Rosicrucian Writings Online

An Incident of the Past

By Frater Royle Thurston
[From The Rosicrucian Digest October 1930]
DURING the past month a number of our members have sent to us a newspaper clipping which was evidently syndicated or published in a number of newspapers. The clipping was the eighth installment of a series of articles dealing with old Philadelphia. In this particular article reference was made to the coming to that city in 1694, of the Rosicrucians who left Germany and England to bring the first Rosicrucian foundation to the new world. We have said so much in the past regarding this early foundation and the many important fundamental movements in America, which resulted from their activities, that I am not going to take space and time now to speak of these, but simply call attention to the fact that even though some uninformed persons continue to believe the misstatement to be found in some encyclopedias to the effect that the Rosicrucians were not active in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the story of their real activities continues to appear in newspaper and magazine articles from time to time.
There is one interesting incident associated with the lives of the first American Rosicrucians, however, that is not so generally known and which every Rosicrucian should be proud and happy to speak about. I venture to say that the story I am going to tell now has not been told before in this country and will probably be very astonishing to a great many.
First of all, let me connect this interesting story with the first American Rosicrucians. Those Rosicrucians who landed on the shores of America in 1694 assisted in establishing one of America's large cities. Upon their arrival in America they found this city a very small village, undefined in streets or limitations and unnamed. These Rosicrucians, constituting a specially selected party of workers in various branches of Rosicrucian effort and general industries, were gathered from various parts of Germany, Holland, and England; and before departing from the shores of Europe they visited England to receive final instructions. These final instructions had been prepared by the Supreme Council of Rosicrucians for Europe in accordance with a plan originally outlined in a book written by Sir Francis Bacon called "The New Atlantis." During the time when Bacon was chief officer of the International Rosicrucian Council he prepared many plans for the future activity of the organization and later embodied the essence of these plans in the book called "The New Atlantis." The secret details of the plans, however, still remain privately known and preserved in secret manuscripts. In accordance with Bacon's plans the one large Rosicrucian lodge or group of students in London had adopted a name for their group that did not publicly reveal its Rosicrucian nature. This was common practice throughout the Rosicrucian Order in those days and is today in most foreign lands. This special group in England called itself the Philadelphians, utilizing the old Greek word of "Philadelphia" as symbolic of its purposes. Jacob Boehme, Jane Leade, and many other well-known Rosicrucian writers and authorities, were associated with this group as officers or instructors. When the selected group of Rosicrucians visited England they attended a special meeting of the Philadelphians and there received their parting instructions.
After arriving in America and assisting in the development of the primitive village in which they located, and having aided in the establishment of a number of important institutions and industries, they proposed the name of Philadelphia for the city and it was adopted. This is shown in many of the records preserved in Congress and in the historical writings of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania and proves that the name Philadelphia was not bestowed upon the city by the Quakers, for when these Rosicrucians arrived on the Pennsylvania shores there were few Quakers to be found and they had not organized themselves or even built their first church and the village had no name and no definite form.
Too much has already been published in books and magazine articles dealing with this incident for me to elaborate upon it, and the only reason why I speak of the Philadelphia Lodge in England and its inspiration for the name of the city in Pennsylvania is to connect it with another interesting story associated with the same characters who were connected with the Philadelphians in England.
All of you who have read and studied Bacon's public writings, as published in his public books, know that his great ambition was to systematize and organize knowledge and the methods of obtaining knowledge. This was his one great hobby and anyone who reads Bacon's book "Novum Organum" quickly discovers that back of the many recommendations which Bacon presents therein, for the broadening and widening of human knowledge, he must have had many concrete plans and must have been very active in testing and developing these plans. The interested reader who searches, therefore, for further light on Bacon's activities sooner or later learns of his Rosicrucian connections and finds in a number of books dealing with his Rosicrucian activities the various societies which he established and the various plans for others which he promoted in order to bring about a revolution in the art of teaching and the development of real knowledge.
