What finding the Vault means and where to seek it.
“If you pay attention you will be able to see things better. Repeat again what you hear, for by hearing and saying the same thing, what you have learned is easier to remember. What you hear, place on what you know.”
In other words, if you want to remember that Ajax was a soldier in the Trojan Wars, you would imagine him standing next to a statue of Mars in a room in your bathroom cleaning the bath with a big map of Greece in the background. You would remember to put all Ajax’s soldiers in the bathroom. So if you were going through a speech you would mentally walk through your house until you got to the bathroom. In your mind’s eye you would see a soldier cleaning the bath, remember Ajax, see the map of Greece and remember he was on the Greek side of the Trojan war.
The Greeks and Romans needed to codify things better and cover the long lists needed to remember their speeches. They already had a list of gods, who were attributed to the different planets. In memory terms, all they had to do was see a statue of the god and then they would immediately think of the planet. Cronos (Saturn) would be a link to words like death, time, inheritance and blackness, while Zeus (Jupiter) would connect to things like rulership, wealth and purple. The net widened to include the zodiacal attributions. This meant that if they were making a speech about war with the Persians, they would use a magical image of a statue of Mars with the various points of their speech being placed around it.
|Whare Ra Vault|
The period immediately before the writing of the Fama, the Renaissance, was a period were Greek and Roman ideas were being incorporated into the mindset of the European intelligentsia. Amongst these were the writings of Cicero and Pliny, who advocated the use of a symbolic method to enhance memory. The method was first codified by Simonides of Ceos (556BC – 468BC) and was summed up in a 4th century fragment known as Dialexeis:
This was a side effect of using this type of system. People using it started to have new realisations about their subject. This side effect was noted and explained by the philosophers Plato and Aristotle. Both considered obtaining knowledge as simply recovering information (remembering information) that had been forgotten when we were born and fell from our perfected state in the higher realms of existence. So when people were using these memory systems it was no surprise that they ‘remembered’ something else about the subject at the same time. While this might be true, it is more likely that the meditation on symbols causes the mind to focus and invent new ideas.
Either way, it was perfectly reasonable then that ‘memory systems’ could be used to teach by bringing new information to the conscious mind of the practitioner. This is particularly important when you consider that contemplating some symbols, information which many considered esoteric would have been remembered by the person using the system.
Modern occultism developed pathworking from the techniques that The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn called ‘skrying in the spirit’. Others now call it pathworking. It is too easy to dismiss such techniques as simply daydreaming or imagination. One of the great Rosicrucians of 19th century, Dr Wynn Westcott, said that “imagination must be distinguished from fancy, which is mere roving thoughts, or simply visions”. He said that imagination is “an orderly and intentional mental process and result. Imagination is the relative faculty of the human mind, the plastic energy – the Formative Power.”(1)
“It is an ancient Hermetic dogma that any idea can be made to manifest externally if only by culture, the art of concentration be obtained.. Man by his creative power through will and thought was more divine than the Angels, for he can create and they cannot.”
It is clear that the writers of the Fama were drawing on these imagination techniques, which were developed from the Middle Ages and 16th century memory systems. Frances A. Yates, in her book ‘Art of Memory’, suggests that it is these techniques that may have evolved into the medieval magical system called the Ars notoria. Under this system, she says, the magician would stare at magical symbols, recite a prayer, and gain knowledge of all arts and sciences.
The allegory of the discovery of the vault is designed to reveal by meditation esoteric knowledge which was not only buried by the writers, but to help remember new information. The vault itself was a memory place, which was supposed to contain all the wisdom that Christian Rosenkreuz could provide. What then becomes crucial to the story is how the wouldbe Rosicrucian finds that vault and connects to it. This paper will show the sort of thought processes involved. However, I should warn that the experience will be unique to everyone who tries the technique. A symbol of a dog will mean one thing to a person who has been attacked by one and another by a person who loves the animal, so each symbol in the allegory will give a different message to the person who approaches it.
Westcott added that the power of imagination to create images enabled it to produce external phenomena by its own energy.
“The year following after he had performed his [Fr. A.] school right, and was minded now to travel, being for that purpose sufficiently provided with Fortunatus purse, he thought (he being a good architect) to alter something of his building [of the school of the Rosicrucians], and to make it more fit: in such renewing he lighted upon the memorial table which was cast of brass, and containeth all the names of the brethren, with some few other things; this he would transfer in another more fitting vault: for where or when Fr. R.C. died, or in what country he was buried, was by our predecessors concealed and unknown unto us.”
