Rosicrucians and Freemasonry
By Bro. John G. Keplinger, Illinois
There is, perhaps, no more interesting theory of the origin of Freemasonry than that given by DeQuincey, in his essay on "Rosicrucians and Freemasons." This account is an expansion of a Latin dissertation prepared by Prof. J. G. Buhle, logic professor in a great German university and read by him before the Gottingen Philosophical Society in the year 1803.
In this paper Prof. Buhle endeavors to do two things: First--to show that the Rosicrucian cult was the miscarriage of a projected secret society by means of which a young Lutheran theologian hoped to correct the flagrant evils of his time, and--
Second--that Freemasonry was an outgrowth of Rosicrucianism. I will briefly review the essay and leave it for you to decide whether or not DeQuincey and the professor establish their case.
Towards the close of the sixteenth century the evils of Germany were said to be enormous and the necessity for some great reform was universally admitted. That the desire to institute such a reform was in the mind of at least one writer of the period is evident from three books of fiction which he produced and published in or about the year 1610.
The first of these books is worthy of notice because it serves as an introduction to the others. This book, entitled "Universal Reformation of the Whole Wide World," is a tale of no inconsiderable wit and humor. According to it the Seven Wise Men of Greece, together with M. Cato and Seneca, were summoned to Delphi by Apollo to deliberate on the best way of redressing human misery.
All sorts of strange schemes were proposed by these wise men. Thales advised that a hole be cut in every man's breast, and a little window placed in it so that vice and hypocrisy in the heart could be detected and extinguished. Solon proposed an equal partition of all possessions and wealth. Chilo thought the best way to the end in view was to banish from the world those two infamous and rascally metals--gold and silver.
Kleobulus came forward as the apologist of gold and silver. He thought that if the use of iron was prohibited wars would be discontinued among men. Pittacus insisted on the passing of more rigorous laws which would make virtue and merit the sole passports to honor. Periander objected to the suggestion of Pittacus because he thought there never had been a scarcity of such laws, nor of princes to execute them, but scarcity enough of subjects conformable to good laws.
Bias thought that the nations should be kept apart. To confine each to its own territory he advocated that bridges be demolished, mountains rendered insurmountable and navigation totally forbidden.
Cato, said to be the wisest of the party, wished that God, in his mercy, would wash all women from the earth by another deluge and at the same time introduce a new arrangement for the continuance of the excellent male sex without female help.
The whole assembly, however, deemed this proposal so abominable that they unanimously prostrated themselves on the ground and besought God that he would graciously vouchsafe to preserve the lovely race of women and save the world from a second deluge.
After a long debate the counsel of Seneca prevailed. His proposal was "that out of all ranks a society should be composed which would have for its object the general welfare of mankind and that this object should be pursued in secret."
In the second book the writer took advantage of the fact that Cabbalism, Theosophy and Alchemy had overspread the whole of Western Europe and hinged his plot on the tenets of these cults. The title of this book was "Fama Fraternitatis of the meritorius order of the Rosy Cross, addressed to the learned in general, and the governors of Europe." Its object was to correct the evils of the time by giving an account of a society such as Seneca proposed as if it were already established. By the publication of this book the author hoped to draw about him a body of enlightened and forward looking men who would co-operate with him in his plans to elevate the moral order of mankind.
According to this book, Christian Rosycross, a man of noble descent, and living two centuries before this time, had traveled extensively in the East and Africa. There he had learned great mysteries from the Arabians and Chaldeans. Upon his return to Germany he founded a secret society whose headquarters were in a building called the House of The Holy Ghost.
This building was erected by Rosycross but its location was a mystery to all but members of the order. Here, under a vow of secrecy, Rosycross communicated his mysteries to his followers and then sent them forth into the world.
Their mission can be gathered from a few rules of the order: The members were to cure the sick without fee or reward. None was to wear a peculiar habit but was to dress after the fashion of the country in which he lived or traveled. On a certain day in every year all the brethren were to assemble in the House of The Holy Ghost or to account for their absence. The word "Rosycross" was to be their seal, watchword and characteristic mark. The association was to be kept unrevealed for a hundred years. To perpetuate it during this time each member, at his death, was to select some individual with proper qualifications to be his successor in the order.
