Re: Digest Number 112
- Surem paste away! Its great to "see" you again.
--- In AlchemistRoyalAdvisorDrJohnDee@yahoogroups.com, "Elizabeth
Forrest" <greenlysard@l...> wrote:
> Apologies for taking so long to reply to the posts about Castle Matrix,
> but now I've seen them (thanks Betsy and Terri), I'll try to remember
> to bring the information we've come up with so far to the webcafé
> tomorrow. It's about 4 pages, so hope it's okay to paste that into
> a post? I'm not sure how to do attachments. Still learning by
> monkey method a lot of the time. :-) Liz
> PS: Sending this from the Lycos box as a reply, but the gmail one is
> now receiving alchemy posts.
Dee and Shakespeare/partone/1Thought you guys might like a glimpse of what Terri and I are working on...
Dee and Shakespeare:
Secret Societies, Alchemy and the Elizabethan Theatre
by Vincent Bridges and Terri Burns
Part One - The Underground Stream
Chapter One - The Very Model of a Modern Esoteric Society
Daisy Adams was a simple shop girl, very middle class and just sixteen, when she met the Madame Swami and her husband in the summer of 1901. She went to one of their Order of Theocratic Unity lectures and immediately fell in love with M. Theos Horos, the exalted master of the Order, even though he already had a wife, the somewhat older Madame Horos. That of course did not stop the psychically endowed M. Horos from spotting the love sick teenager and moving in to take advantage of her devotion. An assignation resulted, and a month or so later, a tearful Daisy confronted M. Horos with her doubts that a real Spiritual Master would act as such a cad. M. Horos responded, being in fact not a Spiritual Master, or even a gentleman, by raping her in front of a witness. Daisy reported the assault, and M. Horos, real name Frank Jackson of Newark New Jersey, was arrested.
The British tabloid press, even more virulent then than now, seized on the story with a vengeance. It had all the elements of a good Edwardian melodrama: innocence despoiled, sex, deception and plenty of Svengali-esque mesmerism and the “di-ah-bolical.” However, this was not Du Maurier’s fiction, or the work of some east European medium, but a case of a good middle class girl ruined by evil, sexually depraved occultists. The English public was scandalized, and followed the trial daily in the press.
And so, early in November 1901, the general public first learned of the existence of an occult society called The Golden Dawn. During the trial, The Solicitor General for the prosecution read aloud passages from something purporting to be “The Neophyte Ritual” and ridiculed it as blasphemy at the very least. The jury agreed with the prosecution, and the reading public cheered when, just before Christmas, Frank “M. Horos” Jackson received a sentence of 15 years penal servitude. His wife, Mde “Horos” Jackson, was sentenced to seven years for her role in the whole affair. Justice seemed to be served, except to those who belonged to the real Golden Dawn.
For over a decade, esoteric students in England had known, though letters in various occult journals, of the existence of a group of adepts, hermetic and Rosicrucian, who called themselves in English the Order of the Golden Dawn, or Die Goldene Dammerung, in the strange German of the original group. Founded in 1888, the Golden Dawn was indeed the very model of a modern esoteric society, admitting female adepts on an equal footing with males for instance. The late Victorian era was the golden age of odd cults and fringe spirituality, from Spiritualism and Theosophy to revivals of Rosicrucianism, Freemasonry and Renaissance magic. The original Golden Dawn group floated up from this fermenting ideological mass, attracted at first by the almost lost and long discredited philosophy of Hermeticism, and then crystallizing, as in a supersaturated solution, around the seed germ of a mysterious cipher manuscript.
The Golden Dawn presented itself as an esoteric society, which Dion Fortune, herself a member of a Golden Dawn fragment, would describe much later as a society “wherein a secret wisdom unknown to the generality of mankind might be learnt, and to which admission was obtained by means of an initiation in which tests and ritual played their part.” The secret wisdom at the core of the Golden Dawn, however, was of uncertain origin, and the group’s warrant to use such material was even more suspect. In the end, this would prove to be the fatal flaw that led to the group’s demise.
The membership included some famous, although decidedly odd, members of the Edwardian intelligentsia, from Florence Farr, actress and friend of Bernard Shaw, novelists Arthur Machen and Algernon Blackwood, and the Irish poet William Butler Yeats, to W. Wynn Westcott, coroner of the City of London, Annie Horniman, tea heiress and patron of Yeats’ Irish Theatre, Mina Bergson Mathers, sister of philosopher Henri Bergson and darling of the late pre-Raphaelite painters, and her husband, Samuel Liddell “McGregor” Mathers, a quirky translator of ancient grimoires and student of the esoteric mysteries. At its height in the late 1890s, the order had over 300 names on its membership roles, and lodges in London, Paris, Edinburgh and New York. Imagine the shock and dismay these members felt as their inner rituals and secrets were displayed in court and ridiculed in the tabloids during the Horos trial. Some completely panicked and destroyed all evidence of their involvement, some simply resigned, while the more resolute began to look for a way to disassociate themselves from the fiasco.
And, as if to add injury to the insult, in the January 1902 issue of the journal Light, the Outer Head of the Order, S. L. McGregor Mathers, explained how the felonious Horos couple came into possession of their knowledge of the Golden Dawn and a copy of the Neophyte Ritual. Simply put, he was duped and they stole the manuscripts. This had been known in various circles within the Golden Dawn for some time. Mathers had introduced Mde Horos as Fraulein Sprengel, the adept who supposedly chartered the original Die Goldene Dammerung, at a February 1900 meeting of his Alpha et Omega lodge in Paris. This charade had apparently not lasted the evening, and in a fit of anger, Mathers alerted the entire group that Sprengel, in all her forms, was a fake created by Westcott. These revelations, followed by the Horos affair, completely undermined Mathers’ authority and the Golden Dawn began to splinter into factions and spin-offs. In June of 1902, what remained of the group officially changed its name, becoming the Hermetic Society of the Morgenrothe.
