The Cross

Great Symbols Series @ Theosophy Trust


THE CROSS


The philosophical cross, the two lines running in opposite directions, the horizontal and the perpendicular, the height and breadth, which the geometrizing Deity divides at the intersecting point, and which forms the magical as well as the scientific quaternary, when it is inscribed within the perfect square, is the basis of the occultist. Within its mystical precinct lies the master-key which opens the door of every science, physical as well as spiritual, ft symbolizes our human existence, for the circle of life circumscribes the four points of the cross, which represent in succession birth, life, death and IMMORTALITY.

Isis Unveiled

 Like many people who have blundered out into the world without knowing what they might expect to find, the Europeans who came to the New World were surprised and gratified to find objects and symbols among the natives similar to many of their own. When they saw crosses decorating faces,-clothing, baskets, tools and religious paraphernalia, they presumed these had a meaning akin to that held by Christians and were puzzled that the symbol could be so widely cherished by such primitive and 'un-Christian-like' people. Where explorers or missionaries tarried long enough to learn the varied myths that told of a great deluge or the coming to earth of an arcane spiritual teacher, they often leapt to the conclusion that hitherto unknown contacts with Christians or even the Apostles themselves were responsible. Some of them, ironically, experienced no doubts whatever in claiming antique visitations by the peripatetic St. Thomas. To this day, sites where he is believed to have taught or performed miracles are trustingly pointed out in Yucatan, Mexico and Peru. The possibility that the cross might have symbolized philosophical and cosmological concepts gestated out of the spiritual and cultural experience of the natives themselves occurred to very few. Fewer still of these ethnocentrics perceived in its ubiquitous presence proof of the fundamentally universal nature of the cross. Centuries would pass before the world would realize how late in the day the Christian rood had joined a long parade of crosses displayed and venerated by human beings for countless millennia.

 According to the Sia Pueblo Indians, the initial act of Spider Woman, the First Being, was to draw a cross in the amorphous womb of the causal world. Focussing upon its eastern and western points, she brought forth Utset and Nowutset, mothers of the Indian people and of other races. Eventually Utset led her people through a reed to emerge through a sipapu into the physical world. Wandering for ages, they finally found their way to the middle place of the world where, circling around on the arms of a swastika pattern, they arrived at the centre of the cross, which was the sacred heartland of the physical Mother Earth. Marking the emergence of order out of chaos as it does, the Sia cross stands at one end of a spectrum of meanings associated with manifestation, the cardinal directions and the conjunction of heaven and earth. At the other end of this spectrum lie beliefs linking the cross with human beings, serpents and stars. Many Plains tribes, perpetuating variations of a beautiful myth, told their children of a mortal maiden who was taken as a wife by a solar being who lived as a brilliant star in the celestial world. Abiding with her husband in that astral realm, this greatly honoured lady gave birth to a child who was of heaven and earth combined. With joy the young mother watched him grow and taught him the laws of the sky world as she knew them. She had tried to adapt herself fully to her husband's realm and had taken care to observe its teachings and taboos. In her heart, however, she had never been able to subdue an intense curiosity, and so it was that she came to uproot a plant she had been explicitly forbidden to touch. Beneath its root, instead of greater depths of astral mists yawned a gaping hole opening out onto the physical world far below.

 She had opened a door from which she could not retreat and was forced to descend to the earth, leaving her husband and child behind. The North American tribes envisioned stars in the shape of equilateral crosses which, in the case of this sadly fallen mother, beamed over her during many lonely nights as reminders of her loss. The Kiowa version of the tale continues, telling of how Little Star (the son of this lonely mother) descended to earth, took on human form and killed a great serpent, which then lodged in his head. Though his body disintegrated, he lived on in the shape of a cross until, after fervent prayers, the serpent came forth from what would have been his mouth. In this way he was restored and, using the serpent's skin as his weapon, he became Venus, the morning star.

