Louisenlund Appeal for sponsorship for the rebuilding of a Masonic/alchemical monument in Germany
Introduction by David Sheihan Hunter Lindez
Dr. Christopher McIntosh travelled to America to speak at the Rose Circle Research Foundation's symposium in Manhattan. While in town that same week, he was the guest of a distinguished and private lodge of gentlemen Freemasons where he delivered his lecture entitled “Louisenlund: A Masonic, Rosicrucian, Alchemical, ‘Theme Park’ in Germany.” He explored German Masonic and esoteric activity in the late 18th and early 19th century, focusing on the milieu of Prince Charles of Hesse-Kassel (1744-1836), an Aristocratic Patron and protectorate of Freemasonry involved in the institution of the Templar Rite of the Strict Observance, the Gold- und Rosenkreuz, Knight Masons Elus Coen of the Universe and the Scottish Rectified Regime. His seat was at Louisenlund in Schleswig-Holstein; with a ‘Freemasons Tower’, consisting of both a lodge space and an alchemical laboratory, used for a time by the legendary alchemist, the Comte de Saint Germain.
Landgrave Carl von Hessen-Kassel was known the Strict Observance and later in the Chevaliers Bienf'aisants de la Cite Sainte of the Scottish Rectified Rite as Eques a Leone Resurgente. His influence in the shaping of the Scottish Rectified Rite ritual was extensive, as acknowledged by the Duke of Brunswick and later by Jean Baptiste Willermoz himself in correspondence from 1789 and several years after the French Revolution in 1810 when Willermoz had just completed his final edits of the Scottish Master of Saint Andrew. It was the Landgrave who had insisted on the preservation and adoption of the Strict Observance tracing boards with key additions, such as the added emphasis on Sion, interestingly enough.
We found in examining correspondence that Prince Charles of Hesse was often hosting members of the Jesuit Order in his Alchemical Masonic meetings. For the "Reform of Lyon" and the Masonic Congress of 1782, he offered up the Summer residence of his brother Wilhelm, the invested heir to Hesse-Kassel. The castle was built on the edge of the spa baths as a ruin meant to bewilder its guests, as its interior was magnificent and luxurious with grand halls featuring large portraits of the family's Royal progenitors.
|Landgrave Carl von Hessen-Kassel (1744-1836)|
The Masonic Alchemical Tower at Louisenlund has long since been a ruin, but there is now a project to raise funds to properly rebuild it. Dr. McIntosh is working with myself as an archivist and preservationist, to raise awareness of this project throughout the world. Up till now, this has been accomplished via multimedia presentations in private clubs, lodges and the likes and by way of pamphlets, mailed and distributed in person via a grass roots campaign across the United States, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, continental Europe and the Caribbean. All interested parties are invited to donate to the restoration effort, especially those who are custodian to traditions such as the Swedish Rite, the RER, Rosicrucianism or otherwise have a common root or shared heritage in the Strict Observance. Support from the world wide community of practicing Alchemists is also invited.
Regarding the Tower - unfortunately it fell into ruin in the 1960s, so that all that remains today are the foundations. These are of stone. The main part of the Tower was of wood made to look like stone. The ground plan is designed to resemble an Egyptian scarab pushing a ball of dung. In the cellar was a subterranean alchemical lab.
The 'Theme Park' was consciously constructed by Karl von Hessen-Kassel as an initiatic journey. The site itself was apparently chosen in order to consciously harness the primordial energy of the grove and the "Rune stones" found therein. In the 1790s two standing stones with runic inscriptions were found in the vicinity of the old Viking settleent of Haithabu near Louisenlund. Landgrave Carl placed them together with a semicircle of boulders from a prehistoric burial site in the grounds of Louiselund. The rune stones are now in the Schleswig Museum.
