Last Article In The Series

Doctor Robert Fludd (1574-1637)
By Sharon M.W.

Other writers published charges against Fludd in addition to Mersenne. Like Mersenne, they objected to an alchemical interpretation of the Bible, the notion that Christ was reduced to a mere angel, and Fludd's concept of the "Anima Mundi" caused some discomfort as well. The problem arises when one tries to interpret a mystical analysis in a literal way.

Fludd explains to his critics that alchemy is a part of natural philosophy. It is the division of the pure from the impure, light from darkness, sin and vice from goodness and virtue. True alchemy seeks to comprehend the Creation and spirit of life and serves as a key to understanding both. In terms of the Creation, the separation of light and dark was set into motion by the eternal Fiat.

There are places in Fludd's writings that could indicate a leaning toward a Pantheistic point of view. Some writers have argued that he concluded that God is identical to matter. For example, Fludd held that all things were of God before they were made. From the blaze of power, life vibrates from the center to the circumference. However, he also explained this as being a thought. He felt that all things owe their existence to God. But that does not necessarily conclude the God owes His existence to all created things. In other words, physical matter, through the theory of emanation, may be a manifestation of God, but is by no means the whole of God. Craven maintains that Fludd would have answered this debate by saying all things of full of God, as opposed to all things are God. Fludd is clear when he says "God is all, and in all, and above all..."

If we look at his concepts in terms of our First Degree, for example, we get a perspective of Fludd's three circles within the triangle that explains both concepts. In other words, if Fludd's critics were alive today, they might object to our saying that there is a vibrating spirit in matter that holds it together. They might look at us as saying that is the entirety of God. We, however, know that indicates one aspect of a triune expression, or to use Fludd's visuals, reflects only one of the three circles.

His critics were also unhappy over Fludd's concepts of the angelic world and again felt he placed Christ in this realm. However, Fludd clearly illustrates a hierarchal structure and even though daemons -- Seraphim, Cherubim, etc,-- watch over a planetary structure, they are not necessarily the same as the Divine or Absolute principle. To be sure, Fludd maintained a soul of the world. This soul was the cornerstone of the universal "petra" upon which the church was built, the philosopher's stone, signified by Christ both Divine and human, the corner stone having its effect in both the macrocosm and microcosm. This hardly reduces Christ to the celestial realm.

Further, Fludd believed that Christ was part of the Infinite Godhead. The realm of God has no beginning and no end. The temporal world has a beginning and an end. And the angelic world has a beginning, but no end. Therefore, by Fludd's own divisions, he could not have reduced Christ to the angelic realm.

However, images Fludd used such as the previously mentioned, "venerate Jevovah in the moon and stars..." probably led his critics to this conclusion. They took him literally and not metaphorically. Again the image of Divine light is a central theme. Fire represents the first cause. Therefore, a physical manifestation such as a fiery star would represent to Fludd a metaphor for the Divine principles of fire and light.

Fludd felt that God worked in the world through second causes and his depiction of their realms led his critics to believe that he equated the second causes as being identical with the first Cause.

Craven quotes Hargrave Jennings from his book The Rosicrucians where he interprets Fludd's ideas on this subject. "The Rosicrucians [through Fludd] declare in accordance with the Mosaic account of creation, -- which they maintain, is in no instance to be taken literally, but metaphorically, -- that two original principles, in the beginning, proceeded from the Divine Father. These are Light and Darkness, --or form or idea, and matter or plasticity. Matter, downwards, becomes fivefold, as it works its forms, according to the various operations of the first informing light...This produced the being (or thought) to whom, or to which creation was disclosed. This is properly the `Son.' or Second Ineffable Person of the Divine Trinity." (Craven, 159- 160)

Robert Fludd wrote scientific, medical and alchemical books in addition to his philosophical writings. He was consumed by his work and this feverish pitch may have contributed to his death, the cause of which is not known. He knew he was in a weakened state and that his time was soon to come. He methodically arranged his affairs and had prepared a special stone for his grave. He died September 8, 1637 and was buried in Bearsted Church. On the slab of the stone floor is the inscription:

In Jesu qui mihi omnia in vita morte resurgam Under this stone resteth the body of Robert Fludd of Phisick who changed this transitory life for an imortallthe VIII day of September A.D. MDCXXXVII being LXIII years of age, whose monument is erected in this chancell according to the forme by him prescribed

Even though Robert Fludd was devoted to the church of his baptism and was a religious person, he was also very independent from exoteric religion and recognized wisdom from a variety of sources. He embraced his church rather than reject it. Yet he transcended the theological concerns of the day by incorporating many different points of view.

In keeping with the continuous images he used of expanding and concentric circles, Fludd sought an expanded and inclusive view of the greater world. He wished to see the spiritual world directly through metaphor, personally through ascension and intellectually, through science. He was a medical doctor and a Paracelsian. Yet he incorporated new alchemical ideas into his traditional and chosen profession, rather than try to destroy a tradition of which he was a part. We might even describe him as a Rosicrucian one who lived by Evolution, not by Revolution.

As a writer and thinker, Fludd was unique. He lived in a time to see a separation in the world of medicine and the world of philosophy. His medical art may have seemed of the old way as he depended upon astrology, and his religious views were founded to a great extent in geocentric theories. Yet, he had his feet on two platforms: one from the old and one facing towards a future. Fludd lived in a time where there was a great crack in the cosmic egg, new light poured into the minds of men, the old warred for the status quo, the new warred to bring in change. Fludd stood at the center of his being, at the center of his beliefs and in the center of his dedication to the truth in healing and the truth to knowledge. He sought only to serve God and His creation.

He saw God in all things. "The intensity of reverence which saw the hand of God in everything, and His sacred presence generating, preserving, and controlling all, in an absolute nearness and actual filling of all in all, was the key to Fludd's character and writings...His connection with the Rosicrucian controversy arose from the deep respect in which he held his instructor, Michael Maier, and that cast of mind which saw wonders in Nature, which to most were but the outcome of common operation. That a society of the nature of the Rosy Cross existed, and that both Maier and Fludd were initiates, need not, I think, be now doubted by any disinterest students of the history of those wondrous sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. What its origin may have been, we shall, I suppose never know with any certainty, though there is some ground for supposing that it was in existence in the latter part of the eighteenth century. Its whole story is one of the most curious episodes in History." (Craven, 238-239)

Robert Fludd never married and left no heirs. However, as Craven ends his book, "The real successors of a writer like Fludd will be found in those who, assimilating his thoughts, and their results, hand on to others the encouraging hope that a time will come `when all the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.'"(Craven, 242)

Rosicrucians can also be said to be his successors, for Robert Fludd left us much. He defended the fraternity by saying the brethren did not seek the vulgar gold,..."but progress in virtue, by sublimation, by tears, by the inhaling of the divine breath of God, thus will the soul be sublimated, rendered subtile, able clearly to contemplate God, be conformed to a likeness with the angels; thus apparently dead, lifeless stones become living and philosophic stones. Such are the opinion and methods of the brethren; such is the alchemy and process referred to in their confession." (Craven, 149)

To end with final words from Robert Fludd himself: (Debus, 86)

"Farewell my freends let playne simplicity Be stil your guide to lead you in your race So shal ye neare approch to Vnity And euermore obtayne from him his grace For double dealers, false and treacherous men Wil quickly be entrapt in Errours den."


Craven, J.B. Doctor Robert Fludd, William Peace & Sons 1902

Debus, Allen Robert Fludd and His Philosophicall Key, Neale Watson Academic Publications, Inc. 1979


Back to main page