October 7, 2007

A ritual is what it means to us

I was asked to write the following article for A Rózsakeresztes Tükör (The Rosicrucian Mirror), the official newsletter of the Rákoczy Atrium Group of Budapest, an affiliated body of the Hungarian Administration of the Rosicrucian Order, AMORC. It was translated into Hungarian for publication, but I thought a few English-speaking readers of this blog might be interested in reading it as well.

Since it was written with members of the Order in mind, it makes a few assumptions about previous knowledge of the readers that necessitate a brief introduction for the context of this blog.

First of all, AMORC has only existed in Hungary since 1994, since such non-socialist, international organizations were forbidden before 1990, and all forms of spiritual practice were discouraged (to put it lightly). AMORC has had its hands full with translating the vast volumes of correspondence lessons and with all the other administrative tasks involved in trying to establish and grow a large and sophisticated organization. Translating and organizing some of the more "minor" rituals and activities have been on the back burner for a long while.

Szilvi and I knew the Appelation Rite existed and was performed in other jurisdictions, and we asked if it would be possible to perform it for our youngest child. It took the better part of a year to arrange it.

The references to all the AMORC rituals I have seen is relevant in this country, where the overwhelming majority have not seen many of these rituals. It would be no big deal in North America, or even in Francophone Africa, where the order has been operating for a long time, and twenty-five-year-plus members are not a rarity.

Tata is a little city where the AMORC administration is located, and the only working temple in Hungary.

And with that introduction, let us proceed to the article.

A child, a family, a community is initiated

By Theo Huffman

With the exception of a Rosicrucian funeral -- and naturally all the initiations I haven't received yet -- I've seen just about every ritual performed by AMORC. I've helped perform the pyramid ceremony. I've seen installations of officers. I've seen the sanctifying of a temple. I've even seen a Rosicrucian wedding. But I'd never seen the appellation rite. I'd often wondered what it would be like.

I'll confess that I was just a little skeptical. Let me see if I can explain why.

The first thing you need to know is that I was raised a devout Catholic, and every Catholic knows there are seven sacraments (baptism, communion, confession, confirmation, marriage, holy orders and last rights).

The second is that The Rosicrucian Order AMORC hasn't always had the stable, highly-developed form it has today. When H. Spencer Lewis[1] accepted the task of creating a visible Order in the physical world to embody the work of an invisible fraternity which has existed for thousands of years, it was the ultimate creative challenge. Carrying out this work in a world totally transformed by mankind's technologies since the days of the Fama Fraternitatis was only possible for someone who had the courage to experiment with new ways of bringing esoteric knowledge to those who wanted and needed it.

And H. S. Lewis was a real experimenter. Many of those experiments developed into the teachings and ritual we know today as our traditional Order. But many of the experimental projects, such as the creation of a "universal Rosicrucian language" (sort of like Esperanto) were found to be unworkable, and consequently abandoned. And among these abandoned projects was the creation, in the late 1920s, of a Rosicrucian church, called "The Pristine Church of the Rose Cross." Dr. Lewis served as the bishop of this church. The church only lasted a few years, the Order's first years at Rosicrucian park. After this, it was decided that the energies spent on the church would be better invested on other aspects of the Order.

So, I suspected the appellation rite might be a legacy of the early AMORC's experimentation of trying to create a church, which necessitated it to have its versions of the seven sacraments. I have to smile a little when I think of one of our Rosicrucian friends calling it a "Rozsakeresztelo~"[2].

But I was pleasantly surprised.

When we arrived at the administration in Tata, and as the enthusiastic members arrived, as well as our two invited guests, Timothy was quite shy, and clung to me. I think he was well aware that all this commotion centered on him. And the energy was especially intense, since this was the first time the ritual would ever be performed in Hungary.

Szilvi and I were asked to wait alone in a room with our son Timothy while everyone else entered the temple and prepared for the ritual. When the door opened and the Outer Guardian[3] asked us to come with him, I got my first hint that this was an initiation.

Although the appellation rite is open to non-members who are invited by the parents, (unlike most other AMORC rituals) I still feel it would not be right to describe something that happens in the temple in too much detail. It is something to be experienced in the temple, not something to be described to people in the mundane world, or "the outer darkness" as we call it when we are in the temple.

Timothy continued to be very apprehensive as we entered the temple and took our seats. I'll confine my remarks about the ritual to a few observations. It bears no resemblance to a baptism at all. It is truly a Rosicrucian initiation. The child is initiated by means of a symbolic journey through three stations of the temple, which to my mind is an allegory of birth. Timothy cried at the first station, since we had to put him down to sit on his own. And this seems appropriate. There is always crying at birth, isn't there? At the second station, among other wonderful events, the child gets a kiss on the cheek from the Colombe.[4] Timothy was so surprised, and so delighted, his eyes lit up like candles as he watched her walk away. Is there anything sweeter than an encounter with the Inner Self?

