THE MYSTIC ROSE
By Samten de Wet
John D. Blakeley writes:
“Indeed, there is valuable guidance in a beautifully written book which was undoubtedly based an Sufi traditions in Persia although, as might be expected, it does not make direct reference to the Tarot illustrations. It was written in 1899 under the title of The Mystic Rose from the Garden of the King, and it was attributed to: A Fragment of the Vision of Sheikh Haji Ibrohim of Kerbela, who may possibly have been a quasi-mythological figure adopted for the purpose of conveying esoteric instruction. The author at the time was a member of the Diplomatic Service in Teheran, but eventually he was to become Sir Fairfax L. Cartwright, G.C.M.G.. G.C.V.O., the British Ambassador at Vienna.”
An entry on the Occult Forum states:
“Idries Shah also notes that a few other works were done in a similar fashion at that time. . . notably Sir Fairfax Cartwright (an English diplomat with Sufi influences), who wrote a fantasy story "Mystic Rose from the Garden of the King" in 1899, and who attributed it to an Oriental by the name of "Sheikh Haji Ibrahim of Kerbala".
That Sir Fairfax Cartwright himself wrote the “Mystic Rose” is an interesting suggestion. If, as Blakeley writes: “The author at the time was a member of the Diplomatic Service in Teheran . . .” it is within the bounds of probability that Cartwright came into contact with some Sufi School. Henri Corbin would later devote his life to the study of mystic Sufi teachings, in Teheran as well. Whether Cartwright visited Kerbala cannot be proved until the documentation of his movements is studied. But again, as a Diplomat in Persia – it could be possible. There are photographs of Persia in the Cartwright Archives.
Whatever the case may be, the text of the “Mystic Rose” could not have been created ex nihlio. Another possibility, is that Cartwright had before him a deck of the Tarot, and perhaps used the cover of Sheikh Haji Ibrahim of Kerbala to present a Western esoteric system to Oriental eyes. The text of the “Mystic Rose” needs to be examined to whether it represents genuine Shi’ite mysticism.
Neoplatonist influences in Sufism, and especially Shi’ite transmissions, have been extensively researched. . . from Idries Shah onwards; to Jereer El-Moor, The Occult Tradition of the Tarot in Tangency with Ibn ‘Arabi’s Life & Teachings; while Dai Léon, in his ‘Origins of the Tarot . Cosmic Evolution and the Principles of Immortality’, Random House, writes:
“It is the thesis of this book that the twenty-two images conceptually originated in Sufi circles trained in Greek studies.”
In addition, Byzantine intellectuals frequented the Court of Memhet II prior to the Fall of Constantinople, and the great Byzantine scholar Milton V. Anastos has shown how Sufi influences may have penetrated through to Italian via the mediation of Giorgios Gemistos Pletho after his sojourn at Bursa.
Sheikh Haji Ibrahim
What do we know about Sheikh Haji Ibrahim of Kerbala? Kerbala is also written as: Karbalā –
“ . . city, capital of Karbalāʾ muḥāfaẓah (governorate), central Iraq. One of Shīʿite Islam’s foremost holy cities, it lies 55 miles (88 km) southwest of Baghdad, with which it is connected by rail.” [http://www.britannica.com]
“Only the Shia believe that Karbalā is one of the holiest places on Earth according to the following traditions (among others): . . .” [Wikipedia]
At another website, [mirrored on various other sites] this small piece came to light:
“The herald of the light is the morning star. This way man and woman approach the dawn of knowledge, because in it is the germ of life, being a blessing of the eternal.”
Haji Ibrahim of Kerbala
Looking at ‘The Star’ – Arcanum 17 in the “Mystic Rose”, we can see the language is not totally irreconcilable with:
“I am the Eternal Youth of Nature. In the depth of the Material World lieth hid the Water which welleth up in the Fountain of Immortality. The Glory of the Sun have I absorbed in my golden tresses; from my diadem of stars do I draw down the Spirit into the Body of Man; into his fallen Soul I breathe the Hope of Redemption; through me cometh to man the Courage to struggle against the bondage in which he is placed’.”
‘Rose Garden’ and Fountain symbolism is rich in Islam. But the main riddle remains, with consequences that are staggering to contemplate. If, the ‘Rose Garden’ is a genuine Shi’ite mystical text – where did it originate? Though we have a location in Kerbala – what other possibilities could be speculated on, as this question remains in the realm of speculation.
The Mystic Rose from the Garden of the King. A Fragment of the Vision of Sheikh Haji Ibrahim of Kerbela, by Sir Fairfax L. Cartwright, London, H.S. Nichols, 1899
Fairfax Leighton Cartwright
Haji Ibrahim of Kerbala
Website of Rev. Dr. JC Husfelt, the Morning Star. Philosopher and Ontologist
Dai Léon, in his ‘Origins of the Tarot . Cosmic Evolution and the Principles of Immortality’,
Jereer El-Moor, The Occult Tradition of the Tarot in Tangency with Ibn ‘Arabi’s Life & Teachings
Occult Forum – The Kasidah of Haji Abdu El-Yezdi
Idries Shah – Tales of the Dervishes
John D. Blakeley, The Mystical Tower of the Tarot, Watkins., London, p.67.