Rosicrucian Writings Online

The Rosy Cross and the Rosary

By The Imperator
[H. Spencer Lewis]
[From The Rosicrucian Digest January 1935]
AT THE very outset, perhaps, I should apologize for alluding to the Rosary as a symbol in the same manner as we recognize the Rosy Cross as a symbol, for I do not wish to be understood as deliberately setting aside the claim of the devotees of the Rosary that it is a devotion and not a mere symbol. To those who express their spiritual intentions through the use of the Rosary it is the most blessed and excellent devotion within the Christian religion. I do not intend that anything I shall say shall appear to be an attempt to detract from that consideration. Each of us is most certainly entitled by all spiritual and worldly rights and privileges to find in any manner or method of religious expression that which we hold as the most sacred or the most efficacious, and it does not behoove anyone to criticize the spiritual concepts of another.
But to thousands of students of mysticism and religious philosophy there appears to be some points of similarity between the Rosy Cross and the Rosary, and the subject is often discussed in the lodges and chapters of our organization. It is my desire, therefore, to cast some light upon this subject in order to aid in the better understanding of these two sacred emblems.
If we consider, first of all, the history of the Rosy Cross and the Rosary, we find that their revelation to man as something worthy and noble to be held in sacred reverence, is lost in antiquity and surrounded by traditions. It is logical to assume that each of these, as sacred devices or emblems, was invented, designed, or established, first of all, by the concept in the mind of one individual. It seems difficult to us to believe that such things are the result of mental conception on the part of a large number simultaneously. But a little further investigation of the history reveals that both of these emblems evolved in the consciousness of individuals and were not created or made manifest arbitrarily overnight by a single individual. If, on the other hand, we turn our investigation toward the spiritual conception of them, we find at once that tradition tells us what we most naturally expect, that they were inspired and originated from one sacred source, the source of all divine symbolism and devotional expression.
The Rosy Cross, being composed of both the cross and the rose, represents the combination of two very ancient and sacred symbols. The use of the cross as a symbol of philosophical religious expression can be traced far back into antiquity, and the most simple of all the exoteric descriptions of the cross is that it represents the body of man with arms outstretched. This idea was held in the minds of philosophers of old, long before the cross was used as a means for crucifixion. That the most primitive form of the cross was slightly different from that used by the Rosicrucians or by the Christians is true, but like every other sacred emblem, it passed through stages of evolution in its material form in accordance with the human interpretation of the inspired idea.
The claim that the cross originated in the form of the Crux Ansata as a symbol of immortality, and yet partially representative of the sex functioning or the functioning of material reproduction of life in a physical form, is only partly true; for as a matter of fact, nearly all of the sacred symbols and emblems had several interpretations or applications in ancient times and since the mystery of reproduction was looked upon as one of the greatest of the mysteries, and explanatory of the idea of the continuity of life or immortality, many of the sacred symbols were associated with this great mystery. We find that most of the symbols of antiquity were associated with both the spiritual and the worldly expressions of the laws of God and nature.
The rose, on the other hand, seems to have always been associated almost exclusively with the spiritual side of man's existence and emblematic of the soul. The rose as a flower was considered in many oriental lands as a sacred and divine manifestation through nature and the process of its unfolding and development seemed to symbolize the unfoldment and development of the soul. Undoubtedly, its beauty, rare fragrance, tenderness, sweetness, magnificence of color, rarity, and other qualities, helped to make it symbolical of the soul of man. The joining of these two, then, the rose and the cross, is the logical unity of two outstanding sacred principles--the physical body of man and the delicate unfolding soul nature within.
But nowhere in the history of the Rosicrucian emblem do we find any story or account of its sudden and definite adoption at any specific period of time as we do with the Rosary, according to many eminent Roman Catholic writers. Turning to this ecclesiastical history of the Rosary, we find that the father of its use is claimed to be that famous monk, St. Dominic. It is said that during the very troublesome and disturbing days in southern France when various sects were vying with each other in an attempt to reform the Roman Catholic religion, or to upset it altogether, and to establish a new form of religious worship or promote atheism and non-religious ideas, St. Dominic, as a young and very enthusiastic supporter of the church, journeyed through that country and was deeply moved by the conditions which he found there.
