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The Rose Cross (also called Rose Croix and Rosy Cross) is a symbol largely associated with the semi-mythical Christian Rosenkreuz, Qabbalist and alchemist and founder of the Rosicrucian Order. The Rose Cross is said to be a cross with a white rose at its centre and symbolizes the teachings of a western esoteric tradition formed within the Christian tenets, albeit a Christianity not yet conspicuously in evidence:
What think you, loving people, and how seem you affected, seeing that you now understand and know, that we acknowledge ourselves truly and sincerely to profess Christ, condemn the Pope, addict ourselves to the true Philosophy, lead a Christian life, and daily call, entreat and invite many more unto our Fraternity, unto whom the same Light of God likewise appeareth?
It has several meanings, depending on the source. Some groups, such as the Ancient and Mystical Order Rosae Crucis, from a non-sectarian or non-religious view, suggest that the rosy cross predates Christianity, where "the cross represents the human body and the rose represents the individual's unfolding consciousness.
The Rosicrucian Fellowship and kindred groups of rosicrucianists, promulgating an Esoteric Christian viewpoint, hold that the Rosicrucian Brotherhood was founded in the early 14th century, or between the 13th and 14th centuries, as an Invisible College of mystic sages, by a highly evolved entity having the symbolic name of Christian Rosenkreuz in order "to prepare a new phase of the Christian religion to be used during the coming age now at hand, for as the world and man evolve so also must religion change".
Paracelsus, who was called the "Luther of Medicine", describes these mystics sages as "persons who have been exalted (verzueckt) to God, and who have remained in that state of exaltation, and have not died (...) nobody knew what became of them, and yet they remained on the earth". Modern Rosicrucian groups and some researchers  suggest that there is much evidence that the Rosicrucian Order not only has made herself known in the early 17th century through the Rosicrucian Manifestos, but has been active since the beginning of the Renaissance period, not only as an hermetic Order, but also through forerunners – geniuses of the western world, sometimes also known to be Freemasons – in the literary, cultural, ethical, political, religious and scientific fields.
In the late 18th century, Karl von Eckartshausen, a German Christian mystic, describes the true Adepts of the Rose Cross in the following terms: "These sages, whose number is small, are children of light, and are opposed to darkness. They dislike mystification and secrecy; they are open and frank, have nothing to do with secret societies and with external ceremonies. They possess a spiritual temple, in which God is presiding". Later, in the early 20th century, Max Heindel, a Rosicrucian Initiate, emphasizes that the roots of the Brothers of the Rose Cross, immersed in the western mystery tradition, are almost impossible to be traced as "theirs is a work which aims to encourage the evolution of humanity, they have labored far back into antiquity--under one guise or another".
It has also been suggested that the rose represents silence while the cross signifies "salvation, to which the Society of the Rose-Cross devoted itself by teaching mankind the love of God and the beauty of brotherhood, with all that they implied."  Others saw the Rosy Cross as a symbol of the human process of reproduction elevated to the spiritual: "The fundamental symbols of the Rosicrucians were the rose and the cross; the rose female and the cross male, both universal phallic [...] As generation is the key to material existence, it is natural that the Rosicrucians should adopt as its characteristic symbols those exemplifying the reproductive processes. As regeneration is the key to spiritual existence, they therefore founded their symbolism upon the rose and the cross, which typify the redemption of man through the union of his lower temporal nature with his higher eternal nature." 
Freemasonry and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn
The Rosy Cross is also a symbol found in some Masonic Christian bodies and employed by individuals and groups formed during the last centuries for the study of Rosicrucianism and allied subjects, but derived from the adoption of a red rose.
Within the Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite concordant body of Freemasonry, the Eighteenth Degree is specifically concerned with the rose cross and confers the title of "Knight Rose Croix". Of one version of the degree, Albert Pike wrote in 1871,
The Degree of Rose Cross teaches three things;—the unity, immutability and goodness of God; the immortality of the Soul; and the ultimate defeat and extinction of evil and wrong and sorrow, by a Redeemer or Messiah, yet to come, if he has not already appeared.
He goes on to give an explanation of what he believes to be the symbolism of the Rose Cross in that degree:
But [the cross's] peculiar meaning in this Degree, is that given to it by the Ancient Egyptians. Thoth or Phtha is represented on the oldest monuments carrying in his hand the Crux Ansata, or Ankh, (a Tau cross, with a ring or circle over it). [...] It was the hieroglyphic for life, and with a triangle prefixed meant life-giving. To us therefore it is the symbol of Life—of that life that emanated from the Deity, and of that Eternal Life for which we all hope; through our faith in God's infinite goodness.
The ROSE, was anciently sacred to Aurora and the Sun. It is a symbol of Dawn, of the resurrection of Light and the renewal of life, and therefore of the dawn of the first day, and more particularly of the resurrection: and the Cross and Rose together are therefore hieroglyphically to be read, the Dawn of Eternal Life which all Nations have hoped for by the advent of a Redeemer.
