The Aesthetic Rose+Croix Order of the Temple and the Grail
“Ad Rosam per Crucem, ad Crucem per Rosam. In eaeis gemmatus, resurgam.
Non Nobis, Non Nobis, Domine. Sed nominis tui gloriae solae.”
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"Art is the Servant of the Gnosis"
From the earliest known appearance of human beings art has accompanied religious ritual. The oldest-known musical instruments are around 40,000 years old, demonstrating that there was already a well-established musical tradition when modern humans colonized Europe (at least 30,000 years before agriculture and 35,000 years before the earliest known writing systems). Some of the most ancient instruments were found in the painted caves of the French Pyrenees, which were sanctuaries for the earliest known initiation rituals. These temple-caves are the first known evidence of man’s capacity to create Beauty and of his higher aspiration.
From its earliest-known appearance in prehistoric temple-caves, music has been inseparable from the world’s oldest rituals, spiritual traditions, and sacred writings. The Vedas, the oldest scriptures of Hinduism, contain hymns for sacrifice and praise. Music was a great part of the religious rites and processions of the Hebrews. In the golden age of Hebrew music and poetry, the Temple of Solomon was the great school of music, and it was the holy Tribe of Levi (those who carry out the religious duties) who provided music for the procession of the Ark of the Covenant. The Greeks used music and song in the public worship of the gods. From the earliest recorded times, music plays a central role in religious rites, and the priest-musician is found in practically every civilization.
It was through music that the doctrine of the immortal soul was introduced to western humanity. It was introduced by the famous poet-musician Orpheus, who received it through initiation from Hermes Trismegistus of Egypt. In the Eleusinian Mysteries instituted by Orpheus, the combination of music, poetry, and drama used in the reenactment of sacred myths was so aesthetically powerful that it produced in the celebrants all of the internal emotions and sensations that one feels when deeply moved, awed, and inspired by a masterpiece of art. Aristotle said of the Mysteries that “the initiates are not to learn anything, but they are to be affected and put into a certain frame of mind.” When ancient initiates experienced exaltation, the movement of something invisible within them confirmed to them the existence of the immortal soul. Celebrants of the Mysteries experienced a direct, personal, spiritual insight, or gnosis.
The Orphic initiate Pythagoras established music as a physical manifestation of universal spiritual principles. The division of sound into discreet pitches represents that Gnostic duality of Spirit and Matter in the forms of Limit and Unlimitedness, respectively. Limit is the ordering principle (spirit), which acts upon Unlimitedness (matter), just as Number (mathematical ratios) divides the continuum of sound into the pitches of a musical scale.
The Orphic initiate Plato said that the fall of the Athenians began when they abandoned ancient musical laws, and began to favor what appealed to mass consumption over true musical science. With the rise of the Roman Empire, followed by the Barbarian invasions, the arts and sciences were destroyed, along with the temples where they were taught. Even the basic principles of harmony, which Pythagoras had derived from immutable laws of nature, were altered by those who would silence the powerful songs of Greece. But in that darkness of the Middle Ages the Troubadours won back music’s power. For three centuries their songs inspired mankind with a spirit of chivalry and love.
The ancient musical tradition was revived during the Italian Renaissance when the remains of ancient Greek culture were brought together under the House of Medici. In Florence, 1577-1582, a group of humanists, musicians, poets and intellectuals gathered as the “Florentine Camerata” to discuss and guide trends in the arts, especially in music and drama. To restore the expressive power of music, the leading philosophers of the Renaissance revived principles of ancient Greek music that had been completely extinct for a thousand years. Their purpose was to inspire humanity to reason and self-awareness. Marsilio Ficino (called “the second Orpheus”) was central in this movement, and it was through him that the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, which had been neglected by Christian theologians, again became central to religious thought.
Today, L'Ordre de la Rose+Croix Esthétique du Temple et du Graal carries forward the noble tradition that Art plays an important role in the spiritual regeneration and healing of humanity. As Joséphin Péladan wrote:
“Artist, you are a priest: Art is the great mystery and, when your effort leads to a masterpiece, a ray of the divine shines down as on an altar… Artist, you are a magus. Art is the great miracle and proves our own immortality.”
"As certain also of your own poets have said.” Acts xvii. 28.
Living masters of the lyre!
Ye who feel celestial fire,
Priests, whose sacrifice are songs,
Poets! –unto you belongs
Privilege on earth to be,
(If your harps to heaven are true,)
Laureates of eternity,
Chanting more than Homer knew.
Magic, mystery, and might,
Such as charm our earth-bound sight,
From the ocean, sky, and air
Kindle poetry and prayer,
When, by inspiration fraught
Pure as God and genius bring,--
Bards in Nature’s realm have sought
What no sensual harpers sing.
Hue, and harmony, and grace
Featured on Creation’s face;
Beauty, grandeur, love and light,
Beaming Day and dark-brow’d Night,--
To the Poets of the Lord
Sacramental ever prove,
Touch’d by that transforming Word,
Binding earth with heaven above.
Signs and symbols Nature hath
Scattered o’er her mystic path,
Like a wordless Bible, preaching
What no Science can be teaching
While, unread in heavenly lore,
She but scans what He has made,--
Seldom yearning to adore
God in His Own work array’d.
If in realms of heart and home
Fancy-dreams delight to roam,
Tinging all with hues of song
Which to poet-worlds belong,
Let your lyric numbers roll
With a cadence pure and high,--
Chanting His divine control
Watching man with sleepless eye.
But, how dread your boundless loss !
If beneath th’ almighty Cross,
Strains of more melodious worth
Than attuned by choral Earth, --
Kindle no enraptur’d spell
To the praise of Him who died,
Vanquishing both death and hell
On that Cross when crucified.
Priests of melody, and song,
Unto Christ your harps belong
In Whose glories faith can see
Hopes which fill eternity ! --
Nature, Providence, and Grace,
Threefold while to man they prove
Blend in One to Whom we trace
All the hold of light and love.
"Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity" from The Sanctuary, A Companion In Verse for the English Prayer Book by Robert Montgomery, 1855.