The Greek Journey Part Three: The Amphiareion

Our Journey to Greece was inspired by a great healer named Asclepius who lived in Ancient Greece over 3000 years ago. His wholistic approach to healing included drama and dreams, laughter and song, dance, spirituality ….

“Asclepius,” writes Jean Houston, “demonstrated how full well-being can be created by energizing and balancing the body, heart, intuition, dreams, faith and spirit of a person.”

Today we set out from Athens, travelling 22 miles northeast to visit a sanctuary and oracular healing center.

Founded in the 5th century BCE and flourishing until the 4th century CE, the site was dedicated to the god-hero Amphiaraus. Healing at the Amphiareion came through dreams and their interpretation.

The Greek travel writer Pausanias described the process in the 2nd century CE:…the first thing is to purify oneself, when someone comes to consult Amphiaraus, and the purification ritual is to sacrifice to the god, and people sacrifice to him and to all those whose names are on ( the altar), and — when these things are finished—they sacrifice a ram and spreading out its skin under themselves, lie down waiting for the revelation of a dream.

We approach the Amphiareion as pilgrims, as well as time travellers, for we have come to an ancient ruin seeking a spiritual power that lingers. Nestled in a plain among mountains, here there were once baths, a theatre, the god’s temple, staff residences, shops, inns, the agora and a water clock. Today there are only stone remnants of pedestals and sleeping benches.

Yet the peace of this place envelops us with its natural beauty, its quiet strength.

First we purify ourselves, washing our hands in a bowl that holds water infused with herbs. We have been asked to bringa non-physical sacrifice, something in our lives we are ready to release….I have been wondering what this might be.

Inviting us to find places to sit among the tumbled stones, Jean speaks: “Sacrifice is about making holy. “What aspect of your life do you wish to make holy?”

We ponder this in silence. What rises for me is an old fear, one that emerges now and then with renewed ferocity. It is about home, about belonging: where do I belong? with whom? I feel drawn to sacrifice this fear,handing it over to the Sacred Presence to whom my life is dedicated, trusting Love to care for me…

I sit looking into a grove of trees, then across to the distant mountains, breathing in peace and trust.

After a time, Jean calls us back together. Now her invitation to us is to close our eyes, to imagine ourselves back to the 5th century BCE. Within our minds the Amphiareion reappears as a glimmer of white marble buildings, with throngs of hope-filled seekers, moving gracefully in their draped line garments, speaking, gesturing, laughing, even singing…the scene moves in our imaginations like a documentary film.

“Now, open your eyes,” Jean invites. “What do you see?”

There are people who have a gift for seeing with open eyes something long vanished. It does not happen here, today. Yet, for a while longer, we move back and forth in time in our imagination.

My eyes are still closed, so this is no vision. But I do sense a presence. A tall man in the flowing white robes of Ancient Greece is standing, facing me. He looks directly at me with wisdom and kindness in his expression:

“Why have you come? What healing do you seek?” I hear him speak in the silence of my heart.

Startled, I show him my questions, though I form no words. 

He grasps at once what is in my heart, then he speaks to me:

“You have your home within you.”

I believe I have encountered an oracular healer, one who heals with words from the Sacred Presence.

Later, we walk the grounds, eat fresh figs straight from the trees, climb the steep stone steps that lead to the ruins of the ancient theatre. There some of our companions speak to us, sing to us.

Aingeal proclaims the call of our time crying out “Now is the time to banish fear from our lives”, the call to each to live that fullness of life that will be our gift to the evolution so needed, so longed for.

Dick sings an “Alleluia” moving Leonard Cohen’s words into a celebration of newness of life.

What have we experienced? Something more than an archaeological site, more than a history lesson.It is a wrinkle in time; it is a taste of healing power that nourishes each of us in our own way, in our own need.

We board our bus, re-enter the crowded, vibrant, noisy, streets of 21st century Athens.

We pass a car dealership. It offers to us its own version of “oracular healing”, loudly proclaiming in a huge red-lettered sign: FIND NEW ROADS.

Greece Journey Part Two: APOLLO’s Temple at Delphi

We begin our climb upwards from the Tholos of Athena towards the Temple of Apollo. The way is winding, a graduated path, smooth, making only gentle demands on our knees so recently godded, strengthened by Hermes and Artemis. We have breath enough as we climb to engage in conversation with our companions, to share our thoughts, our experiences while we were gathered around the Tholos.

Above, and across the road lies the Kastalian Spring. Here, where the great cliffs form a chasm, both pilgrims and the priesthood gathered to purify themselves in preparation for entering the great temple. (The Traveler’s Key to Ancient Greece)

These Kastalian waters were said to confer inspiration and were connected with the Muses. In late Roman times the Muses were named and assigned this way:

Calliope (fair face) Epic song
Clio (proclaimer) History
Euterpe (gentle rejoicing or delight) Lyric song
Thalia (festive) Comedy
Melpomene (honey-sweet song) Tragedy
Terpsichore (rejoicing or delighting in the dance) Dance
Erato (passionate) Erotic poetry
Polyhymnia (rich in hymns) Sacred songs
Urania (the starry heavens) Astronomy

We continue upwards along the Sacred Way, its flights of stone steps challenging even for godded knees. The Sanctuary of Apollo once contained temples, rich treasures brought here as gifts from many cities and individuals, hundreds of statues. Today we pass ruins, weathered stone, holding only the memory of wealth.


The Temple of Apollo was composed of an outer and inner chamber. On the outer walls were inscribed sayings of the Seven Sages, intended to inspire those who came seeking answers, to prepare themselves for their meeting with the Pythia. For the prophetess awaited them in the inner sanctum. Here the Pythia sat beside a stone known as the omphalos, the center of the world. She held an umbilicus tied to the omphalos. She was seated on a tripod placed over a chasm in the earth from which vapors arose. She waved a branch of laurel and entered into an altered state – enthousiasmos – in which she uttered prophecies.

place where the Pythia sat 

The priests who attended her recorded and “translated” her words into Homeric verse. This formal procedure for the functioning of the oracle acquired its final form in the 6th century BCE and remained unchanged until the reign of the Roman emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century AD.

