Contemplate through Me [the Divine Mind], the world and consider its beauty … See that all things are full of light. See the earth, settled in the midst of all, the great nurse who nourishes all earthly creatures, All is full of Soul, and all beings are in movement.
— Corpus Hermetica
We continue our journey through the dusty, mysterious halls of occult history, led by Thalia, holding in Her hand the Queen of the Garden, the rose.
With their roots deep in the Hermetic magical and occult traditions, the Rosicrucians and Freemasons had, as their central symbol, the rose (the soul) and the cross (the body of the four elements). For increasingly, Freemasonry rites were blending with the Rosicrucian practices. The Rosy Cross itself had become a Masonic symbol, and by 1782, Freemasons had embraced Egyptian, Greek and Druidic practices into their alchemical mysteries.
Lest you imagine that these practitioners were just a bunch of kooks, let me note that Sir Isaac Newton was a practicing alchemist and Hermeticist. This was proven when some of his unpublished papers were sold at auction in 1936, taking the scientific community by surprise.
His assistant, J. T. Desaguliers was a prominent Freemason and Grand Master of the Premier Grand Lodge of England. In fact, during the eighteenth century, Masonic lodges in France became conduits for circulating scientific texts which could not be made available publicly.
And as Cynthia Giles notes in The Tarot: History, Mystery and Lore, when the Tarot was undergoing its transition from card game to magical tool, “The originators of esoteric Tarot (Court de Gébelin, Lévi, Papus, Mathers) were all involved in fraternal organizations that defined themselves as part of the ‘Rosicrucian’ tradition.
“Indeed, it was the network of such secret societies – the Freemasons, the Martinists, and so on – which kept vestiges of Hermetic philosophy alive…”
The magical traditions in the Neo-Pagan revivals today owe a great debt to these societies, for in many ways, they kept the flame of magic alive, preserving (however imperfectly) the fragile threads of philosophical and spiritual systems from the pre-Christian world. The Hermetic mysteries are inextricably woven through much of the early thought and rituals of the early founders of modern Witchcraft and Pagan practices.
For instance, in Hermetic alchemy, the red rose is regarded as a masculine, active principle (Sulfur, expansion), whereas the white rose represents the feminine, receptive principle (Salt, contraction). The combination of white and red roses symbolizes unity and the alchemical wedding.
Tomorrow, we’ll see what happened next!