FROM THE RENAISSANCE TO THE AGE OF REASON #2
Safety through secrecy
Few of the ideas of the Hermetic Philosophers were 'safe'. The Roman Catholic Church's attitude to astrology, which was an essential part of the overall package, varied from pope to pope over the centuries; generally alchemy was held in deep suspicion by prelate and peasant alike. As for the summoning or raising of spirits or angels or demons, this was the blackest of sorcery. Catholics interested in the esoteric arts were suspected of dealing with the Devil; Protestants were accused of dabbling in the mumbo-jumbo of Rome. These two main branches of Christianity were in any case at loggerheads; most of the sixteenth-and-seventeenth-century wars were, in one way or another, actually about religion. It was not a safe time to hold unsafe beliefs. Many of the Philosophers had to do some quick talking to save their lives; several were forced to recant of their heresy; some, like Bruno, were killed for their beliefs.
If there were any chance of being accused of heresy, it was safer to keep quiet about what one believed, and to teach others only after they had been made keenly aware of the need for secrecy. The carefully stepped progressive gradations of revealed knowledge in esoteric schools or secret societies today are partly because each level of knowledge rests on what has been learned previously, but there is also another reason, rooted in the past. New initiates would gain fairly innocuous knowledge at first; if the initiate decided to leave (or if he was a spy), he would not have learned much, and his teacher would not be threatened. But as someone climbed up the initiatory ladder, the teachings would become more suspect from an orthodox viewpoint, more dangerous if revealed. At some point, perhaps after several years but certainly several levels inwards, the initiate would realize that he had gradually become the possessor of a body of knowledge, and had perhaps taken part in rituals, that could send him to the stake.8
THE TRUE CHRISTIANS WERE, AS REVELATION 12 PUTS IT, "IN THE WILDERNESS" - THEY WERE SCATTERED IN THE HILLS AND VALLEY, IN THE FORESTS; THEY WERE NOT SECRET IN THEIR BELIEFS, BUT WERE SECRET IN KEEPING AWAY FROM THE HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE. IF FOUND THEY KNEW THEY WOULD SUFFER PERSECUTION AND EVEN DEATH - Keith Hunt
It is tempting to think of the persecution of heretics and witches as a medieval barbarity, but it was a barbarity which continued right through the Renaissance - and beyond. The last person to be burnt at the stake for heresy was in Seville, as late as 1781. The Spanish Inquisition continued its search for heretics until 1834. In Britain, which likes to think itself tolerant, the anti-witchcraft law was not repealed until 1951. Today, Fundamentalists of all religions are demanding that whatever remnants of blasphemy laws still remain should be strengthened. The fatwah against author Salman Rushdie in 1989 is a salutory reminder that it can still be dangerous to speak out too openly about religious beliefs. It is misleading to see this, from the haven of our Western liberal democracy, as a barbarism of Muslim extremism. The first screenings of Martin Scorsese's film The Last Temptation of Christ, based on Nikos Kazantzakis's novel, were met with demonstrations by Christian Fundamentalists; people going to see the film were spat on and called blasphemers. There was a similar reaction to the stage show Jerry Springer - the Opera, especially to its showing on BBC television early in 2005. Even the writers and publishers of computer fantasy games have received death threats from Fundamentalist Christians in America.
THE TRUE CHRISTIAN KNOWS THAT EVIL SHALL ABOUND IN THE LAST DAYS; THE TRUE CHRISTIAN KEEP AT ARMS LENGTH FROM ALL THE WILD PROTESTS FROM SO-CALLED "FUNDAMENTALIST." THERE IS EVIL IN SPORTS, THERE IS EVIL IN MUSIC; THERE IS EVIL IN PUBLICATIONS, MOVIE MAKING, STAGE ACTS, THERE IS EVIL IN GOVERNMENTS, AND ETC. THE TRUE CHRISTIAN IS BUSY PROCLAIMING THE TRUTH OF GOD'S WORD, AND LETTING THE WORLD CARRY ON WITH ITS SLIDE INTO SECULARISM AND UNRIGHTEOUSNESS - Keith Hunt
When Constantinople was sacked by the Turks in 1453, scholars escaping (mainly to Italy) took away with them much of value in the way of ancient manuscripts, thus stimulating in the West the great Classical revival of the Renaissance; not only were Greek and Egyptian philosophy studied, but Greek and Roman architecture also provided models for Renaissance usage.