 The mysteries suggested in these provocative myths are complex and reveal so many similarities with universal occult teachings concerning the fall of spirit into matter and the sacrificial role of Venus-Lucifer that one cannot avoid being reminded of Plato's notion of archetypes. In the realm of symbols and myths such as these there can be found abundant evidence of the global 'borrowing' from the rich collective storehouse of highly refined and synthesized ideation that has existed for as long as thinking man. Out of this tapping and culling the cross has emerged with a frequency that suggests something both essential and universal, not only at the level of cosmic prototypes but buried deep within the individual and collective human mind. Plato alluded to the more cosmological aspect of this when he described the creator "splitting the whole world along its entire length into two parts and joining them together across one another". As with the activity of Spider Woman, the perpendicular and horizontal of the cross here express in the most fundamental manner height and breadth: the geometrizing deity dividing from its intersecting point the above and below, the right and left, the before and after - in short, all dualities expressed in a manifesting world.

 The cross expresses division and conjunction and epitomizes the paradoxical melding of unifying and opposing forces that typify human nature and the world of which it is a microcosm. Thus, the very structure of the garden of Paradise in myth is decussated by crossing rivers, at the intersection of which grows the axis mundi or Tree of Life upon whose cross-branches sprout the fruits of good and evil. Looked at from one point of view, the design of the garden is the symbol of and symbolized by crucified man. It also shadows forth the perimeters of law, justice and evolution. Eating from the Tree of Life, man is crucified on it, and it comes to represent the history of his evolution. But it also represents an order which sustains and balances a conjunction of higher and lower forces whose complex interrelation must necessarily be marshalled. One sees a clear grasp of this at some level in the belief of the ancient Sumerians, who heralded the cross as the emblem of the god Shamash, who gave to King Hammurabi his famous laws.

 The identification of the cross with the idea of order is echoed in the axis of the Buddhist wheel of the Good Law, whose spokes delineate a multiple of its basic four arms. For many peoples the law exerts its effect through the lords or genii of the four quarters. The circling swastika of the American Indians, the ancient Aryans or the Tibetans conveys the same notion, while the still centre of the cross, like the heartland of the Sia, is the place of the rosy flame of transcendence. It is the sacrificial fire burning where the wood pieces cross in the Inipi Lodge of the Dakota, which, like the fire sticks of Agni, bring together in conjunction the opposite forces of life. In the mundane world of daily coming and going this opposition is met every time one arrives at a crossroads. It is at such a point that choices are made and law comes into operation. One is confronted with choices that may lead one onward, to the right or the left. They may lead into enlightenment or confusion, white or black magic, life or death. The antiquity of this idea is responsible for the many beliefs about demons and witches who hover and perform their dark rites there. In cultures all over the world people have gone to the crossroads on a full moon or new moon night to enlist the forces waiting there in their magical efforts. The road that is crossed may be full of possibilities, or the greatest loss in one's life may have been avoided by not turning into it. Or the crossed road may have led to endless night, a darkness of missed opportunity, a lamentation of shrinking hopes.

But man must light for man
The fires no other can,
And find in his own eye
Where the strange crossroads lie.

David McCord

 The conjunction of opposing forces or possibilities can be traced in common English slang where to 'double cross', 'play the cross' or do anything 'on the cross' implies dishonesty and deception in the face of certain concepts of law or morality. To 'cross-examine' someone is to question them from opposite sides of an issue in an effort to discover the truth, while to be 'cross' is simply to be in opposition to or out of harmony with someone or some particular set of circumstances. The emphasis shifts subtly when considering the various types of crosses that have been carved into stone, stitched into silk or buckskin or shaped out of a living tree. The cross in the form of an X signifies the upper and lower worlds, the + orientation, the centrifugal force, the centripetal force, and the peripheral force. The cross as a bridge or ladder to God is like Jacob's ladder or the great tree laid down as part of the entrance leading into Solomon's temple. Here the main idea has shifted away from conjoining forces to the link connecting heaven and earth. The Siberian Voguls thus kept a fir-wood 'pillar' with cross-pieces bearing sacrificial offerings, at the base of which they said the son of God tied his steed while visiting his father. Sacred poles with cross-pieces readily function as meeting points between God and man in rituals like the great Sun Dance of the Plains Indians. There the central pole is the emblem of life and cosmic organization and the link between the solar god and the warriors who, by attaching themselves to its top with rawhide lines and dancing about it while gazing at the sun, sacrificed of their stamina and flesh to their deity. The tree chosen for this important rite represented the world Tree of Life similar to that symbolized by the tau cross among the ancient Maya of Yucatan which was, along with their equilateral cross, mistaken by the Spaniards as proof of an earlier Christian influence.

