A Travel Through Esoteric Wisdom
A Talk at the Seattle Valley Tacoma Scottish Rite. Altay Birand 330 S.G.I.G. Ankara/Turkey
Throughout Human history there has been an undercurrent of esoteric lore. This has sometimes surfaced as a belief system in itself but mostly has been an understream beneath orthodox religions. Throughout History, human wisdom has almost always accepted the idea of a supreme creator. The same wisdom has also dictated that men could approach his creator through individual worship without any intermediaries. Orthodox belief systems imposed conditions thwarting this. Hence human wisdom yearned for a sanctuary to exercise freedom of thought and a free discussion of the ideas resulting therefrom. This led the seeker to take refuge in Brotherhoods called College, Union, Guild or such. Out of necessity these institutions worked secretly and used a multi-degree system of teaching.
This paper is a short story of the source and transfer of such esoteric wisdom which played a distinctive role in the evolution towards enlightenment. One institutional vehicle for the movement was Chapters of Rosy-Cross (Rose Croix).
Emergence of Rose Croix
Some researchers state that Rose Croix has first developed in Ancient Egypt. Whether such a pedigree is valid is a subject of conjecture. Nevertheless, considerable history is proven to lie behind it. Narrators vary on the date of birth of the brotherhood as wide as to the time of ancient Egypt to Plato and Philo being its members.
Its first appearance in Europe was in Germany in the sixteenth century. The movement has succeeded to spread over a large part of Europe in the seventeenth century. Earliest explicit mention of its name was in a book named “General Reformation” by Wilhelm Wessel publishers in Cassel in 1614. An important part of this book comprising some 30 pages is named “Fama Fraternitatis”. This was followed by another called “Confessio Fraternitatis” The books asked Europe to embrace the quest for knowledge with wisdom, called for a reformation of Religion and Science, and denounced those who use religious authority fraudulently or for personal gain. Warnings were also present against false use of alchemy and medicine. The founding of the secret brotherhood two centuries before the appearance of Fama is attributed to a Christian Rosenkreutz.
Fama relates the life and travels of Christian Rosenkreutz. According to this account; Rosenkreutz was born in 1378 and lived for 106 years. He was an orphan who had been raised by the Jesuit order in a monastery. On the other hand some claim that its founder was alchemist and medic Paracelsus who had died in 1541. This group sees the developments in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as a revival.
A year after the appearance of Fama Fraternitatis, another book appeared called the “Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz”, a name with alchemical connotations. In this book he goes through successive initiations and becomes a member of the “Brotherhood of the Golden Stone”. Herein, the term “golden” in one sense can allude to the alchemical allegory where it refers to the most sublime metal symbolizing a “Perfect Man”. The “Stone” in this context is most probably the Philosopher’s stone “Lapis Exilis or Lapis
Elixir”. Thus the book conveys in a way how man purifies to a man of sanctity through hardy initiations.
Many a researcher have proposed that this book was written by Johann Valentin Andrea, a Lutheran priest and that he indeed was behind the founding of the brotherhood. J. Gordon Melton, in his book “Encyclopedic Handbook of Cults in America” draws attention to an interesting point: “It is interesting that Andrea is a fervent Lutheran because Martin Luther’s coat of arms also had a rose and a cross”.
Rosencreutz`s Travel to the East
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Rosencreutz`s life story covers a period of his travels to the Islamic realm of the East in a quest to obtain Eastern Secrets. According to this legend, he first goes to Cyprus, intending to travel to Jerusalem but when his companion dies there he goes to a place called “Damcar” as he is directed by some Eastern wise men. Much doubt has been expressed about the name of the place “Damcar”. Many suggested that it would be Damascus in Syria which was a center of learning. This has led to much controversy as to whether the travel had actually occurred. In the Waite translation it is stated that German editions confused “Damasco” with “Damcar”. “Damasco” is “Damascus”in Syria, but “Damcar” is “Dhamar”, in Arabia. Therefore, it should read “Damcar” rather than “Damasco”. If one takes a close look at Abraham Ortelius’s ancient map of the Middle East as shown in Figure 1, one can discern this city which was a center of learning then. It is in South Yemen where Saabeans of Arabia lived. The mind in the mists of History would inevitable wander to their Biblical Queen Belkis who had traveled to meet King Solomon in Jerusalem.
