Rose Cross meditation

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Rose Cross with 7 red roses

The Rose Cross mediation serves to train the perceptive soul organs, which allow a conscious imaginative view into the spiritual world. To do this, the person has to train his soul powers by placing a certain image in the centre of his consciousness as concretely and vividly as possible and holding it there for as long as possible so that it is not disturbed by other thoughts, but is accompanied by very specific sensations. In the case of the Rose Cross meditation, this is the image of the Rose Cross, a cross made of black, dead wood, from which seven red roses blossom.

Building up the Rosicrucian Meditation

„Imagine a plant rooted in the ground, sprouting leaf after leaf, unfolding into a blossom. And now imagine a human being standing next to this plant. Let the thought come alive in your soul how the human being has qualities and abilities that can be called more perfect than those of the plant. Consider how he can go here and there according to his feelings and his will, while the plant is tied to the ground. But now say to yourself: yes, man is certainly more perfect than the plant; but on the other hand I find in him qualities which I do not perceive in the plant, and through their non-existence it can appear to me in certain respects more perfect than man. Man is filled with desires and passions; he follows these in his behaviour. With him I can speak of aberrations through his instincts and passions. With the plant I see how it follows the pure laws of growth from leaf to leaf, how it dispassionately opens the blossom to the pure rays of the sun. I can tell myself that man has a certain perfection ahead of the plant, but he has bought this perfection by adding instincts, desires and passions to the forces of the plant, which seem pure to me. I now imagine that the green coloured sap flows through the plant and that this is the expression of the pure, passionless laws of growth. And then I imagine the red blood flowing through the veins of the human being and how this is the expression for the drives, desires and passions. I let all this arise as a vivid thought in my soul. Then I further imagine how man is capable of development; how he can purify and cleanse his drives and passions through his higher soul faculties. I imagine how thereby a lower thing in these drives and passions is destroyed, and these are reborn on a higher level. Then the blood will be allowed to be presented as the expression of the purified and refined instincts and passions. For example, I now look in my mind at the rose and say to myself: in the red rose leaf I see the colour of the green plant sap transformed into red; and the red rose, like the green leaf, follows the pure, passionless laws of growth. The red of the rose may now become for me the symbol of such a blood, which is the expression of purified drives and passions, which have stripped off the lower and in their purity resemble the forces which work in the red rose. I now try not only to process such thoughts in my mind, but to bring them to life in my feelings. I can have a blissful sensation when I imagine the purity and passionlessness of the growing plant; I can produce the feeling in me of how certain higher perfections must be purchased by the acquisition of the urges and desires. This can transform the bliss I felt before into a serious feeling; and then a feeling of liberating happiness can stir in me when I surrender to the thought of the red blood, which can become the bearer of inwardly pure experiences, like the red juice of the rose. It is important that one does not unfeelingly face the thoughts that serve to build up an imaginative conception. After having indulged in such thoughts and feelings, transform them into the following symbolic idea. Imagine a black cross. This is the symbol of the destroyed lower instincts and passions; and where the beams of the cross intersect, imagine seven red, radiant roses arranged in a circle. These roses are the symbol of a blood that is the expression of purified, cleansed passions and impulses[1]. It should be such a symbolic idea that one calls before the soul in the manner illustrated above with a memory idea. Such an idea has a soul-awakening power if one devotes oneself to it in inner contemplation. One must try to exclude every other idea during the contemplation. Only the characterised symbol should float before the soul in the spirit, as vividly as this is possible. - It is not insignificant that this symbol has not simply been mentioned here as an awakening idea, but that it has been built up through certain ideas about plants and human beings. For the effect of such a symbol depends on its being put together in the manner described before it is used for inner contemplation. If one imagines it without first having gone through such a construction in one's own soul, it remains cold and much less effective than if it has received its soul-illuminating power through preparation. During the contemplation, however, one should not call all the preparatory thoughts into one's soul, but merely have the image hover vividly before one in the spirit and thereby let that sensation resonate which has arisen as a result of the preparatory thoughts. Thus the symbol becomes a sign next to the sentient experience. And in the dwelling of the soul in this experience lies what is effective. The longer one can dwell without another disturbing idea interfering, the more effective is the whole process. However, in addition to the time devoted to the actual contemplation, it is good to repeat the structure of the image often through thoughts and feelings of the kind described above, so that the impression does not fade. The more patience one has for such renewal, the more significant the picture is for the soul.“ (Lit.:GA 13, p. 229ff)

With continued meditation on the symbol of the Rose Cross, the colours transform into the opposite colours. The black wood brightens to white, the red of the roses, radiant with inward love, changes to the green of outward life:

„But the soul is not entirely alone on this difficult path of the esoteric; there is something to which it can cling. Something of this kind is the Rosy Cross. We should let it work upon us; we should be clear that the black of the wood represents our corporeality, which is hardened and withered, that we must let our lower self, which identifies itself with corporeality, become just as dark and dead as the wood of the cross is dead. Then the higher, spiritual I will work in us in the same way as the black of the cross is transformed into bright, radiant lines of light. In the same way the red of the roses will transform itself from the colour of inwardly working love to green, the colour of outwardly working life.“ (Lit.:GA 266b, p. 97)

Rose Cross and Rosicrucian Saying

Rose Cross medallion with Rosicrucian saying.

