I recently inherited a stack of old issues of Rosicrucian Digest, the monthly journal published by the Rosicrucians AMORC (Ancient and Mystical Order Rosae Crucis).
The Rosicrucian Digest was first published in 1915 under the name American Rosae Crucis, and then The Triangle, The Mystic Triangle and finally The Rosicrucian Digest.
I have almost all the issues from 1968 to 1972 and then a few from ’73, ’76 and ’80.
The magazine looks like any number of other special interest or religious subscription publications of the time (I got a few Plain Truths with these too) except for its peculiar Rosicrucian interests. But those, set in a 60s/70s aesthetic, can appear especially jarring.
The format of the Digest remains very consistent throughout the issues I’ve seen, presenting the varied concerns of the Digest and the AMORC as a theosophical fraternity and group of institutions.
The cover design changes only once through these issues. Here’s the issue with the AMORC’s Rose-Croix University building, Rosicrucian Park, San Jose, CA.
The back covers of many issues present different sets of “Timeless Thoughts” from assorted mystics, philosophers and other authors or sources throughout history.
The back covers of other issues are dedicated to AMORC advertising for their major and minor publications as well as the other stuff sold once upon a time by the Rosicrucian Supply Bureau, like rings and cufflinks and such. Otherwise, plenty of space within the journal is dedicated to the sale of AMORC product (tho the Digest was the only publication actually for sale).
Invariably, the 1st page consists of a full page advert for the AMORC equivalent of Dianetics, The Mastery of Life. These ads for this book written for prospective members of the Order promise answers to all sorts of mysterious questions and, at the same time, to lead one to the personal fulfillment promised by every contemporary form of self-help. As the examples show, you can learn to harness your own consciousness, auras, and even learn ESP for fun and profit.
And no doubt this is just the kind of thing to appeal to one or more of the go-getters at Sterling Cooper.
Other advertizing is dedicated to the sale of new Digest subscriptions which come with the gift of a Rosicrucian tract on one topic or another like “The Unity of Mysticism” or the sacred fire kept by the vestal virgin:
And speaking of vestal virgins, the news of the order reported occasionally includes the installation of the Supreme Colombe, “a ritualistic officer and symbolizes consciousness. She holds the office until eighteen years of age.”
Looks like Job’s Daughters’ robes dressed up with a big rose. And are those headdresses supposed to look Egyptian?
The masthead includes a statement of “The Purpose of the Rosicrucian Order:”
The Rosicrucian Order, which exists throughout the world, is a nonsectarian fraternal body of men and woman devoted to the investigation, study, and practical application of natural and spiritual laws. The purpose of the organisation is to enable everyone to live in harmony with the creative, constructive cosmic forces for the attainment of health, happiness, and peace. The Order is internationally known as the Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis and, in America and all other lands, constitutes the only form of Rosicrucian Activities united in one body. The A.M.O.R.C. (an abbreviation) does not sell its teachings. It gives them freely to affiliated members, together with many other benefits. For complete information about the benefits and advantages of Rosicrucian affiliation write a letter to the address below and ask for the free book, The Mastery of Life.
The Imperator, supreme leader of the AMORC, always provides an opening commentary or preface in the form of the “Thought of the Month” on any number of topics, but this ain’t no Lewis Lapham’s “Notebook.” Among my favs: “Can Plants and Humans Communicate?” and “Awakening the Frozen Dead.”
Every issue is also peppered with short tracts or excerpts from publications by the first Imperator (and founder) Dr. H Spencer Lewis, F.R.C. (d. 1939).
There aren’t enough religions with
the soul patch as part of their iconography.
Every issue also contains a feature called “Medifocus.” The Medici-Duvalier one is about the best one I found to, you know, produce a WTF reaction. Runner up? Castro-Qaddafi.
The AMORC website says:
As you all know, our former Imperator, Frater Harvey Spencer Lewis, was a person of great intellect who was open-minded and truly ahead of his time. That is why he established what came to be called “Medifocus.” In Rosicrucian magazines and other documents throughout all of AMORC’s jurisdictions the names and portraits of heads of state were published. Each Rosicrucian was asked to send positive thoughts to these leaders so as to aid them in pursuing their mission as best as possible. Unfortunately, this concept had to be abandoned, because it was incorrectly perceived by the profane world, which had the wrong impression that we supported politicians who were sometimes cruel or dishonest. And, likewise, certain members of our organization also misunderstood this activity.
The magazine was, at the same time, a kind of National Geographic or CAA brochure of the spiritual or mystical. Each issue contains one or more pix of significant mystical or religious sites around the world or documentation of exotic spiritual or religious activity.
This shot of Jacob Boehme’s museumized home struck me as oddly touristic.
But then there’s stuff like this of funerary ghats in Nepal.
The other – very short – articles that appear in these issues reflect, as the covers all promise, Mysticism, Science and The Arts, conceived as broadly as you could imagine, that is, to the theosophical horizons of Rosicrucian belief … and beyond. “Jazz and Being” argues for the mystical, authentic and democratic nature of them hep sounds. Numerous articles appear on the topic of Karma, understood by Rosicrucians to be an idea explicit or implicit in (exoteric or esoteric to?) all the religions of the world – in keeping with the theosophical orientation of group. AMORC’s philosophical, historical, mystical and theological ideas about Egypt are regularly represented. The jonz for alchemy that AMORC – and all sorts of other groups like it from the late 19th century – had (obviously) coloured their sense of science. The pseudo-scientific speculation in the journal articles reaches for some far out places. “Does Magnetism Prevent Frost Damage?” “Do Thoughts Affect Plants?” “Across the Species Line: Have Animals ESP Ability?” and “Electronic Communication with the Dead?” An article on Antarctica, like others on geography, geology and the like, turns to questions related to the belief in the lost continents of Atlantis and Lemuria.
Sadly, the AMORC doesn’t seem to be what it once was. The Store doesn’t carry much of the goods it used to and so I’m sad that, short of some eBay or garage sale luck, I’m not likely to get my hands upon Rosicrucian cufflinks, nor one of these spooky Jesusses.