If we feel some regret, some sadness, that we are nearly two millennia late for the experience, we have not yet understood the Quantum Powers of the Universe, nor learned what Jean Houston has been teaching us on this journey about the way these powers are available to us, bringing us the gift of time, past/present/future, in each sacred moment.

For here in this sacred place of the Pythia, Jean invites us to find places to sit on the fallen stones. We breathe deeply, close our eyes, come to stillness. We call upon the presence of the prophetess, trusting that her spirit is still available to us.

Jean invites us to present our questions to the Pythia. What guidance does she offer for our time? How may we move towards a planet of peace? Responses arise from within our hearts. Voices speak within our circle:

Peace will come as we open our third eye, the eye of wisdom, to recognize and honour the beauty, the light of the sacred presence, in one another. This seeing will lead us along the path to peace.


The Pythia invites us to take time each day for deep listening to her voice, the voice of Wisdom…she will speak in and through us, offering guidance.

You who are reading this in the sacred space of your own home may also find yourselves seated imaginally among the fallen stones of the Temple of Apollo, near the earth’s omphalos.

Here, you may breathe deeply, focus your heart, and call upon the wisdom that once spoke through the Pythia.

What questions do you bring to her? What responses do you hear?

******************************************

After our encounter with the Pythia, we start the downward climb, passing an opening in the stones wall, a grotto. Throughout the Christian world such places were chosen or constructed to honour Mary, often holding a statue of her. Once again, with a shiver of recognition, we see the continuation of the presence of the Sacred Feminine honoured through ages lost in memory, vanished before memory.

Yet still present.
 

 Grotto awaiting the Sacred Feminine Presence

Greece: A Mythic Journey

In Tolkien’s book The Hobbit, Bilbo rushed out the front door of his hobbit-hole towards adventure without even stopping to pick up a “pocket handkerchief”. I, too, rushed away from a gathering at the Ignatius Jesuit Centre in Guelph, Ontario without even stopping for lunch. Racing along the 401 highway towards the “Park ‘n Fly” at the Toronto Airport, heart in mouth, I thought only of arriving in time to catch my flight to Athens. An hour later, moving through the press of travellers seeking the flight desk, I was startled by a heavily-accented voice that rose above the din: “This way to Athena. This way to Athena.”

Athena. Already the realm of the mythic is opening. The goddess herself will guide our journey. May she also guide us through this imaginal journey, revisiting the sacred sites and processes, the teachings and experiences, the beauty, wonder and depth of the journey which Jean Houston led through Greece from September 22 – October 9, 2015.

Athena

As we travel one hundred miles northwest from Athens towards Delphi, our faithful driver Panagiotis (whose name means “holy one”) guides our elephantine bus along cliff edges with the confidence of a boy skirting puddles. The massive ancient mountain of Parnassus, more than a million years old, looms to our right, its rounded limestone bulk worn smooth by eons of weather. Looking downwards left across the valley that leads to the Gulf of Corinth, we see the great olive grove of more than a million trees. 

The olive tree was Athena’s gift to the people who named their city in her honour.

We are about to walk the Sacred Way, becoming one with the pilgrims who, for thousands of years, climbed to the Temple of Apollo in Delphi.

As was the case in most approaches to temples in Greece, the Sacred Way delivered the pilgrim to the gate of…sacred experience as though through a labyrinth, in this case a labyrinth which began down in the depths of the valley and wound upward through the Gate of Athena at Marmaria, through the underworld of the Kastalian Spring, and then into the sculpted and golden world of manifest divinity. ( “The Traveler’s  Key to Ancient Greece”)

ancient site of the Kastalian Spring

Like those earlier pilgrims who approached from Athens, we arrive first at the Tholos of Athena, a reminder that before Apollo took over this site, it was the holy place of the Earth Mother, Gaia.

The position of the sanctuary symbolizes Athena’s role as the protector of the place…but also serves to restore certain aspects of the old Goddess’ power to the sacred landscape, to mitigate the change wrought by the violence of the Olympian assault. Athena’s power is symbolized by the snake, thus repairing at least part of Gaia’s power snatched by Apollo. (from “Sanctuaries of the Goddess”)

Tholos of Athena

The late September sunlight sends a fiery blessing on us as we walk into the area of the Tholos, sacred to Athena.We see three great pillars supporting the massive stone ruin of the archway, the circle of fallen stones that are all that remain of her temple.

At Jean’s invitation we find places to sit on the ancient rocks, seeking for some hint of shade. We settle into the realm of Athena, whom Homer praised as “the glorious goddess, bright-eyed, inventive, unbending of heart…”

As Jean’s guiding archetype, the “ever near” Athena adopted Jean to develop the goddess’ own qualities as the One who shapes civilizations, companioning those who take on the task of co-creating with the Sacred.

We recall Jean’s words from her book, “The Hero and the Goddess” : 

 The realm of myth exists beyond time and space and daily reality. It is a symbolic world that dwells within us at levels deeper than our normal consciousness. And yet, it can be openly and vividly engaged in ways that expand the possibilities of every aspect of our lives. But to reach these depths and heights, we must pledge our commitment, our theatricality, our excitement. We must not bore the gods – or ourselves….

When we energetically and dramatically encounter this mythic realm and the beings who dwell there, we begin to understand that our individual lives – our personal stories – echo the events and truths of their lives and stories. We reflect these mythic beings and they reflect us. Experiencing this mutual recognition gives us access to more vigor and energy, a greater sense of joy and release, and an even deeper commitment to the unfolding planetary story. We begin living with the doors and windows of ordinary life wide open to the depth world.

(Jean Houston from the Preface to “The Hero and the Goddess”Quest Books, Wheaton, IL 1992, 2009)

Now we begin to engage this mythic realm and the beings who dwell there as Jean leads us in a meditation where the godded beings of the Greek pantheon offer their powers through each of the Chakras of our bodies.

Following the meditation we shall begin our climb towards the sanctuary of Apollo on Delphi, where we may encounter the spirit of the Oracle herself, the Pythias.