Continuing the story; the wise men “who knew the secrets of nature” have educated Rosencreutz in the natural sciences such as medicine, physics, mathematics and alchemy. They also gave him a secret book called “M”. It is possible that this may be the famous “Liber Mundi” which is said to contain many secrets.
Three years later Rozenkreutz went on to Egypt where he studied natural history and metaphysical works of legendary Hermes Trismegistus. Then he traveled to Fes. Claimed to be in his own words “every year representatives of Arabian scientists gather here to discuss if better things in arts (science) have been discovered and whether new experimentation proved any of their working hypotheses wrong. Eventually new findings are made to advance Mathematics, Medicine and Magick.”
If one accepts the year 1378 as the year in which Christian Rosenkreutz was born, then it appears that his Middle East adventure must have taken between 1389 and 1402, before the conquest of Istanbul by the Turks in 1453.
Every belief system has two aspects, one exoteric (open) and the other esoteric (concealed) as almost a general rule. Examples are two opposing aspects, like outer and inner, the visible and the concealed, symbolically in Sufism; the rind and the flesh.
Usually the exoteric aspect of a religion teaches morals, giving instructions on being good, tells stories about happenings of the past. The lessons to be derived from these instructions and stories are left to the initiate to discover and these discoveries from time immemorial have been preserved by the real priests and prophets. They have kept their secrets in coded words, symbols, allegories, enigmas. These secrets could only be gained by schooling, the system being to teach them in stages. This may be called successive initiation to the “knowledge” and societies exercising this may be named “Initiatic Societies” as suggested by famous Masonic historian Paul Noudon. At the esoteric core of the doctrine was the idea of the human beings being able to worship without an intermediary and molding of minds to purify man towards (quoting Pike) “a-tonement”. This means the reversal of a church centered world to a man centered world and is contrary to the advantages (material and authoritarian) of the establishment. The established authority was a King or Sultan ruling in the name of God. This inevitably had given rise to a Church-King alliance. Thus, any idea to shake this partnership had to be banished.
At certain times the esoteric core had come to light but was forcibly buried by the establishment. Inquisitions, tribunals were set up by the oligarchy to punish the heathen and the rebellious. Now it is time to query how this esoteric core fed Rose-Croix.
Fountains of Esoteric Knowledge in the East
Figure 2 is a Map of Biblical Fertile Crescent. The name implies a region where many civilizations lived and left their marks. At this juncture it is remarkable that for 200000 years of Human History the intellectual abilities of humans have been dormant until 4000 BC (a merely 2% of the whole time span until our time) when the Sumer (Shumar) kingdom shone in this region. The accumulation of knowledge since then has been astounding.
Figure 2. The Fertile
The most important esoteric system that the medieval times inherited from past unknown of this land is Hermeticism. Thus it is thought expedient to dwell on this vast subject in as concise a way as possible.
A prominent legend of Ancient Egypt is that of Isis- Osiris-Horus: Set (or Tifon) who is jealous of his Priest-King brother Osiris, gouges out his eye, kills him and throws parts of his body in the river Nile. Thus Osiris’s wife Isis becomes a widow. This widow, after seeking for and finding the body parts, puts them together, thanks to the grace of sun-god Ra. Then, using Osiris’s genitals, gives birth to a male child called Heru in ancient Egyptian or Horus in Greek. His name connects to the sun god Ra who helped Isis to compose his father’s parts and he has many eyes. His name Horus (plural Hori because of his numerous eyes) has the syllable “Iri” which means eye in Egyptian Hieroglyphics; in fact a symbol of the eye of Cosmos or of Godly power. The association of his name with the sun furthers when a branch of Sâbiî’s called Mandeists, St.John the Baptist Christians who baptize by water and who still live in Northern Iraq used to call the same Angel of Illumination “Zehrun” which they place in the House of the Sun. In archaic languages, words had consonants only, voiced when spoken. Hence Hermes is written as HRM. To bring out his association with the sun; his name is formed as HI-RA-M which means “Illuminated” because RA is for The Sun, Light, and Illumination. Similarly, with the letter u it becomes Khur-am in Persian where Khur means Light, Sun.
In addition, “Poimander”, which is an addendum to “Corpus Hermeticum” means “Shepherd of People” reminiscent of
the “Shepherd of Hermes” in Greek Mythology. Romans called him “Mercury Trismegiste”.
