"Our Father Rosicross is in his tomb"

“Our Father Rosicross is in his tomb”:
On the Vault of the Adepts (Part 2)
Carl Hood, Jr.

A danger in looking for explanatory amplification outside the texts themselves is that it is possible to wander too far afield, and read too much of one's own interests into the material. I will therefore limit myself here to some of the most basic and directly relevant parallels.

Certain themes, while suggestive, cannot here be historically linked beyond reasonable doubt to the Golden Dawn scheme. Nevertheless, their relevance will be clear when they are put in the context of material that has clear historical links to the Golden Dawn. Furthermore, to they extent that they are able to illuminate some important, but less obvious, implications of the Golden Dawn material, they indicate too its status as a late, but not necessarily naive or utterly degenerate, member of the same current of tradition.

A. The Sage in the Tomb

There is a persistent tradition of discovering Hermetic texts or tablets (including the Emerald Tablet) while exploring an underground cavern or tomb; these treasures of wisdom are usually found in the hands of some entombed sage Hermes, or some similar figure; alternatively, it is Hermes who makes the voyage.1) When it is Hermes who makes the quest, the one he finds is recognized as his “Perfect Nature, and Hermes as “the prophet of the Perfect Nature”.2)

There are some instances, in various Hellenistic texts, of the conflation of the figure of Moses with the figure of Hermes, and the association of the two was also perpetuated in widespread Renaissance traditions associated with the Corpus Hermeticum.3)

(Similar imagery occurs in the Zoharic story of Abraham's entrance into the cave where Adam and Eve were buried— wherein he saw a lit lamp and a great light, and the ground lifted to reveal the graves of Adam and Eve; during the conversation that follows Adam says “until now I have been lying hid like a corn seeded in the ground, until thou earnest into the world. But from now there is salvation for me and the world for thy sake.” It is here that Abraham brings the body of his wife to be buried, and where he himself hopes to be buried.4))

This complex of images appears again in a Masonic context, in a late 18th or early 19th century manuscript of rituals associated with a “Magus of Memphis” degree, in which the candidate is met by a brother rising from a coffin in the person of Hermes Trismegistus, who instructs him in the mysteries, and announces his identity with other figures, among them Hiram.5)

It is not implausible, then, that this complex, or elements of it, were present in the minds of the designers of the Golden Dawn Adeptus Minor grade, in ways that went beyond what would be available to any Master Mason. The significance of this possibility will soon become clearer.

B. Soma/Sema: Body as Tomb

Another relevant tradition is rooted in the idea that the body is the tomb of the soul (the “soma/sema” complex). In some of its early forms this idea seems plainly an ascetic formulation associated with a discomfort with the body and with bodily life.6) The soul which is trapped in the body comes, later, to include the (often spherical) subtle vehicle which partakes of the nature of the stellar gods, and is the vehicle of the highest soul. It is on this vehicle especially that the purificatory and transforming theurgic works are done, by means of which the soul is enabled to ascend unscathed through the spheres of the stars.7) There is a persistent, though generally condemned, tradition within Christendom, that associates this subtle body with the resurrection body. As this tradition developed, however, the persecutory qualities associated with the physical body, and in certain traditions with the planetary spheres and their rulers, became supplemented by a sense that these bodies and spheres also had a positive, even instructive and soteriological function, as with Origen's speculation that the planetary rulers were not exiles, but were rather voluntarily serving in hardship posts to aid in the salvific work of Christ.8)

In the light of these associations, one of the inscriptions on the circular altar in the Vault takes on an added suggestiveness. If there is an identity of body and tomb, then “Unto the Glory of the Rose Cross I have constructed this Tomb for myself as a Compendium of the Universal Unity” implies that the compendious tomb of CRC is in some sense a body, a vehicle of manifestation, that he constructed for himself — and that his body in the pastos is part of this compendious tomb. Furthermore, it links this body, permeated as it is with magical significance, with the purified subtle body though which the theurgist is enabled to ascend to the highest sphere of the heavens and beyond. (The explicit Golden Dawn identification of the entombed adept with Osiris does not conflict with this expanded reading.)

At least some members of the Golden Dawn understood this “body” to be more extensive even than the Tomb itself In a 1901 essay written during the maneuverings following the revolt against Mathers' authority, Yeats speaks of the Order as having a “symbolic personality”, one that is “alive and active,” indwelling the Order as an animating charge indwells a talisman. A true magical order, says Yeats, “is an Actual Being, an organic life holding within itself the highest life of its members now and in past times,” and his use of this idea suggests that he expected that it was shared by those he wished to convince.9)

It is worth recalling, too, that the ritual which the Second Order performed on Corpus Christi had three functions: it could be used to consecrate a new Vault, it was the ritual that marked the “Day C,” which all members of the Second Order were supposed to attend, and it served as well as the installation ceremony for the Chief Adept. The same ritual that consecrates the Vault both links the Chief Adept with the one who dwells within it, and renews the life of that lodge of the Second Order for the ensuing year.

