The Rosicrucian Archive
The Tomb of CRC
The Symbolism of the Seven Sides
by Jack Courtis
The Tomb of CRC is described in the Fama Fraternitatis as a seven-sided vault. On each of its seven walls, there are inscribed 10 symbols or figures. They are neither described nor explained in the Fama. In the late 19th Century, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn created the symbolism of the seven sides based on 40 per wall and not 10. Dr Wynn Westcott, one of the founders of the Order, gave an explanation part of which is quoted below from Israel Regardie's book, The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic. The symbols are also from his book.
We may regard the Golden Dawn symbolism as a development of the Fama. I will add my own comments where they may be helpful in order to highlight certain issues. For example, according to the Golden Dawn there are 40 squares on each of the walls. Why 40? We are told by the Fama that each wall is 5'x 8', therefore taking this as a guide, 5 x 8 = 40. What does this mean? There are 4 levels of Reality and there is a Tree of Life on each level. There are 10 spheres on each Tree therefore 10 x 4 = 40. Hence implied in the symbolism of the seven sides of the tomb, is the notion that the tomb exists on each of the 4 levels of Reality, simultaneously. What we do here in the Below, affects the Above and vice versa. Thus to enter the tomb is to enter another dimension and to take an initiation. How do we enter the tomb? By finding the Doorkeeper. He will test us and if we pass the test, he will give us the key.
Let us see what Dr Westcott has to say.
The seven sides are all alike in size, shape and subdivision, and the forty squares on each side bear the same symbols. But the colouring is varied in the extreme, no two sides are alike in tint, and none of the squares are identical in colour excepting the single central upper square of each wall, that square bearing the Wheel of the Spirit. The Seven Walls are under the planetary presidency, one side to each planet. The subsidiary squares represent the colouring of the combined forces of the planet. The symbol of each square is represented by the ground colour, while the symbol is in the colour contrasted or complementary to that of the ground.
Each of the 7 walls is attributed to one of the astrological planets. The wall attributed to Venus is actually the door through which we must enter. That is because Venus symbolises desire. We usually misinterpret that as sexual desire. In fact it is desire for life which ultimately, is desire for God. Note also that each wall has 8 horizontal rows. They can be attributed to the Ptolemaic spheres of the fixed stars (top row) and the astrological planets from Saturn for the second row, through to the Moon for the bottom row. The five vertical columns can be attributed to the alchemical elements of Earth, Water, Fire, Air and the Quintessence. Thus the astrological and alchemical attributions form a grid which can give extended meanings to the symbols.
Now these planetary sides are found to be in a special order, neither astronomical nor astrological. The common order of the succession of the planets is that defined by their relative distances from Earth, putting the Sun, however in the Earth's place in the series thus: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, Moon. Saturn is farthest from the Earth, and the Earth is between Mars and Venus. Beginning with Saturn in the case of the Walls of the Vault, the order is Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Mercury, Venus, Moon. Here Mercury and Venus are transposed.
The order of the planets is very significant. The order given here is not the usual order, but a different order. Why is this important? The planets are a "blind" for the chakras and this is not the usual attribution of planets to chakras.
there is something more than this. For Saturn, the farthest off, is neither
the door nor the East, nor anywhere else that is obviously intended. For
it is the corner between the South and the southwest sides. Nor is Luna,
at the other side of the scale, in any notable position on the old lines.
The key is the rainbow order of colors. That is, the planets are attributed in a new way that is most unusual. The real issue is that this is a statement about the chakras. The position of the chakras follows the normal planetary attribution, but the rainbow attribution is the order in which they are activated. But there is a problem here. What Dr Westcott has said above about the rainbow order, is contradicted by him below, when he assigns colors to the planets. Let us look at this in the following table:
In each case in the table, the attribution of planets to chakras changes. The position of the chakras does not change. Hence it is the order of activation that changes. There is the usual order of activation and the Rainbow order of activation. What is the difference? Is one a “blind” for the other?
