Spinoza - Philosopher, Mystic, Rosicrucian
From the book "Awakened
Attitude" by Gary L Stewart.
The manner in which the universe is perceived varies according to the conscious entity that is doing the perceiving. As an illustration, we are reminded of the story of the blind men and the elephant. Each of the men, touching a particular part of the animal, described the "true" nature of the elephant. The man touching the foot stated that an elephant is like a tree stump, while the individual touching an ear confirmed that the animal is like a palm leaf. Not until sight was restored to these individuals were they able to view the "true" nature of the elephant as it fully appears. In a sense, it can be said that with sight comes illumination. Is such not similar to the nature of Cosmic Consciousness?
As past Imperator, Ralph Lewis, stated, "Cosmic Consciousness is simply consciousness of the Cosmic." Yet, we understand that such a consciousness transcends our normal consciousness--our ability to perceive and understand the universe around us. Many of us who have discoursed at length with others will readily agree that differences of opinion indicate a variance in understanding. Such variances, therefore, relay the distinct possibility that the very basis of reality itself is subject to interpretation. If we think about this for a moment, we may find that an entirely new perspective of understanding is revealed.
If reality is subject to interpretation, what, then, is the true nature of reality? Is it an unchanging absolute that can have only one correct interpretation that has somehow managed to evade the complete understanding of a multitude of enlightened minds? Or is it an ever-changing condition that has no foundation in truth and knowledge as we conceive it?
Rene Descartes, the 17th century philosopher, claimed that there are essentially two types of reality--the formal and the objective. One is concerned with the nature of that which exists regardless of how it is perceived, and the other with our understanding and interpretation of that which exists. Whether or not the two realities are identical depends upon the perceiver.
Rosicrucian studies delve in great detail into the nature of reality, and in order to be clear about this topic, it is essential for us to have a full grasp of evolved Rosicrucian mystical philosophy. Like Descartes, we essentially recognize two types of reality--that which we call reality and that which we call actuality. Actuality is defined as the true nature of being regardless of how it is understood to exist, and it is that which is not determined by interpretation. Reality, on the other hand, is our conscious realization of our understanding of the universe around us--in both its material and immaterial aspects.
In other words, reality is not only concerned with the mundane and material aspects, but with the psychic and even mystical as well. Simply, reality is nothing more than our conscious ability to perceive. And, like the blind men and the elephant, how we perceiveour perspective--determines our universe, our reality.
Philosophically, such a concept creates quite an enigma in that we find certain questions raised that resemble puzzles more than anything else. Such questions are: Can we know actuality, or only think that we know? Is Cosmic Consciousness, that ultimate state of evolved awareness, an inclination, an understanding of the true state? Or is it merely the understanding of a slightly different reality the true state still eluding us?
Though puzzling, these questions indicate the nature of mysticism and we, as students of mysticism, have dedicated ourselves to their resolution. However, we must not jump to conclusions and assume that we have the answers. To do so would be quite presumptuous on our part in that it is quite conceivable that we are not necessarily looking for answers, but, rather, merely a means by which to understand the questions.
If we approach the problem with such an attitude, we may find that we can shift our direction slightly and reevaluate our purposes. First, we must realize that the Confraternity of the Rose Cross [CR+C], is not supplying us with answers to the questions related to the ontological essence or mystical enlightenment, but rather, it is guiding us in the understanding of mysticism itself so that we may expand our realities to the maximum of our abilities. Secondly, at the same time, CR+C assists us in the practical development of our own individual, personal philosophy so that we may exist in our world, our reality, in a way that is as much in harmony with the natural essence which we call actuality as we can possibly conceive. We know that our responsibility as students is to apply ourselves to the best of our abilities and only we can do that. No one else can do it for us. CR+C's purpose is simply to assist in this regard by making available a system of mysticism that has the search for truth, knowledge, and wisdom at its core.
The astute student of mysticism will realize that what we have considered so far is that regardless of our physical or spiritual evolution, our first contention must be with our realities. Our second understanding is that since reality is not absolute, but dependent upon the way it is perceived, we should recognize that an emphasis on reality itself is misplaced. Rather, an emphasis must necessarily be placed upon our perspective for the simple reason that our perspective, or the manner in which we perceive, will determine our reality.
Common sense then tells us that to grow and learn, we must be open and receptive to new and unknown experiences, mull them over, and apply their lessons to our lives in an unbiased manner. In other words, we must stand in another's shoes and see from another's eyes, and, more importantly, challenge not only another's beliefs, but our own. Let us demonstrate versatility in our perspective.