The Rose Cross is closely related to the well-known Rosicrucian saying "Ex deo nascimur - In Christo morimur - Per spiritum sanctum reviviscimus":

„The development of the human being is represented in that symbol which belongs to the deeply significant Rosicrucian saying (meaning the words: "Ex deo nascimur - In Christo morimur - Per spiritum sanctum reviviscimus) in the black cross with the red roses. Man perceives this symbol as something living, in which the spiritual forces that have built him up live and weave, just as he was born from the Godhead. But then he knows that further development of his soul is possible through the effort of his own powers. He knows that not only his blood must become pure like the red sap of the roses, but that the black cross must also be transformed by purifying his shell nature and growing beyond the merely personal, when he gives himself to something infinitely greater. Then he dies in the Christ, and before his soul the dark, black cross is transformed into a shining, radiant cross. The red roses expand into an infinite circle as the soul settles more and more into the macrocosm until it feels itself to be this circle. In the all-encompassing macrocosm, the human being then experiences himself in a new existence.

Then, in a mysterious way, the colours of the symbolism change, the roses turn green, the cross white. The soul can only sense the full meaning by feeling the power that flows towards it. The soul sees and recognises this sacred symbol as if it were radiating towards it from higher spiritual spheres. Strictly and powerfully it shows itself as an invitation to constant work, so that one day the great ideal may be attained, which every individual human being can realise when he is reborn in the Holy Spirit.“ (Lit.:GA 265, p. 268f)

The Rosicrucians and the Holy Grail

„Those who called themselves St. John's Christians and had the Rose Cross as their symbol said: 'Precisely that which has been reborn for humanity as the secret of this humanity's higher self, that has been preserved. This has been preserved by that closer community which began with Rosicrucianism. This continuity is symbolically indicated: That sacred bowl from which the Christ Jesus ate and drank with his disciples, which is called the "Holy Grail" and in which the blood that flowed from the wound was collected by Joseph of Arimathea, was, as the story goes, brought to Europe by Angels. A temple was built for her, and the Rosicrucians became the keepers of what was in the vessel, that is, of what constituted the essence of the reborn God. The mystery of the reborn God reigned in humanity: that is the Grail mystery.

This is the mystery that is presented like a new Gospel and of which it is said: We look up to such a wise man as the writer of the Gospel of John, who could say: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and a God was the Word. That which was with God in the beginning was born again in him whom we saw suffer and die on Golgotha, and who rose again. - This continuity of the divine principle through all times, and the rebirth of this divine principle, is what the writer of the Gospel of John wanted to portray. But all those who wanted to portray such things knew: That which was from the beginning has been preserved. In the beginning was the mystery of the higher human I; it was preserved in the Grail; it remained connected with the Grail, and in the Grail lives the I, which is connected with the eternal and immortal as the lower I is with the transient and mortal. And whoever knows the secret of the Holy Grail knows that from the wood of the cross comes forth the living, sprouting life, the immortal I, which is symbolised by the roses on the black wood of the cross. Thus the mystery of the rose cross is something that can seem like a continuation of the Gospel of John. And we can say the following words in relation to the Gospel of John and what it continues:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and a God was the Word. This was with God in the beginning. Everything came into being through it, and without it nothing came into being that was created. In this was life, and life was the light of men. And the light shone into the darkness, but the darkness did not comprehend it." Only some of the people who had something of that which is not born of the flesh understood the light that shone into the darkness. But then the light became flesh and dwelt among men in the form of Jesus of Nazareth. Now one could say, completely in the spirit of John's Gospel: And that which lived as Christ in Jesus of Nazareth was the higher divine I of all humanity, of the reborn God who became earthly in Adam as in his image. This reborn human I continued as a sacred secret, was preserved under the symbol of the Rose Cross and is proclaimed today as the secret of the Holy Grail, as the Rose Cross.

