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Daniel Cramer, Rosicrucian emblems and the Sibyl of the Heart

By Giordano Berti

The Fraternity of the Rosy Cross is a legendary brotherhood of sages that in early seventeenth century suddenly
came into the limelight with a series of works that promoted a radical spiritual change in European society. 1
In 1614, the first Rosicrucian manifesto began to circulate publicly in Kassel, a city in west-central Germany; the
title is Fama Fraternitatis Rosae Crucis. In that volume, the anonymous author tells the story of the Father C.R.
(Christian Rosenkreuz), a noble knight. According to legend, Rosenkreuz was a doctor who, in the early fifteenth
century, during a pilgrimage to the Middle East, encountered numerous wise men amongst the Turks, Arabs and
Persians, from whom he learned ancient esoteric knowledge that included Magic, Kabbalah and Alchemy. Then,
the knight returned to Europe passing through Egypt and Morocco. In Spain, he met another group of enlightened
sages: the alumbrados. Once back in Germany, he founded the Fraternity of the Rosy Cross, whose members met
in a temple called Sanctus Spiritus.
In 1615 a second booklet began to circulate, Confessio Fraternitatis Rosae Crucis, which provided new
revelations about the philosophy of the followers of Christian Rosenkreuz.
In 1616, another work appeared in Strasbourg, the anonymous Die Chymische Hochzeit des Christian
Rosenkreutz (The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz). Later, the Lutheran theologian Johann Valentin
Andreae (1586-1654) claimed to be the author and in his autobiography he justified the text as a ludibrium, ie a
kind of “playful joke”.
We must clarify that in reality, The Chemical Wedding is an initiatory novel. It recounts an allegoric romance,
divided into Seven Days, or Seven Journeys, like Genesis. The novel describes the way Christian Rosenkreuz
undertook a series of trials, purifications, rituals of death, resurrection and ascension before he was invited to go
to a wondrous castle full of miracles, in order to assist in the mystical wedding of a King and his Queen, symbol
of the coniunctio alchemica.
A fundamental detail of the legend of Rosenkreutz is that the noble knight, after having reached the highest
initiations, inscribed on his own Sarcophagus, hidden in the Black Forest, all that sages had taught him on the
subject of alchemy, astrology and other hermetic doctrines.
Historians of esotericism consider the first Rosicrucian texts as “manifestos” designed to bring about a renewal in
European society, following the tragic upheavals caused by the constant religious wars between Catholics and
Protestants.
That renewal could take place, but only through rediscovering the true meaning of the Christian Gospels, filtered
by the authentic wisdom transmitted by Hermetic philosophers over the millennia.
The propagation of the first three booklets generated heated discussions in every part of Europe, but especially in
Germany and England, where the Rosicrucian ideas had been very favourably received in Protestant circles. Very
soon, literary fiction became reality, because some intellectuals who had moved in search of the mysterious
brotherhood began to organize themselves in circles, keen to spread the ideals and knowledge of Christian
Rosenkreuz.
Many did not declare their link to the Rosicrucian brotherhood openly,
timorous of being harassed, and yet their works contained symbolic
allusions, more or less evident, to the Rosy Cross “manifestos”. Among
the early followers of the Rosy Cross was a Lutheran theologian, Daniel
Cramer (Reetz 1568 – Stettin 1637), teacher of philosophy at the
universities of Stettin and Wittenberg.

