The Rosicrucians were a myth written into reality. In a sense they were an early example of what contemporary writer and magician Grant Morrison terms a “hyper-sigil.” By crafting a narrative that would attract the imaginations of certain people, a new social reality can be made.
As John Dee was spending his last days at Mortlake amongst his looted library and estate his ideas were finding a new outlet on the Continent of Europe. Beginning in 1607 CE a series of pamphlets were circulated detailing the story of one Christian Rosenkreuz who was said to have created a society to the collection and preservation of the esoteric wisdom of the ancients and which was revealing this information now. Rosenkreuz’ story would have him traveling to the east to learn the Ancient Wisdom traditions preserved there. He would bring these traditions back to Europe and would found his Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross to disseminate this wisdom.
Dee’s influence upon these documents can be seen in the Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz. The invitation for the allegorical wedding of this manifesto is marked with Dee’s Monas Hieroglyphica. It is likely that his influence had come from Heinrich Khunrath (1560 CE – 1605 CE), an admirer of Dee’s work and a writer on the topic of Alchemy. Another influence upon the emergence of the group had been Rudolf II (1552 CE– 1612 CE) the Holy Roman Emperor who ruled from Prague and had collected many of the best thinkers of the day from a wide variety of fields to his court and who has a firm devote to the development of Alchemy.
On the Continent Rosicrucianism was most closely associated with Germany and with opposition to the Roman Catholic Church in alliance with Lutheranism. It would also come to cohabitant with Speculative Freemasonry, a fraternal system derived in part from the Stone Masons of Medieval Europe. Because of the secrecy that such fraternal systems allowed Freemasonry and groups modeled on Freemasonry would flourish as would claims to Rosicrucian wisdom throughout the 17th Century.
In the beginning of the 18th Century a lineage of particular importance began in Germany. With a claimed date of founding in 1710 CE (though it is suggested that 1750 CE was more likely) the Orden des Gold- und Rosenkreutz (Order of the Gold and Rosy Cross) was founded in Germany by Hermann Fichtuld. The group was open to Master Masons and focused its work upon Alchemy. The group used a tired degree or grade system like most Masonic inspired groups, with the format for this group being: Juniores, Theoreticus, Oracticus, Philosophus, Minor, Major, Adeptus, Magestus , Magus. Here we see the reason for our detour over the last few posts, as we find at the top of this structure a Magus Degree taking its name from the Zoroastrian tradition.
Not much is available regarding the practical Work of the Orden des Gold- und Rosenkreutz though its structural titles would lay a foundation for other groups. The Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (S.R.I.A.), a British Rosicrucian group founded in 1865 CE would use it as the basis for their own structure. Similarly open to Master Masons its Degree system was spread across three “Orders”:
Grade I - Zelator
Grade II - Theoricus
Grade III - Practicus
Grade IV - Philosophus
Grade V - Adeptus Minor
Grade VI - Adeptus Major
Grade VII - Adeptus Exemptus
Grade VIII - Magister
Grade IX - Magus
Within the S.R.I.A. was Kenneth R. H. Mackenzie (1833 CE– 1886 CE). In his youth he had traveled to Vienna to act as a tutor and may have been exposed to ideas from the Asiatic Brethren, a group of Frankish Kabbalists. A linguist and translator by profession he would work in the office of Benjamin Disraeli when Disraeli was still a publisher. Mackenzie made a name for himself mainly through translations of and writing on the Classics, but in his spare time he became interested in Rosicrucianism and the Occult.
In 1854 he had met Paschal Beverly Randolph, (1825 CE – 1875 CE), an American who had founded the Fraternitas Rosae Crucis in 1858. In 1861 CE Mackenzie traveled to France where it is thought that he made contact with Eliphas Levi (Alphonse Louis Constant). When Robert Wentworth Little discovered some German rituals which he believed to be of Rosicrucian origin he recruited Mackenzie to help with the translation. This material would be used to found the S.R.I.A.
