THE ROSICRUCIAN “ORDERS”
WHY is there so much perplexity about the mysterious order of the Rosicrucians? Let us ask in return, Why is there so much perplexity about that mysterious being called “Man”? The answer is that man is a spiritual being, inhabiting the spiritual world, which he has never entirely left; while the terrestrial personality in which he manifests himself during his earthly life is an inhabitant of this planet. That which the historian and the scientist know about man is merely that which refers to his physical body; while nothing is known to them about his real self. To imagine that such knowledge is true anthropology is like imagining that we know all about a man if we once see the coat which he wears. Likewise the true Rosicrucians, whether they still walk upon the earth in a visible form, or whether they inhabit the astral plane, are spiritual powers, such as are beyond the reach of examination of the externally reasoning historian or scientist. They are people who, as the Bible expresses it, “live upon the earth, but whose consciousness is in heaven.”
The vulgar sees only the external form, but not the spirit which is the true inhabitant of that form. To discern the latter, the power of spiritual discernment is required. The coat which a man wears does not make the man; to pour water over a person does not make him a true Christian, and to have one’s name entered into the register of some society calling itself “Rosicrucian,” does not endow one with the rosy and golden light of love and wisdom that comes from the unfoldment of the “Rose” within the centre of one’s soul.
But it is far easier to undergo some external ceremony than to die the mystic death which is required for the purpose of passing through the “Gates of Gold”; it is easier to profess a creed than to acquire true knowledge; and for this reason we find during the Middle Ages not less than at this present time many people who imagine that they could be made into Rosicrucians and Adepts, by joining some society dealing with mystical subjects.
In the beginning of the 17th century Germany was overrun, not only by monks and nuns and religious fanatics of all kinds, but also by a great many impostors and adventurers. There were pretended Alchemists, Astrologers, Fortune-tellers, and there was a universal mania among the people to pry into the secrets of Nature, and to enrich themselves by alchemical processes, or, if need be, by the help of the devil. This epidemic of superstition and folly seemed to require a strong remedy, and as foolish people are not accessible to reasonable arguments, it occurred to some sharp-witted mind to try the more caustic remedy of sarcasm. There appeared in the year 1614 two pamphlets, written by the same author, entitled, “Universal and General Reformation of the Whole Wide World,” and the “Fama Fraternitatis; or, Brotherhood of the Laudable Order of the R.C. (Rosicrucians), a message to the Governments, nobles, and scientists of Europe.” This book was out of print during the last century, and Frederic Nicolai, in Berlin, had it reprinted in the year 1781, falsifying, however, its date, inserting 1681 instead of the correct date, and “Regensburg” instead of “Berlin.” Another edition of the Fama Fraternitatis appeared at Frankfurt-on-Maine in the year 1827, and to this was added an additional part, entitled “Confessio.”
These books, soon after they first appeared, made a great impression upon the public mind, and were immediately translated into several languages. The Universal Reformation is a satirical work. Its most interesting contents are an account of the meeting of a supposed Congress for the purpose of reforming the world. The story is as follows:—At the time of the Emperor Justinian, Apollo takes a look at the world, and finds it to be full of vices and wickedness. He therefore makes up his mind to call together a meeting of all the wise and virtuous men of the country to consult together how this evil might be remedied. Unfortunately, among all of them there is none to be found who is possessed of sufficient virtue and intelligence to give the desired advice. Apollo therefore assembles the seven ancient sages of Greece and three Romans, Marcus, Cato, and Seneca. A young Italian philosopher, by the name of Jacob Mazzonius, is appointed secretary. The congregation meets in the delphic Palatium; and now follow the speeches which were held. The sages talk the most egregious nonsense. Thales, for instance, advises that a window should be inserted in the breast of every man, so that the people could look into his heart. Solon has become a communist, and wants to divide out all the public and private property, so that all should have equal parts. Bias proposes to prohibit all intercourse between the people, to destroy the bridges and to forbid using ships. Cato desires that God should be asked to send another deluge, to destroy the whole feminine sex and all males over 20 years of age; and to request Him to invent a new and better method of procreation. All the sages dispute and contradict each other, and finally it is resolved to cite the diseased century and make it come into court, so that the patient may be closely investigated. The century is brought in. It is an old man with a healthy-looking face, but having a weak voice. They examine him, and find that his face is painted, and a further investigation shows that not a single part of his body is without some disease. The savants then come to the conclusion that they cannot cure him; but they do not want to adjourn without having it appear that they had done something very useful and important, so they impose a new tax upon cabbage, carrots and parsley. They publish the document with a great deal of swagger and self-praise, and the delighted people jubilate and applaud.
