Member of a secret worldwide brotherhood claiming to possess esoteric wisdom handed down from ancient times. The name derives from the order's symbol, a combination of a rose and a cross. Its origins are obscure. Its earliest known document, Account of the Brotherhood (1614), tells the story of the supposed founder, Christian Rosenkreuz (“Rose Cross”), allegedly born in 1378, who is said to have acquired his wisdom on trips to the Middle East and imparted it to his followers on his return to Germany. He is now generally considered a symbolic rather than a real character. Some regard Paracelsus as the true founder; others say Rosicrucianism is only the accumulated wisdom passed down from Plato, Jesus, Philo Judaeus, Plotinus, and others. No reliable evidence dates the order's history earlier than the 17th century. The international Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis was founded in 1915; it and other Rosicrucian groups continue to operate today.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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