To understand what is happening you have to put yourself in the place of Fr. A., whose name begins with the first letter of the alphabet and has a similar role to the spiritual Adam. You have to use your imagination and see through his eyes and hear through his ears. This technique was familiar to the Jesuits of the period, who used it to deepen their spiritual experiences of the life of Christ. From the above quote, Fr. A. would be a well educated, trained Rosicrucian, who having enough money was preparing to travel. More importantly, he was an architect. Architects use mathematics to design important buildings. Mathematics was moving out of the period were it was regarded as occult, but was still widely treated with suspicion by the common people. It was considered a pinnacle of intellectual achievement.
The allegory says this architect wanted to change the way that the Rosicrucian temple worked. He believed that it needed to be reformed. The legend adds that the brothers had forgotten who founded them. This could be seen as a Lutheran dig at the Roman Catholic church, but it could equally be applied to any system of thought which has become jaded. Indeed, as our reformer carries out his renewal, he finds a brass tablet upon which are the names of those who ruled the order. The fact that the tablet was of brass is important. Brass was attributed to the planet Venus – the planet of Nature. The symbol of placing the names of these illustrious fraters on a tablet of brass, binds them to the forces of Nature. Fr. A. decides to place this tablet in a more important place within the school. In other words, he wanted to acknowledge achievements of the past fraters.
In this Tablet stuck a great nail somewhat strong, so that when he was with force drawn out, he took with him an indifferent big stone out of the thin wall, or plastering of the hidden door, and so unlooked for uncovered the door.
In his book “The True and Invisible Rosicrucian Order” the 20th century Rosicrucian Paul Foster Case makes the interesting suggestion that the nail being described here is the Hebrew letter Vav, which means ‘nail’. To Case, the letter represented the Divine Self and was represented by the Tarot Key “The Heirophant”. He suggests that Fr. A. was having an inspired realisation about how to find true wisdom. Whether this is literally true or not, it gives us an example of how the symbolism of the opening of the vault can give us insights into a particular spiritual process. Without following Case we can also find ideas relating to the symbol of the nail.
This nail was driven into an “indifferent big stone” which, once removed, revealed the secret door. Masons are well aware of the symbolic meaning of the word ‘stone’, however this sentence implies that, while the basis of the Fr A.’s tradition was rooted in imperfection, it nevertheless covered the truth.
This motif of truth being found among falsehoods, or strains of spiritual gold being found among heathens, is examined several times in the Fama. In an earlier part of the legend, Christian Rosenkreuz found much wisdom amongst systems which are limited or corrupted by religion. It implies that you will never find complete truth in the various religions, or even esoteric schools around you. You must sift through the rubble to find the vault. Then, when you least expect it, or are not looking, you will find the way to the truth.
“Wherefore we did with joy and longing throw down the rest of the wall, and cleared the door, upon which that was written in great letters, Post 120 annos patebo [after 120 years I open], with the year of the Lord under it.”
The number 120 also gives us a clue. Moses died at age 120. Hiram sent Solomon 120 talents of gold, as did Sheba. It seems likely that the number represents the completion of project and reward. It could also be seen as an indication of spiritual wisdom, maturity and perfection. To open the vault we cannot be spiritual children, we need to have gone through the various trials that life throws at us. This is not a path where we are expected to deny any aspect of life. Indeed, we are expected to be people who have lived more than the 70 years the Bible ordains for the ordinary human. It is through the attainment of this level of wisdom that the door to the vault is revealed.
However, there is one last step before the truth revealed itself. It was night and the Fama says that the Rosicrucian brothers delayed opening the door until the morning. This was so that the brothers could first “overlook” their “Rotam”. “Rotam” is an irritating word because it literally means wheel but the Fama gives no real clues as to what it means.
Paul Foster Case insists that the word is a blind for Tarot. Case believed this because the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn considered the ‘Book T’ mentioned in a description of the Vault to be that of the Tarot but the use of cards for esoteric purposes was a 19th century development. The cards were not being used for divination during the 17th century and the Fama mentioning that Christian monks performed a tarot divination before opening the vault would have attracted much contemporary attention. The Wheel was considered a symbol of life processes and if you look at the full quote, it makes sense that before they opened the vault they considered their lives up until the current point.
“Therefore we gave God thanks and let it rest that same night, because first we would overlook our Rotam; but we refer our selves again to the confession.”
The process to find this vault, then, always starts with the raw material of meditation on the Rosicrucian allegory. Before we can understand the symbols of the vault, we must understand the symbolic process of finding it. As stated at the beginning of this paper, that process is unique to each individual performing the search. This is because each person’s reaction to these symbols is unique. Therefore let each find the vault within their own heart and understand the allegory’s meaning.