IT is a reflection on the knowledge of the compilers of all books treating of the history and topography of Kent, that perhaps the most remarkable man born in it--because his pursuits lay out of the beaten track of recognition or of praise--should not be mentioned in any of the descriptive or biographical works that we have met with concerning that county--undoubtedly one of the most interesting in England. In some general biographies and dictionaries the name of Robert Fludd, Doctor of Medicine, etc., does occur. But the notices concerning his life are very scanty, possibly because there was little material for them existent in his own age. We have, in our studies of the Rosicrucian doctrines, purposely made the life of Dr. Robert Flood an object of close examination. We have searched for every possible personal memorial of him. We have been rewarded with, however, but fragmentary matter. Our information concerning his life is quite the reverse of extensive, notwithstanding our intimacy with his writings.
Our ideas and conviction in regard of this truly great man being what they are, the extreme curiosity, and the vivid interest, may be divined with which we set out on our first expedition to discover, and to make ourselves fully acquainted with his place of birth, and his own place and the seat of his family. It was in the afternoon of a summer day that we sought
out the village of Bersted, situate a few miles distant from Maidstone in Kent, on the Ashford Road. Flood is buried in the ancient church (a small one) of Bersted--a village, or rather hamlet, boasting an assemblage of larger or smaller houses around a green, none of any considerable pretension; cottages--neat specimens of English rural cottages they may be called, with small gardens, varying gables, and crossed lattices. There are woody grounds and picturesque hop-plantations enclosing this quiet, homely-looking place; with its solemn church up an elevation in the corner of this extensive triangular green--with excellent smooth cricket-space in the centre. The church in which he lies!--what words for such a man. To us--or to any Rosicrucian student who knew who he was and what he had done--he was the whole country. His influence extended from, and vivified everything--this, the whole way from 'The Star'--the old inn, or rather hotel, from which we had started in the morning in order to pilot our way thither; through the quiet country, passing few people and only small groups of cattle straggling along the sunshiny road.
It was with feelings just as reverential, just as melancholy, and greatly as enthusiastic, as those with which we contemplated the tomb of Shakespeare in Stratford-on-Avon, that we stood (knowing the man, as it were, so well) silent and absorbed--revolving many--many thoughts--before the oblong slab of dark slate-coloured marble--(greatly like Shakespeare's again)--which covered the place of last deposition of Robertus de Fluctibus--as into which parallel he had latinized, according to the usage mostly of the Elizabethan period, his name--Robert Fludd or Flood. Flood's monument occupies a large space of the wall of the chancel on the left hand, as you stand before
the altar looking up the body of the small church towards the door. The monument is singularly like Shakespeare's, even allowing for the prevailing architectural fashion of the time. There is a seated half-length figure of Flood with his hand on a book, as if just raising his head, from reading, to look at you. The figure is nearly of life-size. There is, moreover, a very striking similarity in Dr. Flood's grand thinking countenance to that of Shakespeare himself, and his brow has all the same breadth, and is as equally suggestive of knowledge and of power.
The church of Bersted is very small and old. The square tower of the church is covered with masses of dark ivy. The grassy ground slopes, with its burial mounds, from about the foundation of the old building towards the somewhat distant village of Bersted. The churchyard descends in picturesque inclination, and is divided by a low brick-wall; over which, here and there, flowers and overgrowth have broadly scaled from the garden of the old-fashioned, though neat-looking rustic, picturesque parsonage. There is a winding green lane, with high hedges, which leads down to the village. All is open, and quietly rural. It is true English scenery, homely and still. The large trees, and the abundance of turfy cover over the whole ground-view, pleases. The rustic impression and the deep country silence befit that spot where one of the most extraordinary thinkers in the English roll of original men lies at rest. When we were in this neighbourhood, and on the first occasion that we sought out Bersted, it was a calm grey summer's afternoon. The still clouds, which seemed to prolong the grey general haze dwelling on the more distant landscape, were impressive of a happy--quietly happy--repose. And as we stood on our return towards Maidstone--having spent, we believe, upwards of three hours in meditative
notice either in the church or musing and strolling round it--the slopes of the hopgrounds presented a field of view of light, lovely green. Out of this low-lying landscape to which we reverted, Bersted Church tower rose small. It has four sculptured bears ('Bersted, Bearstead') at the four angles, for pinnacles, to the square tower. These miniature bears, perched upon the summit, looked to me at about half-a-mile's distance like four crows. The distant wooded hills showed faint to the eye. There was no wind. The air was warm and silent. The country was green and luxuriant.
Robert Flood was a Brother of the Rosy-Cross. He is called the English Rosicrucian. To those who never heard his name, the titles of his books will suffice to prove the wonderful extent of his erudition, and the strange, mystical character of the man. We would warn every inquirer to place not the least reliance upon any account which they may meet of Robert Flood in any of the ordinary biographies, or in any Encyclopædia or other book professing to give an account of the Rosicrucians. We beg the curious not to believe one word--except dates, and scarcely these--that are to be found in accepted scientific treatises, or otherwise, purporting to speak of Flood, or of his compeers. These are all at fault--and ignorant--particularly and generally.
Robert Flood was the second son of Sir Thomas Flood, Treasurer of War to Queen Elizabeth. The name was originally Lloyd, and the family came from Wales. Robert Flood was born at Milgate House, of which edifice one corner still remains built in the manor-house which was erected on its site when the old house fell to ruin. Milgate House is situated near Bersted. Flood was born in the year 1574. He was entered at St. John's College, Oxford, in 1591.
[paragraph continues] He travelled for six years in France, Spain, Italy, and Germany. He was a member of the College of Physicians, London. He was M.B., M.D., B. A., and M.A. The latter degree he took in 1605. He began to publish in 1616. He died at his house in Coleman Street, London, in the year 1637. Flood is also stated by Fuller to have lived in 'Fanchurch' Street.
