The Order of the Rosy Cross, or Rosicrucian Brotherhood, first came to public attention in 1614 with the publication of a document called the "Fama Fraternitatis," followed in 1615 by the "Confessio Fraternitatis." The anonymous authors of the Fama and the Confessio claimed to be members of a secret society called the Rosicrucians, a brotherhood of men who aspired to use ancient esoteric wisdom to better society.
Belief in a Secret Wisdom
The Rosicrucian manifestos claimed that a secret wisdom had been passed down for many centuries from one sage to another. This secret wisdom included the ability to heal the ill and to perfect the principles of all arts and sciences. The nature of the secret wisdom was not made clear. A third Rosicrucian document, "The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosencreutz" of 1616, claimed that a man named Christian Rosencreutz had been initiated into this secret wisdom while on a journey to the East in the 15th century, and had gone on to found the Rosicrucian Order.
Belief in Alchemy
Although the Fama claimed that the Rosicrucians had "a thousand better things" to do than to turn base metals into gold like common alchemists, the Confessio claimed that the Rosicrucians could do it if they wanted to and that they had "great treasures of gold" to give to the Holy Roman Emperor and to other rulers who would use the treasure for just purposes. According to the Confessio, the Rosicrucians were not opposed to alchemy as such, but their secret wisdom could provide not only the benefits of alchemy but "an infinite number of other natural miracles" as well.
Anti-Catholic and Utopian Beliefs
The Rosicrucian manifestos were at least partly intended as anti-Catholic propaganda. The Confessio condemned what it called the pope's tyranny and blasphemy, and called for the creation of a new political order governed by men of wisdom. The Rosicrucian texts were all published in the Holy Roman Empire, a loose network of small states centered in what is now Germany. The Empire was soon to collapse into a 30-year civil war between Catholics and Protestants, and many of the Empire's Protestants were enthusiastic supporters of utopian political reforms, according to "Curiosity -- How Science Became Interested in Everything" by Philip Ball.
Belief in the Rosicrucians
Because the authors of the Rosicrucian manifestos never revealed their identities, no one knows their true identity. "The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosencreutz" was written by Johann Valentin Andreae, but no one knows whether Andreae was also the author of the Fama and the Confessio. Leading intellectuals like Francis Bacon and Rene Descartes were suspected of secretly being Rosicrucians.
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