Category Archives: Uncategorized

Lured By our longing

Sophia Blog May 15, 2019

The more we learn of the Universe, of its nearly fourteen billion year story, the more that knowledge changes our understanding of our lives, our freedom, and our call to be co-creators with the Sacred.

We read the mystics from many faith paths of past centuries and are astounded to see that they came to a similar awareness while knowing nothing of what contemporary physics teaches us about our Universe. In “The Universe Is a Green Dragon” (Bear &Company, Santa Fe New Mexico, 1984) Brian Swimme writes that allurement is one of the great powers of the universe. Swimme says that following our allurements can lead us into the activity of creating new life for ourselves and for others.

Julian of Norwich, in the fourteenth century, learned directly from her encounters with the Risen Christ that our deepest desires are sourced in God.

Icon of Julian of Norwich by Patrick Comerford

Julian writes: “Often our trust is not full. We are not certain that God hears us because we consider ourselves worthless and as nothing. This is ridiculous and the cause of our weakness. I have felt this way myself.” Julian tells us how God spoke to her of this: “I am the ground of your prayers. First, it is my will that you have what you desire. Later, I cause you to want it. Later on, I cause you to pray for it and you do so. How then can you not have what you desire?”  (“Meditations with Julian of Norwich”, Brendan Doyle, Bear &Co. Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1983)

The change in perspective offered by awareness of an evolving universe in which we have a role as co-creators requires a radical change in our concept of what being a ‘good’ human means. It requires a radical shift in our concept of God.

Teilhard de Chardin believed that an evolving universe requires a new God.  

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

As mystic and scientist, Teilhard knew that embracing the reality of a universe that is unfinished, continuously unfolding, expanding, growing in complexity, would require us to alter our idea of God. Teilhard saw the Resurrected Christ as the Omega, the point towards which our universe is evolving, drawing it forward from up ahead rather than pushing it from behind or dangling it from up above. This alters both our concept of how God calls us and how we understand goodness and morality. 

In “From Teilhard to Omega” (Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York 2014) editor Ilia Delio writes that Teilhard’s vision of science glowing with faith is “a call to wake up from our medieval slumber and to see the core of religion — love, truth, goodness and beauty – written into the very fabric of the cosmos.”  In Chapter Nine of that book, Edward Vacek considers the evolving view of morality that rises from Teilhard’s work: “For Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, moral living is to live inspired by a mystical intuition of a grand historical synthesis in love…. as Teilhard reframed the ethical project, he stunningly turned natural law into Christian ethics, autonomous agency into responsive cooperation, the requirement of conformity into creativity, and a focus on self-fulfillment into building both the world and — most provocatively – God.”

Teilhard does this, Vacek states, by locating humanity “within a vision of the cosmos” and as with the cosmos, where the union of hydrogen and oxygen creates water, so with the human: the path to greater being and goodness is through unions. This makes the ethical task one of relating, in cooperation with the work of Christ who is building the universe.   “The most fundamental ethical norm then becomes fidelity to this … relationship,” Vacek writes.

God has been at work in the universe from its beginnings more than thirteen billion years ago. Now humans are invited to enter into that task. Since God’s creativity includes the whole cosmos, human creative activity is naturally spiritual.  “All of our activities are part of God’s grand project that is cosmic history. God’s activity of fostering evolution continues in ourselves. Its movement toward ever-greater being takes place through our free engagement.”

How did Teilhard see God’s involvement in the actual process of evolution? Vacek writes: “He describes God as an attracting cause. He speaks as if God were ahead of us in time.” Using the example of a good possibility that we might see arise in our life, Vacek says that, “when we love God and have an ongoing historical relationship with God, such possibilities may be experienced as a next step to which God invites us. Process theologians sometimes describe this as an experience of God acting to lure us…”

Teilhard’s reflections on human experience showed him that rather than being autonomous agents in our actions, we are engaged in a response. Vacek writes that “the attractive power of future possibility leaves us free to assent. Our freedom consents or dissents to an opportunity that presents itself. Thus, if we are lovers of God, our experience is that God may be inviting us to take the next step. In this way, God’s invitation activates rather than usurps our freedom. In every good decision we make, we are also consenting to God.”  

Love, then, is central to moral living.  For Teilhard, love “is directed to more being.” Love attracts us “to the real or potential good of the beloved”. We experience these attractions “as invitations from God to love creation, that is, to enhance the good.  God… is in the future beckoning us.”   

