17 January 1574|
Milgate House, Bearsted, Kent
|Died||8 September 1637(aged 63)|
Robert Fludd, also known as Robertus de Fluctibus (17 January 1574 – 8 September 1637), was a prominent English Paracelsian physician with both scientific and occult interests. He is remembered as an astrologer, mathematician, cosmologist, Qabalist and Rosicrucian apologist.
He was born at Milgate House, Bearsted, Kent, the son of Sir Thomas Fludd, a high-ranking governmental official (Queen Elizabeth I's treasurer for war in Europe), and Member of Parliament. He entered St John's College, Oxford in 1591, graduating B.A. in 1597 and M.A. in 1598. His mother was Elizabeth Andrews Fludd.
Between 1598 and 1604, Fludd studied medicine, chemistry and hermeticism on the European mainland. His itinerary is not known in detail. On his own account he spent a winter in the Pyrenees studying theurgy (the practice of rituals) with the Jesuits.
On his return to England in 1604, Fludd entered Christ Church, Oxford and in May 1605 he graduated M.B. and M.D. He then moved to London, settling in Fenchurch Street, and making repeated attempts to enter the College of Physicians. Fludd encountered problems with the College examiners, both because of his unconcealed contempt for traditional medical authorities (he had adopted the views of Paracelsus), and because of his attitude to authority—especially those of the ancients like Galen. After at least six failures, he was admitted in September 1609. He became a prosperous London doctor.
Subsequently both his career and his standing in the College took a turn very much for the better. He was on good terms with Sir William Paddy. Fludd was one of the first to support in print the theory of the circulation of the blood of the College's William Harvey. To what extent Fludd may have actually influenced Harvey is still debated, in the context that Harvey's discovery is hard to date precisely. The term "circulation" was certainly ambiguous at that time.
While he followed Paracelsus in his medical views rather than the ancient authorities, he was also a believer that real wisdom was to be found in the writings of natural magicians. His view of these mystical authorities was inclined towards the great mathematicians, and he believed, like Pythagoras and his followers, that numbers contained access to great hidden secrets. Certainty in religion could only be discovered through serious study of numbers and ratios. This later brought Fludd into conflict with Johannes Kepler. Isaac Newton, at this time, also held similar beliefs, focused on the dimensions of Solomon's Temple.
Fludd died on Sept. 8, 1637, in London.
Fludd's works are mainly controversial. In succession he defended the Rosicrucians against Andreas Libavius, debated with Kepler, argued against French natural philosophers including Gassendi, and engaged in the discussion of the weapon-salve.
Defence of Rosicrucianism
Fludd was not a member of the Rosicrucians, as often alleged, but he defended their thoughts as expressed in numerous manifestos and pamphlets. He produced a quick work, the Apologia Compendiaria, against the claims of Libavius that the Rosicrucians indulged in heresy, diabolical magic and sedition, made in his Analysis confessionis Fraternitatis de Rosea Cruce (Analysis of the Confession of the Rosy Cross) of 1615. Fludd returned to the subject at greater length, the following year.
- Apologia Compendiaria, Fraternitatem de Rosea Cruce suspicionis … maculis aspersam, veritatis quasi Fluctibus abluens, &c., Leyden, 1616. Against Libavius.
- Tractatus Apologeticus integritatem Societatis de Rosea Cruce defendens, &c., Leyden, 1617.
- Tractatus Theologo-philosophicus, &c., Oppenheim, 1617. The date is given in a chronogram. This treatise "a Rudolfo Otreb Britanno" (where Rudolf Otreb is an anagram of Robert Floud) is dedicated to the Rosicrucian Fraternity. It consists of three books, De Vita, De Morte, and De Resurrectione. In the third book Fludd contends that those filled with the spirit of Christ may rise before his second coming.
It is now seriously doubted that any formal organisation identifiable as the "Brothers of the Rose Cross" (Rosicrucians) actually existed in any extant form. The theological and philosophical claims circulating under this name appear to have been more an intellectual fashion that swept Europe at the time of the Counter Reformation. This was in the early years of the scientific revolution and the claim to be part of a secret cult gave some scholars of alchemy, the occult, and Hermetic mysticism additional prestige by being able to promote their views while claiming exclusive adherence to some revolutionary pan-European secret society.
