The 1616 book, The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz, is the third of the first three defining works of the Rosicrucian movement. It describes the progression of the fictional Rosenkreutz through a series of allegorical events, while encountering fantastic people, finding mysterious cipher writings, and witnessing bizarre, surreal scenarios in which Rosenkreutz was often an unwitting participant. These events explored, through allegory, various political, religious and ethical questions. At the same time, they symbolically reflected various alchemical processes… not all of which are entirely clear to us today. To better understand this entertaining work, I would recommend the 1991 Phanes Press edition, translated by Joscelyn Godwin, with excellent commentary by Adam Mclean.
Although printed in 1616 for the first time, The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz was actually written sometime after 1605 by Johannes Andreae. What most interests me is that, although openly published in 1616, it was released under the premise that it took place, and was written, in 1459. It can be accurately described as a fantasy book, written between 1605 and 1616, pretending to be over 150 years older than it was, using cipher to enhance it’s aura of mysterious, ancient lore. I came across the Chymical Wedding while researching the Rosicrucician connections of the people of my circle of interest, and was surprised just how immersed in this world they were. I do not hold stock in the premise that Francis Bacon was a leader of the movement (nor, of course, the discredited claims he was Shakepeare, for that matter… I am firmly a Stratfordian on that issue), but there is no doubt his works reflected some of the tenets of Rosicrucianism. In fact the work in question, The New Atlantis, reflects several principles, and some of the iconography, of that philosophy.
So of course I was doubly surprised to find that one of this circle, Andreae, was not only a follower of the tenets of the movement, but also claimed to be a writer of one of the chief documents. Years later, Andreae referred to this work as a “ludibrium” of his youth. A controversial statement which has been interpreted in several different ways. I won’t go into all of them here. To learn more about Andreae and Bacon’s possible roles and motivations relating to Rosicrucianism, do not miss reading Francis Yates’ The Rosicruician Enlightenment.
And then, like Bacon, Andreae wrote his own utopia, Christianopolis. And also, like Bacon, he was very interested in the workings of cipher, and used it as a vehicle in his Wedding, to reinforce the aura of secret and important lost works. Of course Bacon used the premise of mysterious writing in his New Atlantis for much the same purpose. In Andreae’s case, he was in contact with Duke August of Bruswick-Luneberg, the self-titled Selenus. From a description of the 1649 collection of Andreae’s writings, Seleniana Augustalia:
“…contains Andreae’s remarkable and important correspondence with the house of Brunswick-Luneberg; that is with Duke August, the three sons and the daughter, [Rudolf August, Anton Ulrich and Ferdinand Albert and the princess Sibylle Ursula whose portraits grace this volume]. Included is Andreae’s poem (Lemmata Sacra). A variety of humanist subjects are discussed, history, art, cryptography, utopianism, the ‘Societas Christianae’, etc.”
Selenus was another remarkable person, in a vast ocean of such remarkable men and woman from this very intellectually rich moment in history, who seems to have influenced almost everything we know today in some profound way: from industry to religion to politics to gaming. The Duke needs his own forum for a proper showing, but for the purposes of this blog, and this investigation, suffice it to say he wrote on, and expanded, the knowledge of cipher in surprising ways. I have one of his adapted codes as a suspect for a Voynich code, and I will write on that shortly.
But for the time being, note that Andreae was fairly immersed in cipher, in Rosicrucianism (if not it’s true originator, at least, one of them), in the premise of utopia, and knew the powerful and valuable impact the aura of ancient mysteries had in pursuading people to look to his works for answers to a myriad of problems of religion, and of “science” and society. Whether or not a “ludibrium”, the works of the RC movement did draw believers, and followers, and many throughout Europe looked hopefully for the invisible disciples of the Invisible College. And, I propose, the Voynich Manuscript could be one more document of this type, also filled with cipher, meant to look older than it was, and meant to look mysterious and alien to the European circle hungry for such productions. A book such as this, a tome from the fictional island of Bensalem, would be a near parallel in intent and execution… although, so far, unreadable… to the known contemporary example, The Chymical Wedding.