According to myth; Hermes is the first in history to build a Temple to worship God, to talk about medical science, to warn about the Flood. He has built two pyramids to preserve wisdom, named them “el-Barbâ” and “Ihmîm” and carved all knowledge of his time on their walls. These carvings were hieroglyphic and symbolic lest their meaning be known to the profane. Another legend says that God had revealed his name to him after ascending him to heaven. He had then engraved this name on a golden triangle with its tip down and placed it on an agate stone at the bottom of a deep pit. The pit was protected by nine arches on top of which he built a Temple.
Plato mentions “Theuth” in two places as founder of Arithmetic, Calculus, Geometry, and other sciences. This is purported to be ancient Egypt’s “Thoth”, “Tahuti”, “Thech”, “Tat” which all meant “Guide”. Thoth in Celtic is “Toatha” “Daath” in Kabala; and has become “Death” in English, perhaps because of his legendary role of shepherding souls to their final trial. Ancient Egyptians used the incantation “Aa Aa Tehuti” where “Aa Aa” meant “Thrice Great”. Around 300 BC one sees “Toth-Hermes” pair to be interchangeable. When Greeks translated the sacred “Aa Aa Tahuti” call in their own language as “Trismegistos”, this word gained different connotations. Some Islamic thinkers ascribe to this triple name “Thrice Wizened” and deduce that the blessed triangle consisting of Prophetdom, Wisdom, and Caliphate; representative of Prophet Mohammed’s authority has been bestowed on him by God. While Egyptian “Toth” was transformed
to Greek “Hermes” its pure celestial image was lost and it became a Greek god with cosmic powers.
The short introduction to Hermes above shows that he has had a prominent place in many cultures. That is why the philosophy called Hermeticism has been a source for many esoteric schools of thought.
Hermetic Philosophy (Hermeticism)
In the context of this paper, this subject will be mostly restricted to the Philosophy rather than the Alchemical aspect of Hermeticism.
Extant Hermetic literature is termed “Corpus Hermeticum”. This consists of 17 main Dialogs. One should add to this the 40 passages compiled in AD 50 and the 3 Coptic Manuscripts discovered in 1945 at Nag Hammadi in Egypt. Archaic Hermetism is Egyptian which stresses on discovering and revealing the truth. “Emerald Tablet” is a work that reflects this philosophy. According to this belief system all in Universe has originated from one source, however all were interconnected. Thus; a change at one place resulted in another at another place. Macro cosmos (Universe) and Micro cosmos (Man) were interrelated. The idiom “As Above so below” reflects this view. Hermeticism supposes soul and body to be conjoined and that every substance has a soul. Oneness of God and immortality of the spirit are other elements. At this stage it is worth stressing that the idea of everything in cosmos being connected and a cause at one place can bring about changes at another has been a driving force first for alchemists and then in time for scientists. An early example of this is the “Sâbiî”s of Harran. They tried to utilize the principle above to influence the course of events by trying to
influence celestial events like the motion of the Planets. Their books on astrology and “Liber Hermetis” are fruits of such efforts.
The archaic Egyptian Hermeticism has undergone vast changes in Alexandria that was founded by Alexander the Great in 331 BC. The consequent syncretism is exemplified when one considers the Greek Serapis statue to be amalgamated with the Egyptian Apis originating from a belief in Osiris. The syncretized Hermetic literature reflected beliefs in Ancient Egypt, Pentateuch, Zend-Avesta of Zoroaster as well as Stoicism, Platonism, Neo-Platonism, Pythagorianism and similar trends of thought. According to Michel Eliade this collection was a mixture of Judeo-Egyptian syncretism with a grain of Persian lore. For example; the myth of creation in “Poimander” is very similar to that of the “Pentateuch”. At places the teachings in “Corpus” inclines towards “Dualist Platonism” and also “Pantheist Stoicism”:
There is an invisible God in cosmos which is not created by God directly. Androgynous Nous (the supreme wisdom) gives existence to a Demiurge who then creates the cosmos and then the celestial man (Anthropos). Anthropos gets down to Earth and there unites with Nature (Physis) to give existence to earthly human beings. Meanwhile however; the sacred primary Anthropos remains in heavens. It alone gives life to humans. His life transfers life to self, his light transfers light to intellect (nous). It is this concept that gives rise to the thought that man on earth has a mortal and an immortal
attribute. It is due to this unique characteristic that if man endeavors he can walk towards god with the help of the sacred essence within him. According to this stream of thought; matter is identical with darkness. Light is spirit and illumination is in spirit. Life on earth is a process of struggle between matter and spirit. Hermeticism has an “optimistic” and a “pessimistic” aspect. The optimistic one is “Monistic and Pantheist”. According to this; nature is good and beautiful because “Invisible God reflects himself there”. Thus, anyone who studies nature and understands its beauty becomes fulfilled. Man is the third and last point of the triangle: following God and Cosmos.
