The Rose Croix

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Rose Croix by David Tod Gilliam, illustrated by Ted Ireland:


This “Novel of Two Hemispheres” is written in a dated and unimpressive style, and I cannot honestly recommend it, although it reads quickly and may be of great interest to some.

The Rose Croix of the title is a jewel exchanged between the first-person protagonist (a rather unlikeable adventurer, prone to indulgence in paranoid romantic jealousy) and his love-object (an exoticized Mexican-American “half-breed”). The former is a Scottish Rite Mason, for whom the 18th degree of that rite is his principal reference for the Rose Croix symbol. He professes some confusion as to how the girl Zena could claim, “I am a Rose Croix,” when she is 1) female, and 2) wholly ignorant regarding Freemasonry, but this enigma—like many plot elements throughout the book—is never thoroughly resolved.

There are several entertaining episodes in the novel for readers of an esoteric or occult turn of mind: the protagonist’s initiation into the Mexican secret society of “Yaks,” and the hypnotic procedures of a fraudulent Parisian medium stand out in particular. A great amount of the second half of the book (about five chapters) is devoted to an account of the Texas war for independence, with detailed accounts of battles from the Alamo to San Jacinto.

As I neared the end, and the threads of romance began to be clumsily tied up and put away, I was feeling as though my reading time had not been all that well-spent. But then, in the last ten pages of the book, there is a quasi-erotic visionary episode that convinced me that this book deserves a continuing place in my library—however quizzically placed there.

Then, the final chapter is an account of the suicide of a secondary character. The object of the author in that instance seems to have been the summary elimination of a possible source of conflict for the happy new marriage.

The author Gilliam was a Civil War veteran (on the Union side) and an eminent gynecologist who held a university chair in obstetrics for some years. I have been unable to trace any other literary efforts on his part, nor have I found any record of his (presumable) Masonic career. His religious affiliation was Congregationalist. [via]



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