The Fire Philosophers
IF A PHILOSOPHER YOU WISH TO BE,
LET ONLY PATIENCE DWELL IN THEE.
Where on this globe lives a man so wise,
Who'll ever learn what four ones do comprise,
And even if he'd know all this,
He'd still always be an apprentice.
Therefore, O human, with all thy might,
Recognise God and thyself in God's and nature's light,
Both these lights God pours into thee,
That a likeness of him thou mayest be,
He is one fourfold God, let thou be told,
As thou art a piece of clay fourfold.
This maketh nature to thee well known,
With wisdom, light and understanding to thee is it shown.
- Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians -
Paracelcus 1493 - 1541
The Rosicrucian movement is based on Paracelcian principles. The majority of 17th Century Rosicrucians were Paracelcian alchemists and astrologers. Paracelcus, also known as Philippus Theophrastus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim was an Alchemist, Kabbalist, Physician, Botanist and Hermetic Philosopher. Developing the ideas of the four elements and the three alchemical principles of Mercury, Sulphur and Salt, he had a Hermetic approach to his work. Relating the Macrocosm with the Microcosm and how then man was united with the universe through particular principles and building blocks of nature and thus uniting with God who pervades all things.
Dr John Dee 1527 - 1608
A Mathematician, Alchemist, Magician, Cabalist, Astrologer, Hermetic Philosopher and Rosicrucian. An advisor and teacher of mathematics and astrology to Queen Elizabeth I. He travelled to Europe on numerous occasions meeting with the learned of the time. Following his collaboration with Kelley and the communications with angels leading to the Enochian system of magic they stayed with Rudolph II. These were turbulent times and through pressures of the Catholic church he eventually returned to England while Kelley stayed and unsuccessfully attempted to make the philosophers stone for Rudolph II related further below.
Rudolph II von Habsburg (1552 - 1612)
Holy Roman Emperor, King of Bohemia, King of Hungary, Archduke of Austria
Rudolph II has been included here for his influential associations with a number of early Rosicrucian minds. John Dee, Edward Kelley, Heinrich Khunrath, Count Michael Maier, Johannes Kepler and Christoph Besold amongst them. They all served prominently within his court in Prague at around the same time. Rudolf II had a life long passion for the arts and sciences, amassing the largest collection of Art in Europe together with drawing together the artists and scientists of the day. The sciences of the time predominantly concerned themselves with Astrology/Astronomy and Alchemy. Sparing no expense he drew upon his collection of unique minds in his quest for the Philosophers Stone. Edward Kelley was dazzled by the Kings lavish payments of money and land in return for the production of the elixir, but this would become his downfall. Kelley was imprisoned and died trying to escape his clutches following two failed attempts at making the philosophers stone.
The Fama Fraternitatis was printed in Cassel (photo on left) by Adam Haselmeyer in 1614. He was a Tyrolian Paracelcian and had seen a manuscript copy of the Fama in Tyrol in 1610, which makes it apparent the manifesto had been written a few years before its first publication. Haselmeyer had been a Knight of the Holy Cross, an Order which proceeded that of the Rosy Cross and his Responsio which forms an appendix to the Fama displays a knowledge about the Rosicrucian movement that lends an inside perspective.
Heinrich Khunrath (1560 - 1605)
A Paracelcian Alchemist, Qabalist and Lutheran Theologian. He spent time in the court of Rudolph II where he met and was taught various principles by John Dee, an influence that may be perceived through his alchemical emblems, including his Amphitheatrum Sapientiae Aeternae (Amphitheatre of Eternal Wisdom) Hamburg 1595, lending a christian/magical basis to the progressive development of the spirit through spiritual experimentation.
Sir Francis Bacon (1561 - 1626)
Many enjoy the chase of a good mystery but some ere more to the speculative than the illuminating. In all probability Rosicrucianism was in existence far before the publications of the manifestos which were a public manifestation of a movement previously hidden through necessity from public gaze. Over the years Sir Francis has been elevated by a number of literalist speculators to the ranks of Count St Germain, Count Giles De Blais and CRC himself through the potential of each being one and the same person.
Sir Francis Bacon was a member of the court of King James I and was subsequently the editor of the King James Bible. A most learned man of science and philosophy his European connections included Johann Valentine Andrea whom he visited in Germany. Noted as being a founding member of the Freemasons and a Rosicrucian in England.
Count Michael Maier (1568 - 1622)
A devout Lutheran, Count Michael Maier was a Doctor of Philosophy and Medicine, an Alchemist, a Rosicrucian, a Mystic and an Author of considerable value. He became the physician and imperial counsellor to Rudolf II of Hungary, Bohemia and Austria mentioned above. Maier was the author of the superb alchemical treatise Atalanta Fugiens, interlaced throughout along with his other works in Rosicrucian symbolism. On a trip to England he visited Dr Robert Fludd and may have introduced him to Rosicrucianism.
