Their Rules, Aims, And Method
From the Book :
Francis Bacon and His Secret Society
Mrs. Constance Pott
"Woorke when God
"To see how God in all His creatures works!"2d Henry VI
"Ripening would seem to be the proper work of the sun.... which operates by gentile action through long spaces of time, whereas the operations of fire, urged on by the impatience of man, are made to hasten their work." Novum Organum
rief and incomplete as are the previous chapters, it is hoped that they may serve their purpose of unsettling the minds of those who suppose that the history, character, aims, and work of Francis Bacon are thoroughly understood, and that all is known that is ever likely to be known concerning him.
The discrepancies of opinion, the tremendous gaps in parts of the story, the unexpected facts which persistent research and collation of passages have continued to unearth, the vast amount of matter of every description which (unless philology be an empty word and the study of it froth and vanity) must, in future years, be ascribed to Bacon, are such as to force the explorer to pause and seriously ask himself, Are these things possible? Could any one man, however gigantic his powers, however long his literary life, have produced all the works which we are forced by evidence, internal and, sometimes, also external, to believe Bacon's his in conception, in substance, in diction, even though often apparently paraphrased, interpolated, or altered by other hands?
The mind of the inquirer turns readily toward the history of the great secret societies which were formed during the Middle Ages, and which became, in the troublous times of church or state, such tremendous engines for good and evil. A consequent study of these secret societies, their true origin, their aims, and, so far as they can be traced, their leaders, agents, and organs, renders it evident that, although, single-handed, such self-imposed labours as Bacon proposed and undertook would be manifestly impracticable, yet, withthe aid of such an organisation as that of the Rosicrucian Fraternity, the thing could be done, for this society, whether in its principles, its objects, its proceedings, or in the very obscurity and mystery which surrounds it, is, of all others, the one best calculated to promote Bacon's aims, its very constitution seeming to be the result of his own scheme and method.
So much interest has lately been roused on the subject of the Rosicrucians, that we shall curtail our own observations as much as possible, trusting that readers will procure the books which, in these later days, have the study of this formerly obscure and difficult subject so pleasant and easy.(see especially The Real History of the Rosicrucians, A. E. Waite, 1887, Bacon and the Rosicrucians, W.F.C. Wigston,1889)
Is it still needful to say that the Rosicrucians were certainly not, as has been thought,atheists or infidels, alchemists, or sorcerers? So far as we could find, when investigating this subject some years ago ( and as seems to be fully confirmed by the recent researches of others), there is no real ground for believing that the society was an ancient one, or that it existed before 1575, or that it issued any publication in its own name before 1580. All the legends concerning the supposititious monk Christian Rosenkrentz, and the still more shadowy stories which pretend that the Rosy Cross Brethren traced their origin to remote antiquity, and to the Indians or Egyptians, melt into thin air, and, like the baseless fabric of a vision, dissolve away, when we approach them with spectacles on nose and pen in hand."A halo of poetic splendour surrounds the order of the Rosicrucians; the magic lights of fancy play round their graceful day-dreams, while the mystery in which they shrouded themselves lends additional attraction to their history. But their brilliancy was that of a meteor. It just flashed across the realms of imaginaion and intellect, and vanished forever; not, however, without leaving behind some permanent and lovely traces of its hasty passage..... Poetry and romance are deeply indebted to the Rosicrucians for many a fascinating creation. The literature of every European country contains hundreds of pleasing fictions whose machinery has been borrowed from their system of philosophy, though that itself has passed away." (Heckethorn, Secret Societies of All Ages and Countries)
As will be seen, there is strong reason to doubt whether the words which we have rendered in italics are correct. The philosophy , the work of the Rosy Cross Brethren, has never passed away; it is, we feel sure, still green and growing , and possessing all the earth.
It is only just to readers to whom this subject is new, to say that there is still a wide divergence of opinion concerning the origin and true aims of the secret society of the Rosicrucians. Bailey gives the following account :
"Their chief was a German gentleman, educated in a monastery, where, having learned the languages, he traveled to the Holy Land, anno 1378; and, being at Damascus, and falling sick, he had heard the conversation of some Arabs and other Oriental philosophers, by whom he is supposed to have been initiated into this mysterious art. At his return into Germany he formed a society, and communicated to them the secrets he had brought with him out of the East, and died in 1484.
