Lesson 3) Order to Power
Welcome back to yet another week of Alchemy! As you may recall, last class we discussed the basics of Kabbalah and I hinted that you all should remember that information for this lesson. Today, we will look at a prominent alchemical movement, Rosicrucianism, as well as a number of magical orders and their contributions to the wizarding and Muggle world today. Do note that there may be a slight Muggle influence on these orders when it comes to their traditions and methods. They aren’t necessarily associated with any governmental organizations in the wizarding world, but are closer to guilds or unions.
To start off, I would like to introduce a prominent movement and order that inspired a majority of the alchemical orders: Rosicrucianism. Rosicrucianism is a movement that emerged around the 17th century in Europe and was shrouded in mystery with a previously unknown magical order under the name “The Fraternity of the Rose Cross” (also referred to as the Order of the Rosy Cross in various texts). Keeping in mind that the start of the movement predates the International Statute of Secrecy, the idea of this mystical order appealed to both wizards and Muggles alike; the former were in worry of riling up Muggles, as witch hunts were becoming more and more prevalent, while the latter were intrigued with seeking the order’s knowledge, as it provided hope in a time known as the General Crisis. The General Crisis was a period of conflict across the continent that wracked the entire 17th century (i.e. the Thirty Years War, the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, Spanish revolts, the War on Spanish Succession, and more). The Fraternity of the Rose Cross encouraged many individuals to seek esoteric knowledge by promising spiritual transformation.
The order was formed through the principles provided by three anonymous German manifestos: Fama Fraternitatis Rosae Crucis (Fama fraternitatis Roseae Crucis oder Die Bruderschaft des Ordens der Rosenkreuzer), Confessio Fraternitatis (Confessio oder Bekenntnis der Societät und Bruderschaft Rosenkreuz), and the Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreuz (Chymische Hochzeit Christiani Rosencreutz anno 1459). The first manifesto, Fama Fraternitatis, introduced the father of Rosicrucianism, Father Brother C.R.C., otherwise known as Christian Rosenkreuz (also written as Rosenkreutz and Rose Cross) as identified in the third manifesto. Rosenkreuz, a doctor, is regarded as a legendary figure (such as Hermes Trismegistus is to Hermeticism and Laozi is to Taoism) who was noted in the manifestos to be born in 1378. The manifestos detail a pilgrimage he took in order to obtain alchemical and esoteric knowledge amongst Turkish, Arab, and Persian sages. When Rosenkreuz returned to Europe, he founded the Fraternity of the Rose Cross as well as a temple called Sanctus Spiritus. It was said that he lived up to around 106-years-old, putting the year of his death at 1484, with members pointing to 1407 as the date of the supposed foundation of the Fraternity of the Rose Cross. However, after Rosenkreuz’s death, it was said that his body was kept in a perfect state of preservation for 120 years in secret in a heptagonal chamber located in the interior of the Earth, which is a reference to vitriol (“Visit the interior of the earth, and by rectifying what you find there, you will discover the hidden stone,” for those of you that need a reminder). Now, the idea of keeping the corpse of a 106-year-old man in a sarcophagus preserved for 120 years is quite the accomplishment. The preservation was most likely Rosenkreuz’s solution to obtaining the Philosopher’s Stone posthumously for the order, however, whether the stone ever actually came into the possession of the order and if there is any merit to the myth has yet to be determined.
The manifestos received a mixed response from the public. While some took the material quite literally, others interpreted them allegorically, while the skeptics were, of course, skeptical. How you may perceive its contents is up to your own interpretation, however, let’s briefly discuss them as they allow a glimpse into the philosophy of Rosicrucianism. The first manifesto, Fama Fraternitatis, is mainly about the pilgrimage that Rosenkreuz took and the formation of the Fraternity of the Rose Cross. Rosenkreuz travelled to Jerusalem, seeking knowledge and running into obstacles along the way, and became a student of various sages. He met “wise men” from Damcar, a wizarding village in Arabia, who taught him Muggle disciplines such as physics and mathematics, as well as magical disciplines such as alchemy and Kabbalah. He made his return to Germany, making stops in Egypt, Morocco, and Spain along the way, and formed the order. At its beginning, this small group mainly consisted of healers and medicinal alchemists who met once a year at the Sanctus Spiritus temple, with the mission of using their knowledge to voluntarily cure the sick, both Muggles and wizards. Hermetic scholars believe that Rosenkreuz’s pilgrimage is symbolic of the spiritual journey of the Great Work. There is also a possibility that Rosenkreuz spent time with the Brethren of Purity, who we mentioned in Year Three, as there are similarities between the operations of both orders.
