Serving the ideals of the Rosicrucian Movement

Commentaries on the Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians of the 16th and 17th Centuries

(This is the traditional commentary. Jack Courtis' commentary appears below as the Mountain of Initiation. Both commentaries should be read and then become the guide for understanding the diagram. The true teaching is in the diagram but it will never be understood by reading, only by meditation on the images and symbols.)

The soul of men everywhere was lost through a fall, and the health of the body suffered through a fall, Salvation came to the human soul through IEHOVA, Jesus Christ. The bodily health is brought back through a thing not good to look at. It is hidden in this painting, the highest treasure in this world, in which is the highest medicine and the greatest parts of the riches of nature, given to us by the Lord IEHOVA. It is called Pator Metallorum, well known to the philosopher sitting in front of the mountain-cave, easy to obtain for anybody. But the sophists in their sophistic garb, tapping on the walls, recognize him not. At the right is to be seen Lepus, representing the art of chemistry, marvelously white, the secrets of which with fire's heat are being explored. To the left one can see freely what the right Clavis artis is; one cannot be too subtle with it, like a hen hatching a chicken. In the midst of the mountain, before the door stands a courageous Lion in all its pride, whose noble blood the monster-dragon is going to shed; throwing him into a deep grave, out of it comes forth a black raven, then called Ianua artis, out of that comes Aquila alba. Even the crystal refined in the furnace will quickly show you on inspection Servum fugitivum, a wonder-child to many artists. The one effecting this all is Principium laboris. On the right hand in the barrel are Sol and Luna, the intelligence of the firmament. The Senior plants in it Rad. Rubeam and albam. Now you proceed with constancy and Arbor artis appears to you, with its blossoms it announces now Lapidem Philosophorum. Over all, the crown of the glory, ruling over all treasures.

Be diligent, peaceful, constant and pious, pray that God may help thee. And if thou attain, never forget the poor. Then thou wilt praise God with the legion of the angels, now and forever.

The Mountain of Initiation

Each of us has to climb the various stages of this mountain, so let us start from the bottom. The first thing we notice, is the date 1604. According to the Fama Fraternitatis, this is the date of the opening of the Tomb of Christian Rosenkreutz. Thus the opening of the Tomb, the Below, is like the beginning of the climb up the mountain, the Above. The Tomb and the mountain are polar opposites and we must not neglect the Below just because we are focused on the Above. However, since the Below is like the Above, whatever we know about the Tomb, will help us with the climb up the mountain.

There are 7 stages up the mountain and there are 7 sides of the Tomb. This means that both are symbols of a differentiated unity. All parts are important, all steps must be taken. To get into the Tomb, we have to break down a stone wall in order to find a hidden door. At its base, the mountain is surrounded by a stone wall. There is an open gate, but we must get past the gate keeper. Let us pause here and consider our position. In this regard, we are like the three figures outside the gate. We all come here with different motives but we must all pass the same tests. Why three figures? We have three vehicles of consciousness: body, soul and spirit. They must work together.

Have you noticed the rabbit? It is a symbol of sexuality and fertility that lives in a womb-like burrow. What does all this mean? The clue is the number 7. The seventh sefira on the Tree of Life is attributed to Venus, the goddess of sexuality and fertility. Venus is the astrological planet from the Above and is attributed to the alchemical copper from the Below. What reconciles this polarity? It is the throat chakra. This is the entrance to the Tomb and the beginning of the climb up the mountain. That is why there are 7 stages of the climb. The 7 chakras must be activated and we now know which one to start with.

Let us approach the gate keeper. Above his head there is an arch. The headstone reminds us of the stone rejected by the builders which became the head of the corner. This is the Stone of the Philosophers. It is not yet the Philosophers' Stone. How do we enter the gate? There is a polarity that we must reconcile; on the left a quick, active rabbit and on the right, a patient brooding hen. The gate keeper is the Guardian of the Threshold and to get past him, we must have mental speed and agility, as well the love and care of a fully developed emotional nature. These are the two ways of alchemy and both must be developed. Beware, the old man is only the first Guardian. Getting past him, is only the first stage up the mountain.