Christian Rosycross died at the age of one hundred and six years and, while his death was known to the society, the location of his grave was unknown to the members. One hundred and twenty years after the death-of Rosycross the brethren discovered a secret door in the House of The Holy Ghost upon which was this inscription: "One hundred and twenty years hence I shall open." Opening the door they found it to be the entrance to a sepulchral vault which was illuminated by an artificial sun. This vault was in the shape of a heptagon and every side was five feet broad and eight feet high. In the center was a circular altar on which was an engraved brass plate with this inscription: "This grave, an abstract of the whole world, I made for myself while yet living." About the margin of the plate an inscription read, "To me Jesus is all in all." In the center of the altar were four figures enclosed in a circle by this revolving legend: "The empty yoke of the law is made void. The liberty of the gospel. The unsullied glory of God."
Having observed these things with wonder the brethren next discovered that each of the seven sides of the vault had a door opening into a chest. In this chest they found secret books of the order and, chief among them, the Vocabularium of Paracelsus. In addition they found an assortment of mirrors, lamps, little bells and marvelous musical mechanisms, all so arranged that even after the lapse of many centuries the whole order could be re-established even though all the members had perished.
Under the altar the brethren found the body of Rosycross. It was without taint or corruption. In the right hand he held a vellum book inscribed with letters of gold. This book the brethren called T, and after the Bible it became the most precious jewel of the society. In two separate circles near the end of the book were found the names of the eight initiates who had been the immediate followers of Rosycross. Then follows a declaration of the principles of the order which was addressed to the society of the whole world. According to this declaration the followers of Rosycross professed to be of the Protestant faith--that they honored the emperor and observed the laws of the empire--and that the art of gold making was but a slight object with them. The whole declaration ended with these words: "Our House of The Holy Ghost, though a hundred thousand men should have looked upon it, is yet destined to remain untouched, imperturbable, out of sight and unrevealed to the godless world forever."
The third book appeared in Latin and contained general explanations upon the object and spirit of the order of Rosycross. It explained that the order had different degrees; that not only princes, men of rank, rich men and learned men, but also mean and inconsiderable persons were admitted to its communion provided they had pure and disinterested motives and were able and willing to exert themselves for the ends of the institution. It was claimed that the order had a peculiar language; that it possessed more gold and silver than the whole world but that it was not this but rather true philosophy which was the object of their labors.
Who was the author of these books ?
Although there has been considerable discussion pro and con on this subject, both DeQuincey and Prof. Buhle maintain that he was none other than John Valentine Andrea, a celebrated theologian of Wutemberg and known as a satirist and a poet. Andrea was born at Herrenberg in 1586. His grandfather was the Chancellor Jacob Andrea who was celebrated for his services to the church of Wurtemberg. Andrea's father was the Abbot of Konigsbronn and from him he received an excellent education. Besides, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, Italian and Spanish, Andrea was well versed in mathematics, natural and civil history, geography and historical genealogy without in the least neglecting his professional study of divinity.
Very early in life he seems to have had a deep sense of the evils and abuses of his time--not so much in the realm of politics as in the realms of philosophy, morals and religion. These, we learn from manuscripts found among his papers, he sought to correct by means of societies acting in secret.
DeQuincey made a close review of his life and opinions of Andrea and as a result of it writes: "I am not only satisfied that Andrea wrote the three works which laid the foundation of Rosicrucianism, but I clearly see why he wrote them." This he ascribes to the great evils existing in Germany and to Andrea's overwhelming desire to redress them.
As a young man without experience Andrea imagined that this would be easy of accomplishment. Had he not the example of Luther before him and was not a similar effort necessary in the existing generation? It was to the mind of Andrea and to organize these efforts and direct them to the proper object he projected a society composed of the noble, the intellectual, the enlightened and the learned--which he hoped to see moving as under the influence of one soul towards the end he had in view. Young as he was, Andrea knew that men of various tempers and characters could be brought to co-operate steadily for an object so purely disinterested as the elevation of human nature. In an age, then, of Theosophy, Cabbalism and Alchemy he knew the popular ear would be quickly caught by an account, issuing nobody knew whence, of a secret society which professed to be a depositary of Oriental mysteries and to have lasted two centuries. Many, naturally, would seek to connect themselves with such a society and from these he hoped he might gradually select the members of the real society which he had in mind. The pretensions of the society as projected were indeed illusions; but, he hoped that before these were detected as such by the proselytes, they would become connected with himself and be moulded to his nobler aspirations. On this view of Andrea's real intentions, we understand his contradictory statements regarding astrology and the transmutation of metals.
