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The Rosicrucian Manifestoes 17th century

The three Rosicrucian Manifestoes, Fama fraternitatis, Confessio fraternitatis and Chymische Hochzeit, published in the years 1614-1616, proposed a general reformation of society on all levels, social, spiritual, scientific and artistic. The Rosicrucian Brotherhood which addressed its reform proposals to all the learned men of Europe, triggered a considerable response not only in the German lands, but also in other European countries. The appeal for reform obviously struck a chord: many readers, like the authors of the Rosicrucian Manifestoes, were disappointed in the Lutheran and Calvinist reformations, the Catholic Counter-reformation, being deeply convinced that Christianity should be about living a true Christian life, in daily practice. The Rosicrucian Manifestoes also advocated actual practice and innovative research into nature as part of an authentic exploration of nature as the work of God – the Fama fraternitatis explicitly referred for that reason to the ‘Vocabulario’ of Theophrastus Paracelsus of Hohenheim. Physicians who valued experimental experience above the authority of Aristotle or Galen, were also among the enthusiastic readers of the Rosicrucian Manifestoes. The intense polemic following the publication of the Rosicrucian Manifestoes produced a flood of responses, pro and contra, which issued from the presses between 1615-1660.

The Ritman Library also collects a number of modern Rosicrucian movements all of which express an affiliation with the principles that inspired the legendary Brotherhood. Most of these modern movements originated in Europe and the United States at the turn of the nineteenth century.

Tübingen circle

The Tübingen circle which produced the Rosicrucian Manifestoes originally formed around Tobias Hess, their great inspiring force. Johann Valentin Andreae  recalled Hess with affection and respect in his Tobiae Hessi, Viri incomparabilis, Immortalitas. Andreae, known to have written at least one of the Manifestoes, namely the Chymische Hochzeit, is also represented in this section with other of his works.

Other authors 17th century

The Rosicrucian movement is an originally German phenomenon but soon found adherents abroad, amongst whom the Englishmen Robert Fludd (see also the section on Hermetica 16th-18th centuries) and Thomas Vaughan. The Rosicrucian  Manifestoes drew responses from all over Europe, from Paris to Prague.

Rosicrucians 18th century

In the 18th century the Rosicrucian legacy lived on in numerous spiritual movements such as the ‘Gold- und Rosenkreuzer’ and natural-philosophical groups seeking a profound spiritual dimension. One of the major works produced in this period was the Geheime Figuren der Rosenkreuzer aus dem 16ten und 17ten Jahrhundert (first printed 1785-88).

Rosicrucians 19th century-present

From the second half of the 19th century there is a veritable proliferation of movements claiming to go back to the elusive Rosicrucian movement of the early 17th century, and on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. A distinction has therefore been made between European and American Rosicrucianism, with separate sections for the more pronounced Rosicrucian groups.


The Freemason R.W. Little founded the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (S.R.I.A.) around 1860. Although the S.R.I.A. is a masonic organisation, it claims affiliation with the teachings of the members of the Rosicrucian Brotherhood or Fratres Rosae Crucis, which in turn were allegedly based on the Hermetic, Platonic and kabbalistic teachings of the ‘ancient sages’. Because of the close connection with Rosicrucianism, which finds explicit expression in the very name of the organization, the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia has been placed in the Rosicrucian section.

Rosicrucian Fellowship

The theosophist Max Heindel (pseudonym of Carl Louis Frederik von Grasshof, a Danish-born American) founded the Rosicrucian Fellowship in the United States in 1909 as an international movement for Christian mysticism. The Rosicrucian Fellowship promotes an esoteric sort of Christianity, in which the idea of transfiguration, or rebirth in a state of inner purity, plays an important role. Heindel’s best-known work is the Rosicrucian Cosmo-conception, which is available in many editions.


The Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis (A.M.O.R.C.) was founded by the American parapsychologist Spencer Lewis in 1915. A.M.O.R.C. is a movement which claims to offer its members the means to take control of their own lives, develop inner peace and make a positive contribution to the world on the basis of studying and practising the Rosicrucian teachings.


The Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.) was founded in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century and claims to continue the traditions of the Freemasons, Rosicrucians and Illuminati of the 18th and 19th centuries, the Knights Templar of the Middle Ages and the early Christian gnostics and mystery schools from Antiquity. Issues from the series Pansophia, published by Heinrich Tränker under his spiritual pen name Henkelkreuzmann, can be found in this section.

The Ordo Roseae Aureae (O.R.A.) was founded in Germany in 1956 by Martin Erler, an ex-functionary of A.M.O.R.C.: it is one of the more recent secessions in the history of the modern Rosicrucian movements.

Lectorium Rosicrucianum

In 1924 the brothers Zwier Willem and Jan Leene joined the Dutch branch of Max Heindel’s Rosicrucian Fellowship, which they were to lead from 1929. In 1935 the Dutch organization split off to form a new Rosicrucian movement, which after a few name changes eventually became known under the name Lectorium Rosicrucianum (1945). The library holds a great deal of material of this Dutch Rosicrucian movement, including many pamphlets and brochures and periodicals from the early years. Initially the leadership of the ‘young gnostic brotherhood’ (also called the International School of the Golden Rosycross) was in the hands of founder Jan van Rijckenborgh (the spiritual name of Jan Leene), later he and Catharose de Petri (the spiritual name of Hennie Stok-Huizer) became the twin leaders of the movement. Like G.R.S. Mead in England (see under Gnosis), the Dutch Rosicrucian Jan van Rijckenborgh studied the sources of the Christian-Hermetic gnosis and published these in a Dutch translation, with commentaries.