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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Lotus and the Rose — CREDO XXXIII

The subtitle of this could also be “Thinking Symbolically” because that is what Jung stressed over and over as the path to wisdom and individuation. In fact, he wrote a whole volume titled The Symbolic Life. This not only opens the door to matching events to meaning in sacred writings, myths, and fairy tales, but I have discovered the joy and fun of matching things to the hidden processes as well.

The Lotus is not a thing, however, but is well-known as the sacred flower of the East. It is a most exquisite water lily, and many gods and goddesses are depicted either seated on its form or holding one. The reason given is clearly symbolic: It is rooted in mud (earth) and grows up through water, to blossom in air, and reflect the gift of the sun (fire). All four elements combine to express natural perfection. Thus it models what human beings are given to work with individually as they strive for nirvana (samadhi). Body, soul, mind, and the presence of an inner sun, our Divine Guest (Jung’s “Self”) are necessary for a complete person.

The Rose is the sacred flower of the West, for Christianity, esoteric Judaism, and Islam. Think of the rose windows in cathedrals, the Rosicrucians (rose + cross), and the Madonna; the rose in Persian, Arab, and Moorish cultures and literature all point to a hidden meaning, but this is not quite as clearly explained. The kabbalist Zohar opens with the rose and the commentary that there is ‘one level of a rose and another level of a rose’. So, I decided to ponder the matter. We named our home Rosecroft because the rose has appeared in wondrous ways in my personal life.

Here are a few things that came to me, and I am certain that you who read this will be able to amplify even further.

The sacred Rose, red or white, is grafted onto the stock of a sturdy wild rose. Suggesting the hypostatic union? That’s the theological term for Jesus Christ as Son of Man and Son of God, hinting that all human beings are a combination of physical/spiritual.

Grafting requires a gardener, and a gardener is a higher level than a plant. A gardener can move about and has the skill to graft, and who created the gardener?

The rose is silent and fragrant. It has a hidden gold center. Its leaves spiral up the stalk in such a way that no leaf shades the one beneath it. It has thorns.

The flower itself is the miracle because it grows in a spiral that follows the one yielded by the tracing found in the Golden Rectangle.

The Golden Rectangle is formed by a straight edge and a compass. Whatever a straight edge produces can be measured (matter) but the compass’s circle is fathomless because of pi (Spirit). It in turn yields four lines of proportionate lengths. (The Acropolis is built on these proportions, and they are to be found also in the pentacle, which is the design of the five-petaled wild rose and is hidden in every apple cut crosswise!)

The spiral yielded by the rectangle can be traced on tracing paper and laid over a sectioned chambered nautilus shell, or you can find it in the spiral nebula of stars or anytime you flush a toilet, look at a baby’s cowlick, or observe the way a fir tree grows, a pinecone, or the seeds in a sunflower!! As the Greeks said “God geometrizes.”
In our culture, the rose signifies Love and it blooms on Valentine cards and appears in the arms of would-be lovers. The rose and the lily appear in the Tarot.
The powerful symbol of the rose at the intersection of the cross, by now, should make symbolic sense!

In the spring of 1944, I met my teacher, M. One spring afternoon I was invited to his workplace on Spring Street in New York. We were alone and sat on a sofa facing the fireplace. On the mantelpiece was a vase holding a single red rosebud. We had a profound conversation, he a white-haired elderly man and I a 21-year-old neophyte. During the conversation, I noticed that the rose was slowly opening and, at the end of our conversation of about two hours, it had fully bloomed. As I got up to leave, he gave me a fond hug and whispered, “Never forget that you saw a rose bloom!” I haven’t.

In 1980, James Fadiman introduced Walter and me to Sheik Muzzafer, head of the Mevlevi Order of Sufis, in Istanbul. Walter and I had found each other on the ship, on which Jim and I were faculty. The sheik ran a spiritual bookstore just beyond the Great Bazaar. Jim advised us that if he offered us cigarettes, to accept them, because when he lit them we would receive baraka, a blessing. Physically, Muzzafer resembled M to a striking degree. His eyes sparkled, and he kept looking at the two of us in a loving way, and we received the blessing and each a handwritten page from the Koran. As we left, he came out and shouted, causing us to turn to see him blowing kisses at us!

Jim left us, and instead of shopping, we went to the Blue Mosque and sat absorbing the experience, then took a cab back to the dock. I went in, leaving my husband-to-be to pay the taxi. There was a long delay. I went out to find a Turk was trying to exchange a torn $1 bill for a whole one. Walter didn’t have one, but I did. The man then said to me in English, “Please wait!” He ran up the street and returned with three roses. Putting his hand over his heart, a Sufi gesture, he smiled and gave them to me saying, “For you, lady, for you.” Smiling, he left.

Needless to say, I shared them with Walter and Jim. They felt like another blessing from Muzzafer. We met him again several times in America, and I went to hear him lecture in Spring Valley, NY. It was a long drive, and when I arrived, I found only a gathering of women. I pressed through them over their Turkish astonishment and came to the door of the theater all filled only with men! Muzzafer saw me and waved for me to come down to sit in the front row and gave me some candy, and then resumed his lecture. His generosity covered my embarrassment!

Later we watched the men and their joyous Sufi dancing in a circle, arms over their shoulders, shouting and praising Allah with abandon. He is the man who told me: “Allah, blessed be His Name, says, ‘When you have sought Me with such sincerity, how can I not reveal Myself in the beauty of your world!’”

Finally, the dear widow who sold us this house was called Rose!


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