Science Fiction Studies

#104 = Volume 35, Part 1 = February 2008

Everett F. Bleiler

Johann Valentin Andreae, Fantasist and Utopist

Although many areas of fantastic fiction have been well studied, an important neglected area is the alchemical fiction that flourished during the Renaissance and early Baroque periods. A literature of wide typological variety, ranging from pretended historical accounts presented with verisimilitude to total fantasies and dream narratives, it is in a sense an aberrant sort of science fiction, since it was based on the generally accepted science of its day, or physical alchemy, which had a rational basic theory and accepted laboratory procedures. As Principe states, “transmutation was supported by the most sophisticated chymical theories of the day (155).1 Just as modern science fiction, according to some definitions, has as background an extrapolation, or distortion, or fantasizing of the science of our day, alchemical fiction had a similar origin in the “science” of its own time.      

Alchemical fiction is also interesting as part of the story-group edging into science fiction that includes such visionary works as George MacDonald’s Lilith (1895), with its intuitions about other dimensions, David Lindsay’s A Voyage to Arcturus (1920), with its transmutations of personality and physical structure to fit metaphysical ideas, and E.T.A. Hoffmann’s Die Elixiere des Teufels [The Devil’s Elixirs] (1829), with its disruption of personality. These share ideas about the interrelation of human beings and the universe also found in the early nineteenth-century Naturphilosophie as in the works of Carl Gustav Carus, Lorenz Oken, Friederich Schelling, and Gotthilf H. Schubert.      

One of the most interesting of these alchemical fantasies is the Chymische Hochzeit [Chemical Wedding] by Johann Valentin Andreae (1616).2 Before discussing this work, however, it seems desirable to describe the early seventeenth-century Rosicrucian configuration from which it emerged, a background necessary to  understanding the work.      

During the second decade of the seventeenth century, one of the most successful hoaxes in history took place. Two short, anonymous documents were printed that caused a furor and still have resonance: Fama Fraternitatis dess löblichen Orden des Rosenkreutzes (1614) and Confessio Fraternitatis R.C. (1615), the foundation documents of the Rosicrucian phenomenon.3      

Both works, which had been circulating along manuscript chains for several years, had a common theme: that the “Fraternitet des R[osen] C[reutz],” a secret society with scientific attainments far superior to those of the outside world, was about to go public to selected persons. In the Confessio the Brethren gave details, offering wonders:

all learned men who make themselves known to us and are called in brotherly fashion and are accepted by us shall find with us more wonderful secrets than they ever could experience, inquire about, or believe, or speak about.4

Would it not be a precious thing if you were able to find in one book everything that has appeared in every book that has ever existed, that does exist, or will exist, everything that has been found out and may be found out, to read, understand, and have it as your very own?5 (Dülmen, Fama 35)

This knowledge is contained in two superbooks, one of which covers the mundane world. The knowledge that these books offer, though, is not hard science but a gnosis revealing the inner workings of the universe obtained from the two revelations, Scripture and Nature. The books are written in a secret language that is not arbitrary like our daily tongues but is inherent in phenomena themselves.6     

Along with this wondrous knowledge, the documents artlessly and casually reveal that the Brethren know how to make gold but are not interested in such worldly matters: “That for them making gold is a trivial matter and only a side issue; along with other things of this sort, they have a thousand-odd better things to do” (Dülmen, Fama 25-26).7 (Pace this disclaimer, it is reasonable to assume that most readers were more interested in Rosicrucian gold than in the secrets of the universe.)      

The writers cleverly bring in elements of many intellectual undercurrents of the time. In esoteric matters they range over alchemy, astrology, numerology, hermeticism, cabalism, Wisdom of the East, forthcoming chiliasm, and similar matters. They also have a political and religious bent, strongly pro-imperial for the Habsburg emperor and violently antipapal. They dislike Aristotelianism and Scholasticism but advocate the teachings of Paracelsus, the only real person mentioned in the documents.8     

Behind the powers of the secret Fraternity lies an etiological artificial biography and history related in the Fama. In the fourteenth century, according to this fiction, C. Rosenkreutz, a young German monk of noble family, on a pilgrimage to the Holy Lands was sidetracked into the farther Moslem world.9 At Damar in Arabia he studied secret sciences for several years, then went to Fez, where he learned the cabala. Returning to Europe, he tried to share his knowledge, but was ridiculed and rejected.10 Not discouraged, Rosenkreutz devoted his knowledge to healing the sick and aiding the poor. After a time he founded a small fraternity devoted to research and charitable work. Like the Jesuits, its members adopted the ways of whatever place they were working in. (A comment in the Confessio about their unobtrusiveness was taken by contemporary readers to mean that the brethren could become physically invisible!)11     

Rosenkreutz, according to the fiction, died in 1484 at the age of 106. His burial place was soon forgotten, but he had predicted that it would be found in one hundred and twenty years, as it was in 1604. His tomb held marvels, including an ever-burning lamp, and books of great power, among which were three books by Paracelsus.12 Now the order is ready to share its knowledge with the right persons.      

The response to these manifestoes was, to a modern, almost unbelievable. In the next three years the Fama was reprinted seven times, and manuscript copies abounded. The phenomenon spread through Germany and France, with, as Gilly records, over 400 publications devoted to the Brethren between 1614 and 1623 (Gilly, Cimelia 76). As the configuration grew into the later seventeenth century, with books by “outsiders” latching onto the original documents, it shifted away from Lutheran religiosity, chiliasm, political reform, and other side issues and concentrated mostly on alchemy, physical and spiritual.      

Men of great intellectual stature took the two original documents seriously. René Descartes (1596-1650), for example, went to Germany hoping to find a Rosicrucian brother. When he returned to France, he was almost lynched as a magician. Others, though recognizing the hoax, found the manifestoes interesting. Francis Bacon (1561-1626) incorporated elements from them into his New Atlantis (written in 1623).13 Ben Jonson (1572-1627) devoted the first half of his court masque The Fortunate Isles (1624) to a gull who hoped to be taken up by the “brethren of the Rosy Cross.” Jonson also mentions C.R. (who has just died), universal knowledge, and invisibility (Jonson 433-53). Isaac Newton (1642-1727) and Gottfried Willhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) read the documents, though recognizing them as frauds.14 On the positive side, according to Dame Frances Yates, the reception of the documents in England was instrumental in the formation of the British Royal Society, although her thesis is not generally accepted (172-92).15     

Why were such fantastic claims accepted? The rational factor: there were no learned journals. Scientific advances were revealed through book publication, circulating manuscripts, and letters. Private “academies” for the pursuit of knowledge or the arts were a familiar institution of the day, with over 300 such groups in Italy alone. As for secrecy, the Accademia Segreta, founded in Naples in 1540, consisted of “twenty-four members, all sworn to secrecy, [who] conducted experiments ... to hunt for new secrets of nature” (Dickson, Tessera 7). When the Accademia dei Lincei was founded in Rome in 1603, it “met clandestinely (using secret names and writing in cipher) ... until they were discovered and forced to disband” (7).16 In this context, the Rosicrucian combination of secrecy and advanced knowledge was not unfamiliar or unacceptable.      

Less rational was the Zeitgeist, since this was still a borderline time between the magical science of the Renaissance and the hard science of William Gilbert (1544-1603) and Galileo Galilei (1564-1642). Celestial astrology was widely accepted. In the heavens a wondrous event had taken place: the Fiery Trigon, in which the positions of Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn formed a special pattern.17 This occurred on December 23, 1603, its third occasion, the first and second being at the births of Jesus and Charlemagne. As the manifestoes pointed out and as was widely accepted, this indicated that a new age was about to begin. Reinforcing this hope for a new and better world in both popular and learned minds was the appearance of two bright new stars, including the supernova of 1604, which Johannes Kepler’s De Stella Nova in Pede Serpentarii et de Trigono Igneo (1606) celebrated. Galileo, in his Siderius Nuntius (1610), expected a new age, as did Tommaso Campanella.      

In Europe, new knowledge was bursting forth in geography, astronomy, mathematics, and physics. This involved not only an addition of new data but a breaking of old forms and conceptual patterns. The Scholastic educational system was weakening under attacks by Francis Bacon and others, and it was becoming recognized that Aristotelian logic, even if it cleared away fuzzy thought, was useless, as Bacon said, for the discovery of new truths. Significantly, new truths were now more important than old. Thus, the manifestoes, despite their religious and occult impedimenta, might be an Eden of great value.      

What was the real purpose of the Fama and Confessio? One can only guess, since nothing more was revealed by their authors. No one ever met a Brother. No great secrets were revealed. No one seemed to make any financial gain. Perhaps the documents were the work of academic cranks. Perhaps they were an attempt to stir up interest indirectly in a rational scientific fellowship, as some modern scholars believe. Perhaps they were simply a university prank that ran out of control.     

