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Gustav Meyrink and the Rosicrucians

Posted on by BPH

Rosicrucian imagery in Der weiße Dominikaner and Der Engel vom westlichen Fenster

„Ich breite die Arme aus“

Der weiße Dominikaner

„Breite die Arme aus, Aufrechtstehender!“
Ich breitete die Arme waagrecht.

Der Engel vom westlichen Fenster


Erwin Tintner’s cover illustration for Der weiße Dominikaner (1921)

In 1890 a significant turn of events changed the life of the struggling banker Gustav Meyer (1868-1932). Already before his bankruptcy and a brief span in a Prague prison Meyer had begun to occupy himself increasingly with theosophy, magic and occultism. [1] At the same time the young dandy began moving in artistic circles in Prague, and later also in Vienna and Munich. The literary career of Gustav Meyrink, as he now styled himself, was launched with the publication of a series of successful satirical and occult short stories for the well-known cultural-satirical journal Simplicissimus. Meyrink was much interested in the modern art scene, the dramatic arts, dance, music, pantomime, puppet theatre, wax museums and cinema and all these interests can be traced in the stories. Contemporary relations with artists and illustrators stem mostly from a year spent in Vienna (1904), when Meyrink worked as chief editor of Der liebe Augustin, a magazine filled with short stories, poems and art work similar to Simplicissimus. Contacts with artists who contributed to both periodicals lasted for a lifetime. Hugo Steiner-Prag illustrated Meyrink’s bestseller Der Golem with a now famous series of lithographs which were also published independently. Fritz Schwimbeck illustrated both Der Golem and Das grüne Gesicht and Emil Preetorius was responsible for most of Meyrink’s book designs published by Kurt Wolff Verlag, from Der Golem to Walpurgisnacht and the Gesammelte Werke. At the outset of his writing career Meyrink became friends with the artist Alfred Kubin, possibly through the author Oscar A.H. Schmitz who married Kubin’s sister and stimulated Meyrink to pursue an artistic career. Mutual artist friends inspired Meyrink to write stories incorporating some of their more remarkable character traits. Thus amongst others Alfred Kubin, Richard Teschner and Franz Sedlacek figure in several of Meyrink’s novels and stories. A number of Sedlacek’s fantastical paintings appear to have been inspired in turn by Meyrink’s stories. [2]

Though many beautifully illustrated editions of Meyrink’s novels appeared over the years, the two last novels, Der weiße Dominikaner and Der Engel vom westlichen Fenster, were not illustrated nor were they reprinted so often as his other works. Their book covers, however, do have interesting stories to tell. Crucial passages in the respective novels will illustrate the main argument of this essay that Meyrink superimposed his ideas about a Rosicrucian Order, at first developed for Der weiße Dominikaner, on the English magical tradition described in his last published novel Der Engel vom westlichen Fenster. Meyrink’s Brotherhood was loosely modelled after the seventeenth-century fictional Brotherhood presented in the Fama Fraternitatis as well as the historical Order of the Gold- und Rosenkreuzer of the late eighteenth century. Contemporary German as well as English modern theosophists and Rosicrucians were trying to find their roots in these movements as well.

As an editor and a translator, Meyrink published a series of magical works entitled “Romane und Bücher der Magie”. These neatly published little volumes were known also for their interesting cover designs by the Austrian artist and illustrator Erwin Tintner (1885-1957). The series was published by Rikola Verlag, the publishing house founded by the influential Austrian businessman Richard Kola in Vienna in 1920 with the idea to make modern works of fantastical literature available in affordable editions at a time afflicted by inflation and general economic malaise. This situation was to last through the next decade when the book trade more or less collapsed completely. Still, Kola’s publications included many interesting titles by such writers as Otto Soyka, Paul Busson, Leo Perutz and Karl Hans Strobl. The economic crisis in 1923-1924 is likely to have caused the demise of Meyrink’s series of magical books as well. Rikola Verlag was to survive until 1926 but liquidation followed in 1929.

The series edited by Meyrink was published in the early twenties after the publication of Der weiße Dominikaner (1921), one of the first books published by Rikola, again with a cover illustration by Tintner. The series comprised fictional works by Franz Spunda and Paschal Beverly Randolph (1825-1875), and a study on Eliphas Levi by R.H. Laarss (Richard Hummel 1870-1938). Dhoula Bel, the Rosicrucian novel by P.B. Randolph (1922) may have influenced the writing of Der weiße Dominikaner, Meyrink’s first modern Rosicrucian novel. Even though he published his novel two years before the Dhoula Bel edition, Meyrink had long pursued his interest in Randolph and his works through the English occultist and Rosicrucian John Yarker (1833-1913), a member of S.R.I.A. and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Some ideas surrounding Randolph and his working with magical mirrors may also have gone into Meyrink’s novel Der Engel vom westlichen Fenster. The American Randolph as well as English members of S.R.I.A. and the Golden Dawn such as John Yarker and Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) have been regarded as occultists working in the Enochian magical tradition of the Renaissance magus John Dee, the subject of Meyrink’s last novel. [3]

Der weiße Dominikaner came out with two variant book covers. One depicts what looks like a Dominican monk spreading out his arms, while the other simply features the title, in German Gothic type. Erwin Tintner’s figurative design could, however, be seen to merge the image of the white-robed Dominican with that of the Rosicrucian brother, the initiated father of the main character Christopher Taubenschlag – the father in turn is conceived as a mirror image or symbol of the son. In the first instance, the novel’s white Dominican is (loosely) based on the legendary character of Raimund de Pennaforte, builder of the local church in the forgotten nameless town of the novel (identified as Wasserburg) who would finally return as the final Pope under the name “Flos florum”. The image also focuses on the troubled relationship between the Catholic Church and esoteric spirituality, the dominant theme of the novel. Rosicrucian elements in the novel have been traced by Eduard Frank and Ralf Reiter. [4] The revelatory image – presented in contradistinction to the legendary Pennaforte and the chaplain’s confusions about his significance – is that of the initiation into the Brotherhood of Christopher Taubenschlag, and it is this moment of initiation that is also hinted at in Tintner’s design.

The Rosicrucian image of the chain of connected Brethren of the Order is first presented in chapter seven, where it is combined with elements from Taoism, magic and alchemy. The Taoist and magical aspects of this complex image appear to be partly inspired by the Taoist studies of a leading nineteenth-century German orientalist scholar, August Pfizmaier:

Wer die Grenzscheide überschritten hat, der ist ein Glied in einer Kette geworden, – einer Kette, gebildet aus Unsichtbaren Händen, die einander nicht mehr loslassen bis ans Ende der Tage: er gehört hinfort einer Gemeinschaft an, in der jeder Einzelne eine nur für ihn bestimmte Mission hat. – Nicht sind auch nur Zwei in ihr die da einander gleich waren, so wie schon unter der Menschentieren der Erde nicht zwei sind, die dasselbe Schicksal hätten. Der Geist dieser Gemeinschaft durchdringt unsere ganze Erde: er ist ihr jederzeit allgegenwärtig er ist der Lebensgeist im großen Holunderbaum. Aus ihm sind die Religionen aller Zeiten und Völker entsprossen sie wandeln sich, aber er wandelt sich nie. Wer ein Wipfel geworden ist und die Wurzel ‚Ur’ bewusst in sich trägt, der tritt unbewusst in diese Gemeinschaft ein durch das Erleben des Mysteriums, das da heißt „die Lösung mit Leichnam und Schwert“. (Der weiße Dominikaner, Kapitel 7, „Das mennigrote Buch“, esp. p. 151)

The Meyrink collector and occultist Lambert Binder was one of the first commentators to discuss this Taoist image in his essay “Die Lösung der Leichname”. [5] For Meyrink, the Taoist way to spiritual enlightenment through schi kiai (die Lösung der Leichname) and kieu kiai (die Lösung der Schwerter) was a kind of transformation from the physical body to a spiritual body and this could be seen to parallel the physical-alchemical process of transmutation, guided the adept towards the Philosopher’s Stone and spiritual change. This theosophical-alchemical orientation was also dominant in the Rosicrucianism from the seventeenth century onwards. In Der weiße Dominikaner, in the chapter entitled “Einsamkeit”, the alchemical process is explained. Taubenschlag, looking for his Ophelia, turns to the author of the introduction. Taubenschlag, we are reminded, is not the character dreamed up by his “author” when he started writing his fictional tale, but an invisible entity (a symbol even, p. 11), a doubled spiritual guide or a metaphysical or divine aspect of the self that has taken over his narrative expressed in the diary of an invisible one (“Tagebuch eines Unsichtbaren”):

Das tiefste Geheimnis aller Geheimnisse und das verborgenste Rätsel aller Rätsel ist die alchemistische Verwandlung der – Form. Das sage ich dir, der du mir die Hand leihest, zum Danke dafür, daß du für mich schreibst! Der verborgene Weg zur Wiedergeburt im Geiste, von dem in der Bibel steht, ist eine Verwandlung des Körpers und nicht des Geistes. […] Die Formveränderung, die ich meine, wird für das äußere Auge erst sichtbar, wenn der alchemistische Prozess der Umwandlung seinem Ende zugeht; im Verborgenen nimmt er seinen Anfang: in den magnetischen Strömungen, die das Achsensystem des Körperbaues bestimmen, – die Denkart des Menschen, seine Neigungen und Triebe wandeln sich zuerst, ihnen folgt die Wandlung des Tuns und mit ihm die Verwandlung der Form, bis diese der Auferstehungsleib des Evangeliums wird (pp. 194-195).

