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Ron Heisler - Philip Ziegler: The Rosicrucian King of Jerusalem

Article originally published in The Hermetic Journal, 1990.

Philip Ziegler:
The Rosicrucian King of Jerusalem

Ron Heisler ©

Today, probably the least known of the leading early Rosicrucians - although certainly the most charismatic - is the prophet Philip Ziegler. 1 Sadly, for over a century now the considerable amount of material, particularly in manuscript form, on his English experiences has been largely lost sight of.

Ziegler was born in Wuerzburg in Germany in the late 16th century, possibly in 1584. His reforming parents were obliged to leave their home state about 1585, and he seems to have led a constantly wandering life. After studying law, he became a private teacher at Augsburg in 1609. Two years later he was teaching at Zurich. During this period he developed a talent for prophecy. On his account he was "called of God to be a prophet" in 1609. His brother Sebastian made prophecies about him. 2 For three years he was active "as a second Joseph". The "Philippum Ziglerum" who edited an abridgement of De Bry's Grand Voyages under the title of America Erfindung in 1617 is surely our man. The original of this work was partly compiled by Gotthard Arthusius of Danzig, often considered to be the author of the well known Rosicrucian polemic Fortalitium Scientiae (1617), who wrote a Rosicrucian "Reply" attached to Andreas Huenefeldt's Danzig edition of 1615 of the Rosicrucian manifestos. 3 Ziegler is known to have visited Basel, Worms, Speier and Strassbourg. The alchemist Figulus met him on the 18th December 1617. 4

Important comments were made on Ziegler by the Danish scientist, Ole Worm, who maintained a correspondence from 1616 onwards preparatory to writing a polemic against the Rosicrucian phenomenon. In 1618 Worm wrote to Jacob Fincke at Strasbourg: "I have been very pleased with your descriptions of this crazy king of Jerusalem; if these Rosicrucians regard him as their pioneer, then one can wholly deduce from him what one should think of the others… I request you in your next letter to inform me… whether he has said where the new college is situated, and whether he has tried to lure certain persons into his society". In August 1620 Worm wrote to Anders Jacobsen Langebaek, "I have once seen this Ziegler person of whom you wrote in Heidelberg; also then he pandered to such like; similar things have been written to me from Giessen as you wrote in your letter; for also there he cultivated his sweet melancholy in a similar fashion, and tried to spread it around". 5

Ziegler was in Nuremberg in February 1619. He carried a small red rose into the wine market and began preaching to the assembled Junkers and Buergers, prophesying that Matthias, the Hapsburg Holy Roman Emperor, would die on the 18th March. The authorities had him brought to the Rathaus for cross-examination. On the 12th March he left town. By this time he was calling himself "king of Jerusalem", the "sceptre of the Kings in Zion", and a Rosicrucian Brother. 6 His travels thereafter are dizzying: he was at Frankfurt on Main in 1620, then turned up in Holstein, Denmark, Sweden (an active Rosicrucian centre as early as 1617), Berne, France and Prague. 7 There were periods in Belgium and Holland; a manuscript of his in the Ashmole collection in the Bodleian Library tells us he was working in Groningen and Amsterdam in 1624. He managed to publish a few tracts: De Bry printed his Harmonia doctrinae et vitae Salvatoris nostri J.C. in 1620. In 1622 came Anti-Arnoldus and also Anti-Negelius oder gruendlicher Beweis…, which ran to four editions. 8

Although no contemporary French writer named Ziegler specifically, we can infer that he was at the centre of the extraordinary events occurring in that country in 1623. There is an excellent report given in the Mercure françois (vol IX 1622-24). 9 It tells of how the Rosicrucians were to be found in all the hostelries of Germany, and of how one "brother" had renounced baptism and belief in the Resurrection. Thirty six brothers were circulating in Europe, six each assigned to Spain, Italy, France and Germany. Four had gone to Sweden, two each to Switzerland, Flanders, Lorraine and Franche comté. Six had lodged in Paris at the "Marests du Temple" in the Faubourgs Saint Germain, but had disappeared without paying their "hosts". Gabriel Naudé wrote contemptuously of the Rosicrucians a "Torlaquis" (Sufis) and "Cingaristes" (Gipsies). A general assembly of Rosicrucians was reported to have been held in Lyons on the 23rd June 1623. 10