It will be interesting to our members to know, therefore, that one of these plans of Bacon's exists to this day and is one of the most successful and world famous movements of its kind. In accordance with one of the plans contained in Bacon's book "The New Atlantis" there was called together a number of eminent philosophers, scientists, and leaders of thought of England, France, and Germany, and it was proposed that these men, irrespective of their nationality, their personal beliefs, and their differences of opinion and their special activities, should unite in one group which would hold secret sessions in some concealed or private place and in a closed chamber mutually discuss their philosophies and scientific knowledge and cooperate in spreading new knowledge throughout the world. The records show that the establishment of this unique movement included insistence upon the spread of new knowledge rather than the mere discussion of old knowledge, and that such new knowledge should center principally around natural law or the manifestation of Nature.
This occurred in the year 1645 and after considerable discussion it was finally decided to call this unique organization "The Invisible College." Now, before proceeding with the rest of the story, I should like to say something about the selection of this name, for it is highly significant. The word "college" in those days did not have the limited or exclusive meaning that is given to it today in the Western world. It is to be noted, for instance, that the Rosicrucians who left Germany, Holland, and England to come to America a few years after this college was established had come from groups or lodges of the Rosicrucians in their countries, which groups were called Collegi, and in many of the Rosicrucian records we find the highest lodges of the Rosicrucian organization called Collegium Spiritum, or, in other words, spiritual colleges or colleges of spiritual matters. Any group or assembly of learned persons devoted to research and study along certain lines for the purpose of spreading that knowledge to others was properly a college, and it is from this original meaning that the present day meaning of the word is derived.
But this college, organized in accordance with Bacon's plans, was to be an invisible one. It was not to have any permanent structure, any permanent meeting place, or any permanent form of organization, and was, in fact, to be kept secret, private, and unknown to the public as a college or organization. The only manner in which the public would ever benefit from the existence of this college was through the spread of its work on the part of those individual members in their own localities or countries. No one who was connected with it was to admit that they belonged to such an organization, or that such a college existed, or that they knew anything about it. We see in this a duplication of the ancient Rosicrucian movement called "The Invisible Brotherhood," composed of the special workers of the Great White Lodge who met from time to time on special call in various cities of Europe for the purpose of determining what procedure was to be taken in regard to national affairs, the spread of knowledge, and the development of science. Thus the Invisible College, born in 1645 in London, was at once a world-wide movement and a secret one, invisible in every element of its material form. The first president selected to be the chief director of this new college was the eminent naturalist and philosopher Robert Boyle. Those of our members who are interested in knowing why he was selected will be pleased when they read in any encyclopedia, or especially in the Encyclopedia Britannica, a biographical sketch of Boyle. Others who were officers or associated with this invisible college were such eminent characters as Christopher Wren, who was not only one of England's greatest philosophers, mathematicians, naturalists, and architects, but a Rosicrucian whose connection with the Rosicrucian activities can now be found in many European records. Some other records say that before Robert Boyle was selected as president the first temporary president was Sir Robert Moray, or Murray, as some records have it. He was secretary of state for Scotland and a man of high military and philosophical standing, as well as a mystic and devout Rosicrucian. His biography, found in almost every encyclopedia, is interesting reading.
For many years The Invisible College carried on its periodical sessions and reached many important conclusions and recorded its findings, discoveries, and agreements, which are still preserved, and which constitute some of the valued manuscripts used in the Rosicrucian teachings. Some of the world's greatest discoveries were first announced in these sessions and later on when it developed its large laboratories many startling and surprising scientific principles were demonstrated for the first time in secrecy before this large and growing group of secret workers. In London, today, can be found many of the instruments and devices used in that original laboratory and the manuscripts, still preserved, recording such demonstrations as those given by Sir Isaac Newton and others who made their first announcements to this organization, constitute memorials of the great plan conceived by Bacon.
