The Real History of the Rosicrucians, by Arthur Edward Waite, , at sacred-texts.com
WHEN the documents of the Fraternity were first published, Professor Buhle tells us that France "had greatly the start of Germany and England" in general illumination, that she was consequently protected against the delusion of her neighbours, and that Rosicrucianism "never had even a momentary success" therein. On the other hand, Gabriel Naudé published in 1623 his "Instruction à la France sur la vérité de l’Histoire des Frères de la Roze-Croix," which opens by asserting, without apology of any kind, that the French by their disposition are quick to embrace and to follow every species of novel and ridiculous opinion. They are accused of excessive credulity, and are the laughing-stock of more sober nations. They have credited every absurdity from Postel the resuscitated and mère Jeanne to the rejuvenating Fountain of Borico and the immortality and return of Paracelsus. The history of the Brethren R. C. is declared to be the most outrageous of all; their books are useless and completely incomprehensible, even when stripped of their enigmas. None but impostors have claimed to be initiated members, and the false reports spread abroad by the society are prejudicial to all kingdoms, and all forms of government.
This book, though dull and verbose, was undoubtedly instrumental in preventing the spread of the new doctrines.
De Quincey affirms that France was never wanting in the "ignobler elements of credulity," but that she has always lacked its nobler or imaginative part. "On this account the French have always been an irreligious people. And the scheme of Father Rosycross was too much connected with religious feelings, and moved too much under a religious impulse, to recommend itself to the French."
The first appearance of Rosicrucianism in France 1 was in the year 1623, when the following mysterious placard was affixed to the walls of Paris:--"We, the deputies of our chief college of the Brethren of the Rosy Cross, now sojourning, visible and invisible, in this town, do teach, in the name of the Most High, towards whom the hearts of the Sages turn, every science, without either books, symbols, or signs, and we speak the language of the country in which we tarry, that we may extricate our fellow-men from error and destruction."
There are at least four different versions of this manifesto. Gabriel Naudé reads--"By the grace of the Most High . . . we teach, without the assistance of books or signs, how to speak the language of every country where we elect to stay, in order that we may rescue our fellowmen from the error of death." A French brochure, published in 1623, and entitled "Effroyables pactions faites entre le diable et les prétendus invisibles, avec leur damnables instructions, perte déplorable de leurs escoliers, et leur misérable fin," presents still more important variations. "We, the deputies of the College of the Rosie-Cross, advise all those who seek entrance into our society and congregation, to become initiated into the knowledge of the Most High, in whose cause we are at this day assembled,
and we will transform them from visible beings into invisible, and from invisible into visible, and they shall be transported into every foreign country to which their desire may lead them. But, to arrive at the knowledge of these marvels, we warn the reader that we can divine his thoughts, that if mere curiosity should prompt the wish to see us, he will never communicate with us, but if an earnest determination to inscribe himself on the register of our confraternity should actuate him, we will make manifest to such an one the truth of our promises, so that we by no means expose the place of our abode, since simple thought, joined to the determined will of the reader, will be sufficient to make us known to him, and reveal him to us."
To this proclamation, in his "Histoire de la Magie," Eliphas Lévi adds: "Public opinion concerned itself about this mysterious manifestation, and if any demanded openly who were the Rose-Cross brethren, an unknown personage frequently took the inquirer apart, and said to him gravely:--
"Predestined to the reformation which must soon be accomplished in the whole universe, the Rosicrucians are the depositaries of supernatural wisdom, and undisturbed possessors of all Nature's gifts, they can dispense them at pleasure.
"In whatsoever place they may be, they know all things which are going on in the rest of the world better than if they were present; they are not subject to hunger or thirst, and have neither age nor disease to fear.
"They can command the most powerful spirits and genii.
"God has covered them with a cloud to defend them from their enemies, and they cannot be beheld except by their own consent, had any one eyes more piercing than are the eagle's.