That which can be born in every human soul as the higher I points us to the rebirth of the divine I in the development of all humanity through the event of Palestine. As the higher I is born in every individual human being, so in Palestine the higher I of all humanity, the divine I, is born, and it is preserved and further developed in that which is concealed behind the sign of the Rose Cross.“ (Lit.:GA 112, p. 18ff)

The Rose Cross as a Cosmic Symbol

The seven planetary spheres (drawing from (Lit.:GA 266c, p. 123)

„From the spiritual solar forces, however, man receives the I-power, the self-consciousness, which combines with the lunar forces and so on to bring about the whole being of man. But first we have two suns, the spiritual, which gives the I, and the physical, which animates the physical earth by its rays of light and heat. But then we must grasp a third sun, namely the mediator of the highest spiritual forces, which connects the extra-solar forces with the inner-solar ones, which since the Mystery of Golgotha has sent its forces of grace to the earth. This spiritual sun is the Christ-principle, that which man can experience in himself when he grasps the Pauline sentence: "Not I, but the Christ in me."

This third sun was always revealed to the initiates in the Christian initiation places. A great tragedy lay in the fact that one man knew of this third sun and yet could not fully experience it inwardly, that was Julian Apostata. Thus we have the sphere of this threefold sun, outside it the three circles which represent the high indirectly acting forces, and within the solar circle the three which act directly upon the earth. In each of these seven circles stands one of the seven heavenly bodies, and so we can also regard the Rose Cross with the seven roses as a symbol of this sevenfold celestial rose. From the three inner spheres flows into the earth that from which the human being is born: Ex Deo nascimur.

The three outer circles denote the high, spiritual powers by which his higher nature is founded: Per Spiritum Sanctum reviviscimus.

The connection between the two is formed by the middle semicircle, the solar orbit of the physical, spiritual and the Christ-Sun: In - morimur.“ (Lit.:GA 266c, p. 123f)

Tao and Rose Cross

Tau Cross
The Tao sign

The ancient Atlantis still had extensive knowledge of the all-pervading power of the divine Tau or Tao. The symbol of the Tao, the Tao sign, which resembles the Egyptian Anch, the handle cross, or the closely related Tau sign, which has the form of the letter T, whose phonetic value expresses the impact of the creative spirit on the (in the broadest sense) material, i.e. created, world, is closely related to the symbol of the Rose Cross.

„Let us go back into the distant past of this earth, when conditions were still quite different. There man lived in Atlantis, a land of fog. At that time, the air was permeated with masses of water and clouds of mist. A reminder of this existed among our ancestors in the stories of Niflheim, the "Home of Mist". Our human ancestors lived in this water-soaked air. They were not yet taught about the world in the way we are now. But in the waters that filled the air, wisdom itself dwelt. It sounded out to them from the waters. Everything that surrounded them in nature had an audible language for people at that time. In the rustling of the leaves, in the rustling of the trees, in the trickling of the stream, in the blowing of the wind, in the rolling of the thunder, in the lapping of the waves, they heard a sound that proclaimed to them the wisdom of God. A sound rang out to them from all nature around them. This sound was wisdom, contained in the waters, signified by the Tao - T (the cross).

In our German language there is also a word for it. Let us look at the dewdrop of the morning as it accumulates on the blossoms - the name Tau is the same designation as the word Tao for that which the waters of wisdom revealed to man. The German word Tau means this. Tau in Latin means ros, and the cross is called crux. And roscrux means the same thing: the Tao sign, the cross, and the dew on the plants. This is the esoteric meaning of the exoteric sign, for the cross entwined with roses.“ (Lit.:GA 266a, p. 224)

The Rose Cross and Lucifer and Ahriman

The Rose Cross with the black dead wood and the living blossoming red roses is a symbol of the right balance between the hardening ahrimanic powers and the egoistic luciferic striving for the abstract spiritual.

„It must be clear to us that on the one hand the world strives for ahrimanic hardening, strives to solidify in the fire of the purely material; that on the other hand it strives to ascend in an egoistic way to the abstract spiritual. To follow either side would be fatal to Central European man. To follow only science, which is bound to the outer senses, would lead us to tear the roses from the cross and to look only at what is frozen. We would gradually gain an outlook on the world which would completely divert man from all looking towards the spiritual; which would make him look only towards that which is ahrimanically frozen. Try to imagine the ideals of ahrimanic science: It is a world of jumbled atoms, a purely material world-structure. One would like to throw out of this world picture everything that is spiritual. One would like to imagine, and children are taught this in school, that there was once a whirling of the gaseous masses of the world, that the sun was formed out of it, which in turn repelled the planets. You make it clear to the children in school by putting a drop of oil in water, pushing a small round sheet of paper through it at the point of the equator, piercing it in the middle with a pin and then turning the pin. This causes small drops to split off and a small planetary system is created. Of course, what you show in this way is proven, but you forget the most important thing: that the teacher has to turn. Thus, if one honestly wants to put oneself into it, one has in truth to imagine a great Lord Teacher who turns the whole thing in world-space. But the thoughts, the sensations and feelings which strive towards Ahriman are those which imagine the coming into being of the sun and the planets in the way just described. And in this again lay that which led to the conception of history. Herman Grimm once said: "A piece of carrion bone around which a hungry dog circles is a more appetising sight than this world view, which is based solely on this Copernican world view.