From his satirical works we see that he looked through the follies of his age with a penetrating eye--that he tolerated these follies as an exoteric concession to the age in which he lived while he condemned them in his own esoteric character of a religious philosopher. Wishing to conciliate prejudices he does not forbear to bait his scheme with these delusions; but in doing so he was careful to let us know that they were mere collateral pursuits with his society--the direct and main one being true philosophy and religion.
That Andrea was the formulator of the foregoing ideas and the producer of the three books, DeQuincey conclusively proves to himself by the further fact that, "The armorial bearings of Andrea's family were a St. Andrew's cross and four roses. By the order of Rosy Cross, Andrea therefore, means an order founded by himself."
DeQuincey, in a foot-note, refers to Bishop Myles Coverdale's translation of the third "boke of the Kynges," the eighth chapter, part of section C and all of D, which I quote in full.
"And Kynge Salomon sent to fetch one Hiram of Tyre a wedowes sonne, of the trybe of Nephtali, and his father had bene a man of Tyre, which was a connynge man in metall, full of wyszdome, vnderstondinge and knowledge to worke all manner of metall worke. When he came to Kynge Salomon, he made all his worke, and made two brasen pilers, ether of them eightene cubites hye; and a threde of xij cubites was the measure aboute both of ye pilers; and he made two knoppes of brasse molten, to set above vpon the pilers: and every knoppe was fyve cubytes hye; and on every knoppe above vpon ye pilers seue wrythen ropes like cheynes. And vpon every knoppe he made two rowes of pomgranates rounde aboute on one rope, wherwith ye knoppe was covered. And the knoppes were like roses before ye porche foure cubites greate. And the pomgranates in the rowes rounde aboute were two hudreth aboue and beneth vpon the rope, which wete rounde aboute the thickness of the knoppe, on euery knoppe vpon both the pilers. And set vp the pilers before the porche of the temple. And that which he set on the right hande, called he Iachin: and that which he set on the lefte hande, called he Boos. And so stode it aboue vpon the pilers euen like roses. Thus was the worke of ye pilers fynished."
A comparison of this translation with part of our Fellow Craft lecture should prove interesting.
The sensation which was produced throughout Germany by the works in question is not only evidenced by the repeated editions of them which appeared between 1614 and 1617, but still more by the prodigious commotion which followed in the literary world. In the library at Gottingen there is a collection of letters written between these dates and addressed to the imaginary order of Father Rosycross by persons offering themselves as members. These letters are filled with complimentary expressions of the highest respect and are all printed--the writers alleging that, being unacquainted with the address of the society, they could not send them through any other than the public channel.
Other literary persons forebore to write letters to the society but threw out small pamphlets containing their opinions of the order and its place of residence. Each successive writer pretended to be better informed on that point than all his predecessors. Quarrels arose; partisans started up on all sides; the uproar and confusion became indescribable; cries of heresy and atheism resounded from every side; some were calling for the secular power; and the more coyly the invisible society retreated from the public advances, so much the more eager and amorous were its admirers--and so much the more bloodthirsty its antagonists.
Meantime there were some who, from the beginning, had escaped the general delusion, and there were many who had gradually recovered from it. It was also generally observed, that of the many printed letters to the society, none had been answered, and all attempts to penetrate the darkness in which the order was shrouded by its unknown memorialist were successfully baffled. Naturally a suspicion arose that some bad designs lurked under the ostensible purposes of these mysterious publications. These suspicions were strengthened by the many impostors who arose and advertised themselves as Rosicrucians.
Upon the credit which they obtained by their pretended knowledge of Alchemy they cheated great numbers of their money and others of their health by panaceas. Three, in particular, made a great noise at Wetzlar, at Nuremberg and at Augsburg. All were punished by the magistracy, one lost his ears in running the gantlet and one was hanged.
At this crisis a powerful writer came forward and attacked the supposed order with much scorn and homely good sense. This man was Andrew Libau. He exposed the impracticability of the meditated reformation, the incredibility of the legend of Father Rosycross, and the hollowness of the pretended science which they professed. These writings might have led to the suppression of the Rosicrucian books and pretensions; but this termination of the mania was defeated by two circumstances: The first was the conduct of the Paracelsists who, after vainly trying to press into the order, proclaimed themselves the Rosicrucians. This distracted the public and the uproar became greater than ever. The other circumstance was the conduct of Andrea and his friends.
