Joseph J. Weed
The symbol of Rosicrucianism is the Rosy Cross. It is prominent in all of our rituals and appears on every official Rosicrucian document. It might be said that the Rosy Cross is the very heart of Rosicrucianism, that in essence, it is Rosicrucianism.
It will be of interest, I am sure, and probably of benefit to most of us, to examine into the rich symbolism of the Rosicrucian Cross. Not that it will be possible to do justice to it in the time available, but the more important aspects can be touched upon.
The cross is one of the oldest, if not the most ancient of symbols. The Eastern Initiates show it as the first differentiation of the Primary Essence, the First Cause, as it symbolizes the contact and interaction between Spirit and Matter. The very earliest Sanskrit writings relate how Vishvakarman, the Carpenter and Artificer of the Gods, crucified the "Sun-Spirit" on a cruciform lathe or wheel. The significance of this symbolism is apparent. In the ancient Hebrew, the sacred name of Jehovah, the Tettragramatton, the four letters Yod, He, Vav, He, were presented in the form of a cross. The cross is found etched on statues discovered on Easter Island in the mid Pacific, on rocks in Central Asia and in pre-Christian Scandinavia. Plato refers to the Second God Who impressed Himself upon the Universe in the form of a cross; and in the ancient mysteries reference is made to regenerated man, the mortal who by crucifying the flesh and his passions on a bed of torture, becomes reborn as an immortal. Truly, the cross is an ancient and well nigh universal symbol.
From the very earliest times, the cross has been associated with the circle. The crux ansata of the Egyptians was constructed of a circle above a tau cross. The Swastika is designed to represent a cross in motion revolving like a wheel; the four leaved lotus of Buddha is almost circular in shape and the astrological sign of Venus is a circle above a square cross. Ancient numerology used the symbol of the cross in the following manner: It was assumed that physical awareness, mans horizon so to speak, was symbolized by a horizontal line presumed to he on a level with his eyes. All above this line was considered abstract or immaterial and was symbolized by a circle which could mean infinity or zero according to the understanding of the individual. Below the line the particular or the material was symbolized by the numeral one. When this is pictured it resembles the crux ansata. In mathematics, the cross is universally regarded as the sign of addition and in trigonometry it is used to define the whole field of manifestation.
Today most Christians make the sign of the cross upon their person by successively touching the forehead, the breast and each shoulder, saying as they do, "In the Name of the Father (at the forehead) and of the Son (at the breast) and of the Holy Ghost (crossing from the left to the right shoulder). Hundreds of years before Jesus, the Christ, walked this earth, initiates of old blessed themselves in the self same way but with different words. They said, "To Thee" (at the forehead) "belong the kingdom" (at the breast) "justice and mercy" (at the left shoulder then the right). This was usually recited in Kabbalistic Latin as follows: "Tibi sunt Malchut et Geburah et Chesed per Aeonas."
Our monographs teach us that wherever and whenever two energies moving in different directions pass each other and touch, at that point a manifestation occurs in the form of a spark, or an idea, or an impulse, or some other demonstration which will affect and cause a ripple or disturbance in the surrounding environment. The cross symbolizes this and when one of these energies is spiritual and the other material, the point where they touch manifests as a human being.
The rose at the junction of the arms of the cross is the symbol of the soul-personality. As it reaches out its awareness horizontally (to east and west) it extends its contacts ever farther into the material realm in order to gain more and more experience. As the soul-personality reaches upward along the line of vertical energy it is enabled to draw down into its area of awareness and use more and more spiritual energy. The great mystic, Hermes Trismegistus, described this in the following words: "Separate the earth from the fire, the subtle from the gross – ascend from the earth to heaven and then descend again to earth."
The cross, and the rose on the cross can be said to represent any human being. We are all souls struggling to achieve a certain degree of competence in dealing with our environment. But for the Rosicrucian the rose on the cross has a subtler meaning. For him it symbolizes a soul personality on the cross of initiation or about to ascend onto it. For the Rosicrucian, the Rosy cross is the cross of initiation. From the viewpoint of esoteric astrology, there are three different crosses of energies which influence humanity.