How Mde Horos fooled Mathers goes to the heart of the mystery behind the founding of the Golden Dawn, the origin of those cipher manuscripts. Curiously enough, it is these cipher manuscripts that provide the first links and clues in the long thread that leads back to Dr. John Dee and the world of the Elizabethan Theatre. Far from being just a strange footnote to a Victorian true crime tale, the origins of the Golden Dawn point to evidence of an almost continuous line of initiates and scholars going directly back to the group around Dr. Dee, including William Shakespeare.
Arthur Machen, in his 1923 autobiography Things Near and Far, gives a simple and succinct version of the Golden Dawn’s origin myth:
A gentleman interested in occult studies was looking round the shelves of a second-hand bookshop where the works that attracted him could sometimes be found. He was examining a particular volume – I forget whether its title was given – when he found between the leaves a few pages of dim manuscript, written in a character which was strange to him. The gentleman bought the book, and when he got home eagerly examined the manuscript. It was in cipher; he could make nothing of it. But on the manuscript – or, perhaps on a separate slip laid next to it – was the address of a person in Germany. The curious investigator of secret things and hidden counsels wrote to this address, obtained full particulars, the true manner of reading the cipher and, as I conjecture, a sort of commission and jurisdiction from the Unknown Heads in Germany to administer the mysteries in England… I like the story; but there is not an atom of truth in it… The Cipher Manuscript was written on paper that bore the watermark of 1809 in ink that had a faded appearance. But it contained information that could not possibly have been known to any living being until twenty years later. It was, no doubt, a forgery of the early ‘eighties. Its originators must have had some knowledge of Freemasonry; but so ingeniously was this occult fraud “put upon the market” that, to the best of my belief, the flotation remains a mystery to this day.
The occult “gentleman” of Machen’s version was William Wynn Westcott, a well-known figure in esoteric circles, including the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia. Anna Kingsford’s Hermetic Society and the Esoteric Section of Blavatsky’s Theosophical Society, where he was considered an authority on Alchemy and Hermetic Philosophy. Born in 1848 and orphaned at an early age, Westcott’s childhood was somewhat Dickinsian. He was adopted by an uncle who was a doctor, studied at Kingston Grammar School and went on to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in medicine from the University of London. He spent a few years in practice with his uncle, and in 1875 joined a Masonic lodge in Crewkerne. In 1880, he joined the SRIA, whose membership was limited to Master Masons, and where he eventually became Supreme Magus.
After his uncle’s death in 1879, Westcott took a year off to study and do research on the Kabbalah. After joining the SRIA, he moved to London and 1881 became Deputy Coroner for North-East London. Over the next few years Westcott joined the Theosophical Society and then in 1884 followed Anna Kingsford and moved to the Hermetic Society. He remained very active in the SRIA and the Freemasons, writing articles for both groups’ archives and journals, and eventually becoming Worshipful Master of the Quatuor Coronati, the premier Lodge of Masonic Research. He also played a role in the founding of the Esoteric Section of the Theosophical Society. And somewhere in this period, between joining the Masonic Research Lodge in 1886 and the founding of the Esoteric Section in 1888, Westcott made the discovery that would eventually provide him with a dubious kind of immortality.
Westcott always claimed that the Revd A. F. A. Woodford, an elderly Masonic scholar, gave him the cipher manuscripts just before he conveniently died. It is possible that Westcott received the mysterious manuscript as part of Masonic historian Kenneth Mackenzie papers for a Swedenborgian rite, as R. A. Gilbert contends. Mackenzie had published a Rosicrucian grade structure very similar to that of the Golden Dawn in 1877, taken from an even earlier German text of 1781. The concept of initiation on the pattern of the sephira of the Tree of Life seems to have been part of the Rosicrucian tradition, and since the founders of the Golden Dawn were high-ranking members of the SRIA, such a pattern would have seemed the obvious choice.
But the Cipher Manuscripts were much more than a simple grade structure. They contained a practical system of initiation that drew upon the entire corpus of the western tradition, from Egyptian motifs, the Chaldean Oracles and the mysteries of Eleusis and Samothrace to the Kabbalah, the Tarot and the Enochian tablets of Dr. John Dee. That this grand synthesis worked at all is amazing; nothing like it existed, although echoes of the rites of almost every western secret society of the preceding three hundred years can be found within it. And some of its elements were truly revolutionary.
The original Cipher Manuscripts, as shown to the Inner Order in the 1890s, were 56 loose folio sheets, 7 ¼” by 6 ¼”, written by quill in brown ink on paper, some of which is watermarked 1809. Most of these that have survived seem to be by the same hand and quill, with minor exceptions. The Cipher itself is from the Abbot Johann Trithemius’s Polygraphiae et Universelle Escriture Cabalistique, published in Paris in 1561, which was a favorite of many 16th and 17th century Alchemists. Dr John Dee spent a month in the winter of 1561 copying Trithemius’ work on Angelic Magick and considered his copy of the Polygraphiae to be the equivalent of a state secret. Westcott also had access to Trithemius and would have had no difficulty transcribing the Cipher Manuscripts, in either direction.