 We are leaving Athena’s Tholos when a sudden question sends me hurrying to catch up to our Greek guide, Calliope.

“Kapi, you have told us that the Greek people of today honour above all the Sophia, Holy Wisdom. Do they see a connection between her and the goddess Athena?” I ask.

“Of course,” Kapi responds. “They see a continuation.”

 At once our reflections on the Sophia become a river flowing from an ancient source,an unstoppable flow of wisdom and love, a promise fresh and ever-flowering, the Sophia, the “ever near” presence for which we long.

Icon of Sophia purchased from the Greek Ministry of Antiquities

Archetypes: Our Travelling Companions

In my grandmother’s tiny front parlour, next to her Victrola, sat a huge heavy hard-bound book containing all of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales. In the  summers of my childhood, after a magical overnight train journey, we stayed with my grandmother. I remember my eagerness to open that book on each visit, turning always to the same story: “The Travelling Companion”. It had all the delights a child could want: terror and sadness, mystery and secret journeys to a hidden cave in a mountain, an ogre and a bloodthirsty princess who beheaded her suitors when they could not answer her questions… but most of all I loved the main character, John.

Andersen begins, “Poor John was very sad, for his father was ill and would not recover.” After a loving farewell, promising that John would be cared for by providence, the father dies, leaving the young man all alone in the world. After the funeral, John sets out into the wide world, carrying his inheritance of fifty gold marks. That night he seeks shelter in a Church where an open coffin sits awaiting a funeral the next day. Wicked men, to whom the dead man owed money, come to seek revenge. They plan to seize the man’s body and hurl it into the woods. But John approaches them, offering his fifty gold marks if they will promise not to dishonour the dead man. They agree….

Next morning, as John continues on his way, a stranger with a wise and kind countenance asks if he might travel with John as a companion. Well, you can guess the rest…. This was no ordinary mortal, but a magical being who helps John to win the love of the fierce princess with whom he has fallen deeply in love. When John and his new bride, now a loving woman, freed from the ogre’s power, begin their new life together, the companion bids John farewell, revealing himself as the spirit of the dead man whose body John saved from dishonor….

This story has been rising in my memory over these recent weeks as we have been exploring together the concept of Archetypes. For, after all, is not an archetype in our life truly a “travelling companion”, offering not only company but powerful assistance in achieving the tasks of our lives, the desires of our heart?

Atwen Undomiel

I’ve been reflecting on my life, calling to mind and heart Archetypes that came to me for a time, others that remain:  Arwen Undomiel,  daughter of the Elf Lord Elrond in Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings.” For years, Arwen was my Archetype, for her name means “Evening Star of her People”, something I longed to be.

Later, I recognized in Julian of Norwich, an Archetypal Presence, drawn to a life of solitude, where she reflected, prayed and wrote her book, ”Revelations of Divine Love.” One day I realized that as Julian spent time each morning at her window which opened out to a busy street in 14th century Norwich, listening to and responding to those who came to her, I too had such a “Window” where I might listen and respond on my computer.

On a ZOOM call in March, 2019, Jean Houston offered insights from her own  decades-long study of archetypes. Here are some highlights from that experience:

At the base/root of our relationship with an Archetypal presence is LOVE, the Beloved Friend, the Companion of our lives.

Archetypes are our connection to the wider reality, the “hooks and eyes” that assist us in accessing the “Implicate order” as David Bohm calls it. We are the explicate order, limited in our reality. Archetypes bring to us the inspirations, ideas, supports, strengths to engage in our lives/our tasks with greater capabilities.

Einstein believed imagination was the key to understanding. As we learn to extend our imagination, it takes us into the imaginal field where so much potential lies, where we encounter the Archetypes. Rumi wrote that for each garden that he sees around him, there are a thousand magnificent gardens within his soul…

Who is the Archetype you chose or were chosen by in your life? He or she may be a real person living now, or someone who once lived (Julian of Norwich, Hildegard, Brigid of Kildare, Mary of Nazareth, Mary Magdalene) or someone in the imaginal realm, such as the Greek Goddesses, or Brigid, the ancient goddess of the Irish, or Isis of Egypt. We are called to grow the Archetypes if they are of the past, to engage with them as co-creative partners, to assist in their rebirth for our times.

Jean suggests we think of a time when we called upon an Archetypal presence to assist us with some task or challenge. Now imagine how our lives might change if we were to live more consciously, continuously aware of being partnered by the Archetypal presence in our daily tasks, our relationships, decisions, challenges… Jean suggests we begin with our strongest senses to engage the Archetype, whether that be through dance, music, art, or perhaps writing a dialogue where we ask the Archetype a question, then write the answer that rises in us…

 During the Zoom Call Jean invited us into the following process:

Breathe deeply, and sense you are drawing in with each breath the presence of your Archetype; draw in her/his seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, knowing, loving… In the practice what do you see, hear, touch, feel, experience in the presence of the Archetype? (When I offered this process to a group of friends, some experienced the scent of sandalwood, of roses; felt a sense of wholeness; heard the song, “Love Changes Everything”, had an inspiration related to a workshop being planned…)

Raise your hands, palms outward, towards where you imagine your Archetype standing, facing you. Feel the energy that may tingle on your palms. Know yourself deeply loved, known, encouraged and understood by this presence, the part of yourself that links you to the sacred, the LOVE in the Universe.

As Jean assures us, a relationship with an Archetypal presence is not unlike other relationships in our lives: it will grow, deepen, expand over time as we journey with our travelling companion.

The nature of Archetypes

In recent postings from Anne Baring’s presentation to “Madonna Rising”, we have been exploring the meaning of Mary of Nazareth and Mary Magdalene, the two Mary’s of Chartres ,whom Anne describes as having attained “archetypal status. They are each an expression, an embodiment, of the Sacred feminine, an archetype of those energies, qualities that we associate with the womanly face of the divine.

Our Lady of the Way

What is an archetype and how might our relationship with one or more both enhance and enchant our lives? How might archetypes work with us and through us towards the healing of life around our suffering planet?