Between 1607 and 1616, two anonymous Rosicrucian manifestos were published by some anonymous person or group, first in Germany and later throughout Europe. These were the Fama Fraternitatis, (The Fame of the Brotherhood of RC), and the Confessio Fraternitatis, (The Confession of the Brotherhood of RC). The first manifesto was influenced by the work of the respected hermetic philosopher Heinrich Khunrath, of Hamburg, author of the Amphitheatrum Sapientiae Aeternae (1609) who himself had borrowed generously from the work of John Dee. It referred favourably to the role played by the Illuminati and it featured a convoluted manufactured history dating back to archaic mysteries of the Middle East, with references to the Kabala and the Persian Magi.
The second manifesto had decidedly anti-Catholic views which were popular at the time of the Counter Reformation. These manifestos were re-issued several times, and were both supported and countered by numerous pamphlets from anonymous authors: about 400 manuscripts and books were published on the subject between 1614 and 1620.. The peak of the "Rosicrucianism furore" came in 1622 with mysterious posters appearing on the walls of Paris, and occult philosophers such as Michael Maier, Robert Fludd and Thomas Vaughan interested themselves in the Rosicrucian world view. Others intellectuals and authors later claimed to have published Rosicrucian documents in order to ridicule their views. The furore faded out and the Rosicrucians disappeared from public life until 1710 when the secret cult appears to have been revived as a formal organisation.
It is claimed that the work of John Amos Comenius and Samuel Hartlib on early education in England were strongly influenced by Rosicrucian ideas, but this has not been proven, and it appears unlikely except in the similarity in their anti-Catholic views and emphasis on science education. Rosicrucianism is also said to have been influential at the time when operative Masonry (a guild of artisans) was being transformed to speculative masonry—Freemasonry—which was a social fraternity, which also originally promoted the scientific and educative view of Comenius, Hartlib, Isaac Newton and Francis Bacon.
Rosicrucian literature became the sandbox of theosophists, and charlatans, who claimed to be connected with the mysterious Brotherhood. Robert Fludd led the battle. It is said by some that he was "the great English mystical philosopher of the seventeenth century, a man of immense erudition, of exalted mind, and, to judge by his writings, of extreme personal sanctity."
- Veritatis Proscenium Frankfort, 1621. Reply to Kepler. In it Fludd argued from a Platonist point of view; and he claims that the hermetic or "chemical" approach is deeper than the mathematical.
- Monochordon Mundi Symphoniacum Frankfort, 1622. Reply to Kepler's Mathematice, 1622.
- Anatomiæ Amphitheatrum, Frankfort, 1623. Includes reprint of the Monochordon.
Against the natural philosophers
According to Brian Copenhaver, "Kepler accused Fludd of being a theosophist, and Kepler was right". Fludd was well-read in the tradition coming through Francesco Giorgi. Marin Mersenne attacked him in Quæstiones Celebres in Genesim (1623).
- Sophiæ cum Moria Certamen, Frankfort, 1629. Reply to Mersenne.
- Summum Bonum, Frankfort, 1629. Under the name Joachim Frizius, this was a further reply to Mersenne, who had accused Fludd of magic.
Pierre Gassendi took up the controversy in an Examen Philosophiæ Fluddanæ (1630). This was at Mersenne's request. Gassendi attacked Fludd's neo-Platonic position. He rejected the syncretic move that placed alchemy, cabbala and Christian religion on the same footing; and Fludd's anima mundi. Further he dismissed Fludd's biblical exegesis.
Fludd also wrote against The Tillage of Light (1623) of Patrick Scot; Scot like Mersenne found the large claims of hermetic alchemy to be objectionable. Fludd defended alchemy against the criticisms of Scot, who took it to be merely allegorical. This work, Truth's Golden Harrow, remained in manuscript.
The weapon-salve controversy
- "Doctor Fludds Answer vnto M. Foster, or, The Sqvesing of Parson Fosters Sponge," &c., London, 1631, (defence of weapon-salve, against the Hoplocrisma-Spongus, 1631, of William Foster, of Hedgerley, Buckinghamshire); an edition in Latin, "Responsum ad Hoplocrisma-Spongum," &c., Gouda, 1638.
The idea that certain parallel actions could be initiated and linked by 'sympathetic' mysterious forces was widespread at this time, probably arising mainly from the actions of the magnet, shown by Gilbert, to always point towards some point in the northern sky. The idea owed a lot of the older Aristotelian and neoPlatonic views about soul-like forces.