The pessimist doctrine asserts that nature is evil because it has been created not by the “Primordial God” but by the “Demiurge”. Thus anybody who does not turn his back on nature can never know his God. Since world consists of evil; one has to be a stranger to it in order to be reborn to the divine realm.
Esoteric Islam and Hermeticism
Contemporary with the Church of Rome’s emergence Mohamed; as a messenger of God appeared in Arabia and called for a complete surrender to God. This was the beginning of Islam, the last of the religions with a book named Quran. The Holy Quran teaches that all revealed religions should be recognized and to every nation or people a prophet has been sent. Exoteric and Esoteric aspects are also present in Islam. The exoteric bases are Faith, Prayer, Fasting, Almsgiving and Pilgrimage. Islamic esotericism exists in the Shia sects of Islam and amongst the Sufi who; while observing the Sacred Laws (Sharia) also interpret the Holy Quran in mystical ways. Circumventing the political struggle between the followers of
Ali, and the Orthodox Moslems headed by the Umayyad dynasty it can be stated that Ali’s followers were called Shia (Shiites) and Alewites in general by some. Many esoteric cults derive from their various groupings occurring on the bases of disputes of esoteric nature. Fatimids, Ismailis, Nusairi may be cited.
Within Islamic esotericism, as in all esoteric movements, there are steps towards gaining knowledge. This is called the “wisdom of gradual teaching” (hikmat at-tadrij). The invocation to God contains the following declaration of faith: “There is no God but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God”. Masters of Esoteric thought interpret this as “there is no Truth except Truth”. It is said that Prophet Muhammed instructed his companions Abu Bakr, Ali and Salman al-Farisi in esoteric Islam. After his death in 632 A.D. they proceeded to establish their own orders. Nevertheless, due to political infighting, authority in the Islamic empire became divided. Those who did not have their share of Esoteric Islam seized power. Strict religious laws (sharia) were imposed. Therefore Muslim conservators of esoteric Islam went into hiding.
It is expedient at this stage to see how Hermeticism was perceived by the Islamic initiates:
In Islamic culture “Hermes” is known as Idris. He was nicknamed “tailor” not because he was one but he could mold human character like a tailor designed a costume. Traces of Greek and/or Hebrew belief is apparent in the perception. The following similarities in sacred texts are supportive of this. According to the Old Testament “Enoch (Uhnuh)” is a religious person, lived for 365 years and was exalted to heaven. (Tekvin, V/23). Idris (his equivalent) has been mentioned directly twice in the Quran: The first is “Remember Idris too
because he was a devout Prophet. We exalted him to a sublime place.” (Meryem, 56-57). The second is “Remember Ishmael, Idris, Dhul-kifl (probably Ezekiel). All of them were of the patient ones. (Enbiya, 85).
In Prophet Mohamed’s ascension to Heaven story he talks to Idris on the fourth heaven. This stage of heaven is associated with the sun constellation and in Mythology this sign is associated with Hermes as we have seen. This is taken as further proof of the identicalness of Hermes-Idris.
Some Islamic thinkers consider the term “Hermes’s Triangle” (Hermesü’l-müselles) as signifying three different persons named Hermes. The first is “Idris” who has taught man about the sky and the Medical Science, Letters of the Alphabet, how to dress, warned them about the flood. He has constructed the first temple to worship God. The second Hermes or the “Hermes of Babylon” has lived in Babylon after the deluge and is a master of Medicine, Philosophy, and Perception in Numbers. Furthermore he has instructed Pythagoras. Legend has it that this is the “Hermes Trismegistos” and this Hermes is the one who found one of the two columns on which all knowledge was inscribed by Noah before the flood. That is how he acquired his knowledge. It was he who resurrected the wisdom and science that was lost in the Deluge. The “Third Hermes” or the “Hermes of Egypt” had lived more recently in a center of excellence called Munif in Egypt before the rise of Alexandria. The story has it that he was a student of “Agathodaimon”, the alchemist. He established many cities including Edessa (Urfa today). He wrote books about animals, plants, medicine, philosophy, alchemy. He had important manuscripts on astrology and was a teacher of Asclepius. He has a place to his name in the mountains of Lebanon. These mountains are significant to some denominations including the
Druze. On the other hand the Historian Herevi mentions Idris’s place of birth as Harran, and there is a special shrine in Kufe (Iraq) attributed to him.