It is clear that Andrea enjoyed the confusion until he became sensible that he had called up an apparition he could not lay. Well knowing that in all the great crowd of aspirants, who were clamorously knocking for admittance into the airy college of Father Rosycross-- though one and all pretended to be enamoured of that - mystic wisdom he had promised, yet by far the majority were enamoured of that gold he had hinted at-- it is evident that his satirical propensities were violently tickled. He, therefore, kept up the hubbub of delusion by flinging out a couple of pamphlets amongst the hungry crowd, which he thought ten(led to amuse them.
But in a few years Andrea was shocked to find that the further delusion had taken root in the public mind.
There were other writers, too, who wrote with a sincere design to countenance the notion of a pretended Rosicrucian society. Of these there were four notables, namely: Julianas a Campis, Julius Sperber, Radlich Brotoffer and most important of all--Michael Maier. It was Maier who first transplanted Rosicrucianism into England, where its effects were more lasting than in Germany. This man was an extensive traveler and on his return to Germany became acquainted with the fierce controversy on the Rosicrucian sect. Unable to introduce himself into the society he set himself to establish such an order by his own efforts and to do so published a work in which DeQuincey claims to find the first traces of Freemasonry. In the same year Maier published another book written by Robert Fludd, a friend living in England. These books convinced Andrea that his romance had succeeded in a way which he had never designed. The public had accredited the charlatanerie of his books, but gave no welcome to that for the sake of which the charlatanerie was adopted as a vehicle. The alchemy had been approved, the moral and religious scheme slighted. And societies were forming even amongst the learned upon the basis of all that was false in the system to the exclusion of all that was true. This was a spectacle which he could no longer view in the light of a joke. The folly was becoming too serious and Andrea set himself to counteract it with all his powers.
For this purpose he published his Chemical Nuptials of Christian Rosycross. This was a comic romance of extraordinary talent in which the Paracelsists were invested with cap and bells. Unfortunately for the purpose of Andrea this romance, too, was swallowed by the public as a true and serious history. Upon this he published a series of satirical dialogues in which he more openly unveiled his true design. In this his efforts were seconded by those of his friends, especially Irenaeus, Agnostus and John Val. Alberti under the name of Menapius.
Soon after this a learned foreigner placed the Rosicrucians in a still more ludicrous light by showing that the first of the Rosicrucian books (the Universal Reformation) was nothing more than a literal translation, word for word, of the Parnasso of Boccalini. As a result of this ridicule and satire, no regular lodge of Rosicrucians was ever believed to have been established in Germany. Thus DeQuincey claims to have traced Rosicrucianism from its birth in Germany and then undertakes to prove that it was transplanted to England where, in a modified form, it has since flourished under the name of Freemasonry.
At the beginning of the seventeenth century many learned heads in England were occupied with Theosophy, Cabbalism and Alchemy. Among these was Robert Fludd. It was he, no doubt, who in 1629 wrote "Summum Bonum" and must be considered as the immediate father of Freemasonry as Andrea was its remote father.
It is not recorded how Fludd secured his first acquaintance with Rosicrucianism but it is probable that he acquired it from his friend Maier with whom he corresponded after the latter left England. At all events he must have been interested in Rosicrucianism at an early period for he published an apology for it in 1617.
The first question which naturally arises is why Fludd dropped the name of Rosicrucian. The reason in brief was this. His apology for the Rosicrucians was attacked by the celebrated Father Mersenne. To this Fludd replied in two witty but coarse books entitled "Summum Bonum" and "Sophiae cum Moria certamen." In answer to the question, "Where the Rosicrucians resided," Fludd replied: "In the house of God, where Christ is the corner stone." Then he explained the symbols of the Rose and the Cross in a new sense, as meaning the cross sprinkled with the rosy blood of Christ.
Mersenne, being no match for Fludd, Gassendi, in 1630, published a rejoinder in which he analyzed and ridiculed Fludd's principles in general and in particular reproached him for his belief in the highly romantic legend of the Rosicrucians.
Fludd was hard pressed under his conscious inability to assign their place of abode and in 1633, in his answer to Gassendi, evaded the question by formally withdrawing the name Rosicrucian.
Here, then, we have the negative question answered--why and when they ceased to be called Rosicrucians. But now comes the second of affirmative question--why and when did they become known as Freemasons? We have seen how in 1633 the old name was abolished, but as yet no new name was substituted. In default of such a name they were known under the general term of wise men. This, however, was too vague and the immediate hint for the name "Masons" was derived from the legend contained in the Fama Fraternitatis, of the House of The Holy Ghost.
