FRANKIE PAULING HUTTON
Murrells Inlet, S.C.: Covenant Books, 2022. 224 pp., paper, $16.95.
Of the symbols appearing throughout history, few have rivaled the rose in prominence. No other flower (except arguably the lotus) has been so celebrated in diverse cultures throughout the world.
In this engaging and wide-ranging encomium, Frankie Pauling Hutton acknowledges the influence of the rose and explores its esoteric and metaphysical aspects. At the outset, she writes, “Careful review and reflection of rose-embracing literature and poetry reveals that the flower in all its perfection is a direct link to the Source of all and everything. For those who have eyes to see, it comes into focus as one of the most long lasting, widely used and beautifully powerful symbols of all time.”
An ongoing contemplation of the rose in its beauty and its symbolic and metaphorical glory leads to spiritual growth and a shift in consciousness which few fully develop in one lifetime, Hutton argues. This growth is possible through deep, disciplined work, as exemplified in the teachings of G.I. Gurdjieff, of which Hutton is a student.
Rose Paradise consists of an introduction and five chapters, the first three of which are drawn from Rose Lore: Essays in Cultural History and Semiotics (2012), a collection of essays by Hutton and others. Hutton traces the rich history of the symbolism of the rose from the Bible to the writings of Dante, Yeats, Eliot, and others, in social movements and spiritual teachings including Theosophy and Rosicrucianism, and in the writings of Gurdjieff. The first chapter, “Dying Laughing: The Rose from Yeats to Rumi,” explores the rose in the great poetry and literature of the past, using Barbara Seward’s The Symbolic Rose as a starting point.
In the second chapter, “Rose Vignettes: Black Plague to Gulag,” Dr. Hutton surveys familiar names such as Mozart and Nostradamus and introduces us to a diverse group of little-known individuals: German-Jewish poet Rudolf Borchardt developed the garden as a metaphor for spiritual growth. Following World War II, Japanese physician Tomin Harada treated atomic bomb survivors. Introduced to roses by a British officer, he became a rose breeder and peace activist. New Jersey composer Charles Austin Miles wrote hundreds of hymns but is known chiefly for “In the Garden.” Russian writer and mystic Daniil Andreev criticized state power and technology and wrote of world peace in The Rose of the World while imprisoned by the Soviet regime. The vignettes of these individuals, who were aware of the symbolic power of the rose, are among the most moving passages in the book. Hutton goes on to explore the symbolism of the rose in the developing movement to abolish female genital mutilation, a practice regrettably still common in a number of cultures worldwide.
The third chapter, “Blossom as the Rose in OAHSPE, The Emerald Tablets, and the Holy Bible,” introduces rose symbolism in the obscure work OAHSPE, the Hermetic Emerald Tablet, and Bible passages, notably Isaiah and the Song of Songs. The author compares OAHSPE, a “new Bible” channeled by the nineteenth-century clairvoyant John Ballou Newbrough, with H.P. Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine.
The final two chapters, “Gurdjieff’s Third World Rose and ‘Okidanokh’” and “Spectre of a Rose . . . Gurdjieff’s Last Teaching,” stress the importance of doing spiritual work through methods including balance, self-remembering, self-observation, and sitting and sensing meditations. We gradually become aware of and overcome our programming and our karma as we progress to higher consciousness through multiple lifetimes.
Hutton discusses Gurdjieff’s major works, including Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson and Life Is Real Only Then, When “I Am,” the I Ching, and the Sufi poem, Attar’s Conference of the Birds, as well as the Mahatma Letters. She also cites other sources and concepts, some familiar to spiritual seekers, others more obscure, and some that are not without controversy.
Through study, effort, and contemplation, the rose blossoms as a profound metaphor, connecting the seen and the unseen, the lower and higher planes, who we are and what we can become. The spiritual path is arduous, “steep and thorny,” and yet must be traveled. Through her unique perspective, Hutton beckons us to continue on this path, stating, “As a symbol, the rose continues to be a marker on the pathway.” Thus appreciated and honored, it becomes our guide and companion as well as a symbol of our higher selves.
The reviewer, a member of the TSA, has also studied and practiced New Thought and other spiritual traditions. A retired counselor and advocate for persons with disabilities, he is a student of sacred geometry in art and architecture.