By Manly P. Hall
The Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross is the most mysterious Secret Order of the modern world. The origin of the Society, the purpose which it was intended to serve, and the identity of its founders and leaders are all equally obscure.
The purpose of this essay is to present in simple digest form the results of many years of painstaking research into the Rosicrucian riddle. In addition to an examination of the many original tracts and manifestoes of the Society which are in my own collection, I have made use of the facilities of the departments of manuscripts and early printed books in the Library of Congress, the British Museum, and the Bibliotheque Nationale, and have examined photostatic copies of manuscripts in the libraries of Leipzig, Vienna, and Budapest.
Rosicrucianism presents a twofold enigma. It is not only necessary to assemble documents relating to the Society, but it is even more essential to distinguish between those documents which probably are genuine, and those which obviously are fraudulent. The whole subject has been intensely complicated by misrepresentations and imposture.
The conscientious student is reminded that the public concepts relating to Rosicrucian traditions are, for the most part, apocryphal, and are not representative of critical scholarship. A few years ago, an American author prepared an outline for a survey of Rosicrucian history and origins. In the preparation of this volume (never published), he contacted a number of modern Rosicrucian groups, inviting their assistance in the compilation of an authoritative textbook. He discovered to his amazement that, with the exception of a few vague generalities, no tangible information could be gathered from these sources. Each group had its opinions, its beliefs, and its claims, but was woefully lacking in the documentation necessary to justify its pretensions.
THE ANTIQUITY OF THE SOCIETY
The first and principal text of the Rosicrucian Society is The Fame and Confession of the Fraternity of R: C:, originally published in 1614. There is no reference to the word Rosicrucian known in literature prior to this date. It is believed, however, that manuscript copies of the Fame and Confession may have been circulated privately as early as 1610. There is no proof of any kind that the Rosicrucian Society existed prior to the opening of the 17th century.
The true author or authors of the Fame and Confession remain unknown. Several efforts have been made to trace the writers of these tracts. The most likely suspect is the German theologian, Johann Valentin Andreae. This worthy cleric acknowledged in his diary that he was the author of the Fame, but mentions no other Rosicrucian activity.
The Fame and Confession pretended to be manifestoes published simultaneously in several languages and circulated throughout Europe to prepare mankind for certain great and marvelous changes that were to take place in the world. Although the works were supposed to appear in five languages, no copies are known to exist other than in German and Latin: and English translations of the German work were not made until forty years later.
The Fame and Confession relate that the Society of the Rosy Cross was founded by a mysterious person who conceals his identity under the initials C. R. C. This man is described as of German origin, of refined but impoverished family, who journeyed in his youth to Palestine, where he was initiated into mysterious orders by magicians of Arabia and Egypt.
Returning to Europe, Father C. R. C. collected about himself a small group of inspired and devoted men, and these formed the first circle of the Rosy Cross. According to the dates given in the Fame and Confession, these incidents took place during the middle years of the 15th century.
None of the statements relating to C. R. C. in the Fame can be verified historically. For example, it is described that when C. R. C. visited the Near East, he was entertained by the magicians of Damcar. Unfortunately, there is no record of the existence of any community by this name. It has been suggested that Damcar was a misprint for Damascus, but this is mere supposition.
In another place, the Fame and Confession give an account of the death of the mysterious Father C. R. C. He was buried in a seven-sided vault; the writings of Paracelsus were buried with him. Yet if the dates given in the Confession be correct, a serious discrepancy exists--Paracelsus had not yet been born at the time when Father C. R. C. was said to have died. The Confession states that C. R. C. was born in 1378 and that he lived to the age of 106. Paracelsus was born in 1493.
In addition to certain vagaries regarding the history of their Society, the authors of the Fame and Confession set forth the six principal rules of the Society. These rules include: (1) the gratuitous healing of the sick; (2) conformity with the customs and laws of the country in which the brother may be dwelling; (3) attendance at an annual meeting; (4) each brother should look for a worthy successor; (5) C. R. should be their seal, mark, and character; (6) concealment of the identity of the Society for one hundred years.
While the Fame and Confession caused a tremendous stir among the mystically inclined of the early 17th century, they caused more problems than they ever solved. The tracts invited the learned and the conscientious to unite with the brothers of R. C. to bring about a general reformation in Europe, but it neglected to give any details as to how the brotherhood could be contacted. The result was bedlam.
Every metaphysically-minded person was suspected of being a Rosicrucian. Alchemists, cabalists, and magicians were deluged with applications for membership into the mystical Society which could not be found. Book-sellers, publishers of alchemical tracts and other such works were inundated with applications. But no Rosicrucians could be found.
Failing in every other way, a few of the more persistent of the would-be joiners resolved to publish their applications in booklet form, hoping that these pamphlets would fall into the hands of members of the Society and thus the applications would be noted. Many requests were published, but no record exists that any member of the Rosicrucian Society ever came forward and revealed himself in answer to the pleading.
In the two years following the publication of the Fame and Confession, a considerable Rosicrucian literature came into existence. The works consist principally of brochures and booklets in duodecimo conspicuous for the paucity of their contents. Everyone was talking, wondering, questioning, and discussing, but no one seemed to possess any answers that clarified the situation.
The hundreds of tracts ramble aimlessly ad nauseam, and speculate vaguely in voluminous German. An example of their approach to the dilemma is typical of many of them.
God, in his infinite wisdom, has seen fit to reveal his mysteries through the divinely illumined Brothers R. C. Where does the brotherhood dwell? Its abode is an Olympic height located in the suburbs of heaven and obscured from the profane by imponderable clouds.
This is the substance of several tracts, by an equal number of authors, extending in detail to three or four hundred pages embellished with rare figures of speech. The more one reads, the more one becomes convinced that the authors knew not whereof they spoke, and were floundering helplessly in a sea of doubts.