They were a sect or cabal of hermetical philosophers, who bound themselves by a solemn secret, which they swore inviolably to observe, and obliged themselves, at their admission into the order, to a strict observance of certain established rules.
They pretended to know all sciences, and especially medicine, of which they published themselves the restorers; they also pretended to be masters of abundance of important secrets, and among others, that of the philosopher's stone; all which, they affirmed, they had received by tradition from the ancient Egyptians, Chaldeans, the Magi, and Gymnosophists.
They pretended to protract the period of human life by means of certain nostrums, and even to restore youth. They pretended to know all things. They are called the INVISIBLE BROTHERS, because they have made no appearance, but have kept themselves incognito for several years."
As will be seen, we cannot agree with the opinions of Bailey and others who have claimed for the society a very great antiquity, finding no evidence whatever that the hermetical philosophers last described, the supposed alchemists and sorcerers, were ever heard of until the end of the sixteenth century. That a secret religious society did exist for mutual protection amongst the Christians of the early church and all through the darkest ages until the stormy times of persecution at the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, there can be no doubt. Probably the rude and imperfect organisation of the early religious society was taken as a basis on which to rear the complete and highly finished edifice as we find it in the time of James I. But, in honest truth, all statements regarding Rosicrucians as a society of men of letters existing before the year 1575 must be regarded as highly doubtful, and the stories of the Rosicrucians themselves, as fictions, or parabolical "feigned histories", devised in order to puzzle and astonish the uninitiated hearer.
In the Royal Masonic Cyclopaedia there is an article on the Rosicrucians which seems in no way to run counter to these opinions. The article begins with the statement that in times long ago there existed men of various races, religious, and climes, who bound themselves by solemn obligations of mutual succor, of impenetrable secresy, and of humility, to labour forthe preservation of human life by the exercise of the healing art. But no date is assigned for the first appearance of this society in any form, or under any name. And the title Rosicrucian was, we know, never given or adopted until after the publication of the Chymical Marriage of Christian Rosencreutz, in 1616. The writer in the cyclopedia seems to acknowlege that the truth about the origin of the Rosicrucian Fraternity is known , though known only to a few, and we have strong reasons for believing that, in Germany at least, a certain select number of the learned members of the "Catholic" (not the Papal) Church are fully aware of how, when, and where this society was formed, which, after awhile, assumed the name of Rosicrucian, but which the initiates in Germany call by its true name "Baconian." It is very difficult, in all Masonic writings, for the uninitiated to sift the true from the false; or, rather fact from disguised history, prosaic statements from figurative language, genuine information from garbled statements framed expressly to mislead. Yet, in spite of those things,which must never be los sight of, the article in question gives such a good summary of some of the chief facts and theories about the Rosy Cross Brethren, that, for the benefit of those who cannot easily procure the cyclopaedia, we transcribe some portions :"Men of the most opposite wordly creeds, of diverse habits, and even of apparently remote ideas, have ever joined together, consciously or unconsciously, to glorify the good, and despise, although with pity, the evil that might be reconciled to the good. But in the centuries of unrest which accompanied the evolution of any kind of civilisation, either ancient or modern, how was this laudable principle to be maintained? (This, it is seen, was the very question which Francis Bacon, at the age of fifteen, proposed to himself. See Spedding's Life, i.3; and ante, chapter iv.)This was done by a body of of the learned, existing in all ages under peculiar restrictions, and at one time known as the Rosicrucian Fraternity. The Fraternity of the Rosy Cross, unlike the lower orders of Freemasons, seldom had gatherings together. The brethren were isolated from each other, although aware of their mutual existence, and corresponding by secret and mysterious writings, and books, after the introduction of printing. They courted solitude and obscurity, and sought, in the contemplation of the divine qualities of the Creator, that beatitude which teh rude outside world despised or feared. In this manner, however, they also became the discoverers and conservators of important physical secrets, which, by slow degrees, they gradually communicated to the world, with which in another sense, they had so little to do. It is not, at the same time, to be supposed that these occult philosophers either despised the pleasures or discouraged the pursuits of their active contemporaries; but, as we ever find some innermost sanctuary in each noble and sacred fane, so they retired to constitute a body apart, and more peculiarly devoted to those mystical studies for which the great mass of mankind wer united by taste or character. Mildness and beneficience marked such couteous intercourse as their studious habits permitted them to have with their fellow men; and in times of danger, in centuries of great physical suffering; they emerged from their retreats with the benevolent object of vanquishing and alleviating the calamities of mankind. In a rude period of turmoil, of battle, andof political change, they placidly pursued their way, the custodians of human learning, and thus acquired the respect, and even the reverence, of their less cultivated contemporaries....The very fact of their limited number led to their further elevation in the public esteem, and there grew up around them somewhat of 'the divinity that doth hedge a king'.......