The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn made use of the rosy cross as well, including 'The Ritual of the Rose Cross," designed for spiritual protection and as preparation for meditation. Based on the Rosicrucian symbolism of the Red Rose and the Cross of Gold, it is also a key symbol of the Golden Dawn's Second Order. According to Regardie, the Golden Dawn rosy cross contains attributes for the Elements, Planets, Zodiac, Hebrew alphabet, alchemical principles, the hexagram and pentagram, the sephiroth of the Tree of Life, and the formula of INRI. On the back side of the rosy cross is inscribed the motto of the Zelator Adeptus Minor at the bottom, "The master Jesus Christ, God and Man" between four Maltese crosses, and in the center, written in Latin, "Blessed be the Lord our God who hath given us the Symbol Signum."
Regardie says of the rosy cross in The Golden Dawn:
The Rose-Cross is a Lamen or badge synthesizing a vast concourse of ideas, representing in a single emblem the Great Work itself—the harmonious reconciliation in one symbol of diverse and apparently contradictory concepts, the reconciliation of divinity and manhood. It is a highly important symbol to be worn over the heart during every important operation. It is a glyph, in one sense, of the higher Genius to whose knowledge and conversation the student is eternally aspiring. In the Rituals it is described as the Key of Sigils and Rituals.
Symbolism of the Golden Dawn Rosy Cross
This lamen is a complete synthesis of the masculine, positive, or rainbow scale of color attributions, which is also called the Scale of the King. The four arms of the cross belong to the four elements and are colored accordingly. The white portion belongs to the Holy Spirit and the planets.
The petals of the rose refer to the twenty-two paths on the Tree of Life and the Twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. It is the cross in Tiphareth, the receptacle and the center of the forces of the Sephiroth and the paths. The extreme center of the rose is white, the reflected spiritual brightness of Kether, bearing upon it the Red Rose of Five Petals and the Golden Cross of Six Squares; four green rays issue from around the angles of the cross. Upon the white portion of the lamen, below the rose, is placed the hexagram, with the planets.
Around the pentagrams, which are placed one upon each elemental colored arm, are drawn the symbols of the spirit and the four elements. Upon each of the floriated (the arms) of the cross are arranged the three alchemical principles of sulfur, salt, and mercury. The white rays issuing from behind the rose at the inner angles between the arms of the cross are the rays of the divine light issuing and coruscating from the reflected light of Kether in its center; and the letters and symbols on them refer to the analysis of the Key Word - I.N.R.I.
Aleister Crowley and Ordo Templi Orientis
The symbol of the rosy cross played a substantial role within the system of Thelema as developed by Aleister Crowley. In a cosmological context, the rose is Nuit, the infinitely expanded goddess of the night sky, and the cross is Hadit, the ultimately contracted atomic point. For Crowley, it was the job of the adept to identify with the appropriate symbol so to experience the mystical conjunction of opposites, which leads to attainment. In this sense, the rose cross is a grand symbol of the Great Work:
The Tau and the circle together make one form of the Rosy Cross, the uniting of subject and object which is the Great Work, and which is symbolized sometimes as this cross and circle, sometimes as the Lingam-Yoni, sometimes as the Ankh or Crux Ansata, sometimes by the Spire and Nave of a church or temple, and sometimes as a marriage feast, mystic marriage, spiritual marriage, "chymical nuptials," and in a hundred other ways. Whatever the form chosen, it is the symbol of the Great Work.
Crowley also makes clear that this process is reflected in the sexual act as well:
So we need not be surprised if the Unity of Subject and Object in Consciousness which is samādhi, the uniting of the Bride and the Lamb which is Heaven, the uniting of the Magus and the god which is Evocation, the uniting of the Man and his Holy Guardian Angel which is the seal upon the work of the Adeptus Minor, is symbolized by the geometrical unity of the circle and the square, the arithmetical unity of the 5 and the 6, and (for more universality of comprehension) the uniting of the Lingam and the Yoni, the Cross and the Rose. For as in earth-life the sexual ecstasy is the loss of self in the Beloved, the creation of a third consciousness transcending its parents, which is again reflected into matter as a child; so, immeasurably higher, upon the Plane of Spirit, Subject and Object join to disappear, leaving a transcendent unity. This third is ecstasy and death; as below, so above.
The rosy cross is further symbolic of the grade of Adeptus Minor in the A.'.A.'., the Qabalistic sphere of Tiphareth on the Tree of Life, the magical formula INRI, and the concepts of Light (LVX) and Life.
Ordo Templi Orientis
The rose cross also has a place in the system of Ordo Templi Orientis. It is associated with the Fifth Degree, the title of which is "Sovereign Prince Rose-Croix, and Knight of the Pelican and Eagle." Of it, Crowley writes in "An Intimation with Reference to the Constitution of the Order":
The members of the Fifth Degree are responsible for all that concerns the Social welfare of the Order. This grade is symbolically that of beauty and harmony; it is the natural stopping-place of the majority of men and women; for to proceed farther, as will appear, involves renunciation of the sternest kind. Here then is all joy, peace, well-being on all planes; the Sovereign Prince Rose Croix is attached equally to the higher and the lower, and forms a natural link between them. Yet let him look to it that his eyes are set on high!
