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06 July, 2018

Rosicrucians in the World or So I'm a Rosicrucian, Now What?


Recently, a discussion concerning Rosicrucianism and what it is supposed to be doing in the world came up. What follows are some thoughts on the subject. These are meant to be in no way definitive, final, or particularly well thought out.

As seems to be the case with many esoteric societies, the emphasis most people have is on the Work done on the self or practitioners. And quite rightly, too; we are the things we are most able to effect change upon. If, however, we take the Fama Fraternitatis seriously, which I think, as Rosicrucians, we should, then the self is clearly not the capstone of the Work, it is merely the beginning of something greater. What exactly? The Fama gives us a hint: “That none of them should profess any other thing, then to cure the sick, and that gratis.”

This quotation tells us one thing for certain, that healing the sick, and that gratis, should be the only thing Rosicrucians profess to do. However, it also implies something else; Rosicrucians are to only profess to do nothing other than heal the sick. That doesn’t mean that is the only thing Rosicrucians are about, it’s just all they’re supposed to say about what they’re about. What else are Rosicrucians about? The Fama tells us that, as does Boccalini’s Universal Reformation of Mankind, which was originally published with the Fama as a kind of preface. Shortly, the Rosicrucians were involved in political science and the reformation of European society along certain philosophical and spiritual lines.

It is a little more difficult to determine exactly what Rosicrucian political science is too look like. The Fama certainly suggests an ideology where the intellectual and philosophical elite of Europe would get together and exchange information and teachings and so improve one another and, through them, society at large. Fra. C.R.C. abandons that objective in despair over the egos of those with whom he conversed relatively quickly, but it still suggests where R+C PolySci was heading; a family of humanity, likely overseen by philosophers, theologians, and other intellectuals.

Still that doesn’t tell us much, and although Boccalini certainly goes on about reformation, the text appears to be more farcical than practical. Fortunately, we have access to some of the earlier writers who influenced the R+C movement, at least as it came about in Germany. These include Johannes Valentinus Andreae, presumed author of the third R+C manifesto, The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz, Tommaso Campanella, who was an important influence on Andreae, Marsilio Ficino, who was a major influence on Andreae, and Plato, who influenced the whole lot. Of these, Plato, Campanella, and Andreae, wrote utopias of a sort, with Campanella’s City of the Sun being especially based on the Republic and Andreae’s based on the latter two. These utopias saw, amongst other things, a great and fantastically regulated city. They are ruled by philosopher sovereigns who, with the aid of a military class, kept the city healthy, both within and without.

The makeup of the city governments tend towards a form of communism, in its truest sense. There is no currency, all people have a role to play in the city’s daily life, and everyone’s needs are provided for by the work done in the city. Education is considered of utmost importance in each of these great republics and much space is given to education and educators.

Plato associates his well running republic with virtue and the rational soul should not be overlooked. This is especially true given the primary claim of the Rosicrucians: healing. This also brings us to what, at least for our purposes, might be considered Andreae’s more important utopia, The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz.

The Chymical Wedding is an alchemical allegory, but also, I would argue, a hidden utopia. Given that the Republic is an allegory for justice and the soul, but also a utopic text, there is nothing preventing us from viewing the Wedding in such a way as well. The story presents us with Christian Rosenkreutz towards the end of his life who undergoes several trials on his way to a royal wedding. While the trials have to do with alchemical processes many of them also present to us an idealized morality, just as does the Republic. The Wedding’s morality are solidly a form virtue ethics, similar, though not identical, to Plato’s. Further, the Wedding implies that most of the figures in the story, the wedding guests who do not undergo the alchemical trials but are already part of the court, are themselves virtuously perfect, so far as possible. Those who pass the trials of the wedding are themselves seen to be in a similar moral state. This is not surprising as we do find a connection between success in the alchemical Work and the morality or ethics of the alchemist.

What does any of this have to do with what Rosicrucians are supposed to be doing out in the world? Utopias are, after all, basically fantasies, the word itself designating a place that does not, or cannot, exist. While this is true that is no reason to completely discount them as being actionable. They provide a prototype, a Platonic Form, as it were, of a perfected human civilization. Even if such a thing is ultimately not possible does not mean that we should not strive towards it. Rosicrucian political science is exactly like that; an ideal to strive towards: a city ruled by the wise, rather than the popular or hereditary, which provides for its own with everyone living more or less in harmony with one another.

