All posts by amclaughlin2014

Member of Community of Grey Sisters of Pembroke; Masters Degree in Religious Communication, Loyola University, Chicago; Author: Called to Egypt on the Back of the Wind (2013) Planted in the Sky (2006) both published by Borealis Press, Ottawa Canada www.borealipress.com Retreat facilitator: The Wooing of the Soul (2013) The Sophia Salons, beginning in February 2016, offer journeys to one's own inner wisdom for small groups of women. For information: amclaughlin@sympatico.ca

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?”

entering the rose garden Part THree

Whatever their ways,

they are all in love with you,

Each comes, by a path, to the Rose Garden

Niyazi Misri

(This is the third Reflection based on the opening talk Anne Baring gave to Ubiquity University’s online course: “Madonna Rising” in August 2020. I am grateful to Anne Baring for making her lecture notes available to participants. Direct quotes are designated by quotation marks, or for longer sections, by the use of italics.)

The Feminine Face of the God-Head

In the mystical tradition of Judaism, the Shekinah or feminine face of the god-head is named as Cosmic Womb, Palace, Enclosure, Fountain, Apple Orchard and Mystical Garden of Eden. She is named as the architect of worlds, source or foundation of our world, also as the Radiance, Word or Glory of the unknowable ground or godhead.

Text after text uses sexual imagery and the imagery of light to describe how the ray which emanates from the unknowable ground enters into the womb—the Great Sea of Light—of the Celestial Mother and how she brings forth the male and female creative energies which, as two branches of the Tree of Life, are symbolically King and Queen, Son and Daughter. A third branch of the Tree descends directly down the centre, unifying and connecting the energies on either side…. The Heart centre of these three branches or pillars…is called Tiphareth.

As “the indwelling and active Holy Spirit”, the Shekinah is both “divine guide and immanent presence”. She it is who frees us from beliefs that separate us from our source, restoring the world to “union with the divine ground.” By bringing into being all that is ensouled by the divine source, “she generates the manifest world we know”, remaining here until “the whole creation is enfolded once again into its source.”

Kabbalism sees “the divine Mother-Father image…expressed as the male and female of all species”.

Humanity, female and male, is therefore the expression of the duality-in-unity of the god-head. The Shekinah is forever united with her beloved Spouse in the divine ground or heart of being and it is their union in the god-head that holds life in a constant state of coming into being. Yet she is also present—here with us—in the material reality of our world.

The sexual attraction between man and woman and the expression of true love between them is the enactment or reflection at this level of creation of the divine embrace at its heart that is enshrined in the cherished words of the Song of Songs: “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.”(6:3)  Human sexual relationship, enacted with love, mutual respect and joy, is a sacred ritual that is believed to maintain the ecstatic union of the divine pair.

Dwelling as divine presence in all that is, the Shekinah assures that “nothing is outside spirit.”

In the radiance of that invisible cosmic Sea of Light, everything is connected to everything else as through a luminous circulatory system. Moreover, the Shekinah is deeply devoted to what she has brought into being, as a mother is devoted to the well-being of her child. All life on earth, all levels and degrees of consciousness, all forms of what we  see and name as “matter” are the creation of the primal fountain of Light, and are therefore an expression of divinity.

The colours associated with the Shekinah are blue and gold. She is the ground of the human soul, its “light body”, its “outer garment, the physical body, and its animating spirit or consciousness.” The Shekinah is “the holy presence of the ‘glory of God’ within everyone.”

We, all of us, moving from unconsciousness and ignorance of this radiant ground to awareness of and relationship with it, live in her being and grow under her power of attraction until we are reunited with the source, discovering ourselves to be what in essence we always were but did not know ourselves to be—sons and daughters of God, living expressions of divine spirit.

Like Isis, widowed, mourning, searching for her beloved Osiris, the Shekinah wears a black robe. This signifies “the darkness of the mystery which hides the glory of her Light.” This imagery “was carried forward to the Black Madonna.”

The imagery of Kabbalism may also be discerned in fairy tales. The forgotten image of the Divine Feminine, the veiled Shekinah appears as the Fairy God-mother who “presides over her daughter’s transformation from soot-blackened drudge to royal bride”.

