A place in Bucks where Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Christian theology strangely come together.
While visiting Chad and Marie Jones to scope out a column about their Richland ranch, the young couple asked if I wanted to see something “very unusual.” “Sure!” With that, we jumped into their off-road vehicle and headed down narrow, windy roads until the unusual came into view near Nockamixon State Park in East Rockhill Township. Very unusual. A Parthenon-style Greco-Roman temple fronted by white columns. Then a 25-foot-high stone pyramid and another smaller one. Far down a grassy slope a headless, armless statue of an angel, wings outstretched. In the distance a broad reflection pond abloom with lotus flowers. Elsewhere, lots of rose bushes, ornamental trees and shrubs. Seemingly a garden of the gods.
“What’s this about?” I asked Chad and Marie. They had heard it was the work of a Quakertown chiropractor in the 1920s. The rumor is people in mediaeval robes engage in chants on the grounds at night. Wow! I decided to return with the family for a closer look. Genevieve, Margaux and I took a leisurely stroll across the greens, around the pond, smelling the flowers, then along brick and slate pathways encircling the pyramids and passing under gangly trees. Margaux was particularly transfixed by the angel. “Why doesn’t she have a head, Grandpa?” I had to think a minute. “Actually, GauxGaux, it’s a statue of a goddess made more than 2,000 years ago. That’s older than your Baby PopPop! The statue doesn’t have a head or arms because they were broken off before she was found.”
Later I did some quick research. To Greeks and Romans, Nike was the goddess of victory, often a figurehead on the prow of Roman warships seeking strength and speed in defeating enemies in the Mediterranean.
The large pyramid we visited hints at what the site represents. There’s a bronze tableau on the mausoleum reading, “Dedicated to the Supreme Grand Masters, Councillors and Sublime Instructors of the August Fraternity Who Have Entered the Realm of the Great White Brotherhood.” Below are listed 29 names including Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln plus four members of the Clymer family of Upper Bucks.
You have to go back to Quakertown’s Reuben Clymer to get at the origins of the property. Sometime before 1908, Clymer operated a chiropractic retreat on 250 acres he bought and landscaped. There he practiced alternative medicine as a registered osteopath and chiropractor. He opposed vaccination and claimed eating meat caused immorality, insanity and cancer, the latter when combined with beans, bread, potatoes or beer.
Clymer was a spiritualist and disciple of Paschal Beverly Randolph who in 1858 founded the Fraternitas Rosae Crucis, a spin off of the Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis. The Christian occult sect dates to 1614 in Germany. Known as Rosecrucians, advocates arrived in Pennsylvania before the American Revolution. As an ultra secret society, members profess an enlightened knowledge of religion, mathematics, science and healing.
Clymer, who joined Randolph’s sect in 1897 after the founder’s death, established a publishing house in East Rockhill to perpetuate the writings of Randolph who died in 1875. Fraternitas Rosae Crucis is Latin for Brotherhood of the Rose Cross. Rosicrucians view the rose as a commitment to secrecy. According to Roman mythology, Cupid, the god of desire, gave Hapocrates, the god of silence, a rose for not disclosing the secrets of love goddess Venus. The English idiom “sub rosa” derives from that, meaning sworn to secrecy “under the rose”
Rosecrucians traditionally plant a rose bush including those on Clymer’s property over the ashes of deceased members. Rosecrucians view cremation as the quickest way to free a person’s soul from the body to hasten reincarnation. Clymer held to the belief Randolph would be reborn to resume his teachings.
Through a metal gate to the dark interior of the tall pyramid in Rockhill you can make out the image of a large eye atop an unfinished pyramid plus an eagle with 13 arrows in its talon. It’s the Great Seal of the United States with its All-Seeing Eye in the Sky depicted today on every dollar bill and stemming from Rosicrucian theology through Ben Franklin. He like others were members of Freemasonry, one of a number of Christian organizations tangentially linked to Rosicrucian tradition. The Big Eye represents the Egyptian Eye of Horus, meaning the eye of an enlightened person who has learned the mystery of God. It’s compared to the Christian view of the Holy Spirit.
The center built by Clymer, who died in 1967, perseveres as a chiropractic treatment center and publishing house under the aegis of the Beverly Hall Corporation. We came away from our visit with wonder and a new appreciation of how a tiny bit of Bucks County has something to do with the $1 bill.
Sources include the Encylopedia Americana; Encyclopedia Brittanica;“Secret brotherhood is revealed in court” by Lacy McCrary published in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Aug. 20, 1990; and “In East Rockhill, a century-old fraternity, a memorial garden and pyramids” by Paul Barlyn published in The Intelligencer on Aug. 3, 2017.