In chapter 12, the crucial chapter on death and spiritual rebirth entitled “Jener muss wachsen, ich aber schwinden”, his dying father tells Christopher of the secret order but not without warning him about the dangers of occultist and magical entities (pp. 240-241):

Er faßte mich an der Hand und verflocht seine Finger auf eine besondere Weise mit den meinigen. „Auf diese Art“, setzte er leise hinzu, und ich hörte, daß sein Atem wieder zu stocken begann, „hängen die Glieder der großen unsichtbaren Kette zusammen; ohne sie vermagst du wenig; bist du aber eingeschaltet, so kann dir nichts widerstehen, denn bis in die fernsten Räume des Weltalls helfen dir die Mächte unseres Ordens. Höre mich an: Mißtraue allen Gestalten, die dir entgegentreten im Reiche der Magie! Jegliche Form können die Mächte der Finsternis vortäuschen, sogar die unseres Meisters; auch den Griff, den ich dir gezeigt habe, können sie äußerlich nachahmen, um dich irre zu führen, aber zugleich unsichtbar bleiben – das können sie nicht. […] „Merke dir ihn gut, den Griff! Wenn sich dir eine Erscheinung aus der andern Welt naht, und solltest du sogar glauben, ich sei es: immer verlange den Griff! Die Welt der Magie ist voll von Gefahren.“

This is followed in chapter 14, “Die Auferstehung des Schwertes”, by a misleading apparition of an old man who invites Taubenschlag to join his father’s order (pp. 274-275). But when the old man requires blind obedience (which may, incidentally be a critical reference to an important tenet of the Gold- und Rosenkreuzer), Christopher remembers to ask for the handshake his father told him about. The grey apparition is not what he appears to be but rather advocates an occult and treacherous perversion of spiritual truth. The image finally reveals itself in the shape of a demon impersonating John the Baptist (pp. 277-282).

In the last chapter Christopher Taubenschlag experiences the spiritual change of his body:

Ich breite die Arme aus: unsichtbare Hände fassen die meinen mit dem „Griff“ des Ordens, gliedern mich ein in die lebendige Kette, die in die Unendlichkeit reicht. Verbrannt ist in mir das Verwesliche, durch den Tod in eine Flamme des Lebens verwandelt. Aufrecht stehe ich im purpurnen Gewand des Feuers, gegürtet mit der Waffe aus Blutstein. Gelöst bin ich für immer mit Leichnam und Schwert.

(Der weiße Dominikaner, Kapitel 15, „Das Nessoshemd“)

Heinrich Hussmann: cover and illustration (on pastedown and flyleaf) to
Der Engel vom westlichen Fenster

Meyrink’s second and last Rosicrucian novel, Der Engel vom westlichen Fenster, also came out with two variant cover designs, the first a pen drawing of a young girl’s portrait in green ink designed by the graphical artist and illustrator Heinrich Hussmann (1899-1982). Friedrich Alfred Schmid Noerr, Meyrink’s co-author for this novel, was not at all appreciative of the design, as appears from his copy of the book now in the Deutsches Literaturarchiv in Marbach. Schmid Noerr cancelled the cover of his copy by drawing a red line across it and adding the comment “Pfui!” Did he perhaps object to it for other than aesthetic reasons? We know that Schmid Noerr and Meyrink used other working titles for the novel (John Dee and Baphomet); both men disliked the final title chosen by the publisher. The title Der Engel vom westlichen Fenster was clearly drawn from the crucial first appearance of the little girl and the green angel to John Dee and Edward Kelley. Thus the image refers to the relevant passage in Meric Casaubon’s edition of Dee and Kelley’s angel conversations.

Meyrink and Schmid Noerr’s first source was the booklet which the German theosophist and occultist Carl Kiesewetter (1854-1895) wrote on Dee. In a later account of their literary cooperation Schmid Noerr remembered picking it up and handing it to Meyrink as possible material for a new novel. Kiesewetter consulted Meric Casaubon’s edition of John Dee, A true and faithful relation of what passed for many years between Dr. John Dee and some spirits (1659) as well as the biography of Dee (1707) by the English Nonjuring scholar and librarian Thomas Smith (1638-1710). Apart from Kiesewetter, Casaubon and Smith, no other sources (apart from such alchemical reference works such as Schmieder’s Geschichte der Alchemie, 1832) were easily available to Schmid Noerr and Meyrink when they were looking for materials on the lives of Dee and Kelley. A modern English monograph by Charlotte Fell Smith had appeared in 1909 but it is not clear whether this work was known to the novelists. [6]

Even though they owe a lot to Kiesewetter’s use of both Casaubon and Smith, the novelists obviously did not need to follow the (legendary) history and the characters of Dee and Kelley. In the end the characters in the novel are part of the thematic structure and fictional reality of the novel. The angel in the novel appears in the wake of a seven-year-old girl. The child’s name, Madini (or Madimi) refers to the first (female) angel appearance in Casaubon’s edition of Dee’s angel conversations. The following vision occurred in May 1583:

Suddenly, there seemed to come out of my Oratory a Spirituall creature, like a pretty girle of 7 or 9 yeares of age, attired on her head with her hair rowled up before, and hanging down very long behind, with a gown of Sey […] changeable green and red, and with a train she seemed to play up and down […] like, and seemed to go in and out behind my books, lying on heaps, the biggest […] and as she should ever go between them, the books seemed to give place sufficiently. [7]

Thomas Smith, Vitae quorundam eruditissimorum et illustrium virorum, London [Amsterdam] 1702, including the “Vita Joannis Dee, Mathematici Angli”

Another relevant passage, in which the angel presents Dee with the scrying stone in the west window was not published in Casaubon’s edition. Kiesewetter could only have found the reference in Thomas Smith’s biography of John Dee. Smith had access to Dee’s unpublished diaries for this information and referred to a male angel (a young boy). Kiesewetter worked Smith’s note on this event into his main narrative. Information about the event was originally taken by Smith from Dee’s diaries. [8] From Smith’s note in his Vita it appears that he consulted the original “Mysteriorum libri” recovered by Elias Ashmole, though he does not explicitly list these unpublished diaries in his bibliography at the end of his book. This is Dee’s description of the event (1582) in Book IV:

Thow shalt preuayle with it, with Kings, and with all Creatures of the world. Whose beauty (in virtue) shall be more worth then the Kingdomes of the earth. Loke, if thow see it: But styr not, for the Angel of his power is present. E[dward] K[elley] loked toward my west window, and saw there first uppon the matts by my bokes a thing, (to his thinking) as bigg as an egg: most bright, clere, and glorious: and an angel of the heath of a little chylde holding up the same thing in his hand toward me: and that Angel had a feyrey sword in his hand &c. [In margin: An angel holding up the stone.] …

I went toward the place, which EK pointed to: and tyll I cam within two fote of it, I saw nothing: and then I saw like a shaddow on the grownd or matts hard by my bokes under the west window. The shaddow was rowndysh, and less then the palm of my hand. I put my hand down uppon it, and I felt a thing cold and hard which, (taking up, I) perceyued to be the stone before mentioned. [9]

The German occultist Kiesewetter also noted that the boy was four years old, a detail that is not in the original manuscript nor in Smith’s account. This boy-angel appeared to Dee and Kelley about half a year earlier in 1582. In the novel, the apparition of the angel in the west window subsequently takes on huge dimensions, and this angel is identified as Il, “der Bote vom westlichen Tor” (p. 186). Later descriptions of the angel’s appearance, bedecked with gold and jewels, also owes to the description of Dee’s female angel Galvah who is associated with precious stones (and at one time also appears in the west window). In the novel the sexual identity of the angel in the west window is left undetermined, whereas in Dee’s conversations Madini and especially Galvah focus on the aspect of gender in relation to moral and spiritual (angelic or demonic) wisdom. Dee’s texts contain references to the magical works by Johann Trithemius, one of Dee’s most important sources.

The angel then disturbingly commands Dee and Kelley to sleep with each other’s wives both in the published angel conversations and in the novel. Even though issues of gender, Christian morality and sexuality (including the cross-matching) certainly play a part in the novel, this cross-matching is only briefly referred to and not fully worked into the novel’s overall structure. Issues of sexuality concentrate rather on sexual magic and are reflected more emphatically and explicitly in the person of Fürstin Chotokalungin, a magical figure of sexual temptation resembling a modern decadent femme fatale (cf. Aglaja, wife of Adonis Mutschelknaus, in Der weiße Dominikaner) and in the cult of Isaïs. The doubled character of Dee / Baron Müller will have to overcome this sexual temptation on the way to his spiritual initiation, which is the final resolution of the novel.

