Rosicrucian Title-Page to Francis Bacon's De Sapientia Veterum
German translation 1654, depicting Bacon as head of the Rosicrucian Society with three officers, or principles, attending him
Let us glance for a few minutes at "the order and discipline, the rules and prescripts," which were instituted for the use of the Rosicrucian Fraternity, or may we not safely say , for the use of Bacon's "young schollars" and friends? The original rules were fifty-two in number, but only the leading features of them can be noted, numbers being placed against them for the sake of brevity in reference :
1. The society was to consist of sixty-three members, of various grades of initiation, apprentices, brethren, and an "imperator."
2. These were all sworn to secresy for a period of one hundred years.
3. They were to have secret names, but to pass in public by their own names.
4. To wear the dress of the country in which they resided.
5. To profess ignorance, if interrogated, on all subjects connected with the society, except the Art of Healing.
6. To cure the sick gratis (sickness and healing seem to have been terms used, metaphorically, for ignorance, and instruction of knowledge).
7. In all ways and places to oppose the aggresssions and unmask the impositions of the Romish Church the Papacy.
8. To aid in the dissemination of truth and knowledge throughout all countries.
9. Writings, if carried about, were to be written, in ambigious language, or in "secret writing." (Query, in cipher?)
10. Rosicrucian works were, as a rule, not to be published under the real name of their author. Pseudonyms, mottoes, or intitials (not the author's own) were to be adopted.
11. These feigned names and signatures were to be frequently changed. The "imperator" to change his name not less frequently than once in ten years.
12. The places of publication for the "secret writings" to be also periodically changed.
13. Each member was to have at least one "apprentice" to succeed him and to take over his work. (By which means the secret writings could be passed down from hand to another until the time was ripe for their disclosure.)
14. The Brethren must suffer any punishment, even to death itself, sooner than disclose the secrets specially confided to them.
15.They must apply themselves to making friends with the powerful and the learned of all countries.
16. They must strive to become rich, not for the sake of money itself, for they must spend it broadcast for the good of others, but for the sake of the advantages afforded by wealth and position for pushing forward the beneficient objects of the society.FOOTNOTE [The working of this rule is observable throughout the whole of Bacon's life and writings. It accounts for the diametrically opposed accusations which have been levelled against him and which his enemies have delighted to magnify, of meanness and lavishness. "Riches," he says, "are for spending, and spending for honour and good actions......I cannot call riches better than the baggage of virtue; the Roman word is better, 'impedimenta,' for as the baggage is to an army, so is riches to virtue;it cannot be spared nor left behind, but it hindreth the march.....Of great riches there is no real use except it be in the distribution; the rest is but conceits." "Money is like muck, not good except it be spread." In the same spirit, and with the same metaphor, Coriolanus is said to have regarded riches. "Our spoils he kicked at, and looked upon things precious as they were the common muck o' the world."-Coriolanus,ii.3. Compare Essays Of Expense and Of Riches with the speeches of the fallen Wolsey, Henry VIII. iii. 2, 106, etc, and with Timon of Athens, i. 2, 90, etc. ii.1, etc.]
17. They were to promote the building of "fair houses" for the advancement of learning, and for the relief of sickness, distress, age, or poverty.
18. When a Rosicrucian died he was to be quietly and unostentatiously buried. His grave was either to be left without a tombstone, or, if his friends chose to erect a monument in his honour, the inscription upon it was to be ambiguous.
It is needless to show what an engine such a society would be, driven by such a motive power as Bacon, one original mind, endowned in almost equally balanced propotions with every intellectual faculty; equally capable of the quick perception of ideas, as of their prompt acquisition and application to useful purposes. With all this, Bacon possessed the still rarer faculty of being able to communicate his ideas, to impress them upon the dull, dead minds of the many , as well as upon the more receptive apprehensions of the few. Where opposition to direct teaching or advance in any kind of knowledge existed, there his versatile genius, the "nimbleness of mind." of which he was conscious, enabled him to devise methods "to let new light in upon the understanding, and conquer prejudice without raising contests, animosities, opposition or disturbance, footnote [Preface to Wisdom of the Ancients] to speak truth with a laughing face. footnote [Promus]
We are disposed to shrink from the facts which stare us in the face, and to say: Is it possible that one man can have dared and accomplished so much? Is it possible that any one brain could have been capable enough, any life long enough, to enable one man to have not only planned, but carried through, the amount of works of infinitely varied kinds in which we find Bacon engaged? Is it possible that he could have time to read, cogitate, write, and publish this enormous quantity of valuable works, each pre-eminent in its own way; to have filled some of them with elaborate ciphers, and to have made many of them means of conveying information secret as well as ostensible? With all this can we conceive him also experimenting to the extent which we know he did in every branch of natural philosophy, breaking a gap into every fresh matter, noting deficiencies in old studies, and setting to work to supply them; in each case originating and inaugurating new ideas a very different affair from merely imitating, or following where another has gone before?
