The discovery of the Vault as a symbol of Divine Realisation:
The discovery of the Vault as a symbol of Divine Realisation:

The discovery of the Vault as a symbol of Divine Realisation:

What finding the Vault means and where to seek it.

MOAA’s Vault

  “We speak unto you by parables, but would willingly bring you to the right, simple, easy and ingenuous exposition, understanding, declaration, and  knowledge of all secrets.”
Approaching the legend of the discovery of the vault of Christian Rosenkreuz, we are are presented with a symbolic allegory of the finding of our own spiritual self and a system of truth. It is a personal discovery and one which cannot be dictated by dogma and doc­trine. To understand how we may begin to unlock its secrets, we must see the use of the allegory in its historical context. The author or authors of the Fama Fraternitatis, where this legend first appears, were used to looking at symbols in a different way from modern humanity. Therefore, we should look at what they understood when writing the alle­gory.

“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:

One of the important aspects of this technique was the idea of having a place which would be visited in the imagination. These places, and the symbols contained in them, became a shorthand to different meanings. One of the main presentations of an esoteric system is to learn a language of symbols which help the person unlock the mysteries within it.

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.

(1) See ‘The Golden Dawn’ by Israel Regardie
The Fama describes the finding of the vault thus:
“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.

The nail supported the brass plate, which contained the names of all the members and was hard to get free. In other words, when we are bringing out new spiritual ideas, it is often hard to free them from our past belief patterns.
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.
It implies that the discovery of truth always involves the ending of an old pattern of life. Before the vault can be found, the old ways must first be demolished. Dissatisfaction with these old patterns is usually the precursor to revelation. This is somewhat alarming to those who believe that at their spiritual tradition is pure and correct. The Fama seems to be saying that even if it was, it will only be from the rubble of its death that the next reve­lation will spring.

“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.”

This implies that the realisation of truth is always carried out with the knowledge of that spiritual impulse which, in this legend, is represented by the body of Christian Rosenkreuz at the vault’s heart. Another way of saying this would be that true spiritual understand­ing only comes from God. But there is another message here, which is that if we are meant to find the truth it is because we were destined to do so. We can sift through the rubbish of countless belief systems, but if our spiritual selves do not think we are ready to see the truth within, we will carry on searching.

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.”

Before the truth is unveiled, we must look at our lives in detail. The moments before reve­lation are like the seconds before death. Once the truth is revealed, life is never the same again. The symbol of the revealed but unopened vault waiting in the darkness for the first rays of the dawn is powerful. The vault provides a new truth and its potential impact must be thought about before it is enacted. Truth may not be revealed in the darkness, that is among the ignorant, nor can it be revealed at the time when a cycle is over. Truth appears with the dawn because it is the sun of initiation.

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.


  1. Pat Zalewski

    I think there are many degrees of separation between the ideology of the vault in the RC manifestoes to that of the GD. The GD brought the vault theory in and GDised it to fit in with its overall teachings patterns. Once that point is accepted then you start to get a handle on it. In our 7=4 we study the 5=6 rituals and all that that infers. So we look at the early meaning of the manifestos and also the GD meanings of the vault and note the degrees of separation between them –from abstraction to specific. This is what they did in the GD (up to a point) with the exception of stating that the GD meaning is the truer version due to the complexity of the symbolism. I was the first one to make the point that at whare ra the Black Calvary cross had a black figure of Christ on it with the multi-colours behind him. Most simple have a cross. Christ’s name in mentioned in the 5=6 for this reason, and the black calvary cross symbol leans in a specific direction of rebirth and alchemy. This Christ figure was also used in the GD as well as the SM. The commentary associated with one version of the book of the tomb is clear on this matter. Now none of this related back to the origin RC vault but was GDised. So the GD prism of the RC vault is very different in concept to the one outlined in the manifestos.