However, Westcott’s toughest critics, including Mathers, agreed that Westcott found something, but eventually a committee of the Golden Dawn’s descendent, The Stella Matutina, found in 1914 that the whole of the Cipher manuscripts were no older than the mid 1860s, based on the use of Egyptian ideas unknown before Champollion. This made the purported age, the early 19th century, of the Manuscripts extremely unlikely and therefore undermined the last vestige of the Order’s authority. The remnants of the original group folded soon after. However, even if Westcott, or someone before him, put the Cipher manuscripts together, the question remains of where the information and the very practical integration of ideas and initiations contained in the manuscripts originated? The Enochian elements obviously go back to Dr. Dee, so who combined them with Kabbalistic psychology, the Tarot Trumps as psychic initiatory doorways, the virtually unique use of the pentagram as a magical gesture and so on?
Let us suppose that Westcott found and transcribed some document that contained, roughly, the material in the Cipher Manuscripts. Imagine his surprise and excitement, and his desire to share his discovery. Something that momentous couldn’t be kept secret for long and sometime in 1887, Westcott showed his discovery to a rising young member of the Hermetic Society, S. L. Mathers, not yet “MacGregor,” who immediately grasped their importance. Together they approached Dr W. R. Woodman, the Supreme Magus of the SRIA, of which Mathers was also a member, and by the spring of 1888, the group was initiating members.
We will perhaps never know whether “Fraulein Sprengel’s” contact information was already part of the package when Westcott presented it to Mathers. If it was, it must have struck him as very odd. The material in the manuscripts suggests 18th century Rosicrucianism, while the paper points to the early 19th, yet if the information is that old, why should it have an address of accommodation at a hotel in Germany? Surely such an address would not be useful for over seventy years? Yet Fraulein Sprengel was apparently contacted through The Hotel Marquardt in Stuttgart. Even on the surface, this seems very odd.
Her answer, supposedly to Westcott’s original inquiry, was equally as odd:
Dear Brother Sapere Aude,
I have long since left the place where you sent my letter but I did get your letter in the end after a long time. I was very pleased to hear the secret papers described by you have once more come to light. These papers were lost years ago by the esteemed Abbe Constant and then came into the possession of two Englishmen who applied for permission to use them.
This was granted to the Society No. 2 of Hermanubis but we never heard whether anything useful was done there.
After you have managed to make a thorough examination of the papers and have understood them, it is within my competence to promote you and I appoint you to the 7 = 4 of the Second Order of the G. D. in England, L’Aube Doree in France Die Goldene Dammerung in Germany.
You will now start a new Society (No) 3 and choose two learned persons in order to make up the first three masters and when you have appointed three more as 5 = 6 Adepts you can be independent.
Hermetic science is almost extinct in our own day and age, we ourselves are very few here but we are very zealous and earnest and possess considerable strength.
However, we are very cautious and do not entrust any letters to the post so can send you few communications and can be of little assistance,
Please write to me again and kindly seal the letter you send addressed to me, enclosing it in an envelope which is addressed to the Lodge of Light, Love and Life, the address of which you know.
I remain in love,
Sap. Dom. Ast. 7 = 4
My secretary “In Utroque Fidelis” usually writes on my behalf.
The contradictions in this letter, along with the fact that no original existed, only a copy in Westcott’s handwriting, are so glaring and obvious that one wonders how anyone, even at the time, took it seriously. Miraculously given the odd mailing address, Fraulein Sprengel receives a letter from some earnest sounding fellow in England, who relates a tale about how he came into possession of a mysterious coded manuscript with her name and address in it, and she immediately, no questions asked, grants him degrees and positions in a new Order? This is so odd as to be shocking, and, to make it even stranger, she apparently changes her mind in mid sentence, going from “after you have managed to make a thorough examination,” to “I appoint you” without skipping a beat. Here, rather than initiation or even understanding, the key is the literal possession of the manuscripts. It all seems rather ineptly crafted to give the impression that everything required for initiation and attainment can be found in the manuscripts themselves, no transmitting body of Adepts required.
From the date of the letter, we can see that it arrived at a critical juncture in the formation of the group. Westcott approached Mathers perhaps as early as August of 1887, and by October, they had Woodman on board and Mathers was fleshing out the work already done by Westcott on turning the Cipher Manuscripts text into workable group initiations. All that was needed was the authority to use the material, and that, very conveniently, arrived with Fraulein Sprengel’s November letter.
Why did Westcott feel the need for such an elaborate charade? It may be as simple as unwillingness on Westcott’s part to admit ignorance. He had found something of great importance, but he knew nothing about it except whose papers it had turned up among, and he was reluctant to admit even that for reasons of his own. This posed an insurmountable obstacle because the very nature of an esoteric society implied an authoritative source, a body of adepts who had, and could transmit, the experience of gnosis. To Westcott, the Cipher Manuscripts couldn’t be simply an odd fragment of a plan for an Order that no one had worked; no, by its very nature it had to be a connection to the real masters, those who actually guarded the secret wisdom. The Golden Dawn, Die Goldene Dammerung, and perhaps Fraulein Sprengel herself, might have been Westcott’s creation, but the core of the initiatory tradition came from somewhere, someone had put the different threads contained in the manuscripts into a coherent whole.
Modern researchers have focused on the two Englishmen mentioned by Westcott/Sprengel in her letter. They have identified these as Kenneth Mackenzie and Fred Hockley. Mackenzie, as we mentioned above, has many connections to the substance of the Cipher text, from the use of similar diagrams to the published grade structure itself. Fred Hockley was less an author than a collector of rare manuscripts, including copies of the Harley Collection’s manuscripts of Dr. Rudd and John Dee. Both were influenced by and had met Eliphas Levi, the Abbe Constant mentioned by Fraulein Sprengel, and his view of the Tarot’s relationship to the Hebrew alphabet, with some significant changes, is a keystone of the Cipher text. There is even some evidence that, as the good Fraulein suggested, Mackenzie and Hockley attempted to start their own Order, the Society of Eight, around the ritual basics of the Cipher text, but that it never got off the ground.
