VI. Rosicruianism, Alchemy and Magic



THE guise of antiquity being almost indispensable to the
pretensions contained in these singular documents, I have
preferred presenting them to my readers in the archaic
form of the original English translations, which, moreover,
represent the Rosicrucian period in this country, than to
undertake the somewhat superfluous task of a new version.
If the “Fama” and “Confessio Fraternitatis” are to be
taken in their literal sense, the publication of these documents
will not add new lustre to Rosicrucian reputations. We are
accustomed to regard the adepts of the Rose-Cross as beings
of sublime elevation and preternatural physical powers,
masters of Nature, monarchs of the intellectual world,
illuminated by a relative omniscience, and absolutely exalted
above all weakness and all prejudice. We imagine
them to be “holding no form of creed, but contemplating
all” from the solitary grandeur of the Absolute, and invested
with the “sublime sorrow of the ages as of the lone
ocean.” But here in their own acknowledged manifestoes
they avow themselves a mere theosophical offshoot of the
Lutheran heresy, acknowledging the spiritual supremacy of
a temporal prince, and calling the pope Antichrist. We
have gauged in these days of enlightenment and universal
tolerance the intellectual capacities of all professors, past

page 198
and present, of that art prophetic which is represented by
Baxter and Cumming. We know the value of all the multitudinous
speculations in the theological no-man’s land of
the Apocalypse. We do not expect a new Star of Jacob to
rise out of the Galilee of religions intolerance, and out of the
frantic folly of sectarian squabblings. We do not calculate
the number of the beast, we do not denounce the Jesuits,
we are not obsessed by an infectious terror of papal power
and its possible agressions; on the contrary, we respect the
associations connected with sovereign pontiffs, grand lamas,
and chief patriarchs. We have, most of us, decided that
the pope is neither God’s vicar nor the Man of Sin; we
persistently refuse our adherence to any theory which connects
the little horn, with Prince Jerome. Napoleon, and we
are not open to any positive convictions on the identity
of the Scarlet Woman, or of the lost tribes of Israel. All
persons possessed of such positive convictions we justifiably
regard as fanatics, and after due and deliberate consideration
of the Rosicrucian manifestoes, we do not feel able to
make an exception in favour of this Fraternity, whose

“Manners have not that repose
Which marks the caste of Vere de Vere.”

In other words, we find them intemperate in their language,
rabid in their religious prejudices, and, instead of towering
giant-like above the intellectual average of their age, we see
them buffeted by the same passions and identified with all the
opinions of the men by whom they were environed. The voice
which addresses us behind the mystical mask of the Rose-
Cross does not come from an intellectual throne, erected on
the pinnacles of high thinking and surrounded by the serene
and sunny atmosphere of a far-sighted tolerance; it comes

page 199
from the very heart of the vexatious and unprofitable strife
of sects, and it utters the war-cry of extermination. The
scales fall from our eyes, the romance vanishes; we find ourselves
in the presence of some Germans of the period, not
of “the mystic citizens of the eternal kingdom.”
We are dejected and disillusioned, but we are thankful,
notwithstanding, to know the truth, as distinguished from
the fictions of Mr. Hargrave Jennings and the glamorous
fables of professed romancers. In this spirit we proceed to
a closer acquaintance with the Rosicrucians as represented
by themselves.
I have already said that “The Universal Reformation”
has little internal connection with the society which is supposed
to have issued it in its Teutonic dress. The conclusion
which is reached in that curious tract is, indeed,
completely opposed to the expressed hopes of the Fraternity.
It illustrates the ludicrous futility and abortiveness
of the attempt to reform society, even when undertaken by
the flower of the world’s “literati.” It bids the reformers
begin their work at home, and reduces their Utopian
scheming from the splendid scale of universal reconstruction
to appraising sprats and cabbages. It considers
mankind to be as good as his surroundings will allow
him, and that “the height of human wisdom lies in the
discretion to be content with leaving the world as they
found it.” On the other hand, the “Fama” and “Confessio”
invite “the learned of Europe to co-operate with a
secret society for the renovation of the age, the reform of
philosophy,” and to remedy “the imperfection and inconsistencies
of all the arts.” The discrepancy is singularly
complete, and as “The Universal Reformation” throws no
light upon the history or the claims of the Rosicrucians, it

