Serving the ideals of the Rosicrucian Movement

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

We are immediately struck by the title, as well as by the form of this diagram. Naturally, we associate virginity with sexual ignorance, but this troubles us because we intuitively know that there is more to this. But what? To understand virginity, we must understand sofia. This is a Greek word and is the female personification of wisdom. It is also an important gnostic concept. Therefore, let us begin our inner journey by considering the gnostic scripture, Thunder-Perfect Mind. In this document the speaker refers to herself amongst other things, as "virgin" and "wisdom". In fact, she refers to herself as a series of pairs of opposites, including masculine and feminine. The paradoxical and contradictory nature of the description indicates that virginity is a concept that relates to a spiritual integrity that is beyond our ability to comprehend, let alone describe. This point is confirmed by the gnostic scripture, The Secret Book According to John, where the light of the "first power" is described as the image of the "perfect invisible virgin spirit". From this virgin spirit comes the "self-originate" and subsequently, "wisdom". Hence the sexual connotation of virginity is our imperfect attempt to grasp the metaphysical concept of self-origination. Truly this has to do with wisdom and not with ignorance.

Let us look at the figure in the diagram. She is crowned with 12 stars and her face shines like the sun. She is also pregnant. We are reminded of the woman and child in the Apocalypse of John, ch 12 v 1,2. In the diagram, around her neck, is a pendant of 12 circles polarized as two groups of 6. Above the crown, are the symbols of mercury and the sun. These are balanced by the symbol of vitriol just beneath the virgin’s pendant and breasts. Normally, the sun is attributed to the Heart chakra and mercury is attributed to the Crown chakra. However in this diagram the sun and mercury are conjoined and vitriol is at the centre, where the sun should be. What does this mean? In Latin vitriol is an acronym that reads: Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem; "visit the interior of the earth, in rectifying, discover the hidden stone". In the diagram, vitriol is at the spiritual center of the virgin and we can infer that the hidden stone has been rectified because the sun and mercury are conjoined. We shall see more of the stone later. Moreover, the symbol of vitriol is just above her womb, her biological center, where she bears the Christ child. She is the virgin who gives birth by self-origination. This is wisdom about the virgin that cannot be grasped by left brain intellect.

How do we know the virgin bears the Christ child? On her right arm is written: "out of Eternity comes the [cruci]fied". In the gnostic scheme, the kosmic Christ comes from the Aeons. This is a Greek word and means "Eternities". We can infer that Christ is crucified on the 4 elemental cross of Nature; that is, the cross of Fire, Air, Water and Earth. How do we know this? Both the child and the world are nourished by the virgin’s milk. This divides into 4 streams: water, blood, white, red. In turn these 4 streams are associated with the 4 elements. Note the polarities of water/blood and white/red. In alchemy, these are the white and red tinctures and refer to the silver/gold of the Below and the moon/sun of the Above. Thus by his crucifixion, Christ unites the Above and Below.

In the center of the 4 streams and the 4 elements is a large circle with Latin inscriptions that mean "Divine Instrument" and "Let there be Nature". This is the Christ nature acting as the Quintessence for both the Above and the Below. It is also a transformation line between the Virgin of Wisdom above and Mother Nature below. The virgin is also the mother giving birth by self-origination. Thus the 4 streams are the potential and the 4 elements are the actual. This is wisdom indeed.

Below this point are 3 concentric circles culminating in a central chaos. Into this center pour the 4 streams of virgin’s milk in their transformed nature of the 4 elements. The Above finds expression in the Below. Counting the central chaos, there are 4 concentric circles with 12, 8, 4 and 1 sphere, from the outside into the middle. What can this mean? First, from kabala we know that in the beginning, God withdrew from Himself and left a spiritual vacuum. Secondly, He projected a spark of Himself into the void. Thirdly, there appeared the Tree of Life and 4 levels of reality. We can infer that the 4 concentric circles are the 4 levels of reality and that the symbols within them, give us the clue to their nature.

Let us begin with the Divine Instrument of Nature and all the spheres directly beneath it. The first one is the sun with a Latin inscription that reads, "masculine seed, form of father". Immediately below is the moon described as "matter of mother". Around her are tiny suns and moons that we might infer are her children, because of the inscription uniting her and the sun that tells us she is pregnant. These are kosmic forces that are pictured in the next sphere below as a sun surrounded by the 4 elements and described as, "mechanism of world". Between the "mother" and the "mechanism", are references to the "Golden River of Paradise" that is the "Philosophers’ Fountain". From the Fountain come "four main waters growing from one root". These are the 4 rivers that flow out of Paradise. Immediately below is the central chaos with the 4 elements arranged as the cross of matter, the same cross upon which the kosmic Christ is crucified.

