CESNUR - center for studies on new religions


June 17-20, 2004 - Baylor University, Waco, Texas

Modern offshoots of "sacred physics" : evolution of theosophical, pansophic and Rosicrucian movements from 17th to 21st century .

by Sylvain Imbs
A paper presented at CESNUR 2004 international conference, Baylor University, Waco (Texas), June 18-20, 2004. Preliminary version. Do not reproduce or quote without the consent of the author.


Naturphilosophie, theosophy and pansophia are three currents of thought proceeding of a “sacred physics”, which is an approach to the study of natural phenomena enlightened by a "gnosis", a higher knowledge.

During the 19th and 20th century, this approach declined due to the advance of science and technology. At the end of the 20th century however there is a reemergence of “sacred physics”. One could thus speak of a death and a rebirth of Nature.

The theosophical association of HP BLAVATSKY, the anthroposophy of Rudolf STEINER, the Rosicrucian Fellowship of Max HEINDEL and on Lectorium Rosicrucianum of the Leene brothers are presented from this point of view, with an emphasis on this last movement, which has not been extensively studied.

It is in reaction to normative and mechanist thinking that “sacred physics” was born, at the beginning of the 17th century, the currents of thought of a "higher physics", of a gnosis, the aim being to reconsecrate the phenomenon and experiences of physics.

The considerations of the philosophers of nature are woven between two frameworks, two conceptual supports: on the one hand the Book of Nature, the theatre of the phenomena and the natural realms of Living Nature, and on the other hand the Book of the Revelation, not only the Christian revelation of the books of the New Testament, but also that of the known hermetic books in the West as of the 16th century.

The concept introduced by Paracelsus of the two lights, the light of Nature and the light of the Grace form the conceptual basis on which the paracelsism is spread in Germany in the writings of Gerhard DORN, Michael TOXITES or Ostwald CROLL among others. This thought will lead to 17th and 18th centuries to a reconsecration of physics or "higher physics” whose Naturphilosophie is the continuation.

Jakob Boehme completed this naturalist vision of Paracelsus by doctrines of the good and evil comprising God of the world of Light and God of the world of Darkness, two Gods at the same time contrary and united into one [1] . According to Böhme, it is a perspective of a radical transformation of the man by a death of the self and a new birth. It is this "new birth from above" which will make possible the liberation from the "wheel of anguish", the achievement of the septenary cycle planned by God and the final salvation of humanity.

The Rosicrucians of the 17th century, whose proclamations of the circle of Tübingen appear at the same time Boehme makes public his first books proposing a universal thought, where all is ordered and classified in relation to God, prepare a “general reformation " of man, society and world. This thought often called "pansophia", tends to join together the theosophists and Naturphilosophie currents. One could quote among them Heinrich KHUNRATH, Johann Valentine ANDREAE, Johannes ARNDT or Robert FLUDD, or in the 18th century Karl Van Eckartshausen or Louis Claude of Saint Martin.

During the 19th and moreover the 20th century, Naturphilosophie tends to disappear from the scene, and one could say following Basarab NICOLESCU [2] that, from a vision of living nature, one passed to the 19 E century to a mechanist and triumphalist vision of Nature - where the natural phenomena are the components of a machine, of a large clock to which it would be enough to dismount the wheels to entirely know it - then to the 20th century with a disintegrated nature, dead, where even the mechanist vision is not necessary any more, and where the man is nothing any more but one accident of complexity. One could speak here about a "passion" of nature, similar to the passion of Christ where, to take again an alchemical vision of Jakob Boehme, the natural elements are condemned, undergo insults, climb the way of cross for finally being crucified, to die and to reappear in a transfigured form.

We observe since second half of the 20th century the emergence of a new physics, curiously similar to the "sacred physics" of the 17th century. Stephan LUPASCO (1900-1988) was one of the first philosophers to work out a vision of the world informed by quantum physics. He developed in particular in "the Principle of antagonism and the logic of energy" (1951) the principle of the "thirds included". [3] Alike Basarab NICOLESCU shows it in its work "Us, the particle and the world", empty space, the empty vacuum of the physicists of the 19th century, becomes the vacuum full with quantum space. The theory of the membranes or that of the supercordes postulates the existence of parallel universes, and one cannot prevent oneself from thinking here of the maxims of the Rosicrucian brotherhood of the 17th century: "There is no empty space” or also to "the pure and unknown half of the world of the Rosicrucian Manifestos. Complexity of the universe seems irreducible, since it was shown that even simple Newtonian systems are unstable and unpredictable when more than three celestial bodies are in interaction. The Gödelian structure of the world created a systemic thought based on the study of the interdependent systems[4], while nonseparatibility of the particles at the quantum level, or EPR effect[5] leads certain physicists to reintroduce the concept of indivisible unity of the universe.