The list of Flood's works comprise the following:--
1. Utriusque Cosmi, Majoris et Minoris, Technica Historia. Oppenheim, 1617. In Two Volumes, Folio.
2. Tractatus Apologeticus Integritatem Societatis de Rosea-Cruce defendens. Leyden, 1617.
3. Monochordon Mundi Syunphoniarum, seu Replicatio ad Apologiam Johannis Kepleri. Francfort, 1620.
4. Anatomia Theatrum Triplici Effigie Designatum. At the same place, 1623.
5. Philosophia Sacra et vere Christiana, seu Meteorologia Cosmica. At the same place, 1626.
6. Medicina Catholica, seu Mysterium Artis Medicandi Sacrarium. The same, 1626.
7. Integrum Morborum Mysterium. The same, 1631.
8. Clavis Philosophiæ et Alchymiæ. The same, 1633.
9. Philosophia Mosaïca. Gondæ, 1638.
10. Pathologia Dæmoniaca. The same, 1640.
The above account of Flood's Rosicrucian works is from Fuller's Worthies.
There are notices of Dr. Flood in the Athenæ et Fasti Oxoniensis; in Chalmers' Biographical Dictionary under the names of Flood, Mersenne, and Gassendi; in Granger's Celebrated Characters; and in Renaudot, Conferences Publiques, tom. iv. page 87. Also in Brucker.
Upon Flood's monument there are two marble-books bearing the following titles:--Misterium Cabalisticum, and Philosophia Sacra. There were originally eight books represented in all; 'studding' the front of the tablet (as the look of it may be described). The inscription to his memory is as follows:
viii. Die Mensis vii. Ao.Dm., M.D.C.XXXVII. (8th September 1627). Odoribus vrna vaporat crypta tegit cineres nec speciosa tvos ovod mortale minvs tibi. Te commitimus vnum ingenii vivent hic monumenta tui nam tibi qui similis scribit moritur-que sepulchrum pro tota eternum posteritate facit. Hoc monumentum Thomas Flood Gore Covrte in-oram apud Cantianos armiger infœlissimam in charissimi patrui sui memoriam erexit, die Mensis Augusti, MDCXXXVIII.
In the life of the astronomer Gassendi will be found some mention of the career, and of the distinctions, of Robert Flood. A work of Gassendi's bearing the title 'Epistolica Exercitatio, in qua precipua principia philosophiæ Roberti Fluddi deteguntur, et ad recentes illius libris adversus patrem Marinum Mersennum scriptos respondetur' was printed at Paris in 1628. This piece was reprinted in the third volume of Gassendi's works published at Paris in 1658, under the title of Examen Philosophiæ Fluddanæ, etc. Flood wrote two books against Mersennus, who had assailed his philosophy. The title of the first book was Sophia cum Moria Certamen, in quo Lapis Lydius a falso structore Patre Marino Mersenno, monacho reprobatus, voluminis sui Babylonici in Genesi figurata accurate-examinat. This work was published in Folio at Francfort in 1629. The name of the second book was Summum bonorum, quod est verum magiæ, Cabalæ, Alchymiæ, Fratrum Rosæ-Crucis Virorum. subjectum indictarum scientiarum laudem, in insignis calumniatoris Fr. Mar. Mersenni dedecus publicatum, per Joachim Frizium, 1629.
In this Book, which we now bring to a close in its Fourth Edition, we have traced and expounded the philosophy of the authentic Rosicrucians, as developed in the folios of the celebrated Dr. Flood, 'Robertus de Fluctibus'. We are the first Author who has brought forward Flood's name to the reading world, justified his claims, and made him known through
the most laboured and long-studied translation with continual reference to hundreds of books in all languages, dead and living, which bore reference to Flood's sublimest philosophical speculations. All the world has heard of the Rosicrucians--few or none have ever taken the trouble to ascertain whether the stupendous and apparently audacious claims of these philosophers were rightly or wrongly estimated--that is, whether to be adjudged as founded on the rock of truth, or seeking steadiness and root only in the sands of delusion. The Author began his inquiries, in the year 1850, in a spirit of the utmost disbelief; thus taught by the world’s assumptions and opinions. Much of this indoctrinated preoccupation the wise man has to unlearn in his progress through life. Fogs, and prejudices, and prepossessions cleared from the Author’s mind as he advanced.
After the very considerable space of thirty-six years of study of the Rosicrucians, the Author of this work ends (as he ends). Let the candid reader, himself, judge in what frame of mind the Author of the 'Rosicrucians' concludes. How should any one complete an inquiry in regard to the Majestic Brothers of the Rosy Cross, otherwise the Rosicrucians? The story of the Rosicrucians is of the widest interest. The proof of this fact lies in the accumulation of letters from persons in every condition of life addressed to the Authors of the present work since the publication of the First Edition from all parts of the world; anonymously, or with particulars of names, etc.
The celebrated author of the Confessions of an English Opium Eater (Thomas de Quincey), in his Rosicrucians and the Free-Masons, originally published in The London Magazine of January 1824, also continued in the succeeding number, has this remarkable passage: 'Rosicrucianism is not Freemasonry.
[paragraph continues] The exoterici, at whose head Bacon stood, and who afterwards composed the Royal Society of London, were the antagonist party of the Theosophists, Cabbalists, and Alchemists. At the head of whom stood Fludd; and from whom Freemasonry took its rise.'
Thus we leave the Rosicrucians--as men--(just as we ought to leave them)--in the same mystery as that state of really impenetrable mystery in which we find them. Let the mask and the 'mystery' still remain before them, concealing them and their purposes in the world.--As it is enjoined!