That Westcott mentions this so directly in his Fraulein Sprengel letter shows that he knew, roughly, where the Cipher manuscripts originated. Why he didn’t just say that directly is a mystery. However, no matter what his reasons for the cover-up, he must have wondered, how did Mackenzie and Hockley come by the information? Certainly, there must have been some Lodge, like the Love, Light and Life of Fraulein Sprengel, which transmitted the information, the initiatory current, to Mackenzie and Hockley. And so Westcott invented the connection in which he believed so strongly, to a living and practicing group of adepts, in order to bootstrap such a group into existence.
So where did the information come from? Early on, before Westcott got too invested in the good Fraulein, he tossed out the suggestion that the group responsible for the original Hermanubis Temple was the group around Dr. Johann Falk, a prominent Jewish Freemason who lived in London circa 1810, the era suggested by the watermarks. As we will see in the next chapter, this name is very suggestive. Dr. Falk’s London group, from what little we know of it, mainly through Kenneth Mackenzie, appears to have been a mystical group working with a kind of cabalistic alchemical symbolism. This also points to a curious connection with a previous Dr. Falk or Falkner, as we will see.
Yet this group, even if it existed, could only have contributed the Kabbalistic components. If the Levi influenced Mackenzie and Hockley added the Tarot component, as seems likely, then where did the Enochian, and the odd fragments of ancient mystery schools, come from? No matter how we slice, or more accurately peel it, we are left with an irreducible core of initiatory symbolism that points to a Renaissance, and with the addition of the Enochian, an Elizabethan source.
Westcott kept the charade going during the early years of the order’s existence. Fraulein Sprengel wrote again in January 1888, giving Westcott permission to sign her motto as required. Two weeks later another short note supposedly arrived giving Westcott exclusive access and began a pattern of promising extra material that never seemed to materialize. The next letter is dated in September, and offers the information needed to complete the Adept grades, 5 = 6 and above. Over a year later, in October 1889, she writes to congratulate the group on having the required number of adepts to attain independent status. In December of that year, she writes again to give official 7 = 4 status to the three Chiefs, Westcott, Mathers and Woodman. The next letter, dated August 1890, came from an unidentified member of the Order, announcing that Fraulein Sprengel had died. Also, it seemed that Sorror SDA, Sprengel Order motto initials, had no permission from the other Chiefs of the Order to charter the English group, and they were now on their own. It seemed, at the time, a very convenient solution, however it left the door open for a convincing con artist such as Madame Horos.
W. B. Yeats, who joined the Order a few months before Fraulein Sprengel’s announced death, supplied a suitable myth for the founding of the Order. “Then an old woman came, leaning on a stick, and, sitting close to them, took up the thought where they had dropped it. Having expounded the whole principle of spiritual alchemy, and bid them found the Order of the Alchemical Rose, she passed from among them, and when they would have followed was nowhere to be seen.”
Yeats came to the Order through the Hermetic Society and the Esoteric Section of the Theosophical Society. He was looking for magic, something as real and overpowering as the music he found in ancient poetry, but more direct and precise. In S. L. MacGregor Mathers he found his Magus. Mathers was an eccentric figure, dressing kilts and tartan shawls, which Yeats first encountered in the British Museum Reading room in 1889. He had but two fields of research, Yeats commented later, that being “magic and the theory of war.” Even in that, Mathers was odd, being a vegetarian and an anti-vivesectionist. He arrived on the esoteric scene in 1885, after his mother’s death, published a small work on infantry tactics, and joined Anna Kingsford’s Hermetic Society where he found one of the major influences of his life. Kingsford’s Hermetic philosophy would supply the underpinning for Mathers magical worldview, and to great degree, that of the Golden Dawn. The equally of male and female adepts is directly attributable to Kingsford’s influence, for instance.
Early in 1888, just as the Golden Dawn was taking shape, a young art student named Mina Bergson also encountered Mathers. She was studying Egyptian art, sketching the statues in the British Museum, when she encounter what appeared to a ghost from some older time, Mathers in kilt and shawl. Intrigued, they became friends, and soon Mina was one of the early members of the Golden Dawn, along with her art school friend, tea heiress Annie Horniman. In the Order, Mina would put her artistic skills to use making and designing the instruments and tools. Her greatest contribution maybe her color scales based on the different paths and sephira of the Tree. With Mathers, Mina found her soul mate and life partner, and together they were truly impressive.
W. B. Yeats gives a vivid glimpse of this in an essay, “Magic,” published in 1901. The fall after his initiation into the Outer Order in the spring of 1890, Yeats and a friend visited the newly married Mina and MacGregor at Stent Lodge, Forrest Hills for an example of real magick. Mathers sat on a raised dias or platform and with what Yeats described as a “wooden mace” spelled out the letters of words from a large multi-colored and lettered tablet. “Almost at once,” Yeats reported, “my imagination began to move of itself and to bring before me vivid images that, though never too vivid to be imagination, as I had always understood it, had yet a motion of their own, a life I could not change or shape.”
