Fludd (or Flud), Robert (1574–1637)
English Rosicrucian and alchemist who was born at Milgate
House, in the parish of Bearsted, Kent, England. His father was
Sir Thomas Fludd, a knight who enjoyed the patronage of
Queen Elizabeth and served her for several years as ‘‘treasurer
of war in the low countries.’’
At age 17 Robert entered St. John’s College, Oxford. Five
years later he took his bachelor of arts degree. Soon afterward
he decided to take up medical science and left England to study
on the Continent, visiting France, Spain, Italy, and Germany,
supporting himself as a teacher. Upon returning home his
alma mater, Oxford, conferred on him the degrees of bachelor
of medicine and doctor of medicine; five years later, in 1609,
he became a fellow of the College of Physicians.
Having prepared himself thoroughly for the medical profession,
Fludd went to London and took a house in Fenchurch
Street. He soon gained an extensive practice, his success attributable
not merely to his genuine skill but also to his having an
attractive and even magnetic personality. Although he kept
busy with his medical practice, Fludd found time to write at
length on medicine. He also became an important and influential
member of the Fraternity of the Rosy Cross and began experiments
in alchemy. He preached the great efficacy of the
magnet, of sympathetic cures, of the weapon salve, and declared
his belief in the philosophers’ stone, the universal alkahest
or solvent, and the elixir vitae.
As a writer, Fludd represented a school of medical mystics,
which laid claim to the possession of the key to universal sciences.
Fludd maintained that all things were animated by two
principles condensation, the boreal, or northern virtue; and
rarefaction, the austral, or southern virtue. He asserted that the
human body was controlled by a number of demons, that each
disease had its peculiar demon, and each demon his particular
place in the frame of humanity, and that to conquer a disease—
say, in the right leg—one must call in the aid of the demon who
ruled the left, always proceeding by this rule of contraries. As
soon as the doctrines of the Rosicrucians were promulgated in
the early seventeenth century Fludd embraced them with eagerness,
and when several German writers attacked them he
published a defense in 1616, under the title Apologia Compendiaria
Fraternitatem de Rosea-Cruce Suspicionis et Infamiæ Maculis
Aspersam Abluens, which procured him a widespread reputation
as one of the apostles of the new fraternity.
Fludd met with the usual fate of prophets and was lustily denounced
by a host of critics, including Pierre Gassendi and Johann
Kepler. Fludd retorted in an elaborate treatise, Summum
Bonum, quod est Magiæ, Cabalæ, Alchimiæ, Fratrum Roseæ-Crucis
Verorum, et adversus Mersenium Calumniatorem. At a later period
he made an adventurous attempt to identify the doctrines of
the Rosicrucians with what he called the ‘‘philosophy of Moses’’
in his new volume, Philosophia Mosaica, in quâ sapientia et scientia
Creationis explicantur (1638), and wrote numerous treatises on
alchemy and medical science. His Philosophia Mosaica is notable
for a discussion of the relationship between a rod and the mineral
and vegetable world (i.e., the divining rod or dowsing
rod). He also founded an English school for Rosicrucians.
Fludd was one of the high priests of the magnetic philosophy
and learnedly expounded the laws of austral medicine, the
doctrines of sympathies, and the fine powers and marvelous effects
of the magnet. According to his theory, when two men approach
each other their magnetism is either active or passive,
that is, positive or negative. If the emanations that they send
out are broken or thrown back, there arises antipathy, or
magnetismus negativus; when the emanations pass through each
other, positive magnetism is produced, for the magnetic rays
proceed from the center to the circumference. Humans, like
the earth, have their poles, or two main streams of magnetic influence,
according to Fludd’s theory. Like a miniature world,
humans are endowed with a magnetic virtue that is subjected
to the same laws as those of the universe. How these principles
could be developed in the cure or prevention of disease is described
at length in Fludd’s books.
Fludd died September 8, 1637, at a house in Coleman St.,
London, to which he had moved a few years before. Before his
death he had won a fairly wide reputation founded on his
chemical ability and had also written a number of books that
contributed to the establishment of Rosicrucianism in Europe.
The Dictionary of National Biography. London Oxford University
Press, 1953.
Fludd, Robert. Medicina Catholica. Frankfurt William Fitzer,
———. Monochordum Mundi Symphoniacum. Frankfurt, 1622.
———. Philosophia Mosaica, in quâ sapientia et scientia Creationis
explicantur. Gouda Peter Rammazen, 1638. Translated as
Mosaicall Philosophy. London Humphrey Moseley, 1659.
———. Tractatus Apologeticus integritatem Societatis de Rosae
Cruce defendans. Leiden Gottfried Basson, 1617.
———. Veritatis Proscenium. Frankfurt Johann Theodore de
Bry, 1621.
Godwin, Joscelyn. Robert Fludd Hermetic Philosopher and Surveyor
of Two Worlds. Boulder, Colo. Shambhala, 1979.