The first of these is the so-called "Mutable Cross" which influences the human beings who are still relatively unawakened spiritually, and this is about 99% of all humanity. The four arms of this Cross, sometimes called the Cross of the Hidden Christ and frequently pictured as a Swastika, extend into and are influenced by the energies emanating from the astrological signs of Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces. These are the energies which produce the conditioning circumstances which transform animal man into an aspirant for initiation. During this period of training, which incidentally comprises by far the longest period life after life of the individual's stay on this planet, the soul-personality comes into incarnation in physical bodies born under every sign. But regardless of which sign may provide the immediate background for the then current life experience, behind it and directing it will be the major influences, of the energies from Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces. This is the Cross of temporal and temporary Change and of those constantly altering environments which drive the soul-personality from one extreme of experience to another, that life shuttles between the pairs of opposites.
After countless years of struggles, after untold lives, the soul-personality is finally considered ready to graduate from the influence of the Mutable Cross and move onto the Cross of Initiation, symbolized by the Rosy cross. In esoteric astrology the Cross of Initiation is called the Fixed Cross or the Cross of the Crucified Christ. This is the cross composed of the four great energies which condition the life of the human being who is first a probationary disciple, subsequently becoming an accepted disciple and finally an initiate.
This is the cross of the soul. The aspirant upon the Fixed Cross is becoming increasingly aware of its direction and influences and no longer reacts blindly as he did when upon the Mutable Cross. In the Kabala it is said that the wheel of his life now turns in the opposite direction or at right angles to its previous course. He does not mount this "Cross of Right Direction" until he has attained some measure of Cosmic Contact and has experienced some development in his intuition -- no matter how fleeting this may have been.
The four arms of the Fixed Cross are anchored in the astrological signs of Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius. Mystical paintings and esoteric literature are filled with references to and symbols of this Cross. The original Sphinx is one such symbol. This figure was a strange complex made up of the head of a woman (Aquarius), the forequarters of a lion (Leo), the hindquarters and tail of a bull (Taurus) and the wings of an eagle (Scorpio). Scorpio in its sublimated form is pictured as an eagle. The huge Sphinx on the Egyptian desert, near the Great Pyramid at Gizeh, is a prophetic version of the original lion, since it shows the head of a woman, Aquarius, on the body of a lioness, Leo, indicating control and guidance of the body by the mind and soul.
The Fixed Cross is so called because the aspirant is stretched upon it by his own choice and kept there by the unswerving decision of his soul-personality. This is the Cross whose four energies blend with and transmit energies from the entire solar system. This it can do because the aspirant or initiate upon the Fixed Cross is becoming increasingly aware of issues larger than himself and more engrossing than his previous interests. He is becoming sensitive to a larger whole. The energies of this Cross continue to influence the soul-personality until the time of the third major initiation.
The third great astrological Cross is called the Cardinal Cross, or the Cross of the Risen Christ. Its four energies come from the signs of Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn and they govern and direct the soul-personality as it moves forward upon the Path of Initiation. The blending of these great energies as they impact upon the soul-personality eventually bring about an awakening to full Cosmic Consciousness, but the scope of their influence in the life of the initiate is so vast that no estimate of its extent can be made by us.
The first four major initiations have been pictured and symbolized for us by Jesus Christ in His own life. They are also symbolized for us by the arms of the Rosicrucian Cross, while the rose at its center symbolizes the man, the soul-personality undergoing these initiations. The first major initiation is called "The Birth of Christ" and in the life of Jesus this is symbolized by his actual birth. It marks the time when the Soul or the Master within, starts to take over control of the life of the aspirant and to influence his every major decision. Before this point is reached, the soul-personality must have achieved a recognizable influence over all physical habits and actions. "The sins of the flesh", so to say, must first be dominated and the willingness to obey must be very strong. This is the major achievement signalized by the First Initiation. The channel between head and heart, between the soul-personality and the Cosmic is then opened and becomes wider as time passes.