Finally, it really emphasizes the point that this is an initiation when, at the third station, the parents are asked to take an oath. What did we promise? You'll have to come to the next appellation rite to find out!

The mood afterwards was very joyous and light. Timothy was suddenly more open and social, and like everyone else, he was very happy to be able to indulge in cake and cookies. And perhaps this was a moment that was somewhat "church-like." The community had gathered to observe a milestone in the lives of one of its families. That's a point I shouldn't miss. This ritual was very important to our other three children. To see Timothy acknowledged by the Rosicrucian community, and to see their parents take a vow regarding Timothy, was surely an important spiritual experience for them, too.

Szilvi and I were both convinced that Timothy was "different" after the ritual; somehow more aware, more present in the world. And this I take as one more confirmation that the appellation rite is not just a pseudo-baptism. It is a true Rosicrucian initiation.

1. H. Spencer Lewis (1883–1939) was the founder and first Imperator (supreme officer) of AMORC.

2. A subtle play on words in Hungarian. Keresztelő in Hungarian means baptism. Rózsakereszt means rosy cross. Put them together and you have a "rosy baptisim".

3. A traditional ritual officer

4. A role played in ritual by a girl in white robes and headdress. Her name comes from the Latin columba, meaning: dove.

11 comments:

vero said...

Very good article, you should "become" a writer! ;))))

Colombe still means dove in French ;)

So Timothy's the first person ever to be rosy-baptised in Hungary, right?

Theo Huffman said...

Well, and galamb is one of those rare Hungarian words with an Indo-European origin. (For the non-Hungarian speakers: it means dove or pigeon).

Yes, Timothy is the pioneer!

vero said...

Did your older sons and daughter say or ask anything about it?
Oliver, especially?
(I already asked Szilvi, but that was right after the ceremony.)

indianyo said...

"...What did we promise? You'll have to come to the next appellation rite to find out!..."

hmmm.. was it an invitation? I would say yes ;-)

dh said...

Slightly off topic...

How does young Timothy react to Rosicrucian vowel sounds? My daughter when she was very little,hated them! But my son who is now three years old loves them. In fact he responds deeply to any Tibetan sounds like chanting or singing bowls! I'm always curious as to how young children react to mystical sounds. Any one got any observations or comments?

Theo Huffman said...

Vero: I don't actually recall the children asking anything about the ritual itself. As Waldorf children, I don't think they intellectualize such things. They take a ceremony as an experience, not something that "represents" something.

Much more, they asked questions about the Rosicrucians and the temple in general.

Indianyo: Well... The article was originally written for members, who could arrange to be invited. We invited all the members who wanted to come. The custom is generally that invitations come from the parents. If you're asking if we plan to have any more babies to be blessed in such a ceremony,... uh... no.

Now if you joined AMORC on the other hand...

dh: Yes, off topic. I bet you were one of those kids who distracted your teachers and got the class talking about things that had nothing to do with the day's lessons. ;-)

I've had several experiences with Timothy and vowel sounds. When he was a little baby, once when he was screaming bloody murder in the middle of the night, the only thing that managed to calm him down was chanting the right vowel sounds.

Once he got bigger, he started getting freaked out if you do them too near to him, but if I do them in my sanctum with the door shut, he runs up to the door, bangs on it with his hand and starts imitating the sounds he hears.

Hellibrarian said...

Suffice to say that everything I've ever heard of when it comes to Rosucrucianism comes from you, Theo. I can even tell you the precise moment when you first mentioned it (my memory, while not the "steel trap " that also got me through college, still has its photographic moments.). We were walking down Dob utca past a building with interesting grillwork, and I wondered what it was, and you said it probably meant the building was used for Masonic purposes, and then went on the explain Rosucrucianism and your onetime involvment with it. It's fascinating to see that you became involved again, along with your family, and to read about something that is outside my Orthodox sphere.

(Although the idea that concepts are represented and linked through numbers sounds quite like gematriya).

Theo Huffman said...

Actually, that building on Dob utca, I have since figured out, used to be a lodge of the Theosophical Society. Now it's a beer garden and apartment building. (Bet the people who live there have weird dreams!) I've threatened for years to research that building's history. I know the nazi's banned the theosophists, and such things were forbidden under communism. Probably some interesting stories connected to it.

xeanalyth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Theo,

Thank you for sharing this article with us. It sounds like a beautiful ritual; I look forward to perhaps one day seeing it performed.

Wishes of Peace Profound to all our Fraters and Sorers in Hungary!

J. [FRC, AMORC Australia]

Anonymous said...

This was nice to read. It is a careful and thoughtful description of an AMORC Appellation Ceremony. It is a nameing or announcment ceremony.My son had one and at one point in the ritual as the rose petals are dropped on the child it symbolizes the soul entering the body. We are grateful (my wife and I) that my son had his Appellation Ceremony in a Rosicrucian Lodge.