Pietism ~ Rosicrucian influence ~ and the Peace Testimony

One thing is needful : love one another

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Pietism - theosophical Christian mysticism

unum necessarium
"One thing is Needful" (Comenius)
[As Christians we must all Love One Another]

~ Rosicrucian influence ~

and the Peace Witness

an image of the Ordo Rosæ Crucis
rosy cross

Robert Shepherd
Often overlooked by scholars, the pietist movement within Christianity played a significant role in central Europe and Germany, then in the new world of William Penn.

Increasing attention by scholars of comparative religion has focused study on the numerous strands of mystical tradition coming from Asia and the middle east, and parallels have been drawn with the mystical Christianity of medieval and post-medieval Europe. But the protestant mystics are often overlooked.

Buddhism's mysticism, as well as the aspects of mystical prayer or the pursuit of ONENESS within Hindu traditions -- or the Buddhism of Tibet and elsewhere, has rightfully garnered the interest and study both of academics as well as "seekers" in many parts of the world, and most recently, in the West. Other mystic traditions such as the Sufi strand of Islam, or various traditions within Judaism -- including Merkava mysticism, Kabbala studies, mystic "numerical" Judaism, and the hasidic movement beginning with the Baal Shem Tov, have also deservedly earned widespread attention. All these non-Christian mysticisms have been compared and contrasted with the outstanding mystics, both male and female, of Catholic Christianity.

But often "beneath the radar" is another mystic tradition, within Christianity. I am talking about the pietist and the related pacifistic and protestant mysticsm emerging about the time of Europe's Reformation (and in the case of Waldensian and Moravian groups, even before). In the case of the Moravians, the movement is said to have sprung up in the mountainous central Europe (Bohemia and Moravia) with the bold defiance of Jan Hus. At first, the contagion begun by these "Bohemian brethren" spread like wildfire among the independent-minded masses of the region, then almost disappeared for a while, when official persecution put a damper on "insurrectionary" evangelicalism. The devastation wrought by the Thirty Years War hit central Europe especially hard. But history tells us a "hidden seed" of underground believers persisted through this time of eclipse.

Now we look back on the writings and historical impact of such forerunners as Peter Chelcicky and John Comenius, whose ethical ideal and mystical witness were beacons not just to their own time, but to later ages. These early Pietists, like Anglo-American Quakers and also like the Anabaptists of Germany and central Europe, adhered to a Peace witness, or Peace testimony. They practiced a Christian-inspired non-militarism, and are said to be the first peace church (1457). Another tenet of Pietists like the Moravians was their downplay of doctrine, dogma and theology. Like Quakers or perhaps native spirituality, the Pietists aimed for a life-based faith, rather than a creed-based one. Jesus said to be DOERS of the word, not hearers only, and so, to build upon the solid rock (of deeds and praxis). No wonder Quakers (like pietists) were viewed with suspicion by the princes of church and state. To some Friends Jesus was less the Saviour than the 'Lord of the Dance' :: in other words, Jesus showed us the way.

More on Quaker spirituality.

Theology and dogma all too easily became battlegrounds of men's ego, infected with pride, and tending to engender strife, conflict, and division within the Church.

The Goose and the Swan

Hermetisches Rosenkreuz des Golden Dawn

Golden Dawn Martin Luther's repeat of the Hus defiance The last words of John Hus (as he was burnt at the stake) were that, "in 100 years, God will raise up a man whose calls for reform cannot be suppressed." It was almost exactly 100 years later (1517) that Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door at Wittenberg. There is a play on words in the prophecy of Jan Hus, (whose name means 'goose'). He told his inquisitors, "You are now roasting a goose, but God will awaken a swan whom you will not burn or roast." (For that quip, a swan is the traditional symbol of many Lutheran congregations, although, Luther's Rose is also popular.)

For a German, of course, the Swan image would bring back memories of the Grail legend, the relic of the Holy Lance (Die Heiligen Lanze), and from the lore of their historical past, the gallant Lohengrin, the peerless "Swan Knight" (Der Schwanritter) of the Parzival tradition.

At last, the "secret" Hussites emerged from their closet. Coming out of the underground, they were no longer "invisibles" as they had been dubbed. Moravians or "Unitas Fratrum" had a very simplified theology, something that Erasmus believed was necessary for the solidarity of Christianity. Once in the New World, Moravians, in fact, had two essential doctrines. One, to uplift the Indians, to share our source of hope and joy with these Edenic creatures of Nature. (see Johann Georg Hohman's Pow- Wows or Long Lost Friend.) And two (their second essential doctrine), to pray and work for the UNITY of all Christians. Herein shall all men know that ye are my disciples, that ye love one another. Also see August Gottlieb Spangenberg (He was actually born 15 July, my own birthday -- but he was born 1704).

