‘…as in every several kernel is contained a whole good tree or fruit, so likewise is included in the little body of Man the whole great World’ – Fama fraternitatis

‘No other Philosophy we have, than that which is the head and sum, the foundations and contents of all faculties, sciences, and arts’ – Confessio fraternitatis

An invisible brotherhood in the early 17th century that caused a furore internationally: it is one way of describing the ‘Rosicrucian phenomenon’ which is so imaginatively rendered in the stunning print (1618) by Matthäus Merian, one of the foremost engravers of Germany in his time. What we see is an  impenetrable movable fortress set in a peaceful landscape reminiscent of Flemish paintings: a farmhouse in the foreground, a church in the background and a few travellers. All other details, however, refer to the Rosicrucian Brotherhood (the ‘Collegium Fraternitatis’ on the banderole aboved the tower). The three Rosicrucian Manifestos, as they are now known, the Fama fraternitatis (1614), Confessio fraternitatis (1615) and the Chymische Hochzeit (1616) drew numerous responses in print and in manuscript, both positive but certainly also negative. 

In effect the Brotherhood strove for a better world founded on Christian-Hermetic principles. Hermes Trismegistus is accordingly called the ‘prince of philosophers’  in the Chymische Hochzeit, while the Swiss physician and medical reformer Paracelsus (known as the ‘Trismegistus Germanus’, the German Hermes) was highly praised in the first Rosicrucian manifesto. The Rosicrucian Brothers held out the promise of regeneration to mankind: it appealed to many of their contemporaries, such as Daniel Mögling, who wrote in defence of the Rosicrucians that they

…serve God and their fellow men to the best of their abilities, discover nature, and make use of its secrets for the benefit of the Christian world, and glorify the name of God. They know, try and want nothing else.

It did not appeal to the established churches, however, who were quick to condemn such outrage. The ‘Rosicrucian phenomenon’  is not a closed historical chapter: the ideals of the Rosicrucian Brotherhood continued to inspire a number of fraternities both in Europe and in the United States.