Secret Societies of All Ages: Vol 2 - Charles Heckethorn

X. Prince of Rose-Croix

413. Distinct from Rosicrucian, and has various Names.—This, the eighteenth degree of the ancient and accepted Scotch rite, is one of the most generally diffused of the higher degrees of Masonry. It is often confounded with the cabalistic and alchemistic sect of the Rosicrucians; but there is a great distinction between the two. The name is derived from the rose and the cross, and has no connection with alchemy; the import of the rose has been given in another place. The origin of the degree is involved in the greatest mystery, as already pointed out. The degree is known by various names, such as "Sovereign Princes of Rose-Croix," "Princes of Rose-Croix de Heroden," i.e. the holy house, i.e. the Temple, and sometimes "Knights of the Eagle and Pelican." It is considered the ne plus ultra of Masonry, which, however, is the case with several other degrees.

414. Officers and Lodges.—The presiding officer is called the "Ever Most Perfect Sovereign," and the two wardens are styled "Most Excellent and Perfect Brothers." The degree is conferred by a body called a "Chapter of the Sovereign Princes of Rose-Croix," and in three apartments, the first representing Mount Calvary, the second the site and scene of the Resurrection, and the third Hell. It will thus be seen that it is a purely Christian degree, and therefore not genuine Masonry, but an attempt to christianise Freemasonry. The first apartment is hung with black, and lighted with thirty-three lights upon three candlesticks of eleven branches. Each light is enclosed in a small tin box, and issues its light through a hole of an inch diameter. These lights denote the age of Christ. In three angles of the room, north-east, south-east, and south-west, are three pillars of the height of a man, on the several chapiters of which are inscribed the names of Faith, Hope, and Charity.

Every lodge has its picture descriptive of its form, and of the proper place of its officers and emblems. On the east, at the south and north angles, the sun and moon and a sky studded with stars are painted; the clouds very dark. An eagle is seen beating the air with his wings, as an emblem of the supreme power. Besides other allegorical paintings, there is also one of a cubic stone, sweating blood and water. On the stone is a rose, and the letter J, which means the expiring Word. The space round the picture, representing the square of the lodge, is filled with darkness, to represent what happened at the crucifixion. Below it are all the ancient tools of masonry, with the columns divided and broken into many parts. Lower down is the veil of the temple rent in twain. Before the master is a little table, lighted by three lights, upon which the Gospel, compasses, square, and triangle are placed. All the brethren are clothed in black, with a black scarf from the left shoulder to the right side. An apron, white, bordered with black: on the flap are a skull and cross-bones, between three red roses; on the apron is a globe surmounted by a serpent, and above the letter J. The master and the other officers wear on the neck a wide ribbon of black mohair, from which hangs the jewel, a golden compass, surmounted by a triple crown, with a cross between the legs, its centre being occupied by a full-blown rose; at the foot of the cross is a pelican feeding its young from its breast; on the other side is an eagle with wings displayed. The eagle is the emblem of the sun, the "sun of righteousness"; the pelican, of course, alludes to Christ shedding His blood for the human race; the cross and the rose explain themselves.

415. Reception in the First Apartment.—The candidate is clothed in black, decorated with a red ribbon, an apron doubled with the same colour, and a sword and scarf. After much preliminary ceremony, he is introduced into the apartment, and told by the master that the word that is lost and which he seeks cannot be given, because confusion reigns among them, the veil of the temple is rent, darkness covers the earth, the tools are broken, etc.; but that he need not despair, as they will find out the new law, that thereby they may recover the word. He is then told to travel for thirty-three years. The junior warden thereupon conducts him thirty-three times round the lodge, pointing out to him the three columns, telling him their names, Faith, Hope, and Charity, and bidding him remember them, as henceforth they must be his guides. After a little more talk, he is made to kneel with his right knee upon the Gospel and take the following oath:— "I promise by the same obligations I have taken in the former degrees of Masonry never to reveal the secrets of the Knight of the Eagle, under the penalty of being for ever deprived of the true word; that a river of blood and water shall issue continually from my body, and, under the penalty of suffering anguish of soul, of being steeped in vinegar and gall, of having on my head the most piercing thorns, and of dying upon the cross; so help me the Grand Architect of the Universe." The candidate then receives the apron and sash, both symbols of sorrow for the loss of the word. A dialogue ensues, wherein the hope of finding the word is foreshadowed; whereupon the master and brethren proceed to the second apartment, where they exchange their black aprons and sashes to take red ones.

416. Second Apartment.—This apartment is hung with tapestry; three chandeliers, with thirty-three lights, but without the boxes, illuminate it. In the east there is a cross surrounded with a glory and a cloud; upon the cross is a rose of paradise, in the middle of which is the letter G. Below are three squares, in which are three circles, having three triangles, to form the summit, which is allegorical of Mount Calvary, upon which the Grand Architect of the Universe expired. Upon this summit is a blazing star with seven rays, and in the middle of it the letter G again. The eagle and pelican also reappear here. Below is the tomb. In the lower part of the square are the compasses, drawingboard, crow, trowel, and square. The cubic stone, hammer, and other tools are also represented.

417. Reception in the Third Apartment.—But the second point of reception takes place in a third apartment, which is made as terrifying as possible, to represent the torments of hell. It has seven chandeliers with grey burning flambeaux, whose mouths represent death's-heads and cross-bones. The walls are hung with tapestry, painted with flames and figures of the damned. The candidate, on presenting himself as a searcher of the lost word, has his sash and apron taken from him, as not humble enough to qualify him for the task, and is covered with a black cloth strewn with dirty ashes, so that he can see nothing, and informed that he will be led to the darkest of places, from which the word must come forth triumphant to the glory and advantage of Masonry. In this condition he is led to a steep descent, up and down which he is directed to travel, after which he is conducted to the door, and has the black cloth removed. Before him stand three figures dressed as devils. He then parades the room three times, without pronouncing a word, in memory of the descent into the dark places, which lasted three days. He is then led to the door of the apartment, covered with black cloth, and told that the horrors through which he has passed are as nothing in comparison with those through which he has yet to pass; therefore he is cautioned to summon all his fortitude.

But in reality all the terrible trials are over, for he is presently brought before the master, who asks: "Whence come you?" "From Judaea." "Which way did you come?" "By Nazareth." "Of what tribe are you descended?" "Judah." "Give me the four initials?" "I.N.R.I." "What do these letters signify?" "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." "Brother, the word is found; let him be restored to light." The junior warden quickly takes off the cloth, and at the signal of the master, all the brethren clap their hands three times and give three huzzas. The candidate is then taught the signs, grips, and password. The master then proceeds to the instruction of the newlymade Knight of the Eagle or Prince Rose-Croix, which amounts to this, that after the erection of Solomon's temple masons began to neglect their labours, that then the cubical stone, the corner-stone, began to sweat blood and water, and was torn from the building and thrown among the ruins of the decaying temple, and the mystic rose sacrificed on a cross. Then masonry was destroyed, the earth covered with darkness, the tools of masonry broken. Then the blazing star disappeared, and the word was lost. But masons having learnt the three words, Faith, Hope, and Charity, and following the new law, masonry was restored, though masons no longer built material edifices, but occupied themselves in spiritual buildings. The mystic rose and blazing star were restored to their former beauty and splendour.

The degree was purely Jesuitical, and its object the restoration of the Stuart family.