“One cannot be careful enough in selecting one’s guides,” continued the stranger. “There are at present so many false prophets and guides. All the world is at present crazy for poking their noses into the mysteries of the astral world. Everybody wants to be taught witchcraft and sorcery. Secrets, which for thousands of years have been wisely kept hidden before the eyes of the unripe and profane, are now bawled out from the housetops and sold at the market-place as objects of trade. Hundreds of self-appointed ‘masters’ and guides speculate upon the selfishness and ambitions of their disciples, and, the blind leading the blind, they both come to grief. If only all the seekers for truth were like you, they would not be deluded by false promises held out to them for attaining adeptship.”
To become wise, they would have to learn the true meaning of their own doctrines, symbols, and books, of which they at present merely know the outward form and the dead letter. They would have to form a much higher and nobler conception of God than to invest Him with the attributes of semi-animal man.
Theosophist and Rosicrucian Franz Hartmann first published this didactic fable in 1887, and my copy is the 2003 Ibis Press reproduction of the 1910 edition with an additional introduction by R.A. Gilbert, who compares the story to Hilton’s Lost Horizon. Hartmann’s tale is set in the Bavarian Alps, not in Asia, but he does refer to an elided discussion of “White Magic and the wonderful powers of certain Tibetan Adepts” (87), and it is not impossible that Hartmann’s book could have been an inspiration for Hilton, whose actual sources for “Shangri-La” remain obscure.
In Hartmann’s Tibetan references, I understood him to be addressing himself to the interests of a Theosophical readership. He also has his Rosicrucian Imperator affirm the spiritual and cultural significance of H.P. Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine (50-1), while his occultist doctrines and attitudes toward materialist science and traditional religion are generally consistent with her earlier Isis Unveiled material.
The book attributes the organization of its concealed retreat of adepts to the “Brothers of the Gold and Rosy Cross,” an actual German initiatory order of the eighteenth century, and associates with them an historically extant mystical tome The Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians, of which Hartmann was to produce the first English translation. In fact, the original edition of Hartmann’s “adventure among the Rosicrucians” might be read as little more than an elaborate advertisement for Cosmology, or Universal Science (1888) which Hartmann must have had in preparation by then.
Although Hartmann was one of the founding initiates of the order best known as Ordo Templi Orientis, Gilbert’s biographical essay in the introduction goes to amusing lengths to avoid mentioning O.T.O. as such. His closest approach is in this passage: “Through Kellner, Hartmann had come to know Theodor Reuss, who in 1902 appointed him as Grand Administrator General in the newly formed Sovereign Sanctuary of the German version of the Antient and Primitive Rite of Memphis and Mizraim. … In 1905 Hartmann became Honorary Grand Master General of the Rite, but it fell apart shortly afterwards and he took no part in its later incarnations” (xix). (For considerations relevant to the veracity of this “took no part” claim, see Richard Kaczynski’s Forgotten Templars, 242-3.)
Throughout With the Adepts it is clear that the author’s preoccupation is with the possibility of establishing a secluded spiritual community, which he terms a “Rosicrucian convent.” In the appendix added to the second edition, he claims to have begun this work in Switzerland, although he sounds a clear note of discouragement: “It has not yet been finally decided whether this undertaking will be a success or a failure; but the latter is more than probable, as the method of thinking in old dilapidated and dying Europe is too narrowminded to permit of grasping such an exalted idea” (175). He had in fact taken material steps towards this goal by issuing a prospectus and forming a joint stock company in the late 1880s, but by 1910 it is a little strange to see him still holding out any hope at all for the venture. And yet, the site was close to where Reuss would eventually establish his O.T.O. “Anational Grand Lodge” Verita Mystica at Ascona, perhaps in some measure posthumously answering Hartmann’s aspirations.
