he Rosicrucian idea was not slow to spread from its native German soil. Increasingly, wherever we find groups of people interested in the Hermetic-Qabalistic tradition we can expect Christian Rosenkreuz and his brotherhood to come up in discussion.
In England the Hermetic tradition was familiar to a comparatively small circle. John Dee was one of its leading exponents and, as we have seen, his ideas may have influenced the Rosicrucian movement. Another eminent Englishman whose name has been linked with the Rosicrucians is Francis Bacon (1561-1626), the philosopher and statesman. To modern eyes Bacon presents something of a sinister figure. In his public life he pursued a policy of ruthless opportunism, gaining a number of important posts and rising to the peerage as Lord Verulam and then Viscount St Albans. His fall came when, as Lord Chancellor, he was convicted of taking bribes and banished from Parliament and the court. Five years later he met a bizarre end. While travelling through Highgate he stopped to stuff a fowl with snow in order to observe the effects of cold on the preservation of flesh. In the process he caught a cold and died some days later at a friend's house near by.
In his writings Bacon shows ideals that have a certain similarity to those expressed in the Rosicrucian manifestos. In The Advancement of Learning (1605), for example, we find the following passage:
Surely as nature createth brotherhood in families, and arts mechanical contract brotherhood in communities, and the anointment of God superintendeth a brotherhood in kings and bishops, so in learning there cannot but be a fraternity in learning and illumination, relating to that paternity which is attributed to God, who is called the father of illumination or lights.
This seems to anticipate the idea of a learned brotherhood propounded in the manifestos.
More striking are the Rosicrucian echoes in Bacon's posthumously published New Atlantis in which he describes a Utopian society discovered by some mariners in a hitherto unknown land. The sailors are shown a scroll 'signed with a stamp of cherubim's wings, not spread, but hanging downwards, and by them a cross' - like the seal which appears at the end of the Fama with the motto 'Under the Shadow of Jehova's Wings'. They are also visited by an official wearing a white turban 'with a small red cross at the top'. Puzzled by the New Atlanteans' knowledge of the outside world, they are told that travellers are periodically sent out from New Atlantis to mingle incognito with the inhabitants of the countries they visited - another echo from the Fama.
As Frances Yates points out in her chapter on Bacon in The Rosicrucian Enlightenment, it is clear from these similarities that Bacon knew and made use of the Fama and Confessio. But Bacon's connection with the Rosicrucians has been exaggerated to extraordinary proportions by certain people. F.W.G. Wigston, for example, in his Bacon, Shakespeare and the Rosicrucians (1888) and other works, claims not only that Bacon was the author of Shakespeare's plays but that the plays themselves are full of coded Rosicrucian messages and hints that Bacon was the real author. The words 'hanged hog', for example, are interpreted by Wigston as a code for 'Bacon'. It has even been suggested by Bacon enthusiasts that Bacon and Andreae, the author of the Chemical Wedding, were one and the same person. Bacon, it is held, did not die when catching cold on Highgate Hill, but subsequently went to Germany and began to write under the name of Andreae. Although engravings of Bacon and Andreae show a certain similarity it is difficult to square this theory with the fact that if it were true Bacon would have been 133 years old when he died - a remarkable age, even if he had possessed the Rosicrucian elixir of life,
Other claims are not quite so extravagant. Some members of the same school of thought today point out that the little coterie devoted to learning and the shunning of female company, which is so amusingly portrayed in Love's Labours Lost, is intended to represent the Rosicrucian ideal. It seems unlikely that there is any direct connection between the play and the Rosicrucian movement (leaving aside the claim that Bacon was the author of both), since the play was first produced in about 1595, fifteen years before the Fama was in circulation. But conceivably the idea behind Love's Labours Lost came out of the same tradition.
Turning from Bacon to other English writers, a more direct Rosicrucian connection is to be found in the works of Robert Fludd
(1574-1637). Born the son of a Kentish squire, Fludd spent part of his youth travelling abroad and during this period may have come into contact with some of the continental Hermetists. He returned to study medicine at Oxford whence he graduated in 1605. In 1609 he was admitted as a Fellow of the College of Physicians, but only after encountering some opposition owing to his unorthodox opinions and arrogant personal manner.