Then, in 1616, appeared another important landmark associated with the history of the Rosicrucians. This was the Chemical Marriage, written in high Dutch by one Christian Rosencreutz. The Chemical Marriage takes the form of a sort of vision or mystical experience. The hero, Christian Rosencreutz himself, travels forth into a symbolic land where, after numerous adventures involved in alchemical symbolism, he is made a Knight of the Golden Stone. The book ends abruptly, and there is no clue to the actual identity of the author. With the other early Rosicrucian manifestoes, it has been ascribed, because of certain physical evidence, to Johann Valentin Andreae.
No one questioned the authenticity of the Chemical Marriage, or if they did, their doubts have not survived. It was accepted as a veritable pronouncement of the Society, although there is no proof whatsoever that it has any reference to the other tracts, and it is generally ignored by the early Rosicrucian apologists. There is not the slightest evidence to sustain the belief that the Christian Rosencreutz of the Chemical Marriage is the Father C. R. C. of the Fame and Confession. It simply is assumed that he was. The Chemical Marriage is quite lacking in the noble, altruistic sentiments of the Fame and Confession. It is really a book of alchemical formulas, much more akin to the street of the gold-makers at Prague than to the temple of the Rosy Cross on the slopes of Olympus.
It is strange that books like the Fame and Confession and the Chemical Marriage should be accepted without question by thoughtful and scholarly people over a period of more than three hundred years. It does not seem to occur to anyone that it is quite possible to produce a literary imposture. The importance of a book lies not in the fact that it is printed, but the integrity of its contents. In religious and philosophical matters, where it is difficult, often impossible, to prove or disprove abstract speculations, the importance of a book depends upon the known veracity and ability of the author.
In the case of the Fame and Confession, and also of the Chemical Marriage, the authors are unknown, the text cannot be verified, and the very substance of the writing, the existence of the Rosicrucian Fraternity, has not been proved. Yet no one questioned, or even seemed to doubt, the existence of the phantom brothers and their phantom founder.
It began to dawn gradually upon unscrupulous opportunists of the 17th century that the mysterious Society, the whereabouts of which could not be discovered and the membership of which was too reticent to reveal itself, offered a magnificent opportunity for imposture and exploitation. Several of the worst rogues in Europe came forward and announced that they were members and Grand Masters of the Rosicrucian Fraternity. In this way, old rackets took on a new dignity and knaves basked in the glory of the mysterious Society. One such personality, whose exploits are recorded in a tract entitled The Complete History of an Unknown Man, proved his Rosicrucian affiliation by whistling rats out of houses.
The literature relating to the Society now increased mightily. The published tracts ran into hundreds, and the more important effusions passed through several editions in the course of a single year. The public mind was fascinated beyond words at the thought that strange and mysterious beings possessing supernatural powers dwelt unknown in their midst. Possibly one of their neighbors was a Rosicrucian. Nor should the gold-making element be overlooked. If the brothers possessed universal knowledge, as the manifestoes asserted, who could tell but that they might soon reveal to all mankind the elixir of eternal life and the secret of inexhaustible wealth. Some were inspired by holy zeal, and others by very unholy avarice. At any rate, the literati and intelligentsia were scurrying about, peering into dark corners and out-of-the-way places, seeking for the elusive Brotherhood of R. C. There is no record arising from any reputable source to the effect that these seekers, regardless of their motives, ever discovered what they sought.
Two noteworthy apologists presented themselves in the early years of the Rosicrucian controversy. They were the German physician and alchemist, Michael Maier, and the English doctor and mystic, Robert Fludd. These were beyond question among the best minds of 17th-century Rosicrucianism. Most modern Rosicrucian groups and several writers on the subject assume that both Maier and Fludd were members of the Rosicrucian Order. While this may be true, I have never seen any evidence to substantiate the assumption. Neither Maier nor Fludd, in any of their published writings, admits membership in the Society, and, quite to the contrary by indirect statement and by innuendo, each more or less definitely denies such membership.
Maier mentions the Rosicrucians in several of his books, and two of his writings are devoted entirely to them. The first is Silentium Post Clamores, and the second, the Themis Aurea. The latter work contains the laws of the Fraternity R. C. It is largely an amplification of the six rules given the members of the Fraternity as set forth in the Fame. When he reaches the rule concerning the gratuitous healing of the sick, he bogs down, and two thirds of his book is devoted to a debate with himself on just what is meant by gratuitous healing of the sick, what this implies, and why the Rosicrucians were justified in including this in their rules.
Robert Fludd was a man of tremendous inspiration. His name will be remembered as long as men seek truth along the path of mysticism. The nobility of his mind had no place in it for the consideration of subterfuge. He was honest himself and never doubted the honesty of other men. He approached Rosicrucianism with the reverence of a good man coming into the presence of a holy object. He admitted quite freely that he did not know who the Rosicrucians were, but the concept of such a brotherhood of adepts fitted perfectly into his understanding of the mystical life of nature. So Fludd gave thanks to God who, in his goodness, had revealed the truths of nature to this select order of adepts.
Fludd wrote two books relating specifically to the subject of Rosicrucianism. One was the Summum Bonum, and the other was an elaborate history of the Rosicrucians. Quite without intention of contributing to a dilemma, Robert Fludd, in his history, advances the opinion that the Rosicrucian Society was of the greatest antiquity. Upon Fludd's assumption a whole new cycle of Rosicrucian hypotheses was built up. Various authors vied with each other in their efforts to dignify and bestow antiquity upon Rosicrucian origins. The patriarchs were Rosicrucians. The prophets were Rosicrucians. In fact, Adam himself was a Rosicrucian. The Phoenicians were Rosicrucians and the Egyptians were Rosicrucians. Plato, Aristotle, and pagan heroes and Christian saints were all members of this elect Fraternity.
What Fludd meant to imply was that mysticism itself is an eternal tradition. If the Rosicrucians were mystics--and he assumed that they were--they would share in an eternal mystical tradition. The origins of mysticism go back to the religious systems of the ancient world. But this does not mean necessarily that the Society of the Rosy Cross was ancient as an organization. It would be equally as absurd to say that the American Medical Association was founded about 400 B. C. because Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, lived about that time.