It is often wondered what real connection the modern 'speculative' Freemasons had with medieval stonemasons. One of the links is that the Hermetic Philosophers, who were among the predecessors of the Freemasons, rediscovered esoteric knowledge which, in its practical expressions, the architects and builders of the Middle Ages had never lost. Architecture was one of the many subjects which Cornelius Agrippa, John Dee and others studied and on which they wrote. The masons had kept their secrets of geometry and proportion for centuries. From the wealth of 'new' material which became available to them in the fifteenth century the Hermetic Philosophers discovered much the same knowledge; they also kept it, along with much else, secret - or at least, concealed.
The great Roman architectural writer of the first century BCE was Vitruvius, who embodied philosophical ideas in his architecture. The Romans had absorbed Greek architectural ideas, though their slightly cruder approach to building shows they had lost some of the refinements.
Vitruvius's classic work De Architectura Libri Decern was certainly known in the twelfth century, but became lost for a while, being rediscovered in 1486. Both the medieval masons and the philosophers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries understood the symbolic truth of Vitruvius's architecture: proportion was all important. The proportion of buildings echoed the proportions of anatomy, for surely man was the pinnacle of God's design. The relation between the two can be found also in the preface to the notebook of the thirteenth-century French architect Villard de Honnecourt, which he hoped 'may be a great help in instructing the principles of masonry and carpentry. You will also find it contains methods of portraiture and line drawing as dictated by the laws of geometry.'9
Much of the knowledge of the basic laws of geometry, known to the Greeks, had been lost by medieval times - at least to scholars. Medieval architects and builders (i.e. masons), however, still had this knowledge. Some was undoubtedly
passed down from master masons to their journeymen and apprentices, as with the secrets of any craft guild. In addition, much was learned, however directly or indirectly, from the Muslims of southern Europe. It has already been seen that their level of scholarship and their love of learning were way above those of Christians of their day. Muslim scholars collected and preserved knowledge from all sources, including the Greek philosophers, and taught it to whoever wanted to learn; Arab universities were renowned seats of learning. AH branches of mathematics, including algebra, geometry and trigonometry, were avidly studied. The route by which this knowledge came to Italian, French and English masons is no longer known, but those in contact with Muslims in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries certainly included both the Jewish Cabalists and the Knights Templar. From their geographical location and from their tolerance of others' beliefs, it is most likely that the Cathars had a similar contact.
It should be remembered that Gothic architecture was inspired by Arabic architecture.
According to the French historian Jean Gimpel, the secrecy associated with masonic knowledge dates from the end of the thirteenth century. There is documentary evidence from a century later that apprentices were told to keep certain things secret; the Regius Manuscript of 1390 says:
He keeps and guards his master's teachings and those of his fellows. He tells no man what he learns in the privacy of his chamber, nor does he reveal anything which he sees or hears in the lodge or anything which happens there. Disclose to no man, no matter where you go, the discussions held in the hall or in the dormitory; keep them well, for your greatest honour, lest in being free with them you bring reproach upon yourself and great shame upon your profession.10
Gimpel argues that, rather than any esoteric knowledge, this simply referred to tricks of the trade - trade secrets - which should be kept within the profession.
MAYBE THERE WAS A CERTAIN VANITY IN CERTAIN TRADES BACK IN THOSE DAYS, NOT WANTING THE "KNOW-HOW" OF VERY SKILLED WORK TO BE BROADCASTED. MAYBE SOMEWHAT LIKE THE MAGICIAN OR SLIGHT-OF-HAND TRICK PERFORMER, WHO WANT THEIR "SECRETS" OF "HOW'S THAT DONE" TO BE KNOWN. SUCH MAYBE FINE FOR SOME STAGE PERFORMER, BUT PUT IT INTO A MIND-SET OF JUST A CLUB WITH RELIGIOUS OVERTONES, AND IT BECOMES A WHOLE NEW BALL GAME - Keith Hunt
What was it that was so special about architectural knowledge? One thing, of course, was the skill of the trade. There was a vast difference between building a labourer's home - little more than a hut - and building a vast cathedral. The building trade, then as now, would have had its 'cowboys', and professional masons didn't want the incompetence of such workers ruining a cathedral. Masonic handgrips and other recognition signals seem to have originated in Scotland, to distinguish true masons from 'cowans', labourers capable of building, say, a dry-stone wall. Some of the mystique surrounding the secrets of masons may have been allowed to develop to emphasize the difference between architect-craftsmen - often known as magister, maitre or master of the works, and sometimes even as 'doctor of stonework' - and mere labourers.
It is likely that the new secrecy from the end of the thirteenth century in part simply reflected the increasing sophistication of society in the late Middle Ages. It is also quite possible that part of the reason for secrecy is that masons were worried about the Church's reaction if it discovered that they were acquiring architectural knowledge, directly or indirectly, from Muslims.