Moravian pietists, thus, were almost the diametric opposites of the view later expressed by Charles Darwin to the effect that primitive "savage" races will very soon be exterminated, replaced by the superior white races. See Darwin. Moravians saw the Indians as special and unique, and specifically prayed and labored earnestly for their conversion and upliftment. Count Zinzindorf even suggested the American Indians were descendants of the (10) Lost Tribes of Israel. The converts were taught not merely Christianity and the German language, but fine furniture-making, the design and construction of musical instruments, and of course they played these instruments, violins, etc. Of all the tragedies of colonial history one of the worst was the murderous atrocity committed by brutal white frontiersmen against pacifist and peaceable Indian believers. Here is a link for the Gnadenhutten massacre (Crawford's massacre of "Mohegan" or Moravian Indians)

William Penn as Quaker and Rosicrucian mystic,

'Philadelphists' and the mystics in the wilderness

On trips through the Rhineland and the Lowlands, William Penn invited all German Quakers, Mennonites, Anabaptists, and other Pietists to migrate to his new land. The first to go was a large contingent of German associates of the Society of Friends led by Francis Daniel Pastorius in 1683 to settle around what is now Germantown. They were shortly followed by a Mennonite and Schwenkfeldian immigration which included the apocalyptic, millenarian disciples of Johann Jakob Zimmermann, who died on the day his followers were to sail. Leadership was assumed by his first lieutenant Johannus Kelpius, an extraordinarily learned man, deeply read in philosophy, mysticism, and theology, both orthodox and occult, and an acknowledged Rosicrucian. Kelpius proved his powers by stilling the waves in a violent storm. The colonists debarked at Bohemia Landing and went on to the neighborhood of Germantown on June 24, 1694. According to Zimmermann the apocalypse was only three months away. The colonists celebrated midsummer night with rites that were a strange mixture of occultism, paganism, and Pietist Christianity and soon set out about building the Tabernacle of the Woman in the Wilderness crowned by the rosy cross, to the astonishment of their simpler or more conventional neighbors.

The mystical number of forty colonists settled down in their forty-foot-square building to watch and pray and await the coming of the rebirth of the world. Kelpius set himself up as an anchorite in a nearby cave. The community of both men and women was strictly celibate and life was at least as ascetic as amongst the followers of de Labadie. They differed primarily in their much greater learning, even sophistication. In fact, it would be well into the nineteenth century before any religious communist colonies would recruit such cultivated people. They have been called superstitious, but indeed they were anything but. There is a vast difference between the superstitions of the illiterate and the occultism of the over-educated.

The tiny colony endured until 1748 and before that period its cultural influence on Pennsylvania was out of all proportion to its numbers. They produced the first book of hymns to be published in America, and many other examples of the earliest printing, including a study, with vocabulary, of the Lenni Lenape Indians -- whom they believed to be one of the lost tribes of Israel -- the first book of its kind to be done in English America. They taught school and were in great demand as skilled craftsmen and builders, even architects. Time was spent in hard labor, choral and solitary prayer, meditation, and, unlike other such groups, in the study of the classics of mysticism and occultism from Hermes Trismegistus to Meister Eckhart, Jakob Boehme, and the Kabbala. Curiously enough their interest in astrology and alchemy led them to chemical and physical experiments and to watching all night long through their telescopes for the signs of the Second Coming. A direct line stretches from them to the scientific activities of latter-day Philadelphia, made famous by the experiments of Benjamin Franklin. The great weakness of the Woman in the Wilderness (their own name for themselves was "the Contented of the God Loving Soul") was the shortfall of their prophesies beginning with Zimmermann himself who said that the millennium would come at the autumn equinox of 1694. The date passed and the Second Coming had not come. Also they believed they would never die. But Zimmermann died before they set out. The precociously brilliant Kelpius died at thirty-five in 1708 and the last leader, Conrad Matthaei, in 1748. By 1750 the community had been absorbed into the general society of Quakerism and German Pietism, on which it left traces which endure to this day. For more on the Friends.

In 1720 Conrad Beisel and three companions left Europe intending to join the Woman in the Wilderness. When they reached the colony they discovered that Kelpius was dead. Most of the members had left and those who remained were lost in contemplation while the Tabernacle fell into ruins around them. On the way to Ephrata the four men had stopped in Conestoga where Beisel was baptized by the German Baptist Brethren and soon rose to become assistant leader of their colony. Beisel was a Seventh-Day Baptist. After long discussion the Dunkards decided to continue celebrating Sunday so Beisel left with his followers to found, in 1735 on the Cocalico River, the colony of Ephrata, one of the most successful and longest lived intentional communities in the world.

