Category Archives: Isis and Osiris

A Visit to the Goddess Isis

November 13, 2018

The moon in her fullness creates a golden rippled path on the Nile at four in the morning. I shower and dress, welcome the warmth of my long coat of thick cotton, emerge into the lobby of the Moon Goddess where coffee awaits us. With my companions, I make my sleepy way through the lobbies of two other ships that serve as a bridge to the river’s edge. We climb steep stone stairs up to the bus which takes us to the ferry boat for our journey to Philae.

It is not yet dawn when we disembark, stepping onto the island. The terrain is of rough stones. I have a sense of hovering trees, low full-leaved bushes, great stone arches, pillars, columns, temples, more Greek than Egyptian. We move carefully in the darkness, following Jean and Peg into one of the vast stone temples, towards its sacred heart. A cat has shown up, leads us straight to the entrance, waits as each one enters.

Sanctuary of Isis

Sanctuary of Isis on the Egyptian Island of Philae

“We know that we are well seen and well blessed,” Jean Houston says. “So often the holy ones show up in the form of the animal.”

The sanctuary of Isis is so tiny that we stand together like people in an elevator. “Birthing chambers are tight fits,” Peg Rubin says. “Birth doesn’t happen until things get tight.” Within this chamber, at the centre and towards the back, there is a stone pedestal, incised with hieroglyphs. This is where the sacred boat of the goddess Isis once rested. The surrounding walls are intricately carved with hieroglyphs as well. I look at the outpouring of carefully inscribed wisdom, feel something of the powerlessness, the utter frustration I felt as a child before I knew how to read. I see a delicate fan of outspread wings, recognize the curve and grace as just what I saw on the papyrus of the winged Isis I bought in Cairo.

“From this place,” Peg says, “we are born as children of the mother. Remember the love of the mother line, all the mothers. For those of you whose great work it is to embody the goddess Isis, this is where to take that on.”

In the still darkness, Jean speaks of the writings of the second-century Latin writer Lucius Apuleius. “In his story The Golden Ass, Lucius has done some very naughty magic and has been turned into an ass. After strange adventures, he meets the goddess Isis who changes him back into his own humanity, but does so by giving an epiphany of who and what she really is.

Here is how Lucius saw her:

. . . she had an abundance of hair that fell gently in dispersed ringlets upon the divine neck. A crown of interlaced wreaths and varying flowers rested upon her head; and in its midst, just over the brow, there hung a plain circlet resembling a mirror or rather a miniature moon – for it emitted a soft clear light. This ornament was supported on either side by vipers that rose from the furrows of the Earth; and above it blades of grain were disposed. Her garment, dyed many colours, was woven of fine flax. One part was gleaming white; another was yellow as the crocus; another was flamboyant with the red of roses.

But what obsessed my gazing eyes by far the most was her pitch-black cloak that shone with a dark glow. It was wrapped around her, fastened with a knot like the boss of a shield. Part of it fell down in pleated folds and swayed gracefully with a knotted fringe along the hem. Upon the embroidered edges and over the whole surface sprinkled stars were burning; and in the centre a mid-month moon breathed forth her floating beams. Lastly, a garland wholly composed of every kind of fruit and flower clung of its own accord to the fluttering border of that splendid robe.

Such was the goddess as, breathing forth the spices of pleasant Arabia, she condescended with her divine voice to address me: “Behold, Lucius,” she said, “moved by your prayer I come to you —I, the natural mother of all life, the mistress of the elements, the first child of time, the supreme divinity….I, whose single godhead is venerated all over the earth under manifold forms, varying rites, and changing names. . . .

 

 “Behold, I am come to you in your calamity. I am come with solace and aid. Away then with tears. Cease to moan. Send sorrow packing. Soon through my providence shall the sun of your salvation rise. Hearken therefore with care unto what I bid. Eternal religion has dedicated to me the day which will be born from the womb of this present darkness.”

 

“The day which will be born from the womb of this present darkness,” Jean repeats. “This is the place of the birth of new hope, this is the place of the birthing of new life.”