Harran (Figure 2) was home to Sabiis who had synthesized the Babylonian religion with that of Esoteric Greek tradition. The people of Harran were inheritors of New Pythagorianism and Hermeticism. Hermetic Sabiis were accepted as people of the book by Moslems and this later enabled their ideas to be repeated by later Moslem esotericists. One of their prominent scientists Sâbit bin Kurra has translated Hermes’s “Kitâbu’l- Nevâmis” from Syriac to Arabic. The prominent philosopher al- Kindi’s student Ibn Tayyib el-Serahsî sees Hermes as the founder of Sâbiî religion. Semseddin el-Dimaskî in his book “Nuhbetü’t-Dehr” states that the term “Sâbiî” derives from “Sabi” (child) implying “the son of Hermes”. To day “Sâbiî” live in Iraq under the name “Mandean” as a small society. They are “Gnostics” called “Christians of Saint John” in reference to John the Baptist. In Mecritî’s book named “Gâyetü’l-Hakîm” the seventh Chapter entitled “Tabiat-i Tamme” is about Sabiis and it is said that this chapter was written by Hermes. The following call on Hermes is interesting: “We hail you with all your names; Utarid in Arabic, Tir in Persian, Harus in Latin, Hermes in Greek, and Budd in Hindu”.
Sufi and Esoteric Movements
During the eighth and ninth centuries, esoteric sages of Islam openly declared that they were followers of Islamic esotericism. Many were arrested and questioned. Their explanation often caused them great distress. Many were imprisoned and executed.
Actually most of the Sufi Orders act according to the Islamic law (Sharia). Nevertheless in their teaching they
refer to esoteric wisdom as a “fruit” covered by the “rind” which is the exoteric aspect.
Sufi wear white robes of Lamb’s wool. Symbolically this is because Lamb has always been consecrated by the sun. Thus; wearing this wool awakens their heart towards the luminosity of the sun guiding them towards the light of wisdom.
Farah, in his Islam states: “The Sufis laid out the ‘path’ (tariqah) that would lead to gnosis (marifah) or mystic knowledge of the Lord. The ‘path’ of ascension to divine union with God passes through stages known commonly as ‘stations’ or ‘stages’: the last stage is that of “fana”, or passing away in God, which is the ultimate desire of a successful mystic. The Sufi at this point ceases to be aware of his physical identity even though he continues to exist as an individual.”
The “Hermetic Philosophy” that “Part” is of the “Whole” and the quest to arrive to the “whole” is a holy journey is the principle also underlies the Sufi ideal (Vahdet-i-Vucud). Emebering that “Poimander”; the addendum to the Corpus Hermeticum means “Shepherd of People”; the word “Enoichion” in “Poimander” means “inside eye, heart’s eye” in Greek. This terminology means a lot to the Islamic Sufis. According to them the heart’s eye should open through strife which is called “Cihad” to arrive at the whole. Mansur al-Hallaj as a mystic had realised illumination, (fana), or as Sufi’s call “passing away in the Divine Beloved”, exclaiming:
“I am He whom I love, and He whom I love is. We are two spirits dwelling in one body. When thou seest me thou seest Him, And when thou seest Him, thou seest us both.”
Mansour al-Hallaj was executed in (922). Shortly afterwards a secret society called the “Brethren of Purity” (Ihvan us-Safa) was founded in the Iraqi city of Basra (Figure
3.) The Brethren supported scientific studies into philosophy, theology, astrology, metaphysics, cosmology, and the natural sciences, including botany and zoology. They were also politically active. They prepared and published an
Spain 800 AD
dge. They used to
enchant: “He, who knows himself, knows his Lord”.
Mediterranean (800 AD)
diterranean Fatimid Empire
Figure 4. Mediterranean (900 AD)
Figure 5. Mediterranean Fatimid Empire (1000
Ismailism and the Fatimid Empire
Figures 3 to 5 above show the political changes in the Mediterranean basin between 800-1000 AD. It shows the evolution of the Umayyad-Abbasid Empire into separate Emirates, the situation in Spain and Sicily and the Fatimid Empire of later times.
