By Dr. John Palo
The cross is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, of symbols. Parallel lines (=) may artistically represent togetherness and parallel efforts. However, two lines perpendicularly crossed at their centers ( + ) can represent conflict at their crossing. One example is the real conflict demonstrated by the high death tolls from car collisions where roads cross.
Our vocabulary contains several words that allude to conflict at crossings. The word cross itself is used to indicate ill humor, peevishness, a bad mood, and meanness. We refer to people who are at cross-purposes with each other. A person contemplating a new direction in life is thought to be at a crossroad. When we suspect a person is not with us we may think, "I hope he doesn't cross me up."
Probably the oldest Cross, is the simple equilinear cross of a vertical line perpendicular to a horizontal line ( + ). It pre-dates the early Greek civilization. However, because of Greek early use, it is called the Greek cross.
It is easy to see how affixing a rose upon the crossing can come to mean a resolution of conflict. If we look upon the rose as our soul personality, we can see a whole mystical philosophy arise. As we face and overcome life's conflicts, our soul personality evolves. We become wiser and a more beautiful person. This is a prominent interpretation of the significance of a rose on a cross as used by Rosicrucians. The Rose Cross is featured in both the Confraternity of the Rose Cross (CR+C) and the Order of the Militia Crucifera Evangelica (OMCE). There is yet another interpretation of the Rose Cross. It holds the Rose refers to the dew involved in an alchemical process. Both CR+C and OMCE have roots with the Knight's Templar. One of the purposes of the Templars was to defend against the misuse of the cross.
In the early days of the revival of the Rosicrucian Order in America in 1915, Imperator H. Spencer Lewis chose to use the Latin cross ( ). He visualized a man standing with arms extended in the form of a cross, i.e., perpendicular to the body. This would roughly place the human heart at the crossbeams.
Early Rosicrucian temples used this concept for their floor plans. The shekina, representing the heart of the temple, was at the lines crossing. Over such a floor plan the Rosicrucian Lodge ritual enacts the Ancient Egyptian Memphite Mystery School teachings on creation. The impulses from the heart (shekina) are directed to bring wisdom to the Master stationed in the East. This is the ancient Egyptian heart-tongue connection to creation. The Master's lectern has a left eye upon it. This represents the eye of Thoth, i.e., wisdom. The route from heart to tongue is called the Sanctum Sanctorum.
The floor plan of many churches is similar to this floor plan. However, they do not use the point of crossing in any mystical sense. Their altar is in the East. There is no allusion to the ancient mystical process of creation from heart to tongue.
The present Rosicrucian Imperator, Gary L. Stewart, has chosen the pre-Christian equilinear cross, with a rose affixed at its center, rather than the Latin cross. The equilinear cross also conforms to the cross used by the Knight's Templar. The Knight's Templar, CR+C and OMCE use various forms of the Maltese Cross ( ). These are basically elaborations of the simple equilinear Greek cross.
Today, most crosses bring to mind the Christian crucifix and Christianity. However, as the word crucifix means something affixed upon a cross, any affixture upon a cross is a crucifix. Christianity portrays the body of Christ so affixed. The rose affixed upon a cross is also, in essence, a crucifix.
The Christians see Christ upon a cross as a reminder that he so suffered for humanity. Rosicrucians see, in a rose upon a cross, a mystical process.
We are deluged with Latin crosses and crucifixes. In this we tend to be unaware that crosses antedate Christianity.
The swastika cross is found in pre-Christian India and amongst the American Indians. It is also seen in northern Europe, Ireland and Greece. It is interesting to note the swastika of Nazi Germany ( ) was thought, by the American Indians, to be a bad luck symbol. They considered the clockwise swastika ( ) good luck.
The Egyptian Crux Ansata ( ) (also called ankh and looped cross) goes back some 5,000 years. It represents life and eternal life.
It may be coincidental, but the OMCE ritual floor plan simulates the upside down ankh. We also see this pattern atop the Royal Crown in England with its cross over a sphere ( ).
The Coptic Museum in Cairo has several forms of the crux ansata on view. Some even have a floral design in their loop (the earliest Rose Cross?).
In early Christianity both the Coptic Christians and Gnostics adopted the old crux ansata as their symbol. The crux ansata is now referred to as the Coptic as well as the Gnostic cross.
Many crosses have historical and spiritual significance, It behooves us to respect those spiritual significance's. And, even in the birth of the new millennium, we should be alert to those who abuse and hide their nefarious purposes behind the spiritual significance of the cross.
Early Christianity went two major ways. One was the more structured, more authoritative, more dogmatic hierarchical church system. The other was looser, less structured and more concerned with the individual achievement of Gnostic experiences. The former developed into the orthodox churches, The latter, called Gnostics, were not as apt to consider Christ's teachings as the beginning and end of all knowledge. The Gnostics were more syncretic in that they were more apt to merge the teachings of Christ with that of other great spiritual teachings.
Rosicrucian Imperator H. Spencer Lewis referred to the orthodox faiths as the Christian faith and the Gnostic as the Christine faith.
In the Middle Ages the Roman Catholic Christian Church became very powerful. Even kings took care not to oppose the Pope and the Church. Perhaps we here had an example of power corrupting. The Roman Church took on the stance that they were the one and only true religion. All others were more or less heretical.
The church did generate some great mystics like St. Francis of Assissi, Bishop Origen, Meister Eckhardt and Giordano Bruno. But, St. Francis came close to being labeled a heretic. Bishop Ofigen's works were blacklisted probably for his thoughts on reincarnation. Meister Eckhardt just narrowly escaped being thrown out of the church. Giordano Bruno, who was a scientist and reincarnationist, was like many Gnostics, burned at the stake.
The Roman Catholic Church, through its Holy (?) Inquisition, sought to control the hearts, minds and bodies of humanity. There was no religious freedom as found in the Bill of Rights of the United States. At that time anyone who would not adhere to the dictates of the church was a candidate for death by burning. It was all done in the name of the cross.
This dark part of church history, just as the present day KKK, was a blatant misuse of the cross.
The Rosicrucians claim traditional roots to the ancient Egyptian Mystery Schools, the Knights Templar, and the Gnostics, including the Cathars, Albigensians, Waldensians, Manichians, etcetera.
Gnosis is a Greek word for knowledge. However, it refers to spiritual, intuitive or mystical knowledge. Gnostics sought personal experiences with God. Much like the practices in the Ancient Egyptian Mystery Schools, Gnostics sought to live the spiritual life through living the inspirations they felt were from God.
It seems most appropriate that the crux ansata, the ankh is known as the Gnostic cross. For, ancient Egypt is one of our great historical sources of the mystical principles.
(Many crosses have historical and spiritual significance. We should respect their proper use in religions and mystery schools as CR + C, OMCE, Masonry, etcetera. There still are those who would abuse, mislead, and hide their nefarious purposes. behind crosses of spiritual significance.)
Copyright © 2000 Dr. John Palo