Rosicrucians, a pretended fraternity in Germany which existed simply in a book entitled Fama Fraternitas des loblichen Ordens des Rosenkreuzes, and published in 1614. That book recited that Christian Rosenkreuz, a German of noble family, born in 1388, and educated in a convent, had in early youth visited the holy sepulchre, and had spent three years in Damascus with the Arabians, engaged in the study of physics and mathematics, after which he went to Fez by way of Egypt, and there pursued the study of magic. He learned among other things that every man is a microcosm. An attempt to dispense his new found wisdom in Spain met with no encouragement, for which reason he determined to bestow his treasures on his fatherland. He built a sort of convent, which he named Sanctus Spiritus, and associated with himself three friends from the monastery to which he originally belonged. This was the institution of the Rosicrucian order, which was afterwards enlarged by the addition of four other persons. The members traveled everywhere to promote the reformation of the world, but met at their central house once a year. They claimed the possession of the highest knowledge and freedom from sickness and pain, though not from death. Each member chose his successor, but concealed his own death and place of burial. Even the tomb of Rosenkreuz himself was unknown until after 120 years from the founding of the order, when a vault was discovered in his house which was brilliantly illumined from above by an artificial light, and which contained a round altar placed over the yet undecomposed body of the founder. The inscription "Post CXX annos patebo" over the door of the vault showed that the time had come for making known the order to the world. The learned were accordingly invited to carefully examine the arts described in the Fama (which was printed in five languages), and to publish their opinions through the press, as the hope was expressed that many would connect themselves with the order. Other writers appeared in confirmation or illustration of the Fanza, e.g. a Confession (1615), and the Chymische Hochzeit Christian Rosenkreuz (1616). An immense excitement in Germany and adjoining lands was produced by these works, and called forth a flood of appreciative or condemnatory reviews. The interest felt at the time in secret arts, particularly that of making gold, led many to seek association with the fraternity, while others suspected a most dangerous heresy in theology and medicine; but it was remarkable that no actual member of the original Rosicrucian order was ever discovered. Every theological text book contended at length against this heresy, and medical writers discovered its intention to destroy the reputation of Galen and supersede him by Paracelsus. Robert Fludd, in England, defended the order with zeal, and the court physician of the emperor Rudolph II, Michael Maier, asserted the truth of the statements contained in the Fama. The title of Rosicrucians was finally adopted by a society of alchemists, which originated at the Hague in 1622, and afterwards by other fraternities. Investigations made by such societies into the origin of the Fama Fraternitas led to the conclusion that the book was intended as a satire on the condition of the times. The authorship of the book was finally ascribed to Joh. Val. Andreae, the Wurtemberg theologian, and this opinion is still generally received.
A list of the older Rosicrucian literature may be found in Missiv an d. hocherl. Bruderschaft d. Osdens d. goldenen u. Rosenkreuzes, etc. (Leips. 1783); Chr. v. Murr, Wahrer Ursprung d. Rosenkreuzer, etc. (Sulzbach, 1803). See also Gottfr. Arnold, Unparthei. Kirchen- u. Ketzer- Historie (Frankft. 1729; Schaffhausen, 1742), pt. 2, ch. 18 and suppl., p. 947; Herder, Hist. Zweiffl uber Fr. Nicolai's Buch, etc., in the Deutscher Merkur of 1782 (Sämmtl. Werke z. Phil. u. Gesch. vol. 15); Zur Lit. u. Kunst, vol. 20; Buhle, Ursprung u. vornehmenste Schicksale der Orden d. Freimaurer u. Rosenkreuzer (Gtt. 1804); Nicolai, Ueber Ursprung und Gesch. d. Freimaurer (Berl. and Stettin, 1806); Hossbach, Joh. Val. Andreoe u. sein Zeitalter (Berl. 1819); Guhrauer, Vemfasser u. ursprungl. Zweck d. Fama Fraternitas, etc., in Niedner's Zeitsch. f. hist. Theologie, 1852, p. 298-315.