The second manifesto, Confessio Fraternitatis, was published only a year after the first and served as both a declaration of the existence of this secret brotherhood of alchemists who sought to change the intellectual and political landscape of Europe, as well as a philosophical justification of the first manifesto. It explained more about the “true philosophy” of Rosicrucianism and defended against points brought up by the public about the first manifesto. This text was much more well-received and although the author was anonymous, there was some speculation that Francis Bacon actually wrote it.
The third manifesto, Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreuz, was written and published two years after Confessio Fraternitatis and strikingly different from the other two manifestos in subject and style. This manifesto was divided into seven chapters, each taking place on a different day, with the premise of Rosenkreuz being invited to assist with the chymical wedding of the king and queen, and ending with Rosenkreuz being knighted. There were a lot of references to the bible in this particular text with the story starting on an Easter evening, the nine lords correlating with the nine books in the New Testament, and the hint that Rosenkreuz was Jewish, as he was depicted sitting at a table with Paschal lamb and unleavened bread. There is plenty of information to cross reference between both texts, however that would take a long time and we are not here to discuss that aspect of the manifesto. Considering you are sitting here right now because you have passed your O.W.L.s, I have no doubt that you caught that this so-called royal chymical wedding was actually the sacred wedding, the king being the red king and the queen the white queen. The manifesto described an intense initiation ritual for achieving this sacred wedding in the basic order of tests, purification, death, resurrection, and ascension. This is an allegorical recipe for the immortality of the soul and another representation of the Great Work in the form of a romance story. This particular manifesto has been an inspiration for both poets and spiritual alchemists through its ornate form of symbolism. One interesting note is that although it’s anonymous like the other two manifestos, Johann Valentin Andreae claimed in his autobiography that he wrote it when he was young. However, Andreae’s role in Rosicrucianism is controversial as in his later works he ridicules alchemy and considers it a “less serious” science along with other fields such as art, music, theatre, and astrology. I know, I know, the nerve of this man! That being said, the general public accepted his claims while Rosicrucians and a handful of alchemists refuted them as this was one of the original Rosicrucian manifestos.
As I mentioned earlier, the publishing of these three manifestos stirred up a sort of excitement in Europe. These texts were re-issued several times and followed up with pamphlets in the six years between 1614 and 1620, culminating in around 400 published documents. There were just as many critics as there were people who defended the movement. One in particular, Michael Maier, an imperial count palatine as well as alchemist and physician, was a prominent supporter of the Rosicrucians. He often wrote about the Fraternity of the Rose Cross and argued that the order existed to forward inspired arts and sciences, which included alchemy. Magihistorians who have studied Maier’s writings in order to learn more about the Rosicrucians have pointed out that neither Maier nor the Rosicrucians have ever transmuted metals or done other physical processes associated with alchemy, such as create elixirs. That’s because their studies were focused on symbolic and spiritual approaches, much like Hermeticism. Their main journey was called the Path of Initiation, an involutive-evolutive approach to spiritual transmutation. Simply put, there are three stages for the body, three for the soul, and three for the spirit to achieve this “initiation” or immortality. Even through the efforts of the anonymous person who first published these manifestos, there are no existing membership records for the Fraternity of the Rose Cross, thus the high possibility that this original order may have never existed to begin with. However, because this movement gained so much momentum, several Rosicrucian orders were created, the largest in present-day being the Ancient Mystic Order of Rosae Crucis (AMORC).
Surprisingly, Rosicrucianism heavily influenced Freemasonry by the end of the late 18th century. Two Masonic organizations inspired by Rosicrucianism, the Rectified Scottish Rite and the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, emerged, with the latter of the two creating an 18th degree known as Knight of the Rose Croix. These were started by Muggle stonemasons, however, more Rosicrucian Freemason orders followed afterwards. One in particular, Gold und Rosenkreuzer (The Order of the Golden and Rosy Cross), achieved the status of a magical order at one point. It was founded by Samuel Richter, an alchemist, and was appealing to wizarding architects, stonemasons, magical artists (predominantly sculptors), and fellow alchemists. The magical order was based on alchemy treatises, recognition signs, and internal circles, establishing a hierarchy among its members. After its second reformation in 1777 (the first being in 1767), under the new leadership of Hermann Fictuld, the order’s ideals strayed further into Rosicrucianism rather than alchemy. Members claimed that the leaders of the Fraternity of the Rose Cross were the ones who invented Freemasonry and that these leaders were the only ones who knew of the secret meaning behind Masonic symbols. There are also reports of the Golden and Rosy Cross order infiltrating other Masonic lodges (i.e. the Three Globes and Old Scottish Lodge Friedrich at the Golden Lion) and getting them to submit to the Order of the Golden and Rosy Cross. Many freemasons became Rosicrucians and Rosicrucianism was established in several lodges, often incorporating the symbol of a golden cross and a red rose at their headquarters.