In truth, a hasty judgment would pronounce these things to be impossible and contrary to common sense. But this merely means unparalleled in the speaker's experience. No other man has ever been known to perform such work as we claim for Francis Bacon.
But Bacon was no ordinary man. He was an intellectual giant, born into a world which seemed to him to be chiefly peopled with pigmies; the spiritual and intellectual life of the world stunted, deformed, diseased, and sick unto death through ignorance and the sins which ignorance nourishes and strengthens. With his herculean powers and eagle-sighted faculties of imagination, keen to perceive, subtle to devise, prompt to act, skillful in practical details, what migh he not do with four "pensioned" able pens continually at his "command," and sixty-three of the choicest scholars of the universities to assist in the more mechanical parts of the work; to transcribe, collate, and reduce into orderly form the "collections," historical, scientific, ethical, or phraseological, which, during his life , were to stand for him and for them in the place of modern books of reference, and which, after his death, were to be published as "histories," "dictionaries," "collections" etc., under the names of those who were the ostensible editors or "producers" of works which they would have been incapable of originating?
Whilst these men were thus writing under his eye,or according to his "prescripts," Bacon himself, in the quest of his library or tower, sometimes in his "full poor cell" in Gray's Inn, was cogitating, note-taking, dreaming, experimenting, composing, or "inventing.""Out of 's self-drawing web he gives us note:
The force of his own merit makes his way:
A gift that Heaven gives for him."
-Henry VIII. i.1
The credibility of such assumptions is increased of such assumptions is increased when we endeavour to realise how things woud stand with ourselves if, from our earliest childhood, everything that we had lisped had been noticeable; if our earliest writings had been worthy of preservation; if every letter, every word, we wrote had been religiously stored, revised, and by and by published. " I said, but I never alter," that seems to have been part of Bacon's method, and thus edition after edition, each time improved and augmented, was produced, the same material being utilised in various ways over and over again.
Bacon was never idle. Recreation with him was not idleness, but merely a change of occupation. He never plodded upon books, but read, taking notes, or perhaps making extracts for others to write out. Thus he wasted no moment of time, nor allowed one drop of his freshly distilled knowledge to evaporate or be lost, but carefully treasured and stored it up in "vases" or note-books, where he could at any moment draw it out afresh.
There is good reason for thinking that he largely encouraged the use of stenagraphy or shorthand writing; that his friends sat round him as the disciples of the ancient philosophers sat round their masters, listening to his words, and often writing down his utterances, or his entire discourses. The facility with witch he expressed himself, the grace and sweetness of his language, and the marvellous fulness of his conversation were perpetual themes of admiration and wonder. "His meals," says Dr. Rawley, " were refections of the ear as well as of the stomach, like Noetes Atticae, or Convivia Deipus-Sophistarum, wherein a man might be refreshed in his mind and understanding, no less than in his body. And I have known some, of no mean parts, that have professed to make use of their note-books when they have risen from the table.footnote [ It seems possible that traditions of such delightful meals as Dr. Rawley here records, and in which Bacon delighted " to draw a man on, and allure him to speak upon such a subject as wherein he is peculiarly skilful," may have taken place at the "Mermaid" where the chief wits of the day are said to have enjoyed their "wit combats."]
Both the matter and the manner of John Selden's "Table Talk" assures us that this and several other similar books are merely transcripts of such hasty notes of words which dropped from Bacon's lips, reproduced as accurately as possible, and treasured up for the benefit of posterity by his loving friends.