Some time after 1612 the German alchemist Michael Maier visited England, and, as I said in the last chapter, it is probable that he met Fludd. It may have been this meeting that stimulated Fludd's interest in the Rosicrucian manifestos. At any rate, in 1616 Fludd produced, as his first published work, a book entitled Apologia Compendiaría Fraternitatem de Rosea Cruce suspicionis et infamiae maculis aspersam, veritatis quasi Fluctibus abluens et abstergens (A Compendius Apology for the Fraternity of the Rosy Cross, pelted with the mire of suspicion and infamy but now cleansed with the waters of truth - the word Fluctibus, 'waters', being a pun on the name of the author). It was published in 1616 and, like all his Rosicrucian writings, is in Latin.
An interesting thing about Fludd is that for his important works he chose continental publishers with occult interests. The Apologia and its follow-up, the Tractatus Apologeticus (Apologetic Treatise for the Integrity of the Society of the Rosy Cross, 1617), were published by Godfrey Basson at Leyden in Holland; and his monumental treatise Utriusque Cosmi Historia (two parts: History of the Macrocosm, 1617-18, and History of the Microcosm, 1619) was published by the firm of De Bry at Oppenheim in the Palatinate.
One of Fludd's opponents was the French monk Marin Mersenne (1588-1648) who, in a published attack on Fludd's whole system (Questiones in Genesim, Paris, 1623) also attacked the Rosicrucians. In this work, Mersenne wrote:
With diligence I wish to admonish the judges, and with earnestness the princes, that they shall not let these monsters of false opinion rage within the sphere of their influence. Rather should they completely eradicate these brothers of hell, these brothers of the Rosicrucians, who on almost every market-day at Frankfort introduce their writings, stinking of godlessness, telling about their false and mysterious Father R.C. and his cave, presenting these before the people of the Christian world. For it is blasphemy they teach, and they make themselves known as the heirs of the magi, whose works they copy, producing little themselves.1
Fludd replied in Summum Bonum by saying that Mersenne was confusing the true Rosicrucians with the imposters who 'deceive people every day with their superstitious magic, affected astrology, false formulae of a sub-chemistry, or their pranks with a deceitful cabala.'2
Fludd then goes on to say that the place or cloister of the fraternity - that is, the House of the Holy Spirit mentioned in the Fama - is not to be understood in literal terms. The House, he says, is a spiritual dwelling resting upon the rock which is Christ. He quotes the Apostle Paul as saying: 'Your habitation was not made by the hands of men, but we have a spiritual building in the heavens, which is the House of Wisdom on the Mount of Reason, built upon the spiritual rock.'3
In the same way, the Rosicrucian brotherhood is a spiritual fraternity. 'If one kingship,' Fludd writes, 'is of the flesh and of man, another is spiritual and divine.'
But Fludd also seems to regard the Rosicrucians as a real brotherhood, for he reproduces a letter which he claims was 'written by the Rosicrucian brothers and sent to a German candidate' and which he had received 'through my friend in Danzig'. The letter itself throws very little light on the brotherhood, merely urging the candidate to lead a spiritual life and strive for perfection.
A point worth making about Fludd is that he may have been a Freemason - there was, it is recorded, a Masons' Hall near his London house in Coleman Street and A.E. Waite poses the question whether Fludd might have been responsible for introducing a Rosicrucian strain into Freemasonry. We have no proof of this, and it is difficult to establish when Freemasonry and Rosicrucianism first came into contact. But it is perhaps significant that the first reference we have linking the two is dated 1638, the year after Fludd's death. It comes in Henry Adamson's Muse's Threnodia, in which occur the lines:
For what we do presage is not in grosse, For we be brethren of the Rosie Cross: We have the Mason's word and second sight, Things for to come we can foretell aright.
