Rosicrucian Movement

Great Teacher Series @ Theosophy Trust


In 1614 the publication of the Fama Fraternitatis announced the existence of a fraternity devoted to the spiritual life, to the reform and advancement of learning, and to magic. This anonymous document did not fall onto stony ground. Previously, Emperor Rudolf II, though a Hapsburg, had immersed himself in alchemical studies in Prague. Shunning his ambitious nephew, Philip II of Spain, he took Pistorius, a Kabbalist, for his religious advisor, and tolerated the Bohemian church founded by John Huss as well as the mystical Bohemian Brotherhood. He welcomed to his court John Dee, Edward Kelly, Giordano Bruno and Johannes Kepler, and transmuted base metal into gold with a power given him by Sendivogius. He died in 1612, the year in which Jacob Boehme wrote the Aurora only a few miles distant. In 1613 Frederick V, Elector Palatine, married Elizabeth, daughter of James I of England. Together they sponsored a rapid growth of philosophical, artistic, mechanical and mystical studies at Heidelberg. Throughout Europe interest in philosophical religion and religious science blossomed. The Fama confirmed the Intuitions of many princes, scholars, alchemists and Paracelsist physicians.

After an introduction cast in terms of unexceptionable Protestant orthodoxy, the Fama announced that all things may be learned in the Book of Nature, even though most learned men prefer "Popery, Aristotle and Galen." Nevertheless, there is a Fraternity which has long laboured for general reformation, primarily in learning and life, but also in government and institutions. It was founded by "the most godly and highly illuminated father, our brother, C.R., a German, the chief and original of our Fraternity." Although his parents were noble, poverty forced C.R. into an abbey at the age of five, where he learned Greek and Latin. As a youth he was attached to a brother who intended to travel to Jerusalem, but whose death left C.R. stranded in Cyprus. C.R. travelled with Arabian help to Damascus, where he was received by name and introduced into a company of wise men as one who was expected there. He learned Arabic, translated the book M into Latin, learned physics and mathematics and, after three years, was sent to Fez in Morocco, the center of magic. Having studied the secret arts in Fez for two years, he returned to Europe via Spain. He carried a new Axiomata which pointed to the centrum of thought and being, but savants rejected them. Eventually C.R. returned to Germany, built a house suitable for quiet studies and pursued his philosophy. Five years later he began to gather the eight disciples who formed the Fraternity of the Rose Cross and were housed in a specially constructed building called Sancti Spiritus. Perfecting themselves in Rosicrucian knowledge, these disciples departed to work in various countries after making a mutual agreement:

1. None of them would profess any skill save curing the sick, or would ever charge a fee for this service;
2. They would wear the customary clothing of the region in which each lived;
3. They would meet once each year at Sancti Spiritus;
4. Each brother would be responsible for finding and training a brother to succeed him at death;
5. The word C.R. would be "their seal, mark and character";
6. The fraternity would remain secret for a century.

The Fama Fraternitatis goes on to state:

Everyone may hold it with certitude that those who were sent and joined together by God and the heavens, chosen from the wisest men, as have lived in many ages, lived together in highest unity, greatest secrecy, and most kindness towards one another.

Years passed, and in 1604, the year in which Kepler observed new stars in the constellations Serpentarius and Cygnus, a young brother, N.N., was being trained at the Sancti Spiritus in preparation for his travels. In making a minor architectural improvement on a section of wall, he loosened some plaster and discovered a hidden door, on which was written: "Open after 120 years." These instructions were followed, and the tomb of CR. was revealed. It was brightly lit by an eternal flame in the ceiling, illuminating a seven-sided vault, each wall of which was five feet wide and eight feet high, surrounding a central altar. The whole was inscribed with geometrical patterns representing superior and inferior potencies. In one corner was a chest of books, including works by C.R. and Paracelsus. The room was designed to contain the knowledge of the Rosicrucians, which could thereby be recovered even if the Fraternity should perish. Under the altar lay the body of C.R., perfectly preserved, with such vital records as the material from which the Fama was composed.

The Fama concludes by asserting that Rosicrucian philosophy is not new, but ancient, having been embodied in Plato, Pythagoras, Enoch, Solomon and others. While the Fraternity can easily effect metallic transmutation, its members "esteeming little the making of gold," rather "have a thousand better things." Those who understood the meaning of the Fama and wished to engage unselfishly in the work it outlined, were invited to declare themselves in print. If found worthy, they would be taken into the Fraternity.