"Their general assemblies are held in the pyramids of Egypt; but, like the rock whence the spring of Moses issued, these pyramids proceed with them into the desert, and follow them into the 'Land of Promise.'"
No authority is given for this statement, and it is in all probability one of those romantic falsifications with which Eliphas Lévi took pleasure in mystifying his readers, and which make him absolutely worthless as a sober historian.
This manifesto, whatever its original form, attracted general and chiefly hostile attention, and it was accounted for in various ways by the pamphleteers of the period. Naudé considers it a hoax. "If we seek for the precise origin of this squall of wind which now whistles over our country, we shall find that the report of this fraternity having been spread abroad some short time since in Germany, certain professors, doctors, and students of this city were moved by curiosity to investigate the matter by means of the new books which were made known to them by publishers after their return from the Frankfort fair; but discovering nothing except chimeras and rodomontade therein, they preferred, while awaiting the farce, to divert themselves by this comedy--
and compromise their reputation by becoming its first denouncers, judging that there were fools enough in Paris to prevent this folly from stagnating. And, in fact, about three months ago one of these individuals, knowing that the King being at Fontainebleau, the realm tranquil, and Mansfield too remote for daily news, there was a scarcity of topics on ’Change, as well as in all circles, concluded to supply you with gossip by placarding the public
places with this notice, containing six lines of manuscript." 1
On the other hand, the anonymous author of an "Examination of the unknown and novel Caballa of the Brethren of the Rose-Cross" accepts the manifesto as authentic, and denounces it with terrible earnestness. "Flagrant blasphemies are to be found in these few lines. In the first place, these sacrilegious wretches pretend to have enrolled themselves under the banner of that cross, which their master, the prince of darkness, abhors beyond anything. In the second place, they assert that they can become invisible at pleasure, a quality incommunicable to any natural body which consists of matter and form, and one which can never be acquired by any legitimate science. In the third place, they boast that they can teach every branch of learning in a moment, without books or signs, which evidently transcends the possibilities of the human intellect, for, though the acquisition of the sciences may be certainly facilitated by means of abridgements and epitomes, it can only be accomplished by degrees and with time. In the fourth place, they claim to be acquainted with all dialects and with every variety of language--a prerogative never conferred except on the apostles, whose lives were very different from theirs. It remains to be concluded that such persons are not commissioned by God to save us from error and destruction, but are raised up by Satan to drag into the abyss those souls which are carried away by an overweening curiosity."
The most copious information with regard to the strange manifesto is to be found in the "Frightful Compacts between the Devil and the so-called Invisibles," a pamphlet
full of malicious libels, which, however, are so curious that some of them are worth reproducing as briefly as possible. According to this account, the manuscript placard was posted in several parts of Paris, and awakened the curiosity of the learned and illiterate alike. Every one was astounded at the asserted invisibility of the Brethren, and at their gift of tongues. According to some, they must be the messengers of the Holy Ghost, others said that they were persons of eminent sanctity, the rest, that the whole business was one of illusions and of magic. By many the power of discerning the inmost thoughts was admired beyond the other privileges, but that such a faculty was inherent in Deity only, and they were incredulous in this respect. Then it was urged that the devil had knowledge of things both past and present, but that if he had knowledge of things present, thoughts must be included in this class, and that, therefore, the devil might not only know them, but might impart the same knowledge to his emissaries.
