Spinoza - Philosopher, Mystic, Rosicrucian
The R+C Legacy:
Dr. John Dee
John Dee's Hermetic Tradition
The information that Dee provided was partly the result of his own experiments and personal experiences. It was also a part of the vast body of knowledge of Hermeticism developed by such previous scholars as Plato, Zoroaster, Ptolemy, Pythagoras, Agrippa, Ficino, Bruno, Roger Bacon, Abbott Trithemius, and Lulland the list goes on. It is very difficult to sort out the influences of individuals among groups due to the many cultural changes and effects to them from generation to generation. A key point to remember is that at certain points of each new cycle of activity of the esoteric movements of the oral tradition, it always became necessary to have someone be refreshed in the hidden understanding that transcended of the vast body of physical knowledge accumulated previously. This was accomplished orally in places "far from the madding crowd" as it were. This process in the oral tradition involves much more than a mere passing on of a lineage in ordial or common initiation. It sometimes took initiates far from home for private tutoring and inner illumination, or "gnosis," and in the "old world," it usually took the individual "to the East."
Hermetic gnosticism included the Valentinean teachings and those of St. John the Evangelist and certain disciples of the Johannite sect. Theoclitus of the 11th Century claimed his initiatic lineage was to St. John. Later gnostic lineages became somewhat blurred among various branches farther from the source. In some way, however, there was a connection the Cathars, who were tied with the Bogomils and the older Manichaeans, or followers of Mani. It was from here at the close of the Cathar influence in the Albigensian Crusades that a young boy of the German nobel house of Germel was prepared for training in Persia when he was to come of age. The legend of C.R.C. that was the focus of the first Rosicrucian manifesto published in 1614 was an allegorical vehicle based upon his life and work. Geoffrey de St. Adhémar had also been originally from a town in the Albigensian lands of the Cathars. He later was tutored in the tradition, and co-founded the first Militae Evangelicae in 1089.
In Dee's time there was the well known list of Hermeticists, of course, that inluded Michael Maier, Raymond Andrae, Robert Fludd, and Francis Bacon. A few other active initiates who have received little attention as Hermeticists were Simon Studeon and Heinrich Kunrath. More recently in 1762 was Count Ragoczy, who tutored Cagliostro. To be sure, women were actively engaged in the Hermetic tradition, as well, however knowledge of most of their work has survived only in the oral histories. This is due in large part to the cultural role of women at the time, and that records were not kept even of the direct inspirations, activities and advancements that specific individuals contributed to the pool of work protected under secrecy.
The Hermetic tradition was carried forward in each century under different names, not only by the inwardly initiated leader of each period, but by every fervent student of the Hermetic sciences. Hermeticists wrote or spoke in a secretive alchemical tradition in order to protect and preserve the Earthly resource of Hermetic knowledge for all future generations.
Dee believed that the Divine essence, a part of God in every man and woman, was an aspect of humankind which had been lost or forgotten and must be rediscovered. He and others who viewed life in the Hermetic tradition were also very concerned indeed by the disastrous religious climate that was continuing to accelerate as a result of the prevailing attitudes of the contemporary ruling classes.
A Universal Hermetic Religion
The 16th Century Hermeticists envisioned the establishment of a universal religion, along with the promotion of education among the common people who had been previously denied formal education. Based upon a basic premise of universal Hermeticismthat everyone is an integral and inalienable part of the natural process of all life, whether they know it or not, and what affects one under the stars affected all othersthey thought that if every man and woman could learn the Laws of Nature and God, as they had spent their lifetimes studying and discovering personally, then all people could independently direct their lives in accordance with the laws of nature to the benefit of themselves, in harmony with and to the benefit of all life on Earth.
Reformation Evangelical Christianity
Regarding John Dee's great concern for the spiritual well-being of all humankind, finally, the time came when he and a core group of his friends and associates decided to have a meeting to determine what they might be able to do regarding the religious tension in the world, the continuing persecutionand the helplessness of great masses of individuals who were not permitted to live according to choices of conscienceaccording to their chosen religious or spiritual convictions. Specifically at this time, they met to form an evangelical confederation against the Catholic league which was intent on maintaining power in France by preventing Henry of Navarre from ascending the throne. They believed that the solution of a universal religion was to be found in an evangelical Christianity, which involved a gnostic understanding of the gospels, about our direct relationship with God independent of priest intermediaries. Gnosticism refers to an inner experience that only one can know directly, not vicariously through someone else. Not least on their agenda was a vow to defend the use of the sacred cross from the abuse of those using it as a weapon of persecution in the name of God and religion.
