Reflection 5

Mysteries of Birth, Life and Death week 5

Reflection: making the two into one


When you hear or read about the Christian mysteries and are touched inwardly, it may well be daunting. Maybe you thought you were already quite knowledgeable, had accomplished much and were well advanced on the path of unfolding your true self. The forces of evil in heavenly places make every effort to make you believe this, so that you remain in illusion and a slave to them, just like Cinderella in the fairy tale initially spends all her life energy on preserving her natural state of life, and catering to the pleasures of her stepmother and step sisters.

As soon as you are ready for the Gnostic-Christian path of initiation, you are placed before a simple but not easy assignment: to die inwardly so that an immortal body can be created. This is a threat to the ego, which is naturally centred on self-realisation. Jesus refers as follows to the decline of the ego, that is a necessary phase in a truly spiritual development: ‘Except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it abideth by itself alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit. He that loveth his life loseth it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal’ (John 12:24-25).

In history we observe that within all authentic spiritual traditions there is division between the large group of people who sympathize with the path of the Mysteries and a much smaller group
who actually follow that narrow path of healing. We could also term them the outer church and the inner church. Jesus says in this connection, ‘For many are called, but few chosen’ (Matthew 22:14).

The strongly persecuted medieval gnostic-Christian movement of the Cathars in the twelfth and thirteenth century in France for example, distinguished between ‘believers’ (croyants) and ‘good people’ (bonshommes). In contrast to the church of Rome in that time, men and women of the Cathars were equal, as was the case with certain earlier Gnostic communities such as the Essenes and the Manichaeans. Both sexes could go the spiritual path and fulfil spiritual offices because no difference exists between man and woman in the dimensions of the soul and the spirit. Harmonious cooperation between men and women in both practical and spiritual fields is essential for the development of humanity and the unfolding of the plan of God.

Anima and animus

Only in the dimensions of the physical body and in the personality aspects is there a separation between the two sexes. In the dimension of the personality, this separation is less strict than in the dimension of the physical body. Every person has masculine qualities in the form of creative (yang) and feminine traits in the form of receiving (yin) qualities. The psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung calls the feminine side of the man the anima and the masculine side of the woman the animus. According to him, the animus and the anima archetypes are polarities in the collective unconscious. A well-balanced personality is characterised, among other things, by being able to express both the anima and the animus in consciousness and behaviour.

The gnostic-Christian path goes much higher and deeper than balancing the masculine and feminine aspects of the personality because the intention is that the dimensions of the soul and of the spirit are going to express themselves in the dimensions of the personality and the physical body, whereby a total renewal can take place, called transfiguration.

The bonshommes among the Cathars, also known as ‘perfects’ or ‘parfaits’, had to undergo a very intensive initiation course of at least three years, in isolation from the world, often in remote caves.24 This was part of an inner process resulting in the death of the ego, a process known as the ‘endura’ (akin to the English verb to endure which means: to bear patiently, to remain firm, to persist to the end) that culminated in the light-birth, which was confirmed in a ritual. Those who were thus initiated in a way befitting the people and culture of that time, were now qualified to go out into the world in pairs to preach the gospel and to heal the sick, according to the commission that Jesus gives at the end of the gospel of Mark.

The bonshommes of the Cathars did not marry, in order to fully dedicate themselves to their spiritual mission. You may not conclude from this however that it is wrong to enter into marriage or a relationship with a life partner if you want to go the path of the inner mysteries and want the inner Christ (Immanuel) to develop. The biblical gospels do not show that Jesus was married, but there are several researchers who, based on studying other writings or reading the akashic records, claim that his disciple Mary Magdalene was his partner. Of course it is interesting to know whether this was really the case or not, but such information is quite irrelevant to following the path of the Mysteries.

In the Christian Mysteries it is primarily about the inner orientation, and it does not really matter whether the candidate is married or not or has a love relationship in any form. He or she does not have to isolate himself from the world, because by dealing with the challenges and resistances that come in daily life, the necessary inner power is freed. It is important that a spiritual wedding will take place, as it is sung in the Bible book the Song of Salomon, and about which we can also read in the last book of the Bible, the Revelation of John.