If now you take the planetary colours and affix the planets and arrange them in the order of the solar spectrum and then bend up the series into a ring and make the chain into a Heptagram, and turn the whole about until you get the two ends of the series to meet at the Eastern point, you will have this mysterium:
Here is another subtlety. The Rainbow commences with violet and Jupiter, but the planetary attributions commence with Saturn. The Rainbow activation therefore begins with the sex chakra and this is quite logical because here we are dealing with the desire for life and for God.
Science teaches, and has rediscovered a great truth, that however valuable the seven colours of the prism may be, there are rays invisible to us and so not demonstrated here by space. Beyond the red end of the spectrum begins the violet, and these have a great chemical or Yetziratic force. These forces, ever present and unseen, are represented by the Chief Adept standing erect at the Eastern angle, the most powerful person in the group, and delegate of the Chiefs of the Second Order, and through them of the mystic Third Order. He it is who has, symbolically at any rate, passed from death unto life, and holds the keys of all the creeds. And he it is who may place in our hands the Keys of the locked Palace of the King if we were able to make our knocking heard. Representing the East, he faces the Western World, bringing intuition with him. Before him lies the symbolic body of our Master C.R.C, our grand exemplar and founder, or at other times, the empty Pastos, from which he has arisen, the Chief Adept.
Please note the comment about the Chief Adept holding the Key to the palace of the King. He has passed from death to life; that is, he has had the Resurrection experience and is "twice born." He is actually the Doorkeeper of the Mysteries and we cannot proceed unless he gives us the key.
He has Mars and GEBURAH at his right hand, and Jupiter and GEDULAH at his left hand. He faces Venus in the West, the Evening Star, which represent the entry of the Candidate who has toiled all day until the evening. At evening he enters the Western door of the planet Venus, that sole planet unto whose symbol alone all the Sephiroth are conformed.
The Doorkeeper has Mars on his right and Jupiter on his left. That means that he is standing with his back to the Tree of Life and is merged with it. On the other hand the candidate is facing the Tree when he or she has reached the door. The candidate enters the tomb through Venus and that is a reference to Netzchach on the Tree. It tells us where we need to be on our inner journey. Since Venus represents desire for life, the tomb becomes the womb.
At evening time there shall be light, the light of the mixed colours. So the newly admitted Adept comes in contact with the totality of the planetary forces for the first time. A great opportunity opens before him. Let him see well that he use it worthily. He enters through the green side of the Vault. Green is the colour of growth. Let him see that he grows.
Now read carefully what Dr Westcott has to say below about the 5 x 8. He tells us this is a blind, but he does not say enough.
Upon each side of the Vault are forty squares, five vertical series and eight horizontal, the whole being symbolically 5' x 8'. Now the published and printed Fama Fraternitatis says these forty feet were divided into ten squares. If you are mathematicians you would know that ten similar squares could not alone be placed in such an area and yet fill it. Ten squares alone to fill a rectangle could only be placed in an area of the shape 5' x 6'. Hence in the Fama, ten squares is a blind which we know to represent Ten Squares are marked and salient, that is they are the SEPHIROTH.
Dr Westcott has drawn our attention to the ratio of 5:8. This is the same ratio as 1:1.6 and putting it all together the complete ratio is 1:1.6::5:8. "So what," did I hear you say? The 5' x 8' measurement comes from the Fama and it has very skilfully drawn our attention to the Golden Proportion of 1.61 that is usually designated by the Greek letter f (phi). Without a long digression into Pythagorean mathematics, it is enough to say that f represents the internal division of Unity. This is a reference to the doctrine of emanation and emanation requires an asymmetrical division in order to create the dynamics necessary for the progression and extension of Unity. Like Dr Westcott, I will simply draw your attention to this issue and leave the full explanation to your Initiator. For now, f symbolises rebirth and regeneration. These are the precise reasons why you wish to enter the Tomb of CRC.
The 5 x 8 rectangle is both a door and also a generator of life. We must find this door and walk through it. How shall we find it? By recognizing the Doorkeeper.
