Reflection 9

Mysteries of Birth, Life and Death week 9

Reflection: experiencing the eternal now



The mysteries of birth, life and death are majestic and comprehensive. On the basis of biblical passages and reflections on these texts, we have only lifted a corner of the veil in this book, always from the viewpoint of the living Rosycross of the last four centuries. Although it is only a fraction of what you can know and experience in this area, it is enough to direct your life in such a way that your deepest inner being can fully develop on your journey through life, and that you may experience eternal values. Jan van Rijckenborgh writes about this journey in 1960 in the preface to his book ‘The Egyptian Arch-Gnosis and its call in the eternal present 2’ :

‘Man, who are you? Where do you come from? Where are you going? Since the dawn of man’s appearance in the dialectical field of existence, these profound questions have been posed by the mysterious sphinx to all travellers on their endless wanderings through the desert of earthly life. The answers, shown in consciousness, directedness and behaviour, are decisive for life and death. Without true, living, first-hand knowledge of the source of all being and the true purpose of existence, mankind is doomed to perish in darkness, suffering and death, through blindness, delusion and deception. Countless people are seeking desperately for a solution in the threatening crisis which accompanies the end of the present cosmic day, and once again the Gnosis is raising its voice to show them the way to God’s liberating knowledge. Out of the living reality of God, it once again proclaims man’s high calling and shows those who still have ears to hear the ancient way of deliverance, which it has opened again in our times for those of good will. There are those who are deeply disturbed by the self-created social disorganization through which the world and humanity are again approaching ruin, and who inwardly realise the necessity of an immediate, fundamental reversal of life. In the profound wisdom of the Egyptian Arch-Gnosis and its absolute requirements, such persons will joyfully and gratefully recognise the shining light of the Path to the Truth and The Life.’

This book also aims to make the call sound again, as it also echoed in another way in the manuscript ‘The Call of the Rosicrucian Brotherhood’ in the year 1614. In this manifesto the hope was expressed that the human being will finally realise his nobility and glory and will understand for what reason he is called a microcosm. The key of the duality Most people are not yet aware that they are like the Egyptian sphinx: half animal and half human. With that experiential knowledge of the duality in man – a mortal personality that lives in an immortal microcosm – the deeper meaning of many classical spiritual texts can be understood. The great sphinx near the pyramids of Giza in Egypt was for many centuries hidden under the desert sand. In the same vein, the knowledge of the duality in man has been buried for centuries under the thick layers of sand and dust of materialism and theology.

Ahrimanic and Luciferic forces have had great success with their deception but are beginning to lose their power as more and more people awaken inwardly, realise their nobility and glory, and
want to walk the narrow path – the way back. Satanic forces have a great sense of self-preservation and will therefore take even stronger action to be able to continue to withdraw vital life energies from humanity. So we can understand why the horrors in the world seem to increase, and why fear is universally induced to manipulate people and keep them from a spiritual development.

When the light starts to shine more strongly, the powers of darkness start to move in reaction. A polarization then takes place, a separation between the goats and the sheep. We read about this In the parable of the talents:

‘For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not, even that which he hath shall be taken away’ (Matthew 25:29).

This statement relates to inner treasure and not to material possessions. We find a similar idea in the last book of the Bible where we read:

‘He that is unrighteous, let him do unrighteousness still: and he that is filthy, let him be made filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him do righteousness still: and he that is holy, let him be made holy still’ (Revelation 22:11).

The Revelation of John – also known as the Apocalypse, which literally means ‘revelation’ – is a very remarkable book of the Bible written in mystery language which the author received in part from a divine source and to which he added based on his own experience and extensive knowledge of the spiritual tradition of which he was an adherent. Using numerous symbolic representations with elements that we also find in many other books of the Bible, important knowledge is conveyed of the inner processes that a person as well as groups of people experience when they go the gnostic path of inner healing. We might call this advanced Christianity.