In this scheme the enigmatic and unreliable Lipotin can to some extent be regarded as Kelley’s modern double (though he is mostly paired with Mascee). Many issues and themes are woven into the complex structure of the novel to address questions of the meaning of human life and death, human consciousness, time and timelessness, reality and immortality, hatred, hope, love, morality, sexuality, magic, spirituality and fate. Towards the end of the novel, the cynical Lipotin identifies himself as an enigmatic and untrustworthy Tibetan Dugpa monk (cf. the equally untrustworthy vision of the old man in Der weiße Dominikaner). Further associations with dehumanising Tibetan sexual magic follow: Vajroli Tantra, Yoga and Vajroli Mudra and related magical practices are associated with Dee and Kelley’s search for the Philosopher’s stone. Finally, Dee / Müller appears to have survived the poison of Tibetan magic that Kelley / Lipotin brought to him. [10]

British theosophists and occultists took an interest in Smith’s biography of Dee. The British theosophist, alchemist and a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, William Alexander Ayton (1816-1909), produced a biography of John Dee in 1908, in fact a translation of Thomas Smith’s Latin text. [11] Ayton knew H.P. Blavatsky when she was in London and Meyrink corresponded with English theosophists such as George Mead, Blavatsky’s secretary, as well as Rosicrucians and members of the Golden Dawn. Meyrink exchanged many letters with John Yarker about the writings of the American Rosicrucian and sex magician P.B. Randolph as well as about Yarker’s involvement in secret societies, their rituals and their organization. Through his interest in Randolph, Meyrink might also have known about Ayton, who was an important figure in the English Rosicrucian movement. Be that as it may, considering Ayton’s foreword to his translation of Smith’s text, his approach to the occult experiences of Dee and Kelley was quite similar to Meyrink’s and Schmid Noerr’s when they were preparing their novel. Modern and practical occultists, especially members of S.R.I.A. and the Golden Dawn, were highly intrigued by angelology and demonology, while they were perhaps not always as conscientious as Dee’s biographer Thomas Smith in evaluating the historical importance of the scholar and political adviser Dee. They were rather more interested in the magus’s practice of Enochian magic. [12]

Whether Meyrink in any way meant to reflect the practice of Enochian and/or sexual magic in occult movements of his day such as the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) of Theodor Reuß and Aleister Crowley is an interesting question. [13] During the 1920s Crowley apparently tried to contact Meyrink but whether they ever met in person is not clear. Meyrink may have heard about Crowley through such esoteric writers and contacts as Henry Birven or Heinrich Tränker (1880-1956). Meyrink was aware of Crowley’s attempt in Thüringen in 1925 to take over Tränker’s Rosicrucian Pansophia movement (or to incorporate it into his Astrum Argenteum Order) which had been founded in Munich in 1923. [14] In a letter to his friend, the Prague publisher Oldrich Neubert, Meyrink was very cricital of Tränker’s Collegium Pansophicum, whose members he regarded as “fürchterliche Kleinkram-Spiessbürger”. His attitude to the controversial Crowley, who resided mostly in Sicily and in Paris in those years, remained ambivalent: “Dass Crowley ein unmoralischer Mensch ist, will ich gern glauben, aber das ist öfter als man denkt kein Hindernis – am Anfang – des Weges zur Hochmagie, besonders wenn man damit vergleicht, dass sehr hohe Moralität durchaus nicht davor schützt, dass man ein unbewusstes Werkzeug schwarzmagischer Kräfte wird.“ Meyrink was aware of Crowley’s publications and regarded him as an authority on the practice of yoga. Richard Deacon discusses the influence of Dee’s and especially Kelley’s magical practices on the modern magician Crowley who adopted Dee’s Enochian magic and identified himself with Kelley. Crowley published his experiences with Dee’s magical system in his periodical The Equinox in 1911. [15] One wonders whether Meyrink and Schmid Noerr did not also have Crowley in mind when they wrote Der Engel vom westlichen Fenster.

It was never Meyrink’s or Schmid Noerr’s intention, despite the latter’s historical research on the Elizabethan period and John Dee’s biography in preparation of the book, to write a biographically or historically accurate novel. The main interest in the novel is not the sixteenth century as such but the continuity of a spiritual quest and the dangers which beset the undertaking, which is both human and universal. Structure, characterization, imagery and plot of Der Engel vom westlichen Fenster are consistently dualistic. This duality also required that the Elizabethan Empire and all its colonial ambition, its science and natural philosophy, its politics and ideology, its need of religious reform as well as its rather urgent sense of the apocalypse be quite deliberately reflected in the dangerously occult mirror of western Renaissance occultism and Tibetan black magic. The mirroring served to reveal something of the poisonous state which Europe found itself in, politically, economically, socially, in the late twenties of the twentieth century. [16] However, much of this mirroring of worlds is subservient to the final resolution of the novel.

The image of the Dominican spreading out his arms reappears as a revelatory image in the Rosicrucian resolution to Der Engel vom westlichen Fenster:

Vor mir steht Theodor Gärtner wieder und nennt mich: Bruder. Ich höre ihn sprechen, und wenn auch viele Worte untergehen in dem Brausen des Jubels, der in mir ist, so verstehe ich doch alles, was er sagt und befiehlt. – Ich fühle: von mir dehnt sich die güldene Kette von Wesen des Lichts, und ein Glied wird gelöst, um mich, das neue Glied, einzufügen. Ich weiß auch: es ist kein symbolischer Ritus, wie er als Abglanz von den Menschen des irdischen Schattenreichs da und dort in Konventikeln als „Mysterium“ vollzogen wird, sondern es ist ein wirkendes, lebendiges, lebenspendendes Begebnis in einer andern Welt.
– – „Aufgenommen, berufen, erwählt wirst du sein, John Dee!“ – so schlagen im ruhigen Gesang meines Blutes die Pulse. – – –
„Breite die Arme aus, Aufrechtstehender!“
Ich breitete die Arme waagrecht.
Gleich darauf sind Hände da, von rechts und von links, die nach den meinen fassen, und ich spüre mit hohem Glück, wie die sichere Kette sich schließt. Zugleich mit diesem Glücksgefühl erfahre ich tief im innersten Gewissen seinen Grund: wer in dieser Kette steht, ist unverletzbar; ihn trifft kein Hieb, ihn drängt keine Not, daß nicht Ungezählte in der Kette von diesem Hieb und von dieser Not mitgetroffen würden. […] Weiße Gewänder umhüllen mich. Ein Lichtstrahl trifft von unten her auf meinen gesenkten Blick: auch mein Gewand trägt auf der Stelle der Brust die golden blitzende Rose. Freund Gardener ist bei mir, und ringsum in dem geisterhaft hohen Saal ist ein leises Summen wie von Bienenschwärmen. Weißleuchtende Gestalten umziehen mich, von der Ferne näherdringend. Deutlicher, rhythmischer, tönender wird das Summen und Rauschen im Raum. Dunkler Gesang wird Stimme und Chor. (ed. 1995, pp. 510-11)

After his Rosicrucian alchemical wedding with Queen Elizabeth, Dee / Müller has become a member of the chain of the spiritual Brotherhood and, like Dee, he is regarded as a helper of humanity. His wife Jane, however, through her sacrifice has reached the realm of eternal life. After a long spiritual quest in a doubled world as well as in a doubled state of being, the character of Dee / Baron Müller is taken up into this mystical brotherhood and initiated into a spiritual life, where the historical Dee and Kelley had failed (also in the context of the novel). Their relations with the angel from the west window, who turns out to be a harbinger from the western realms of fear and death, finally come to an end. It would be better for humanity if no such angel ever materialised again.