There is another possible link between Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry through Andreae's old disciple, the Bohemian refugee Comenius, who dreamed of an enlightened Utopia, similar to the one described by Andreae in Christianopolis, in which science and religion would flourish and in which men of all creeds and races would be respected. Comenius was in England for a time after 1641. Hans Schick says of Comenius: 'We have in him not only the middleman between the father of Rosicrucian thought, J.V. Andreae, and those who stood as godparents at the birth of English Freemasonry, such as Hartlib, Dury and others, but also the bridge from Rosicrucian ideology to organized Freemasonry in general. He received the torch from Andreae and carried it to the British Isles.'4
It must be remembered that Schick, having been commissioned by Heinrich Himmler, was writing to an anti-masonic brief. Nevertheless his book is of a high scholarly standard, and there may be something in his suggestion. He adds: 'Whether Comenius had any personal connection with English Freemasonry is not established, but his friends Hartlib, Dury, Haak, Pell, Seiden and Wren were either in contact with lodges or belonged to them.' Here he is on more shaky ground, and his statement about Comenius's friends is extremely doubtful. Wren, for example, was forty years younger than Comenius and did not take part in the foundation of the Grand Lodge of London until 1717.
Schick also suggests that Comenius and the stream of thought that he represented constituted one of the influences behind the formation of the Royal Society, a line of thought later also followed by Frances Yates. Robert Boyle, one of the most active early members of the Society, refers in a letter to an 'Invisible College' which he sometimes attended and which may have been some sort of precursor to the Royal Society. And John Wilkins, another leading Royal Society man, knew of the Rosicrucian legend and refers to it in his MathematicalL Magick (1648). It seems likely that the Royal Society, founded in 1660, was an attempt to realize in practical terms the Rosicrucian ideals of a brotherhood of learning and enlightenment which would help to usher in the kind of Utopia visualized by Bacon, Andreae, Comenius and others.
The Royal Society was not, however, the first body to make this attempt. A much earlier example was founded in Germany by Joachim Jungius (1587-1657), a mathematician, medical scholar and also an important forerunner of Linnaeus in the creation of scientific botany. Born in Lübeck, Jungius studied medicine at Rostock and Padua and subsequently held chairs of mathematics at Rostock and medicine at Helmstedt. In 1628 he became head of the Gymnasium and Johanneum at Hamburg. He knew Comenius by correspondence and came into contact with members of the Andreae circle while at Rostock in 1618. He was closely enough associated with the Rosicrucian movement for many people, including Leibniz, to believe him to have been the author of the Fama.
In 1622 Jungius founded at Rostock a philosophical society called the Societas ereunetica or zetética, the aims of which were described as follows: 'To seek the truth from reason and experience and to prove it when it has been found; or to free from sophistry all arts and sciences founded on reason and experience, to lead them back to a demonstrable certainty, to propagate them through correct instruction and finally to increase them through happy inventions. '5
This society became a reality, and among its members was Johann Adolph Tassius (1585-1654), a friend of Andreae. It disappeared, however, in the confusion of the Thirty Years' War. Although similar bodies had existed in Italy, the Societas ereunetica can be described as the first scientific academy in northern Europe; and t'he fact that Rosicrucian ideals appear to have been behind it underlines the importance of the Rosicrucian phenomenon as a stimulating force. Although the Societas ereunetica was more of a school that the Royal Society, it nevertheless may have acted as an example to the founders of the latter who must certainly have known about it through Comenius and others.
The Rosicrucian idea can be seen in England in two different streams which often converge. On the one hand is the Utopian stream represented by Comenius which was concerned with social, scientific and philosophical ideals. On the other hand is the Hermetic-Qabalistic-alchemical stream which was more concerned with the occult aspects of Rosicrucianism.
A representative of the second stream is Thomas Vaughan (162266), who was the twin brother of the religious poet, Henry Vaughan and can be considered as the successor to Robert Fludd as the main English Rosicrucian apologist. In 1650, under the name of Eugenius Philalethes, he published Anthroposophia Theomagica, dedicated to the 'regenerated Brethren R.C.' This appears to be the first apologia for the Rosicrucians in the English, as opposed to the Latin, language. Vaughan also published, under the same pseudonym, a translation into English of The Fame and Confession of the Fraternity, with a preface (1652).