A mysterious follower of the Rosicrucians


In 1617 Daniel Cramer, author of several studies on Aristotle, published
a treatise enriched by bizarre etchings: 40 emblematic figures
accompanied by biblical quotations. That treaty was entitled Societas
Jesus et Rosae Crucis Vera (The true Society of Jesus and the Rosy
Cross).
An important contemporary scholar of alchemy, the Scottish Adam
McLean, noted that this work contains references to the Rosicrucians not
only in the title but also in some emblems which the symbols of the rose,
the heart and the cross appear simultaneously.
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2
The “true Society of Jesus” mentioned by Cramer would seem a game of opposites to the Societas Jesu (the
Order of Jesuits) founded in 1534 by St. Ignatius of Loyola. McLean writes:
«...perhaps we can recognize a parallel between these emblems and the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of
Loyola; it is quite possible that here, Cramer was consciously trying to produce a series of spiritual exercises of
a Protestant esoteric Christianity». 2
McLean shows a further connection of the German theologian with the Rosicrucians via the publisher, Luca
Jennis of Frankfurt, who published many works of Rosicrucian writers. In his new edition of the work of Cramer,
the Scottish scholar tried to explain the possible use of the 40 emblems connecting the symbol of the heart, which
occurs in almost all the figures, with meditation exercises similar to those of the tantric tradition.
Here is how McLean explains it:
«The heart, which is found in nearly all the plates, undergoes various processes and experiences through this 40
stages cycle. Thus, we can see here an extended meditative Rosicrucian exercise working upon the heart-centre
of man. In the Eastern Tantric tradition, the various centres of etheric forces within the body of Man were
pictured as chakras or lotus flowers with various numbers of petals. [...] We have here, in the Cramer Emblems,
a Western parallel in this series of Rosicrucian meditative exercises that also open up the meditator to
consciousness of the heart-centre. These heart meditations also reveal the esoteric Christianity, which was the
cornerstone of the Rosicrucian Mystery current [...]. The symbolism found in the 40 emblems is to some extent
alchemical. In some plates, we see the heart placed in a furnace, in others is weighed in a scale, at one stage
various plant forms grow from its substance, and in others, it is set free from various types of bondage and
limitation. These illustrations are very simple and communicate directly to the soul». 3

McLean also states that the emblems of Cramer, like other systems of hermetic symbols, are multidimensional,
allowing to work in different ways. The Scottish scholar suggests a system initially based on the construction of
pairs of emblems, which in this way lead to construct particular meanings. After an initial analysis, we must unite
these pairs to form groups of four from which derives new meanings. Finally, one must read the figures in their
entirety. McLean notes that, set up in this way, the emblems show a process of spiritual development in ten
stages: earthly pitfalls, aspiration, internal development, inner foundation, heating, balancing of opposites,
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development of awareness, protection of the situation achieved, crucifixion or sacrifice of the ego, resurrection or
renewal of oneself.
These ten stages are a series of concrete experiences, lived by the heart of the individual, meaning the symbol of
the heart as “home of the individual”, or “centre of their spiritual substance”. However, as stated by the same
scholar, you can find other ways to work because «these emblems [...] are really maps of the inner world, tools
for exploring the psyche. [...] A work as profound and as simple as this can never die, but must always be a vital
source of inspiration».
After experimenting the techniques suggested by McLean, I wanted to
conduct a deeper research on Cramer’s emblems, and I found that, in
1622 he published a new edition of his work for Luca Jennis, this time
with a different title, Emblemata Sacra (Sacred Emblems). 4
Leafing through the pages of this book, I noticed the presence of ten
additional emblems, to the first edition; there are 50 emblems instead
of the 40 contained in the edition studied by McLean. However, that is
not all! Reading the presentation written by Luca Jennis, I was amazed
by the fact that the publisher makes no mention to the first edition.
Very superficially, he says that the most worthy doctor of theology
Daniel Cramer had provided these emblems with a succinct
explanation of two Latin verses.
The publisher says, moreover, that other learned men confronted him
and who, unanimously, judged the emblems of Cramer worthy of
being published. Therefore, Jennis, at the request of those wise men,
prepared the edition of 1622 reporting on each page a short text in four
languages: Latin, German, French and Italian.
A new edition of the book of Cramer was published by Jennis in 1624,
this time with 100 emblems and a slightly different title: Emblematum
sacrorum. Also in this case nothing is explained, on the practical use
of the images.
I asked myself why Jennis had not quoted the first edition. Perhaps
Cramer realized that he had revealed himself excessively, explicitly showing himself as a Rosicrucian follower,
and decided to go back into anonymity. Other reasons which require investigation are possible. 5
McLean is probably right when he states that Cramer’s emblems allow different ways of working, but no doubt,
as suggested by the same scholar, these drawings show a purely spiritual character or, rather, an alchemical
process of inner development. Thus, the brief biblical quotation from Cramer, inserted next to each emblem,
offers the key to a more simple and straightforward reading, not the solution to the puzzle. The real enigma is the
use of the images. 6

Old emblems for a new divinatory “game”