YES INDEED THAT MAY WELL HAVE PAYED A PART, NOTING HOW THE HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE WAS PARANOID OVER CERTAIN RELIGIOUS ENTITIES, AND HAD THE POWER TO BE RUTHLESS EVEN UNTO TORTURE AND DEATH - Keith Hunt
The mathematical knowledge itself needed to be protected. Pythagoras's right-angle theorem is known to every 14-year-old today, but seven hundred years ago few knew it, and fewer still knew its applications, such as how to construct a square with exactly half or twice the area of another square. Even how to measure an angle was unknown to most people. The Golden Section was even more esoteric, in the wider sense of the word. The complexity of mathematics - the 'magic' of mathematics, to ordinary people's eyes - led to it sometimes being referred to as a 'black art'.
Furthermore, buildings are constructed in three dimensions. Not just a conceptual leap is required, but various specific principles, in order to go from a drawing on parchment to a finished building - taking an elevation from a plan. This particular knowledge, acquired through years as an apprentice and a journeyman, would be jealously guarded by master masons.
YES INDEED, JUST AS "MAGIC" SHOWS WITH "THAT IS INCREDIBLE, HOW'S IT DONE" FROM AUDIENCES, ARE KEPT SECRET - Keith Hunt
Finally, architecture involves geometry, and geometry (and this Gimpel misses) involves symbolism. The relationship of circles and squares and triangles, the superimposition of two triangles to form Solomon's Seal or the Star of David, the significance of the number of points, sides and angles in different geometric figures - all had meaning.
Medieval and Renaissance cathedrals across Europe are full of symbolism, not just in their paintings, statues and carvings, which people were used to interpreting on one level or another, but in their very design. The congregations worshipping in them, the priests taking the services, even the bishops officiating at the most solemn ceremonies, century after century, have in the main been entirely unaware that the very stones around them had a message built into them by those who planned and designed and supervised their construction: the architects and master masons.
The Golden Section mentioned above was a specific proportion known to ancient Greek and Roman builders; its discovery is attributed to Pythagoras. A line A-B is divided at roughly a third of its length at point Q, so that the ratio between the shorter part, A-Q, and the longer part, Q-B, is the same as the ratio between the longer part Q-B and the whole line, A-B. The exact ratio is 1:1.618.
This is a fundamental proportion in geometry. It can be found in the relationship between the lines of a regular five-pointed star (a pentacle) and a regular five-sided polygon (a pentagon) inscribed within the same circle. It is crucial in the construction of the vesica piscis or mandorla, the pointed oval often seen in religious paintings and stained-glass windows. It is also found in the proportions of the 'ideal' human figure. And it is found everywhere in esoteric architecture.
Generations of schoolchildren tormented by 'the square on the hypotenuse' would probably have cursed Pythagoras for this further geometrical constant. Generations of worshippers in and visitors to cathedrals are awed by the majesty of the huge enclosed space towering heavenwards, testifying to the skill of the architects and builders; but they also feel a holy peace, a Tightness, and this testifies to the art of the architects and builders - their knowledge and understanding of the use of proportion, developed over centuries, traceable back through the Muslims to the Romans and Greeks,, and dependent on the esoteric significance of geometry and number. The Greek word for 'art', it should be recalled, gives the word 'magic'.
It is only fair to mention here that at least one historian of architecture sees the original link the other way around. Speaking of the ancient Greeks, Peter Kidson says, 'However they came by it, the architects' experience of applied geometry may well have supplied the philosophers with the raw material of their theorems.'11 This may or may not be so; in any case it makes no difference to the mutual interdependence of architectural and philosophical geometry.
What is clear, however, is that the medieval architects and builders had not lost this ancient knowledge, for it to be miraculously rediscovered in the fifteenth century. The architects kept designing and the builders building, long before Cornelius Agrippa and John Dee began studying the philosophy inherent in 'the queen of the sciences'.
At this point, a brief glance can be taken at the symbolism of geometry and architecture.
Churches built in the form of a cross are clearly symbolic, as is the placing of the altar at the East end, while spires direct the eye heavenward; so much is obvious. But there is much more to it than this. The mason takes lumps of raw stone (in Freemasonry, Tough ashlar5), trims them into shape, polishes and carves them, and makes a glorious cathedral out of them to the glory of God; this is symbolic of the spiritual building, remaking or renewal of the shaped and polished soul from within the rough raw material of the physical body.
The Pythagorian idea of the spiritual qualities of numbers comes through clearly in the symbolism of the geometry underlying much of architectural design, from the smallest decorative carving to the structural layout of the largest cathedral.
