Robert Fludd  

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Theatrum Orbi engraving by Johann Theodor de Bry
Theatrum Orbi engraving by Johann Theodor de Bry

"I affirm, as the main thesis of my concluding labours, that Freemasonry is neither more nor less than Rosicrucianism as modified by those who transplanted it into England. At the beginning of the seventeenth century many learned heads in England were occupied with Theosophy, Cabbalism, and Alchemy: amongst the proofs of this [...] above all [the work] of Robert Fludd. Fludd it was, or whosoever was the author of the Summum Bonum, 1629, that must be considered as the immediate father of Free-masonry, as Andrea was its remote father."--"Historico-critical Inquiry into the Origin of the Rosicrucians and the Freemasons" (1824) by Thomas De Quincey

Diagram of the human mind, from Utriusque cosmi maioris scilicet et minoris metaphysica by Robert Fludd
Diagram of the human mind, from Utriusque cosmi maioris scilicet et minoris metaphysica by Robert Fludd
Temple of music by Robert Fludd
Temple of music by Robert Fludd

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Robert Fludd (1574 – 1637) was an English scientist and philosopher, author of Utriusque cosmi maioris scilicet et minoris metaphysica (1617-1621).

He is remembered as an astrologer, mathematician, cosmologist, Qabalist and Rosicrucian.

Fludd is best known for his compilations in occult philosophy. He had a celebrated exchange of views with Johannes Kepler concerning the scientific and hermetic approaches to knowledge.



Born in Bearsted, Kent, Fludd was not a member of the Rosicrucians, as often alleged, but he defended their thoughts in the Apologia Compendiaria of 1616.

He was the son of Sir Thomas Fludd, a high-ranking governmental official (Queen Elizabeth I's treasurer for war in Europe).

He obtained an MD from University of Oxford.

Between 1598 and 1604, Fludd studied medicine, chemistry and the occult on the European mainland, but he is best known for his research in occult philosophy. He had a celebrated exchange of views with Johannes Kepler concerning the scientific and hermetic approaches to knowledge. His philosophy is presented in Utriusque Cosmi, Maioris scilicet et Minoris, metaphysica, physica, atque technica Historia (The metaphysical, physical, and technical history of the two worlds, namely the greater and the lesser, published in Germany between 1617 and 1621); according to Frances Yates, his memory system (which she describes in detail in The Art of Memory, pp. 321-341) may reflect the layout of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre (The Art of Memory, Chapter XVI).

In 1618, Fludd wrote De Musica Mundana (Mundane Music) which described his theories of music, including his mundane (also known as "divine" or "celestial") monochord.

In 1630, Fludd proposed many perpetual motion machines. People were trying to patent variations of Fludd's machine in the 1870s. Fludd's machine worked by recirculation by means of a water wheel and Archimedean screw. The device pumps the water back into its own supply tank.

Fludd was the first person to discuss the circulation of the blood, and did in fact arrive at the correct conclusion. His conclusion was based on the macrocosm-microcosm analogy, a theory in which all occurrences in the microcosm (man) are influenced by the macrocosm (the heavens). His theory was that the blood must circulate because the heart is like the sun and the blood like the planets and, by this time, it was known that the planets orbit around the sun. William Harvey later explained the circulation of blood in more modern and experimental terms, though still referring to the macrocosm-microcosm analogy of Fludd.

Gwynedd connection

He was a descendant of Cunedda Wledig ap Edern, King of Gwynedd, which is now part of Wales.

Gwynedd is one of two areas in Wales that has been ruled by Irish royal immigrants; the other being Dyfed.

In popular culture

In conspiracy theories, such as the one promoted in The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, Fludd been alleged to be the sixteenth Grand Master of the Priory of Sion.


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Further reading

  • Allen G. Debus, The English Paracelsians, New York: Watts, 1965.
  • Tita French Baumlin, "Robert Fludd," The Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 281: British Rhetoricians and Logicians, 1500-1660, Second Series, Detroit: Gale, 2003, pp. 85-99.
  • J. B. Craven, Doctor Fludd (Robertus de Fluctibus), the English Rosicrucian: Life and Writings, Kirkwall: William Peace & Son, 1902.
  • Joscelyn Godwin, Robert Fludd: Hermetic Philosopher and Surveyor of Two Worlds, London: Thames and Hudson, 1979.
  • Frances A. Yates, The Art of Memory, London: Routledge, 1966.
  • William H. Huffman, ed., Robert Fludd: Essential Readings, London: Aquarian/Thorsons, 1992.

List of prints

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