 When the link between heaven and earth and the notion of communicating spiritual power is thus emphasized, the cross can clearly be seen as related to the Tree of Life and Knowledge around which a serpent is coiled. One can identify this form and meaning in the caduceus, wherein the outstretched wings appear as the horizontal bar and the dark and light serpents embody the opposing forces of good and evil. In Mexico the cross was the emblem of Quetzalcoatl who, like the Sumerian Shamash, gave to the people their laws and all their arts while being identified as the plumed serpent. Crosses are associated with his shrines and powerfully dramatic serpentine representations. As a man, Quetzalcoatl was believed to be pale of skin, having a long white beard and robes. In his struggles with the forces of darkness in the world there came a time when he was forced to abandon mankind and cross the Eastern Sea to Tlillan Tlapallan, the resting place of the gods. When the white-skinned Spaniards came, with robed priests carrying crosses upon ships sporting tall masts and cross-spars, the Maya along the Caribbean coast believed that their god had returned to them and they unwittingly embraced their future conquerors. Taking full advantage of this mistake, the meagre forces of the Spaniards were soon able to subjugate far vaster numbers of the relatively peaceful native people.

Onward, Christian soldiers,
Marching as to war,
With the Cross of Jesus
Going on before!

 The common factor lay in the frequent identification of some form of the cross with a divine messenger. Whether it be Thor's fylfot, Hermes' caduceus, the tau and cross pattée of Quetzalcoatl, the ansated cross of Venus-Lucifer or the ankh associated with Osiris, it is an emblem of life and of all the sacrifice attendant upon the manifestation in the world of a spiritually enlightened being. As the inheritor of such great archetypal sacrifices, man himself can be likened to the cross. If he is imbibed with the desire to embrace this sacrificial spirit, he stands straight with his head thrown back and his arms outstretched, looking for all the world like a cross. The Chinese believed this stance symbolized man's divine potential, and because they believed certain criminals had profaned this, they crucified them on crosses. In willing the fullest manifestation of his potential, man stands at the crossroads of evolution, his nature the meeting-place of all opposites. With his arms extended and his body erect, he is the figure of humanness at full stretch, the potential bridge between heaven and earth. Looked at in this way, man joins the ranks of the great Teachers and spiritual sacrificers spoken of in myth and religious tradition, and the cross takes on a much broader association, its arms extending in cyclic time to include the whole of humanity, not merely one central being.

 In the Christian tradition the X stands for Χριστος (Christos) as well as for 'cross'. Coming to the world through the Greek language, the basic concepts and symbols in Christianity were stamped with the meanings associated with the Hellenic alphabet and words. X stands for 'chaos' and 'chasm', but it also yields χριο (chrio), 'to be rubbed on', and χριεν (chrien), 'to anoint'. Thus Christ, associated with the cross that emerges out of chaos, was known as the Anointed One. We have seen that this X cross symbolizes a conjunction of the upper and lower worlds, and it is interesting to note the opposite meanings attached to its popular usage, where the X of the Vikings' runic alphabet meaning 'bad luck' is balanced off by the X of the Romans, meaning 'a kiss'. Though the crossbones X beneath a skull signified pirates in earlier times and poison to us now, X is equally associated with number and increase as well as unknown factors. Identified with man, it contains all these opposites and has been for ages his signature mark. In the shape of the X the Christian cross was borne up the tortured path to Calvary, and Emperor Julian waged warfare with it emblazoned on his banner, believing that the elongated vertical of the Latin cross abused the original symbolic association with the occult meaning of the crucifixion. But the more abstract ideas represented by the equilateral cross gave way over time, and the emphasis in the Christian tradition came to rest ever more exclusively upon the material cross of crucifixion echoed in the physical form and passion of Christ. There grew an increasing confusion wherein aspects of the Tree of Life, the ansated cross, the X of Christos and the rod or staff linking heaven and earth were all mixed and moulded to suit a particular event.