Thus, new physics comes to a paradigm approaching traditional notions of the philosophers of nature, which made Edgar MORIN say that we assist with the resurrection of a global vision nature: [6] ,a pansophia of our times.

The modern successors of Naturphilosophie who are Helena Petrovna BLAVATSKY, Rudolf STEINER, Max HEINDEL and Jan LEENE take part according to us of this "resurrection" of the nature and a science of sacredness.

The School of the Golden Rosycross (GRC) or Lectorium Rosicrucianum (LR) was founded in 1924 in Haarlem, the Netherlands by Jan Leene (1896-1968) and his brother Z.W. Leene (1892-1938). The LR having been comparatively studied very little, compared to the other quoted movements, we will focus our study to this movement and will try through several practical examples drawn from the doctrines, to show the similarity of thought with Naturphilosophie and the pansophic ideas.

This movement, initially connected to Rosicrucian Fellowship of Max Heindel, will take its complete independence in 1935. After the untimely death of oldest of Leene in 1938, Jan Leene (known under the pen-name of Jan van Rijckenborgh) and Mrs. Stok-Huizer (who signs Catharose of Petri), the GRC starts to make public the addresses pronounced in the Temples of the movement. After an initial development limited to the Netherlands and Germany, the movement is spread, under the denominations of Lectorium Rosicrucianum (LR), in France, in Brazil, in Switzerland, and in the nineties in many Eastern European countries , Africa and South America. In 2003, it counted approximately 15 principal centers (or Conference Centers ) in Europe, each one comprising Temples and accommodating from 300 to 700 members, and more than 100 centers distributed in large cities.

According to Antoine FAIVRE, quoted again by Massimo INTROVIGNE, " The LR proposes a classical gnostic dualism between the divine world (static) and the natural world (dialectic), of which the true God is not the creator. As Antoine Faivre has noted, it is difficult to reconcile this dualism with the Rosicrucian tradition . The latter, at least in its 17th century origins, is not dualistic. [7]".

But the LR, as we will show it, comprises many elements which affiliate it more to the Böhmian and Paracelsian heritage, a heritage which one can easily reconcile with the pansophic Rosicrucian tradition.

The term of "Young Gnostic Brotherhood" used by JVR as of the thirties does not correspond to a historical definition of the gnosis (or gnosticism), but to the possibility for the members of the LR of reaching an immediate knowledge, first hand, in relation to the field of force of the GRC (term which we will clarify). This is in line with Antoine FAIVRE’s definition of Gnosis : Gnosis allows a positive vision of Nature[8] . Indeed, JVR wished especially to well differentiating the LR from Max Heindel’s Rosicrucian Fellowship, as HEINDEL could not accept such a name. Jan Leene (JVR) was absolutely opposed to the evolutionary concept of successive incarnations as presented by Max HEINDEL, and insisted right from the beginning on the need for a radical transformation, which we could describe as "quantum", transformation that is not in any way automatic. On the other hand, the history teaches us that the Gnostics considered the world bad as a whole, also they took care to live apart from organized society, in order to avoid any compromising with the institutions, to refuse procreation, the marriage, the family, all requirements, which are not those of the LR.

The relation of filiation as alleged by the LR with the Catharism was the fact of the meeting with only one person: the writer and historian from Ariège Antonin GADAL, whom JVR met in 1957. The writings and contributions of GADAL were used almost without modifications in the teaching of LR. [9] For JVR, these fragments of the inner teaching of the cathars were like a testimony which he would not modify. We must underline here that the precepts of life of the Cathars, such as the commune life or the prohibition of the marriage, are not imposed to the members of LR, whatever stage they are. Conversely, the Cathars ate fish, which is not authorized to the members of LR.

Among the elements of similarity between the theosophical or pansophic thought and the LR, we find first the sevenfold structure of Nature, of the man and the world in general. The concept of cosmic septenary of the the LR [10] is absolutely isomorphous to the concept of septenary cycle in Jakob Boehme. One knows the importance of evolution by the septenary cycle in Boehme. However, in its first talks, JVR insisted on the need for structuring the LR in seven aspects. One of its missions was according to him to build seven temples, or foci, where the teaching of the LR could be given to its members by means of the "Seven Temples of Fire". The seven Temples were to be for JVR the material manifestation of the seven Water of Life fountains , to quote Boehme. This task will however only be completed in 1992 with the center of Switzerland close to Montreux[11].