For example, usually accompanying such concepts as the occult, the psychic, or mysticism, is an element of the sensational that has unfortunately typified the common understanding of these terms and reduced them to a perspective of divination, fortune telling, prophecy, spiritual guides and the like. This has occurred to such an extent that the person not intimately acquainted with the seriousness of responsible mysticism usually pursues such subjects for the purpose of entertainment. How long will I live? Who will I marry? Will I be rich? Was I an important person in a previous incarnation? Am I a member of the Great White Brotherhood? Am I pretentious enough to be the sole concern of the Masters?
What has happened to the responsibility needed to seriously explore mystical reality? Are we able to seriously challenge our realities so as to discover truth thus allowing our perspective to grow and to evolve?
There is nothing wrong in having an interest in astrology or the tarot, for example. But, if we have such an interest, we should not let the common stereotype interfere with our dedicated quest. Let us apply our versatility of mind to those subjects as well so as to discover their true purpose and intent. Let us recall that area of our studies which considers motive, purpose, and intent, as well as the function of any given thing, and see if we cannot evolve our perspective so as to become aware of new possibilities.
In the first part of the article, we have considered the value of reality and asked some pertinent questions. We have also considered the postulation that our "realities" are determined by our perspective, or how we view those impressions around us.
I would now like to apply this concept of versatility of perspective to a popular system often used for fortune telling in recent times, and see what would happen if we shift our interpretation slightly. I would like you to analyze your personal interpretation, compare it with the one I relate, and see if it produces a third effect that, perhaps, is more evolved in purpose.
The system we will consider is the tarot. The perspective by which we will approach the tarot is from that of Christian Pitois, the 19th century librarian of the Ministry of Education in Paris, who discovered a unique manuscript rifled from the Vatican archives during the Napoleonic wars. Incidentally, Pitois circulated among such men as Eliphas Levi and Papus, and was intimately involved with the formation of 19th century Rosicrucianism.
According to Pitois, the manuscript related a history of a secret preserved by the Order of the Temple (Knights Templars), and perpetuated through the tarot. The Templars, apparently, acquired their information from a series of twenty-two plates kept in the Middle East after the Roman conquest of Egypt in 47 BC Prior to that time, the plates were actually paintings existing in a gallery in one of the halls of an Egyptian Mystery school.
Apparently the Egyptian Mystery school, with the gallery of twenty-two frescoes, used the paintings to depict twenty-two centuries of prophetic history. As the account continues, the Templars acquired these plates while in the Middle East and were entrusted with their preservation. However, in AD 1307, when the Order of the Temple was dissolved, the Templars decided to preserve their entrusted secret by introducing additional cards and releasing the set as playing cards for the purposes of gambling and games of chance, their logic being that if they attempted to hide the plates, they would be lost. How better to preserve the plates' esoteric worth than by introducing them to the profane world under the guise of profane intent? It seems they felt that gambling was more valuable to the interests of the masses of humanity than esoteric truth.
Let us now examine the documented history of the cards to see if we can find a relationship. We find the first recorded mention of the cards in AD 1325, and they were called naibi in Italy. This may be a corruption of the Arabic word nabi, meaning "prophet." Seven years later the King of Castile forbade knights to gamble at cards. In 1361 Caesar Nostradamus wrote about the cards in a casual way. By August 14~27 the cards had arrived in Paris. In 1472 the book Gulden Spiel claimed that the cards were introduced into Germany about the year 1300. About 200 years later, we find Gypsies using the cards to tell fortunes.
Thus, to the best of our knowledge, the earliest year associated with the appearance of these cards is 1300, although 1325 is a more well-documented date. The Order of the Temple was dissolved in 1307, although the entire process took an additional few years, culminating in the execution of the Grand Master. From this information we can see the possibility of this theory since the time frames are quite close.
In addition, Pitois, Levi, and Papus claim that the tarot, originally spelled tare, was an anagram OR for Order, TA for Temple (pronounced tample). These individuals also claimed that the function of the cards from their inception in Egypt was to portray twenty-two centuries of prophetic history. Interestingly, the time span portrayed is from the Ist century BC to the 21st century AD For us to analyze this aspect, we must consider a few of the major arcana so as to get an idea of what is being said.
II The High Priestess: The first card we will examine is the second card of the major arcana, the High Priestess. Here is depicted a stately woman with a mantle, a tiara, a cross on her chest, and a book on her knees while sitting on a throne. This card covers the 1st century of our era and is an allegory of the formation of the Christian Church.
IV The Emperor: This, the fourth card of the deck, symbolizes the 3rd century. The emperor sits on a throne and holds a scepter. A shield showing an eagle is by his side and his legs are crossed. During the 3rd century, a decision was passed that a Roman Emperor would be elected by the army. Diocletian (AD 245-313) was the Emperor and he attempted to stabilize the Roman Empire. It is said that the crossed legs allude to Christianity. Certainly, during this era, a reign of terror engulfed the first Christians.