The organization finally grew to such an extent that it was forced to meet in a large building and for a time its sessions were held in Gresham's College, and the organization was referred to as the "Academy" in 1660, when its existence became known to other educators. However, this little publicity soon developed into a nation-wide appreciation of this remarkable organization, and it was found undesirable to continue to use the secret name of "The Invisible College." Therefore, under the approval of Charles II the college was officially re-named and appears on the English records of 1662 as the "Rosicrucian Academy," which name it retained for some time. Then by a further recommendation of some of the eminent scientists, and with the approval of Charles II, the society was re-named again and this time they adopted the Latin name, "Regalia Societas Londoni," or in other words, the Royal Society of London. This name it still bears, and it is today one of the largest, most conservative, most learned, and important educational institutions in the world.
The Royal Society did not become a college in the ordinary sense, but remained a society of affiliated scientists, philosophers, alchemists, naturalists; and Alchemy and the mystical philosophies were especially dealt with and the laboratory developed into a large one connected with a marvelous museum and finally possessing an enormous library. Its library contained sixty thousand of the rarest volumes of knowledge possible to obtain, and its museum collection became so large that it was divided and distributed among other museums, but its original laboratory equipment with which many of the alchemical and Rosicrucian principles were tested and demonstrated, is still preserved intact as an exhibit of great importance. Jacob Boehme and many other Rosicrucian lights were active workers here, and it was in this group that Robert Fludd introduced some of the important Rosicrucian teachings, and it was here that Locke, the philosopher and scientist and personal friend of da Vinci, the Rosicrucian, made many of his tests of natural law.
Today, when any eminent scientist or philosopher has a new and surprising postulation or principle to present to the world, he is invited to make his first announcement before the Royal Society of London. Those who are honored for their great work in the spreading of new knowledge are elected and made Fellows of the Royal Society, and are thereby entitled to put the initials F. R. S. after their names, and if we look through the list of world's greatest educators, philosophers, and scientists, we will find that hundreds of them have been thus honored and are proud to have these initials after their names. The Society publishes the results of its work in private books called "The Proceedings of the Royal Society." This publication work was started when the organization was still The Invisible College and when all the reports were written by hand and in secret manuscripts which are still preserved.
Those of our readers who want to go more deeply into this subject will find it interesting to read the article about the Royal Society of London in the Encyclopedia Brittanica or any other similar reference work, and they will find there a verification of the fact that the great educational movement was first known as The Invisible College, originated by the Rosicrucians. Also while you are reading on this subject in the encyclopedia, do not fail to read about Van Helmont, who was one of the early workers in the College, and about Fludd, Boehme, Locke, and the others whose names I have mentioned.
If any should say to you, "What good has ever come out of the secret activities and private work of the Rosicrucians?" you can point with pride and joy to the founding of The Invisible College and its development into the Royal Society as but one instance and one incident. Few persons realize the advantages to be found in secret and private activities and few persons realize how many forms of private activities are being carried on today throughout the world by the various Rosicrucian jurisdictions. To judge the Rosicrucian organization solely by its outer activities or by its public propaganda is to make a grave error. Its public work is but the outer elementary form of contact with the masses, and its public organizations and meeting places are but points of communication between the central secret activities and the world at large. Each high officer in the organization in every land may have a public office in the Order and appear to be devoting himself exclusively to the outer activities of the organization in his immediate district, but in privacy and secrecy he is a part of a still more potent and valued organization, or group of organizations, unknown to the public but serving the public through special activities of a serious nature.
And if any should say that such a form of organization might be detrimental or dangerous to the welfare of a country or people because of the possibilities which such secrecy provide, again you may point with pride and joy to the fact that in the whole history of the Rosicrucian organization and in its entire record before the court of man, it has never been found guilty of disseminating the least destructive thought and has never even been accused of doing anything other than building for better citizenship, greater peace, more power in the lives of individuals, and greater glory to God. This untarnished record covering many centuries is the best guarantee of its high and noble purposes and the efficiency of the methods it uses. The fact that it has become a large and successful organization with increasing prosperity, increasing power, and increasing happiness in its own organization, is also a guarantee that it knows how to bring peace, power, prosperity, and happiness into the lives of its followers. Its success must be through the success of its members and this must rebound to the benefit of all who are loyal to its principles.

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