The meaning of this pamphlet, which was written for the purpose of throwing ridicule upon a certain class of people who wanted to improve the world at once and to show the absurdity and impossibility of such an undertaking, was plain enough, and it seems incredible that its purpose should have been misunderstood. That there were any people who took the matter seriously shows the extreme ignorance and want of judgment of the common people of those times, and forms an interesting episode for the student of history and intellectual evolution. The other pamphlet which accompanied the former is the celebrated Fama Fraternitatis. The Universal Reformation threw ridicule upon the self-constituted “world-reformers,” and this second pamphlet now invites these would-be reformers to meet, and it, at the same time, gives them some useful hints as to what they might do to attain their object; advising them that the only true method for improving the world is to begin by improving themselves. This pamphlet being like the other one, a satire upon the would-be reformers and so-called Rosicrucians, might, for all that, have been written by a genuine Rosicrucian, for it contains true Rosicrucian principles, such as are advocated by the Adepts. It shows the insufficiency of the scientific and theological views of those times. It ridicules the imbecility of the pretended Alchemists, who imagined that by some chemical process they could transform lead into gold; but in doing so it gives good advice, and under the mask of divulging the laws and objects of some mysterious Rosicrucian Society, it indicates certain rules and principles, which afterward formed the basis of an organised society of investigators in Occultism, who adopted the name Rosicrucians.
Added to this, Fama Fraternitatis is the story of the “pious, spiritual, and highly-illuminated Father,” Fr. R. C. Christian Rosencruetz. It is said that he was a German nobleman, who had been educated in a convent, and that long before the time of the Reformation he had made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in company with another brother of this convent, and that while at Damascus they had been initiated by some learned Arabs into the mysteries of the secret science. After remaining three years at Damascus, they went to Fez, in Africa, and there they obtained still more knowledge of magic, and of the relations existing between the macrocosm and microcosm. After having also travelled in Spain, he returned to Germany, where he founded a kind of a convent called Sanctus Spiritus, and remained there writing his secret science and continuing his studies. He then accepted as his assistants, at first three, and afterwards four more monks from the same convent in which he had been educated, and thus founded the first society of the Rosicrucians. They then laid down the results of their science in books, which are said to be still in existence, and in the hands of some Rosicrucians. It is then said that 120 years after his death, the entrance to his tomb was discovered. A staircase led into a subterranean vault, at the door of which was written, Post annos CXX. patebo. There was a light burning in the vault, which however, became extinct as soon as it was approached. The vault had seven sides and seven angles, each side being five feet wide and eight feet high. The upper part represented the firmament, the floor the earth, and they were laid out in triangles, while each side was divided into ten squares. In the middle was an altar, bearing a brass plate, upon which were engraved the letters, A. C. R. C., and the words, Hoc Universi Compendium vivus mihi Sepulchrum feci. In the midst were four figures surrounded by the words, Nequaquam Vacuum. Legis Jugum. Libertas Evangelii. Du Gloria Intacta. Below the altar was found the body of Rosencreuz, intact, and without any signs of putrefaction. In his hand was a book of parchment, with golden letters marked on the cover with a T (Testamentum?), and at the end was written, Ex Deo naximur. In Jesu morimur. Per Spiritum Sanctum reviviscimus.” There were signed the names of the brothers present at the funeral of the deceased.