Helena Bonham Carter as fairy godmother in the film “Cinderella”

Cinderella represents, as Harold Bayley suggests in The Lost Language of Symbolism, “the human soul as it moves from ’rags to riches’.”

Cinderella’s three splendid dresses, which could be equated with the “robe of glory” of certain kabbalist and gnostic texts, represent the soul’s luminous sheaths or subtle bodies, as dazzling as the light of moon, sun and stars.

Just as the soot-blackened girl in the fairy tale puts on her three glorious dresses to reveal herself as she truly is, so does the human soul don these “robes of glory” as she moves from the darkness of ignorance into the revelation of her true nature and parentage.

Entering the Rose Garden 2

Whatever their ways

they are all in love with you.

Each comes, by a path, to the Rose Garden

Niyazi Misri

 Anne Baring finds in the richness of Kabbalistic teachings and traditions, traces of the luminous period of the First Temple in Israel. Thanks to her generosity in making her lecture notes available to those who participated in Ubiquity University’s online program “Madonna Rises”, I have Anne Baring’s own words to rely on. Short quotes are in quotation marks, longer ones are shown in italics. 

Last week, we reflected on The Tree of Life as an image of the soul of the cosmos. “Every aspect of creation, both visible and invisible, is interconnected and interwoven with every other aspect.” In the Tree of Life there exists “one cosmic symphony”.

“Tree of Life” artwork by Y. Andino

The Tree of Life is no hierarchical descent from invisible to visible. Rather it is “an image of worlds nesting within worlds, dimensions within dimensions emanating…from within outwards…the tapestry of relationships which connect invisible spirit with the visible fabric of this world…. At the innermost level is the unknowable source or god-head,at the outermost the physical forms of matter.”

And who or where are we in this “one unified web of life: one energy, one spirit, one single cosmic entity” ?   

Anne Baring responds: “According to this Tradition, we are, each one of us, that life, that energy, that spirit.”

There is something still more wonderful: an intermediary between “the unknowable source” and “the physical forms of matter”:

The Shekinah

The Shekinah is the image of the Divine Feminine or the Feminine Face of God as it was conceived in this mystical tradition of Judaism. In the image and cosmology of the Shekinah, we encounter the most complete description of Divine Wisdom and the Holy Spirit as the indissoluble relationship between the two primary aspects of the god-head that have been lost or hidden for centuries.

The Shekinah- the feminine co-creator- is the Voice or Word of God, the Wisdom of God, the Glory of God,the Compassion of God, the Active Presence of God: intermediary between the mystery of the unknowable source or ground and this world of its ultimate manifestation.

The concept of the Shekinah as Divine Wisdom and Holy Spirit ….transmutes all creation, including the apparent insignificance and ordinariness of everyday life, into something to be loved, embraced, honoured and celebrated because it is the epiphany or shining forth of the divine intelligence and love that has brought it into being and dwells hidden within it.

The elimination of the image of the Great Mother took away from us the concept that “the whole of nature was ensouled with spirit and therefore sacred”. Through the millennia of Patriarchal religions we suffered the loss of our “age-old sense of participation in a Sacred Order.”

The Shekinah, named as Divine Wisdom and Holy Spirit- divinity present and active in the world-supplies the missing imagery of divine immanence which is absent from Judaism, Christianity and Islam. And this mystical tradition brings together heaven and earth, the divine and the human,in a coherent and seamless vision of their essential relationship.

How would the recovery of the Shekinah as the feminine aspect of the god-head, as Mother, Beloved, Sister and Bride transform our image of God? of Nature? of ourselves?

Anne Baring states that “the Shekinah gives woman what she has lacked throughout the last two thousand years in western civilization—a sacred image of the Divine Feminine that is reflected at the human level in herself.”

Yet in the ancient world Wisdom was always associated with the image of a Goddess: Inanna in Sumeria, Isis and Ma’at in Egypt, Athena in Greece… Anne Baring celebrates the recovery of these ancient images with the even greater richness of the Shekinah’s role in the web of Life:

The Bronze Age imagery of the Great Goddesses returns to life in the extraordinary beauty and power of the descriptions of the Shekinah, and in the gender endings of nouns which describe the feminine dimension of the divine. But the Divine Feminine is now defined as a limitless connecting web of life, as the invisible Soul of the Cosmos, as the intermediary between the unknowable god-head and life in this dimension. The Shekinah brings together heaven and earth, the invisible and visible dimensions of reality in a resplendent vision of their essential relationship and union.