Peg lights candles. At Suzanne’s suggestion, we call out all the names of Isis as we know her. I hear the names flow like a litany . . . Mystical Rose, Mary in all her forms, Queen of Heaven and Earth, Queen of Creation, Great Protector, Mother Holy, Star of the Sea, Eyes of Wisdom, Neter of the Heart, Mama Mia, Great Mother Gaia, Inanna, Tower of Ivory, Sophia, the Black Madonna. . .

This outpouring of names concludes with the title “She who calls out to us to be born.” Peg invites us, “With this willingness to be born, greet the day, the sunrise.” We cry out together a great OMMMMMMM.

We make our way towards the shore, seeking out places to wait. Some of my companions cluster in groups, but I want to be alone, find a stone wall to sit on.

Already the eastern sky is growing pearly, then striated in shades of pale mauve, peach, soft yellow, rose, preparing to welcome the sunrise. Across the Nile, behind a crest of low hills that lie like a body outstretched, the fire appears. There is an opening between the hills at the place where the sun bursts forth. The words of Isis echo in me, “the day which shall be born from the womb of this present darkness.”

Here, embraced by beauty, mothered by Isis, there is (a) desire in my heart. This … I hold out in trust. “Let me be as you were, Isis. You were a teacher, you gave the women of ancient Egypt the song of the wheel, you taught them to weave, you  gave them your love. I want to be a teacher, a weaver when I return.”

 

f1000003

We leave this sacred island. Only later I realize we have come here on the 13th day of November. It was the 13th day of each month that Mary chose for her appearances to the children of Fatima, Portugal.

(excerpt from Called to Egypt on the Back of the Wind Anne Kathleen McLaughlin, Borealis Press, Ottawa Canada 2013) http://borealispress.com

The Divine Feminine in the Song of Songs: Part Six

In his book Embracing the Divine Feminine: Finding God through the Ecstasy of Physical Love –The Song of Songs (Skylight Paths publishers)  Rabbi Rami Shapiro, explored the story of Eve, seeking insights into what her choices reveal of the Wisdom/Sophia/ Chochmah/Shekhinah presence within her. Now he turns to the Song of Songs.

Who is the woman whom we meet in this erotic love poem whose very existence in the Sacred Scriptures has led to so much controversy? Shapiro notes that like Eve, whose Hebrew name Chavah is really a title that means “mother of all the living,” the woman in the Song of Songs has a title, rather than a name: the Shulamite (Song of Songs 7:1).

Once more examining the Hebrew to seek a meaning that the text does not offer, Shapiro notes that the root letters of Shulamite – sh- l- m – “are also the root letters of the Hebrew words shaleim and shalom, wholeness and peace.”

He continues:

If, as I am positing in this book, the female Beloved in the Song of Songs is Chochmah, Lady Wisdom, and Lady Wisdom, like Chavah, is the mother of all things…then we might understand the Shulamite as the Woman of Shaleim and Shalom, the Woman of Wholeness and Peace. The same title could be given to Chochmah in the book of Proverbs, for it is through her that the whole of creation happens, and all her paths are peace. (3:17)

“Lady Wisdom calls us to share a feast with her in the book of Proverbs (9:2-5). Lady Wisdom as the Shulamite is the feast in the Song of Songs. The Shulamite is called a garden in the Song of Songs (4:12), and hence union with her is returning to the Garden from which Adam was exiled. That is to say the Song of Songs completes the story of Eden by showing us the way back to the Garden.”

Shapiro writes eloquently of sexual intimacy as the way that one achieves “unitive knowing”. He quotes Alan Watts:

The full splendor of sexual experience does not reveal itself with a new mode of attention to the world in general. On the other hand, the sexual relationship is a setting in which the full opening of attention may rather easily be realized because it is so immediately rewarding. It is the most common and dramatic instance of union between oneself and the other. But to serve as a means of initiation to the “one body” of the universe, it requires…a contemplative approach. This is not love “without desire” in the sense of love without delight, but love which is not contrived or willfully provoked as  an escape from the habitual empty feeling of the isolated ego. (in Nature, Man and Woman, New York, Vintage Books, 1970 p.188)

Shapiro adds: “In other words, love must be spontaneous and unrestrained, and sex must be no less so. This is the love the Shulamite, Lady Wisdom, the archetype of the Divine Feminine, shares with her lover in the Song of Songs.”