It should not be supposed that the Rosicrucian challenge of a universal reformation should pass unanswered. A new note creeps into the literature. Division arises within the broad field of the subject. The pro-Rosicrucians aligned themselves against the anti-Rosicrucians. As the Fame and Confession were violently anti-papist, it was only to be expected that the clergy should come back with appropriate remarks. There is a delightful tract entitled Grease for the Fall, a diatribe by an anonymous Catholic authority, setting forth in eloquent German that Rosicrucianism was a sort of infernal lubricant that kept well oiled the hinges of perdition.
Such, in substance, may be said to be the beginning of Rosicrucian literature and history. Every scholar who has attempted to investigate the subject has found the same thing. Beneath the glamour of broad assumption and high pretension, there is nothing but a sort of vagary.
A book was written by an unknown person, advancing the claims of an unknown society, making promises that were never fulfilled, and inviting the learned to membership in an organization that never was discovered. The Society of the Rosy Cross taught an esoteric philosophy that never has been explained or revealed. It claimed a membership, yet no bona fide member of it has ever been found. And it describes as its founder and originator a man whose identity, concealed under the symbolic letters C. R. C., remains unknown. A stalwart group of followers, who admitted that they could not find the Society, wrote an elaborate literature in its defense. The literature was answered, at least in part, by a series of theological criticisms and condemnations, and by others who could neither prove nor disprove the existence of the Society.
Upon this slender and exceedingly attenuated strand of circumstances, a number of modern organizations make highflown and concrete claims. But these claims, for the most part, evaporate into the same vagueness which has surrounded the entire subject for more than three hundred years.
THE RITUALISTIC PERIOD
Rosicrucianism drifted through the second half of the 17th century without leaving any imperishable landmarks. The rise of science in France and England was dominating the intellectual world. Mysticism was losing ground among the scholastically learned.
The 18th century was marked by an extraordinary revival of public interest in occult subjects. This interest, however, was for the most part superficial. This was the century of the dilettante and the dabbler in knowledge. Such serious scholarship as that of Maier and Fludd was gone. More dramatic personalities such as Mesmer, Cagliostro, and St.-Germain dominated the public curiosity.
By the year 1700, ritualistic Rosicrucianism made its appearance. Groups sprang up in several countries, each with extravagant pretensions and very little evidence to support them. Naturally, each group claimed to be the one original and ancient Rosicrucian organization, and traced its descent through hypothetical adepts and charters of dubious authenticity. This was a period of forgery and fraud. Rosicrucianism had already become a name with which to conjure.
There was nothing in the Fame and Confession to imply that the Rosicrucians were a fraternal organization selling ritualistic degrees. But new laws and by-laws were written to take care of all this, and to prove conclusively that the old Fraternity had become a sort of membership-mill catering to the vanity of the superficial dabblers in metaphysical mysteries.
These pseudo-Rosicrucians did much to obliterate whatever records might have been preserved relating to the older Society. By the end of the 18th century, the entire problem of Rosicrucian descent was so hopelessly confused by intentional misrepresentation that the task of straightening out the tangle becomes well-nigh impossible. Fraud was built upon fraud, imposture upon imposture, and misrepresentation was pyramided until at last the whole ridiculous structure of pretension fell to pieces.
Typical of the disillusionment which was the common lot of the 18th-century Rosicrucian neophytes was the case of Hans Carl von Ecker und Eckhoffen. Under the pseudonym of Magister Pianco, this German nobleman described and exposed the false Rosicrucian organization which had victimized him. He described the elaborate grades with their insignia and symbols, and his conclusions are identical with those of others who have ventured into the same field. He discovered that as a reward for years of patient study and considerable financial investment, he had reached the top of an elaborate system of membership that led nowhere. The promised secrets of nature were not communicated to him. The esoteric knowledge which had been held out as a bait did not exist, and the Society was simply a hollow sham, a religious racket.
Ritualistic Rosicrucianism was closely associated with clandestine Masonic rites which flourished during the same period. In fact, the study of ritualistic Rosicrucianism is an integral part of the study of 18th-century Freemasonry. The number of book on Rosicrucianism rapidly increased until the bibliography reached more than a thousand volumes. The 18th-century books were quite different from the earlier tracts. The early works contain little that can be proved; but the later productions, a vast amount that can be disproved. The quality was no better, but the quantity was infinitely greater. Engravings and plates became more numerous, and, for the first time, such insignia as pendants, charms, sashes, aprons, swords, and later, drapes, were vividly reproduced. We learn such vital bits of information as the account of the Lodge of Rosicrucian adepts which supplied each of its members with a black silk cord. This was done so that the member could strangle himself if tempted to reveal the secrets of his Lodge.
This is indicative of what has been termed informative literature. These books were hungrily devoured by the masses, but they had nothing in them to correct the poverty of the existing knowledge.
Some of the binding oaths were masterpieces of gruesome literature, but they were quite unnecessary. There never was any real danger of exposing anything because nobody knew anything worth exposing. The search for the Philosophers' Stone went on apace, but needless to say, it was never found by these pseudo lodges or pseudo adepts.
The outstanding Rosicrucian organization of the 18th century was the Brotherhood of the Rosy and Golden Cross. This was particularly broad in its pretensions, and it did an excellent job of cribbing from earlier writers on various subjects. It is due largely to the activity of this group that the names of numerous mystics and magicians of the middle ages and early modern times came to be identified as Rosicrucians. It was this same organization that in 1785-87 published, or caused to be published, the Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians. For a detailed account of this volume and the conditions under which it came into existence, see my Codex Rosae Crucis, 1938. (Now out of print.)
If the historical descent of the Society is hopelessly obscure, the doctrinal descent is equally intangible. The 17th-century Rosicrucians, if we may use such a term, neglected to commit their philosophy to print. The Fame and Confession contain only vague references to a universal knowledge and anti-papist convictions. There is a slight flavor of Second Adventism, but even this is open to dispute. The Chemical Marriage adds nothing except a possible alchemical implication, and the tracts contradict themselves and each other.