The denouement takes the novel into Rosicrucian spheres. The historical association of Dee and the classical Rosicrucian reform movement in Germany, as argued (mistakenly) by Frances Yates, cannot be considered to be relevant here. In fact it is much more difficult to see how the complex of John Dee’s life and magic is combined (contrasted) or doubled with the modern occult world and the Rosicrucian resolution of the novel. [17] An eighteenth- and nineteenth-century context for Rosicrucianism and especially the combination of alchemical and Christian Hermetic ideas of this historical phenomenon as well as Meyrink’s personal awareness of modern Rosicrucian and theosophical thought as published amongst others by Franz Hartmann, G.W. Surya, Rudolf Steiner, Heinrich Tränker, Willy Schrödter and Max Heindel appear to offer the relevant context here. Possibly Carl Kiesewetter’s Rosicrucian affiliation – this influential occultist owned his great grandfather’s collection of manuscripts – and his early work on the Rosicrucians were also relevant. [18] The works of physicians and alchemical practitioners such as Alexander von Bernus, Franz Freudenberg, Ernst Kurtzahn, Alfred Müller-Edler and Ferdinand Maack provide a cultural context for Meyrink’s fictional as well as practical-alchemical pursuits. Of these, Von Bernus, Müller-Edler and Meyrink were close friends. Kurtzahn published his study Der Tarot (Leipzig 1920) which he dedicated to Meyrink. Maack was an independent esoteric writer and the founder of a Rosicrucian order in Hamburg in 1923. Their interest in the eighteenth-century Gold-und Rosenkreuzer can be traced in several of their publications fairly easily. [19]

The Rosicrucian theme, like the interest in Taoism and in hatha yoga, had already been introduced in Der weiße Dominikaner (especially chapters 7 and 15) and the two novels are closely related both in this thematic sense and in their use of imagery. This time major images and motifs are the (christian-cabbalistic) tree of life, the rose garden, the interconnected chain of spiritual beings or guides, the ancestors (the tree of forebears: the Jöcher family and John Dee’s Welsh forebears), the magical and theo-alchemical marriage, a mystical union, and finally the formation of the invisible brotherhood. The fictional “Brotherhood of the Golden Rose” in Der Engel vom westlichen Fenster and one of its members, the novelistic double figure of Robert Gardener / Theodor Gärtner as well as the spiritual resolution of the novel have significant theo-alchemical and modern (18th-19th-century) Rosicrucian connotations.

The overall Rosicrucian scheme and resolution of the novels Der weiße Dominikaner and Der Engel vom westlichen Fenster (as identified before by Eduard Frank and Ralf Reiter) were not developed from the materials on John Dee but must in the end be attributed mainly to Meyrink’s and possibly to a lesser extent also Schmid Noerr’s more general reading of alchemical and Rosicrucian texts available to them. [20] In a sense the crisis of John Dee and Edward Kelley overcome in the novel by the double character of Dee / Baron Müller, is also the crisis of the novel, the point where the reader is either convinced by the success of the mystical novel or where he/she feels the communication of author(s) and reader is lost in an esoteric vision superimposed on the fantasy of the English Renaissance alchemical magicians Dee and Kelley. This crisis and its complex imagery as realized in the structural concept of the novel evidently point to Meyrink’s literary and esoteric concerns rather than to the medieval and mystical orientation of Schmid Noerr in the novels he published later under his own name.

It is likely, therefore, that Schmid Noerr’s considerable contribution lay in the workmanship, i.e. in the preparation and adaptation of the historical sources and the composition of text for the novel. On the other hand, Schmid Noerr’s mystical preoccupations, e.g. with the mystical self (Ich) could easily have merged with Meyrink’s theme. It would require much more study to fully work out the history of the composition of Der Engel vom westlichen Fenster but an understanding of the mythological, occult, theosophical, Christian-Hermetic, Rosicrucian and fantastical thought of both authors would be a prerequisite for such a history, apart from the long overdue analysis of the extant working manuscript of the novel (in Schmid Noerr’s hand), Schmid Noerr’s scheme (Exposé) and the many notes for the novel now in the Deutsches Literaturarchiv in Marbach. In the end such an exercise would be useful for the interpretation of the novel as written by both novelists. [21]

Meyrink’s similar resolution for both of his novels is worked out by means of the concept of a Rosicrucian Brotherhood, a brotherhood of invisible true Rosicrucians working for the spiritual initiation of those individuals that were called upon to join independent of the actual realisations of Rosicrucian or Masonic societies that were visible in the world as we know it. The imagery connected with his theme could be linked to the related English magical tradition from Dee and Kelley to the magical practitioners of the Golden Dawn. English Rosicrucians based the organization of their order as well as their degrees of initiation on the eighteenth-century German Gold- und Rosenkreuzer but also worked in the tradition of English occultism from Roger Bacon via John Dee, Edward Kelley and Elias Ashmole to their own modern (Enochian) systems of magic. Meyrink’s imagery was indebted rather to the German tradition of theosophical Rosicrucianism. In this tradition, ever since Blavatsky’s foundation of the Theosophical Society, English-German relations were central as theosophy and occultism initially moved from the United States and England to the German-language area of central Europe. German theosophists merged the new theosophy with Rosicrucian ideas and became known as “Moderne Rosenkreuzer”. In this respect Meyrink, working in a modern German theosophical and Rosicrucian context, was finally responsible for the theme and resolution of Der Engel vom westlichen Fenster.


Homer’s golden chain: Rosicrucian revelatory imagery

Wenn ihr nicht verstehet, was irdisch ist?
Wie wollet ihr verstehen was himmlisch ist?
(Aurea Catena Homeri, 1738)

Julius Sachse’s manuscript of the Geheime Figuren der Rosenkreuzer (1895)

In Gustav Meyrink’s day occultists, theo-alchemists and the so-called “Moderne Rosenkreuzer” were looking for ways to continue and develop the Hermetic and Rosicrucian ideas concerning man’s relations with nature (earth), the cosmos and God. Meyrink was generally well aware of occult movements and secret societies and will certainly have known about Rosicrucian societies founded at the time in Berlin, Leipzig and Munich. Friends and mystics such as Alois Mailänder, Franz Hartmann, Heinrich Tränker, Henry Birven, Alexander von Bernus were especially interested in the idea of a Brotherhood of men united in their Christian, theosophical and theo-alchemical interests. Meyrink corresponded with Von Bernus about the possibilities of parallel yogic and alchemical explorations of spirituality and with Schmid Noerr he studied the history of alchemy. [22] German theosophists and occultists such as Ferdinand Maack and Franz Hartmann saw themselves as modern Rosicrucians and regarded spiritual alchemy next to Christian ideas as an increasingly relevant aspect not only of the eighteenth-century Gold- und Rosenkreuzer, the so-called “Neue Rosenkreuzer” (as opposed to the original seventeenth-century movement), but also of their own modern (theosophical) Rosicrucian movement. Meyrink’s thematic image of the chain of brothers is in the end an image of Rosicrucian continuity, a revelatory image that fits the worldview that was being developed by German esotericism at the turn of the twentieth century.

Although Meyrink has been critical of certain Rosicrucian organizations, his spiritual ideas as developed in his last two esoteric novels both find Rosicrucian resolutions in a kind of syncretistic and abstracted idea of the (invisible or transcendent) Brotherhood. This concept can be situated in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century tradition of German Rosicrucianism as well as in the Christian theosophical (and alchemical) works of such early Romantic mystics as Karl von Eckartshausen (1752-1803) and Ivan Vladimir Lopukhin (1756-1816) and their concepts of spiritual rebirth, the inner church and man’s invisible connection to the divine order. Eckartshausen’s description of Bensalem as an enlightened Brotherhood is indeed close to that of theosophists such as Paul Zillman [23] as well as to the idea of such a brotherhood in Meyrink’s fiction. Interesting in the context of Der Engel vom westlichen Fenster is the fact that for Eckartshausen the angelic intermediary world was a reality and he also claimed to have received revelatory messages from the angels. Lopukhin was especially associated with the movement of the Gold- und Rosenkreuzer and their influence in Russia. [24]

At the beginning of the twentieth century the eighteenth-century Geheime Figuren der Rosenkreuzer (Altona 1785-1788) were reproduced several times in textual editions together with varying esoteric comments and interpretations. The German theosophist and Rosicrucian Franz Hartmann and the theosophist or – in the years following his break with theosophy (1913) and his founding of the Anthroposophical Society – theosophical Rosicrucian and anthroposophist Rudolf Steiner, commented on the Rosicrucian tradition and were especially intrigued by the inspirational and metaphysical figure of Christian Rosencreutz. Steiner regarded the Geheime Figuren as another historical manifestation of the workings of Christian Rosencreutz. Hartmann reproduced the secret symbols in an extensive edition including his theosophical commentary in 1888 [25] and various anthroposophical editions of the Geheime Figuren also followed. [26] What would long be regarded as the standard edition, the facsimile reprint by Barsdorf Verlag, came out in Berlin in 1919.

