Skip to content

rosicrucianity

De Rozenkruisers Revolutie – various authors (2022)

Currently in the Embassy Of The Free Mind (aka Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica aka Ritman Library) in Amsterdam an exhibition about the Rosicrucians. There is a publication which is a catalogue of the exhibition, but also seven organisations that present themselves. The book is available in print and as PDF. There does not yet seem to be an English version.

The publication opens with an introduction of Lucinda Martin (director of the museum). Then follows a text of Carlos Gilly, the eminent scholar on Rosicrucianity. Joost Ritman himself contributed a text followed by Wendelijn van den Brul.

Then follows a text of the current Grand Master of the Grand Orient of the Netherlands, the oldest and biggest organisation for Freemasonry in the Netherlands. Their archives contain the collection of Georg Kloss (1787-1854) who made the first inventory of Rosicrucian texts and books of which are on display in the exhibition. Gerrit van Eijk makes the link between the early Rosicrucians and early Freemasonry.

Peter Huijs of the Lectorium Rosicrucianum contributed two texts. One about the Lectorium and a more general one.

Reinout Spaink is the current chairman of the Dutch Theosophical Society and he presents his society while -of course- making links to Rosicrucianity. Jaap Sijmons does the same for the Anthroposophical Society and Klaas-Jan Bakker for AMORC.

Corey Andrews has a text about Daniel Möglings Speculum Sophicum Rhodo-Stauroticum (1618) and the 175 page books ends with a chronological summery (a time-line) of Nathalie Koch.

“The Rosicrucian Revolution” makes a nice read. Now I have to find the time to visit the exhibition itself (the exhibition only runs until July 31th 2022). Hopefully an English version of the book is forthcoming.

2022 Embassy Of The Free Mind, isbn 9789071608445

Reformation, Revolution, Renovation – Lyke de Vries (2021)

The dissertation of De Vries (1990-) on the Rosicrucians for her philosophy study in Nijmegen was turned into an academic publication on the esteemed publisher Brill. This makes this yet another expensive publication, but apparently Brill wanted to make this book better available, since you can download a free version on the book through the publisher’s website.

When I got the book I wondered if it would bring any new information. There have been classic and detailed publications about the subject, also from my own country. Think Carlos Gilly, think Govert Snoek; recently I read Tobias Churton. Actually, De Vries indeed did dive into a hardly explored element of the subject: the Rosicrucian call for a general reformation.

Universal reformation is by definition all-embracing and encompasses a wide range of activities, including plans to reform, amongst others, religion, politics, philosophy, medicine, and education. (p. 22)

Thus De Vries sets out to investigate what reformation(s) the Rosicrucians stood for. Contrary to other authors, De Vries is of the opinion that Rosicrucians were not Lutheran. She compared the manifestos and the people who (presumably) wrote them and compared them to Lutheran (“millennialistic” / “chiliastic”) texts and concludes that there are big differences. The most important being that Rosicrucian texts are actually optimistic as they hint towards a golden time after the end of the world.
This optimism also shows in the political area.
Philosophy, medicine and education are in grave need for reformations. Based on Paracelcus, but mostly followers of Paracelcus, new ways of medicine and theology are supported.

De Vries not only looked at the manifestos and other writings of Johan Valentin Andreae (1586-1654) and Tobias Hess (1568–1614), she also looked at the early responds in detail. This way it becomes obvious that everybody read the manifestos in a different way. One respondent picks elements to support his own agenda, another one does the same. This way the “Rosicrucian furore” becomes somewhat confusing. It certainly was not a homogenous movement.

Lyke de Vries’ book takes you on a journey through 16/7th century thinking. Sometimes radical, sometimes provocative. A world in transition where reformers clash with the establishment, an establishment that some are part of themselves. The book is mostly a ‘history of ideas’ so to speak.

Indeed, a somewhat different angle to the subject. Reformation, Revolution, Renovation The Roots and Reception of the Rosicrucian Call for General Reform makes an interesting read.

2019 Brill, isbn 9004250220

The Invisible History Of The Rosicrucians – Tobias Churton (2009)

Another Churton, and I have bought yet more. Obviously, in this book Churton takes a look at the Rosicrucians, a history often told.

