are separate although closely allied Orders. We refer to them, along with the British Martinist Order, as Confraternities.
What happened between Gary L. Stewart and AMORC in 1990 is a rather complicated story in and of itself, not counting all the rumor and propaganda that has surrounded it. Simply put, Burnam Schaa, on behalf of Christian Bernard and the Grand Masters, filed a civil lawsuit against Gary L. Stewart and a couple of other defendants, alleging that he (they) embezzled money. While the case was handled by the court, AMORC's Board of Directors dismissed Imperator Gary L. Stewart. Three years later (1993), AMORC dropped its suit against Gary L. Stewart and admitted that he was not guilty of any wrongdoing. In the meantime AMORC dissolved its corporate entity that had existed since 1927, reincorporated in Canada as a new entity, formed a new corporation in California, ceased to be a fraternal Order, and redefined "Imperator" from being the traditional head of an Order to being just the president of the new AMORC corporation. Then the Board of Directors elected Christian Bernard as the new Imperator of AMORC.
This subject is rather complicated and long and should be addressed with more focus. I strongly recommend that an inquirer should get both sides of the story from those directly involved and not rely just upon what I say here.
What is important today is to remember the Work that all Rosicrucians have been entrusted to continue. In the CR+C, we are not all that interested with what happened in the past, except as to how it affects our Work in present and the future. The way we see it is that if our generation of Rosicrucianism is to accomplish anything, we can't be involved in pettiness.
The answer to this question lays in the differences of defining the Office of Imperator by today's AMORC and by the R+C lineage and movement that gave birth to that organization.
To provide a more in-depth answer to this question we may want to begin with a few thoughts on the Rosicrucian Movement and AMORC's R+C lineage (brought by H. Spencer Lewis), and the Imperator's role.
We can look at Rosicrucianism as a movement that has a "soul" and "spirit" (the R+C Tradition and initiation) and a "body" (a Rosicrucian organization) to express itself. While the "bodies" come and go, the "soul" and "spirit" remains. We can find this dynamic evident in the history of the Rosicrucians and the number of physical organizations they have had. To assure that, as time passes on, people won't change the R+C Tradition and its teachings, a system of preservation was set into motion. In the lineage of H. Spencer Lewis and many others, this system was embodied in the traditional Office of Imperator. The individual holding the Office of Imperator is responsible not only for preserving the purity of the R+C teachings, and assuring that the organization follows the R+C code, but to secure a continuity of the R+C mission into the future. He or she must always be chosen and prepared for the Office by the previous Imperator.
We may look at an Imperator as a person endowed with a life long responsibility.
AMORC's R+C lineage was brought in by H. Spencer Lewis. He chose and trained his son Ralph, to whom he passed the Imperatorship upon his transition from this world in 1939. Imperator Ralph Lewis then chose and prepared Gary L. Stewart, and passed the Imperatorship to him.
After the 1990 AMORC events, Gary L. Stewart removed the Office of Imperator from AMORC. Leaving AMORC wasn't exactly the Imperator's idea at the time, but rather he was forced to do it. In a nutshell, he was sued by Christian Bernard and the Grand Masters for embezzlement of money. Three years later they dropped their suit against Gary L. Stewart and admitted that he was not guilty of any wrongdoing. In the meantime they changed AMORC's Constitution, ceased to be a fraternal Order, dissolved AMORC's corporate entity that had existed since 1927, reincorporated in Canada as a new entity and formed a new corporation in California. Most importantly, they redefined "Imperator" from being the traditional head of a Rosicrucian Movement to being just the president of the new AMORC corporation. Then the Board of Directors elected Christian Bernard as the new Imperator of AMORC.
The point here is that the traditional Rosicrucian rules for passing the Imperatorship and its lineage, or proving an Imperator's wrongdoing, were never applied in this case.
In truth it doesn't really matter if AMORC calls Christian Bernard or anybody else Imperator. It is their choice. However, it needs to be understood that whatever lineage Christian Bernard has, it is not of H. Spencer Lewis.
Rosicrucians are determined by what they are in their hearts and not by the organizations they belong to.
Of course, it only makes sense that joining a genuine R+C Order and following their system of study may help those who want to become Rosicrucians.