Arthur Edward Waite,
The Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross
London : William Rider and Son, 1924
Book Review By Mr. Dashiell Hammett.
Out of that extraordinary chaos of guesses, ambiguities, mountebankery, and vagueness which is Rosicrucian history, Arthur Edward Waite, in The Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross (William Rider and Son, London, 1924), has essayed to bring orderly arrangement and evaluation of data. Painstakingly thorough, broadly experienced in mystical research, he has been successful in clearing the shelves of a vast amount of rubbish accumulated by students who in their enthusiasm have seen in each alchemist, each cabalist, each miscellaneous magician, an authentic Brother of the Rosy Cross.
Waite's facts seem always to be facts, although his reading of their implication is not always convincing. Thus, though he shows clearly that there is no actual evidence of the existence of the Rosicrucian.order before the appearance, in 1614 and 1615 respectively, of the anonymous Fama Fraternitatis R ∴ C ∴ and Confessio Fraternitatis R ∴ C ∴, and in 1616, of Johann Valentin Andreae's Chemical Marriage, he denies that Andreae could have been in any way a founder of the order. Supporting this denial, he quotes Vita ab Ipso Conscripta, in which, Andreae, listing the Chemical Marriage among his writing of the years 1602-1603, characterizes it as a youthful jest that proved prolific of other ridiculous monsters: "a playful delusion, which you may wonder by some was esteemed truthful, and interpreted with much erudition, foolishly enough, and to show the emptiness of the learned."
Waite suggests that the text of the Chemical Marriage was interpolated with its Rosicrucian symbolism after its author had read the Fama and Confessio. He overlooks a more probable alternative that the unknown author or authors of those two manifestoes got their symbolism from the Chemical Marriage. That they should have seen it during the fourteen years that elapsed between its composition and the first printing of which we have record is not at all unlikely. In that event, of course, the prevalent theory that Andrae was the father of Rosicrucianism would be correct, even though his parenthood were the result of a jest. In this connection, there is no reason for thinking that the Fama and Confessio were excluded from, if not especially included in, the "other ridiculous monsters" of which Andreae said his pamphlet was prolific.
Notwithstanding his own contrary belief, there is nothing in Waite's arrangement, of the evidence to show that a corporate order of Rosicrucians whose members were not consciously imposters existed before the eighteenth century, when the order seems to have grown up side by sideif not more intimately mingledwith Speculative Masonry. In Clavis Philosophiae et Alchymiae Fluddanae, 1633, Robert Fludd, who was informed on his, subject if anyone was, seems to have summed up the result of seventeen or more years of inquiry in the sentence: "I affirm that every Theologus of the Church Mystical is a real Brother of the Rosy Cross, wheresoever he may be and under what obedience soever of the Churches politic." This certainly does not indicate Fludd's acquaintance with any legitimate corporate body.
The Order of the Rosy and Golden Cross organized, or reorganized, by Sigmund Richter in Germany in 1710, undoubtedly became to the best of its members' belief an authentic Rosicrucian order. Thence to the present (Waite gives a chapter to American Rosicrucians) there is evidence of more or less sporadic groups of men who have employed the name and symbols of the Rosy Cross to mean whatever they liked, to further whatever purposes they happened to have, whether alchemical, medical, theosophical, or what not. Of connection between,groups, even among contemporaries, of any lineage worthy of the name, there are few traces. The Stone and the Word have meant anything to any man, as he liked.
Waite chooses to discover some continuous thread of mystic purpose running from the inception of Rosicrucianism to the present day. Fortunately he does not tamper with the evidence to support any of his theories. He has cleared away fictions wherever he recognized them, regardless of their import, achieving by this means a scholarly and as nearly authoritative as is possible in so confused a fieldhistory of a symbol that has fascinated minds of theosophical or occult bent since early in the seventeenth century.
Book review from uncited weekly (1924), Dashiell Hammett (1894-1961), cited in Tulip. The Big Knockover, Selected Stories and Short Novels by Dashiell Hammett. New York : Vintage Books, 1972. pp. 322-323.