The Real History of the Rosicrucians, by Arthur Edward Waite, , at sacred-texts.com
THIS celebrated German alchemist was born at Ruidsburg, in Holstein, about the year 1658. In his youth, says the "Biographie Universelle," he applied himself to the study of medicine, and establishing himself at Rostoch, he practised that art with so much success that he became physician to the Emperor Rudolph II., by whom he was ennobled for his services. Some adepts, notwithstanding, succeeded in wiling him from the practical path he had followed so long; il se passionna pour le grand œuvre, and scoured all Germany to hold conferences with those whom he thought to be in possession of transcendent secrets. Another account declares that he sacrificed his health, his fortune, and his time to these "ruinous absurdities." According to Buhle, he travelled extensively, particularly to England, where he made the acquaintance of Robert Fludd. He finished by accepting the post of physician at Magdebourg, where he died in 1622.
Michael Maier is one of the most important and interesting persons connected with the Rosicrucian controversy. He was the first to transplant it into England, "and as he firmly believed in the existence of such a sect, he sought to introduce himself to its notice; but finding this impossible," says Buhle, "he set himself to establish such an order by his own efforts; and in his future writings he
spoke of it as already existing--going so far even as to publish its laws." He was a voluminous and ingenious writer, and, according to Langlet du Fresnoy, all his treatises were excessively rare, even in the eighteenth century. "They contain much curious material," says this writer, "and I am astonished that the German booksellers, who publish innumerable worthless works, have not condescended to perceive that a complete collection of the writings of Michael Maier would be more useful and command a larger sale than the trash with which they overwhelm scholars and the public generally."
This task still remains to be accomplished, and considerations of space will prevent me from even supplying a bibliography of these singular works. The most curious of all is "Atalanta Fugiens," which abounds with quaint and mystical copperplate engravings, emblematically revealing the most unsearchable secrets of Nature. This production, with the "Tripus Aureus," or three tracts of Basil Valentin, Thomas Norton, and Cremer, the Abbot of Westminster, all of which were unearthed by the diligence of Maier, seem to have appeared before he had immersed himself in the insoluble Rosicrucian mystery. The "Silentium Post Clamores," however, published at Francfurt in 1617, professes to account not only for the speech in season uttered by the Fraternity in its priceless manifestoes, but for the silence which followed when it declined even to reply to the pamphlets and epistles of persons seeking initiation. The author asserts that from very ancient times philosophical colleges have existed among various nations for the study of medicine and of natural secrets, and that the discoveries which they made were perpetuated from generation to generation by the initiation of new members,
whence the existence of a similar association at that present time was no subject for astonishment. The philosophical colleges referred to are those of old Egypt, whose priests in reality were alchemists, "seeing that Isis and Osiris are sulphur and argentum vivum"; of the Orphic and Eleusinian mysteries, of the Samothracian Cabiri, the Magi of Persia, the Brachmans of India, the Gymnosophists, Pythagoreans, &c. He maintains that one and all of these were instituted, not for the teaching of exoteric doctrines, but the most arcane mysteries of Nature. Afterwards he argues that if the German Fraternity had existed, as it declares, for so many years, it was better that it should reveal itself, than be concealed for ever under the veil of silence, and that it could not manifest itself otherwise than in the "Fama" and "Confessio Fraternitatis," which contain nothing contrary to reason, nature, experience, or the possibility of things. Moreover, the Order rightly observes that silence which Pythagoras imposed on his disciples, and which alone can preserve the mysteries of existence from the prostitution of the vulgar. The contents of the two manifestoes are declared to be true, and we are further informed that we owe a great debt to the Order for their experimental investigations, and for their discovery of the universal Catholicon. The popular objections preferred against it are disposed of in different chapters, e.g., the charges of necromancy and superstition. The explicit statement of the Society, that all communications addressed to it should not fail to reach their destination, although they were unknown and anonymous, proving apparently false, was a special cause of grievance; those who sought health and those who coveted treasures at their hand were equally disappointed, and, according to Michael Maier, appear to have
been equally enraged. He expostulates with them, saying Non omnis ad omnia omnibus horis paratus est, but his arguments as a whole can hardly be deemed satisfactory. Locorum absentia, personarum distantia, &c., could scarcely prove obstacles to men who were bound by no considerations of space and time, and readers of the inmost heart would have discovered some who were worthy among the host of applicants.