Louisenlund Appeal for sponsorship for the rebuilding of a Masonic/alchemical monument in Germany
presented by Christopher McIntosh
The Freemasons’ Tower, sometimes called the Alchemist’s Tower, is part of the remarkable Masonic/Rosicrucian/alchemical park at Louisenlund in Schleswig-Holstein, northern Germany, built by Prince Carl von Hessen-Kassel and now occupied by a prestigious international boarding school. The Tower is now sadly a ruin, and there is a project to rebuild it, which I shall come to shortly.
But first I would like to set it in its context and talk a bit about the esoteric mind-set which it reflects. It‘s typical of a strain of esoteric spirituality which was very strong in Germany at that time. It goes back to mystical writers like Meister Eckhart and Jakob Boehme and the Rosicrucian movement of the 17thcentury. It includes Gnostic elements, Christian Kabbalah, Christian theosophy, and in the 18th century it merges with the world of Freemasonry and neo-Rosicrucian orders. Alchemy played an important part in it, reflecting the view that the divine is present not just in heaven but in the substance of the material world if you know where to find it. German mystical poetry is full of alchemical references and metaphors – such as the idea that the Trinity is actually present in material substance in the form of the three basic alchemical principles of salt, sulphur and mercury.
This particular mixture of ideas issomething very German and it accounts for the survival of alchemy in Germany much longer than in other countries. When, in the 18th century, it merged with Freemasonry and neo-Rosicrucianism it produced a whole proliferation of high-degree Masonic and Rosicrucian orders, whose members included many prominent aristocrats and landowners, who transformed their estates into what I call symbol-filled landscapes, initiatic theme parks which led you past a series of symbolic features, which reminded you of certain virtues, heroic figures from the past, important stages in life’s journey, ethical principles and so on, so that a journey through the park became a kind of initiatic pilgrimage.
|Louisenlund Manor (photo credit - PodracerHH, 1, May 2009 Wikipedia)|
In Germany there are some fascinating examples of parks of this kind. Above is one example: Wilhelmshöhe in Kassel, built by Prince Carl’s great-grandfather and namesake, the Landgrave Karl of Hessen-Kassel. It is built on a steep hillside with a water cascade, overlooked by a massive statue of Hercules, as a symbol of courage and virtue. Another remarkable example of a “symbol-filled landscape” that I’d like to mention isthe park at Wörlitz in Sachsen-Anhalt, in the former German Democratic Republic, built in the latter part of the 18th century by Prince Friedrich Franz von Anhalt-Dessau around a watery area formed by a salient of the river Elbe. The Prince had spent a great deal of time in England and may very well have been initiated there as a Mason – although we do not know for sure. But certainly the whole garden is unmistakeably initiatic. And we know that this was deliberate, because there is a remarkable guide to the garden written by the Prince's Privy Counsellor August von Rode, who was extremely well read in the esoteric literature of the past and advised on the creation of the garden.
So if you walk through it you are led on a sort of pilgrimage through a series of different settings and past certain symbolic objects. There is, for example, a labyrinth (above), which leads through rocky passages with inscriptions such as those shown above that warn the visitor: WAEHLE WANDERER DEINEN WEG MIT VERNUNFT (Wanderer, choose your way with reason) (top) or HIER WIRD DIE WAHL SCHWER ABER ENTSCHEIDEND (Here the choice becomes difficult but decisive) (bottom). In a different part of the park the journey becomes even more mysterious and intriguing (see images below). You go across a rather precarious chain bridge over a chasm. On the other side you come to a grotto. Then you go down a stairway to a small open space, surrounded by rocks and stone walls. Here you were supposed to pause for meditation. Then, going further, you pass the Cell of the Mystagogue, or the "Cell of the Initiator into Sacred Mysteries", as Rode describes it.
|Initiatory Tunnel at Wörlitz - photo retrieved from: http://www.mz-buergerreporter.de/dessau-rosslau/lokales/tunnel-im-labyrinth-m6086,1886.html|
Then the itinerary continues to the Temple of Venus. Inside the hill under this temple are two grottos, one dedicated to the elements fire and earth, theother to water and air. As you stand in the grotto of earth and fire you can look up directly into the pedestal of the statue of Venus. And here Rode has a beautiful description: "A circular opening inthe domed ceiling looks into the pedestal of Venus, which is glazed with yellow glass, allowing a faint light to fall into the grotto, resembling the light of the sun during an eclipse." What a wonderful image! It's very alchemical, because for the alchemists the presence of gold in the earth was analogous to the divine light penetrating the depths of matter.