Who wrote them? The modern consensus is that they were associated with Tübingen University, a Lutheran establishment where some faculty and students were given to esotericism and pietism, even though the official position was orthodox. A common scholarly conclusion is that the Fama was written by more than one person, while the Confessio was written by still another. It would be pointless to discuss the possible “suspects,” who would be unknown except to a handful of specialists, but one possible author or “accomplice” must be mentioned. This is Johann Valentin Andreae (1586-1654), who is known to have written the third Rosicrucian document, the Chymische Hochzeit, the main subject of this paper.      

Andreae was born in Herrenberg, Württemberg, into a clerical family. His grandfather, an important figure in the Reformation, later became Rector of the University of Tübingen. When Johann Valentin was fifteen years old, his father, a Lutheran clergyman, died suddenly, leaving his family impoverished, since he had spent his income on alchemical attempts to manufacture gold. Johann Valentin thus had more than a theoretical experience with alchemy.18     

On attending the university at Tübingen, he gravitated toward a group of freethinkers with mystical and illuminist tendencies who were also enthusiasts for Paracelsian medicine. Although he had an off-and-on intention of entering the clergy, he took a wide range of courses beyond his major. He received his AB in 1603 and his MA in 1605. In 1607 Andreae was temporarily rusticated for a pasquinade against a faculty member. For the next six or seven years he spent intermittent Wanderjahre in France, present-day Switzerland, Austria, and Belgium. A visit to Italy in 1612 seems to have been especially fruitful. In 1614 he passed his ordination examinations, whereupon he received an appointment as pastor in the small town of Vaihingen, later in Calw. During the Thirty Years War that broke out in 1618 he experienced great hardships, on occasion being forced to hide in the woods to escape death. His house and possessions were twice destroyed. Nevertheless, he continued his pastoral work, showing great ability in organizing support organizations for the victims of the war. A Stift (foundation) that he set up was still in existence in the twentieth century. Although there were occasional questions about his orthodoxy, he enjoyed support from influential noblemen and was court preacher and konsistorialrat [councillor of the consistory] in Stuttgart, Abbot of Bebenhausen, Generalsuperintendent [bishop] in 1651, and shortly before his death received the honorary position of Abbot of Adelberg. He died in 1654.19     

A learned man, Andreae was master of Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Italian, French, and possibly English. As a young man he delighted in the plays given by traveling English dramatic companies and wrote several plays on the English model. He was a prolific writer, with over one hundred works to his credit. These included elegies, satirical pieces, religious works, collections of epigrams, and utopias. He studied mathematics at Tübingen with Kepler’s teacher and wrote a book on applied mathematics. Andreae also corresponded regularly with Johannes Kepler. Johann Comenius (1592-1670) consulted him about new educational techniques.      

Today, Andreae is recognized as one of the most important German writers of his century. Unfortunately, most of his work was written in a difficult, fluid, rich Latin, filled with rhetorical devices. At the moment, his collected works are being republished with Latin text and a modern German translation on facing pages.      

The question whether Johann Valentin was the author of the Fama and the Confessio has been debated since during his lifetime, for several of his contemporaries believed that he wrote the manifestoes, though no real evidence was ever cited. The majority modern opinion is that he was involved in some way but was not the actual writer of the documents. He was a far more polished writer than the authors of the manifestoes, and the German-language Fama is written in a dialect different from his. Inferential “evidence,” however, links him to the works, as will be seen below.      

From 1617 on he attacked the Rosicrucian phenomenon strongly—even devoting one satirical book, Turris Babel (1619) to it.20 In an autobiography submitted in 1642 to his sponsor Duke August of Braunschweig to qualify for the position of Lutheran superintendent, Andreae stated that he laughed at the Fama and Confessio and had nothing but contempt for the novelty seekers and fools who accepted them.21 This statement, which falls short of a denial of involvement, has been interpreted variously: (1) that he had nothing to with the documents; (2) that he was shrugging off a youthful extravagance that he regretted; (3) that he laughed because he was one of the hoaxers; (4) that “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

In this same autobiography, however, Andreae admits having written the third Rosicrucian document, the Chymische Hochzeit: Christiani Rosencreütz. Anno 1459, which was published anonymously in 1616. It may have circulated in manuscript in a small way a year or so earlier.      

The title of the work is ambiguous for an English reader, for it is sometimes assumed (because of the Latin genitive “Christiani”) that Rosencreütz is being married (in a spiritual sense), but “Christiani” is a genitive of agency indicating that he is the author of the work, as is reinforced at the end of the novel. This may seem a trivial point, but it is significant in interpreting the story, thus Chemical Wedding, by Christian Rosencreütz, 1459.      

According to Andreae’s autobiography, he first wrote Chymische Hochzeit as a drama in the English mode, perhaps in 1603 or 1605. If so, he must have revised the work greatly, since the present version (as will be discussed below) is heavily based on Italian prototypes and Andreae did not learn Italian until about 1611 (see Schick 94, Frey-Jaun 43).      

Chymische Hochzeit is in part a quest novel, in part a fanciful alchemical procedure, in part a satire, in part a spiritual statement, and in part simply a description of colorful things. The sustaining motifs are a mixture of Classical, Judeo-Christian, hermetic, and alchemical. While we usually think of these as separate cultural strands, for Andreae as for others of his time, they were mingled, blended, and cross-identified. As becomes obvious from various interpretations of Chymische Hochzeit, the weakness (and also the strength) of symbolic statement is its multivalence. Thus, while Andreae’s tropes are allegorical, they are allegorical with several possible clear references.      

Since there were no German prototypes, Andreae drew upon Italian prose forms, notably Boccaccio’s Amorosa visione [Amorous Vision] (1342-43) and Colonna’s Hypnerotomachia Poliphili [Poliphilo’s Dream about the Strife of Love] (1499), two dream explorations. In Boccaccio, as in Chymische Hochzeit, the narrator receives a supernatural summons from a maiden (Virtue) to a fête, sets out, chooses between various ways, reaches a splendid edifice where various maidens symbolize abstractions, and sees remarkable displays and festival vehicles. In both Italian works the sustaining strategy is a somewhat melancholy peregrination (with frustrated eroticism) through surviving or shattered marble works of antiquity. This element is present in Chymische Hochzeit.22     

Set in a magical other-world, the “story” concerns an alchemical operation performed upon a royal group who voluntarily undergo death by decapitation, are dissolved chemically, and are reconstituted by an alchemical process.      

The “narrative” is another matter. The narrator, central personality, and observer is Christian Rosencreütz, an aged hermit who lives in a hut, meditating and worshipping. Onto him the events are offset. He moves in the foreground, experiencing, spectating, commenting, and assisting, while the important events take place sometimes away and apart from him. There is no indication that he understands what is going on about him. In modern criticism he has been interpreted, what with his bhakti and askesis, as a saint in the making or as a selfish man concerned only with himself. Both characterizations can be argued.     

One is uneasy in identifying this Christian Rosencreütz with the Christian Rosenkreutz of the Fama, despite the near identity of name. Rosenkreutz of the manifestoes has acquired a gnosis in the East and is active in the world, heading a research organization and performing charitable work. Rosencreütz of the Chymische Hochzeit is concerned only with his relation to God. Yet, as will appear later, Andreae does seem to identify the two men, though it is a bad match. (It has been suggested that Andreae was redirecting the message of the Fama and Confessio away from occult esotericism into orthodoxy.)

To consider the narrative: it covers the events of seven days in a timeless, placeless situation, perhaps contemporary Germany supernaturalized. The seven days are obviously symbolic of the seven days of Creation, the seven days of the week, seven alchemical stages, seven planets, or other exemplars of seven. Here, as elsewhere in the document, Classical numerical symbolism is at work. Similarly, the term “wedding” (Hochzeit) probably has at least a triple meaning: literal, alchemical (union of sun and moon, or the final alchemical stage), or religious (union with God).

Within this week, the first three days for the most part describe ordeals and trials that winnow out undesirable parties and condition successful aspirants. The next three days cover the “wedding” itself. Fantastic dreams also enter.

As the story begins: during Easter Week, while meditating in his eremitical hut, Rosencreütz is disturbed by someone poking him in the back and tugging at his clothes. Frightened, turning around, he sees a young woman whose wings are covered with eyes. Along with a large horn, she holds a bundle of letters, one of which she extracts for him. Two points may be isolated from this summons. First, the winged person is Fama, so illustrated in contemporary emblem books. A marginal note calls her Praeconissa, which is clear in meaning, if not a Classical Latin word: an announcer, someone who lets you know. She is not an angel, as is sometimes stated. Second, an element of humor is present. Fama does not approach Rosencreütz directly, but sneaks up behind him and prods him. As she flies away, she gives such a tremendous blast on her horn that Rosencreütz is deafened for a time.

Rosencreütz now examines the letter, which is a verse invitation to the king’s wedding. An open invitation, not personal, it carries the threat that unworthy men had better stay away.

Today, today, today
Is the king’s wedding.
If you are born to this,
Elected by God for joy,
You may go up the mountain,
Where three temples stand,
And there watch what happens.