The 18th-century revival continued the process of hinting at great matters, and embellished the riddle with fragments of Boehme's mysticism, Paracelsian pharmacology, Maier's alchemical researches, Fludd's cabalistic reflections, and the inspirationalism of Henri Khunrath. These were worked together with a little of Agrippa's magic and Faustian demonology. The result was a conglomeration. There were high-sounding terms and much abracadabra, but those who entered the portals of this strange temple in search of truth invariably came out by the same door wherein they went.
To the questions: What do the Rosicrucians teach? What is the Rosicrucian philosophy?, there are no satisfactory answers. If the Fame account is accepted, the founder of the order was initiated into Islamic theurgy. But this one slender thread has been entirely neglected by all groups, who agree on insisting that the Society was devoutly Christian.
The end of the 18th century, with its profound political changes, especially in France, brought to a somewhat abrupt termination the ritualistic period of Rosicrucianism. Freemasonry absorbed the smaller Lodges or abandoned them as clandestine. The political significance of Secret Societies gradually decreased, and the public mind turned to the more tangible subjects of social and political reconstruction. The result was an entire lapse in Rosicrucian history.
The middle years of the 19th century brought with them the foundations of the last great revival of Rosicrucianism. The period from 1790 to 1850 was marked with itinerant adepts. It was assumed that after the breaking up of the Lodges, certain qualified and informed persons, possessing secrets of momentous importance, wandered about Europe occasionally initiating disciples and bestowing upon them proper certificates.
The outstanding example of this practice is the story of Dr. Sigismund Bacstrom and the mysterious Comte de Chazal. Bacstrom was a student of alchemy and Hermetic mysticism who resided for a time on the Isle of Mauritius. Here he was initiated into the mystery of the Philosopher's Stone by a supposed Rosicrucian adept who went under the pseudonym of the Comte de Chazal. Bacstrom received his Rosicrucian diploma, a copy of which was for some time in the possession of an eccentric metaphysician by the name of Frederick Hockley, who dabbled in a little of everything from numerology to necromancy. After his decease, Hockley's copy of the Rosicrucian certificate passed into the archives of an English Masonic-Rosicrucian organization where, according to the last report, it still reposes. I have eighteen volumes of Dr. Bacstrom's diary, many of the volumes written after the supposed date of his initiation by Chazal. These volumes consist principally of translations of rare alchemical and Hermetic tracts. They are invaluable in their own right, but there is nothing in these diaries to indicate that Bacstrom suddenly came into possession of any extraordinary body of secret knowledge. He was an alchemistical philosopher and a very learned man. But the only figures or diagrams in the volumes which I have relative to our subject consist of a group of sketches entitled The Hieroglyphical Seal of the Society of Unknown Philosophers. The hieroglyphical seal is nothing but a redrawing of some
symbols appearing in William Law's translation of the writings of Jakob Boehme. These drawings have been ascribed sometimes to Peter Paul Rubens, and were designed solely to illustrate Boehme's interpretation of the Fall of Adam.
THE DIAGRAMS OF JACOB BOEHME
(From The Works of Jacob Behmen the Teutonic Theosopher by the Reverend William Law.)
@insert Figure 1
Three of the figures reproduced by Dr. Sigismund Bacstrom and described by him as official seals of the Society of Unknown Philosophers. These drawings constitute the frontispiece to a collection of letters supposed to have been written by the alchemist Michael Sendivogius to the Rosey Crucian Society. The letters were translated in manuscript by Dr. Sibly in 1791. The context of the letters is alchemical.
The first symbol (Figure 1) represents the projection of Azoth or the Philosopher's Stone by the union of heat in motion.
The second symbol (Figure 2) describes the philosophical union of salt, sulphur, and mercury under the titles of harshness, bitterness, and anguish.
The third symbol (Figure 3) sets forth the secret of the Elixir of Life as a tincture resulting from the harmonious properties of the philosophical elements in perfect equilibrium.
@insert Figure 2
@insert Figure 3
The above is indicative of the entire dilemma. Who were the itinerant adepts glibly referred to as Rosicrucians? If the men themselves had no traceable reputation, how authentic would be any certificate which they might issue as proof of the wonders which they bestowed?
It is this rickety bridge which connects 18th- and 19th-century Rosicrucianism. Somebody met somebody else. The second somebody dubbed the first somebody as a Rosicrucian. Thus descent was established; also, the advent of the third cycle of organization. This cycle endures to the present time. There is still a competitive Rosicrucianism. More than a dozen groups in different parts of the world solemnly defend their claims. Each demands that the world shall accept its supremacy of claim to a body of intangible lore, and each tries desperately to interpret from this lore some connected system of teaching.
That many of these organizations are essentially honest and really believe that which they claim, cannot be denied. Each, however, descends from someone who has claimed to know or to have been initiated into secret knowledge by a person or persons unknown. The members must accept the validity of this unknown person in order to accept the authenticity of the teachings.
In some cases, the teachings are so obviously fraudulent that it is evident that the unknown person was guilty of either fraud or delusion. In many cases, the teachings may be constructive, but can easily be traced to systems of religious thought that are by no means exclusively Rosicrucian.
Another kind of Rosicrucianism should be mentioned in bringing this historical survey to a conclusion. This is the Rosicrucian research groups. Several such groups exist, some under the wing of modern Freemasonry. These research councils make no claims or pretensions whatever to antiquity of origin or participation in occult knowledge. They admit the difficulties of the situation and frankly declare themselves to be students of Rosicrucian history and doctrine, gathering for the purpose of examining evidence and attempting to discover what they can of the truth behind the Rosicrucian controversy. Such groups are entirely creditable and effective to the degree that their members possess the faculty of critical scholarship.
In order to understand the place of Rosicrucianism in the plan of the occult sciences, it is necessary to review briefly the descent of mystical tradition throughout Secret Societies of the ancient, medieval, and early modern worlds.