Ismailism deserves special attention from among Islamic sects. This sect has resulted from a schism in Shi’ism which itself is a result of a split in mainline Islam. Shi’ism developed into two separate directions: the metaphorical Ismaili group focusing on the mystical path and the literalistic group focusing on divine law (sharia).”
The İsmaili sect is also named the Seven Imam Shiites. Following their traits from Wikipedia: “As Muslims, the Ismaili affirm the fundamental Islamic testimony of truth. They believe Muhammad was the last and final Prophet of God and that the Quran was revealed through him. All Muslims hold this revelation to be the culmination of the message that had been revealed through other prophets of the Abrahamic tradition before Mohamed, including Abraham, Moses and Jesus.
Ismailism rose at one point to become the largest branch of Shi’ism, and climaxed as a political power with the Fatimid Empire in the tenth through the twelfth centuries.
In the tenth century Ismailis established the Fatimid Empire in North Africa.This land since time immemorial has been inhabited by the indigenous people known as Berber. Some prefer the name “Imazighen” because “Berber was derived from the term “barbari” that the Romans gave to the people they conquered across Northern Africa. They have known invasions and occupations that date back thousands of years, including those of the Phoenicians, the Romans, the Vandals, the
Byzantines, the Arabs, the Spanish, the Turks and the French. Despite ceaseless efforts by each colonizer to erase and eradicate this indigenous culture, the latter not only survived but also constitutes the foundation onto which the other cultural layers were added. Before conversion to Islam in the eighth century the Berbers had polytheistic and animistic religious practices. Many of them were Gnostic Christians. Berber authors include Saint Augustine, Tertullian, Apuleius, Saint Cyprian, Lactantius, Ibn Khaldun, and Ibn Battuta among others.
The Shiite belief of twelve Imams (seven in the case of Ismailis) with the last one lost (ascended to heaven) and would return one day to redeem mankind appealed to these people. Thus the belief systems intermingled.
The Fatimids practiced exoteric Islam in Public. However they opened the Grand House of Wisdom (Dar-ul-Hikmet) for the study of esoteric philosophy. There; missionaries (Dais) were trained and tasked with the propagation of Islamic thought everywhere including Europe. The Fatimid Caliph was the Grand Master of the House of Wisdom. Students from East and West were instructed in their philosophical conferences called Meetings of Wisdom. (Majalis-al-Hikmet).
In “A Short History of the Saracens”, the Muslim historian Ameer Ali says: “the account of the different degrees of initiation adopted in the “House of Wisdom” forms an invaluable record. In fact; the “House of Wisdom” at Cairo became the model of all the “Freemasonic” Lodges created in Christendom”.
The orthodox Sunni rulers in Baghdad disliked the Esotericism of Fatimids. Hence they started a war against “Heretics” and ended the Fatimid Empire.
Rose and Cross in Sufism
The symbol of Prophet Mohamed was rose. Since in Islamic culture love for Mohamed meant having faith in Islam, Rose has become the symbol of such faith as well. In Islamic culture a child is named after the person with whose morals the child is wanted to be associated. Mohamed’s name means he who praises (the God). If a person who is named Mohamed does not prove worthy of this name, the one who has named him as well as the father would have sinned. This has caused many to use the name “Mehmet” instead of “Mohamed”. This symbol has caused many Moslems name their children beginning with the “Gül” which means Rose in Turkish. The same understanding has used Gül as a suffix to the name of the Prophet’s wife Ayşe “Aise” with “Gül” to make it “Ayşegül”. In certain parts of Anatolia they give priority to “Gül” and say “Gülayşe”.
In Sufism Rose represents sacred beauty. A Rose bud symbolizes “unity”, and in addition “man conjoined with god” and a blossomed Rose “the appearance of unity in multiplicity”, to “disclose a vital secret”. Rose garden means “openness of heart, a heart cleansed of dirt and ready to reflect the divine beauty”.