It is easy at the present day to see that which is held up before every one in the broad light of a tolerant century; but it was not so in the days of the Rosicrucians and other fraternities. There was a dread, amongst the masses of society in bygone days, of the unseen a dread , as recent events and phenomona show very clearly, not yet overcome in its entirety. Hence, students of nature and mind were forced into an obscurity not altogether unwelcome or irksome, but in this obscurity they paved the way for a vast revolution in mental science.....The patient labours of Trittenheim produced the modern system of diplomatic cipher-writing. Even the apparently aimless wanderings of the monks and friars were associated with practical life, and the numerous missals and books of prayer, carried from camp to camp, conveyed , to the initiated, secret messages and intelligence dangerous to be communicated in other ways. The sphere of human intelligence was thus enlarged, and the freedom of mankind from a pitiless priesthood,or perhaps,rather, a system of tyranny under which that priesthood equally suffered, was ensured.
It was a fact not even disputed by Roman Catholic writers of the mos Papal ideas, that the evils of society, ecclesiastical and lay, were materially increased by the growing wordliness of each successive pontiff. Hence we may see why the origin of Rosicrucianism was veiled by symbols, and even its founder, Andrea,was not the only philosophical romancer Plato , Apuleius, Heliodorus, Lucian, and others had proceeded him in this path.
It is worthy of remark that one particular century, and that in which the Rosicrucians first showed themselves, is distinguished in history as the era in which most of these efforts at throwing off the trammels of the past occurred. Hence the opposition of the losing party, and their virulence against anything mysterious or unknown. They freely organised psedo-Rosicrucian and Masonic societies in return, and these societies were instructed to irregularly entrap the weaker brethren of the True and Invisible Order, and then triumphantly betray anything they might be so inconsiderate as to communicate to the superiors of these transitory and unmeaning associations.
Modern times have eagerly accepted, in full light of science, the precious inheritance bequeathed by teh Rosicrucians, and that body has disappeared from the visible knowledge of mankind, and re-entered that invisible fraternity of which mention was made in the opening of this article.....It is not desirable, in a work of this kind to make disclosures of an indiscreet nature. The Brethren of the Rosy Cross will never, and should not, at peril and under alarm, give up their secrets. This ancient body has apparently disappeared from the field of human activity but its labours are being carried on with alacrity, and with a sure delight in an ultimate success." ---From the Royal Masonic Cyclopaedia, edited by Kenneth R. H. Mackenzie, IX pub. Bro. John Hogg, 1887)
Although during our search for information, experience has made us increasingly cautious about believing anything which we read in printed books concerning the Rosicrucians or the Freemasons,still it seems almost impossible to discredit the statements which have just been quoted; at least it will be granted that the writer is intending to tell the truth. He seems also to speak with knowledge, if not with authority, and such a passage as has been quoted must, we think, shake the opinion of those who would maintain that the Rosicrucians, if ever they really existed and worked for any good purpose, have certainly disappeared, and that there is no such secret organisation at the present time. The facts of the case, so far as we have the assertion that the non-existence of the Rosicrucian Society is only apparent; true, they work quietly and unrecognised, but their labours are unremitting, and the beneficial results patent in our very midst.