The State Mysteries of the older world were created for the purpose of perpetuating a divine tradition concerning the spiritual nature and dignity of man, and the plan of evolution and the responsibilities for which he was differentiated in the Divine Cause. The teachings were definitely twofold in their application. The first part dealt with the release through man of divine powers and the evaluation of human consciousness into a state of identity with Truth. This was the heavenly theurgy, the most secret and sacred mystery of the blessed gods, described by the Platonists and Neo-platonists. The second part of the State Mysteries was concerned with the perfection of community existence. Corrupt laws must be reformed; corrupt princes must give way to the supreme needs of humankind. The Golden Age was to come again. Men, living the secret tradition within their own individual lives, would ultimately inherit a world made harmonious and secure by the spiritual force of this tradition.
Each nation had its own state and community cults. As nations increased in the scope of their influence, their religious beliefs evolved into great institutions. Pageantries and rituals added visual splendors to moral lessons. All of the noblest part of civilization may be defined as the lengthened shadow of the ancient Mysteries cast upon the subtle substance of futurity.
It was in this way that Robert Fludd interpreted Rosicrucianism. He believed that the old Mysteries had been born again or, possibly in more correct terms, had emerged again from the womb of time. With most mystics, he regarded the sacred Mysteries as imperishable institutions. He did not concur with those more severe historians who affirm that the ideology of the pagan world perished after the Edict of Constantine.
In all fairness, it must be stated that there is a certain mystical evidence that the secret institutions of the pre-Christian world have survived, if not as organizations, at least as impulses. These impulses are periodically re-embodied. The human mind, in its search for reality, demands the historic order. In ages when such organizations do not manifest themselves, they are conjured up by wishful thinking. Man has lived so long in the shadow of the temple, and has grown so used to its brooding presence, that it has become an absolute requirement to his existence.
If we wish to assume that the pagan Mysteries have continued and are a truly imperishable body of lore, what is the place of Rosicrucianism in such a pattern of things? Is it safe to make such an assumption and upon that assumption found future assumptions? Obviously not; at least, not without giving the reader a full realization that he is in the presence of assumption rather than actual fact.
The ancient Mysteries did claim to possess certain knowledge relating to a metaphysical existence and the reality of extrasensory perceptions. They taught mystical disciplines for the improvement of the human soul, and they emphasized the reality of man's spiritual life independent of matter. These Mysteries, likewise, declared the existence of a superior race or kind of human beings. These higher mortals, abiding closer to the Divine Presence, possessed faculties and powers beyond the conception of the uninformed. The Greeks called this superior race the heroes; and modern occult Societies have named this order of perfected men the masters, or adepts, or mahatmas. Traditions, legends, stories, and accounts of the reality and existence of such masters abound in the literature and folklore of all ancient races.
Was the Rosicrucian Society founded by such adepts? Was it a school of the Mysteries, an emergence of the eternal tradition? John Heydon describes the Rosicrucians as a kind of immortal mortals abiding in the suburbs of heaven, and as servants of the generalissimo of the world.
It must become obvious at this point that the problem retires to an extremely abstract level. Here we wander about on a plane of metaphysical intangibles. Realizing how closely delusion and imposture are linked with uncertainty, it behooves us to proceed slowly and cautiously. Let us, then, estimate the weight of the evidence on hand.
If we accept the well-sustained tradition that certain secret and occult Societies have flourished among men, were the Rosicrucians such a Society, and were they bound to a world program of human regeneration?
Of course, the enthusiast immediately says, "Yes," and the disillusioned skeptic says "No." An actual examination of evidence must lead the impartial historian to the utterance of a hesitant "Perhaps."
Why the uncertainty?
The Society, through its original manifestoes, made no claim to direct kinship with the great Mystery systems of antiquity. Such claims have been made for the Brotherhood and not by them--a vital point of difference. On the other hand, if the aims described by the Rosicrucians were religious and social reforms, and the re-education of humanity toward the establishment of a more perfect social order, these aims were consistent with, in fact identical with, one of the two great purposes for which the Greater Mysteries were founded.
It does not follow, though, that simply because an individual or group of individuals manifest a noble inspiration they must be initiates of some Secret Society or part of some connected mystical tradition. The case rests on circumstantial evidence alone.
As the Rosicrucians could not be found when sought, and as the Society apparently never possessed an identifiable spokesman, its claims or, more correctly, the claims for it must be recognized in their true light as assumptions, not realities.
Out of this dilemma have arisen two distinct schools of Rosicrucian speculation. The first school or type belongs definitely to the class of introverted mysticism. It is composed of persons devoutly and conscientiously convinced that Rosicrucianism is a spiritual reality, who are satisfied to nourish their souls upon the substance of things unseen and unprovable. To these entirely sincere mystics, inner conviction is the final criterion. They believe; therefore, they know. And knowledge acquired through belief becomes the solid foundation for future believing. They are convinced that through the development of internal spiritual faculties, they will discover the secret brothers of the Rosy Cross.
For such as these, Rosicrucianism is no longer a system of moral or social philosophy, nor is it even a fragment of the divine theurgy. Rosicrucianism is simply and plainly a religious creed, a sect of belief which shares with most of the other religious beliefs of the world the power to inspire and improve man through ennobling appeal to the devotional aspect of human nature.
As distinguished from these, we have those who assume the necessity of perpetuating Rosicrucianism as a system of State ritualism. Here, the emphasis is upon landmarks and descent. These regard the Rosicrucians as a sort of super-Masonic Lodge. The adepts meet in solemn conclave behind closed doors with a cherubim for a tyler. Neophytes must ascend the difficult ladder of degrees, each assigned by law, with insignia sanctified by association and tradition. The Lodges of such groups are adorned with appropriate charters, and are draped and festooned according to the dictates of taste, and embellished with altars, censers, candles, lamps, and other ritualistic paraphernalia.
When we deal with ritualism and its implications, we come face to face with the problem of authenticity. Rituals that have been changed lose their meaning: symbols that have become distorted can no longer be correctly interpreted. The ritualist, ceremonialist, and the transcendentalist must also be historians.
What are the true symbols of the Rosy Cross? What are the true rituals of the degrees? What is the correct orientation of the Lodge? What are the duties of its officers? And what proof is there to substantiate present usage in these matters?