Probably one of the most prominent magical orders was the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which actually stemmed from both Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry. William Robert Woodman, William Wynn Westcott, and Samuel Liddell Mathers were freemasons that founded the order in 1888. It was founded upon a series of documents known as the Cipher Manuscripts. These manuscripts contained English words written right to left, numbers substituted with Hebrew letters, and crude drawings of magical implements, rituals, diagrams, and tarot cards. The documents fell into the hands of Westcott, who deciphered the code and asked Mathers to check it for a second opinion and to arrange it into something coherent so they could possibly start a lodge. Being quite the daunting task for two people, Mathers recruited Woodman to assist them. The result was sixty folios of magical ritual outlines corresponding to the four aspects and an anthology of magical symbolism and theory that had been compiled up to the 19th century. Strangely, an address of a Rosicrucian countess -- who went by the name of Anna Sprengel -- was found in the decoded manuscripts. Westcott contacted her and Sprengel claimed to have established communication with the secret chiefs, supernatural entities that were in charge of magical orders, and that the secret chiefs gave Westcott permission to start a Golden Dawn temple. Later contact with Sprengel seemed to have ceased, with Westcott reporting that he received word that she was either dead or that the secret chiefs did not approve of the order and had her silenced. Interesting enough, Sprengel’s existence was never actually proven, and seems to have been made up by Westcott as an excuse for granting legitimacy on the Golden Dawn.
The hierarchical structure of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was heavily influenced by a Masonic order known as Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia, which did derive from the Order of the Golden and Rosy Cross. It was split into three levels called orders, and even though all three were collectively called “Golden Dawn,” that name was actually only reserved for the first order, which taught the philosophy of Hermetic Qabalah, the Four Aspects, and basic astrology, geomancy, and tarot. The second order, also known as the Rosae Rubeae et Aureae Crucis (the Ruby Rose and Cross of Gold) was more focused on scrying, alchemy, and astral travel. The third order contained not the members of the order, but the secret chiefs, who basically directed the activities of the other two orders by spiritually communicating with the leaders of the second order. Each rank or grade within the three orders had a number that corresponded with the Sephirot. Also, in the version of Kabbalah that they taught, they theorized a set of ten archangels that commanded one sephirah and one choir of angels, which is similar to the Jewish angelic hierarchy.
Although the founders and initial members were Muggles, wizards, particularly seers and alchemists, eventually became curious of the order due to the promises that they taught practical magic (the only other order to do so at the time was the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor). Of course, this magic wasn’t the same magic that we are able to do; however, this is what peaked the interests of witches and wizards because it brought up the question of “what exactly can they teach?” Thus, they joined the order to observe this Muggle magic. To their surprise, the Golden Dawn’s theories and approaches to alchemy and divination were accurate, they just simply didn’t have the ability to execute them. How could Muggles have known about these, especially with the International Statute of Secrecy in place? This was more than likely due to the fact that Mather’s wife, Moina Mathers, was a witch, as she was known to be a highly talented clairvoyant. Moina used her position within the order to further her own divination talents while making minor corrections to the order’s foundational texts. There is a record of at least one account of Moina violating the Statute at the Ministry, though it’s not certain how many times she actually broke that law. Unfortunately, her time in the order eventually came to an end. Woodman, who was the original leader, died of a sudden illness a year before the curriculum for the second order was created. The leadership was transferred over to Westcott, who broke all ties with the Golden Dawn around 1896 and left Mathers in charge since he was the last remaining founding member. The members of the Golden Dawn were not pleased with how Mathers ran the order and revolted in 1900, removing him from his position as chief and expelling both him and Moina from the order.
Unfortunately, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn went extinct in 1903. Although the temples from the original lineage ceased to exist past the 1970s, orders based on the Golden Dawn have been created since in an attempt to revive its teachings. Needless to say, regardless of its fate, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn has been extremely influential in inspiring modern Muggle traditions, particularly Wicca and Thelema, and Samuel and Moina Mathers made leaps of groundbreaking work on our knowledge of the tarot and other various divination methods in the order’s Z Documents. In terms of alchemy, although the emphasis was clearly on hermeticism, the Golden Dawn stated in official documents that the knowledge in the third order’s curriculum contained secret instructions written by Mathers on preparing the Philosopher’s Stone. Now, these instructions were most likely not accurate; however, no one has been able to get a glimpse of them yet so they do remain a mystery.
I’m afraid that’s all the time we have for today, my dear students. Although there are other magical orders associated with Hermeticism, such as the Ordo Templi Orientis or the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light, they simply don’t have much to do with alchemy. Regardless, I hope you have paid attention as you have not only a quiz this week, but also an extra credit assignment where you will get to create your own magical order. It’s about time we get your creative juices flowing, don’t you think? I will see you all again the next time we meet. Farewell!