An American friend of Hartmann’s, Julius Friedrich Sachse (1842-1919), in his study The German Pietists of Provincial Pennsylvania (1895) reproduced Rosicrucian imagery from a manuscript that may have come to the pietist and Böhmist movement in Pennsylvania, perhaps fairly early on in the eighteenth century. Sachse relates the history of this religious community in Pennsylvania which had its roots in Germany. The German mystic and pietist Johannes Kelpius (1673-1708) was a follower of the nonconformist and Böhmist Johann Jacob Zimmermann (1644-1693). Zimmermann planned to take his group of followers to Pennsylvania where he hoped to found a settlement. He was already negotiating with William Penn to buy land but his death in Rotterdam prevented the group from crossing the ocean. Kelpius was chosen as his successor and the new leader of what was called the Hamburg group and they settled in Wissahickon Creek, Pennsylvania in 1694. Descendants of Kelpius are said to have founded a Rosicrucian movement at Ephrata, Pennsylvania, in 1732 but recent research cannot confirm this. There was, however, the pietist and Böhmist community of Johann Conrad Beissel. [27]

To Sachse the manuscript of the Geheime Figuren clearly showed Böhmist influences which would make it of considerable interest to the religious community of “The Society of the Woman in the Wilderness” as it was also known, or its successor movements. However, the manuscript, known as “Physica, Metaphysica et Hyperphysica” was an heirloom in Sachse’s family and some of the plates in it can be dated at the earliest to the beginning of the eighteenth century (ca. 1730-1740). The manuscript copy itself is possibly of a somewhat later date. By placing the manuscript in the seventeenth-century context of Pennsylvanian pietism, Sachse’s antiquarian method proved too freely associative. We do not know how and when Sachse or his family came by it, nor do we know its present location (if the manuscript survives). Although Sachse gives no specific information as to its provenance – he merely indicates it was similar to other works used by the Wissahickon and Cocalico communities – it may nevertheless have been taken to Pennsylvania by the later German emigrants (or visitors) of what became known as the Ephrata cloister or community. [28]

Will-Erich Peuckert (1895-1969) in his pioneering study on the Rosicrucians, published as Die Rosenkreuzer in 1928, described the imagery in a manuscript (the same version as the Sachse manuscript) he had come across in the University Library of Wroclaw (then Breslau). [29] Curiously, Peuckert at that time does not seem to have been aware of the published Geheime Figuren der Rosenkreuzer (Altona 1785-1788; facsimile reprint Berlin 1919). In an appendix he dated the manuscript to the second half of the seventeenth century but this is again too early. Whereas Peuckert paid attention to the symbols of the Rosicrucians, especially the Rose and the Cross, and many other commentators before and after him pursued the various origins of this imagery, the analysis of the manuscript remained indecisive. The revised edition of Peuckert’s study was left unfinished but published posthumously (1973) and contains additions concerning the eighteenth-century Rosicrucians. From the published additions on the eighteenth-century Rosicrucians it does not become clear whether Peuckert had succeeded in providing the proper historical context of the Breslau manuscript.

The editions and interpretations of the Geheime Figuren by Hartmann and Sachse were then studied and commented on by the American occultist Manly Palmer Hall who prepared a new edition of a manuscript version which looked much like the Sachse manuscript. Hartmann and Hall were possibly the last scholars to see Sachse’s manuscript in the home of his daughter Emma Sachse. Hall visited her in 1935 and he collated the two copies. Hall also reproduced some of Sachse’s plates, but criticized the latter’s association of the manuscript with the American pietist settlements. Hall also established the link with the German mystic Jacob Böhme, wondering if the controversy concering Böhme’s Rosicrucian affiliation was in any way relevant to the origins of the manuscript Geheime Figuren. [30]

J.H. Kirchweger,  Aurea Catena Homeri
, 1723

From the 1760s onwards the Gold- und Rosenkreuzer began to organize their visible order, i.e. a highly organized network of lodges in the real world of Southern Germany which expanded and moved in a northern direction. These Rosicrucians were associated with Freemasonry and later opposed a related Masonic order, the Order of the Illuminates (Illuminaten). In the hierarchical structure of the Order the highest grades were formed by brethren that were unknown (and thus invisible). Towards the politically and ideologically troubled end of the eighteenth century the Gold- und Rosenkreuzer, after three decades of activity in the organization of the Order including a publishing programme causing a wave of new editions of older theo-alchemical and magical source texts and studies, were finally forbidden as a secret society. [31]

Modern nineteenth- and twentieth-century German theosophists and Rosicrucians subsequently relied on the ideas of the Gold- und Rosenkreuzer for their understanding of the Rosicrucian movement and tradition and the organization of their own groups and societies. Thus more than one author reprinted Samuel Richter’s rules for an order of “Gold- und Rosenkreuzer” first published in Breslau in 1710 (and again in 1714) and modern Rosicrucian societies developed their own initiatory systems modelled after the grades developed by the Freemasons and the Gold- und Rosenkreuzer during the second half of the eighteenth century.

Meyrink’s modern Rosicrucian novels, though clearly part of this theosophical Rosicrucian context, slowly build up a sense of this spiritual force in the world without going into the history of the various Rosicrucian organizations or the detailed alchemical and Rosicrucian visualisations through complex secret symbols. Nevertheless, this Rosicrucian worldview that was based on a long tradition of images and texts adapted and developed from alchemical, Christian cabbalist and Christian theosophical traditions can be seen to define the double realities of both novels.

It was Ferdinand Maack (1860-1930) [32] , the physician, occultist and Rosicrucian from Hamburg, who in 1905 published a guide to the Golden chain of Homer or the Catena Aurea Homeri: Die goldene Kette Homers. Ein zum Studium und zum Verständnis der gesamten hermetischen Litteratur unentbehrliches Hilfsbuch. Like most eighteenth-century Rosicrucians had tried to do before, Maack reached back further into Rosicrucian history when in 1913 he reprinted the seventeenth-century Rosicrucian manifestos ascribed to Johann Valentin Andreae. [33] Maack published widely on occultism, alchemy, magic, spiritism and mediumism, alternative medicine, magnetism and occult sciences. He was well aware of Rosicrucian printed books from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and knowledgeable on the work being done on Rosicrucian and alchemical studies by such scholars as Hermann Kopp and Carl Kiesewetter, especially also with reference to Andreae’s Chymische Hochzeit, a likely source also for Meyrink’s Der Engel vom westlichen Fenster. Maack may have known Meyrink (possibly through Alfred Müller-Edler, the Hamburg alchemist, who was Meyrink’s model for Baron Müller in Der Engel vom westlichen Fenster). [34] Maack pursued and closely defined many of the complex meanings of the secret symbols of the Rosicrucians in various studies and articles.

Thus for his own concept of the Rosicrucian phenomenon, Maack was also looking to establish a continuity with the eighteenth-century Gold- und Rosenkreuzer, and through them to a certain extent also to the Rosicrucians of the (sixteenth and) seventeenth centuries. Maack explained in his Zweimal gestorben. Die Geschichte eines Rosenkreuzers aus dem XVIII. Jahrhundert (1912) his ideas about the impersonal character of spiritual truth independent of the egos or identities of human individuals. [35] This concept may seem contradictory to Meyrink’s idea of finding the Ich (the self), but Meyrink’s spiritual Ich, which was to be found through a personal turning inward of each individual, was in the end not the same as one’s personal psyche or identity (or one’s soul as conceived by orthodox Christians). Maack’s studies Elias Artista redivivus. Das Buch vom Salz und Raum (1913), Das Wesen der Alchemie (1920) and Das Rosenkreuz (1923) all show a close affinity with the ideas of the eighteenth-century Rosicrucians.

The image or motif of the golden chain exists in the tradition of alchemy as well as in (theosophical) Rosicrucianism of Meyrink’s day. In both orientations the image refers to a specific understanding of created nature and its relation to metaphysical truth or revelation. The idea of Homer’s golden chain or Plato’s ring, the alchemical concept as developed by the Gold- und Rosenkreuzer, though first published by Kirchweger in 1723, [36] was elaborated on with theosophical, magical and cabbalistic symbols in later eighteenth-century versions. The overall complex symbol as developed by Ferdinand Maack does not contain any direct reference to the theosophical-Rosicrucian brotherhood (though such references exist in the Geheime Figuren which Maack also worked with) but may nevertheless (indirectly) be associated with Meyrink’s presentation and concept of the Order of the Golden Rose. Meyrink’s literary image is a fictional reflection of the possible existence of such a Rosicrucian Brotherhood [37] of invisible Brethren interconnected through a chain of hands in Der weiße Dominikaner and in Der Engel vom westlichen Fenster. These Brethren, like the seventeenth-century Rosicrucians, are not to be met in the cities and streets of this world. At one time they were, but now they are taken up in the chain of true (“echte” or “wahre”) Rosicrucians, and they can be helpers of mankind and do physical (medicinal) and spiritual good in a Hermetic world, a doubled world as conceived of in Meyrink’s esoteric novels.