41unSRN-AwL

“Isis and Osiris” artwork by Susan Seddon Boulet

For Shapiro, the Song of Songs is the Jewish equivalent of Maithuna, the Sanskrit word for union, often spoken of in the context of Yoga “more specifically the union of the self with the All, or Atman with Brahman.” He adds that in the Song of Songs, in the words of Phyllis Trible,“eroticism becomes worship in the context of grace.”(God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 1978) p.165

“The union of self and other and of self and All is a given. You are at this very moment part of the infinite singularity that is reality. You may call this Brahman, God, Spirit, Tao, Mother, or any number of other names, but the simple fact is, as the Chandogya Upanishad, one of the great texts of Hindu philosophy, put it over twenty-six hundred years ago, Tat tvam Assi: You are That.

Shapiro quotes Thich Nhat Hanh: “To be is to inter-be. You cannot just be by yourself alone. You have to inter-be with every other thing.”

“Maithuna is not a way to achieve interbeing, it is a way to celebrate inter-being. The Song of Songs is not a method whereby one achieves union with Wisdom incarnate as the Shulamite, the Woman of Wholeness and Peace, it is way of awakening to that union.”

What is happening within you as you read through this interpretation of the Song of Songs?

What aspects of Shapiro’s insights and interpretations find resonance with your own? 

Mystics of many faith paths, notably the Sufi poets such as Hafiz, Rabia and Rumi, write of an erotic experience of oneness with the All, the Friend.

The Medieval Women Mystics of the Christian faith path are no less passionate in their accounts of their own experience of the Unitive Way.

Does this unfolding of the Song of Songs assist you in your understanding of these other experiences of Oneness with the Holy?

How does this resonate with your own experience, your own desires?

Sophia by Another Name

On  September 8th, Christians honour the Birth of Mary, nine months after the Feast of her Immaculate Conception. Those of us who grew up with Mary as the focus of our prayers and filial love may by now have grown into a more complex understanding of this woman who carried for us the face of the Feminine Divine.

Over recent weeks, we have been exploring the presence of Sophia in our lives, especially as she reveals herself in the Wisdom Literature of the Hebrew Scriptures. Has Wisdom-Sophia  become entangled for you in a good and holy way with Mary of Nazareth?

This is deep mystery, as well as a reflection of our human need to name what we experience. I believe there is a presence of sacred feminine energy that holds us in an embrace of love, cares profoundly and personally for each one of us and is willing to respond when we call to her.

Three years ago, on September 8th, I was sitting at my computer to compose reflections on Sophia. An email arrived from Barbara Bizou, a spiritual teacher living in New York City whom I had met at Jean Houston’s July 2012 Manhattan Mystery School. During that session, Barbara, whose Spiritual Tradition is Jewish, spoke with me of Brigid’s fire and the waters of rebirth. Together we engaged in a powerful ritual of reconciliation of our two traditions.

In that September 2015 email, Barbara recalled being in Paris fourteen years earlier at the time of the 9/11 attacks:

In this time of existential uncertainty, it’s often difficult to trust that the Divine has placed us exactly where we are meant to be. On September 10, 2001, I arrived in Paris for a holiday with one of my dearest friends. I awoke on 9/11 with a sense of foreboding and anxiety, which was unusual in one of my most favorite cities in the world. Sharing this with my friend Elynor Johnson, who felt a similar sense of uneasiness, we decided to distract ourselves by window-shopping. But after twenty minutes of aimless gazing, we realized we needed to ground our energy. What called us was the chapel Notre-Dame de la Medaille dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. For me, this has always been a Temple to the Divine Feminine. As we sat and prayed and meditated, the first plane hit the World Trade Center.