This and other experiences with Mathers convinced Yeats that “images well up before the mind’s eye from a deeper source than conscious or unconscious memory.” He came to think of a magical order as an organic being that had a life of its own, and of the Order’s rituals as a kind of ideal, or sacred theatre. Yeats absorbed these ideas from Mathers, who transformed the bare bones of the Cipher manuscripts into the moving ritual theatre of the Order’s grade rituals. In 1899, Mathers himself produced a very direct form of ritual theatre with his public production of the Rites of Isis at the Theatre Bodinere in Paris. However, it was the London group that began to push the connections and boundaries between magic and the theatre.
In July of 1890, Florence Farr Emery, an up and coming actress on the London stage, joined the Order. In the next few years, Florence’s contacts in the theatrical world, Annie Horniman’s money and Yeats’ talent combined, producing in 1894 the landmark season at the Avenue Theatre in London, with plats by both Yeats and G. B. Shaw. These three, Farr, Yeats and Horniman, continued to work together on various theatrical productions throughout the 1890s, and Yeats and Horniman continued their theatrical projects for another decade after the Golden Dawn’s official demise. It is not too much of a leap to speculate that exposure to the ritual context of the Order produced the theatrical aesthetic that informed Yeats in particular, but also Horniman and Farr as well.
All three of these adepts of the Order were shaken to the core by the revelation of Westcott’s duplicity. He had been forced out of the Order by the City of London in 1897, but was still involved in various ways. Mathers’ accusations made public what most had suspected for a while. The results, including the Horos trial, were devastating. The fatal flaw of the fabricated adept came back to haunt the group, eventually casting doubt on the entire Cipher Manuscripts.
Looking back from our century long perspective, it is curious to note that without the notoriety supplied by the Horos trial, the Golden Dawn might have been just an ephemeral group of fringe occultists known only to the readers of small journals and scholars of the obscure. In that case, we might be looking at the sudden shift in the London theatre scene in the mid 1890s and wondering just where these ideas came from?
The Golden Dawn considered itself Rosicrucian, as its Chiefs certainly were, and the core of the Cipher texts point to the early history, and even prehistory, of the original Rosicrucians, with their echoes of Dr. Dee. The influence of the Golden Dawn’s adepts on the history of the English theatre of their time might be a sort of model for looking at the tremendous explosion in the English Theatre in the decade or so before the appearance of the Rosicrucians. Could in fact the figure of Dr Dee have served as the same sort of magus figure to Shakespeare and the Elizabethan Theatre as Mathers did to the adepts, Yeats and Horniman, who created the Irish National Theatre?
And could the core of the Cipher manuscripts, or something like them, also be traced back to Dr. Dee? Was it possible that some kind of group, perhaps based on the practical initiatory scheme at the core of the Cipher manuscripts, existed during Dr. Dee’s lifetime? Could Shakespeare have been a member? And if so, did this group of initiates influence his plays, and even the geometry of the Globe Theatre itself?
The Golden Dawn’s tangled tale of the mysterious Cipher manuscript is the first of many such ciphers and twisted tales we will examine in this investigation into the connection between Dee and Shakespeare. From this perspective, the story is almost a template for viewing the missing pieces of the Elizabethan puzzle. To follow this trail, we must begin with those enigmatic Rosicrucians, who seem to hover, ever present, in the background of the Golden Dawn’s story.
Dee and Shakespeare/partone/2Chapter Two –Dr. Dee’s Rosie Crucian Secrets and the Byrom Collection
In 1614, six years after John Dee’s death and two years before Shakespeare’s, a publicly printed text appeared of an anonymous manuscript that had been circulating among Europe’s intelligentsia for several years. It was called “The Declaration of the Worthy Order of the Rosy Cross.” Known by its first two Latin words, Fama Fraternitatis, it revealed the purported existence of a brotherhood founded by one Christian Rosenkreuz, who apparently lived in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The Fama tells of his search for occult knowledge, which led him to the Middle East—Palestine, Syria, Egypt, North Africa, and Spain—before returning to Germany to found his secret brotherhood. One hundred and twenty years after Christian Rosenkreuz’s death at the advanced age of 106, one of the brethren discovered his tomb and his uncorrupted body. This was the signal for the Brotherhood to emerge and spread their message, hence the publication of the Fama.
Their message, of course, was nothing less than the dawn of a new Golden Age. The Fama informs us that the Brotherhood possessed the keys to a secret knowledge capable of transforming society and ushering in a new era, one in which “the world shall awake out of her heavy and drowsy sleep, and with an open heart, bare-headed and bare-footed, shall merrily and joyfully meet the new arising Sun.” This quote is taken from the next Rosicrucian production, the Confessio Fraternitatis, a restatement of the basic themes, but with a more direct emphasis on its revolutionary implications. It also goes to the core of the alchemical mystery.
The Rosicrucians were alchemists, but the Fama and the Confessio are both highly critical of the “puffer” type of alchemical worker who sits in his lab and actually attempts to get the mineral gold out of boiling lead. The Fama talks of “ungodly and accursed gold-making, whereby under the colour of it many runagates and roguish people do use great villainies, and cozen and abuse the credit which is given them.” The Fama implies that the Rosicrucians could make gold but found the higher spiritual alchemy to be more important. Higher spiritual alchemy related to the coming Golden Age and how to prepare for it. That, seemingly, was the intent behind the publication of the first two Rosicrucian documents - to prepare the world for the new era that was dawning.
The third volume, however, was very different. The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreuz appeared publicly in 1616, the year Shakespeare died, and is the only Rosicrucian document to be linked with an author. Johann Valentin Andreae, a Protestant minister from Germany, claimed late in life that he wrote it in 1601, although the attribution is somewhat suspect, as he would have been fifteen at the time. The Wedding is full of complex occult imagery and surreal metaphors and describes Christian Rosenkreuz’s experiences as he observes a royal wedding. It is hardly the stuff of adolescent fantasies.
