(DAT ROSA MEL APIBUS “The Rose Gives The Bees Honey” after the original motto found in the engraving (possibly) by Johann Thedore deBry (d. 1598).
This image of the Rosa Mundi, or Rota Mundi, is the solar wheel of Apollo, the Lord of movement, of the ever passing/present moment. It is the Solar Citadel, the abode of the Heart, the symbolic center of the Supreme Center which is everywhere centered at once. It is a door through which this invisible place may be accessed by one with a pure heart and an unblemished soul. If one gains access to the center of the rose, it speaks the “lost word” of Masonic lore, the Master Word which throws open the lodge doors of every sacred society.
In DAT ROSA MEL APIBUS the Solar Rose represents the labyrinth, the path and pilgrimage of a particular lifetime. The journey into the center can be thorny, but the destination is sweet, like honey to the bee. The pitfalls of the journey are symbolized by the transformative spider and her webs. In the engraving upon which this painting was based, the spider is absent: Love has conquered Death. The term arachnid comes from Arachne, the Greek maiden who was transformed into a spider after losing a weaving contest to the goddess Athena. The spider’s spiral webs show us the dangers on the road to Love, trick snares set to bind and trap, and ultimately victimize the inattentive wayfarer. On the surface, one may reasonably confuse the labyrinth of the rose for that of the web. This requires an inward looking, intuitive approach like that of the bee seeking to pollinate the receptive flower. If the bee successfully reaps the rewards of this lovemaking, the honey will enrich and nourish the entire community of the hive. However, as the symbolism found in DAT ROSA MEL APIBUS shows, while this path may work for bees…
A devout man in deep contemplation, with his head reclined on the bosom of meditation, was immersed in the ocean of vision. When he recovered from that state, one of his companions, by way of pleasantry, said, “What miraculous present have you brought us from this garden which you have been visiting?” He answered, “It was my intention, that, when I reached the rose-bush, I would fill my lap with flowers, for presents for my friends, but when I came to the spot, the odor so overpowered my senses, that my skirt dropped out of my hands.” -Saadi (The Gulistan or Rose Garden trans. by Francis Gladwin for Willard Small, Boston, 1884.)
The following description of the original engraving upon which the DAT ROSA MEL APIBUS painting is based is given in Joscelyn Godwin’s definitive work on Robert Fludd.
The Rose and the Cross: “The Rose gives the bees honey” (DAT ROSA MEL APIBUS). tThis explicitly Rosicrucian symbol was first used at the head of Joachim Frizius’s Summum Bonum, then adopted for (Robert) Fludd’s Clavis. A rose with seven petals each alludes, in all probability, to secret doctrines of septenary emanation such as were later to be publicized in the theosophical works of H.P. Blavatsky. The Rose surmounts the thorny cross, the whole resembling the sign of Venus in which the solar circle triumphs over the cross of matter. We may interpret the motto as saying that “spiritual knowledge gives solace to souls,” of whom bees are a venerable symbol. The spider’s webs (also with sevenfold divisions) strung on a grape arbor in the background, and the wingless insect on the rose (a spider?) may represent negative, lunar forces, as oppossed to the positive, solar one of the bees, both of which are reconciled by the philosophic rose.
-Joscelyn Godwin, in Robert Fludd – Hermetic Philosopher of Two Worlds. Shambala, Boulder, 1979: 10 [w/illustration.]
It is curious that Dr. Godwin fails to see the wings on the bee that has arrived at his destination, the rose! This winged bee is clearly represented in every reproduction of the rose engraving that your author/painter has seen…All of the other speculative symbolic observations hold, especially the observation that the image is one of the alchemical symbols of Venus, the goddess of Love.
The seven circles of seven petals each symbolize the number of squares (7 squared = 49) of the magic circle of Venus, of the “intelligence” (as opposed to the Spirits) of the goddess. Seven in the Hebrew alphabet/number system represents Dagh, the Fish, symbol of Christ. Seven is also the number of the Babylonian God of good Fortune. Seven is of course the number of the Liberal Arts and also of the Deadly Sins.
Without doubt, this rose engraving has over time become the consummate emblem of the order of the Rosy Cross, or the Rosicrucians, an essentially “invisible”order. Many individuals and groups have made claims to be the “true” rosicrucians, however, since the original manifestos appeared in the early 16th century the jury has been out concerning who they might actually be. These documents were designed to give the appearance of a Christian utopian group based on the model of the organization of Freemasonry working clandestinely within society to effect world-wide change. These changes were meant for the overall good of humankind, while at the same time being anarchistic in their view of a one world economy and government.
Probably the work of one man, most likely Lutheran minister Johannes Valentine Andrae, the documents have had the effect of change upon the imagination, and metanoia upon the hearts of those receptive readers in every succeeding age. Whether this has also caused an effect upon world governments is open to speculation, however, the Rosicrucian utopian vision has not (yet ?) taken concrete hold upon mankind.
“The Rosicrucian Order is a state of mind. One becomes a Rosicrucian: one does not join the Rosicrucians…” -Paul Foster Case
Through the symbology of the DAT ROSA MEL APIBUS, the intersection of the spiritual and the physical worlds, access to the utopian state of mind afforded by the Rosy Cross manifestoes is gained.
