The Confraternity of the Rose Cross
Interview with Gary L. Stewart,
I was probably about twelve years old when I developed an interest in mystical subjects although I do recall having some interesting experiences and impressions at a much earlier age. However, it wasn't until I was eighteen before I actually got involved with any organized group -- and that was with an esoteric Lodge in Belgium. I suppose I would credit that date -- June, 1971 -- with the actual starting on a Traditional Path. It wasn't until 1975 that I became involved in Rosicrucianism through my affiliation with AMORC (Ancient and Mystical Order Rosae Crucis).
Q: How did you become an Imperator of the Rosicrucian Movement?
In my opinion it is a misnomer to say I became an Imperator of "the" Rosicrucian Movement. It is better to say that I am an Imperator of "a" Rosicrucian Movement. The word "Rosicrucian" is pretty generic in its usage and there are a lot of different groups, people, and lineages that can correctly use the word to describe their function and/or identity as to the Work they do. In my opinion, anyone who attempts to lay claim as being the authentic or genuine Rosicrucian Order to the exclusion of anyone or everyone else is sadly lacking in the area of historical acumen.
With that said, I became the Imperator of a Rosicrucian Movement that perpetuated a lineage passed from Dr. H. Spencer Lewis, to his son, Ralph M. Lewis, to myself which was manifesting in an Organization called AMORC. AMORC was created by H. Spencer Lewis in 1915 after several years of preparation. According to the traditional dictates of that lineage (and most other Rosicrucian Lineages that I am aware of), I became Imperator through personal selection by my predecessor, Ralph Lewis, to become his successor after his death -- which occurred in January, 1987.
Q: You have founded the Confraternity of the Rose Cross. Could you tell us about the history and the objectives of the CR+C?
I founded the CR+C (Confraternity of the Rose Cross) in 1996 for the purpose of perpetuating both the Rosicrucian Traditions, as well as the Lineage of Imperator, as they were passed to me. As many are aware, AMORCian Rosicrucianism has undergone a bit of turmoil starting in 1990. At that time, they embarked upon their own path which deviates tremendously from the initial Path and Lineage that I was entrusted to work. The CR+C was formed to preserve that particular lineage and to make available, in their pure form, the initial R+C teachings as they were originally presented.
As to the objectives of the CR+C, well ... let me say that since our formation in 1996, we have embarked on a meticulous program of preparation for each individual Rosicrucian to arrive at a point where those who choose to can assist the CR+C to begin a new era of manifestation in accordance with the Rules and Codes of R+C as established in the 17th century. There will be a meeting of all Illuminati of the CR+C at our North American Convention in April, 2003 to discuss and decide this matter. These meetings will continue for the remainder of the year at Conventions in other jurisdictions after which, an announcement will be made as to the future direction and objectives of the CR+C. What I will say now about it is that we will continue to perpetuate the Rules as set forth in the Fama Fraternitatis, but will adapt them to the 21st century in accordance with tradition.
Q: After several centuries of the existence of Rosicrucianism we are left today with an inheritance of many Rosicrucian orders, teachings, and several lineages. This is a somewhat confusing scenario to the casual reader. Could you give us a perspective on how a Rosicrucian Movement, the R+C Tradition, the lineages, and Rosicrucian organizations relate to each other?
In most cases, the various Rosicrucian organizations will relate to each other in name only, which, of course, is of little help to the "casual" reader in trying to sort through the differences. But, if it is of any consolation, Rosicrucianism was never intended to be something that could easily be sorted through. By its very nature, Rosicrucianism is intended to be challenging to the seeker and elusive to those of casual interest. As Spinoza once wrote, "all things excellent are as difficult as they are rare." Rosicrucianism certainly fits into that category.