A much larger work, "Symbola Aureæ Mensæ," published in the same year as the "Silentium Post Clamores" also contains some references to the "College of German Philosophers of R. C." The story of the founder is reprinted, and Apollo with the twin muses are represented as contributing various vexatious metrical enigmas for the benefit of those enquirers who desired to be directed to the local habitation of the Order. Neither of these works represents their author as personally connected with the Rosicrucians, nor do they convey any information respecting them. The same must be said of "Themis Aurea, hoc est, De Legibus Fraternitatis R. C. Tractatus," which Maier published at Francfurt in 1618. It maintains that the laws in question are good, dilates upon the pre-eminent dignity of the healing art, declares that all vices are intolerable in physicians, and that the Rosicrucians are free from all. The most curious and important point in the whole "Apologia" is that Maier declares the "Universal Reformation" to have no connection with the manifestoes of the Society, but to be a tract translated from the Italian, and simply bound up with the "Fama." Moreover, he earnestly endeavours to free the Order from the imputation that it desired to reform the world. Reformatio omnium heræsum potius ad Deum, quam hominem spectat, nec a Fratribus affectatur. But whether the Communis
et Generalis Reformatio had any connection with the Rosicrucians, or not, it is evident from the documents about which there is no doubt or question, and particularly from the "Fama Fraternitatis," that they believed a general revolution to be at hand, and that they would be concerned therein.
A posthumous tract of Michael Maier was published in 1624 by one of his personal friends, who explicitly states that he is ignorant whether the departed alchemist, who so warmly and gratuitously defended the cause of the Rosicrucians, was ever received into their number, but that it is certain he was a Brother of the Christian Religion, or a Brother of the Kingdom of Christ. This statement may simply mean that he was a Christian and a man of God, or, on the other hand, it may signify that he was a member of the Christian Fraternity of Andreas. However this may be, two Latin tracts, being translations from the German made by the same friend of Maier, follow the posthumous pamphlet of the alchemist. The first is a colloquy on the Society by personages respectively called Quirinus, Polydorus, Tyrosophus, Promptutus, and Politicus. The second is an "Echo Colloquii" by Benedict Hilarion, who professes to write "Mandato superiorum," to represent the order, and to be himself a Rosicrucian. There are two mottoes on the title page of this work--the one is per augusta ad augusta, the other
The writer refers in a kindly manner to the propagandist labours of Michael Maier, and assures the anonymous but illustrious Tyrosophus that his Rosicrucian apologies were not written in vain, and hints broadly that he was at
length admitted into their Order, which still holds out the promise of initiation to others when the proper time shall have arrived. This publication is singularly free from the sectarian bitterness of the first manifestoes. It recognises that all have erred, including Luther himself, and seems animated by a reasonable and conciliatory spirit. At the end there are published some "Declaratory Canons" of the Order, which define God to be the Eternal Father, incorruptible fire, and everlasting light, discuss the generation of the invisible and incomprehensible Word of God, and the tetradic manifestation of the elements.
In none of these works does the statement of Professor Buhle, concerning the foundation of a Rosicrucian society, and the publication of its laws, receive a particle of corroboration. The other works of Michael Maier are of a purely alchemical nature, save and except some obscure pamphlets which are not in the Library of the British Museum, which I have therefore been unable to consult, and which may contain the information in question; but from my knowledge of Professor Buhle and his romantic methods, I suspect his imagination has been unconsciously at work on some doubtful passages in the writings which have already been noticed, more especially as the personal but anonymous friend who edited Maier's posthumous tract entitled "Ulysses," knew nothing apparently of such a pseudo-association, nor is it likely that the author of the "Echo Colloquii" would hint at his initiation into the genuine order if Maier had instituted a rival society, shining by the borrowed lustre of its name and its symbols.
However this may be, with the death of Michael Maier the Rosicrucians disappear from the literary horizon of Germany till the year 1710, when a writer, calling himself
[paragraph continues] S. R., that is, Sincerus Renatus, otherwise Sigmund Richter, published at Breslau his "Perfect and True Preparation of the Philosophical Stone, according to the Secret of the Brotherhoods of the Golden and Rosy Cross," to which is annexed the "rules of the above-mentioned Order for the initiation of new members" and their enrolment among the Sons of the Doctrine. This extraordinary publication was followed, in 1785-88, by the "Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries," which, though published at Altona, seem to have emanated from the same source. The latter work is also of an alchemical nature, and no information of a historical kind is to be found in either. I shall conclude this account of the results of the Rosicrucian manifestoes in Germany with the
Laws of the Brotherhood, as published by Sincerus Renatus.
It is certain, says Semler, that the long series of regulations enumerated by this writer were not adopted before 1622, for Montanus (Ludov. Conr. von Berger), who was supposed to have been expelled from the Order in that year, was not acquainted with them.
I. The brotherhood shall not consist of more than sixty-three members.
II. The initiation of Catholics shall be allowed, and one member is prohibited to question another about his belief.
III. The ten years’ office of the Rosicrucian imperator shall be abolished, and he shall be elected for life.
IV. The imperator shall keep the address of every member on his list, to enable them to help each other in case of necessity. A list of all names and birthplaces shall likewise be kept. The eldest brother shall always be imperator.