When Mackenzie died in 1886 CE a manuscript was found among his papers in code. It would come into the possession of William Wynn Westcott (1848 CE– 1925 CE), a coroner and leading member of the S.R.I.A. Westcott would recruit Samuel Liddell Mathers (1854 CE – 1918 CE) o decipher the text. Mathers discovered that the text contained the outline for a magical Order based upon the symbolism of the Four Elements of Earth, Water, Fire and Air with images drawn from the Kabbalah and Egyptian myth. Westcott and Mathers, along with Robert Wentworth Little who was then Grand Magus of the S.R.I.A., would use this document to found the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn using a Degree System based on the S.R.I.A. in 1888 CE. As with the S.R.I.A. it would be spread across three Order:
Adeptus Minor 5=6
Adeptus Major 6=5
Adeptus Exemptus 7=4
Magister Templi 8=3
Westcott and Mathers claimed that the Cipher manuscript originated within a German Rosicrucian group that had attempted, and failed, to create a Lodge in England some decades before. They contacted this group via a representative, one Anna Sprengel, who does not appear to have gone through the formality of actually existing. As the manuscript itself appears to be in Mackenzie’s hand it seem more likely that it was the plan for an unfulfilled Order of his design to be created within the S.R.I.A.
The First Order of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn focused primarily upon a Kabbalistic approach to Magic for its lessons and Dramatic Rituals of the Freemasonic style for its Initiation Rites. Like much of the Rosicrucian Kabbalah there seems to be a trace of Frankish, and there for Sabbatean, elements to this, including the free pronunciation of the Tetragramaton. In a radical departure from Freemasonry and the S.R.I.A. the Golden Dawn was open to female applicants and as such did not demand that its members be Masons.
The Second Order, for those who had completed the Kabbalistic Training of the First Order focused instead largely upon practical magic and upon the Enochian Materials of John Dee, which Mathers had elaborated upon greatly from Dee’s original accounts. Into this mix Mathers was fold the newly discovered wisdom of the Egyptians being translated thanks to the decipherment of the Rosetta Stone in 1822 CE, and the practical Hermetic magic of Late Antiquity restored by the discovery of the Greek Magical Papyi in 1827 by Giovanni Anastasi (1780 CE –1860 CE).
No materials associated with the Third Order exists, and it is widely believed that this Order was more theoretical with little administrative function beyond potential Temple Roles in the Order’s Rituals. The titles for this Order however will prove to be important. The most novel addition to the Degrees by the Golden Dawn was the addition of “Ipsissimus.” This is a Latin word meaning “My Very-most Self” that likely entered their design via Friedrick Nietzsche’s Human, All Too Human published in 1878 CE.
Between these two Orders the great streams of thought we have been discussing would come together. An authentic connection to the magical traditions of the Hermetica would be established. The Apocalypticism embodied in the Works of John Dee would be explored and expanded. The Messianic Kabbalah would be integrated as a foundation of the Order’s Work, a quirk enabled by a policy of Philosemiticism under Oliver Cromwell after the Civil war (If you are going to be the New Jerusalem you are going to need Jews).
Although many people think of the Golden Dawn as having been a group of “old mustaches” due to its founders its actual popularity was largely with the literary and theatrical scene in England, with its early membership being mostly in their 20s. Early on much of the operations of the grop would pass from its founding triad to Mathers’ wife Moina (Bergson) Mathers (865 CE – 1928 CE) and then to Florence Farr (1860 CE – 1917 CE) when the Mathers would move to Paris and appointed her Chief Adept in Anglia circa 1987 CE.
Although not nearly as well known as other members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn it is Florence Farr whose Work this series on Aeons truly pivots upon. She wold provide a Key for a much more well known member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, who once saw himself as her suitor, Edward Alexander “Aleister” Crowley (1875 CE– 1947 CE).
It would be understating the truth if we were not to say that in the great majority of human beings there are still elements present that clearly show they are called to a better fate and a higher good. A neglected true-bred dog may look terrible, but you can still see its pedigree, its ancestry, and the same applies to humankind. The rose of the heart speaks within the human being, and its presence is evident, even though one may give expression to it only in a very negative and caricatural way. Humankind shows its “pedigree,” its royal descent.
