Rosicrucianism

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Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz by Eugene Ivanov.

Rosicrucianism is a term applied to a syncretic esoteric tendency, propagated initially by a circle of occult German intellectuals at Tübingen in the early 17th century. They operated on the fringes of Lutheran mysticism, crossing over with the radical intelligencia. The circle created a series of allegorical manifestos, published anonymously, centered around what seems to have been a legendary secret society and the mysteries of a figure known as Christian Rosenkreuz, who is the main character in the manifestos and supposedly the founder of the secret society. It prefigured freemasonry in a major way and is a serious candidate for being its most immediate predecessor. Revivals since the 18th century, have birthed various orders loosely associated with freemasonry.

The manifestos are a mixture of concepts derived from hermeticism, alchemy, neo-Platonism, ideas of Gnosis and Kabbalism mediated through Paracelsus. The three core Rosicrucian manifestos are the Fame of the Brotherhood, the Confessions of the Brotherhood and the Chemical Wedding, which promoted principally a supposed "universal reformation of mankind". Johann Valentin Andreae later admitted to authoring the latter, though scholars usually regard them all as a joint-authorship by members of the Circle of Tübingen at the University of Tübingen, of which Andreae was part.

Across Europe, a climate of excitement and interest surrounding the Rosicrucian mystery and esotericism more generally was unleashed; hundreds of pamplets were authored in response. The biggest intellectual response was in Germany and England, but also France and other places. Michael Maier, Robert Fludd, Elias Ashmole and others took up a defence of Rosicrucian precepts. Some have traced Rosicrucian influence in the works of Descartes, Leibniz, Comenius, Spinoza and Newton, though this remains more contentious and perhaps not as central. Most notably in the political realm, a Rosicrucian linked intrigue relating to Frederick V, Elector Palatine taking the crown of Bohemia and rebelling against Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor took place.

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