from the book "The Rose Immortal"
by A. Bothwell Gosse
"Take a leaf from my rose-garden.
A flower endures but five or six days,
But this rose-garden is always delightful."
WHAT rose do you wear? That is the strange question frequently addressed to the traveller to-day, when wandering among the palm trees by the blue waters of the Nile or when travelling over the scorching sands of Arabia, he is met by a Sheikh, who, thinking he is destined perhaps for the same goat, falls into converse with him. The reply is awaited with suspense, for this question is not what it seems; it is no mere enquiry about a flower, but is indeed fraught with a deep significance. The hoped for answer is a password to confidence, for it declares the goal and at the same time indicates the road by which it may be reached.
"What rose do you wear" is the occult form of asking, To what Esoteric school do you belong? What Path do you tread?
The goal the travellers strive to reach is not of earth. The way thereto has divers names, varying with the land and the people; some call it the quest for God, others know it as Initiation; but to all, finally, it is Union with the Supreme. The schools are many, the paths are various, endless adaptations for the convenience of the wayfarer, but the end is ever the same, "for the path men take from every side is Mine."
This ineffable consummation is typified by the Rose. A hieroglyph which is universal is intelligible whatever the language and the race, so the "flower of flowers" became the symbol of Union, understood of all who beheld it. It became the symbol of the Mysteries by which the goal is attained, and likewise of the different schools or roads on which the disciples travel towards the Divine.
Further subtleties of meaning arose in the form, the number and arrangement of the petals, the beautiful colours, the essence and the intoxicating perfume, each bore a definite significance and had its own interpretation, until the system of the symbolism developed into a veritable language of flowers understood by the mystics of all lands. Used in its most elaborate form by the Sufis in the East, the Persian saint and the Arabian poet comprehend it; none the less it belongs to no one age or clime. In infinitely remote times, thousands of years before our era, the Egyptian Initiate kneeling at the shrine of Isis knew the Rose as symbol of her Mysteries and her power. In the Middle Ages the pious cathedral builders of Europe wrought the Rose symbolism into carved stonework of most exquisite perfection, for tbe Church had taught them that Mary the Mother of God was the Rose Queen of the World.
In the imagery of the Orient, combined with the Rose symbolism is found that of the Cup; very often indeed the terms are synonymous, or again the many uses and meanings of the "Cup" are woven (as it were) into a parallel allegory, wherein the same high teachings are revealed to those who have 'ears to hear.'
On the other hand. in the divine wisdom of the West, the Cross is inseparable from the Rose; both play a prominent part in the ritual of worship which conveys by these symbols a profound belief in many mysteries, and this faith is reflected in the form and ornamentation of ecclesiastical architecture.
To-day and yesterday, in countries far and near, those who "have taken the Rose" have the emblem enshrined for ever in their hearts; so East and West, partaking of the same knowledge, in the possession of the same symbol at once beautiful and profound, can join hands as "comrades of the Rose." Cloistered monk and frenzied dervish both see in it a pledge of the devotion of their lives, and know that the "Rose on the head honours the wearer - it points to the Path."