A certain lawyer of Paris, says this mendacious chronicle, conceived a violent desire to be enrolled in the new order, on account of the obvious advantages of occasional invisibility, and he had no sooner formed the project than one of the Invisibles appeared before him, and informing him that he could read his thoughts, directed his petrified listener to meet him that evening at eight o’clock opposite a certain market, when he should attain his desire. This said, the mysterious being disappeared as miraculously as he had come thither; and the lawyer, convinced by his own senses that there was some truth in the claims of the placard, did not fail to repair to the appointed place, where the same personage met him, bandaged his eyes, whirled him through a maze of alleys, and brought him to the abode of the
[paragraph continues] Invisibles. There his eyes were uncovered, and he found himself in the presence of five senatorial persons, who gravely informed him that they too were well acquainted with his aspirations, but before they could gratify them he must be prepared to take the oath of fidelity, and to write four words upon a paper, namely, "I renounce my self." The appropriate preliminary to a new faith was to blindfold one's eyes to the teachings of all the old beliefs. The neophyte complied, after which one of then breathed in his ear, and this breathing he believed to be the wind of the Holy Spirit instead of the devil's respiration. They caused him to behold innumerable illusions by the operation of the fiends, instructed him in the magical utterances by which he could become invisible at pleasure, in the imprecations which he must pronounce against the Roman Church, and in the homage which he must pay both morning and evening to their master Satan, in recognition of the marvels he had lavished for the benefit of the men of that time. This finished, they caused the lawyer to strip, the magic ointment was rubbed over his body, and having been enjoined to bathe in the river at daybreak, he sat down with them to a sumptuous repast at his own expense, after which his eyes were again bandaged, and he was led back to the meeting-place of the previous evening. Though partially drunk, he determined to fulfil his duty and plunge at once into the river, wherein he attempted to swim, in order to cleanse himself more thoroughly, but the unfortunate man was drowned, and thus, says the anonymous historian, he was truly changed from a visible into an invisible being, yet not, also, from one invisible into one visible, for to this day hath his body been discovered by none, though sought for with diligent anxiety. "Such are the first fruits of the study of the invisible doctors at the end of last July."
Other stories equally credible are told by the same writer to illustrate the tragical consequences of a voluntary connection with the infamous Invisibles. A soldier was commanded by them, on his initiation, to enrol himself among a band of assassins, when he was speedily assassinated. A magistrate of Picardy, in answer to his unexpressed wish, was miraculously visited by one of the mystic six in his own closet, was initiated into the Order, and in two days committed suicide. An Anglo-Frenchman who had entered upon the same unhappy course, wishing to revisit England, was instantaneously translated to Boulogne: and requesting the demon who had brought him to bear him across the Straits to London, he was seized with fury and cast into the sea between Calais and Dover with a frightful noise. This occurred in the presence of two hundred Dutch ships on a voyage from Amsterdam to India.
According to this singular and scurrilous pamphlet, the Rosicrucians or Invisibles, who are identical in the mind of the writer, but whom he distinguishes from the Spanish illuminati, numbered in all thirty-six, and they were divided into six bands. Their general assembly was held at Lyons on June 23, 1623, at 10 P.M., which was two hours before the Grand Sabbath of the Witches. There, by the power of an anthropophagous necromancer, Astaroth, one of the princes of the infernal hordes, appeared in light and splendour, and was represented by the magician as a messenger of the Most High. All prostrated themselves before the demon, who asked what they desired, and was informed by their spokesman that they were a little flock which he had assembled, in the name of the master of Astaroth, to serve him henceforth on such conditions as were laid down in the paper which he now offered to the emissary of the king. It
