Thursday, January 12, 2012

Peckham Rosicrucians

'Why don't you join the Rosicrucians,
they can give you back your hope,
you can find your love with diagrams
on a plain brown envelope'
(Leonard Cohen, Dress Rehearsal Rag)

I've been intrigued for years by the Rosicrucian building in Waghorn Street, Peckham. According to Peckham History, the building was originally St Andrew’s Mission Church, 'built in 1903 to replace a temporary iron church on the site. It fell out of use in 1932 and was sold in 1948 to fund the restoration' of St John the Evangelist Church in East Dulwich Road, to which the Mission Church was linked. There's still a plaque on the building from when it opened which reads 'This stone was laid by Mrs Charles Ward, 7th January 1903'. The architect was J.Nixon Horsefield.

Today the building belongs to the Ancient and Mystical Order Rosæ Crucis (AMORC), a Rosicrucian order founded in the US in 1915. Rosicrucianism is a mystical current dating back, depending on what you believe, to the 17th century, 14th century or ancient Egypt. It has influenced secret societies (including branches of Freemasonry) and esoteric groups of various kinds. There are numerous Rosicrucian-influenced groups around the world, and it is common for them to claim that various philosophers, artists and scientists were members of the Rosicrucian order in the past, including Isaac Newton, Dante, Debussy and Francis Bacon - hence the AMORC building in Peckham being the home of the Francis Bacon Lodge.

AMORC describes itself as 'a non-sectarian body of men and women who study the elusive mysteries of life and the universe.  Since 1915, hundreds of thousands of students have used the Rosicrucian teachings, carefully preserved by mystery schools for centuries, to find their inner light and wisdom. Delivered in a series of weekly lessons, the Rosicrucian home study course presents the collective wisdom of humanity on topics such as metaphysics, mysticism, and philosophy'. 

I'm not sure when AMORC acquired the Peckham building, but I first noticed it about seven years ago. Some of the AMORC leadership had a dubious reputation in financial scandals in the 1990s, so I assumed it was simply a property investment. But it does seem to be in use as one of only two AMORC centres in Britain (the other is in Crowborough, Sussex), with free public talks taking place on the second Wednesday evening of every month.

Of course if you look around various dubious conspiracy theory sites, you will find allegations that the Rosicrucians are just a wing of the illuminati who secretly run the world (example from the very dubious Conspiracy Planet: 'Rosicrucian Illuminati have centres in the U.K. at places such as the Francis Bacon Lodge in Peckham, London') . Personally I quite like the idea that the world is actually being run from a Peckham back street - gives new meaning to the phrase 'South London run tings'


Jamie said...

For a long time this graffiti on the wall: 'God Ist Tot'

Anonymous said...

AMORC started in 1915. it's basically an american mail order mysticism business. it has lodges, ritual and regalia imitative of freemasonry. the lessons cover new age concepts and ideas and are relatively benign. the 1990 scandal was basically an unholy squabble for leadership which led to the traditional leader or 'imperator' heading off to start up his own order which substantially undercuts AMORC's membership dues. like a lot of these groups, AMORC claims vast numbers of famous people were its members, but you won't find any evidence of this 99% of the time. they also claim great antiquity but again the links drawn are the sort of thing most working historians would give the bum's rush in about three seconds.