Marin Mersenne accused them of following Hermes Trismegistus and practicing kabbalism. It was vaguely hinted that they had some association with the mystical Spanish sect, the Illuminati, some of whom were present in Paris. Much comment was aroused by the placard they put up in Paris in 1623, which read, "We the delegates of the Main College of the Brothers of the Rosy Cross, are making a visible and invisible visit to this City… We show and teach without books or signs how to speak all kinds of languages of the countries where we wish to be be in order to draw our fellow-men from deadly error". 11 By calling themselves "delegates of the Main College" of the Rosicrucians, a tacit admittance was made of the existence of at least another, probably rival, "College" of Rosicrucians. France appears to have become too hot for the "Main College": and by June 1625 the magistrates of Harlem were being warned that the Rosicrucians who had been active in Paris had suddenly descended on the United Provinces. 12

England was Ziegler's last refuge. According to the great diplomat J.J. de Rusdorff, who served the exiled Elector Palatine, and who was writing in November 1626, the "frenetic prophet" Ziegler had been in England a year and a half, calling himself God's secretary. For a time he had been tranquil, then finally he became "enragé" and the talk of all London with his reveries. He indulged in Alchemy, claiming to make gold. He had made approaches to Risdorff, the Duke of Buckingham and the Archbishop of Canterbury. 13 The death of James I in March 1625 had come as a relief to a movement forces underground for several years. With Charles on the throne the Rosicrucians felt free again to stride boldly in the public light.

Now Ziegler was ready to make his play for fame and fortune. Rusdorff tells us that Ziegler's existence came to the ears of Charles I through the agency of a gentleman of his privy chamber, Sir David Ramsay. This rough and ready, rather uncouth Scot, sometimes known as "Ramsay Redhead from Fife", deserves extended attention in his own right. He had been a groom of the bedchamber to Prince Henry at his death in 1612. In 1631 Ramsay was ready to become the centre of intense controversy when Lord Reay accused him of trying to implicate him in a plot to overthrow Charles I and put the Marquis of Hamilton on the throne. Ramsay was goaled for a while and it was even decided at one stage to settle the matter between Reay and him-self by an anachronistic procedure of the Court of Chivalry - by a duel. This extreme was not reached. Ramsay was treated lightly, consid-ered guilty of "wild talk" and no more, and given money by Charles to lose himself abroad. In June 1632 a correspondent wrote to the Marquis of Hamilton that "You will do yourself much right to provide some place for David Ramsay with the king of Sweden, for… the king himself is so displeased with his behaviour, that he is utterly lost in this place. He is to be set at liberty, giving in security (whereof I am one) not to meddle with Mackay [the Clan], neither at home nor abroad…" 14

Ramsay's relationship with Ziegler must surely have arisen through his Palatinate connections. Gilbert Burnet wrote "there is a letter from the King of Bohemia in my hands, wherein he recommends him [Ramsay] to the King as one who had served him faithfully in Germany". After the Reay scandal blew up, Sir Thomas Roe wrote to Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia (Charles' sister), that "Your Majesty's name was used in court in his defense by Ramsay, in my opinion, not to purpose, and he was reprehended. He is not a man on whose discretion to rely." 15

There is one last association of Ramsay's, who lived to 1642, worth mentioning. Among the most renowned of Scottish masonic lodges in Edinburgh Lodge (Mary's Chapel), whose surviving minutes date back to 1599. In August 1637 a group of courtiers were initiated into the Lodge's membership. Among them was David Ramsay, described as one of the King's special servants. This Lodge appears to have had ongoing Rosicrucian associations. In July 1647, Dr William Maxwell, physician in ordinary to Charles I, was admitted as a member. Maxwell is reputed to have been a close friend of Robert Fludd. A book was published under his name said to be jointly written with Fludd. Present at Maxwell's initiation was that famous "Patron" of the Rosicrucians, Sir Robert Moray. 16 The rumour still circulated in the eighteenth century that the Rosicrucians had been absorbed into freemasonry. The record of Mary's Chapel seems strong supportive evidence for this claim.