contained the "Articles of Agreement between the Necromancer Respuch and the Deputies for the establishment of the College of the Rosicrucians." The subscribers certified before the most high to have entered into the following compacts, namely, they promised to receive with submission the orders of the supreme sacrificer, Respuch, renouncing baptism, chrism, and unction received in the name of Christ; detesting and abhorring all forms of prayer, confession, sacraments, and all faith in the resurrection of the body; promising to proclaim the teachings imparted to them by Respuch through all quarters of the globe; and pledging their honour and their life, without any hope of pardon, grace, or absolution, to perform all this; in proof of which they had opened each of them a vein in the left arm, and had signed this parchment each with his own blood. The magician, on his part, promised to the deputies, severally and collectively, that he would transport them at any moment from east to west, or from north to south, and cause them to speak naturally every language in the universe. By this agreement he bound himself to enable them to enter and leave all palaces, houses, chambers, and cabinets, through closed and locked doors, to endue them with the most persuasive eloquence, to enable them to cast horoscopes and to read the most secret thoughts, to make them admired by the learned, sought after by the curious, magnified above the prophets of old, and to give each of them, on his signing the parchment, a golden ring enriched by a precious sapphire, under which there should be a demon who would act as their guide. Astaroth, assuming the likeness of a radiant youth, caressed and embraced his victims, who blindly mistook him for the apparition of a powerful deity, and, being promised his continual providence,
they solemnly bound themselves never to derogate from the articles to which they had subscribed, whatever might happen, to turn a deaf ear to the Gospel of Christ, and to publish among all the nations to whom they were transported the truth of the mighty dominion whereof he was the emissary, in order that by their preaching they might dissipate the errors of those men who believed in the immortality of the soul. The articles were then ratified, confirmed, and approved by Astaroth on the part of his master, after which the demon vanished to assist at the Sabbath, which was held, from eleven at night to one in the morning, on the vigil of S. John the Baptist, in the vicinity of the labyrinth among the Pyrenees. The necromancer was left alone with the invisibles, who were to receive the powers promised by being breathed on in the following manner:--All stripped naked and prostrated themselves with their faces flat upon the earth; the magician, with a pot of grease and unguents, rubbed each of them, after the ancient fashion of Thessalian sorcery, on the upper part of the neck, the arm pits, the lower portion of the spine, the parts of generation, and the fundament; then he breathed in the right ear of each deputy, saying: "Depart and rejoice in the result of my promises." He gave the demoniacal ring to all of them, and then a sudden blast of wind transported them, at the command of the magician, an hundred leagues, to the great assembly of the sorcerers. Here, as new comers, they received from Satan the mark of magicians; six of them were sent into Spain, six into Italy, six into France, six into Germany, four to Sweden, two into Switzerland, two into Flanders, two into Lorraine, and the remaining two into Burgoyne. Thus they were commissioned only to go into Catholic countries,
and not into the lands of the heretic and the infidel, who without the pale of the Church, saith the zealous chronicler, are already in the claws of hell. The six who were despatched to France reached Paris on July 14th, each lodged separately to avoid suspicion, and met daily where the first wish carried them,--sometimes on Parnassus, on the columns of Montfaucon, in the quarries of Montmatre, &c. Recognising the difficulties of evangelising Paris, they spent much time in deliberation; their hotel expenses increased, and the devil already failed in his promise that their purses should always be well supplied. They sold their horses in order to buy furniture and hire lodgings, where they would have more liberty to go in quest of pupils. After the sale, however, they changed their mind, and took two furnished rooms in the Marais du Temple, which is actually mentioned in the "Apologia" of Robert Fludd, as the abode of a Rosicrucian, and it was at this period that the manuscript placard was affixed by them to the walls of Paris.
The "Examination of the unknown and novel Caballa of the Brethren of the Rose-Cross" agrees with the "Frightful Compacts," in asserting that the chief of this "execrable college" is Satan, that its first rule is the denial of God, blasphemy against the most simple and undivided Trinity, trampling on the mysteries of the redemption, spitting in the face of the mother of God and at all the saints. The second is the abhorrence of the name Christian, renunciation of baptism, the intercession of the Church, and the sacraments. By the third they offer sacrifice to the devil, make compacts with him, commit adultery with him, offer innocent children to him, &c. By the fourth they frequent the Sabbaths, cherish toads, make poisonous powders, dance
with fiends, raise tempests, ravage fields, destroy orchards, assassinate and torture their neighbours by the infliction of innumerable diseases.
The spirit which prompted these grotesque calumnies, manufactured from the foulest gutters of black magic, is easily discernible. The writers were Catholics incensed by the Protestantism of the Rosicrucian manifestoes, meeting violence by violence, and doctrines of Papal extermination with charges of blasphemy, atheism, and devil-worship. Gabriel Naudé is the most reasonable of all the Franco-Rosicrucian critics, but he is unendurably stupid, and splutters in a seething sea of classical quotations.
