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Philadelphia Oddities

Cave of Kelpius

Cave of Kelpius
Cave of Kelpius

This is one of the more difficult sites to find. Located on a hillside above the Wissahickon Creek near Hermit Lane, it may simply be an old springhouse. But tradition and a marker placed by the Rosicrucians brotherhood proclaims that this is where Philadelphia's first mystical guru came to meditate and await the Second Coming. Johannes Kelpius and his followers arrived in newly-founded Philadelphia from Germany in 1694 and chose the wild and beautiful Wissahickon as the best place to await the millennium. The mystics became known as "the Hermits of the Wissahickon," "The Society of the Woman in the Wilderness" or the "Mystic Brotherhood."

Today we might term them a "Dooms Day cult," but they were frequently sought out by the settlers. The monks were skilled in medicine and instrumental music, and Kelpius was a respected scholar. Numerology was big among the monks and 40 was a key number. The 40 mystics built a 40-foot square "tabernacle" as a communal residence which has now disappeared. The cult broke up as various dates, including 1700, came and went without producing the End of Days.

The marker at the cave declares that Kelpius was the first Rosicrucian master in America. The Rosicrucians (meaning rose and cross) are a worldwide brotherhood that claims to have secret wisdom dating to ancient Egypt. The group describes itself as a philosophy and fraternity but not a religion.

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