Like many alchemical works, the Wedding is filled with ciphers and green language. No less a mind than Leibniz, who along with Newton invented calculus, solved one of the ciphers. In the Wedding, the king announces: “My name contains five and fifty, and yet hath only eight letters.” Leibniz correctly unraveled one layer of this mystery by using a simple Latin gematria, where A = 1, B = 2, and so on, to arrive at the answer of “ALCHIMIA.”
We must consider The Chymical Wedding as an initiatory text, much like Wolfram’s Parzival or Fulcanelli’s Le Mystère des Cathédrales, which cannot be understood without the aid of an esoteric gloss. However, no explication appeared and after this strange work, the original Rosicrucians fell silent. It is not known if they did indeed respond to any of the many thinkers, such as Leibniz, who sprang to their defense. We can assume that if they did, the secret was kept, because the movement continued. Foremost among these continuations, although somewhat indirectly, are the Freemasons.
Freemasonry formally started in England in 1717 with the public announcement of the Four Lodges at the Apple Tree Tavern in London on June 24, Saint John’s Day. Something like these “lodges” had existed at least since the mid fourteenth century as craft guilds. These Freemasons were different, however. They weren’t actually working, operative masons but middle-class members of a secret society gone public. As early as the1640s, Elias Ashmole, a founding member of the Royal Society, antiquarian book collector, alchemist, and Rosicrucian brother in all but name, joined some kind of speculative Masonic group, Some of the early founders of official English Freemasonry, such as Dr. James Anderson and John Theophilus Desaguliers, had Rosicrucian connections and sympathies and exerted an enormous influence on the early lodges. In the next twenty years, similar lodges were organized publicly all over the British Isles.
The movement spread to the Continent, even as far as Russia, but it took the oration of Chevalier Andrew Michael Ramsay, given at the Paris Grand Lodge on March 21, 1737, to put the new movement into perspective. According to Chevalier Ramsay, the Freemasons came not from the literal medieval guilds of cathedral builders but from the kings and nobles of the Crusades. They were not actual builders, but those who had taken vows to restore the Temple in Jerusalem. These “Templars” formed an intimate link with the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem. The Chevalier Ramsay also announced that the Order was derived from the mysteries of Isis, Ceres, and Diana, an interesting claim in light of Fulcanelli’s comments in Le Mystere on Isis and the Black Madonnas of the Gothic cathedrals, and even more fascinating when we turn to the obvious goddess worship references in John Dee’s Enochian visions and even in Shakespeare plays.
At about the same time that the Chevalier Ramsay was trying to define Freemasonry, an English Brother, John Byrom, poet and inventor of a form of phonetic shorthand, and member in good standing of a lodge that met at The Swan Tavern in Long Acre, came into possession of an odd collection of esoteric manuscripts. Like the Chevalier, Byrom was a Jacobite sympathizer, a supporter of the Stuart restoration to the throne. <#_ftn1> In the early eighteenth century in the north of England this was a dangerous position to hold. The nine “Manchester Martyrs,” which contained at least one of Byrom’s friends, were hanged, drawn and quartered for treason for their part in the 1745 uprising of the young pretender, “Bonnie” Prince Charles Stuart. Byrom survived, perhaps with his life purchased by friends’ silence.
The origin of Byrom’s collection is unclear. All that can be said is that sometime between 1732, the latest dated piece in the collection, and the disaster of 1745 the papers became part of Byrom’s library. They were listed in the catalogue of the family library done in the mid-19th century as miscellaneous geometric and architectural drawings. At some time after that they disappeared from the library, turning up later in a cupboard only to be forgotten again until a Manchester music teacher, Joy Hancox, decided to write a biography of John Byrom. The family entrusted her with the remaining pieces of the collection, 516 separate pieces of paper and card stock covered, some on both sides, with enigmatic geometrical diagrams. Even though some of the diagrams had writing on them, there was not a single explanatory note.
A few were dated, the latest being 1732, and a few others had what appeared to be brief, cryptic instructions or commentaries. Some sheets had initials on them of recognizable people and some even had a name or two mentioned. These included George Ripley, Robert Fludd, Jacob Boehme, Michael Mair and Heinrich Khunrath, a roll call of scholars, mystics, scientists and Rosicrucians. One curious mention was Matthew Gwinne, an Elizabethan professor of medicine and a contemporary of Dee and Shakespeare. One or two sheets mentioned the Royal Society, of which Byrom was a member and a few contained biblical references, including the measurements of the Ark of the Covenant. One very small drawing depicted an English acrostic featuring the word “Cabalists.”
Given just these clues, the obvious Kabalistic nature of some of the drawings, and Byrom’s involvement with Freemasonry and Jacobinism, it is not too radical a supposition that Byrom should have been given the collection by the remnants of some secret society, perhaps for safe keeping. We have no evidence, beyond Ms Hancox’s wishful thinking, that Byrom himself ever formed a working group around these papers, or that they were ever part of a collection within the Royal Society. But the collection itself does indeed appear to be the teaching and demonstration diagrams of a magical society, one that apparently existed from the 1590s to the early 1730s.
