by Christine Ford
Symbols … The way the Lord of Life speaks to us through the interface of our exchanges and comings and goings. Do we pause, be still and hear the promptings and whisperings of the One as It beckons within the busy day to day treadmill we call “life” through the symbols around us? If we do hear the smallest whisper, or even a shout, do we listen and heed the prompt? Do we see the unfolding of events, the inter-mesh of patterns weaving the days, years and decades of our lives as we tread blindly through the maze of the Minotaur, making the motions of living, while just merely repeating the patterns which have been ingrained into our belief system from infancy by well-meaning parents and replicated by ourselves in how we perceive the experiences that built the foundation of our reality?
Sadly, while living immersed within and pursuing the dream, we rarely take the time to attempt to dissect the process by which we arrived at the erroneous state which we have come to believe is our reality. With the ear plugs and blinders firmly in place, we put one foot in front of the other, trudging along as the Sun rises and sets, as the Moon waxes and wanes, as the Solstices and Equinoxes come and go ignoring the symbols we are given as goads to make change while repeating the old worn out habits.
Symbols speak from a deep layer of our consciousness which does not need words to convey a message; most recently a symbol that has haunted my life since early childhood has been brought to the forefront of my awareness. By listening to the promptings of the Lord of Life to explore the meaning of this symbol in combination of the co-mingling of knowledge from classes with Dr. Stickler, pulling out and dusting off past experiences, dialoging with my fellow travelers, and looking at the symbol with fresh eyes, I have had an epiphany, solved a mystery that has shed light into the biases and prejudices upon which I have built a good portion of my so-called “life.” Please note that I do not use the word “epiphany” lightly; I can actively feel the discovery of this experience unraveling and moving into a multitude of layers of my being, changing the way in which I perceive the world.
The Winter Solstice and the season of Christmas hold a mystical significance for those who choose to look inward, be still, and listen; it is a time of deep personal contemplation infused with energies for discovery that only are available during this time of year. It is my hope that I am able to convey even a brief instant of insight into my new awareness as I am limited to speaking in words, not symbols; but it is a symbol of which I speak. I would like to share my understanding as a gift to our readers at this mysterious and glorious time of year, to hopefully spark a similar experience for them.
Let me begin at the beginning, with a trip down memory lane! One of my earliest childhood memories is gardening with my mom, who just celebrated her 92nd birthday. She was an avid gardener and lover of flowers especially; together we grew Cosmos that reached the roof of the house, snapdragons and petunias flourished and transformed into shrubbery under her care. Knowing Mom’s love of flowers, I would wake up early on sunny summer mornings and sneak off into the woods alone to commune with the fairies and sprites, and to gather bouquets of wild Trillium, sometimes finding a rare red or pink one. Silently I would sneak back into the house to arrange them in a vase on the kitchen table; then I would jump into bed and pretend to be asleep, anxiously awaiting Mom’s exclamations of joy at the gift from a “secret admirer”. We never talked about where the flowers came from, but she always made sure to rave about their beauty and give thanks to the anonymous donor.
For a years we played this game; I truly believed I had her fooled and that she thought they just magically appeared there as a gift to her for sharing her love of nature and beauty with the world! Somewhere in the process I realized she knew where they came from, but continued to play along. A small part of my recent “epiphany” is that I have come to understand where my lifelong pattern of doing things for people in secret while delighting in avoiding the recognition came from; where the seed was planted in my early childhood that became a belief deeply ingrained in my personal reality; hearing her happiness was enough; I did not need personal acknowledgment or thanks. Can you see how this process works? The true revelation that I am sharing, however, came through the symbol of the Rose.
Mom had a special affinity for roses; we would gather them carefully, knocking off spiders along the way, putting them into giant (or so it seemed to me as a child) baskets to give to the neighbors. Once we had collected them, we would sit on the back porch and painstakingly, literally, break off each and every thorn on the rose stem before giving them as gifts, because, as my mom in her wisdom stated over and over, and I, as a child, soaked right up and made my own, “The beauty of the rose should not be tarnished by the pain of the thorn.”
Dun dun dun!!!!! Can you see where this is going? Unknowingly, built right into my belief system through the symbol of the rose at a very early age was the idea that beauty was to be nurtured, sought, shared and given freely, but pain could not be a part of the process; according to my patterning, and repeating of the pattern to myself, the thorns had to be completely removed in order to experience and share the agape of the beauty of the rose, to protect the person being gifted from pain. Whew! Talk about heavy with implications and insight as to how I built my belief structure and patterned my personality to respond to pain or negativity! Just break it off, throw it away, ignore it and pretend it was never there in the first place… Thanks, Mom! At the ripe old age of 67, with lots of work and years of experiencing the pain of hiding the pain, the breaking off of the thorns to try to spare myself and others the “pain”, hiding away and denying any kind of negativity, I have come to know where it started! And in all fairness, thanks me, for continuing as an adult to blindly accept that and weave it into the patterns I chose to reflect; all this from the symbol of the Rose.
Steeped in religious and spiritual meaning, the Rose is symbolic of a myriad of ideas and concepts. 1 The Rose has come to symbolize the many layered unfoldment of spiritual awakening, as it opens from a tight bud into full bloom, in all its five petaled (five senses) glory. The symbolism of the Rose is explored in the Tarot of BOTA, with the red rose denoting desire, and the white rose depicting purity. The Golden Dawn uses the symbolism of the Rosy Cross from the Rosicrucian Order, a white rose in the middle of a cross and the ritual of the Rosy Cross affords one protection. The scent of the Rose has been associated with the presence of God, Angels, Saints, Miracles and the Soul. The Virgin Mary has been called the Mystic Rose, a Rose without thorns, and it has been said that in the Garden of Eden, Roses existed without thorns. The Rosary of the Catholic Church, which means “Crown of Roses”, involves offering a group of prayers to Mary like a spiritual bouquet. The thorns were there in the end, however, placed upon the head of the Great Rabbi before he was crucified, to signify the sin and pain of this physical world. The relationship of the Virgin Mary symbolized as a thornless Rose, and the significance of the Crown of Thorns placed upon the head of Yaheshuah is a mystery in and of itself, far too complex to be explored in this writing, as well as the complex symbolism of the Rose summed up in this brief paragraph. Suffice it to say; the Rose carries with it an ancient history and profound, significant symbolism; although the Rose spoken directly to me for years, the message had fallen on blind eyes and deaf ears.