It must not be expected that every initiate will at all times measure up to this high standard, but the note he sounds will always struggle to conform to it, even though perfection will not always be achieved. All people do not develop along the same line, nor even along parallel lines and, therefore, no hard and fast standards of conduct can be laid down. However, the inflowing Cosmic energy will stir and bring life to the heart center and the aim of the initiate of the First Degree is to focus then on control of the emotional nature and preparation for the second major initiation.
Many lives usually intervene between the first and second initiations and a long period of many incarnations may elapse before control of the astral or emotional body is sufficiently perfected to permit the aspirant to undergo this second great initiatory experience.
The second initiation is called "The Baptism" and is symbolized for us in the life of Christ by His actual baptism in the River Jordan. Many years elapsed in the life of Jesus between His birth and His baptism, but the remaining three steps (the next three initiations) were taken in three years.
Thus, after the second great initiation the aspiring soul-Personality usually makes rapid progress with the third and fourth initiations following in the same life or in the life immediately thereafter. For after the "Baptism" the soul-personality is purged of its major and most troublesome weaknesses, the sins of the flesh and those of the emotional nature. Desire has been dominated and only that is longed for which will be for the good of the whole and in line with Cosmic Intention. The aspiration and longing to serve, love and progress become so strong that rapid development is usually seen. Right at this period in history the need is so great that a most powerful stimulus has been given to all aspiring souls to aid them in their advancement to a point where they too will be able and willing to meet the crying need of humanity.
In considering this, we must not make the mistake of thinking that all of this follows in consecutive steps and stages. Often there is much done on many different levels simultaneously. The labor to control is slow and hard and the earnest aspirant must strive at all times to master his physical, emotional and mental activities. But there will come a time when some definite point in the evolution of each of these vehicles will be attained and held before further expansion can be safely permitted. These points of achievement are referred to as "initiations." Many of us here are working on all three bodies now as we make our way upward on the Probationary Path.
The first two initiations are symbolized by the horizontal arms of the Rosy Cross and when successfully passed mark a triumph over the material world. After the "Baptism" the direction of effort changes once again and the aspirant, his life and its problems are no longer the center of interest. The initiate must now learn to control his mind and all of his mental processes and he is trained by being taught to turn his attention away from himself and hold it focussed upon those whom he can stimulate and help.
Here is contained a hint from which all of us can profit. If the technique of development suggested and taught to the initiate of the Second Degree in his effort to advance still further up the path is to turn his attention away from himself and hold it focussed upon those whom he can help, why wouldn't it be a good idea for all of us to adopt this very technique right now? In turning our attention to others, we must not hold a critical attitude. This is all too easy. As the instruction goes, "We must seek to serve and not demand the service due us; We must seek to heal, not hurt." This is far more difficult than it sounds because our own natures are very complex and our motives are not always clear to us.
The third initiation is called the "Transfiguration" and is symbolized in the life of Christ by His own transfiguration on the mountain before three of His closest disciples.
The fourth major initiation is called the "Crucifixion" and is symbolized by the actual crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ upon the cross. This is the last human initiation. There are other major steps upward beyond this, but they are steps to be taken by Beings that have become more than human. just as Jesus suffered His body to be torn and bled white upon the cross, so must each one of us one day face the pain and suffering involved in the final surrender of all we have created on this planet. These precious possessions of mind and emotion are but the uniforms of a school boy who has now passed his final exams and is ready for college. From this point onward a new and different life awaits him. Continued and more advanced learning, yes, but different with new privileges and greater opportunities.
The initiate in preparing himself for the third and fourth initiations becomes active along the upper and lower arms of the Rosy Cross, so that after the "Crucifixion" he may then say that lie has met and overcome every test on each of the four arms of the Rosy Cross and in all four points of the compass, North, South, East and West. In a very real sense he is then at one with the Cosmic.
This is the goal we all have in sight, the objective which led us to the Rosicrucian Order and its carefully graded system of teaching and training. Our Rosicrucian work can guide us and bring us along the Probationary Path right to the portal of the first initiation. From that point onward we are on our own. That you may all successfully prepare yourselves to mount the Rosy Cross in this life is my earnest prayer for you today.
Joseph J. Weed
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A Rosicrucian Speaks
Joseph J. Weed
Copyright, The Chatsworth Press
Last Modified: January 19, 2014