Fifth Article In The Series

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

To be accused of heresy, magic or atheism was a serious matter in Fludd's day. He must have been surprised at the accusation that he was an atheist. His writings clearly show his belief in God and his religious convictions.

He had always remained faithful to the Church of England. Yet, he was open- minded to other institutions. In fact, he often tutored relatives of the Pope and other Roman Catholic young men. The Bishops of England were among his friends, and King James was his patron. Fludd felt that perhaps Mersenne simply wished him to change religions. Due to the conflicts taking place between religious institutions at this time, this is not very surprising. The fact that Fludd was receptive to different faiths in this climate of opposition, indicates his high level of tolerance and lack of prejudice.

A number of years went by before Fludd answered the charges leveled at him by Mersenne. First, in a book written on Genesis in which he defended his analogy of the Macrocosm and Microcosm as a model of the universe, insisting on the harmony that existed between the two worlds. Further, his view on the angelic world had nothing to do with magic, and cabalistic treatments are not a matter of heresy. Fludd claims his place is in the church catholic apart altogether from Rome. He appeals to the searcher of hearts to examine his very soul and see how false such an accusation is. He offers a prayer addressed to the "Eternal Wisdom, dwelling in light eternal--the spotless mirror of God's majesty." (Craven, 133)

In 1629 another piece was published by Fludd called Sophiae Cum Moria Certamen. Affixed to it was a folio, Summum Bonum, written under a pen name, Joachim Frizius. It has been said that Fludd denied authorship of the latter. However, subsequent scholars, including DeBus and Craven, feel that he did write Summum. The title page shows a rose on a cross stem. There are two bees, beehives and a spider's web across them. This work treats not only the essence of Alchemy, but was also a defense of the Brotherhood of the Rose Cross.

"The Summum Bonum treats of the noble art of magic, the foundation and nature of the Cabala, the essence of veritable alchemy, and the `Causa Fratrum Roseae Crucis.' It identifies the palace or home of the Rosicrucians with the spiritual house of wisdom...The foundation of the declared to be the `Lapis Angularis,' the corner stone, cut out of the mountain without hands. The stone is Christ. It is the spiritual palace which the Rosicrucians desire to reveal, and is therefore no earthly or material abode." (Craven, 134)

The author explains the different kinds of magic, the divine and the foolish, and that all magic is not rejected by Christian authors. He points out the wise men who visited the new born Christ were Magi and that secret arts do not offend God. Fludd, or author, concludes with a summation which he addresses to the most Christian readers.

1. That all Christians are said to be living stones, they bear the same name and are the same in significance as S. Peter.

2. That all Christians are stones, members of the great "petra Catholilca," it follows that no single man, not even S. Peter, can alone be said to be the foundation of the Catholic Church.

3. As Christ lay hidden in the rock of Moses, and as the spiritual body lies hidden in the natural body, so the words of the apostle are true --"The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life."

4. The true corner stone is Christ.

5. The Incarnation opened the way to the knowledge of the what that corner stone is.

6. Vain, therefore, are all traditions and teachings which would persuade us that Cephas was this foundation.

7. God having willed to tabernacle amongst mortal men, uses the same imagery and confirms its explanation as now given. `Listen' says the prophet, `and see the rock from which ye were hewn.'"

True alchemy is then treated. "Our gold is not the gold of the vulgar, but the living gold, the very gold of God...There is a spiritual chemistry, which purges by tears, sublimates by manners and virtues, decorates by sacramental graces, makes even the putrid body and the vile ashes to become living, and makes the soul capable of contemplating the things of heaven and the angelic world. This is the application of spiritual chemistry, by which, through the power of resurrection of I.C.D.N. will confirm unto the end." (Craven, 137-139)

The writer then takes up the cause of the Brethren of the Rose Cross. The writer states that he had already defended the Brethren in a previous tractate, a reference that leads Craven to conclude that both writers were Robert Fludd. The similarity of the two pieces, Sophia and Summum, put together also suggests the same author.

Fludd maintains that throughout history there has been a continuity of men who turned away from the gross and material in order to dedicate themselves to the spiritual life and investigation into the mysteries. These people have been few in number. "yet a few seek the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God, the hidden manna, the white stone, the white vesture. Their names are written in the book of life and they become pillars in the spiritual temple. These, indeed, inhabit the house of wisdom, which is founded on the mount." (Craven, 139- 140)

Mersenne had also accused the Rosicrucians of being heretics and blasphemous, and he challenged them to reveal their dwelling place.

To this the writer of Summum Bonum replies the house of the Rosicrucians is the House of the Holy Spirit. It is not a house made of stone, and again, a stone cut without hands. Nor is it a house built by magic or false alchemy, but rather it is a spiritual house..."the house of wisdom, built upon the `rational mount' or `rock spiritual'...The house constructed by the Brethren, then, is on the spiritual rock, and is built up of the mystical stones of wisdom. It is the mystic castle of Bethlehem --`de quo loquitor Evangelista Christus erat de castella Bethlehem'... elect nation, who shall reign as kings and priests--called from darkness to light--who were once not a people, but are now the people of God. These are they `that have put off the mortal clothing and put on the immortal, and have confessed the name of God, now are they crowned and receive palms'...they are called the sons of God, the elect of God, prophets and friends of God...the `fraternitas Christiana.'" (Craven, 142)

It is this type of reference that added to the debate of whether or not the Brotherhood was visible or invisible. In anticipation of this, the author wants to reassure the reader of the actual existence of the Brotherhood and appends a letter supposedly written by an actual member of the Order to an initiate. "It was `written and sent by ye Brethren of R.C. to a certain Germaine, a coppy whereof Dr. Fludd obtained of a Polander of Dantziche, his friend.'...the immoveable palace of the brethren is declared to be the centre of all things--it is `the resplendent and invisible castle which is built upon the mountaine of the Lord, out of whose root goeth forth a fountaine of living waters, and a river of love.' The letter is signed `F.T.F., in Light and C.'" (Craven, 147)

Back to main page