History tells us, of course, much about the very serious restlessness of the people at that time. Not only had there come into southern France and especially into the section which centered around the city of Toulouse, many mystical movements which had their origin in the Orient or in Palestine, and which were truly devoted to the adoration of "the one and everliving God" and which were fostering and teaching secretly a very deep and profound interest in the spiritual mysteries of life, but many wholly destructive and irreligious organizations that spread among the people and which were designed almost exclusively to destroy all forms of religion and bitterly attack the established churches. All sacred property and the most devout followers of the church were assaulted and the devastation and destruction of property and life alike was becoming rampant. It was more than the development of heresy, and in fairness to the Roman Catholic Church it must be said that the attempt on the part of the church to discontinue the destructive activities was not exclusively an attempt to suppress heresy. But when such development of critical thought is accompanied by the wanton destruction of property and life and open warfare is made upon institutions and individuals alike, it is but natural that a reaction and a form of defense should be started despite the fact that it too might become destructive.
There is no need at this time for any further comments on my part regarding the situation that existed in southern France, for that history has been covered completely in thousands of books and I am not attempting to defend or even explain the motives expressed by any of the personages or institutions involved in the controversies. But I cannot overlook the important significance that in this very district where much blood was unnecessarily sacrificed in the name of religion and where many thousands unnecessarily and wantonly persecuted the innocent, there were a number of movements devoted to the most peaceful, beautiful, mystical interpretation of life and the mysteries of religion that the world has ever known. What a complex situation existed, therefore, in this one part of the world!
And it is said, in the history of the Rosary, that St. Dominic sought inspiration in silent and private prayer and meditation within one of the cathedrals of that district, and on one occasion he appealed to the heart of that Advocate whom he greatly loved, Mary, the mother of Jesus. With tearful eyes he besought her not to allow such suffering and sorrows to be useless to the people for whom Jesus died. "Then it was that the heavens opened, and the Mother of God, holding a Rosary in her hand, appeared in dazzling brightness to her servant whom she thus addressed: 'Be of good courage, Dominic, the fruits of your labor will be abundant. The remedy for the evils you lament will be meditation on the life, death, and glory of my Son uniting thereto the recitation of the Angelic Salutation by which the mystery of redemption was announced to the world'."
The Rosary as a device, an emblem, or a Devotion, was then explained to him in detail with the instructions that it should be adopted and used by all of the faithful throughout the world. It was given to him as a precious gift and as a heritage to the faithful. According to the record, Dominic was filled with gratitude and animated with new courage and he arose from prayer and hastened to obey the command of the Queen of Heaven. It is said in another portion of the record that before he could call the faithful together into a great church to hear his description of the new revelation and divine gift, the people seemed to be charged with some mysterious summons and had already assembled in a great church awaiting some unknown event. Dominic ascended the pulpit and proclaimed the Devotion that has been revealed to him from heaven. "For a while they remained insensible to his words, but God was not wanting in aiding His ministry. A violent storm arose, the church was lighted up by the lurid glare of the lightning, while peal after peal of thunder resounded. A statue of the Blessed Virgin then began to move, at one time pointing to heaven in a threatening manner, again pointing to the preacher as if imploring them to listen to him and obey his voice. The obdurate hearts of the people were at length touched, the victory was gained. The Rosary had conquered. Prostrating themselves with one impulse at St. Dominic's feet, the people begged to be received to this wonderful devotion."
This was the beginning of a series of victories for the Rosary, which have continued up to the present hour and will undoubtedly continue far into the future.
It may not be known to all of our readers that one of the great benefits and blessings of the use of the Rosary is not only the aid it gives in systematic prayer and for which the emblem is undoubtedly worthy of emulation and consideration, but its use grants to the faithful many plenary and other indulgences in those hours after transition when such indulgences from the trials and tribulations of the soul are like jewels in the string of divine benedictions according to the Roman Catholic teachings. For this and other reasons the Rosary is looked upon by the Roman Catholic Church as its most excellent of all Devotions.
I desire to quote the precise words used by one writer in describing the profound manner in which the Rosary is respected:
"Whether man weeps or rejoices, whether he is visited by trials or prosperity, whether he has to obey or command, whether he lives in the world or the cloister, whether he lives among the faithful or the infidel, whether he wields a sceptre or sways the shepherd's crook--he will find in the Rosary a lesson suitable to his vocation, a grace which will answer his present need, a virtue which seems to have been placed there for him, and for him alone."