An interesting light is thrown on Vaughan's attitude to Rosicrucianism by another work, Lumen de Lumine (1651), in which he writes as though he himself were a Rosicrucian brother. He scorns those people who suppose 'that we will straightway teach them how to make gold by art, or furnish them with ample treasures, whereby they may live pompously in the face of the world.' Vaughan goes on to describe a mountain 'situated in the midst of the earth or centre of the world which is both small and great. It is soft, also above measure hard and strong. It is far off and near at hand, but by providence of God invisible. In it are hidden the most ample treasures, which the world is not able to value.' It is clear that Vaughan is here referring to the mountain that must be climbed in search of spiritual attainment. But in the works of other writers - for example in Geheime Figuren der Rosenkreuzer, which I shall come to in the next chapter - a mountain covered with symbols is used as an allegory of the alchemical process. This indicates that Rosicrucianism and alchemy are to be seen as having an inner and an outer aspect. This again will be discussed more fully in the next chapter.
It is worth mentioning here the literary skirmish between Vaughan and the great Cambridge platonist Henry More (1614-87). More wrote under the name of Alazonomastix Philalethes and objected to Vaughan's use of a similar pseudonym. He attacked Vaughan in Observations upon Anth.roposoph.ia Theomagica (1650), and Vaughan replied with The Man Mouse taken in a trap and tortured to death for gnawing the margins of Eugenius Philalethes (1650). More responded with The Second Lash of Alazonomastix (1651), but Vaughan had the last word with The Second Wash: or, the Moore, scour'd once more (1651). More was, by the way, a friend and correspondent of the German Qabalist, Knorr von Rosenroth.
Vaughan evidently based his translation of the Fama on a manuscript version in the possession of the Scottish Hermetist Sir David Lindsay, Earl of Balcarres (1585-1641), whose home, Edzell Castle in Angus, had a remarkable 'Garden of the Planets', a walled enclosure with carved panels representing the seven planetary deities, the seven liberal arts and the seven cardinal virtues. An article by Adam McLean on this garden and the Lindsay family appeared in The Hermetic Journal (No. 4, Summer 1979). The author writes of Sir David Lindsay: 'He had connections with the Rosicrucians during the early part of the seventeenth century, and there are still preserved manuscript copies in his own hand of his alchemical notebooks, which include a translation of the Fama Fraternitatis, the first Rosicrucian Manifesto. It is interesting that it has now been established that the first printed translation into English of the Fama, in 1652, although ascribed to Thomas Vaughan, is an adaptation of this earlier manuscript translation. Vaughan must have had access to Sir David Lindsay's MS and drew heavily upon it for his translation. Perhaps Sir David's MS was circulated around the alchemical/Rosicrucian adepts during the early decades of the seventeenth century, or could it rather be that people like Vaughan actually visited Edzell during that time?' Of the garden Adam McLean writes:
We can find something woven into its symbolic carvings reflecting the atmosphere which permeates the Rosicrucian document, The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosencreutz, an allegory of initiation, an important part of which is the leading of the hero ot candidate before various sculptures and other ritual items which he has had to contemplate to absorb their significance ... So it is my thesis that the Edzell Garden of the Planets should be seen as an early seventeenth-century Mystery Temple connected with the hermetic revival. A carved plaque over the entrance bears the date 1604 (most likely the year of its foundation), and when one remembers that James VI, who had a great interest in and was a patron of aspects of occultism, became King of the United Kingdom of Scotland and England in 1603, one realises that the building of this Mystery Temple was not taking place in a vacuum, but was part of a general renaissance of interest in hermeticism in the society of that period. Edzell was possibly a place of instruction in hermetic and alchemical philosophy and may have been a centre of Rosicrucian activity.
It would appear from this that Scotland played an important and possibly key role in the early development of Rosicrucianism, and this is an area that would clearly reward further study.
To return to England, another important figure interested in Rosicrucianism was Elias Ashmole (1617-92), antiquary, historian, alchemist and founder of the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford. Ashmole's interest in alchemy led him to put together an important collection of alchemical writings under the title of Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum (1651). In the preface to this work he makes the following direct quotation from the Fama:
And certainly he to whom the whole course of nature lies open rejoiceth not so much that he can make gold and silver or the devils be made subject to him as that he sees the heavens open, the angels of God ascending and descending, and that his own name is fairly written in the Book of Life.
He also mentions the much-quoted story from the Fama that a Rosicrucian brother known as 'J.O.' came to England and 'cured a young Earl of Norfolk of the leprosy'.