Another aspect of this tradition preserves the image from the Bronze Age of the Sacred Marriage. Rather than a Father God there is a Mother-Father who are “one in their eternal embrace, one in their ground,one in their emanation, one in their ecstatic and continual act of creation through all the dimensions they bring into being and sustain.”

Anne Baring comments: From the perspective of divine immanence, there is no essential separation between spirit and nature or spirit and matter.  

And in a burst of poetic praise, adds: 

No other cosmology offers the same breath-taking vision in such exquisite poetic imagery of the union of male and female energies in the One that is both.

Not surprisingly, the kabbalists, in contemplating the mystery of this divine union, turned for inspiration to “The Song of Songs”.

THE BRIDE: Wine flowing straight to my Beloved,

as it runs on the lips of those who sleep.

I am my Beloved’s 

and his desire is for me.

Come my Beloved

let us go to the fields….

We will see if the vines are budding,

if their blossoms are opening,

if the pomegranate trees are in flower.

Then I shall give you

the gift of my love. 

(excerpt from The Song of Songs 7: 9-13 Jerusalem Bible)

Entering the Rose Garden

Entering the Rose Garden

Whatever their ways,

they are all in love with you,

Each comes, by a path, to the Rose Garden

Niyazi Misri

For seven days in mid-August, I spent time in an ancient Rose Garden, an imaginal space engineered by ZOOM, offered by Ubiquity University, peopled by scholars and archaeologists of the soul, dancers, storytellers, musicians, poets and mystics whose great task is recovering and offering to those who hunger for it, the knowledge and awareness of the Divine Feminine. This on-line program, whose over one hundred participants joined in from countries across the planet, was a blessed side effect of COVID which made Ubiquity’s fourteen-year tradition of a summer program in the Chartres Cathedral of France impossible this year. The program was called “Madonna Rising.” Its central image was the Mystical Rose, a title honouring the Sacred Feminine in ancient cultures, such as Egypt and Sumeria. Later, it was a title given to Mary, Mother of Jesus.  

On Day One we are greeted from her home in California by Banafsheh Sayyad, who over the following days would lead us in sacred dance, inviting us to open our lives to the Divine Feminine Presence. Banafsheh introduced the theme of Madonna Rising by offering a Prophecy from the Cherokee Nation:

“The bird of humanity has two great wings – a masculine wing and a feminine wing. The masculine wing has been fully extended for centuries, fully expressed, while the feminine wing in all of us has been truncated, not yet fully expressed – half extended. 
So the masculine wing in all of us has become over- muscular and over-developed and in fact violent and the bird of humanity has been flying in circles for hundreds and hundreds of years, held up only fully by the masculine wing that became over- muscular and violent. In the 21st century, however, something remarkable will happen. The feminine wing in all of us will fully extend and find its way to express and the masculine wing will relax in all of us and the bird of humanity will soar.”


Banafsheh lifted a rose from her desk and it appeared to move off- screen to be received by Anne Baring, seated in her home in England. In the first of her trilogy of presentations, Anne would begin to tell the tale of how the bird of humanity lost the power of gracious flight in its feminine wing.

Author of Dream of the Cosmos (Archive Publishing, Dorset, England, 2013) ;The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image, 1992) Anne delves for light in history, following paths not yet made, seeking the story that came before the story in pursuit of clarity about so much that has been lost to us.

Was there a story that preceded the 6th c. BCE Creation Story in the Book of Genesis of the Hebrew Bible? And if so, how was it lost? Here is what Anne’s research found:

I loved her more than health or beauty,

preferred her to the light,

since her radiance never sleeps.

(The Book of Wisdom, 7:10 Jerusalem Bible)

Solomon, to whom the Book of Wisdom is ascribed, built the First Temple in Jerusalem in the tenth century BCE. In the time of the First Temple, Israel had an ancient, shamanic, visionary tradition. Divine Wisdom was worshipped in this First Temple as the Goddess Asherah, the consort of Yahweh and the co-creator of the world with him. In this tradition the Tree of life was associated with Wisdom, Queen of Heaven.

