The Symbolic Meaning of Cross Keys

Even if you are not clued up on esoteric symbolism, I expect you will recognise the image of two crossed keys. This symbol is found in Christian Churches, numerous coats of arms across Europe and in England, the names of pubs.

Crossed keys - Coat of Arms of the Holy See
The Crossed keys is the Coat of Arms of the Holy See


As with all esoteric symbols, there is some confusion as to its actual meaning. The official view is the crossed keys represent the Keys of Heaven that were entrusted to Simon Peter by Jesus.

Matthew 16:19

 [Jesus says]: “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Right now, I would like you to put aside any feelings or understanding you have about heaven and earth. Forget your prejudices, hold back your opinions and certainly ignore all the dogmatic bullshit like this:

“The keys are gold and silver to represent the power of loosing and binding. The gold key alludes to the power in the kingdom of the heavens and the silver key indicates the spiritual authority of the papacy on earth.”

For the purpose of this article, let’s reposition the meaning on “Heaven” and “Earth”. For now, suppose heaven is your mind, and earth is your heart. Thus Heaven is your thoughts and Earth is your emotions.

Gold key, Silver key

The secret to unlocking the esoteric meaning of the cross keys is their opposing colours: gold and silver. This is actually a disguise for the sun (gold) and moon (silver) which appears predominantly throughout alchemical symbolism.

The symbolic meaning of the sun and moon is male and female respectively, so crossing of the keys demonstrates the union of two opposites. When man and woman are joined together in matrimonial union, the unit is said to be complete.

We all have a male and female aspect of our personalities. When we learn to balance masculine and feminine qualities we are complete.

Furthermore, the sexual union between male and female can result in the creation of a child – the key word here being creation. This is also another concept that is rife throughout symbolism all over the world.

jes and mary halo

The sun and the moon – and therefore the crossed keys – have many meanings; but I am going to limit it to just one – the most important meaning = YOU.

Well actually, us, mankind as a species.

Let’s go back to heaven and earth, mind and heart, thoughts and emotions….

The sun and consciousness

In esoteric symbolism, the sun means – the meaning I want to talk about – Enlightenment.

The sun lights the world, it gives us life, it illuminates. Wisdom illuminates the minds of men. Wisdom comes from knowledge and understanding, knowledge and understanding is consciousness.

So essentially, the sun represents the cognitive behaviour of the mind and our resulting understanding of our experience.

There are eight levels of consciousness, but let’s concentrate on the first four – the earthly four we can achieve as mortal human beings. (We can achieve levels of consciousness beyond the principle four, but that would require too much explanation and it is so fantastical you wouldn’t believe me anyway).

So let’s move on swiftly…

The lowest state of consciousness is base consciousness; our animal instincts that arise from the reptilian and mammalian brain.

These base emotions are the feelings and desires we develop as children and typically carry into our adult lives. The make us want to feed, they make us want to fuck. They make us do things we know we shouldn’t.

In alchemical symbolism, base conscious is represented by the devil and various wild animals such as the ass and the ox.

The next level of consciousness is conscious awareness, the understanding when we receive when we have a ha-ha moment and can move forward with our new found wisdom. You may even experience what we call an ‘epiphany’ and become washed over with a strange feeling that makes you feel light and kinda fuzzy.

This feeling is one stage of becoming illuminated. You may have heard the expression Christ-consciousness. That is this level of consciousness.

Look at an image of Jesus and other saints in a church and you will see a yellow “halo” over his head. This is actually the sun. It says: this guy is illuminated.Sometimes you see 12 stars – 12 signs of the zodiac, 12 laws of the Universe.


Mary stars
This statues of Mary features 12 stars and the crescent moon

Then there is God-consciousness. This is pretty much the stage when you have mastered your thoughts and emotions and understand how to work with the magical energies that are governed by the Laws of the Universe.

The eighth level is that state of consciousness enlightened people live in on a daily basis. This is the stage known as samadhi, satori, nirvana or whatever else you want to call it.

Then you have the fourth level of conscious which is described by ancient philosophers as “Absolute Consciousness” or the “Truth”. At this point we realise we are all one and understand just about everything.

The moon and emotions

In alchemical symbolism, the moon represents female energy, and more specifically emotions. Male energy is the sun = the mind because men are noted for the ability to be analytical.

Women understand love, caring and nurturing which is reflected by the moon – the opposite celestial object we see in the sky, one in the day, the other at night. In the case of the silver key, emotion is  Earth – which needs cultivating and nurturing.

So let’s go back to the concept of male and female union in relation to thoughts and emotions. When we combine analytical thinking with emotion we create. But we always create something; both good and bad.

But note how the keys are crossed symmetrically. This indicates the need for balance. When we create by using a balance of analytical thought and nurture those ideas with positive emotions, we create the perfect outcome: the child.

Do you see how all this symbolism is knitting together? Allow me to explain a little further.

The origins of the Cross Keys symbolism

The crossed keys are said to be the Keys to Heaven, the Truth for that which we seek. In Masonry, the keys are said to unlock the doors of Solomon’s Temple. King’s Solomon Temple is an analogy which refers to understanding the wisdom of the Universe.

The story of King Solomon in the Bible goes like this: God asks Solomon for one wish. King Solomon says he wants to understand his people. God is so pleased by the King’s selfless wish that he grants him all the wisdom in the world.


So the keys are to unlock the secrets of our thoughts and emotions. They are crossed to indicate the need for balance. And when we can master our thoughts and emotions and bring them into balance we unlock the doors to the Universe and all the wisdom contained in nature.

We are nature. Our purpose on Earth is to understand our True Nature. Learn how to use the crossed keys.

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