The Rose Cross and the Age of Reason

Eighteenth-Century Rosicrucianism in Central Europe and its Relationship to the Enlightenment

By Christopher McIntosh

Subjects: Esotericism And Gnosticism, European History, Intellectual History, Mysticism, Spirituality
Series: SUNY series in Western Esoteric Traditions
Paperback : 9781438435602, 220 pages, January 2012
Hardcover : 9781438435596, 220 pages, January 2011

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Table of contents

1. The Enlightenment, the Aufklärung and Their Opponents
2. Rosicrucianism from Its Origins to the Early 18th Century
3. The Masonic Phase
4. The World of the Initiate
5. The Alchemy of the Gold- und Rosenkreuz
6. The Polemical Stance of the Gold- und Rosenkreuz
7. A Rosicrucian on the Prussian Throne
8. The Auflkärung Reaction and Decline of the Gold- und Rosenkreuz
9. Rosicrucianism in Poland and Russia
10. The Asiatic Brethren
11. Conclusion
A Note on Sources

Examines the relationship between diverse iterations of Rosicrucianism and the philosophy of the Enlightenment.


This new edition of Christopher McIntosh's classic book on the Golden and Rosy Cross order is eagerly awaited. The order stands out as one of the most fascinating and influential of the high-degree masonic and illuminist groups that mushroomed in Europe from the 18th century onward. Active mainly in the German-speaking lands, it recast the original Rosicrucian vision and gave it renewed vitality. At one point it became politically influential when the Prussian King, Frederick William II, was a member of the order. Historians have often perceived the Golden and Rosy Cross as having had a conservative, anti-Enlightenment agenda, but this study – drawing on rare German sources – shows that the matter was more complex. The members of the order practiced alchemy and operated a degree system that was later imitated by later orders such as the Golden Dawn. Like the latter, the Golden and Rosy Cross exerted a wide and enduring cultural influence. Both the alchemy of the order and its powerful ritual system are insightfully described in Christopher McIntosh's clear and compelling style.

Christopher McIntosh is a faculty member at the Centre for the Study of Esotericism, University of Exeter, England. He is the author of Eliphas Lévi and the French Occult Revival, also published by SUNY Press.