The teaching of the LR is also the image of " cosmic septenary " and comprises 7 aspects and three main phases.

The three phases are similar to Boehme explanations of the three "triads" of the septenary cycle. The teaching of LR insists on the simultaneity of these seven aspects of the GRS. It is not a matter of evolutionary steps, but of the light of the Gnosis, appearing in the center of a circle. Boehme also insists on this simultaneity, which he defines as the heart of the light which perpetually generates the seven spirits as the light of life. [12]

Three triads of the septenary cycle of Boehme are:

1.      First triad: to understand the wheel of the anguish and need for the birth from above.

2.      The second triad is a preparation to this new birth, which implies death of the self, the moment when the lightning rises in the seething source of the heart, in the sensitizing of the brain, in which the Spirit contemplates. [13]]

3.      Lastly, the third triad, during which the soul is in communion with God[14], leads to the rising of a new regenerated body.

For the LR, the three phases of teaching are[15]:

1.      The teaching of the insight of the fundamental nature of the universe : the incessant struggle between the opposites, "formation" of the pupil, corresponding to the first and second aspects of the LR, teachings that are open to the public.

2.      the consiousness, by an inner insight, of the fundamental separation between man and God, leading to a radical decision of fundamental change by the "death of ego" or "reformation" of the pupil, corresponding to the third and fourth aspects of the LR, the School of Higher Consciousness and the Ecclesia, whose lesson are reserved to the pupils of the LR.

3.      New birth in the Immutable Kingdom prepared by God for the mankind, the "transformation" leading to a "transmutation" and finally to a "transfiguration" of the body, are corresponding to the fifth, sixth and seventh aspects of the LR.

These three stages are often summarized in the LR by the formula "Born of God, Died in Jesus Christ, Reborn by the Holy Spirit", sentences that one also finds on the tomb stone of Jakob Boehme. [16]

A crucial point of the teaching of the LR is the inner awakening that the world is governed by the dialectical avenging, a continual fight of the opposites, and that man is continuously under the influence of negative influences coming from the reflection sphere[17].

Boehme says that: the spirit of stars unceasingly pushes the man towards the wheel of the anguish. This spirit of stars led to the creation of the visible world, of the earth [....] and the man know himself better only by looking at himself seriously […]. But he must be vigilant; as he must repress the spirit of the stars expressed in him i.e. It must take leave of these influences constantly[18]. To be released from these influences means to restore the orientation of the septenary cycle, which will lead to the body of light.

A second point of comparison is the notion of the "two Souls" in man.

For Boehme, the natural man […] is between two doors. [19][ .He is a dual man. On the one hand, the wheel of the anguish is part of him, and if he imprisons himself in it, he is dead in death and locked in the most external generation[20]. On the other hand he can become to the world of light if the light is in him, he is therefore generated in the three principles, without which he is only a spark but not the large fountain which comes from God itself. [21]

The LR speaks constantly about the "two Souls in the man", in very similar terms. [22] .Let us add that the sleeping divine Soul in man is called in the LR "spirit spark atom".

A third element, of more anecdotic nature, is the notion developed by JVR of the relation between electricity and freedom, ideas which are close to certain writings of the Naturphilosoph Baader. Baader brings together freedom and electricity. Positive spark and negative spark are mutually dependent. Like A. FAIVRE points it out, that means that from metaphysical point of view, the Spirit, positive pole, must be predominant, and Nature, the negative pole, must serve. If a positive, or good element, gets close to a negative, or bad element it releases from this bad element the good which was enclosed in it and gives thus to the creature the possibility to draw it itself a new will. [23]

JVR regards electricity as the visible demonstration of a sacred force, of which it is inappropriate to abuse because one is likely to be enslaved by it. However, this same force will be able to liberate the man if used in a consecrated place. Thus, the Temples of the LR are in an electromagnetic force field . It is the orientation of the pupil in this force field which releases the latent possibilities in his being and which will result in the creation of a new will and its progress on the path proposed by the LR[24].


Naturphilosophie is not dead; it is like the Phoenix bird reborn from its ashes.

