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The Lotus and the Rose

Joann S. Bakula
June 2007


Wise men and women, learned in esoteric studies, have always said that we are illumined beings with bodies of light, covered over by flesh and bone. Although we are blind to the light, with eyes that see the outside only, there has long been considerable interest in the subtle yet nonetheless physical body, animating, vitalizing and molding the dense visible form of virtually everything that is, from a single atom to a human being to a solar system. This subtle substance has been called the etheric body, the energy body, the vital body, spirit body, bio-psychic and psycho-vital, and the bioenergetic field by authors in diverse fields from Hinduism to mythology to parapsychology. This etheric counterpart conditions, controls and coheres the outer physical body and is the true archetypal form to which all physical bodies conform. It is described as the blueprint, framework, scaffolding and superstructure of the physical body, which is an exact replica of it. This is how we would truly look, if we had eyes to see ourselves as illumined beings. The Tibetan, for whom Alice Bailey wrote, predicts that in the far future our physical eyes will be able to see the etheric body.

This body of light is composed, as we know, of a network or web of fine interlacing strands, nadis in Sanskrit, which are the counterpart of both the central nervous system and the vascular system, with seven major energy centers, chakras, and many minor ones, corresponding to the endocrine system, only with five along the spinal column and two in the head, reaching highest function in the crown center. If the vascular system can be visualized as vessels containng red blood carrying oxygen, so the etheric system might appear as bluish-white nadis through which golden light (the golden bowl in the Bible) flows, containing the fiery essence of 'solar prana.' Through the centers biological and psychological states are united. Chaudhuri wrote that the doctrine of energy centers implies that our central nervous system is a hierarchically organized struture, that energy and consciousness are inseparable. A Chinese text says that men do not see the prana they live and depend on, in much the same way that fish to not see the water they live in, but remove them and they perish.

The centers have a hierarchy of function from base of the spine, the "root support", to the 1000-petaled lotus at the crown of the head, representing the full animal-human-divine range inherent in every human. From fear and adrenaline triggering the fight or flight syndrome, to the sacral center preoccupation with sex and gender, to the consumerism and social status power of the solar plexus, civilization seems to continuously go around and around the lower three, without ever crossing the diaphragm up to the level of heart, opened by true compassion for others, without selfish motive. The world seems to turn around on the energies of fear, sex and stuff alone. When evolution brings a person, or a species, to the stage of integration, then the centers above the diaphragm come into full expression, Bailey writes. Each center represents a value system and a hierarchy of needs that matches Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs and Motivations, from food, water and shelter; to safety and security; to belongingness and social needs; to ego and achievement needs; to the meta-needs of truth, wholeness and beauty, among others. Govinda writes that the petals of a chakra signify the true qualities of the mind, and their unfoldment, the transformation of consciousness. Arthur Avalon (The Serpent Power) writes that each petal represents a vritti, a quality or tendency of mind.

Bailey also notes that there is a direct relation between the 'four aspects of karma', the four physical etheric sub-planes and the four cosmic etheric planes (Telepathy and the Etheric Vehicle,p 168). The archetypes per se are, therefore, capable of being reflected in the four sub-planes, which, with the physical, make up a human body. Ideas can begin in the Universal Mind or the archetypal plane or the intuitional plane, where the Masters work, to the mental plane, working out into the world in sequential steps as ideals which reinforce principles, to ideologies affecting nations, to the idols of Hollywood and sports. The Tibetan tells us that the essential etheric world unity, of which the communication networks are a tangible expression, is swinging vast groups...everywhere into united emotional activity, thus creating those preliminary testings which ever precede initiation and that contact with Shamballa or the planetary Will center is creating an emotional vortex in which old ideals and institutions are seen divorced from their hitherto controling glamours, thus permitting the new and better ideologies to emerge in the consciousness of the race (Rays & the Initiations 580). From idea to ideal to idol the archetypes descend through the etheric sub-planes having their effect in revealing Self, through intuition and imagination, working out as perception linked with memory, and immortalized in myth. The mythic image is forever real in the psychic reality of imagination; today it is also becoming real in the world of reason and rational thinking, as literal translations of religious narratives give way to more hermeneutic, poetic interpretations. The rise of myth is concomitant with the demise of fundamentalism in all of its branches from religion to scientific atheism. Fixed beliefs without foundation crumble. Despite the steady diet of twisted perceptions, where negative becomes positive and positive negative. the etheric body is constantly revitalizing itself with fresh energy. It has self-healing properties through which the magical work of the soul proceeds. The image of wholeness is inherent in each of us and in the collective unconscious where beauty also lives.

The energy centers have often been called lotuses (padmas) because they are described as having petals which unfold as the person responds to the energy they represent. Mythologist Joseph Campbell called the chakras a "lotus ladder" (The Mythic Image). Campbell has called this a highly developed psychological science: one, moreover, that has shaped and informed every significant development of Oriental doctrine--whether in India, Tibet, China, Korea, Japan or South-east Asia.(p. 331) He and many others have equated the lotus and the rose, as symbols from East and West, of the divinity or wholeness within us unfolding from bud to full bloom, and portrayed in art and literature around the world.

Dante saw the Heavenly Host as a pure, white rose. On Chartres and Notre Dame cathedrals the Madonna is shown as queen holding a flowering sceptre, similar to the many images in Buddhism of Tara or Kwan-Yin holding long stemmed lotuses. Both are often portrayed as seated on a lotus or rose covered throne. These archetypal feminine images bridge between humanity and divinity, heaven and earth, history and myth. So too does Shakti, portrayed as the feminine counterpart of Adi, the Supreme Buddha, and plane of the Logos. (James Joyce jokingly called them Adi and aid!) Shakti is the Sanskrit term meaning power, energy, faculty, or capability. It symboizes the feminine power of the womb to "transform seed into fruit, to enclose, protect, and give birth". Psychologically, the archetypal Eternal Feminine has the power to draw humanity onward toward fulfillment, liberty, freedom and enlightenment, always leading onward into the future. "Liberty at the Gates" by Delacroix, the Statue of Liberty given as a gift from France to the U.S.,and so many other examples attest to this. Jung saw the psychological progression of the feminine (and masculine) archetypes proceding from physical and body oriented; to social and emotional; to leadership; to wisdom. He also described this psychological progression in terms of roles, from woman to wife to mother to wise seer, such as Mother Teresa. Periodically these archetypes come to life reflected in an image for a brief moment to remind us of the eternal nature of psyche as the link between inner life and outer form, removed from us only by the wall of time and the field of illusion.

England has a rose named Diana who lived a mythic life from fairytale wedding to the island in the lake, where she is memorialized by loved ones and a public enchanted by a life so brief, and beauty so tragic. This is the stuff myths are made of and symbols are found in. She now exists in an otherworldy domain separated from the living by water and the veil of time. Yet she lives on in memory and imagination as a brief image of an eternal archetype alive in each of us as the Eternal Feminine. The search for the holy grail or vessel is an ongoing and unfolding story changing from age to age, and transforming from one level to the next. The same broadening of the religious symbols through contents from late antiquity, Gnostism and Islam, is to be found in the Grail story (Emma Jung and M.L.von Franz, The Grail Legend, p. 103). In the Grail legend, it is on an island called Avalon, that the 'once and future king' Arthur and his archetype dwell, as does Diana, in an otherwordly land beyond time and place, in the intuitive realm of psyche where they remain active agents in inspiring, illuminating and giving meaning and purpose to life, and to being alive in the world.

Let us refresh world thought in a celebration of the divine archetypes and their sequential unveiling in the world, through our group visualization of the 'lighted house' built in the meditation of the constellation Cancer.