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The rosy cross (also called "rose cross" and "rose croix") is a symbol largely associated with the semi-mythical Christian Rosencreutz (1378-1484 EV), alchemist and founder of the Rosicrucian Order. It has several meanings, depending on the source. Some modern Rosicrucians claim that the rosy cross pre-dates Christianity, where "the cross represents the human body and the rose represents the individual's unfolding consciousness."  (http://www.rosicrucian.org/about/mastery/mastery08history.html). It has also been suggested that the rose represents silence while the cross signifies "salvation, to which the Society of the Rose-Cross devoted itself by teaching mankind the love of God and the beauty of brotherhood, with all that they implied."  (http://svmmvmbonvm.org/crc/bacon.htm)
However, in general, it is a symbol of the human process of reproduction elevated to the spiritual: "The fundamental symbols of the Rosicrucians were the rose and the cross; the rose female and the cross male, both universal phallic [...] As generation is the key to material existence, it is natural that the Rosicrucians should adopt as its characteristic symbols those exemplifying the reproductive processes. As regeneration is the key to spiritual existence, they therefore founded their symbolism upon the rose and the cross, which typify the redemption of man through the union of his lower temporal nature with his higher eternal nature." (Hall, 1928, p.141)
It is further a symbol of the Philosopher's Stone, the ultimate product of the alchemist.
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Crowley and the Rosy Cross
The symbol of the rosy cross played a substantial role within the system of Thelema as developed by Aleister Crowley. In a cosmological context, the rose is Nuit, the infinitely expanded goddess of the night sky, and the cross is Hadit, the ultimately contracted atomic point. For Crowley, it was the job of the adept to identify with the appropriate symbol so to experience the mystical conjunction of opposites, which leads to attainment. In this sense, the rose cross is a grand symbol of the Great Work:
- The Tau and the circle together make one form of the Rosy Cross, the uniting of subject and object which is the Great Work, and which is symbolized sometimes as this cross and circle, sometimes as the Lingam-Yoni, sometimes as the Ankh or Crux Ansata, sometimes by the Spire and Nave of a church or temple, and sometimes as a marriage feast, mystic marriage, spiritual marriage, "chymical nuptials," and in a hundred other ways. Whatever the form chosen, it is the symbol of the Great Work. (Magick, Book 4)
Crowley also makes clear that this process is reflected in the sexual act as well:
- So we need not be surprised if the Unity of Subject and Object in Consciousness which is Samadhi, the uniting of the Bride and the Lamb which is Heaven, the uniting of the Magus and the god which is Evocation, the uniting of the Man and his Holy Guardian Angel which is the seal upon the work of the Adeptus Minor, is symbolized by the geometrical unity of the circle and the square, the arithmetical unity of the 5 and the 6, and (for more universality of comprehension) the uniting of the Lingam and the Yoni, the Cross and the Rose. For as in earth-life the sexual ecstasy is the loss of self in the Beloved, the creation of a third consciousness transcending its parents, which is again reflected into matter as a child; so, immeasurably higher, upon the Plane of Spirit, Subject and Object join to disappear, leaving a transcendent unity. This third is ecstasy and death; as below, so above. (Equinox I:4, "The Big Stick")
The rosy cross is further symbolic of the grade of Adeptus Minor in the A.'.A.'., the Qabalistic sphere of Tiphareth on the Tree of Life, the magical formula INRI, and the concepts of Light (LVX) and Life (see: De Lege Libellum (http://www.scarletwoman.org/docs/docs_lege.html)).
- "And to Go is the very meaning of the name God, as elsewhere shewn in these letters; hence the Egyptian Gods were signalized as such by their bearing the Ankh, which is a Sandal-strap, and in its form the Crux Ansata, the Rosy Cross, the means whereby we demonstrate the Godhead of our Nature." (Magick Without Tears)
- "The key to the Vault, the Rose and Cross, is then explained as resuming within itself the Life of Nature, and the Powers hidden in the word I.'. N.'. R.'. I.'.. Another form of the Rose and Cross, the Crux Ansata, is shown to represent the force of the ten Sephiroth in nature, divided into a Hexad and Tetrad. The Oval embraces the first six Sephiroth, and the Tau Cross the lower four, answering to the four elements. The complete symbol of the Rose and Cross, which the Chief Adept carries upon his breast, is then explained to mean "the Key of Sigils and of Rituals"; and that it represents the force of the twenty-two letters in Nature as divided into a three, a seven and a twelve; 'many and great are its mysteries.'" (Equinox I:3, "The Temple of Solomon the King")
- "The Rosy Cross lies beyond this veil of Paroketh, and therewith the vision called Vishvarupadarshana. Moreover, there is the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel." (Aha!)