The answers to these questions are not only difficult to state, but they are practically impossible to discover. When General Albert Pike was offered a high position in an English body of Rosicrucians, he declined the honor in the spirit of true scholarship. His statement was in substance as follows:
If Rosicrucianism is ever to be anything more than a word, there must be extensive and scholarly research carried on by persons properly equipped to weigh and estimate evidence. There would have to be compiled an authentic account of the activities of the Society, its aims, and its purposes. He (Gen. Pike) felt himself to be too advanced in years and too heavily burdened with other responsibilities to attempt so vast a labor.
Both of the viewpoints which we have here described, that of the mystic and that of the ritualist, can be, and are in most cases, entirely sincere. Each individual, in his own way, is filling his life with activities which interest and satisfy the problems of his soul. As long as the mystic is satisfied with his simple inner communion, and the ritualist is happy researching through the archives seeking to piece together what he believes to be an infallible tradition, each is fulfilling a purpose in his own way and according to his own light.
It is neither gentle piety nor zeal for history that causes trouble; but mysteries and wonders descending to the level of popular imagination produce a kind of madness for which it appears there is little remedy. The mystic too often forgets the very truths of mysticism, and the would-be historian loses sight of the very landmarks which should guide and order his procedure.
In the field of Rosicrucianism, there has arisen a kind of lunacy, an extravagant, irrational structure of pretension that could have nothing in common with any reasonable system of philosophy or religion. It is toward such misunderstanding and misinterpretation that attention should be directed. When mysticism becomes sectarianism, it ceases entirely to be itself and becomes something inferior. When organizations, in the name of mysticism, try to dominate the personal lives of their members as to what they should think, how they should think, what they should read, eat, and do, mysticism ceases. The true mystic is one who has discovered through inner communion a joyous life in the spirit. He is not merely a human being seeking redemption by cramming himself into some preconceived pattern. He is growing up in light and beauty, and certainly there is no place in his philosophy for smallness, bickering, bigotry, and contention. To the mystic, all history is mystical, all knowledge is inner experience, and only the internal is real. If he cannot maintain his mystical standards of perception, he falls inevitably into a fanaticism which is mysticism gone mad.
The ritualist, conversely, may find great inspiration from his history and his symbols, and may feel a true inspiration from abiding in the presence of the great and noble intellects whose works he is examining. But he is sadly mistaken if he imagines for a moment that rituals and ceremonials performed are going to perfect either the human soul or the human social structure. The ritualist over-estimates the significance of forms and histories. He feels that if he can receive the ninth degree and become an illustrious frater with the rights to the insignia of his accomplishments, he is a man apart.
What these Pharisees of ritualism do not understand is that all of the history in the world, whether it be true or false, does not alter the state of man, but rather, is the cause of man's present condition. Likewise, all the ritualism that ever has been devised cannot elevate the human being above his own nature.
Rituals, symbols, and history are valuable only to the degree that we are lured to a contemplation of their meanings, and by inner reflection we are made to perceive truth through form. But the form itself is never the legitimate end of human effort.
Would-be mystics who have not the strength for the inner experience, and would-be ritualists and historians who lack the faculty of judgment, gather together, and from their misunderstanding produce some extraordinary patterns of delusion. Others, no wiser than themselves, but impressed by these false patterns, accept them. And thus it is that organizations spring up that have no justification for existence. These do not last long, but they usually survive long enough to contribute considerably to the discomfort and disillusionment of mankind.
There is a Rosicrucianism of this kind, a conglomeration of borrowed and stolen fragments of religious belief from all over the world. Some so-called Rosicrucians are practicing Yoga breathing, others are engaged in table-tipping, a few have resorted to Vedantist meditation or Buddhistic renunciation. One group is addicted to Brahmanic cosmogony, another to Taoist philosophical nihilism. These, combined with fragments of Chaldean astromancy, a bit of medieval necromancy, some magic mirrors, a smattering of alchemical terminology seasoned with a dash of the cabala, have resulted in an extraordinary compound regarded by the uninformed as very deep, but by the intelligent as very stupid.
Admitting that the Rosicrucians neglected to inform truth seekers as to any of their instruction, it is obvious that it cannot be discovered merely by attributing a sort of omniscience to the Brotherhood and then announcing that every opinion evolved by the human reason is essentially Rosicrucian. The mystic must find Rosicrucianism within himself, and the historian must rescue it by the expedient of research.
When confronted by no system of direct thought, the untrained mind resorts to evasion. The mind not trained to think clearly attempts to depreciate the entire process of thinking. When outwitted, it is the human tendency to run and hide behind a platitude. In this respect, metaphysicians are among the supreme offenders.
You explain to the modern enthusiast that he really does not know nearly so much as he thinks he knows, and he immediately affirms that you disbelieve because you lack inner perception. If you refuse to see history where it is not, or fail to be converted to intangible doctrines, you simply are not spiritually awakened.
All of this is quite unanswerable, but certainly the facts are unassailable by theological logic. If we are asked to join a physical organization, we then are dealing with problems in the physical realm and are entitled to reasonable, physical explanations. If the whole matter is a spiritual mystery abiding in space alone, then that mystery is one of inner realization, and physical organizations have little place in the plan. If we keep the values straight, we shall have little difficulty.
The already complicated problem of Rosicrucianism is made worse confounded by the very human element of hallucination. It is a known fact that the human mind has an extraordinary ability to believe that which it earnestly desires to believe, regardless of the absence of vital content. A large part of psychical clairvoyant experience is nothing but metaphysical woolgathering. The individual dreams, and in his dream sees himself taken to some mysterious place where robed figures are gathered. Ergo! he is a Rosicrucian initiate. This in complete defiance of the physically obvious fact that he has none of the personal requisites for initiation into anything.
I have battered through the initiations of a considerable number of persons who were convinced that they had enjoyed extraordinary spiritual privileges. In every case to date, it has been obvious that the initiation was nothing but wishful thinking. This complicates our problem no end. To the desire to believe is contributed a visual phenomenon in the form of a dream or delusion. Accepted as a fact, this becomes the unassailable foundation upon which to build a superstructure of future delusions.