But beware!
Look into yourself,
If you haven’t worked at cleansing yourself,
The wedding can hurt you.
He’ll be hurt who is caught out here,
Let him watch out who is too light.23 (Dülmen, Fama 46)

This introduces a tension that pervades the novel between legitimate attendance and gate-crashing, worthiness and unworthiness, and rewards and punishments. One might wonder why unworthy persons have been invited, but the author may have had in mind, “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). The message is general, but only the elite should accept it. This parallels the invitation in the manifestoes: many may apply, but only a few will be chosen.

On the letter is “a delicately drawn cross” (“ein zartes Creütz”), by which Rosencreütz knows that the invitation is not unholy. In the margin of the page illustrating this cross is a complex astrological sign: a crescent moon (cusps up) on top, intersecting a dotted circle for the sun, below which is a cross, on the bottom of which are two half circles, one on each side, like the zodiacal sign for Aries.

This symbol had several values in the occult systems of the time. First, it was the Hieroglyphic Monad of John Dee (1527-1609), the English mathematician and occultist, from which sign he geometrically derived the cosmos, although the symbol antedates his work.24 Second, more importantly, it was the astrological symbol for the planet Mercury, or Mercury in Aries. Third, it was the alchemical symbol for both vitriol (in this case sulfate of copper) and “our” mercury, or whatever substance the alchemist chose to call mercury as the source of life. Fourth, it was considered by some to be the emblem of Paracelsus. Fifth, it was the sign for Hermes Trismegistos, indicating the importance that Hermes Trismegistos will have in the basic concept of the novel. All in all, it symbolizes Rosencreütz’s forthcoming entry into an other world, that of alchemy.      

That night, Rosencreütz as his first ordeal has a most powerful dream. He is in a deep, dark pit with a multitude of men, all scrambling madly about. Two soteric figures above, opening a trapdoor, lower a rope seven times. Those who can hold firmly to the rope are drawn out. After several failed tries, Rosencreütz grasps the rope and is pulled up, but is injured in the event. (This presages his later fate.) Who are the figures in this harrowing of a minor hell? Possibly St. Peter and the Church?25     

On the second day, Rosencreütz sets out to the wedding; he knows the way. He dresses in white, with red bands across his chest and four red roses in his hat. This symbolic statement creates both a certainty and a problem. The certainty is that a white field with red bands (silver field with saltire gules) and roses (in the interstices) is the Andreae armorial bearings, obtained by his grandfather. If there should be a question of authorship, Rosencreütz is an animated escutcheon of the Andreae family. The problem is: what has this heraldry to do with the similar cross and roses of Rosenkreutz of the manifestoes? The resemblance bears on the authorship of the two earlier documents.      

When Rosencreütz comes to a four-fold furcation of the road, he must make a choice. There is a short, rocky way; a longer, smoother way, for which one needs a compass; a royal way; and a fourth path so covered with fire that he hesitates before it. These choices, which at first glance seem fairytale motifs, correspond to the four ways of traditional hermeneutics: literal, allegorical, anagogic, and tropological (mystical). He hesitates. His dilemma is solved by a device with both folkloristic and biblical relevance: while chasing a raven that is harassing a dove, he is blown on his way by a wind of enormous force. (This wind probably symbolizes ruach, or the Spirit of God.) Andreae does not say which road Rosencreütz has been forced upon, but it is probably the longer road, for which one needs a compass (i.e., supernatural guidance).      

Omitting minor symbolic episodes with supernatural elements: on arriving at the grounds of the castle, Rosencreütz passes through three gates, in each case satisfying the porter with a gift and receiving a token in exchange, a folkloristic motif or Classical, a sop for Cerberus. His gifts are alchemically significant: bread, salt, and water—the essentials of life, which Paracelsus stressed. He then follows a trail of lanterns and arrives at a most impressive castle.      

The beautiful young woman who controls the lights will play a considerable part in what follows. She is called “die Jungfraw.”26 At the castle, Rosencreütz enters a great hall filled with important, powerful people. They are a riotous group, and the humble Rosencreütz feels ill at ease among them. Boasters proclaim all sorts of impossible abilities.

I saw one man who heard the roar of the heavens. Another could see Plato’s ideas. A third would count Democritus’s atoms. There were also not a few perpetual motionists.27 (Dülmen, Fama 49-50)

One individual claims that he can see the invisible men who are serving the guests at the banquet. For this lie he receives a blow on the mouth from an invisible hand. As mentioned above, the Confessio states that the Brethren could not be seen, which invisibility Andreae is mocking.      

Preceded by a tumult of martial music and a dazzling army of lights, the Jungfraw now enters on a self-propelled throne, which is her usual conveyance throughout the story.28 In a pleasant speech in verse, she welcomes the guests, but once again warns the unworthy of what may happen in the forthcoming tests. Nine men who seem to be elect, including Rosencreütz, are set aside for special treatment. They are escorted to a sleeping chamber, where they are bound and left for the evening.      

On the third day the guests are forced by the Jungfraw to undergo an ordeal in which their share of the seven vices can weigh them down. This is done with a giant scale and weights. Most of the guests fail, but Rosencreütz wins through along with eight others. The Jungfraw carries out the judgment on those who have failed the ordeals. The fate of those losers who are fraudulent alchemists and quacks is harsh: death. Their gullible victims are also punished, but less severely: they are expelled, memories expunged. As a social factor, sovereigns and nobles are treated much more leniently than commoners; they usually are released with a fine. This situation may be interpreted in two ways. In the usage of the day, differential treatment by rank was common enough. In Shakespeare, for example, after battles the main question is, “What men of note died?” Second, for most of his life Andreae was dependent upon ducal favor. The good will of the Duke of Württemberg prevented Andreae’s being expelled from the university because of a prank. He also enjoyed subsidies from noble sponsors, to whom respect was due.      

Rosencreütz, who has passed the ordeal, is now more or less free of the castle while big events are preparing in the background. On a brief tour, he sees scientific wonders, including a gigantic, hollow globe of the world, into which one can enter. (There is a historic prototype for this.) He also sees a book explaining all the wonders of the world, an obvious memory of the manifestoes or, again, of Paracelsus.      

At this point, Andreae breaks the serious ordering of events and offers an entertaining diversion. The Jungfraw, her entourage, and the nine postulants discuss erotic situations taken from the “Questions of Love” in Book Four of Boccaccio’s Il Filocolo [Love’s Labor] (1536). Andreae omits the Italian background, greatly shortens the narrative, and curtails Boccaccio’s psychological analysis. As a result, while Boccaccio’s subtle reasoning and rhetorical richness are lost, Andreae’s story moves forward more rapidly. The stories may be exemplars of the power of love (i.e., the power behind spiritual alchemy) or simply entertaining side issues.29     

Scattered through the text have been small mathematical diversions such as Pythagorean numerical blocks and spatial arrangements. Now, in an interesting puzzle, Andreae shifts to a quasi-algebraic situation. Rosencreütz has been wondering all along who the beautiful and charming, if ruthless, Jungfraw really is. He finally musters up enough courage to ask her. She does not resent the question, but smilingly says:

My name contains five and fifty, and yet hath only eight Letters, the third is the third part of the fifth, which added to the sixth will produce a Number, whose root shall exceed the third itself by just the first, and it is the half of the fourth. Now the fifth and seventh are equal, the last and the first are also equal, and make with the second as much as the sixth hath, which contains just four more than the third tripl’d. Now tell me, my Lord, how am I called?30 (Foxcroft trans., Andreae/Allen 111)

Rosencreütz, somewhat daunted, asks for a hint, to which the Jungfraw replies that the seventh letter in her name corresponds to the number of postulants, or, nine. (Her hint is not necessary for solving the problem, but it makes solution easier.) This small problem seems to have given readers trouble, for incorrect solutions have been printed, possibly because Andreae inserted a subtle misdirection. Even so, it is not difficult. The present writer, who is no mathematician, worked it out in two or three minutes and will not insult the intelligence of his readers by providing an answer here, although one is given below, following the notes.      

The identity of the Jungfraw established, in further pageantry she makes obeisance to a superior woman, who is probably Theology, the Queen of the Sciences.31 By now the nine postulants who have demonstrated worthiness by surviving various trials and ordeals have been accepted as participants in whatever may happen in the alchemical wedding itself and have been awarded membership in the Order of the Golden Fleece, an alchemical reference. (In alchemical interpretation Jason’s golden fleece described in the Argonautica was really a sheepskin manuscript revealing alchemical secrets.)     

During the third day, supernatural and alchemical elements had begun to appear, mostly as throwaways. On the fourth day they appear in strength and rule the story. When Rosencreütz arises from bed and goes to the nearby fountain, he finds there an alchemical lion and an antique stone plaque, with the following inscription:


[Prince Hermes: After so many injuries have been inflicted on the human race, by the plan of God, and with the helping support of the art, I, (having been) made healing medicine, flow here. Let him who is able drink from me. Let him bathe who wishes. Let him roil my waters who dares! Drink, brothers, and live!]

