Maier, Michael (ca. 1568–1622)
German alchemist, born at Rensburg in Holstein. He was
one of the principal figures in the seventeenth-century Rosicrucian
controversy in Germany and the greatest adept of his
time. He diligently pursued the study of medicine in his youth,
then practiced at Rostock with such success that Emperor Rudolph
II appointed him as his physician.
Some adepts eventually succeeded in luring him from the
practical work he followed into the complex and tortuous paths
of alchemy. In order to confer with those who he believed possessed
the transcendent mysteries, he traveled all over Germany.
The Biographie Universelle states that in pursuit of these ‘‘ruinous
absurdities’’ he sacrificed his health, fortune, and time.
On a visit to England he became acquainted with Robert
Fludd, the Kentish mystic.
In the controversy that convulsed Germany on the appearance
of his Rosicrucian manifestos in the early 1600s, he took
a vigorous and enthusiastic share and wrote several works in
defense of the mysterious society. He is alleged to have traveled
in order to seek members of the ‘‘College of Teutonic Philosophers
R.C.,’’ and, failing to find them, formed a brotherhood
of his own, based on the form of the Fama Fraternibus. There
is no adequate authority to support the opinion held by some
that toward the end of his life he was initiated into the genuine
order (there being serious doubt that any such genuine order
ever existed).
A posthumous pamphlet of Maier’s called Ulysses was published
by one of his personal friends in 1624. There was added
to the same volume the substance of two pamphlets already
published in German but which, in view of their importance,
were translated into Latin for the benefit of the European literati.
The first pamphlet was entitled Colloquium Rhodostauroticum
trium personarium per Famem et Confessionem quodamodo revelatam
de Fraternitate Rosoe Crucis. The second was an Echo Colloquii by
Hilarion on behalf of the Rosicrucian Fraternity. From these
pamphlets it appears that Maier considered himself a member
of the mystical order.
He became the most profuse writer on alchemy of his time.
Most of his works, many of which are adorned with curious
plates, are obscure with the exception of his Rosicrucian Apologies.