Besides the Ten Sephiroth, there are the following: There are Four Kerubim, Three Alchemical Principles, Three Elements, Seven Planets, Twelve Zodiacal Signs, One Wheel of the Spirit, thus 40 Squares in all. The Spirit Wheel is on every side and always in the centre, and is always depicted unchanged in black upon white.
We shall now follow Dr Westcott's detailed description of the symbols of the seven sides of the Tomb. I have shown each set of symbols separately to make it easier to follow his explanation. I start as he does with the Tree of Life and point out that each Hebrew letter that designates a sphere on the Tree, is the first letter of the Hebrew word for the name of that sphere.
According to the 16th Century Jewish sage Isaac Luria, God first withdrew from Himself, created a void and then emanated from Himself a spark of light into that void. This is the First Keter. Next, God created the four levels of Reality from top to bottom: Atzilut (Emanation), Briah (Creation), Yetzirah (Formation) and Assiah (Action). From the First Keter in Atzilut He emanated the spheres of the Tree of Life in this order: Keter, Chakhmah, Binah, Chesed, Gevurah, Tiferet, Netzchah, Hod, Yesod and Malkhut. God emanated a Tree on each of the four levels of Reality, but there is also a Great Tree that commences from the First Keter and encompasses all four levels in this manner:
Thus there are five Trees, the Great Tree and each of the Trees on each of the four levels of Reality. Why is this important? The Tree is the meaning of the statement in Genesis that we are made in the image and likeness of God. This is not what we look like, but this is what we are. Likewise, the Tree is not what God looks like, but it is what He is. This is the ultimate meaning of the saying, "as Above, so Below."
Genesis Chapter 1 tells us as a "blind" but with precision how God created the Tree. The text uses these expressions and has theses meanings:
These are the 12 diagonal paths on the Tree. Isaac Luria correlated the 3 Mother letters of the Hebrew alphabet to the 3 horizontal paths, the 7 Double letters to the vertical paths and the 12 Single letters to the diagonal paths. Note that God created the Tree in four ways: He spoke it into existence, He made it, He saw it as existing and then He immersed Himself in it. Each of the four methods of creation correlates with each of the four levels of Reality.
Next, we look at the Kerubim and note that with the exception of Scorpio, their astrological sign depicts them. Since Scorpio has three aspects, scorpion, snake and eagle, Dr Westcott emphasizes the highest aspect of this Kerub by using a picture of an eagle rather than the astrological sign of Scorpio.
the sides there are always the Four Kerubic emblems Zodiacal, yet different,
for the Eagle replaces Scorpio. (Scorpio has three forms, the Scorpion,
the Eagle, and the Snake for the Evil Aspect.)
What are the Kerubim? They are the Four Holy Living Creatures of Ezekiel and of the vision of John in the Book of Revelation. In John's vision, they surround the Throne of God. They are aspects of His being. In the Tomb of CRC this is depicted by the Kerubim having the Spirit Wheel in their midst. Although the colors of the Kerubim change according to the planetary attribution of the particular wall of the Tomb, the Spirit Wheel is always the same. God is changeless. Note that the Spirit Wheel also symbolizes the Quintessence of the alchemists. Thus the four Kerubim and the Spirit are the Above and the four alchemical Elements and the Quintessence are the Below. It is time to look at the alchemical attributions on the wall of the Tomb.
Three Principles are composed of the colour of the alchemical Principles
and the colour of the planet of any particular wall. Mercury being fundamentally
blue, Sulphur red and Salt yellow.
Let us start with Dr Westcott's observation that the element of Earth is missing. The obvious conclusion is that it has to be left out in order to make exactly 40 squares. More subtly however, we are already in the Earth, that is, our present reality and we are reaching out for a greater reality. That is why the 40 squares are a door to a higher level of consciousness. The alchemical Principles are "blinds" for our vehicles of consciousness, spirit (Mercury), soul (Sulfur) and physical body (Salt). The Elements are "blinds" for subdivisions of our physical body: Water for our etheric body, Fire for our emotional (astral) body and Air for our mental body.
Let us now look at the astrological planets.