But to return to Ziegler: a letter to the Rev. Joseph Mead (23rd November 1626) from the professional newsletter writer John Pory delightedly explained, "But the sweetest news, like marchpane, I keep for the banquet. Now the French ambassador is departed, a certain heterochta ambassador is coming upon the state. A youth he is, I hear, with never a hair on his face; and the principal by whom he is sent… is the President of the Society of the Rosy Cross; whose said ambassador, on Sunday afternoon, hath appointed to come to court, with thirteen coaches. The proferrs he is to make to his majesty are no small ones; to wit - if his majesty will follow his advice, he will presently put three millions… into his coffers, and will teach him a way how to suppress the Pope; how to bring the Catholic King on his knees; how to advance his own religion all over Christendom; and lastly, how to convert Turks and Jews to Christianity; than which you can desire no more in this world." 17 Some thought this all a plot aimed at the Duke of Buckingham.

Another letter given by Thomas Birch (27th November) throws further light on Ziegler: "There is a stranger hath been two years in London… who… told the Prince Palatine, at the beginning of his election to the Crown of Bohemia, of all the misfortunes and calamities which have befallen him since that time, and nevertheless advised him to accept it." 18

Alas, the "ambassador" failed to turn up on the appointed Sunday afternoon. Rusdorff tells us who this was: "a little child, son of Dr. Web, the physician…" Dr Web, surprisingly, appears to have been a Roman Catholic. He refused to allow his boy to be party to Ziegler's plan, thus aborting the strategy. Ziegler, however, had crossed the line of decency by writing to Charles I. Rusdorff told his master, the Elector Palatine, that what he had predicted concerning Ziegler had come to pass; and that the prophet, with his secretaries and servants, had been imprisoned. All his private papers were seized, in which were found his "follies". Rusdorff speculated that after he had shown a little repentance, Ziegler's liberty would be returned to him. 19 A letter to "Dr Wunderlichium" (28th September 1632), possibly written by Hartlib, after dismissing Ziegler as a "fraudulent hypocrite", mentioned that a penniless "Hibernian" counselor to the King's son had been involved in the affair, and that the Queen (presumably Elizabeth the "Winter Queen", Charles' sister) had intervened to save Ziegler's life. 20 There is a claim that a Rosicrucian "college" was meeting in London in 1630; 21 if this was the case, it possibly means that Ziegler had again become active.

Official papers show us why Ziegler was regarded as rather more than a joke. First, however, they tell us he was apprehended with one Peter Wundertius; his association with the "legate" of the French King, Dr Rusdorff, was noted. There was a letter found addressed to Peter Count Gavria, requesting a "Bible of his Dutchman". Apparently "divers" of Ziegler's things were pawned with Dr Waganor, an Essex physician. 22

Although there is not a trace of Ziegler's own papers at the Public Record Office, we have an excellent description of what they contained under the title of "Dangerous passages out of the Bookes & papers of Philip Ziegler… Out of the first Book titled Origenicas Reformas totius mundi". According to this summary, Ziegler threatened to punish all kings that would not submit themselves to the sceptre of his reformation. He threatened to depose Philip of Spain with the help of the English and the Dutch. He claimed to be of the royal blood of Scotland, and King Charles was his son-in-law. The official writer then examines Ziegler's "Anabaptisticall Dreams". The prophet claimed that the use of logic and other human learning was lawful among Christians, and that a bloody reformation was intended. He supported his arguments with the testimony of the King and the Archbishop of Canterbury; and gave a transcript of De Cousin's Tables of the policy of the Church of England.

Other seized papers included a summons of all the establishments of Christendom for a general council to be held at Constance for the Reformation of the World. There was a proposal for the destruction of 300,000 of the nobility; and a scheme for a two fold structure for God's Kingdom on earth, ecclesiastical and civil, under which the inferior religious magistrates would rise against their superiors. Joachimite chiliasm is all too evident in Ziegler's three stage theory of history: the World's first age was that of creation; the second, of redemption; the third to come, that of sanctification. 23 With these revelations, we come to understand the basis of the accusations of Anabaptism laid at the door of Rosicrucianism by writers such as Neuhusius at Danzig. 24 The Anabaptism they had in mind, of course, was that of the German peasant revolutionary movement of the 16th century. What we see in the career of Ziegler, with its pattern if "entryism" into the liberal networks of power and influence then prevailing, is a rough equivalent of latterday Trotskyism; he certainly promoted a kind of naive strategy of permanent revolution, in which the key lever was to be the overthrow of Catholic power in Europe. His appeal was largely geared - as was the case with Rosicrucianism generally - to the university trained intelligentsias. And again, we can find a parallel to the Rosicrucian turmoil that beset various academic centres after 1614 in the Students Movements of 1968. It is no accident, surely, that Ziegler's investigators noted his activity at Oxford. 25