 Ironically, the legend of the Holy Rood (the cross of Christ) provides clues of greater symbolic latitude concerning the cross than does the dogma of Christian theology. Beginning with the Garden of Eden, the legend makes the connection between the tree at its centre and the later cross supposed to have been used for the crucifixion. The imagery is rich, describing how Seth, the third son to Adam and Eve, attempted to locate the fruit of Paradise. Arriving at the Garden of Eden, he saw through its closed gate four streams coursing out from a central well where stood an aged tree. The top of this tree bore at its highest heavenly point an unborn babe, while its roots reached to the nether realms of hell. From its branches an angel gave him three pips which Seth planted on earth and watched grow into a cedar, a cypress and a pine. These, it is said, were later used as rods of divination and curing by Moses, after which King David brought them to Jerusalem where he planted them once again. They grew into one marvelous tri-branched tree which King Solomon used as a bridge leading to his temple. The legend meanders on through these remarkable generations to tell how the Queen of Sheba, visiting Solomon, advised him to bury the tree reverentially at a place where subsequently sprang up a deep well capable of miraculous healing. The tale then describes how, when Jesus was born, the tree began to float on the well-water's surface, where those who prepared to crucify him later found it. The cross was made of two-thirds of the great beam, with eight cubits standing above ground and three on each side.

O tree, thou art only made for traitors,
Yet virtue is slain along with vice.
Truth now united to treason.
With a thief my son is hanged.

Mary Disputes with the Cross

 After the Crucifixion, the legend relates, the Holy Rood was buried with the crosses of the two thieves and Adrian built a Roman temple over the spot. Years later, during the reign of Constantine, his mother Helena went to Jerusalem to find it. The Jews there tried to keep its whereabouts secret but she threatened them with severe consequences and, interestingly, a man called Judas finally told her where it lay. It is said by some that four equally divided parts of the cross were sent to the four quarters of the earth, but the more popular notion is that Helena sent part of it to Constantinople and enshrined the rest at Mount Calvary. Its extraordinary odyssey did not seem to rest even there, for it is recorded that in A.D. 615 the Persian king Khosrau stole the Holy Rood and that it was captured by the emperor Heraclitus and brought back to Jerusalem, where, it is suggested, its presence filled the air with a sweet aroma. One comes to the conclusion of this saga impressed with the numerous elements that have been woven together to create a sort of living tree capable of extending its branches, as it were, from the beginning of the Old Testament to the end of the New. That this is artfully done cannot be disputed and yet, behind it lies a continuing focus upon the terrible agony suffered by Christ on this Cross.

. . . pain's almost the God
Of doubtful men, who tremble expecting to
Endure it, their cruelty sublimed. And I
Think the brute cross itself
Hewn down to a gibbet now, has been worshipped;
It stands yet for an idol of life and
Power in the dreaming world.

Robinson Jeffers

 Miguel de Unamuno made a profound distinction between the utterly killed and dead Christ portrayed in the painting The Recumbent Christ of Palencia and the eternally agonizing, living Christ of Velazquez. As for Pascal, to whom Christ would "continue to be in agony until the end of the world", so too for Unamuno, the Christ of Velazquez symbolized endless struggle. This view focusses upon the cross and the condition it represents as an ongoing fact about the world and humanity rather than as a specific historical event. The implication is that the agony leads to a redemption which is also ongoing. If one reads the Gospels with a deeper intuitive awareness of the cosmological and universally human symbolism involved in the Crucifixion, one will readily see that Christ is not depicted as a martyr. Instead, one will see that the Cross plays a fundamental role in what is a divine transaction transcending time and space and individual suffering. But for centuries much of Christendom has been mesmerized by the blood and agony marking one particular highly dramatized event. In popular and serious religious art as well as in poetry and plays, the tortured bloodiness of the Crucifixion has undoubtedly affected the collective psyche of vast numbers of people.

 Reacting strongly to this in his inimitable way, George Bernard Shaw asserted that in Europe "the instruments of his [Jesus'] torture were made symbols of the faith . .. and the crucifixion thus became to the churches what the chamber of horrors is to a wax work". While this may be an oversimplified exaggeration of the problem, it does provoke questions about the deep-seated morbid tendencies which have caused so many to enjoy surrendering themselves in waves of transferred self-pity and supplication before the most harrowing statues of Christ, depicted in bleeding agony upon the Cross. There is little doubt that elements of this lugubrious identification would tend to flow into irrational expressions of doleful righteousness giving vent, from time to time, to bigotry and even violence towards those of other faiths.