Johannes Kepler (1571 - 1630)
Known as the Father of modern astronomy Johannes Kepler was also a noted astrologer to the Court of Rudolf II and as a Christian esotericist his Lutheran theology served him through his ground breaking work. He was at the same university as Johann Valentine Andrea and was amongst a small learned circle who’s shared values would fit readily with the depth of symbolism and allegory the manifestos express. Indeed his three laws of planetary motion which changed the face of how the universe is viewed, and became a major influence on Newtonian law was conceived in a moment of inspiration whilst demonstrating to students in Graz on July 19, 1595 the principles behind the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter. A poignant conjunction mentioned in the Fama as 'Trygono Igneo' which marked the opening of the vault in 1604. In no little part this forms the key to understanding the referal of Rosicrucians as ‘the Fire Philosophers’. His sphere of philosophical companionship at Tubingën and the topic of analysis that spurred his far reaching inspiration collectively form a symbolic simile on par with that behind the opening of the vault. Refer also to Christoph Besold below.
Dr Robert Fludd (1574 - 1637)
We have seen above that it may have been Michael Maier who introduced Fludd to Rosicrucianism. Dr Robert Fludd was another scholarly figure of his time. A Paracelcian Physician, Qabalist, Astrologer and noted Alchemist he had a magnetic presence much in the same vein as Sir Francis Bacon, and like Maier he was an insightful Alchemical author, incorporating Qabalistic, Hermetic and Rosicrucian Symbolism within his works.
Christoph Besold (1577 - 1638))
Besold was a Qabalist, studying Astronomy with Johannes Kepler at Tubingën University; learned in Arabic, Hebrew and Islamic culture he became the Universities Chancellor no less than seven times throughout his life. He and Kepler both served Rudolf II at the same time - Besold was the Emperors Legal Advisor while Kepler his Court Astrologer. Both among other scholars were acquainted with Andrea and this close circle of Rosicrucian friends at Tubingën University by authorship or design were, we may say, a conclave that formed an unseen pivot for the Rosicrucian movement - if not a keystone to the manifestos themselves. For it is believed as mentioned above regarding Bacon, the publishing of the Rosicrucian Manifestos were a later manifestation of an already existing body of enlightened individuals, with the release of the manifestos coming at a time of liberalism in Germany that allowed for the disclosure and subsequent development of the philosophy of an Order to a wider receptive audience.
Johann Valentine Andrea (1586 - 1654)
Andrea is an attributed author of the Chemical Wedding but the depth of symbolism and his age at the time make this a dubious claim despite his death bed proclamation and associations with his family crest. It has been suggested he may indeed have written a play with the same title that formed more a parody of the Rosicrucian manifesto. Plausibility sits more akin to the works being - if not to an earlier time and passed on accordingly then to the collective exponent of the circle of friends we have mentioned above, who together with Andrea were based at the University in Tubingën at the same time period.
Daniel Mögling (pseudonym: Teophilus Schweighardt Constantiens)
An Alchemist, Mathematician and Astronomer, his drawing of the famous depiction of the Invisible College of the Rosicrucians is incorporated in his Speculum Sophicum Rhodostauroticum - 'The Mirror of the Wisdom of the Rosicrucians', A work he created in 1618 concerning the spiritual journey of the Rosicrucian.
Thomas Vaughan (1622-66)
A philosopher of magic and mysticism and a Rector of a parish in Wales, Thomas Vaughan translated the Fama and the Confessio into English in 1652. A 'Braid Scots' version had already been published around 1633. Although not certain it is believed he wrote a number of tracts under the pseudonym of Eugenius Philalethes. He was also a Paracelcian Alchemist and actually died through the inhaling of mercury vapour following a failed experiment.
Elias Ashmole (1617-1692)
Initiated into the Rosicrucian "secrets" by William Backhouse of Swallowfield in Berkshire, Elias Ashmole was a Royalist Politician, Astrologer and Alchemist, an early Freemason, Antiquarian and Rosicrucian. He amassed a large and varied antiquarian collection which he donated to the University of Oxford who formed the Ashmolean Museum. It is probable the masonic movement grew out of Rosicrucian origin with Elias as one of its founders.
Queen Christina of Sweden (1626 - 1689)
With the majority of the sciences being in the hands of the male species it is unusual and rare to find a female of this time sharing the same passion for the arts and sciences as her male counterparts. Being of nobility she was a respected student of Philosophy, Astronomy, Alchemy and the Arts. With acquaintances throughout Europe she studied under a number of learned professionals in their respective fields including Rene Descartes. She was influenced in part by the Rosicrucian movement that was spreading throughout Europe at the time via the unseen distribution of many pamphlets. Following her abdication of 1654 she travelled to Rome where as a patron of the arts she continued or rather increased her alchemical labors and researches until her death in Rome of 1689.
John Heydon (1629 - 1668)
A Neoplatonist Occult Philosopher, Astrologer, Geomancer, Alchemist and Rosicrucian. John Heydon wrote a number of Rosicrucian works including The Glory of the Rosie-Cross (1664), The Rosie-Cross Uncovered (1662) and the Voyage to the Land of the Rosicrucians. He was known it seems as a bit of a rogue in his day and we know not all he wrote was attestable to himself, but nevertheless he forms a fascinating and insightful mid seventeenth century character of Rosicrucian learning, and in that context an important historical figure worthy of study.
Arthur Edward Waite (1857 - 1942)
A well respected authoritarian of many subjects through the western esoteric tradition and a prolific author of the same, including the Real History of the Rosicrucians and the Masonic Encyclopedia. Waite was a learned hermetic Philosopher, a prominent Mason, a member of the Golden Dawn and following the dispersal of the Order in the early 1900's he formed the Fellowship of the Rosy Cross. A Rosicrucian Order attracting membership from the Golden Dawn, Masonic and Theosophical quarters.