Reading her words, I was touched to know that a chapel, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, is for Barbara “a Temple to the Divine Feminine”.  I smiled, knowing I was reading this on Mary’s birthday.

Other writers have sought to untangle the Mystery of Mary. Here is Carol P. Christ, in The Laughter of Aphrodite:

…the Virgin Mary inherits many of the aspects of the Virgin Goddesses and functions as Goddess to many of her worshippers. Throughout the Near East, Europe and Latin America, churches to the Virgin Mary were built as places holy to the Goddess. Though she is not prominent in the New Testament, the myths and imagery surrounding her grew as the Goddesses were finally suppressed in Christian Culture. To the Greeks, she is Panaghia, which means simply, “the All Holy”….

images

Jean Markale writes in his Women of the Celts:

Within the patriarchal framework (goddesses) were often obscured, tarnished and deformed, and submerged into the depth of the unconscious. But they do still exist, if only in dormant state, and sometimes rise triumphantly to rock the supposedly immovable foundations of masculine society. The triumph of Yahweh and Christ was believed sanctified forever, but from behind them reappears the disturbing and desirable figure of the Virgin Mary with her unexpected names: Our Lady of the Water, Our Lady of the Nettles, Our Lady of the Briars, Our Lady of the Mounds, Our Lady of the Pines…. Our Lady of the Night. (p. 86)

Those titles that Markale recalls, water, briars, pines, are the sacred things of earth.

Star of the Sea. Guidance in the deep places within. Mystical Rose. There is a litany of sacred names given to Mary. As children many of us learned these names by heart.

While visiting Egypt, I was astonished and delighted to learn that millennia before Mary of Nazareth. the goddess Isis was honoured with many of these same titles. Over time as Christianity became the religion of the Roman Empire, the sacred names were transferred to Mary.

We may choose to name this loving presence as we wish. She will not be bound by a name. Given the mystery that surrounds her presence, we may choose to call her Our Lady of the Night, and simply be at peace in her mystery. Her loving presence in our lives is what matters.

The sacred feminine presence needs us as her partners in the great tasks of our time, calling us to co-create with her, to experience directly the power for good that she works within us when we open ourselves to her.

In the voice of the Sealwoman in Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ story: “Sealskin, Soulskin”, she reminds us:

I am always with you. Only touch what I have touched… and I will breathe into your lungs a wind for the singing of your songs.

 F1010013(1)

Sealwoman

Awakening to the Easter Mystery

Through the cold, quiet nighttime of the grave underground,
The earth concentrated on him with complete longing
Until his sleep could recall the dark from beyond
To enfold memory lost in the requiem of mind.
The moon stirs a wave of brightening in the stone.
He rises clothed in the young colours of dawn.
John O’Donohue “Resurrection”

The Easter Mystery of life-death-life is at the heart of the universe, at the heart of life on our planet, in the deep heart of our own lives. From its birth out of the womb of a dying star, through its daily cycle of day/dusk/ night/dawn, its yearly cycle of summer/autumn/ winter/spring, the earth teaches us to live within the paschal mystery. Ancient peoples understood this mystery. Through their careful observations they constructed buildings such as the mound in Newgrange Ireland where a tiny lintel receives the first rays of dawn only on the winter solstice.

The ancients wove their understanding of life/death/life into their mythologies: the Egyptian story of Osiris, whose severed body was put together piece by piece by his wife Isis, then reawakened; the Sumerians tell of the great queen Inanna who descended to the underworld to visit her sister Erishkigal. There she was stripped of all her royal robes and insignia, and murdered by her sister who then hung her lifeless body on a hook. Three days later, Inanna was restored to life, all her honour returned to her.

The people of Jesus’ time would have known these and other great myths of the ancient Near East. What was so stunningly different in the Jesus story was that the mystery of life-death-life was incarnated in a historical person. The Resurrection of Jesus is at the heart of the Christian faith. As Paul wrote, “If Christ be not risen then our faith is in vain”.