A great light has been shed upon our subject by the publication in 1887 of Mr. Waite's remarkable little book, which has, for the first time, laid before the public several tracts and manuscripts whose existence, if known to previous investigators, had certainly been ignored, including copies and accounts of the "Universal Reformation of the Whole Wide World" (the title of one of the chief Rosicrucian documents) as well as original editions of the "Chymical Marriage of Christian Rosy Cross," which are not in the Library Catalogue. (Note how often this is found to be the case where particulars throwing fresh light on Bacon or on matters connected with him are found in old books or libraries.) It is true, as Mr. Waite says, that he is thus enabled to offer for the first time in the literature of the subject the Rosicrucians represented by themselves.(see The Real History of the Rosicrucians by A. S. Waite, London, Redway, 1887)
This invaluable book should be read in connection with another important volume which has since been published, and which follows the subject into recesses whither it is impossible now to attempt to penetrate.(Bacon, Shakespeare and the Rosicrucians, by W.F. C. Wigston, London ,Redway,1890)
Mr. Wigston enters boldly and learnedly upon the connection perceivable between Bacon's philosophy and Rosicrucianism, and the whole book goes to prove, on very substantial grounds, that Bacon was probably the founder and certainly the mainstay of the society.
For those who have not the time or opportunity for much reading, it may be well again, briefly, to summarize the aims of the Rosicrucians , as shown by their professed publications, and the rules and system of work by which they hoped to secure those aims.(The following is chiefly extracted from an article in the Bacon Journal, January, 1889) We gather from the evidence collected that the objects of the fraternity were threefold :
1. To purify religion and stimulate reform in the church.
2. To promote and advance learning and science.
3. To mitigate the miseries of humanity, and to restore man to the original state of purity and happiness from which, by sin, he has fallen.
On comparing the utterances of the supposed authors of the Rosicrucian manifetoes with Bacon's reiterated statements as to his own views and aspirations, we find them to be identical in thought and sentiment, sometimes identical in expression. It is only necessary to refer to the eloquent and beautiful chapter with which James Spedding opens his Letters and Life of Bacon, and from which some portions have been already quoted, in order to perceive how striking is the general resemblance in aim, how early the aspirations of Bacon formed themselves into a project, and with what rapidly the project became a great fact.
"Assuming, then, " concludes the biographer,"that a deep interest in these three causesthe cause of reformed religion, of his native country, and of the human race through all their generationswas thus early implanted in that vigorous and virgin soil, we must leave it to struggle up as it may, according to the accidents of time and weather......Of Bacon's life I am persuaded that no man will ever form a correct idea, unless he bear in mind that from early youth his heart was divided by these three objects, distinct, but not discordant."
Bacon, as we have seen, was not fifteen years old when he conceived the thought of founding a new system for the advancement of knowledge, and for the benefit of humanity. The Rosicrucian manifestoes inform us that the founder of the society, and the writer of one of the most important documents, The Chymical Marriage, was a boy of fifteen.
Mr. Waite observes, naturally enough, that the knowledge evinced by the writer of the paper in question, of the practices and purposes of alchemy, mus be impossible to the most prcocious boy. But in mind Francis Bacon never was a boy. Some men, he said, were always boys, their minds never grew with their bodies, but he reflected,evidently thinking of himself in relation to others, that "All is not in yeares, somewhat also is in houres well spent." (Promus) Never had he been " idle truant, omitting the sweet benefit of time," but rather had, like Proteus, "for that's his name,""Made use and fair advantage of his days,
His years but young, but his experience old;
His head unmellowed, but his judgment ripe!"
(Two Gentlemen of Verona)
Wonderful as it is, improbable as it would appear, did we not know it to be the case, the fact remains, that at the age of fifteen Francis Bacon had run through the whole round of the arts and sciences at Cambridge, had outstripped his tutors, and had left Cambridge in disappointment and disgust, finding nothing more to learn there. He did not wait to pass a degree, but, practically, it was acknowledged that he had more than deserved it; for the degree of Master of Arts was conferred upon him sometime afterward.
How he spent the next year is not recorded by his biographer, but another R.C. document, the Fama Fraternitatis, throws a side-light upon the matter. In this paper, full as all these Rosicrucian manifetoes are of Bacon's ideas and peculiarities of expression, we read that" the high and noble spirit of one of the fraternity was stirred up to enter into the scheme for a general reformation, and to travel away to the wise men of Arabia."
This we interpret to mean that, at this time, the young philosopher was entering his studies of Rhazis, Avenzoar, Averroes, Avicenna, and other Arabic physicians and "Hermetic" writers, from whom we find him quoting in his acknowledged, as well as in his acknowledged, writings.