The secret history of a Lodge, founded by C.R. in Asia Minor, holds that C.R. was a German knight, born in 1378, named Rosencranz, who delved into black magic until a profound vision changed his life. He vowed to visit the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem as a means of making amends. There he had a second vision, the contents of which remained closed even to most brothers of the Fraternity. Rosencranz, who lived to one hundred six years of age, disappeared until the Rosicrucian movement emerged and its members attracted attention by their Kabbalism and powers. They sought to synthesize all branches of Occultism. Their secrets were as impenetrable as their lives were exemplary. They did not declare themselves as a group until the publication of the Fama, which had already circulated privately for several years, though their name had been heard from time to time.

The only full copy of the Oriental Kabbalah is in the eastern headquarters of the Fraternity, known to and guarded by a few. In the West the Rosicrucians concentrated solely on three chief aspects of the Kabbalah: (1) the nature of the Supreme Being; (2) the outflowing of Macrocosmos, its hierarchies of intelligences (including man), as well as its inflowing or ultimate destiny; and (3) the real meaning of the Hebrew scriptures. The Rosicrucians gave rise to the modern Theosophists, inspiring the leading luminary, Paracelsus; to the Alchemists, including Thomas Vaughn (Eugenius Philalethes); and to a host of schools and groups more or less closely associated with the Fraternity. Thus the term 'Rosicrucian' has both a specific and a generic meaning.

Many self-appointed candidates for Rosicrucian secrets sought out the Brotherhood in the months which followed the publication of the Fama, some in order to learn to serve mankind and reform the consciousness of the globe, but most out of curiosity or the wish to learn the secrets of power, and especially that of transmutation. In 1615 the Confessio Fraternitatis, "written to all the learned of Europe," appeared. Refusing to acknowledge the special status of either the pope or of Mohammed, the Confessio asserts that the Rosicrucian Philosophy founds and synthesizes the sciences, arts and religion in a full understanding of Man. Though few knew these mysteries, they were the "six wonders of eternity," and knowledge of them was possible for the deserving. The Fama, therefore, is not to be taken lightly, for when combined with the Confessio the true student may find all the clues needed to establish a connection with the Brotherhood. Even if all knowledge should perish, one could reconstruct a palace of wisdom with the skill and learning imparted by C.R., an easier feat than the renovation of the existing structure of knowledge.

The Adepts of the Brotherhood fear neither hunger nor poverty, neither sickness nor age, for they possess the means to overcome these foes of mankind. Their eyes can see 'the people which dwell beyond the River Ganges," and "those which live in Peru." The contents of the manuscript of nature give them the keys to all books, past, present and future. The magical sounds they utter transform the gross into the sublime. Because of the potency of this profound knowledge, only those who meet the highest spiritual, moral and intellectual standards are allowed to acquire it, although the invitation is offered to all who wish to try. The criteria for entrance are given by the nature of illumination and manifestation, not by any arbitrary standards set by men. It is the "uprightness and hopes" of the aspirant which alone qualify him for any of the Order's three degrees. Those who "seek other things than wisdom" shall not only fail – their hypocrisy will betray and punish them.

The brothers, old and new, will invisibly affect the world.

Wherefore there should cease all servitude, falsehood, lies and darkness, which, little by little, with the great world's revolution, crept into all arts, works and governments of men, and have darkened the greater part of them.

And although the brothers will remain unseen, they will be manifest in their work. "But the work itself shall be attributed to the blessedness of our age."

The world shall awake out of her heavy and drowsy sleep, and with an open heart, bareheaded and barefoot, shall merrily and joyfully meet the new arising Sun.

The Brotherhood can "verily foreknow and foresee the darkness of obscurations of the Church, and how long they shall last," for from mathematical and astronomical knowledge have been drawn "characters and letters" which produce "our magic writing . . a new language for ourselves, in which is expressed and declared the nature of all things."

The Rosicrucian candidate must delve into and apply the hidden meaning in the Bible, as well as understand philosophy and nature. Most alchemical books must be abandoned as fallacious, while the true tincture of metals" is to be learned in the Brotherhood, where no money is asked for the knowledge imparted. Yet if anyone thinks to benefit himself, "he shall sooner lose his life in seeking and searching for us, than to find us, and attain to come to the wished happiness of the Fraternity of the Rosy Cross."