Three is the number of God, both in the Christian Trinity and triple Gods in other religions, and in the idea of perpetuity or eternity, of past, present and future. In sexual symbolism, a triangle pointing upwards is male, a triangle pointing downwards is female. In terms of the elements, an upward triangle is fire a downward triangle water. Four is the number of matter, and also of completion: the four elements, the four seasons, the four evangelists, the four cardinal points of the compass. The square, and hence the cube, is firm, solid, dependable, four-square authority. (The Emperor, in the Masonic Tarot, sits on a solid cube.) Five is the number of man: the head and four limbs in a five-pointed star, as in Leonardo da Vinci's well-known drawing of a human figure in a circle and a square, VitruvianMan. It also represents the five senses, and so the sensual world. It is also traditionally the number of esoteric spirituality, perhaps because (as in the dots on a die or a domino) the Unity of One (Le. God) is within the Four of matter.
The numeral zero is not numerologically significant, but the shape of the circle is. The circle represents perfection, God's whole Creation, the entire cosmos. It also reminds us of the ever-rolling seasons, and of the continuance of life through death to life, and so eternity, and infinity - and, of course, the 'heresy' of reincarnation, believed in by many early Christians, and central to most esoteric beliefs. In astrology it represents the sun, but also the circle of the zodiac, the heavens in which the stars and planets move. The fifth-century BCE Greek philosopher Empedocles wrote, 'God is a circle whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.'
The sphere is both the soul and the universe, and again the zodiac. It is the most perfect geometric figure.
The egg is something like the sphere, but also contains the mystery of birth, creation and fertility; it symbolizes life and latency.
The vesica piscis, the rounded lozenge or almond shape made from two overlapping circles, shows the meeting and joining of two forces or two worlds: male and female, matter and spirit, earth and heaven, man and God. It is often seen within stained-glass windows, sometimes enclosing the figure of Christ, the mediator between man and God. It also represents both virginity and female sexuality, because of its vulva shape. The almond symbolizes the sweet fruit within the husk, the hidden secret, and Christ's divine nature within his human form.
This is just a small selection of shapes and numbers and their spiritual significance and symbolism.
One further design, sometimes seen in continental cathedrals, will be mentioned: mazes and labyrinths symbolize the soul trapped and tangled in matter - a Gnostic idea - and its arduous journey to God. Few of these labyrinths remain undamaged and on open view; later Church authorities either didn't understand their symbolic message, and so built over them - or did, and so deliberately obscured them.12
Dame Frances Yates puts forward a convincing case for the birth of the Rosicrucians having been directly inspired by John Dee, who studied the works of Cornelius Agrippa and Francesco Giorgi, and who in turn informed Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene, one of whose characters is the Red Cross Knight.
The Rosicrucians, as a body, sprang out of nowhere. The first the world heard of them was with the publication of the Fama Fraternitatis in 1614, the Confessio Fraternitatis in 1615, and Chymische Hockzeit or The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreuz in 1616. These works, between them, contained the story of Christian Rosy Cross himself , a religious manifesto, and an allegorical fable. None named an author. The three works together are generally known as the Rosicrucian Manifestos.
The Fama (variously translated as Echoes [or A Discovery] of the Fraternity of the Most Praiseworthy [or Laudable] Order of Rosicrucians [or the Rosy Cross}) tells the story of the discovery, 120 years after his death, of the tomb of Christian Rosy Cross, who was born in Germany in 1378, travelled to the Holy Land, Turkey and Arabia as a young man, learned many things, founded the Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross, and died in 1484 aged 106. His tomb was discovered by one of the Brothers; it was seven-sided and contained an altar and the uncorrupted body of the Founder, who had instructed the Brotherhood to keep itself secret for a hundred years. The tomb was resealed, but now the Brotherhood could come into the open.13
The Confessio says, briefly, that there is a hidden brotherhood of men, skilled in learning and in medicine, who will bring good to the world through their teachings and their subtle influence. It condemns the Papacy, and it also condemns those charlatans who bring alchemy, astrology and the other occult arts into disrepute.
The Chymical [or Alchemical] Wedding [or Marriage] is a strange and complex fable of Christian as a young man on a journey, who has to face numerous tests to prove his worthiness; it is clearly a spiritual journey of discovery and self-discovery, and his travels and trials are also clearly symbolic. In one way it could be compared to John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress; in another way it could be compared to the journey of the Fool through the Tarot; in another, it is an alchemical allegory.