To look a little into the rules of the Rosicross brethren, Bacon's "Sons of Science," and of whom we believe him to have been the "Imperator" or supreme head :
Rules1,13, and 15, help us to grasp the possibility of Bacon's having produced the enormous quantity of books which will surely, in the future ages, be claimed for him, and which can be proved, by all that has hitherto passed as conclusive evidence with regard to other works, to be the work of one author.
Rules 2, 10,11, 12, and 14 suffice to answer the oft-repeated query : Why did not Bacon acknowledge his own works? or why did not his friends vindicate his claim to them? He, as well as his friends, had sworn solemnly to keep the secrets of the society for a period of one hundred years.
Rules 3, 10, and 11 enable us to reconcile many difficulties as to the authorship of certain works. For instance, in the anthology entitled "England's Helicon," there are poems which have, at different times, borne two, three, or even four different signatures. If the Rosicrucian publications were not, as a rule, to bear the name of the author, and if the feigned names of the brethren were to be frequently changed, confusion and mystification as to the true author would inevitably be produced. It would be impossible to draw any irrefutable conclusions as to the date and sometimes as to the aim of the works in question, and this, doubtless, was precisely what the secret society desired.
Rules 8 and 13, especially when taken together with the proceeding, throw great light on the publication of such works as "Montaigne's Essays" in France, of its supposed translation, in 1603, from French into pure Baconian English, by the Italian Florio, tutor to the English royal family, and of the large additions and alterations, such as none but the author could ahve presumed to make, in the later edition published by Cotton in 1685-6.
Rule 8 seems also to explain the fact of many of Bacon's most intimate friends having passed so much of their time abroad, in days when to travel was a distinction, but not an every-day occurence, and when, indeed, it required the royal sanction to leave the country. So Anthony Bacon lived for many years in Italy and the south of France, very little being absolutely known about his proceedings. Mr. Doyly, Bacon's first recorded correspondent , was at Paris when he received a mysterious letter explaining something in an ambiguous manner. Bacon's answer is equally misty : " he studiously avoids particulars, and means to be intelligible only to the person he is addressing." [Spedding, Letters and Life, ii.9]
This Mr. Doyly had travelled with Anthony Bacon, and after residing in Paris, went to Flaunders,where " he was of ling time dependent on Mr. Norris." What his business was is unknown; he returned to England in 1583. The letter from Mr. Doyley to Francis Bacon shows great intimacy : it begins, " To my verye deare friend, Mr. Doylie."
Then there was Anthony Bacon's very intimate friend Nicholas Faunt, at one time Walsingham's secretary, a gentleman attached to the Puritan party. From 1580 to 1582 we find him traveling, with no obstensible object, through France and Germany, spending seven months between Geneva and the north of Italy, back to Paris, and home to London in 1582. He is described as an "able intelligencer," and is just such a man as we should expect to find Bacon making good use of.
The young Earl of Rutland receives in 1595 a license to pass over the seas, and (although they pass for awhile as the writing of Essex) it is Bacon who writes for him those "Letters of Advice" which were published anonymously nearly fifty years later.
Then we find another of his most intimate friends, Tobie Matthew, abroad, wandering, and sometimes, perhaps rather mysteriously occupied. Although, to Bacon's deep regret, he joined the Roman branch of the Church, the correspondence and intimacy between the two never ceases, and we think that it will transpire that Sir Tobie, having become a priest in the Jesuit college at Douai, continued to serve Bacon in many ways by aiding in the translation and disseimination of his works, and especially in the production of the Douai Bible. The proceedings and writings of other travellers and writers, or supposed authors, of Bacon's time, should be examined and reviewed in this connection. They are too numerous to speak of here, but we would remind the reader of his life-long friends, the Sidneys, Herberts, Nevilles, Howards, Careys, Sandys, Cottons, of Lord Arundel, Sir Thos. Bodley, Camden, and the Shirleys; of John Selden, his trusted friend and one of his executioners; Sir Henry Wotton, his cousin; of Sir Walter Raleigh, who, during his imprisonment, he is known to have visited in the Tower, whilst he was engaged in writing The History of the World; of Ben Jonson, who, according to Drummond of Hawthorden, wrote from under Bacon's roof; of Sir Kenelm Digby, Montaigne, Florio, Davies, and other foreigners, as well as Englishmen, whose names and works are found to be so curiously interwoven with the lives and the writings of Anthony and Francis Bacon.
