An adventurer of the name of Christian Rosenkreuz is said to have founded this order, in the fourteenth century after having been previously initiated in the sublime wisdom of the east, during his travels in Egypt and Fez. From what we are enabled to learn from this work, the intention of the founder and the final aim of the society, appear to have been the accumulation of wealth and treasures, by means of secrets known only to the members; and by a proper distribution of these treasures among princes and potentates, to promote the grand scheme of the society, by producing "a general revolution of all things." In their "confession of faith," there are many bold and singular dogmas; among others, that the end of the world is at hand; that a general reformation of men and manners will speedily take place; that the wicked shall be expelled or subdued, the Jews converted, and the doctrine of Christ propagated over the whole earth. The Rosencrucians not only believed that these events must happen, but they also endeavoured to accelerate them by unremitted exertions. To their faithful votaries and followers, they promised abundance of celestial wisdom, unspeakable riches, exemption from disease, an immortal state of man of ever blooming youth, and above all the philosopher's stone.
Learning and improvement of the mind were, by this order, considered as superfluous and despised. They found all knowledge in the Bible; this, however, has been supposed rather a pretext to obviate a charge, which was brought against them, of not believing in the Christian religion. The truth is, they imagined themselves superior to divine revelation, and supposed every useful acquisition, every virtue to be derived from the influence of the Deity on the soul of man. In this, as well as in many other respects, they appear to be followers of Paracelsus, whom they profess to revere as a Messenger of the divinity. Like him, they pretend to cure all diseases; through faith and the power of the imagination, to heal the most mortal disorders by a touch, or even by simply looking at the patient. The universal remedy was likewise a grand secret of the order, the discovery of which was promised to all its faithful members.
It would be unnecessary to enumerate any more of such impious fancies, if the founder of this still lurking sect, now partly revivified, had not asserted, with astonishing effrontery, that human life was capable of prolongation, like a fire kept up by combustible matter, and that he was in the possession of a secret, which could verify this assertion. It is evident, however, from the testimony of Libavius, a man of unquestionable veracity, that this doughty champion in medical chemistry, or rather alchemy, Paracelsus, notwithstanding his bold assertions, died as before observed, at Sulzburgh in Germany, in the Hospital of St. Stephen's in 1541: and that his death was chiefly occasioned by the singular and desolate mode of life, which he had for a long time pursued. When a competent knowledge of the economy of the human frame is wanting, to enable a man to discriminate between internal and external causes and effects, it will be impossible to ascertain, or to counteract, the different causes by which our health is deranged. This evidently was the case with Paracelsus, and many other life-prolongers who have succeeded him; and should a fortunate individual ever fix upon a remedy, possessing the power of checking disease, or lengthening out human existence (an expectation never to be realized) he will be indebted to chance alone for the discovery. This has been the case in all ages, and still remains so.
Remedies, from time to time, have been devised, not merely to serve as nostrums for all diseases, but also for the pretended purpose of prolonging life. Those of the latter kind have been applied with a view to resist or check many operations of nature, which insensibly consume the vital heat, and other powers of life, such as respiration, muscular irritation, etc. Thus, from the implicit credulity of some, and the exuberant imagination of others, observation and experiments, however incompatible with sound reason and philosophy, have been multiplied, with the avowed design of establishing proofs, or reputations of this or that absurd opinion. In this manner have fanaticism and imposture falsified the plainest truths, or forged the most unfounded and ridiculous claims; insomuch that one glaring inconsistency has been employed to combat another, and folly has succeeded folly, till a fund of materials has been transmitted to posterity, sufficient to form a concise history on this subject. Men in all ages have set a just value on life; and in proportion to the means of enjoyment, this value has been appreciated in a greater or less degree. If the gratification of the sensual appetite formed the principal object of living, its prolongation would be to the epicure, as desirable as the prospect of an existence to be enjoyed beyond the limits of the grave, is to the moralist and the believer.
The desire of longevity appears to be inherent in all animated nature, and particularly in the human race; it is intimately cherished by us, through the whole duration of our existence, and is frequently supported and strengthened, not only by justifiable means, but also by various kinds of collusion. Living in an age when every branch of human knowledge is reduced to popular systems; when the vigils of reason are hallowed at the shrine of experiment and observation;—though we behold in the immense variety of things, the utter uselessness of attempting to renovate a shattered constitution, or of improving a sound one to last beyond a certain period; we nevertheless observe that in the inconceivable waste of elementary particles there prevails the strictest economy. Nothing is produced in vain, nothing consumed without a cause. We clearly perceive that all nature is united by indissoluble ties, that every individual thing exists for the sake of another, and that no one can subsist without its concomitant. Hence we conclude, that man himself is not an insulated being, but a necessary link in the great chain, which connects the universe. Nature is our safest guide, and she will be so with greater certainty, as we become better acquainted with her operations, especially with respect to those particulars which more nearly concern our physical existence. Thus, n source of many and very extensive advantages will be opened; thus, we shall reach our original destination—namely, that of living long and in the enjoyment of sound health, to which, if purity of morals he added, the best hopes may be entertained of a happy state, in a future world, where its inhabitants never die.