The early years of our Society were focused on London as a hub of masonic and esoteric activity. In our Transactions section we have shared with you annual editions of the Metropolitan College Transactions, which also include reports from the London College of Adepts and the Metropolitan Study Group (once they become existent).
However, before Metropolitan College was even a distinct entity there was another publication that gave an overview of the activities and research of this new Rosicrucian Society of England. That publication was The Rosicrucian.
First published in July 1868, soon after the formation of the Society, The Rosicrucian aimed to be “A quarterly record of the Society’s Transactions with occasional notes on Freemasonry and other kindred subjects” in which “Tales, sketches, essays, poetry, reviews and other notices will all be welcomed”. Importantly, it would also act as a way to inform members of “the usual Notices to attend the Quarterly or Special Meetings of the Society, and that the printed circulars formerly sent to each member will now be discontinued”.
The Rosicrucian was edited by Robert Wentworth Little and William Robert Woodman (who at that time had the titles of Master General and Secretary General respectively) and would contain a wide range of interesting material over the years spanning its publication from 1868-1879. Materials that have become, in many ways, even more interesting now over 150 years later as we seek to understand the elements most important to our founding Fratres.
The first issue of this periodical from July 1868 gives us some fascinating items from both a historical and spiritual perspective. For one, it shows us that the earliest meetings of our Society were held at the Freemasons’ Tavern, Great Queen Street, London – in the evenings at ‘half-past Six o’clock precisely’.
It contains an Address from Robert Wentworth Little that describes the purpose of the S.R.I.A. (full text included below) and provides the 'Rules & Ordinances of the Rosicrucian Society of England' which includes our degree structure and explanation of the different Officer roles to be held in a College.
It also shows how, from the very beginnings, the Society has been focused on research with an overview of ‘Notable Rosicrucian Books’ that had been put together by one William James Hughan (Substitute Supreme Magus / Deputy Master General that had been admitted into the Scottish society a few years previous alongside R.W. Little); along with a poem from Little entitled ‘The Pyramids at Sunrise’ that displays the romantic undercurrent that remains important even with a prominent focus on the delivery of more academic papers.
Notably, the first issue also includes a ‘Masonic Miscellanea’ that would continue through later editions and indeed into the renaming of the publication into The Rosicrucian and Masonic Record that would occur in 1875. This section gives us an overview of activity of different masonic orders that Little and other members of the Society were closely involved with, particularly the ‘Red Cross of Rome and Constantine, and K. H. S.’ that was the focus of the section in this first issue.
It closes with a small section to provide ‘Answers to Correspondents’ which in this instance provides a glimpse into the organisational movements of the Society, with the following brief response:
“The ceremony of reception for Adepts will take place at the October meeting. The re-organization of the Society has hitherto prevented due attention being given to the ritual; but, as the number of members now exceeds 130, and future admissions must therefore be restricted, we hope to see every ceremony creditably worked in future. R. + Brethren in possession of Rosicrucian works will kindly notify the fact to the Editors.”
The publication then has a final advertisement for the Masonic suppliers ‘Geo. Kenning’ as shown along with the full issue for your perusal in the document reader below.
Overall, a publication of great importance not only to members at the time; but even more so perhaps to us today looking back as we seek to understand the early years of our Society and its focus.
In particular, the Address given by Little is an inspiring vision that reminds us of our purpose and calmly guides us towards a higher state of being – the 'true alchemy of life' – and is worth reading for all those interested in Rosicrucianism today.