Christian Rosenkreutz – Spiritual Transformation and Renewal in the Fama Fraternitatis

Christian Rosenkreutz

Spiritual Transformation and Renewal in the Fama Fraternitatis
A Presentation in Two Parts
A Summary and Practical Guide (with illustrations and diagrams)
PART 1: The Journey as Allegory
PART 2: The Rosicrucian Vault and its Symbolism
by Paul Goodall FRC
Printed by EGL Greenwood Gate, Blackhill, Crowborough
Copyright © Supreme Grand Lodge of AMORC

Presentation Part One

The Journey as Allegory

“[God] hath raised men indued [imbued] with great Wisdom who might properly renew and reduce all Arts (in this our Age spotted and imperfect to perfection; so that finally Man might understand his own Nobleness and Worth, and why he is called Microcosmos and how far his Knowledge extendeth into Nature. ” (Fama Fraternitatis)

IT IS NOT ALWAYS EASY to stay focussed on the narrative in the Fama Fraternitatis because of the period style of writing; in addition to this the Fama is more than just a story about a quest for knowledge since there is an underlying deeper meaning to the whole and this means doubly concentrating on its content. Part One of this presentation serves (hopefully) as an introductory lesson to its mysteries that can be expanded upon by individual study in combination with periods of quiet contemplation. In the first part we accompanied Christian Rosenkreutz on his journey to the East and quickly learned that we are not just dealing with mundane adventures but with a journey of self discovery culminating in self-mastery in the Rosicrucian sense. From this it will be appreciated that the text of the Fama Fraternitatis is an elaborate allegory full of esoteric symbolism and import making its comprehension rather more involved than the relatively straightforward narrative it appears to be for the casual reader.

The visible universe is divided into two parts: the macrocosm, representing the outer world or large scale structure of the universe, and the microcosm, corresponding to the human body as a living, conscious being. Our bodies are composed of atoms that vibrate constantly under the effect of spirit energy, as taught in the monographs. This energy is distributed throughout the whole universe in the form of vibrations made up of electrons, protons and neutrons, which are the fundamental particles of atoms. We are, however, more than just a physical body; we are animated by the Vital Life Force.

In the narrative we initially meet its principle character at the tender age of five when he has been placed by reason of poverty into a cloister signalling the beginning of his religious training. And so his voyage of self-discovery and indeed the allegory itself is set into motion. From now on the metaphors and double meanings come thick and fast and Rosicrucian students that are deliberately studying the text have to keep a sharp eye out for all the clues that lay between the lines. Now we all know that this allegory was written 400 years ago and that the original intentions of its author, that of esoteric instruction, were being conveyed in a quite contemporary fashion. Reading and studying the Fama today we tend, quite naturally, to interpret what the text is telling us within our modern mode of thinking. Bearing this in mind the first part of the presentation brings in modern concepts of Rosicrucian thought relating to what we know as “spiritual alchemy” that is the inner transformation of the soul personality during each incarnation.
Universal Soul (perfect)
Soul Personality (imperfect)

To achieve a realisation of consciousness we are provided with a particular attribute, the soul personality. As the monographs state: “the soul personality corresponds to the personal expression that each individual gives to his or her soul nature. In other words, it is a faithful reflection of the moral and spiritual qualities that we have developed under the guidance of the Cosmic. ” It is our soul personality, rather than our soul, that memorises all our experiences and evolves over many incarnations in the material world. But this degree of difference is very subtle; nevertheless these two souls interpenetrate on the vibratory plane to form a harmonious unity. Here is a diagram from the monographs that illustrates the concept… The soul personality is not essentially different from the soul and disagrees only in respect of its imperfection.

Spiritual alchemy  or personal transformation of the inner self is at the heart of the Fama Fraternitatis and is the essential message of the allegory.

It is important that we understand this if we want to relate to the allegory that is contained within the Fama because the journey of Christian Rosenkreutz is a grand metaphor for our own path of self-discovery. Being aware of this will put the events of the narrative, i.e. the personal circumstances of its principal character, in terms of our own spiritual evolvement.

Synopsis of the Narrative

Having left the environment of the religious life Christian Rosenkreutz embarks on his higher quest and the reader is taken along with him through the mysterious lands of the east starting at the island of Cyprus. At this point the presentation begins to really give us a clearer idea of the depth of the esoteric symbolism involved in this allegory. Each place Christian Rosenkreutz visits represents the developing aspects of his soul personality and it is fascinating to read and follow this particular aspect of the narrative. Cyprus, in this instance, represents the doorway to the higher mysteries embodied in the death of Brother PAL in the text and is intimately connected to Venus symbolism and the inner feminine aspect of Christian Rosenkreutz as the presentation explains.

The symbolic death of Brother PAL at Cyprus represents an inner transformation within Christian Rosencreutz, awakening the feminine aspect that is Venus. This is a crucial event in the narrative without which furthermore spiritual progress would nor occur. 

Following Cyprus he next travels to Damascus, a thriving city and located on the north-south trading route, where he meets all manner of people. Damascus is a place where Rosenkreutz learns control of his bodily functions including that of his thoughts and behaviour; here he also practices abstinence in many aspects of his life. His skill in the art of healing is considerably advanced. These are the fundamental techniques that characterise a mystic. While staying in Damascus Christian Rosenkreutz learns of the existence of a place far to the south called Damcar where there reside men of great esoteric wisdom and he is determined that he must go there.