We can see the same idea in a painting by the Romantic painter Friedrich Otto Runge, entitled Morning. Here we have a wonderful Venus-like figure floating in the air in front of a beautiful sunrise. And down below, in the earth, is a sun partially eclipsed by a moon. It's almost as though Runge knew that grotto and had read Rode's description. So, as you go through these grottoes you go symbolically through the four elements. And after the passing though the second grotto, the grotto of water and air, you exit through the opening shown in the foreground on the right, and as you come out you have a wonderful vista of the river Elbe, for the water element, and it was originally planned that you would hear the sound of an aeolian harp, a harp played by the wind. As Rode writes in his guidebook: "Its strings, touched only by the swift,airy fingers of the wind gods, will create divine melodies redolent of the air element." What a pity that the harp was never installed. That would have been a wonderful experience.St. Germain's Hermetic Garden & Tower of Eternity, by Iona Miller, 2010 from Iona Miller on Vimeo.
Another fascinating garden of about the same era is the New Garden beside a lake at Potsdam, near Berlin. It was built by the Rosicrucian King Frederick William II of Prussia, nephew of Frederick the Great, at about the same time as Louisenlund, and is marked by the same esoteric world view. Frederick William became King of Prussia in 1786 when his uncle died. Already as Crown Prince, he had become a Freemason and had been initiated into the Golden and Rosy Cross Order, in which alchemy played an important role. Frederick William was a keen member of the order, and he duly worked diligently at his alchemy. Shortly after acquiring the land for the New Garden he wrote to a fellow member of the Rosicrucian order saying that he had bought a secluded garden and garden house, where he intended to carry out alchemical work. Then, after he became King, he set about building a palace by the lake and laying out the garden as a symbol-filled landscape.
One of the Rosicrucian motifs in the New Garden is an icehouse in the form of an Egyptian pyramid. This reflects the mystique of ancient Egypt, which goes right back to the Hermetic writings, but it became particularly fashionable in the 18th century, partly through the novel Sethos, by the French priest JeanTerrasson, published in 1731, which tells the story of the young prince, Sethos, who is taken through an initiatory process by the sage Amedes to prepare him to become King. This book also influenced the Egyptian setting of Mozart's Magic Flute. The pyramid has some Egyptian hieroglyphs and a set of seven alchemical symbols in gilded wrought-iron work over the doorway.
The Phoenix Doorway to the Freemasons’ Tower before it fell into ruin
So, looking at these features in the New Garden, it’s clear that King Frederick Williamand Prince Carl von Hessen were kindred spirits, both of them at home in this esoteric world of alchemy and Rosicrucianism. Interestingly they were the same age – born in the same year – and they must surely have known each other. They were both members of the Golden and Rosy Cross Order, which clearly played an important role in their lives, so I should say a bit about this order. What was it like to be a member? The Order was grouped into circles of nine members each, and had nine grades of initiation, each involving elaborate initiation rituals. In ascending order, the grades were as follows: Junior, Theoreticus,Practicus, Philosophus, Minor, Major, Adeptus Exemptus, Magister and Magus. This grade structure, slightly modified, was adopted by the English Occult Order, the Golden Dawn, and later by other Rosicrucian orders.
In the symbolic tableau used at the initiation of members into the 5th grade of Minor a form of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life with the Sefiroth arranged in two pentagonal figures is employed. Above is the eye of God in the triangle and in between a sort of Adam Kadmon figure. The crosses on his clothing and in the sphere underneath emphasize the basically Christian nature of the Order. Part of the order's curriculum involved reading recommended books and manuscripts on Christian theosophy, mysticism, Kabbalah and alchemy. And if it was difficult for a member to attend a circle he could even be received into the order by correspondence and initiate himself into the various grades.