Individual and group
Up until now we have mainly written about the opportunities for spirit-soul development in the individual human being. This process of transformation or regeneration of an individual can take place in conjunction with a group of individuals who together focus on such a development within an authentic spiritual tradition. Nothing is known historically of the author of the Revelation of John that was probably written around the end of the first century. He writes that he has visions while imprisoned on Patmos, a Greek island in the Aegean Sea, near the west coast of Turkey. In the introduction we read:

‘The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show unto his servants, even the things which must shortly come to pass: and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John; who bare witness of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, even of all things that he saw. Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of the prophecy, and keep the things that are written therein: for the time is at hand’ (Revelation 1:1-3).

Here a man who has received God’s grace is spoken about, a man called John, for the name John means: God is merciful. Through his linkage with the Christ Force, concentrated in the god-human hierarchy, the universal Brotherhood, he sees within himself what must soon happen. He records his impressions so that those who read or hear these words will be able to elevate themselves inwardly to the spirit-soul world and also experience the same great ecstasy. From the opening words it is clear that the words of this prophecy are intended as an invocation that a completely new and majestic development is possible.

John experiences ordinary earthly life as oppressive. Therefore he distances himself from it as if he were on an island, all the better to focus and persevere on the way that Jesus teaches. In that attitude of dedicated surrender, he is helped by the Brotherhood. He gains insight into the plan of God – the Word – and becomes a resident of the kingdom that is not of this world. He writes: ‘I John, your brother and partaker with you in tribulation and kingdom and patience [which are] in Jesus, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus’ (Revelation 1:9)

On the basis of such prophecy, people who are ready can go the gnostic path and come to the fulfilment described in symbolic language in chapters 21 and 22 of the Revelation of John. The author sees a new heaven and a new earth, because the first heaven and the first earth have passed away. He also notes that the sea is no more. With the latter observation he means to say that he no longer experiences influences from the reflection sphere, so full of illusion.

Billions of people are eagerly awaiting the fulfilment of the prophecy of a new heaven and a new earth, because they experience the great tribulation of these times. Many have predicted when that wonderful situation would become reality. They were wrong because none of the predicted essential changes on earth ever took place. They did not grasp that John’s prophecy does not relate to a renewal on a planetary or even cosmic level, but to a renewal on the microcosmic level of the individual and also at the level of a spiritually aspiring group.

When a group of people join together to go the way that leads to true Life, an etheric, astral and mental force field is generated, through which the members of the group are interconnected and from which they live. We can see such a group of spiritually striving people as the first earth and their force field the first heaven.

A new heaven and a new earth

If such a communal force field or group-body becomes stronger as a result of the perseverance of its members, it will generate an ever higher vibration connecting it with the Brotherhood at a certain moment whereby a living bridge is built between the group on earth and the Brotherhood: a heavenly ladder through which divine powers descend and ascend. Then the first heaven has passed away and there is a new heaven through which the group on earth is influenced and renewed. The outcome of this process we may symbolically call the new earth. Then a new Jerusalem has descended from heaven, like a golden, crystalline city that radiates in great splendour. The precious stones and gates mentioned in Revelation 21 are symbolic of the twelve tribes of Israel, the twelve apostles and other symbol systems (see image 9).

The pure connecting field in which the Spirit descends from on high makes it possible for members of the group to become inwardly reborn if they live out of that protective field, which is also referred to as the living body or the invisible temple. We may compare it to a kind of womb in which the still embryonic spirit-soul can grow. The classical Rosicrucians from the seventeenth century called that field the ‘domus Sancti Spiritus’, the house of the Holy Spirit. People with a level of vibration that does not meet a certain minimum level of purity do not have access to this field. The classical Rosicrucians conclude in their first manifesto, the ‘Fama Fraternitatis R.C.’ from 1614 therefore with the following words:

And this we can declare with certainty that whosoever wil go with us
earnestly and whole-heartedly will enjoy the fruits thereof as to matter,
body and soul. But he who is false-hearted or only greedy for our treasures,
can in no way cause us harm, but will bring himself to utter ruin and
destruction. Thus our Building, even if thousands were to see it from
nearby, will forever remain untouched, indestructible and totally hidden
from the wicked world. Under the shadow of thy wings, O Jehovah!