But there’s more, which might be at the root of the Rosicrucian profession. This profession is itself important and while the common translation leaves open the possibility that Rosicrucians do more than heal the sick, and that gratis, Christopher McIntosh’ excellent 2014 translation of the Fama reads somewhat differently: “None of them should practise any other profession than to cure the sick and that gratis” (30).

Here they do not profess but actually practice nothing other than the curing of the sick. And yet all of the above still holds true: Rosicrucian political science is dedicated to the curing of the sick. Plato shows, and I believe those discussed above follow, the Republic is analogous to the soul. The well-functioning city, with each of its parts working smoothly within itself and in relation to the other parts, is made up of people whose souls are similarly internally and externally harmonious. It is the role of the sovereigns to ensure this and in doing so not only maintain the well-being of their population but also their ability to be happy through their becoming most fully themselves. That is, to become like God, so far as possible. To achieve such a state is to achieve the full curing of the soul from error and its separation from its divine nature which occurred during its fall from the heavens. That this is strikingly similar to alchemical notions is, especially in the light of The Chymical Wedding, in no way surprising.

Where does this leave us? First, it gives us a starting point to explore Rosicrucian political science. We know who influenced the Rosicrucians and the Fama and Wedding both give us direction, albeit often vaguely, as to how those influences were applied. Second, it tells us that we should be looking not only towards our own spiritual development but, ultimately, to the development of all those around us. The philosopher sovereign is never fully happy until their people are happy, and that occurs through the fulfillment of their real selves as divine soul mixed with a body. But as for the third, exactly what form R+C PolySci should take and how it should be applied to the world, that is something the philosopher sovereign must decide, in alignment with their own divine nature. First we must go inwards but then we must, like the escapee of Plato’s Cave who has seen the Forms above, go outwards and bring others to that divine Light.


N.B. There are here two caveats. The first is that while these Platonic utopias have many similarities, they are by no means identical. Andreae’s especially is Christocentric, something that is less true for Campanella and, of course, completely missing from Plato. Because of this, each of these sources should be understood individually as well as corporately and with the R+C manifestos in mind. The second is that while there are a number of great ideas present within each of these utopias, they also tend towards having a eugenics program, which is modernly directly connected with fascist, and racist, ideology. While such practices might make sense allegorically as found in Plato, they have no place in modern society, Rosicrucian or otherwise.

19 January, 2015

Carry Water, Chop Wood?

This has come up a few times today. Okay, it came up once and then I brought it up again, but I'm going with it (and apparently this will be more rambling than usual). It seems to me there is an importance to the integration of spiritual work with our everyday lives. I've haven't always looked at it this way. A decade or so ago I would have gone in for the "magical schizophrenia" approach, keeping my mundane and esoteric lives strictly separate. Today, not so much. True, not all magical traditions are also spiritual traditions, but where they are, it seems that our spiritual work should have a practical effect on our lives. That is, doing the Work should change us.

Change us into what? Well, ourselves, I guess. That’s the carry water, chop wood part. Except, it sort of isn’t. According to Iamblichus (you knew I’d bring him up eventually), all souls have free will, and as such, may project any life into generation they choose. The thing is, often, they choose poorly. The later Platonists, with possibly the exception of Plotinus’ school, held the soul was in a somewhat messed up state. This is for two reasons: 1) it is ontologically posterior to Nous, and so must participate Nous for intellection, and 2) its “fallen” state makes that hard.

So, the soul, which might be in the series of Aphrodite might pick a Hermetic life. For reasons. Or, rather, due not fully participating Nous, without reason. So, unless we’re one of those really cool sage-type people whose souls do not identify themselves with their projected lives in any way, and are perfectly in line with their series, what we start out as might be us, but it is not representative of the soul as itself.

So, we might be carrying water and chopping wood, but we’re pretty much doing it wrong. So, the Work, from this view anyway, is supposed to get us to be more in line with our soul rather than the life it has decided to project. So, slowly, we begin to carry water and chop wood more like ourselves. But this is a result of the Work. Not necessarily in a “poof now you’re perfectly you” sort of way. Rather, in a slow, hard to see if it is the work or just growing up (I’m not done growing up yet, either) sort of way.

But if our spiritual lives don’t lead to this, then what are they doing and how do we know they’re doing it?


27 December, 2014

Incarnating the Light

I was going to write a solstice hymn, as I have typically done for the last few years, but I’ve done enough of that for the last several months that it seemed somewhat unappealing. So, something else instead.

