Yates Frances Amelia - The rosicrucian enlightenment

Author : Yates Frances Amelia
Title : The rosicrucian enlightenment
Year : 1972

Link download : Yates_Frances_Amelia_-_The_rosicrucian_enlightenment.zip

Preface. The title of this book may give rise to some misunderstanding. ‘Rosicrucian’ may suggest that this is going to be a book about modern groups of enquirers into various forms of occultism. ‘Enlightenment’ may suggest that the book will be about the period known as the Aufklärung, the emergence into the light of reason from the darkness of superstition with Voltaire, Diderot, and the eighteenth century. The two words together seem to make an impossibility, representing two opposite tendencies, the one towards strange forms of superstition, the other towards critical and rational opposition to superstition. How can a Rosicrucian be enlightened? The fact is that I am using ‘Rosicrucian’ in a strictly limited historical sense, and I am not using ‘Enlightenment’ in the usual strictly limited historical sense. The period covered by the book is almost entirely the early seventeenth century, though with excursions before and after. It is concerned with certain documents published in Germany in the early seventeenth century, generally known as ‘the Rosicrucian manifestos’, and with the historical setting of those documents. Later movements calling themselves ‘Rosicrucian’ up to, and including, the present, are entirely excluded. Since these documents, or manifestos, claim that new advances in man’s knowledge are at hand, my title is historically correct. There was indeed a movement in the early seventeenth century which can be called a ‘Rosicrucian Enlightenment’, and that is what this book is about. ‘Rosicrucian’ in this purely historical sense represents a phase in the history of European culture which is intermediate between the Renaissance and the so-called scientific revolution of the seventeenth century. It is a phase in which the Renaissance Hermetic-Cabalist tradition has received the influx of another Hermetic tradition, that of alchemy. The ‘Rosicrucian manifestos’ are an expression of this phase, representing, as they do, the combination of ‘Magia, Cabala, and Alchymia’ as the influence making for the new enlightenment. In my book Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition (1964), I made an attempt to trace the Hermetic tradition in the Renaissance, from the time of its formulation in Italy by Marsilio Ficino and Pico della Mirandola onwards. Far from losing its power in the early seventeenth century (as I believed when writing that book), or losing its influence over cultural movements of major importance, I now realize that there was actually a renaissance of it in the early seventeenth century, fresh manifestations of it in new forms which had absorbed alchemical influences, and which were particularly important in relation to the development of the mathematical approach to nature. A major ‘Rosicrucian’ figure was John Dee, who, as I said in an article published in 1968, ‘seems obviously placeable historically as a Renaissance magus of the later Rosicrucian type’. In my book Theatre of the World (1969) I emphasized the importance of Dee as an influence behind the Elizabethan Renaissance, and in an excellent book, John Dee (1972), Peter French has filled a great gap in Renaissance studies by examining Dee’s work and influence in England in a systematic way. Dee belonged emphatically to the Renaissance Hermetic tradition, brought up to date with new developments, and which he further expanded in original and important directions. Dee was, in his own right, a brilliant mathematician, and he related his study of number to the three worlds of the Cabalists. In the lower elemental world he studied number as technology and applied science and his Preface to Euclid provided a brilliant survey of the mathematical arts in general. In the celestial world, his study of number was related to astrology and alchemy, and in his Monas hieroglyphica he believed that he had discovered a formula for a combined cabalist, alchemical, and mathematical science which would enable its possessor to move up and down the scale of being from the lowest to the highest spheres. And in the supercelestial sphere, Dee believed that he had found the secret of conjuring angles by numerical computations in the cabalist tradition. Dee as ‘Rosicrucian’ is thus a figure typical of the late Renaissance magus who combined ‘Magia, Cabala, and Alchymia’ to achieve a world-view in which advancing science was strangely mingled with angelology. Dee’s striking and very influential career in Elizabethan England came to an end in 1583 when he left England for the continent, where he was extremely influential in stirring up new movements in central Europe. This half of Dee’s career, the second or continental half, has not yet been studied in a systematic way and still remains in the world of rumour. It would seem that Dee was the leader in Bohemia, not only of an alchemical movement, but of a movement for religious reform, the nature of which has not yet been fully explored. Our knowledge of the world of culture surrounding the Emperor Rudolph II, upon which Dee’s mission impinged, is still extremely scanty, and we await the publication of Robert Evans’s important study of Rudolphine culture. The present book—and I wish to emphasize this strongly—is basically a historical study. It is concerned with this ‘Rosicrucian’ phase of thought, culture, and religion, but its main attempt is directed towards indicating the historical channels through which the phase was distributed. These channels have been chocked up and obscured through