Brother PAL Male aspect TRANSITION

The men of Damcar are very different to those he has encountered in Cyprus and Damascus. They are, in fact, Sabians, an older group of mystical philosophers than the Sufis. Here, Christian Rosenkreutz, having learnt enough Arabic, is schooled in the teachings of Hermes, the Neo-Platonists, Kabala and translates the mysterious “Book M” into Latin. The Arabs, being passionate about the great learning of the Greeks, had amassed a host of manuscripts, many of which they had translated into their language. After having spent three years of intensive instruction in Damcar including long periods of contemplation, his soul personality has become further refined.
Fez was one of the chief intellectual centres of the Arabic world.
Christian Rosenkreutz next crosses the Arabian Gulf and travels to the ancient land of Egypt. Here he becomes skilled in the use of herbs and supplements his knowledge of the natural world. From Egypt he sets sail to travel the length of the Mediterranean Sea and arrives at North Africa and the city of Fez. He finds this city a centre of learning and much given to the process of reason in the accumulation of knowledge. Whilst this is laudable, in part, to Christian Rosenkreutz he finds their methods based too much on the prevailing Aristotelian method and he takes from it what is “agreeable” to his personal philosophy. He learns much of the “Elementary Inhabitants” and of the divine signatures in the “Book of Nature.” This part of his journey appears to represent not just an intellectual period but, like that of Damcar, one of introspection to rid the impurities of mind and body necessary to the development of his soul personality.
Having stayed in Fez for two years Christian Rosenkreutz sets sail for Spain full of expectation for a universal reformation of European society. He wants to set up new methods of learning; promoting the art of observation as the basis of common knowledge rather than relying on a reverence for the past that has caused the intellectual life of Europe to stagnate. His efforts to introduce these reforms prove fruitless and he returns to Germany. After living quietly and leading the life of a mystic for a few years he is ready to renew his efforts toward a universal reformation and begins to gather a group of other dedicated brothers around him. They put together all of the teachings that Christian Rosenkreutz had learned on his journey into a large book using the esoteric language of symbolism and veiled writing. During this work the brothers are attending many of the sick which come to them for treatment. In this way the Order re-establishes the Domus Spiritus Sancti or “House of the Holy Spirit” represented in the narrative as a building, a wheeled castle. Although this is not a physical entity it is indeed “in plain sight” as the summation of the wisdom of the ages and to be found inwardly.

The House of the Holy Spirit is re-established and represented in the narrative as a wheeled castle. Although this is not a physical entity it is “in plain sight” and to be found inwardly.

Over time several of the brothers pass through transition; the text of the Fama does not tell us at what point the body of Christian Rosenkreutz dies. Eventually the Fraternity is led by a certain “Brother A.” who appears to be privy to information not known by the others. This frater, at his death, swears his successor, Brother N.N., to a solemn oath of secrecy assuring him that the Fraternity would not remain hidden much longer and would become known publicly throughout the world. Part 1 of the presentation ends with a guided reflection on the journey of Christian Rosenkreutz…

Studying and Using the Journey Narrative

The presentation in Part 1 should give you ideas of how to approach the text in your Rosicrucian studies. As an aid, here are some (perhaps too obvious) suggestions you might want to think about on the further use of the narrative itself.
Initially, read through the text enough times to get the feel of the story and what is happening at different parts of it. While doing so think about the relationship of Christian Rosenkreutz to the places he visits and to the people he meets. It will be helpful to look at the diagram overleaf on page 12 which demonstrates how we can relate the text to the cycle of the evolving soul personality. Then make a detailed study of the text itself; this will mean taking notes and thinking for yourself. Y ou might want to supplement your studies by reading one or more books to increase your understanding of the narrative from an intellectual perspective. If you have reached certain levels in your monographs and where they cover aspects of the Fama and Christian Rosenkreutz you will probably want to look at these first. Once you have a good grasp of the narrative then it will be time to engage with it using your intuition. At first try and construct the journey of Christian Rosenkreutz in the form of a period of reflection, rather like the one you experienced at the end of Part 1 of the presentation. Once you have practised this  to your satisfaction you can go on to meditate at a much deeper level on what the journey of Christian Rosenkreutz means to you. The presentation maps events in the narrative to phases of one’s spiritual development or rather to the evolement of the soul personality. If anything, by engaging meaningfully with the Fama in this way and at this profound level it forces us to come to terms with our own spiritual development.


The Fama Fraternitatis is a key document in the Rosicrucian Order. Nevertheless, it is often left unread because of its contemporary writing style and language. W e cannot just pick up the text and read it like a modern short story; we have to pause frequently to understand what the narrative is telling us and this can be a tiring exercise. It is hoped that Part 1 of this presentation, so far, has revealed enough of what is going on under the surface of the story to renew members’ interest in this crucial document. There is much to tease out and reflect upon in the light of our own journeys of self discovery…

The Rosicrucian Vault

“We also hope that this our example will stir up others more diligently to enquire after their names and to search for the place of their burial… so perhaps our Gaza [treasure] be enlarged. ” (Fama Fraternitatis, 1614)

RIGHT FROM THE BEGINNING there are some definite symbolic features to consider when we come to this part of the narrative. Although we might view the narrative as a physical description of an historical event, this presentation has approached it from a purely metaphorical and metaphysical perspective. This is a crucial point to be aware of and gives the text a certain functionality, making the narrative useful as an instructional treatise to work with. W e have already seen how we can relate the journey of Christian Rosenkreutz to the soul personality cycle and part two of the presentation continues in this manner teasing out what we can in the text regarding the symbolism of the Rosicrucian Vault. In part one we left off with the succession of Brother NN to the leadership of the Fraternity. This Frater, like Christian Rosenkreutz before him, decides to travel but before doing so he needs to make repairs to his building, “to make it more fit” as the Fama tells us.
Here is another instance of veiled language; the “building” is a reference to the soul personality of Brother NN. In the same way that we discussed the wheeled fortress of the House of the Holy Spirit in relation to the Rosicrucian egregore or group consciousness, this “building” represents the spiritual nature of Brother NN as well as the other members of the Fraternity and by inference ourselves. The “repairs”, so called, that Brother NN is undertaking, is a figurative description for the spiritual work that he undergoes; prayer and quiet periods of meditation. During this retirement he has a vision of a brass plate fixed upon a wall, into which is stuck a “great nail.” It takes some effort to withdraw this nail; so much so that part of the wall comes away revealing a hidden door. At a deeper level we might see this in terms of intuitive insight on the part of Brother NN.