This plaque serves multiple purposes. It openly introduces Hermes Trismegistos, the “author” of the Corpus Hermeticum, a collection of religious and magical documents that originated in Hellenistic or Roman Egypt, although in Andreae’s day they were believed to be much older.32 In certain of them a theology is propounded that is not too different from that of Christianity. After the documents were brought to Italy, and translated by Marcello Ficino in the sixteenth century, they were highly regarded as an alternate, anticipatory revelation parallel to the Mosaic, perhaps contemporary with Moses, perhaps older. For Andreae to bring Hermes into a Christian picture was thus not too offensive or heretical.       

The reference to Hermes also invokes alchemy, and is an announcement of the alchemical process to follow. Mercury (either the element mercury or whatever secret preparation the alchemist called mercury) was often considered the living principle, the source of life. The fountain, a strong alchemical symbol, heals, it will be noted, rather than forming a step in gold-making. Such a medical focus is in accord with the Paracelsian interpretation of physical alchemy. The phrase “artisque adminiculo” probably refers to “the divine art,” or spiritual alchemy. The last sentence, “Bibet fratres,” is suggestive of the Oracle of the Bottle in Book Five of Rabelais’s Pantagruel (1532).      

The inscription is followed by a line of symbols that constitute a very clever chronogram permitting two solutions, depending upon how one separates the elements. One solution reads 1378, the birth date of Rosenkreutz of the manifestoes; the second reading comes out to 1586, Andreae’s birth date. The significance of this association of dates is not clear, but it might be taken to equate Andreae and Rosenkreutz of the manifestoes, as a statement of authorship.      

After this, Rosencreütz is privileged to see the royal personages. In the throne room are three thrones, each occupied by two persons: an old king with a young queen, a black king with an old queen, and a young king and queen. The symbolism of the triple monarchy and the apportionment of consorts is arguable, although in general king and queen may be equivalent to male and female, sun and moon, gold and silver, unio oppositorum, and a stage in the alchemical process. Andreae’s triplicity, however, is unusual in the literature. While one should probably reject the obvious equation of the kings with the Trinity (since Andreae elsewhere denounces the use of sacred symbols in alchemical literature), there are related possibilities. The three kings may represent the religious composition of man: body (the black king), soul (the old king), and spirit (the young king), elements now separated that must be brought into a unity. Also possible are alchemical generative forces, as Nazari puts it: “Our king, the son, has three fathers; the first is the generative cause; the second is the multiplicational cause; the third is the perfectional cause; and our son is a potent king and fears no other kings (Nazari 120)”33 Also possible is a suggestion of the three elements in Paracelsus’s system, where salt is the old king, mercury (as a living element) the young king, and sulfur (the source of metals) the black king. As a further factor, black is usually the symbolic color for the alchemical stage of mortification or putrefaction, in which forms are broken down before assembly in a new form. Andreae probably expected multiple interpretations of the situation, with the common factor that three elements must be fused together, as will happen later.34 Frey-Jaun, however, identifies the black king as Adam, who was black with sin; the old woman as Eve, and the total as Church and Groom, Christ, and Mary (10). Multiple interpretations are possible and probably expected.      

An erotic note now enters, at times dominating the narrative. As in Francesco Colonna’s Hypnerotomachia [The Strife of Love] (1499), a cupid is now usually present, flying about, shooting its arrows. Praz (90-91) shows emblems where Amor is associated with alchemical distillation. Alchemically, the cupid can be a symbol for vitriol. On another level the cupid has been interpreted as indicating sexuality as the driving force of the beginning alchemical operation, which is about to begin, or as the power of love, divine and secular. Andreae later offers the motto, “Amor omnia vincit”: love conquers everything.      

The Jungfraw, observing that Rosencreütz is depressed (regretting his lost youth), now laughingly accuses him of lust: “I can well see what this young fellow wants/lacks. What do you think? If I slept with him tonight, he’d be more cheerful tomorrow. At this they began to laugh” (Dülmen, Fama 89).35     

This leads into a mathematical amusement. The Jungfraw offers to pair off her maidens with the postulants for the night. But she insists that the pairing must be done by chance; otherwise it would not be fair. Arranging the postulants and maidens in a circle, she announces that she will count off by sevens and that each man will have the maiden upon whom the count falls. But as she counts, the result is that none of the men gets a maiden—the clever arrangement is all a mathematical tease. Presumably the reader would try to work out the arrangement.36     

The crowning episode of the fourth day is a play performed before the royal couples in the House of the Sun, with the postulants being allowed to watch. This play is not given in full, but in act-by-act summary. It may be a remnant of the presumed early, lost version of the Chymische Hochzeit.      

According to the story-line: a baby girl is found in a basket in the water. Also in the basket are jewelry and a note saying that she is a princess and that the Moorish king has invaded her land and killed her family. The local king rears her, planning later to marry her to his son when she reaches maturity. The Moorish king, again invading, captures her. He treats her abominably, but later takes her as his mistress, to which she responds, degenerating in character. The young prince persuades his father to rescue her. Despite some backsliding, she reforms and there is an elaborate wedding.      

The play, which is in seven acts with three elaborate interludes filled with spectacle, may be read in three ways. Literally, it resembles the English plays that Andreae delighted in as a young man. It has been noted that there are resemblances to Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale (1610?), which has associations with the area. On a second level, according to Kienast, who compares it to Canto XXX of Dante’s Purgatorio (1318?), it is a figurative statement of Church history showing the wavering faith of the Hebrews toward Jehovah and culminating in the birth of Christianity. A marginal note referring to the four beasts seen by Daniel gives this interpretation some support (see Kienast 74-75). A third, alchemical reading, is also possible, in which a substance, silver, is treated chemically with repeated operations, as was common in alchemical work. In this interpretation, the Moor stands for the nigredo phase of the operation. The debasement of the princess represents an acid attack on the silver, with loss of virtue and value. The seven acts would correspond to seven stages of an alchemical process in Paracelsus’s system.37 According to Edighoffer, the play, alchemical and religious interpretations combined, also offers an image (like a märchen) of the novel’s totality (Edighoffer, “Hermeticism” 203-204).      

That evening, unable to sleep, looking out his window, Rosencreütz sees the next stage in the alchemical process. The six royal personages are brought out and decapitated by a black headsman, who in turn is decapitated. The royal bodies are coffined and taken away on seven ships. The Jungfraw has directed the execution.      

On the fifth day, Rosencreütz commits the fault that will damn him. Wandering around the palace with a page assigned to him, he chances to enter an underground chamber. On a copper door he sees an inscription written in strange characters in a language that seems to be an imitation of Middle High German:

Here lies buried Venus, that beautiful woman, who has brought down many a great man in fortune, honor, blessing, and weal.38 (Dülmen, Fama 97)

This suggests the legend of Tannhäuser, with which Andreae was familiar, referring to it in Colloquy VIII in Turris Babel (Andreae, Turris, “Colloquy VIII” 49).      

Passing through the doorway, Rosencreütz descends to a chamber containing alchemical apparatus and a rich bed, on which lies a surpassingly beautiful nude woman. A further inscription in strange characters and pseudo-archaic language mentions a symbolic tree and its fruit, a frequent alchemical symbol. Andreae deciphers part of the inscription, which enables the reader to work out both this and the previous legend (Dülmen, Fama 99).      

Emerging, Rosencreütz now learns that he has committed a sin, for which Cupid accosts him and wounds him with an arrow. Rosencreütz, however, is deceptive about what he saw and did, and Cupid does not realize the degree of Rosencreütz’s offence. As will be later revealed, Rosencreütz’s descent into his unconscious (in Jungian terms) will cost him greatly.      

Rejoining his fellows, Rosencreütz now witnesses a fake burial of the dead monarchs. A beautiful lyric to Love sends the postulants and others off as they take ship in seven vessels arranged in a pentagonic formation to Olympus Tower, where the resurrection will take place.      

Olympus Tower is set on a square island surrounded by a strong rampart. A marginal note calls it “Die Welt Insel,” the world island, which echoes the common association of the square with matter and the four basic elements. The tower itself is a complex of seven round towers, all of which are interconnected and are seven stories high, with the central tower slightly higher than the others. This strange building incorporates several ranges of thought, all of which signify advancement. What with Olympus and seventh, it invokes the Christian scheme of seven heavens. It also fits into Hermeticism, with the seven stages of advancement described in Sections 24-26 of the Pymander (probably written between 200-400 A.D. and attributed to Hermes Trismegistus). It also embodies the seven stages of an alchemical process.      

On arriving at Olympus Tower, Rosencreütz and his comrades are put to work in the lowest level preparing ingredients for the alchemical process: washing and grinding precious stones and herbs. Andreae would have found instructions for such matters in Books Four and Six of Paracelsus’s Neun Bücher Archidoxis (1526?).      