Extrait AltonaAt first the Ephratans were the most ascetic of the groups so far founded in America. Men and women lived together as celibates. They dressed in an adaptation of the Franciscan habit, alike for both men and women. The women's hair was cut short and the men were tonsured but wore full beards, which they tugged vigorously in greeting one another. Food was extremely meager, mostly dry bread or porridge. They used no iron whatever and as little metal as possible; buildings and furniture were pegged, doweled, and mortised. Eating utensils were of wood and many cooking utensils of pottery. Like the Benedictines before them, they rose at midnight to sing matins, and again at five for a second service. Meals were held in silence while a lector read from the Bible. Communion was proceeded by washing each other's feet. They each made a written confession of sins weekly which was read in choir by Beisel. Every clear night they took turns watching the heavens through their telescopes for signs of the Second Coming. At first they did not use horses but pulled their own ploughs and carts, carried their own freight, and walked wherever they went.

In spite of this vigorous asceticism they lived lives of considerable creativity, learning, and aesthetic satisfaction. Beisel wrote poetry and composed hymns of a singular beauty, as did some of the others. The musical idiom of the Ephratan hymns (which are still sung) is unmistakable. They produced many books in their peculiar scholarship, most of them printed by Christopher Sauer, including Sauer's Bible, the first in German in America.

Almost immediately the colony began to prosper. Penn offered them an additional five thousand acres but they refused because such riches would distort their spiritual life. For a while after the arrival of the three Eckerlin brothers the colony added a number of industrial enterprises, milling and small manufacturing, which became so successful that the members revolted and expelled the Eckerlins. In the course of time branches of Ephrata were established around the British colonies. The monastic community dwindled and most of the members incorporated themselves into a regular church, the German Seventh-Day Baptists, which still exists. A small number of Ephratans have continued to practice a limited communism, and specially devoted members take care of the various buildings which have become historic monuments and teach others the choral art of Ephrata. In recent years there have been attempts on the part of the new communalists to revive the ancient Ephratan community but so far without much success.


Anabaptist Testimony

Closely related to the earlier Pietist groups, both in spirit and in their Peace witness, were the Anabaptists of the socalled Radical Reformation (or left-wing Reformation). Rosemary Radford Ruether writes: "The Anabaptists brought back in full force the pilgrim and martyr view of the church. The church was a pilgrim community briefly sojourning in the world, but having its true home in the world to come. As a mew community which stood for the overthrow of the current social order, it was antagonistic to and persecuted by that social order. It was a suffering church that was prepared to have no security in this world, to be harried from place to place by the established order, and to die for its faith. Indeed, this was the situation of the Anabaptist communities, persecuted by Protestants and Catholics alike, driven from their homes, seeking refuge in forests and distant lands, many of their members suffering torture and death. [Rosemary Radford Ruether. The Radical Kingdom: the Western Experience of Messianic Hope. p 29 -   Resource]

Historically, the Moravian Church (Latin: Unitas Fratrum, meaning "Unity of the Brethren", Czech: Moravští bratři) is the oldest Protestant denomination. The Church's emblem is the Lamb of God with the flag of victory, surrounded by the Latin inscription: Vicit agnus noster, eum sequamur, or in English: "Our Lamb has conquered, let us follow Him".

The Hussite movement that was to become the Moravian Church was started by Jan Hus. After guaranteeing a safe-conduct, under flag of truce, the Emperor Sigismund had Hus burned at the stake on 6 July 1415. Nevertheless, his views spread across Bohemia and within fifty years of Hus' death, a contingent of his followers had become independently organised as the "Bohemian Brethren" (Čeští bratři) or Unity of the Brethren (Jednota bratrská).

vincit agnus noster
vincit agnus - eum sequamur
eum sequamur

Count Zinzendorf and the Herrnhuter Brüdergemeine
These Bohemian Brethren (the "Hidden Seed") Count Zinzendorf worked to bring about unity in the town and the Brotherly Agreement was adopted. Then, on 13 August 1727 the community underwent a dramatic transformation when the inhabitants of Herrnhut "learned to love one another", following an experience that they attributed to a visitation of the Holy Spirit, similar to that recorded in the Bible on the day of Pentecost.

