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.borealispress.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 Greek Journey: SIX

On the Greek island of Paros, we come upon a magnificent Church, built by the Roman Emperor Constantine to fufill a promise made by his mother Helena. The Church of Panagia Ekatontapyliani (Our Lady of a Hundred Doors) is the oldest remaining Byzantine church in Greece.

Calliope (“Kapi”), our Greek guide, tells us of the Church:

In 326, St. Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine the Great, sailed for the Holy Land to find the True Cross. Stopping on Paros, she had a vision of success and vowed to build a church there. She founded it but died before it was built. Her son built the church in 328 as a wooden-roof basilica. Two centuries later, Justinian the Great, who ruled the Byzantine Empire from 527 to 565, had the church splendidly rebuilt with a dome. The emperor appointed Isidorus, one of the two architects of Constantinople’s famed Hagia Sophia, to design it.

Inside, two large, luminous icons of Mary greet us. Affixed to the lower frame of the icons we see images made of gold and silver in shapes depicting eyes, legs, arms….. Our guide, Calliope, tells us that these are offerings given in thanksgiving for a healing.

Kapi reminds us that we saw something similar in the Museum: plaster representations of an arm or a leg that was healed, offered in thanksgiving to the healer god Asclepius.

silver image of an eye

The dogmas change; the traditions go on, Kapi comments, revealing yet another way in which Greek spirituality is part of a continuum from ancient days. Where once the Greeks sought healing from Asclepius, they now turn to Mary in their need.

On this beautiful island in the Aegean, the mystery of Mary of Nazareth confronts us. A woman wrapped in silence, the one who waits in the shadow for the great birthing, who “ponders in her heart” the wonders that follow upon the coming of her child.

As we prepare to celebrate the Birth of Jesus, the One whose coming brings Light at the darkest time of the year,

Mary is a companion, a guide, a friend who walks with us in the darkness.

Mary has left us no written word. The little we know of her from the Gospels is sketchy at best, her appearances brief, her words cryptic. Yet her influence on Christian spirituality is staggering in its power.

Who is this woman, and how has she risen from a quiet life in the outposts of the Roman Empire to become, as the Church proclaims her, “Queen of Heaven and Earth”?

When we first meet Mary in the Gospels, she is being offered an invitation.  The Irish poet John O’Donohue imagines the scene:

Cast from afar before the stones were born
And rain had rinsed the darkness for colour,
The words have waited for the hunger in her
To become the silence where they could form.

The day’s last light frames her by the window,
A young woman with distance in her gaze,
She could never imagine the surprise
That is hovering over her life now.

The sentence awakens like a raven,
Fluttering and dark, opening her heart
To nest the voice that first whispered the earth
From dream into wind, stone, sky and ocean.

She offers to mother the shadow’s child;
Her untouched life becoming wild inside.

Where does our story touch Mary’s? Where are the meeting points? What are the words waiting for the hunger in us “to become the silence where they could form”? This might be a question to ask in our daily contemplative time… when our hearts open, will they also become a nest for a new birthing of the Holy?

From Jean Houston, we have learned that this is no time  to modestly refuse any call that smacks of greatness.

The urgent needs of our time require a “yes” to the conception, followed by the birthing, of newness.

Here are Jean’s words, reflecting upon the call of Mary, the call of each of us:

Just think of the promise, the potential, the divinity in you, which you have probably disowned over and over again becauseit wasn’t logical, because it didn’t jibe, because it was terribly inconvenient (it always is),because it didn’t fit conventional reality, because… because… because….


What could be more embarrassing than finding yourself pregnant with the Holy Spirit? It’s a very eccentric, inconvenient thing to have happen.
(Jean Houston in Godseed p. 38)

Eccentric. Inconvenient.

Perhaps.

But nonetheless it is our call.

Mary’s story gives us the courage to say “yes” without knowing where that “yes” may lead.

It is enough to know that  our own life, like Mary’s, is about to become “wild inside”.

The Greek JOurney Part Five: Blood moon over Pelion


( The Universe is 96% dark matter )

On the morning following our Nature Walk among the trees, bushes, healing plants and flowers of Mount Pelion, we find our way to the dining room where large windows overlook the mountainside. Gazing at the view, we enjoy Greek yogurt, honey, fresh bread and fruit. After breakfast, Jean gathers us into a small sitting room where we each find a space on a cushion, a chair, a couch or the floor.