page 200
need not detain us. “The Chymical Marriage of Christian
Rosencreutz,” I shall also set aside for the present, because
it is an allegorical romance—pace Professor Buhle, as De
Quincey hath it—though otherwise of the first importance
and interest.
From the “Fama” and “Confessio” we gather the religious
opinions of the Rosicrucian Fraternity, and classify
them as follows:—
a. They acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Son of God.
b. Man is born into life by the power of God, falls
asleep in Jesus, and will rise again through the
Holy Spirit.
c. They acknowledge a personal devil, the old enemy,
who “hinders every good purpose by his instruments.”
d. They “use two Sacraments, as they are instituted
with all Formes and Ceremonies of the first and
renewed Church.”
e. It follows from this that they believe the Lutheran
Reformation restored the Christian Church to its
primitive purity.
f. They consider “that from the beginning of the world
there hath not been given to man a more excellent,
admirable, and wholesome book than the
Bible,” which is “the whole sum” of their laws.
g. They call the pope Antichrist, a blasphemer against
Christ. They execrate him, and look forward to
the time “when he shall be torn in pieces with
nails.” They foretell his “final fall,” with the
assurance of Brothers the prophet, and in the terminology
of Mr. Grattan-Guiness.
The philosophical and scientific opinions and pretensions

page 201
of the Rosicrucian Society have more claim on our notice.
As in their theological views, so in these they are simply
the representatives of a certain school of thought current at
their epoch. In its aspirations, as distinguished from its
methods, this school was considerably in advance of the scientific
orthodoxy of the moment. Looking with piercing glance

“ Into great Nature’s open eye
To see within it trembling lie
The portrait of the Deity,”

they dreamed of a universal synthesis, and combining profound
contemplation with keen observant faculties, the experimental
with a priori methods, they sought to arrive at
those realities which underlie phenomena, “in more common
but more emblematic words,” they sought for the substance
which is at the base of all the vulgar metals. Mystics in
an age of scientific and religious materialism, they were
connected by an unbroken chain with the theurgists of the
first Christian centuries; they were alchemists in the
spiritual sense and the professors of a divine magic. Their
disciples, the Rosicrucians, followed closely in their footsteps,
and the claims of the “Fama” and “Confessio” must
be viewed in the light of the great elder claims of alchemy
and magic. In those documents we find—I. The doctrine
of the microcosmus, which considers man as containing the
potentialities of the whole universe, or macrocosmus. According
to Paracelsus, who first developed this suggestive
teaching from obscure hints in the Kabbalistic books, the
macrocosmus and the microcosmus are one. “They are one constellation,
one influence, one breath, one harmony, one time,
one metal, one fruit.” Each part of the great organism acts
upon “the corresponding part of the small organism in the
same sense as the various organs of the human body are inti-

page 202
mately connected with and influence each other.” Every
change that takes place in the macrocosmus may be sensed
by the spiritual body which surrounds the spirit of the
minutum mundum. The forces composing the one are identical
with those of the other.1
II. We find in the next place, the doctrine of Elemental
spirits, which it is a common error to suppose originated
with the Rosicrucians. This graceful and fanciful hypothesis
also owes its development, if not its invention,
to the seer of Hohenheim. It was naturalised on French
soil by the author of the “Comte de Gabalis,” and is
known chiefly in England through the preface to “The
Rape of the Lock,” and of later years through the German
“Romance of Undine,” which has been many times
translated. “When you shall be numbered among the
Children of the philosophers,” says the “Comte de Gabalis,”
“and when your eyes shall have been strengthened
by the use of the most sacred medecine, you will learn that
the Elements are inhabited by creatures of a singular perfection,
from the knowledge of, and communication with,
whom the sin of Adam has deprived his most wretched
posterity. Yon vast space stretching between earth and
Heaven has far nobler dwellers than the birds and the
gnats; these wide seas hold other guests than the whales
and the dolphins; the depths of the earth are not reserved
for the moles alone; and that element of fire which is
nobler than all the rest was not created to remain void and
useless.” According to Paracelsus, “the Elementals are
not spirits, because they have flesh, blood, and bones; they
live and propagate offspring; they eat and talk, act and
sleep, &c. . . . They are beings occupying a place between

