Recently, a discussion concerning Rosicrucianism and what it
is supposed to be doing in the world came up. What follows are some thoughts on the subject. These are meant to be in no way definitive, final, or particularly well thought out.
As seems to be the case with many
esoteric societies, the emphasis most people have is on the Work done on the
self or practitioners. And quite rightly, too; we are the things we are most
able to effect change upon. If, however, we take the Fama Fraternitatis
seriously, which I think, as Rosicrucians, we
should, then the self is clearly not the capstone of the Work, it is merely the
beginning of something greater. What exactly? The Fama
gives us a hint: “That none of them should profess any other
thing, then to cure the sick, and that gratis.”
This quotation tells us one thing for certain, that healing
the sick, and that gratis, should be the only thing Rosicrucians profess to do.
However, it also implies something else; Rosicrucians are to only profess
to do nothing other than heal
the sick. That doesn’t mean that is the only thing Rosicrucians are about, it’s
just all they’re supposed to say about what they’re about. What else are
Rosicrucians about? The Fama
tells us that, as does Boccalini’s Universal
Reformation of Mankind, which was originally published with the Fama
as a kind of preface. Shortly, the
Rosicrucians were involved in political science and the reformation of European
society along certain philosophical and spiritual lines.
It is a little more difficult to determine exactly what
Rosicrucian political science is too look like. The Fama
certainly suggests an ideology where the intellectual and
philosophical elite of Europe would get together and exchange information and teachings
and so improve one another and, through them, society at large. Fra. C.R.C.
abandons that objective in despair over the egos of those with whom he
conversed relatively quickly, but it still suggests where R+C PolySci was
heading; a family of humanity, likely overseen by philosophers, theologians,
and other intellectuals.
Still that doesn’t tell us much, and although Boccalini
certainly goes on about reformation, the text appears to be more farcical than practical.
Fortunately, we have access to some of the earlier writers who influenced the
R+C movement, at least as it came about in Germany. These include Johannes
Valentinus Andreae, presumed author of the third R+C manifesto, The Chymical Wedding of Christian
, Tommaso Campanella, who was an important influence on Andreae,
Marsilio Ficino, who was a major influence on Andreae, and Plato, who
influenced the whole lot. Of these, Plato, Campanella, and Andreae, wrote
utopias of a sort, with Campanella’s City
of the Sun
being especially based on the Republic
and Andreae’s based on the latter two. These utopias saw,
amongst other things, a great and fantastically regulated city. They are ruled by
philosopher sovereigns who, with the aid of a military class, kept the city
healthy, both within and without.
The makeup of the city governments tend towards a form of
communism, in its truest sense. There is no currency, all people have a role to
play in the city’s daily life, and everyone’s needs are provided for by the
work done in the city. Education is considered of utmost importance in each of
these great republics and much space is given to education and educators.
Plato associates his well running republic with virtue and
the rational soul should not be overlooked. This is especially true given the
primary claim of the Rosicrucians: healing. This also brings us to what, at
least for our purposes, might be considered Andreae’s more important utopia, The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz.
The Chymical Wedding
is an alchemical
allegory, but also, I would argue, a hidden utopia. Given that the Republic
is an allegory for justice and
the soul, but also a utopic text, there is nothing preventing us from viewing
in such a way as well.
The story presents us with Christian Rosenkreutz towards the end of his life
who undergoes several trials on his way to a royal wedding. While the trials
have to do with alchemical processes many of them also present to us an
idealized morality, just as does the Republic
The Wedding’s morality are solidly a form virtue ethics, similar, though not
identical, to Plato’s. Further, the Wedding
implies that most of the figures in the story, the wedding guests who do not
undergo the alchemical trials but are already part of the court, are themselves
virtuously perfect, so far as possible. Those who pass the trials of the
wedding are themselves seen to be in a similar moral state. This is not surprising
as we do find a connection between success in the alchemical Work and the
morality or ethics of the alchemist.
What does any of this have to do with what Rosicrucians are
supposed to be doing out in the world? Utopias are, after all, basically fantasies,
the word itself designating a place that does not, or cannot, exist. While this
is true that is no reason to completely discount them as being actionable. They
provide a prototype, a Platonic Form, as it were, of a perfected human
civilization. Even if such a thing is ultimately not possible does not mean
that we should not strive towards it. Rosicrucian political science is exactly
like that; an ideal to strive towards: a city ruled by the wise, rather than
the popular or hereditary, which provides for its own with everyone living more
or less in harmony with one another.
But there’s more, which might be at the root of the
Rosicrucian profession. This profession is itself important and while the
common translation leaves open the possibility that Rosicrucians do more than
heal the sick, and that gratis, Christopher McIntosh’ excellent 2014
translation of the Fama
somewhat differently: “None of them should practise any other profession than
to cure the sick and that gratis” (30).
Here they do not profess but actually practice nothing other
than the curing of the sick. And yet all of the above still holds true:
Rosicrucian political science is dedicated to the curing of the sick. Plato shows,
and I believe those discussed above follow, the Republic is analogous to the
soul. The well-functioning city, with each of its parts working smoothly within
itself and in relation to the other parts, is made up of people whose souls are
similarly internally and externally harmonious. It is the role of the
sovereigns to ensure this and in doing so not only maintain the well-being of
their population but also their ability to be happy through their becoming most
fully themselves. That is, to become like God, so far as possible. To achieve
such a state is to achieve the full curing of the soul from error and its
separation from its divine nature which occurred during its fall from the
heavens. That this is strikingly similar to alchemical notions is, especially
in the light of The Chymical Wedding
, in no way surprising.
Where does this leave us? First, it gives us a starting
point to explore Rosicrucian political science. We know who influenced the
Rosicrucians and the Fama
both give us direction, albeit
often vaguely, as to how those influences were applied. Second, it tells us
that we should
be looking not only
towards our own spiritual development but, ultimately, to the development of
all those around us. The philosopher sovereign is never fully happy until their
people are happy, and that occurs through the fulfillment of their real selves
as divine soul mixed with a body. But as for the third, exactly what form R+C
PolySci should take and how it should be applied to the world, that is
something the philosopher sovereign must decide, in alignment with their own
divine nature. First we must go inwards but then we must, like the escapee of
Plato’s Cave who has seen the Forms above, go outwards and bring others to that
N.B. There are here two caveats. The first is that while
these Platonic utopias have many similarities, they are by no means identical.
Andreae’s especially is Christocentric, something that is less true for
Campanella and, of course, completely missing from Plato. Because of this, each
of these sources should be understood individually as well as corporately and
with the R+C manifestos in mind. The second is that while there are a number of
great ideas present within each of these utopias, they also tend towards having
a eugenics program, which is modernly directly connected with fascist, and
racist, ideology. While such practices might
make sense allegorically as found in Plato, they have no place in modern
society, Rosicrucian or otherwise.