In this age of Internet flame wars and perpetual games of spiritual one-upmanship, have you ever wondered: What would Christian Rosenkreutz do?
When I think of what it means to be a Rosicrucian, one phrase springs instantly to my mind.
“To profess nothing, but to cure the sick, and that freely.”
This is the first principle of a Rosicrucian, as given in the Fama Fraternitatis, the original Rosicrucian text. The very first rule. Numero Uno. It seems like a simple exhortation to “be secretive” and try to help others, but it is in fact much more than that. It is also a directive against displays of vanity, arrogance, and self- importance. The primary founder of the Golden Dawn, G.H. Frater N.O.M., clearly understood this.
In his paper on “Christian Rosenkreuz” published in Theosophical Siftings and reprinted in R.A. Gilbert’s The Magical Mason: Forgotten Writings of William Wynn Westcott, G.H. Frater N.O.M has an interesting take on this most fundamental of all Rosicrucian tenets. It bears repeating:
“That no public profession of any superior knowledge should be made: but that members should when able endeavor to cure the sick, and that gratis.”
In his paper on “Rosicrucian Adeptship” (Flying Roll No. XIX) Westcott compares the feeling and expression of “superior Knowledge” to the Scylla of hypocrisy:
“…a man is liable to compare himself with his neighbours, and say how much better he is than others. Now self-congratulation is second only to open hypocrisy, and we hold that it is just as harmful to spiritual progress.”
Humility is the underlying principle here. The term “humility” is related to the Latin adjective humilis which usually translates as “humble” but has the additional meanings of “grounded,” “from the earth,” or “low,” since it derives in turns from humus or earth. Humility is the state of being grounded in reality. It is a condition of stability and inner strength based upon a sincere appraisal of one’s self as compared to the magnitude of the Universal Divine. (“In myself I am nothing. In Thee I am Self.”) The polar opposite of humility is hubris which “often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one’s own competence or capabilities.” In Flying Roll XV (“Man and God”) Westcott was able to convey not only the importance of humility, but the truth that each Initiate is responsible for his or her own spiritual growth:
“You who are here today to listen to this lecture (or you who read it hereafter), have come to this Hall only to seek from my words further suggestions of thought on Occult teachings, you are well aware that I represent myself alone, in what I say, and that you are each perfectly free to take what seemeth good unto you and to reject the refuse. In my honour to the Order in which I bear a part, I have always made the clearest distinction between the Ancient Ritual and our modern comments, and this distinction you must always bear in mind, for it must not be considered that the doctrines of any single elder or ruler are necessarily all true to the Hermetic faith. All individuals go astray even if some go farther than others. The Order here then has no Pope nor Popess and our Bible at every stage is imperfect; we are fellow students, still crying for the Light; and every lecture given here is but the expression of personal opinion, from someone who has far longer than most trod the path of Hermetic progress, and the proportion of doctrine or fact which you accept must be estimated by yourselves, for yourselves it is a duty you owe to yourselves to work out your own transmutation—to change the powers of physical sensuous life into the refined spiritual faculties of Adeptship, in truth as well as in name. As senior Adept among you, just now, my duties are to keep you to the doctrines of our Rituals, as far as they go,—to leave you quite free where they do not lead, but to stimulate your efforts in the search for the Philosophic Gold…”
Humility is not only a fundamental Rosicrucian value—it is a prerequisite for all successful workings of high magic as stated in the grimoire The Key of Solomon the King:
“…it is absolutely necessary to ordain and to prescribe care and observation, to abstain from all things unlawful, and from every kind of impiety, impurity, wickedness, or immodesty, […] and all sorts of vain words, buffooneries, slanders, calumnies, and other useless discourse; but instead to do good deeds, speak honestly, keep a strict decency in all things, never lose sight of modesty in walking, in conversation, in eating and drinking, and in all things.”
The concept of humility is clearly emphasized at least eight times in the Golden Dawn’s Adeptus Minor Ritual to the prospective Rosicrucian—more than any other single principle:
1) Upon first entrance, the Aspirant is told:
“O Aspirant! It is written that he who exalteth himself shall be abased, but that he who humbleth himself shall be exalted, and that blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. It is not by proclamation of honors and dignities, great though they may be, that thou canst gain admission to the Tomb of the Adepti of the Rose of Ruby and the Cross of Gold, but only by that humility and purity of spirit that befitteth the aspirant unto higher things.”
2) After his knowledge of the Sword and Serpent is tested, the Aspirant is told that his pedigrees mean absolutely nothing:
” Return thou then, and divest thyself of these ornaments. They are not humble enough to entitle thee to be received.” A chain is then placed on the Aspirant’s neck as a symbol of “repentance and humility” before he or she is lead out.
3) After being brought in for the second time, the Aspirant is told that the Divine is propitious unto “whosoever humbleth himself in dust and ashes…”
4) Immediately after that, the Third Adept tells the Aspirant:
“Think not, O Aspirant, that the trial of humility through which thou hast passed, was ordained but to jest with thy feelings. Far from us be any such design. But it was intended to point out to thee that the truly wise man is but little in his own eyes, however great his attainments may appear to the ignorant, and that even the highest intellectual achievements are but as nothing in the sight of the Lord of the Universe, for He looketh at the heart. It is written: When I consider the Heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and stars which Thou hast ordained, what is man that Thou art mindful of him, or the son of man that thou visitest him? And couldst thou even attain unto the height of a God upon this earth, how small and insignificant yet wouldst thou be in the presence of God the Vast One.”
5) Immediately following this, the Aspirant is told that he has been “purified by humility.” Thus in the Second Order of the RR et AC, the prospective new member is not purified and consecrated by fire and water as in the Outer Order, but is instead solely purified through his or her own humbleness of heart and unpretentious attitude.
6) After this, the Aspirant is clearly told in no uncertain terms not to malign others:
“Boast not thyself above thy brother if he hath fallen, for how knowest that thou couldst have withstood the same temptation. Slander not, and revile not. If though canst not praise, do not condemn.”
7) Inside the Vault, the Second Adept recites the “Unto Thee Sole Wise” prayer to the Divine on the Aspirant’s behalf:
“Not unto us, but unto Thy Name be the Glory….”
Shortly after the prayer, the Aspirant is told to rise and stand “in the symbol of self-renunciation” (i.e. humility).
8) One of the first warnings given to the Aspirant by the Chief Adept (in the guise of Christian Rosenkreutz himself) is a speech that forbids the maligning and disparagement of others:
“Therefore Thou art inexcusable, whosoever thou art that judgest another, for in that thou condemest another, thou condemest but thyself.”
Final thoughts: While studying for a college course recently, one of my instructors told us that in order to make something stick in the memory, a student had to hear it at least three times.
Humility is the single, overriding principle of anyone who claims to be a Rosicrucian: the Aspirant seeking to become a Rosicrucian in the RR et AC is told no less than eight times that humility is the only way of gaining entrance to (as well as the magical method of purification used in) the Second Order. So two questions remain why doesn’t this always stick with some people?