Symbolism of the Nail

To delve deeper into the allegory at this point we need to resort to some Kabalistic interpretation; we will find that the symbolism within the Vault suggests this kind of correspondence along with that of astrology, numerology and hermetic systems and other philosophies. This was the “magical language” that we read of in the text used by mystical philosophers of the time. Looking at the diagram below, the Hebrew letter vav ( w ) is equivalent to the English word “nail” or “hook” which we can relate to the nail in the brass plate we’ve just mentioned. Furthermore, this letter vav corresponds to the sixteenth path of the Kabalistic T ree to which the arrow is pointing (in the diagram below).
This path is also associated with the astrological sign Taurus. More significantly for us, Taurus is traditionally ruled by Venus whose symbolic figure appears consistently beneath the surface of the narrative of the Fama, representing changes within the initiate and giving the story its alchemical dimension. Going further, Taurus the bull is also used to represent the alchemical element of earth, and we might make some connection here with the vitriol diagram in the Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians of the 16th and 17th Centuries which refers to an underground initiation process (see diagram).

Symbolism of the Door with the Nail

As we have said in the process of withdrawing the nail some of the stone masonry comes away with it and a door is revealed. Once again, resorting to the Kabala to elucidate further on the allegorical nature and symbolism of this door, some interesting correspondences are brought out; firstly the English word “door” is equivalent to the Hebrew letter daleth ( d )which is aligned with the 14th path of the Kabalistic Tree. And significantly, this path we find has the astrological correspondence of the planet Venus associated with it.

The symbols of the nail and the door in the narrative are intimately linked at a crucial point in the initiate’s progress…

Here we hit upon an important point where the association of a door with Venus in the opening of the Vault is paralleled in the entry to the underground Chamber of Venus in the Chymical Wedding, each marking a key stage of development in the initiate’s spiritual transformation and progress. Furthermore, there is now a distinct Kabalistic correspondence between the allegorical symbols of the nail and the door (represented by the Hebrew letters of daleth and vav) where both images are employed by the author in the opening of the Vault. Looking at the diagram we can see that the symbols of the nail and door (circled in blue) are directly connected to the sphere of Chokmah or “Wisdom”, inferring a path through the use of these symbols and with Venus as the agent, that ultimately leads to the discovery of knowledge and self. We read in the narrative that the door is inscribed with the words post 120 annos patebo or “after 120 years I shall open.” It is decided to wait until morning before opening this door…

The Opening of the Rosicrucian Vault

Now although the opening of the door of the Vault can be viewed in terms of the narrative as a physical act, part two of this presentation continues on a metaphorical footing and regards this event as a spiritual experience at the super conscious level as the result of the intuitive insight of Brother NN while making his “repairs, ” what we would call today contact with the “Master Within.” Although we might remind ourselves that there is more than one Brother present, this is not an issue since the event can be perceived as a group experience within the consciousness of Brother NN at the level of the sphere of Chokmah.
Upon opening the door of the Vault the first thing noticed is that the shape of this room is heptagonal, with seven sides and corners. Each side is five feet broad by eight feet high. The whole chamber is lit from a central light source in a domed ceiling  and in the middle of the floor is situated a round altar upon which there is a brass plate engraved around its circular perimeter with the words “This compendium of the Universe I made in my lifetime to be my tomb.”

The Upper Part or Ceiling

The most obvious component of the upper part would be the so called “artificial sun” which would draw the initiate’s attention immediately. The presentation explains in detail what symbolism is being portrayed here between the central sun or light of cosmic wisdom in the ceiling and the lesser sun or inner light of Christian Rosenkreutz that is situated in the lower part; as above, so below.

Apart from the Hebrew mother letters of Aleph, Mem and Shin in the central rose the three points of the triangle can assigned to other correspondences such as God, Cosmic and Man from the hermetic writings and Mercury, Sulphur and Salt from an  alchemical perspective. In Rosicrucian terms we can assign Ether, Nous and Universal Soul. Whatever terminology is used this trinity corresponds to the Thought, Word and Action of God. The radiating triangles suggest a visual representation of this outward flow of manifestation. Although difficult to see in this diagram the small rose at the absolute centre of the hermetic rose reinforces the general Rosicrucian ontology portrayed as indicated.

Concerning a general description of the ceiling the Fama says “it was divided according to the seven sides in the triangle, which was in the bright centre…” Although the wording is a little ambiguous the Latin text can be read as “…divided according to the seven sides into triangles, with a triangle in the bright centre.” The central triangle has all those connotations of manifestation that we may apply in symbolic and Rosicrucian terms; therefore the hermetic rose is added to its centre with its 22 petals displaying the sacred Hebrew alphabet and corresponding to the 22 paths that link the Sephiroth or Spheres of Emanation in Kabalistic philosophy. The three points of the triangle represent in this case the supernal Sephiroth: Kether, Chokmah and Binah which are virtually beyond human cognisance. In terms of manifestation Kether gives rise to Chokmah and Binah as male and female principles respectively. The diagram below shows the arrangement of the ceiling correspondences which are placed within a heptagram in such a way as to reflect the associations between them.

The inclusion of the astrological and Kabalistic correspondences reinforce the cosmic and heavenly nature of the Vault ceiling. In the outward pointing triangles are placed the spheres of emanation next to their corresponding astrological sign. So, for example, Binah is associated with Saturn, Chesed with Jupiter and so on. This geometrical configuration on the ceiling also allows the placing of the traditional planetary angelic associations; the case for placing these attributes lies in their opposition to the so called “Inferior Governers” that are mentioned in the Fama. T ogether they form the inherent positive and negative qualities that exist between the upper and lower part of the Vault. As above, so below…

We see below the same ceiling diagram with a solid line heptagon and a dotted line acute heptagram. Both of these demonstrate the integrity of the correspondences in the following way… If we begin with Mars and take the anti-clockwise route thereby skipping every other planetary symbol, we find that we are going in the correct succession of metals by atomic weight, thus: Mars, iron, 55.84; Venus, copper, 63.55; Moon, silver, 107.87; Jupiter, tin, 118.71; Sun, gold, 196.97; Mercury, quicksilver, 200.59; Saturn, lead, 207.22.
The second interesting sequence belongs to the days of the week; if we begin with the Sun and trace through the dotted acute heptagram they appear in perfect order as follows: Sun, Sunday; Moon, Monday; Mars, T uesday; Mercury, W ednesday; Jupiter, Thursday; Venus, Friday; Saturn, Saturday and then back to the Sun to continue the weekly cycle.
The rather vague description of the Vault given in the Fama has led to several variations in the arrangement of the correspondences, a significant one being that of the Golden Dawn. This configuration is well integrated for Kabala work and maintains the element of polarity between the active and passive pillars that the initiate has to negotiate between on the upward spiritual ascent of the T ree of Life. However, the slightly differnet arrangement we have considered in this presentation suits our purpose as Rosicrucians.