The Unitas Fratrum was the first peace church. Here they were the heirs of the great warrior Jan Žižka and they became the first peace church. Peter Chelčickỳ had insisted that Christ's commandment to love our neighbors and our enemies was central to their faith. Comenius tried to preserve the witness of the Unitas Fratrum through his writings. It is not surprising that Moravians settled in the Quaker colony of Pennsylvania. The pacifist stance of the Moravians was hard to maintain during the long years of the American Revolution. The Calvinist Irish despised them for their pacifist "shirking" and failure to fight. Moravians were sometimes victimized. See Waning pacifism

America's Founding

Ben Franklin's ties with Johann Conrad Biessel and Ephrata Community has been noted. Ephrata were ordained by the Father of Lights to disseminate the Ageless Wisdom in the American wilderness, and Franklin wished to help them. Resource. But did you know that Thomas Jefferson, (a Welshman by ancestry) also had links? There are many intriguing hints that Thomas Jefferson was a Rosicrucian (the Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross) as evidenced by a secret code he used that was known only to high initiates of the order and the fact that he designed the building of the University of Virginia in a pattern relating to a Kabbalistic metaphysical design. Letters on display at Jefferson's home at Monticello in Virginia also indicate that he was a vegetarian like the Rosicrucians of the time. [taken from Corinne McLaughlin and Gordon Davidson. the Deeper, Secret Roots of America's Founding]

Secrets of America's Founding: annuit coeptis

The Rose of
Martin Luther

Luther Rose

Goethe wrote: "Beyond the grandeur and the moral elevation of Christianity, as it sparkles and shines in the Gospels, the human mind will not advance."

First Utopian Commune - the haven in the wilderness

The earliest successful utopian commune in the United States was Bohemia Manor on the Chesapeake Bay of Maryland, founded in 1683 by followers of the French pietist leader, Jean Labadie. Originally a Roman Catholic Jesuit priest, Labadie became a member of the Reformed Church in 1650, before founding the community which became known as the Labadists in 1669. The communal settlement on Bohemia Manor in Cecil County, Maryland grew rapidly to some 200 members About a decade later the sectarian group mentioned above, "The Woman in the Wilderness," was formed. See "das Weib in der Wüste."

The Incomparable Paracelsus - the mercurial mage

Paracelsus was a genuine Renaissance man -- alchemist, scientist, medical visionary and proto-fortean. He appeared at the dawn of the modern era which is coming into bloom today, and his teachings laid the foundations for our present physical science. How great these teachings were may be seen in the substance of his writings as given by Dr. Hartmann. The date of his birth is significant; 1493, the year after the discovery of America by Columbus. We see him, a greater Columbus, standing on the threshold of the new world, -- not only the enlargement of the known domain of the globe, the opening up of vast continents to the dominant race, but of the expansion of wealth, of the intellect, of religion. He was the contemporary of Luther; but, though the radical reform effected by the father of Protestantism was one of the main features of the change in the cycle, Paracelsus stood on a plane too high to take part in sectarian quarrels.

Paracelsus said, "Among all sects there is none which possesses intellectually the true religion. We must read the Bible more with our hearts than with our brains, until at some time the true religion will come into the world."

Hans Küng noted that it was neither the Roman Catholic Church nor the Reformation of Luther and the others which gave the world the first example of toleration or respect for Jews. It was the humanism of people like Reuchlin and Sealiger, and then the pietism of people like Zinzindorf that deserves credit for preparing the way for better treatment of the Jews. [Hans Küng. On being a Christian. p 168]

Christians, Love the Jews!

Robert K. Whalen writes: Philo-Semitism is America's enduring contribution to the long, troubled, often murderous dealings of Christians with Jews

Theosophical Order of Service

Ephrata Controversies

Olive tree: the peace witness

To America: the Shaking Quakers

Christian and Rosicrucian Kabbalah

Jakob Böhme : a seeker, and a mystic

Bohemian Rosicrucians and the Occult Math

Boozy: The Life, Death, & Subsequent Vilification of Le Corbusier

Dark Side of Martin Luther (his virulent Anti-Semitism)

Heretical Rosicrucian : Hargrave Jennings, clergyman, anthropologist, esotericist

John Amos Comenius: that incomparable Moravian (Father of Modern Education)

In der Formel des Erlösers: das Heil kommt von den Juden

Nicholas of Cusa : theologian, scholar, mathematician, statesman

Novalis | Goethe | Arndt | Steiner | Spinoza | Pietism | Historical | Anabaptists | Rappites | Zoarites

Eshet Chayil: woman of valor [Proverbs 31:10]

The Woman of Valor :: Mulieris dignitatem (1988)

Feminine for God : letting our light shine

Why Study Hebrew (ha-Ivrit) Not just for Jews

The Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses

My sister in law and her husband Troy Cooper

Because philosophy arises from awe, a philosopher is bound in his way to be a lover
of myths and poetic fables. Poets and philosophers are alike in being big with wonder.
Thomas Aquinas


memorial of love

KEYWORDS: (surnames) Zoller - Simmers - Fairless - Rupert - Wolgemuth - Walton - Haga - Warner



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