Wednesday, April 24, 2013

U is for Unknown

I've already used A for something other than "Anonymous," so U it is.  This is about the Rosicrucian Manifestos, written and published in the early 17th century. To this day, we still don't know who wrote them... or even really why.

These amazing documents appeared on German street corners in the early 1610s.  They said that big changes were coming in the world, heralded by celestial apparitions we now know to be a supernova and an outburst from a bright star in a favorite constellation of mine.  They talked a bit about the ongoing Protestant Reformation, and had some not so nice things to say about Rome and the papacy, but they weren't your run-of-the-mill religious pamphlets.

The Fama Fraternitatis was the first manifesto, and it told the story of a young man, named only C.R. (called "Christian Rosenkreutz" many years later) who in the 1300s went on a journey of discovery from Germany to Cyprus, Damascus, Jerusalem, and Egypt.  He was taught many things in these places, but it all paled in comparison to the magical and alchemical secrets he learned in the hidden Arabian city of "Damcar."  Eventually he returned to Europe via Fez and Islamic Spain.  Once home, he began teaching what he learned to a few others, who were to pass it on to their own students, and thus was born the Fraternity of the Rosy Cross, studying in secret in their House of the Holy Spirit.

The legend doesn't end there, since they knew that in a few hundred years they would need to go public, "...for Europe is with child and will bring forth a strong child, who shall stand in need of a great godfathers gift."  The Fama also describes how the successors of the successors of C.R. were directed to enter the wondrous tomb of the founder (an amazing seven-sided "Vault" that I discussed a bit in last year's A-Z series) and extract a small fraction of the secrets hidden therein...
"Every side or wall had a door for a chest, wherein there lay diverse things, especially all our books.... In another chest were looking-glasses of divers virtues, as also in other places were little bells, burning lamps, & chiefly wonderful artificial Songs; generally all done to that end, that if it should happen after many hundred years, the Order or Fraternity should come to nothing, they might by this onely Vault be restored again."
They also found something called the Minitum Mundum, or little world (a miniature orrery?), the mysterious Book T (which some interpret as the Tarot, some as the Torah), and the preserved body of C.R. himself, resting underneath an artificial ever-glowing sun.

They ended their fantastic account with some of the rules of their secret order... They must only use their powers for good, of course (especially to heal the sick, and not take any payment for doing so), meet together every year on the Day C (whatever that was), and only accept new members who are humble and sufficiently worthy.

The publishers of the manifestos were inundated with hundreds of letters of application, all filled with grandiose self-promotion.  We have no record of any replies.

13 comments:

  1. First I've heard of them. Sounds fascinating.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They are indeed. If you ever dive into Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum, you'll learn more about the Rosicrucians than you ever wanted... :-)

      Delete
  2. 'it told the story of a young man, named only C.R. (called "Christian Rosenkreutz" many years later) who in the 1300s went on a journey of discovery from Germany to Cyprus, Damascus, Jerusalem, and Egypt. He was taught many things in these places, but it all paled in comparison to the magical and alchemical secrets he learned in the hidden Arabian city of "Damcar."'

    This passage has me hearing smoky stringed instruments and smelling incense. Pure magic. And it arouses a strange yearning.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It cries out for a 1950s style Cinemascope epic, doesn't it?

      Scholars have been debating about the identity of "Damcar" for centuries. Probably was just made up, but there are lots of theories...

      Delete
    2. The first thing that came to my mind was some 'portal' that opened in Damascus.

      Delete
    3. Some put a more Christian spin on it, since "Damcar" seems to be Hebrew for "blood of the lamb."

      Delete
  3. Replies
    1. :-) There is no shortage of modern groups that claim an unbroken lineage, you know...

      http://www.rosicrucian.org

      http://www.crcsite.org/crc.htm

      http://rretac.org

      As I mentioned above, if you read Eco's Foucault's Pendulum, you'll learn more than you ever cared to learn about them. But caveat emptor!

      Delete
  4. Cool! I love the rose cross image you used, too. Where did you find it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aha, that is the image on the back-sides of a Tarot deck put out by Aleister Crowley's Ordo Templi Orientis. Search for "Thoth Tarot" on amazon for many options. (The images on the card fronts are pretty cool, too.)

      Delete
  5. Thank you for a most informative post. I learn here!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for reading, Geo. I hope you're feeling better.

      Delete
  6. C, you have an award over at SC.

    ReplyDelete