In our lifetime, the explosion of new science shows us the life/death/mystery at the heart of the universe. Like exploding stars, our lives are continuously being rebirthed into a deeper more joyous existence. By allowing the death within ourselves of old habits, old mindsets and narrow ideas of who or what we may be, we open ourselves to the possibility of new life being birthed within us. As Jesus told his friends, “You will do what I do. You will do even greater things”.

“Resurrection is about being pulsed into new patterns appropriate to our new time and place,” Jean Houston writes in Godseed. For this to happen, we need to open in our deep core to “the Heart of existence and the Love that knows no limits. It is to allow for the Glory of Love to have its way with us, to encounter and surrender to That which is forever seeking us, and from this to conceive the Godseed.”

“The need for resurrection has increased in our time,” Jean continues. “We are living at the very edge of history, at a time when the whole planet is heading toward a global passion play, a planetary crucifixion.” Yet “the longing with which we yearn for God is the same longing with which God yearns for us…. the strength of that mutual longing can give us the evolutionary passion to roll away the stone, the stumbling blocks that keep us sealed away and dead to the renewal of life.” (Godseed pp.129-130)

The yearly miracle of Spring awakens within us the confidence and joy that this same rebirth is ours to accept and to live. We know our call to green our lives, our times, our planet:

healthy-spring-young-green-5865.jpg

 

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age (Dylan Thomas)

Where in my life do I most experience the need for a rebirth?
What old habits and beliefs would I have to let die in order for this new life to be born?
How does knowing that the longing with which (I) yearn for God is the same longing with which God yearns for (me) make my life more joyful?
What would a resurrected life look like, feel like, for me? for those with whom my life is woven? for our planet?

 

Sophia in Egypt: Twenty-One

Following our reflections on Seth and Horus, we move into the final ritual, the recrowning of Isis, the ritual I experienced alone in my community’s prayer room two months earlier. Now I enter into it, companioned by the group with whom I have shared a mythic journey.

Yet, in the final moments, standing before the presence of the Sacred Feminine, I feel alone, wrapped in mystery. At the moment of the gifting in September I had asked for something to be taken away, the great emptiness that had made me a beggar of love.

Today, I open myself to receive something from this presence. There is a moment of utter stillness. Then I see an inner image, a ball of swirling fire, a glass globe of rose and white light, and it is within me, in my own deep centre. I am being filled with love.

There is no time to reflect on this wonder, to take it in with gratitude.

The morning session is over. Lunch awaits us in the dining room, and afterwards we are to visit the great Temple of Karnak.

An hour later, we are gathered in the lobby, ready to leave the ship to board the bus. I am suddenly overtaken by a grief so intense that, to my shame, tears are pouring down my cheeks. I quickly turn away, but not quite soon enough to escape Jean’s glance. I pretend interest in one of the paintings on the wall.

As if that encounter with love in the ritual only an hour before had never happened, I am empty.

This grief is human, a keen awareness of an ending, prefatory to further endings, knowing this magic cannot return, knowing I shall never again be here in the presence of the teacher from whom I have received the reweaving of my life. The remembered words of Tolkien’s Gimli, leaving Galadriel of the Golden Woods, rise within me: I would not have come had I known the danger of light and joy. Now I have taken my worst wound in this parting.

The intense heat of the mid-day sun devours us like some fiery Sobek as we enter the massive courtyard before the Temple of Karnak. An oddly-shaped stone just ahead of my sandaled foot catches my eye. I pick it up, turn it over in my palm, see a lumpy heart shape with an open wound across the top.

We move quickly inside the towering walls, eager to find some protective shade. Our guide Samai gathers us beneath a huge leafy tree to speak about this temple. He tells us it is constructed so that the sun appears to travel through the day along the line of its one hundred and thirty-four columns, moving from Karnak to Luxor and across the Nile to Deir-el-Bahari. As I listen to Samai, the inner grief weighs down my heart. I become aware of Jean’s presence, a little distance behind where I am standing.