Odour of blood when Christ was slain
Made all Platonic tolerance vain
And vain all Doric discipline.

William Butler Yeats

 In the catacombs of Rome the early Christians focussed upon the Resurrection instead of the Crucifixion. But it was not long before a sort of religiocentric righteousness, partly motivated by a vague sense of justifiable reparation for the martyrdom suffered by Jesus in the hands of non-believers, led to a stronger and more aggressive identification with the emblem of his terrible passion. The emperor Constantine saw the cross in a dream during a battle at the Danube. He fixed its image to a banner, so they say, and drove his heathen foe before him as they panicked with its display. Increasingly such banners were carried aloft in war, contributing to a more intense and militant consolidation of messianic fervour focussed upon the cross. With the eclipse of the classical world and the conversion of many within the Roman fold to the new religion, it was perhaps inevitable that the cross would become a central symbol of the waxing Christian era. It was worn as an emblem, traced in a ritual sign across the breast and carried forth by pilgrims or settlers as they entered a new land. More and more, as the centuries passed, this shape of suffering and hoped for salvation dotted the landscape of the Old World and embedded itself into the architecture, the minds and emotional associations of countless generations of people. By the thirteenth century it would seem perfectly reasonable for Thomas Aquinas to teach that the cross itself should be adored with supreme worship.

 The majority of Christian crosses carved in the earliest centuries during which the new religion spread were wheel-shaped. Those in Ireland and places like Cornwall were exceedingly simple designs having flat, circular heads of stone with Maltese (cross pattée) crosses carved on each face. Some of these, smoothed by winds and snow, still bear dates placing their origins in the sixth and seventh centuries. As in other northern countries, they far outnumbered Latin crosses, the old pre-Christian associations with the Nordic and Celtic equilateral cross prevailing, even in the recognition paid to the increasingly dominant new religion. Many centuries would pass before the elongated cross so emblematic of the actual Crucifixion would become the most clearly recognized symbol of organized Christianity. The slow shift of favour away from the cross within the circle to the cross with the circle about its centre and, finally, the Latin cross with no circle at all occupied several centuries. Modestly adorned with the lamb of God or some other non-anthropomorphic symbol, all of these styles remained relatively simple and abstract until the Quinisext Council of Constantinople in 692 decided that it was permissible to depict the figure of Christ in human form instead of the lamb. It was this decision which lent an edge to the Latin cross, whose shape so closely echoes that of man and which quickly began to be seen, supporting in wood or stone or on canvas, the emaciated and bleeding body of the Prince of Peace.

 This shift from the circled cross to one outside a circle is a reflection, writ small in a few centuries, of a far greater shift that can truly be related to a vast and antique process of spiritual involution. According to the symbolism depicting this greater process, the cross first appeared as part of an occult sequence beginning with a boundless circle. Within the unformed space of this circle a Logoic point emerged, to be followed by a horizontal line symbolizing "a divine immaculate Mother-Nature within the all-embracing absolute Infinitude". A vertical line dropping down from this forms the sacred tau cross, the "Alpha and the Omega of secret divine Wisdom" and glyph of the androgynous Third Root Race up to the point where the separation of the sexes took place, symbolized by the crossing of the horizontal line in the circle with an equal vertical. As long as the cross remained within the circle it symbolized a state wherein, though the cause of all manifestation may not have been presumed knowable, there persisted a refusal to worship an external god of physical generation. The circled cross affirms the universal presence of vast and recurring cycles of space and time typified by the Hindu chakra or Plato's decussated circle. From the fully encircled cross evolved the crux ansata of the ancient Egyptians, the ankh or key to life held by the goddess of truth, Maat. This symbol, identical in essence to that associated with Venus, still clung to the expanded sphere of the Logoic point and continued to assert man's fundamentally spiritual ancestry. Suspended below the sphere, the crux ansata indicated that mankind and all animal life had "stepped out of the spiritual circle and fallen into physical male and female generation". From the end of the Third Race this sign took on a phallic meaning which came to be fully expressed in the cross having no circle at all.

