Saturday, December 22, 2012

The two Mary's

People who share the same name can at times seem mysteriously connected to each other. And when we encounter these ‘twinned’ names in secret traditions, we can take it as a signal that something more is intended than mere coincidence. We know the Christ by the name of Jesus, but to his contemporaries his name was Yeshua – which in Hebrew is the same name as Joshua, who inherited the leadership from Moses. And the two women of the Gospels who so obviously share a name are Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Mary, the Magdalene. But surely these two women could not be more contrasting, more unlike each other? For the one is blessed by the Divine as an immaculate virgin, and the other is cast by the Church as a common prostitute – a redeemed whore.

Neither of these epithets are actually accurate (although why they are not is perhaps a post for my blog for another time!). For the last two millennia Mary Magdalene has perhaps been the most wronged woman in all of human history. If we now see the Magdalene in her rightful form, not as the whore, which is how the Church has chosen to portray her, but as the most enlightened of all the disciples and even as the equal partner of Jesus, then we restore her at last to her rightful place. And when this restoration has found place, then the two Mary's can stand beside each other. When this happens then they can in the eyes of esoteric philosophy and the secret teachings bring about the supreme event. For then the two Mary's can become one. The virgin and the whore unite in one being to become the virgin whore.

But the virgin whore has already existed, for this is one of the titles given to the Babylonian goddess Ishtar. Ishtar, who invites us to overcome these contradictory koans of her titles and so enter the greater mysteries. But Ishtar is herself a continuous goddess who changes forms and names according to the culture in which she finds herself. So she has been both Ishtar and Isis and Astarte and Asherah, and she will become anew another incarnation in our own age with the uniting of the two Mary's. Thus the virgin-whore both survives and endures and speaks to us throughout history. As I mention in my previous post (Star of the Sea), the goddess is more powerful than any one doctrine. In describing the Magdalene as a whore (which the Gospels never actually do), the Church has perhaps been unknowingly fulfilling the true purpose of the goddess.

And perhaps all that it takes to unite the two Mary’s is our own awakening awareness of these traditions, and to realize that what had seemed to us to be two separate and individual women are in fact merely two aspects of the one goddess. 

Painting: Mary Magdalene by Carlo Dolci

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Mind and Spirit

Leonardo da Vinci - geometric and botanical figures

Everywhere around us in our human world – even within the same person – we see the interplay between the mind and the spirit. It is a constant dance between the ego, which demands attention, which creates the world of forms, and the spirit, which seeks rest and stillness, which yearns for the divine at the centre around which all forms circle. We tend to think of the mind as masculine, and the spirit as feminine, and to a large extent this generalization holds true. The masculine Mind quests after the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ in life, while the feminine Spirit strives to reconcile. Simply put: men (the Mind) ‘do’ and women (the Spirit) ‘are’.

But as often as not (and as we well know!) things are not in balance. The strident ego-Mind struts around. Subjugation is what it is really after. The Mind seeks to impose itself on things, because really it is rather insecure, and all that strutting around is just a way of disguising its own insecurity from itself – perhaps because in its innermost self, Mind knows that it is largely illusion, and that those many separate forms only exist because it thinks them. It needs the soothing touch of Spirit to reassure it that all is well.

And Spirit can fall out of balance as well: if Spirit listens too much to Mind, then it too can begin to feel insecure. If Mind tells Spirit such negative things as ‘Without me you are nothing’, or ‘You are no good’ or ‘You are not worth it’ often enough, then as night follows day Spirit will start to believe it. We can all recognize such situations, both in those we know, and within ourselves.

But also in the world around us, and which we all share, when Mind asserts itself too much and dominates Spirit, then we see our world as it is now: aggressive, dominating, always greedy for more of whatever it decides that it needs or must have, for reasons of status, wealth – or yet more dominance, perhaps in the form of political victory, or disputes over territory, or for some other reason which the ego demands of itself and of others.

So when either Mind or Spirit is out of balance, the other suffers. In our present world it is so tragically clear that Mind has dragged Spirit out of balance. For too long – literally for millennia – in so many spheres of human endeavour, Mind has demanded of Spirit that it play a subservient, submissive role, whether that has been in politics, in religion, or even at time in the arts. Recognition of this state of affairs is the first step to putting things back into balance. But the objective is not for Spirit now to ‘take its turn at the wheel’, for that would only turn Spirit into Mind. The objective is for Spirit and Mind to stand in their own right, to seek a balance with each other, and for each to recognize the value of the other, and what each can truly offer the other.

This process can begin inside each of us. That we each become, as it were, a little bit androgynous in the purest sense of the term. That we each seek the balance within ourselves. That we become both acting, ‘doing’ individuals, and still listen to our inner guide, the wise voice of our own spirit. Then the world around us will follow us, and change with us. 


Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Door

The Door

How long have I journeyed to come this far?
Nine months? A thousand years? Longer?
There is no way of knowing
for time is only created by my moving through it.
Behind me there is no time;
only a past with no past
lying silent, abandoned
reaching back with questing fingertips
to the first spark of creation.
And the light which I see ahead – is that the future?
But how could the future be so bright, so glorious?
I feel afraid for what might come
for such glory only comes with sorrow
and the praise of angels
is the same song as their lament
and my last yesterday will be the world's first tomorrow.
I move onwards in spite of myself
for I am the irresistible force
which has been gathering itself through the ages
and my first breath shall be my last
and my sorrow shall be my glory
and my pain shall be the soft sigh of angels’ wings
rustling with quiet redemption
as the world tells my story.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Star of the Sea

Stella Maris – Star of the Sea. This mystical title given to the Virgin Mary portrays her as standing like a beacon miraculously among the waves on the curling sea foam, and is believed to date as far back as the 9th-century. But to discover the true origins of this image we need to broaden the search – and our own horizons – towards more ancient seas, and to remember that the Goddess has many faces.   