It is not necessary to take refuge in clairvoyance, or in invisible worlds either, to explain or defend Rosicrucianism. The difficulty has been that too few people have had access to original records and too few students have had the slightest interest in such records. They have been perfectly willing to accept the second-hand products of dubious scholarship. They have believed in the incredible, rather than search for the facts.
SOLVING ROSICRUCIAN PROBLEMS
By making use of such positive information as is available, as the result of examining nearly a thousand books and manuscripts, we have come to certain reasonable conclusions supported by reasonable evidence.
The first edition of the Fame and Confession appeared in 1614. There is no evidence that Rosicrucianism existed prior to 1610, and all attempts to bestow greater antiquity on it must be regarded as assumptions. There is good reason, supported by the positive admission of the man claiming authorship, to believe that at least the Fame was written by Johann Valentin Andreae. The books were published in Germany, and no effort was made to circulate them outside of Germany during the early years of the controversy. There is no proof whatsoever that the Christian Rosencreutz of the Chemical Marriage and the C. R. C. of the Fame and Confession were identical. And there is no proof that the Chemical Marriage of Christian Rosencreutz actually was issued by the same group that published the Fame and Confession.
These statements, while not necessarily informative in themselves, are at least justified by historically known facts, and are supported by the style of writing and the internal content of the documents themselves.
The key, however, lies in the fact that the first editions of these book contain ciphers, that is cryptograms, codes, acrostics, and anagrams, methods of secretly perpetuating knowledge which had been in use for thousands of years, and which are part of the equipment of most Secret Societies. Personally, I have found and decoded ciphers in these three books, but the very existence of such ciphers is unknown to the majority of modern Rosicrucian Societies. Therefore, it is obvious that these Societies do not share in the secrets which the ciphers reveal.
I have a great mass of the Rosicrucian literature which has been accumulating during more than three hundred years. The Fame and Confession are the only works which may be regarded with reasonable certainty as being the products of whatever original group created or conceived the organization.
The story of C. R. C., as contained in the Fame, is almost certainly allegorical and should not be interpreted as an historical account of the activity of a single man. C. R. C. is the personification of an idea; he is not a person. He is a symbol built up to conceal the true living man whose ideas were expressed in the Fame and Confession.
The reason why the tract-writers and apologists received no answer to their insistent requests for more knowledge is that the original authors had no intention of giving out any further knowledge. As these authors and their intimates were all dead by 1660 or soon thereafter, the original Society did not survive that date. The modern organizations, including those of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, have no direct historical descent. The Rosicrucian Order was a 17th-century phenomenon, and in its original form did not perpetuate itself, and no one yet, on any historical or literary grounds, has been able to prove that it did.
Although Rosicrucianism is said to have had its beginnings in Germany, it did not flourish there, and disappeared from the country entirely within a few years. It did not return until a much later date, and then only as a pseudo-Rosicrucianism. The stronghold of 17th-century Rosicrucianism was definitely in England, and there is reason to believe that it had its supposed origin in Germany as a blind to protect its leaders.
There is nothing in the original evidence of the Society to indicate that it was an elaborate religious system. In the Fame and Confession it is advanced as a body of reformers desirous of correcting certain corruptions in the Church and State. It made no claims to esotericism other than the reference to the acceptance of Father C. R. C. into certain learned groups in Islam. As we have noted, this took place in a nonexistent city. Shorn of its glamour and reduced to its facts, Rosicrucianism is not so difficult to understand.
A few of the more erudite 17th-century thinkers knew the facts, decoded the ciphers, and incorporated new ciphers in their own books, explaining the story. It is my opinion, supported by a sound structure of proof, that the Rosicrucian Society was founded during the opening years of the 17th century by the English statesman and philosopher, Sir Francis Bacon, as part of his plan for a general political reform of the states of Europe.
Michael Maier, the German physician, was a party to this knowledge, which he has included by means of anagrammatic ciphers in his work on the laws of the Fraternity. In the first place, Maier says that the dwelling place of the Rosicrucian brothers is located at Helicon on Parnassus, where the winged horse Pegasus brings forth fountains by stamping on the earth. How many students of Rosicrucianism are acquainted with Maier's work?
The first edition of the Fame appeared as an appendix to a book entitled The Universal Reformation of Mankind, being part of the Advertisements from Parnassus. In a work published in England by George Wither, The Great Assises Holden in Parnassus, it is stated particularly that the Lord Verulam [Francis Bacon] was Chancellor of Parnassus [the mountain of the poets]. At least eight or nine other references exist pointing up this same fact, but to find them requires an elaborate survey of the literature of the Elizabethan period.
John Wilkins, in his Mathematical Magic, describes the tomb of Francis Rosie Cross. Thus we have the key to the real name of the man who went under the name of C. R. C. Robert Burton, a learned 17th-century divine, in his work The Anatomy of Melancholy, states distinctly that at the time he was writing his book, the founder of the Society of the Rosy Cross was still living--this in complete defiance of the statement in the Fame that the founder had been dead for one hundred twenty years. In a footnote quoting the German theologian, Johann Valentin Andreae, Burton gives credit for his statement in the following way: "Johann Valentin Andreae, Lord Verulam." By the punctuation, Burton intends to show clearly that Andreae was a pseudonym used by Lord Verulam; that is, Francis Bacon. Thus Bacon's name is associated definitely in print with the name of the man who acknowledgedly wrote the Fame of the Rosicrucians.
Space prevents the publishing of all my findings in this field, but the substance of them may be briefly stated:
Francis Bacon is known to have had a wide correspondence with scholars on the European Continent. Using the mask of the respected Andreae to conceal his own purposes, Bacon published his Fame and Confession at a considerable distance from his own homeland because of their treasonable implications. He was the founder and moving spirit of Rosicrucianism. Himself a profound student of sociology and comparative religion, and one of the most learned scientists of all time, he not only rewrote the laws of England, but was resolved to correct the great evils existing in the political systems of his time. With a small group of intimates, he devised the Society, which was definitely a closed corporation, and through which he intended to bring about certain reforms. These reforms were brought to pass by the motions which he started and have resulted in what we know today as the democratic form of government, the most important political reform in the last thousand years. All of these facts are not only concealed, but subtly revealed through the various channels which Lord Bacon developed.
