Order of the Temple of the Rosy Cross

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The Order of the Temple of the Rosy Cross was founded in 1912 by Annie Besant, Marie Russak Hotchener, and James Ingall Wedgwood. It was planned to serve an a ritualistic outlet for some members of the Order of the Star in the East.

Purpose of Order

Fritz Kunz, then a young worker at Krotona in Hollywood, wrote to his mentor Charles Webster Leadbeater:


Is it true, as has been stated, that the newly founded Temple of the Rosy Cross represents the esoteric side of the Order of the Star in the East? If it is so, it would follow that all current members would wish to see an R. C. Temple founded in each country and become members.[1][2]

Leadbeater had this to say about the new temple and its rituals:


The statement is not true. Mrs. Besant, who is herself the founder of this new organization, has expressly disclaimed the idea. The Order of the Star in the East has a Second Degree, called the Service Corps, which consists of those members who are able to devote some proportion of their time to definite service in certain specified ways; but there is nothing esoteric about that. The Temple of the Rosy Cross might appropriately be called, not the esoteric but the ritualistic side of the Order of the Star in the East, for Mrs. Besant founded it especially for the very large class of people who find in gorgeous ceremonial the readiest method of arousing their higher feelings. The Temple gives no new knowledge, but simply offers a new way of expression for the devotion of those to whom ritual appeals. Its only claim to esotericism is that it imitates Freemasonry in keeping its ceremonies a profound secret. The only really esoteric side of the Order of the Star in the East is the Purple Order, to which admission can be obtained only by the personal invitation of the Head [Jiddu Krishnamurti].

Whether it is desirable to found a Temple of the new organization in any particular district must depend entirely upon whether there are in that district a sufficiently large number of members of the ceremonial-loving type. If there are such members, they will find in the ritual of the new body a suitable expression of their feelings. If there are no members of that special type, there would be no object in the formation of a Temple, as the large amount of money necessary for such foundation would be wasted if there were none who appreciated the display.[3]

A day later, Leadbeater continued:

It is really a matter of temperament, and this Temple of the Rosy Cross was founded by Mrs. Besant in order to meet the requirements of the people to whom ceremonial is the easiest method of expression. I have not a word to say against it in any way, but I think we must be careful that it is not put forward as something esoteric in which additional knowledge will be given, and we must see that people do not get the idea that it is necessary for them to join it in order to demonstrate loyalty. That idea was to some extent afloat in England – that not to follow Mrs. Besant when she founded this new organisation was to hang back to some extent, and thereby to lose an opportunity. What I said in my answer to the question on the subject is no more than Mrs. Besant has herself said on several occasions...[4]

Relation to the Order of the Star in the East

Annie Besant responded to a question from a member: "Will you define the relation of the Temple of the Rosy Cross to the O. S. E.?"

There is no direct relation. The O. S. E. is an organization open to all who believe in the Coming of a World-Teacher, with our much-loved Alcyone at its head, and he has round him his own special band, forming the highest grade of that Order.

The T. R. C. is confined to members of the T. S., who find in ceremonial a congenial expression of devotion and who definitely seek the World-Teacher in their ritual; they desire to study the Symbolism and Mysticism of the West, and to aid in the restoration of the Lesser Mysteries. Herakles is its head, with two colleagues, Helios and Lomia.

The two bodies are thus distinct organizations, seeking to prepare the Way for the Coming Lord along two very different lines. There must be much sympathy between them, since both have the same object – to prepare His way – and there cannot be any rivalry, because their methods are utterly different – one working by lectures, pamphlets, magazines and carrying on a public propaganda; the othe working privately, expressing its devotion through ritual, and making no appeal to the public.[5]

The symbolic names she cites - Alcyone, Herakles, Helios, and Lomia, are from The Lives of Alcyone.

Laying cornerstone

Temple of the Order

A Temple was built by the Order in the early days of Krotona in Hollywood. The cornerstone was laid on January 28, 1914:

At 8:30 on the morning of the twenty-eighth of January, a devoted band of Knights of the temple of the Rosy Cross gathered at the Court of Krotona and then repaired to the beautiful hill back of the Court. Led by Mrs. Russak, through whose devoted efforts the money to build a small temple had been raised and who is Head of the grand Temple of the Rosy Cross in America, they gathered round the place which had been chosen and proceeded to sanctify the ground and consecrate it to the ideals so dear to all. An impressive ceremony was gone through, particular to Templars only, conducted by Mrs. Russak, Mr. Warrington, Miss Isabel Holbrook and other founders of the Grand Temple of America.

At 11:30, these Templars, about fifty in number, again proceeded to the spot, accompanied by a large band of Theosophist, E. S. members, Star members, Masons, etc. for the final ceremony of the laying the foundation stone of the building by the Templars. We all felt the splendid significance of the event, which is the realization of a long felt want.

Mr. Warrington closed the dignified and beautiful ceremony in well-chosen words which echoed the thankfulness of all. As we left the hill, we turned and viewed the spot, so radiant in the morning sunlight; the stone, covered by crimson roses; above it the palm-covered supports outlined against the sky; the stone resting where the Temple we love is to be; and the tripod pointing upwards to the heart of All, the Altar whereon our labors are laid.[6]

Mrs. Russak, accompanied by her husband Henry Hotchener and Mrs. Grace Shaw Duff, embarked on a lecture tour that year, and established twelve new Temple groups.[7]

Order activities

Members of the Order in Krotona, Boston, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and elsewhere conducted meetings and rituals for their members during national conventions and at lodges. The Order was considered to be affiliated with the American Theosophical Society as one of its "bureaus," but otherwise had no direct relationship with the American Section. The group paid rental to the ATS to cover overhead expenses.[8]

Additional resources


  1. F. L. Kunz letter to C. W. Leadbeater. Ca. November 11, 1912. Kunz Family Collection. Records Series 25.01. Theosophical Society in America Archives.
  2. This question and the answer were later printed in "Questions", The Theosophic Messenger 14 no.2 (November, 1912): 120.
  3. C. W. Leadbeater letter to Fritz Kunz. Ca. November 11, 1912. Kunz Family Collection. Records Series 25.01. Theosophical Society in America Archives.
  4. C. W. Leadbeater letter to Fritz Kunz. November 12, 1912. Kunz Family Collection. Records Series 25.01. Theosophical Society in America Archives.
  5. Annie Besant "Questions" The American Theosophist 14 no. 8 (May, 1913): 677.
  6. Henry Hotchner, "Corner-Stone Laying of the Grand Temple of the Rosy Cross" The Messenger 1 no. 10 (March 1914): 195.
  7. Anonymous, "Report of Mrs. Russak, National Lecturer" The Messenger 2 no.5 (October, 1914): 330-331.
  8. "The Relation of Krotona to the Section" The Messenger 7 no.10 (March, 1920): 329.