At this time, the Fama informs us, this young member was sixteen years old, and for one year he had persued his course alone.
What is this likely to mean but that, having left college, he was persuing his advanced studies by himself? It seems almost a certainty that at this period he was endeavouring, as so many other ardent minds have done, to get a knowledge of the first causes of things. How could he better attempt to achieve this than by going back to the most ancient philosophies in order to trace the history of learning and thought from the earliest recorded period to his own times?
We shall presently have occasion to show the immense influence which the study of the occult philosophies of India, Persia, Arabia, and Egypt had upon the mind and writings of Francis Bacon, and how he drew from them the most elementary and universal symbols and emblems which are the foundations of Freemason language and hieroglyphics.
But there is another particular which especially links Bacon with the whole system of Rosicrucianism, and that is that very matter of making collections or dictionaries which we spoke of in the last chapter. Now, this was not only one of the ostensible objects of the fraternity, but also the ostensible object of Francis Bacon. He claims the idea as his own, and declares that neither Aristotle nor Theophrastus, Diosorides, or Pliny, and much less any of the modern writers, have hitherto proposed such a thing to themselves. Spedding says Bacon would have found that such a dictionary or index of nature as he contemplated in the Novum Organum must be nearly as voluminous as nature herself, and he gives the impression that such a dictionary was not attempted by Bacon. Here, as will be seen, we differ from this admirable biographer, and believe that Bacon did organise, and himself commence, such a system of note-taking, alphabetising, collating, "transporting," etc., as by the help of "his twenty young gentlemen," his able pens, devoted friends in every corner of the civilised world, and especially from the Illuminati, Rosy Cross brethren, and skilled Freemasons, to produce, within a few years, that truly cyclopedian mass of books of reference, which later writerss have merely digested or added to.
Bacon claims as his own the method by which this great deficiency is to be supplied.
Behold, then, the author of the Fama Fraternitatis making a precisely similar claim :"After this manner began the Fraternity of the Rosie Cross first by four persons only, and by them was made the Magical Lannage and Writing with a lage Dictionary."
May not the sentence just quoted help somewhat to account for the extraordinary likeness, not only in ideas, but in words, of books, scientific and historical which appeared before the publication of the great collections? Is it possible that copies or transcripts may have been made from Bacon's great manuscript dictionaries by those who would, with his ever-ready help, proceed to " make" or "produce" a book? Were such budding authors (Rosicrucians) allowed to come under his roof to write their books, and use his library and his brains? questions at present unanswerable, but to be answered. Visions of Ben Jonson writing his "Apology for Bartholomew Fair at the house of my Lord St. Albans;" of Bacon visiting Raleigh in prison; of the young Hobbes pacing the alleys at Gorhambury with the Sage of Verulam these and many other suggestive images rise and dissolve before the eyes of one who has tried to live in imagination the life of Francis Bacon, and to realize the way in which his faithful followers endeavoured to fulfill his wishes.
Dictionary is a dry, prosaic word to modern ears; the very idea of having to use one damps enthusiasm, and drops us "when several yards above the earth" into the study or the class-room. But"It so falls out
That which we have, we prize not to the worth
Whiles we enjoy it; but being lack'd and lost,
Why, then, we rack the value."
(Much Ado About Nothing)
Now think, if we had no dictionaries, how we should lack them, and having made even one poor little note-book on any subject which closely concerns us, how we prize it, and rack its value! So did Bacon. The making of dictionaries was to him a sacred duty, one of the first and most needful steps toward the accomplishment of his great ends."I want this primary history to be compiled with a religious care, as if every particular were stated on oath; seeing that is the book of God's works, and (so far as the majesty of the heavenly may be compared with the humbleness of earthly things) a kind of second Scripture."
He sees that such a vast and difficult work is only to be accomplished by means of co-operation, and by co-operation on a methodical plan. These convictions are most clearly seen in Bacon's most Rosicrucian works, the New Atlantis, Parasceve, Natural and Experimental History, and other "fragmentary" pieces. "If ," he says," all the wits of all ages, which hitherto have been, or hereafter shall be, were clubbed together; if all mankind had given, or should hereafter give, their minds wholly to philosophy, and if the whole world were, or should be, composed of nothing but academies, colleges, and schools of learned men; yet, without such a natural and experimental history as we shall now prescribe, we deny that there could be, or can be, any progress in philosophy and other sciences worthy of mankind."