The program for the Philosophic Empire, which Bacon derived from Plato, was clearly set forth in Bacon's New Atlantis, which was dedicated to the proposition that it was necessary for the security and permanence of mankind that they should investigate into the mysteries of nature and discover all things that are knowable concerning matter, time, and space.
The English writer John Heydon, who had a smattering of Rosicrucian lore, republished the New Atlantis, without credit, inserting the necessary Rosicrucian references to complete the story. This is contained in his work The Holy Guide.
It is another link between Bacon and the Rosicrucians of the 17th century, recorded while the memory of the subject was still green.
After Bacon's mock funeral in England, he returned to the Continent, where he lived for more than twenty years as the head of his Secret Society.
The Society had no intention or desire of perpetuating itself as a secret group. Its purpose was to revitalize and reactivate all the existing forms of knowledge. Part of his plan Bacon accomplished through the founding of Freemasonry, which was to be the vehicle for the ethical reforms which he desired to accomplish. Then, with a group of scholars, he published the Shakespearean plays, which contain the records of his Secret Society. Then, with another phase of his brilliant nature, he established the Royal Society for the purpose of furthering scientific knowledge.
During this whole program, he was at work upon his masterpiece, the Instauratio Magna. This was his universal encyclopedia and compendium of all necessary and useful information.
It should be remembered that the great work of C. R. C. was to prepare an encyclopedia of the world's knowledge.
One part of Bacon's Instauratio Magna was published under the title of the Novum Organum. This was the book that changed the face of Europe and rescued education from scholasticism. The Novum Organum contains all the secrets of science which Bacon's brilliant mind, aided by the best scholarship of his time, could comprehend.
The influence of this book was profound and far-reaching. Upon this foundation has been built the elaborate structure of modern science. These ends were brought about by a closely united group of men, often working at great physical hazard, but dedicated to a vision which they had inherited from classical antiquity--the vision of a new Golden Age upon earth.
During the early years of the 17th century, there were wandering about Europe a considerable number of intelligent human beings who had been scattered by the Inquisition and forced to retire into secret places in order to survive. Some of these termed themselves alchemists, but they were not seeking physical gold. Others were Illuminati, whose quest was for the "pearl of great price." There were remnants of the Troubadours, a few survivors and descendants of the initiated Knights Templars, some cabalists and astromancers, and others of the Paracelsian persuasion devoted to the healing of the sick according to unorthodox medical theories.
These perfectly normal human beings, differentiated from their time by superior knowledge and personal idealism, were the so-called adepts. To them and their kind, Bacon turned to find the instruments for his own purposes. They were the heretics of their day, the free-thinkers, the men whose mystical, inward perception revealed to them the dream of a better world. Uniting these, Bacon created from them such groups as the Rosicrucians and the Freemasons, and through them he poured an ideal into the circulatory system of mankind. In several foreign lands and under various guises, they became the leaven which produced the phenomenon of the modern world.
The 17th century was the dividing line between the old, narrow, and decadent order, and the dawn of emancipated thinking. No one knows exactly what caused the modern world, with its freedom, to emerge as though spontaneously from the old order of things. The unseen molding power was Bacon's secret Society. Having accomplished its purpose, the Society lived only in its accomplishments. The colleges, universities, and learned societies, the democracies and commonwealths, and such great documents as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States are consequences which resulted from the stimulation bestowed by Bacon's dynamic personality.
It was quite reasonable, then, that in his will Bacon should say that he left his good name to future ages. He lived not for his own time, but also for the future.
It was within the shadow of the mysterious Society which lived on its works that Rosicrucianism as a religion was born. It was the result of the human mind building upon a mystery. The truth was not understood. It was all the realization of the gold maker and the magician. What we cannot understand, we misunderstand; and upon misunderstanding has been built an elaborate structure which, like Christianity itself, has been thwarted by the lack of adequate intelligence upon the part of its followers and believers.
The tomb of Sir Christopher Wren at St. Paul's invites those who read the epitaph of this great architect to look about them and see what he had done. Those searching for Rosicrucianism should look about them. It is the order under which we live--invisible in the sense that it is a way of living and a way of thinking, but visible in the more apparent implication that it is civilization itself.
As time goes on, I hope to be able to prepare a work which will amplify and prove, from documentation which I have available, this vision of Rosicrucianism. In the meantime, it is most desirable that all who are interested in this subject should direct their most scholarly insight toward the study and discovery of the external facts involved in the mystery.
The Rosicrucians were not a Society of ethereal adepts, but an order of enlightened philosophers who worked assiduously and intelligently to bring about in the world a condition under which men might live together toward the fulfillment of their noblest purposes.
The symbol of the Rosicrucians was the crucified rose of Tudor, the family crest of Sir Francis, Lord Verulam. Francis Tudor, crossed in his efforts and in his rightful heritage to a kingship which would have given him the legal power to reform the world, created his own empire--the invisible, Philosophic Empire, the empire of afflicted and persecuted dreamers. He bound them together and ruled over them as their Grand Master; with his invisible power he brought about certain great visible changes in the state of man. Lord Bacon was not a materialist, nor was he unaware of the old Mysteries and the debt which we owe to the secret institutions of the past. If there were an initiate adept in this mystery, it was Lord Bacon himself.
Of him, Doctor Rawley so well wrote: "I have been induced to think that if there were a beame of knowledge derived from God upon any man in these modern times, it was upon him. For though he was a great reader of books; yet he had not his knowledge from books but from some grounds and notions from within himself."
Those who would read the secret book of the Rosicrucian mystery should read the Novum Organum, for therein is contained the arcana of the Secret Master of the Rosy Cross.
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