Of late, I’ve been thinking about the soul and incarnation and, at least in my part of the world, it so happens today is the Winter Solstice which, no doubt amongst other things, is a time celebrated for the returning of the light to the world. Some of the language used for this includes “birth” and “reborn.” Outside of the winter solstice, it is also Christmas time and Hanukah, both of which celebrate the light, though in fairly different ways. In any case, the Light is borne, if not born, into the world.

The light, or Light, of course, hasn’t gone anywhere. It is eternal and omnipresent. Sometimes we’re just not looking, something about those who have eyes to see. But I don’t really want to talk about that. Instead, it is that birth aspect upon which I’d like to focus. The Light is born, or reborn, into the world. That bit. And, because humanity’s favorite subject is itself, or possibly that’s just me, I’d like to try to relate that to us.

In De Anima, Iamblichus gives two reasons why souls incarnate. One of them has to do with having the same number of beings in generation are there are in the heaves and beyond. The other, and right now more relevant, has to do with bringing the glory of the gods into manifestation. Taken one way, we might say we are down here to incarnate the gods. Not necessarily in a literal sense, but still, to bring the gods down here in a way they are otherwise not themselves. Because they, or It, is already down here; the divine blessings always flow. Again, we’re just not looking.

A number of religions have used this time of the year to celebrate the incarnation of a god, often repeat with solar or light symbolism being born. Some take this as literal, some allegorical, some mythological, etc. At the very least, I try to take it seriously, because this is what I’m talking about. Coming into manifestation to bring the divine into the world in a way different from which it already is. Just like us.

But unlike us, those gods see the light, are logoi, actively bearing that light into the world. They do it on purpose. A lot of us try, some with more success than others. I am somewhat reminded of Plato’s allegory of the sun, which I will no doubt imperfectly relate. The physical sun represents the Good or the Form of the Good. Through the light of sun we are able to see things around us, even if we can’t look at the sun directly. Through the light of the Good, we are able to see the divine around us, even if we cannot see the Good directly. The thing is, we’re part of the light of the Good. Photons made physical, as it were. Perhaps not quite so lofty as the incarnating Light gods celebrated around this time, but still, ultimately, divine, even if the least of the divine. And yes, we have other things to do than just be bits of divine light. And those other things are important. But so is being a bit of divine light, because it is through us others are able to see the divine that is all around them, including the divine within themselves.

And this, I think, connects us. We need each other for this, because, as Iamblichus writes, “it is impossible to partake as an individual of the universal orders, but only in communion with the divine choir of those who, with minds united, experience a common uplift." (In Phileb., Fr. 6.)
We’re here to bring the divine glory into manifestation, but not to do it alone.

Perhaps the hymn was a better idea.

A blessed solstice to you.

xDionysius
Winter Solstice
2014

20 December, 2014

Time and the Soul

Of late, I've been thinking about the relationship between Transcendent Time and the Soul. Transcendent Time is, according to Iamblichus, an image of Eternity and the three noetic moments. However, Transcendent Time is in the realm of the soul rather than the intelligable and intellective realms that are prior to the realm of the soul or psychic realm. The three moments of Time coming from Eternity, as found in In Tim. fr. 65, are “the idea of ‘was’ and ‘will be,” “becoming younger and older,” and “coming to be at the same time or having now come to be or destined to be on another occasion."

What does this have to do with the soul? The soul, our souls, are in the last part of the psychic realm, with the World Soul and Whole Soul above. Individual souls are the third moment of the psychic realm, as it were, coming from the World Soul, which comes from the Whole Soul, which is Nous, or the Divine Mind, as reflected into the realm of the soul.

This is where we connect with Transcendent Time. The Whole Soul should be related to "the idea of 'was' and 'will be." The World Soul to "becoming younger and older," and individual souls to "coming to be at the same time or having now come to be or destined to be on another occasion."

To me, that last part sounds a whole lot like incarnation. Iamblichus talks about the lives projected from a given soul. For instance, a soul can project a Mercurial or Venusian life, and that incarnation will live in accord with the projected life. Individual lives are bound by mundane time. But the soul is not. It is not so much that the soul is outside of time but that it is bound by a different kind of time, one which transcends mundane time. Which is probably why it is called Transcendent Time in the first place.