In the year 1615, a new edition of these pamphlets appeared, to which was added another one, entitled Confessio; or, “the Confession of the Society and Brotherhood of the R. C.;” giving great promises about future revelations, but ending with the advice to everybody that until these revelations were made the people should continue to believe in the Bible.
All these pamphlets had—as will be shown farther on—one and the same author, and as the “General Reformation” was of an entirely satirical character and a pure invention, having no more foundation, in fact, than the Don Quixote de la Mancha of Cervantes, there is no reason whatever why we should believe that the succeeding pamphlets should have been meant seriously, and that the story of the returned knight, Christian Rosencreuz, should have been anything more than an allegory. Moreover, there is no indication of what became of the body of that knight after it was once discovered, nor that the temple of the Holy Ghost (Sanctus Spiritus) exists anywhere else but in the hearts of men.
The whole object of these pamphlets seems to have been to present great truths to the ignorant, but to dish them up in a fictitious form, appealing to the curiosity of the people, and to the prevailing craving for a knowledge of the mysteries of Nature, which the majority of the people of these times wanted to know for the purpose of obtaining selfish and personal benefits.
The beauty of the doctrines which shone through these satirical writings were so great and attractive that they excited universal attention; but at the same time the craving of the majority of the people for the mysterious was so great that it blinded their eyes, and rendered them incapable of perceiving the true object of the writer, which was to ridicule the pretensions of dogmatic science and theology, and to draw the people up to a higher conception of true Christianity. The belief in the existence of a real secret organization of Rosicrucians, possessed of the secret how to make gold out of lead and iron, and of prolonging life by means of taking some fluid in the shape of a medicine, was universal; and quacks and pretenders of all kinds roamed over the country and helped to spread the superstitions, often selling worthless compounds for fabulous prices as being the “Elixir of Life;” while others wasted their fortunes and became poor in making vain efforts to transmute metals.
A flood of writings appeared, some attacking and some defending the Rosicrucian Society, which was supposed to exist, but of which no one knew anything. Some people, and even some of the well-informed ones, believed in the existence of such a society; others denied it. But neither one class nor the other could bring any positive proofs for their beliefs. People are always willing to believe that which they desire to be true, and everyone wanted to be admitted as a member of that secret society, of which nobody was certain whether it existed at all; and if anyone boasted of being a Rosicrucian, or succeeded in creating the impression that he was one, he awed the ignorant, and was regarded by them as a very favoured person, and in this way impostors and adventurers often succeeded in preying upon the pockets of the rich.
Those who wanted to be taught magic and sorcery desired that a society or school where they might learn such things should exist; and because they desired it they believed in its existence. If no genuine Rosicrucian could be found, one had to be invented. If the true Rosicrucian society was not to be had, imitations of what was believed to constitute a Rosicrucian society had to be organized. In this way numerous societies were formed, calling themselves “Rosicrucians”; and “Rosicrucianism” took various shapes.