It is interesting to cite the Rose and Cross section of a Master’s gratitude prayer which consists of five sections in order to show the importance attached to the cross. This incantation is usually exercised squatting in a circle:
“There is no God but God” repeated four times in four measures. In the first the head goes right, the second left, the third above and the fourth below stressing the four points of the cross. In the meantime the eyes go from left to right praying for the veil covering the Ego to open and reveal the divine world. The eyes then go on a vertical line, meanwhile
praying for the heart’s garden of the divine world to open. It is begged for the secret rose of Sufism to blossom in this garden at the point of intersection of the imaginary lines of the cross that was traced by the eye. During these movements the right hand extends right, left to left then both join on the heart. The interpretation is that cross is symbolic of the four elements and of the alchemist’s cubicle in which they melt. The changing color of the Rose in the middle from pale pink to scarlet shows the stages of Alchemic maturity.
The Inroads of Hermetic Esotericism to Europe
Running through all cultures are the threads of an “underground” Primordial Tradition which is well concealed. The Sufis say, “Everything that comes from the Eternal One yearns to return to Him.”
Now is the time to answer the question: How did this stream of thought found its way to Europe?
A priory one has to emphasize that Celtic, Germanic, Gothic tribal invasions of Europe (100-300 AD) had destroyed the “culture” there: At the beginning of the Middle Ages, all the West had was Plato’s Timaios dialogue and a few writings of Aristo in the name of literature. We can add to these the writings of Church Fathers inspired by New-Platonism. St.Augustin’s (354-400 AD) “Sacred State” may be an example.
The infusion of esoteric ideas followed diverse routes mostly originating from North Africa which may be summarized as follows:
The portion of the Roman Empire where the seventh legion was stationed was named “Septimania”. It was occupied by Visigoths in 462 AD. It corresponded roughly with the modern
French region of Languedoc-Roussillon. Figure 6. Shows its location. It passed briefly to the Arabs in the eighth century before its reconquest by the Franks. Septimania was a zone of the Carolingian Empire and then West Francia down to the thirteenth century, though it was culturally and politically separate from northern France. Thus it was open to a cultural infusion which occurred through immigration from the Holy Land, North Africa and within Europe itself. Bogomils hence
Cathars lived there. They were Gnostic Christians to the
chagrin of the authorities in Rome. This gave rise to a
transfer of esoteric knowledge which disturbed the authorities
in Rome. It was finally brought under the control of the
French kings through the Albigensian Crusade. (1209-1229).
However, esoteric wisdom was preserved amongst the people,
facilitating transfer of new ideas.
Figure 6. Septimania
During the Arab empires of Umayyad (661-750) and subsequently Abbasid (750-1258), different states in North Africa were born and disappeared in time. (Figures 3 to 5). Arab conquest of North Africa has started in 669. In 710 Arabs crossed the Gibraltar and conquered most of Spain. Their advance into France was stopped by Charles Martelle in 732. Thus, Islamic esotericism was imported from North Africa.
The Islamic Aghlabi kingdom (800-909 AD) conquered Sicily which ended in 878 AD (Figure 4). They brought Islamic thought to this part of the world. However, Sicily then fell under Norman occupation. King Leon II was very interested in Esotericism which had taken roots there. He obtained books on Hermeticism and on Egyptian, Greek Philosophy and established Collegia in Palermo. This had a marked influence in the transfer of esoteric ideas to Europe.
Fatimid Empire in North Africa
From North Africa (Figure 5.) the Fatimid rulers (909- 1171) dispatched missionaries (dais) throughout the known world. Under cover they even infiltrated Christian Europe. Accomplished in the esoteric doctrine, the dais could use any outer form – be it artistic, scientific, religious or secular – to impart universal and perennial truths. Even poetry, for which the Sufis are renowned, could be used to transfer spiritual insights from one culture or religion to another. Their use of allegory and cipher amounted to a secret language, the universal language of initiates. Together with wandering Sufis, they transmitted ancient wisdom to Europe. If one goes back to the story of Rosenkreutz’s adventure it may
be stated that Fez at the time was in fact a center for philosophical and occult studies: There Abu-Abdullah, Gabir ben Hayan Imam Jafar al Sadik’s alchemy, Ali-as-Sabramallisi’s astrology and magick, Abdarrahman ben Abdallah al Iskari’s esoteric sciences was taught. These studies have been in existence since the time of “Umayyad” dynasty.
Arabic Esoteric writings of Neo Platonism have been transmitted to Europe after the conquest of Spain and Sicily by the Arabs followed by the Fatimid works. Particularly Cordoba has become the center for dissemination of such lore. Averroes (İbn-i-Rüşt) in Cortoba has been one center of attraction. His esoteric “Corpus” has become well-read. Many of his ideas were assimilated by Siger of Brabant and Thomas Aquinas and others.