Fortunately, this is not the only example of the survival of archives of such a secret group. In the Harleian manuscript collection in the British Museum there is a collection of alchemical and magickal texts copied between 1699 and 1714 by one Peter Smart, self described Master of Arts of London. Among these manuscripts are several relating directly to Dr, John Dee’s Enochian workings and angelic magic as well as a collection of alchemical and Rosicrician material, also containing fragments of Dee’s work, entitled The Rosie Crucian Secrets. This work was examined by E. Langford Garstin, a member of an early twentieth century esoteric and magickal group <#_ftn2> , who commented: “There is a mass of evidence in favour of the supposition that as early as Dee’s time there was in existence a secret fraternity... (and) that this society may even have been, and probably was, a branch of the Rosicrucian Brotherhood…”
So where did Byrom’s collection come from? Was it perhaps part of Peter Smart’s copying project? Could it have been part of the originals from which Master Smart worked? Such complex geometric diagrams would have been almost impossible to copy in the early eighteenth century without considerable skill as a draughtsman. The texts could be copied, but the drawings were truly irreplaceable, the core of the secrets. Given the close proximity of the dates - Smart’s work on Dee and the Rosicrucians was done between 1712 and 1714 just twenty years before the collection most likely came into Byrom’s possession - it seems very probable that they are in fact connected. Byrom himself, in his journals, gives us a very significant clue on this point.
Thursday 1 May 1735 – I went to Sam’s coffee house at one o’clock, called upon Mr. Charles Houghton by the way, found Dixon and Graham there, we to Mr. ____ in Bartholomew Close, where he showed me his engine for cutting and working Egyptian pebbles, and the collection of nine figures and papers of Rose about the cabalistic alchemy etc. very extraordinary, and many curiosities, which I think to call some day to look at, Jacob Behmen’s three principles; there we parted and I came to Abingdon’s.
In an earlier entry, back in January, Byrom identified Mr. ____ as one Jonathan Falkner, a rather mysterious member of the Royal Society. Falkner was proposed for membership by two of Byrom’s friends, Martin Folkes and Sir Hans Sloane, and Sloane at least had access to Byrom’s collection, as he inserted fifteen plates in his copy of a 1618 Rosicrucian manual that are reproductions of some of the diagrams in the collection. From this contemporary example, we can see that it was understood that the Rosicrucian material, particularly perhaps the alchemical material, was meant to accompany the geometric diagrams.
Also, from Byrom’s comments above, we can identify some of Mr. Falkner’s collection of esoteric papers. The “nine figures” can only be “Dr. Rudd’s Nine Hyerachies of Angels” from the collection of manuscripts copied by Peter Smart. This suggests that the “papers of Rose about the cabalistic alchemy” might in fact be “The Rosie Crucian Secrets,” the only manuscript copied by Smart that could considered “cabalistic alchemy.” Byrom’s separate mention of “Jacob Behmen’s (sic) three principles” suggests he was looking at a diagram, and, as we will see below, there is one important diagram in Byrom’s collection that does depict Boehme’s three principles.
It is quite likely then that all six manuscripts in the Harley collection copied by Peter Smart were together and in the possession of Mr. Falkner that May evening in 1735, along with a seventh folio containing the diagrams that would become the Byrom collection. Byrom apparently saw three of the seven that evening, and soon thereafter he was entrusted with at least one of the volumes, the one containing the all-important geometric diagrams. The other manuscripts would, within half a century, end up in the manuscript collection of the newly formed British Museum, while Byrom’s collection vanished into his private library.
Scholars, such as Frances Yates and Adam Mclean, have examined the Harley Collection manuscripts and concluded that they were important texts from the early history of Rosicrucianism. Indeed, one of the manuscripts in the complete collection is a copy of The Chymical Wedding with marginal notes by Dr. Rudd commenting on the use of Dee’s Monas. Ms Yates suggests that “Dr. Rudd,” whose work seems to be at the center of the collection, is Thomas Rudd, who published an edition of Dee’s Mathematical Preface to Euclid in 1651. She speculates that he was part of a group around Arthur Dee, John Dee’s son, whose esoteric pursuits were more alchemical.
This is made even more probable by the specifically Enochian material contained in the manuscripts. Some of this material, in the Angelic Magic manuscript that also contains Rudd’s “Nine Hyerachies,” suggests that Rudd had access to information that was unavailable in the published sources of his time. Dee’s son would seem a likely source for this material. Adam Mclean, in his introduction to The Treatise on Angel Magic, comments: “The Rudd Treatise was never meant to be published. It was rather a private commonplace book or reference book for a group or order of occultists working closely with Dr. Rudd.” He goes on to say: “The existence of this manuscript indicates the continuity of an occult system of Angel Magic, stretching from the workings of John Dee and Edward Kelley in the late sixteenth century into the early eighteenth century.”
According to Joy Hancox’s work, some of the drawings in Byrom’s collection date to Dee’s era, so it appears that all of these threads lead back to Dr. Dee and the origins of the Rosicrucian movement. If the whole current contained in the manuscripts leads back through Dr. Rudd and the Rosicrucians to Dr. Dee, then we might have an answer to the question of why John Byrom was entrusted with what was arguably the most important of the manuscripts, the geometric diagrams. Byrom’s family was related by marriage to the Arthur Dee’s family. Perhaps it was felt that the diagrams contained secrets that could only kept by a family member.
Whatever secret fraternity, going back perhaps to Dee and the original Rosicrucians, was dissolving or in transition in the 1720s and 1730s, the nexus point seemed to be Mr. Falkner and his curious collection of alchemical, Rosicrucian and cabalistic manuscripts. How he came by the manuscripts, whether he was a member of the same group, a collector, or even Peter Smart himself, is unknown. All we can say is that Mr. Falkner lurches in and out of obscurity just to pass on the collection of manuscripts.