1 “Paracelsus,” by Franz Hartmann, M.D., p. 44.

page 203
men and spirits, resembling men and women in their organisation
and form, and resembling spirits in the rapidity
of their locomotion.” They must not be confounded with the
Elementaries which are the astral bodies of the dead.1 They
are divided into four classes. “The air is replete with an
innumerable multitude of creatures, having human shapes,
somewhat fierce in appearance, but docile in reality; great
lovers of the sciences, subtle, serviceable to the Sages, and
enemies of the foolish and ignorant. Their wives and
daughters are beauties of the masculine type. . . . The
seas and streams are inhabited even as the air; the ancient
Sages gave the names of undines or Nymphs to these Elementals.
There are few males among them, and the women
are very numerous, and of extreme beauty; the daughters
of men cannot compare with them. The earth is filled by
gnomes even to its centre, creatures of diminutive size,
guardians of mines, treasures, and precious stones. They
furnish the Children of the Sages with all the money they
desire, and ask little for their services but the distinction
of being commanded. The gnomides, their wives, are tiny,
but very pleading, and their apparel is exceedingly curious.
As to the Salamanders, those fiery dwellers in the realm of
flame, they serve the Philosophers, but do not eagerly seek

1 According to Eliphas Lévi, the Astral Light, i.e. the substance
diffused through infinity, and which is the first matter of the material
and psycho-material universe, is “transformed at the moment of
conception into human light, and is the first envelope of the soul.” In
combination with fluids of extreme subtlety, it becomes the astral,
etherised, or sidereal body. When a man dies and the divine spirit
returns to the empyrean, it leaves two corpses, one on the earth and
one in the atmosphere, “one already inert, the other still animated
by the universal movement of the soul of the world, but destined to
die gradually, being absorbed by the astral energies which produced
it.”—“Mysteries of Magic,” pp. 97, 105.

page 204
their company, and their wives and daughters are seldom
visible. They transcend all the others in beauty, for they
are natives of a purer element.”1
III. In the third place, the Rosicrucian manifestoes contain
the doctrine of the signatura rerum, which again is of
Paracelsian origin. This is the “magical writing” referred
to in the “Fama,” and the mystic characters of that “Book
of Nature” which, according to the “Confessio” stands
open “for all eyes,” but “can be read or understood by only
a very few.” These characters are the seal of God imprinted
“on the wonderful work of creation, on the heavens,
the earth, and on all beasts.”2 This “signature of things” is
described by Paracelsus as “a certain organic vital activity;””
which is frequently “expressed even in the exterior form of
things; and by observing that form we may learn something
in regard to their interior qualities, even without using our
interior sight. We see that the internal character of a man
is often expressed in his exterior appearance, even in the
manner of his walking and in the sound of his voice. Likewise
the hidden character of things is to a certain extent
expressed in their outward forms. As long as man remained
in a natural state, he recognised the signatures of
things and knew their true character; but the more he
diverged from the path of Natura, and the more his mind
became captivated by illusive external appearances, the
more this power became lost.”3 The same doctrine is developed
by the most distinguished disciple of Paracelsus,
the Kentish Rosicrucian, Robert Fludd. “There are other
invisible writings, secretly impressed on the leaves of