C. The 120 Year Span

In the Adeptus Minor grade, the number 120 has a special significance as the number of years after which CRC's tomb will open; it is explained as the “revolution” (or number of permutations) of the five elements. In the Zohar, however, this number is noteworthy as being the number of years that Moses lived.

On that very day [when Moses was 120 years old] the span of his days was completed and the time of his entrance into that region was arrived, as it is written: “Behold, thy days have come near that thou must die” . . . [Deuteronomy XXXI, 14]: “near” being meant literally. For Moses did not die. But is it not written, “And Moses died there”? The truth is, however, that although the departure of the righteous is always designated “death”, this is only in reference to us. For over him who has attained completeness, and is a model of holy faith, death has no power, and so he does not, in fact, die.10)

The Zohar in several places makes it clear that the bodies of the holy dead are properly placed in ark. Only those who do not “abuse the sign of the covenant,” who keep it pure, are worthy of being buried in an ark (or coffin).11) In another place, when discussing the Tabernacle, it is said that “They brought it to Moses [who was “perfect from the day of his birth”12) as the time had come for his espousals; just as the bride is first brought to the bridegroom and then he enters into her”.13) The text goes on to indicate that the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle share the same meaning.14)

The Zohar also states, in reference to Moses' age at his death, “From this we learn that one in whom resides Divine Wisdom, when his time arrives to depart from the world, should reveal that wisdom to those among whom is the holy spirit.”15)

Thus, the Ark (or Tabernacle) is not only the tomb of those righteous (circumcised) ones who do not defile the Sign of the Covenant (by putting it in a “strange place”), but also the bride of Moses (who is, as the most perfect of the Prophets, said to have been espoused to the Shekhinah). When he is 120 years old he dies, leaving behind the fruits of his wisdom.

120 years after being sealed, the tomb of Christian Rosenkreutz opens, reveal-ing his wisdom in its own structure, and revealing his body united with it. Regardie remarks that the revelation of the Chief Adept in the Pastos during the Adeptus Minor ritual “depicts the spiritual rebirth or redemption of the candidate, his resurrection from the dark tomb of mortality,” and he goes on to call attention to the Vault as a “complex array of Mother symbols,” and points out the way that it is entered, via the two pillars and the Venus door, as confirmation of the Vault's feminine symbolism.16)

D. Zion and Jerusalem

The parallels between the preceding themes and motifs and the Golden Dawn materials can only be treated here as suggestive; the question of their possible historical connections, is too involved to be addressed here. It is clear, however, that a parallel set of motifs was available, because it was set out in Mathers' translations from Knorr von Rosenroth.

The first thing to note is that the Zoharic doctrine of the sacramental or theurgic importance of the sexual union of man and wife is very clearly laid out in texts that Mathers translated (and also in those which he included without translating).

720. ….When the Male is joined with the Female, They both constitute one complete body, and all the Universe is in a state of happiness, because all things receive blessings from Their perfect body….

723. And hence that which is not both Male and Female together is called half a body. Now, no blessing can rest upon a mutilated and defective being, but only upon a perfect place and a perfect being, and not at all in an incomplete being.17)

It is this unbalanced or incomplete state of being (“before countenance beheld countenance,” a phrase that in the Zohar is also associated with the intercourse of Adam and Eve before they had freed themselves of evil influences) that is referred to in the symbolism of the kings of Edom, the “kings of unbalanced force” against whom Abraham fought18) The state of restored balance, when Mercy and Severity are balanced, “so that the Male and the Female are united, and the worlds all and several exist in love and joy,” is also called Melchizedek, King of Salem, that King who ratified Abraham's victory by presenting him with bread and wine.19)

This motif appears in somewhat different form in another place in the Lesser Holy Assembly, left by Mathers largely in the Latin of Knorr von Rosenroth (but fully translated here, with amplifications, in the form of explanatory material from the following page, inserted in curved brackets):

743. The member of the male is the extremity of the whole body, and is called Yesod, the Foundation, and this is the grade [= sephirah] which mitigates the female. For every desire of the Male is toward the female.

744. Through this Foundation he enters into the female, in the place which is called Zion {associated with the side of Mercy, when the High Priest enters the Holy of Holies) and Jerusalem {associated with Severity until the High Priest enters the Holy of Holies, bringing the transforming quality of Mercy, raising the lower place to a higher level}. Now this is the hidden place of the female, and in woman it is called the womb….