From my perspective, anyone who is interested in pursuing a Rosicrucian Path must take the initiative to sort through the various options available to them and choose one that is in keeping with their own inner convictions and dictates of their own conscience. As a general rule of thumb, Rosicrucianism is about basic human rights and freedoms with the freedom of inquiry and truth at the top of the list. It is about encouraging and assisting the individual to develop all aspects of their being -- mental, physical, and spiritual -- in accordance with their own personality and intentions. It is about the evolution of the Spirit and the development of enhanced mystical attributes. It is never about following another's lead to the exclusion of losing one's identity and personal goals; it is not about reciting dogmatic indoctrinations; nor anything that might be offensive to one's own sensibilities. In a nutshell, Rosicrucianism is about Truth and Truth by its very nature is about freedom -- a responsible freedom, but freedom nonetheless.
So, it should, it must be left up to the individual to find a Rosicrucian organization or lineage that most suits their own personalities, interests, and intentions. In my opinion, a search should not be any other way. There are a number of good organizations out there and I encourage anyone seeking to become a Rosicrucian to learn as much as they can of each one in which they are interested. If the answers sought are not readily available, then the seeker should ask -- and, expect an appropriate reply.
Q: What is it that caused Rosicrucianism to survive as a living traditional culture through the last several centuries?
Its unwavering focus on its objectives and reliance upon the basic freedoms to achieve those objectives. An interesting thing about Rosicrucianism is that, when those objectives become clouded, the Movement itself seems to undergo a transformation. Perhaps that is why there are so many different lineages existing today.
Q: How do you determine a Rosicrucian?
By their actions and deeds. If those actions and deeds are consistent with the spirit of Rosicrucianism, then one who has consciously chosen to become a Rosicrucian can be identified as being one.
Q: What makes a Rosicrucian Order a genuine R+C Order?
I think the word "genuine" has been bantered about too much insofar as Rosicrucianism is concerned. With that said though, I think you would apply the same standards to an Order that you would to an individual. That being, through their actions and deeds. Don't measure the claims, measure the accomplishments. And in the process of measuring the accomplishments, also measure how those accomplishments were achieved and ensure they are consistent with an ethic that reflects the Rosicrucian spirit.
Q: Can you share a few thoughts about the CR+C teachings, and what approach do they take to the student's spiritual quest?
The CR+C teachings are designed to assist the Rosicrucian's spiritual quest. They are not a dogmatic blueprint of a step-by-step process, but rather a guide that is adaptable to the individual's personality and approach to attaining their goal. They do include an enormous amount of exercises and experiments to assist in achieving those goals as well as many suggestions that may be of assistance, but it must be understood that the Rosicrucian's best learning tool is that of self-reliance and it is in that spirit that the CR+C teachings are written and presented.
Q: Being the Imperator of a Rosicrucian Movement can you tell us about the role and perpetuation of the Office of Imperator?
The role of Imperator is that of caretaker and perpetuator of Rosicrucian doctrine, ritual, and tradition. The Imperator is responsible to ensure that all matters involving those aspects are correctly handled and expressed. Also, when it comes to the area of changes and updates to the doctrine, etc. the Imperator is the one who is to do that work. Although I must add, that the Imperator cannot make arbitrary changes, etc. He or she is bound to the oaths they took when becoming an Imperator and must work within that tradition. This greatly helps in keeping the R+C Path pure and is one of the reasons why the selection of Imperator is made by personal selection by the previous Imperator, and why the position is an ad vitum appointment. This allows for consistent continuation and proper training of a successor.
As to the perpetuation of the Office of Imperator, it is like I said; a lifetime office filled by a chosen successor. This ensures that the individual chosen will not make arbitrary changes; is properly trained; and will work within the parameters of the Office.
Q: It seems that the R+C Tradition is always expressing itself and adapting to the flow of time and existing conditions. Could you give us an example of this adaptability in Rosicrucian history?
A good example of this is the adaptation from the 17th C. methodology to that of the 20th C. (The 17th C. system more or less continued well into the 19th C.) Whereas the 17th. C. system of teaching relied heavily on deciphering allegorical images known as "plates" or "arcanes" mostly related to alchemical texts and other symbols, the 20th C. format was simplified into explanations, exercises, and experiments that delved more deeply into developing mystical and intuitive qualities within the individual. Understanding allegory and symbols still play a very major role in today's Rosicrucianism, but it is not the only role as it was in the past.