As you can see above, final moment of Transcendent Time consists of three elements, and souls are doing all three of them. Because it is only in mundane time that we have things like before and after, we can presume the soul, in Transcendent Time, doesn't have these and is so engaging in all three elements of the final moment of Transcendent Time all at once. So we might change the wording a bit to "coming to be at the same time and having now come to be and destined to be on another occasion." The soul is all of these at once.

And this, I think, may help explain our relationship to our souls, as we are simply a particular projected life, and while we're bound up in mundane time, experiencing our life in a mono-directional way, the soul is experiencing all the lives it projects at once. Importantly, though, any given projected life isn't the soul itself, but an activity of the soul. What happens when that projection is over (from our point of view, anyway), I've no idea. Certainly, from our perspective, we experience death and we, the individual is gone. The soul, though, I don't know. I would think the projected life is, again from our point of view in linear time, withdrawn back into the soul. From the soul's perspective, the life is simultaneously projected and withdrawn.

Perhaps this is an explanation for at least some of the experiences of union people have in meditation and ecstatic ritual, a momentary experiencing of our life from the point of view of the soul. Maybe.

27 August, 2014

The Limits of Ontology: The Good to Evil in Pseudo-Dionysius

Last year I gave a presentation at the Apostolic Johannite Church's annual Conclave on ontology, good, and evil in pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. While the paper itself is available for download via academia.edu (https://www.academia.edu/3618989/The_Limits_of_Ontology_The_Good_to_Evil_in_Pseudo-Dionysius), the presentation was also video recorded. These videos are now in the process of being put on YouTube.

The first one is available here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Lcm02Vd7rQ

The second here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJDq0zrdKZY

When all five of them are available I will put them up in a single post.

29 July, 2014

Thinking about Miasma - Also, a plug for my book.

So, it has been approximately a millennium since my last post. My apologies. During that time I've been working on a book about Iamblichean Neoplatonism. This has since been published as Living Theurgy Avalonia Books. An excuse more than anything else, but I thought I'd get the book plug out of the way.

Something I do not talk a great deal about in the book, largely because Iamblichus does not talk about it, is the concept of miasma. Miasma is important in pre-Christian Hellenic religion as it is something that separates us from the Gods. It is ritual impurity, but an impurity not associated with immortality; it is not something associated with sin, either in the various Biblical senses of the term, nor in the modern sense. That is to say, what makes miasma do its thing is not necessarily us being bad people, though being bad people, depending on how we do that, can also bring about miasma. For example, if you come in contact with a dead body, you coat yourself with miasma, whether or not you were responsible for making that body dead.

Also, everyone comes into contact with miasma. It is normal. Coming into contact with dirt, eating certain foods, sex, etc., all of these bring about miasma. Again, these are not immoral things, but they do, or can, bring about a separation between us and the divine. My question is how does this make sense from a Platonist, and especially a Neoplatonist, position?

From the perspective of late Platonism, what makes sense to me, is a relationship between miasma and the tokens, symbols, and signs of Gods. The theurgy of late antiquity shows us these tokens, etc., which are sort of like the God's thoughts of themselves, are sewn into the realm of generation. They are all around us, in plants, animal, and minerals. The heliotrope, the lion, and the rooster all contain different tokens of Helios or Apollo, for instance, with the rooster containing the most; i.e. being most like the Sun itself. When we get enough of these tokens and symbols together, and engage with and in them, we activate, as it were, the same tokens within ourselves, bringing us closer to their divine source by making us more like, or more harmonious, to that source. This may recall to us Socrates' famous "to become like God, so far as possible."

So what is miasma? I miasma is all that stuff we do and/or come in contact with, that does the opposite of what the tokens do. Added to this, it may also be engaging with token that are different from what we are trying to do. If we are trying to invoke Attis during his festival, we should not eat nuts, which are forbidden during this time. Why? Well, Attis castrates himself to cleanse himself of his inclination towards generation. It is not that eating nuts is somehow mocking the god, and thus irritating him and causing him to withdraw his blessings from us. The Gods are, after all, impassable in Platonic thought. Rather, the tokens inherent in nuts may be understood as being opposite of what we want to do. Eating nuts takes us out of harmony from the god. Attis' blessings are still there, and always are, but by being out of harmony we no longer have access to them. To further the music metaphor, we can use the idea of resonance. When two strings are tuned to the same note, but at difference octaves, one will vibrate when the other is plucked. The divine notes are always signing throughout creation, but miasma knocks us out of tune.