Most authorities see 'the Illuminated Father and Brother CRC' as an allegorical invention himself. The ideas and ideals within the three documents echo closely those of the Hermetic Philosophers of the day, but it cannot be claimed with any certainty who wrote each one. The Pama was published alongside another text, The Reformation of the World, a German translation of a chapter of a book by an Italian, Trajano Boccalini. The Confessio was published alongside a rewriting of part of a work by John Dee, Monas Hieroglyphica. (There is no suggestion here that the authors of these two Manifestos were Boccalini and Dee; only that the distributors, and presumably the authors, of the Manifestos were aware of the work of these writers.) The Chymical Marriage is widely attributed to Johann Valentin Andreae (1586-1654); Andreae claimed in his autobiography (undiscovered until 1799) that he had written it at the age of 17, but he put a great deal of effort during his life into distancing himself from accusations that he had written any of the three documents. As a Lutheran minister, he had to be careful to dispel any tinge of heresy. He is the most likely candidate for authorship of the Chymical Marriage; many believe that he also wrote the Pama, possibly along with other scholars.
The Rosicrucian Manifestos all spoke of a secret brotherhood, working for the good of mankind. Those adepts who wished might join it; but the documents contained no membership address, no application form. Magical philosophers all over Europe were running around making themselves known, in the hope that they would be contacted and invited to join.
The symbol of the Rosicrucians was a superimposed rose and cross. This in itself wasn't new; both Andreae and Martin Luther had similar combinations of rose and cross in their family arms. The cross is usually assumed to be the straightforward Christian cross, though it should be remembered that Christianity did not invent the cross as a religious symbol. Indeed, the cross predates Christianity by millennia; it has long been a symbol of the meeting of heaven and earth, of God and man; alchemically it represented the joining of the active, male principle (the vertical line) and the passive, female principle (the horizontal line); numerologically it represents both the solidity of Four and the God-in-man idea of Five, the centre being taken as a point. A cross within a circle was an early symbol for a solar deity. However, the very name of Christian Rosenkreuz suggests that Rosicrucianism is based on the Christian religion - though not necessarily on orthodox, exoteric Christianity.
The rose is also an age-old symbol. It too can represent the Sun, and so divine light or spiritual illumination. The rose was a symbol of love, both sensual and divine. With the petals seen as the unfolding labia, it can represent female sexuality; it can also symbolize purity and virginity, and is thus one of the symbols of the Blessed Virgin Mary, The rose, long before the Rosicrucians and Freemasons emphasized this meaning, was a symbol for secrecy; sub rosa refers to the custom of having a rose on or above a dining table, so that whatever might
incautiously be said after too much wine was 'under the rose', and not to be spoken of outside. (Some Roman Catholic confessionals have a rose carved above the grille; to go from the sublime to the profane, some brothels have roses on the ceiling, with exactly the same significance.) A few centuries before the Rosicrucian manifestos the rose was used as a symbol of the Holy Grail. The rose is beauty surrounded by suffering (its thorns), and thus could represent the passion of Christ, or the difficult life-path of a believer. The usual five-petalled rose of Rosicrucianism is also a Cabalistic symbol from the Zohar.14
There is a school of thought, however, which claims that the rose of the Rosicrucian symbol, while referring to any or all of the above, was also deliberate misdirection; and that the 'Ros' of Rosicrucian derives not from the Latin rosa meaning 'rose', but from the Latin 'ros' meaning 'dew'. This would tie in the Rosicrucians with the alchemists, for whom dew was itself a powerful symbol of regeneration; in alchemical symbolism dew was the universal alkahest, the most powerful solvent of gold.
And some believe that ros, dew, is yet a further misdirection, and that dew represents semen, the generative force.
Was there actually a body called the Rosicrucians? It seems very unlikely. The life-story of their founder and leader, Christian Rosy Cross, was very obviously allegorical. It has even been suggested that the Fama could have been nothing more than a ludibrium, a standard academic jest that then got completely out of hand. And yet there were people all over Europe who were - individually and without the name - already Rosicrucians: the Hermetic Philosophers.
What seems most likely is that one or more of these - perhaps Andreae, perhaps someone else - issued what was effectively a call to arms, as if to say, 'We shouldn't be sitting around pursuing our own individual studies for our own personal benefit, be it intellectual or spiritual. With the knowledge that we have we could, and should, be out there doing something useful.'
In other words, that Rosicrucians created themselves out of a desire to exist.