The author of Fama, reflects in precisely the same fashion, writing the thought of the sacred nature of such a work, and the thought that it is a kind of second Scripture, with that other most important reflection as to the necessity for unity, and a combination of wits, if real progress is to be made and a book of nature or a perfect method of all arts be achieved."Seeing the only wise and merciful God in these later days hath poured so richly His mercy and goodness to mankind, whereby we do attain more and more and more to the knowledge of His Son Jesus Christ, and of nature,......He hath also made manifest unto us many wonderful and never-heretofore-seen works and creatures of nature; ... so that finally man might thereby understand his own nobleness and worth, and why he is called Microcosmus, and how far his knowledge extendeth in nature.
Although the rude world herewith will be but little pleased, but rather smile and scoff thereat; also the pride and covetousness of the learned is so great; it will not suffer them to agree together; but were they united, they might , out of all those things which in this our age God doth so richly bestow upon us, collect Librum Naturae, or a perfect method of all arts. (Fama FraternitatisReal History of the Rosicrucians; A. S. Waite)
"The College of the Six Days," which Bacon described, is we known, the College of the Rosicrucians, who accept the New Atlantis, in its old form, as a Rosicrucian document, and allow it to be circulated under a changed title.
The hopelessness and impossibility of attempting to perform single-handed all that his enthusiasm of humanity prompted, and that his prophetic soul forsaw for distant ages, often oppressed his mind, and as often he summoned his energies, his philososphy, and his faith in God, to comfort and encourage him to the work. This is all very distinctly traceable in the Promus notes, which are so frequently quoted in the Shakespeare plays. Amongst the early entries, in the sprawling Anglo-Saxon handwriting of his youth, he records his intentions to use "Ingenuous honesty, and yet with opposition and strength. Good means against badd, hornes to crosses. (see in the chapter on Paper Marks the Symbols of Horus and Crosses, to which, perhaps, the entry alludes) "The ungodly," he next reflects, "walk around on every side." "I was silent from good works, and my grief was renewed," but "I believed and therefore have I spoken;" and he is resolute in trying to do what he feels to be his duty, for "The memory of the just lives with praise, but the name of the wicked shall rot." Here we find him registering his resolves to do good to others, regardless of private advantage or profit. This, it will be seen, is one of the cardinal rules of the Rosy Cross Brethren. They were "to cure the sick gratis," to seek for no pecuniary profit or reward for the works which they produced for the benefit of others. "Buy the truth, say Bacon's notes, "and sell it not." He who hasteth to be rich shall not be innocent," but "Give not that which is holy unto dogs." He foresaw, or had already experienced in his own short life, the manner in which the "dogs" or cynics of public opinion and of common ignorance would quarrel over and tear to pieces every scrap of new knowledge which he presented to them. "The devil," he says farther on, "hath cast a bone to set strife." But this should not hinder him. "We ought to obey God rather than man," "and the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is," "for we can do nothing against the truth, but much for the truth." And then he seems to prepare his mind to suffer on account of the efforts which he was making on mankind's behalf. He remembers that our Blessed Lord Himself suffered in the same way, and writes a memorandum from this verse:"Many good works have I showed you of my Father; for which of these works do ye stone me?"
Whatever might be the judgment upon him and his works, he would rest in the assurance of St. Paul :"I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith."
We hardly think he stopped here in the quotation. Although he does not write down the other half of the passage, his ardent soul treasured, and his works reflect in a thousand different ways the inspiring and triumphant hope of recognition in that future life to which he was always looking :"Henceforward there is laid up for me a crown of rightreousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day, and not to me only, but to all that love his appearing."(1. 2, Timothy iv. 7,8)
But meanwhile, how to do all that he felt and knew to be necessary, and yet which could only be done himself, we see him again in the notes reflecting that victory can be gained by means of numbers; that " things united are more powerful or better than things not united;" that "two eyes are better than one;" "So many heades so many wits; " Friends have all things in common;" Many things taken together are helpful, which taken singly are of no use;" "One must take men as they are, and times as they are;" but, on the whole, he seems to think that most men are serviceable for something, that it must be one part of his work to draw together so great a cloud of witnesses as may perform the part of a chorus, endorsing, echoing,or capping the doctrines of he new philosophy as they were uttered, and giving support, as of public opinion, both at home and abroad.