On the strength of this context, it seems likely that the emphasis on “Profess-Houses” in the early plans and constitutive documents of O.T.O. may reflect Hartmann’s distinctive contribution to the germinal synthesis of esoteric motives in that organization. Indeed, Aleister Crowley’s much later paper on the governing of Profess-Houses, “Of Eden and the Sacred Oak,” takes for its central metaphor the one introduced here by Hartmann in the voice of the alchemist adept Theodorus:
“Could they not establish a garden, where the divine lotus flower of wisdom might grow and unfold its leaves, sheltered against the storms of passion raging beyond the walls, watered by the water of truth, whose spring is within; where the Tree of Life could unfold without becoming encumbered by the weeds of credulity and error; where the soul could breathe the pure spiritual air, unadulterated by the odour of the poison-tree of ignorance, unmixed with the effluvia of decaying superstitions; a place where this Tree of Life, springing from the roots of the Tree of Knowledge, could grow and spread its branches, far up in the invisible realm where Wisdom resides, and produce fruits which cause those who partake of them to become like gods and immortal?” (156)
In our school we are instructed by Divine wisdom, the heavenly bride, whose will is free, and who comes to him whom she selects. The mysteries which we know embrace everything that can possibly be known in regard to God, Nature, and Man. Every sage that has ever existed has graduated in our school, in which he could have learned true wisdom.
“This,” I said, “is contrary to all the doctrines of our science, which teaches that we can see nothing whatever unless it has a shape of some kind.”
“The eye of science sees only the outward form,” answered Adalga; “but the eye of wisdom sees the reality itself.”
Franz Hartmann, Among the Gnomes
“Dearest princess!” I replied, “I do not know what you are talking about. I am not luminous, and I never saw a luminous man. In our country nobody has a light of his own.”
“Alas!” said the princess, “what a fearful fate it must be to have no light, and to live in a country of perpetual darkness.”
Franz Hartmann, Among the Gnomes
Is the progressive part of the world going to wait until the legally appointed guardians of the truth have found out the true value of the treasure in their possession?
Franz Hartmann, With The Adepts
There are elements of good and elements of evil in every man, and it depends on ourselves which class we desire to develop. From a cherry stone nothing can grow but a cherry tree, from a thistle seed nothing else than a thistle; but man is a constellation of powers in which all kinds of seeds are contained
This short book is an early work (ca. 1890) by the physician who went on to serve as a Secretary General of the German Theosophical Society and a founding member of Ordo Templi Orientis. The “temple of wisdom” at issue is the Temple of the Rosy Cross, understood by Hartmann as the body of hidden chiefs or secret adepts, after the manner of Eckartshausen’s Cloud Upon the Sanctuary. Hartmann is generally contemptuous of modern Rosicrucianisms, writing for instance (in unfriendly allusion to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn):
“The true brothers of the Golden and Rosy Cross were and still are a spiritual society, and therefore the effort made [during the Middle Ages] of finding a real and living, indisputably true Rosicrucian, were as unavailing as was at a more recent period the effort made by a certain London society of proving the existence of real and living Adepts.” (36)
After some introductory perambulation, the opening chapters address the esoteric tradition in antiquity and the Middle Ages through such exponents as Ammonius Saccas, Plotinus, Malchus Porphyrius, Iamblichus, Proclus, Hierocles, and Cornelius Agrippa. Then Hartmann discusses legends of adepts and alchemists from the late medieval and early modern periods, progressing to the Rosicrucian “Orders” (his scare quotes) stemming from the manifestos of the 17th century, and this latter chapter culminates with a useful bibliography of the Early Modern “Rosicrucian Controversy.”
Chapter Six was for me the highlight of the book, supplying an overview of the 18th-century competition between Rosicrucians and Illuminati. In Hartmann’s telling, the Rosicrucian orders of the period are obscurantist “impostors and fools,” while the Illuminati pursued a virtuous bid for rationality and freedom. This short account was possibly the most useful reference on its historical topic until the publication of McIntosh’s Rose Cross and the Age of Reason more than a century later in 1992.
The final two chapters reproduce historical Rosicrucian, alchemical, and Hermetic materials with Hartmann’s commentaries to them. He says in his foreword that these “will be incomprehensible to the would-be wise; while those who are unsophisticated will find therein a great deal of wisdom” (6), but such “unsophisticated” readers will still find it useful to be able to read Latin and to recognize biblical allusions and traditional metaphors.