In his introduction to Die goldene Kette Homers (1905), Maack explained the Hermetic idea of the chain of being from a natural philosophical and theo-alchemical perspective:

Die Idee, dass alles Geschaffene, welcher Art auch immer, unter einander auf das Innigste „verkettet“ und verknüpft ist; dass durch die ganze Natur ein tiefer geheimnisvoller Zusammenhang geht; eines sich auf das andere bezieht und von einander abhängig ist; sowie die Idee, dass dieser verborgene Zusammenhang sich in Form eines „Auf“ und „Ab“, eines „Hinweg“ und „Wieder-zurück“, in der Form eines ewig wechselnden Kreislaufes abspielt – diese „vielleicht phantastische“ Doppel-Idee war es, welche Goethe nach seiner eigenen Aussage an der Aurea Catena Homeri besonders gefallen hat. Und diese grandiose naturphilosophische Idee war es auch, welche einen übrigen weiten Leserkreis unseres Buches ein Jahrhundertlang in ihren Bann schlug. (p. 2)

Referring to the collections of Rudolf Johann Friedrich Schmidt, a physician and alchemist also from Hamburg, and to the previous editions of the work (1723, 1739, and finally 1781), Maack provided a textual history of this seminal work. Maack subsequently described the chain and its spiritual-alchemical meanings and reproduced a fold-out version of the catena aurea which can be traced back to the Gold- und Rosenkreuzer edition of A.J. Kirchweger’s famous and often reprinted work [38] as well as to the magical-alchemical-cabbalistic representations in the Geheime Figuren der Rosenkreuzer (1785), mainly the symbols entitled Scala Philosophorum Cabalistica Magia atque arbor aurea, the Poculum Pansophiae, Aus Gott und der Natur. In fact, Maack probably combined these sources into one new complex symbol. He quoted extensively from the foreword of the 1781 edition and clearly supported the Hermetic ideas of the Gold- und Rosenkreuzer editor “Phlebochron”’, which were inspired by Pythagoras, Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa and Robert Fludd. Other secret symbols or elements from these symbols may have been adopted by Maack from the Geheime Figuren. For a more detailed interpretation of these symbols an insight into the composition of this Hermetic-Rosicrucian compendium and a comparison with the various manuscript versions that still exist today will be necessary.

Ferdinand Maack, Die goldene Kette Homers

The Gold- und Rosenkreuzer regarded the work as a further commentary on the mediaeval Emerald Table, the Tabula Smaragdina of Hermes Trismegistus, which was also reproduced in the printed edition of the Geheime Figuren (Drittes Heft), and offered it as a main course book on the true philosophy of nature (Naturlehre) to the brothers of the Order. The so far unidentified editor of the 1781 edition, Phlebochron, saw the Gold- und Rosenkreuzer as the only true heirs of the original author of the Catena Aurea.

The physician and theosophist Franz Hartmann (1838-1912) [39] was part of the circle around the mystical and Rosicrucian visionary Alois Mailänder (1844-1905), together with Gustav Meyrink, Nikolaus Gabele, Wilhelm Hübbe-Schleiden (the founder of Theosophical movement in Germany and the editor of the periodical Sphinx); this circle was part of the wider theosophical and occult movement in Germany towards the end of the nineteenth century. Other leading figures (most of whom knew or knew about Mailänder) were Rudolf Steiner, Max Dessoir, Friedrich Eckstein, Eduard von Hartmann, Carl du Prel and Carl Kiesewetter. [40] Mailänder practised meditation and mystical Böhmist i.e. Christian theosophical exercises and acted as a kind of spiritual advisor. The centrality of the Christ figure in the theosophy of Böhme and the Rosicrucian Mailänder is an aspect that returns in Meyrink’s later texts as well. Meyrink’s work can perhaps most fruitfully be considered in comparison with the theosophical-Rosicrucian-magical orientation in the works of Franz Hartmann.

From the Secret symbols (Geheime Figuren der Rosenkreuzer, 1785)

In Hartmann’s story An adventure among the Rosicrucians, Boston 1887 (Ein abenteuer unter den Rosenkreuzern, Leipzig 1899), which was meant to introduce the ideas of Carl du Prel and his story “Das westliche Kloster” in England and America, could be seen in the tradition of fantastical Rosicrucian literature from J.V. Andreae via Eckartshausen to Gustav Meyrink. In this fictional account Hartmann introduces the Geheime Figuren der Rosenkreuzer. In part V “Das alchemistische Laboratorium” it is the character of Theodorus [Theophrastus Paracelsus?] who presents the eighteenth-century book of secret symbols to the narrator (pp. 111-112):

Mit diesen Worten reichte mir Theodorus ein Buch, das eine Anzahl farbiger Tafeln mit Symbolen und Zeichen enthielt. […] „Wenn du den Inhalt dieses Buches praktisch verstehst,“ sagte Theodorus, „wirst du nicht nur wissen, wie man Gold aus niederen Metallen macht, das ist eine der geringsten, unbedeutendsten und verhältnismäßig wertlosesten Teile unserer Kunst, sondern du wirst die Mysterien der Rose und des Kreuzes kennen; du wirst wissen, wie man in den Besitz des Steins der Weisen kommt und auch des Lebenselixiers, das dem Besitzer die Unsterblichkeit verleiht. […] du wirst sehen, wie man aus einem Tiere einen Menschen und aus einem Menschen ein himmlisches Wesen, Gott machen kann. Dieser letzte alchemistische Vorgang ist der eine, der not tut, und im Vergleich zu ihm sind alle andern Künste nur Spielereien. Was nützt es uns, äußerlichen Dingen nachzulaufen, die mit der Zeit entschwinden, wenn wir in uns selbst das erlangen können, was ewig und wahrhaftig ist?“

Even though Manly P. Hall termed Hartmann’s novel and edition of the Geheime Figuren a hoax to boost the sales of his own edition of the work, [41] the story shows some interesting parallels with Meyrink’s Rosicrucian novels especially towards the end when it works out the idea of the foundation of a theosophical monastery for the development of spiritual wisdom in this community of the wise. This would not be an easy task to accomplish, Theodorus warns the narrator, for obstacles in theology, science as well as in human nature would have to be overcome. The narrator subsequently (nearly) succumbs to a temptation of beautiful water nymphs in a visionary experience through the inhaling of a powder brought to him by a monk who claims to be Theodorus’s pupil (cf. Der Engel vom westlichen Fenster), but later finds a letter by Theodorus which shows him the right way again (once more cf. Theodor Gärtner in Der Engel). He also finds a copy of the Bible and opens it at the passage in St. Paul’s second epistle (ch.12) to the Corinthians about a man in Christ who was taken straight into heaven (12; 117-9; 135-7; 147).

To Rudolf Steiner, Christian-Rosicrucian initiation was a process within his newly founded movement of anthroposophy. He felt that the Rosicrucian texts, both written and printed, were incomplete and of necessity corrupted. Real or true Rosicrucians could only be known (to each other) through oral succession. The historical movements were not the same as the real Brethren. Whereas Steiner concentrated more on the importance of Christian Rosencreutz, Hartmann comes close to Meyrink’s description of the Brotherhood in his novels. He defined the Rosicrucian Brotherhood in his Im Vorhof des Tempels der Weisheit, enthaltend die Geschichte der wahren und falschen Rosenkreuzer (1924):

Daraus geht hervor, dass die „Rosenkreuzer“, wenn sie von ihrem Orden sprechen, etwas ganz anderes meinen als eine irdische und äußere Organisation von Personen, die sich aus diesem oder jenem Grunde „Rosenkreuzer“ nennen. Vielmehr meinen sie eine geistige Vereinigung, eine Harmonie göttlicher und geistig übereinstimmender, aber gleichwohl individueller Kräfte (als welche zum Beispiel die Engel gedacht werden, die nichts zu tun haben mit einer Geschichtsschreibung, die sich mit den Albernheiten des äußeren Lebens befaßt). [42]

Hartmann’s theosophical and Rosicrucian thought belongs to the German tradition of theosophy. Like Maack and Hartmann, Meyrink, Heinrich Tränker, Rudolf Steiner, G.W. Surya and Max Heindel developed their ideas about Rosicrucianism and the Rosicrucian Order from German theosophical roots. Significantly, all steered clear of practical, political and ideological – and certainly (proto-) fascist and racist systems. Following Hartmann’s presentation, Heindel’s Rosicrucian Fellowship and its students (Schüler) should also not be regarded as identical with the spiritual Rosicrucian “Vereinigung”. The foundation of this spiritual Rosicrucian order goes back to the Fama Fraternitatis. [43] The international modern Rosicrucian movement of the Lectorium Rosicrucianum grew out of Max Heindel’s Fellowship. [44] Its publishing house, De Rozekruis Pers, published Meyrink’s novels in Dutch translation, as well as more recently a translation of Die Verwandlung des Blutes.

Theodor Harmsen

BPH, Amsterdam

"Der magische Schriftsteller Gustav Meyrink" publication by The Ritman Library's In The Pelikaan Publishing House. See Web Shop.

“Der magische Schriftsteller Gustav Meyrink” publication by The Ritman Library’s In The Pelikaan Publishing House. See Web Shop.

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[1] On Meyrink and his works, see Theodor Harmsen, Der magische Schriftsteller Gustav Meyrink, Amsterdam: In de Pelikaan 2009, including a full description of the Meyrink collection of the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica, Amsterdam; Hartmut Binder, Gustav Meyrink. Ein Leben im Bann der Magie, Prague 2009.

[2] On Franz Sedlacek and his connection to Meyrink, see Elisabeth Hintner, Franz Sedlacek. Werk und Leben 1891-1945, Vienna 1998 (1990).

