Writings of Dr John Palo
Began the Cycle
The Wissahickon Community
by Dr. John Palo, B.S., D.C., F.R.C.
Traditionally, the Rosicrucian Order operates in two cycles, an active one for 108 years and a passive one for the same time. Simple calculation from 1909 tells us that, sometime in the last decade of the seventeenth century, the Order commenced activities in what is now the
The historian Sachse states that on June 24, 1694, Johannes Kelpius and his Chapter of Pietists, or Rosicrucians, landed in
In conformity with certain plans previously made by Sir Francis Bacon, as well as with the raising of the body of C.R-C. at
Persecution for unorthodox beliefs was rife on the continent. Penn himself had been imprisoned in the
It is possible that the English authorities hoped to be rid of the troublesome, free-thinking Penn when they granted him land in the
With the land, he was granted the right to found a colony with such laws and institutions as expressed his views and principles. He saw in this his chance to offer a haven to the many throughout the
As the champion of religious liberty, Penn was especially sympathetic to the plight of the Rosicrucians in
With the pressure of persecution close upon them and the beginning of a new active cycle close at hand, they accepted the offer. Thus it came about that Penn's land served as the birthplace of the American jurisdiction of the Rosicrucian Order.
At the appropriate time, Rosicrucian officers were selected, with full power and authority to establish the first American headquarters of the Rosicrucian Order. Each member was chosen because of special fitness: There were chemists, botanists, artists, printers, papermakers, musicians, an astronomer, mathematicians, alchemists, artisans of various kinds, and their wives and children.
Aided by Benjamin Furley, Penn's agent in
One of their first acts upon arriving is described by the historian Francis Burke Brandt. "On the evening of their arrival, some of this band of forty enthusiasts, tired as they were, betook themselves to a highland just northwest of the city proper, even then known as Fairmount, and there performed the mystic rites peculiar to St. John's Eve, ... a rite, indeed, celebrating the summer solstice and symbolizing the waning of the sun's power."
Kelpius was a mere youth of 21. He had replaced Johann Jakob Zimmermann, the original leader, who died at the harbor just prior to their leaving
Kelpius and his band of 40 walked to
A communal society was set up, dedicated to study, meditation, and the betterment of mankind. Feeling the need for occasional further withdrawal, Kelpius dug out a cave for himself in the middle of the nearby hillside. He called it the "Laura." Here he could study, contemplate, write, and pray in silence and solitude.
William Penn took a more than casual interest in the Brotherhood. During his 1699-1701 stay in
Through the generous donations of present-day Rosicrucians and the cooperation of the Imperator of the Rosicrucian Order, AMORC, and
An Ephrata manuscript relates, "Kelpius, educated in one of the most distinguished universities of
"He was intimately acquainted with the principal works of the Rabbins, the Heathen and Stoic philosophers, the Fathers of the Christian Church, and the Reformers. He was conversant with the writings of Tertullian,
"He was also a strict disciplinarian, and kept attention constantly directed inwards upon self. To know self, he contended, is the first and most essential of all knowledge.... He directed a sedulous watchfulness over the temper, inclinations and passions, and applauded very much the counsel of Marcus Aurelius: Look within; for within is the fountain of good."
The surrounding villagers called these mystics many things, among them "Monks of the Ridge" and "The Society of the Woman in the Wilderness." The group, however, sought to avoid the tinge of denominationalism and preferred to be known as "The Contented of the God-Loving Soul." Although much of their time was devoted to spiritual matters, they also cleared ground, cultivated a garden, and planted an orchard.
The range of the subjects studied by these mystics was impressive. They poured their energies into mathematics, astronomy, astrology, philosophy, theosophy, the kabala, and mystical principles and rites. They experimented in chemistry and alchemy. They also conducted pharmaceutical experiments, raising various herbs for therapeutic purposes.
Near the Tabernacle, seven years after their arrival, they again celebrated St. John's Eve as well as the anniversary of their landing in
"It receded into the shadows of the forest, and appeared again immediately before them as the fairest of the lovely ... the luminary of the skies appeared above the hills and shed her cheerful rays to renovate the energies of the laboring man; but the bloom of darkness hung upon the waiting hermits." The mystically symbolic figure after three appearances finally disappeared. Seven years later, at the age of 35, when many great mystics achieve the state of Cosmic Consciousness, Master Kelpius died.
Among the notions held by the surrounding villagers was one that these "Monks of the Ridge" ate their religion. This idea arose from a unique custom among them to raise their moral or spiritual calibre. Each of the brethren carried with him a small basket in which were slips of paper upon which were written numerous Biblical verses or uplifting thoughts. If tempted to anger, envy, or any other forbidden feeling, he would reach in, withdraw a verse, and read it.
If he encountered anyone swearing or otherwise behaving in a blasphemous manner, he would hand the offender one of these slips to read. After the thought was read, the paper containing it was placed in the mouth. This little ritual may have symbolized the further digestion of the thought. The villagers, however, were literal and claimed that the monks "ate their religion."
These mystics were a center of light. They were willing and eager to share their knowledge with others. All of their services--spiritual, educational, therapeutic, and celestial--were given gratis.
The cave Kelpius had dug out for himself for private meditation may have proved too much for his constitution. He contracted tuberculosis. After 14 years of building a thriving spiritual community in the forest along the banks of the Wissahickon, he lay on his death bed growing weaker and weaker. It had been his firm belief that he would not die, that he would be borne bodily to heaven.
The dying Kelpius turned disappointedly to his servant Daniel and said, "I am not to attain that which I aspire unto. It is that dust I am, and to dust I am to return. It is ordained that I shall die like unto all children of Adam."
He then handed Daniel a sealed casket to throw into the deepest part of the river. Instead, Daniel hid it. When he returned, Kelpius chided him for not fulfilling his wishes. Daniel then rushed back to the casket and heaved it into the water, more than ever convinced of Kelpius's mystic powers. Legend has it that a great explosion, flashes of lightning, and peals of thunder emerged from the spot where the casket struck the water.
Kelpius was buried in the orchard or garden near the temple in an unmarked grave. This temple has long since disappeared and the forest has reclaimed the orchard and garden. Kelpius's cave, however, can still be seen on a path leading up from the stone bridge at the foot of Hermit's Lane in what is now called
With the death of Master Kelpius in 1708, the first Rosicrucian group to come to
It was not until 1720 that Conrad Beissel provided the leadership needed to reorganize and build on the great work started by Kelpius. He came to
Copyright © 1965 Dr. John Palo
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