The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose, California, contains a wealth of ancient treasures—the largest such collection in western North America.
Not only does the museum house artifacts from the Pre-Dynastic to early Islamic era, it also has exhibits on non-Egyptian Assyrian, Babylonian, and Sumerian periods. Four large galleries—the Afterlife, Daily Life, Rulers, and Religion—tempt visitors to stay for hours.
I have been three times now and never tire of it. It may be time to get an annual membership!
There is also a reconstructed underground tomb and even an exhibit on alchemy. The alchemy exhibit is a precursor to the Alchemy Museum that is being developed in the park grounds. Not only will it be the first alchemy museum to exist in the United States, it will also be the largest in the world.
The alchemy exhibit might be considered an unusual addition to an Egyptian museum. It makes sense, though, when you realize that the museum is part of the Rosicrucian Park in San Jose, and the park houses the headquarters of the Rosicrucian Order in the United States.
Some people believe Rosicrucianism is a cult; others call it a religion. But Rosicrucians say it is a philosophy with educational and humanitarian goals. They do not require adherents to change their religious beliefs.
Rosicrucian philosophy incorporates mystical and metaphysical teachings from ancient Egypt in 1500 B.C., with Western European and Arabic teachings of philosophy, medicine, mathematics, and alchemy. Today, Rosicrucians consider alchemy not as a chemical transformation but as a philosophy of spiritual transformation.
The idea for an Egyptian museum in San Jose began with H. Spencer Lewis in 1927. Lewis was the founder of the Rosicrucian Order, AMORC (Ancient and Mystical Order Rosa Crucis) in the United States.
Over the decades, the order’s collection grew from one small statue of Sekhmet to thousands of artifacts, leading to a grand opening of the new Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in 1966. Today (pre-COVID), over 100,000 guests visit the museum each year.
Annual visitors include the general public, scholars and researchers, and 26,000 sixth graders. Classes from some schools even fly in from out of state.
The popularity of the museum is not surprising. Most of the exhibits include authentic ancient artifacts. Guests can read detailed signage and educational pamphlets, ask questions of knowledgeable staff, or listen to an audio tour. The website is filled to the brim with educational material and information.
Visitors can also enjoy an enlightening underground tour of a reconstructed tomb. The tomb, built in the 1960s, is a composite of different time periods. It was created from photographs brought back by a Rosicrucian research expedition that had visited Egypt.
My tour was led by an enthusiastic university intern. She assured one of the children on the tour that she had nothing to be afraid of, and sure enough, the child came out with a smile and questions about Egyptian beliefs in the afterlife.
The museum also offers monthly workshops; this month there will be one on making papyrus paper. And there are weekly games of an ancient Egyptian board game called Senet.
Young people, grades K–12, can join the museum’s Junior Archaeologist program to learn about archaeology and Egyptology within the museum. The graduation ceremony takes place in the tomb!
After visiting the museum, it is nice to walk around and explore the grounds of the park. The Peace Garden is modeled after gardens from the ancient Egyptian city of Akhetaton. It includes food and medicinal plants, a pond, a pergola, and a small temple.
The labyrinth is based on one built over 800 years ago in Chartres, France. It is outlined by native plants and is wheelchair accessible.
There is also a research library for Rosicrucian members.
I highly recommend visiting this fascinating museum and relaxing park. The museum is located at 1660 Park Avenue, San Jose, CA 95126. There is free parking in the lot behind the museum at Naglee Avenue and Chapman Street. Hours are shorter these days: Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, visit their website.