Cosmology and other works
Fludd's philosophy is presented in Utriusque Cosmi, Maioris scilicet et Minoris, metaphysica, physica, atque technica Historia (The metaphysical, physical, and technical history of the two worlds, namely the greater and the lesser, published in Germany between 1617 and 1621); according to Frances Yates, his memory system (which she describes in detail in The Art of Memory, pp. 321–341) may reflect the layout of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre (The Art of Memory, Chapter XVI).
In 1630, Fludd proposed many perpetual motion machines. People were trying to patent variations of Fludd's machine in the 1870s. Fludd's machine worked by recirculation by means of a water wheel and Archimedean screw. The device pumps the water back into its own supply tank.
His main works are:
- Utriusque Cosmi … metaphysica, physica atque technica Historia, &c., Oppenheim and Frankfort, 1617–24. (It has two dedications, first to the Deity, secondly to James I, and copperplates; it was to have been in two volumes, the first containing two treatises, the second three; it was completed as far as the first section of the second treatise of the second volume.)
- Philosophia Sacra et vere Christiana, &c., Frankfort, 1626; dedicated to John Williams.
- Medicina Catholica, &c., Frankfort, 1629–31, in five parts; the plan included a second volume, not published.
- Philosophia Moysaica, &c., Gouda, 1638; an edition in English, Mosaicall Philosophy, &c., London, 1659.
- Religio Exculpata, &c. [Ratisbon], 1684 (Autore Alitophilo Religionis fluctibus dudum immerso, tandem … emerso; preface signed J. N. J.; assigned to Fludd).
- Tractatus de Geomantia, &c. (four books), included in Fasciculus Geomanticus, &c., Verona, 1687.
An unpublished manuscript, copied by an amanuensis, and headed Declaratio breuis, &c., is in the Royal manuscripts, British Library, 12 C. ii. Fludd's Opera consist of his folios, not reprinted, but collected and arranged in six volumes in 1638; appended is a Clavis Philosophiæ et Alchimiæ Fluddanæ, Frankfort, 1633.
William T. Walker, reviewing two books on Fludd in The Sixteenth Century Journal (by Joscelyn Godwin, and William Huffman), writes that "Fludd relied on the Bible, the Cabbala, and the traditions of alchemy and astrology. Many of his contemporaries labelled Fludd a magician and condemned him for his sympathy for the occult." He cites Godwin's book as arguing that Fludd was part of the tradition of Christian esotericism that includes Origen and Meister Eckhart. He finds convincing the argument in Huffman's book that Fludd was not a Rosicrucian but was "a leading advocate of Renaissance Christian Neo-Platonism. Fludd's advocacy of an intellectual philosophy in decline has done much to assure his general neglect."
- Wolfgang Pauli, Wolfgang Pauli – Writings on physics and philosophy, translated by Robert Schlapp and edited by P. Enz and Karl von Meyenn (Springer Verlag, Berlin, 1994), Section 21, The influence of archetypical ideas on the scientific theories of Kepler. ISBN 3-540-56859-X, ISBN 978-3-540-56859-9.
- Members Constituencies Parliaments Surveys. "historyofparliamentonline.org/ ''Fludd, Sir Thomas (d.1607), of Milgate, Kent''". Historyofparliamentonline.org. Retrieved 2013-08-17.
- Debus pp. 207–8.
- "Sir Thomas Fludd, Knight of, Milgate, Bearsted, Kent, England d. Yes, date unknown: Community Trees Project". Histfam.familysearch.org. Retrieved 2013-08-17.
- Urszula Szulakowska (2000). The Alchemy of Light: Geometry and Optics in Late Renaissance Alchemical Illustration. BRILL. p. 168. ISBN 978-90-04-11690-0. Retrieved 18 April 2012.
- William H. Huffman (24 September 2001). Robert Fludd. North Atlantic Books. p. 20. ISBN 978-1-55643-373-3. Retrieved 18 April 2012.
- Walter Pagel (1967). William Harvey's Biological Ideas: Selected Aspects and Historical Background. Karger Publishers. p. 340. ISBN 978-3-8055-0962-6. Retrieved 18 April 2012.