746. When Matronitha, the mother, is separated {from the condition of Exile} and conjoined with the King face to face in the excellence of the Sabbath, all things become one body.20)

In a slightly earlier note, Mathers remarks that the Tree of Life is the united body, and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is the separated body.21)

In this connection, it is important to remember that specific locations in the Golden Dawn temple structure, and specific events in the grade rituals, were associated with a gradual entry into the Temple, and into its Holy of Holies, and that these locations were also associated with locations within the (subtle, if not physical) body of the initiate. In addition, the Equinox ritual (the closest approach in the outer order to the place of the Vault in the temple) shares much of the Zoharic symbolism of Sabbath sexual union, as has been indicated by a recent article in Gnosis.22)

Taking entry into some special place as a metaphor for sexual union was, of course, not unknown in secular culture as well, as in Bocaccio's tale of the Friar Rustico, who taught the maid Alibech how to put the Devil into Hell, or in William Blake's sarcastic line about the entrance of the proud priest into the secret place. (The theme is suggested as well in the story of Merlin's entrapment by Nimue/ Niniane — a matter that has not, to my knowledge been much explored.)

In sum, what is beheld in the Adeptus Minor ritual is not simply the possibility of attaining the Resurrection Body, but its attainment by means of sexual union.23)

E. The Spherical Man

The Platonic myth of the Spherical Man, already alluded to in the discussion of the soma/sema complex, describes a primordial humanity that was dual. Split by the Gods to reduce the power of the obstreperous human race, the severed halves seek each other constantly — a seeking which manifests in human life as sexual desire and sexual love. In Plato's Symposium this notion, coming as it does from Aristophanes, is almost a piece of ribaldry. Nonetheless, the Symposium is one of the sources of this motif in the traditional matrix in which the Golden Dawn took form.

The same theme, in a decidedly unribald form, is also, mutatis mutandis, present in the Kabbalistic (and specifically Zoharic) tradition of paired souls that come forth from the stream of souls together, and, when fortunate, find each other as mates in earthly life. Mathers makes explicit reference to it in his introduction to The Kabbalah Unveiled, referring also in passing to the idea that the kerubim on the Ark of the covenant were male and female, Metatron and Sandalphon, united in an embrace.

All souls are pre-existent in the world of emanations, and are in their original state androgynous, but when they descend upon earth they become separated into male and female, and inhabit different bodies; if therefore in this mortal life the male half encounters the female half, a strong attachment springs up between them, and hence it is said that on marriage the separated halves are again conjoined; and the hidden forms of the soul are akin to the kerubim.24)

At this point, it is useful to recall first, that Adepts of the Golden Dawn were taught to conceive of the subtle body as a sphere, within which the Tree of Life was projected, and second, that the diagram of the Tree of Life between the male and female kerubs, Metatron and Sandalphon, was one of the important diagrams in the Zelator grade.

To summarize, then, the Adeptus Minor Ritual presents the possibility of attaining the resurrection body — a state in which the physical body is transmuted into an arch-natural body, a state at once physical and spiritual, in which the Adept's embodied existence becomes a manifestation of the Adept's own wisdom (as the Order itself is in a sense a manifestation of the body of Christian Rosenkreutz).

At the same time, in a much less explicit form, the Adeptus Minor ritual and teachings present images of the salvific union of male and female. This is done in two ways. First, the image of CRC in the Pastos and Vault resonates with traditional representations, secular and sacred, of sexual union. Second, the image of the spherical body of adeptship recalls the image of the body of primordial, undivided humanity, or the united spiritual vehicles of soul-mates, and hints at a combined spherical body resulting from the union of sponsus and sponsa.

It would not be utterly implausible, then to think that part of the practice that might have been intended to lead to the Resurrection Body would have involved a re-constitution of the primordial Spherical Being, by a merging of the Spheres of Sensation of two practitioners. It may even have been that the compatibility of the practitioners, their mutual suitability as partners in such an enterprise, may have been in part a matter of how they were oriented within their Spheres of Sensation, and how those Spheres matched, or did not match, when overlapped.

Given, then, that these possibilities were deliberately implied in the ritual and teaching material, that same material must contain at least the rudiments of the methods by which they were to be attained. And, in fact, the Adepti were told to conduct a systematic exploration, and strengthening, of, the structure of the sphere of sensation. They were also taught specific methods of circulating energy within that sphere methods that were internalizations of the structure of the Order rituals.

Such methods, if adapted for use by two people, would involve formulating a shared single (or overlapping) subtle body with a structure based on the Temple and the Tree of Life. Within that structure, internalized versions of Order rituals, no doubt involving circulation of breath in various ways, would be performed. It might well be that (as seems to have been the case with the followers of Thomas Lake Harris, and as is constantly suggested in the Zoharic motif of the kiss), breath and energy would be exchanged between the practitioners.