[paragraph continues] Two houses shall be erected at Nurenberg and Ancona for the periodical conventions.
V. If two or three brethren meet together, they shall not be empowered to elect a new member without the permission of the imperator. Any such election shall be void.
VI. The young apprentice or brother shall be obedient unto death to his master.
VII. The brothers shall not eat together except on Sundays, but if they work together they shall be allowed to live, eat, and drink in common.
VIII. It is prohibited for a father to elect his son or brother, unless he shall have proved him well. It is better to elect a stranger so as to prevent the Art becoming hereditary.
IX. Although two or three of the brethren may be gathered together, they shall not permit anyone, whomsoever it may be, to make his profession to the Order unless he shall have previously taken part in the Practice, and has had full experience of all its workings, and has, moreover, an earnest desire to acquire the Art.
X. When one of the brethren intends to make an heir, such an one shall confess in one of the churches built at our expense, and afterwards shall remain about two years as an apprentice. During this probation he shall be made known to the Congregation, and the Imperator shall be informed of his name, country, profession, and origin, to enable him to despatch two or three members at the proper time with his seal to make the apprentice a brother.
XI. When the brethren meet they shall salute each other in the following manner:--The first shall say, Ave Frater! The second shall answer, Roseæ et Aureæ. Whereupon
the first shall conclude with Crucis. After they have thus discovered their position, they shall say one to another, Benedictus Dominus Deus noster qui dedit nobis signum, and shall also uncover their seals, because if the name can be falsified the seal cannot.
XII. It is commanded that every brother shall set to work after he has been accepted in our large houses, and has been endowed with the Stone (he receives always a sufficient portion to ensure his life for the space of sixty years). Before beginning he shall recommend himself to God, pledging himself not to use his secret Art to offend Him, to destroy or corrupt the empire, to become a tyrant through ambition or other causes, but always to appear ignorant, invariably asserting that the existence of such secret arts is only proclaimed by charlatans.
XIII. It is prohibited to make extracts from the secret writings, or to have them printed, without permission from the Congregation; also to sign them with the names or characters of any brother. Likewise, it is prohibited to print anything against the Art.
XIV. The brethren shall only be allowed to discourse of the secret Art in a well-closed room.
XV. It is permitted for one brother to bestow the Stone freely upon another, for it shall not be said that this gift of God can be bought with a price.
XVI. It is not permissible to kneel before any one, under any circumstances, unless that person be a member of the Order.
XVII. The brethren shall neither talk much nor marry. Yet it shall be lawful for a member to take a wife if he very much desire it, but he shall live with her in a philosophical mind. He shall not allow his wife to practise over-much
with the young brethren. With the old members she may be permitted to practise, and he shall value the honour of his children as his own.
XVIII. The brethren shall refrain from stirring up hatred and discord among men. They shall not discourse of the soul, whether in human beings, animals, or plants, nor of any other subject which, however natural to themselves, may appear miraculous to the common understanding. Such discourse can easily lead to their discovery, as occurred at Rome in the year 1620. But if the brethren be alone they may speak of these secret things.
XIX. It is forbidden to give any portion of the Stone to a woman in labour, as she would be brought to bed prematurely.
XX. The Stone shall not be used at the chase.
XXI. No person having the Stone in his possession shall ask a favour of any one.
XXII. It is not allowable to manufacture pearls or other precious stones larger than the natural size.
XXIII. It is forbidden (under penalty of punishment in one of our large houses) that anyone shall make public the sacred and secret matter, or any manipulation, coagulation, or solution thereof.
XXIV. Because it may happen that several brethren are present together in the same town, it is advised, but not commanded, that on Whitsuntideday any brother shall go to that end of the town which is situated towards sunrise and shall hang up a green cross if he be a Rosicrucian, and a red one if he be a brother of the Golden Cross. Afterwards, such a brother shall tarry in the vicinity till sunset, to see if another brother shall come and hang up his cross also, when they shall salute after the usual manner,
make themselves mutually acquainted, and subsequently inform the imperator of their meeting.
XXV. The imperator shall every ten years change his abode, name, and surname. Should he think it needful he may do so at shorter periods, the brethren to be informed with all possible secresy.
XXVI. It is commanded that each brother, after his initiation into the Order, shall change his name and surname, and alter his years with the Stone. Likewise, should he travel from one country to another, he shall change his name to prevent recognition.
XXVII. No brother shall remain longer than ten years out of his own country, and whenever he departs into another he shall give notice of his destination, and of the name he has adopted.
XXVIII. No brother shall begin to work till he has been one year in the town where he is residing, and has made the acquaintance of its inhabitants. He shall have no acquaintance with the professores ignorantes.
XXIX. No brother shall dare to reveal his treasures, either of gold or silver, to any person whomsoever; he shall be particularly careful with members of religious societies, two of our brethren having been lost, anno 1641, thereby. No member of any such society shall be accepted as a brother upon any pretence whatever.