As to the future, as I said there will soon be another adaptation, but still in accordance to our initial Rules as expressed in our 17th C. founding Manifestoes.
Q: Do you think that today's generation of Rosicrucianism lives up to this virtue of adaptability and thus meets the challenges of our times?
I can only speak with authority for the CR+C, and in that instance, yes, most definitely. It is my opinion that in many other R+C groups with which I am aware, that some of them, too, are quite adaptable. With that said, I also think there are a couple organizations who are creating needless problems for themselves and therefore probably wouldn't qualify in this regard, but that's not really for me to comment upon.
Q: In the past, there was a successful attempt by a group of several esoteric orders to create an organization (called F.U.D.O.S.I.) to protect and promote the authentic traditions to the public at that time. They were kind of giving a stamp of approval for the existing orders. I remember AMORC receiving a charter from FUDOSI nominating them with certain symbols and documentation. How does the R+C Tradition, or any esoteric tradition, view such a concept of "authenticating" the order?
I think it is a very noble and honorable idea for a group of organizations to come together for the express purpose of quality control in the fields of esotericism, occultism, and mysticism. However, and I'm probably in the minority with this opinion, but I don't think this has ever really been done before. Anytime a group comes together with a stated purpose to protect and promote "authentic" traditions, two things become glaringly apparent to me. First, that there is an assumption that the interested parties are authentic traditions. Whereas their goal would be to examine prospective traditions, not already in their group, and to make an assessment of their findings upon that groups "legitimacy", there was no control in place to measure the founding Order's legitimacy. That authenticity was assumed by virtue of founding the overseeing organization. Secondly, it becomes apparent that such an organization must necessarily become exclusive in its nature, which, in my opinion, is fundamentally contrary to the traditional work that we do. By exclusive I do not mean protective of our traditions which is very important, but rather, closed and judgmental of another based upon a preconceived and self-serving notion. Unfortunately, it is my opinion, based upon many years of research including discussion with several involved parties, that I have come to the opinion that the FUDOSI fell under the latter category. Needless to say, AMORC and H. Spencer Lewis was part of the founding structure of the FUDOSI and it is arguably the case that AMORC was the motivator behind its formation for the purposes of:
The effects of the FUDOSI are many and there certainly remains a lot of interest in that organization especially when it comes to the "authenticating" issue. What many people don't realize is that there were constant internal disputes between FUDOSI members that culminated in its dissolution in 1951.
Be that as it may, I don't think the Rosicrucian Tradition, or any esoteric tradition for that matter, needs authenticating in the way that has been suggested. Once again, measure the worth of an Order by its deeds and trust in the epistemology of the esoteric way, and its methods to express its story and lineage over the production of charters and founding documents. The subject deals with two completely different worlds. Why compromise one for the other?
Q: You also hold the office of the Knight Commander of the Order of the Militia Crucifera Evangelica, and the office of the Sovereign Grand Master of the British Martinist Order. Having such a deep traditional grounding, how do you view the future work of the esoteric traditions as they all strive to work towards the common objective? Is there a place for a closer cooperation among them?
There is definitely a place for cooperation amongst all esoteric, occult, and mystical organizations whether they consider themselves Rosicrucian, Martinist, or whatever appellation they choose. Ultimately we're all trying to accomplish the same goals -- the upliftment and spiritual evolution of all humanity. To achieve those goals, we all need to work in conjunction with each other.
Q: On a final note, what do you see in the future of Rosicrucianism?
I tend to see Rosicrucianism as a thread that weaves its way through history and into the future. It's like the veil of Nature, always present but has to be seen through to be seen properly. In that it maintains that property, it will always be present, but sometimes hidden waiting to be rediscovered. But when discovered, it continues where it left off. Its future? A very profound, yet subtle effect on humanity -- just like in the past.
AR: I want to thank you for taking your time to do this interview. I believe the visitors to the CR+C website will benefit from your thoughts and insights on Rosicrucianism and esoteric subjects in general.