The most famous work about this spiritual wedding is probably ‘The Adornment of the Spiritual Marriage’ which the mystic Jan van Ruusbroec (1293-1381) wrote on the basis of his personal experiences, probably between 1335 and 1340. Contrary to what people often think, this classic work did not come into being in secluded isolation but in the busy city life of Brussels, Belgium. Jan van Ruusbroec worked there for 25 years as a chaplain, before he completely retired to contemplative life in a monastery.

Jan van Ruusbroec was therefore at the very bottom rung of the hierarchy of the church of Rome. Yet his mystical writings were generally acknowledged and appreciated during his lifetime. He did not experience the stubborn resistance and bad tidings with which many other well-known mystics had to contend. This was due not only to his amiable personality but also because he formulated his findings in such a way that they fitted in with the orthodoxy of his time.

The groom is coming

His booklet ‘The Adornment of the Spiritual Marriage’ is about the development of the love for God in man and is built on a structure derived from the four-part Bible verse of Matthew 25:6: ‘Behold, the bridegroom comes, come ye forth to meet him!’ In the language of today we can interpret these four sentences as follows.

  1. Behold: Make sure that your observation is clear and that you are aware of yourself and are free of judgments and identifications. If you stick labels on something or someone, you do not see what or who it really is.
  2. The bridegroom comes: experience that the Christ (the spirit) becomes active in you. That is: the completely different Other One (cf. Immanuel: God with in you), who propels you to a completely new development.
  3. Go out: respond to the invitation, prepare yourself, stay awake and work with the new life force.
  4. To meet him: trust that the mutual reconciliation leads to the joyful and salutary encounter.

This four-part structure is discussed in the three stages of the spiritual life described by Van Ruusbroec: the working life, the inner life and the contemplative life. For example, in the writings of Jan van Ruusbroec we can recognise an inner path with twelve gates. The Christian way of Jan van Ruusbroec is based on devotion: love for God and devotion to the Other One within the human being. In the East such a devotional way of ‘love’ is known as bhakti yoga and in the West as ‘the way of the monk’. There are of course more spiritual paths.

A path of initiation with more aspects, described in narrative form, is ‘The Alchemical Wedding of Christian Rosycross’, written in German and published in the year 1616 in Strasbourg, under the title ‘Chymische Hochzeit des Christiani Rosencreutz Anno 1459’. Here too, love for God and man plays an essential role, but there is also a great deal of attention placed on knowledge and decisiveness. It is a universal way, which can be called Christian-Gnostic and is pre-eminently suitable for the individualised and intellectual person in western society in the 21st century.

‘The Alchemical Wedding of Christian Rosycross’ was conceived at the beginning of the seventeenth century in the university town of Tübingen in southern Germany within a group of Lutheran scholars –the Tübingen Circle–for which Tobias Hess (1558-1614) was the great inspiration. It is the most profound manifesto of the classical Rosicrucians. Historical research shows that this mystery script about the initiation path was written by the man who was also the co-author of the two other Rosicrucian Manifestos that had previously been published in Latin: Johan Valentin Andreae (1586-1654).

In The Alchemical Wedding, seven phases are distinguished in the form of seven days. Of course in practice it is not about seven successive periods of 24 hours, because going the mystery path in daily life requires practically a whole lifetime. Guarantees cannot be given. The only thing you can do is to prepare yourself and stay focused. The initiations into the Mysteries cannot be forced, but come as a gift when the disciple of the soul is ready for them. Although certain milestones are distinguished on the inner road, it is good to realise that the inner development always continues. That is why the book ‘The Voice of the Silence’ talks about the endless end.

Seven days
The seven days in The Alchemical Wedding correspond with, among others, the seven days of creation in Genesis, the prologue of the Gospel of John, the seven ‘words of the cross’ of Jesus and with the seven letters that John wrote on Patmos to the seven churches in Asia (an indication for the sensory world) as they are described in the Bible book of the Revelation of John. The seven stages, or days, in the alchemical wedding can be formulated as follows.