Jean Houston’s luminous writing on “The Nature of Archetypes” provides answers to both these questions.  

Jean writes: I have had hundreds of research subjects in altered states of consciousness and many thousands of participants in my seminars describe adventures of the soul so grand, so mythic, and yet so redolent of universal themes, that I can readily testify to the existence of a collective pool of myth and archetype residing in each human being as part of his or her natural equipment.

This joining of local life to great life is a central experience of what I call “sacred psychology.” It differs from ordinary psychology in that it provides ways of moving from outmoded existence to an amplified life that is at once more cherished and more cherishing. It requires that we undertake the extraordinary task of dying to our current, local selves and of being reborn to our eternal selves. When we descend into the forgotten knowings of earlier or deeper phases of our existence, we often find hidden potentials, the unfulfilled and unfinished seedings of what we still contain, which myth often disguises as secret helpers or mighty talismans.

our ancestors saw them in the heavens, prayed to them as Mother Earth, Father Ocean, Sister Wind

Myths have such power because they are full of archetypes. Archetypes are many things–primal forms, codings of the deep unconscious, constellations of psychic energy, patterns of relationship. Our ancestors saw them in the heavens, prayed to them as Mother Earth, Father Ocean, Sister Wind. They were the great relatives from whom we derived, and they gave us not only our existence, but also prompted our stories, elicited our moral order. Later, they became personified in mythic characters and their stories–the contending brothers, the holy child, the search for the beloved, the heroic journey.

As major organs of the psyche, archetypes give us our essential connections, and without them we would lose the gossamer bridge that joins spirit with nature, mind with body, and self with the metabody of the universe. Archetypes are organs of Essence, the cosmic blueprints of How It All Works. Because they contain so much, archetypes bewilder analysis and perhaps can only be known by direct experience.

(a) mythic being becomes an aspect of ourselves writ large

Thus, in the journey of transformation, as we participate in these symbolic dramas, we actively engage in archetypal existence. For not only do we form a powerful sense of identity with the archetypal character, but this mythic being becomes an aspect of ourselves writ large, and symbolic happenings appear with undisguised relevance, not only for our own lives and problems, but for the remaking of society as well.

Working with myth and archetype, we discover that we are characters in the drama of the Anima Mundi, the Soul of the World. In this discovery we push the boundaries of our own human story and gain the courage to live mythically ourselves and to help heal our world.

A psychology with a mythic or sacred base demands that we have the courage both to release old toxicities and diminishments and to gain access to our inner storehouse of capacities and use them to prepare ourselves for the greater agenda–becoming an instrument through which the source may play its great music. Then, like the hero or heroine of myth, we may, regardless of our circumstances, become an inspiration for helping culture and consciousness move towards its next level of possibility.

this dream demands that we live out of our true essence

 At this we startle, we shake. The scope of this dream demands that we live out of our true essence, which is always too large for our local contracted consciousness to contain. I find that it requires many mythic adventures of the soul to reloom body and mind. But such is necessary if we are to return to everyday life with knowledge gained in the depths that can be put to use to redeem the “unread vision of the higher dream” inherent in both self and society.  

Archetypes are shared constructs. We might think of them as greater Presences, which stand behind and inform the personal images of many individuals.

such timeless beings ask…to be regrown

Sometimes the archetypes manifest in their archaic forms as gods or goddesses or as legendary heroes or heroines of earlier cultures, but always such timeless beings ask to be seen in new and fresh ways–they ask to be regrown. Whenever they move into our awareness, both personally and collectively, archetypes and the old and new stories that they bring with them announce a time of change and deepening. I deeply believe that such is happening all over the globe. Because I travel so much, I have occasion to witness firsthand the changing of the archetypes as society changes.

The enhancement goes both ways, for as we grow the “gods”, the “gods” grow us.
How do we grow these so-called gods? Perhaps it is by pursuing a conscious partnership with an archetype or psychospiritual power that has the same kinds of qualities as ourselves, as Athena was the natural partner of Odysseus. In living and working with these mutual qualities as gracefully as one can, humans help to individuate and extend the essence of the archetype in the world. The archetypes do not need to be met as old dependencies. They need to be met as co-partners.

Mary Magdalene

(What I am calling “Athena” may be the emerging archetypal orchestrator of my own inner crew of selves. Thus I do not become the archetype; rather, I allow her a more central role in my psychic development. As I experience it, this is neither inflation nor possession; it is a partnership that instructs, guides, inspires, as well as shedding light on the meaning and message of hard times– though without making them go away.  

Image of Athena by Susan Seddon Boulet

The Two Mary’s Of Chartres Mary Magdalene- 2

In the week following the Resurrection and Mary Magdalene’s encounter with Jesus in the garden outside his tomb, the disciples held a gathering at Bethany. There Mary Magdalene, in response to their request, told them of teachings she’d received from Jesus. Peter rejected these teachings.

Anne Baring relates the next phase of Mary Magdalene’s life:

Eleven years after this, Mary had to leave Palestine suddenly because of the assassination of King Herod Agrippa, the ruler of Judea in AD 44, for which the Nazarenes or followers of Jesus were blamed. It is highly likely that when she embarked for France, she took with her precious texts relating to the teachings that she and Jesus had shared with a close group of disciples, possibly the text of The Gospel of the Beloved Companion.

Mary Magdalene travelled to France with her sister Martha, her brother Lazarus and Mary Salome, Jesus’ sister, who was married to Lazarus. Mary travelled widely in Provence and the Languedoc and taught there for nearly 20 years until her death in AD 63. Legends about her abound in this region and there is a village called Les Labadous near Rennes-le-Chateau in the Languedoc where she is said to have lived for some years in a cave on the Sainte Baume Mountain, named after the precious oil she used to anoint Jesus. Her brother Lazarus buried her in a small church called Saint Maximin-La-Sainte-Baume and to this day the Basilica of that name holds her relics, including her skull, in a shrine devoted to her memory. These were guarded for many centuries by Cassianite monks who were devoted to her memory. In the twelfth century a great abbey was built in her honour at Vezelay.  