Ashmole, in keeping with the Rosicrucian tradition, was interested in the search for the Philosophers' Stone. His diary for 13 May 1653 records that his alchemical teacher, William Backhouse,
'iying sick in Fleetstreete over against St Dunstans Church, & not knowing whether he should live or die, about eleven o'clock, told me in Silables the true matter of the Philosophers' Stone: which he bequeathed me as a Legacy.'6 The editor of the diaries, C.H. Josten, adds in a footnote an interesting possible explanation for the reference to 'Silables': 'There is an anonymous alchemical manuscript in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris (Manuscript Français No. 12335) ... It dates from the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century and contains, at ff. 89v-90, a chapter entitled "Sillabes Chimiqdes". The author of the manuscript explains that certain syllables to be derived from seven hieroglyphic signs, which he placed at the beginning of the chapter, will form "un mot significatif ou un charactère universel", revealing "le veritable nom et charactère de la matière première".' (A significatory word or a universal character revealing the true name and character of the first matter.) Backhouse did not in fact die until 30 May 1662.
Another interesting document is a letter in Ashmole's handwriting among his papers in the Bodleian library. It is in Latin and is addressed to the Brothers of the Rosy Cross asking if the writer may be allowed to join their fraternity. Also in his documents are translations of the Fama and Confessio in his own hand, and elsewhere among his papers is the original from which these translations were copies. Interestingly, it is not the same as the Thomas Vaughan version.
In view of the interest aroused in England by the Rosicrucian question, it is strange that the first translation of the Chemical Wedding was not published until long after the translations of the Fama and Confessio. Its translator was Ezechiel Foxcroft (1633-76), another curious figure, whose short life followed an interesting path. Born in London, the son of a merchant, he went to Eton and then, at sixteen, to King's College, Cambridge, from which he took his B.A. in 1652 and M.A. in 1656. He was a Fellow of King's from 1652-74 and Senior Proctor of the University from 1673-74.
But Foxcroft's interests were not solely those of the cloistered academic. He was among the supporters of an Irish healer named Valentine Greatrakes who came to England in 1666 attracting thousands of people seeking to be cured. Among others who endorsed Greatrakes was the scientist Robert Boyle. We do not know if Greatrakes professed to being a Rosicrucian, but we must remember that healing was a primary function of the supposed brotherhood, and it may have been a Rosicrucian connection that led Foxcroft to support Greatrakes.
Foxcroft was almost certainly a member of the circle that revolved around Anne Finch, Viscountess Conway. Lady Conway was a remarkable woman. A martyr to recurring migraine, she sought relief in the study of esoteric ideas. Her correspondence shows her, as a young woman, writing to her father-in-law and alluding to the 'two pillars' of the 'Craft Legend' (i.e. masonry), 'the one of stone against the inundations of water, the other of brick against the fury of fire'7 - not the usual language of a young seventeenth-century bride. Her brother, John Finch, had been a pupil of the Cambridge Platonist Henry More, and she herself later became friendly with More and encouraged him in the writing of his Qabalistic work Conjectura Cabalística. She was also friendly with More's pupil, Ralph Cudworth and with another member of the More circle, François Mercure van Helmont (1618-99), the alchemist, Qabalist and Paracelcist physician who acted as her doctor.
The Conway home at Ragley, in Warwickshire, became a meeting-place for those interested in Hermetic and related studies: More, Cudworth, Greatrakes, van Heimont and others. Possibly Thomas Vaughan also visited Ragley. Certainly Vaughan and his translations of the Fama and Confessio were well known to the circle, and Rosicrucianism must have been one of the subjects most keenly discussed. Foxcroft's translation of the Chemical Wedding was probably circulated among them in manuscript, but it was not published until 1690, fourteen years after the translator's death.
Turning to the Continent of Europe, we find the Rosicrucian brethren widely defended and attacked, praised and reviled. In the Netherlands the Rosicrucian question was particularly hotly debated. There is a vague report of a Rosicrucian order at the Hague in 1622 which was concerned with alchemy and had been founded by one Christian Rose. The order is said to have had other assemblies at Amsterdam, Erfurt, Nuremberg, Hamburg, Danzig, Mantua and Venice (see C.F. Nicolai, Einige Bemerkungen über den Ursprung und die Geschichte der R.K. und F.M., Berlin and Stettin, 1806).