A dramatic effect is produced if we imagine the ceiling heptagram in a spectrum of colours placed according to the planetary  correspondences and simultaneously aligning with the colours of the Kabalistic spheres. This multi-coloured aspect represents the Peacock stage in the alchemical process.

Here is our ceiling diagram, rotated 180 degrees with some perspective tilt giving the impression we are standing at the western door of Venus looking east. Rather than coming to the Vault from a working Kabala perspective as in the Golden Dawn, we approach it from the view of the transformative alchemical process which is in keeping not only with Rosicrucian principles but also with the general thrust of this presentation. What further reinforces the integrity here is the sequence of spheres in descending order, going in an anti-clockwise direction, from Binah in the north-east through to Y esod. Furthermore, we have a harmonious balance of the male and female aspects represented by the planetary correspondences coming together with Mercury symbolising the integrated personality.

Vault Colours and the Alchemical Process

The Vault is tripartite in design; we will find this helpful in imagining what colours can be employed for each of the three parts. Essentially, the stages of alchemical transformation are represented by certain colours that tend to reflect that part of the inner alchemical work being done. This is the traditional and contemporary way of approaching spiritual alchemy and is quite different to the Rosicrucian principles we discussed in Part 1, but you might like to keep in mind what is happening at the metaphysical level as you think about these coloured stages. Here is the basic colour scheme…

Assigning the colour of the seven walls to white does not prevent us from following a traditional colouring scheme on the basis of the planets associated with each side. This does, however, put a strain on the ability of the imagination to retain the mental picture.

At the Peacock Stage the initiate has entered into a greater experience of inner change which symbolically appears as ever shifting patterns of colour. This  can be a very dramatic part of our spiritual development and we might find that period we know and dread, the so called “Dark Night of the Soul”, making its presence felt with the ever swaying metaphysical polarities of the male and female principles pulling us to and fro between mental anguish and spiritual upliftment. The multicoloured heptagram we were introduced to in the presentation (and on the opposite page) is suspended between the walls and ceiling, as indicated in the diagram, to convey the idea of the middle Peacock stage in our own spiritual alchemy, this will allow the light from the central rose above to shine through it and giving the impression from below as if one were passing vertically upward through the heptagram; in this way our mental image of the spiritual alchemy occurring within the Vault is more dramatically enhanced.

There is an added benefit from this arrangement; looking up to the ceiling we have displayed before us a veritable mandala of flashing colours depicting the cosmic realm that can be used for meditative work. Just to illustrate this aspect, if we were to direct our attention to the image of the ceiling displayed whilst staring intently at the central point of the rose we can easily imagine moving upward through the centre of the hexagram directly towards this central point. And as we do this almost immediately we can see that the interplay of light has a very dramatic effect on our senses. The colours seem to shift into and through each other mimicking the effect of the alchemical fire.

Talking Numbers

As we can see the Rosicrucian Vault is a symbolic structure formed through the use of sacred geometry and certain correspondences. The association of number and geometry assert their presence and influence throughout the archetypal structure of the Vault and their use by the author of the Fama is, in a very real sense, a coded language concealing special knowledge from those not privy to it. The number Seven is the principle number employed and the most obvious one to spot and this septenary or sevenfold symbolism of the Vault carries everything else with it. According to the narrative Christian Rosenkreutz travelled back to Germany via Spain which coincides with the efflorescence of Spanish Kabalism and the use of the sevenfold castle or palace as a symbolic tool for spiritual advancement through the various realms of being or consciousness.
In this light we can understand the Rosicrucian Vault as an initiation chamber. This idea is supported if we consider the role of Venus discussed up to this point. Venus, you might recall, is attributed in Kabala to the Hebrew letter daleth which means “door, ” that is, the door of initiation and it is this feminine archetype that is a key to understanding the inner alchemical process involved throughout the narrative. Moreover, this ever present symbolic figure is also associated with the number seven.
Seven has several creative associations attributed to it such as the six days of creation plus one day in Genesis; it also consists of 1 joining 3 plus 3 and is, therefore, a number of marriage. This fits in nicely with the subject of transformation in this presentation. It is also said to be the number of virginity because it cannot be divided into two equal parts; this also resonates with the Venus symbolism underpinning the narrative and Christian Rosenkreutz’s chaste character. There are other numbers inherent in the design of the V ault; study carefully and reflect on the diagram below and see how these numbers relate to it.
Another important number generated is that of 40; gained by multiplying the width and height of each wall, i.e. 5 x 8, which equals forty. The number forty has many associations especially in the Bible where it appears frequently. Particularly interesting is Cornelius Agrippa’s writing concerning this number where, in his De Occulta Philosophia (Concerning the Secret Philosophy) he concludes that it is connected with trial, experience, and gaining the state of purity and readiness for a new life.  In ancient times the term of pregnancy was divided into 7 periods of 40 days each; this agrees with the number of sides of the Vault and the number of squares within each side being forty. Moreover, the product of 7 and 40 is 280, or the approximate gestation period of a human pregnancy. Once again this agrees with what we have discussed so far concerning the Rosicrucian Vault as a chamber of rebirth.

The Middle Part or Walls

We come now to the central chamber of the Vault; the Fama refers to the sides as follows: “…every side or wall is parted into ten squares, every one with their several figures and sentences, as they are truly shewed, and set forth Concentratum here in our book. ” The text of the narrative appears relatively straight forward and one might assume immediately that the ten squares mentioned refer to the ten emanations in Kabala, but there are a number of details missing in the text, so again we have to use what knowledge and intuition we can to give us a convincing mental picture. W e have already learned that each side is five feet broad and eight feet high and this makes fitting in ten squares in a symmetrical fashion problematic. Furthermore, we are given no hint as to what the “figures” and “sentences” are but the figures are likely to be those of Kabalistic correspondences, combining alchemical, astrological and number associations, while the sentences are perhaps from biblical and hermetic writings as well as Kabalistic attributions to the Sephiroth or Spheres of Emanation. Let us review some of the configurations of others before settling on one that reasonably agrees to what can be gleaned from the text.

