Max Heindel was a Danish-American Christian occultist, astrologer, and mystic.
He was born in Aarhus, Denmark, into the noble family von Grasshoff, which was connected to the German Court during the lifetime of Prince Bismarck. His father, Francois L. von Grasshoff, migrated to Copenhagen as a young man and married a Danish woman of noble birth. They had two sons and one daughter. Their older son was Carl Louis von Grasshoff, who would later adopt the pen name of Max Heindel. When he was six years old, his father died, leaving his mother with three small children in difficult circumstances. Max Heindel's infancy was thus lived in genteel poverty. His mother's small income was dedicated to private tutors for her sons and daughter, so that they might eventually take their place in society as members of the noble classes.
Heindel left home at the age of sixteen to learn engineering at the ship-yards of Glasgow, Scotland. As Chief Engineer of a trading steamer, he traveled extensively, and eventually found himself working on one of the large passenger steamers of the Cunard Line operating between America and Europe. From 1895 to 1901, he was a consulting engineer in New York City. During this time, he married and had a son and two daughters. His wife died in 1905.
In 1903, Max Heindel moved to Los Angeles, California, seeking work. After attending lectures by the theosophist C.W. Leadbeater, he joined the Theosophical Society of Los Angeles, of which he became vice-president in 1904 and 1905. He also became a vegetarian, and began the study of astrology, which he felt gave him the key to unlocking the mysteries of man's inner nature. He met his future wife Augusta Foss around this time. However, overwork and privation brought him severe heart trouble in 1905, and for months he lay at the point of death. Upon his recovery he said he was more keenly aware of the needs of humanity. He said that he spent much of the time during this illness out of his body, consciously working and seeking for the truth as he might find it on the invisible planes.
From 1906 to 1907 he started a lecture tour, in order to spread his occult knowledge. He began in San Francisco and then went to Seattle. After a course of lectures in that city he was again forced to spend some time in a hospital with valvular heart trouble. Upon his recovery, still undaunted, he once more took up his work of lecturing in the northwestern part of the United States.
In the fall of 1907, during a most successful period of lectures in Minnesota, he travelled to Berlin (Germany) with his friend Dr. Alma Von Brandis, who had been for months trying to persuade him, in order to hear a cycle of lectures by Rudolf Steiner. During his short stay in Germany, he developed a sincere admiration of Steiner, to which "esteemed teacher and valued friend" he dedicated his magnum opus. He sat in on several lectures and had one or two interviews with Steiner and he could learn about occult truth from the founder of later Anthroposophy, but at the same time he understood that this teacher could not help him to advance along the path of spiritual development.
Heindel reported that, with his mind already made up to return, feeling that he had given up his work in America in vain to take this trip, he was visited by the vital body of a spiritual being who identified himself as an Elder Brother of the Rosicrucian Order, an Order in the inner worlds formed in the year 1313 and having no direct connection to physical organizations which call themselves by this name. Heindel claimed that the Elder Brother gave him information which was concise and logical and beyond anything he was capable of writing. Later, he found out that during a previous visit of the Elder Brother, he was put to a test to determine his worthiness to be messenger of the Western Wisdom Teachings. He recounts that only then he was given instruction how to reach the etheric Temple of the Rose Cross, near the German/Bohemian border, and how at this Temple he was in direct communication with and under the personal instructions of the Elder Brothers of the Rose Cross. The Rosicrucian Order is described as being composed of twelve Elder Brothers, gathered around a thirteenth who is the invisible Head. These great Adepts, belonging to human evolution but having already advanced far beyond the cycle of rebirth, are reported as being among those exalted Beings who guide mankind's evolution. Further, some help him manifest without necessarily being under any compulsion to do so.
He died on January 6, 1919 in Oceanside, California, United States.