We know that many of Bacon's works were transmitted "beyond the seas," to France, Spain, Italy, Germany, and Holland, where they were translated and surrepititiously published, usually under names other than his own. There are, when we come to collect them, many indications in the Promus of a secret to be kept, and of a system planned for keeping of it.
"The glory of God," we read is " to conceal a thing"and there are many "secrets of God." "Woorke as God woorkes" quietly, persistently, secretlyunheeded, except by those who read in His Infinite book of secresy. "Plutoe's helmet" is said to have produced "invisibility." "The gods have woollen feet" i. e., steal on us unawares. "Triceps Mercurius, great runying," alludes, perhaps to the little anonymous book of cipher called "Mercury, the Secret and Swift Messenger," which reproduces so accurately (and without acknowledging him) Bacon's biliteral cipher, and many other particulars told precisely after his manner, that we believe it to be the brief summary by himself of some much larger works. But he also notes that "a Mercury cannot be made of every word, " that is, a dull fellow will never be made a clever one; nevertheless "a true servant may be made of an unlikely piece of wood," (see letter to Lord Pickering ,1594) and he had a faculty for attaching people to him and for bringing out all that was best and most serviceable in their natures.
The next note says that "Princes have a cypher."Was he thinking that he, the prince of writers,would use one for his royal purposes? A few lines earlier in this entry :"Iisedem e literis efficitur tragoedia et comedia"
(Tragedies and comdies are made of one alphabet),
which we now know refers to the cipher narrative for which the pass-word was the alphabet, and which if found running through the Shakespearean tragedies and comedies. *
(I have sent you some copies of the Advancement, which you desired; and a little work of my recreation, which you desired not. My Instauration I reserve for our conference it sleeps not. Those works of the alphabet are, in my opinion, of less use to you where you are now, than at Paris, and, therefore, I conceived that you had sent me a kind of tacit countermand of your former request. But in regard that some friends of yours have still insisted here, I send them to you; and for my part I value your reading more than your publishing them to others. Thus, in extreme haste, I have scribbled to you I know not what."Letter from Bacon to Sir Tobie Matthew, 1600.)
"What these works of the alphabet may have been I cannot guess; unless they related to Bacon's cipher,"etc.(Spedding's comment on the above words, i. 659
See also the Advancement of Learning, ii; Spedding, iii. 399,where Bacon quotes Aristotle to show that words are the images of cogitations, and letters are the images of words.
Such entries as these, suggestive of some mystery, are interesting when taken in connection with other evidence derivable from Bacon's manuscript books, where the jottings have been more methodised or reduced from other notes. In the Commentaries or Transporta, which can be seen in MS. at the British Museum, we find him maturing his plans for depreciating"the philosophy of the Grecians, with some better respect to ye Egyptians, Persians, and Chaldees, and the utmost antiquity, and the mysteries of the poets."
"To consyder what opynions are fitt to nourish Tanquan Ansoe, so as to graft the new upon the old, ut religiones solent," of the ordinary cours of incompetency of reason for natural philosophy and invention of woorks."
"Also of means to procure 'histories' of all things natural and mechanical, lists of errors, observations, axioms, &c. " Then follow entries from which we abridge :
"Layeing for a place to command wytts and pennes, Westminster, Eton, Wynchester; spec(ially) Trinity Coll., Cam., St. John's Cam.; Mandlin Coll.; Oxford.
"Qu. Of young schollars in ye universities. It must be the post nati. Giving pensions to four, to compile the two histories, ut supra. Fondac : Of a college for inventors, Library, Inginary.
"Qu. Of the order and discipline, the rules and praescripts of their studyes and inquyries, allowances for travelling, intelligence, and correspondence with ye universities abroad.
"Qu. Of the manner and praescripts touching secresy, traditions, and publication."