For Teilhard, the new ethics was one of love focused on evolution through a process of love of others.  His criterion for human development was whether the new was enhancement of being, “more”, brought about by love.  Thus we continue God’s activity of love in evolution.  For Vacek, Teilhard’s core insight into Christian ethics is this: “What we human beings do to make a better world coheres with what Christ has been doing and is doing and will do….our ordinary and our extraordinary activities can be ways of cooperating with Christ’s activity”.

All ethical living, in Teilhard’s view, is cooperating with God. Vacek concludes that “the will of God is not an antecedent plan to be discovered by us, but rather a plan to be cocreated through the exercise of our own minds and hearts. God speaks to us in our own voice. In the best run of things, our thoughts are God’s thoughts and our ways are God’s ways.”

Here is what Julian of Norwich understood of God’s whole purpose: Love is His meaning.

Julian of Norwich

Sophia Blog May 8, 2019

It is the Feast Day of Julian of Norwich, the 14th century English Mystic who is perhaps best known for her words: “All Shall Be Well”. Wondering which of her teachings, which of her many assurances that we are held in love, I might share with you, I decided instead to tell the story of my first encounter with “Lady Julian.”

It is the winter of 1992, and I am in England at the University of Sussex, pursuing studies in Post-Modernist Fiction. I experience cold like nothing I have ever encountered in Canada, a piercing, bone-biting cold that hangs visibly in the air as “ice fog.” I am grateful for the British custom of heating milk before adding it to coffee. Yet my fellow students seem unaware of the cold as they move about the campus, their long woolen scarves wrapped around their necks, the only addition to their all-weather uniforms of jeans, sweaters, runners.

I am cold inside as well, enduring exile from a place, a work that I loved. My writing tutor, watching the story of what brought me here unfold, suggests: “You should visit the reconstructed cell of Julian in Norwich.”

So on the first Friday in February I am travelling north by train, having left London’s Liverpool Street Station at 11 am. In the fields beside the train tracks, wild daffodils wave, not yet in full bloom.

Two hours later, I emerge from the Norwich Station and, following a map sent from the Julian Guest House, find Thorpe Road, cross the Wensum River, follow Mountergate Street to King Street and enter the narrow Julian Alley.

Suddenly I am in front of a tiny flintstone church, a re-creation, I would discover later, of the centuries-old church that was destroyed by a direct hit in the Second World War.

Reconstructed Church where Julian’s anchorhold was situated

On the outer wall of the church a plaque declares that Dame Julian of Norwich, Mystic, became an anchoress living in a cell attached to the south wall of this church soon after 1373, and here she wrote, “Revelations of Divine Love.”  

I push open the unlocked door, find myself in a small church with seating room for perhaps a hundred people. I walk up the centre aisle, see a low wooden door to the right of the sanctuary, place my thumb on its iron latch, push inwards.

I enter a small room, perhaps only ten feet by fifteen; yet, its high ceiling offers a sense of spaciousness. Through the mullioned windows, weak winter sunlight enters the room, muted by the coloured panes to pale violet and yellow. Beneath the windows, a long wooden bench offers a place to sit while I unpack my camera.

I look towards the small altar to my right, then at the high window that looks into the sanctuary of the church. Beneath this window I see an ancient boulder, a clump of stone that appears old enough to have been part of the original anchorhold. Just above this stone there is a marble monument on which are carved these words: “Thou art enough to me.”

At once, I am no longer seeing but seen. The Lady Julian is at home. I am aware of a kindly, wise, loving presence, a presence so real that I am suddenly pouring forth to her the grief of my exile. I feel heard. Then I sense words within me, words I know to be her response to me: “Let him hold you in the pain.” I know she speaks of Jesus, and this somehow frees me to acknowledge my need to be comforted.

I ask a question. “What of the friend I left, the relationship that I fear may not survive this separation?” Again, her words are as clear as if she had spoken them aloud: “Be right glad and merry, for he loves you and wants you to be happy.”

On that February day, I discover Julian as a friend, an enduring presence of wisdom, of kindness in my life. I believe she longs to be that also for any who turn to her seeking counsel and loving support. Her book, “Revelations of Divine Love”, written over the course of twenty years of reflection to guide us, her kindred spirits, is available in over a dozen editions, translated in recent decades from the Middle English of Chaucer’s time. 

Here is a sample of Julian’s homely advice, garnered from her intimacy with Jesus:

He did not say you would not be tempest-tossed; he did not say you would not be work-weary; he did not say you would not be discomfitted. But he said, “You will not be overcome.”