On the sixth day the regeneration of the monarchs takes place. Before its final stages, however, the postulants have been moving up the floors of the towers, each level paralleling a step in the alchemical process. In each case they rise in three symbolic ways, with ladders, ropes, or wings, which probably symbolize three different types of alchemy, two kinds of chemical, and one spiritual. Rosencreütz now witnesses and takes part in very complicated “laboratory” procedures, all supervised by the Jungfraw. While these imitate procedures described in alchemical texts, they are not necessarily performed strictly nor in the usual order. First, the Jungfraw takes the flasks of essences that the postulants have prepared and empties them into a still with four outlets. The processes involved are distillation and cohobation (redistilling with the residues). The head of the Moorish executioner provides heat for this, and the resulting fluids, falling into the coffins of the executed kings and queens, dissolve their bodies completely. This corresponds to the stage that Paracelsus calls “solution,” though strictly speaking it should precede distillation. When solution is finished, the Jungfraw draws out the liquid into a large red sphere, which the men carry out. The men mount to the next floor, where the sphere is suspended from the ceiling and heated blinding hot by mirrors and lenses focussing sunlight. When the sphere has cooled and is opened with a diamond point, it reveals a large egg, which a marginal note identifies as “the cosmic egg” [Das kosmische Ei]. “We stood around this egg with joy, just as if we had laid it ourselves” (Dülmen, Fama 109).39     

Mounting to the fourth floor or stage, Rosencreütz and his comrades see that the egg has been placed in an incubator of sorts, a square copper vessel filled with sand. A cryptic inscription (composed of initials only) on the vessel has not been satisfactorily read, but another inscription can be translated as “What fire, air, water, earth, have not been able to tear from the sacred ashes of our kings and queens, a faithful band of [al]chemists has collected in this urn” (Dülmen, Fama 110).40     

A numerical cryptogram followed by a succession of symbols permits a double reading, just as emerged from the previous chronogram of the Fourth Day.41     

The egg cracks and a bird emerges, which is fed with the blood of the decapitated kings and queens. Growing very rapidly, the bird is first covered with black plumage, then white, then multicolored like a peacock. It is the Phoenix. The colors represent final stages in metallurgical alchemy.      

The alchemists mount to the sixth floor, where the bird is put into a bath and boiled. This does not hurt it, although its feathers dissolve. When the liquid is boiled away, the residue is a blue stone, which is crushed and used to paint the naked bird. (This is the alchemical lapis.) An automatic clockwork strikes the proper conjunctions, whereupon the bird is killed and its blood saved. Its remains are burned to ashes, which are preserved. (Such ash was commonly used in the revivification experiments of the day.) This last procedure corresponds to the alchemical operation “putrefaction,” of which Paracelsus declares, “putrefaction is a reversal, the death of all things, and a destruction of the first essence of all natural things, out of which there arises a rebirth and a new birth with a thousand-fold betterment” (Paracelsus, De natura rerum, Book One 312).42     

The Jungfraw now practices a deception. Taking Rosencreütz and three others apart, she scolds them, telling them that they have flunked through laziness and can go no farther. She leads away the satisfactory workers to the bottom of the towers, where they are put to work manufacturing gold.      

This is a ruse. It is now revealed that Rosencreütz and his three comrades are the true chosen who will revive the dead monarchs and that the gold-makers are on a lower level of advancement—a significant point in spiritual alchemy.      

Above the seventh floor, in a garret, the Jungfraw molds the ashes of the Phoenix and puts them into two little forms, which are baked. Opened, the forms reveal two tiny homunculi, a male and a female. Fed with the blood of the bird, they grow rapidly to full human size, but they are obviously soulless. In a secret process, which only Rosencreütz seems to see, liquid fire pours from the ceiling and ensouls the king and queen, who awaken young, splendid, glorious, believing they have just been decapitated. The new king and queen contain the essence of their former threefold being.      

Although the concept of the homunculus is probably derived from Paracelsus (together with the reconstitution of living creatures from their ashes, as described in De natura rerum [On the Nature of Things] (1537) 318), the method of creating such a being is spiritualized in Andreae’s work. As Newman says, “Perhaps it is unnecessary to say that for Andreae, the production of homunculi is largely an allegory of spiritual regeneration with the aim of charming the reader rather than teaching him to be a Frankenstein” (Newman, Promethean 284).      

In De natura rerum Paracelsus describes how to create such a homunculus. After a general statement that a human may be generated solely “by the spagiric art,” Paracelsus gives details:

Human sperm is placed in a sealed cucurbit to reach the highest degree of putrefaction [heated by fermenting] horse dung; it is putrefied for forty days or until it comes to life and moves and stirs itself, which is easily seen; after such a time it looks something like a human being, but is transparent, without a corporeal body. Thus, after this it must be fed daily with arcano sanguinis humani, judiciously fed and nourished in the steady warmth of horse dung for forty weeks until it becomes a living human child with all the limbs of a child born of woman, though much smaller.43

One does not know what to make of this recipe. The authenticity of De natura rerum has been questioned. Karl Sudhoff, the great historian of medicine, rejected it from Paracelsus’s canon; Will-Erich Peuckert, a modern historian of esoterism, has accepted it.      

Now that the alchemical resurrection has been successfully accomplished, on the seventh and last day, Rosencreütz and his comrades take ship away from the Island of the World and return to the palace, where they are received with great friendliness by the king and are declared Knights of the Golden Stone. This order has its own Rule, one statement of which reads, “That you shall not wish to live longer than God will have it,” or, no elixirs of life.      

Rosencreütz’s ogling of sleeping Venus now brings him down. He is not the first to have sinned against Venus. The first gatekeeper to the castle, who as a visitor had also once viewed nude Venus, had been sentenced to serve as gatekeeper until someone else repeats his sin. He now demands justice. Rosencreütz, embarrassed, hesitates, but at last confesses, at which the King, although not retracting his favor, declares that Rosencreütz must become gatekeeper until similarly replaced. This is a blow to Rosencreütz, who tries to console himself with the thought that since he is old his travail will last only a few years. He bids farewell to his friends, and....      

The manuscript now ends abruptly: “Here about two quarto pages are missing, and he (the author of this), believing that he must become gatekeeper on the morrow, has returned home” (Dülmen, Fama 124).44     

This trick ending, which is probably imitated from Italian sources, is the basis of a controversy about the interpretation of the entire document. Most readers consider Rosencreütz’s fate to be a degradation. There is reason to accept this interpretation, for the gatekeepers in the earlier parts of the novel are subordinate figures, and the statement of Rosencreütz’s offence and punishment is clear. A counter interpretation advanced by Frey-Jaun, however, is that Rosencreütz is being deceived in one more ordeal, and that he is really to be honored. His experience with Venus has been a trial to which he has responded properly, love being the source of life (Frey-Jaun 66ff). To support this interpretation, the Jungfraw, a trickster figure, has teased and deceived Rosencreütz on other occasions. As mentioned above, during the resurrection process she scolded him for laziness when he was really one of the elect.      

Andreae as author has also played tricks with the reader, what with secret alphabets and chronograms with double readings.

The final end of ChymischeHochzeit may thus be a deliberate ambiguity, or in modern critical terms, “undecidability.”

If Rosencreütz has been shifted from being a witness and occasional participant in a “narrative” to the dominant, the real center of a “story,” this is a surprisingly sophisticated device.      

Rosencreütz’s experience is now over. Even though the main point of the “story” is alchemical regeneration or rebirth (a physical process that here represents spiritual values), Andreae has focused almost totally upon Rosencreütz and his limited response to what was going on away from him. In these terms, what exactly does he achieve? If one accepts the “narrative” at face value, he has left his ascetic, contemplative life and gone to a magical court where he has experienced some pain and humiliation and received a little praise. He has watched others being punished very severely for their follies or crimes, has been teased and entertained, has performed a minor role in a rebirth ceremony, and has been awarded several pointless decorations. Subjected to sexual temptation, he has failed and has ended his encounter with magic in mild disgrace. What would have been his lot if he had not violated a sexual taboo? He probably would have remained at the magical court as a guest-friend of the royal couple, as seems to have happened to his comrades.      

If one seeks documentation of what Andreae was trying to accomplish with Chymische Hochzeit, one runs into difficulties. In his autobiography, written in 1642 for his patron Herzog August of Braunschweig, Andreae comments on the novel, although admittedly twenty-five years after the event, speaking disparagingly of the work and referring to it as a “ludibrium.” Unfortunately, it is not clear what he meant by “ludibrium,” which can cover a wide range of meanings (Dülmen, Christianopolis 32-34).45     

Beyond “ludibrium,” what can one make of the Chymische Hochzeit? It is not an individuation narrative or an Erziehungsroman, as might have been expected from the subject matter, since Rosencreütz remains unchanged.      

Historically, understandings of the story have varied. As Gilly states, “Interpretations have been legion, from technical-alchemical to theological, allegorical, psychological, spiritualistic, pansophist, and hermetic” (Gilly, Andreae 25).46 To cite major opinions: Montgomery, in his magisterial study, considers the work to be essentially within orthodox Lutheranism. Montgomery isolates many open and disguised background motifs of biblical or church reference, a few of which have been mentioned above.47 Edighoffer, on the other hand, stresses the alchemical substance: “Regeneration is represented by two kinds of symbolic systems ... [first, initiation in terms of the Corpus Hermeticum, and second,] the mystery of rebirth as an alchemical process” (Edighoffer, “Hermeticism” 205).      