One of the most important publications, and which is calculated to throw light upon the mysterious subject of Rosicrucianism which still perplexes the learned, is the Chymical Marriage of Christian Rosencreutz, printed in 1616. This, again, was written to throw ridicule upon the vain and self-conceited dogmatists, scientists, and “gold-makers” of those times, while at the same time it contains high and exalted truths, disguised in an allegorical form, but easily to be perceived by the practical Occultist, and by him only. It can easily be seen that the style and tendencies of this publication have a great deal of resemblance to that of the Fama Fraternitatis. Now it has been ascertained beyond any doubt that the author of the “Chemical Marriage” was Johann Valentine Andreae, 1 who wrote it while a young student in the years 1602 and 1603 in Tübingen. He acknowledges this in the history which he gives of his life, and he adds that he intended to give a true picture of the popular follies of that time. This renders it extremely probable that he was also the author of the “General Reformation,” of the Confessio, and of the story of Christian Rosencreutz, and this probability amounts to almost conviction if we take into consideration the discovery made afterwards, that the “General Reformation” is nothing else but a literal translation of a part of a book from Boccalini Ragguagli di Parmaso. Andreae was a great admirer of that author, and he also adopted his style in his Mythologia Christiana; it is therefore plain that he also made the above-named translation, and added it to his “Fama Fraternitatis.” Both writings, in fact, form a complement to each other. In the “General Reformation” the political would-be-reformers are held up to ridicule, and in the “Fama” the mystical dreamers, imaginary theosophists, pretended gold-makers, and supposed discoverers of the universal panacea are castigated. There can be no reasonable doubt that this was Andreae’s object, and, moreover, his intimate friend, Professor Besoldt, in Tübingen, acknowledged it in saying that the character of both books was plain enough, and that it was very strange that so many intelligent people had been led by the nose to mistake their meaning. Andreae himself, without, however, acknowledging himself to be their author, expressed himself to the effect that the whole was a satire and a fable. In his “confession” he says: (Sc.) risisse semper Rosicrucianam fabulum et curiositatis fraterculos fuisse in sectatum † and in his paper entitled “Turris Babel, seu judiciorum de Fraternitatae Rosaccae crucis chaos,” he speaks still more plainly upon this subject. It seems to have been his object in this latter publication to help those to become sober again who had become intoxicated by misunderstanding the former publications, for he exclaims: “Listen, ye mortals! In vain will ye wait for the arrival of that fraternity; the comedy is over. The fama has played it in, the fama has played it out,” etc., etc. Still there were many who were not satisfied with this explanation, and who believed that it had been Andreae’s intention to cause by his fama, a secret society of the scientists of his age to come into existence; but Andreae was too wise to attempt such an absurdity and to apply to the most unreasonable persons of his age to form a reasonable society.
The question why he should have selected the name “Rosicrucian” for his imaginary society is not difficult to answer: The Cross and the Rose were favourite symbols among the Alchemists and Theosophists long before anything of a “Rosicrucian Society” was known. Moreover, in his own coat of arms, as in that of Luther, there was a cross and four roses, a circumstance which probably led him to select that name. There is, perhaps, very rarely a fable or work of fiction invented which is not based upon some fact, however disconnected such facts may be with the subject. A work, entitled Sphinx Rosæa, printed in 1618, makes it appear very plausible that the writer of the Fama Fraternitatis, in inventing the story of Christian Rosencreutz and his three brothers, whose number was afterwards increased by four more, had certain originals in his mind, which served as prototypes to construct his story. The author of that Sphinx says that the idea of forming such a society for the general reformation of mankind arose from the success of Luther’s Reformation; that the knight, Christian Rosencreutz, was, in reality, no other person than a certain Andreas von Carolstadt, an adventurer, who had travelled a great deal, but never been in Palestine. He made himself so obnoxious to the clergy of his time, whom he desired to reform, that they, after his death, put the following Epitaph upon his grave:—Carolstadius Pestis Ecclesiae venonissima, tandem a Diabolo occisus est. This means: “Here lies Carolstadt, who was a poisonous plague to the Church until the devil killed him at last.” The three supposed associates of Rosencreutz were the friends of Carolstadt, the reformer Zwingli, Oecolompadius, and Bucerus, and the four others, who were supposed to have been added afterwards, were probably Nicalaus Palargus, Marcus Stubner, Martin Cellurius, and, finally, Thomas Münster, all of which persons were more or less known on account of their desire to aid in reforming the Church.