At some point during my research,
something completely unexpected happened.
For other unrelated reasons, I was sorting
out my ancient divination cards collection
when my eye fell on the figure of two
superimposed hearts: one set in flames, the
other surrounded by snakes. As I observed
more closely, I noted the similarity of some
emblems with the figures of the oldest sets
of “discussion cards” that historically
precede the Lenormand cards. For example,
we meet the ears of corn; the flowers; the
whip and the broom; a flaming heart and
one full of snakes; the carriage; the cross;
the ring; the letter; the Sun and the Moon. 7

4
This discovery came as a kind of thunderbolt! I stopped looking for other analogies and, as I let my mind free
from prejudice, I abandoned myself to the suggestive power of symbols. Thus, the idea of being able to create,
with Cramer’s emblems, a deck of “divination” based on the symbol of the heart, quickly developed. Hence the
title of The Sibyl of the Heart that I have given to this work.

Analogies between Lenormand cards and Cramer’s emblems


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The Sibyl of the Heart was printed in 2015 in a limited edition of 800 numbered copies, generating a new interest
in the emblems of Daniel Cramer, who had been forgotten for 400 years. 8

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So, I selected 40 emblems and charged a Bulgarian
artist, Stiliyan Stefanov, to paint them. Then, I decided
to give each emblem a number that is in symbolic
relationship with its contents.
For the practical use of the deck, I entrusted the task
Odete Lopes, considered a leading expert in the world
of Lenormand cards. Together with a collaborator,
Vincenzo Lucifora, we discussed the keywords
(printed on the cards in six languages) so that a
contemporary audience in every place of the world can
easily understand and use these wonderful cards. Then
Odete Lopes wrote the booklet with the significances
of each cards, deeper meanings, combinations and
rules to use the deck.
The Sibyl of the Heart was printed in 2015 in a limited
edition of 800 numbered copies, generating a new
interest in the emblems of Daniel Cramer, who had
been forgotten for 400 years. 8

NOTES
1. To know the origins of the Rosy Corss brotherhood, see Frances A. Yates, The Rosicrucian Enlightenment, London-
New York, Routledge, 1972.
2. See Adam McLean, The Rosicrucian Emblems of Daniel Cramer: The True Society of Jesus and the Rosy Cross,
Edinburgh, Magnum Opus 1980.
3. A. McLean, op. cit.
4. The reprint of second edition was edited by Wolfgang Harms and Michael Schilling with the title Daniel Cramer:
Emblemata Sacra: Frankfurt am-Main 1624, Olms Emblematisches Cabinet, Hildesheim-Zürich-New York, 1994.
5. Some scholars, including Sabine Mödersheim, believe a mistake associate Daniel Cramer to Rosicrucians, but it is
certainly possible that the Lutheran theologian had left fascinated by the project of spiritual renewal promoted by the
mysterious brotherhood; as a result, he could have given up to follow the project in consideration of the distance from his
own religious ideals. See Sabine Mödersheim, “Theologia Cordis. Daniel Cramer’s Emblemata Sacra in Northern European
Architecture”, in The Emblem in Scandinavian and the Baltic, edited by Simon McKeown and Mara R. Wade, Glasgow
Emblems Studies, University of Glasgow, 2006.
6. The hypothesis of a link with alchemy suggested by McLean is supported by the dedication of the first edition to the
Duke of Stettin Philip II, by a distinguished member of the Academy of Szczecin, Jacob Muller, who wrote: «I entrust your
height, with your family more illustrious, God, three times larger, to develop happily, live long, and prosper for eternity» .
The term “God thrice great” seems a clear reference to Hermes Trismegistus, the “Thrice Great Hermes”, patron of the
hermetic-alchemical knowledge which were inspired by the followers of the Rosy Cross. In subsequent editions is no
longer any reference to Hermes.
7. During my iconologic research I even noticed that Cramer may have inspired by previous works, for the invention of his
emblems. In fact, I found similarities with “situations of heart” described in an allegory of Venus engraved in 1485 by
Caspar von Regensburg. I found other similarities in a series of engravings of the Belgian Anton Wierix made for the Cor
Iesu amanti sacrum (The heart dedicated to loving Jesus), published around 1586. The theme of the “iconographic debts”
of Cramer should need an additional investigation.
8. See the web page https://rinascimentoitalianartenglish.wordpress.com/sibyl-of-the-heart-2015/. A short video dedicate to
the Sibyl of the Heart is at the page https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pmt8ujDt0-M