"Where and what was that house?" This had been a subject of much speculation in Germany; and many had been simple enough to understand the expression to mean a literal house and had inquired of it up and down the empire. Andrea, however, had made it impossible to understand it in any other than an allegorical sense by describing it as a building which would remain invisible to the godless world forever. This building, in fact, represented the purpose or object of the Rosicrucians. And what was that ?
To know the secret wisdom, or, in their language, magic--that is: first, Philosophy of nature or occult knowledge of the works of God; second, Theology, or the occult knowledge of God himself; third, Religion, or God's occult intercourse with the spirit of man, which they imagined to have been handed down from Adam through the Cabbalists to themselves. The Rosicrucians distinguished between a carnal and a spiritual knowledge of this magic. The spiritual knowledge was the business of Christianity and was symbolized by Christ himself as a rock and as a building of which he is the head and foundation.
What rock and what building ?" says Fludd.
"A spiritual rock, and a building of human nature in which men are the stones and Christ the corner stone."
"But how shall stones move and arrange themselves into a building?"
"They must become living stones," says Fludd.
"But what is a living stone ?"
"A living stone is a Mason who builds himself up into the wall as a part of the temple of human nature."
In these passages we see the rise of the allegorical name of Masons. The society was, therefore, a Masonic society in order to represent typically that temple of the Holy Ghost which it was their business to erect in the spirit of man.
This temple was the abstract of the doctrine of Christ, who was the Grand Master--hence the light from the East, of which so much is said in Rosicrucian and Masonic books. St. John was the beloved disciple of Christ--hence the solemn celebration of his festival.
Having, moreover, adopted the attributes of Masonry as the figurative expression of their objects the Freemasons were led to attend more minutely to the legends and history of the building art. In these again they found an occult analogy with their own relations to the Christian wisdom.
The first great event in the art of Masonry was the building of the Tower of Babel. This figuratively expressed the attempt of some unknown Mason to build the temple of the Holy Ghost in anticipation of Christianity. This attempt, however, had been confounded by the vanity of the builders.
The building of King Solomon's Temple was the second great incident in the art and this had an obvious meaning as a prefiguration of Christianity.
Hiram--which name was understood by the elder Freemasons as an anagram: H.I.R.A.M., meant Homo Jesus Redemptor Animarum--was simply the architect of this building to the real professors of the art of building. To the English Rosicrucians or Freemasons he was a type of Christ, and the legend of the Masons, which represented this Hiram as having been murdered by his fellow workmen, made the type still more striking.
The two pillars, Jachin and Boaz (strength and power) also, which were among the memorable singularities of Solomon's temple, had a symbolic interest to the English Rosicrucians in the attributes, incidents and legends of the art exercised by the literal Masons and enabled them to realize the symbols of their own allegories. Then, too, the same building which accommodated the gild of builders in their professional meetings, offered a desirable means for holding the secret assemblies of the early Freemasons. An assortment of implements and utensils such as were presented in the fabulous sepulchre of Father Rosycross were here actually brought together.
Accordingly it is upon record that the first formal and solemn lodge of Freemasons on occasion of which the name of Freemasons was first publicly made known, was held in Mason's Hall, Mason's Alley, Basinghall Street in London in the year 1646. Into this lodge it was that Ashmole, the antiquary, was admitted, and Ashmole, from his writings, appears to have been a zealous Rosicrucian.
DeQuincey then sums up the results of his inquiry into the origin and nature of Freemasonry, as follows:
First: The original Freemasons were a society that arose out of the Rosicrucian mania, certainly within the thirteen years from 1633 to 1646 and probably between 1633 and 1640. Their object was magic in the cabbalistic sense--that is--the occult wisdom transmitted from the beginning of the world and matured in Christ; to communicate this when they had it--to search for it when they had it not; and both under an oath of secrecy.
Second: This object of Freemasonry was represented under the form of Solomon's Temple--as a type of the true church whose cornerstone was Christ.
This temple was to be built of men, or living stones, and the true method and art of building with men it is the province of magic to teach.
Hence it is that all the Masonic symbols either refer to Solomon's Temple, or are figurative modes of expressing the ideas and doctrines of magic in the sense of the Rosicrucians and their mystical predecessors in general.
Third: The Freemasons having once adopted symbols, etc., from the art of masonry, to which they were led by the language of Scripture, went on to connect themselves in a certain degree with the order of handicraft masons and adopted their distribution of members into apprentices, journeymen and masters. Christ, to them, was the Grand Master who was put to death whilst laying the foundation of the temple of human nature.
- Source: The Builder January 1918