The Goddess endures. She is more powerful than any attempts to confine her to any one doctrine, and she changes both her form and her name as she adapts to circumstances. She has been elevated to become the principal icon of the Catholic Church, for the Church is itself the unwitting servant of the Goddess. To see her in another form we need look no further than that familiar icon, not of religion, but of art: Botticelli’s famous Birth of Venus. Emerging gracefully from the sea foam, Venus is herself the Roman version of the Ancient Greek Aphrodite, who is always associated with the sea which gave her birth. 

So our quest after the Star has already brought us to Ancient Greece. Can we journey back even further? The Babylonian goddess Ishtar is also linked to a star – or at least, what the Ancients thought of as a star, but which we know to be a planet, a ‘wandering star’. Ishtar was absorbed into Greek culture as Astarte, who in turn became Aphrodite/Venus. The morning and the evening star are both the planet Venus, and the ancients saw Ishtar as being graced with both a five-pointed and an eight-pointed star. The five-pointed star is now familiar to us as the pentagram, but where does the eight-pointed star come from? The Babylonians observed the heavens meticulously, and they must have noted that the planet Venus seems to follow a path through the heavens that traces out a five-pointed pathway – over exactly an eight-year period. So Ishtar has her star. But what of the sea?  

The old Testament’s Book of Jeremiah mentions a goddess described as the Queen of Heaven – the goddess Asherah, who in ancient times was known as the ‘Lady of the sea’, or ‘She who treads on the sea’. Asherah was the consort of Yahweh, in the time before Judaism became monotheistic in its beliefs, and although the attempts to obliterate the goddess from scripture were largely successful, we can still catch glimpses of her in Jeremiah’s phrase – and also in the opening words of Genesis, which in the original Hebrew literally read: “In the beginning the gods created the heavens and the earth.” 

At the beginnings of civilization Mesopotamian clay tablets record the appearance of a brightly-shining light in the heavens – what we now know to be a supernova, an exploding star. Apparently this light was so bright that it was visible during the hours of daylight. And it made its sudden and dramatic appearance low down on the eastern horizon, which is where it stayed. To the dwellers overlooking what is now the Persian Gulf it would have appeared as if this star was emerging from the sea, and these ancient cultures do feature deities which came out of the sea. Even in Ancient Egypt, the title given to Horus, the child of Isis and Osiris, was ‘Horus-on-the-Horizon’. This spectacular heavenly event apparently had a great impact on human awareness, and much in the way of culture and learning began at that time, almost as if this stellar appearance had triggered something in the human imagination.

Stella Maris – Star of the Sea. This icon of both the church, of art, and of human culture takes us right back to the very dawn of civilization, and continues to surface in whatever form the Goddess finds appropriate to communicate with us. And what of Mary? Her true  origins are in her very name, for Mary is derived from ‘Mare’, meaning ‘The Sea’.     

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Winter Rose

The Winter Rose

Flowering, immaculate,
the winter rose grows within you.
Your soul, marvelling, articulates its form.
But hush..
wait just awhile
enclose within you
the soft breath of the merciful divine..
and a light will be lit that never dims.
By day it illumines your acts
by night, your dreams.
Feel how the divine love enfolds you.
Rest now secure in her arms
while your angel spreads its wings
above the rose in blessing.

Painting The Visitation by M. Albertinelli

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Tear and a Smile

I would not exchange the sorrows of my heart for the jubilees of the masses, nor would I grant that the tears that flow from my parts, engulfed in gloom, be turned into burgeoning laughter. I would but for my life to remain a tear and a smile: a tear that would purify my heart and make me to understand life's hidden meanings and ambiguities, and a smile that brings me nearer to my kin and becomes my symbol for the worship of the gods; a tear with which to join the crushed of heart in solidarity, and a smile that becomes a visible token of my joy in existence.

Sooner would I perish of longing than live in dullness! Would that the depths of my soul be consumed by an eternal, unappeasable appetite for love and beauty. For I have looked all around and seen that those who are satisfied are the most wretched of all people, and are enslaved by their own earthiness. I have heard the burning sighs of unrequited love and I have found them sweeter than love satisfied.

As evening approaches, the rose folds its petals and sleeps in the embrace of her yearnings. But with the approach of the morn, she parts her lips to receive the kiss of the sun. For the life of a flower is a longing and a fulfillment, a tear and a smile.

The sea's waters become vapor and rise, gathering into a cloud. The cloud floats above the hills and the valleys until it meets a gentle breeze and then it falls, weeping towards the fields. Only then does it join the running streams and return to the sea, its home and origin. The life of a cloud is a separation and a union, a tear and a smile.

And so is it for the spirit. The individual spirit becomes separated from the greater spirit and sojourns in the world of matter, a wandering cloud over the mountains of sorrow and the plains of joy, until it meets the subtle breeze of death. The spirit thus sojourns until it returns to its origin; to the Greater Sea of Love and Beauty; to God!

~ Kahlil Gibran; from A Tear and a Smile, 1914.

Photograph: Denis Roussel

Sunday, December 2, 2012



On the threshold,
for the golden light
that desires to mirror itself
in my heart.
is silence.