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etwas gelesen &c.*—that is, a Letter or Instructions, to all who have read of the new Brotherhood of the Order of the Rosy-Cross; or who have, &c.
Abandoning this design, if they ever entertained it, they attempted to prove, what was scarcely less difficult, that their religious philosophy had existed from the earliest periods. The most modest, or at least the most prudent, of them in efforts of this kind was the physician, Michael Maier, who contended that Adam understood all the mysteries of air and earth, as also his own anatomy, both internal and external,† leaving it to be inferred that alchemy also was amongst his acquirements. Next to Adam in knowledge was Solomon, whom the doctor supposes to have discussed Rosicrucian mysteries with queen Saba, and Hiram the Tyrian; and, following up this idea, he brings forward the whole party in learned converse, mutually propounding and expounding upwards of three hundred philosophic enigmas. The nature of this high colloquy may be imagined from one or two instances,"Quid de tincturâ volatili statuis? an ea figi possit?" what do you determine of the volatile tincture? can it be fixed? "Cur animam lapidis vocas unguentum?" why
* This little tract forms part of the Fama, or more correctly speaking, is appended to it, and therefore the society, supposing it to exist at all, was new in 1617.
+"Item aeris meteora, terræ fossilia, vegetabilia, animalia, et denique seipsum, hoc est hominis membrorum et viscerum, nomina et proprietates optime novit." Septimana Philosophica, Authore Mich. Maiero. Francofurti, 1620, 4to.-Præfatio." Also he well knew the meteors of the air, the fossils, vegetables, and animals, of the earth, and lastly himself; that is to say, the names and properties of the limbs and internal parts of man." There is something exceedingly original and striking in the notion of Adam's being so well acquainted with his own inside, and that too before he had eaten of the tree of knowledge. After this, one finds no difficulty in believing he was an alchemist-or indeed any thing that the learned doctor pleases.
do you call the soul of a stone an ointment?" Quis est pater lapidis, et quis avus? who is the father, and who is the grandfather of the stone, &c. &c. the answers to these, and the like, propositions being to the full as amusing and instructive as the propositions themselves. The whole is yet farther illustrated by an engraved border to the title page, showing Solomon on his throne, the lady at his right hand, and the builder at his left, while Rosicrucians, or sages of some sort, are seated around at their writing-desks, busy, as it seems, in noting down so valuable a conversation.
But while the Rosicrucians strove hard to prove that their secret knowledge was derived from Adam, or at least from Solomon, and that their sect had existed from all times, though under other names, they yet seemed for a long while after the appearance of the FAMA to abandon the idea of a Rosicrucian lodge, or as they called it, College. They were, according to their own account, a set of men, having the same object, and often, but not necessarily, in communication with each other; and even while they promulgated a code of laws, by which they professed to be governed, they were still fain to allow that they had no general home or place of meeting. This is distinctly admitted by Schweighart,* and
"Wiss demnach Kunst-und-Gott-liebende Brüder, dass ob woll, laut Ausschriebens der Brüder die incorporirte Versamblung aller Rosen-Creutze noch der zeit an einem gewissen Ort nicht angestelt, ein treuherziger, frommer, und auffrichtiger Mensch dennoch leichtlich, und ohne grosse muhe, mit dergleichen fratre kan zu red kommen." Speculum Sophicum, &c., Schweighardt, p. 7. "Know then artand-God-loving brethren, that although according to the manifestos of the Brothers the incorporated assembly of all Rosicrucians has not hitherto been appointed for any fixed place, still a true-hearted, pious, and upright man may easily, and without much trouble, come to speech of one of them." Now here, it must be allowed, there is
the same thing appears constantly in the writings of Maier and the other Paracelsists, who, as they could nowhere find the brotherhood announced by the fictitious Father Christian, gladly accepted the name of Rosicrucians, and endeavoured to form a society for themselves upon his model. To this they were the more easily led by the exact similarity of their views, as indeed it could not well be otherwise when the author of the FAMA had done little more than give a locality with a few fanciful adjuncts to the well-known doctrines and pretensions of the alchemists.
Having thus provided themselves with a home, although it must be reckoned amongst the chateaux en Espagne, it was natural enough that the Paracelsists, or Rosicrucians, as we must now call them, should set about furnishing it, and with articles of the same fanciful nature. To drop all metaphor upon a subject, of itself sufficiently unintelligible, the Rosicrucian writers in their accounts of the brotherhood did not fail to eke out their imperfect hints of a hidden art or science with a variety of symbols, a practice which had long been familiar to them as alchemists, and which was in all probability
the distinct assertion of a body, but a body that had no place of meeting seems like none at all. Setting this, however, aside, it clearly shows the non-existence of any Rosicrucian lodge or college.
