Second Article In The Series

Doctor Robert Fludd (1574-1637)
By Sharon M.W.

Robert Fludd's intense religious devotion and mystic quest caused him to be perpetually concerned with the creation myth as comprehended by man. In 1617, he published two works dealing with the subject.

The first was Tractatus Theologo-Philosophicus. It concerns Life, Death and Resurrection and is essentially a mystical and alchemical account of creation combined with his Mosaical philosophy. As a retelling of Genesis, it describes creation, the garden, Adam and the Fall. It begins with the premise that God, the Word and Light are the origin of the universal life, and the Devil, the origin of death. As an alchemical interpretation, it deals with the separations as a chemical process, or "`high Chymicall virtue' that effected `the separation of one region from another'...Quite simply, `earth is dense water, and water is dense air,...air is nothing else than dense and crass fire.'" (Debus, 12-13)

Divine Light remains a central theme throughout Fludd's writings and represents the active principle behind creation. He considered Adam to be the divine animal, his mind a palace of light and a perfect work of God. The resurrection represents the return to this state of being, before the Fall.

This work did not receive a great deal of attention or debate. However, its importance to us is that it is dedicated to the Brotherhood of the Rose Cross. In this work, Fludd maintains, says Craven, that "Those who were really sons of God were the light in the Word. Chief among these are the brethren of the Rosy Cross. They have all virtues. Their light is greater than the rising sun. We have, he exclaims `Leonem fortissimum solem devorantem.' They possess the true alchemy." (Craven, 59)

Fludd ends this work by referring to a passage in the Fama, "descriptive of the heptagonal monument, supposed to be found in the famous vault, `which was enlightened with another Sun, which was situated in the upper part in the centre of the building.' There was found the body of Brother R.C., and the inscription Jesus mihi omnia." (Craven, 60)

Concepts of Tractatus are continued in his next work. In 1617, Fludd published the first part of his largest work entitled, Utriusque Cosmi Maioris scilicet et Minoris Metaphysica Physica Atque Technica Historia. Overall, the work deals with the history of the Macrocosm from the abyss, the first Light, through the separations and diversities, to the Microcosm of man. It depicts the separation between the lower world of elements from the lower heavenly realm which in turn is separated from the celestial realm beyond the stars. It is based on the concept that all was created from the Light of God, and as the light emanated farther and farther into darkness, the more darkness subdues the light. This, however, is not strictly in a linear sense. The outpouring was both outward and inward. In other words, everything is both a macrocosm and microcosm. As man is a microcosm to the greater cosmos, he is also a macrocosm to the cells of the body, and the cells are a macrocosm to another microcosm until all circles are complete.

In all realms of creation there are beings: angels in the empyrean world; stars, planets and demons in the ethereal, and the elemental world of men, plants and minerals. "All these creatures partake of God's light in measure according to their place on the hierarchy. But there is one level in particular which, though not at the top of the hierarchy, is nevertheless particularly favoured by God. This is the Sun, which is placed at the crucial midpoint of the chain of being, where spirit and matter are in perfect equity and balance." (Godwin, 14)

All these beings are within an hierarchical structure and have within them a corresponding degree of light. Or, they are beings who serve the devil with their corresponding degree of darkness. The Sun is a midpoint of these realms and is considered by Fludd to be the Tabernacle of God. When the initiate comprehends the midpoint, he may recognize instantly those who serve the Light and those who serve the dark. However, the infallibility and purity of this recognition is only by the acceptance of the midpoint at the center of their being which reflects the Tabernacle and leads them the embrace of the Alpha and the Omega.

This macrocosmic history is dedicated to God and secondly to King James. Interestingly, his dedication to King James included a defense of the Rosicrucian brotherhood, a `Declaratio brevis', the purpose of which was to defend the society from the suspicions of theologians. Letters of support from French and German associates were attached to the Declaration.

This work was never completed and was supposed to have been in two volumes, the first to contain two treatises, and the second, three. What was completed was not finished until 1624. It appears his views were based on a combination of Scriptural, Hermetic and alchemical authorities. Fludd believed that humankind "...should base their knowledge on revelation as seen in the Holy scripture and in Nature or God's book of creation. (Debus, 12)

His Mosaical philosophy, as stated, was also tied in with the mystical alchemical interpretations frequent among the Paracelcians of the time. Further, he often refers to Hermes Trismegistus in his works.

"Fludd starts with the hypothesis that `all things were completely and ideally in God and of God before they were made; that from God all things did flow and spring, namely, out of a secret and hidden nature to a revealed and manifest condition.'" (Craven, 65)

God formed a thought in His mind which was the structure and form of the Macrocosm and through the power of love, the thought was brought into existence. This bringing forth was through a series of circles. Circumferences and circles are important images throughout the copperplate illustrations of "Historia."

The title page shows a diagram of the macrocosm and microcosm surrounded by an abundance of clouds. The circle is encompassed by a cord wrapped four times and pulled by a winged creature with hoofs, and on his head is the sandglass, depicting Time. Most of Fludd's illustrations represent the universe as a series of circles each surrounding the first, much like looking down into a spiral. He borrows from Trismegistus to illustrate the concentric flow, "God is the centre of everything whose circumference is no where to be found." (Craven, 65)

Fludd also uses other images such as triangles and squares. In the first chapter, he describes nature as "spiritus immenus, ineffabilis"; God, depicted as a triangle, is the artificer of all, and Man, is the image of God. God is also depicted as the Triangle within a circle. Inside the triangle are three inner circles -- elemental, ethereal and angelic. "The light triangle of the Trinity represents God, who remains `beyond all things,' entering the black hole of matter. As a result three worlds the center is the Tetragrammaton..." (Godwin, 52)

The images of the circles and triangle are of interest to us as we recall a triangular altar with three orbs, and that matter manifest according to the triangle and life according to the ideal of the circle.

Fludd then describes the threefold manifestation. The first material of the earth was formless and void, surrounded by darkness. From the chaotic abyss Light rose and order began. That is, order came from Chaos by the light acting upon it, and substance was formed. Light, always a central theme with Fludd, is pure fire. "It is light which gives the angelic world its glory and splendour...God dwells in `light inaccessible.' Thus, `the Light is the life of men.'" (Craven, 69)

"The purer part of the elementary substance rose into the upper, the heavenly, and more divine part of the macrocosmos, but the denser remained below. This applies also to angelic existences, and to the nature of man...

..the macrocosm has three `regions'...the highest includes the heavens of the formed of perfect light and purest spirit. The middle... is the place of the stars, the state...of lesser light, neither very gross nor very subtle. The lower is itself divided in three parts: the tabernacle, second is the earth, and the middle is the region of water and air. The archetypical world remains in the Divine Mind." (Craven, 70)

Again, these concepts are illustrated by circular forms depicting the circular progression in the universe, a concept founded in Tractatus in which Fludd described the operation of God's order through the circumgyration of His threefold Light.


Craven, J.B. Doctor Robert Fludd, William Peace & Sons 1902

Debus, Allen Robert Fludd and His Philosophicall Key, Neale Watson Academic Publications, Inc. 1979

Godwin, Joscelyn Robert Fludd, Hermetic Philosopher and Surveyor of Two Worlds, Thames & Hudson Ltd. 1979

Back to main page