A more concrete report states that in 1625 the Court of Justice in the Dutch province of Holland sent a number of Rosicrucian books to the theological professors at Leyden, asking for their opinion. The Leyden faculty replied attacking the Rosicrucian tenets in the strongest terms. They recommended that members of the order should be treated as being on the verge of insanity, unless they threatened the inviolability of the Church and the peace of the State, in which case they should be punished more severely.8
This, however, did not deter a self-styled Rosicrucian adept called Peter Mormius from posing as an ambassador of a 'Collegium Rosanium' and from publishing a book entitled Arcana Totius Naturae Secretissima (The Entire Secrets of Nature, Leyden, 1630) which supposedly revealed Rosicrucian secrets. According to Mormius, the order was concerned with nothing but alchemy, the Universal Medicine and the secret of perpetual motion. Mormius claimed to have come into contact in 1620 with a very old man named Rose who was a member of the Golden Rosy Cross which was composed of only three people. Though he would not accept Mormius as a member he took him on as a servant, and thereby Mormius obtained knowledge of the order's secrets. Mormius attempted to approach the States General as a representative of the brotherhood, but was refused - not surprisingly in view of the hostile attitude of the Leyden professors.9 (The reference to the order composed of three people is interesting, since as far as I know this is the first mention of a 'Golden Rosy Cross' instead of just 'Rosy Cross'. Later, as we shall see in a later chapter, the name 'Golden and Rosy Cross' was adopted by a highly active German order.)
Similar hostility was shown to the Rosicrucians in France. According to one of the French anti-Rosicrucian polemicists, Gabriel Naudé (in his Instruction à la France sur la vérité de l'histoire des Frères de la Rose Croix, Paris, 1623), placards appeared in 1623 in the streets of Paris bearing the following announcement:
We, the deputies of our Head College of the Rosy Cross, now sojourning, visible and invisible, in this town, by grace of the Most High, towards Whom the hearts of sages turn, do teach, without the help of books or signs, how to speak the language of every country wherein we elect to stay, in order that we may rescue our fellow men from the error of death.
Naudé regarded this manifesto as a joke, but another, anonymous, author, in a pamphlet entitled Examen sur la nouvelle et inconnue Cabale des Frères de la Croix-Rôzee (Paris, 1623), attacked the movement as a creation of Satan whose purposes included denial of God, blasphemy against the Holy Trinity, Sacrifice to Satan, black magic and frequenting of the Witches' Sabbath.
Even more sensational were the revelations of another anonymous pamphleteer, author of Effroyables Pactions faites entre de Diable et' les prétendues Invisibles (Paris, 1623). According to him, the College of Rosicrucians had made an agreement with a necromancer named Raspuch, and the document had been signed by members with their own blood. This was done in the presence of Astaroth, manifesting as a beautiful youth on behalf of his master, Satan. In return for agreeing to perform various evil and blasphemous acts, the Rosicrucians had the power to become invisible, pass through locked doors, read the most secret thoughts, be carried from place to place at will and speak eloquently in every language. Each member wore a gold and sapphire ring by which he commanded a demon as his personal guide and mentor.
We have already mentioned the Abbé Mersenne's attack. Another churchman who attacked the Rosicrucians was the Jesuit François Garasse in his La Doctrine Curieuse des Beaux Esprits de ce Temps (Paris, 1623). Garasse claimed that the brethren were a secret sect in Germany whose secretary was Michael Maier. In Germany, Garasse remarks, inn-keepers hang roses in their taverns to show that things spoken in drunkenness should be kept secret afterwards. The Rosicrucians, he maintains, are drinkers who publish their secrets only in taverns - hence the use of the symbol. Like the other pamphleteers, Garasse regarded the Rosicrucians as wicked sorcerers.
Not all Frenchmen were hostile to the Rosicrucians. The philosopher Descartes heard of the brotherhood during his travels in Germany and attempted in vain to contact them. He arrived back in France at the height of the Rosicrucian furore and in order to avoid being branded as one of their number he had to make himself visible to his friends instead of pursuing his usual solitary habits and so run the risk of being thought 'invisible'.
As in Germany, the Rosicrucian furore in France was short-lived, and we hear nothing more of the brotherhood there for over a century. Subsequently, however, France became thç centre of a highly active and colourful revival of Rosicrucianism, as we shall see in a later chapter.
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