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8 - Three phases of inventing Rosicrucian tradition in the seventeenth century

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2009

Susanna Åkerman
Librarian Swedenborg Library in Stockholm
James R. Lewis
University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
Olav Hammer
University of Southern Denmark
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The obscurely phrased announcement in 1614 that a secret Rosicrucian brotherhood had been established to cause a radical religious reform was to provoke many reactions. Even if one recognized their traits of Christian kabbalism, alchemy, and apocalypticism, Rosicrucian writings were written under the seal of secrecy, signed by pseudonyms or acrostics formed from the authors' initials, and no one seemed to know their true origin. Although they were anonymous, the Rosicrucian manifestos spread intense expectations of a new age, an era of heavenly grace and spirit created by a general reformation of religion and society, and a renewal of all sciences and arts. All natural connections in the cosmos that were hidden or scattered would now be brought together, researched, and revealed. The first Rosicrucian manifesto, The Fame of the Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross, Addressed to All Learned and to All Heads of State in Europe, spoke of a German knight, Christian Rosenkreutz, who had travelled to the Orient and had returned with arcane and mystical knowledge. The Fama claimed that his hidden grave had recently been rediscovered, 120 years after it was sealed. It was said to contain encyclopedic and revelatory texts, as well as an ever-burning lamp to be used for the recovering and further spread of this knowledge.

The author of the initial Rosicrucian manifestos, Fama fraternitatis roseae crucis and Confessio fraternitatis roseae crucis (Kassel, 1614–15), is now generally agreed to be the theology student Johann Valentin Andreae, inspired by the apocalypticist Tobias Hess and indebted to the esoteric library of the law professor Christoph Besold, all living in the Lutheran university town of Tübingen.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2007

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