"As the elevation of the mind to God in the contemplation of his mysteries of mercy and love enlightens the soul and inflames the heart, the Rosary offers to our meditation the most sublime truths of religion. This is the testimony of every soul truly devoted to the Beads. It is testimony of the Saints of God. . . . Man is a dependent being. We must rely on God for our needs of soul and body. God is able and prepared to give us all necessities, but He requires us to ask Him for them. Not that He may know our wants but that we may pay Him the homage of prayer and at the same time recognize our dependence on Him; and, furthermore, that, by prayer, we may gain the grace and glory which prayer properly offered obtains."
Then follows an explanation of why and how we should pray and it is illuminating in its spiritual and mystical significance. According to this explanation, based upon a statement by St. Thomas who said, "God has made our salvation, and the accomplishment of His designs which are full of love for His elect, and tend to their predestination, to depend on prayer. When we pray, it is not in order to change the decrees of God, but to fulfill them, and to obtain what he has resolved to grant to prayer alone, that thus men may deserve to receive by their prayers, what He has determined to grant them from eternity out of His pure goodness.
It is from these thoughts that we understand according to this author that while God wills our sanctification and salvation, it is for our own good we make use of the means which He has appointed, and one of the essential means is prayer. Jesus did say, "Ask, and you shall receive." If you refuse to ask or neglect to ask, then you cannot expect to receive since you fail to employ the means appointed.
Certainly, the student of mysticism can see in all of this the pure mysticism of theology and the beauty of spiritual inspiration and interpretation. It is very significant indeed that the birth or origin of the Rosary as recorded in the records of the church is attributed to the city of Toulouse from which center came not only the spread of the Rosicrucian Order throughout Europe at a very early date, but in which the Knights of the Temple and several other mystical organizations had their great centers and from which the Crusaders started forth in their great campaigns, and around which locality has ever been associated so much of the secret doctrines and beautiful mystical teachings of religion. Toulouse is today a district of sacred shrines for Rosicrucians and for mystics of many schools and to find the Rosary attributed to this district is, as I have said, very significant.
But we must remember, without in any way detracting from the beautiful experience which St. Dominic may have had in a great church in southern France, or without questioning the claim that he was inspired at that time and place, as if by the voice of Mary or actually by a divine visitation, to promote the use of the Rosary among the faithful, that this was not the beginning and first use of a string of beads as a sacred Rosary. Here in our museum at Rosicrucian Park we have what may be found in some of the other rare collections in museums of foreign cities, a number of Rosaries that were found in the mummy caskets and burial places of Egypt and others in foreign lands, and which were in use and held sacred and as a means of approaching God in prayer long before the Christian era. In fact, in a number of ancient religions a string of beads used as a Rosary was common practice among the most devout and in a number of these Rosaries, if not in all, the beads were of various classifications and having definite significances so that one regulated or controlled the manner of prayer by the counting of the beads. And in all of these ancient times these Rosaries were held in high esteem, perhaps as very sacred emblems and devices. This fact, however, would not have prevented a great Cosmic and spiritual revelation coming to St. Dominic in regard to the revival and use of the Rosary with a new application, a new list of prayers or sacred formulas as a means of reawakening the interest of the devout.
To Rosicrucians, the emblem of the Rosy Cross should be an emblem or symbol to be held in high esteem and great reverence. It is not exclusively or primarily a religious emblem but rather an esoteric emblem. It is a symbol of the ideals and purposes of the Rosicrucian Fraternity and of the Rosicrucian teachings. To thousands of Rosicrucians it is respected and adored in the same manner that many respect and adore the Rosary, not for the same purpose but to the same end. In no wise do we recommend that the Rosy Cross as an emblem should supplant any other sacred device which is of a purely religious significance or a part of a devotional service in the church, for we do not seek to have our members disassociate themselves from their religion, their church, or their spiritual convictions. But certainly every true Rosicrucian can look upon the Rosicrucian emblem as something that will help to give him strength and fortitude in his hours of trials and tribulations and whether he weeps or rejoices, or whether he is visited by trials or prosperity, or whether he has to obey or command, or whether he lives in the world or the cloister, or among the faithful or the infidel, and regardless of whether he wields the sceptre or sways the shepherd's crook, he will find in the ideals and principles represented by the Rosy Cross that additional strength and help which will enable him to meet his present needs and to that same degree in which he respects and honors, if not reverences, the Rosy Cross, will he find himself attuned with the mystical powers that will enable him to unfold the self within as the rose unfolds in all of its fullness of color and beauty.

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