 Anne Baring speaks of its importance:

It fills in the vital pages of text that are missing from the version of the Gospel of Mary that is already known to us and that is also in the Nag Hammadi Library. He also calls her the Migdalah or the Tower, saying that her tower will stand by his in time to come. It was astonishing for me to find, following everything I have written about the Shekinah and the feminine gender of the Holy Spirit, these words of Yeshua: “My words are the Way, the Truth and the Life. For my words are given of the Spirit, and no one comes to the Kingdom except through Her Teachings.” (35:12)

Anne Baring adds: “In this new gospel we can at last hear the missing words that Mary spoke to the disciples when they had gathered in her house at Bethany a week after the crucifixion – words that conclude with this vision:

“I felt my soul and all that I could see dissolve and vanish in a brilliant light, in a likeness unto the sun, and in the Light, I beheld a woman of extraordinary beauty, clothed in garments of brilliant white. The figure extended its arms, and I felt my soul drawn into its embrace, and in that moment, I was freed from the world and I realized that the fetter of forgetfulness was temporary. From now on I shall rest through the course of the time of the age in silence.”

Anne Baring tells us: “I have no doubt on reading this Gospel, that Mary Magdalene or Miryam, as he called her, was the beloved companion and consort of Yeshua and possibly the only one of the Apostles who truly  understood and transmitted his teaching.”

Moreover, Anne speculates that if their union had been celebrated by the Christian Church:

We might have been spared the disastrous association of sin with sexuality and the misogyny and mistrust of and contempt for women that affects our culture to this day. We would have had a living image of a sacred marriage right at the heart of Christianity. It may not be too late to restore the relationship and undo the harm that has been done by its absence.

Pietro Cavallini, Mosaics on Arch and Apse, ca. 1291

The image above shows shows Jesus with Mary, His Mother. Anne Baring suggests it could also be “seen” as representing the Sacred Marriage between Yeshua and Miryam.

Anne Baring assures us: “We need to know that each one of us, male and female, carry the Divine Light within us that is called Christ Consciousness. Jesus and Mary Magdalene had each experienced that Light-Consciousness. Through their union and their love, the sacred marriage was enacted and the First Temple tradition of Love and Wisdom restored.”

“It may be” Anne concludes, ”that the Soul of the Cosmos has waited aeons for us to reach the point where more than a handful of individuals could awaken, as Mary Magdalene did, to awareness of the Divine Ground that animates and supports the whole of our existence. This is her message to us. This is the sublime message that is carried in the image of the Black Madonna and in the stones, sculptures and glorious rose windows of Chartres which together manifest the Presence of Divine Wisdom and the Holy Spirit.”   

The Two Mary’s of Chartres

 Part Two: Mary Magdalene

“As you know,” Anne Baring reminds participants in Madonna Rising, “there are two Mary’s honoured at the heart of Chartres Cathedral: the Virgin Mary and her daughter-in –law Mary Magdalene. The Virgin is celebrated in the glorious northern Rose Window North Rose Window Chartres Cathedral.

“Mary Magdalene is present in the second window on the right as you enter the West door. “

Window in Chartrew Cathedral “Life of Mary Magdalene”

“Both are connected with the Black Madonna in the crypt. I have come to the conclusion that the Black Madonna represents Mary Magdalene and the Wisdom Tradition that she brought with her from Palestine to France, or Gaul as it was called during the first century AD. The Wisdom Tradition enshrines the lost Feminine aspect of God, named Sophia, Divine Wisdom and the Holy Spirit.”

For those us who grew up in the Christian Tradition, whether Catholic, Anglican or branches of Protestantism, this one paragraph from Anne Baring’s talk during Ubiquity University’s on-line program, “Madonna Rising” holds statements that might have sent us racing for the sol volatile…

Yet for us, living as we are now in this time of the Great Recovery of so much that was lost over the millennia of human existence, wisdom suggests that we listen with an open heart and mind. Anne Baring, and others whose research over many decades has led them to consider other possibilities than those that once seemed engraved in stone, deserve our attention.

So in this Reflection on Mary Magdalene, I offer you Anne Baring’s perspective on “Mary Magdalene or Mary of Bethany with blue roses.”

Anne begins by noting the many books on Mary Magdalene that have been published over the past two decades showing that “the feminine archetype is using this channel to activate and spread its influence in the world. “

Anne sees the time as right for this, when “what was lost can be restored without fear”:

The despicable calumny placed on Mary Magdalene has been removed and we can now understand that she was the beloved consort of Jesus and co-teacher with him in Palestine, later taking the Essene Wisdom Tradition to France. She was, in the words of Tau Malalchi, the Holy Bride. She may also have been, as Tricia McCannon writes in her book, Return of the Divine Sophia, “the most important single teacher, aside from Jesus, in the entire Christian movement.” She was the embodiment of the Divine Feminine, the feminine counterpart to the Divine Masculine as held by Jesus. She is also the expression of the Divine Feminine within us and her growing importance reflects the activation of the archetype within our soul and within our culture.

As Anne Baring related in her earlier talk on the Shekinah, a powerful priesthood in 6th c BC in Judea succeeded in eradicating the Divine Feminine from the image of God. Referring to the negative influence of this eradication on two religions, Judaism and Christianity, and on their cultures, Anne says:

This is the unhealed wound that lies at the heart of these civilizations. It is an extraordinary and also tragic story, whose scattered fragments are gradually being pieced together. I believe, with Betty Kovacs, that the Mission of Jesus and Mary Magdalene was to restore the lost Love-Wisdom teachings and practices of the First Temple.

Anne is now convinced that “Mary Magdalene was the beloved consort of Jesus or Yeshua as he was called in Aramaic, and the Apostle to the Apostles, described in a gnostic text discovered at Nag Hammadi (Dialogue of the Saviour) as “The Woman who knew the All” and “the Woman whom Jesus loved.”

The Meeting in the Sepulchre Garden

Anne notes that in all four gospels, Mary Magdalene is described as “present at the crucifixion of Jesus,standing with his mother and sister at the foot of the cross.”