It may seem incongruous that this union would take place symbolically in the heart rather than in the genital center. There is a symbolic link between circumcision and the opening of the heart (the “covenant [or circumcision] of the heart” known already in the Sepher Yetzirah), however, which has to do with what Swedenborg, and Harris after him, called the conquest of “proprium.” This is in turn echoed in the Golden Dawn teaching of the necessary death of the Lower Self before immortality could be achieved. It is, then, only when the concupiscence associated with the “Evil Persona” and the place of Yesod has been conquered that the energies of eternal life can manifest in the body.

The practical methods by which this was to be done are not beyond conjecture; any moderately inventive person can no doubt think of several approaches. Whether any of them were ever put into practice, however, and, if so, which, and in what ways and with what results, is a matter for further investigation.

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Antoine Faivre, The Eternal Hermes: from Greek God to Alchemical Magus. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Phanes Press, 1995; Joscelyn Godwin, trans.), 89-92.
Henry Corbin, The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism (Boulder and London: Shambhala, 1978; Nancy Pearson, trans.), pp. 16 through 19; the incident is re-peated in the text known to the west as the Picatrix, where it appears in the Latin translation as an encounter with “natura completa”. (See Picatrix: The Latin version of the GHAYAT AL-HAKIM (London: The Warburg Institute, 1986; David Pingree, ed.), pp. 108-110 (187-189 of the ms.).)
Faivre, op. cit. pp. 76 et passim.
The Zohar (London: The Soncino Press, 1978; Maurice Simon and Harry Sperling, trans.), II, 13-17 (Haye Sarah 127a-129a).
Faivre, op. cit., pp. 140-142, and plate 36 (p. 177).
E. R Dodds, The Greeks and the Irrational (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973) provides a good survey of the relevant material; pp. 150-154 are quite useful, as is the extended discussion of theurgy.
John F Finnamore, Iamblichus and the Theory of the Vehicle of the Soul (Chico, California: Scholars Press, 1985) provides a useful survey and introduction to the literature.
Alan Scott, Origen and the Life of the Stars: A History of an Idea (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991).
W. B. Yeats, “Is the Order of R.R. et A.C. to Remain a Magical Order? Written in March, 1901, and given to the Adepti of the Order of R.R,. & A.C. in April, 1901.” In George Mills Harper, Yeats' Golden Dawn (Wellingborough, Northamptonshire: Aquarian Press, 1987), pp. 259-268
Zohar, op. cit. IV, 103 [Terumah 174a]; see also V, 379 [Ha'azinu 297a].
Zohar, op. cit., IV, 228 (Vayaqhel 214b).
S. L. MacGregor Mathers, The Kabbalah Unveiled … Translated into En-glish from the Latin version of Knorr von Rosenroth, and collated with the original Chaldee and Hebrew texts. (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd, 1968 (tenth impression), 197; Greater Holy Assembly 694.
Zohar, op. cit., IV, 302 (P'qudé 235a).
Zohar, op. cit., IV, 302-302 (P'qudé 235b).
Ibid., V: 379-380 (Ha'azinu 297a).
Israel Regardie, The Golden Dawn: An Account of the Teachings, Rites and Ceremonies of the Order of the Golden Dawn; revised and enlarged (River Falls, Wisconsin: Hazel Hills Corporation, 1969; first edition 1937-1940), I, 70-71.
Mathers, op. cit., 334-335 (Lesser Holy Assembly). Mathers, in a footnote, takes this as a charter of equality between the sexes, and says nothing at all about the emphasis it puts on the importance of sexual relations. Whether this avoidance of the obvious was misdirection or self-deception is a question that cannot now, perhaps, be answered.
Mathers, op. cit., 233 (Greater Holy Assembly).
Mathers, op. cit., 294-5 (Lesser Holy Assembly); Mathers again in a foot-note remarks on this only in its most abstract sense, saying “In other words, where there is unbalanced force, there is the origin of evil.”
Mathers, op. cit., 337 (Lesser Holy Assembly).
Mathers, op. cit., 336; thus recalling to modem readers Yeats' poem, “The Two Trees”.
John Michael Greer and Carl Hood, Jr., “A Mystery of Sex,” Gnosis 43 (Spring, 1997), 20-27.
The idea that the Tomb (or purified Sphere of Sensation) is the “female” and the Chief Adept the “male,” is very reminiscent of Crowley's formulation of the union of Hadit (the “male” point of consciousness) and Nuit (the “female” universe of experience at any moment), perhaps yet another indication that Crowley did not, ultimately, stray far from his Golden Dawn training.
Mathers, op. cit., pp. 34-35 (Introduction paragraph 72).