“We are all connected with the deep ecology of the universe,” Jean says, drawing us into the theme for her morning’s teaching, which is to be based on Duane Elgin’s book, The Living Universe.  As Elgin’s mentor, Jean had assisted him with the book’s development. 

“Natural settings like Mount Pelion give us potent awareness of this.” The universe, Jean tells us, is being continuously recreated and we ourselves are part of this rebirthing, capable of working with the realities of space and time, capable of changing realities. 

Just as the universe is 96 % dark matter so too with us: our own possibilities are hidden. Yet we are part of a vast support system. In deep relationship with spiritual power, we partake with the universe in a process of interdependent co-arising. We experience what Jesus knew when he said, “The Father and I are one.”

Physicist David Bohm described the universe as “an undivided wholeness in flowing movement”, a single symphony of expression being regenerated at each moment. We are limited only by our consciousness, by our awareness.

“Your identity is equal to your consciousness of it,” Jean tells us.

We live in the clear light of mother universe, an ocean of luminosity, presenting itself to us as transparent. The nature of reality is more akin to music than to machine. A vast “Indra’s Net”, reality resonates with each bead that rings. Every bonded particle is in resonance with every other particle. We are present to the farthest star. Listen to it all, for our ears have the capacity for infinite dimensionality.

How our consciousness grows determines the harmonious structure of probability: the intended music of our consciousness structures what happens in our life. Our thought is a request for mirroring. Our physical bodies are anchors for light. Our life can change in an instant through awakening.

This IS the time of the great awakening: our own reflective human consciousness allows the planet to advance itself through us as we awaken. That’s why everything of the older order is breaking down.

In the Axial Age, around 600 BC (within an era stretching from 900 to 200 BC), the great religions rose to set the direction of spirituality for millennia. In a time of extreme violence and warfare, religions responded by putting Compassion at the centre.

Now we have lost the story and need a new one in response to looming conflicts related to the scarcity of resources. We need the GREAT AWAKENING in this time of huge collapse and Re-Creation. We respond by radical transformation, discovering the reality of our universe.

Material deprivation leads to spiritual abundance. Our species has been in adolescence. Now we are maturing into the promise of a hopeful future as we grow into awareness of our responsibility. Pope Francis is speaking as “the first adult”.

We need to hold an image of ourselves as pioneers of a new way, in an unprecedented rite of passage, building a new relationship with the earth after millennia of separation from nature. Our powers are now so great that they threaten life on this planet.

We begin to make our way back to a harmonious relationship with the earth.  We are a witnessing species now transparent to each other.

We are a cosmic species, children of a living cosmos, with purpose to our lives.

The sense of connection awakens as we see ourselves as part of the living universe: the offspring.

Humanity is on a heroic journey into awakening, living within a living universe. There is a mutuality of knowing between the universe and ourselves, a sense of belonging. We need only the social will to claim the connection.

PAY ATTENTION, Jean tells us,  as decisions of monumental importance for our future are made.

 It is still full darkness the following morning when I waken with sudden knowing. 5:20 am. Time of the eclipse. Full moon. Blood moon.

I pull on a warm robe over pajamas, push my feet into sandals, hurry outside.

Some of my companions are walking around the perimeter of the hotel trying to locate the moon in this blackened cloud-shrouded sky.

I see a bright light just above the hotel’s front entrance. I stand here, a solitary watcher gazing at the sky. This may be part of the eclipse. Yes, it must be. I wait, gazing.

I hear Jean’s voice behind me: “That’s not the moon. That’s the Morning Star.”

Oh….

A wind separates the clouds. We follow the light further along the road.  Darkness. Light. The clouds part to reveal a reddish tinge.

The Blood Moon. The eclipse. We watch, wrapt in silence….

a reddiish tinge: Blood Moon

No teacher on the planet could wish for a better illustration of her teaching.

Nor could any teacher make better magic of the moment, noting the emergence: “The next level of your human becoming,” Jean says into the radiant darkness. “Feel it. Look out at the great branching of light….it looks like an angelic light, permeating through the sky, this sky of your own becoming, in this magnificent cosmic visual display. Great angelic forms. Just look at this phenomenal reality: potent and bright.


“an angelic light, permeating…this sky of your own becoming”

“The great branching out. As within, so without; as without, so within. Feel this branching, this activation of your essential humanness as it moves to its next possibility….the branching that is happening so powerfully now.

