Past and Present, At Home and Abroad
An Address to the Soc. Rosic. In Anglia
By William Wynn Westcott
It is well at certain times to
consider our status as Rosicrucians, and to remind ourselves
of the origin of the Society to which we belong, to notice how
far we moderns have strayed from the original paths laid down
by our Founder, C.R., and to take a note of the kindred Societies
of Rosicrucians which are now in being, so far as we know of
With regard to past history we
must not be suprised that extant published records are very scanty,
for the purpose of the Rosicrucians was to be unknown to the
people among whom they Lived. Some few notable persons only appear
to have had the right to function as recognised members of the
Rosicrucian Colleges, for instance, Michael Maier the German
student of Alchemy who died in 1662, and Dr. Robert Fludd of
London and Bearstead near Maidstone who died in 1637.
The Star of Rosicrucianism is
now once more in the ascendant and our Society has made rapid
strides in the past ten years. It is curious to note that waves
of interest in occult and mystical subjects, seem to sweep over
a nation at intervals; periods of Rosicrucian enlightenment alternate
with other periods of materialistic dogmatism.
We must remember that Rosicrucianism
itself was "no new thing" but only a revival of still
earlier forms of Initiation, and was a lineal descendant of the
Philosophies of the Chaldean Magi, of the Egyptian priests, of
the Neo-Platonists, of the Hermetists of Alexandria of the Jewish
Kabalists and of Christian Kabalists such as Raymond Lully and
Pic de Mirandola.
The nominal Founder of our Society--Christian
Rosencreuz, did not invent, at least in our modern sense of the
word, the doctrines he promulgated, and which we should now study.
It is narrated that he journeyed to Arabia, to Palestine, to
Egypt and to Spain, and in the seats of learning in those countries
he found and collected the mystic lore, which was made anew by
him into a code of doctrine and knowledge. On his return from
these foreign travels he settled in Germany, founded a Collegium,
selected certain friends and transformed them into enthusiastic
pupils, and giving his new Society his own name, he laid the
foundation of that scheme of Mystical Philosophy, which we are
now here to perpetuate and carry into practice: let us remember
that he died in the year 1484, that is so far back as the reign
of our King Richard the Third.
The fratres of the original Collegium,
who met in the "Domus Sanctus Spiritus," or "
House of the Holy Spirit," were learned men, earnest students
and public benefactors. Their rules were: That none of the members
should profess any art except to relieve the sick and that gratis;
each one should wear the ordinary dress of the country, and should
attend on Corpus Christi day at a general Convocation every year,
whenever possible to do so; each one should seek a suitable pupil
to succeed him: that the secret mark of each one should be C.R
or R.C., and that the Society should remain secret for 100 years.
As time went on the purposes
and duties of the fratres became altered, the cure of the sick
especially was taken over by the development of the medical profession.
About 1710, one Sigmund Richter,
using the motto of "Sincerus Renatus," published at
Breslau his work called "The perfect and true preparation
of the Philosophical Stone according to the secret of the Brotherboods
of the Golden and Rosy Cross." In this volume we find a
series of 52 rules for the guidance of Rosicrucian members; these
rules are such as were likely to lead to useful and orderly lives.
Again, about 1785, there was
published at Altona in Germany a most important volume of coloured
theosophical plates with eludicatory words and phrases and several
essays on Rosicrucian subjects: its title was "Geheime Figuren
der Rosenkreuzer"; it was in two portions. An English translation
of some part of this work was published in 1888 by Franz Hartmann,
a German Theosophist.
We catch a further glimpse of
the purposes of the Rosicrucians at a later date, from a curious
little tract relating to a French branch of the Society, which
relates the Reception of Dr. Sigismund Bacstrom in the Mauritius--French
colony--by the Comte de Chazal in 1794. I cannot say where the
original MS. now is, but our copy was made by the secretary of
the well-known Rosicrucian and crystal-gazer Frederick Hockley,
who died in 1885. Bacstrom signed his pledge to fourteen promises;--to
piety and sobriety, to keep the secrecy of his admission, to
preserve the secret knowledge, to choose suitable successors,
to carry on the great work, to give aid and charity privately,
to share discoveries with his fellows, to avoid politics, to
help strangers, and to show gratitude to those who had led to
his reception; etc.
During a recent visit to East
Africa I met in Natal a Mauritius born doctor whose wife was
a Miss de Chazal, a native of Mauritius; among her ancestors
about I780-90 there was this M. de Chazal who was an eccentric
genius and was considered to possess curious arts; he also became
a notable Swedenborgian and held classes of mystical philosophy.
The name is many times mentioned in a French history of Mauritius
which was lent to me by Dr. Dumat of Durban. At the time of the
French Revolution it would be natural for our count de Chazal
to drop his title, as did many of the French nobility.
The aim of our own Society at
the present day is to afford mutual aid and encouragement in
working out the great problems of Life, and in discovering the
Secrets of Nature; to facilitate the study of the system of Philosophy
founded upon the Kabalah and the doctrines of Hermes Trismegistus,
which was inculcated by the original Fratres Rosae Crucis. of
Germany, A.D. 1450; and to investigate the meaning and symbolism
of all that now remains of the wisdom, art and literature of
the Ancient World.
