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.
The Rosicrucian Manifestos included cryptic messages, mysterious ciphers, and enigmatic symbolism, and throughout the subsequent 1600s various secret societies established themselves on the Rosicrucian model, and exactly three hundred years ago, in 1717, some of them merged to become the Freemasons. One of the most famous Masonic symbols is the Eye of Providence, an image depicted on the dollar bill, leading many historians to propose that the Founding Fathers were influenced by Freemasonry.
An early Masonic version of the Eye of Providence with clouds and a semi-circular glory. (Public Domain)
The Eye of Providence, the glyph depicting an eye in the sky, shining down rays upon the world, was actually a later version of an earlier symbol used by the Rosicrucians, which represented the new star of 1604 radiating its influence upon the Earth. The new star had come to symbolize the concept of intellectual enquiry and the very ideals of The Enlightenment, a seventeenth-century academic movement advocating reason rather than the confinements of established tradition.
The new star later came to be depicted as an eye, here shown with a snake representing the constellation of Ophiuchus in which it appeared. (Public Domain)
Remember, Remember: Conspirators to Murder and Coup
Another, far less successful, and sadly violent group that were influenced by the new star of 1604 were a band of dissident English Catholics led by the wealthy landowner Robert Catesby. In 1605, Catesby believed that Princess Elizabeth, then just a child, was destined to rule England, and staged an abortive conspiracy to enthrone her. His ambitious plan to kill the king, his other heirs, and all his ministers, by blowing up the Houses of Parliament was discovered and Catesby was shot dead. The day is still remembered in Britain every year during firework displays on November fifth. It is called Guy Fawkes Night, named after the co-conspirator who was discovered waiting to ignite the barrels of gunpowder hidden below the parliament building.
Painting showing the arrest of Guy Fawkes – only 1 of the goup of conspirators - by the Royalist soldier Sir Thomas Knevet; Guy Fawkes (1570-1606) and Robert Catesby among others had been attempting to blow up the Houses of Parliament in the attack in 1605. (Public Domain)
For the most part, however, those inspired by the new star of 1604 made positive contributions to history. The English physician Robert Flood wrote extensively about the Rosicrucian works of the early 1600s; some scholars have suggested that he was actually one of their authors. He was certainly inspired by the Rosicrucian ideas and believed that a new age for the advancement of knowledge was at hand.
Another influential thinker swayed by the new star was the Welsh philosopher Thomas Vaughan, who translated Rosicrucian writings from Latin into English. Flood and Vaughan were immensely significant in transforming the old supernatural notions of alchemy into the discipline of modern chemistry.
The Mirror of Wisdom and the Invisible College
One of the mysterious Rosicrucian Manifestos was the 1618 Speculum Sophicum Rhodostauroticum, "The Mirror of the Wisdom of the Rosy Cross.” Thought to have been written by the German alchemist Daniel Mögling, it revealed the existence of the so-called Invisible College, a secret Rosicrucian society of scholars whose purpose was to transform the mystical notions such as alchemy and astronomy into the disciplines of experimental chemistry and observational astronomy.
A cryptic illustration in the text depicts the college as a building on wheels, symbolizing that the institution had no fixed abode – it was a meeting of minds, rather than an actual university – and above it, to the left, shines the new star of 1604 and the representation of Ophiuchus (the constellation of the serpent-bearer in which it appeared), the celestial sign that inspired the organization’s founding.
Illustration from the ‘Speculum Sophicum Rhodostauroticum’ depicting the Invisible College. In the top left corner shines the new star of 1604 and the representation of the constellation Ophiuchus, the serpent-bearer. (Public Domain)
Although various esteemed members of the Invisible College have been suggested, such as the philosopher and statesman Francis Bacon, the inventor of modern algebra Thomas Harriot, and the innovative architect Inigo Jones, some historians doubt that the organization ever existed. Nevertheless, the idea of the Invisible College directly influenced various seventeenth-century experimental scientists, such as Robert Boyle, to found the Royal Society in 1660. This prestigious academy for the advancement of science still exists today, and its members have included many of the names associated with the scientific discoveries that have changed the world, such as Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, and Stephen Hawking.
The Secret Knowledge of the Illuminati
Then there’s the Illuminati (from the Latin meaning “The Enlightened”), a secret society around which much imaginative speculation and conspiracy theories have evolved. All we know for certain is that the organization was originally called the Bavarian Illuminati, founded in 1776 by the German philosopher Johann Adam Weishaupt to oppose religious influence over public life and corruption in government. He openly admitted to having been inspired by the Rosicrucian Manifestos. Somewhat ironically, considering its name has become almost synonymous with “secret knowledge,” another of the Illuminati’s aims was to promote the freedom of information. The group went underground by the early 1800s, after claiming to have initiated the French and American revolutions, and some authors have speculated that it still exists, its members secretly embedded at high levels of international society.