By and by we shall have to return to the subject of Bacon's friends and collaborators, and to the light which is let in upon their agency through the large collection of Anthony Bacon's correspondence, preserved in the library at Lambeth Palace. To return to the Rosicrucian ordinances :
Rule 5 shows that the incognito maintained by the brethren was to extend, not merely to their names and authorships, but also to their knowledge and the mental acquirements. The very fact of their belonging to a secret society was to be conealed; they were to pass through the world as ordinary members of society,wearing the dress of thecountry in which they lived, and doing nothing to draw upon them the special notice of others. They were even to conceal any special or superior knowledge which they might have acquired, actually professing ignorance when interrogated, the only science of which they were allowed to show any knowledge being "the science of healing." Perhaps this is to be taken partly in it's literal sense, and the rule may have been made with the benevolent intention of encouraging the study of medicine and surgery, which Bacon found to be terribly deficient; also, this permission would enable the experts in these subjects to come to the rescue on emergency, and to help to alleviate the bodily sufferings of their fellow-creatures. Still, a comparison of the Rosiscrucian works obliges us to see that it was to remedy the deformities of the age, to heal the sores and cankers of miserable souls, to minister to the mind diseased, that the Rosy Cross brethren were really labouring; and this fifth rule gives a good hint as to the reason why Bacon did not " profess to be a poet," why "Burton" should not profess to be a theologian, or Montaigne "profess to be a philosopher."
The thought arises : What could be the object of this rule? Even if it were desirable, for the safety of the author of dangerous or advanced publications, that his name should be concealed, what reason could there be for obliging the man himself to feign ignorance of subjects which he had specially studied, and this, too, in days when the revival of learning was a subject of discussion and pride, and when to be supposed learned was a feather in a man's cap?
There seems to be only one really satisfactory explanation of this and other rules, namely, that the so-called authors were not the true authors of the books which passed under their names; that at the best they were translators, revisors, or editors, often mere transcribers and media for publication. Under these circumstances it would not only have been false, had they claimed the authorship of works which they did not write, but it would have been fatal and foolish in the extreme had they gone about professing to talk of matters which they did not understand.
Rosicrucians were to heal the sick, gratis. This seems to mean that their work was, throughout, to be a labour of love. Not for the sake of profit or fame did they labour; but simply for the love of God, and of man created in God's image. Truly we believe that for this end the brothers Anthony and Francis lived poor for many years, flinging into the common fund, for publishing,etc., every penny which they could spare, after defraying the most necessary expenses for themselves, and to keep up appearances. We equally believe that their work has never died out, but has been taken up in the same spirit by numberless individuals and societies--now in full activity, and recently mightily on the increase.
Rule 17 would account for the extraordinary impetus given in Bacon's time to the building and endowing of libraries, schools, colleges, hospitals, almhouses, theatres, etc. The names of many such " fair houses", munifecently endowed , will rise to the minds of all who are well acquainted with London and the two great universities. Let the reader inquire into the history of Gresham College, Sion College, and the splendid library attached to it; Dulwich College, with it's school, almshouses, and library, originally intended to benefit poor actors; the Bancroft Hospital and many other buildings at Trinity College, Cambridge; the additions to the Bodleian Library, Oxford, the Library at Lambeth Palace--he will find that he can never get away from Bacon and his friends. Either we find Bacon suggesting the need or encouraging performers, or inspecting and approving the work, but himself,as a rule, unrecognised in public documents; so with the societies. His portrait alone hangs in the great library of the Royal Society. His friends are all closely associated with with the founding of the Arundel Society, the Society of Antiquaries, the Camden Society, the Ray Society, and, we think, with the Colleges of Surgeons and Physicians; but, as usual, although the names appear, in connection with these and other institutions,of his intimate friends, Bacon the great instigator and promoter of them all, remains in the background. It is sufficient to read of such institutions that their origin is "veiled" or "obscure" for us to feel tolerably well assured that behind the veil is Francis Bacon.