Anne then told us how all this changed:

In 621 BC, in the reign of King Josiah, a powerful group of priests called Deuteronomists took control of the Temple….  The Deuteronomists had the statue of the Goddess Asherah and the great Serpent, image of her power to regenerate life, removed from the Temple and destroyed. Her Sacred Groves were cut down. All images of her were broken. The ancient shamanic rituals of the High Priest which had honoured and communed with the Queen of Heaven as Divine Wisdom and Holy Spirit were banished and replaced by new rituals based on obedience to Yahweh’s Law. The vital communion with the inner dimensions of reality was lost; the making of images was forbidden.

As I listened to this, I felt something inside me twist in pain. More even than the destruction of her images, the cutting down of the trees sacred to the Goddess wrenched my heart.

Anne spoke of the long-lasting effects of this rupture:

This is the crucially important time when I think it is possible to say that the whole foundation of Jewish and later Christian civilization became unbalanced. The Deuteronomists ensured the Yahweh was the sole Creator God. The Feminine co-creator, the Goddess Asherah, was eliminated. The Divine Feminine aspect of the god-head was banished from orthodox Judaism. The Deuteronomists went further: they demoted the Queen of Heaven – Mother of All Living – into the human figure of Eve, bestowing this title upon her. They created the Myth of the Fall in the Book of Genesis (2 & 3), with its message of sin, guilt and banishment from the Garden of Eden, severing the Tree of Life from its ancient association with the Queen of Heaven.

Anne Baring suggests that the “heritage seeds’’ of the First Temple’s teaching were somehow preserved in the Jewish traditions of Kabbalism:

It seems highly significant that one of the most important images of Kabbalism is the Tree of Life, which is a clear and wonderful concept describing the web of relationships which connect invisible spirit with the fabric of life in this world.  At the innermost level or dimension of reality is the unmanifest, unknowable Divine Ground; at the outermost the physical forms we call nature, body and matter.  Linking the two is the archetypal template of the Tree of Life—an inverted tree—whose branches grow from its roots in the divine ground and extend through many invisible worlds or dimensions until they reach this one.

Anne describes this cosmology as one where

Every aspect of creation, both visible and invisible, is interconnected and interwoven with every other aspect. All is one life, one cosmic symphony, one integrated whole. We participate, at this material level of creation, in the divine life which informs all these myriad levels of reality. Our human lives are therefore inseparable from the inner life of the Cosmos.

The Kabbalistic tradition is “vitally important” Anne says, because it celebrates…the indissoluble relationship and union between the feminine and masculine aspects of the god-head—a sacred union which the three Patriarchal religions have ignored or deliberately rejected.

I will end this excerpt from Anne Baring’s first talk with a statement she makes that is both stark and striking in its clarity:

If we want to understand the deep roots of our present environmental and spiritual crisis, we can find them in the loss of three important elements: the feminine image of spirit, the direct shamanic path of communion with spirit through visionary and shamanic experience, and the sacred marriage of the masculine and feminine aspect of the God-head and the Divine Ground. Each of these was an intrinsic aspect of the lost traditions and practices of the First Temple.

(to be continued)  

WISDOM IMAGED IN NATURE

The ancient writers see in Wisdom’s flowing, all-pervasive presence an outpouring like rain or floodwaters:

Who knows the root of Her?

Who fathoms Her subtleties?

There is only one so wise and so wondrous – God!

He created Her and saw her true nature

God gave Her life and poured Her out

Upon all creation.

She is with you according to your ability to know Her;

For God has given Her to all who love Him.

(Wisdom of Jesus Ben Sirach 1: 6-10)

Of these wonderful images, Shapiro writes:

Wisdom is the way God lays out the foundation of creation….She is both the field and the rain that nurtures the field.