Evangelical Christianity had grown alongside Lutheranism during the Reformation, both movements contributing to a series of domino events. Some of these indirectly led King Henry VIII to break with Rome, to allow the Christian Bible to be published in English, and to start his own Church of England. In the domino effect that had been set into motion, other monarchies began to follow his bold lead. Although in his heart, Henry remained a Catholic, Anne Boleyn's evangelical Christianity had had a specific indirect transforming effect in the affairs of England, radiating in his official decisions, all the way through King Henry's pursuit of a Church sanctioned divorce to marry her. All this was before he allowed Anne to be tried and executed in 1536 for false charges of treason.
1586 Dee's core group held a meeting on July 17, 1586 in the town of Luneberg, Germany. Simon Studion was considered by the standards of his contemporaries to be somewhat of a bullish rebel philosophically by comparison with his peers, and in his Naometria of 1604, he boldly gave a first-hand account of the meeting. The Luneberg meeting included some evangelical Princes, some Church appointed Electors of the Holy Roman Empire, and representatives for Henry of Navarre, leader of the Protestant Huguenots (he later became Henry IV of France), also the King of Denmark, and Queen Elizabeth I of England.
Confederatio Militiae Evangelicae
The organization was called the Confederatio Militiae Evangelicae, but it was a spiritual and fraternal Order. The Militia Evangelica had existed previously by that name in the 12th Century, established in 1186 in the city of Cologne, Germany; it had also been known then as the Knights of the Temple of Solomon, Knights of St. John, and the Poor Knights of Christ. The Naometria chronicles evidence that the same Militiae historically was also the source of the later Rosicrucian movement that followed publication of the manifestos beginning in 1614. However, the Naometria, in a word that translates to "measurements of the temple," dealt at great length with the prophetic numerological information about the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem.
The evangelical movement became public formally with the release of the Rosicrucian manifestos. In 1614 the Fama Fraternitatis of the Meritorious Order of the Rosae Crucis, and in 1615 the Confessio Fraternitatis were formally published. These were pamphlets reporting the existence of the Hermetic brotherhood and making an appeal to people regarding the way that religious reform would most peacefully happen. It involved the spiritual education of humanity. They went on to invite all interested people to join by making their interest known and waiting for a secret response from the brotherhood.
The Fama explained that before there could be a religious reformation, which the Protestant movement was intended to accomplish during the 16th Century, there must first be "an inner reformation within men's minds and hearts." It told the legend of "C.R.C.," a symbolic representation of a "Christian Rosicrucian." In the oral tradition, it was a play on the irony from the Hermeticist point of view, that this reference designated a true Christianity that harkens back to gnostic Christian beginnings, at least, but actually it was much older as a part of the oral tradition. The Rosicrucian movement was the Hermetic response to the anti-Christian dogma prevailing under the rule of the Roman Church at that time.
However, the oral tradition of the C.R.C. legend told the allegory of an individual who traveled to the East to be tutored in the source esoteric traditions, so that he could return and carry on a new cycle of activity with a refreshed body of knowledgereborn into a new expression or a new lifetime of activity. The allegory also expressed the natural process involved in the unfolding of the inner consciousness in humans, known as spiritual illumination. Spiritual illumination happens at a point when one's inner realization reaches a "pitch" where the conscious awareness crosses over to a perception that transcends physical reality. It happens eventually to everyone, the "good news," and the Hermeticists wanted more than anything that people be free to pursue their own natural, inner inclinations that would eventually take them there as God intended for all humanity.
The Confessio further boldy advocated the elimination of papal tyranny in the personal lives of humankind. Interestingly, however, the attackers of the Rosicrucian movement were to be mostly Protestantsvery few Catholics other than from the ruling class. In 1616, the third manifesto followed: the allegory called The Chemical Wedding, which further described the Brotherhood's purpose and methods by which humankind could learn about our personal and direct relationship to God and the universe.