Awhile later, wandering alone in the temple precincts, I notice the grief has dissolved, that it left me there, under the leafy tree. With a lightened heart, once again open to receive beauty, I pause beside a small lake encircled by a low stone wall. It is the place where priests were purified in ancient times in preparation for ritual. The water is so clear that a tall palm tree gazes down at itself, perfectly reflected. A huge stone scarab, seven times my size, sits atop a circular plinth three metres above me. It was here at the Karnak Temple that the scarab was declared a symbol of eternal life.

download-of-scarab

Scarab at Karnak: symbol of Eternal Life

Soaring above the temple walls like a great tower of Rapunzel, stands the only remaining obelisk of Hatshepsut, the woman pharaoh whose successors tried to obliterate all memory of her.

eg51-9-17

 

Behind Karnak’s main temple complex and through five gateways stands a small Sekhmet shrine that still holds the original statue of the beautiful, fierce, serene, lion-headed goddess. Those who seek her at her Karnak shrine invariably have powerful experiences orchestrated by a statue created as a vessel for the divine presence of Sekhmet. Skilled craftsmanship and sacred rites opened the statue to the goddess’ spiritual attributes. Three thousand years later, the power of Sekhmet captured in basalt endures.

Nikki Scully, musician, energy healer and leader of shamanic pilgrimages to Egypt, speaks of Sekhmet’s call to our time: When we embrace this power, something happens to us at a cellular level. It’s as though the energy enters into our field and then into our very cells. A person who is receiving this feels as though every molecule and cell is suddenly coming out of an ancient atrophy and malaise, and awakening, becoming alert.
I believe this awakening is a part of the conscious evolutionary process we’re engaged in, bringing forth the aspects of the power of the Divine Feminine that are required in order to achieve the balance we’re seeking at this time.

(Next: Encounter with Sekhmet)

(excerpt from Called to Egypt on the Back of the Wind Anne Kathleen McLaughlin, Borealis Press, Ottawa, Canada, 2013  http://borealispress.com)

Sophia in Egypt: Twenty

 

 

Note to the reader: If you wonder how Sophia, the Wisdom presence of the Holy in the Hebrew Scriptures, relates to the ancient Egyptian story of Isis and Osiris, or how she is part of this 21st century  journey to Egypt, this segment may begin to offer enlightenment. Isis, Hathor, Ma’at and Sehkmet are aspects of the Sophia, the Sacred Feminine presence who is making herself known in our time.

 

After last night’s visit to the Luxor Temple, I fell asleep with columns of hieroglyphs on yellow sandstone moving across my eyelids. Then a clear image of Hathor appeared, goddess of love and joy. I awaken to this new day thinking of the light of Ra, the gift of love that shines equally on all.

goddess-hathor

Hathor: Goddess of Love and Joy

After breakfast, some of us gather on the upper deck of the Moon Goddess where Marjorie and Paul, a married couple in our group, lead us in Chi-Gong movements. Afterwards, I sit cooling my feet in the pool, looking over at the Valley of the Kings on the West Bank.

In the peace of the moment, remembered words of Jesus rise up within me:

John was a lamp, alight and shining,and for a time you were content to rest in his light.

There is a hint of something here. This light, in which I am just learning to rest, is only for a time. But I don’t follow the thought where it might lead. I cling instead to this present moment, wanting it to last, not looking beyond this day, our final one on the Moon Goddess.

At ten o’clock in the Captain’s Lounge, we re-enter the story, find ourselves in the midst of the eighty-year battle waged by Horus against Seth, the principle of entrapment and limitation. Jean Houston invites us to see how we need to activate the inner muscular Horus within us to stand up to recalcitrance, both within and outside of us, and do battle. People who are entrapped by, limited to the status quo, are living out of their reptilian brains. If we remain working with them, we can only become assistant dinosaurs. To advance the world, the individuated wilful Horus must emerge.

Within ourselves the opposites, the Seth principle of limitation and the Horus principle of abundance, are often at war. We enact a ritual battle between the Seth and the Horus within us, partnering with another to give voice to each aspect of the self. Denise, the woman from Ireland, offers to play Seth to my Horus. I tell her of wanting to travel the earth, working with women to help them find their deep spirit.