In Rosicrucian books not included amongst the short pieces in MS. published by Mr.Waite, it is shown that one great work of the society was the publication and dissemination of Bibles. There are, says Bacon, two books of God, the Book of the Bible, expressing His will, and the Book of Nature, setting forth His works. Neither can be fully understood or interpreted without the other, and men should be made equally acquainted with either. The revised Bibles of 1594, 1611, and 1613 bear witness to his personal efforts in this direction. The commentary published at Geneva, by " John Diodati," the Mesenger Given by God (or the Messenger of God's Gift, which Bacon says was the gift of reason with speech), should be examined in connection with this part of the subject. It will surely transpire that Francis Bacon played no minor part in promoting the knowledge of God's first book, and that his faithful followers have nobly fulfilled their vows and duty of carrying on his great work.
For the Second Book of God, it is easier at once to make plain the enormous services which he rendered. He founded the Royal Society. In these words we sum up the fact that he planned and set going the vast machinery which has produced such wonderful results upon science, and upon almost every branch of human knowledge.
The history of the origin of the Royal Society, which, according to it's chief chroniclers, is, like so many other matters connected with Bacon, "veiled in obscurity", appears to be this : A few choice spirits met first in Bacon's private room, then at various places in Oxford and Cambridge,until the friends formed themselves into a small philosophical society, under Dr. Wilkius, in Wadham College. Meetings were sometimes held in taverns. When too large for these, they adjourned to the parlour of Gresham College. Lord Arundel "offered the Royal Society an asylum in his own palace when the most fierce and merciless of the elements subverted her first abodes," all of which is printed with many italics and very large type in the dedication " to the illustrious Henry Howard, Earl of Norfolk," at the beginning of a curious little book "written in French by Roland Freart, Sieur de Cambraye," and "rendered English" by John Evelyn, Fellow of the Royal Society. footnote[This little work is entitled An Idea of Painting. We commend the consideration of it to Baconian readers, believing that Evelyn merely "rendered English" that which had first appeared in France, by publishing the original English of Bacon, written when he was a young man living and travelling in the south of France, and perhaps in Italy.]
Evelyn obtained a charter for the society from Charles II., and named it The Royal Society. The rare literary accumulations of the noble family of the Howards were contributed to the library. (see Disraeli's Curiosities of Literature)
The rules which forbid the publication of names would, of course, prohibit the Rosicrucians from writing their names in books which were likely to reveal the course of their studies, or their connection with a certain clique of persons; and so, in effect we find. They must adopt feigned initials,or mottoes, in order to identify themselves amongst their initiated friends alone.This again explains the disfigurement which so often distesses the purchaser of good old books of a certain class, and which is caused by the cutting out of large pieces of the title pages, or frontispieces, or fly-leaves, or the cancelling, by scribbling with pen and ink, sometimes six or eight names on the page. It is the exception and not the rule, in books profesedly Rosicrucian, and previous to the eighteenth century, to find in them the name of any owner, although they may , apparently, have passed through many hands.
The same circumstance explains the mystery as to the disappearance of Bacon's librarywhich is a mystery, although the world has been content to take it very apathetically. Bacon's library must have been something quite remarkable for his day. Like Prospero, we known his books were dearer to him far than state or public life, which was always a toil and burden to his nature."Being so reputed
In dignity, and for the liberal arts,
Without a parallel; those being all my study,....
I to my state grow stranger, being transported
And rapt in secret studies."
Prospero, in his fall and banishment, is represented as most highly commending the kindness of the noble Gonzalo, who"Of his greatness,
Knowing I loved my books, he furnished me
From my own library with volumes that
I prize above my dukedom.
Without trespassing on the domain of the novelist,we may fairly believe that Bacon's feeligs were the same, even if he did not actually experience a similar episode in the days of his cruel ruination and banishment from the home of his youth.