“Isn’t it glorious? One of the most beautiful skies I’ve ever seen…. And so it is! “

The Greek Journey: Four Mount Pelion

Our bus climbs a narrow road, spiralling upwards, criss-crossing the forested flanks of Mount Pelion. The fog that envelops us, seemingly emanating from the trees, adds mystery to the magic. On either side, gigantic trees hover: verdant pines, flourishing plane trees, oak, beech and chestnut, conifer and deciduous, inviting the imagination to conjure stories of enchanted woods. We think of Robin Hood’s Sherwood Forest, of Tolkien’s Lothlorien…

In places where the trees part, we look outwards across the vista. Best not to look downwards, for the road may vanish, the bus appearing to hover in mid-air above chasms.  Such a journey requires a trustworthy driver and we breathe our thanks for Panagiotis.

Mount Pelion lies halfway between Athens and Thessalonica, taking us into the storied life of Asclepius, believed to have been born in Thessalonica (520 km north of Athens) before the Trojan War (1250 BCE). As a child, Asclepius was sent to be taught by the Centaur physician Chiron, who trained him in the arts of healing. This mountain whose heights we are ascending may have been the place where Asclepius climbed to meet his teacher.

Continuous with the knowledge of the most ancient ones, filled with their reverence and knowledge of the natural order, Asclepius became the greatest healer in Greece, his vast knowledge matched only by the depth of his compassion. He could apparently heal almost any ill of mind or body, sometimes using herbs and medicines or surgical procedures, but more often than not healing through spiritual and psychological means, attuning his patients to their capacity for health and wholeness. (Jean Houston, The Search for the Beloved p.9)

In this same book, Jean Houston tells us that the centaurs, the “ancient ones” whose knowledge was passed on to Asclepius, may not have been half-man, half-horse as legend portrays them. They may have been the remnants of Neanderthals who did not entirely disappear from the planet 25,000 years ago, but instead “removed themselves to remote and hilly country where they were often seen riding shaggy ponies, their hairy bodies indistinguishable from their mounts” They passed on to selected students, who included priests, princes and physicians-in-training, their “botanical knowledge and natural philosophy of a hundred thousand years or more”. (p. 8)

Mount Pelion was known as a “healing mountain” because of the medicinal and healing plants that flourish on its slopes, and the crystal clear water of its streams. Homeopathic, herbal, flower essences and even poisonous remedies were distilled from the herbs of Mount Pelion: meadow saffron, hemlock, henbane, nightshade, mandrake, St. John’s wort, mullein and yarrow.

Still today these plants and herbs are gathered and sold in village markets throughout the region.

As we continue our ascent of Mount Pelion, we are invited into a time of silence. We each carry within us our own magical forest, our own mysterious fog, our own longings for healing and wholing. What are these inner enchantments? Which ones serve our life, and our work of healing and wholing for our own time? Which ones do we want to let go because they hinder our work, our journey?

What is the healing we seek on this sacred mountain?

We come to the village of Tsagarada where the turquoise Aegean Sea fills our eastward gaze, while the wooded slopes of Mount Pelion dominate the westward view. Once we have settled into our rooms, caught our breath, and donned good walking shoes, Panagiotis takes us to one of the village’s four courtyards, each one named for its church. In the courtyard of St Paraskevi there stands a plane tree that is 1100 years old, with a circumference of 46 feet.

The tiny chapel is open, inviting us to enter, to gaze at a lovely Icon of Mary with large lustrous eyes, her hand resting on her heart. Her presence draws forth the questions that arose in us during the silence of our bus journey. We sense her guidance not to grapple with these, rather to focus on the magic of now, being with our companions, rather than being absorbed with our stories.

Our guide for a walk along the pathways of Pelion is Nikolas, who greets us with an armful of walking sticks. For the next two hours we make our careful way along the ancient footpaths, stopping to gaze out at the wooded heights touched by the mountain mist….

or down at a perfect pink cyclamen growing, it seems,

straight out of a rock.

We pick up small herbs, chew on fresh mint, ask the names of  blue and red berries on bushes beside the path, notice chestnuts…

Suddenly the path opens above a striking view of the distant Aegean far far below us.


Still, with the persistence of a soundtrack, our personal questions hum within us.

We smile to see a road sign that may point the way for us. It is, of course, in Greek…

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)