VI The Lover: The sixth card is called the Lover as well as the Two Ways. A young man stands between two women at a crossing. This card was supposedly painted to allegorically depict the separation of the Western and Eastern Roman Empires in the 5th century.
X The Wheel of Fortune: This tenth card depicts the 9th century. A monkey and a dog turn a wheel, over which hovers a sphinx with a crown. The wheel of fortune turns with the crowning of Charlemagne in AD 800. This portrays the establishment of the rule of the Divine Right of Kings which will last for 1000 years. The Carolingian Renaissance the beginning of learning in the Occident is portrayed by the crowned Sphinx, the eternal symbol of wisdom.
XII The Hanged Man: The twelfth card of the Tarot depicts a man hanging upside down by one leg and with his arms bound behind him. The other leg is crossed. On his yellow skirt are two crescents. The 11th century opened with the profanation of the Holy Sepulcher by the Moslems in 1009, and closed with the occupation of Jerusalem by the Crusaders in 1099. Again, we find the crossed legs referring to Christianity, and the crescents, an allusion to Islam. This is a century of victims, both Christian and Moslem alike.
XIII Death: The thirteenth card depicts the 12th century. A skeleton armed with a scythe mows down human heads. In this century, more crusades were fought, and the hordes of Genghis Khan (1162-1227) emerged from Mongolia and reached the Adriatic leaving destruction and skulls behind.
XVI Tower of Destruction (originally, The House of God): The sixteenth card allegorizes events in the 15th century. Lightning strikes the tower, and in the original deck a crowned man falls while another lies on the ground. What does this card represent? Perhaps the lightning is a symbol representing the discovery of printing which spread light and knowledge and, at the same time, undermined the Church scholasticism and royal authority--hence the falling king and felled priest. We find a century where freedom of thought was shaking previously held concepts. And, certainly, the discovery of America in 1492 caused a reaction not unlike the Old World being struck by lightning.
XVII The Star: The allegory of the 16th century is appropriate for this era of astronomers. Copernicus died in 1543, Tycho Brahe was born in 1546, Giordano Bruno in 1548, Galileo in 1564·, and Kepler in 1571.
The Fool: A curious thing about this card is that is has no number. The question then arises, where should it be placed? What century does it depict? Most alleged experts of the tarot place the card last in the deck--card 22. But not so with Pitois, Levi, and Papus. They place it just prior to the last card, making it card number 21 depicting the 20th century. If we look at our century, we may find many foolish activities. Modern warfare resulted in the death of sixty-eight million people in just two suicidal World Wars alone. The advent of nuclear weapons and technology running rampant are just two things that should cause us to think about where we are going. In the original deck is depicted a careless-looking man wearing a fool's cap who is about ready to walk off a precipice. A dog attempts to pull him back. The fool card stands between the judgment card depicting the century of revolutions at the end of 1000 years' rule of Divine Right of Kings and the advent of democracy, and the World card depicting the 21st century of enlightenment. According to the cards, it appears that we may survive the 20th century in spite of ourselves.
We may note that the symbolism of the decks can vary as they progress through the years. This is probably because different people apply personal interpretations according to the perspective that they hold for the individual purpose and motive that they wish to convey.
The Confraternity of the Rose Cross [CR+C], does not deal with the tarot or other systems such as astrology, etc, for the reason that such systems are not necessary to the essential basics of mysticism. In fact, through modern interpretation, individual perspective, and so on, changes usually result which cloud the real motive and intent, thus altering reality. According to some sources, the tarot was initially a conveyance of prophetic history. At one time, it was a means of gambling, and later it became a system of fortune telling. We must then ask: Which is the true way?
The ones who will make the ultimate decision are ourselves. If we are interested in fortunes, there lies our reality. If we are more concerned with truth, then that is the path we will take and our actions will be made accordingly. All this is a matter of perspective.
The whole point of this message concerns the value of perspective and the ability to demonstrate versatility. In other words, we must be able to look at anything in such a way so as to derive the most from it for purposes of growth and advancement. In this article, the tarot was only used as an example to demonstrate that perspective can be ever-changing, and that we should not limit ourselves to only one interpretation. As far as truth is concerned, we need to discover it ourselves, and the more tools that we have available for our use, the easier it will be to achieve the results we are looking for. But, again, as a matter of perspective, let us not think of tools as being a system, such as the tarot, that is external from ourselves, but, rather, as a versatile process called perspective that is innate within our beings and which is only confined by those limitations that we place upon it.
Copyright © 1986 Gary L. Stewart