Julian is a model for us, one who keeps the fire of love alight in her own heart so that when someone steps in from a frigid February day, she has warmth to offer.                                                                

welcoming the Fire Within the Fire

Sophia Blog for the Eve of Bealtaine

April 30, 2019

Waken before dawn. Rise quickly, dress, hurry outdoors. You’ll need to climb the hill near your cottage, to reach its top before sunrise. There, joined by friends and neighbours, you must gather dry sedge and sticks to prepare the Bealtaine Fire. It must be ready in time to greet the sun on this first day of May. For the quiet moon-time months of winter, the contemplative feminine time of nurturing seeds of new life, is ended. The active sunlit masculine time is here.

Once the fire is prepared, ready to be lighted at the first appearance of the rising sun, reach into the green plants around you, and draw forth the predawn dew. Wash your hands, your face in this magical mix of fire and water.

If you know where to find the holy well on the far side of the hill, go there now.

The Holy Well on the far side of the hill

Reach deep into its cold spring-fed waters and splash them over your body. Let yourself be soaked in water. Then turn to face the rising sun. You are enacting a sacred ritual, uniting the fire of the sun (masculine energy) and water (feminine energy).

These are the ways our Celtic Ancestors celebrated the Feast of Bealtaine on the first day of May. Now in our time, when we have such need of reconnection with the earth, such need of being held, healed, wholed in her embrace, these rituals are being recovered, rediscovered by scholars and spiritual guides, such as Dolores Whelan, author of Ever Ancient, Ever New.

The early Celtic Christians, whose faith was harmoniously united with the earth, chose to honour Mary with a crown of fresh blossoms as Queen of the May. Some of us may remember processions from the days of our childhood when we crowned Mary with flowers as we sang, “Bring flowers of the fairest, Bring flowers of the rarest, from garden and woodland and hillside and dale…”

The May 1st celebration of Bealtaine can still inspire our lives. For we, like the earth herself, find ourselves awakening to new possibilities, discovering shoots of green life within us even as we welcome their silent sudden appearance in the rain-soaked earth of our gardens.  

Just as the Bealtaine fires were used to purify the cattle that had spent the winter indoors, before they were released into the fields of summer, in our lives the Bealtaine fire can be a ritual cleansing of any negativity left over from winter. The fire can release us from all that would hold us back from a joyous re-entry into the time of blossoming.

The masculine fire energies of Bealtaine bring into the sun the feminine winter-moonlit dreams in which we reimagined the healing and the wholing of the earth and all of life.

As we welcome the sun’s fire, we also welcome the sacred fire that burns within us. In her magnificent poem, “The Fire Within the Fire of All Things”, Catherine de Vinck, a mystic of our own time, writes:

To start here in the mud of the rainy season

– the land’s ragged fabric coarse under the probing hand:

brittle sedge, lifeless vine, thorny twig of the vanished rose….

How far to the next road, to the house of many lamps?

How far to the other side, the place beyond history?

This is where it begins in this pattern, this path

corrugated with deep ruts

Where I wander in and out of step

through the zig-zags of idle thoughts

Here I advance, meeting the fox

a quick flame flaring among the reeds

I feel helpless dazed by such beauty

Then I say to myself: If I can shiver with joy

when the wind rises,  puffed up, full voiced

to later fall back quietly

folding itself pleat by soft pleat into a fluttering rag of air;

If I dance with happiness

at the sight of the circling hawk

knowing for a moment what it is to float over the swamp

in a robe of dark feathers;

and if I do hear the summons

hidden within the miracle of stones;

then I can name the holy

the Fire within the fire of all things.

Catherine de Vinck,  God of a Thousand Names (with the author’s permission)

Teilhard’s spiritual vision

We are each aware that recent decades have brought about a sea change in spirituality. If you are like me, you have been happily swimming through new oceans, enchanted by the brilliantly coloured coral, the exotic fish, the sunlight that filters down into the water, the buoyant feeling of being held in love.

For Teilhard, this newness was more than an experience: it was a call birthed out of the discovery that we live within a universe that is, and has been, in a state of continuous evolution. For Teilhard, such a universe reveals a God never glimpsed in a world seen as static, unchanging, complete.

And this God is to be found at the very heart-core of the universe itself. A universe with God at its heart, as its principle of evolution, is holy. Sacred. Entirely so. This was Teilhard’s deepest conviction, the source of his understanding that a new spirituality involved a new way of relating to both God and the universe. Such a God in such a universe requires us as co-creators.

