The roots of the English Rosicrucian environment in the Victorian Age

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By Emanuele Maffia (member of Centro Studi Rosacroce and associate Member of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism)

Immagine per articolo CSRDuring the Victorian Age different Rosicrucian groups appear. The most famous one is the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia, founded by Robert Wentworth Little in 1865, and its derivations in Scotland and USA, The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (commonly known as Golden Dawn), founded by William Robert Woodman, William Wynn Westcott, and Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers, all members of the S.R.I.A.

The Golden Dawn, in 1903, was divided into two branches, one following Mathers, which was called Order of the Alpha et Omega and another one headed by A.E. Waite, who renamed it into Independent and Rectified Rite, a such kind of Rectified Golden Dawn. In 1914 A.E. Waite closed the Independent and Rectified Rite to open the Fellowship of the Rosy Cross, characterized by a more Christian Kabbalistic and Mystic approach.

The Rosicrucian environment rooted far more back into occult English history.

To correctly study the occult environment in the latest Victorian age, we have to go back just to Dr. Sigmund Bacstrom.

Bacstrom was a ship’s surgeon. During his life he collected alchemical documents in different languages and translated them into English.

Today, a well number of his manuscripts are parts of the Manly Palmer Hall collection, and are available in digital version on archive.org.

Among the digital documents collected, it appears also the so-called <<Bacstrom’s Cerificate>>, which is the paper given by the Compte Du Chazal when he received Bacstrom, among the members of his Rosicrucian Society.

About this certificate we have to make more light on it, because the most published books, which refers or quotes it, use the version in The Real History of The Rosicrucians by Arthur Edward Waite.

Adam Mac Lane, in the 1980, discovered in Glasgow another Certificate, signed by Bacstrom itself and given by him to the Dr. Tilloch, when Bacstrom received him into the Rosicrucian Society.

Comparing both certificates some differences appear, for instance the wrong Hebrew word in Waite, not in Tilloc copy.

Also some statements are a bit different. The Waite copy concludes the paper with a seal.

In his book, Waite states <<Thanks to the late Mr Frederick Hockley, whose valuable library of books and manuscripts, treating of all branches of occultism, has been recently dispersed, I have discovered that a certain Comte de Chazal accomplished the magnum opus in that place at the close of the last century, and that he initiated another artist into the mysteries of the Rosicrucian Fraternity. The Comte de Chazal was possessed of vision at a distance, and witnessed the horrors of the French Revolution from a vast distance, with amazing perspicuity, by means of the mind’s eye. The following curious document will be read with no ordinary interest: Copy of the Admission of Dr Bacstrom into the Society of the Rosa Croix by Le Comte de Ghazal at the Island of Mauritius, with the Seal of the Society.>>

By the Rosicrucian Seer we know that among the manuscript collection of Hockley there was also The Journal of a Rosicrucian Philosopher, which contains also the famous copy of the Bacstrom Certificate. This document together with other two came in the hands of A.E. Waite, who published part of them.

Bacstrom had a copy of the Certificate through the Hockley collection, meaning it was not the original one, and probably not a good copy.

Now a question could arise: is there any document really close to the original one?

The Manly Palmen Hall Manuscript Collection Box 18 Volume 19 (available in digital version on Archive.org) solves this issue.

This manuscript is the Bacstrom Certificate itself, and it is more or less the same, word by word, of the Tilloc ones, found by A. Mac Lane in the Ferguson Collection of the University Library of Glasgow.

Also the seal is different from the Waite/Hockley one. The geometric figures (Triangle, Square and Circle) are in the same position and proportion, but the rest of the seal is totally different.

In the Bacstrom Manuscript, the Hebrew word is not correct and has no sense, but in the M.P.H. Manuscript collection is a correct Hebrew expression.

At least, it seems interesting what J.W. Hamilton Jones wrote in his Bacstrom’s Alchemical Anthology (1960 Stuart and Watkins, London): << The Comte de St Germain was very active in European countries at that time, and his immense work for Masonry and in Mystical societies is known and recognized. He was undoubtedly the last of the great Masters of Alchemy to be seen in Europe, and the probability is that in 1740 he was actively connected with the Rosicrucian Lodge or Society, into which de Chazal was introduced in the same manner in which he afterwards received Bacstrom.>>

Waite in his Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross says that the Societas Rosicruciana, of the Mauricius, could be a derived branch of the Golden Rosycross, developed there.

Combining the deduction of Hamilton and Waite, it seems reasonable to assume that the Aurea Rosae Crucis as an ancestry of the Societas Rosicruciana of Bacstrom and Du Chazal.

Regarding the Rosicrucian specific environment, it can not be forgotten the printing of an English translation of the Fama and Confessio Fraternitatis, by Thomas Vougan in 1652.

This introduction was needed to deploy the English occult environment together with its European connections.

As the History of the S.R.I.A., there is an interesting statement related to a single copy of a small book, which deserves to be quoted <<“Constitution of the Society of the Rosy Cross” published at Rochester in 1868 “by order of the General”. This society professed to be founded in 1543 and to have as its principal object, ‘the common weal and the good of the individual member’. It was apparently revolutionary in character, but the Constitution gives no hint of any ritual structure and no names of officers or members are recorded.>>

This statement apparently poor in information have instead some very important hints, if joined with what just wrote about the Bacstrom’s Certificate.

Hamilton supposed St. Germain was the master of Du Chazal, and Waite does not exclude that the Society of Du Chazal was a branch of the Golden Rosycross. It has no to be forgotten the root of it were in the Aurea et Rosae Crucis, born in Italy around in 1542/43, as its statutes claim.

The latest Rosicrucian organization, and also the latest Golden Rosycross of the XVIII century, had a well-defined ritual structure, while the earlier Aurea et Rosae Crucis had not. For this reason, the lack of rituals into the constitution seems a common point with the Aurea et Rosae Crucis.

If we suppose a connection between the italic Aurea et Rosae Crucis and the English Society of the Rosy Cross which published the constitution in 1868, this means that in Great Britain the Golden Rosy Cross strongly influenced the occult environment, since the second half of the XVI century.

Bibliography

– A.E. Waite, The Brotherhood of the Rosycross

– A.E. Waite, The Real History of the Rosicrucians

– The Rosicrucian Seer, edited by John Hamill

– History of the S.R.I.A, Greensill T. M, privately printed by Broad Oak Press, 1987.

– Osservationi Inviolabili da osseervarsi dalli fratelli dell’Aurea Croce, o’ vero dell’Aurea Rosa precedenti la Solita Professione, Ms.XII.E.30 cc.226r-243v, Naples National Library.

– Tilloch copy of admission document in Ferguson Collection at Glasgow University Library.

– Manly Palmen Hall Manuscript Collection Box 18 Volume 19

– The Fame and Confession of the fraternity of R.C., commonly of the Rosie cross [tr., ed.] with a præface and a short declaration of their physicall work by Eugenius Philalethes, copy of Oxford University (available in Google Books).

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