Dancing Sufis

Encounter with the Eternal - Where Rosicrucians and Sufis reach out to each other

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What is this existence? What does it mean? It is not easy to find a satisfactory answer. The search for an answer is an endeavor to discover a mystery.

Mysticism in the original sense refers to insight into the mysteries. One can think about the reason for existence, man can grow up in a certain belief, one can have certain feelings about it. Deep mysticism is, however, like Gnosis, about experiencing oneself as an answer to the "whole", is to make yourself that answer.

The great mystery, God, can touch us. We are designed for that to happen. What's more, we are designed for the awakening of the divine to take place within us. Rosicrucianism and Sufism follow paths on which this awakening can take place. The heart plays a decisive role in this process. Because the most important point of contact for the divine is in the heart. It contains a spiritual-soul gate that can open. And there are many ways to knock on this door.

Sura 50 in the Koran says, God is “closer to man than his jugular vein" (50:16). The Bible says, "I no longer live, but Christ lives in me" (Gal. 2, 20). Ibn’Arabi, the great theosophist among the masters of Sufism (1165-1240), speaks of every human being having a spiritual name. This refers to the inner God, the spiritual pole in man, the archetype companion, the unchangeable essence of man. It has existed for ages, even before all creation. It brings us forth as the external being in order that it may awaken within us. The divine name wants to be called by us. It wants to ignite its light in us – only then can it enter into existence.[1]

There is an inner relationship between the various mystical paths. This is not surprising, because it is about the dimensions of man. And these are in their depth independent of the nature of cultures, religions and social circumstances. The Fama Fraternitatis (the first Rosicrucian script, 1614[2]) and Ibn'Arabi use amazingly similar images for what happens when the door of the heart opens and the all transforming encounter with the mystery of our existence takes place.

The Fama Fraternitatis and Ibn’Arabi

The Fama tells how Christian Rosycross, the legendary founder of Rosicrucianism, undertakes a journey around the Mediterranean. Several times he meets with the sages of Arabia, the Sufis. They show him their way. Together with them, he opens the door to the soul worlds and experiences himself as a microcosm in which everything is united, the transcendent and the natural. He experiences himself as a reflection and as a compendium of the universe, of the macrocosm.

After his return to Germany, Christian Rosycross and his disciples build the "House Sancti Spiritus". At the end of the Fama Fraternitatis, it is written in regard to the House Sancti Spiritus: "Even if one hundred thousand people had seen it up close, our building will remain eternally untouched, unbroken, unseen and completely hidden from the godless world." It is a "house", a sphere in the spirit-soul world.

To gain a conscious access to this realm is what can be called initiation. It is the awakening of inner realms in one’s own microcosm and at the same time the awakening in the worlds to which they belong.

The Fama reports that future generations are no longer aware of where the vault of Christian Rosycross is situated. Then comes "Brother N.N.", who begins to change things in their common spiritual "building". And suddenly they find a "plaque with the names of all who belonged to the Brotherhood". They decide to move it to a more suitable place. A nail protrudes from the plaque. They pull it out and … a hidden door becomes visible. It reads: "After 120 years, I will be open." And from the year named below the epigraph it is clear that the 120 years have passed.

Now, it is interesting that the word plaque in Arabic also means all-soul. The first intellect, the divine spirit, writes down everything that is to come on the “plaque” of the soul world. It is the intermediate world between the world of divine spirit and our realm of existence.[3]

When the Fama Fraternitates states that the Rosicrucian brothers undo the plaque of the wall, it means that they discover the access to the spirit-soul world and come across the names of the ones who preceded them. But before they enter the Inner Temple, they read their “Rota”: They ask the divine inner wisdom for advice.

Ibn’Arabi describes in his work Fusus Al Hikam how he finds a Temple that has no access. No door, no window can be seen. He constantly goes around the Temple that rests on five pillars and suddenly he notices that one of the pillars protrudes slightly.  He comes closer and kisses it just as the believers of Islam kiss the Black Stone at the Kaaba in Mecca.

The protruding pillar, the protruding nail – both symbolize helping divine powers that turn towards man. Man only needs to recognize Them as he goes “around the Temple”.

Ibn’Arabi now experiences how a female figure emerges from the shadow of the wall.  It is Sophia, the divine wisdom. It corresponds to the Rota of the Brothers of the Rosycross. Hand in hand with Sophia, he enters the inner temple. The wall becomes permeable. It proves to be alive:  The Temple is our own heart. Sophia transforms into the immortal companion. It is the image, the symbol of the spirit-soul of man and thus of the emmissary of the divine inner pole, the divine name.[4]

Manifesting the Eternal One

The brothers of the Rosycross find the immortal body of Christian Rosycross "in full regalia". His tomb has seven walls. This is an indication of the universality of Christian Rosycross. The brothers have to push aside an altar to reach the immortal body, which is located in an even deeper vault. On the altar are the words:

"This compendium of the universe, I have made it a tomb for myself in my life.” This refers to the whole and its reflection in the individual. In his hand Christian Rosycross holds the “Book T”, the “Book Theos”, the book of immortality.

The myth of Christian Rosycross describes the search for the eternal, the universal in man. This is also indicated in the story of his journey around the Mediterranean where all cultures and religions were represented. The journey can be seen as a mandala in which everything is brought together.

Both the Rosicrucian brothers and Ibn'Arabi have been able to enter the innermost sanctuary, the spiritual temple in their microcosm. Therein (and thus at the same time in the spirit-soul worlds) rests the highest self of man, the cause and the spiritual ground of his existence. It becomes their companion. They have found the meaning of their life. All their actions will now be about manifesting Him, the Other in their own being.

So they turn back into the world to serve all who are searching.


[1] Cf. Henry Corbin, Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn Arabi, Princeton 1981, p. 267, 154, 184, 193, 248 (French Original: L’imagination créatrice dans le soufisme d’Ibn’Arabi, Paris 1958, p. 278, 170, 199, 207, 260); Titus Burckhardt, Vom Sufitum, Munich 1953, p. 63

[2] It was published anonymously, authors were a group of scholars of the University of Tubingen in Germany, esp. Tobias Hess and Johann Valentin Andreae. Confer for a new edition: Fama Fraternitatis, Rozekruis Pers, Haarlem 1998

[3] Ibn’Arabi, Urwolke und Welt, Mystische Texte des Größten Meisters, edited by Alma Giese, Munich 2002, p. 338; Titus Burckhardt, op. cit., p. 73

[4] Henry Corbin, op. cit., p. 278

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