Symbol of rose cross

From Anthroposophy

The rose cross is a symbol of the rosecrucian stream. The symbol consisting of a black wooden cross carrying seven red roses has deep meaning related to the higher development goal of Man. There are multiple variants with only a single rose in the center, or roses in a different colour.

The wooden cross represent the dying part of the lower Self and bodily principles from which are born and emerge the pure spiritual principles represented by the red roses.

More background on the origin of the Rosecrucian stream and teachings on: Christian Rosenkreutz.

This will be the symbol of true Christianity in the next sixth cultural age


The two illustrations on the right are versions of the rose cross symbol, the right one is one carried by Rudolf Steiner. The right part of the schema makes the link to the Lord's Prayer.


Lecture coverage and references

GA013 as example for meditating on a symbol (SWCC)

.. an example of inner immersion in a symbolic visualization in the mind. We visualize a plant as it roots in the earth, as leaf by leaf it sprouts forth, as its blossom unfolds, and now we think of a human being beside this plant. We make the thought alive in the mind of how he/she has characteristics and faculties which, when compared with those of the plant, may be considered more perfect than the latter. We contemplate how, according to his feelings and his will, he is able to move about hither and thither, while the plant is rooted to the earth. Furthermore the human being is indeed more perfect than the plant, but also shows peculiarities that are not to be found in the plant. Just because of their nonexistence in the plant the latter may appear to me in a certain sense more perfect than the human being who is filled with desire and passion and follows them in his conduct .. his being led astray by his desires and passions. The plant follows the pure laws of growth from leaf to leaf, that it opens its blossom passionlessly to the chaste rays of the sun. The human being has a greater perfection than the plant, but has purchased this perfection at the price of permitting instincts, desires, and passions to enter into his nature in addition to the forces of the plant, which appear pure to us.

Now visualize how the green sap flows through the plant as an expression of the pure, passionless laws of growth. Then visualize how red blood flows through the human veins and how it is the expression of human instincts, desires, and passions. All this arises in the mind as vivid thought. Then visualize how Man is capable of evolution and may purify and cleanse his instincts and passions through his higher mental powers. How, as a result of this, something base in these instincts and desires is destroyed and how the latter are reborn upon a higher plane. Then the blood may be conceived of as the expression of the purified and cleansed instincts and passions.

In my thoughts I look upon the rose and say: In the red rose petal I see the color of the green plant sap transformed into red, and the red rose, like the green leaf, follows the pure, passionless laws of growth. The red of the rose may now become the symbol of a blood that is the expression of purified instincts and passions that have stripped off all that is base, and in their purity resemble the forces active in the red rose. I now seek not merely to imbue my intellect with such thoughts but to bring them to life in my feelings. I may have a feeling of bliss when I think of the purity and passionlessness of the growing plant; I can produce within myself the feeling of how certain higher perfections must be purchased through the acquirement of instincts and desires. This can then transform the feeling of bliss, which I have felt previously, into a grave feeling; and then a feeling of liberating joy may stir in me when I surrender myself to the thought of the red blood which, like the red sap of the rose, may become the bearer of inwardly pure experiences. It is of importance that we do not without feeling confront the thoughts that serve to construct such a symbolic visualization. After we have pondered on such thoughts and feelings for a time, we are to transform them into the following symbolic visualization.

We visualize a black cross as the symbol of the destroyed base elements of instincts and passions, and at the center, where the arms of the cross intersect, let us visualize seven red, radiant roses arranged in a circle. Let these roses be the symbol of a blood that is the expression of purified, cleansed passions and instincts.

Such a symbolic visualization should be called forth in the mind in the way illustrated above through a visualized memory image. It has a soul-awakening power in intense inward meditation.

1915-05-18-GA159 (SWCC)

He who tears the roses from the black cross and has nothing left but the black cross (and would fall into the clutches of Ahriman). The black cross in itself represents life when it strives to embrace inanimate matter. If one were to separate the cross from the roses, keeping only the latter, one would nor find the proper thing. For the roses, separate from the cross, tend to elevate us to a life of selfish striving toward the spiritual (editor: Luciferic), but not to a life in which we reveal the spirit in a material world. Not the cross or roses alone, but the cross carrying the roses is the proper symbol.

From the (SWCC)

The symbol also links to Man's past evolution, his present constitution and future development, together with the method of attainment. When the cross is represented with a single rose in the center it symbolizes the spirit radiating from itself the four vehicles: the dense, vital, and desire bodies plus the mind; where the spirit has drawn into its instruments and become the indwelling human spirit.

There was a time when the threefold spirit hovered above its vehicles and was unable to enter and then the cross stood alone without the rose (Atlantean epoch). There was even a time when the upper limb of the cross was lacking (Lemurian Epoch) when man had only the dense, vital and desire bodies, but lacked the mind. Then the animal nature was paramount and man followed desire without reserve. At a still earlier time (Hyperborean epoch) man was without the desire body and possessed only the dense and vital bodies. The man-in-the-making was like the plants: chaste and devoid of desire. The symbol for that was a straight shaft, a pillar. The plant is innocent, but not virtuous; it has neither desire nor choice. Man has both.

By means of his physical body, man is nailed to the plane of suffering appertaining to terrestrial existence. The animal elements are to die upon that Cross, and the spiritual man is to be resurrected to become united with the Christ. Death upon the Cross represents the giving up of one’s own personality and the tearing into eternal and universal life.

Goethe in 'The Mysteries'

Who put the Roses on the Cross? Who united Love and Knowledge?

When we meditate on the passage from the black Cross of suffering and death to the living Rose+Cross of the Resurrection;

When the seven red roses that were previously shy buds sprouting on the black mineralized wood blossom in ourselves;

When the seven metals are sublimated into each other, from sacrifice to sacrifice, and all together in the Philosophers’ Gold;

Then and only then will Love be joined in marriage to Knowledge and so inwardly as outwardly.

… A new feeling penetrated him when the image rises before his eyes: he sees the cross wrapped in roses.

Who placed those roses on the cross?


Discussion on rose cross interpretation

red rose:

wooden cross: wooden cross of Jesus, life passing into death but also bearing power to bring forth new life, symbol of Easter

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References and further reading