Byzantium and Istanbul
The knowledge accumulated in the region of the Arabic lands in Mesopotamia were translated from Arabic to Greek and Latin by Assyrian clergy and transmitted to Istanbul Thus making it a repository of knowledge.
Collegia have been in existence in Italy since the time of Pythagoras. (580-500 BC.) George Gemistius Pletho, a scientist from Byzantium had visited Florence in 1439 with a mission to join up the Orthodox and Catholic factions of Christianity. The Duce Cosimo de Medici assigned Marcilio Ficino, a prominent new Platonist as his assistant. The conquest of İstanbul in 1453 by the Turks caused many scientists to emigrate to the west. In 1460 a copy of “Corpus Hermeticum” was brought from Byzantium. The translation by Marcilio Ficino and the distribution of this source of esoteric knowledge affected Europe.
Ficino’s student Pico Della Mirandola in 1486 wrote the book “Nine Hundred Conclusions” which syncretized Kabalist, New Platonist and Esoteric Islam. A very important center of transmission of knowledge was the Florence Academy. Ficino’s most celebrated contribution is “The Theology of Plato”. In this book he describes New Platonism and synthesizes it with Christianity. Amongst other centers; the Academies of Naples, Venice, Rome, and finally the Comacine near Lake Como are prominent. This last one has started the “Comacine” movement in France which, according to Masonic historian Paul Noudon has played an important part in the development of Freemasonry.
The soldier-monks who had come to the Holy Land to fight the infidel encountered myths ideas that they never expected. They were taken in by the esotericism of the East, adopted many of the customs and beliefs and carried them back home, giving rise to another wave of cultural transfer. The crucial point here is that they were already steeped in esoteric tradition:
Citing Albert Pike from his Morals and Dogma, page 694:
“In 1118 nine Knight Crusaders of the East in whom were Godefroi de Saint-Omer and Hugues de Payens, consecrated themselves to religion and took an oath between the hands of the Patriarch of Constantinople, a See always secretly or openly hostile to that of Rome from the time of Photius. The avowed object of the Templars was to protect the Christians who came to visit the Holy Places: their secret object was the re-building of the Temple of Salomon on the model Prophesied by Ezekiel.”
“This re-building, formally predicted by Judaizing Mystics of the earlier ages, had become the secret dream of the Patriarchs of the Orient. The Temple of Salomon, re-built and consecrated to the Catholic worship would become, in effect, the Metropolis of the Universe, the East would prevail over the West and the Patriarchs of Constantinople would possess themselves of the Papal power.”
In the following paragraphs; Pike states that they in fact had in mind to search into and establish the Gnostic Christianity of St. John the Baptist.
This would obviously put the order in a class of societies following esoteric knowledge outside the bounds of Orthodox Catholicism.
The crusaders took along “construction teams” of their monasteries which were a continuation of Collegias of the Comacine cited above. A Similar organization called “Fütüvve” existed in the Ismaili sect. This gave rise to an interchange of knowledge in architectur and construction. They also encountered the trade lodges and guilds of the East the prominent one being “Ahi”. These institutions all fed on Islamic esotericism.
This bondage was dictated by political realities. Fatimid were arch enemies of the Sunni Arabs. Thus they easily allied with the crusaders. The rituals of the Druz who are successors of the Fatimids show examples of this cooperation. This sect has many beliefs based on Christianity which has resulted from such contact.
Selahattin Eyyubi extinguished the Fatimid state in 1171. This brought the crusaders close to the most radical branch of Ismailis: The assasins or the Fedayeen of Hasan Sabbah. Huges De Payens and other knights visited Hasan Sabah at his Alamut
castle upon invitation. There they learned about his
organization structure and about their version of the esoteric
doctrine. They amalgamated most of what they had with what
they had learned. They also learned to “conceal” their real
beliefs which are called “takiyye” as a doctrine. Ismailis
Summary of Events
wore white garments. Templars adopted this custom as well with the addition of the Red Cross on their chest.
Figure 7. Summary of
Last but one Step
Figure 8. Last but One Step (1500-....)
The repercussion of the transfer of these ideas to Europe has been colossal; ideals like Rationalism, secularity,
Sailing West Transferring all
freedom of conscience have taken root. This in fact is the story of the kick start of illumination.
Figure 9. Final Voyage ???