Academic journal article Renaissance Quarterly

Johann Valentin Andreae's Utopian Brotherhoods

Academic journal article Renaissance Quarterly

Johann Valentin Andreae's Utopian Brotherhoods

Article excerpt

Howbeit we know after a time there wil now be a general reformation, both of divine and humane things, according to our desire, and the expectation of others: for it's fitting, that before the rising of the Sun, there should appear and break forth Aurora, or some clearness, or divine light in the sky; and so in the mean time some few, which shall give their names, may joyn together, thereby to increase the number and respect of our Fraternity, and make a happy and wished for beginning of our Philosophical Canons, prescribed to us by our brother R.C. and be partakers with us of our treasures (which never can fail or be wasted) in all humility, and love to be eased of this worlds labor, and not walk so blindly in the knowledge of the wonderful works of God.

- Fama fraternitatis (1614)(1)

The legend of Christian Rosencreutz has obscured the reputation and accomplishments of Johann Valentin Andreae since 1614, when an anonymous collection of pamphlets was published in Kassel that met with extraordinary acclaim and curiosity. Together with the Allgemeine und General Reformation, der gantzen weiten Welt - a translation of the twenty-sixth chapter of Traiano Boccalini's Ragguagli di Parnaso (1612-13) made by Christoph Besold, a prominent professor at Tubingen and friend of Andreae - which called for a second reformation and a new society based on Christian charity, was the Fama Fraternitatis, Dess Loblichen Ordens des Rosenkreutzes, an alle Gelehrte und Haupter Europae geschrieben.(2) The legend of Christian Rosencreutz was known at least by 1610, as the "response" by Adam Haselmeyer, notary public to Archduke Maximillian and self-described devotee of Paracelsus, published with these two tracts attested.(3) The ensuing furor over this mysterious proclamation has enveloped Andreae in controversy ever since, as apologists, scholars, and amateur historians have struggled to understand his motives for helping to draft the so-called Rosicrucian manifestos. This essay attempts to demystify Andreae by examining the manifestos within the context of his other writings and his lifelong efforts to found a Protestant utopian brotherhood.

Since Andreae's death dozens of attempts have been made to settle the question of his part in drafting these manifestos. In essence, two positions have been argued: because most of Andreae's life was spent in service to the Lutheran church, one side vehemently denies any involvement on his part whatsoever, while the other transforms him into either the mystical father of the secret brotherhood or one of the hidden hands behind a political movement. Modern day Rosicrucians have even erected a temple in honor of their "founder" at Calw where Andreae spent nineteen years as pastor. Because Andreae's autobiography was not discovered until the eighteenth century, his early reputation was based on misinformation. As a result we have been offered rather one-sided views of him: when his many orthodox religious writings were neglected, he was created as the arch-Rosicrucian; when the difficulties posed by the Rosicrucian problem were ignored, the middle and later writings revealed him as the forerunner of Philipp Jakob Spener and German pietism. Only in the past few decades have the intricacies of his life been brought to light by such scholars as John Warwick Montgomery, Richard van Dulmen, Martin Brecht, and Roland Edighoffer.(4)

Since most of the scholarly work being done on Andreae has come from the field of church history, literary historians have often dealt with him in a rather cursory way, if at all. Those who encounter Andreae through English literary criticism are at a further disadvantage since he features so prominently in Francis Yates's seriously flawed The Rosicrucian Enlightenment (1972). This book's notoriety stems in large measure from her claim that the Rosicrucian movement was intended to foster a hermetic golden age associated with the court of Frederick V, Elector Palatine of Heidelberg and the Winter King of Bohemia (1619-20), and that the Rosicrucian "enlightenment" was a fundamental cultural phase in the move toward the Scientific Revolution in the later seventeenth century. …

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