[3] Cf. John Patrick Deveney, Paschal Beverly Randolph. A nineteenth-century black American spiritualist, Rosicrucian, and sex magician, Albany, NY 1997; Marco Pasi, “Crowley, Aleister”, in: Dictionary of Gnosis and Western Esotericism (and literature cited). On John Yarker, see Horst E. Miers, Lexikon des Geheimwissens.

[4] On the publications of Eduard Frank, see T. Harmsen, Der magische Schriftsteller Gustav Meyrink; Ralf Reiter, Das dämonische Diesseits. Phantastisches Erzählen in den Romanen Walpurgisnacht und Der weiße Dominikaner von Gustav Meyrink, Wetzlar 1997; Ibid. “Die Selbstschau des Esoterikers. Gustav Meyrinks Roman Der weiße Dominikaner“, in Quarber Merkur, 86 (1998), pp. 93-106.

[5] August Pfizmaier, Die Lösung der Leichname und Schwerter, ein Beitrag zur Kenntnis des Taoglaubens, Wien 1870; Lambert Binder, “Die Lösung der Leichname“, in: Quarber Merkur, 51 (1979), pp. 42-44.

[6] Meric Casaubon, ed., A true and faithful relation of what passed for many years between Dr. John Dee and some spirits, London 1659; Thomas Smith, Vitae quorundam eruditissimorum et illustrium virorum, London [i.e. Amsterdam] 1707; Carl Kiesewetter, John Dee, ein Spiritist des 16. Jahrhunderts, Leipzig 1893; Charlotte Fell Smith, John Dee (1527-1608), London 1909.

[7] Casaubon, p. 1; Cf. Der Engel vom westlichen Fenster, 1927, p. 184; Kiesewetter, pp. 33-38.

[8] Mysteriorum libri quinti or, five books of mystical exercises of Dr. John Dee. An angelic revelation of cabalistic magic and other mysteries occult and divine, revealed to Dr. John Dee and Edward Kelly A.D. 1581-1583 (i.e. the volumes preceding those published by Meric Casaubon) which was not published until 1985 but the manuscript was copied and studied by Elias Ashmole in 1672. Ashmole added a preface explaining how he obtained the original and how it was saved from the Great Fire of London; this copy may also have been consulted by Smith. The original manuscript studied by Smith is a Sloane MS and probably came to the British Library ca. 1730-40 when the famous antiquarian collector Sir Hans Sloane was expanding his alchemical collections. British Library, MS Sloane 3188; folio 59b contains the description of Dee receiving the stone from the angel at the west window. Ashmole’s copy of the manuscript is MS Sloane 3677 and came to the British Library in 1740. John Dee, Mysteriorum libri quinti, or, Five books of mystical exercises of Dr. John Dee, ed. Joseph Peterson, Felindenys, Silian 1985; and Christopher Whitby, ed. John Dee’s actions with spirits, New York 1988.

[9] John Dee, Mysteriorum libri quinti, or, Five books of mystical exercises of Dr. John Dee, ed. Joseph Peterson, Felindenys, Silian 1985, p. 121; Peterson’s revised edition, Boston 2003, p. 253.

[10] Cf. Marianne Wünsch, “Auf der Suche nach der verlorenen Wirklichkeit. Zur Logik einer fantastischen Welt”, in: Meyrink, Der Engel vom westlichen Fenster, Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, 1993, for a literary analysis of the character-doubles. Wünsch links Mascee with Lipotin but also points to parallels between Lipotin and Kelley (especially pp. 532-536, 556).

[11] William Alexander Ayton, The life of John Dee. Translated from the Latin of Dr. Thomas Smith, London: The Theosophical Publishing Society 1908, reprinted in First Impressions Series, vol. 12 (1992). Ayton did not include Smith’s bibliography of Dee’s printed and ms works. On Ayton as an alchemist, see Tried and Tested. The appreciation of Hermetic and alchemical manuscripts from the 15th-20th centuries, online exhibition catalogue BPH, Amsterdam 2004, pp. 59-61, 66.

[12] See Meyrink’s edition of Dhoula Bel with his foreword on Randolph’s attempt on Blavatsky’s life through magic. Dhoula Bel as a Rosicrucian novel influenced Meyrink’s own fiction in the twenties. Especially the use of magical optical mirrors by Randolph (and used by John Dee) interested Meyrink, who tried to obtain one from Randolph’s widow. Cf. Harald Lamprecht, Neue Rosenkreuzer. Ein Handburch, Göttingen 2004,  pp. 44, 87; John Patrick Deveney, Paschal Beverley Randolph. For the magical practices of English Rosicrucian movements S.R.I.A. and the Golden Dawn, cf. Joscelyn Godwin, The theosophical enlightenment, Albany NY 1994; Alex Owen, The place of enchantment. British occultism and the culture of the modern, London and Chicago 2004.

[13] For this context, see Wouter J. Hanegraaff and Jeffrey J. Kripal, eds., Hidden intercourse. Eros and sexuality in the history of western esotericism, Leiden 2008.

[14] In his series Pansophia, Tränker published Crowley’s Wege zum Sanktuarium. Das magische Werk der “Großen weißen Bruderschaft”. Nach authentischen Quellen als Kommentare zur “Botschaft der Meister”. Ausgewählt und übertragen vom “Collegium Pansophicum” i.A. Fra.: (Saturn)us (d.i. Karl Johannes Germer), Leipzig 1925. Tränker also translated parts of Dee’s diaries. See Peter-R. König, ed., Das Beste von Heinrich Tränker, Munich 1996.

[15] Letter Gustav Meyrink to Oldrich Neubert, 20.9.1926 (Prague, private collection); Cf. Deborah E. Harkness, John Dee’s conversations with angels, Cambridge 1999, pp. 115-6. Richard Deacon, John Dee, scientist, geographer, astrologer and secret agent to Elizabeth I, London 1968, chapters 11, 14; Marco Pasi, “Crowley, Aleister” in: Dictionary of Gnosis and Western Esotericism. On Heinrich Tränker, see Horst E. Miers, Lexikon des Geheimwissens.

[16] Social and political issues as well as reflections on the rise of anti-Semitism, totalitarianism and the rise of Ariosophy through the movements of Guido von List and Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels, may play some part (though indirectly) in the general sense of crisis in Meyrink’s novels. Meyrink, who was regarded as a Jewish writer by völkisch nationalist critics at the time, distanced himself from Ariosophy and List and was never part of the List Society, like some of the theosophists that also joined Mailänder. For this context, see Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, The occult roots of Nazism, 2009 (1985). Florian Marzin’s interpretation of a passage in Der weiße Dominikaner as fascist has been sufficiently disproved by Ralf Reiter. Marzin, Okkultismus und Phantastkik in den Romanen Gustav Meyrinks, Essen 1986, p. 98; Reiter, Das dämonische Diesseits, pp. 97-98.

[17] For interpretations of the novel, see e.g. Marianne Wünsch, „Auf der Suche nach der verlorenen Wirklichkeit“ (Nachwort zu Der Engel vom westlichen Fenster), Frankfurt am Main, Berlin 1993; for Rosicrucian imagery in the novel, see especially Angela Reinthal, ‘Alchemie des Poeten’ John Dee (1527-1608) in Gustav Meyrinks Roman „Der Engel vom westlichen Fenster“ (1927)“, in: Wolfgang Müller-Funk, Christa Agnes Tuczay, Hgg., Faszination des Okkulten. Diskurse zum Übersinnlichen, Tübingen 2008, pp. 235-255. Will-Erich Peuckert’s studies on the Rosicrucians, Die Rosenkreuzer, and the posthumous expanded edition Das Rosenkreuz, appeared 1928 and reprinted in 1973. The latter edition contains additions on the Gold- und Rosenkreuzer. Also cf. Karl H. Frick, Licht und Finsternis, vol. 2 (1978).

[18] Carl Kiesewetter, „Die Rosenkreuzer, ein Blick in dunkele Vergangenheit“, in: Sphinx, 1. Jg, 1 (1886), pp. 42-54.

[19] Ernst Kurtzahn, Die Rosenkreuzer, Lorch 1920; On Kurtzahn (1879-1939), see Horst E. Miers, Lexikon des Geheimwissens. Franz Freudenberg, Aus der älteren Geschichte der Rosenkreuzer (n.p., ca. 1919).

[20] A German edition of Andreae’s Die chymische Hochzeit by Ferdinand Maack (1913) was available. This Rosicrucian text reproduced John Dee’s Monas symbol. However, the Monas does not appear to play a role in Der Engel vom westlichen Fenster. For the importance of Die chymische Hochzeit as a possible source for the novel, see Angela Reinthal (note 17). For the Rosicrucian interest in Der weiße Dominikaner, see Ralf Reiter, “Die Selbstschau des Esoterikers. Gustav Meyrinks Roman Der weiße Dominikaner“, in Quarber Merkur, 86 (1998), pp. 93-106.