Elias Ashmole had a correspondent, a Mr Townesend, who gave the great manuscript collector a brief note on the prophet: Dr John Dee "Is acknowledged for one of ye Brotherhood of ye R.C. by… Philip Zieglerus… By divers relations which I have heard, I am induced to believe that he [Ziegler] understood neither the true Theory not Manual Operation of the great work [alchemy]. In my time in Oxford, he was accused to have stoll'n the booke he called Monas Hieroglifica [by Dee] out of All Soules College in Oxford (out of ye Library there). 26

Ashmole's collection includes what appears to be autograph manuscripts of important tracts by Ziegler. Responsio et Cynosura sive vera Prophetarum…, written at Groninger and Amsterdam in 1624 and London in 1626, is a compilation of the thoughts of various prophets relating to the imminent downfall of the Holy Roman Empire. Ziegler claimed - quite absurdly - that the Hungarian Johannes Montanus Strigoniensis, who died in 1604, was of the Rosicrucian Brotherhood. He quotes from Robert Fludd's Macrocosmos, and mentions a work he wrote in 1621, Alzeani. He particularly assails a critic called Matthias Ebinger. The other tract, Argumentum Origenicium, is a similar prophetic compilation, which quotes William Gouge's views of the role of the Jews in the destruction of the Holy Roman Empire. Ashmole also owned a separated single sheet with a poem on it by Joan Brocatius transcribed from a book printed at Caslov. It appears to be in the same hand as the Ziegler tracts; written on the back of this leaf are the words, "To my father in law Mr Brakin." 27

What happened to Ziegler thereafter remains a blank: either death was not long in coming or he settled for total obscurity. Thee other Zieglers were active in England and Scotland in the early 17th century; whether they were related at all to the prophet, I cannot say. Hans Ziegler of Nuremberg, a mining engineer, was employed by Sir David Lindsay at Edzell Castle, helping to design the gardens, with their curious hermetic ornamentations, in the 1600's. 28 At Exeter College, Oxford, a Calvanist and Rosicrucian centre, a Mark Zigler from the Palatinate was a student in 1624-5. Lastly, Lewis Ziegler, agent to Lord Craven (the principal financial backer of Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia), had frequent dealings with the German under-secretary of state, George Weckherlin, in the 1630's, some of which, I believe, had a strong Rosicrucian tinge. 29