And just as rain falls on all, so too Wisdom. You do not deserve Her; you do not earn Her. You simply receive Her. And yet…

She is with you according to your ability to know Her. It is as if you were begging for pennies in the street without realizing that your pockets were stuffed with hundred dollar bills. Your love of God and your ability to know Wisdom are connected. Knowing Wisdom is the way you love God, and loving God is the way you know Wisdom. (pp.18-19 in The Divine Feminine in Biblical Wisdom Literature Rabbi Rami Shapiro,Skylight Illuminations, Woodstock, Vermont 2005)

In the following passage, Wisdom speaks to us of Herself as Cosmic Being:

I am the breath of the Most High,

blanketing the earth like mist,

filling the sky like towering clouds.

 I encompass distant galaxies,

and walk the innermost abyss.

Over crest and trough,

over sea and land,

over every people and nation

 I hold sway.

(Wisdom of Jesus Ben Sirach 24:3-6)

Shapiro notes the many water metaphors that hint at Sophia’s nature:

She is poured out, She falls like mist, She rises like clouds. Like water, Wisdom is yielding, and yet, like water She is capable of wearing down the hardest stone. She holds sway not by attacking but by embracing.

In these qualities, Shapiro finds resonance with the “highest good” described in Chapter 8 of the Tao Te Ching:

The highest good imitates water,

Giving life to all without struggle or striving.

She flows in places you dismiss and in this She is like the Tao.

Shapiro adds:

There is no struggle in Wisdom’s way. She does not exert Herself, but simply is Herself. When you act in accordance with Wisdom, you act without coercion. You act in sync with the moment, engaging what is to nurture what can be. (pp. 20-21)

In our time, when we are beginning to grasp the truth that we are all interconnected, it is Wisdom-Sophia who draws us together:

She arises in God

and is with Him forever…

Established before beginnings,

She transcends time.

She is God’s word, a fountain of understanding;

Her ways are timeless, linking each to all,

and all to One.

(Wisdom of Jesus Ben Sirach 1: 1-5)

Shapiro finds here another parallel with the Tao:

The valley spirit never dies;

She is woman, primal mother.

Her gateway is the root of heaven and earth.

She is like a sheer veil, translucent, almost transparent.

Use her; She will never fail.

(Tao Te Ching: Chapter 6)

Wisdom arises in God, and is the gateway to God writes Shapiro. Referencing the Tao, Chapter 11, he adds:

She is the foundation of all things and the Way of all things. Wisdom is both timeless and timely, open to you now and capable of lifting you to eternity. She is the center that holds the periphery, just as the spokes of a wheel share a single hub. (pp. 16-7)

Wisdom is honoured as “Mother” in the Hebrew Scriptures:

I am the Mother of true love,

wonder,

knowledge, and

holy hope.

Beyond time, I am yet given to time,

a gift to all My children:

to all that He has named.

(Wisdom of Jesus Ben Sirach 24:18)

Shapiro writes: Wisdom is the Mother of quality as well as quantity. Wisdom is the Mother of the metaphysical as well as the physical. Wisdom is not only the Mother of the rose, but the Mother of the delight that arises when you smell one.

Wisdom is a gift to all God has named. The named are the seemingly separate things of the natural world. Until a thing is named, it is undefined and not fully alive. In Hebrew the root of the words “speak,” “word,” and “thing” is the same: dvr. Until the word is spoken, until the thing is addressed, it does not truly exist. Wisdom is the ability to reverse the process, to speak the name in such a way as to return to the silence of God that preceded it. (pp. 24-25).

Sophia reflects light and goodness as a mirror of the divine: 

She is God’s spotless mirror,

Reflecting eternal light,

and the image of divine goodness.

(Wisdom of Solomon 7: 24-26)

 Shapiro comments:

The Mirror of God reflects all things and is none of them. She reflects whatever is: good and bad, hope and horror. Wisdom is not one thing or another, but the Way to deal with all things in their time. (pp. 30-31)   

Weaving Our Days with Wisdom-Sophia

Being faithful to a spiritual practice of deep listening brings about a change in our daily living. We notice a presence of Loving Wisdom that embraces us in the ordinary moments of each day, assisting in decision and choices, lifting our spirits when clouds obscure our inner light, opening us to see the beauty in the life, the beings, around us. She befriends us in every activity, every aspect of our lives.

As Rabbi Rami Shapiro unpacks the Wisdom Literature of the Bible, we learn that the sages who honour Sophia/Chochma have known this guidance, this companionship for millennia.

