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Preface

Arthur Edward Waite

arthur_edward_waite

PREFACE

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BENEATH the broad tide of human history there flow
the stealthy undercurrents of the secret societies,
which frequently determine in the depths the changes that
take place upon the surface. These societies have existed in
all ages and among all nations, and tradition has invariably
ascribed to them the possession of important knowledge
in the religious scientific or political order according
to the various character of their pretensions. The mystery
which encompasses them has invested them with a magical
glamour and charm that to some extent will account for
the extravagant growth of legend about the Ancient
Mysteries, the Templars, the Freemasons, and the Rosicrucians,
above all, who were the most singular in the
nature of their ostensible claims and in the uncertainty
which envelopes them.
“A halo of poetic splendour,” says Hackethorn, 1 “surrounds
the Order of the Rosicrucians; the magic lights of
fancy play round their graceful day-dreams, while the
mystery in which they shrouded themselves lends additional
attraction to their history. But their brilliancy was that
of a meteor. It just flashed across the realms of imagination
and intellect, and vanished for ever; not, however,
without leaving behind some permanent and lovely traces
of its hasty passage. . . . Poetry and romance are deeply

1(Secret Societies of all Ages and Countries)

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indebted to the Rosicrucians for many a fascinating creation.
The literature of every European country contains
hundred of pleasing fictions, whose machinery has been
borrowed from their system of philosophy, though that
itself has passed away.”
The facts and documents concerning the Fraternity of
the Rose Cross, or of the Golden and Rosy Cross, as it is
called by Sigmund Richter1, are absolutely unknown to
English readers. Even well-informed people will learn
with astonishment the extent and variety of the Rosicrucian
literature which hitherto has lain buried in rare
pamphlets, written in the old German tongue, and in the
Latin commentaries of the later alchemists. The stray
gleams of casual information which may be gleaned from
popular encyclopædias cannot be said to convey any real
knowledge, while the essay of Thomas De Quincey on the
“Rosicrucians and Freemasons,” though valuable as the
work of a sovereign prince of English prose composition,
is a mere transcript from an exploded German savant,
whose facts are tortured in the interests of a somewhat
arbitrary hypothesis. The only writer in this country who
claims to have treated the subject seriously and at length
is Hargrave Jennings, who, in “The Rosicrucians, their
Rites and Mysteries,” &c., comes forward as the historian
of the Order. This book, however, so. far from affording
any information on the questions it professes to deal with,
“keeps guard over”2 the secrets of the Fraternity, and is

1(“Die Warhaffte und vollkommene, Bereitung des Philosophischen
Steins, der Bruderschaft aus dem Orden des Gulden-und-Rosen
Creutzes.” 1710.)

2(“No student of occult philosophy need fear that we shall most
carefully keep guard—standing sentry (so to speak) over those other
and more recondite systems which are connected with our subject.”)

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simply a mass of ill-digested erudition concerning Phallicism
and Fire-Worship, the Round Towers of Ireland and Serpent
Symbolism, offered with a charlatanic assumption of secret
knowledge as an exposition of Rosicrucian philosophy.1
The profound interest now manifested in all branches of
mysticism, the tendency, in particular, of many cultured
minds towards those metaphysical conceptions which are at
the base of the alchemical system, the very general suspicion
that other secrets than that of manufacturing gold are to be
found in the Pandora’s Box of Hermetic and Rosicrucian
allegories,2 make it evident that the time has come to
collect the mass of material which exists for the elucidation
of this curious problem of European history, and to depict
the mysterious Brotherhood as they are revealed in their
own manifestos and in the writings of those men who were
directly or indirectly in connection with them. Such a
publication will take the subject out of the hands of unqualified
writers, and of the self-constituted pontiffs of darkness
and mystery who trade upon the ignorance and curiosity
of their readers.
As the result of conscientious researches, I have succeeded

1In reviewing an enlarged edition of this work, published in 1879,
the Westminster Review remarks: “In the ‘Rosicrucians’ we have
come across perhaps the most absurd book that it has ever been our
fortune to review. . . . It affords a great deal of disjointed information
on very many subjects, . . . but the one subject on which we
have vainly sought information in its pages is the ‘History of the
Rosicrucians.’ . . . The whole book is an absurd jumble of passages
and illustrations, for most of which no authority is, or could be,
given. And through the whole runs a very unwholesome undercurrent.”—
W. R. N. S., vol. lvi. p. 256.

2On this point consult “A Sugestive Inquiry into the Hermetic
Mystery and Alchemy,” published anonymously in the year 1850,
in London, and Hitchcock’s “Remarks on Alchemy,” also anonymous,
New York, 1865.

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in discovering several tracts and manuscripts in the Library
of the British Museum, whose existence, so far as I am
aware, has been unknown to previous investigators, while
others, including different copies and accounts of the
“Universal Reformation,” as well as original editions of the
“Chymical Marriage of Christian Rosy Cross,” which are
not in the Library Catalogue, though less generally obscure,
I have met with in a long series of German pamphlets
belonging to the first quarter of the seventeenth century.
These, with all other important and available facts and
documents, I have carefully collected and now publish them
in the present volume, either summarised or in extenso
according to their value, and I offer for the first time in
the literature of the subject the Rosicrucians represented
by themselves. I claim that I have performed my task in
a sympathetic but impartial manner, purged from the bias
of any particular theory, and above all uncontaminated by
the pretension to superior knowledge, which claimants have
never been able to substantiate.