I once thought that Rosicrucianism was confined to those fringy ads in magazines advertising hidden power and knowledge, but after studying it extensively, I’m seeing that it’s like tares sown among the wheat of Protestantism. More and more amazing connections are emerging between the ideas of Rosicrucianism and hermeticism and the intellectual life of contemporary evangelicalism.
One example is Charles Williams, one of the Inklings and the dear friend of C. S. Lewis, whom Lewis called the most holy man he ever knew. Williams was a member for a while of the hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in England, which was just a variation of Rosicrucianism. The notorious Satanist Aleister Crowley led it for a long time. Rosicrucianism is basically alchemy that is expressed through literary symbolism, and it integrates all sorts of bizarre, occultic themes, such as the Cabala, the hermetic teachings, neo-Platonism, astrology, alchemy, mystery religions, Egyptian-Babylonian religions—you name it.
Unfortunately, most Christian apologists, in order to maintain the image of C. S. Lewis and the Inklings as wonderful Christian intellectuals, ignore or rationalize these weird aspects of their thinking and personalities. John Warwick Montgomery, for example, spends a lot of time defending Tarot cards as useful for Christians because Charles Williams thought Tarot cards were a symbolic avenue to the divine. We spent years immersed in studying and using the Tarot cards and other forms of divination when we were in the occult, and they have absolutely nothing to do with Jesus Christ, the Bible, or any biblical or godly truth. Charles Williams’ book The Greater Trumps, is like a trip into an occult hell, and reading it is to experience once again immersion into that weird world of the occult from which Jesus rescued us. Sadly, Regent College in Vancouver, B.C. is republishing Williams’ books. And—no surprise—Regent is a graduate school in the Anglican stream.
Speaking of Regent College evokes memories of our trip there over 15 years ago when we were exploring the possibility of attending. What we experienced was like a scene out of a novel. First we met with a professor and his wife who seemed like they were up to their eyeballs in Tolkien. We also met with the founder, John Huston, who treated us in a totally impersonal manner and who, after we explained our ministry of many years, dismissed it and told us that what we were really looking for was spiritual formation (his big focus). Then we met J. I. Packer, who staunchly defended psychology as a means of sanctification. So in a way it is not surprising that Regent College would be republishing Charles Williams’ novels. (By the way, we were so repelled by what we encountered at Regent that we decided not to attend.)
Years ago these odd kinds of syncretism and occultism remained more confined within the Anglican Church, with some overflow into the Roman Catholic Church, but now, through the Emergent Church movement, this syncretistic or imaginative Romantic evangelicalism has spread throughout the denominations to the extent that you would be hard put to find any denominations without it, except perhaps a fundamentalist Baptist church. However, interestingly enough, the original Bob Jones of Bob Jones University was very positive about C. S. Lewis.
So, the beat goes on.