But the tragedy of it all is shown clearly in an image Johann Valentin Andreae uses in his Alchemical Wedding of Christian Rosycross. He shows humanity imprisoned in a dark dungeon, in which everyone is busy blaming everyone else for the darkness, their misery and their shackles. People quarrel and fight, but at the same time they are doing their best to restore order and improve things, both in theory and in practice. They do not succeed. Their efforts are ineffective, but at the same time very understandable. That is why Lao Tzu says, when Tao was neglected, humanism and justice appeared.
Did you know that the history of humanism as we know it today goes back four hundred years? In 1953 a congress on humanism was held in Geneva, in memory of the fact that there, four hundred years ago, Michael Servetus was burned at the stake at the instigation of Calvin. At the same time, this led to a tremendous humanistic protest instigated by Castellio, and ever since then humanism has grown and set its mark on our civilization. Humanists give their utmost for their cause, and indeed, where would we be without humanism and human justice?
But if one considers humanity’s hellish decline in the light of all these efforts, the extent of it becomes even more evident. We have had four hundred years of humanism, but we have also had four hundred years of suffering and misery—the most terrible wars and destruction, a frenzy of murder and slaughter, with a tiny sprinkling of humanism and justice to sweeten the brew of blood and tears. It seems that the human being has a dual nature. Potentially, he is a god, yet at the same time he is a devil. So the tangled, writhing tumult of human life in the dungeon goes on. What an awful predicament!
So is there any point in humanism? Should we stop being humanistic? Well, if the urge to love humanity is present within you, you can’t—and you shouldn’t—switch it off, but you should realize that the ordinary, humanistic methods of expressing that love will never be able to provide a final solution to human suffering.
What about justice, then? Shouldn’t we strive for what is right? But what is right for the writhing, tangled mass of humanity in this dark dungeon? What is good for one can be vastly different from what is good for another and, all too often, those who campaign for some social improvement or other have their own vested interests at heart. Surely you have noticed how easy it is for people to become hypocrites in the name of justice? That is why Lao Tzu says, when acumen and shrewdness appeared, great hypocrisy developed.
Detail from The Alchymist, in Search of the Philosopher’s Stone, Discovers Phosphorus, and Prays for the Successful Conclusion of His Operation, As Was the Custom of the Ancient Chymical Astrologers by Joseph Wright (1770)
A Public Service Announcement from Sodomy & Witchcraft
Lately there have been a series of memes floating around regarding the substitution of various vegetable and mineral elements for the purposes of spell work. While this there is a long and hallowed tradition in doing so, there is a certain nuance and sensibility in so doing.
One such meme states, for example, that one can substitute Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) for any herb in ritual. While I can understand the appeal and personally do use Rosemary extensively in various rites, there are unique elements of it according to the doctrine of signatures that would make it less than desirable for some rites than others. Taking a quote from Culpeper’s Complete Herbal:
Government and virtues : The sun claims privilege in it, and it is under the celestial Ram. It is an herb of as great use with us in these days as any whatsoever, not only for physical but civil purposes. The physical use of it (being my present task) is very much used both for inward and outward diseases, for by the warming and comforting heat thereof it helps all cold diseases both of the head, stomach, liver, and belly. The decoction thereof in wine, helps the cold distillations of rheum into the eyes, and all other cold diseases of the head and brain, as the giddiness or swimmings therein, drowsiness or dullness of the mind and senses like a stupidness, the dumb palsy, or loss of speech, the lethargy, and fallen- sickness, to be both drank, and the temples bathed therewith. It helps the pains in the gums and teeth, by rheum falling into them, not by putrefaction, causing an evil smell from them, or a stinking breath. It helps a weak memory, and quickens the senses. It is very comfortable to the stomach in all the cold griefs thereof, helps both retention of meat, and digestion, the decoction or powder being taken in wine. It is a remedy for the windiness in the stomach, bowels, and spleen, and expels it powerfully. It helps those that are liver-grown, by opening the obstructions thereof. It helps dim eyes, and procures a clear sight, the flowers thereof being taken all the while it is flowering every morning fasting, with bread and salt. Both Dioscorides and Galen say, That if a decoction be made thereof with water, and they that have the yellow jaundice exercise their bodies directly after the taking thereof, it will certainly cure them. The flowers and conserve made of them are singularly good to comfort the heart, and to expel the contagion of the pestilence; to burn the herb in houses and chambers, corrects the air in them. Both the flowers and leaves are very profitable for women that are troubled with the whites, if they be daily taken. The dried leaves shred small, and taken in a pipe, as tobacco is taken, helps those that have any cough, phthisic, or consumption, by warming and drying the thin distillations which cause those diseases. The leaves are very much used in bathings; and made into ointments or oil, are singularly good to help cold benumbed joints, sinews, or members. The chymical oil drawn from the leaves and flowers, is a sovereign help for all the diseases aforesaid, to touch the temples and nostrils with two or three drops for all the diseases of the head and brain spoken of before; as also to take one drop, two, or three, as the case requires, for the inward griefs. Yet must it be done with discretion, for it is very quick and piercing, and therefore but a little must be taken at a time. There is also another oil made by insolation in this manner: Take what quantity you will of the flowers, and put them into a strong glass close stopped, tie a fine linen cloth over the mouth, and turn the mouth down into another strong glass, which being set in the sun, an oil will distil down into the lower glass, to be preserved as precious for divers uses, both inward and outward, as a sovereign balm to heal the disease beforementioned, to clear dim sights, and to take away spots, marks, and scars in the skin.