However, the famous scene of the meeting of Mary and Jesus in the sepulchre garden after his Resurrection is only recorded in the Gospel of John (20:1) ….In the Jewish customs of that time, Mary Magdalene would not have been allowed access to the Sepulchre, with or without other women accompanying her, unless as his wife, she had come to anoint his body for burial, as was the burial custom at that time – a custom to which Mark (16:1) testifies.

Anne Baring adds: “This is so blindingly obvious that I am amazed the academic world has not recognized it.”  

The Gospel of John gives the most detailed description of the meeting in the sepulchre garden, saying that Mary came there alone, when it was not yet light, on the first day of the week and saw the stone taken away from the sepulchre.

(image by Serge Koder)

She stood there weeping, then looked into the sepulchre and saw there two angels. One of them said to her, “Woman, why weepest thou?” She answered, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.” Then she turned away and saw a man standing nearby who said to her, “Woman why weepest thou?” She, supposing him to be the gardener, said to him, “Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary”. She turned around and, astonished, said to him, “Rabboni”.  

Jesus said to her, “Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father, but go to my brethren, and say unto them, ‘I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God.”

Fra Angelico’s “Noli  Me Tangere”

Then Mary went back to the disciples and told then what had taken place.

Later that day when the disciples were gathered together indoors, Jesus appeared to them.

Anne Baring adds that a further meeting of the disciples occurred the following week, one described in The Gospel of Mary and in The Gospel of  the Beloved Companion* both of which record that the disciples met a week later in Mary’s House in Bethany:

(Mary) told them in answer to their questions, the words that Yeshua had spoken to her. What she told them was rejected by Peter, always jealous of her closeness to Jesus and uncomprehending of what he taught the disciples.  

*The Gospel of the Beloved Companion has recently been translated by Jehanne de Quillan from a First Century Greek text brought to France from Alexandria. It matches fragments of the Gnostic Gospel of Mary and may be the source text for the later Gospel of John.

( next week: Part Two: Mary Magdalene in France) 

The Two Marys of Chartres

Following her presentation on the Shekinah, Anne Baring offered to participants in Ubiquity University‘s online program, “Madonna Rising” a Reflection on Mary of Nazareth, Mother of Jesus the Christ, and Mary Magdalene, both “women who lived on this earth.” Though both women appear briefly in the New Testament Gospel stories, each has now, two millennia later, taken on Archetypal status.

Part One: Mary of Nazareth

Mary of Nazareth is “the unrecognized Great Goddess of the Wisdom Tradition”. Anne Baring makes this startling statement after a lifetime of research into the art, ritual and mythology honouring the Goddess in cultures and civilizations that existed for several thousand years before the Christian era. By the time of Christ, the tradition of the Sacred Feminine in Judaism had been obliterated, so that Christianity’s Scriptural inheritance lacked a feminine divinity. As Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, the great goddesses: Isis of Egypt, Inanna of Sumeria, and the Greek goddesses Athena, Aphrodite, Demeter, Persephone, Artemis and Hera with their Roman counterparts were effectively banished.

Susan Seddon Boulet: Goddess

Yet Anne Baring reveals an unexpected turn in the tale. Though worship of a particular emanation of the Goddess may be forbidden, though her sacred groves may be cut down, her statues and carvings smashed and slashed, though the speaking of her name may be forbidden, the Archetype that responds to human longing cannot be obliterated. It will persist over millennia in paintings and statues, in poetry and song, in symbol and above all in the cries of the human hearts that turn to her. As Christianity became the dominant religion of the Western World, those longings became centred on Mary, the woman who bore in her body Jesus who is the Christ.

Mary. pregnant with her Son, greets her cousin Elizabeth

In The Myth of the Goddess, co-authored with Jules Cashford, (Viking, 1991) Anne Baring notes that “the entire ancient world, from Asia Minor to the Nile, from Greece to the Indus Valley, abounds in figures of the naked female form in various attitudes of all-supporting, all-including goddesses… Mary…became the sole inheritor of all the names and forms, sorrows, joys and consolations of the Goddess-Mother of the Western World: Seat of Wisdom, Vessel of Honour, Mystical Rose, House of Gold, Gate of Heaven, Morning Star, Refuge of Sinners, Queen of Angels, Queen of Peace.”

As Anne pointed out in her presentation during “Madonna Rising”, within 500 years of her death, Mary of Nazareth had attained the presence and status of the Great Goddesses who preceded her: Inanna of Sumeria and Isis of Egypt, carrying the archetype of Wisdom, associated, as were the earlier goddesses, with Venus, the Morning Star, with the moon, with the Rose Garden, with the Sacred Grove

Devotion to Mary blossomed in Medieval times, when the concept of courtly love was flourishing. Over a period of 125 years during the 12th and 13th centuries, while Chartres Cathedral was being constructed as the centre of devotion to Mary, another 500 Churches were built and dedicated to Mary. Within the Cathedral of Chartres, magnificent works of art celebrate Mary as womb of creation, fountain of love, tree of life and rose garden.

Statue of Mary as Black Madonna in Chartres Cathedral

This statue of Mary, depicting her as the Black Madonna, seated on a throne, holding her child on her lap, associates Mary with Isis of Egypt, whose symbol is the throne, who appears in ancient images seated with her son Horus on her lap. The widowed Isis wears a black robe in mourning for her husband Osiris. In a title Mary inherits from Isis, she is “Star of the Sea”, in Latin. “Stella Maris”. Like Isis, Mary is invoked by sailors for protection, especially at night when they must navigate by starlight. The rich imagery of the Black Madonna extends in Christian symbolism to the heart of the mystic experience in the dark night of the soul.

Church Doctrine over the past 1500 years had to work to “catch up” to what Christians already knew in their hearts. The Church Fathers debated for decades, for centuries, to find their way through the tangle of Augustine’s concept of “Original Sin”, in order to proclaim that a human, Mary, might be worthy to carry God in her womb, to be, as Mary was proclaimed, “Theotokos” or “God Bearer”. It was St. Anthony, an early follower of St. Francis of Assisi, who found the way through. Mary must have, from the moment of her conception through the lovemaking of her parents Anna and Joachim, been without original sin. Thus in the Doctrine of the “Immaculate Conception” Mary was recognized as free from Original Sin in advance of her Son’s coming as Redeemer.