On the other hand, since the Rose-Cross has been mentioned in connection with the seal of Luther (See Regnabit, Dec. 1925), we say that this hermetic emblem was at first specifically Christian, whatever false and more or less “naturalistic” interpretations have been given it, from the eighteenth century onwards; and is it not remarkable that in this figure, the rose occupies the centre of the cross, the very place of the Sacred Heart? Apart from those representations where the five wounds of the Crucified are represented as so many roses, the central rose, when it stands alone, can very well be identified with the Heart itself, the vase which contains the blood, which is the centre of life and also the centre of the entire being. -Rene Guenon (Fundamental Symbols, p 22.)
The red rose is the consummate Christian symbol of martyrdom. St. Ambrose, one of the four great Doctors of the Catholic church, tells us that before it became a flower of the earth, the rose grew in heaven without thorns. Following the Fall of Adam, which brought everything spiritual into the material realm, the rose took on thorns to remind humankind of its sins, while its beauty and fragrance remained to remind one of the Paradise lost. Thus, the Virgin Mary is known as the “rose without thorns” as she was exempt from original sin. Roses in connection with Christian saints generally represent their (re)ascent into heaven.
The bee represents hard work, diligence, harmony, and order. The honey, the essence of the activity of the hive, is a symbol of Christ and the virginity of Mary. The honey has also become in Christian symbolism a sign of religious eloquence, assigned to saints like St. Ambrose and St. Bernard of Clairvaux. St. Ambrose compared the beehive to the church as a symbol of the pious and unified community, and the Christian to the ardently working bee, who never sleeps, always vigilant and constantly acquiring virtue, adding “honey” to the whole community. On this point, the mystical philosopher Maurice Maeterlinck referred to the “spirit of the hive,” echoed by Rudolf Steiner, anthroposophical “Rosicrucian” who said that “..it is the entire beehive that is wise.” Indeed, Steiner felt that the bee and its community in which sexual love has been transmuted into love in the heart have evolved beyond that of the human one,
Since this love life is held back in all the bees except a single queen, the sexual life of the beehive is transformed into all of this activity that the bees develop among themselves…This is a very wise form of life. -Rudolf Steiner, Bees, (Hudson: Anthroposophic Press, 1998).
The Spider represents the miserly Devil, who sets traps and bleeds the victim of human frailty, symbolized by the cobweb.
The cross, and especially the center, at the crossing point, the bindu; is the intersection where the spiritual meets the material plain, as in the Rose of Sharon. Sharon and of Sharon or Lassharon in Hebrew defined as “plain,” “honest,” “tranquil,” and “harmonious.” Where spirit enters the center the rose appears.
The rose in DAT ROSA MEL APIBUS is not, as has been described above, restricted to Christian symbolism. Christianity after all is a religion that developed by virtue of its syncretistic assimilation of several older traditions. This symbolism transcends the particular to become universal in its application and essence. It is true, however, in keeping with the Christian description, that if the viewer of this image accesses the spirit if the rose, the thorns will no doubt disappear.
DAT ROSA MEL APIBUS
Painting Research Bibliography
Allen, Paul M. A Christian Rosenkreutz Anthology. Rudolf Steiner Publications, Blauvet, 1968. (Note: this edition contains the original English translation of The Chymical Wedding by Ezechiel Foxcroft (1690); Robert Fludd’s The Rosicrucian Brotherhood (1629); The Fama and the Confessio translated by Thomas Vaughn (1652) and many other original Rosicrucian documents and commentaries.)
Case, Paul Foster. The True and Invisible Rosicrucian Order. Wieser, York Beach, 1985.
Codex Rosae Crucis D.O.M.A. A Rare and Curious Manuscript of Rosicrucian Interest. The Philosophical Research Society, Inc., Los Angeles, 1938.
Eberly, John. The “Arabic” Parts of the Original Rosicrucian Documents. Caduceus – The Hermetic Quarterly, Vol. 2, No. 2, Seattle, Summer, 1996, pp. 16-32.
Eberly, John. Rosicrucian Essays. Anamnesis Press, 1996.
Jennings, Hargrave. The Rosicrucians: Their Rites and Mysteries. Chatto, London, 1879.
Langstroth, L.L. and Dadant, Charles. Langstroth on the Hive and the Honey Bee. Chas. Dadant & Son, Hamilton, 1904.
Maeterlinck, Maurice. The Life of the Bee. Dodd, Mead, and Company, Cornwall, 1901.
McIntosh, Christopher. The Rosicrucians-The History, Mythology, and Rituals of an Esoteric Order. Weiser, York Beach, 1997.
Randolph, Paschal Beverley. Ravalette – The Rosicrucian’s Story. Philosophical Publishing Company, Quakertown, 1939.
Waite, A. E. The Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross. Rider, London, 1924.
White, Ralph (ed.) The Rosicrucian Enlightenment Revisited. Lindisfarne, Hudson, 1999.
Yates, Frances A. The Rosicrucian Enlightenment. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1972.