The excitement generated by the Fama and the Confessio manuscripts reached its height in 1616 with the publication of The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosencreutz. This alchemical romance is divided into seven days, during which Christian Rosencreutz is invited to attend a royal wedding, accepts, travels to the palace, experiences many wonders and trials, witnesses the wedding, and returns. On the last day, Christian Rosencreutz and the other guests are made Knights of the Order of the Golden Stone. The rules of the Order were read out to them:

1. The Order shall always seek its origin in God and nature, and never in anything demonic;
2. The knights shall repudiate all vices and weaknesses;
3. They shall stand ready to assist all who are worthy and in need;
4. The honour of the Order shall not be used for worldly gain;
5. The knights shall be ready for death whenever providence decrees it.

In the same year, Robert Fludd (1574-1637) published his first work, an Apologia for the Rosicrucian Fraternity, "those learned and famous Theosophists and Philosophers." Born at Milgate House, Bearsted, Kent, the home of Sir Thomas Fludd, Robert was the fifth son in the family. In 1592, at the age of 17, he entered St. John's College, Oxford, where he earned his B.A. and M.A., remaining there until 1600. He wrote on music at this time, perhaps influencing William Laud, leader of the Anglican revival in which music was reintroduced into the liturgy.

Upon leaving Oxford, Fludd travelled through France, Spain, Italy and Germany. He spent time with the Jesuits of Avignon, where his views on geomancy caused trouble until the Vice Legate defended him. Then he travelled to Marseilles to teach mathematics to Charles of Lorraine, the fourth Duc de Guize and a Knight of Malta, and music to the Marquis de Orizon. In turn, he learned chemistry, medicine and alchemy from a traveller from Fez.

By 1605 Fludd had returned to England, and, after experiencing difficulties over his Paracelsist views, he received a doctorate in medicine at Christ Church, Oxford. In 1609 he became a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. Besides effecting a number of remarkable cures, Fludd outlined a theory of celestial harmony and the circulation of vibratory forces through the planets. His views interested Sir William Paddy, physician to James I, and suggested the idea of the circulation of blood in the human system to his friend William Harvey. Fludd helped Harvey publish his manuscript on circulation in 1628.

Fludd's Apologia maintains that 'magic' is a word whose root meaning is akin to 'wisdom.' Natural magic is the knowledge of the secret properties of nature, and "it is impossible for any one to attain to the supreme summit of the natural sciences unless he be profoundly versed in the occult meanings of the ancient Philosophers." The divine is unmanifest save in the unfoldment of the cosmos where, as light and fire, it is the cause of all energies. Rosicrucians having this knowledge are true Magi. Robert Fludd himself wished nothing but to be "only the lowest associate" in their order. In a Tractatus for the Rosicrucian Society, published in 1617, he added that in the original nature of man, his mind was a palace of light. Loving sensible things, man now walks in darkness, but if the divine spirit is dwelt upon as fire, flame and light, man can restore his pristine state of consciousness.

Over the next three years, Fludd published his grand Utriusque Cosmi Historia, the History of the Two Worlds, in two volumes: Macrocosm and Microcosm. It is a vast harmonic system, in which the microcosm reflects and is connected through astral correspondences with the macrocosm. The basic Hermetic and Kabbalistic philosophy of Pico della Mirandola and Marsilio Ficino is blended with the astral medical thought of Paracelsus and the mathematical magic of John Dee. Fludd held that:

All things were completely and ideally in God and of God before they were made; that from God all things did flow and spring, namely, out of a secret and hidden nature to a revealed and manifest condition. . . . God is the center of everything, whose circumference is nowhere to be found.

The soul of the world is invisible fire, and visible nature is animated by it, for fire is the quintessential element of all things. The circle of the divine exhibits a triangle having as aspects the three worlds – the Empyreum and Crystallinum, the Ethereal and starry, and the Elementary and earthy. The Archetypal world of pure ideas remains in the Divine Mind while Spirit, which has no form or shape, is the fiery love which impresses and unfolds the structure and essence of those ideas in the cosmos. This imparted motion produces the music of the spheres, a consequence of hierarchies of creative beings evolving the symphony of manifestation. Earthly music is only the echo of a higher state: "it remains in the mind of man as a dream of, and the sorrow for, the lost paradise." The music of the spheres emerges from the "combination of the cross movement of the holy light playing over the lines of the planets, light flaming as the spiritual ecliptic, or the gladius of the Archangel Michael to the extremities of the solar system. Thus are music, colour, and language allied."