The Rosicrucians who formulated these words were Lutheran scholars who were part of the so-called Tübingen circle in southern Germany. Martin Luther (1483-1546) is one of the church reformers who have transformed the rocky thistle-infested field into a fertile arable land, in which the seed of outer Christianity could grow into a harvest for the inner Christianity of the Rosycross. The Rose-cross can be seen in the Luther-rose or the Lutheran seal, with which the great reformer gave expression to his theology and with which he authorised his correspondence. In a letter he writes about this seal:

‘There is first to be a cross, black, and placed in a heart, which should
be of its natural colour (red), to put me in mind that faith in Christ
crucified saved us. For if one believes from the heart, he will be justified.
Such a heart is to be in the midst of a white rose, to symbolize
that faith gives joy, comfort, and peace. Therefore the rose is to be
white, not red, for white is the colour of the spirits and of all angels.
The rose moreover is fixed in a sky-blue field, symbolising that such joy
in the Spirit and in faith is a beginning of the future heavenly joy. And
around this field is a golden ring, to signify that such bliss in heaven is
endless, and more precious than all joys and goods, just as gold is the
most valuable and precious metal.’

The white, red and golden rose

The seal of Luther reflects the joyful and hopeful beginning of a human who will make straight his paths for his Lord. It refers to the first mystery of the awakening of the dormant spirit-spark, which the Rosicrucians designate with ‘We are born of God’ and which culminates in the blossoming of the white rose: the connection between the personality and the soul on the basis of the spirit-spark in the heart. This is symbolically the feast of Saint John, the commemoration of the birth of John the Baptist, traditionally celebrated during midsummer on June 24.

The rose in Luther’s seal is not yet attached to the cross. That cannot be expected as yet from a pupil who has just set out on his way to the first mystery. The pupil of the soul in the second mystery must begin to live from the prayer ‘Your will be done’ and as such take up his cross by putting the vertical dimension central in his life. The Rosicrucians formulate this as ‘In Jesus we die’.

In the second mystery, the horizontal bar of the personality is connected to the vertical beam of the spirit-soul and at the intersection of the cross blossoms: the red rose. This is symbolised by the birth of Jesus in the cave, which is commemorated at Christmas. The ego-directed blood soul in the open space behind the frontal bone in the forehead will then dissipate and the pupil voluntarily sheds his etheric blood to propel the yearning Spirit forward on the liberating path, just as the mythical pelican feeds her young with her own heart blood.

‘Jesus says to his disciples If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me’ (Matthew 16:24).

In the person who perseveres in this, at a given moment the golden wonder flower in the head sanctuary unfolds. A lasting bond with the Holy Spirit results, enveloping the cross of nature in a
golden glow by the cross of salvation. This is the mystery of the golden rose, the inner Easter of the resurrection, the third mystery that the Rosicrucians express as: ‘Through the Holy Spirit we are reborn’.

Luther was one of many pioneers in the field of religion who prepared for the influence of the Rosycross becoming visible in society. The doctor and philosopher Paracelsus fulfilled a similar task, but in his case more directed to the domain of science. In the field of art, we may mention the Flemish painter Jan van Eyck (1390-1441) as a pioneer who prepared the ground for the Rosicrucian impulse. Historically, little is known about him but his paintings speak volumes to the initiated.

The red turban worn by Jan van Eyck on a presumed self-portrait of around 1433 resembles a red rose. This in itself does not mean much. His world-famous polyptych (a painting divided into several sections) is more convincing. Originally his formidable masterpiece in Ghent bore the title ‘The New Jerusalem’, but under the influence of the church it was later called ‘The Lamb of God’, probably to draw attention to the dogma of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus that for the initiate Jan van Eyck had a completely different meaning than what the church taught at that time. It is said that Hubert van Eyck, the older brother of Jan van Eyck, who died in 1426, began the altarpiece, and that his younger brother Jan later completed it in 1432.

