The Rosicrucians date back to the early 1600s, when three short books were published anonymously in Kassel, Germany. The first book in the trilogy, Fama, related the story of Christian Rosenkreuz, who supposedly came from a noble German family. When he was sixteen, he set out for the Holy Land and then studied with holy men in Arabia and Egypt. He eventually returned to Germany, where he selected seven disciples, and together they compiled a massive library of arcane knowledge. He died at an advanced age — some accounts place his age at 120, others at 150 — but most agree that he died because he wanted to and not because he was sick.
Fama presented alchemy as the transmutation of the soul rather than the transmutation of base metal into gold. The second book in the series, Confessio Fraternitatis, provided the purpose of the secret brotherhood. It claimed that the pope was the anti-Christ and that he could be overthrown if people cooperated with the brotherhood to bring about a spiritual awakening. The third book, The Chemical Marriage of Christian Rosenkreuz, is a hermetical romance about death, spiritual rebirth, and the perfection of man. Probably the most important of the three books, its occult knowledge influenced the Golden Dawn.
The early Rosicrucians made impressive claims, including the ability to summon spirits and render themselves invisible, as well as to heal the sick and attract riches. The English mystic Robert Fludd, astrologer William Lilly, and several other celebrated thinkers of the 1600s became members of a Rosicrucian society that formed in London. Their objective was to elevate mankind through spiritual means, the alchemy of the soul.