Here we have a complete sketch of the elaborate design which was to be worked out; and we wonder with an astonishment which increases as we approach the matter how these remarkable jottings, so pregnant with suggestion, speaking to us in every line of a vast and deeply-laid scheme, should have been so lightly (or can it be so purposely) passed over in every life or biography of Bacon. Here he was laying his plans to "command wits and pens" in all the great public schools, and especially in the principal colleges of the universities. He was endeavouring to secure the services of the cleverest scholars to assist him in working out a scheme of his own. They were especially to be young scholars, who should have imbibed, or who were capable of imbibing, the advanced ideas produced by the "new birth of time," which he had himself inaugurated. To work out new ideas, one must have fresh and supple material; and minds belonging to bodies which have existed for nearly half a century are rarely either supple or easily receptive of new ideas. Bacon, therefore, did not choose, for the main stuff and fibre of his great reforming society, men of his own age (he was now forty-seven); he wisely sought out the brightest and freshest of the sons of the morning, the cream of youthful talent, whereve it was discovered.
Would it not be a pursuit as exciting as profitable to hunt out and track the footsteps of those young wits and pens of the new school, of the Temporis Partus Masculus, and Partis Secundo Delincatio, of which Bacon was thought and wrote so much, and to see what various aids these "young schollars" were able to afford for this great work? One line of work is clearly indicated : they were, under his own instructions, to collect materials for compiling "histories" on natural philosophy and on inventions in the mechanical artsas we should now say, the applied sciences. One work is specified, as to its contents and nature. It is to be a "history of marvailes" with "all the popular errors detected." Such a book was published shortly after Bacon's death by a young Oxford man, of whom we shall by-and-bye have occasion to speak. Another history is of "Mechanique," it is to be compiled with care and diligence, and a school of science is to be established for the special study of the art of invention. "A college, furnished with all necessary scientific apparatus, workshops and materials for experiments."
Not only so, but Bacon proposes to give pensions to four of his young men, in order that they might freely devote themselves to scientific or philosophic research. Some were also to have "allowances for travelling ," which proves that their field of research and for the gleaning of materials was not to be confined only to their own country, but "inquiries and correspondence with ye universities abroad" were to form an important element in the scheme.
The works which were the product of this wise and liberal scheme of Bacon's will not be difficult of identification. They belong to the class of which the author said that they did not pretend to originalilty, but that they were flowers culled from every man's garden and tied together by a thread of his own.
It is clear that the wits and pens of the "young schollars" (who, we learn from the Rosicrucian documents, were to be sixty-three in number) were chartered and secured under the seal of secresy. The last of the manifestoes in Mr. Waite's book contains this passage, in which few who have read much of Bacon will fail to recognise his sentiments, his intention sslides nay, his very words :"I was twenty when this book was finished; but methinks I have outlived myself ; I begin to be weary of the sun.....Footnote["I 'gin to be aweary of the sun," Macbeth v.5. "Cassius is aweary of the world." Jul.Caes. iv. 3.]
I have shaken hands with delight, and know all is vanity, and I think no man can live well once but he that could live twice. For my part I would not live over my hours past, or begin again the minutes of my days; Footnote[Compare Bacon's posthumous or second Essay Of Death] not because I have lived well, but for fear that I should live even worse. At my death I mean to make a total adieu of the world, not caring for the burthen of a tombstone and epitaph, but in the universal Register of God I fix my comtemplations on Heaven. I writ the Rosicrucian Infallible Axiomata in four books , and study, not for my own sake only, but for theirs that study not for themselves. In the law I began to be a perfect clerk; I writ the Idea of the Law, etc., for the benefit of my friends, and the practice in King's Bench. Footnote[see Bacon's Tracts of the Law, Spedding, Works, vii] I envy no man that knows more than myself, but pity them that know less......Now, in the midst of all my endeavours there is but one thought that dejects me, that my acquired parts must perish with myself, nor can be legacied amongst my dearly beloved and honoured friends."
This is the very sentiment which caused Bacon to contrive some method of handing down, by means of those very friends, the Lamp of Tradition, which he could not legacy, but which, wherever forthcoming and by whomsoever rubbed, brings up on the spot the spirit of the Lamp, Francis Bacon himself...........
RULES AND PRECEPTS OF THE ROSICRUCIAN FRATERNITY
SirBacon.org - Sir Francis Bacon's New Advancement of Learning