On this basis Fludd outlined in descending order all the planes and classes of beings in the triple world, each a reflection and correlation of higher planes and beings. Life is a fivefold principle – divine light, spiritual substance, rational intellect, intellectual spirit, and part of the divine mind – excluding both God which "is all, and in all, and above all" and the physical body, the casement of life. Fludd not only employed these principles to derive the foundations of the mathematical and moral sciences, but also to explain the origin, history and nature of man.

As the macrocosm is the moving image of deity, so the microcosm is the transient image of the macrocosm. The cosmos is like a musical instrument, its keyboard composed of the intervals between angelic spheres, fixed stars, planets and elements. The cord, which is fastened to the earth, is tuned by the divine. The divine diapason spans deity and the Sun; the lower diapason extends from sun to earth. Man, as the microcosm, contains this occult keyboard. In line with the harmony above, man's diapason spiritualis extends from the top of the head to the heart, and his diapason corporealis from the heart down. Hence the sun and the heart have an intimate proportional relationship: the currents which flow through one are mirrored in the other. The same harmonies which govern the spheres are present in the mind and the threefold soul – sensible, spiritual and intellectual. As the cosmos moves around the invisible central point, so man can spiral in ascent from this world into divine unity. The ability to do so consciously is called magic.

In 1619, while Fludd was enunciating these Rosicrucian teachings in England, Frederick V accepted an invitation to assume the crown of Bohemia, a step which promised to join the great centers of Rosicrucian interest on the continent under one enlightened monarch. But within a year Hapsburg forces defeated the 'Winter King' and regained Bohemia. They invaded and destroyed the Palatinate and inaugurated the terrible Thirty Years War which eventually eroded Hapsburg power. Anti-Rosicrucian sentiment, encouraged by the Hapsburgs, Jesuits and the disillusionment many felt at the turn of events, then spread to France and England. No additional publications calling men to service emerged.

Robert Fludd laboured on in England. Though he ceased using the term 'Rosicrucian' because the name had been degraded by opponents, he ceaselessly spread their philosophy. His Philosophical Key, written about 1620 but never published in full, indicated that he was not yet an accepted member of the Fraternity. Another manuscript, probably penned in this period, lies unpublished in the British Museum. It is a Declaratio Brevis to James I, in which Fludd vindicates the Rosicrucians and closely associates himself with them. His defence before the king secured his protection until his death. In addition to defending eloquently the Rosicrucian Fraternity and himself and restating the philosophy of magic, he elaborated upon the Kabbalistic concept of polarity as light and darkness, love and strife, merged together in "the archetypal unity," and also made a number of suggestions in medicine.

The last engraved portrait of Fludd shows a man of intense awareness but weakening health. The cause of his death is unrecorded, though he prepared for it carefully by arranging his worldly affairs and giving exact instructions for his funeral and tomb. He died on September 8, 1637 and was buried in Bearsted Church, where a plaque marks his grave.

The brilliant fire of the Rosicrucian proclamations, and the noble labours of men like Robert Fludd burnt into the consciousness of Europe the idea that there is a Brotherhood of Adepts in the world, striving to disseminate truth to those who spiritually desire and deserve it. It then lay with Thomas Vaughn and others to keep the idea alive until the Rosicrucian Instructions were given out to a few in 1675.

The Instructions tell of the "Way" which has been taught to many men, of the fears and temptations along its course, and of the key to overcoming them. If one looks to the Self within, one will begin to see the self-generated light which illumines the path up the mountain in the center of the world. In time one will meet a Teacher who "will be your guide, if you desire it of him, and he will truly tell you where our assembly is to be found." Some followed that Path, and they are heard of under various names in the eighteenth century. Remaining invisible to the eyes of the world, the Rosicrucians influenced thought and politics in many directions, including helping to found the Royal Society and providing the basis for Freemasonry. The Brotherhood as an ideal and fact has ever since remained as a seed in the mind of humanity.