The Rosicrucians

Sir Francis Bacon

Reputedly a Rosicrucian grandmaster, Sir Francis Bacon was one of the most prominent statesmen of the Elizabethan and Jacobean age. Famed for his talents as a philosopher, jurist, orator, writer, scientist and legal mind, he would serve as both attorney general and Lord Chancellor.

Much of that mentioned in The Rosicrucian Prophecy about Bacon has some basis in fact. Though by no means an open advocate of the occult or astrology, Bacon’s theories often compared with those of Dee. Having witnessed the demise of Dee’s career, not least his being seen as a conjurer, it can’t be ruled out Bacon’s interests stemmed deeper, only having the good sense to avoid being caught up in any dubious activities publicly.

Further to his contributions to scientific method – in later years Bacon was even dubbed the ‘Father of Empiricism’ – it has often been suggested Bacon could have been the author of the first two Rosicrucian manifestos. Despite a likely, in some cases definite, interest in the subject matter, there is no proof of this. That the manifestos were published in Germany and written in the same language makes this further unlikely. Undoubtedly Bacon was known to own both a scriptorium and a printing press, neither of which were common in Europe and which would have been of notable use to the Rosicrucians.

Better evidence concerns Bacon’s recorded writings, notably his famed work New Atlantis, which was published a year after his death. There has been speculation that Bacon was still alive at the time and his ‘death’ was a political move. Intriguingly, his body has never been found, and his tomb is ceremonial.

Irrespective of Bacon’s exact end, New Atlantis was released in 1627. In it, he explored the future of humanity, not least the discovery/creation of a utopian land in the Pacific Ocean whose people lived according to Rosicrucian ideals. Whether or not that can be considered proof Bacon was an actual Rosicrucian is less conclusive. As discussed by Dame Frances Yates, Bacon’s views on the advancement of learning can be regarded as in unity with the German Rosicrucian movement without a necessary overlap.

Other mentions of Bacon in the novel are on a more secure footing. Bacon is known to have entertained guests at his York House in London and was well known to many of the key players. The painting mentioned in the novel of a character, believed to be Dee, passing a lamp to another man, believed to be Bacon, does exist as a woodcut. Whether or not the event happened, physically or allegorically, is unclear.

Irrespective of the existence of the Rosicrucians, the suggestion that Bacon was a member, and closely affiliated with alleged members, of some form of clandestine organisation can be found.