That is one danger, to tear the roses from the cross and have only the black, charred cross. The other danger is that of tearing the cross from the roses and wanting to strive only for the spirit, despising what the Divinity itself has placed in the development of the world, not wanting to immerse oneself lovingly in the thought that what is here in the world of the senses is an expression of the Divine. This is the one-sided religious world-view which despises science, which wants only the roses and which unconsciously strives towards the luciferic element of the East - just as science, which wants to tear the roses from the cross and wants to keep only the charred cross, strives towards the West. We in Central Europe, however, are called to have the roses on the cross, to have that which is only expressed through the connection of the roses with the cross, the roses on the cross. And we feel, by looking towards the rigid cross, that that which has come into the world as a rigid material thing has stepped out of the divine into the world. It is as if spirituality itself had created a circle in the material: Ex deo nascimur.

We also feel that, if we understand it rightly, we may not only enter the spiritual world with Lucifer, but that we die by uniting ourselves with that which has descended into the world from the divine higher self: In Christo morimur.

And in the summing up of the cross with the roses, of the material world-view with the spiritual world-view, we feel how the human soul can awaken in the spirit: Per spiritum sanctum reviviscimus.

That is why the cross, entwined with roses, has been the symbol of the one who in a profound way has placed himself in the spirituality of Central European culture: Goethe. That is why it must be our symbol. And that is why we, gathering in this room, as far as we can be present in the future, want to be mindful of what must be our ideal out of the great tasks of earthly development: to entwine the cross with roses, neither to tear the roses from the cross and hold only the cross in our hand, nor to cherish the roses alone and through the roses alone to hurry up into the spiritual blossoming, sprouting life in abstraction. This is what is expressed to us in our Symbolum, in the Rose Cross, what we want to absorb more and more into our minds, into our feelings, when we gather in a room thus consecrated to our aspirations. Then we can be sure that the spirits who in a good sense guide the development of the earth will rule invisibly among us; that our words, that all that we think and feel by devoting ourselves to spiritual-scientific endeavours, that all this really finds in such a room the support of the spiritual powers and forces guiding our endeavours.“ (Lit.:GA 159, p. 243ff)

The Rose Cross as a Symbol for the Second Death of the Christ in the 19th Century

In the notes to an esoteric lesson given by Rudolf Steiner in Berlin on February 8, 1913, it is said:

„The Rose Cross is the symbol of the second death of the Christ in the 19th century, of the death of the etheric body by the army of materialists. The consequence of this is that the Christ in the 20th century can be seen as I have often described it to you, namely in the etheric body.“ (Lit.:GA 265, p. 335)

The second crucifixion of the Christ in the etheric was thus the prerequisite for the return of the Christ in the etheric to be seen by more and more people from the 20th century onwards. A somewhat more detailed account of this can be found in the notes by another hand on the hour mentioned:

„The new thing that will now gradually be revealed (communicated) to men is a remembrance or repetition of that which Paul experienced at Damascus. He saw the etheric form of the Christ. The fact that this will now become visible to us is due to the fact that a new Mystery of Golgotha has taken place in the etheric world. That which took place here in the physical world at the crucifixion, as a result of the hatred of men who did not understand, has now been repeated on the etheric plane through the hatred of men who, as materialists, have entered the etheric world after death.

Consider once more how, at the Mystery of Golgotha, a cross was erected from dead wood on which hung the body of the Christ. And then we see that wood of the cross in the etheric world as sprouting, sprouting wood, green, living wood, which has been charred by the flames of hatred and on which only the seven blossoming roses appear, representing the sevenfold nature of the Christ, then we have there the picture of the second Mystery of Golgotha, which has now taken place in the etheric world. And through this dying, this second dying of the Christ, it has become possible for us to behold that etheric body. The condensation, the dead part of the etheric body of the Christ Jesus will be seen by men.“ (Lit.:GA 265, p. 334f)


References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
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  1. It is not important to what extent this or that scientific conception finds the above thoughts justified or not. For it is a question of the development of such thoughts about plants and human beings, which, without all theory, can be gained through simple, direct observation. Such thoughts have, after all, their significance alongside the theoretical ideas about the things of the external world, which are no less significant in other respects. And here thoughts are not there to represent a fact scientifically, but to build up an image which proves to be effective in the soul, no matter what objections occur to this or that personality in building up this image.