With three points of comparison, we were able in this paper to draw parallels between classical Naturphilosophic ans pansophic writings as those of Baader and Jakob Böhme. Such a comparison had not been done, to our knowledge, NMR as the LECTORIUM ROSICRUCIANUM for instance being qualified of Gnostic and dualistic. This is however only a preliminary work and much remains to be done.

Many NRM in 20th century bring forward criteria coming from a general evolution of the contemporary thinking, evolution that reintroduces sacredness in physics. NRM referring to components of western esotericism as Naturphilosophy, theosophy or modern interpretations of the classical Rosicrucian pansophy have not been systematically studied and open a wide field for researchers.

[1] "because God of the holy world and God of the dark world are not two Gods: there is only one single God; he is everything in himself, he is the good and the evil, heaven and hell, light and darkness, eternity and time, the beginning and the end " Jakob BÖHME, Mysterium Magnum, Chap VI

[2] B Nicolescu, Comm. In Interdisciplinary Conference of IUP, La Sorbonne, Paris2004

[3] S. LUPASCO, the man and work, ouvr. Collectif .Ed. du Rocher, 1999

[4] Ervin Laszlo, systemism, anew vision of the world, Pergamon Press 1981

[5] Effect EPR, or Effect Einstein Podolski Rosen is a quantum phenomenon which seems against the common sense: two particles that nothing connects seem "to communicate" instantaneously and independently of the distance. If this phenomenon is firmly established on the experimental level (in particular by the French team of Alain Aspect in 1983), its consequences remain obscure. Non-separability calls into question the idea of locality of the objects.

[6] Edgar MORIN, the anthropo-bio-cosmic relation, in Universal Philosophical Encyclopaedia, Vol I L’Univers Philosophique, PUF, 1989

[7]Lectorium Rosicrucianum: A Dutch Movement Becomes International, Paper read by Dr. Massimo Introvigne CESNUR 97 Conference, Free University of Amsterdam

[8] Antoine FAIVRE, Accès de l’ésotérisme Occidental. Op. Cit.

[9]The main work of A. GADAL is "Sur le Chemin du Saint Graal", a description of the initiation path of a young disciple of the Catharism (Rozekruis Pers, Haarlem, 1962). For other texts of GADAL, published in Dutch language, see Antonin Gadal. De triomf van de universele gnosis. In De Pelikaan, Amsterdam 2004.

[10]Extract of a public lesson of LR: the Original World, the Eternal Order, can be described like seven great cosmic fields, forming together a perfect unity: THE COSMIC SEPTENARY. Like the image of the single white Light which is divided into seven rays and reveals seven colors when it strikes a prism, the unknowable Eternal Spirit appears itself in seven fields of Life, in seven cosmic spheres or fields when He projects His thoughts in the Paramount Substance, the flowing Waters ,the "Matéria Magica".

[11] Foyer Catharose de Petri à Vevey : information pour le public

[12]Jakob Boehme, of the three principles of the divine essence, Trad. By Louis Claude of St Martin - the Unknown Philosopher. ED. D’aujourd’hui, 1985

[13] Jakob Boehme, Aurora or dawn being born, trad. By the Unknown Philosopher (Louis Claude of St Martin), Arché, Milano, 1977

[14] Jakob Boehme, of the three principles of the Divine essence, Op. cit.

[15] Oral comm. with LR resp.

[16]Aus GOTT geboren, In IHSUS gestorben.in dem Heiligen GEIST versiegelt. The Tombstone of Jakob Boehme in the life of Jakob BÖHME by Abraham von Frankenberg, éd. 1682, Amsterdam.

[17] J. Van RIJCKENBORGH, The Great Revolution, Rozekruis pers, Haarlem, 1957

[18] Jakob Boehme, of the three principles of the Divine essence, Op. cit

[19] Jakob Boehme, of the three principles of the Divine essence, Op. cit

[20] Jakob Boehme, Aurora, Op. cit.

[21] Jakob Boehme, of the three principles of the Divine essence, Op. cit

[22] extract of a public lesson of LRe: There are thus two state of consciousnesses and thus two states of Soul:
- a state of consciousness old, ordinary, terrestrial ,connected to a Soul only related to blood thus mortal;
- a new state of consciousness, connected to the alive Soul connected again to the Original Plan, the Original Divine Idea, the Spirit.

[23] Antoine FAIVRE, Philosophy of Nature, ED Albin Michel, 1996

[24] J. Van RIJCKENBORGH, The Gnosis in Actual manifestation, Rozekruis Pers, Haarlem.

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