As we continue to explore Teilhard’s thought through reflections on his writings by contemporary theologians in From Teilhard to Omega edited by Ilia DeLio (Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York 2014), we consider this week the essay in Chapter 10 by William D. Dinges and Ilia DeLio. In “Teilhard de Chardin and the New Spirituality”, the authors describe the new spirituality that emerged in the latter half of the twentieth century as “diverse, eclectic, multi-cultural, diffused, decentered, and often uncoupled from traditional religious sources, particularly from more hierarchical, orthodox and theistic ones”. Rather than requiring individuals to turn aside from their own development to conform to an authority that is outside themselves, the new spirituality is “more located within the internal control and consciousness of individuals”.

Arising from a “complex array of historical, social, and cultural sources”, some of which are outside Western culture, the new spirituality is part of “a contemporary global religious megasynthesis that includes a colonization of the Western mind by Eastern esoteric psychologies, philosophies, and religious traditions.”

This new pluralistic and holistic spirituality, the authors believe, reflects the subjective turn of modernity and post-modernity; emphasizes feelings, experience and the quest for human authenticity; accentuates human fulfillment in this world; reveres and affirms the cosmos and our belonging to it; finds the sacred in the secular; promotes a recomposed and embodied spirituality; and recognizes the infusion of nature and matter with spirit, consciousness, or life force.

Teilhard, were he to have read these 21st century words, would, I believe, have nodded his head in agreement. But he would have then added such a depth of passion, beauty and spiritual force that we would, in our turn, have been enchanted, enlivened, empowered by his deep conviction that the discovery of evolution changes everything.

This is what I have learnt from my contact with the earth- the diaphany of the divine at the heart of a glowing universe, the divine radiating from the depth of matter a-flame” (Teilhard in The Divine Milieu

Once we accept evolution as the process of unfolding life, the way that new life emerges over deep time, we see that God is at the heart of the universe. To overcome the old divide between earth and heaven, matter and spirit, secular and sacred, Teilhard saw that we must “rid ourselves of the old God of the starry heavens and embrace the God of evolution.”

Teilhard saw the universe as permeated with love in the person of the Risen Christ, towards whom he saw all of life evolving. “Through his penetrating view of the universe, he found Christ present within the entire cosmos, from the least particle of matter to the convergent human community. The whole cosmos is incarnational.”

Teilhard’s is “an embodied perspective that sees human flourishing as embedded in the flourishing of the Earth community in which both are manifestations of the emergent universe story”. In the Divine Milieu, Teilhard wrote: “there is nothing profane here below for those who know how to see.” (DM, 66) 

Of Paul’s words in his letter to the Colossians, “Before anything was created, (Christ) existed, and he holds all things in unity”, Teilhard writes:  “it is impossible for me to read St. Paul without seeing the universal and cosmic domination of the Incarnate Word emerging from his words with dazzling clarity.”

For Teilhard Christ is the evolver in the universe, the one who is coming to be in evolution through the process of creative union… As Omega, Christ is the one who fills all things and who animates and gathers up all the biological and spiritual energies developed by the universe. Since Christ is Omega, the universe is physically impregnated to the very core of its matter by the influence of his superhuman nature. The material world is holy and sacred.

Through grace, the presence of the incarnate Word penetrates everything as a universal element. Everything — every leaf, flower, tree, rabbit, fish, star– is physically “christified”, gathered up by the incarnate Word as nourishment that assimilates, transforms, and divinizes. The world is like a crystal lamp illumined from within by the light of Christ. For those who can see, Christ shines in this diaphanous universe, through the cosmos and in matter. 

We immerse ourselves in this glorious sea, seeking the diaphany of God in dolphin, in coral, in squid and shark, each held, like us, in love.

Mary of Nazareth: archetype for our time

March 19, 2019

These recent weeks of reflecting on Jean Houston’s teachings about Archetypes may have awakened memories for us, shaken free long-forgotten thoughts and experiences in our lives. This morning, as I considered how we might continue our exploration, I suddenly remembered a day when I was perhaps eleven years old.

Each afternoon, walking home from school, I passed our parish church. On this day, I was drawn to go inside, as I sometimes did. I remember glancing at the green-robed marble statue of Mary, standing to the left side of the altar. Her stonewhite face was shuttered, her eyes downcast. The statue radiated coldness. Though I did not understand what her title of “Virgin” signified, I associated the word with an absence of what I longed for most in my life: warmth, caring, love.