One might carry Edighoffer’s opinion a step farther and say that the story is surreptitiously pagan. The Jungfraw (the mediatrix), who is central in both “story” and “narrative,” is personified alchemy with touches of Venus, and the march to rebirth is via secular chemistry of the day, despite lip service to orthodoxy. The only “persons” mentioned are Hermes Trismegistos and Paracelsus von Hohenheim. There is no christology.      

Other understandings: the depth psychologists of the school of Carl Gustav Jung interpret Andreae’s novel as a story based on patterned (archetypal) unconscious symbolism related to dreams. Modern occultists consider it a genuine document from a true Rosicrucian organization, in which document adept Andreae reveals secrets or is a mouthpiece for other, older adepts. Finally, it is possible that Andreae had no serious purpose, but was simply writing an entertainment combining tropes from Lutheranism, hermeticism, and alchemy using contemporary Italian literary models and aesthetic theories to create “wonder.”48     

As a result of the Thirty Years War, Andreae’s works became unavailable, but in the late-eighteenth century Andreae was rediscovered. Johann Herder (1744-1803), who edited some of Andreae’s works, praised the Chymische Hochzeit, as did Goethe (1749-1832), who based a märchen on it and rated the verse passages high. It seems probable that Franz Kafka knew it, although I do not believe that this has been substantiated. Since the nineteenth century, the book has been reprinted in several German editions. It is in print in two English translations, Ezekhiel Foxcroft’s 1690 version and Joscelyn Godwin’s 1991 version.

Chymische Hochzeit was something new in German literature, perhaps in European literature: an entertaining short novel based on a very complex system of “science,” together with the mystical heritage of the day, a little religion, and a good deal of the marvelous. It has two excellent characterizations: the somewhat timid yet courageous, humble yet self-satisfied, dried-out yet still sensual old Rosencreütz and the witty, charming Jungfraw. It is not religious enough to be a bore, and not alchemical enough to be unintelligible. The narrative is well-paced, the detail is very colorful and mystifying, and the reader leaves with a mingled sense of satisfaction at piercing some of the puzzling events and annoyance at not understanding more.

Johann Valentin Andreae was also the author of the highly regarded utopian work Christianopolis (1619), which describes a small ideal community in the Indian Ocean. Although the culture is based on pietistic religion, it emphasizes educational reform and state-sponsored scientific research. As Lewis Mumford says of it, “More than once [Andreae] will amaze us by putting forward ideas which seem to leap three hundred years ahead of his time and environment.... The other two utopians who wrote in the same half century as Andreae—Francis Bacon and Tommaso Campanella—are quite second-rate in comparison” (81-82), and “The greater part of Bacon’s ideas are anticipated and more amply expressed by Andreae” (106). Christianopolis, however, does not contain significant science-fiction elements.

Appendix on Alchemy. Physical or practical alchemy has been described as the child of Greek philosophy and Hellenistic Egyptian metal technology. Its theoretical basis lies in the concept of matter proposed by Aristotle, suitably simplified: all things are composed of a prime matter (hyle) upon which is superimposed various forms (eidos), creating differentiation. (Neither hyle nor form can exist without the other.) The most common theoretical understanding was that the alternate forces wet and dry, hot and cold, produce the basic elements of water, earth, fire, and air, and ultimately the universe; materials differ only in the relative proportions of the basic elements. Derivative basics are sulfur and mercury, or sulfur, mercury, and salt. There were variants in this ontology, but the general concept was much the same.      

Daily life showed that forms could change or be changed, as in the decomposition of dead organic material or the melting of ice. The alchemist thus tried to shock loose part of the forms of his experimental matter and/or substitute others, producing a new substance, typically gold. This would be related, as a fellow metal, to the base metals he used. “[S]ince all metals [in typical alchemical theory] are composed of the same ingredients but in differing proportions and grades of purity, transmutation is possible by purification and adjustment of proportions” (Principe 153).      

To create this transmutation the alchemist subjected his working material to the stresses available to the technology of the day: multiple distillations, calcination, sublimation, assault with chemical agents, and varying degrees of heat. To “suggest” to the matter the direction of change desired, a small quantity of gold might be added to the mix. This whole process typically went in prescribed steps, during which the alchemist was guided by color changes. If the alchemist was fortunate, he might produce an alloy that had some resemblance to gold.      

Since a successful operation could lead to incalculable riches, much was private and secret, disguised in often impenetrable symbolism. “In a sustained course of reading, each tract in the illimitable ocean of alchemical literature heightens the impression of an irremediable confusion of expression, thought, and method” (Read 131). Even in physical alchemy, religion (prayer and meditation), astrology, astralism, and other factors were often entwined with laboratory work.      

Modern historians have expressed bafflement both at what actually occurred during alchemical operations and at the persistence of alchemists in following frustratingly unsuccessful procedures. As Taylor says: “ alchemists were quite certainly performing real experiments with well-designed apparatus, but they rarely tell us what they put into the apparatus, and they describe effects which, as far as modern science can conjecture, could never have come to pass. Yet their works indicate that they were men of intelligence and seekers after truth” (5). Both Taylor and Newman have tried to recapitulate alchemical experiments.      

The seventeenth century has been described as the age in which alchemy was most practiced, especially in Germany and England. The various exhibition books edited by Carlos Gilly illustrate a wealth of book and manuscript publications. Nor was the alchemist always a private experimenter: many courts of Central Europe had official alchemists, sometimes even corps of such persons. Some of these men were fraudulent rogues (hanged when unmasked), but others seem to have been honest if naive experimenters, who always hoped for a successful issue. As with Polynesian rituals described by anthropologists, if the process did not bring results, the explanation for the failure was that something must have been performed incorrectly during the ceremony; the ceremony itself was valid. And then there were the perpetual rumors that so-and-so had been successful!