  1. Receiving the invitation
  2. Making correct decisions
  3. Being weighed
  4. Letting the old consciousness die
  5. Letting the new consciousness grow
  6. Realising transformations
  7. Being a gatekeeper

The mythical story begins on the eve of Easter, the day before the celebration of the resurrection of the inner man. The protagonist in the story, Christian Rosycross, has deeply pondered the great mysteries and makes ready to prepare a clean, unleavened bread in harmony with his cherished Easter lamb, the symbol of the inner Christ. This unleavened bread is thus the symbol of the renewed state of being that is the result of the transfiguration, and is also called the bread of life.

Then suddenly there is a violent storm that almost causes his little house in the mountain to fall apart. Then he feels someone tapping him on his shoulder. He turns around and sees an angelic, winged lady in a blue robe covered with golden stars. Christian Rosycross is shocked to the core and receives from this impressive apparition an invitation to a royal wedding. Then the heavenly messenger, with a blast on her trumpet, disappears as miraculously as she appeared. In this fictitious autobiography, Christian Rosycross, also known as C.R.C. writes about this invitation letter in the chapter about the first day:

‘It appeared to be so heavy that, if it had been made of pure gold, it could hardly have been heavier. When I looked at it attentively, I found it sealed with a small seal in which, very delicately, a cross was engraved with the inscription “In hoc signo✝ vinces” (in this sign you will conquer)’. As soon as I had seen this sign I was reassured, as I knew that such a sign would be unpalatable to the devil, nor would he make use of it. Thus I carefully opened the letter. It contained the following poem, written with golden letters on a blue field:

This is the day, this day, this
the day of the Royal Wedding is.
Art thou thereto by birth inclined
and unto joy by God designed?
Then thou may’st to the mountain wend
on which three stately temples stand
And there observe the wonder.

Keep to the aim!
In light remain!
Unless thou bathe most carefully
the wedding will do harm to thee.
Woe to him who in sin delays,
he will be found too light in weights.

Underneath was written: Sponsus et Sponsa (Bride and Groom)’.


Although Christian Rosycross had prepared himself long and seriously for an invitation to The Alchemical Wedding, he had not expected that he would have to meet certain conditions to be allowed to experience the wedding. He thought he would just be a welcome guest, but now he doubts seriously that he will meet the requirements. Christian Rosycross is indeed a sincere spiritually aspiring person, but when he examines himself thoroughly, he realises that he is certainly not yet free from sin, because he is not yet completely focused on the divine life and is for the most part ignorant and insufficiently practiced. But that is precisely why he is a suitable candidate.

You certainly do not have to first be perfect to go a spiritual path. Going the path is the quest for unification with the spirit from which perfection can manifest itself in the soul, in accordance with the commission that Jesus gives to the soul of his disciples: ‘Ye shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Matthew 5:48).

We may see the celebration of the marriage between the queen and the king, or between the princess and the prince, narrated in the alchemical wedding and in many other stories and fairy tales as well as the forging of the union between the soul and the spirit, between the renewed consciousness and the divine essence directly connected with the plan of God, the Word or the Father. The two can thus become one, as it is also expressed in narrative form in for example Mozart’s Magic Flute, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Goethe’s fairy tale of The green snake and the beautiful lily. The soul or consciousness is seen as feminine, receiving, and the mind as masculine, creative.

Christian Rosycross, the symbol of the dedicated personality who is a pupil of the soul, is allowed to witness the above-mentioned process of unification, through which he himself fundamentally changes and ultimately becomes qualified to cooperate in the execution of the divine plan of creation, of the Word that was in the beginning. Then, as a result of a revolutionary process, the personality, the soul and the spirit form a powerful union to which a statement by Ecclesiastes applies: ‘A threefold cord is not quickly broken’ (Ecclesiastes 4:12).