“Do you think you can be like Jean Houston?” she mocks. Our role play, as fierce on my side as on hers, leads us into a deep sharing about the need we have both felt for inner guidance, the longing of a woman who feels herself unmothered.

In their epic battle, Seth and Horus shape-shift, become hippos and bears and lions, enduring terrible wounds. Such battles arise, in our time, Jean believes, in cultures that lack guiding principles. Yeats describes it in “The Second Coming”:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

the ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity….

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

That rough beast is Seth, Jean suggests.

As in the Iliad, the gods take sides in this great battle. Ma’at, the principle of truth, withdraws, goes underground and lives with Osiris. She chooses to leave the battle to go into the higher order of the unconscious. We, too, when we cannot make sense of things, retreat into the unconscious, taking Ma’at with us.

After the battle, when Isis realizes that she cannot kill Seth, Horus seizes her crown, tearing it from head. Later, he repents and recrowns his mother, giving her the cow-headed crown of the goddess Hathor.

Seth tries to seduce Horus. Jean comments that even after we think we’ve won the battle, we keep meeting our same old issues, again and again, but at increasingly complex levels. We are seduced by our own Seth, given these struggles to strengthen us. Each time we find ourselves in these same old patterns, we might think of them as trenches in the brain, something we need to over-ride. Dealing with these as fractals of the eternal return, old ditches we must cross, helps us to get on with the new story.

The ancient story concludes with Isis tricking the ferryman into taking her to the council of the gods on Elephantine Island. Disguising herself as a beautiful woman, Isis persuades Seth to acknowledge his crime and make restitution. The gods order him to create a barge that will carry the high spirit of Osiris into the depth world.

Rather than what traps us in time, our Seth principle of appropriate limitation becomes the vehicle to carry us into eternity.

The story became a transformational ritual in Egypt, a ritual of the soul. In it, the four principles of movement, fertility (Isis), inspiration (Osiris), limitation (Seth), and growth (Horus) are engaged in the big turn-around and fall becomes resurrection. What is destroyed is transmuted into a deepened quality, rising like the djed pillar in us as compassion, as empathy.

The transformational journey of the soul is the basis of the Mystery Rituals. In a Hellenized version, the Mysteries of Isis and Osiris were celebrated throughout the Graeco-Roman world. Many themes of the Isis/Osiris/Seth/ Horus story reappear in Christianity: the woman, impregnated by a father in the spiritual world; the threat that the newborn child will be destroyed; the tree as vehicle of death. Isis is the virgin/mother /crone who was worshipped in Greece and Rome for centuries. Some ancient black madonnas are actually Isis with Horus in her lap. Many qualities of Isis are subsumed into Mary.

Jesus was like Osiris, living out the Egyptian mystery of the dying/rising God, taking on the full ancient archetypal myth of the Mystery Religions while existing in space and time. No wonder, Jean concludes, he became Jesus Christ Superstar!

After the story, we take time to reflect more deeply on its meaning for our lives.

What vulnerable quality within us can be transformed from a negative Sethian glitch to a deeper potential, as the barge of Seth became transformative for Osiris?

I sit in silence with this question, wondering how my longing for a particular love can be transformed into a love that overflows from within me to others. It is for me the fractal of the eternal return, the question that continues to arise in my life, always from a deeper place, ever more complex.

( excerpt from Called to Egypt on the Back fo the Wind Anne Kathleen McLaughlin Borealis Press, Ottawa, 2013 http://borealispress.com )

 

Sophia in Egypt: Eighteen

Sailing to Luxor

In silence, we are given the grace of loving deeply, wholly and well.     (Jean Houston)

During the night following our visit to the Valley of the Kings, my sleep is shadowed by old fears. I am visited by the ghosts of my lifelong struggles with loving, with letting go, my fear that love will measure me, find me wanting, or in the Egyptian way, weigh me, find my heart too heavy, abandon me.

In one of the dark hours, I feel invited into prayer. An image of Russian nested dolls comes to me. I open the first, who looks like Jean, and find inside a second, an image of the Sacred Feminine, the Holy One. In the clarity that comes between sleep and full wakefulness, I hear an invitation, “Simply enjoy being close to this person. Enjoy the gift of this time.”

