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Pennsylvania’s Mysterious Pyramids

By the side of a small side-road between Quakertown and Dublin in Bucks County stands a memorial garden that’s no longer open to the public. It used to be a place of quiet reflection and peaceful meditation, but the group that ran it closed it down and painted No Trespassing signs all around it. Much of the garden is now hidden behind overgrown shrubs, but poking through the undergrowth are two large pyramids, and a mystery that goes back hundreds of years.

The land is owned by a Christian mystical sect called the Fraternitas Rosae Crucis, literally

translated as the Brotherhood of the Rose Cross. They’re better known as Rosicrucians, and they have been a secretive but major presence in Pennsylvania since before the Revolutionary War. The Bucks County property with the pyramids is a place of worship and a training facility, but nobody outside the order really knows what goes on there. From the roadside, you can sometimes hear chants and catch a tantalizing glimpse of people in robes, but apart from that, the place is veiled in mystery. Anyone wandering around the property without permission is reportedly chased off.

Like many secretive organizations, the Rosicrucians deal in symbols. Pyramids loom large in their symbology, and even their name contains two powerful ciphers. The cross obviously reflects their Christian beliefs, but the rose has more ancient pagan origins. In Roman times, this flower was a symbol of secrecy. The legend went that Cupid gave Harpocrates, the god of silence, a rose in exchange for keeping Venus’s secrets. Roman banquet rooms were decorated with roses as a reminder to keep any confidences that were spoken under the influence of wine. This decorative habit gives the English language a real SAT-style word for secrecy, sub rosa, or under the rose.

Of course, this veil of secrecy means that it’s hard to get any solid details about the Rosicrucian order, but one or two elements are clear. The order grew in Germany with the 1614 publication of a book called Fama Fraternitas, describing the travels of a symbolic figure called Christian Rosenkreuz through Damascus, Egypt, and other biblical places. In these travels, the mythic character gathers the secret wisdom of the order whose true origins and nature are now lost to anyone outside the order. The book attracted many mystical Christian groups (such as Gnostics, Pythagoreans, Magi, and Freemasons) into an umbrella organization that shares many secret symbols. The most obvious symbol is the pyramid, which features prominently in Rosicrucian architecture.

By the roadside at the front of the Bucks County Rosicrucian garden is a yard-high pedestal that looks quite normal at first, but on closer investigation turns out to be a topless pyramid. It’s lined up perfectly through the bushes with a second pyramid more than five feet tall. This in turn lines up with a large pyramid-shaped mausoleum with bronze plates on it commemorating members of the order. This mausoleum gives tantalizing hints as to the structure and nature of the order. Those commemorated include members of Supreme Councils of nine, seven, and three, with titles such as Supreme Grand Master, Member Sublime Third, and Hierophant. The organization seems more egalitarian than many religions, since many of those named are women. And there have been some very influential members, including Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln.

Looking inside the pyramid, you get a clearer idea of the symbols of the order. Over the gated doorway stands a circular plate with a winged world crowned by a skull and crossbones, with the word TRY underneath it. The torch, anchor and triangle in the design only confuse the uninitiated further. Peeking through the gate into the pyramid, however, gives you a jolt of recognition. On two walls of the four-sided pyramid are two very familiar circular designs: an unfinished pyramid topped with an eye and an eagle holding an olive branch and thirteen arrows. These are the two sides of the Great Seal of the United States, as portrayed on the reverse side of the dollar bill.

So why are these seals hidden inside a Rosicrucian monument? Is the order tipping its hat to the United States? Is it worshipping the mighty dollar? Or is this country actually being branded with the seal of a secret society? One piece of evidence at the Bucks County site leads to an inescapable conclusion. It is cast in bronze and screwed to the outside of the pyramid, and it’s the name of a prominent Council of Nine member—Benjamin Franklin. If one of the Founding Fathers of the country was a celebrated Rosicrucian, why wouldn’t the symbol of the new nation and its currency reflect that affiliation?

So next time you look at the All-Seeing Eye in the Sky on a dollar bill, remember that there’s a similar eye inside a pyramid near Nockamixon State Park. And take time to wonder what other secrets might be hidden there beneath the rose.

The Pyramids of the Rosy Cross

I spent about a month researching our local cult, a band of people up in the woods who dress in medieval-looking robes and perform strange rituals at night. Turns out they're a church of Rosicrucians, a Christian mystical sect started in Europe in the 1100s with the Knights Templar, and brought to the New World by German immigrants. A band of them have set up shop right in my backyard! Their church and grounds are hidden back in the woods, and have a lot of beautiful, if bizarre, buildings on the grounds: a grey stone pagoda, a tiled pyramid that may be a tomb for a founding member, and a utility shed with a giant lightning rod.

They have a huge, white Greco-Roman temple way back in the woods. I and others have visited the temple a few times. At the summer solstice, they stand around the pyramids in ceremonial robes and chant loudly. I have seen this, and was subsequently chased away by these people. They are strange and unfriendly, but not really dangerous.  –Amy McCormick

For more on Pennsylvania’s Pyramids and many other Fabled People and Places see Weird Pennsylvania.


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