The Rosicrucian Societies of
Anglia, Scotia and the United States, alike Masonic bodies, are
by no means the only descendants of the original Collegium, for
in Germany, and Austria there are other Rosicrucian Colleges
of more direct descent than our own, which are not fettered by
any of the limitations which Freemasonry has imposed upon us,
and some of these, although not composed of many members, include
students who understand many curious phenomena, which our Zelators
have not studied. The German Rosicrucians keep their Colleges
and membership entirely secret, they print no transactions nor
even any notices, and it is almost impossible to identify any
The German groups of Rosicrucians
now existing are much more immersed in mystic and occult lore
than ourselves; they endeavour to extend the human faculties
beyond the material toward the ethereal, astral and spiritual
worlds: at the present time I understand that they use no formulated
Ritual, but German Colleges have experienced a notable revival
and the teachings of Rudolf Steiner are considered as giving
an introduction of their system of occult Theosophy. Several
of Steiner's volumes are now available in English translations,
such are his "Initiation and its Results," "The
Gates of Knowledge," and "Way of Initiation."
They are well worthy of study.
The Societas Rosicruciana in
Scotia, as well as the Societas Rosicruciana in the U.S.A. were
branches from the same Rosicrucian source and sprang from a rejuvenation
by Frater Robert Wentworth Little of that lapsed Rosicrucian
College in England which is mentioned by Godfrey Higgins in his
notable work "The Anacalypsis," or "An attempt
to withdraw the Veil of the Isis of Sais," which was published
in 1836; he remarks that he did not join the old College there
About fifty years earlier a certain
eminent Jew named Falk, or Dr. Falcon, lived in London (a reference
to whom will be found in the "Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry"
by Kenneth Mackenzie) and was of high repute as a teacher of
the kabalah and of other studies of a Rosicrucian character;
he was indeed said to have magical powers. Falk could not have
fully affiliated to any Rosicrucian College because he was a
strict Jew of the Jews, and the members of all true Rosicrucian
Colleges have always been Christians, but perhaps not of an orthodox
type, for there was a tendencv in the teachings toward Gnostic
ideals. Mackenzie classes Dr. Falk among the Rosicrucians of
eminence, and certainly told me he had first hand evidence of
his connection with the Society; manv Christian students adopted
a modification of the old Jewish kabalah, so perhaps some Jews
have been allied to the Christian Rosicrucians.
Our own Magus Frater R. W. Little
surrounded himself with several other notable Rosicrucian students,
of whom I may mention the late Supreme Magus in Anglia, Dr. William
Robert Woodman, a learned Kabalist and Hebrew scholar; W.J. Hughan,
the great Masonic historian; William Carpenter, editor of Calmet's
"Dictionary of the Bible"; Alphonse Constant, better
known as "Eliphaz Levi," who gave Fratres Little and
Kenneth Mackenzie much assistance, and was in return elected
an honorary member of the Metropolitan College in 1873. Our Society
unfortunately lost Frater Little at a very early age. Frater
H. C. Levander, too, a Professor at University College, London,
was a learned member; and took great interest in the mystic lore
of the Society.
The late Lord Lytton, the author
of "Zanoni" and "The Strange Story," who
was in 1871 Grand Patron of our Society, took very great interest
in this form of Philosophy, although he never reached the highest
degree of knowledge; for public reasons he once made a disavowal
of his membership of the Rosicrucians, but he had been
admitted as a Frater of the German Rosicrucian College at Frankfort
on the Main; that Coliege was closed after 1850.
Among the Fratres who have recently
been ornaments to our Colleges, I may draw attention to the lately
deceased and quaintly cultured John Yarker of Didsbury; to our
late Adept of York, T. B. Whytehead, who was famous as an antiquarian:
to Frater Fendelow of the Newcastle College, who was the author
of a learned and suggestive Rosicrucian Lecture: to Frater F.
F. Schnitger, who made deep researches into the French and German
Rosicrucian Treatises: to Samuel Liddell Mathers, the translator
of portions of the Hebrew "Zohar," and to Frederick
Holland, the author of "The Temple Rebuilt," and "The
Shekinah Revealed." Another deceased Frater of eminence
was Benjamin Cox of Weston-super-Mare, and with him I naturally
couple the greater name of Frater Major F. G. Irwin, who, however
has now also gone to a Temple far away.
Among the learned juniors of
our Society, I may name Fratres Dr. Vaughan Bateson, Thomas Henry
Pattinson, the Rev. C. E. Wright, Sir John A. Cockburn, W. J.
Songhurst, Herbert Burrows, A. Cadbury Jones, W. Wonnacott, Dr.
Wm Hammond, Dr. B. J. Edwards, and Dr. W. C. Blaker.