Other Church proclamations lifted Mary to the status of the ancient Goddesses. In 1950 Pope Pius XII proclaimed the doctrine of the Assumption declaring that Mary upon her death was taken into Heaven, body and soul. In the proclamation of the Assumption, Pope Pius alluded to “the heavenly marriage.” Carl Jung saw this doctrine as the most significant Christian religious event since the Reformation, an integration of the feminine principle into the Christian conception of the Godhead.

Four years later, in 1954, Mary was given the title long ago held by Isis and Inanna: “Queen of Heaven”.  

Who has Mary become for us? Anne Baring notes that in the past thousand years, there have been 21,000 Visions of Mary, 210 reported between 1928 and 1971. Many Churches have been constructed on the site of Visions, notably the Sanctuary of Lourdes. The prayers addressed to her by mystics and ordinary suffering humanity are themselves witness to her presence of love in our lives. As Isis received the prayers of ancient people who were in danger, suffering, or approaching death, now Mary hears those prayers. As a palpable, reachable, presence of love in our daily lives on this planet, Mary embodies in human form aspects of the Shekinah that somehow have been transferred to her: the heart-centred qualities that we humans have sought for millennia beyond counting: wisdom, love, justice, beauty, harmony, and the instinct to heal, nurture, protect and cherish.

 Bernard of Clairvaux, 12th c. abbot and mystic, wrote a prayer to Mary (found in Visions of Mary by Jill K. H. Geoffrion, Paraclete Press, Brewster MA 2017)

In dangers,

in distress,

in uncertainty,

think of Mary,

call upon Mary.

….

If you follow her, you cannot falter;

if you pray to her, you cannot despair;

if you think of her, you cannot err.

If she sustains you, you will not stumble;

if she protects you, you have nothing to fear;

if she guides you, you will never flag;

if she is favourable to you, you will attain your goal.

Before We Leave the Rose Garden

For the past four weeks, we have been sitting at the feet of scholar and wise woman, Anne Baring, as she unfolded for us her research, her intuitions, her reflections on the Divine Feminine, especially as She is known in Judaism as the Shekinah.

These teachings have been so rich and profound that they merit more than a brief reading.

In preparing the four reflections, I spent many hours seeking to understand Anne Baring’s work, seeking a way to present her teachings so that you might also enter them with joy.

This week, I invite you to spend time re-reading the four Rose Garden pieces and fashioning a response either in your own words or in words from another writer or poet.

What do you hear the Sacred Feminine say to you?

What do you wish to say to her?

You may be blessed to receive a poem in which this Presence of Love speaks to you directly.

Or you may be inspired to simply write your own words to this Sacred Presence.

I offer you three examples:

“Here’s the Dark Mother” by Peg Rubin

I am the Voice in the whirlwind,
in the place others call, and experience as,
Chaos.
I am above, below, within the Chaos.
I am the darkness.

And I am the One to seek when you need to source yourself in joy,
in peace, in turbulence.

But beyond, beyond, way beyond
the normal experience of darkness,
I invite you into the Darkness—beyond and before and after Time.

This is your Source, your Origin.
If things fall apart,
if you fall apart,
come into my all-holding embrace.

I am the energy that shapes and holds universes together.
Can I do any less for you?

There is pressure in my holding
and incalculable power—so after a time of rest you may begin to feel the pressure
of new birth—persistent, insistent.

I who shape galaxies
do not hesitate to shape you—fiercely, perhaps—but truly to your most
elegant and beautiful design.
Your design—like the galaxy— 
is glorious to behold.

And in my vast darkness
I hold that pattern, and desire
you to recognize it, to become it.
You will not fly apart,
though it may feel like it.
I am holding you and
I am holding your becoming.

Black Madonna of Montserrat

Mother Wisdom Speaks

Christin Lore Weber

“I am the maiden of joy.

I am song in the wind and rain upon the rocks.

I am fair love and holy hope and the flight of the dove.

 I am earth, betrothed. I am mystical rose.

I am the mother of mystery.

I hold opposites together.

“I birth children and sever the cord with my teeth.

Those I love I send away to their lives.

 I am the cauldron of fire and the cup of milk.

I am the two edged knife.

“I am the old woman: I am the queen.

If you seek me you will find me everywhere.

I am the womb of wise blood.

I am the world’s crown. I am diamond. I am pearl.

 I shine with the wisdom of God.

“I am the circle of being.

I am glory — splendor of infinite life.

I am the spiral, the fullness of being, fully becoming,

 forever, world without end.”

~

Some of you I will hollow out.

 I will make you a cave.

 I will carve you so deep the stars will shine in your darkness.

 You will be a bowl.

You will be the cup in the rock collecting rain…

I will do this because the world needs the hollowness of you.

 I will do this for the space that you will be.

 I will do this because you must be large.

A passage.

 People will find their way through you.

 A bowl.

People will eat from you

and their hunger will not weaken them to death.

A cup to catch the sacred rain….

Light will flow in your hollowing.

 You will be filled with light.

 Your bones will shine.

The round open center of you will be radiant.

I will call you Brilliant One.

 I will call you Daughter Who is Wide.

 I will call you transformed.

~

 (Originally published in “Circle of Mysteries: The Woman’s Rosary Book”, and “Woman Prayers” edited by Mary Ford-Gabowsky)

“In My Glad Hours” by Rainer Maria Rilke (words that express what I wish to say to this Presence of Love)

In my glad hours, I will make a city of your smile, a distant city that shines and lives. I will take one word of yours to be an island on which birches stand, or fir trees, quite still and ceremonial. I will receive your glance as a fountain in which things can disappear and above which the sky trembles, both eager and afraid to fall in.

I will know that all of this exists, that one can enter this city, that I have glimpsed this island and know exactly when there is no one else beside that fountain. But if I appear to hesitate, it is because I am not sure whether it is the forest through which we are walking or my own mood that is shaded and dark. (Rilke: Early Journals)  

With what words will you respond to the Sacred Feminine or in what words will this Presence of Love address you?