The first diagram  appears in Manly Hall’s Secret Teachings of All Ages which divides each side into nine squares instead of ten, superimposing a triangle on top of the central square which is likely to represent Tiphareth in the centre of the Kabalistic Tree. This downward pointing triangle, one imagines, is the elemental sign for water and we could make a case for the Feminine being given preference which would fall in with the Venus symbolism that carries throughout the narrative. Of the planets Venus embraces all of the Kabalistic spheres of emanation or Sephiroth as they are termed. The door, the symbolism of which we have already discussed, being placed beneath this configuration supports the Venus connection too.

The second diagram shows the Golden Dawn model of Samuel MacGregor Mathers, multiplying the breadth and height of each side (5 x 8) to produce 40 squares on each. Ten of these incorporate the Kabalistic Tree of Life seen here in the formation of the Hebrew letters. The remaining 30 squares are engraved with astrological and alchemical figures placed according to Golden Dawn symbolism. There is no lower door in this design. This involves quite a lot of intelligent speculation based on sound symbolic principles and it does tie in with the reference in the narrative to figures being superimposed on the squares.

The third diagram, from Adam McLean, gives us a good interpretation if one wants to remain as much as one can within the descriptive text of the narrative. It incorporates the element of sexual polarity by placing the squares in two columns of five; and it also places a door beneath these in keeping with the text. This arrangement also resonates with the details of the Vault we have been discussing so far, in that we have the duality of self in the two columns and the added dimension of the symbolism of Venus in the door.

The fourth diagram is from that devised by Robert Fludd in his Ars Memoriae, the “Art of Memory” of 1612. Given its contemporary provenance (the same year as the publication of the Fama) and the fact that the squares are pretty well lined up spatially according to the Tree of Life in Kabala this is the one that is perhaps most acceptable. Also it preserves the element of polarity that we saw in the last diagram.

This presentation offers a fifth diagram illustrated above which seems to fit the bill. The squares are quite simply arranged upon the Kabalistic Tree so that the spheres of Kether (God), Tiphareth (Illumined Philosopher), Yesod (the Initiate) and Malkuth (Earth) are central as in the Tree of Life with the polarised pillars of Binah and Chokmah on either side. Alchemical and astrological correspondences can be added to the squares. An added dimension is introduced where the Spheres of the central pillar extend either side into the female and male columns representing our work in bringing these into resolution within ourselves.
The door is placed at the sphere of Malkuth which seems reasonable since we enter the sphere of life from this position before becoming an initiate but also behind the door, as we learn from the text, are lots of paraphernalia pertaining to the knowledge of the world that is Malkuth and how the seeker might come to a knowledge of the Cosmic. One more point that binds this example to the Vault number symbolism is the sevenfold horizontal arrangement of the squares rising vertically. Just to counter any remarks you might have regarding the size of the doors in these diagrams; remember this is a mental construct and once we have entered the Vault in our imagination we don’t need to have a full sized door on the western wall to remind us of our entrance…
While we are on the subject of doors, the Fama states that every side or wall had a door, behind each of which was housed a chest, wherein various things were found; we must keep in mind that we are still dealing with allegory and while all of these things that the Brothers list as having been found appear as tangible items, they are really representations of aspects of knowledge, including the fledgling sciences and those practices carried out by esoteric initiates such as the Rosicrucians.

In one chest they find “looking glasses of divers virtues”; these were likely to have been items that ranged from scrying mirrors through to magnifying lenses and simple telescopes, all of which point to work concerning the natural philosophy of the time and the means by which they might come to knowledge of the world in its different aspects. From a mystical perspective, however, these kinds of glasses represent self reflection and perhaps introspection by the physical outer self and the inner more spiritual being.

In other chests the Brothers find bells, burning lamps and “wonderful artificial songs”. Here are definite references to the esoteric practices of the Fraternity; the bells mentioned have an esoteric interpretation if we consider their use in ritual but also their sound effect upon the aural senses, with the ability to stimulate different aspects of awareness in the initiate through the psychic centres and so forth. The burning lamps suggest the idea of light and the everlasting search for the unknown, but we might also interpret them as representing the soul personalities of past Brothers of the Fraternity, ever alight in their spiritual quest. The reference to “wonderful artificial songs” is rather obscure but one might hazard a guess that these are referring to vowel sounds, perhaps in certain tonal sequences.

“Every side or wall had a door for a chest, wherein there lay diverse things, especially all our books, which otherwise we had, besides the Vocabular of Theoph: Par. Ho. and these which daily unfalsifieth we do participate.” (Fama Fraternitatis, 1614)

The brothers also find many books, copies of which they already possess, we are told in the narrative, and which they were using. But two in particular are singled out: the first is the vocabulary of Paracelsus which they were familiar with. This is a reference to the philosophy and language of the famous Swiss alchemist of Hohenheim. His work and discoveries were useful to the Fraternity even though, the Fama states, he was not a Rosicrucian. That his work was said to have been found in the Vault is in complete agreement with the narrative of the Fama being allegorical since it was stated that Christian Rosenkreutz died in 1484, before the birth of Paracelsus, which means in real terms, one wouldn’t have expected to have actually seen his work here at all. The second book specifically mentioned is Christian Rosenkreutz’s Itinerarium and Vitam, his travels and life. It is from this work, the Brothers tell us, that the present narrative is largely taken.

