The Rosicrucians


That the manifestos could present a path to a genuine society has inevitably proven a hot topic. Convoluting the matter further, debate concerning their existence isn’t necessarily restricted to the 1610s and ’20s. In common again with the Templars, modern-day Rosicrucian organisations are ten a penny, the majority based in the USA and dating from the early 1900s. That these modern organisations possess a clear connection to the authors of the original manifestos is highly doubtful. Like many a good tale, the founders tend to begin their story with a visit to Europe, and a heart-pounding initiation in a windswept castle under the watch of hooded onlookers.

That a society concerned with the preservation of ancient knowledge, dedicated to scientific advancement and in favour of bringing an end to over a century of religious turmoil could have existed is more possible. The content of the manifestos can be argued as being somewhat reflective of the circumstances of the time – notably, the ongoing arm wrestle between reformers and counter reformers – and mass circulation of the manifestos was helped in no small part by the development of the printing press. The secretive nature of the subject matter also raises an eyebrow. Irrespective of any organisation’s exact purpose, it is a human trait that knowledge is invariably closely guarded when sensitive, rare or new. If indeed a real society did exist, intent on bringing about widespread reformation and engaging in activities the religious authorities would find dubious, such as angel communicating, the need for secrecy would surely have been of great importance.

A key feature was the society’s links/fascination with the natural or forbidden sciences. That links exist between the Rosicrucians and astrology, ESP and the occult is another theme that has cropped up time and again throughout the centuries. ‘Mysteries schools’, like the one in Augustus’s monastery, are known to exist throughout the world and have often been claimed to be of Rosicrucian connection. A similar story is true of the Thule Society, whose role in the evolution of the Nazi Party in 1920s Germany is well known. Though the Thule Society dissolved before the Second World War, they were influential in the choosing and designing of the swastika. Whether the Vril Society ever existed is another matter.

Exactly who authored the manifestos has also been the subject of extended, and at times hostile, debate. Of the Fama and Confessio, the similar styles and common point of origin gives credence to the suggestion the same person or people were behind them. The name inked on one of the two 1615 editions of the Confessio, which was preceded by a ‘brief consideration’, is one Philippus á Gabella – perhaps meaning Philip the Cabalist – which was almost certainly a nom de plume. Over the years many candidates have been put forward, ranging from the German lawyer and physician Tobias Hess to English statesmen John Dee and Sir Francis Bacon. None so far have been proven.

Of The Chymical Wedding, the evidence is more persuasive. Though a mystery at the time, claim of authorship was later put forward by the German Johannes Valentinus Andreae – himself a contemporary of Hess – who stated he had written it as a form of satire. It has since been speculated Andreae and Hess were mostly responsible for the Fama and Confessio; however, they pressed no claim during their lifetimes. Incidentally, Andreae was behind the parody mentioned in this novel, which now begs the question: Was Andreae telling the truth, which makes the society a definite fake? Was he telling the truth but as a diversion to ensure the society’s members remained a mystery? Or was the author someone else altogether?

Regardless of the answer, one thing known for sure is the uniqueness of the prose, coupled with the development of the printing press, ensured the Rosicrucians would never die. In doing so, Andreae’s own words perhaps serve as a cautionary tale.

What starts as a joke can end as a religion.