As the people became infatuated with the idea of becoming Rosicrucians, and no real society of Adepts could be found, they organized Rosicrucian societies without any real Adepts, and thus a great many so-called Rosicrucian societies came into existence. There was one such society founded by Christian Rose in 1622, having head centres in the Hague, Amsterdam, Nuremberg, Mantua, Venice, Hamburg, Dantzig and Erfurt. They used to dress in black, and wore at their meetings blue ribbons with a golden wreath and a rose. As a sign of recognition the brothers wore a black silk cord in the top button hole. This ornament was given to the neophytes after they had promised under oath to be strangled by such a cord rather than reveal the secrets which they were supposed to possess. They also had another sign, consisting of the “tonsure,” such as is used today by the Roman Catholic clergy, meaning a small round shaven spot on the top of the head, originating probably from the custom of the Buddhist priests, who shave their whole head. Hence many of them wore a wig, in order not to be recognised as belonging to the brotherhood. They led a very quiet life, and were devout peoples. On all high festivals, very early at sunrise they would leave their residence, and go out through the gate of the town facing the east. When another one of them appeared, or when they met at other places, one would say: Ave Frater! to which the other would answer, Rosae et Aureae; then the first one said Crucis, then both together said: Benedictus Deus Dominus noster, que nobis dedit Signum! They also had for the sake of legitimation a large document, to which the Imperator affixed the great seal.
There was another “Rosicrucian society,” formed at Paris in the year 166o by an apothecary named Jacob Rose. This society was dissolved in 1674, in consequence of the notorious case of wholesale poisoning by the ill-reputed Marquise de Brinvillier.
Whether or not there ever were any real Adepts and genuine Alchemists among the members of these Rosicrucian societies, we are, of course, not in a position to affirm. We are satisfied to know that Adepts do exist and that Alchemy is a fact; but whether they had anything to do with these orders we do not know, nor do we care about it, as it is now of no consequence whatever. All that we know for certain in regard to this matter is, that there existed at that time persons in possession of an extraordinary amount of occult knowledge, as is shown by the books they have left; but whether these persons belonged or did not belong to any organized society, is absolutely useless to know.
During the life of Theophrastus Paracelsus, he was the intellectual centre to which Alchemists, Occultists, Mystics, Reformers and Rosicrucians were attracted, but there is no indication that he was a member of any society of men calling themselves “Rosicrucians.” There is, likewise, no indication that after the time of Paracelsus any organized society of true Adepts, calling themselves “Rosicrucian Society,” ever existed. Some of the greatest minds of that age were engaged in occult research, and were naturally attracted together by the bonds of sympathy; but however much they may have been united in the spirit (in the temple of the Holy Ghost), there is no indication that they had an organized society on the external plane, nor would any real Adepts need any other but spiritual signs of recognition.
A book printed in 1714, and written by Sinecrus Renatus, contains the remarkable information that some years ago the Masters of the Rosicrucians had gone to India, and that none of them at present remained in Europe. This is not at all improbable; for the moral atmosphere of Europe is at the present time not very congenial for spiritual development, nor very inviting to those who, while progressing on the Path of Light, are reincarnating in physical forms.
As all researches after a real Rosicrucian society consisting of genuine Adepts were naturally fruitless, the excitement caused by the Fama Fraternitatis gradually ceased, and there was not much said or written about them until between the years 1756 and 1768, when a new degree of Freemasonry came into existence, called the “Rosicrucian Knights,” or the order of Rose-croix, or the Knights of the Eagle and Pelican; but we should in vain search among these knights for any genuine Adept, or even for anyone possessed of occult knowledge or power; for as our modern churches have lost the key to the mysteries which were once entrusted to their guardianship, and have degenerated into places for social gatherings and religious pastime, so our modern Masons have long ago lost the Word, and will not find it again unless they dive below the surface of external ceremonies and seek for it in their own hearts.
The most important books written during the time of the Rosicrucian controversy were the following:—
I. Books Written in Favour of the Rosicrucians:
(Titles translated from the German.)
Fama Fraternitatis, or the discovery of the laudable Order of the Rosy Cross.—Anonym., Frankfurt, 1615.
Confessio, or Confession of the Fraternity of the Rosy Cross.—Anonym., Frankfurt, 1615.
Opinion regarding the laudable Order of the Rosy Cross, by Adam Bruxius, M.D., 1616.
Message to the Philosophical Fraternity of the Rosy Cross, by Valentin Tschirnessus, Goerlitz.