Hungary water is made by distilling a pure spirit from the tops of this plant: or in a coarser way, by mixing a few drops of its oil in such a spirit.
Now, for practical purposes one can say that it is of a healing and solar virtue and useful in rites of purification. These are all desirable things for the majority of us, however would lend itself poorly for rites of malefica where one may desire to cause an individual harm. The spirit of the plant itself would likely not be as amicable in such situations when someone may want to use it and could even possibly rebel against the task, if it even agreed to work at all.
Similarly, while the virtues of Quartz are manifold to the point where one may claim it as a universal mineral very close to being able to substitute for most workings, there are some rites and rituals where a deeper degree of specificity would be warranted. For example, PGM IV.2785-2890 calls for the use of a phylactary of Lodestone with an engraved image of Hekate for the purposes of protecting one’s person from the wrath of Selene. This I find rather poignant considering the ferrous nature of the stone itself as well as various traditions employing iron to similar ends for protection. Likewise the substitution of Quartz for Bloodstone in the creation of the lamen employed in the rites described in the Grimorium Verum would likely not meet the approval of these solar-chthonic spirits owing to its lunary nature.
All this being said, substitutions are very possible and often very desirable, however one must be very careful in the choices of correspondence as well as the contexts in which the spell derives. In such cases where substitution simply cannot be made, it is always possible for the ingenious witch to craft their own custom spell and individualize it to their own personal benefit. Witchcraft tends to be messy that way, like hot sex - go out and have fun.
Sodomy & Witchcraft
P.S. Babies make poor substitutes for earthenware virgins.
Ioannis Danielis Mylii Vetterani Hassi M.C. Opus medico–chymicum: continens tres tractatus siue Basilicas: quorum prior inscribitur Basilica medica: secundus Basilica chymica: tettius Basilica philosophica. Francofurti: Apud Lucam Iennis, 1618–1630.
Volume three of Mylius’s Opus Medico–Chymicum which he wrote while still a medical student. This treatise is about Paracelsian medicine, which was highly controversial.
This reconstruction is really quite small being scratch built to a scale of 1/12th. Vessels are mainly made from FIMO and the solid looking walls and flagstones are actually just painted card. The model is electrified with candles and athenor fire flickering. Dried snakes hang from the left hand side of the front beam while at left hand wall remains of a spillage can be seen beside the bench. A rat lies poisoned in the spillage, reminding us of the toxic conditions in which those pioneers worked. A great press can be seen at the left of the back wall and the Athenor is built at the centre with the bellows to its right. Vessels stand on shelves around the athenor for heating at different temperature gradients. To the left of the front shelf can be seen The Pelican with its akimbo tubes for spirit production. On the floor in front of the bellows stands a cauldron of decomposing organic material, best not to enquire too closely. A large pentacle has been drawn in the centre of the floor with candles at each point. Within the circle a mortar like altar is used to hold mixtures which “Other Powers” are invoked to charge with occult powers. A ritual sword leans on the altar used to close the circle when the Practitioner started working.