As in his other works, Churton used recent (and less recent) scholarly publications, especially those of Carlos Gilly and Susanna Åkerman. He frequently refers to the Ritman Library (aka Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica aka Embassy Of The Free Mind). Churton is connected to the Exeter University where there is a seat for Western Esotericism. Still Churton does not read ‘dry scholarly’, quite the contrary actually. I have just started a very recent academic publication about the Rosicrucians and Churton does not even seem to be a source there. Does he move just outside the usual suspects of Rosicrucian scholars?

It is not like his book is one of those popular ‘alternative history’ books with much spectacle and little substantiation. And even though -more than in his other books- he uses other publications for his information, there is also again his own information and approach.

Churton puts the Rosicrucian furore in a bit of a cadre. astronomy (supernovas), upcoming science, radical individuals and groups, etc. Even though he looks at people and how they relate to each other his conclusion is that there was no Rosicrucian brotherhood. This is somewhat annoyingly repeatedly stressed towards the end.

What there was were people with ideals, certain interests, people who saw that the world was running in the wrong direction. Not even central among them was Johan Valentin Andreae, the author of the Fama, the Chemical Wedding, perhaps also of the Confessio, but also of a load of other writings that are often left aside by authors on Rosicrucian history. Churton does look at Andreae’s other writings and thus paints an interesting picture in which the Rosicrucian craze is a bit of an embarrassment for Andreae. The manifestoes were not published at Andreae’s wish, but because somebody got hold of a copy and took it to a publishing house. What Andreae was really after and what the publication of the manifestoes thwarted rather than helped is something you get an idea of reading Churton’s book.

Of course there was more to the Rusicrucian furore than Andreae and there was much more to Andreae than Rocrucianism. Churton describes how thinkers such as Andreae, but also Jan Amos Comenius and others saw the need of a reformation much wider than the Reformation, a development that just may have influenced the ‘start’ of early Freemasonry.

Towards the end of the book the author starts describing ‘neo-Rosicrucian’ organisations and people. This is a bit of a history of Western esotericism after 1730. “Fringe” Freemasonry (Churton seems to see ‘high grade’ Freemasonry as “fringe”), famous esotericists, Rosicrucian groups, Crowley, all things mildly related and yet very much unrelated as there was no historical Rosicrucian brotherhood, fills the last chapters of the book.

Churton paints a bit of a larger picture than what you are often presented. Especially more of the person of Andreae was an interesting read. All in all, I do not think I learned a whole lot of things new. Churton’s book is a bit of an ‘easy read’ about the subject, a bit of an updated Frances Yates so to say. If you want a not too dry book about the subject with fairly updated information, scholarly in background and easier to get than academic publications, this could be a title to look at.

2009 Inner Traditions, isbn 159477255X

Rosicrucian History And Mysteries * Christian Rebisse (2005)

For the next esoteric organisation to read about its history, I thought to have a look at AMORC (or rather: Ancient and Mystical Order Rosae Crucis) I looked around a bit and this book seemed to be just that: a history of AMORC. It is and it is not entirely.

The book was originally written in French, but was translated to English. I figure that this was a good idea, since AMORC started as an American organisation and my guess is that it is still biggest in the USA. The author does indeed provide a history of this Rosicrucian organisation, but he decided to place it in the course of Western esotericism.

The book counts 242 pages. The first half is about Western esotericism in general and after a while about the original Rosicrucian movement in particular. This history is certainly not bad, but I did not read much that I did not already know. Egypt, Hermetism, even Guénon is mentioned. Of course when we come closer to our own time the book mentions Medieval and Renaissance magic, alchemy and after a while the Rosicrucian manifestoes. These manifestoes are dealt with a bit too much in detail, retelling the contents, etc. After some information about philosophers with Rosicrucian interests and Rosicrucian elements in (early) Freemasonry, the author quite extensively speaks about magnetism, hypnosis, spiritualism and “Egyptosophy”.
Initially I wondered why these ‘esoterically less appealing’ movements get so much attention, but when Henry Spencer Lewis enters the stage, things become clear. Lewis, the founder of AMORC, was quite active in spiritualistic movements in his younger years. He made quite a name with investigations and articles that he wrote. After describing a few contemporary Rosicrucian movements, Rebisse tells the story of how Lewis sought contact with Masonic Rosicrucians in France and how he eventually was initiated and given the task to wait for a bit before restoring Rosicrucianism in the USA. This chapter certainly is the highlight of the book. The author describes the events relatively objectivally and tried to corroborate events that he describes.