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Whether or not science, the arts, and even The Enlightenment itself, would have evolved without the movements inspired by the supernova of 1604 is anyone’s guess. It is fair to say, however, that it would almost certainly have happened differently, and probably been instigated by different people. The big question is, was there a real Rosicrucian movement or an Invisible College rather than just an inspiring notion? The answer lies in finding – if it exists – a place where the first Rosicrucians met. Although the movement apparently involved luminaries throughout Europe, it seems to have been concentrated on the British Isles, and in England there has recently been discovered a good contender for just such a place.
The Original Location Found?
At the impressive manor house of Canons Ashby near the town of Daventry, close to the center of England, a secret room was found in 2013 that for centuries had been hidden behind paneling. Dating from the first decade of the 1600s, it is decorated with mysterious symbolism at first thought to be Masonic. However, the room and its decorations date from over a hundred years before the Freemasons were founded. The secret attic chamber seems to have been the meeting place of influential members of a society who would appear to have been Rosicrucians.
The secret room at Cannons Ashby. Dating from around 1604, it is decorated with Rosicrucian symbolism and the emblems of those who met here. (Photography by David Shire)
The room is decorated with Rosicrucian symbolism, such as a representation of the new star, a depiction of the pillars from the biblical Temple of Solomon, and the dividers that later became associated with the Masonic movement. Remarkably, the walls are painted with the coat-of-arms of those who apparently met here, including many of those whose names have been associated with the original Rosicrucian movement, such as Robert Flood, Thomas Vaughan, and Francis Bacon; even the Gunpowder Plotter, Robert Catesby. Perhaps the most revealing is William Shakespeare, who has often been speculated to have been a Rosicrucian himself.
The Building of our Modern World
The psychological influence of the new star of 1604 seems to have been considerable. Those inspired by the Rosicrucian Manifestos laid the foundations of experimental science, biology, chemistry, and the modern understanding of the universe which led ultimately to the development of today’s technology. It’s even possible that the French Revolution, the modern Dutch monarchy, and even the creation of the United States may have been very different, or may not have happened at all, had Kepler's Supernova not occurred.
What’s certain is that many secret and mystical societies still exist today, claiming descent from the movements that were originally inspired by the event, some even calling themselves Rosicrucians. The new star predicted for 2022 is 1,800 light years away, far enough for us not to worry about it irradiating the Earth, but it will be interesting to see what kind of psychological reactions and social phenomena it inspires – for better or worse.
And, on a closing note, next time you take a look at a dollar bill and see the Eye of Providence, remember that although it is now said to represent the all-seeing eye of God, it was originally a depiction of the supernova of 1604.
The Eye of Providence can be seen on the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States, seen here on the US $1 bill. (Public Domain)
Speculation concerning the Rosicrucians and the new star of 1604 can be found in Graham Phillips’s book Merlin and the Discovery of Avalon in the New World.
See also his website: GrahamPhillips.net
See author and researcher Graham Phillips’s exclusive webinar – join us at Ancient Origins Premium. In The Templars and the Ark of the Covenant - Following Ancient Clues, Graham presents evidence that this remarkable relic really existed and was discovered by the crusader knights, the Templars, during the Middle Ages and brought back to Europe. From the war-torn Middle East to the quiet British countryside, Graham follows an ancient trail of clues in search of the mysterious lost Ark!
Sarah Knapton, 2017. ‘Spectacular collision of suns will create new star in night sky in 2022’ Telegraph.co.uk [Online] Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/01/06/spectacular-collision-suns-will-create-new-star-night-sky-2022/
BBC News, 2013. ‘Canons Ashby 'masonic' chamber discovered after 400 years’ BBC.com [Online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-northamptonshire-21577807
WBro Kevin Corcoran, Eleanor Cross, 2010. ‘Canon’s Ashby House and the Masonic connection’ Northants-huntsmasons.org.uk [PDF] Available at: https://www.northants-huntsmasons.org.uk/images/craft-images/craft-2010/10-08-kevin-corcoran.pdf
Order of the Rose and Cross, 2016. ‘The Rosicrucian Manifestos’ [Online] Available at: http://order.rosy-cross.org/rosicrucian-manifestos
The Royal Society, 2017. ‘History’ RoyalSociety.org [Online] Available at: https://royalsociety.org/about-us/history/