 The evolutionary history of the cross is as complex as that of man himself. The crux ansata marks a step in a line of development moving from a relatively subjective oneness of consciousness and being to a separative objectivized condition manifested at its greatest extreme in man. Parallel with this, the simple ideas of the four cardinal points and their presiding powers, the axis of the wheel of the Law in Buddhist or American Indian belief, and the idea of the tau as the Tree of Life flow and become blended. Many glyphs and legends trace the development of the intertwined characteristics of these various crosses.

 Astrologically, Taurus was said to have "pushed off the dragon" with the ansated cross on his horns. The ancients believed that this celestial event was reflected on earth in terrestrial generation involving the cross as the "framework of all construction". To them Taurus represented the lower physical world that eclipsed the realm of intuitive wisdom by means of the cross. Such notions might seem to be arrived at over the millennia through man's observations of the constellations and their shifts relative to this globe. But the double glyph that underlies the idea of the cross is not of human invention. "Cosmic ideation and the Spiritual representation of the divine Ego-man are at its basis." This is alluded to in the Hindu idea of man crucified in space and identified as "the Second God who impressed himself on the Universe in the form of Cross". It is described in terms of the Universal Soul which, as a material reflection of the Ideal, is the sevenfold source of life represented by the cross, whose branches are light, heat, electricity, terrestrial magnetism, astral radiation, motion and intelligence.

 The dragon eclipsed by the cross of Taurus is echoed in the serpent so frequently associated with the cross. The dragons of Wisdom are, however, to be distinguished from Nidhogg gnawing at the base of the Yggdrasil tree, just as are the white and dark serpents wound round the caduceus. Behind this duality presides a necessity based upon the fact of manifestation itself and relentlessly expressed through its basic cross-shaped framework. The transcendent source of this necessity cannot be arrived at in one leap but requires many steps along the arms of its doubled dualistic expression. Beautifully expressing this, the powerful stone-carved pyramids of the ancient Maya slope up to a sacred capstone where man and the gods were believed to meet. Each of their four sides is centred by a tapered band of steep steps leading up to the shrine on this platform. Looked at from an aerial view, the steps resemble the arms of a cross pattée extending out from a square centre, while the corners of the pyramid describe an X or St. Andrew's cross. An illustration of this cross in the Codex Ferjervary-Mayer reveals a tau cross or Tree of Life in each of the larger cross-arms symbolic of the four seasons of cycles great and small. The cross-bar of these tau trees rests at the wide outer extremities of the arms, while the trunks extend towards the centre, from which flows the life-giving spirit of the mother and father of the gods.

 Looked at from above, the tree crosses extend from the central heavenly source upside down into the world. Like those of the sacred Ashwatha tree of Hinduism, their branches bear the leaves and creatures of phenomenal existence whilst their roots disappear at the top of the steps, merging into the realm of the noumenal. The divine king whose death scene is so powerfully and elaborately carved on the sarcophagus at Palenque sits tilted backwards in front of an upright Tree of Life cross. He appears to be about to fall backwards into the underworld of the dead. Turning this around and assuming that the ancient priest-artists understood that everything in the world is an inversion, the king is actually falling into the realm of the divine, whilst the tree can be seen to be growing downward into the world.

 Growing down into the world, as it were, the four arms of the Mayan cross pattée containing the trees also represent the four elements. Extending out, the separate elements are bound to perish, but if united by the central platform of the fifth principle, the central sun, they will merge in creative life. This centre is the heart, archetypal to that around which the Sia cross of migration circled. It is the precious jewel where opposites meet and transcendence occurs, the symbol of the solar messenger, Venus-Quetzalcoatl. Through this heart animal man and divine man merge, inaugurating a force capable of freeing the world from inertia whilst preserving the sacred fire of spiritual awakening. In this heart lie the seeds of both crucifixion and redemption accepted and pursued through the sacrificial compassion of initiated Adepts. This was initially understood by the ancient Maya, whose later degraded sacrificial practice of cutting out and offering to God a living human heart simply represented a loss of spirituality reflected in a gross concretization of the idea. Just so, the crucifixion upon the arms of that great heart can be understood at many levels. The poignancy and profundity of human consciousness can either be suffused with a realization of the ongoing, omnipresent nature of sacrifice in the entire manifest universe, or it can be shrunk to the focus of one agony, one sacrificial passion crucified on the cross of time and place.

