The Rosicrucians

Christian Rosenkreutz

Firmly at the centre of the Rosicrucian legend is their mythical founder. Named for the first time in the third manifesto, The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz, the same character has understandably been identified with Frater CRC from the Fama.

Born in 1378, Rosenkreutz was allegedly a monk and physician who travelled throughout the Middle East, becoming an expert on the kabbalah and other aspects of esoteric wisdom. Aged just five, so the Fama tells, he entered monastic life to be educated in Latin and Greek before leaving with one Brother PAL and journeying to the Holy Land. While PAL died in Cyprus, CRC proceeded to Damascus, where he met some wise men from Arabia, who were impressed by his knowledge of medicine. Aged sixteen he entered Damcar in modern Yemen, and it is there he began to translate the mysterious Book M into Latin before heading for Egypt and subsequently Fez. Incidentally, Yemen was almost certainly the real-life home of the Queen of Sheba, which offers a direct connection to Solomon and potentially Enoch.

It was in Fez CRC became acquainted with the mysteries of the four elements. Boosted by his knowledge of the old ways, the German mystic departed for Spain, where he was shocked to discover his teachings fell mainly on deaf ears. Lamenting the European ways, he returned to Germany with dreams of a society of Europe. Without the financial clout, he instead made do with the founding of his brotherhood, whom he sent out to cure the sick free of charge, a feat more than a little reminiscent of Christ’s apostles. According to the Fama, he also predicted the discovery of his own tomb, which supposedly occurred precisely 120 years after his death.

The very year of Kepler’s supernova.

Fascinating though the story of Rosenkreutz is, evidence that he was a real-life figure is non-existent. Taking the manifestos at face value and accepting he lived for 106 years is difficult enough without stories of his tomb being discovered in perfect condition and at the very moment CRC had predicted. His name itself, literally speaking, means Christ Rose Cross.

Tempting though it is to search for a historical mystic, far more likely is the suggestion his story was intended as some form of allegory. The years 1378 to 1484, as mentioned in the novel, were of great importance to the line of Welsh princes, not least the resumption of their rule with the emergence of Henry Tudor, later Henry VII. The Great Schism of the Western Church also occurred in 1378, whereas 1484 was important for a number of reasons. Intriguingly, in Florence, philosophers Giovanni Pico Della Mirandola and Marsilio Ficino were eagerly attempting to push the importance of Hermes.

In the context of any Rosicrucian society, Rosenkreutz’s life is arguably of limited relevance. True, the character’s mystique may have furthered the movement’s appeal by giving them an intriguing ancient footing, but it’s as a protagonist in the Chymical Wedding Rosenkreutz serves his real purpose. As an ideal, whose story was told at a time of religious complexity, his tale represents the quest for spiritual perfection.

Incidentally, it would be a journey taken up by another of the characters central to my novel.