Fellowship of the Rosy Cross
The Fellowship of the Rosy Cross was a Christian mystical organization established by Arthur Edward Waite in England in 1915. It developed out of the breakdown of Independent and Rectified Rite of the Golden Dawn. It was based on Waite's complicated ideas and its rites reflected his interest in the history of the Rosicrucian Order, Freemasonry, and Christian mystical teachings through the ages. Most of its members were Freemasons or theosophists. One of its most noted members was the novelist Charles Williams who was a member from 1917 to at least 1928 and possibly later. There were plans to establish a branch in the United States but they appear never to have been fulfilled. The order ended with Waite's death in 1942. Arthur Edward Waite wrote also a book entitled The Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross, which presents the brotherhood as a Christian order dating from the Middle Ages.
One modern form of the Rosie Cross is found in a Rosicrucian Christian symbol that places a crown of red roses ennobling a white rose at the centre of the cross; radiating behind is the golden five-pointed star, an allusion also to 'the Five Points of Fellowship'. It is the symbol of the fraternity that has prepared a great lodge for the Brethren to be gathered.
- Godwin, Joscelyn. Robert Fludd - Hermetic Philosopher of Two Worlds. Shambala, Boulder, 1979: 10 [w/illustration.]: "This explicitly Rosicrucian symbol was first used at the head of Joachim Frizius’s Summum Bonum, then adopted for (Robert) Fludd’s Clavis. A rose with seven petals each alludes, in all probability, to secret doctrines of septenary emanation such as were later to be publicized in the theosophical works of H. P. Blavatsky. The Rose surmounts the thorny cross, the whole resembling the sign of Venus in which the solar circle triumphs over the cross of matter. We may interpret the motto as saying that "spiritual knowledge gives solace to souls," of whom bees are a venerable symbol. (...)"
- German language original: 'Die Bruderschaft des Ordens der Rosenkreuzer', Fama Fraternitatis, 1614 [in circulation ca. 1610]; 'Bruderschaft Rosenkreuz', Confessio Fraternitatis, 1615
- Max Heindel, Christian Rosenkreuz and the Order of Rosicrucians, 1909 [1908–1919]
- Albert Pike (1872). Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, XXX: Knight Kadosh. p. 822.
"Commentaries and studies have been multiplied upon the Divine Comedy, the work of DANTE, and yet no one, so far as we know, has pointed out its especial character. (...) His Hell is but a negative Purgatory. His Heaven is composed of a series of Kabalistic circles, divided by a cross, like the Pantacle of Ezekiel. In the centre of this cross blooms a rose, and we see the symbol of the Adepts of the Rose-Croix for the first time publicly expounded and almost categorically explained."
- *Weber, Charles. Rosicrucianism and Christianity. Rays from the Rose Cross, 1995
- *Bamford, Christopher. The Rosicrucian Enlightenment Revisited: The Meaning of the Rose Cross. Lindisfarne Books, 1999 ISBN 0940262843
- in Confessio Fraternitatis, the second Rosicrucian Manifesto printed in 1615
- AMORC. Our Traditional and Chronological History.
- Steiner, Rudolf (founder of Anthroposophy). Christian Rosenkreutz – The Mystery, Teaching and Mission of a Master.
- The Rosicrucian Interpretation of Christianity by The Rosicrucian Fellowship.
- Debus, Allen G. (1993). Paracelsus and the Medical Revolution of the Renaissance – A 500th Anniversary Celebration. National Library of Medicine. p. 3.
- cited by Franz Hartmann in Life & Prophecies of Paracelsus (1493–1541), p. 199.
- Yates, Frances A. (1972), The Rosicrucian Enlightenment, London
- "Shakespeare – The Lay Bible". Rosicrucian Fellowship.
- Hall, Manly Palmer (1928). The Secret Teachings of All Ages: Bacon, Shakespeare, and the Rosicrucians, pp. 165–168.
- von Eckartshausen, Karl (1790). Aufschlüsse über Magie. [Explanations Concerning Magic.] München [Munich], 1790; cited by Franz Hartmann in Life & Prophecies of Paracelsus (1493–1541), p. 199.
- The Brothers of the Rose Cross by The Rosicrucian Fellowship
- Baxter, James. Sir Francis Bacon and The Rosy Cross
- Hall, 1928, p. 141.
- Heindel, Max. Freemasonry and Catholicism (Part VII). ISBN 0-911274-04-9. www2. www3.
- See image: The "18° Knight of the Rose Croix" degree of the Scottish Rite.
- See image: Rosy Cross lamen of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
- Pike (1871), pp. 290–291.
- Crowley, Aleister. Magick, Book 4.
- Crowley, Aleister. The Equinox I(4), "The Big Stick"
- De Lege Libellum
- Crowley, Aleister (1919). "Liber CXCIV OTO –An Intimation with Reference to the Constitution of the Order". The Equinox. III (1). Retrieved March 8, 2011.
- Gilbert, Robert A. (1983). The Golden Dawn: Twilight of the Magicians. Aquarian Press. pp. 76–77. ISBN 0-85030-278-1.
- See image The Rosicrucian Fellowship (emblem).
- See image: The Ecclesia (portico).
- AMORC. Our Traditional and Chronological History.