 If the heart of the cross, the still, central solar point, is ever held foremost in consciousness, these degradations would never occur. Only with the loss of the circle extending to encompass all space can the cross be shrunk to a piece of wood or a physically anthropomorphized theme. The Tree of Life grows out of No-thing and extends endlessly into manifested existence, inevitably yielding the cross upon which the great compassionators of mankind will deliberately and willingly suffer. The cross was always there, for it is the unfolded cube through which the solar unity of all lays itself out, stretches itself to the full in the plurality of manifested life. As with the tree in paradise, there is nothing intrinsically good or evil about the cross. Only man's mental exaggeration of the fall of oneness into manyness, his concretization of its nature and fixation upon physical separation, has blinded him to its cosmic nature and rendered him incapable of seeing in it the simple necessity of its character.

The way to bliss lies not on beds of down,
And he that has no cross deserves no crown.

Francis Quarles

 The cross, like the Tree of Life, is unavoidable. There is no manifestation without the circle having become pointed with the Logoic seed, crossed and crossed again in the union of the father and mother from whose embrace extend the limbs of the world. Having arms and legs like branches from the trunk, the cosmic man is thus crucified in space so that divine intelligence may percolate out through his ethereal substance into the world. Inheritors of his intelligence are also inheritors of the burden of this cross. Human beings carry its weight from morn to night through much of their lives. Only those who locate its centre within the depth of their own heart can free the cross from its rigid Latin stance and turn it into a moving wheel within an all-encompassing circle. The terrible weight of doubt, anxiety, fear and hatred born of prolonged identification with one life, one body, one event in time, crucify lesser mortals over and over again. Only the wonderfully bold and great-hearted have the vision and strength to discard this and use the cross as a means for emancipation.

 Those few who have succeeded in doing this free their own souls into the hands of their higher immortal selves and thus arrive fully in consciousness at the intersection where heaven and earth meet. Of these only a few will turn back and attempt to gather up the rest of mankind to share in their enlightenment. Only a few will take up the cross - not because they must any longer, but on behalf of the human race. In their crucifixion lies not an event with beginning or end, but a willingness to shoulder and lighten the inescapable suffering of worldly existence. That part of Christ which cried out "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" was his link with the mind and consciousness of the fallen humanity he sought to uplift. In seeking to lead it towards the truth, he had to join it and take on its fear-ridden characteristics. This is the agony willingly assumed by great redeemers. It is their cross of suffering which may weigh so heavily at times upon their hearts that they cry out in a momentarily bewildered sense of loss.

 The poignancy of this would touch any human heart capable of trying to imagine the trials of such great souls. It would be a great mistake, however, to imagine that any such being's sacrifice could do the job for others. Its merit lies in that it can inspire and arouse a deep compassion and desire to emulate, a desire to accept the cross of existence, even as it is weighted down and distorted with human ignorance, and bear its burden as bravely and lightly as possible. Struggling along with this worldly weight, a patient and courageous pilgrim will eventually reach the hill of Calvary, the place of Odin's tree, the platform of the Mayan pyramid. There his terrible burden will fall from him and he will see before him the great cross of initiation upon whose arms he will be bound into the mysteries of the immortal fire burning in the central Spiritual Sun. This is his destiny and the ultimate destiny of all human souls. The cross is always there, it ever awaits. It is up to mankind to shed the crippling moral and psychological shape of its splintered and morbidly limiting shadow in order to embrace the joyously liberating truth that lies at the crossroads of its heart.

Mounting the steps of its arms
The pilgrim pauses.
He looks out over the familiar world.
The pyramid looms above.

Mounting higher he
Pauses again.
And the world appears less real
A dizzying distance below.

Weary beyond measure,
He closes his eyes and
Trudges on,
Step by step and narrow step.

His feet are like lead,
His breath in short rasps,
His mind fixed
On the summit above.

He does not know what is there.
He does not look up or down.
He raises his aching limb.
And suddenly, he is there.