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VII. Antiquity of the Rosicrucian Fraternity


THE antiquity of the Rose in symbolism and of the Cross
in symbolism, as I have already said, is no proof whatsoever
of the antiquity of a society which we find to be using
them at a period subsequent to the Renaissance; but, according
to John Heydon, the Rosicrucians “have been since
Christ;” they “inhabite the suburbs of Heaven,” and are “as
the eyes and ears of the great King, seeing and hearing all
things.” The existence of a “divine Fraternity” on the
astral plane, or in the fourth dimension, however “seraphically
illuminated,” and with whatever powers they may be
invested by the “Generalissimo of the world,” is a point
which transcends the investigations of the merely human
historian. His researches, however, have determined that
within his own limits—that is, on the physical plane
of time and space—there are no vestiges of the Rosicrucians
traceable before the beginning of the seventeenth century,
and that the belief in their antiquity originates in Ă  priori
considerations which are concerned with the predilections
and prejudices of thinkers whose faith and imagination have
been favoured by evolution and environment at the expense
of their judgement, and who determine historical questions
by the illumination of their own understanding rather than
by the light of facts.
Such persons are beyond the reach of criticism, and, as

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they are neither numerous nor important, may be left basking
in the sunshine of a pleasing aberration, which is interesting
in days of disillusion. But the existence and
occasional prevalence in all ages of the world of those
theosophical ideas, which are at the root of Rosicrucian
philosophy, have caused even serious students to consider the
Fraternity of an almost incredible antiquity—a hypothesis
which wins golden opinions from those who delight in connecting
the invisible threads of the secret societies and
tracing them to a single primal source, of which one and
all are ramifications more or less identical in ceremonies,
secrets, and purposes.
Addressing myself to these students, I would say with
Buhle that whoever adopts this hypothesis “is bound to
show, in the first place, in what respect the deduction of
this order from modern history is at all unsatisfactory; and
secondly, upon his own assumption of a far elder origin,
to explain how it happened that for sixteen entire centuries
no contemporary writers have made any allusion to it.”
Solomon Semler is one of the few writers whose erudition
is unquestionable, and who have supported this view; but
the facts which he cites are entirely inconclusive. He
proves the existence in the fourteenth century of “an association
of physicians and alchemists who united their
knowledge and their labours to attain the discovery of the
Philosophic Stone.” It is this association to which the
alchemist Raymond Lully1 apparently refers in his “Thea-

1 This personage is not to be confused with the author of the “Ars
Magna Sciendi, the illuminated philosopher and evangelist of Parma
in Majorca, who united the saint and the man of science, the metaphysician
and the preacher, the apostle and the itenerant lecturer,
the dialectician and the martyr, in one remarkable individuality.
The alchemity Raymond Lully, “one of the grand and sublime

masters of the science, according to Eliphas LĂ©vi, lived after 1315,
the date of the martyr’s death, and nothing is known of his history,
except his astounding transmutations. He is said to have been a
native of Ferrago, and has been described as “a Jewish neophyte.”
John Cremer, the abbot of Westminster, describes his reception by
Edward I, King of England, who gave him an apartment in the
Tower to perform his transmutations, but the welcome guest soon
found himseld a prisoner, and with difficulty effected his escape. See
“Cremari Abatis Westmonasterienis Testamentum,” in the
“Museum Hermeticum,” 4to, Francfurt, 1677-78. Camden, in
his “Ecclesiastical Monuments,” gives also some details of Lully’s
sojourn in England.

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trum Chymicum,”1 printed at Strasbourg in 1613, as a secret
society existing during the fourteenth century in Italy, and
the chief of which was called Rex Physicorum. Figulus2
states it to have been founded in 1410, and asserts it to
have merged into the Rosicrucian Order about the year
1607. The same careful investigator cites an anonymous
letter, published at the end of the sixteenth century, and
stating the age of a certain secret society to be above two
thousand years. It is also asserted that the alchemist
Nicholas Barnaud conceived in 1591 a project of establishing
a secret convention of theosophical mystics, who were
to devote themselves to a determined investigation of all
Kabbalistic sciences, and that he scoured both Germany
and France with this object. Finally, the “Echo of the
God-illuminated Order of the Brethren R.C.” tells us that
in 1597 an attempt was actually made to found such a
society, apparently on the lines laid down by Barnaud, and it
is a remarkable fact that the preface to the Christian
Reader which is prefixed to this curious publication, is
dated June 1597, while that which is addressed to the

1 C. 87, p. 139.
2 Benedictus Figulus was the author of “Pandora Magnalium,”
“Paradisus Aureolus Hermeticus,” “Rosarium Novum Olympicum
et Benedictum,” “Thesaurinella Olympica,” all published in 1608.