Although She is one,

She does all things.

Without leaving Herself

She renews all things.

Generation after generation She slips into holy souls

Making them friends of God, and prophets,

for God loves none more than they who dwell with

Wisdom.

(Wisdom of Solomon 7: 27-28)

Commenting on this passage, Shapiro writes: This is what Wisdom can make of you: a friend and prophet of God. A friend of God is one who dwells in Wisdom. A prophet of God is one who shows others how to do the same. To dwell in Wisdom is to see the ground from which all things come. To see the ground is to open yourself to what is rather than what you desire. Opened to what is, you engage the Way of things in this very moment. Things arise from the conditions that precede them, but options are always present. The prophet works with the current embedded in the conditions to nurture justice rather than injustice, compassion rather than cruelty. (pp.32-3 The Divine Feminine in Biblical Wisdom Literature Rabbi Rami Shapiro  Skylight Illuminations. Woodstock Vermont 2005)

Far before the words about Wisdom Sophia were recorded in the Bible, long before recorded history of any kind, Wisdom was present in the human heart, though never possessed fully:

The first human did not know Wisdom fully,

Nor will the last ever fathom Her.

For Her mind is more spacious than the sea,

Her counsel more deep than the great abyss.

(Wisdom of Jesus Ben Sirach: 28:29)

Wisdom cannot be contained, Shapiro writes, and that which cannot be contained cannot be known completely….Wisdom is the ground out of which you come, and cannot be separated from your self …. You can no more know Her than your nose can smell itself or your ear can hear itself. Wisdom is not a thing you can know but a Way you can follow…. The way to follow Wisdom is to surrender narrow mind to spacious mind— the mind that knows to the knowing itself. (pp. 26-7)

Yet Wisdom’s overflowing presence extends far beyond the humans who honour her:

She is more beautiful than the sun,

And the constellations pale beside Her.

Compared to light, She yet excels it.

For light yields to dark,

while She yields to nothing.

She stretches mightily throughout the cosmos,

and guides the whole universe for its benefit.

(Wisdom of Solomon: 7:29-8:1)

Reflecting on this passage, Shapiro comments: What is to your benefit? To be wise, to immerse yourself in the Way of Wisdom. Wisdom’s desire is for you; She wants what is best for you, and that is for you to embrace Her. (pp.34-5)

Wisdom is not only all-pervasive, but also timeless:

Before time,

At the beginning of beginnings,

God created Me.

And I shall remain forever.

(Wisdom of Jesus Ben Sirach 24: 9)

Referring to the English language translation of Genesis: In the beginning God created… (Gen 1:1)  Shapiro writes:

This is a misreading of the Hebrew. A more precise translation would be, By means of beginning, God created… Creation is the stuff of beginnings. There is no beginning unless there is something that begins. Wisdom is said to have been created before beginnings. This shows the limits of language, for in fact this cannot be. If She is created, then there is a beginning. What, then, is this Wisdom Who was created before the things of creation? She is the pattern of creation, the Way of God’s unfolding from eternity into time. (pp. 22-23)

Wisdom is the earth’s foundation,

and understanding the sky’s pillar

She is the divine order patterning all creation,

from the ancient oceans to this morning’s dew. (Proverbs 3: 19-20)

Reflecting on the way Wisdom patterns all creation, Shapiro writes:

Wisdom is not separate from creation; She is the order of creation. She is the grain of wood, the currents of wind and sea. Everything rests on a metaphysical order, a principle that patterns all reality. While the world you encounter is impermanent, the principle of Wisdom is limitless. To know Wisdom is to know the current in the midst of the chaos….There is a guiding principle that orders even that which appear as random. That guiding principle is Chochma….