Hours later, I waken fully to clarity and joy, the power of these old demons vanquished by morning’s light.

We are to spend this day on the ship, a morning of teaching in the Captain’s Lounge, an afternoon free to rest, to enjoy the scenery as the Moon Goddess takes us back up the Nile, then down again to Luxor.

Today, Jean speaks to us of magic in its many forms. “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” the tale that unfolds in Disney’s Fantasia with Mickey Mouse multiplying brooms to carry buckets of water, is based on the true story of a Greek who studied magic with an Egyptian master.

Magic, Jean tells us, happens for many who travel to Egypt, returning home to find healing and wholeness have come to friends, to difficult situations, while they were away. Things happen in Egypt because it is believed that everything here is invested with life – even stones! As we come to understand the holographic universe, we know everything is a containment of the whole.

While Jean speaks of magic, there is some glitch occurring in the sound system in the lounge. Suddenly coloured lights above her chair begin to blink off and on.
“The ancients learned how to expect the unexpected,” Jean says.
I realize that we are learning the same thing here.

A quiet joy is blinking off and on within me as I sit here, fully aware of being on a ship on the Nile, listening to a teacher whose words have illumined my life for several years now.
Kairos time, Jean is saying now, is a Greek expression that refers to the moment when, in weaving, two sets of weft thread are open so the warp thread, carried by the shuttle cock, can pass through. Kairos time is sacred and urgent. It allows clock time to be suspended and you have the option to change the story.

Now we are back in the story of Isis and Osiris. Their child, Horus, has been born, hidden by Isis in the papyrus swamps. Ruthless Seth at last succeeds in finding the child and releases a scorpion to sting him to death. In her agonized grief, Isis stops time to allow Horus to be healed.

Kairos time offers radical choice. If we don’t take the opportunity, we are like Parsifal who failed to ask the question in the Grail Castle and must wander for years in misery before the second chance is offered.

Like Parsifal, like Jesus, Horus is the widow’s son. His father Osiris is in the Underworld and from there begins to teach his son though dreams. Osiris trains Horus in wisdom and prepares him to defeat Seth in battle.

The Egyptians understood dreams better than any ancient peoples. What we dream comes in more directly than what is obscured by daily life, so that in our dream we can be “tricked out of” our ordinary mindsets.

Inevitably, the time comes when we are called beyond our linear lives. We need training in the depths. We, like Horus, are available to be trained by the partner in the archetypal realm when we are ready to take on our task in the great world.

Today when the sacred stewardship of the planet is so urgent, when an enormous rise of Seth energy is seen in the destruction of the planet, in the economic collapse that destroys the dreams of so many people, we need the training that comes from the ones who, like Isis, sidle in through our doors. From them, we learn how to use the gifts we have been given, for we are born into this time for our task.

For the Ancient Egyptians, training was far more than intellectual development. They were aware that there were other parts of the self, which they called other “bodies”. They described five bodies, with other persona, other ways of being. Egyptian priests learned how to access these other persona, developing a level of consciousness that allowed them to distinguish each of the five while remaining aware of wholeness.

To accomplish our great work, we too need to contact and be gifted with qualities of the five bodies: the Aufu – the physical body; the Ka –the double or what we hold in our mind as our body image; the Haidit – the shadow body entered in dream and trance states; the Khu – the magical body, which in ancient times was thought of as magical-spiritual; and the Sahu – the most subtle, etheric spiritual body.

In a process, beginning with the physical body or Aufu, Jean leads us into awareness of the five bodies within. When we come to the visualization of our magical-spiritual self or Khu body, I am surprised to see an inner image of an old and beloved teacher. For several years the figure of Yoda from Star Wars would appear in my prayer and offer guidance.

 

yoda_swsb

YODA

Now he is here, but will not engage in the conversations I want to have about my struggles with loving. He is wholly silent. I sense, I know, he is calling me into a newness, sending a shaft of light that releases my love to flow easily through my life and my work. Love set free.The experience is brief. Powerful.