Translations, unless otherwise indicated, are by the author of this article.
      1. Principe states also that “we can point to an entire genre of alchemical writings which may be termed ‘transmutation histories.’ ... Many involve stories of traveling adepts who performed projection privately before one or more aspiring alchemists or alchemical skeptics. Although some such accounts are so romanticized or so outlandish that they rarely fail to provoke a wry smirk from the modern reader, at least an equal number are painstakingly precise, noting exact times, the quantity of gold or silver produced, and so forth” (155).
      2. Chymische Hochzeit: Christiani Rosencreütz. Anno 1459. etc. [Chemical Wedding: by Christian Rosencreütz. 1459]. Strassburg: In Verlägung Lazari Zetzners, 1616.
      3.See Allgemeine und General Reformation, der gantzen weiten Welt. Beneben der Fama Fraternitatis, Dess Löblichen Ordens des Rosenkreutzes / an alle Gelehrte und Häupter Europae geschrieben, etc. Cassel: Wilhelm Wessell, 1614. First publication of the Fama Fraternitatis, as second element in this book. Translated as Report on the Praiseworthy Order of Rosenkreutz [or “of the Rose-Cross”] Written to all the Learned Men and Heads of Europe. Secretioris Philosophiae Consideratio brevis a Philippo a Gabella, Philosophiae St. conscripta, et nunc primum una cum Confessione Fraternitatis, R.C. im lucem edita. etc. (Cassel: Wilhelm Wessell, 1615). First publication of the Confessio, as second element in this book. Translated, Affirmation of the Brotherhood, R.C. Brought into Light.
      4. From a German translation of the Confessio in FAMA FRATERNITATIS Oder Entdeckung der Bruderschafft dess löblichen Ordens dess RosenCreuztzes Beneben der Confession Oder Bekanntnuss derselben Fraternitet an all Gelehrte und Häupten in Europa geschrieben, etc. Frankfurt: Johann Bringern and Johann Berners, 1615 [“denn alle Gelehrten die sich auff unser brüderlich anmahnen und beruffen, bey uns angeben und einstellen werden, mehr wunderbahre Geheimnuss bey uns finden werden, als sie bissher erfahren, erkundigen, glauben und ausssprechen können” (Dülmen, Fama, 34)].
      5. The original German: “Wehre es nicht ein köstlich Ding, dass du also lesen kündtest in einem Buch, dass du zugleich alles, was in allen Büchern, die jemals gewesen, noch seyn oder kommen und aussgehen werden, zu finden gewesen, noch gefunden wird und jemals mag gefunden werden, lesen, verstehen und behalten möchtest?”
      6. Cf. Ormsby-Lennon, passim.
      7. “Dass ihnen Gold zu machen ein geringes und nur ein parergon ist, derengleichen sie noch wol andere etlich tausend bessere stücklein haben.”
      8. The Swiss physician and experimentalist, Philippus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim (1493-1541), generally known by his sobriquet Paracelsus, was a major part of the Rosicrucian background. Paracelsus, by the first part of the seventeenth century, had achieved a mythical stature, with his work the “medicine of the future,” feared and hated by the Establishment. A strong element of nationalism accompanied this feeling in the Germanic countries.
      One of the founders of modern medicine, Paracelsus had begun the reformation of medicine by discarding the Greco-Arabic four-humors physiology, by demanding observation and experiment, and by instituting a new pharmacopeia based on chemicals. For Paracelsus alchemy was not just a technique for transmuting metals but a rational technique for discovering new chemical compounds for medical use. As he said, “Forget about making gold; make new medicines [with alchemy].” This was the rational side of Paracelsianism.
      A strong esoteric or magical element was also present in his thought, as will be seen below in the section dealing with the homunculus. His theoretical basis was concordance between the individual and the cosmos, microcosm and macrocosm, with forces streaming from the stars and influencing humans, and a feedback to the stars. This involved the medical doctrine of signatures.
      9. The founder of the Order is generally referred to as Christian Rosenkreutz, although in the manifestoes he is named only Fr. C.R. or Fr. C.R.C. The earliest use of Rosenkreutz’s full name seems to be in Responsion von dem Herrn Haselmeyer (1614) by Adam Haslmayr, which was bound in with the first edition of the Fama. There the name is given as “Patrem Christian von RosenCreutz” (Gilly, Adam Haslmayr, 83). It is possible that “C” was accepted as a standard abbreviation for “Christian” in forenames. In this paper “Rosenkreutz” is used for the manifestoes and “Rosencreütz” for the Chymische Hochzeit.
      10. C. Rosenkreutz’s life echoes the legendary (and possibly exaggerated) wanderings of Paracelsus. “Nach seinen eigenem Aussagen muss er von Spanien, Portugal, Frankreich, England, quer durch ganz Deutschland bis hinauf nach Schweden und Moskau, dann wieder über Polen, Österreich, Ungarn, Kroatien und Italien bis hinunter nach Sizilia, Rhodos, Kreta, Konstantinopol, Alexandrien gekommen” (Jacobi  xxii).
      11. “[J]a hat uns Gott auch mit seinen Wolken umbgeben, das uns seine Knechten kein Gewalt angethan und zugefügt werden kan, daher wir denn auch von niemand, er habe dann Adlers Augen, können gesehen und erkannt werden” (Dülmen, Fama 36). [“Indeed, God has also encompassed us, His servants, with His clouds so that no force can be inflicted upon us; thus, we cannot be seen or recognized by anyone, even if he had the eyes of an eagle.”]
      12. A giveaway that the manifestoes were a hoax. C. Rosenkreutz is said to have died in 1486, while Paracelsus was not born until 1493. One of the books mentioned, the Vocabularium, may be a ghost book or a retitling of another document.
      13. On Bacon’s New Atlantis, Yates 127-29, 179-180.
      14. “Il me paraît, que tout ce que l’on a dit des Frères de la Croix de la Rose, est une pure invention de quelque personne ingenieuse. J’ai vue un trait‚ allemand, intitulé: Les Noces chymiques, (chymische Hochzeit) que commença à paroitre dans ce temps là, dans lequel l’Auteur semble du premier abord avoir dit des choses merveilleuses, mais qui dans le fond ne sont qu’un Roman où l’on fronde les secrets des chymistes” (undated, unidentified letter from Leibniz to a friend. Cited in Murr 17-18).
      15. Yates 172-92. Against Yates’s thesis, see Gilly, Cimelia 22, 74, 75; Dickson, “Johann Valentine Andreae’s” 761-2; Hanegraaf, passim. See especially Vickers.
      16. The Accademia dei Lincei was reinstated as an open society in 1610. Galileo joined in 1611.
      17. To indicate the degree to which this had reached popular culture, see Shakespeare, The Second Part of Henry the Fourth, II.4.247. Poins is referring to Bardolph’s glowing red nose, “And look whether the Fiery Trigon, his man, be not lisping to his master’s old tables.”
      18. Klossowsky de Rola illustrates an alchemical manuscript that presumably belonged to Andreae’s father: Plates 25, 26, 63, and pp. 118-19. Johannes Andreae, Sloane 2560, British Museum.
      19. Montgomery’s Cross and Crucible offers a detailed biography of Andreae. An excellent short biography appears in Dickson, Tessera.
      20. This is a collection of trialogues in which different character types discuss the Rosicrucian furor as a foolish fraud.
      21. “Risisse semper Rosae-Crucianam fabulam, et curiositatis fraterculos fuisse insectatum” (Dickson, Johann Valentin Andreae’s 796). [“I always laughed at the Rosicrucian fable, and denounced the little brothers of curiosity (seekers).”] Andreae often spoke out against sufferers from “curiositas,” by which he meant enthusiasm for novelties, exotics, and outlandish things for their own sake, particularly in the area of religion.
      22. “But it is by passing through the marvelous Castle, which encompasses all earthly good and life itself, with all its values and varied experiences, that the poet will reach love and virtue. He will achieve them with the aid of the celestial Guide, the mysterious figure, whose allegorical meaning is rather too difficult to define” (Vittore Branca, in Boccaccio, Amorosa, xix.)
      23. Heut, Heut, Heut.
      Ist des Königs Hochzeit,
      Bistu hierzu gebohren,
      Von Gott zu Frewd erkohren,
      Magst auff den Berge gehen,
      Darauff drey Tempel stehen,
      Dasselbst die Geschicht besehen.