XXX. While working, the brethren shall select persons of years as servants in preference to the young.
XXXI. When the brethren wish to renew themselves, they must, in the first place, travel through another kingdom, and after their renovation is accomplished, must remain absent from their former abode.
XXXII. When brethren dine together, the host, in accordance
with the conditions already laid down, shall endeavour to instruct his guests as much as possible.
XXXIII. The brethren shall assemble in our great houses as frequently as possible, and shall communicate one to another the name and abode of the Imperator.
XXXIV. The brethren in their travels shall have no connection nor conversation with women, but shall choose one or two friends, generally not of the Order.
XXXV. When the brethren intend to leave any place, they shall divulge their destination to no one, neither shall they sell anything which they cannot carry away, but shall direct their landlord to divide it among the poor, if they do not return in six weeks.
XXXVI. A brother who is travelling shall carry nothing in oil, but only in the form of powder of the first projection, which shall be enclosed in a metallic box having a metal stopper.
XXXVII. No brother should carry any written description of the Art about him, but should he do so, it must be written in an enigmatical manner.
XXXVIII. Brethren who travel, or take any active part in the world, shall not eat if invited by any man to his table unless their host has first tasted the food. If this be not possible, they shall take in the morning, before leaving home, one grain of our medicine in the sixth projection, after which they can eat without fear, but both in eating and drinking they shall be moderate.
XXXIX. No brother shall give the Stone in the sixth projection to strangers, but only to sick brethren.
XL. If a brother, who is at work with anyone, be questioned as to his position, he shall say that he is a novice and very ignorant.
XLI. Should a brother desire to work, he shall only employ an apprentice in default of securing the help of a brother, and shall be careful that such an apprentice is not present at all his operations.
XLII. No married man shall be eligible for initiation as a brother, and in case any brother seeks to appoint an heir, he shall choose some one unencumbered by many friends. If he have friends, he must take a special oath to communicate the secrets to none, under penalty of punishment by the imperator.
XLIII. The brethren may take as an apprentice anyone they have chosen for their heir, provided he be ten years old. Let the person make profession. When the permission of the imperator is obtained, whereby anybody is really accepted as a member, he can be constituted heir.
XLIV. It is commanded that a brother who by any accident has been discovered by any prince, shall sooner die than initiate him into the secret; and all the other brethren, including the imperator, shall be obliged to venture their life for his liberation. If, by misfortune, the prince remain obstinate, and the brother dies to preserve the secret, he shall be declared a martyr, a relative shall be received in his place, and a monument with secret inscriptions shall be erected in his honour.
XLV. It is commanded that a new brother can only be received into the Order in one of the churches built at our expense, and in the presence of six brethren. It is necessary to instruct him for three months, and to provide him with all things needful. Afterwards he must receive the sign of Peace, a palm-branch, and three kisses, with the words--"Dear brother, we command you to be silent." After this, he must kneel before the imperator in a special
dress, with an assistant on either side, the one being his magister, and the other a brother. He shall then say I, N. N., swear by the eternal and living God not to make known the secret which has been communicated to me (here he uplifts two fingers 1) to any human being, but to preserve it in concealment under the natural seal all the days of my life; likewise to keep secret all things connected therewith as far as they maybe made known to me; likewise to discover nothing concerning the position of our brotherhood, neither the abode, name, or surname of our imperator, nor to shew the Stone to anyone; all which I promise to preserve eternally in silence, by peril of my life, as God and His Word may help me."
Afterwards his magister cuts seven tufts of hair from his head and seals them up in seven papers, writing on each the name and surname of the new brother, and giving them to the imperator to keep. The next day the brethren proceed to the residence of the new brother, and eat therein without speaking or saluting one another. When they go away, however, they must say, "Frater Aureæ (vel Roseæ) Crucis Deus sit tecum cum perpetuo silentio Deo promisso et nostræ sanctæ congregationi." This is done three days in succession.
XLVI. When these three days are passed, they shall give some gifts to the poor, according to their intention and discretion.
XLVII. It is forbidden to tarry in our houses longer than two months together.
XLVIII. After a certain time the brethren shall be on a more familiar footing with the new brother, and shall instruct him as much as possible.
XLIX. No brother need perform more than three projections while he stays in our large house, because there are certain operations which belong to the magisters.
L. The brethren shall be called, in their conversation with each other, by the name they received at their reception.
LI. In presence of strangers they shall be called by their ordinary names.
LII. The new brother shall invariably receive the name of the brother then last deceased; and all the brethren shall be obedient to these rules when they have been accepted by the Order, and have taken the oath of fidelity in the name of the Lord Jesus Christus.
281:1 See "The Mysteries of Magic," pp. 324, 325.