Alchemy played a major part in the Order’s activities. Alchemical symbolism featured inthe initiation ceremonies and members were supposed to have their ownlaboratories, and work diligently at their furnaces, and retorts and crucibles, and I think some of them blew themselves up in the process. There survive today many alchemical manuscripts that circulated among the Fraternity and, as you progressed up the Order, you received more and more alchemical secrets. So they took alchemy very seriously, as you can see from this engraving of a candidate being interviewed for membership in a Rosicrucian lodge – clearly identifiable as such from the alchemical equipment on the shelves – distilling apparatus, retorts and so on.
If you look at the alchemical books and manuscripts that circulated among the brethren, you will see that they are very much practical recipe books, containing very detailed and precise instructions about alchemical processes, often with drawings of alchemical equipment. Many of these were traditional alchemical procedures that you find inother alchemical sources. For example, when you reached the grade of Adeptus Exemptus you were given the recipe for an alchemical process involving dew. Part of it reads as follows: "Take as much as you like of that material, which can most easily be found in stony meadows, transparent and gleaming like emerald, or also in sandy hills …Collect it in the sign of the Ram before sunrise; … Collect it as carefully as possible, clean it and get rid of foreign impurities. NB. As soon as you have soaked up some of it, for which you need a sheet of clean linen, you mustimmediately put it into a glass vessel and close it securely, for the most subtle spirits can easily evaporate …When your vessel is carefully sealed, dig a trench about two fathoms deep in a dryplace, making a special hole for each vessel; put your vessels in and, to make sure they do not break, cover each hole with an earthenware plate. After you have covered your trench over again leave the material to putrefy for 40 days.When you take it out after the elapse of this period you will see, to your great astonishment, that your material has been changed into a very pure blood… and restored to a quintessence of nature."
So this was very down-to-earth, practical alchemy, but it was also a spiritual process. One of the mottos of the alchemists was “ora et labora” – pray and work. So it was a dual process: on the other hand the work in the laboratory, which was an attempt to raise substances to a higher level; and on the other hand thestriving of the alchemist to raise himself up to a higher spiritual level.
Now we come to Louisenlund itself. Shown above is one of the few remnants of the Freemasons’ Tower, the so-called Phoenix Gate, which is now in a different location. As one can see, it’s built in the Egyptian style. The pillars are decorated with lotuses. The cross-piece has a winged solar disk, flanked by caduceuses with snakes curled around them, and in the middle of the cross-piece is a very curious symbol, showing a winged scarab with two dog-like heads, holding in its legs a ball of dung. It represents the type of beetle that lays its eggs in a ball of dung, which was an important motif for the ancient Egyptians, representing the god Khepri, who rolls the sun out in the morning and catches it again in the evening. And one could also see this as an alchemical symbol – the dung representing base matter, out of which the alchemist can conjure gold, corresponding to the sun. And of course the gateway expresses again the mystique of Egypt as the source of an ancientwisdom tradition. It’s a motif that crops up again and again in Masonic symbolism and – for example, as I mentioned – in Mozart’s Magic Flute. Mozart himself was of course a Freemason. And it’s not surprising that a performance of the Magic Flute took place at Louisenlund. And one can imagine the opening tones of the opera floating out over the park on a summer evening.
Now here is an exercise in imagination. Imagine that what you see in the picture below is a gateway in time, and you’re passing through it – between the lotus pillars, under the portico with the winged solar disc and the scarab. And on theother side you emerge into the beautifully landscaped park of Louisenlund. And waiting to greet you is Prince Carl von Hessen-Kassel himself, Rosicrucian, (Knight Mason Elu Cohen), alchemist and one of the most prominent Freemasons of his day.