 I turned away from the statue, and noticed a small booklet on the bench where I was sitting. It contained the Scripture readings for the Sundays of each month, with reflections. On the inside front cover, someone had written of Mary, creatively presenting ideas in the form of a letter as though it had been written by her. I have now no memory of the letter’s content. Perhaps I did not even read it. I was transfixed by the words at the end, “Your Loving Mother Mary.”

In that instant, my life shifted. A loving presence entered into my existence and has never left me.

As Jean has written, “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.”

Sanctuary of Isis on the island of Philae in Egypt

To grasp the true significance of Mary as Archetype, come with me now to the tiny sanctuary dedicated to Isis on the Island of Philae in the Nile River. Crowded into a space never meant for a group as large as ours, stand here with the other travellers on this spiritual journey to Egypt, led by Jean Houston.

Listen now to the words Jean is reading from the writings of Apuleius, a second century Roman, not a Christian. In the story, a hapless magician named Lucius has cried out to the goddess for help. Isis responds.

 The way the Sacred One identifies herself to Lucius may startle 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.”

After the reading, listen as we call out all the names by which we have known the Sacred Feminine. Listen as voice after voice calls out wonderful names. Many of these names are familiar to you, titles you may have learned as a child, referring to Mary: Mystical Rose. Tower of Ivory. Gate of Heaven. My own voice calls out: Star of the Sea. Jean’s voice, strong, certain, proclaims: “Mary in all her forms.”

The human heart longs for a divine mothering presence. Ancient cultures honoured a feminine divine who over millennia was called by many names: Isis in Egypt; Inanna in Sumeria; Ishtar in Babylon; Athena, Hera and Demeter in Greece, Anu or Danu among the ancient Celts; Durga, Kali and Lakshmi in India; for the Kabbalists, Shekinah; for the gnostics, Sophia or Divine Wisdom.

In the early centuries of Christianity, Mary of Nazareth became an Archetype of a Loving Mother. Christianity had no “Mother God” to put in the place of the Goddesses whose worship it was determined to eradicate. In his book The Virgin, Geoffrey Ashe writes of his theory that Mary’s gradual ascension in Christianity was not an initiative of Church Leadership, but rather a response to the hunger of the early Christians for a sacred feminine presence.

Mary became for Christianity a portal for that sacred presence. Or, put another way, a sacred presence responded to the cries of her people when they called her “Mary”, just as that presence had responded over the millennia to other names cried out in love or sorrow or desperate need.

And yet, before any of that happened, Mary, a young woman living in Nazareth, a town despised in Israel, was already a luminous presence who made a choice to say “yes” to a call that held mystery, uncertainty, unimaginable risk, a call to mother a child with a love that would ask of her everything.

When we first meet Mary in the Gospels, she is being offered that invitation. The Christian calendar assigns a day to honour her acceptance: March 25th, Feast of the Annunciation.

Here is how 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 of our hearts. Will they also become a nest for a new birthing of the Holy? The urgent needs of our time require a “yes” to the conception, followed by the birthing, of newness.

Mary’s story gives us the courage to say “yes” without knowing where that “yes” may lead. It is enough to know that certainly our own life will become, like Mary’s, “wild inside”. Mary comes as Archetype to each one of us who carries the Holy within us, seeking a place of birth. We walk the dark road, with Mary, in trust. We walk companioned by one who knows our struggles to maintain our trust in the face of inner doubts and outer calamity. We walk with one who loves us and encourages us, prepares us, to welcome “the day which will be born from the womb of this present darkness.”

Growing the Goddess

Sophia Blog March 13, 2019

Who is Sophia? This archetype of Wisdom, feminine face of the Sacred, has illumined lives for millennia as have other faces of the Feminine Divine such as Mary and Brigid whose attributes and stories we have explored here. Truly Sophia is awakening in our time. Yet our relationship with her is already changing the archetype. To assist us in this great task, we have the wisdom of a Master teacher: Jean Houston.

The Nature of Archetypes: Two

by Jean Houston

Everyone, I suspect, has a relationship to a “field” or family of an archetype… Christianity would generally constellate most who profess to be Christians within the family or field of Jesus Christ, although in the various Catholic denominations as well as Hinduism the “family connection” can be found through a special devotion to a saint or a god or goddess. In Hinduism, and especially in Buddhism, this devotion becomes the richly evocative practice of deity yoga, which is the spiritual path of the present Dalai Lama.

