THAT modern science, spite of its assumptions and of its intolerant dogmatism, is much at fault--nay, to a great extent a very vain thing--is a conclusion that often presents itself to the minds of thinking persons. Thus thoughtful people, who choose to separate themselves from the crowd, and who do not altogether give in with such edifying submission to the indoctrination of the scientific classes--notwithstanding that these latter have the support generally of that which, by a wide term, is called the 'press' in this country--quietly decline reliance on modern science. They see that there are numerous shortcomings of teachers in medicine, which fails frequently, though always with its answer--in theology, which chooses rather that men should sleep, though not the right sleep, than consider waking--nay, in all the branches of human knowledge; the fashion in regard to which is to disparage the ancient schools of thought by exposing what are called their errors by the light of modern assumed infallible discovery. It never once occurs to these eager, conceited professors that they themselves may possibly have learned wrongly, that the old knowledge they decry
is underrated because they do not understand it, and that, entirely because the light of the modern world is so brilliant in them, so dark to them, as eclipsed in this novel artificial light, is the older and better and truer sunshine nearer to the ancients: because time itself was newer to the old peoples of the world, and because the circumstances of the first making of time were more understood in the then first divine disclosure, granting that time ever had a beginning, as man’s reason insists it must.
Shelley, the poet, who, if he had not been so great as a poet, would have been perhaps equally eminent as a metaphysician, that is, when age and experience had ripened and corrected his original brilliant crudities of thought--used to declare that most men--at least, most thinking men--spend the latter half of their lives in unlearning the mistakes of the preceding half. This he declares to have been the fact in his own experience--which was, even for this test, a very brief one; .for Shelley was only twenty-nine when his lamentable death occurred. The early departure of three brilliant poetic spirits of our fathers' period, at the same time that it is very melancholy, is worthy of deep remark. Shelley was, as we have said, twenty-nine; Byron was only thirty-six; John Keats--in some respects the most poetically intense and abstract of the three--was only twenty-four. And in these short several lifetimes, measuring so few years, these distinguished persons had achieved that which resulted in the enrolment of their names in a nation's catalogue in a grand branch of human attainment. They live in lasting records, they grow in honour, and their names do not fade, as is the case with those reputations which have been unduly magnified, but which give way to time. Perhaps the lot of some contemporaneous accepted important, not to say
great, reputations will be diminution and disappearance. Time is not only an avenger, but a very judicious corrector.
We are so convinced of the irresistible dominancy, all the world over, of opinions, and of the dicta relative to this or that merit, or this or that truth, propounded, by people with names and of influence in our good, readily believing England, and of the power of supposed authority in matters of taste and literary acceptance, that we desire to warn querists against the statements about the fraternity--for it is not a body--of the Rosicrucians appearing in all the published accounts, whether of this country or abroad. We have examined all these supposed notices and explanations of who the Rosicrucians were in biographical works, in encyclopædias and histories, and we find them all prejudiced and misrepresenting, really telling no truth, and only displaying a deplorable amount of mischievous ignorance. They are, besides, in the main copied from each other--which is notably the case with the early encyclopædias. Old Fuller, who has some notices of Robert Flood, a famous English member of the order of Rosicrucians, fully admits his ignorance of whom the brotherhood comprised, and of their constitution or purpose. All generally received accounts, therefore, are wrong, principally for three reasons: first, through ignorance; secondly, through prejudice; thirdly, as instigated by distrust, dislike, and envy--for in criticism it is a dogma that the subject must be always under the critic, never that, by a chance, the subject may be above the critic--that is, above the critic's grasp and comprehension. But suppose the criticized choose to except to the ability of the critic in any way to judge of him?
From this obstinacy and conceit arise such underrating and false comment as is implied in the following
which is extracted from The Encyclopædia Britannica--which account is copied again into several other encyclopædias, and repeated into smaller works with. pertinacious, with even malicious fidelity
'In fine, the Rosicrucians, and all their fanatical descendants, agree in proposing the most crude and incomprehensible notions and ideas in the most obscure, quaint, and unusual expressions.'--Encyclopædia Britannica: article 'Rosicrucians'.
During the age of James the First, Charles the First, even during the Protectorate, and again in the time of Charles the Second, the singular doctrines of the Rosicrucians attracted a large amount of attention, and excited much keen controversy. Sundry replies or 'apologies' appeared on the part of the Rosicrucians. Among them was a most able work published in Latin by Dr. Robert Flood, at Leyden, in 1616. It was a small, closely printed, very learned octavo, entitled Apologia Compendiaria Fraternitatis de Rosea Cruce, etc., and abounds in knowledge. It is an exceedingly rare work; but there is a copy in the British Museum. All this long period was marked by considerable speculation regarding these Rosicrucians. Pope’s Rape of the Lock is founded upon some of their fanciful cabalistic ideas. The Spectator contains notices of the mystic society; and, to prove. the public curiosity concerning the Rosicrucians, and a strange incident, the particulars of which we are going to supply from the best sources now for the first time, we may state that there is included, in one number of Addison’s elegant series of papers called The Spectator, a resumption of a notice, and some after-comment, upon the supposed discovery of the burial-place in England of one of these mighty men the Rosicrucians. The story is to the following. purport, as nearly as it can be gathered. We have
written much more fully of it from other means; for The Spectator's account is very full of errors, and was evidently gained afar off, and merely from hearsay, as it were. It is, besides, poor and ineffective, gathered from no authority, and produced with no dramatic force; for the life and the beliefs of the Rosicrucians were very dramatic, at the same time that the latter were very true, although generally disbelieved.
(With the significant point in the centre)