To tell you a bit about him – at the age of 22 he married Louise, the daughter of the Danish King and they built a house at a beautiful spot on an inlet of the Baltic, named Louisenlund after his wife – a fine house by today’s standards but a relatively modest one for aprince of that era. A few years later, at the age of 30, Carl became aFreemason, and rose very rapidly so that within a short time he became a Provincial Grand Master. He was in many different Masonic rites including the Golden and Rosy Cross Order, in which the practice of alchemy played a central role. He was also Grand Master of an offshoot of the Golden and Rosy Cross called the Asiatic Brethren (I’ve written about both of these orders in my book The Rose Cross and the Age of Reason).And, curiously enough, he was also a member of the Illuminati, which was ahighly radical, democratic, rationalist order – quite the opposite of theGolden and Rosy Cross.
He was deeply immersed in the world view of these Masonic and Rosicrucian orders,and he set out to turn the park at Louisenlund into a sort of Masonic/alchemical/Rosicrucian Arcadia. Like the other parks I mentioned, it’sa park of spiritual initiation, designed so that a walk through the park becomes a kind of pilgrimage, taking you past certain carefully placed symbolic features and leading you to an experience of illumination. Over the years, many of these features have disappeared or fallen into ruin, but let’s imagine that Carl von Hessen is taking us on a tour of the park as it was around 1800 when it was pretty much complete.
We begin at the parterre in front of the house, where we find a sundial in the form of an armillary sphere, representing the notion of an ordered universe, mounted on a truncatedpillar, which is a something we often find in masonic illustrations, symbolising the fallen Temple of Solomon and the lost ancient wisdom that it represents. The height of the pillar is carefully calculated so that, when you look through the armillary sphere towards the house, the ball in the centre of it, representing the sun, lines up with a diamond-shaped cartouche over the main entrance [slide], in such a way that the ball, projected on to the cartouche, becomes the pupil of an eye of Ra or the all-seeing eye of God. So we get our first message: that this is a place wherethe eye of God is ever-present if you know how to perceive it.
Next we come to the obelisk, set in a small clearing in a wood. This commemorates the marriage of Carl’s daughter Maria to Prince Frederick of Denmark in 1790, but it also – like the Phoenix Gateway – evokes the notion of ancient Egyptian wisdom. In the wood behind the obelisk is a small stone altar, originally set in front of a dead oak tree and possibly intended as a memento mori, a reminder of death. Then we come to the Felsenberg, the "Rocky Hill", with a path of rough stones, which is both a path of initiation and the rough stone of the newly apprenticed Mason, ready to be made smooth. The path leads up to a small pavilion at the top with a view out over the park. So this is the arduous ascent of the Mason towards the light.
Going further we come to a stream with a waterfall. This was an artificial waterfall – the water came from a small lake fed by a device called a hydraulic ram, the remains of which are still visible, which pumped water into the lake. When the hydraulic ram was switched off and the water ceased to flow – lo and behold! – there was a concealed entrance to a grotto in which Masonic initiation rituals were held. When the brethren were assembled the water would be switched on and they would be safe from prying eyes. In the present day we would find that this grotto has long since caved in and is no longer visible.
Continuing on we find other features that we wouldn’t find in the present day: a rune stone, brought from a Viking site on the Baltic coast, a hermitage, complete with a mechanical hermit, who sat up in bed and made groaning noises when anyon eentered his hut; and, beside the hermitage, a labyrinth, similar to the one at Wörlitz, representing life’s journey with all its dangers and pitfalls.
But most impressive of all was the Freemasons’ Tower or the Alchemist’s Tower. It looked like a stone building, but in fact, apart from the cellar and the foundations, the walls were of oak panels made to look like stone. And today only some remains of the foundations are still there.
|elevation diagram of the Alchemical Tower|
|Prince Carl von Hessen engaged in alchemic work with the Count of St Germain|
The Count de St Germain (shown above) was a fascinating and mysterious figure. Apart from being an alchemist, he was a physician, a composer, a painter, a diplomat and much more. Undoubtedly he was not a real count. Some people considered him a confidence trickster, but there is no doubt that he had enormous knowledge and also enormous charm and charisma. Prince Carl came to admire him greatly and worked with him on a number of projects, including developing various remedies and a metal alloy, similar to gold in appearance, which came to be called the Carl metal. So the kind of alchemy they were pursuing was not about turning lead into gold but about refining substances, making elixirs, creating alloys and so on. But it was also about raising the alchemist himself to a higher spiritual level.