One feels oneself partnered by an archetype, and in one’s meditation and life knows oneself to be the exotype in time and space of an archetypal being who lives beyond time and space. Thus in deity yoga, one incarnates in one’s spiritual practices the qualities and then the actual Essence of the spiritual personage. This one does by first dissolving into one’s essential nature, and then in this emptied state, connecting and communing with the archetypal partner.

In our time we have suddenly become directors of a world that up to now has mostly directed us. This exponential growth in responsibility requires a corresponding enhancement in consciousness and psyche as formidable as it is necessary. For as things are now, extremely limited consciousness has the powers once mythically accorded to the gods.

As we attempt to play “catch-up” we find ourselves seeking the enrichment of an archetypical base that can provide missing components of intelligence, wisdom and compassion. But first we have to get past the conundrum that these archetypal “partners” still bear the baggage of ancient attitudes, fine for one era, devastating for another. 

Thus, the process, that I am calling the growing of the gods, may, in turn, be part of the necessary evolution of the anima mundi, the soul of the world. The nature of this evolution can itself be seen as a historical movement of division from an undifferentiated noumen into the multiple faces and stories of gods and archetypes. Each particular god bears the holonomic resonance of the original unity, refracted through the lens of time and culture, a parochial rendering of the sacred.

Susan Seddon Boulet image of the Goddess

Back in paleolithic and early neolithic times, the Ur Mother, the Great Goddess, was felt and known in her utter and absolute suchness. She was the One without a second.

As the culture of agriculture expanded, communities and roles becoming ever more complex and differentiated, so Herself divided and became many, her powers particularized, her agenda shared. She took on the faces of the seasons–the Triple Goddess in her roles as Spring Maiden, Fruitful summer Mother, and Wizened winter Crone.

triple godddess

The Triple Goddess individuated further, becoming the vehicle of stories that reflected not just the agricultural cycle but also the psychological dramas and rituals of everyday life–birth, growth, learning, sex, fertility, family relationships, wounding, death. Thus the Great Mother birthed herself in multiple story lines, multiple matrices.

As humans tell and retell, live and relive these stories, their psyches too expand. Throughout time, mystics, creators, and crazies, shamans, fey folk and lovers have so identified their local life with the larger life of the archetype that they were able to dwell in the realm of myth and goddedness but at the same time enjoy the delights of flesh and firmament. They have felt themselves to be embodiments of the archetype in time with accompanying skills and powers that seemed to belong more to the archetype than to their culture and habit-bound selves.

But there is still a great divide between gods and humans. The gods are not schizophrenic as humans are. The polarities and seeming splits in their nature are more on the order of a healthy polyphrenia. Their multiple selves serve them according to the needs of any situation. They can also elate themselves into the One, and know that Oneness as their true condition. Knowing the One they can step down into the many–thus their polyphrenia, their wide play of attributes, their many selves.

This protean skill is one that humanity awaits and, perhaps, in our time is moving towards. What myths have told us about the polyphrenia of the gods may be our evolutionary portion as we humans move into the next stage of our becoming.

This would mean, as I have suggested earlier, that people will develop a very different kind of psychological structure. Instead of having a dominant self or ego, they will learn to keep a large cast of characters active, calling them to stage front to fit the occasion. The orchestrator of these selves may not be the ego as we have known it, but instead a high self, one that is not culture-bound but more in the nature of a panhistorical archetypal persona. What I am calling “Athena” may be the emerging archetypal orchestrator of my inner crew of selves.

WHAT IS AN Archetype?

In recent postings we have been coming to see Brigid as an expression, an embodiment, of the Sacred feminine, an archetype of those energies, qualities that we associate with the womanly face of the divine. But what is an archetype and how might our relationship with one or more both enhance and enchant our lives? How might they also work with us and through us towards the healing of life around our suffering planet? Jean Houston’s luminous writings on Archetypes provide answers to both these questions.  

Jean Houston

THE NATURE OF ARCHETYPES

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.

archetypes give us…the gossamer bridge that joins spirit with nature mind with body, and self with the… universe

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. 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.

as we grow the “gods”, the “gods” grow us


The individuation of the numinous finds a new turn as people everywhere are learning to live their larger stories and tap into the necessary spiritual DNA to become archetypal. A Buddhist statement expresses wonderfully well what it means to live archetypally. In this state, one sees all beings as Buddha, hears all sounds as mantra, and knows all places as nirvana. To me this means that  moment has its magic, every action however small is stellar in its consequences (“stir a flower and bestir a star”), and each word that one speaks is creation.


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.

Image of the Goddess Athena by Susan Seddon Boulet

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.