1 “Comte de Gabalis.” Second Entretien.
2 “Confessio Fraternitatis,” c. viii.
3 Hartmann’s “Paracelsus,” pp. 51, 52.

page 205
Nature’s book, which are not to be read or comprehended
save with the eyes of understanding, being traced by the
Spirit of the living God on the hidden fleshy tablets of our
own hearts. . . . These internal and spiritual characters,
constituting the interior writing, may also to the bodily
eyes be the cause and origin of the things which do appear.”1
“It is manifest,” he also remarks, “that those
vivific letters and characters impressed on the Bible and on
the great Book of Nature, and which we call arcane, because
they are understood only by the few, are one thing,
and that the dead, destroying letters of the same books,
whose cortices contain the living and spiritual characters,
are another.”
IV. These speculative principles appear to have been
united with some form of practical magic. Now magic is
a term which conjures up into the mind of the ordinary
reader some hazy notions either of gross imposture or
diabolical compacts and hellish rites; it seems necessary,
therefore, to state what it reall was in the opinions of
those who professed it. According to Paracelsus, magic is
that great and hidden wisdom which discovers the interior
constitution of everything. “It teaches the true nature of
the inner man as well as the organization of his outward
body.” It includes “a knowledge of visible and invisible
nature.” It is the only true teacher of the art of healing. If
physicians possessed it, their books might be burnt and their
medicines be thrown into the ocean. “Magic and sorcery
are two entirely different things, and there is as much difference
between them as there is between light and darkness,
and between white and black.” The same authority

1 Robertus de Fluctibus, “Apologia Compendiana Fraternitatis
de Rosea Crucis.”

page 206
teaches that the great agent in magic is the imagination
confirmed by that faith which perfects will-power, and that
the imagination thus strengthened can create its own ob~
jects. “Man has a visible and invisible workshop. The
visible one is his body; the invisible one his imagination.
. . . The imagination is a sun in the soul of man, acting in
its own sphere as the sun of the earth acts in his. Wherever
the latter shines, germs planted in the soil grow, and
vegetation springs up; and the sun of the soul acts in a
similar manner, and calls the forms of the soul into existence.
. . . The spirit is the master, imagination the tool,
and the body the plastic material. Imagination is the
power by which the will forms sidereal entities out of
thoughts. It is not fancy, which latter is the corner-stone
of superstition and foolishness. . . . The power of the
imagination is a great factor in medicine. It may produce
diseases in man and in animals, and it may cure them.”1
This theory covers all the phenomena of visions, ecstasies,
evocations, and other pseudo-miracles, recognising that they
are facts, and accounting for the futility of their results.
V. Whether the Rosicrucians pretended to manufacture
material gold is a question which is difficult to decide from
the materials contained in their manifestoes. They acknowledge
the fact of transmutation, and call it a “great gift of
God;” but “as it bringeth not always with it a knowledge
of Nature, while this knowledge bringeth forth both that
and an infinite number of other natural miracles, it is right
that we be rather earnest to attain to the knowledge of
philosophy, nor tempt excellent wits to the tincture of
metals sooner then to the observation of Nature.”2 Whatever
may be thought of this reasoning, it definitely places

1 “Confessio Fraternitatis,” c. xi.
2 Ibid.

page 207
the Rosicrucians in that school of alchemy to which I made
reference at the close of the first chapter, and whose aim
was to accomplish the spiritual side of the magnum opus, or
great work of alchemical reconstruction. For them the
transmutation of metals being no operation of common
chemistry,1 both the “Fama” and “Confessio” appear to
condemn indiscriminately all professors of the purely physical
process, which they call “the ungodly and accursed
go1d-making.” Here, as in their other opinions, they echo
Paracelsus. “What shall I say to you about all your
alchemical prescriptions, about all your retorts and bottles,
crucibles, mortars and glasses; about all your complicated
processes of distilling, melting, cohibiting, coagulating, sublimating,
precipitating, and filtering, all the tomfoolery for
which you throw away your time and your money. All
such things are useless, and the labour over them is lost.
They are rather an impediment than a help to arrive at the
truth.” After the same fashion the “Confessio” denounces
the “monstrous symbols and enigmas” by which
pseudo-chymists impose upon credulous curiosity. According
to Dr. Hartmann, “Paracelsus asserts that it is possible
to make gold and silver by chemical means; still he
condemns such experiments as useless, and it seems to be
more than probably that even in such chemical experiments
as may have succeeded, something more than merely
chemical manipulations was required to make them successful.”2
Éliphas Lévi, one of the most profound commentators
on Paracelsus, declares that “there is light in
gold, gold in light, and light in all things.” Thus the first