      Halt Wacht
      Dich selbst betracht
      Wirst dich nit fleissig baden,
      Die Hochzeit kan dir schaden
      Schad hat, wer hie verzeücht,
      Hüet sich, wer ist zu Leicht.
      24. Frances Yates (61) interprets the presence of this sign as evidence of strong influence by John Dee on Continental occultism. Others disagree. “Ever since the publication of F.A. Yates’s The Rosicrucian Enlightenment in 1972, John Dee has been designated a role of pivotal importance in Rosicrucian research which does not fit him” (Gilly, “Between Paracelsus” 91). Actually, there is no evidence of Dee’s angelological esoterism in the Rosicrucian documents.
      As for the symbol: “The Monas symbol, incidentally, was not employed in the sense Dee had meant it, but interpreted as the signature star of Paracelsus (Haslmayr, Gabella), as a Mercurius Hieroglyphicus (Widemann), or as illustration of the vitriol motto or the Tabula Smaragdina. It isn’t even certain whether Andreae derived the symbol in the invitation to the Chymische Hochzeit directly from the Monas Hieroglyphica or from a later alchemical treatise (Thurneisser, Alchimia vera, ‘Basilius Valentinus’ or even Khunrath)” (Gilly, “Between Paracelsus” 292).
      25. A marginal note indicates that the image came from a literary fragment by Bernard of Clairvaux.
      26. Literally “the virgin,” the term used in both Foxcroft and Godwin translations. To avoid religious or physiological connotations, I have retained Andreae’s dialectic German form, Jungfraw. “Maiden” seems inappropriate.
      27. “Ich sahe einen, der hörte die Himmel rauschen. Der ander kundte Platonis Ideas sehen. Der dritte wolte Democriti Atomos zehlen. So waren auch der ewig mobilisten nicht wenig” (Dülmen, Fama 49-50).
      28. The elaborate, colorful pageantry in the novel may well be a recollection of spectacles of the day. Yates speculates (66-68) that in his student days, Andreae may have witnessed the awarding of the Garter to the Duke of Württemberg in 1603 at Stuttgart or the triumphal entry of Prince Frederick and Princess Elizabeth into Heidelberg in 1613, but Andreae does not mention these matters in his several autobiographical statements. Thrones like the Jungfraw’s are occasionally met with in alchemical illustrations, cf. Kosslowski de Rola, Figs. 31-4, and Basil Valentinus’s “Triumphal Chariot of Antimony.”
      29. These include Gracioza’s story—whether it is more enjoyable to look at a lover than to visualize him or her; the Story of Messaallino [sic], in which the narrator rescues a woman who was buried alive, cherishes her, then returns her and her child to her husband, even though he loves her; Menedon’s story, in which a virtuous wife offhandedly promises an importunate lover that she will yield when he can provide a thriving garden in midwinter. The lover, in Boccaccio, has recourse to a magician; in Andreae he does not. Ascalion’s story tells of a woman whose guilt or innocence is to be determined in trial by combat. A lover enters the combat against her and deliberately loses so that she can be declared innocent. The question arises: who is more deserving, the winner, whose victory freed the woman, or the deliberate loser, who sacrificed honor to save her? In Parmenione’s story a pair of lovers and their bawd are caught in flagrante by the woman’s brothers, who agree to spare the lover’s life if he beds both women, a year at a time, making love to each the same number of times. Andreae more prudishly changes the conditions to marriage. The question before Rosencreütz and his comrades is: which woman should be bedded first, the old bawd or the young woman?
      Two of Boccaccio’s tales are adapted considerably by Andreae. These are Filocolo’s own tale about a race for love, and the “woman in brown”’s short narrative. An eighth riddle, which the Jungfraw expounds, is probably folkloristic. A doctor buys a load of firewood, keeps warm with it all winter, then sells it in the spring. How did he do it? Andreae provides no answer, but it is easily solved.
      The copy of the Filocolo owned by Christoph Besold, Andreae’s friend, mentor, and Italian instructor, still survives. In all probability Andreae read this very book.
      30. “Mein Name helt fünff [really sechs, EFB] und fünfftzig, und hat doch nur acht Buchstaben, der dritte ist dess fünfften drittertheil, kompt er dann zu dem sechsten, so wirt ein zahl dessen Radix schon umb den ersten Buchstaben grösser wirt, dann der dritte selbst ist und ist dess vierdten halbtheil. Nuhn seind der fünfft und siebent gleich, so ist der letst dem ersten auch gleich, und machen mit dem anderen soviel als der sechste hat, der doch nuhr umb vier mehr als der dritte dreymal hatt: Nun sagt ihr mir, mein Herr, wie heiss Ich?” (Dülmen, Fama 82).
      31. The Jungfraw also has aspects of Venus, as is inherent in alchemical theory. Referred to in marginal notes as “virg. lucif.,” she is the equivalent of the evening star when she first appears outside the castle. Her sexual badinage with Rosencreütz might suggest Profane Love, whereas the sleeping Venus, to be encountered later, too pure to be viewed nude, might be Sacred Love.
      32. Cf. Salaman et al. for texts.
      34. Citing Tommaso Correa’s De antiquitate, dignitateque poesis & poetarum differentia (1586): “Correa appeals to a metaphysical principle of the three levels of existence in the human soul. The highest of these is celestial and divine, representing the existence of God in man, removed from all corruption by the senses and the body. The middle of these is the peculiarly human one, representing the existence of the highest and lowest things in man’s nature, of the divine and the bestial; it is the realm of the mind, of reason, of knowledge. The lowest level is the dark region of the body and the senses, where man is close to the lower animals” (Weinberg 320).
      35. “Ich mercke wol, was diesem jungen Gesellen fehlet. Was gilts, wann ich künfftige Nacht bey ihm schlaffe, er soll morgen lustiger sein. Hierauff fiengen sie anzu lachen”
      36. Andreae perpetually plays with numbers. Sometimes these are dimensions that may have occult or religious significance (Scriptural or Renaissance Pythagoreanism), sometimes graphic or geometric visualizations of number groups. Minor personalities, like the various combinations of the Jungfraw’s suite, appear in number groups that may have symbolic significance. Cf. Hopper.
      37. These stages are as follows: “calciniren, sublimiren, solviren, putrificiren, distilliren, coaguliren, und tingiren” (Paracelsus, De natura rerum, Liber Septimus, 349).
      38. “Hie ligt begraben Venus die schön Fraw, so manchen Hoen man umb gluck, ehr, segen und wolfart gebracht hatt.”
      39. “Wir stunden umb diss Ey herumber mit frewden, als ob wirs selbst gelegt hetten.”
      40. “QUOD. Ignis: Aër: Aqua: Terra: SANCTIS REGUM ET REGINARUM NOSTR: Cineribus. Eripere non potuerunt. Fidelis Chymicorum Turba. IN HANC URNAM Contulit. Ad.”
      41. Kienast (90) was apparently the first to work out part of the inscription, which is a mixture of archaic letters, monograms, and symbols, but, not recognizing that two readings were possible, jumbled the components. As corrected, Andreae’s two encrypted sentences read: “In AD 1541 Paracelsus von Hohenheim, who combined the Cross with alchemy, died.” “In A.D. 1459 this narrative of the marriage of sun and moon was published.” In the above readings the dates are firm, but the remainder is reasonably conjectural.
      42. “[D]an die putrefaction ist ein umbkehrung und der tot aller dingen und ein zerstörung des ersten wesen aller natürlichen dingen, daraus uns herkomt die widergeburt und neue geburt mit tausenfacher besserung.”
      43. “[D]as das der sperma eines mans in verschlossen cucurbiten per se mit der höchsten putrefaction, ventri equino, putreficirt werde auf 40 tag oder so lang bis er lebendig werde und sich beweg und rege welches leichtlich zu sehen ist. nach solcher zeit wird es etlicher müssen einem menschen gleich sehen doch durchsichtig on ein corpus. So er nun nach disem teglich mit dem arcano sanguinis humani zur weislich gespeiset und erneret wird bis auf 40 wochen und in steter gleicher werme ventris equini erhalten wird ein recht lebendig menschlich kint daraus mit allen glitmassen wie ein ander kint, das von einem weib geboren wird, doch vil kleiner.”
      Nazari, otherwise a follower of Paracelsus, would probably reject the recipe: “The male seed, separated from the female, would certainly not be the prime matter of a boy; because nature is unable to do otherwise, during such a separation, than convert it into verminous rot.” [Il sperma dell’huomo separato da quello della donna, non saria punto la prima materia del fanciullo; perche la nature ne può ben far altra cosa, durante a separatione, come conuertirli in materia verminosa] (Nazari 84).
      44. “Hie manglen ungefehr zwey quart Bletlin, und ist er (Autor huius), da er vermeinet, er muste morgens Thorhüter sein, heim kommen.”
      45. “Superfuerunt e contra Nuptiae Chymicae, cum monstrorum foecundo foetu, ludibrium [my italics], quod mireris a nonnullis aestimatum et subtili indagine explicatum, plane futile et quod inanitatem curiosorum prodat” (Frey-Jaun 19). [In contrast (to previously mentioned works) there is the Chemical Wedding, with a brood of strange things, an amusement; you might marvel that it is esteemed by not a few and explained in subtle interpretations. A worthless thing, and one that reveals the foolishness of seekers of esoteric matters.]
      The key word is “ludibrium.” Andreae used “ludibrium” in other works with a range of meanings (judging from context) over amusement, flight of fancy, frivolous behavior, foolishness, joke, satire, mockery, hoax, etc. Yates takes the extreme position that here “ludibrium” is referring to the stage, in the sense of a life-comedy (144-48). Andreae uses the related word “ludicrum” to characterize his Christianopolis and Thomas More’s Utopia: “Tandem ludicrum est, quod in Thoma Moro, viro illustri, non improbatum ... Amicis meis scripsi, cum quibus ludere licet” (Dülmen, Christianopolis 32-34).
      The interpretation of “cum monstrorum foecundo foetu” is questionable. Frey-Jaun, Montgomery, and Thomson take it to refer to imitative publications by other authors; Georgi and Held take it to refer to outlandish events in the story.
      46. “Der Interpretationen sind Legion, von den technische-alchemistischen bis zu den theologischen, allegorischen, psychologischen, spiritualistischen, pansophischen und hermetische.”
      47. “Andreae beautifully expresses the longing of the Lutheran hermetics to conjoin Macrocosm and Microcosm through the recognition of Hermes’s centrality in both, and thereby to infuse all of created reality with the truth of the Gospel” (Montgomery, ”Cross, Constellation” 84).
      48. What with Andreae’s dependence upon Italian models (Colonna and Boccaccio) for his narrative form, one wonders if he and/or his friend Christoph Besold were aware of the intense discussion and analysis of the technique and subject matter of “wonder” and “the marvelous” (maraviglia) in sixteenth-century Italian criticism. Hathaway and Weinberg, upon the Platonic/Longinian analysis of wonder in the work of Francesco Patrizi, are especially interesting. While this criticism was limited to poetry, it could be easily transferred to prose fiction.

Given, there are nine postulants and the Jungfraw’s name contains eight letters. Substituting numbers for the letters of the Jungfraw’s name:
I. In the range 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8, the Jungfraw reveals the seventh letter to be 9 (or the letter I), which is identical with the fifth letter:
  1 2 3 4 I 6 I 8
II. Since the third letter is the third part of the fifth, 3 is C:
  1 2 C 4 I 6 I 8
III. The sixth is four more than the third tripled (4 + 3 x 3) or 13 or M:
  1 2 C 4 I M I 8
IV. “The third is the third part of the fifth, which added to the sixth will produce a Number, whose root shall exceed the third it self by just the first and it is half of the fourth ...”
The third C (value 3) plus the sixth, M (value 13) thus produces 16, whose root (4) is the third (3) plus the first (thereby one) and is half the value of the fourth letter (thereby 8). This produces
  A 2 C H I M I A for the first is the same as the last.
V. One can safely guess the missing letter, but to be formal: The second letter consists of t he sixth (M or 13) minus the first or last, or 13 -1, or L.
  The total is A L C H I M I A.
      In this puzzle Andreae continues to act as trickster. Just as his chronograms ingeniously offer two solutions, the Jungfraw’s puzzle begins with a deception. The numerical total of the letters in her nameis completely irrelevant to solving the puzzle, as Andreae, who was an accomplished mathematician, would have known. But this figure leads the reader into thinking that the puzzle can be solved algebraically. So it can, in about a page and a half of complex formulae (as Kienast, and presumably Leibniz, did). If this total is ignored, however, the logical solution (as above) is quite simple.
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