1. See Joecher Allgemeines Gelehrten Lexicon (1751) column 2202. Also Gottfried Arnold Unpartheyischen Kirchen- und Ketzer-Historie (1715) 96a and 99ab. Also Das Erbe des Christian Rosenkreutz published by Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica, Amsterdam (1988) pp. 82, 83 & 88.
2. Das Erbe des Christian Rosenkreutz op. cit. p.83. Public Record Office State Papers 16/540 419. There is a reference to a "Philipp Ziegler" in Repertorien des Hessischen Staatsarchivs Darmstadt 10/1 Schlitzer Urkunden p.154 for Feb. 24 1592.
3. Das Erbe des Christian Rosenkreutz op. cit.p.83. See Kloss's masonic bibliography. Curt von Faur German Baroque Literature (1958) p.33.
4. Das Erbe des Christian Rosenkreutz op. cit. pp.83,82.
5. Breve fra og til Ole Worm ed. H.D. Schepelern vol.I pp. 34,49.
6. W.E. Peuckert Das Rosenkreutz (2nd ed.) pp. 129-30.
7. On Sweden, Sten Lindroth Paracelsismen i Sverige… (1943) p.425. On activity there in 1617 see my article "Rosicrucianism: the first blooming in Britain" in The Hermetic Journal (1989) p.33. P.R.O. State Papers 16/540 419.
8. Bodleian Library Ashmole MS 1149 v. Das Erbe des Christian Rosenkreutz op. cit. p. 88.
9. Mercure françois (1622-24) vol. 9. pp. 372-377.
10. G. Naudé Instruction à la France sur la verité de l'histoire des Freres de la Roze-Croix (1623) p. 31. "Torlaquis" can be translated as "dervishes", who were a branch of the Sufis. Roland Edighoffer Les Rose-Croix p.9.
11. F.A. Yates Giordano Bruno (Vintage ed.) p.408. W.R. Shea "Descartes and the Rosicrucians" Annali dell' instituto e museo di storia della scienza di firenze (1979) fas. 2 pp. 32-3.
12. Speigel Historiael (1967) p. 219 (A.G. Van der Steuer "Johannes Torrentius").
13. Mémoires et Négociations sécrètes de Mr. de Rusdorf (1789) ed. E.G. Cuhn pp. 785-7.
14. Cuhn op. cit. o. 785. However, an anonymous newletter given by I. Disraeli in Curiosities of Literature vol. iii (1866) pp. 464-5 talks of "David Ramsey of the Clock"as transmitting the letter to the King. Ramsay, a fine clockmaker to the King, was a mad alchemist and student of the occult. But Rusdorf, being close to the centre of affairs, carries much greater authority in the question. He writes of "Sir David Ramsay", whom he must have known personally, as if his Master, the Elector Palatine, knew well whom he meant. Both Ramsays are in the Dictionary of National Biography. I. Grimble Chief of Mackay (1965) p. 9.
15. G. Burnet The Memoirs of the Lives and Actions of James and William Dukes of Hamilton and Castle-Herald (1852 ed.). I. Grimble op. cit. p. 5.
16. David Stevenson The First Freemasons: Scotland's Early Lodges and their Members pp. 27 & 28.]
17. T. Birch Court and Times of Charles I vol. I pp. 172-3.
I. Disraeli op. cit. pp. 464-5.
18. T. Birch op. cit. p. 175.
19. Only one Dr Web is listed in W. Munk The Roll of the Royal College of Physicians of London vol I, whose first name is unknown. See p.169. He came before the College's Censors in 1616, being a doctor of medicine of Padua of twelve years standing. In March 1626 the College reported him to the parliamentary commissioners as a Roman Catholic. Cuhn op. cit. pp. 786-7. Ziegler seems to have written more than one letter to the King. A copy of one, with translation, is in British Library MSS Cotton Jul. C.V. Cuhn op. cit. pp. 790.
20. British Library MSS Sloane 648 f. 148.
21. Article on Rosicrucianism in Encyclopaedia Metropolitana.
22. P.R.O. State Papers 46/127 f. 221. State Papers 16/540 f. 419 I. Rusdorff served both the French and the Elector Palatine.
23. P.R.O. State Papers 16/540 419 ff. For other Ziegler prophecies see British Library Add. MSS. 28,633 fs. 140-1. (Johannes Ghiselius album amicorum).
24. Henricus Neuhusius Pia et Utilissima Admonitio de Fratribus R . . C . . (1618).
25. P.R.O. State Papers 46/127 f. 221. There was Rosicrucian agitation at Rostock and Giessen universities. For some decades there had been a steady growth in student intakes in both German, England and Scotland, paralleling the pre-1968 student boom of Europe and America.
26. Bodleian Lib. Ashmole MS 1446 IX.
27. Bodleian Lib. Ashmole MS 1149 v, vi & viii.
28. Proc. of Soc. of Ant. of Scotland vol. LXV p. 134. There are chemical receipts by Hans Ziegler in the University of Leiden Library: Voss. Chymm. F. 17. p. 154.
29. Register of … Exeter College, Oxford p. cvii. See Weckherlin's diary, now jeld in the British Library (no ref. number assigned at time of writing). The entry for an unknown day in December 1636-7 reads, "I did write a letter to Mons. Ziegler and One to Sir William Boswel". Over Ziegler's name is drawn the sign of the Rosicrucians 5. On an unspecified date in February 1634 Weckherlin wrote, "To Mr Ziegler sending him gloves." Robert Plot, writing in the 1680's, explained that it was the custom with the freemasons that a newly admitted member send gloves to the other members.