400 years ago, Europe was in upheaval. The world became a smaller place, especially due to sea faring to America, India and the South Seas. Science develops. On the one hand, the German lands have experienced peace for around 60 years; one the other, political friction between the princes is coming to a head, with a Protestant coalition on one side and a Catholic one on the other. This struggle for power leads Middle Europe into the Thirty Years War.
The first centenary for the Reformation in 1617 was marked by power struggles and block-building. In the dispute over the choice of the German king, it came down to a show of strength between the predominantly Protestant alliance and the predominantly Catholic alliance. To mark the occasion of this anniversary of the Reformation, gold commemorative coins were minted in Protestant areas.
A curious media event in the years before struck another chord. Here, too, the talk is of a “general and over-all reformation of the whole wide world”. You can see here first editions of the anonymous manifesto of the Rosicrucian Brotherhood, a secret society unknown until that point, published in the years 1614-1616. The manifestos speak of an international public – they are directed at all educated people in Europe and call for a renewal of life in all aspects. The manifests are curious because they are written in a very florid language with much symbolism and tell the tale of a knight called Christian Rosenkreuz.
The reaction was forthcoming! Although the brotherhood never revealed their identity, countless writings in response appeared from all different directions. Approval and rejection of the manifestos came from every lingual, cultural and religious camp.
This international impulse dissipated in the turmoil of the Thirty Years War but, over the course of the next hundred years, many secret societies formed on the basis of the Rosicrucian manifestos and attempted to follow the aims of the manifestos in their own way. These included the Freemasons and various self-proclaimed Rosicrucian orders. The enigmatic symbolism of the time survives today, in particular in theatre, music and literature.