Secret Societies and Hidden Knowledge: The Explosive Star that Inspired the Modern World
A few weeks ago, astronomers announced that in 2022 something truly spectacular is to occur: a new star will appear in the heavens. It will be the first such event visible with the naked eye for over 400 years. Created by the collision of two relatively dim stars, the resultant explosion is known as a “boom star.”
When this rare celestial occurrence takes place it will create a so-called red nova that will shine so brightly that it will be clearly seen at night in the constellation of Cygnus the swan. The last time a “new star” became visible without the aid of modern telescopes was in 1604, although this one was caused by a supernova, an exploding far-away sun that remained visible for many months. That one occurred in the constellation of Ophiuchus, the serpent-bearer, and its remnants can still been seen as a beautiful ring nebula by astronomers today.
Illustration from Johannes Kepler's book ‘De Stella Nova in Pede Serpentarii’ (On the New Star in Ophiuchus's Foot) indicating the location of the 1604 supernova. ( Public Domain )
At a distance of 20,000 light years, the supernova was too far away to have any physical effect on Earth, but its appearance did have a significant psychological impact. It led to a remarkable series of sociological episodes that radically shaped history.
The New Star - Supernova 1604, also known as Kepler's Supernova. Courtesy NASA ( Public Domain )
A Heavenly Sign Heralds a New Era of Enlightenment
The 1604 event is known as Kepler's Supernova, after the astronomer who made detailed observations of it at the time. However, it was not only professional star gazers who were enamored by the occurrence; it ignited an entirely new philosophical movement. In the same year, the German theologian Simon Studion published his Naometria (“Temple Measurement”), in which he interpreted the event in astrological terms, heralding the birth of a new era of enlightenment. Studion, it seems, believed that the new star was a heavenly sign, such as the star of Bethlehem is said to have proclaimed the birth of Christ. This new age was envisaged to include the advancement of scientific, religious, and social freedoms, and – a revolutionary concept for the time – the emergence of a new political order based around a powerful woman or queen.
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Within a few years, a group known as the Rosicrucians (named after their emblem depicting a rose and cross) began to disseminate pamphlets along similar lines. Collectively called the Rosicrucian Manifestos, these works implied that Princess Elizabeth, the daughter of James I of England, was the woman who would somehow unite Europe into a kind of renaissance European Union. In 1613, Elizabeth had married Frederick V, the Elector (prince) of the Palatinate— a region of what is now south-western Germany.
Rosicrucian symbolism showing the star shining over the woman who was foretold to unite Europe in a new age of enlightenment. ( Public Domain )
The marriage is cryptically referenced in these Rosicrucian writings, in particular the 1616 publication referred to as The Alchemical Wedding . It seems that the society interpreted Elizabeth’s wedding, which was to cement an alliance between England and the protestant states of Germany, as being the start of the imagined European confederation. However, it all fell apart in 1619 when Fredrick was offered the throne of Bohemia in the modern Czech Republic. Elizabeth and Fredrick reigned as king and queen for just a few months before being deposed, and fled, ultimately to settle in the Netherlands. Because of her short reign, Elizabeth became known as the Winter Queen, but her descendant, Willem-Alexander, is king of the Netherlands today. Even though Elizabeth never became the envisaged Euro-queen, the ideals of religious and intellectual freedom of expression expounded by the Rosicrucian Manifestos continued to inspire others. It has even been suggested that those who organized the Mayflower voyage of 1620 had been Rosicrucians.
Images showing the new star of 1604 are depicted on graves of historical figures whose names have been linked to the early Rosicrucian movement. (Photography by Graham Phillips)
Cryptic messages, mysterious ciphers, and enigmatic symbolism
Very little is known about the original Rosicrucians as their pamphlets were published anonymously during the second decade of the seventeenth century. These works were clearly inspired by Studion’s Naometria, in that they disseminated the idea of a coming age of enlightenment heralded by the new star, but whether or not the Rosicrucians were a Europe-wide secret society of the learned individuals, as their works claimed, is open to debate. However, the authors of these texts wittingly or unwittingly initiated a variety of movements that had considerable ramifications on world history.