The researcher Antoon Vanherpe argues that Jan van Eyck was not only a painter, but a universal man (homo universalis) in the Northern Renaissance, as was the Italian Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) in the southern Renaissance.

The Lamb of God

Van Eyck’s very realistic and at the same time deeply symbolic masterpiece The Lamb of God can never have been made by just one person, according to Vanherpe, among other reasons because only during very few days in the year could he have painted because of the harsh winters. As well, all the details demanded a lot of time and Jan van Eyck also travelled a lot. Vanherpe is of the opinion that a group of Flemish miniaturists have together completed the work, as well as some of his other paintings, under the direction of Jan van Eyck.

We know that Jan van Eyck was also the chamberlain of Duke Philip the Good and that he was paid well to make long journeys. Precisely why this was is not known. It is assumed that he was also a diplomat. The Italian painter, architect and art historian Giorgio Vasari praises Jan van Eyck in his writings for his painting, calls him an alchemist and writes that he is the inventor of oil paint.

The polyptych ‘The Lamb of God’ in the cathedral of Ghent, dedicated to John, and was open only during public holidays. The church-goers could then take a look at the colourful mysteries of birth, life and death, comparable to the way in which pupils in the mysteries could come to inner knowledge by studying and contemplating twenty-two images in the now ruined temple of Memphis in Egypt. These depictions were later included in what is called the Hermetic Tarot.
On the twelve panels of the closed polyptych of the brothers Van Eyck we can recognise the state of person who has not yet awakened inwardly. We see three levels: a higher, a middle and a lower level. These correspond respectively to the spirit, the soul and the personality.

At the bottom left is the patron of the polyptych and at the bottom right is his wife. They are in a dark room and worship the carved figures of John the Baptist and John the Evangelist, because that is where they are at spiritually speaking, they cannot do otherwise. These two well-meaning people are faced with the assignment of making their paths straight for their Lord, for although the light shines in the darkness, the darkness did not comprehend it. They are still strongly influenced by Ahriman but find the courage to continue in the words of the Jewish prophets Zechariah (upper left) and Micah (top right), as well as of the pagan prophetesses called sibyls and of the archangel Gabriel, all of whom announce the birth of the inner Christ.

When the polyptych is opened, we see a colourful and radiant scene of twelve panels in which the prophecies have become reality: there is a new heaven, the upper part in which much gold shines, and a new earth, the natural landscape on the lower part. The once naked Adam and Eve from Paradise are now clothed with glory and power after many incarnations on earth and following the spiritual path through the power of Christ – the blood of the lamb. The upper part thus shows the beginning and the end of the journey of the microcosm: the alpha and the omega, the first and the last letter of the Greek alphabet.

The renewed threefold human

The threefold human reigns from heaven and is regenerated through water and spirit according to the divine will, the divine wisdom and the divine activity. In the polyptych they are represented as Jesus, Mary and John the Baptist. They stand for the spirit, the soul and the renewed personality, who work on earth with the forces of heaven. In the ancient Egyptian mysteries they are referred to as Osiris, Isis and Horus. We can also find them in the first five arcana of the hermetic tarot: the high priest and ruler (arcana 5 and 4), the empress and the high priestess (arcana 3 and 2) and the magician (arcanum 1).

Jesus is not represented in the painting as a suffering man hanging from a cross, as was customary from about the sixth century on and still is in the Roman Catholic church, but as a so-called pantocrator: the ruler of heaven and earth. The Latin text in the golden ornamental arch above the throne is derived from proclamations by church fathers and the translation reads:

This is the Almighty in His divine majesty.
The Supreme Being in His mild virtuousness.
Giver of liberty through His immeasurable generosity.

The red garment is symbolic for the fire of the spirit. The papal tiara on the head indicates a fully developed crown chakra. The two ribbons on the tiara are green and have three green tassels at their ends. The colour green refers to new life and the six tassels can be seen as a symbol for the six emanations or six creation days. On the green ribbons are rose-crosses composed of pearls, symbol of overcoming pain and sorrow as well as of rubies, the blood-red gemstone that strengthens the heart activity and therefore our life force. The powerful radiation activity of the spirit-spark is expressed in the mandala of pearls and precious stones at the heart sanctuary.

