In The Star Family I suggested that Comenius was a Rosicrucian, therefore having strong ties to mysticism and the Western Metaphysical tradition. How true is this?
First, who is Comenius? Born Jan Amos Komenský in 1592 in in the town of Nivnice in Moravia, a Province of Bohemia now in the Czech Republic, he was orphaned at the age of 12 after his parents died from plague. Raised in the Unity of the Brethren, known as the Moravian Church in the US, he resisted Ferdinand II’s attempts to return Bohemia and Moravia to Catholicism. He went into hiding during the Thirty Years War, and then fled to Poland where he kept what is now called “the hidden seed” of the church alive to reblossom in 1722 in Saxony.
Best known for educational reform, Comenius supported universal education for all (including women and the poor), taught logical thinking over memorization, stressed the importance of physical activity for children, compassionate guidance over harsh punishment, and developing concepts from the simple to the complex.
He espoused teaching “all things, “ a philosophy he called “Pansophia,“ “a doctrine of universal harmonies, and a connection between the inner world of man and the outer world of nature” (Yates 217). Comenius said he was influenced toward this idea and writing encyclopedias by Johann Valentin Andreae. Remember him? One of the seventeenth century founders (or publicizers) of the Rosicrucian movement.
Both Comenius and Andreae attended university at Heidelberg at the same time that Frederick and Elizabeth began their rule of the Palatine. Remember their aim was to create a Rosicrucian state there, according to Frances Yates. See how it’s all coming together? So Comenius was influenced by the Rosicrucians in his youth, and as Yates points out, the philosophy and teachings of the Unitas Fratrum most likely influenced Andreae and the Rosicrucians just as much.
He continued to read Rosicrucian documents as evidenced by his long discussion of them in his famous Labyrinth of the World (see Yates 210-219). Both Andreae and Comenius moved away from using the title “Rosicrucian” when the organization went into disfavor in Europe, but they continued to teach the same ideas.
I found the last piece of evidence that convinced me Comenius was a member, perhaps even the head, of the Rosicrucian Order in Rosicrucian Question and Answers with Complete History by Harvey Spencer Lewis, their Imperator from 1915 to 1939. In a list of “either Masters of various Lodges or [those who] assisted in bringing the mystic fraternity into their respective countries” (89), Comenius’s name is found right below Andreae’s on page 91.
Comenius lost two families to religious persecution. His library was burned twice. He lived most of his live in exile from Bohemia. He and members of his family achieved many things that I don’t have the space to discuss here. Comenius is buried in Naarden, Holland.