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Soane, Geo., His Rosicrucian Theory

In his Curiosities of Literature; and Book of the Months (London; 1849), Vol. II., page 35, George Soane, a non-Mason, published one of the earliest essays in the attempt to prove that Freemasonry originated in Rosicrucianism.

It is written by an intelligent, well read antiquarian who has neither a fool nor a fanatic; it is therefore the more useful as a specimen of the kind of theories which even the well-informed entertained before much was known about Masonic history. Some takes it for granted that Freemasonry was invented in 1717 by a few gentlemen inspired by antiquarian curiosity; the symbols and ceremonies and their attribution by the Masons to the old builders he dismisses as "trash." (There were some Masons in 1849 who held a similar theory.) Those ceremonies and symbols had a queer and occult look to him (it did not occur to him that as a non-Mason he could have no knows ledge of them), therefore he cast about among the "queer fish" of occult and pseudo-occult "societies" current in 1717 to see if he could find one "similar" to the Craft, and at the same time "older." Rosicrucian~ ism appeared to him to fill the bill.

His history of Rosicrucianism is not made of the facts as now known. He traced it to a pamphlet written by John Valentine Andrea, and more especially to a second edition of 1617 entitled Fama Frater witatis (published by Cassel). He took it that in consequence of this putative "revelation" an organized fraternity ensued; and that this fraternity emerged in 1717 under the disguise of Freemasonry. These notions have gone the way of all flesh. Rosicrucianism was never anything more than a book, a name, a rumor, a nickname for anything queer, archaic, occult until in the Nineteenth Century a small group of English Masons organized a side order under that label. Andrea could not have fathered Masonry in l717 because there had been Speculative Lodges before that date, and there had been Operative Lodges many centuries before.

The discovery of the Regius and Cooke MSS. destroyed the last vestige of any feasibility Soane's theory may ever have had. That theory would be no longer of any importance were it not that a Masonic writer or lecturer now and then repeats Soane's argument, a thing possible only to those w ho have never read an authentic historic of the Fraternity.

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