Mary, symbol of a renewed consciousness, wears a crown on which three red roses and four white lilies bloom. This indicates that the soul has been renewed by the seven rays of the Spirit. She wears a blue robe which indicates contemplation, and she is represented here as Sophia, the Greek goddess of wisdom, who was also important to the gnostics around the beginning of our era.

The text in the ornamental arch of her throne is taken from verses 29 and 26 of the seventh chapter of the apocryphal Old Testament Bible book of the Wisdom of Solomon and reads:

Wisdom is more beautiful than the sun and the stars. She is far superior
to daylight. Wisdom is like a mirror reflecting the eternal light
of God’s deeds and goodness.’

John the Baptist, symbol of the renewed personality, is no longer calling in the desert. He still wears his camel’s hair cloak, symbol for the physical body, but he is also robed with the cloak of love, the new light vesture, which is represented in green because of the vitality, the hope and the opened heart chakra, all of which are associated with the colour green. The statement in the ornamental arch of his throne is derived from the church fathers and reads:

‘This is John the Baptist, greater than man, like the angels a summary
of the law, seed of the gospel, voice of the apostles, silence of
the prophets, lamp of the world, witness of the Lord.’

It is significant that the Van Eyck brothers have not situated the place of action in the lower part of the polyptych in one of the many churches, of which the prestigious towers are visible on the horizon, but in a green landscape shown in detail. According to them, the new earth will come into being outside of the established churches. Furthermore, it is significant that the living water from the source in the foreground does not flow towards the churches but towards the spectators who allow the images that the painters made to work within them and influence them.

The four smaller panels at the bottom are known, from left to right, as the righteous judges, the knights of Christ, the hermits and the pilgrims. They correspond to the sensory world, the astral world, the mental world and the spiritual world. In the tarot, these become worlds and are denoted respectively by coins, swords, cups and wands.

The human being on the path of regeneration, of re-creation, gradually becomes active in all those four worlds. However, it is also possible to go a degenerative path in these areas. Then the Bible text applies: ‘Without are the dogs, and the sorcerers, and the fornicators, and the murderers, and the idolaters, and every one that loveth and maketh a lie’ (Revelation 22:15).

On the degenerative path the righteous judges have become idolaters, the knights of Christ have become murderers, the hermits turned into fornicators and the pilgrims into sorcerers who let themselves be led by false christs and false prophets who do great miracles (Matthew 24:24).

A great multitude that no one can count

Fortunately, there is a great multitude, a crowd that no one can count, from all nations, tribes and peoples and tongues from the four corners of the earth that stands before the throne and before the Lamb. They listen to the hymns and the music of the angels. Together they form the new earth of the body of Christ in which four offices are distinguished (Ephesians 4:11): apostles (front right), prophets (front left), evangelists (rear left) and shepherds and teachers (rear right). John writes about them:

‘And I say unto him, My lord, thou knowest. And he said to me, These
are they that come of the great tribulation, and they washed their
robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are
they before the throne of God; and they serve him day and night in his
temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall spread his tabernacle
over them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither
shall the sun strike upon them, nor any heat: for the Lamb that is
in the midst of the throne shall be their shepherd, and shall guide them
unto fountains of waters of life: and God shall wipe away every tear
from their eyes’ (Revelation 7:14-17).

We hope that the texts on the mysteries of birth, life and death have contributed to an appreciation and recognition of your inborn spiritual nobility and glory, and that your name may also be written in the book of life. We thank you for your attention and commitment and conclude with the text which Christian Rosycross reads on an engraved plate at a fountain in a garden on the fourth day of the alchemical wedding.

After so much harm has been inflicted upon the human race,
I, Hermes, being the primordial found, flow forth here as a healing
remedy, according to divine decree and assisted by the art.
Let him who can, drink of me.
Let him who will, cleanse himself in me.
Let him who dares, stir me.
Drink, brothers and sisters, and live.