1 On this point see “Mysteries of Magic,” Biographical and
Critical Preface, p. xliii.
2 Hartmann’s “Paracelsus,” pp. 177, 178.

page 208
matter of the magnum opus is both within and about us,
and “the intelligent will, which assimilates light, directs
the operations of substantial form, and only employs
chemistry as a very secondary instrument.”1
At the same time the Rosicrucians claimed to be in possession
of “great treasures of gold,” and of the purse of
Fortunatus. There seems no special reason to doubt that
they intended this to be literally construed, and the “Fama”
definitely states that it was a project of their founder, C. R.,
to institute a society in Europe “which might have gold,
silver, and precious stones sufficient for to bestow them on
VI. Closely connected with the secret of metallic transmutation
is “the supreme medicine of the world,” the lifeelixir,
which, according to Bernard-le-Trevisan (fifteenth
century), is the reduction of the Philosophical Stone into
mercurial water. It cures all disease, and prolongs life
beyond the normal limit. Without claiming to be actually
in possession of this

“Wonderful Catholicon,
Of very subtle and magical powers,”

the Rosicrucians come before us as essentially, or at least primarily,
a healing fraternity. “Their agreement was this
. . . . That none of them should profess any other thing
than to cure the sick, and that gratis.”2 Professor Buhle,
in his notice of the Rosicrucians and Freemasons, says that
the evils of Germany at this period were immense, that the
land was overswept by a “great storm of wretchedness and
confusion.” This science of medicine was still in its infancy,
the Lutheran Reformation, by spoliating monasteries, had

1 “Mysteries of Magic,” p. 204.
2 “Fama Fraternitatis,” p. 73.

page 209
destroyed hospitals,1 and the diseases and miseries unavoidably
consequent on unsanitary principles and medical guesswork,
were undoubtedly very widely spread. The utter incompetence
of the ancient methods led many others besides
the Rosicrucians to disregard and denounce the traditional
authority, and in the wide field of experimental research
to lay the foundations of a new and rational hypothesis.
The germs of this revolution are found in Paracelsus, and
the practical theosophy—medicine itself being a branch of
mysticism from the standpoint of orthodox mystics—practised
by Rosicrucian adepts is their strongest claim on our
favour, the one golden link which joins their dissonant
commonplace with the Orphean harmonies of true and
divine occultism.
It will be sufficient to enumerate only their belief in a
secret philosophy, perpetuated from primeval times, in everburning
lamps, in vision at a distance, and in the approaching
end of the world. I have shown indisputably that there
was no novelty in the Rosicrucian pretensions, and no originality
in their views. They appear before us as Lutheran
disciples of Paracelsus; and, returning for a moment to the
problem discussed in the introduction, we find nothing in
either manifesto to connect them with the typology of a
remote period. It is, therefore, in modern, not ancient
times that we must seek an explanation of the device of the
Rose-Cross. A passage contained in “The Chymical Marriage
of Christian Rosencreutz;” will assist in the solution
of this important point.

1 “The origin of our present hospitals must be looked for in
monastic arrangements for the care of the sick and indigent. Every
monastery had its infirmaria, managed by an infirmarius, in which
not only were sick and convalescents treated, but also the aged, the
blind, the weak, &c., were housed.”—“Ency. Brit.,” 9th ed., s. v.