The Invisible College

Evidence for the Invisible College is far easier to come by. The first mention of an ‘invisible college’ can debatably be traced back to the 1620s. The Rosicrucian literature The History of the Frightful Compacts Entered Into Between The Devil and The Pretended Invisibles included a reference in the title. At the same time, Shakespeare’s close friend Ben Jonson referred to it in a masque a year later, titled The Fortunate Isles and their Union.

Whether or not these Rosicrucian references are relevant to the 1640s society involving Robert Boyle is another matter. In three letters between 1646 and the following year, Boyle draws explicitly his reader’s attention to ‘our invisible college’ or ‘philosophical college’, the aim of which was apparently knowledge-based. Of the letters, the one addressed to the enigmatic Samuel Hartlib is perhaps of most interest, not least as Hartlib’s own circle was renowned for its alchemical pursuits. Bearing this in mind, the creation of the Invisible College as something of a development of Hartlib’s increasing circle seems highly plausible. While it’s unlikely that the evolution of this group directly led to the formation of the Royal Society, Boyle’s influence as a founder member was undoubtedly significant.

All mentions of the Royal Society in both The Rosicrucian Prophecy and The Excalibur Code I’ve attempted to be accurate. It’s less clear whether the Invisible College and the Rosicrucians could have been one and the same.