We now pass through the tunnel into the darkness of the heart of the mountain. This reminds us of the meaning of VITRIOL and its admonition to go to the centre of the earth and rectify the hidden stone. We emerge from our darkness only to be confronted by the second Guardian, the dragon. This is the Terror on the Threshold. What does this mean? On the ceiling of the Tomb of Christian Rosenkreutz, its 7-fold structure is symbolised by the 7 planets connected in this order:

Venus Þ Saturn Þ Sun Þ Moon Þ Mars Þ Mercury Þ Jupiter Þ Venus

There are 7 planets, but they form an octave. If we look carefully at the mountain, we shall find another octave. But let us go back to the dragon. His effect upon us corresponds to the influence of Saturn. In turn, Saturn corresponds to the base chakra. So this is the second stage of our climb.

Now let us proceed to the third stage, where we find the third Guardian, the lion. Astrologically, he is the Sun and is correctly placed in this position according to the attribution on the ceiling of the Tomb. The Sun corresponds to the heart chakra. Let us pause on our journey and ask why there are three Guardians? Are they connected to the three seekers outside the gate? Are the Guardians the Above and the seekers the Below? Is all of this related to the rectified hidden stone? Are the Guardians the rectified seekers?

On to the fourth stage. We now come to the door of a tower and another polarity; a black crow and a white eagle. Then we see the third polarity; to the left a washing tub with the Sun and Moon; to the right a distillery. Washing is outer purification and distillation is inner purification. This stage corresponds to the Moon in the order of planets on the ceiling of the Tomb and therefore is linked to the brow chakra.

Having passed through the door we proceed to the fifth stage by going up to the man planting a tree in the wash tub below. Through its roots, the tree absorbs the essence of the Sun and Moon and converts it to its fruit, a 7 pointed star. Note yet a further polarity on the opposite side where another tree has 3 stars as its fruit (Salt, Sulfur, Mercury), nourished by the essence rising from the distillery. What tree do we know that has the numbers 7 and 3? The Tree of Life has 10 sefirot: 10 = 7 + 3. In the order of planets on the ceiling of the Tomb, this is Mars and the sacral chakra.

We move up the mountain to the sixth stage and enter the house of the holy spirit. We are immediately reminded of the house Sancti Spiritus, mentioned in the Fama Fraternitatis. All R+C bretheren go to this house at a particular stage of their journey. In the order of the planets this is Mercury and therefore the crown chakra.

Finally we arrive at the seventh stage, the top of the mountain. Here we have the symbol of VITRIOL, the 7-lettered word which is itself an anagram for 7 words. They in turn give us the alchemical formula for rectifying the hidden stone. Now at last, we have transformed the Stone of the Philosophers into the Philosophers' Stone. This is Jupiter in the planetary order of the Tomb below and the navel chakra.

But wait, there is a crown above the mountain. This, with the 7 stages, is the other octave of which we spoke. And note something else, we have seen 4 polarities (rabbit/hen; crow/eagle; wash tub/distillery; tree of 7 fruits/tree of 3 fruits). We also have 4 statements around the diagram. They correspond with the 4 alchemical elements. Finally there are 3 Guardians/seekers. Put together we have: 4 + 3 = 7. So what? We know about our 7 chakras, but perhaps 4 are related to the elements (Air, Fire, Water, Earth) and 3 are related to the principles (Salt, Sulfur, Mercury). This is the clue for the interaction between the elements and the principles within our being. As Above so Below.

The climb up the mountain, is the activation of our chakras, but this must be done in a particular order. This is the principal message of the diagram. The key is the number 7 and this links the Mountain of Initiation to the Emerald tablet of Hermes in this way; the key number of the Tablet is 12, whereas the key number of the Mountain, is 7. In the First Stage of the Great Work, there are 12 steps and in the Second Stage of the Great Work, there are 7 steps. Thus the Tablet comes first in our consideration, followed by the Mountain. There are 3 steps in the Third Stage of the Great Work, so let us proceed on our inner journey of discovery and find those steps.