The universal renewal process of a fusion of personality, soul and spirit can also be recognised in the story from John 2, in which Jesus, at a wedding in Cana following his baptism in the Jordan, changes water into wine. If we would take the story of the wedding at Cana literally, it is a bizarre story, as is ‘The Alchemical Wedding of Christian Rosycross’. It would appear as if Jesus wanted to become popular with the merry partygoers in Galilee and amaze them by posing as a magician who could turn water into wine so that they could dull their consciousness even more. He who performs such tricks to prove himself does not make himself very credible as a prophet of the Holy One!

Pure forces with a high frequency

In this story, however, it does not concern toxic drink of poor quality that causes inebriation, but concerns the fresh juice from the fruits of the living vine, symbol of the pure astral substances that can cleanse the human system and renew it: the Holy Spirit. It is these pure forces with a high frequency that Jesus makes available to the guests invited for the spiritual wedding. He has undergone this spiritual wedding himself which is why he can state: ‘I and the Father are one’ (John 10:30).

The fact that Jesus achieves the alchemical transformation is the first significant sign that he has reached a new level in his development. That is why it says that this special transformation takes place on the third day. In Jesus, mind, soul and personality now form a harmonious new trinity, comparable to a passenger delivered to his destination in a horse drawn carriage by a coachman. The coachman – symbol for the soul – does what the passenger – symbol for the spirit – wants him to do. And the horse – symbol for the personality – in his turn goes where the driver guides him (see image 5).

The six stone barrels can be regarded as the six emanations of the six creation days in Genesis1, which together lead to the seventh day, the Sabbath, on which God rested and the autonomous renewed man is allowed to complete the creation. Three substances are mentioned in the story: stone (the water vessels), water and wine. We may view them as the symbols for the personality, the soul and the spirit respectively.

The psychiatrist and author Maurice Nicoll (1884-1953), a pupil of the esoteric teachers George Gurdieff and Pyotr Ouspensky, relates the three substances to levels of understanding spiritual texts in his book ‘The New Man’ He links the first level to ‘stone’ and according to him stone refers to the literal meaning of spiritual texts. Such a literal interpretation can be valuable, but it is very limited.

Spiritual texts are spiritual because there is also a higher reality hidden behind them, which is only accessible to people with inner understanding. For them there is not only the rigid form of the stone but also the flowing water in which everything is not yet clearly seen but still it is a level of understanding in which the outward form retreats. The third and highest level relates to living from a new inner understanding that is constantly expanding. The inner doctrine has then become a possession in the blood and is thus symbolised by wine. Three stages with a universal character The three stages mentioned – stone, water and wine – have a universal character and can thus be found in all domains and traditions.

We should also bear in mind that not all triads fit together exactly. In nature we know the stages of caterpillar, pupa and butterfly. In bread production there is the grain, the dough and the finished bread. We know water in the three aggregate states of ice, liquid water and vapour. In the alchemical tradition, the three developmental stages are referred to as negredo (black), albedo (white) and rubedo (red). In the fairy tale of Snow White these three phases are also potentially present: she has hair that is black like ebony, skin that is white like snow and lips that are red like blood.

Within the guild system in the Middle Ages, also three degrees were known: pupil, companion and master. In the invitation to the alchemical wedding of Christian Rosycross we read about three temples. The temple tent in the desert of the people of Israel and the Jewish temple in Jerusalem had three sections: the forecourt, the holy and the holy of holies. The book ‘The Voice of the Silence’ by Helena Blavatsky mentions three halls: the hall of ignorance, the hall of learning and the hall of wisdom.

The three wise men from the east come with three gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. Jesus speaks about the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). The apostle Paul talks about the phases of faith, hope and love (1 Corinthians 13:13). Jan van Ruusbroec writes about the working life, the inner life and the (God) contemplative life. And the classical Rosicrucians from the seventeenth century summarised the spiritual renewal process in their first manifesto, ‘The Call of the Rosicrucian Brotherhood’ (Fama Fraternitatis R.C.) as follows:

We are born of God.
We die in Jesus.
We are reborn through the Holy Spirit.