06 July, 2018

Rosicrucians in the World or So I'm a Rosicrucian, Now What?

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 Rosenkreutz, 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 the Wedding 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 reads 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 and Wedding 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 divine Light.

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.


  1. A note on the R+C and theurgy:

    While the Fama and other original R+C texts do not have a significant emphasis on theurgy, the similarities between the goals of R+C PolySci and theurgic demiurgy are striking. This demiurgy, or the theurgic partaking in the work of the Divine Mind as it orders the generative cosmos, ultimately has the same goal as theurgy, theosis, and the Platonic motive in general: the perfection, so far as possible, of this realm. This necessarily means the perfection of humanity which is nothing less than each human's full realization, through direct experience and gnosis, of their divine self.

  2. first of all its to say that I enjoyed your text Mr. Kupperman. I had the thought, that the activity of healing others, as the only profession of a true rosircucian, may have consequences as far as the society, in which it occurs on a daily and regular basis, extends.

    If people with an internally and externally harmonious character, with elements that support and regard each other constructively, would take on efforts that are to make the others equally harmonious as themselves are, I think that would also support the society these individuals are living in, which would be to become similar in it's being as the persons living in it are. So in that way, I would suggest that such a healing would eventually occur analogous to a healing from person to person, in a societal way, or maybe in a "macrocosm" (if the individual would be the microcosm). Just a thought about the nature of interpersonal healing and its effects you mentioned.

    Regards, Alex Luwinski

  3. Absolutely, Alex, and thank you. What you describe is the basis of Daoist and Confucian political theory, too. Become an outstanding person in your community and the people in your community, seeing how you live, will strive to do the same.


  4. That’s a question that I have been making to myself from many years ago until today. As a result of my reflections and meditations it came up that the ultimate goal of a Rosicrucian is the change in consciousness as only them Healing will be a requirement and harmony with others it’s consequence.

  5. Reading through this - and as somebody who barely knows enough about what you're talking about to be dangerous - I'm struck by the commonality of the end goal being a universal awakening. I'm curious about your thoughts regarding the possible application of Mazlow's Hierarchy of Needs as guidelines, considering its similar end-goal of self-actualization.

    It's something that I've been thinking about for quite a while as I've tried to puzzle through why certain issues seem to creep up as a commonality primarily among people who, ostensibly, should have no *reason* to want to act out against society the way that they do. People who have meaningful relationships with others, sufficient wealth to meet their needs for shelter, food, security, etc., and just seem to lack a nebulous "fulfillment" that they'll go to great lengths trying to find. Sometimes this ends up with people doing great things, other times terrible ones, but it's brought me around to the conclusion that a stymied drive for self-actualization might explain the roots of a lot of the dysfunction we see in society at large.

    Or I could be entirely barking up the wrong tree - like I said, barely know enough to be dangerous, mostly to myself.

    1. Jason,

      Universal awakening, coming to know one's own self as a rational soul, is very much a Platonic ideal. I am here purposefully reading the R+C as inherently being Platonic in nature, which from the Fama and Wedding I think is justifiable. That said, it is my interpretation of the material and not something explicit in it.

      The notion of fulfillment sound very similar to Platonic and Aristotelean ideas about the source of evil, which is seen as a negative thing rather than a positive. That is, evil in itself does not exist, it a) the absence of good and b) the mistaking of a good for The Good, and then going after that good to the exclusion of everything else, regardless of how it may affect either oneself or others. This is still an absence of good thing as all other goods, as well as the Good, are neglected.