Thesaurus Fidei, or warning to the novices of the Fraternity of the Rosy Cross, 1619.
Fons Gratiae, by Trenaeus Agnostus, C.W., 1619.
Raptus Philosophicus, or Philosophical Revelations for the Fraternity of the R.C., 1619, by Rhodophilus Stansophorus.
Silentium-Post Clamores. An apology resp. Defence, by R.M.F., 1617.
Frater Crucis Rosacae, or, What kind of people are the Rosicrucians? By M.A.O.F.W., 1617.
Speculum Constantiae. Appeal to new members of the R.C. Society, by Trenaeus Agnostus, C.W., 1618.
Themis Aurea. The Laws and Regulations of the laudable Fraternity of the R.C., by Michael Maier, Imp. Cons. Com. Ey. Ex., 1618.
Tintinabulum Sapnorum, or, The Discovery of the blessed Fraternity of the Order of the R.C., by Trenaeus Agnostus, C.W., 1619.
Frater Non Frater. Admonitions to the disciples of the R.C., 1619.
Prodromus Rhodo-Stauroticus. Directions for the practice of Alchemy, 1620.
Colloquium Rhodo-Stauroticum. A discourse regarding the Fraternity of the R.C., 1621.
Rosencreutz Ch. Chemical Marriage, Anno 1459? (1781).
II. Writings Inimical to the Rosicrucians
Benevolent Advice regarding the Fama and Confessio of the R.C., by And. Libavius M.D., P.C., Sae. Theolog. and Philosoph., 1616.
Sphinx Rosæea. Suspicions in regard to the mysteries of the R.C., by Christophorus Nigrimus Philomusus and Theologus, 1618.
The New Arabian and Moorish Fraternity, by Eusebius Christianus, a carrier of the wooden cross.
Speculum Ambitionis, or A Mirror for Ambition, in which may be seen how the Devil has brought all sorts of new orders into existence. A refutation of the doctrines of that new sect, called Rosicrucians, by Joh. Hintner, 1620.
Tomfoolery Discovered, or, Christian Refutation of the so-called Brothers of the Rosy Cross, showing that these people are not of God, but of the Devil. A timely warning to all pious Christians. By Joh. Silvert Aegl, 5657.
The more important modern books on Rosicrucianism are: Semler’s “Collections to the history of the Rosicrucians”; Bouterwek’s “Origin of the R.C.”; Murr, “The true origin of Rosicrucians and Freemasons”; Buhle, “Origin and history of the R.C.”; Nicolai, “Remarks about the history of the Rosicrucians and Freemasons”; Herder, “An article in the German Mercury of March, 1782, and reprinted in Herder’s Philosophy and History,” vol. 55, p. 258; Arnold, “History of the churches and heretics,” part ii., lib. xvii., cap. 58; Rossbach, “Joh. Valentin Andreae and his age,” Berlin, 1859. There are numerous books on Alchemy, Theosophy, and Occult Science which have been written by people supposed to have been Rosicrucians; but they give no account of the history of the latter. The most prominent are the works of Theophrastus Paracelsus, Jacob Boehme, Cornelius Agrippa of Nettesheim; Robert Fludd’s “Summum Bonum”; John Arndt, “Silentium Dei,” and “The true Christendom”; Simon Studion, “Naometria”; Trenaeus Philalethes, “Lumen de Lumina,” and innumerable others, which may be drawn into this category; but perhaps the most interesting of all is an illustrated work which is now out of print, and has become very rare, and which is entitled “The Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century,” and from which a great deal of information contained in this present volume is taken.
1 Dr. Johann Valentine Andreae was born Aug. 17, 1586, at Herrenberg, in Wurtemberg, and died an abbot of Adelsberg, at Stuttgart, June 27, 1654. He spoke several languages, was well versed in theology, mathematics, history, and the natural sciences. He was of a noble mind, anxious to do good, and an original character. Herder describes him as a rose among the thorns.