Indeed, the mysterious Mr. Falkner had already come to the attention of one of this work’s co-authors during an epic investigation into the French twentieth century alchemist mentioned above, Fulcanelli. At one point, we found ourselves searching for anyone interested in “cabalistic alchemy,” which we had discovered was the secret to Fulcanelli’s view of alchemy, and anyone with a similar name, Fulk, Falk, and so on, and whose death was suspicious or unrecorded. Out popped Mr. Falkner, recommended to the Royal Society as a mathematician and a student of “cabalistic alchemy,” and who disappeared after 1748 leaving no will, court records or notice of death. Curiously enough, the first datable mention Fulcanelli makes to events he observed in Paris is the late 1740s.
So it was very odd, when we started this examination, to find the same Mr. Falkner involved with Rosicrucian alchemical papers and the origin of the Byrom collection. This was made even more curious by the odd connection of the name to Westcott’s Dr. Falk. Could some part of the Golden Dawn’s Cipher Manuscripts have contained the name Dr, Falk? Fred Hockley copied Dr. Rudd’s manuscript on the Nine Hierarchies, mentioned by Byrom as being part of Dr. Falkner’s collection. If so, it is possible that Westcott simply confused the two, the 18th century cabalistic alchemist with the 19th century one of the same or similar name. Since it is likely that up to that point, the early 18th century, the collection, the alchemical and angelic works along with the geometric diagrams, were together, then perhaps the core of the Cipher manuscripts was also part of the same collection. The Rosie Crucian Secrets seems to be the missing explanatory text of Byrom’s collection, even though it would take an initiate, possibly even someone familiar with the contents of the Cipher Manuscripts to understand the interconnections.
Fortunately, in the work of Fulcanelli, particularly Le Mystere, we have such an initiated explanation. While Fucanelli does not supply us with the same geometric diagrams, his guided tours, in Le Mystere, of certain Gothic cathedrals and two private houses in Bourges carefully builds up a kind of cabalistic alchemy that refers, indirectly to the same information contained in the Cipher manuscripts and The Rosie Crucian Secrets. Fulcanelli claims that this understanding of alchemy is the ancient hermetic tradition, translated into the images and structures of Gothic architecture and based, as we can see from the ground plan of Notre Dame de Paris, on the geometry of the Kabalistic Tree of Life. The addition of the Hendaye chapter in the second edition ties the subject together with larger cosmological events to produce a view that can only be described as “astro-alchemical.” This point of view could also be considered apocalyptic, and that is indeed one key point on which both Fulcanelli and Dr. Dee agree: alchemy and the timing of the apocalypse are inter-connected, and the point of intersection is the ancient geometry of the Kabalah.
And it is the Gothic Tree of Life floor plan that provides the most direct link to the Byrom collection. There are several drawings in the collection based on the Tree of Life pattern that apparently depict the ground plan of King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, one the last great Gothic structures built in England. The most interesting of these drawings is double sided, with the front face showing a hexagram enclosing three circles from which a central triangle emerges. This depicts Boehme’s three principles, and was probably the drawing that Mr. Falkner explained to Byrom, back in May of 1735.
Drawn on this diagram, and perhaps also showing through from the reverse, is a classical Tree of Life diagram. The reverse has the same Tree of Life pattern, with a more detailed depiction of its internal geometry, highlighting the solar, Tiferet centered cube at the heart of the Tree. This drawing matches the work done independently by Nigel Pennick in his book Mysteries of King’s College on the ground plan of King’s College Chapel, and takes it a step further. Combined with the geometry on the front side of the drawing, it demonstrates how this figure is also related to the larger Cube of Space in which, according to the Bahir, the Tree of Life is projected.
These are very sophisticated kabalistic ideas, and their clear and direct inclusion in the ground plan of King’s College Chapel provides powerful support for Fulcanelli’s argument. The drawing from the Byrom Collection allows us to see another level of interconnections. Certainly any group in the mid eighteenth century interested in Freemasonry and Rosicrucianism would find the idea of hermetic architecture extremely compelling. Fulcanelli, as the last representative of the tradition, supplied the template against which we can measure the history of alchemy, and, by comparison, we gain an even greater understanding of the esoteric material in the Byrom collection.
To Byrom, it must have seemed that Falkner’s collection of manuscripts was the esoteric mother lode. We can be sure he returned to view these curiosities once again, even if no mention survives in his journal. During his lifetime, Byrom carefully preserved the collection of geometric diagrams with which he had been entrusted, and he must have felt honored to be part of a tradition going back to Dr. John Dee. We can’t be sure how much Byrom knew concerning the use and meaning of the diagrams, or even if he understood their importance, but he did ensure their survival.
 <#_ftnref1> The Stuart Pretenders, both Young and Old, were to have a tremendous, although indirect, influence on the course of Freemasonry and occultism. Their involvement made the idea of “secret masters” popular. The concept entered Freemasonry with the Strict Observance of Baron von Hund und Alten-Grotkau, who once met a mysterious grand master and was told to wait for further instructions. He waited for the rest of his life, but, since the unknown grand master was actually Prince Charles Edward Stuart, the Pretender to the throne of England whose cause was crippled forever at the Battle of Culloden Moor, we can understand the lapse. This Strict Observance to an “unknown master,” however, would continue to influence Western occultism down to Theosophy and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in the late 19th century.
 <#_ftnref2> The Alpha et Omega Lodge in Paris, a continuation of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn founded by McGregor and Mina Mathers in the mid 1890s. Garstin joined in 1920, after Mathers’ death, but remained on good terms with Sorror Vestigia, Mina Mathers, until her death.