Where is Bacon's library? Undoubtedly the books exist and are traceable. We should expect them to be recognisable by marginal notes; yet these notes, whether in pencil or in ink, may have been effaced. If annotated, Bacon and his friends would not wish his books to attract public attention. Yet not only their intrinsic worth, but their priceless value as belonging to their beloved master , would have made the friends and followers of Bacon more than commonly anxious to ensure the safety of these books. Bacon himself, we feel sure, would have taken steps to this end. Yet it is observable that in neither of his wills (elaborate and detailed in particulars though they be) does he mention his library. Copies of all his writings, "fair bound" were to be placed in the King's library, and in the university libraries at Cambridge, and "Bennet College, where my father was bred," and in the libraries of Lambeth and Eton.
The MSS. in his "cabinets, boxes, and presses"(think of the quantity of papers suggested by these words)were to be taken possession of by three trustees, Constable, Selden, and Herbert, and to be by them perused and by degrees published. But of books there is not one word, and observation has led the present writer to the conclusion that during his life Bacon assigned his books to certain of his friends for life,or for use, and that eventually these books were to find their way into the great libraries where thye now repose, and where future research will oblige them to yield up their secret, and to say what hand first turned their pages, whose eyes first mined into them to extract the precious ore so long buried beneath the dust of oblivion? Where, in what books, do we find this gold of knowledge, seven times tried in the crucible of poetic philosophy, cast into living lines, and hammered upon the muses' anvil into the "well-tuned and true-filed lines" which are not of an age but for all time?
We earnestly exhort young and able scholars,whose lives lie before them, to follow up this subject. Think of the new worlds of knowledge that remain to be explored and conquered. Who can tell the contents of the library at Eton, in which Bacon took such a lively interest? Who has ever thoroughly examined the hoards of manuscripts of Bacon's time at Lambeth Palace, at the Record Office, at Dulwich, or at the British Museum? Baconians, reading with modern search-lights rather than by the dim rays shred from even the best lamp of the last century, cannot fail in future to perceive many things which escaped the notice of previous observers, however dilligent.
The Selden and Pembroke collections of books at the Bodleian Library, the Cotton Library at the British Museum, the libraries of the Royal Society, the Antiquaries, and others directly connected with Bacon, the theological library at Sion College, Gresham College, the collection of Bacon's works in the University Library, Cambridge and at Trinity College, should be examined, and every collection, public or private, which was commenced or much enlarged between 1580 and 1680, should be most thoroughly ransacked with a special eye to records, direct and indirect, of the working of Bacon and his friends, and with a view to tracing his books. It is probable that the latter will seldom or never be found to bear his name or signature. Rather we should expect, in accordance with Rosicrucian rules, that no name, but only a motto, an engimatic inscription, or the initials of the title by which he passed amongst the brethren, would be found in these books. Yet it may reasonably be anticipated that some at least are "noted in the margin," or that some will be found with traces of marks which were guides to the transcriber or amanuensis, as to the portions which were to be copied for future use in Bacon's collections or book of "commonplaces."
One word more, before quitting these rules of the Rosicrucians. The eighteenth rule shows that on the death of a brother nothing should be done which should reveal his connection with the fraternity. His tomb was to be either without epitaph or the inscription must be ambigious. It is remarkable how many of the tombs of Bacon's friends and of the distinguished names of his time come under one or the other of these descriptions. Some of these will be noticed in their proper place. Meanwhile, let us remark that there seems to be only one satisfactory way of accounting for this apparently unnecessary rule. The explanation is of the same kind as that given with regard to rule 5, which prohibits, the members of the society from professing a knowledge which they did not possess.
For suppose that the friends of deceased Rosicrucians had inscribed upon their tombs epitaphs claiming for them the authorship of works which had passed current as their writings, but which they did not really originate. The monuments would, in many cases, have been found guilty doing positive dishonour, not only to the sacred place in which they were erected, but even to the dead, whose memory they were to preseve, for they would actually declare and perpetuate untruths, or at the best half-truths, certain in the end to be discovered.
It is rare to find any epitaph by way of eulogium over the grave of any person who seems to have collaborated with Bacon, or to have been accredited with the authorship of any work which is suspiciously Baconian. Rarer still do we find on such tombs any hint that the so-called poet or philosopher ever wrote anything. In the few cases where this is asserted or suggested, there are reasons for believing, or actual proof, that the inscription, perhaps the monument itself, was put up by descendants or admirers some years after the death of the individual to whom the memorial was erected.