the disappearance out of history of a most important historical period. It is true that we have learned from our history books that the Princess Elizabeth, daughter of James I, married Frederick V, Elector Palatine of the Rhine, who, a few years later, made a rash attempt to secure for himself the throne of Bohemia, which attempt ended in ignominious failure. The ‘Winter King and Queen of Bohemia’, as they were mockingly called, fled from Prague after the defeat of 1620, and passed the rest of their lives as poverty-stricken exiles, having lost both the Palatinate and Bohemia. What has slipped out of history is the fact that a ‘Rosicrucian’ phase of culture was attached to this episode, that the ‘Rosicrucian manifestos’ were connected with it, that the movements stirred up by John Dee in Bohemia in earlier years were behind those manifestos, that the brief reign of Frederick and Elizabeth in the Palatinate was a Hermetic golden age, nourished on the alchemical movement led by Michael Maier, on Dee’s Monas hieroglyphica, and all that that implied. Disowned by James I, the movement foundered, but its reconstruction is a most necessary preliminary for the tracing of ‘Rosicrucian’ survival in the later seventeenth century. The reconstruction by critical historical methods of this phase of European thought and history will, it is hoped, take this whole subject out of the range of uncritical and vaguely ‘occultist’ studies, and make of it a legitimate, and most important, field for research. As a pioneer effort, the present book is bound to contain errors which scholars of the future will correct. The tools for working on this subject are in a rudimentary state and one is hampered at every turn by lack of accurate bibliographical work. Most of the literature on ‘Rosicrucianism’ is unusable by the critical historian, except as a means of leading to original material. The works of A. E. Waite are in a different category, and of these I have made much use, though, as G. Scholem has said, Waite’s valuable work is marred by lack of critical sense. Paul Arnold’s book has been useful for its large collection of material, though very confusingly arranged. Will-Erich Peuckert’s study is fundamental for the German background. All these books, and others mentioned in the notes, have been of great assistance, though the attempt made in the present book to relate Rosicrucianism to contemporary situations is on entirely new lines. As already said, I have completely omitted the later history of socalled ‘Rosicrucianism’ and the strange vagaries in which the use of the word became involved. It might now be possible to clarify the later history, though I shall not make the attempt. That is a subject in itself, and a different subject, though survivals from the imagery of the early period can be detected in, for example, such a work as Geheime Figuren der Rosenkreuzer, published at Altona in 1785; what the figures may mean in the later context it would require new research to discover. In order to keep this book within bounds, it has been necessary to curtail or omit much material, and to resist the temptation to turn every stone, or to follow every avenue branching out from this fundamental subject. The subject is fundamental because , basically, it is concerned with a striving for illumination, in the sense of vision, as well as for enlightenment in the sense of advancement in intellectual or scientific knowledge. Though I do not know exactly what a Rosicrucian was, nor whether there were any, the doubt and uncertainty which beset the seeker after the invisible Rose Cross Brothers are themselves the inevitable accompaniment of the search for the Invisible. The themes of some of the earlier chapters of this book formed the basis of a lecture on ‘James I and the Palatinate: a forgotten chapter in the history of ideas’ delivered as the James Ford Special Lecture in English History at Oxford in October 1970. The encouragement generously given by H. Trevor-Roper on that occasion helped me to tackle the book. As always, the Warburg Institute has been my mainstay and my home and to the Director and to all my good friends there I am deeply grateful. D. P. Walker most kindly read a draft of the manuscript and there have been many valuable discussions of its themes with him. Jennifer Montague and the staff of the Photographic Collection have been most helpful in collecting the photographs for the illustrations. I am indebted to Maurice Evans for drawing the sketch map for the figure in the text. Peter French kindly allowed me, with the permission of the publishers, to see the page proofs of his book on Dee before its publication. To the staff of the London Library I offer my most sincere thanks. I have also received kind help from the staff of the Dr Williams Library. I am indebted to the directors of the National Portrait Gallery, the Ashmolean Museum, and the British Museum for permission to reproduce portraits and engravings. The director of the Württemberg Landesbibliothek at Stuttgart gave permission for a microfilm of a manuscript to be made. The quotations from E. A. Beller, Caricatures of the Winter King of Bohemia, 1928, are made by permission of the Clarendon Press, Oxford. This book belongs to the series which began with Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition. Throughout all the time of the writing of these books, my sister has sustained me in countless ways. It has been her constant practical help, unfailing encouragement, intelligent understanding, and lively critical sense which have made the work possible. Warburg Institute, University of London. ...

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