In addition to the privileges and powers which are openly claimed by the Rosicrucians, Naudè enumerates the following, some of which are to be found indirectly in their documents, and others he has extracted by a somewhat perverse interpretation:--
"They affirm that the contemplations of their founder surpass everything which has been ever known, discovered, or understood, since the creation of the world, through human study, divine revelation, or the ministration of angels.
"That they are destined to accomplish the approaching restoration of all things to an improved condition before the end arrives.
"That they possess wisdom and piety in a supreme degree, are undisturbed owners of all that is desirable among the bounties of Nature, and can dispense her gifts at will.
"That in whatsoever place they may be they know all that takes place elsewhere better than if they were present.
"That they are subject neither to hunger, thirst, age, illness, or other natural inconvenience.
"That they learn by revelation of those persons who are worthy of admission into their society.
"That it is possible for them always to live as if they had existed from the beginning of the world, or would remain till the end of the ages.
"That they possess a book in which they can ascertain all things which are to be found in books now existing, or will be found in the books of the future.
"That they can compel the most mighty spirits and demons into their service, and by the power of their incantations can draw pearls and precious stones towards them.
"That God has enveloped them in a cloud to conceal them from their enemies, unless, at least, they have eyes more penetrating than the eagle's.
"That the first eight Brethren of the Rose-Cross had the gift of healing all diseases to such an extent that they were overwhelmed by the concourse of sufferers, and that one of them, who was an adept in Kabbalistic Mysteries, witness his book called H, cured the young Count of Norfolk of the leprosy when he was in England.
"That God has determined to increase the number of their Fraternity.
"That they have discovered a new language to give expression to the nature of all things.
"That by their means the triple crown of Peter will be ground into the dust.
"That they confess freely and publicly, with no fear of repression, that the pope is Anti-Christ.
"That they denounce the blasphemies of East and West, meaning Mahomet and the Pope, and recognise but two sacraments, with the ceremonies of the early Church, renewed by their congregation.
"That they acknowledge the fourth monarchy and the Emperor of the Romans as their Lord, and as the head of all Christendom.
"That they will furnish him with more gold and silver than the Spanish King derives from both the Indies, the more so as their treasures are inexhaustible.
"That their college, which they name the College of the Holy Ghost, can suffer no injury; even should a hundred thousand persons behold and remark it.
"That they possess several mysterious volumes in their library, one of which, that, namely, which they prize next to the Bible, is that which the revered and illuminated father R. C. held in his right hand after death.
"Finally, that they are convinced and certain that the truth of their maxims will abide to the very end of the world."
No voice appears to have been raised in France in defence of the persecuted Order. "It is known upon the contemporary authority of the Mercure de France," says a writer in "Chambers’ Journal," "that a popular panic"--the natural result of these atrocious calumnies--"was excited by the fear of this mysterious sect, none of whose members had ever been seen. . . . . The most absurd stories about them were daily reported, and found listeners. An innkeeper asserted that a mysterious stranger entered his inn, regaled himself on his best, and suddenly vanished in a cloud when the bill was presented. Another had been served as scurvy a trick by a similar stranger, who lived upon the choicest fare, and drunk the best wines of his house for a week, and paid him with a handful of new gold coins, which turned into slates on the following morning. It was also said that several persons on awakening in the middle of the night found
individuals in their bed chambers, who suddenly became invisible, though still palpable, when the alarm was raised. Such was the consternation in Paris, that every man who could not give a satisfactory account of himself was in danger of being pelted to death; and quiet citizens slept with loaded muskets at their bedsides, to take vengeance upon any Rosicrucian who might violate the sanctity of their chambers."
In two years the excitement died away; no further manifestoes were attempted, and the mysterious Order of the Invisibles of the Rose-Cross, if it had in reality ever visited Paris, migrated to more tolerant climes, and its very existence was shortly afterwards forgotten in the interests of the next ephemeral novelty.
388:1 See Additional Notes, No. VI.
391:1 "Instruction h la France," c. iii., p. 26.