- Allen G. Debus, Robert Fludd and the Circulation of the Blood, J Hist Med Allied Sci (1961) XVI (4): 374-393. doi: 10.1093/jhmas/XVI.4.374
- "Fludd, Robert". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
- William H. Huffman, Robert Fludd and the End of the Renaissance (Routledge London & New York, 1988)
- William H. Huffman (24 September 2001). Robert Fludd. North Atlantic Books. p. 45. ISBN 978-1-55643-373-3. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
- The Real History of the Rosicrucians, by Arthur Edward Waite, ,
- Daniel Garber; Michael Ayers (2003). The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy. Cambridge University Press. p. 457. ISBN 978-0-521-53720-9. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
- Johannes Kepler; E. J. Aiton; Alistair Matheson Duncan; Judith Veronica Field (1997). The Harmony of the World. American Philosophical Society. p. xxxviii. ISBN 978-0-87169-209-2. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
- William H. Huffman (1988). Robert Fludd and the End of the Renaissance. Routledge. p. 57. ISBN 978-0-415-00129-8. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
- Daniel Garber; Michael Ayers (2003). The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy. Cambridge University Press. pp. 464–5. ISBN 978-0-521-53720-9. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
- Antonio Clericuzio (2000). Elements, Principles and Corpuscles: A Study of Atomism and Chemistry in the Seventeenth Century. Springer. pp. 71–2. ISBN 978-0-7923-6782-6. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
- Bruce Janacek. Alchemical Belief: Occultism in the Religious Culture of Early Modern England. Penn State Press. pp. 45–54. ISBN 978-0-271-05014-0. Retrieved 18 April 2012.
- William H. Huffman (24 September 2001). Robert Fludd. North Atlantic Books. p. 146. ISBN 978-1-55643-373-3. Retrieved 18 April 2012.
- Debus, p. 255.
- Karsten Kenklies, Wissenschaft als Ethisches Programm. Robert Fludd und die Reform der Bildung im 17. Jahrhundert (Jena, 2005)
- Manly P. Hall, The Secret Teachings of All Ages: An Encyclopedic outline of Masonic, Hermetic, Qabbalistic, and Rosicrucian symbolical philosophy (H.S. Crocker Company, Inc., 1928)
- Joscelyn Godwin, Robert Fludd: Hermetic philosopher and surveyor of two worlds (1979), p. 70.
- Walker, William T. (1992). "Robert Fludd and the End of the Renaissance. by William H. Huffman; Robert Fludd,Hermetic Philosopher and Surveyor of Two Worlds. by Joscelyn Godwin; Splendor Soils. bySalomon Trismosin; Joscelyn Godwin. Review". The Sixteenth Century Journal. 23 (1): 157–158. doi:10.2307/2542084. JSTOR . 2542084 .
- Allen G. Debus (2002), The Chemical Philosophy
- Allen G. Debus, The English Paracelsians, New York: Watts, 1965.
- Tita French Baumlin, "Robert Fludd," The Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 281: British Rhetoricians and Logicians, 1500–1660, Second Series, Detroit: Gale, 2003, pp. 85–99.
- James Brown Craven, Doctor Fludd (Robertus de Fluctibus), the English Rosicrucian: Life and Writings, Kirkwall: William Peace & Son, 1902.
- Frances A. Yates, The Art of Memory, London: Routledge, 1966.
- William H. Huffman, ed., Robert Fludd: Essential Readings, London: Aquarian/Thorsons, 1992.
- Johannes Rösche, Robert Fludd. Der Versuch einer hermetischen Alternative zur neuzeitlichen Naturwissenschaft (Göttingen, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2008).
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Robert Fludd.|
|Wikisource has original works written by or about:
- WorldCat page
- Robert Fludd biography at Levity
- Fludd's magnum opus, 'Utriusque Cosmi maioris salicet et minoris metaphysica..' (1617–1619) is available as ZIP or PDF download.
- A large section of 'Utriusque Cosmi maioris salicet et minoris metaphysica..' is available as page images at the University of Utah.
- JR Ritman Library: Treasures from the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica
- Robert Fludd chronology
- Utriusque Cosmi maioris salicet et minoris metaphysica (1617) at the Internet Archive
- Article by Urszula Szulakowska on the religious imagery of Utriusque Cosmi, including gallery and links to online public domain copies.