Then -finally- follow chapters about AMORC, how it began, how it spread, how Lewis collected the teachings, how Lewis tried to make contacts to allow his organisation to expand and how these alliances sometimes proved to be a bad idea. Shortly we can read about AMORC after Lewis passed away and his son took over, to pass away in his turn and succeeded with less and more success.

“Rosicrucian History and Mysteries” indeed gives a history of AMORC. Do not expect to learn much about its teachings though, that is not what this book was written for. The massive ‘introduction’ is undoubtely interesting for people who are less familiar with the history of Western esotericism than myself, but still, when you look at it, the actual pages that tell us about the early years of AMORC are but few. That is not to say that the book does not give an idea of the origin and development of this worldwide (neo-)Rosicrucian organisation. I was largely unaware of how things went for AMORC ‘history-wise’ and I now no longer am. The book was written by a member and published by the organisation itself, so it may not be entirely objective, but the positive way to look at this is to say that this is the way the organisation sees its own history and it is not as fancy as the history that some esoteric organisations claim for themselves.

Be warned that this book seems to be sold for pretty steep prices while when you look a bit further, it does not need to be that expensive. Besides, it is available as ebook for various platforms.

2005 Rosicrucian Order, AMORC, isbn 1893971058

Divine Wisdom Divine Nature * Cis van Heertum & José Bouman (2014)

The Bibliotheca Philsophica Hermetica (or Ritman Library) published a wonderfull book about “The Message of the Rosicrucian Manifestoes in the Visual Language of the Seventeenth Century”. The book has 168 pages, is beautifully put together and nicely informative. The first part is about the Rosicrucian manifestoes and their reception. The second part more lives up to the subtitle and highlights some works of the Renaissance and shows the reader (some of) the details of the images. Detailed information is given about works of Heinrich Khunrath, Daniel Mögling, Stephan Michelspacher, Robert Fludd and Michael Maier. The book is a bit larger than most books and however the images are printed in high quality, sometimes the details are too small to see what the authors write about. Fortunately this is not a problem in most cases. Also often details are taken out of the images and displayed separately.
The texts do not go into any depth I have not encountered yet, but I especially enjoyed the information about details in the images that have escaped my eye so far. Also the authors put details in larger contexts giving explanations that I would not have thought of myself.
A beautiful book to have on the shelf and a nice read if you are interested in the period of the Rosicrucian manifestoes.
2014 In De Pelikaan, isbn 9789071608339

Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians of the 16th and 17th Centuries * a brother of the Fraternity (1785)

This was the third attempt to get me a book with the secret symbols of the Rosicrucians and this time I got it right! Of course Kessinger Legacy Reprints had the title. The A4 size book is about 60 pages thick and contains the secret symbols “with several figures of similar content added by P.S.” There are of course the wonderfull, famous and elaborate images, but also a couple of very long texts in a tiny font-size. Everything is translated to English and I suppose the translation, because the printer had obvious diffulties with placing the texts everywhere and quite often the texts had to be written by hand in order to get them in the right spot. I still hope to find a printing with better quality, but almost everything is readable, sometimes with some effort though. The images are so weird that you can keep pondering about them, especially because the R.C. used quite a lot of abreviations, some obvious, some totally unclear to me. A nice reprint if you are looking for the same thing.
1785 in German, years of English translations and Kessinger reprints unknown, isbn 9781162575193

The Secret Doctrine Of The Rosicrucians * Magus Incognito

This is the second book that I bought thinking that it contained the secret symbols of the Rosicrucians and I failed again… I know these secret symbols are available online, I just want a book with the drawings properly printed. The Parchment Books printing that I got of the unknown master’s text does not say when the book was written. The credits refer to the British Library which suggests it to be an old book. When reading it, the book gets younger and younger! The books opens with the author giving some history of the Rosicrucians and claiming that he is finally allowed to publish some of the secret doctrines of the Rosicrucians. He presents seven aphorisms that are explained in different chapters. The book starts with interesting metaphysics about “the eternal parent”, “the soul of the world”, “the universal androgyne”, etc. and this first part is actually quite interesting. Then I started to notice how the author uses the terms “occultism” and “occultist” in a way that certainly would not place the book in, or shortly after, the time of the original Rosicrucians. Then he starts to make references to philosophers, authors and then scientists. Halfway the book the author starts to laud modern science and the way it proves ancient esotericism. This already puts the book in the nineteenth century and makes it a lot less interesting. The worst is yet to come though. Towards the end things get very Theosophical, in the Blavatsky-way. A chain of planets, rounds, root-races and races, metempsychosis, “the soul’s progress” and a Leadbeaterian story about the aura makes “Magus Incognito” very likely a member of some frinch-group of the early days of Theosophism, somewhere around 1900. The second half of the book is downright annoying.
2010 Aziloth Books, isbn 9781907523755