Our Colleges need not languish
for want of subjects of study; the narrative of the foundation
of our Society is singularly suggestive of points for future
investigation. The German "Fama Fraternitatis" of 1614,
in an English translation by Thomas Vaughan of 1652, presents
you with the History of Christian Rosenkreuz: its companion tract
the "Confessio Fraternitatis" gives you a slight insight
into the views of the Rosicrucians of a date a hundred years
later. The "Chymische Hochzeit" or "Chemical Wedding"
by C.R., and the "Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians"
by F. Hartman, are tractates of Rosicrucian Allegory which will
well repay, not only perusal, but deep study; while the elucidation
of the whole set of Medieval Divinatory Sciences, Astrology,
Geomancy, etc, are suitable themes for lectures in your College
For such as can understand medieval Latin a most interesting
work is the "Oedipus Aegyptiacus" of Athanasius Kircher.
It is desirable that our students should make themselves acquainted
with the Ancient Mysteries of Egypt, of Greece and of Rome. The
basis of the Western occultism of medieval Europe is the Kabalah
of the medieval Hebrew Rabbis, to which I have published "An
Introduction." This philosophy, although at first sight
barbarous and crude, yet will be found, when one has grown familiar
with the nomenclature, to be a concrete, coherent and far-reaching
scheme of Theology, cosmology, ethics and metaphysics, serving
to throw light on many obscure Biblical passages and to suggest
original views of the meaning of most of the allegorical descriptions
found in the Old Testament. A copy of a very curious old Kabalistic
picture from a Syriac Gospel with a descriptive essay by Dr.
Carnegie Dickson, a notable Scotch Rosicrucian Adept, has just
been given to our Library.
The works of the great Rosicrucian
Kabalist, Eliphaz Levi, are, to those who read French with ease,
a mine of mystic lore, full of fine imagery, and replete with
magical formulas. His "Histoire de la Magie" is a storehouse
of information relating to the Secret Sciences and Secret Fraternities
of all times and among many nations, while in English the two
volumes of the new edition of Heckethorn's "Secret Societies"
should he read as an introduction to deeper personal research.
The work of Franz Hartmann, named
"Magic, White and Black," I can recommend to serious
enquirers, for it elucidates the real aims of the Higher Magic,
with which alone we are concerned, and it clears away many misconceptions
which exist in the minds of the uninitiated.
To such as desire to follow more
closely the Old Testament religious element, I should advise
a perusal of the Commentaries of Dr. Allen Barnes on "Daniel"
and "The Book of Revelation," and the symbolical descriptions
of the book of Ezekiel. On the Christian aspect I recommend "The
Perfect Way," or "The Finding of Christ," by the
late Dr. A. Kingsford; in this volume will be found worked out
the broader scheme of Christian teaching which is so apt to be
obscured by sectarian forms of worship. The tenets of this work
are closely approximate to those of the earliest of the followers
of Christian Rosencreuz, whose name was probably a mystic title,
motto or synonym, and not a family cognomen:- "Christian"
referring to the general theological tendency, and "Rosenkreuz"
to the Cross of Suffering whose explanation and key may need
a Rose or secret explanation.
There is one doctrine for the
learned, and a simpler formula for those who are unable to bear
it yet, even as the new testament itself tells us, of the Great
Master who taught his immediate disciples the true keys, but
to others he spake only in parables,--"and without a parable
spake he not unto them."
Such, my Fratres, are suitable
subjects for the attention of your members, but there are many
allied topics which might form suitable centres of interest and
instruction, for example the whole range of church architecture
as crystalised symbolism, the dogmas of the Gnostics, the several
systems of philosophy of the Hindoos, the paralleiism between
Rosicrucian doctrine and Eastern Theosophy, for which read Max
Heindel's "Rosicrucian Cosmo Conception," and that
enticing subject, the origin and meaning of the 22 Trumps or
symbolic designs of the "Tarocchi" or pack of Tarot
cards, which Eliphaz Levi says form a group of keys which will
unlock every secret of Theology and Cosmology. For such as are
interested in the Alchemy of the past I recommend a perusal of
"A Suggestive Enquiry into the Hermetic Mystery" 1850,
by an anonymous author, and E. A. Hitchcock's "Remarks on
Alchemy and the Alchemists," 1857. And, lastly, we may make
researches into that most interesting problem--Did Speculative
Masonry arise from the Rosicrucians? I am to understand that
the German Rosicrucians say that before the Masonic revival of
1717 these were identical in Europe.
Let us not forget, that not only
as Rosicrucians, but even as Freemasons, we are pledged, not
only to Brotherhood and Benevolence, but also to look below the
surface of things, and to seek and to search out the hidden secrets
of Nature and of Science. Let us bear in mind that a little knowledge
is a dangerous thing, but that deeper study reveals the roots
of knowledge, as well as increases our store of information.
Let us not, with folded arms, float with the tide of indolence,
but ever strive after increase of that true knowledge which is
wisdom and remember that "to labour is to pray," or
as the Latin motto has it, "Laborare est Orare," for
the day is coming to each one of us when no man can work, and
the value of the work of each man will be tried in the balance
of justice, and if we have done well we shall gain a rich reward.