If you wish to send your words to me, please do so: amclaughlin@sympatico.ca 

Entering the Rose Garden Four

This is the conclusion of Anne Baring’s presentation on the Shekinah during Ubiquity University’s online “Madonna Rising” in August 2020.

Where might we who yearn for the lost Divine Feminine seek for her?

Anne Baring concludes her presentation on the Shekinah with directions for our quest.

Her first suggestion will be familiar to us: the Biblical Books of Proverbs, Ecclesiasticus and Wisdom. These we have encountered in our earlier exploration of Rabbi Rami Shapiro’s writings in The Divine Feminine in Biblical Wisdom Literature

From this rich source, Anne Baring cites these examples:

In the Book of Proverbs (8: 23-31), Wisdom tells us she is the Beloved of God, with Him from the beginning, before the foundation of the world. She speaks from the deep ground of life as the hidden law which orders it and as the Craftswoman of creation. In the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo has painted her tucked into the crook of God’s arm. With their vivid imagery, these passages transform the idea of the Holy Spirit, speaking as Divine Wisdom, from abstract idea into living presence.

In the Book of Wisdom…Wisdom is described as sitting by the throne of the Lord in heaven (9:10) and is spoken of as the Holy Spirit (9:17).

Elsewhere, Wisdom speaks as though, like the Shekinah, she were here, in this dimension, dwelling with us in the midst of her kingdom, accessible to those who seek her out. She is unknown and unrecognized, yet working within the depths of life, striving to open our understanding to the divine reality of her presence, the sacredness of her creation, her justice, wisdom, love and truth.

In the Book of Ben Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) Wisdom, perhaps recalling the time when she was honoured and worshipped in the First Temple, proclaims herself to be the soul and intelligence of the cosmos, rooted in tree, vine, earth and water and active in the habitations of humanity. She is the principle of justice that inspires human laws. She appeals to all those who are desirous of her to fill themselves with her fruits, “For my memorial is sweeter than honey, and mine inheritance than the honeycomb.” (24:20)

Anne Baring calls this “the language of the immanence of the Divine Feminine in the world”.  

Anne continues: “To those who, like Solomon, prized her more highly than rubies, Wisdom was their wise and luminous guide.”

I prayed and understanding was given me: I called upon God, and the Spirit of Wisdom came to me…I loved her above health and beauty, and chose to have her instead of light, for the light that cometh from her never goeth out…For she is the breath of the power of God, and a pure influence flowing from the glory of the Almighty… She is the brightness of the everlasting Light, the unspotted mirror of the power of God, and the image of His goodness … She is more beautiful than the  sun, and above all the order of stars: being compared with the Light, she is found before it… I loved her, and sought her out from my youth. I desired to make her my spouse, and I was a lover of her beauty. (Wisdom of Solomon 7: 7, 10, 25, 26, 29, 8:2).       

Aurora Borealis as it appeared in the night skies over Tromso in Norway as the Full Moon of October 1st is about to appear. These feminine colours offer a promise of the return of the  sacred feminine in these dark times on our planet. (Celia Fenn)  

Anne Baring’s treasure map leads to another source where knowledge of the Shekinah may be found:

During the last fifty years or so, it has become increasingly clear that there was a great underground stream of human experience which flowed from the thriving city of Alexandria into several different channels—into the writings of the early Christian Gnostics discovered at Nag Hammadi, into the Hermetic Tradition and the later Alchemists, and the transmitters, both Jewish and Christian, of the ancient cosmology of Kabbalism.

Hellenistic Egypt in the second and third centuries AD was the ultimate source of all these traditions yet we now know that the roots lie deeper, in the temple teachings of a far older time, whether in Palestine or Egypt. Alexandria was a Greek city, the meeting place of East and West – a vibrant crucible for the exchange of ideas and teachings between Egyptians, Greeks, Syrians and Jews, and also sages from far-away Persia and India….In Alexandria Divine Wisdom and the Holy Spirit was called Sophia –the Greek word for Wisdom – a name which descended to the time when the emperor Justinian built the great Christian Basilica in Constantinople called Hagia Sophia.  

Who were the Gnostics? Anne Baring describes them as a group of early Christians, some descended from the Jews who fled Jerusalem in 70 AD following the destruction of the temple by the Romans. They claimed to have the secret teaching of Jesus, given by him to his closest disciples, including James and Mary Magdalene. There were many Gospels circulated among them in addition to the four we now know. One of these: “The Gospel of the Beloved Companion” attributed to Mary Magdalene, found its way to France from Alexandria in the First Century. This book has recently been translated from the Greek by Jehanne de Quillan.

 Elaine Pagels’ book The Gnostic Gospels  tells of the fate of these other Gospels within 200 years of the life of Jesus:

Every one of the secret texts which gnostic groups revered was omitted from the canonical  collection, and branded as heretical by those who called themselves orthodox. By the time the process of sorting the various writings ended…virtually all the feminine imagery for God had disappeared from the orthodox Christian tradition.

As Anne Baring tells us, until 1977 with the publication of the texts discovered in 1945 at Nag Hammadi, “no one knew that some groups of early Christians had an image of the Divine Mother whom they had named ‘The Invisible within the All.’”  

In the Christian era, the “further and final loss of the Divine Feminine” was brought about. In AD 325, the Church Council of Nicaea associated Wisdom with Christ as the Logos, the Divine Word. 

From this time the Christian image of the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit became wholly identified with the masculine archetype.  The ancient connection between the Holy Spirit and the Divine Feminine was irrevocably and, for western civilization, tragically lost. The monotheism of the three Patriarchal religions has led to the situation today where the Earth is no longer viewed as sacred and we are confronted with the catastrophic effects of the loss of the Divine Feminine.      

     In closing her presentation on the Shekinah, Anne Baring offers this question for our Reflection:

“What difference would there be in your life if the Shekinah-Sophia was a living presence for you?”

awakening to the sacred feminine presence in our lives