Whether you speak of matter or bodies or substance, know that all these are the energy of God, of the God who is all. In the All there is nothing which is not God. Adore this teaching, my child, and hold it sacred.
— Corpus Hermetica
Unraveling the complex history of the Rosicrucians, the Freemasons, the Gnostic Christian traditions, and the Renaissance alchemists is far beyond the scope of my ability or background, and there have been countless tomes written dealing with them.
For our purposes here, I am mainly inviting you to notice the importance of one mere species of plant, and its impact on philosophy, history, and magic. For as we are seeing, the mighty rose has been a key component in mystery lore for many, many centuries.
Named for the Rose Cross, the Rosicrucians and their sometimes overlapping brethren, the Freemasons, have their own roots in Hermetic practices. Hermeticism is a set of magical, philosophical and religious beliefs based upon the writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus (literally, “Hermes thrice-exalted”), an ancient Egyptian magus considered to be synonymous with the Greek God Hermes, also the Egyptian God Thoth.
Actually, the central work, The Hermetica, was written by a number of 2nd and 3rd century C.E. authors. As author Cynthia Giles writes in her outstanding The Tarot: History, Mystery and Lore, medieval, Church-sanctioned thought described an “ordered universe of endless interconnections..but it was largely a static concept, with influences coming down from the stars, controlling the fates of those below. The rediscovery of Hermetic magic opened up a whole new realm of activity, for it brought with it the idea of magically altering the influences of the stars by using their correspondences on the material plane.”
As she notes, “the doctrine of correspondences — economically expressed in the famous Hermetic dictum ‘As above, so below’ – is the foundation of the whole of Renaissance magia.”
A few Hermetic occult orders were founded in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance. But under the influence of the Corpus Hermetica, which, unlike the Gnostic gospels, the Church had failed to destroy as heresy (despite its deeply magical underpinnings), the later Renaissance could also be deemed a Renaissance of magical, occult philosophy.
The central symbol of many of these groups was the rose (the soul) and the cross (the body of the four elements). It could be viewed that this represented the human soul being crucified on the cross of the material plane. On the other hand, some have compared it to its similarity to the Egyptian ankh.