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Rays from the Rose Cross

 

 

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P
REPARATION for the spiritual needs
of people living in the modern era
began seven centuries before Max
Heindel published The Rosicrucian
Cosmo-Conception. In the thirteenth
century, a high spiritual teacher, having the sym-
bolical name Christian Rosenkreutz, appeared in
Europe to found “the mysterious Order of
Rosicrucians with the object of throwing occult
light upon the misunderstood Christian religion.”
The Order’s eponymous founder sought to unify
the two approaches to life that comprise the faith-
reason, subjective-objective polarity, or, to use
Heindel’s terms, the mystic and occult paths.
In Ancient and Modern Initiation, Heindel
writes that “the Christian Mystic form of Initiation
differs radically from the Rosicrucian method,
which aims to bring the candidate to compassion
through knowledge.” While the Rosicrucian Order
is a school of occultism (“It is necessary to be an
occultist to...study...the unexplained laws of nature
and the powers latent in man.” 1Q&A, p. 359), it
seeks to subsume the Christian mystic approach
and, through the fullest employment of high rea-
son, to promote the development of the fully inte-
grated spiritual person, whose love and rational
natures are fused and finely balanced.
Salient representatives of the two streams of
Western spiritual practice, whose synthesis was
personified in Christian Rosenkreutz, also lived in
the thirteenth century—the mystic, St. Francis of
Assisi (1182-1226), progenitor of the Franciscan
Order, and the Dominican friar, St. Thomas
Aquinas (1225-1274).
Gilbert Keith Chesterton has written memorable
accounts of the life and character of both men,
which now appear in one volume, with introduc-
tions, published in 2000 by Ignatius Press. While
some of the Rays readers may have read about both
friars, Chesterton’s viewpoint is, as always, utterly
unique, some might say idiosyncratic. His style
abounds in tortuous paradoxes, flashes of poetry,
colorful phraseology, a rollicking amplitude of
vision, and a piquant garnishing of friendly irony.
In many ways Francis and Thomas were oppo-
sites, temperamentally and spiritually. Both were
fools for God, because both were humble, Francis
sometimes outrageously so. He was a lover of
poverty. He died prostrate, naked, arms out-
stretched even as his crucified Lord, his body
wasted by joyously embraced ascetic habits. He
felt ever unworthy to bear a bodily suffering that
was never enough to appease his emulation of
Christ Jesus: “He wandered about the valleys of
the world looking for the hill that has the outline of
a skull.” On one hill (Mt. Arno) he received the
stigmata, a by-product, as it were, of his zeal for
transcendence and union with his God.
There was an antic and an anarchic quality to
Francis. He was an extremist. He love God extrav-
agantly. The world judged his actions bizarre, rad-
ically impractical, even life-threatening. But which
life? Surely not the life of the Spirit. What profits
saving the physical life if one loses one’s soul?
Francis was Gods lily in the field. His spirit was
arrayed in a glory that was like the irresistible invi-
tation of sunrise: Come join me in the praise of
God. It is ironic that this mystic’s mystic (from the
Greek myein, to keep the lips or eyes closed—to
see the inner or invisible worlds), who gazed into
the abyss of divinity and saw Gods creatures as
his younger brothers and sisters, had pokers stuck
into his eyes to remedy his impending blindness.
He greeted the red-hot brand in these words:
“Brother fire, God made you beautiful and strong
and useful; I pray you be courteous with me.”
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Gods Troubadour and the Dumb Ox
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Remember this the next time you visit the dentist!
If anything, Francis saw more clearly, dim as the
outer world had become. One other point. St
Francis was a mystic, but not an obscurantist.
“[H]e believed in mysticism and not in mystifica-
tion. As a mystic he was the mortal enemy of all
those mystics who melt away the edges of things
and dissolve an entity into its environment.”
Thomas, called the “dumb ox” because he had a
hulking frame and spoke little and slowly as a
youth, was also a fool for God because he cared
nought for his personal self and with his whole
impersonal mind sought Gods presence in con-
crete creation and in the very process of thinking
itself. Thomas was an incarnationist: Christ lived
in Jesus and He lives in the Earth. God is closer
than hands and feet. The modern scientific outlook
speaks in Thomas’ words: “Everything that is in
the intellect has been in the senses.” What can one
refer to that someone’s eyes have not seen or
someone’s ears have not heard, including God?
Thomas’ approach is at the very opposite end of
inquiry from that of the mystic, wherein the mind
is lit entirely from within. Thomas insisted that the
mind is lit by the five windows of the senses. The
light without shines on and finds its conceptual
counterpart in the light within. They are mates,
brother and sister. By studying men Thomas
arrives at the knowledge of man. By studying dis-
crete particulars, he induces general truths.
Even though he had a “towering ambition to
take the lowest place, Thomas’ love of truth over-
came his humility.” It spoke boldly, with the
authority of a monarch, when his personal self
would have squirmed to utter a syllable and pre-
ferred sequestered anonymity. But that meekness
deferred to the God-infused truth that reason illu-
mined in his objective mind. Thomas was born in
one of Italy’s most notable families. Though a
cousin to Frederick II, the Holy Roman Emperor,
he did not mine that patrician ore. A higher author-
ity, and a higher obedience, called him.
“The mystic is usually devoid of intellectual
knowledge,” and Francis had a nearly reckless atti-
tude attitude about rejecting books and scholar-
ship. After all, for one who lives in the God-abid-
ing moment, what is the need for a book about
divinity when It is all around and in one! Thomas,
on the other hand, wrote scores of books, brilliant-
ly ordered, impeccably reasoned, difficult at times,
but due to the inherent depth of the ideas consid-
ered, not for lack of clarity of thought or verbal
transparency. Notwithstanding, Thomas knew the
limits of the mind and understood that the highest
truths come by revelation—both first-hand and
and from seers. His work was a humanizing of
divinity through the right use of mind, which hon-
ored objective facts because, reasonably encoun-
tered, the facts and the encountering mind togeth-
er affirm the ubiquitous presence of God's
Intelligence and very Being. Thomas expected this
affirmation for he knew that nothing discovered in
nature can ultimately contradict faith. Both are
sourced and substanced by the same Creator.
Thomas was one of the great liberators of the
human intellect precisely because he knew the
mind is not captive to material creation. As
Chesterton observes, Aquinas “reconciled religion
with reason.” Reason has “a divine right to feed
upon facts.”
Etienne Gilson, perhaps the 20th century’s fore-
most Thomist, writes of Chesterton’s study, “I con-
sider it being, without possible comparison, the
best book ever written on St. Thomas.”
Francis praised God in a life of devotion and
action, Thomas in virile, affirmative mental deed.
Francis effused and sang God. Of Thomas,
Chesterton writes, “Perhaps no other man ever
came so near to calling the Creator by His own
name, which can only be written I Am.” The logi-
cal statements of Thomas of Aquino may not read
like songs, but their considered effect will elevate
the soul more dependably than a mere emotional
ejaculation.
Toward the end of his life, reportedly while cel-
ebrating Mass, Thomas had a vision, after which
he ceased his writing, with the explanation: “I can
write no more. I have seen things which make all
my writings like straw.” Not that Thomas ceased to
be logical, for no one more than he knew that rea-
son’s achievements are permanent. And, as Max
Heindel, mystic and occultist, reminds us: “logic is
the safest and surest guide in any world.”
Ë
—C.W.
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