The Secret History of the Rosicrucians – 5. So… What Was The Point Of It All?

Putting the Chymical Wedding aside, the first thing to note is that the Fama and Confessio both openly “condemn the East and the West,” (meaning the Pope and Mahomet), and “blasphemers against our Lord Jesus Christ”: yet say that they also “offer and present with a good will to the chief head of the Romish Empire, our prayers, secrets, and great treasures of gold”.

They also mention repeatedly that the Rosy Cross has great stores of gold, silver and diamonds, and also has a powerful mastery of alchemy (which presumably is intended to explain why they have such “great treasures of gold” to offer).

That is to say, they’re anti-Church, anti-Pope, anti-Islam, but rich with knowledge and gold, and pro-Holy Roman Emperor. And the Holy Roman Emperor during this period was none other than Emperor Rudolf II.

Rudolf was widely believed to shun the Catholic Church, and indeed many thought he could well be an atheist. He also had a well-documented fascination with alchemy, supporting a large number of people (such as Edward Kelley) who claimed to be able to perform alchemical projections, i.e. to make the Philosophers’ Stone or related tinctures. So it should be immediately obvious that many (if not all) of the Rosicrucian obsessions seem to mirror Rudolph’s own obsessions.

Putting all these pieces togetehr, the only sensible interpretation of the entire Rosy Cross phenomenon that I can see is that the Rosicrucian texts were aimed solely at Rudolf II himself. Hence I believe the heart of the secret history of the Rosicrucians is that the entire thing was a German Protestant literary trap constructed to ensnare an audience of one (Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II) into providing patronage for a non-existent Conspiracy of the Good.

So: even though there never had been a ‘real’ Rosy Cross (nor even a ‘real’ Christian Rosenkreutz), I believe that circa 1610 Andreae and his fellow conspirators hoped to somehow gain Rudolf’s patronage for their own secret society, thereby somehow bringing into existence something with broadly the same ideals as their literary Rosy Cross.

Yet the problem we now face is that the first major draft of the Fama (which I believe was a ludibrium in the same kind of way as the Chymical Wedding, and inspired by alchemy and the romantic ruins of Honau Abbey rather than by science) was almost certainly far too weak: while the final version – to our modern eyes, at any rate – wasn’t exactly a gigantic improvement.

All in all, even if this reading of the history is correct in every detail, I think the whole thing begs a bigger, gnarlier question: why on earth did Andreae and his fellow literary conspirators think for even a New York minute that their Rosy Cross literary confection was something that could trick Rudolf II, arguably the most sophisticated and powerful man on the planet, into doing what they wanted?

Really, what leverage did these idealistic German literati think they had that stood any chance of moving that Imperial mountain?

The Secret History of the Rosicrucians (c) 2012, 2015 Nick Pelling.
1. Introduction
2. The Three Texts
3. Dating The Fama And The Confessio
4. The Fama’s First Draft
5. So… What Was The Point Of It All?
6. ‘Book M’
7. Another Mysterious Manuscript
8. Stories From The Margins
9. Andreae’s Two Journeys
10. The Limits Of Evidence