Attacks on and defences of the Rosicrucians began immediately. One of the first open defenders of Rosicrucianism was Robert Fludd (1574-1637), who wrote Tractatus apologeticus integritatem societatis Rosae Cruets defendens in 1616. A dramatically innovative thinker, and like Dee and others a philosopher scientist, Fludd was a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, though initially it looked as if his Paracelsian views would bar his admittance. His contribution to esoteric thought was somewhat unusual: Fludd taught that there were specific demons for specific illnesses - actually a mystical Jewish idea - and that prayer and spells were as efficacious as medicinal treatment. He also had a new approach to the age-old theological problem of good and evil; rather than the dualism of Gnosticism, Fludd taught that the bright sun of Apollo and the Prince of Darkness Dionysus, one the maker and mender, the other the breaker and spoiler, were effectively two sides of the same coin: both were God. Much Hermetic, Christian Cabalist and Rosicrucian thought was strongly influenced by Neo-Platonism and Neo-Pythagoreanism (as, to a lesser extent, is orthodox, exoteric Christianity); Fludd drew links with that other great Greek philosopher, Aristotle, identifying Aristotle's ten spheres with the ten sephiroth of the Cabalist Tree of Life. Several other well-known names soon became associated with the Rosicrucian movement. These included the alchemist and physician Michael Maier (1566-1622), who wrote a defence, Silentium post clamor em (The Silence after the Shouting), in 1617. He was better known for two other works, The Secret of Secrets (1614) and Atalanta Fugitiva (1618), in which he drew links between mythology and alchemical symbolism. Somewhat later the mathematician and Jesuit Athanasius Kircher (1602-80) also wrote about mythology, particularly the Egyptian myth of Isis and Osiris. In attempting to draw in comparisons with other mythologies, including Mexican and Japanese, he was a forerunner of the more recent idea that similar truths lie behind all mythologies and religions. The work of Maier and Kircher on mythology also anticipated the much later work of Carl Gustav Jung.
Others whom the present-day Orders claim to have been early Rosicrucians, and who were certainly associated with the ideas of the movement, include the mystic Thomas Vaughan (1621-65); the astrologer William Lilly (1602-81); Sir Kenelm Digby (1603-65), as much a chemist as an alchemist; and the historian Elias Ashmole (1617-92), founder of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, and a founding fellow of the Royal Society, which held to some of the Rosicrucian ideals and is said to have been a realization of the concept of the Invisible College of the Rosicrucian Brotherhood.
The word 'claim' is used deliberately. Many nineteenth-and twentieth-century Rosicrucians believed that the Fraternity did exist as such long before the publication of the Tama Fraternitatis in 1614; John Dee, who died in 1608, has been described as a Rosicrucian Grand Master. Scholars, however, generally accept that whatever links there might have been between alchemists, Hermetic Philosophers and other esotericists before 1614, the term Rosicrucian dates from then, and Rosicrucian Orders date from later.
There may not have been a Rosicrucian Fraternity at the time the three documents were published, but soon there were many. Their aims were spiritual reform, both of individuals and of religion itself; and social reform, making the world a better place. Not surprisingly they were seen as heretics and revolutionaries. When, in 1623, word spread that there were several important Rosicrucians in Paris, both visibly and invisibly, a leaflet rapidly appeared, denouncing the 'Invisibles' as having made a pact with the devil.
By the 1640s there were Rosicrucian lodges throughout Europe; one founded by Ashmole and Lilly in London in 1646 is thought by some to be the origin of the Freemasons.
The original fervour died down within a few decades. In 1710 Sigmund Richter, under the name of Sincerus Renatus, published the laws of the alchemical Brotherhood of the Golden and Rosy Cross (this will be taken up again later), but in general the early decades of the eighteenth century - the Age of Reason - saw little overt esoteric activity. What it did see, though, was the emergence of the largest secret society of them all, Freemasonry, and two major revolutions, in France and in America. There is a strong argument that the esoteric spiritual ideas of the Rosicrucians were transformed for a while into revolutionary social and political ideals and actions.
Further discussion of the Rosicrucians in their later and current manifestations follows examination of the Freemasons in some detail in the next chapter. First, however, a brief look at the influence of the Freemasons, and perhaps the Rosicrucians, on the birth of the USA.