    1. This is interesting. One wonders why the figure was specifically black and not, say, white, as Christ is associated with Light. I cannot see it as the blackening phase, alchemically speaking as that would be attributable to the First Order,collectively (rather than the Second Order) or specifically to Neophyte or Zelator (rather than the 5=6). Although we see the black cross symbolism mentioned in the Portal Ritual (other side of the cross of the Elements Admission badge) and also it shown on the Hegemon’s badge – the symbol of entry into the top level of the first Order. Their therefore seems to be a link with the black cross starting in Philosophus, moving through Portal and culminating in 5=6.

  2. Paul, as in Foster Case, to whom you refer above: “Paul Foster Case insists that the word is a blind for Tarot.” My comment is that he is correct.

    Book T is the Testamentum (as in last will and testament) of the Founder. The title is really a Latin reference to the 8th mundane house of astrology, which governs death, inheritances, wills, etc. Death is one of trumps of the Rota, and proclaims, inter alia, the doctrines of using sexual force in an occult manner. The Latin connection is the word testis, which means both “witness” (and in that sense, developed into the word testamentum), and “testicle.” And there you have it. Book T gives the initial preparatory purification work, and then details how to use the sexual force in the alchemy of the body. It has a smaller, more advanced section, too, corresponding to a later stage, in which this force floods the body (think of the voluminous red robe worn by the female figure in the Justice trump).

  3. Case was famous for over egging the case for tarot. Case believes that the esoteric use of the Tarot went back to Ancient Egypt in one of those sort of made up histories which were popular within the GD — the Tablet of Cardinal Bembo for example. However Tarot did not have this use until the 19th century and was probably only a divination tool in the 18th. It was not a feature of any of the esoteric flavors of masonry either. The CRC story (1378-1484) if taken literally predated the discovery of Tarot even as a card game If not taken literally the Fama was written in Germany at the beginning of the 17th century when Tarot was still seen as a game (ie not even having a divination use) . In fact rudimentary divination meanings were not given to the cards for another 100 years later. Rota had a specific meaning in turns of monastic life. The rota or “turn” was a cylinder, open on one side, that is built inside a wall of a monastery. It was used for exchanging mail and food with cloistered clergy, being their only communication with the world. Messages or food are put into the cylinder, then the rota is revolved so that the opening faces the other side.
    Consulting with the Rota actually means in a monastic community, “to get advice from the outside world. Which makes a lot of sense in context with the story. The monks were not sure what to do with this vault and asked outside advice.
    Book T was a scroll in the CRC legend… no mention of tarot involved. That link was first made by Mathers and so Book T was included in the GD knowledge lectures and placed in the pastos with the Chief Adept during the 5=6. Equally there is no reason to think it was short form for a Hebrew letter Tau (other than it was what Case believed… I don’t believe it was a jump that Westcott and Mathers made) Case tended to think that everything could be linked to the Hebrew alphabet and cabbalah too… which in this case it probably isn’t. If it was going to link to anything Hebrew it might be connected to Torah… in which case CRC was holding a book of Law (this is what Waite though and placed in his Tarot). I personally doubt this because of the Christian nature of the Fama, however it is more likely that this was intended than having a set of images connected to what was at the time a system of gambling.

  4. True, indeed…I have seen rotae in old monasteries, myself, when travelling, and your interpretation is a good surface explanation.

    T here is, inter alia, Testamentum, Tau *and* Torah. In a sense, the scroll of the High Priestess is Book T, marked with the Tau cross above it, on the breast of the High Priestess. She holds the scroll at the area of her genitals, so I again reference my second comment.

  5. But the early depictions of the High Priestess did not have her with any scroll… so the point is that if there was an allusion to Book T and the Torah, or Tau… then it was not made to the tarot until the 19th century

  6. It doesn’t have to be a scroll, per se, for it to represent Liber Tav. In the Visconti-Sforza deck, she is holding a book at the level of her genitals, and her girdle and cord — la sua cintura, se Lei vuole– forms the letter T next to it. You will see the same thing in every old High Priestess card — a book at the level of her genitals, juxtaposed to a T or Cross (X or +). It is all Liber Tav.

Comments are closed.