What does all this mean? The vertical spheres culminating in the central chaos, are the 4 levels of reality, the Above, reflected in us, the Below. If we can establish this internal structure as a dynamic and balanced relationship between the masculine and feminine, then we can control the 4 elemental forces that constitute our being. If we control the elements, we have free will. If we do not, then we are subject to these forces which we know as karma. We are subject to the Wheel of the Law. Is that what the concentric circles symbolize?

We looked at the 4 vertical spheres as a unit because they are all connected by the lines of relationship emanating from the 4 elemental streams above them. What about the other spheres? Let us take each circle in turn and look at the spheres that comprise it. There is an interesting left/right and top/bottom polarity in all of the circles.

The outer circle of 12, is structured as 4 x 3, like this:

  • Masculine seed of world; First matter; Ultimate matter.
  • Closed door; Raising the dead; Gold of philosophers.
  • Way and key; Death’s head; Silver of philosophers.
  • Theory; Practice; Stone.

These 4 groups form a cross. Properly activated, they cause integration and healing. The symbols within each individual sphere are the subject of meditation and produce right brain insight.


The first group of 3 introduces the stone in a cryptic manner. The "masculine seed" is connected to "first" and "ultimate" matter. The seed is the proto-stone and the first and ultimate matter are the Stone of the Philosophers and the Philosophers’ Stone, respectively. This is the hidden stone that is rectified in the center of the earth, or Virgin Sophia as Mother Nature. This reminds us of the alchemical koan that "Nature is rectified by Art".

The second group of 3 tells us that we must open the "closed door…..raise the dead… [and find] the gold". We must open up our consciousness by spiritual discipline and raise it by transmuting it into the golden Tiferet consciousness of the Tree of Life. This is the masculine polarity.

The third group of 3 shows us that the "way and the key…..[of the opposite 3 is] … the death’s head….. [that leads to the]… silver" consciousness of Yesod on the Tree of Life. This is the feminine consciousness.

Gold is the sun and silver is the moon. Their union is the Chymical Marriage. The focus of that marriage is the fourth group of 3 that produces the Stone. This comes through the "theory of the Philosopher … [and] the practice of the Magus". The Stone is also the Tincture and the Elixir of the Philosophers.

The second circle of 8, is structured as 4 x 2, like this:


The opposing pairs are the subject of deep meditation. We should particularly consider the symbols in the individual spheres as alchemical principles. Note the pairs of opposites and the cross they form:

  • Matter of mother/ash of philosophers
  • Philosophical sulfur/philosophical mercury
  • White sulfur/red sulfur
  • Philosophical salt/rod of philosophers

Why all the emphasis on philosophers and philosophical principles? We shall come to this again. Now for the inner circle of 4 and its structure of 2 x 2:


One more cross is formed by this pair of opposites. The philosophical fountain pours out vitriol. This should alert us to something else. What about the green/black pair? And why this obsessive focus on philosophers? What is a philosopher? The meaning comes from a Greek word that means, "lover of wisdom". We already know that wisdom is the Virgin Sophia. Therefore, a philosopher "loves" her. How? Sexually? There is considerable innuendo based upon sexuality, but here is the key – not physical sex. The Virgin of Wisdom must be loved in a way that is sexual but not in the way we understand. Consider what sexuality does; it unites the opposites in a symbiotic relationship, thus forming a higher synthesis. We should go back to the diagram and consider the concentric circles again.

The outer circle shows the 12 spiritual principles behind alchemy. The middle circle explains the 8 operations. The inner circle shows the 4 end results of the work. But have you noticed the 4 sevens?

7 Eagles 7 Lions 7 Ravens 7 Spheres

The Eagles correspond to Air, the lions to Fire, the ravens to Earth and the Spheres to Water. These 4 x 7, transcend the entire scheme and indicate that the operation must be repeated 7 times through each of the 4 elements. No amount of left brain explanation is going to help. This is something that must be experienced as a guided visualization. There is no alternative to hard work.

Finally, there is a great deal of text around the diagram. Reading it will not help. It requires intense meditation with the help of the symbols. Let us end on one point only. Have you noticed the reference to the Rosicrucian Philosophers? How do they "love" the Virgin of Wisdom?