- "Abrahadabra—the Reward of Ra-Hoor-Khuit. We have already seen that Abrahadabra is the glyph of the blending of the 5 and the 6, the Rose and the Cross." (Liber 220, Commentary on Liber AL)
- "[When the adept travels up the Tree and reaches Yesod, he learns] that his Body was the Temple of the Rosy Cross, that is, that it was given him as a place wherein to perform the Magical Work of uniting the oppositions in his Nature. Here he is taught that his Heart is the Centre of Light. It is not dark, mysterious, hollow, obscure even to himself, but his soul is to dwell there, radiating Light on the six spheres which surround it; these represent the various powers of his mind." (Liber 220, Commentary on Liber AL)
- "Glory unto the Rose and the Cross, for the Cross is extended unto the uttermost end beyond space and time and being and knowledge and delight! Glory unto the Rose that is the minute point of its center! Even as we say; glory unto the Rose that is Nuit the circumference of all, and glory unto the Cross that is the heart of the Rose!" (The Vision and the Voice, 23rd Aethyr)
Freemasonry, Golden Dawn, and O.T.O.
Within Freemasonry, the Eighteenth Degree is specifically concerned with the rose cross and confers the title of "Knight Rose Croix". Of this degree, Pike writes, "The Degree of Rose Cross teaches three things;—the unity, immutability and goodness of God; the immortality of the Soul; and the ultimate defeat and extinction of evil and wrong and sorrow, by a Redeemer or Messiah, yet to come, if he has not already appeared."
He goes on the explain the symbolism of the rose cross in that degree:
- [The cross's] peculiar meaning in this Degree, is that given to it by the Ancient Egyptians. Thoth or Phtha is represented on the oldest monuments carrying in his hand the Crux Ansata, or Ankh, (a Tau cross, with a ring or circle over it). [...] It was the hieroglyphic for life, and with a triangle prefixed meant life-giving. To us therefore it is the symbol of Life—of that life that emanated from the Deity, and of that Eternal Life for which we all hope; through our faith in God's infinite goodness. [...]
The rose was anciently sacred to Aurora and the Sun. It is a symbol of Dawn, of the resurrection of Light and the renewal of life, and therefore of the dawn of the first day, and more particularly of the resurrection: and the Cross and Rose together are therefore hieroglyphically to be read, the Dawn of Eternal Life which all Nations have hoped for by the advent of a Redeemer.
The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn made use of the rosy cross as well, including 'The Ritual of the Rose Cross," designed for spiritual protection and as preparation for meditation. According to Regardie, the Golden Dawn rosy cross contains attributes for the Elements, Planets, Zodiac, Hebrew alphabet, alchemical principles, the hexagram and pentagram, the sepheroth of the Tree of Life, and the formula of INRI. On the back side of the rosy cross is inscribed the motto of the Zelator Adeptus Minor at the bottom, "The master Jesus Christ, God and Man" between four maltese crosses, and in the center, written in Latin, "Blessed be the Lord our God who hath given us the Symbol Signum."
Regardie says of the rosy cross in The Golden Dawn:
- The Rose-Cross is a Lamen or badge synthesizing a vast concourse of ideas, representing in a single emblem the Great Work itself—the harmonious reconciliation in one symbol of diverse and apparently contradictory concepts, the reconciliation of divinity and manhood. It is a highly important symbol to be worn over the heart during every important operation. It is a glyph, in one sense, of the higher Genius to whose knowledge and conversation the student is eternally aspiring. In the Rituals it is described as the Key of Sigils and Rituals.
Ordo Templi Orientis
The rose cross also has a place in the system of Ordo Templi Orientis. It is associated with the Fifth Degree, the title of which is "Sovereign Prince Rose-Croix, and Knight of the Pelican and Eagle." Of it, Crowley writes in "An Intimation with Reference to the Constitution of the Order":
- The members of the Fifth Degree are responsible for all that concerns the Social welfare of the Order. This grade is symbolically that of beauty and harmony; it is the natural stopping-place of the majority of men and women; for to proceed farther, as will appear, involves renunciation of the sternest kind. Here then is all joy, peace, well-being on all planes; the Sovereign Prince Rose Croix is attached equally to the higher and the lower, and forms a natural link between them. Yet let him look to it that his eyes are set on high!
I. N. R. I.—De Mysteriis Rosae Bubeae et Aureae Crucis (http://www.hermetic.com/browe-archive/achad/misc/inri.htm), by Charles Stansfeld Jones
- Hall, Manly. (1928). The Secret Teachings of All Ages (http://www.sacred-texts.com/eso/sta/sta00.htm). H.S. Crocker Co. : San Francisco, CA
- Baxter, James. Sir Francis Bacon and The Rosy Cross.
- Heindel, Max. (1909). The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception (http://svmmvmbonvm.org/crc/rosenkreuz4.html).
- Pike, Albert. (1871). Morals and Dogma.
- Regardie, Isreal. (1994). The Golden Dawn. Llewellyn : St. Paul, MN
- Crowley, Aleister. (1997). Magick: Book 4. 2nd ed. York Beach, Me. : S. Weiser.
- ____. (1998). The Vision & the Voice : the Equinox, IV(2). York Beach, Me. : Samuel Weiser.
- ____. (1996). Aha! Tempe, Ariz. : New Falcon Publications.
- ____. (1982). Magick Without Tears. Phoenix, AZ : Falcon Press