[21] Angela Reinthal argues for a more comprehensive analysis of the novel but leaves out the role of Schmid Noerr altogether (note 17). See T. Harmsen, “The occult adventures of a ghostwriter. The mystical novelist Friedrich Alfred Schmid Noerr (1877-1969) and the composition of Der Engel vom westlichen Fenster (1927)“ (forthcoming).

[22] See e.g. Alexander von Bernus, Das Geheimnis der Adepten. Aufschlüsse über das Magisterium der Alchymie, die Bereitung der grossen Arkana und den Weg zum Lapis Philosophorum, Sersheim 1956; Heinrich Tränker, Die Pansophie der hermetischen Bruderschaft vom Rosenkreuz, die besonderen Aufgaben ihrer Helfer-seelen und mystischen Grundlagen in Ewigkeit und Zeit, Munich 1923.

[23] Cf. Karl von Eckartshausen, Aufschlüsse der Magie (1788-1792); Willy Schrödter, Die Rosenkreuzer [1939], pp. 34-38; on Paul Zillmann and Ferdinand Maack: Goodrick-Clarke, pp. 25-26. Zillmann published Eckartshausen and also reproduced the Geheime Figuren in his periodical Neue Metaphysische Rundschau, 8. Jg., 12 (1905), pp. 41-8, 92-8.

[24] On Eckartshausen, see Jacques Fabry in: Dictionary of Gnosis and Western Esotericism (and literature cited); T. Harmsen, “Karl von Eckartshausen (1752-1803): “Die innere Kirche entstünd …”, online exhibition, On Lopukhin, see Antoine Faivre, in: Dictionary of Gnosis and Western Esotericism (and literature cited).

[25] Franz Hartmann, Cosmology, or universal science. Cabala Alchemy. The mysteries of the universe, regarding God, Nature, Man, the macrocosm and the microcosm, eternity and time. Explained according to the religion of Christ, by means of the secret symbols of the Rosicrucians of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Boston 1888.

[26] Cf. Steiner’s reading of “Die chymische Hochzeit des Christian Rosenkreutz“, in: Das Reich (1917-1918); See e.g. Paul M. Allen, ed., A Christian Rosenkreutz anthology, Blauvelt, NY, 1968, 3rd rev. ed. 1981; Viktor Stracke, Das Geistgebäude der Rosenkreuzer. Wie kann man die Figuren der Rosenkreuzer heute verstehen?, Dornach 1993.

[27] Johann Conrad Beissel (1691-1768) emigrated in 1720 and founded his community at Ephrata, Pennsylvania ca. 1728-1732. Its continuity with Kelpius’s community, however, has not been established unambiguously. Beissel contacted Kelpius’s successor Conrad Matthai (1678-1748) on arrival in Pennsylvania. Modern Rosicrucian movements such as Harvey Spencer Lewis’s AMORC have traced their origins back to the earliest American immigrant communities of Kelpius and Beissel. Cf. Lamprecht, Neue Rosenkreuzer, pp. 80-81; Frick, Licht und Finsternis, vol. 2, p. 417; Jeff Bach, Voices of the Turtledoves: the sacred world of Ephrata, 2006 (2002). Bach finds no Rosicrucian influences at Ephrata.

[28] So far I have not succeeded in tracing the Sachse manuscript. Sachse’s Ephrata collections are in Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg (Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission) Ms Group 351; Sachse presented the manuscript as one of the relics of the German pietists. Sachse, p. 7-10. M.P. Hall dated the Sachse Ms ca. 1700-1750, “nearer 1700” (Codex, p. 38), which is somewhat too early. This version of the Geheime Figuren was ready to be printed in 1766. Hall in his edition of another manuscript copy of the same work criticizes Sachse’s association of the Pennsylvanian pietist settlements and Rosicrucianism. Manly P. Hall, Codex Rosae Crucis. D.O.M.A. A rare and curious manuscript of Rosicrucian interest, now published for the first time in its original form, Los Angeles 1938 (1971).

[29] Peuckert worked on an expanded edition, published posthumously as Das Rosenkreuz in 1973, which, however, leaves out the illustrations of the Breslau manuscript. Also see his Pansophie. Ein Versuch zur Geschichte der weißen und schwarzen Magie, Stuttgart 1936, with a reproduction of the Arbor Pansophiae, p. 421; On Peuckert, see Horst E. Miers, Lexikon des Geheimwissens.

[30] Manly P. Hall, Codex Rosae Crucis.

[31] For the Gold- und Rosenkreuzer, see e.g. Renko Geffarth, Religion und arkane Hierarchie. Der Orden der Gold- und Rosenkreuzer als Geheime Kirche im 18. Jahrhundert, Leiden 2007.

[32] On Ferdinand Maack, see Lamprecht, Neue Rosenkreuzer, pp. 183-191; Corinna Treitel, A science for the soul. Occultism and the genesis of the German Modern, Baltimore 2004, pp. 172-181. A selection of his works was published as Hermetische Schriften (Auswahl) von Dr. Ferdinand Maack, Owingen 2005.

[33] The manifestos were published by Hermann Barsdorf Verlag as the first volume in the series Geheime Wissenschaften edited by Antonius von der Linden. Barsdorf Verlag also published a facsimile edition of the Geheime Figuren der Rosenkreuzer (Berlin 1919).

[34] Alfred Müller-Edler, “Ein Alchmyistischer Test“, in: Alchemistische Blätter, 1. Jg., Nr. 10-12 (1928), pp. 111-115, describes Maack’s edition of Kirchweger’s Catena Aurea.

[35] Cf. Ferdinand Maack, Zweimal gestorben! Die Geschichte eines Rosenkreuzers aus dem XVIII. Jahrhundert, Leipzig 1912.

[36] The alchemical image of the Catena Aurea goes back to late medieval alchemical tradition. Cf. a manuscript also containing the Rosarium philosophorum in the British Library, MS Sloane 2476, f. 10v, reproduced in Gareth Roberts, The mirror of alchemy. Alchemical ideas and images in manuscripts and books from antiquity to the seventeenth century, London 1994, p. 49.

[37] An actual Rosicrucian Order of the Golden Rose, Ordo Rosae Aurae (ORA) was established by Martin Erler in 1957. It succeeded a “Gustav Meyrink Loge”, a group studying Meyrink’s works in Munich after the war. Cf. Lamprecht, Neue Rosenkreuzer, p. 151.

[38] Copies of the editions 1723 (First edition), 1728, 1738, 1757, 1757 (Latin edition), and finally the Gold- und Rosenkreuzer edition of 1781, are in the BPH, Amsterdam.

[39] On Franz Hartmann, see Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke in: Dictionary of Gnosis and Western Esotericism (and literature cited); Lamprecht, Neue Rosenkreuzer, pp. 172-181; Horst E. Miers, Lexikon des Geheimwissens, pp. 275-277.

[40] On Mailänder, see Emil Bock, Rudolf Steiner. Studien zu seinem Lebensgang und Lebenswerk, 1967; on Steiner and Rosicrucianism, see Lamprecht, Neue Rosenkreuzer, pp. 191-205.

[41] Hall’s critical evaluation appeared in his edition of Codex Rosae Crucis, pp. 29-32; Hartmann’s Boston edition of the novel contained a prospectus and an advertisement for an edition of the Geheime Figuren.

[42] This work first appeared in English (In the pronaos of the temple of wisdom containing the discovery of the true and the false Rosicrucians, Boston 1890) and was translated by Heinrich Tränker (pseud. Br. Recnartus) whose edition came out in the series Pansophia, München: Otto Wilhelm Barth, 1924; this edition, pp. 27-28. Tränker, following Hartmann, planned further publications of the Geheime Figuren, to be published by Otto Wilhelm Barth. He advertised the vols. in Alchemistische Blätter (1927-1930); Maack, Hartmann, Meyrink’s friends Franz Spunda and Alfred Müller-Edler contributed to this periodical. Cf. Cis van Heertum, “Exploring alchemy in the early 20th century, Alchemical periodicals II”, Meyrink published his essay on alchemy with Barth Thomas von Aquino. Abhandlung über den Stein der Weisen (1925); it was reviewed by Ferdinand Maack in Alchemistische Blätter, 1. Jg, Nr. 3 (1927), p. 48. One letter by Tränker to Meyrink survives in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich.

[43] See Lamprecht, Neue  Rosenkreuzer, pp. 221-222. The symbol of the Rosicrucian Fellowship was first used by Franz Hartmann: Lamprecht, Neue Rosenkreuzer, pp. 243-244.

[44] See Lamprecht, Neue Rosenkreuzer, pp. 250-286.

One Response to Gustav Meyrink and the Rosicrucians

  1. Mario Diacono says:

    I was extremely interested in this article. is it published (i.e. printed) in any book or magazine? if so, I would like very much to buy the publication. I had just finished reading “The Angel of the West Window” when I received this mail with the article!
    many thanks!

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