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Brotherhood is dated 1 Nov. 1616, the book itself not
having appeared till 1620.
These facts and statements are of the highest interest and
of very considerable importance within their own sphere,
but the existence of secret associations even two thousand
years old, much less the attempts occasionally made to
establish others, affords no proof that they were in any way
connected, or are to be identified, with the Rosicrucian
Brotherhood, whose violent anti-Papal prejudices and ultra-
Protestant principles are sufficient proof of a post-Lutheran
The only sect or association with which the Rosicrucians
may be pertinently compared, and which we hear of before
the year 1610, is the Militia Crucifera Evangelica, which
assembled at Lunenburg in 1598 under the auspices of the
mystic and theosophist, Simon Studion. Its proceedings
are reported in an unprinted work from his pen entitled
“Naometria, seu nuda et prima libri, intus et foris scripti,
per clavem Davidis et calamum (virgæ similem) apertio; in
quo non tantum ad cognoscenda tam S. Scripturæ totius,
quam naturæ quoque universæ, mysteria, brevis fit introductio—
verum etiam Prognosticus (stellæ illius matutinæ,
Anno Domini 1572, conspectæ ductu) demonstrantar Adventus
ille Christi ante diem novissimum secundus per
quem homine peccati (Papâ) cum filio sur perditionis
(Mahomedo) divinitus devastato, ipse ecclesiam suam et
principatus mundi restaurabit, ut in iis post hac sit cum
ovili pastos unus. In cruciferæ militiæ Evangelicæ gratium.
Authore Simone Studione inter Scorpiones. Anno 1604.”
As this work exists only in manuscript, and there is no
transcript of this manuscript to be found in the English
public libraries, my chief knowledge of its contents, and of

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the sect which it represents, is derived from an unsatisfactory
notice by Professor Buhle, who describes the Militia
as a Protestant sect heated by apocalyptic dreams, and declares
the object of the assembly to have been apparently
“exclusively connected with religion.” But it is clear from
the life of Studion that he was passionately devoted to
alchemy, and the spiritual side of the magnum opus was
probably the aim of these enthusiasts, who are otherwise
identified in their views with the illuminati of the Rose-
Cross. Like these they believed that the books of Revelation
and of Nature were intus et foris scripti, written within
and without, that is, they contain a secret meaning for
the initiates of mystical wisdom; that the unaccountable
appearance of new stars in the sky was significant of important
events in the approximate future; that the last day
was at hand; that the Pope was anti-Christ and the Man
of Sin; and finally, as Buhle himself confesses, the “Naometria”
contains a great deal of mysticism and prophecy
about the Rose and the Cross.
These points of resemblance are, I think, insufficient to
establish a connection between the Militia Crucifera Evangelica
and the Rosicrucians in a logical mind, but they arc
certainly curious and interesting. It will be shown in the
next chapter why the symbolism of the Rose and the Cross
was common to both associations.
The antiquity of the Rosicrucians, as I have hinted, finds
few supporters at the present day, this view being chiefly
confined to the members of pseudo-Rosicrucian societies, and
to the pseudo-historian of the order, Mr. Hargrave Jennings.
From the fictitious importance unaccountably ascribed to
the ill-considered and worthless work of this writer, it seems
necessary to conclude with a short notice of the incoherent

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and visionary ramblings in “The Rosicrucians: their Rites
and Mysteries.” Mr Jennings may congratulate himself
on being “that distinguished esoteric littérateur,” who
writes the worst English of this or any century, but he is
a great man, a magician of the first order, in the important
matter of titles. I freely confess that his work on this
subject is so attractively labelled that it exercises an irresistible
charm over the student. “The Rosicrucians: their
Rites and Mysteries, with chapters on the ancient Fire and
Serpent Worshippers, and explanations of the Mystic Symbols
represented on the monuments and talismans of the
Primeval Philosophers,” is a label not otherwise than
superb. It is a “strong delusion” which tempts the hesitating
purchaser, and has often prompted the too credulous
reader, by the subtlety of its mystic charm, “to believe”
—at least the very opposite of what is true.
The book, so far as the Rosicrucians are concerned,
begins with an account of an “historical adventure in Staffordshire,”
which is curiously distorted in the interests
of an inexpensive sensationalism, and after much loquacity
on “the insufficiency of worldly objects,” we are introduced
in the seventh chapter, without preface or apology, to the
“Mythical history of the Fleur-de-lys,” Druidic Cromlechs
and Gnostic Abrasax Gems. The rest of the work is Rosicrucian
certainly, so far as the titles of the chapters are
concerned, but no further. Thus we have “The Rosy-
Cross in Indian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Mediæval
monuments,” “Presence of the Rosicrucians in Christian
Architecture,” &c., but the chapters themselves are devoted
to the lingam and the great pyramid, Persian fire-worship,
phallic and serpent symbolism, and etymological speculations
which would have astonished even Godfrey Higgins,

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and which Kenealy himself would disown. Doubtless these
things are connected in the mind of Mr. Hargrave Jennings
with his mysterious and ubiquitous Brotherhood, for his
diseased imagination perceives Rosicrucianism everywhere,
“as those who believe in witchcraft see sorcery and enchantment
everywhere.” This connection, however, he
nowhere attempts to establish, and it is incredible to suppose
that the shallow pretence has ever imposed on anyone.
The few statements which he makes concerning the Fraternity
must be rejected as worthless; for example, he tells
us that the alchemists were a physical branch of the Rosicrucians,
whereas the Rosicrucians were a theosophical sect
among the alchemists.
I have deemed it unnecessary to consider the alleged
connection between the Templars and the Brethren of the
Rose-Cross, for this hypothesis depends upon another, now
generally set aside, namely, the connection of the Free~
masons with the foregoing orders. It is sufficient to say
that the Templars were not alchemists, that they had no
scientific pretensions, and that their secret, so far as can be
ascertained, was a religious secret of an anti-Christian kind.
The Rosicrucians, on the other hand, were pre-eminently a
learned society, and they were also a Christian sect.