Meaning of Rosae Crucis
The concept of the rose and cross is actually a derivative of an earlier usage from the German Hermetic tradition preceding the first known English or Latin documented in the 16th Century. That is, according to John Dee's Monas Hieroglyphica, the German usage in some of the very old original manuscripts of Dee's library had already been, "Ros", which means "dew", and refers to the alchemical or transformational process of nature, and "Crux", which means "cross". The term "Rosicrucian" as a generic reference, or the Latin Rosae Crucis, means literally "Rose+Cross" in English. In subsequent cultural times, the unfolding rose has alluded to the natural unfolding of a human's true spiritual nature, as a result of personal, spiritual development through life's physical experiences, represented by the cross.
Necessity of Secrecy
When the Rosicrucians became publicly political in a campaign for a new and universal religion, which naturally could undermine the power of the Holy Roman Empire over the people, Rosicrucians were declared heretics. As they inspired more and more people concerning freedom of thought and personal education about spiritual matters formerly left to priests, Rosicrucians became more and more of a threat. With the start of the 17th Century in 1600, eight years before John Dee passed away, 13 years before the first Rosicrucian manifesto was published, Girodano Bruno, one of the revered Hermetic leaders, was burned at the stake in Rome for his "heresy." The participants of the Rosicrucian movement, for their personal safety and for the continued work of the movement at that particular time, recognized that they must continue to remain absolutely secret, thus, essentially "invisible."
When James I went to the English throne after Elizabeth I's death in 1603, he would have nothing to do with John Dee. Additionally, Dee was a victim of an insidious plot to discredit everything that he had ever accomplished during his lifetime. In spite of the genius of his scientific experiments and the advancement of mathematics among all peoplehis experiments in contacting "angels," or spiritual beings, were exploited to make him appear a lunatic. He was accused of being a sorcerer, rather than the "magus" he had formerly been under Queen Elizabeth I. Through a number of events, Dr. Dee was made out to be someone never to be taken seriously, and this reputation followed his name for 300 yearsinto the 20th Century.
Francis Bacon and John Dee
The Rosicrucian manifestos were published beginning in 1614, following John Dee's death in 1608, although they had circulated in manuscript form previously. The work of the particular evangelical confederation he had activated secretly in 1586 came to be known as "the Rosicrucian movement." There is no doubt by revisionist historians that Dee's hand was in the writing of the manifestos, nor doubt that Dee's influence privately continued to dominate the movement long after its beginning with his Luneberg meeting. Francis Bacon and Michael Maier, Robert Fludd, and numerous other highly learned and respected men of their time have been continously tied closely with the Rosicrucian work. In the past 20 years especially, however, the same work of the Rosicrucian movement from the earliest records in the 16th Century has now been tied inextricably to John Dee.
In the 17th Century Francis Bacon's name came to the fore in his advocation of a scientific approach to knowledge and learning in Advancement in Learning, his Novum Organum and in the utopian allegory, The New Atlantis; also, in his activities as a founding member of the Royal Society, which concerned itself with the scientific approach. Although Dee personally tutored Bacon in his youth, training him in ancient arcane arts, the name and reputation of John Dee was shelved necessarily by his own loving brothers and sisters to ensure the continued work of the Rosicrucians. They needed to avoid jeopardizing the greater objective of humankind's religious and philosophical freedom from persecutionor to state it more succinctlyto promote everyone's inherent and inalienable right to the freedom of individual thought and personal choice.
Subsequently it would require the research of disinterested parties to the esoteric traditions to get to the truth revealed from the records, before historical revisions would include Dr. John Dee's important role in the Rosicrucian movement. Today in the British Museum, Dee's significance to the early stages of the Renaissance as scientist, and philosopher-magician is highlighted on display. Many of his manuscripts and other contemporary publications revealing the intent of his work are also available in the British Library. Some of his more important writings also have been published in book form.
If ever there is an award for the man for all seasons, Dr. John Dee would probably be among the names nominated. His good name survived the long obscurity partly caused at the hands of his own brotherhood, and it now shines in the light of truth today under the scrutiny of those who would have no particular interest in promoting or not promoting an awareness of what he gave to humanity.
The esoteric traditions continue to recognize Dr. Dee for the powerful effect that his genius had intellectually and spiritually upon the world. Many freedoms enjoyed today are due to the effort and sacrifice, and the unrelenting devotion to service, of John Dee and others like him.
1 John DeeThe World of an Elizabethan Magus; Peter J. French, Routledge and Kegan Paul: London 1972, p1
Print Resources and Other Reading
1993, 1996 by Linda S. Schrigner