SO WE SEE WITH THE MOVE INTO CERTAIN AREAS OF NEW KNOWLEDGE, AND WITH PAST PAGAN SYMBOLS, MYSTIQUE, SKILLED TRADES, INDIVIDUAL THEOLOGY, THE RISE OF VARIOUS "SECRET CLUBS" WHERE ALL THE PAST AND PRESENT IDEOLOGIES COULD BE EMBODIED IN VARIOUS WAYS - Keith Hunt
The founding of the United States
Freemasonry arrived in North America around 1730, though individual Masons had been there for some years previously. Benjamin Franklin became a Freemason in 1731; by 1734 he was Provincial Grand Master in the State of Pennsylvania. According to the Fraternitas Rosae Cruris, based in Pennsylvania, in 1774 he was also one of the 'Council of Three' of the Rosicrucians then in America. On his visits to England it seems he was also involved in Sir Francis Dashwood's Hell-Fire Club, which appears to have mixed serious esoteric study with revived Pagan worship and with drunken orgies.15
George Washington was also a Freemason, having been initiated in 1752. A quarter of a century later there was a suggestion that there should be a Grand Lodge of all America, and Washington was proposed as Grand Master. He declined the honour, though in fact the Grand Lodge never got off the ground. He was, however, Master of an individual Lodge at the time he became the first President of the United States of America in 1789.
There is more than a suspicion that Freemasons were responsible for the Boston Tea Party in 1773; certainly Paul Revere was a Mason, later becoming a Grand Master of Massachusetts. Admiral John Paul Jones and General Andrew Jackson were also Freemasons, as were many others who played a significant role in the Revolution.
For many years both conspiracy theorists and patriotic American Freemasons have claimed that the American Revolution was largely inspired and organized by Freemasons. According to the Masonic scholar John Hamill, this has been vastly overstated. 'Modern American Masonic historians, in preparation for the bicentennial of the United States, carried out a great deal of research into the revolutionary period and junked many cherished legends.'16 For example, according to the generally sound author Michael Howard, of the fifty-six signatories of the Declaration of Independence, 'only six were not members of the Masonic Order';17 according to Hamill, however, 'only eight . . . can be positively identified as Freemasons.' Thomas Jefferson, who actually drafted the wording of the Declaration, was not a Freemason.
Much of the argument for Masonic, Rosicrucian or other esoteric influence in the birth of the United States rests on the Great Seal of the country. This was several years in the formulation. The decision to design a Great Seal was made in 1776, on the day that the Declaration of Independence was signed; several successive committees and artists came up with ideas, but it was not until June 1782 that designs were finally approved. The obverse shows the bald-headed American eagle; above its head, in a cloud of glory, are thirteen five-pointed stars in the shape of Solomon's Seal, representing the thirteen original states; in its talons it clutches a thirteen-berried olive branch and a bunch of thirteen arrows, symbolizing peace and war; a banner reads 'E Pluribus Unum', 'out of many, one', which clearly refers to the thirteen states becoming one nation, but is also thought to mean that all Gods are one.
The reverse of the Great Seal is more obviously esoteric. The thirteen levels of the truncated pyramid again refer to the thirteen states, but the truncated pyramid itself is supposed to represent the loss of ancient wisdom. Floating above the pyramid, instead of a capstone, is a frequent esoteric symbol, the All-Seeing Eye of God in a triangle, surrounded by rays of light. On the bottom course of masonry is the date 1776. This obviously refers to the date of independence; the often-found suggestion that it also refers to the founding of the Illuminati is a clear case of making conspiracy out of coincidence. The two inscriptions on this side read 'Annuit Coeptis', 'He favours our undertakings', and 'Novus Ordo Seclorum', 'New Order of the Ages'.
The New Order, according to some Rosicrucians today, was a real-life application of Francis Bacon's fictional New; Atlantis; the USA, they say, was designed from the start to be a real Utopia.
'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness';18 these are sentiments which would be equally at home in the mouth of a Rosicrucian or a Freemason.
In the same year as the American Declaration of Independence, the Order of Perfectibilists was founded in Bavaria in 1776 by Adam Weishaupt; it soon became known as the Enlightened, or the Illuminati. It was quite deliberately modelled on the strict order of the Jesuits, but was opposed to what the Jesuits stood for in almost every respect. It was more overtly political than most Rosicrucian or Masonic groups; its declared aim was to abolish monarchies, abolish the clergy, abolish private ownership, and set up a Utopian state where all men were equal and free, and lived by something similar to Rosicrucian ideals, i.e. individual spiritual wisdom. Social reform had always been seen as a natural and desired outcome of esoteric spiritual development; with the Illuminati it came centre stage. Membership was by invitation only. Branches of the Illuminati sprang up throughout Europe, sometimes based on existing Masonic Lodges; Weishaupt joined the Masons in 1777.
They were too revolutionary for the authorities; within ten years both the Illuminati and Freemasonry had been banned in Bavaria, and Weishaupt, a university professor, had been sacked. It is commonly asserted by conspiracy theorists, though as so often with no hard evidence, that the Illuminati went underground, that they resurfaced from time to time under assorted names, or as the hidden power behind other groups, and that they continued to have political influence throughout the next two centuries.