The Rose came in and out of my life in ways too numerous to mention, but in hindsight, I can see that I felt stirrings and heard whispers from this powerful symbol of the heart, but never responded. To mention a few, my favorite flower was always the Rose, most specifically the yellow rose, after having been described in a poem as “The blinding gold of sunlight, the warm saffron of fields and flowers, the glowing amber of living love is her color”. Ah, the romantic…and always, ever, without thorns. The only flower I ever gave as a gift was the Rose, always with the thorns removed. In high school choir I couldn’t make it through the Christmas hymn “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” without dissolving into tears. The first home my new husband and I purchased was the house next door to my mom and dad, and the man who owned it was a prize-winning rose grower. Before he died, he taught me how to nurture his roses, which I plucked, removed the thorns, and shared with my neighbors as my mom had taught me. My dad’s last words to me were “Always, always, remember to stop and smell the roses.” Most recently this sentiment was repeated to me during class by Dr. Strickler, a strange comment coming from him, for those of us who know him well!
Blithely I went through the moments and years of my life repeating what I had learned and woven into my beliefs; denying the pain, removing the thorns, smiling and laughing, outwardly painting the picture of loving the world and everyone in it, while silently screaming out inside for what I knew had to be more. I raised children and passed a similar belief on to them I am sure, though I have yet to discover exactly how and what the implications are for them as they move along their paths. And the most astounding aspect of this now to me is that I was unaware that this bias was even there, totally oblivious to the seeds of how this pattern even started; until the symbolism of the Rose recently began repeating its presence to me, in dreams as well as fleeting experiences, conversations, memories and promptings that cumulatively I could no longer ignore, and I wisely, for once in my life, stopped to listen to and began to see. Way back in February of 1992, I first began to awaken to what is “natural”; after meeting Dr. Strickler in Naples, FL. It was through him and his class lectures in exploration of the Tarot that I came to begin to hear and see a new belief; that this plane is comprised of both positive and negative, that a “natural” part of the beauty of the rose is its thorns, that one must always consider the “A and not A” of a situation. The doublets of the Tarot Keys representing the chakras reflected a positive and negative energy; Life and Death, Peace and Strife, Wisdom and Folly, Wealth and Poverty, Sin and Grace, Fertility and Sterility, Dominion and Slavery. The Sephiroth on the Tree of Life contained both positive and negative energies. The words “Lord of the Light, and Lord of the Darkness” became a part of the daily ritual I performed. I learned, repeated and memorized, but did I weave this into my belief system? Did I accept this as truth? Did I change my patterns of behavior?
Hell no! I ran from this Truth because it did not fit into my learned belief that the thorns had to be removed from the rose! For years I hid from it, denied it, argued it, raged against it, pretended to believe it; there were times when I totally blocked out any part of Dr. Strickler’s teachings and slipped back into the comfort zone of the artificial beauty of the rose without thorns, even though I was convinced that I believed his teachings. This “epiphany” I speak of is not one that happened overnight as a flash of insight, but rather one that has been prompting, prodding, poking, growing, and speaking to me through the symbol of the Rose for some time, and has taken some twenty three long years to discover, to acknowledge, and to bring out into the light of awareness.
This world is not perfect, and no one can wish it so or make it so. No amount of protecting, giving, hoping, loving, or praying can take away the thorns of the rose; and what would be the purpose of that anyway? Life and living is a balance of beauty and pain, of good and evil, of joy and sorrow. Pretending that the thorns don’t exist does not make them go away; breaking them off the stem of the rose so they are not experienced creates only half the experience of the beauty and grace represented by the symbol of the Rose. Eventually, no matter how fast you run, how hard you try to break them off and throw them away, or how deeply you hide the Truth, the thorns must be acknowledged, handled, perhaps with care, perhaps with abandon, but accepted as a part of this plane. They are natural; they symbolize their own special kind of beauty and must be accepted as a part of the polarity of life, as part of the symbolism of the Rose.
My roses now have thorns. They still smell as sweet and look as beautiful, and I handle them carefully, with respect and awe, because the combination of energies, the co-mingling of the bitter with the sweet, is the natural product of this plane, and is symbolic of a Truth that I have spent much of my life actively denying. I cannot save the world; I can only save my world by experiencing and embracing the polarity of the symbolism of the Rose. Without the darkness we would not recognize the light.
So at this magical time of year, let me leave you with some of the words to a song that has always been among my favorites, though I didn’t understand why until I so recently began listening to my own story of the Rose. As you read it, listen for the positives and negatives that are used and note the use of the word “afraid”; fear, fear of the pain, fear of the unknown, fear of taking a risk…fear of the thorns on the Rose.
…It’s the heart afraid of breaking
That never learns to dance.
It’s the dream afraid of waking
That never takes the chance.
It’s the one who won’t be taken,
Who cannot seem to give,
And the soul afraid of dying
That never learns to live…
Look inward with joy, truth and clarity this Christmas Season to find your own personal Rose, significant only to you, symbolizing the roots of the patterns of the biases and prejudices upon which you have built your life, bearing thorns of risk and change.
Spiritual Climate Newsletter, Editor