Using the metaphor of a dice game, Shapiro says: The extent to which you fixate on any one throw is the extent to which you are lost in chaos. As you step back and see the pattern, you are free to engage the game with equanimity. (pp. 14-5)

Discipline AS a Way of Love

Sophiawakens for August 19, 2020

Of (Wisdom) the most sure beginning is the desire for discipline,

care for discipline means loving Her… (Wisdom 6:17 Jerusalem Bible)

These words about discipline from the Wisdom Literature of the Bible have been with me in recent days. As I thought about them, I noticed how I have come full circle with the concept of discipline. When I was young, I accepted it as a denial of pleasure, like giving up candy for Lent, harsh but ultimately good for me. Later, I rejected that self-denying approach to life, embracing joy and a sense of being loved without having to “earn” it through sacrificing what I enjoyed. In recent years, I have discovered discipline in a new way, a commitment to “showing up” in a relationship with the Beloved each day…

Reflecting on this, I recalled a story that shows discipline as a requirement of love. Here is an excerpt from The Little Prince :

The fox…gazed at the little prince for a long time. “Please tame me!” he said.

“I’d love to,” replied the little prince, “but I don’t have much time. I’ve got friends to find and lots of things to understand.”

“Please tame me”

“You only understand the things you tame,” said the fox. “People no longer have the time to understand anything….If you want a friend, tame me!”

“What do I have to do?” said the little prince.

“You must be very patient,” replied the fox. “Sit down in the grass a little way away from me, like this. I’ll watch you out of the corner of my eye and you won’t say a word. Language is a source of misunderstanding. And each day, you can sit a little closer.”

The next day, the little prince returned.

“It would have been better if you’d come back at the same time,” said the fox. “If you come at four o’clock in the afternoon, then from three o’clock I’ll start feeling happy. The later it gets, the happier I’ll feel….but if you come at any old time, I’ll never know when to feel glad in my heart…we need rituals.”

“What’s a ritual?” said the little prince.

“Something else that is too readily forgotten,” said the fox. “It is what makes one

day different from another, or one hour different from the other hours.”

(from The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, 1943; English translation, 2010 by Ros and Chloe Schwartz)

This wisdom from the fox echoes the teaching of spiritual writers that we must be willing to show up, at the same time each day, or at least at some time each morning and evening, for perhaps a quarter hour. During this time, we need to be willing to wait, to listen, to quiet the inner chaos of anxiety or questioning, of self-reproach or self-justification, just to allow ourselves to be in the silent presence of Love.

In her magnificent book, The Search for the Beloved (Tarcher/Putnam New York, 1987) Jean Houston writes:

While the realm of the Beloved may still remain “other”, the distance can be bridged by bringing the extraordinary into the ordinary….

Although being porous to the Beloved increases the capacity to live in two realms, the growth and maintenance of this capacity seems to depend upon the faithful practice of a discipline. Discipline has had a very bad press. We must recognize that the high practice of a discipline gives enormous freedom, and with this freedom comes a greatly increased capacity to love. Often we do not love others, much less the Divine Beloved, because we are caught up with every whim, irritant, and distraction….Discipline, conscious and mindful orchestration of the pieces of our lives, gives us a capacity to live in the depths as well as on the surface. Ideally, a discipline has a physical, mental, and spiritual component and is practiced each day. If, however, your discipline becomes compulsive…then it is time to consciously change it and do something funny or ironic. (pp. 132-3)

Shapiro cites words from Proverbs where Wisdom/Chochma/Sophia again speaks of discipline:

Listen to Me:

Follow Me and be happy.

Practice My discipline and grow wise….

(Proverbs 8: 32-33 NRSV Bible)

Commenting on this, he writes:

To listen you must first be silent. When you are silent, the narrow mind, the small self of thought and language, melts into the spacious self of clarity and compassion. To be mindful is to be present. When you are present, the distracted self recedes and the greater self emerges. With this comes Wisdom, joy and happiness.

Sometimes, and I find this usually happens just at the end of the brief listening time, Love surprises us with a fresh thought, a somersault of insight, that lifts us to a new place. And when Love is wholly silent and I long for words, I open my book of poems by Hafiz, to find at times a gift that eases my heart. Like this verse, found on day when my soul was dark and troubled:

I wish I could show you,

When you are lonely or in darkness,

The Astonishing Light

Of your own Being!

(I Heard God Laughing, translations by Daniel Ladinsky)

Truly, as Wisdom/Sophia/Chochma assures us in Proverbs:

I bring joy to those who listen;

I bring happiness to those who are mindful of Me…

Find Me and find life,

Find Me and find grace…

(Proverbs 8 NRSV Bible)