The Rose is one of the most exquisite images of spirituality in the western world: a timeless expression of beauty, wisdom, love, and, ultimately, union with the Divine. It's easy to see why: the very sensuality of the flower– its soft petals, glorious colours and heavenly scent – opens a gateway leading from this world to a higher order of reality altogether. The humble rose in the suburban garden or hedgerow becomes a radiant portal into the Mysteries of life, death and rebirth.
Like the lotus of the east, the Rose is both a symbol of the path to spiritualrealization and also its attainment. The arduous journey from limited self toinfinite consciousness is suggested by the structure and growth patterns of bothflowers. The lotus is rooted in thick mud through which the stem must rise andbreak through the surface of a lake in order to blossom in the rays of the sun.The Path of the Rose is beset by sharp and terrible thorns of earthly sufferingthat pierce the heart so that the soul within may be set free. Both blossomshave multi-layered circles of petals that draw us into ever deeper communionwith a golden core, the still centre of the turning wheel, that is both the humansoul and the Divine Presence which it seeks.
The Rose grows in the heart, unfurling one petal at a time under the life-givingrays of the Sun, the illuminating power of divine intelligence. When the Roseof the heart starts to open, we slowly awaken to the presence of Love and wesee the connectedness of all created beings. The heart is the seat of the soul,the essential core of our being, and when the Rose of the soul unfolds, we opento receive the downpouring of pure Love and Light from above.
The Rose shares its symbolism with the Holy Grail, the mysterious chalice thatis the other primary Western symbol of the soul. The word ‘chalice’ comesfrom the Latin word, calyx, meaning cup, and is the name given to the cup-likesepals of a flower that support the petals. Both these symbols suggest the receptivevessel of the soul, opening to receive divine Grace. Indeed, the symbolism ofthe Rose is even more complex than the Grail, given the beauty of its form, thenumber and arrangement of the petals with their velvety texture, the intoxicatingperfume and, deep inside, the hidden golden heart enfolded within the petals,concealing the mystery of the sacred centre of all things.
As a symbol of both time and eternity, the Rose is also a sentinel of wisdom,silence and death. The fading petals that drop like tears bear eloquent testimonyto the transience of life in the physical dimension where the human heart isimpaled again and again upon the thorns of loss and grief. The flower of thegoddess of life is stained with the blood of Adonis and of Christ. The Romanfestival of the dead was called the Rosalia, while in some parts of Germany,a graveyard is known as a rose-garden. Yet the presence of the Rose at deathspeaks of hope, the promise of rebirth, and the power of love to transcend evendeath itself.
The Rose Garden
The Sacred Rose can be found within the Rose Garden, a primal paradise whose archetype still resides within the human psyche as an image of lost Eden. 'Paradise' comes from the Persian word for a walled garden, so the Rose Garden is enclosed to offer respite from the profane sphere outside its walls, a sanctuary from the desert of the world. Yet to enter the rose garden requires great courage, the kind that poet T. S. Eliot called 'the awful daring of a moment's surrender which an age of prudence cannot retract.' To open that door, to breach the Gates of Eden, is to risk all for love. Like Alice, we have to be willing to become very small indeed, by stripping away the usual baggage of our identity as a personality, in order to get inside.
The Sufi poets entered the garden on wings. Like the nightingale who fell in love with the Rose in Persian legend, they too poured out their deep longing to their Beloved in intoxicated songs of praise and yearning. To the medieval Christian mind, the Rose Garden became the sanctuary of the heart where the soul, like a bride, sits weaving garlands, while she awaits the coming of the divine groom and the consummation of their sacred union. The Alchemists viewed the rose garden as their laboratory for the Great Work: the gate was narrow, for only those whose lives were purified of all except divine intent could enter in.
For the garden is one of the most potent symbols of the Self as a place that we constantly seek in our dreams and spiritual longings; a place where the soul can rest and be refreshed by the fountains of spirit. New and delicate seeds can be coaxed into life in the fertile soul of the heart. This too is a place of mystic marriage: a secret temenos in which bloom roses, white and red, signifying the feminine lunar and masculine solar principles. The union of these opposites and their integration in the human psyche gives birth to the radiant spirit, often depicted as a golden rose.
When the Rose is perceived as Divine Presence itself, it becomes a symbol of cosmic order and harmony. The vast celestial white rose that is the magnificent final image in Dante's Paradiso is an infinitely unfurling mandala, shining with the reflected Light of God that is ‘the love that moves the sun and the other stars’.
Yet while we can travel to transcendental heights into the heart of the cosmic Rose, we can also retrace our steps back into the microcosm – perhaps into a quiet garden on a June evening – and experience what Eliot calls ‘the moment in the rose-garden’ where time and eternity are one.
The Path of the Rose
A tradition from the Middle East alludes to a long-forgotten spiritual path known as the 'Path of the Rose.' Although we know nothing about this mysterious teaching from history, the Rose, like all potent archetypal images, is a portal that opens onto a spiritual dimension of great beauty and wisdom that can still be explored today by those who wish to bring more beauty and wisdom into their lives. This book is designed to open this portal for you to have a first-hand experience of the deep and beautiful Mysteries of the Rose as a way of connecting with your own soul, your essence, your authentic self. In each chapter, we trace the evolution of the Rose as a sacred image throughout the ages. Each of these teachings offers a unique Path on which you can travel to experience the spiritual power and beauty of the Rose in its many aspects through a guided meditation. Through entering into the hidden wisdom of the Rose you’ll be able to create your own inner Rose Garden – a haven of the heart, a sanctuary of the soul, a timeless place that you can visit over and over again for refreshment of the spirit.