Now let me talk a bit about the project to rebuild the Tower. An architect, Axel Brauer, has been appointed and has been working on some alternative designs. The task is not so easy. For various reasons it’s not possible to simply rebuild the Tower in its original form. The foundations are no longer strong enough to hold a heavy structure, so probably the building will have to be held by a skeleton of vertical steel girders, driven into the ground. Then there’s the problem of what material to use for the walls. Wooden panels made to look like stone (as shown below) would not be durable enough, and stone would be prohibitively expensive.
One suggestion the architect made was to use glass, but that didn’t meet with much enthusiasm, so he came up with another idea, which was to clad the building with sheet metal. The building would then look something like the computer simulation shown on the left. This has the merit that the walls could be decorated with murals, such as alchemical images, evoking the alchemical work that was carried out there.
It is intended that the Tower should contain a display about Freemasonry and an alchemical museum, which would also be a working laboratory, so that one could actually demonstrate alchemy as it was practised by Carl von Hessen and his contemporaries. We’re fortunate to have acquired a set of exhibits from an alchemical museum in Kutna Hora in the Czech Republic, founded by my friend Michal Pober, which closed down a few years ago, and he very kindly donated the exhibits to Louislund.
The former Museum of Alchemy at Kutna Hora in the Czech Republic
Here’s what the museum in Kutna Hora lookedlike (above), and the museum in the Tower would be somewhat similar.
So the reconstructed Tower would be a wonderful resource for Masons, for visitors interested in Freemasonry or the history of science, for pupils in the school, and for the general public. It would mean that the key feature, the cornerstone of the park would be restored,and with it this whole unique park would come to life again and be a place of inspiration and uplifting symbolism – especially of course for Freemasons but also for anyone who is receptive to the spirit of the place. The project will cost an estimated $550,000, and we are appealing for sponsors.
People involved in the project include Princess Ingeborg of Schleswig-Holstein, whose husband Friedrich, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein, is a direct descendant of Prince Carl, who created the park. The Advisory Board comprises, apart from myself, the school Director Dr. Peter Rösner, Dr. Alf Hermann, Head of the Park Archaeology Guild at Louisenlund, Andreas Rothgaenger and Jörgen Jessen from local Masonic lodges, the architect Axel Brauer, Dr. Kirsten Baumann, Director of the Regional Museum of Art and Cultural History, Dr. Margita Meyer from the Regional Ancient Monuments Agency, Gabriele Gruber, Burser of the school, Sven Meier, P.R. Officer, Dr. Eva Witzel, Librarian, and two pupils, Magnus Salsali and Jost-Hinrich Reemtsma, who are members of the school Archaeology Guild, which is working to restore other parts of the park.
There are various privileges that come with sponsorship, depending on the level of the donation. All donors will get regular updates, a guided tour of Louisenlund on request and an invitation to the inauguration of the Tower. For higher-level donations the privileges will include an invitation to a gala dinner with Princess Ingeborg and the school Director, and a certificate of appreciation signed by the Princess, and – for the top donations – also a stay of three days as a guest of the school with a guided tour of the region. The Louisenlund Foundation is acharity, so donations are tax-deductible.
Donations can be made by bank transfer to:
Bank: Förde Sparkasse
IBAN: DE86 2105 0170 0000 6314 40.
Checks can be sent to Dr. Peter Rösner at:
Tel. +49 4354 999 0
Further information, including a leaflet about the project, can be obtained from Franziska Trautmann, Project Management, Louisenlund: Tel: +49 4354 999-375
 Quoted in Christopher McIntosh, The Rose Cross and the Age of Reason (Albany, New York: SUNY Press, 2nd edition, 2011), p. 86.