The Lower Part or Floor

Among the other things that were described by the Brothers when they first open the Vault is a round altar upon which was situated a plate of brass with the following words engraved around its perimeter: A.C.R.C. Hoc universi compendium unius mihi sepulchrum feci (This compendium of the universe, I made in my lifetime to be my tomb). The capitals forming the prefix to this are likely to stand for: Ad Christiani Rosencreutz, meaning “By Christian Rosenkreutz.” The inscription on the altar is a statement essentially summing up the nature and function of the Rosicrucian Vault. It tells us that herein is a spiritual repository of all the knowledge required by the initiate; this is reinforced by the assertion that “should [it] happen after many hundred years, the Order or Fraternity should come to nothing, they might by this only Vault be restored again.” The Vault is by inference, a chamber of rebirth or resurrection by which the inner self is awakened or re-awakened. There is a clue in the inscription where it says that the knowledge of the outer and inner self gained during life (referring to the “compendium of the universe”) is in preparation for death, from which new life will arise.

The altar plate pictured here, an early 17th century depiction, is a rather elaborate reconstruction put together with knowledge of contemporary symbolism. One assumes that the corners fold down onto the side of the altar leaving the round part uppermost. At first glance there seems to be something wrong in the placing of the east and west cardinal points where Oriens or East is on the left side and Occidens or West is on the right. Then you suddenly realise that you are looking at the figure in reverse as in a mirror and in the same manner as that of the Kabalistic T ree of Life when viewed from outside of it. There is only one reason for portraying the figure thus and that is because it is meant to represent the observer; in other words, ourselves. By the same token it must also represent Christian Rosenkreutz.

“They four had the face of a man and the face of a lion on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side: they four also had the face of an eagle.. ” (Ezekiel 1:10)

In the Fama four figures are mentioned, enclosed in circles with circumscriptions on top of the altar. There is no hint as to what these figures are but they might have portrayed the four apocalyptic creatures from Ezekiel 1:10. The inclusion of these figures would have been entirely in keeping with the climate of apocalyptic expectation present during these times.
The list above shows the four mottos that circumscribe these apocalyptic figures on the altar plate and their usual associations. Some variance does appear concerning the cardinal directions for the first and last station… others have swapped these two points so you have the lion in the north and the man in the east.  This does fit rather nicely with the “Lion of the Septentrion [North];” a prophecy in Europe at this time that speaks of a political figure with Rosicrucian leanings coming from the north and expelling Roman Catholicism in Europe. The man being placed in the east might be argued alongside the fact that Christian Rosenkreutz brought back his knowledge from the east.

The Altar Plate in Modern Terms

T o make our mental construct of this altar easier the presentation puts together an alternative and modern looking version. This modern version retains the Christ like figure in the centre which seems to be an important component for reminding us of the function and nature of the V ault in relationship to ourselves. An alternative for this central point might be the illustration of the Rosicrucian initiate in the Secret Symbols seen below. In place of the apocalyptic figures, elemental symbols or principals in their triangular form have been substituted. Take note that in the placing of these elemental symbols to the cardinal points the presentation employs that taught in AMORC so their configuration is a little different to those in the diagram opposite; they are  as follows:

The altar plate inscribed in English; the correspondences are aligned with those listed above.

The depiction of the Rosicrucian initiate on the right is taken from the Secret Symbols.

A three dimensional representation of the altar plate.

Altar Plate Symbolism

Viewing the altar plate diagrammatically allows us to reflect upon the various cycles and phases of our Rosicrucian path. It should be borne in mind that the diagram portrays the continuous cyclic nature of the path of life and death. There are two progressive paths indicated by the green and blue arrows: The first is circular and moves clockwise through the phases of our physical life, from our entry (symbolised by our entry into the Vault) to infancy, youth, maturity and back to old age. Accompanying these four phases are corresponding elements marked in red and blue. So as we go through the cycle of the physical, the emotional, the intellectual and the spiritual self… we identify these with the four phases of consciousness: the objective, subconscious, subjective and cosmic consciousness. From a diagrammatic perspective there are direct relationships depicted here too. Notice that the physical self is harmoniously opposite the intellectual and the emotional is opposite the spiritual. By the same token we can observe that the objective consciousness is opposite that of the subjective and the subconscious opposite that of cosmic consciousness.

Christ Consciousness

Here is the altar plate retaining the Latin inscriptions… Around the rim are the words Jesus mihi omnia or “Jesus is my all.” This seems a very Christian-like statement here but it is in keeping with the cultural and religious setting of the time. You will see many references to Jesus in the Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians which demonstrate this. The Brothers of the Fraternity were Christians as such, and devoutly so; and the author of the Fama, presumably Johann Valentin Andreae, was a Lutheran minister. We must be mindful that the Fama Fraternitatis was meant for public consumption and given that life revolved around a religious milieu encroaching upon everyday lives and activities it would have been rather strange, dangerous even, to have published anything of this nature without a Christian dimension in the writing.
Having said that the figure of Jesus does generally pervade the message of the Manifestos and perhaps we should briefly address this issue here in terms of our Rosicrucian path. It must be understood that it is the universal Christ Consciousness we are dealing with and which was experienced through mysticism before the time of Jesus. Jesus was the most recent and greatest avatar of Christ Consciousness. This particular mystical state dwells within us all with varying degree; we are each at different levels of Christ Consciousness and Jesus had attained the highest degree of this mystical development. In this light it is quite telling that the author of the Fama chose the first name “Christian” for his archetypal figure.
Consider also the association of the elements or principles to the stages outlined at the perimeter; Earth naturally corresponds to the physical and the watery principle to the emotional fluid self. The air element aligns with the more rigid intellectual self while the fiery principle is associated with the spiritual self. The second path follows a zigzag route from the physical self through the intellectual and emotional to the spiritual self. This is our path of initiation which is also supported by the successive phases of consciousness i.e. the objective, subjective, subconscious and ultimately cosmic consciousness.
The altar is so orientated that our entry to the vault is at a particular point which is indicated on the diagram. This entrance marries up to the paths we have just outlined, reinforcing the function of the chamber as a focus for our entire existence justifying its basis as a “Compendium of the Universe.” From what has been discussed we can see that the altar plate itself is a useful object or symbol for the purposes of reflection and meditation on our esoteric nature and its relationship to the archetypal concept of the Vault.

A three dimensional representation of the altar plate with Latin inscriptions.