* Michael Maier was a native of Rendsberg in Holstein, a physician by profession, and like so many other medical men of the 17th century, devoted to alchemy, theosophy, and the mysteries of the Cabala. Möller (Cimbria Literata, vol. i. p. 377) says, he was also a poet, a philologist, and in chemistry one of the greatest men of his age." Medicus fuit planè eximius, philologusque, et poeta haud vulgaris, chymicus autem coœvis fere omnibus superior." In addition to all these accomplishments, if we may believe the same authority, he possessed the secret of the philosopher's stone. He died at Magdeburg in 1622.
borrowed by them from the Egyptian custom * of veiling their religious mysteries under hieroglyphics. "Omne ignotum pro magnifico" is a maxim that was acted upon by most people long before it was enuntiated by Tacitus; but there can be little doubt that the Rosicrucians deceived themselves to a certain extent as well as others, so much more easily are men led away by sensible signs than by abstract principles.
It would be tedious, and quite unnecessary for the present púrpose, to enter into all the Rosicrucian symbols. The principal, and those which alone we shall have occasion to refer to, were the globe, the circle, the compasses, the square, the triangle, the level, and the plummet. In the Atalanta Fugiens of Maier, (Emblem xxi.) we find the most of them. A sage is employed in the manufacture of the philosopher's stone, as may be
* But this love of the mysterious was not the only cause that led to the use of symbols. Men are for the most part unable, or at least unwilling, to entertain abstract ideas, and they must have things presented in a visible and tangible form before it has any existence for them. Hence in all times has arisen the popular tendency to multiply the ONE into many by giving form and substance to his attributes; and thus the worship of the Godhead, which was in all probability common to most nations, has in so many instances degenerated into polytheism. Amongst the Jews there was a constant struggle between this natural weakness and the ordinances of pure theism; they were for ever lapsing into idol-worship in spite of the most terrible denunciations, and the same feeling has led the Catholies on so many occasions to adopt under another form so much of the pagan principle; where the one deified human beings, the others elevated them to Saints and martyrs and implored their intercession. Nor is it just to visit this with any degree of harshness upon the latter. It is scarcely possible to maintain the pure and abstract idea of the Deity in the minds of uneducated men; so that one of two things seems to be inevitable; they must either have something tangible presented to their senses, or they become the wildest visionaries and fanatics, with a belief as incomprehensible to themselves as it is to others.
learnt from the two-fold inscription-Latin and German —at the top of the page.* Indeed without some such help it would hardly have been possible to guess what was intended by the engraving. Within a small circle stand a man and woman in the primitive costume of Paradise, just born as we may suppose by some magic process, and intended to symbolize the first step of the experiment. About this couple is a square, enclosed in a triangle, and about the triangle again is a second circle, which the sage is carefully measuring with a pair of Brobdinagian compasses, if the relative proportions of the objects around are to go for any thing. Upon the floor are scattered the other emblems of his occupation.
Thus far we have seen Rosicrucians, but no traces whatever of a Rosicrucian lodge or college. Buhle however positively asserts † that, though such a thing was a mere fable in Germany, it became a positive fact,—that is to say, did really exist,-in England. But of this he offers no proof whatever, and an assertion of such a kind is hardly to be taken without some sort of proof, either negative or affirmative. I can find no traces of it. The thing that comes nearest to it is the "Astrologer's Feast," the existence of which is proved by a passage in Ashmole's Diary, August 8th. "I being at the Astrologer's Feast was chosen steward for the next year.” ‡
* "Fac ex mare et fæminâ circulum, inde quadrangulum, hinc triangulum, fac circulum, et habebis lap. Philosophorum."—i.e. "Make of man and woman a circle; thence, a square; thence a triangle; form a circle; and you have the Philosopher's Stone." Nothing on earth can be more easy than the complying with these conditions, which of course are to be considered as the emblems merely of something unexpressed. Not belonging to the Brotherhood we are unable to interpret these high matters.
+ Buhle," Ueber den Ursprung der R. C. und Freimaurer," p. 244. Life of Elias Ashmole, p. 310. 8vo. London, 1774.