The planets are a "blind" for the chakras. We have already noted the usual attribution of planets to chakras: Saturn - Base, Jupiter - Sacral, Mars - Navel, Sun - Heart, Venus - Throat, Moon - Brow and Mercury - Crown. This is a convenient place to point out that the symbol for alchemical Mercury is different from astrological Mercury. The reason is that they are different but related. Alchemical Mercury symbolizes our spirit while astrological Mercury symbolizes our Crown chakra. The relationship is that through our Crown chakra we communicate with our spirit. Once more I remind you of the Rainbow attribution of planets to chakras. This is the key to the entire Rosicrucian system.
The Seven planets have their colours as are often stated, and note that each of the seven is set beside its appropriate Sephirah, so that there are three Sephiroth which have no Planet: KETHER, CHOKMAH, and MALKUTH.
Here we must look carefully at Dr Westcott's statement. He is correct that the three spheres he names have no planet attributed to them. However that statement is also a "blind" because if the non-sphere of Da'at (Knowledge) is brought into manifestation, then Saturn is attributed to it. In that event, the three alchemical Principles are attributed: Mercury to Keter, Sulfur to Chakhmah and Salt to Binah. That is another lesson from your Initiator.
Let us look at the 12 Signs of the zodiac.
Twelve Zodiacal Signs are the lower portion of the sides of the vertical
column. The central one has none of the twelve; they are so allotted between
the four remaining columns. Further note that there are only three ranks,
the 5th, 7th, and 8th. None are in the 6th rank from above.
1. KERUBIC. Fixed. Shining Rank.
From above down, or in Columns these are: Earthy Signs. Airy Signs. Watery Signs. Fiery Signs.
Reading the 5th row down the vertical columns from the left, the Earth Signs commence with Taurus, the Air Signs commence with Aquarius, the Water Signs commence with Scorpio and the Fire Signs commence with Leo. This is the Quaternary that has the quality of being "Fixed". This quality is explained by the fact that the signs are read from right to left (as in Hebrew) for their attribution to God's principal Name, the Tetragrammaton, IHVH, in this manner: I (Yod) Leo (Fire), H (Heh) Scorpio (Water), V (Vav) Aquarius (Air), H (Heh - final) Taurus (Earth). They are fixed because God is unchangeable.
Rank 5. The KERUBIC line shows the signs in the order of TETRAGRAMMATON read in Hebrew.
The 7th horizontal row has the quality of being "Cardinal," that is, being enterprising and outgoing. Dr Westcott explains why they are read in the Hebrew manner, right to left.
Rank 7. The Cardinal line shows the signs from the right in the order of astronomical sequence of the solar course: vernal equinox, summer solstice, autumnal equinox, and winter solstice.
The 8th horizontal row has the quality of being "Mutable," that is, changeable. This time they are read in a different order as explained by Dr Westcott.
8. The Common line shows the signs again in a different position. Here
the earliest in the year is Gemini on the left of MEM, and passing left
to Virgo, you then go round to the extreme right to Sagittarius, pass
centreward to Pisces close to MALKUTH.
The rationale is that rows 4 and 6 contain only planetary attributions to the spheres on the Tree of Life. There are no zodiacal attributions. However row 5 does contain signs of the zodiac in the form of IHVH, the principal Name of God and this row is between rows 4 and 6. Thus God is among the planets. The point is very subtle. The signs are "fixed" stars and the planets are "wandering" stars. Between them they are the mechanism of God's will. Think of the Lord's Prayer where it says, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Is this just a poetic cliché or does it have a specific meaning? Today, a popular way of speaking about God's will, is to speak of karma. Astrology helps us to find our karma, but then we have the free will to change it. How do we get the power to change it? By finding and entering the Tomb of CRC and using it as a life generator.
colouring of each square is dual, a ground colour, and the colour of the
emblem. The ground colour is a compound of the colour of the Planet of
the side tinting the colour of the Force to which the Square is allotted.
We end with the issue of colors. This is a "blind" for the proper activation of the chakras. Since there are seven walls in the Tomb of CRC that contain the same symbols but with different colors, this is the central mystery. It is a mystery that must be left to your Initiator.
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