The Floor Geometry

After giving their description of the altar the Brothers refer to the “seventh side” and the two “Heptagoni” … where it says “This is all clear and bright, as also the seventh side and the two Heptagoni…”

The two Heptagoni: one above and one below, with the seventh side indicated.

This is telling because it firstly supports the planetary correspondences already discussed; for example, the seventh side, actually on the right of Venus as you enter, is associated with the Sun indicated by the arrow, “all clear and bright.” But secondly we are informed that there is a similar geometrical configuration on the floor as the one we constructed for the ceiling, as you can see. So we have our two “heptagoni, ” one above and one below. It should be noted that the planetary correspondences carry on from the ceiling to the floor…
At this point the author refers to a so called “ungodly” element in the invisible form of “inferior Governors” existing in the floor section of the Vault. These are the destructive forces of our inner self, all that belongs in the physical world and which are in opposition to those traditional angelic associations in the upper part mentioned earlier. This aspect of opposition in the Vault is an illustration of our Rosicrucian path which involves moving through the three main alchemical stages. This is our work of spiritual alchemy, transforming and refining our soul personality.

The image of the victorious rose cross, the ultimate symbol of spiritual attainment, from the Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians. At its centre is a cross surrounded by a heart, the traditional symbol of love. Surrounding the heart and cross is the mystical rose itself representing the soul personality; no longer depicted at the centre of the cross but shown enveloping the whole, symbolising the victory over the material part of our existence. In Cr u c e R o s e a Me a Victoria: In the Rose Cross I am Victorious.

The Unveiling of Christian Rosenkreutz

The Brothers move the round altar to reveal a plate of brass beneath; we are given nothing else regarding this feature but this metal continues to reflect the presence of Venus and with it the meaningful message of esoteric awakening and renewal. It would be fitting, however, to place upon this brass plate the image of the victorious rose cross (illustrated opposite) from the Secret Symbols because underneath lies the body of Christian Rosenkreutz; “a fair and worthy body, whole and unconsumed, ” we are told. From an allegorical perspective this informs us of the perfect example of purity embodied in this exemplar of our Order.
The plate opens before them up and folds over to reveal a bright light that mirrors that shining down from the domed ceiling. We can visualise the Brothers gazing at one who has completed his cycles of human activity and now exists as a spiritual impulse; an impulse that will feed the soul personalities of succeeding initiates on their spiritual quest. The enveloping of the cross by the rose in the symbol we have placed here reflects this mastery of life, the victory over the physical dross that binds most to the mundane world. Before the Brothers is the very essence of Rosicrucianism representing the whole body of the Rosicrucian Order and the ultimate alchemical and spiritual transformation of the Rosicrucian initiate.
But something more is conveyed in this visual spectacle: it is the re-awakening of the inner self. In alignment with the very nature of the Rosicrucian Vault the encounter with the body of Christian Rosenkreutz unveils to the Rosicrucian initiate renewed spiritual insight. As one looks upon this perfect body a wave of emotion and unreserved love propels us forward on the path to the mastery of self. This is a key moment for us as we begin to understand what the Rosicrucian Vault means in relation to our own progress.

As one looks upon this perfect body a wave of emotion and unreserved love propels us forward on the path to the mastery of self. This is a key moment for us as we begin to understand what the Rosicrucian Vault means in relation to our own progress.

The Book T

The Brothers now observe that he is holding in his hands a special object; the Book T. This book most obviously contains all the knowledge of the Rosicrucians and is revered next to the Bible by the Fraternity so we are told. Its contents, coupled with the perfect body of Christian Rosenkreutz, express knowledge and purity respectively. At the end of Book T, we are informed, is an elogium, the Latin word for an inscription. This is essentially an epitaph commemorating the life and work of Christian Rosenkreutz which is summed up in one long sentence in Latin.
The esoteric scholar, Arthur Edward W aite, summarised its main points as illustrated on the opposite page. Following this inscription was written a list of the first eight Brothers and their particular skills, whether a painter, architect, Cabalist, mathematician, writer or some other talent; each contributed to the Order in their own fashion. After these names and marking the end of the Book T there is a sentence in Latin: Ex Deo nascimur, in jesu morimur, per Spiritum Sanctum reviviscimus (From God we are born, in Jesus we die, we live again through the Holy Spirit). Despite the apparent Christian overtones these words for us really highlight our relationship to the exemplar that is Christian Rosenkreutz and to the Rosicrucian Order, and does not mean the end but the beginning of the rest of our spiritual evolvement within the Rosicrucian égregore itself.


Ten Points Commemmorating the Life and Work 
of Christian Rosenkreutz
  1. That CRC came from a noble and illustrious family of Germany bearing that name;
  2. That on account of his subtle conceptions and untiring labours he became acquainted with Divine and human mysteries by way of revelation;
  3. That he collected a royal and imperial treasure in his journeys to Arabia and Africa;
  4. That the same was serviceable not only to his age but to posterity;
  5. That he desired to have heirs of the name, faithful and closely joined;
  6. That he fabricated a little world corresponding to the great one in its movements;
  7. That it was a compendium of things past, present and to come;
  8. That after living for more than a century he passed away at the call of the Holy Spirit and not by reason of disease, yielding his illuminated soul to its faithful Creator;
  9. That he was a beloved Father, a most kind Brother, a faithful Preceptor and an upright Friend; and
  10. That he is hidden here from his own for one hundred and twenty years.

After this there is some support for the allegorical nature of the Fama; I mean here the reference to the wish and desire of the Brothers. It states:

“We also hope that this our example will stir up others more diligently to enquire after their names and to search for the place of their burial… so perhaps our Gaza [treasure] be enlarged…”

This “example” we read of clearly indicates the wishes of the author; the narrative of the Fama is still instructional for us today, if we can read between the lines, and demonstrates to us the path of self discovery, albeit in contemporary terms. By searching inwardly we can take the life, journey and work of Christian Rosenkreutz as the supreme model for ourselves, especially when we read it in conjunction with his final initiation in the Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz where his true humility is demonstrated.