De Rozenkruisers In Nederland * Govert Snoek (1997)

This impressive book has a complete title which goes (translated) “The Rosicrucians in the Netherlands, particularly in the first half of the 17th century, an inventarisation”. It is written in Dutch, but has a summery in French. The book was initiatlly written as a master’s thesis in 1989 (in the same year Peter Huijs wrote his at another university, both have published books through the publishing house of the contemporary Rosicrucian organisation Lectorium Rosicrucianum) studying history. Later the thesis was expanded for a PHD thesis in theology (1998). Actually, the book is more the work of an archivarist. Snoek ploughed through a gigantic amount of works (his bibliography is 100 pages!), but not just primary and secondary works, he tried to find each and every reference to the Rosicrucians in the Netherlands in the 17th century. Therefor he read a great number of writings of many many religious apostates (and there were many of them), but also he studied auction lists to see who possessed Rosicrucian books. You will read about the Family of Love (actually the House of Love), David Joris, Hiël, chiliasts, (ana)baptists and whatever there was in those days. People who spend time in the Netherlands or had contacts here bring famous names as Tycho Brahe, John Dee, Jacob Böhme, Thomas à Kempis and many more. Within our own country almost anybody who made some name seems to have has some kind of interest in the Rosicrucians, scientists (Cornelis Drebbel), painters (Pieter Paul Rubens), poets (P.C. Hooft) everybody gets a background investigation. Interesting webs are uncovered, unexpected links made and ‘maybe’s of earlier investigators are proved or disproved. Yes, the book is almost purely historical, factual and purely informative, but interesting. Snoek mostly manages to present his dry information well enough and here and there says a few things about the ideas of the people discussed which makes things even more interesting. Yes, finally I found a book that looks into all the links and contacts of this highly interesting. Old acquintances and people I had never heard of, Snoek has it all.
1997 Rozekruis Pers, isbn 9067323241

The Secret Teachings Of All Ages * Manly Palmer Hall (1928)

When this 700-page book was published, the author (1901-1990) was only 28 years old. He decided to write this book in his early 20’ies and began to read the required literature. The bibliography is staggering, but Hall certainly had a few favourite sources. The book is presented as “A masterfull summation of the esoteric teachings of all ages” and “a classic in the world’s literature”. To be frank: however the work is impressive in size, it is not very much so in depth. Hall soon proves himself to lean heavily towards Theosophism and come across somewhat gullible. Also it is quite obvious that he was scholar and not an esotericist. What Hall mainly does is study a subject and pour all the information into a synopsis. He does that well, but in most cases things remain quite on the surface giving more information about the history of cults and religions than insight in their esotericisms. This is not to say that Hall does not present some thought-provoking interpretations of symbols and teachings. I especially like his chapters abour Rosicrucianity (in fact, when I bought this book I expected it to be about the secret symbols…). What bugs me is that the author makes some eyecatching mistakes, sometimes (I think) because of ignorance, sometimes of sloppiness and that makes me wonder about the parts that I do not know everything of by heart. In any case, the book is an alright read, but do not believe the raving reviews or expect a compendium of esoteric knowledge. Mind too, there are different versions, apparently not all as good as the other. Some have bad images reviewers on Amazon say. The version that I bought does not have very good images I can say.
1928 / 2003 Tarcher/Penguin, isbm 9781585422500

Paracelsus symposion booklet (isbn isbn 9067322660)

Another coverage of a Lectorium Rosicrucianum “symposion”, this time about Theophrastus Bombastus of Hohenheim. A nice article about his life and another few articles telling about the ideas and medicine of Paracelsus. A nice little piece of information again and now also with discount.