Rosicrucianism is a combination of occultism and other beliefs including but not limited to Hermeticism, Jewish mysticism, and Christian Gnosticism. The central belief of rosicrucianism is that its followers possess a prisca theologia, or secret wisdom, passed down from ancient times. Their name derives from their symbol, a rose on a cross ("rosi" meaning rose and "cruc" meaning cross).
Christian Rosenkreuz, the alleged founder of the group as detailed in three anonymously published texts from the 16th century, is now considered to be a fictional character rather than a real person. Despite its initial popularity due to the mix of alchemy and mysticism associated with its ranks, the reason and skepticism of the Enlightenment led to its steep decline in the 18th century. It regain influence at the turn of the 19th century with the establishment of the most successful modern Rosicrucian organizations, the Ancient Mystical Order Roase Crucis (AMORC) in New York City in 1914, and the Rosicrucian Fellowship in Seattle in 1909.
H. Spencer Lewis, the founder of the AMORC, bears similarities with J.P. Morgan as Doctorow describes him. Both shared a reverence for ancient Egypt. Lewis believed Egypt to be the "cradle of Rosicrucian wisdom", subsidizing the establishment of the Egyptian Museum at the group's headquarters in California.
The Rosicrucians were probably one of the inspirations for the Pyramid, a secret society of Doctorow's invention of which Morgan and Ford were the only members. There is little historical evidence that this society was a reality.
Dramaturgy for the Ragtime musical and novel.
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