San Diego County
Max Heindel, known as the greatest western mystic of the twentieth century, was born on July 23, 1865, of the royal family of Von Grasshoff, who were connected with the German Court during the lifetime of Prince Bismarck. The father of Max Heindel was Francois L. Von Grasshoff. He migrated when quite a young man to Copenhagen, Denmark, where he married a Danish woman of noble birth. Three children blessed their union, two sons and one daughter. The older of these sons was Carl Louis Von Grasshoff, who later adopted the pen name of Max Heindel. The father died when the elder son was six years of age, leaving the mother with her three children in very straitened circumstances.
The mother’s pride of family and name forced her with her family of three children to live in genteel poverty so that the small income would suffice. Self-denial was carried to an extreme in order that they might take their place in society as became the sons and daughters of nobility.
This life did not please the elder son, who left home at the age of sixteen years and wounded his mother’s pride by entering the shipyards at Glasgow, Scotland, where he learned the engineering trade. He was chosen as chief engineer of a trading steamer while yet very young. This took him into the Orient and his trips all over the world in the capacity of engineer gave Max Heindel a great deal of knowledge of the world and its people. For a number of years he was chief engineer on one of the large passenger steamers of the Cunard Line plying between America and Europe.
Between the years 1895 and 1901, he was consulting engineer in the city of New York. His first marriage was full of disappointments and sorrow and ended by the death of his wife in 1905.
Max Heindel came to Los Angeles, California, in 1903, where he acted as engineer for a time, but ill luck overtook him. Hunger and privation were his daily companions, but nevertheless he was not idle. With a dauntless spirit and a determination to succeed along more advanced mental lines, he became interested in the study of metaphysics and joined the Theosophical Society of Los Angeles, of which he was vice president in 1904 and 1905. His heart was ever longing for the knowledge of the deeper mysteries of life, as his earlier years had been full of sorrow and had awakened his mind to search for the explanation of life and being and had created in him a desire to understand the sorrows, privations and sufferings of humanity. The thought which was ever uppermost in his mind was to find some means by which he could help to lift the burdens of his brothers and sisters in the world. The light began to dawn when he contacted the teachings which had been given out by Madame Blavatsky of the Theosophical Society. While connected with this society, he met the woman who was years later to become his spiritual inspiration. She it was who helped him to find his work, for Augusta Foss was also interested along similar lines of research and she was instrumental in interesting Max Heindel in the science of astrology. In this science he found a field with many possibilities in that it is truly a science of the soul. It gave him the key by which he could unlock the mysteries of man’s inner nature, and by learning to know and understand the weaknesses of character he could then help to guide the people and help them to find their proper place in the world.
Overwork and privations brought on a severe spell of heart trouble in 1905 and for months he lay at the point of death, but upon recovery he was more keenly awake to the needs of humanity. He realized that it was not so much from the need of physical food that mankind suffered, as it was because of soul hunger, which led them to do the things that brought upon them suffering. He started out on a lecture tour which eventually led him to Germany, where he contacted the Brothers of the Ancient Order of Rosicrucians, and he spent some time in study under the instructions of these wise ones, who then sent him out into the world as their messenger, to preach the message of the Rosicrucians and to heal the sick.
He returned to America in the spring of 1909 where he at once started to formulate the Rosicrucian message which he had received from the Elder Brothers. This was given to the world in the form of a book entitled: “The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception,” and it was a masterpiece. It contains one of the most comprehensive, simply written, and complete histories of the evolution of the earth and man that has been written for centuries. A minister of one of the churches in the northwestern part of America made the statement that he had two books in his library which gave him his thoughts for his sermons; one was the Bible and the other was Max Heindel’s “Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception” which unlocked the mysteries of the Bible to him. This book is now translated into eight different languages.
In November, 1909, after a successful lecture tour, Max Heindel returned to Los Angeles, where he met with much success lecturing and giving out lessons.
In August, 1910, he was joined in marriage to Augusta Foss, the woman who had been instrumental in helping him to find the truth and of whom a brief biography follows; with this added help and inspiration his work made it necessary that a headquarters be established for the purpose of disseminating the Rosicrucian work. For the first eight months these two pioneers lived in a small three-room bungalow in Ocean Park, California, with little money, but a determined spirit to start correspondence courses in the Rosicrucian philosophy.
Max Heindel, on account of an injury which occurred while he was a boy and because of an unsuccessful operation, was now almost constantly suffering, and much of his time was spent in bed. But while he was propped up with pillows he wrote his wonderful lessons and messages which his faithful wife would set in type and run off on a small hand press. In October, 1911, a permanent headquarters was established at Oceanside, California, where forty acres were procured and the first building erected. Max Heindel and his faithful companion suffered many hardships and privations during the early pioneer days, but the barren rabbit and snake infested desert has since been made to bloom into the beauty spot of San Diego County, and today the many stately buildings stand as a monument to the great soul, Max Heindel, who died on January 6, 1919.
In the ten years that the lived to start this great work for the Brothers of the Rose Cross, he gave as many volumes to the world as are ordinarily given in a lifetime of an author. His brain-children are many, and the following books, which this wonderful man left as legacy to the world, are now printed at the Rosicrucian Headquarters, at Oceanside, California: “The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception;” The Rosicrucian Mysteries;” “The Web of Destiny;” “Teachings of An Initiate;” “Freemasonry and Catholicism;” “Letters to Students;” “The Rosicrucian Philosophy in Questions and Answers;” “Gleanings of a Mystic;” “Mysteries of the Great Operas;” “The Rosicrucian Principles of Child Training;” “How Shall We Know Christ at His Coming;” “The Mystical Interpretation of Christmas;” “Simplified Scientific Astrology;” and “The Message of The Stars,” the latter in conjunction with Augusta Foss Heindel.
(From Volume LI, Encyclopedia of American Biography, published in 1932.)
Transcribed by V. Gerald Iaquinta.
Source: California of the South Vol. III, by John Steven McGroarty, Pages 105-108, Clarke Publ., Chicago, Los Angeles, Indianapolis. 1933.
© 2012 V. Gerald Iaquinta.