It has been said that whether or not the Illuminati actually have exercised such influence through the years, the belief that they have means that in reality they have.
A conspiracy theory
Do the Illuminati, or anything resembling them, still exist? Some have suggested so.
In the 1960s, the British prime minister Harold Wilson was able to fight many opponents, but against the 'Gnomes of Zurich' he had no defences. This was his phrase for the international bankers and financiers who, he believed, really ran things. They were shadowy figures; often they could not actually be identified at all. Behind those who were known by name seemed to lurk others. A handful of people in Switzerland, in Germany, in France, in Italy, held the strings which made all of Europe dance.
It has been suggested by conspiracy theorists that these people, Harold Wilson's Gnomes of Zurich, were the mid-twentieth century equivalent of the Illuminati. They were powerful; they controlled money, banks, financial institutions, business, industry - and ultimately, because it cannot be separated from all of these, politics.
Some take the theory a step further. The original Illuminati wanted what was effectively a United States of Europe. It has always been historically inevitable that the Common Market, the European Economic Community, would move towards the European Union - a complete political union - whatever the wishes of the people.
Joining the Common Market in 1973 meant that Britain had to leave EFTA, the European Free Trade Association, which was the rival trading bloc; EFTA, without its strongest member, crumbled. It meant throwing away trading agreements with, in particular, Australia and New Zealand, which turned those countries economically towards the Pacific Rim countries, and politically against Britain. Britain lost both power and respect in her own Commonwealth.
With these consequences, why did successive British governments of both major parties feel they had to join? What clout did the EEC have that was greater than the very powerful trading links Britain already possessed? Who was really pushing for Britain's entry? And who, throughout Europe, pushed for a single European currency?
The answer, of course, is the bankers, the financiers . . . Harold Wilson's Gnomes of Zurich. In other words, the successors to the Illuminati. Perhaps they are P2. Perhaps they are the Bilderberg Group, or the Trilateral Commission, or the Council on Foreign Relations (see any number of books on conspiracy theories). Perhaps they are the Prieure de Sion. Perhaps they are some other, even more shadowy group. But it is they, and not our elected governments, who are the ones with real power. Even if they are illuminated with secret wisdom, few would believe that such a benevolent dictatorship, ruling from behind the scenes, could be a good thing.19
Such a conspiracy theory is not in any way being seriously proposed here; it is merely being given as an example of how far such theories can be taken. Whether it has any validity whatsoever, who can say? There is absolutely no real evidence to support it - but neither, of course, can it be disproved. And the fact that there is no evidence, say the hardcore conspiracy theorists, simply shows how good they are at covering it up!
Although a present-day Illuminati conspiracy theory can be treated lightly, it should be emphasized that there is a darker side to be considered. There are numerous small secret societies in Europe, North and South America, and elsewhere, which have powerful and influential people among their members. Some have Masonic connections, though Freemasonry would disown them. The Italian-based Masonic offshoot P2 (Propaganda Due), discussed later in this book, is probably the best-known, but it is not alone. What is particularly disturbing for anyone living in one form or another of a liberal democracy, is that many of these groups are extremely right-wing; some are white-supremacist and anti-Semitic.
There are, beyond any doubt, 'odd intrigues between secret services, more or less "deviant" clandestine Lodges and Templar organisations in recent neo-templar history.'20 Sceptics are probably right to scoff at the more inventive conspiracy theories; but the reason people believe in them is that they often have at least some basis in fact.
TO BE CONTINUED
NOW IF THE WORLD IS BEING RUN BY "ILLUMINATI" BANKERS AND THE LIKE, THEY REALLY MESSED UP IN 2008 WITH THE SCANDAL OF WALL STREET AND THE MANY BANKS OF THE USA. JUST ABOUT ALL THE WESTERN WORLD [EXCEPT CANADA….HAVING ITS OWN RUN OF THINGS CONCERNING MONEY AND BANKS] FELL INTO DEEP DEEP FINANCIAL AND ECONOMICAL ABYSS, WHICH THE WESTERN WORLD IS STILL TRYING TO DIG ITSELF OUT, AS I ENTER THIS IN OCTOBER 2015.
BIBLE PROPHECY DEALS WITH NATIONS AND THE BABYLON MYSTERY RELIGION WHORE OF THE BOOK OF REVELATION. BANKERS WILL HAVE LITTLE IF ANYTHING TO DO WITH END TIME PROPHECY; THE BANKS OF THE USA AND THE BRITISH COMMONWEALTH WILL IN FACT BE DESTROYED BY THE END TIME BEAST POWER.