Surfacing in 1616, the Chemical Wedding was the third and last commentary released by the Rosicrucians. Whereas the first two manifestos-the Fama and Confessio-were seditious declarations which seem to possess more of a fairy-tale quality than anything else, the Wedding stands on its own merit as one of the most profound and impenetrable hermetic allegories ever written. The story centers on a man who is summoned by an Angel to witness and take part in a mysterious process that bears very little resemblance to an actual wedding. Despite the success of he and his compeers (qualified by a selection where the other candidates who are not worthy to participate are killed) the story ends in sagacious irony, leaving the protagonist to stand guard over his reward, forbidding him to ever glimpse it.
Joscelyn Godwin provides the translation, and though my knowledge of medieval Latin is not complete enough to grade her work, her reputation is impeccable and warrants little scrutiny. Adam McLean provides introduction and commentary, and it is for his efforts that this volume is most valuable. He abandons the arrogance shown by J. W. Montgomery who quantified the story as an expression of Orthodox Lutheranism, and doesn't attempt a literal translation of the book's intricate symbolism as any specialized religious banter. Instead, he lists the literary symbols (actual and metaphoric) one by one and shows how they link to key Rosicrucian and Hermetic ideologies, leaving the reader to draw their own conclusions, never attempting to force feed any specific brand of Gospel. Indeed, despite the fact that the commentary's length rivals that of the text itself, my only complaint is that it is not longer, much longer, as I'm sure his valuable insight could literally fill hundreds of pages: it leaves the readers curiosity piqued more than sated.
All of the drawings and diagrams from the original are faithfully reproduced, and summarily analyzed for their symbolic content as well. As a bonus McLean shows links between the Chemical Wedding and other allegories afterwards, paying close attention to Goethe's `Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily', and includes the Parabola of Hinricus Madathanus Theosophus (an anonymous translation from `The Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians') as an appendix. If you are looking for further readings on this subject, my best suggestion is `Foucault's Pendulum' by Umberto Eco. Despite being a work of fiction, it describes a very thorough picture of the Rosicrucian's world, and other medieval secret societies too. Showing them as wildly diabolical, it stills bears the immutable signature of a dedicated and terrifyingly intelligent scholar.