The Minutum Mundum

Before the Brothers set all back as they had found, mention is made of the Minutum Mundum or “small world.” This is clearly a reference to the microcosm and it seems reasonably correct to assume that the “little altar” mentioned is a veiled term to mean the inner self of the initiate. Perhaps it is that element of Christ Consciousness that we discussed earlier that is embodied in the image of this small altar. W e can read a little more between the lines here where it says:

“Concerning Minutum Mundum… we shall leave him undescribed, until we shall truly be answered upon this our true hearted Fanam…”

None can know the ultimate nature of the Christ Consciousness or “State of the Rosy Cross, ” because until one reaches this pinnacle of attainment it is simply unknowable to us and  to the Brothers of the Fraternity. At this point the presentation ends with a guide to visualising the Rosicrucian Vault.

A coloured representation of the Rosicrucian Vault to assist in visualisation.

Practical Work with the Rosicrucian  Vault

Part Two of this presentation has tried to build up a working picture of the Rosicrucian Vault to enable us to engage more with its import and symbolism as encapsulated in the phrase “Compendium of the Universe.” Although the presentation has been divided into two parts this does not mean we can divorce the journey of Christian Rosenkreutz from the elevated image of the Vault since both are intimately connected in terms of the soul personality cycle. The narrative successfully joins the two in the dramatic scene of the discovery of the Rosicrucian Vault and the presentation dwelt at length on the symbolism and hidden meaning of this particular episode. W e have already been given ideas  on how to make the journey of Christian Rosenkreutz useful on a practical level at the end of part one of this booklet. Engaging with the Rosicrucian Vault in our Rosicrucian practices takes a lot more thought but also a great deal more effort. The advantage is with the more advanced Rosicrucian students since they have greater experience with the technique of stilling the mind and using the esoteric tools of practice such as concentration, mental creation and visualisation plus imagination.
Visualization combined with meditation is the best means of experiencing the Rosicrucian Vault at a profound level and the presentation took us through a practical example of this method.  However, working with the symbolic archetype of the Vault  is always going to be a unique and personal involvement for each of us, firstly from the amount of preparatory work we put into it but depending also on our level of attunement during our meditations. The first practical step is to read the latter part of the narrative again but not forgetting its connection with the earlier journey of Christian Rosenkreutz. Do this as many times as you need to be familiar with what is happening at this point. While doing so write down any thoughts and impressions that might come to you. Next read through part two of this booklet to reinforce the mental imagery that will be required during your visualisation of the Vault. The presentation and this booklet does not pretend to be definitive in providing the imagery for the Vault but it will be a good guide in your own unique work with it.
Next you will want to study in particular the altar diagram on page 35 as this will give you a definite focus for your meditations within the Rosicrucian Vault. But it will also be profitable to combine this sudy with that of the journey diagram  on page 12 since both of these chart the soul personality cycle. As a guide to the overall image of the Vault look at the illustrations on pages 37 and 43. Something else that may prove fruitful is to take some meaningful phrase from the text of the narrative and reflect and meditate on it. This can be done during your normal Rosicrucian work or from within the Vault itself. Finally, casting your mind back over the presentation will provide extra stimulus for the imagination and perhaps ideas for further work. Most importantly you will need to create your own visualisation experience and the presentation demonstrated what can be done here combined with uplifting and soul stirring music.


The presentation has shown how both the journey of Christian Rosenkreutz and the archetypal image of the Rosicrucian Vault forms a complete treatise, if you like, on the life cycle of the soul personality. Although  the Fama Fraternitatis was written in the 17th century this presentation has also demonstrated in practical ways how meaningful the narrative still is to the sincere mystic. It is truly hoped that the presentation combined with this booklet has aroused renewed interest in the formative documents of the Rosicrucian Order that we know as the Rosicrucian Manifestos.


While a good proportion of this presentation and booklet contain original and learning material, the following is a list of sources that were used and consulted (apart from AMORC monographs). They will also serve as recommended reading.

Part 1: The Journey as Allegory

  • Dan Merkur, “Stages of Ascension in Hermetic Rebirth” at http://www.esoteric.
  • F N Pryce (editor), Fame and Confession of the Fraternity of R:C: Kessenger reprint.
  • Lyndy Abaham, A Dictionary of Alchemical Imagery, Cambridge University Press, 1998.
  • Paul Foster Case, The True and Invisible Rosicrucian Order, W eiser 1989.
  • Susannah Åkermann, Rose Cross Over the Baltic, Brill 1998.
  • Tanya Luhrmann, “ An Interpretation of the Fama Fraternitatis” in A Compendium on the Rosicrucian Vault, 1985 (ed. Adam McLean).
  • Tobias Churton, The Golden Builders, W eiser 2005.

Part 2: The Rosicrucian Vault

  • A E Waite, The Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross, Kessenger Reprint of first 1924 edition.
  • Adam McLean, “ Animal Symbolism in the Alchemical T radition” at The Alchemy Web Site.
  • Deidre Green Ph.D., “The Symbolism of the Rosicrucian Vault” in A Compendium on the Rosicrucian Vault, 1985.
  • Ian Rees, “The Rosicrucian Vault” in A Compendium on the Rosicrucian Vault, (ed. Adam McLean) 1985.
  • Paul Foster Case, The True and Invisible Rosicrucian Order, W eiser 1989.
  • Rafal Prinke, “The Great W ork in the Theatre of the W orld” in A Compendium on the Rosicrucian Vault, 1985.
  • Rosicrucian Order AMORC, Supplementary Monographs, Numbers, Analytical Discussions, Lecture 14.

Diagrams and Illustrations

All diagrams and illustrations in this booklet are original except for the following:
  • Pages 19 and 20, adapted from Paul Foster Case, The T rue and Invisible Rosicrucian Order, Weiser 1989.
  • Page 22 (first diagram), adapted from Ian Rees, “The Rosicrucian Vault” in A Compendium on the Rosicrucian Vault, (ed. Adam McLean) 1985.
  • Pages 26-27 and 31, Rafal Prinke, “The Great W ork in the Theatre of the W orld” in A Compendium on the Rosicrucian Vault, 1985.


  • Page 32, “ AST02. Woodcut of Ezekiel’s dvision from the Bear Bible, ” 16th century, from a hand coloured print by Adam McLean at The Alchemy Web Site.
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