There sometimes seems to be a kerfuffle about ‘real’ identities on the internet. Google seem keen on it. You can always find an article or two suggesting that people would be better behaved if they used their irl identities, whatever they may be. But reading today about Rosicrucian & anti-Rosicrucian pamphleteering in the early 17th century reminded me afresh how much publishing of any sort has always been enmeshed with the shadow world of non or pseudo identities.
I wouldn’t want to give up the anonymous work of 1623 entitled Horrible Pacts made between the Devil and the Pretended Invisible Ones, in the name of bogus ‘authority’.
And frankly, excerpts like the following from Frances Yates’ The Rosicrucian Enlightenment get me really hot:
Theophilus Schweighardt published in 1618, with no name of place of publication or printer, a work with the following title: Speculum sophicum Rhodo-Stauroticum, Das ist: Weilauffige Entdeckung des Collegii und axiomatum von sondern erleuchten Fraternitet Christi-Rosen Creutz. This is a typical example of a Rosicrucian title, with its mixture of Latin and German. In this work Theophilus Schweighardt, who may be one Daniel Mögling, or may be the same as ‘Florentinus de Valentia’, who may be Andreae himself, is enthusiastic about the ‘Pansophia’ of the Brotherhood and their threefold activities, which he classifies as (1) divinely magical (2) physical or ‘chymical’, and (3) ‘Tertriune’ or religious and Catholic.
While I’m on Rosicrucians – the combination of them being required to heal the sick for free, and their red cross symbol made me wonder if this was where the Red Cross got its symbol from. Their webpage assures me that it’s an inversion of the Swiss flag, thus referencing their neutrality and the Geneva convention but I think I prefer my theory.
Despite its tendentiousness and the occasional whiff of the hobby horse there’s all sorts of good stuff in Yates’ book – Descartes showing himself to his friends in Paris to assure them he was not one of the invisible Rosicrucians (although his travels and indeed life are weirdly cognate with the trail of that phantom organisation – in fact I started dozing off and hazily imagined him on a mystical search across Europe for the secret of Thomas Hariot’s algebra…)
Then there’s this dizzying sentence:
The ‘Rosicrucian furore’ which arose in response to the stirring announcements of the manifestos soon became inextricably confused through the large numbers who tried to join in without inside knowledge of what it was all about, being merely attracted by the exciting possibility of getting in touch with mysterious personages possessing superior knowledge or powers, or angered and alarmed by the imagined spread of dangerous magicians or agitators.
A non-existent organisation, a ludic dream-fantasy of the Reformation, a ghostly reflection of Ignatius Loyola’s Jesuit shock troops, present only in publishing history, exists in its most concrete form in people who knew nothing about ‘what it was all about’? Those closest to the centre, the Paracelsist physicians Robert Fludd (from Bearstead, Kent – go Bearstead!) and Michael Maier regularly sending out pleas for this organisation to reveal itself, the ‘inside knowledge’ to which they were privy an allegorical structure of alchemical and mathematical mystical symbols? Madness, I tell you, madness: