Monday, April 24, 2017
from Ann Baring, "The Dream of the Cosmos"
This passage by Ann Baring is a brilliant exposition on the role of male and female in the divine realms and human experience. For me, the Divine Spirit, by whatever name, is in fact Kundalini itself, for through Kundalini the soul achieves ecstatic union with the Beyond in the mystic marriage. This state is the end of the mystical journey, the goal sought in almost every tradition, a recognition that self and Vastness are one. The various lineages use different vocabularies to describe this union and name the feminine in different terms, but the essential meaning is the same, whether She is called Holy Spirit, Shekinah, or Sophia. And Shiva/Shakti is not two, but one. Often Shiva's body is depicted as literally half male, half female. The only comment I would add is that although on the human level, the union is often presented as male/female in marriage, this equation can also be achieved by same sex couples, each offering aspects of both inner male/female to the other to achieve balanced merger. Furthermore, in today's perspective, we strive for the merger of both male and female elements within ourselves, and thus we become complete humans.
Ann Baring goes beyond the surface observations of many contemporary writers to lead us into the heart of the mystery. This excerpt will repay careful reading and re-reading to absorb its luminous wisdom.
The Imagery of the Sacred Marriage and the Transmission of Light
The highly developed cosmology of this tradition preserves the ancient Bronze Age image of the sacred marriage, reflected in the union of the Divine Father–Mother in the ground of being. There is not a Father God but a Mother–Father who are one in their eternal embrace, one in their ground, one in their emanation, one in their ecstatic and continuous act of creation through all the dimensions they bring into being and sustain. From the perspective of divine immanence, there is no essential separation between spirit and nature. No other tradition offers the same breathtaking vision in such exquisite poetic imagery of the union of male and female energies in the One that is both. The Song of Songs was the text most used by kabbalists for their contemplation of the mystery of this divine union.
The Zohar contemplates the mystery of the relationship between the female and male aspects of Divine Spirit expressed as Mother and Father, and their emanation through all dimensions of creation as Daughter and Son. The essential concept of this mystical tradition expresses itself in an image of worlds within worlds rather than as a hierarchy of descent. Divine Spirit (Ain Soph or Ain Soph Aur) beyond form or conception is the ineffable Light at the Root, the Source, the Ground of Being. Emanating as creative Sound (Word), Light, Intelligence and Love, it brings into being successive spheres, realms, or dimensions named as veils or robes which clothe and hide the hidden source, yet at the same time transmit its radiant light.
The transmission of this ineffable Light from the level of the source to the outer manifest level is also, as described earlier, an inverted tree, the Tree of Life, whose branches grow from its root in the divine ground and extend through invisible worlds or dimensions of being of which we are no longer aware because our minds have become closed to their existence. As I absorbed these images, I recognized their resemblance to certain Gnostic texts discovered at Nag Hammadi.
The primal centre or root is the innermost light, of an unimaginable luminosity and translucence, utterly different from the light we see in this world. This centre expands or is sown as a ray of light into what is described in some texts as a sea of glory, in others as a palace or womb which acts as an enclosureor receptacle for the light. From here it emanates as a radiant cascade, a fountain of living water, pouring forth light to create, permeate and sustain all the worlds or dimensions it brings into being. All life on earth, all consciousness, is that light and is therefore utterly sacred. The Zohar describes nature as the garment of God. This cascade of light flows through the ten Vessels, Powers or Attributes of the Divine (Sefiroth) which are connected by the 22 paths of the Tree of Life. The first Vessel (Kether) is a state of perfect equilibrium and contains all that was, is and will be. The divine impulse towards emanation moves the energy to expand beyond the first Vessel to the second; it is then received and contained by the third Vessel. This process of expansion and containment is repeated three times until this Tree is complete and the emanating energy balanced. The process of emanation then proceeds through further worlds, and the laws or archetypes which govern each world or level of creation come into being until they manifest as our own.
The Feminine Face of the God-head
The feminine face of the god-head is named as Cosmic Womb, Palace, Enclosure, Fountain, Apple Orchard and Mystical Garden of Eden. She is named as the architect of worlds, source or foundation of our world, and also as the Radiance, Word or Glory of the unknowable ground or godhead. Text after text uses sexual imagery and the imagery of light to describe how the ray which emanates from the unmanifest ground enters into the womb—the Great Sea of Light—of the Celestial Mother and how she brings forth the male and female creative energies which, as two branches of the Tree of Life, are symbolically, King and Queen, Son and Daughter. A third branch of the Tree descends directly down the centre, unifying and connecting the energies on either side. All elements or aspects of the Tree of Life are connected by twenty-two paths.
The Shekinah is named as the Divine Spouse, the indwelling and active Holy Spirit and the divine guide and immanent presence who delivers the world from bondage to beliefs that separate it from its source, restoring it ultimately to union with the divine ground. She brings into being all spheres or dimensions of manifestation which are ensouled and sustained by the ineffable source until, through them, she generates the manifest world we know.
Kabbalism calls this last, tenth sphere Malkuth, the Kingdom, where the divine Mother-Father image is expressed as the male and female of all species. Humanity, female and male, is therefore the expression of the duality-in-unity of the god-head. The Shekinah is forever united with her beloved Spouse in the divine ground or heart of being and it is their union in the god-head that holds life in a constant state of coming into being. Yet she is also present, here with us, in the material reality of our world. The sexual attraction between man and woman and the expression of true love between them is the enactment or reflection at this level of creation of the divine embrace at its heart that is enshrined in the cherished words in the Song of Songs: “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” (6:3) Human sexual relationship, enacted with love, mutual respect and joy, is a sacred ritual that is believed to maintain the ecstatic union of the divine pair.
Because she brings all worlds into existence as her robes or veils, and dwells in them as divine presence, nothing is outside spirit. In the radiance of that invisible cosmic sea of light, everything is connected to everything else as through a luminous circulatory system. Moreover, the Shekinah is deeply devoted to what she has brought into being, as a mother is devoted to the well-being of her child. All life on earth, all levels and degrees of consciousness, all forms of what we see and name as ‘matter’, are the creation of that primal fountain of light and are therefore an expression of divinity.
Blue and gold are the colours associated with the Shekinah. As cosmic soul, She is the radiant ground or ‘light body’ of the human soul — at once its deepest, essential ground, its outer ‘garment’, the physical body, and its animating spirit or consciousness. She is the holy presence of the ‘glory of God’ within everyone. All of us, moving from unconsciousness and ignorance of this radiant ground to awareness of and relationship with it, live in her being and grow under her power of attraction until we are reunited with the source, discovering ourselves to be what in essence we always were but did not know ourselves to be—sons and daughters of God, living expressions of divine spirit.
There were different schools within Kabbalah. Some saw the Shekinah as separated from the god-head, in voluntary exile on earth, describing her as a Daughter cut off from her Mother, or as a Widow, until she is able to return to the divine ground, having gathered to herself all the elements or sparks (scintillae) of her being which had been scattered during the process of emanation. Others put great emphasis on the marriage between Tipareth, the sixth Sefiroth, with the Shekinah in her place of exile as Malkuth, the tenth Sefiroth, a marriage that we can assist in bringing about within us, for the Tree of Life is also a template of the inner life of our soul. The blackness of the Shekinah’s robe, comparable perhaps to the black robe or veil of Isis – who was also called ‘The Widow’ during her search for Osiris – signifies the darkness of the mystery which hides the glory of her Light.
I was amazed to discover that the Shekinah was called ‘The Precious Stone’ and ‘The Stone of Exile’, which at once connects her with the image of the Grail, described as both vessel – source of boundless nourishment – and stone. She was also called the ‘Pearl’, and ‘The Burning Coal’. To the opening eyes of my imagination, she appeared as the glowing gold of the hidden treasure at the heart of life, the jewelled rainbow of light thrown between the divine and human worlds, the seamless robe which unites the manifest and unmanifest dimensions of life. Here, at last, was the crucial missing piece of the puzzle that I had sought for over fifty years. The channeled messages had told us to find ‘the Stone at the foot of the Tree,’ and here was the Shekinah described as ‘The Precious Stone’ at the foot of the Tree of Life. I was overwhelmed by this realization, yet I knew it was important to not cling to the literal imagery but to look beyond it, into the symbolic heart of the teaching and its meaning for our culture which has been so deprived of the image of the Divine Feminine.
It suddenly occurred to me that kabbalistic imagery is woven into the fabric of many well-known fairy tales. In the story of Cinderella, for example, the veiled form of the Shekinah (or the forgotten image of the Great Mother) can be recognized in the fairy god-mother who presides over her daughter's transformation from soot-blackened drudge to royal bride. Harold Bayley, who wrote a remarkable book called The Lost Language of Symbolism at the beginning of the last century, showed me that the figure of Cinderella could be understood to represent the human soul as it moves from ‘rags to riches’.(6) Cinderella’s three splendid dresses, which could be equated with the ‘robe of glory’ of certain kabbalistic and gnostic texts, are the soul’s luminous sheaths or subtle bodies, as dazzling as the light of the moon, sun and stars. Just as the soot-blackened girl in the fairy tale puts on her three glorious dresses to reveal herself as she truly is, so does the human soul don these ‘robes of glory’ as she moves from the darkness of ignorance into the revelation of her true nature and parentage.
To reconnect with the tradition of the Divine Feminine that has been fragmented, obscured and almost lost over some two and a half thousand years, I turned to the magnificent passages in the Books of Proverbs, Ben Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) and the Wisdom of Solomon.(7) If I had not by chance been given a Bible by my mother when I was ten years old that contained the Apocrypha, I would not have known of the existence of the last two Books since the Apocrypha is not included in the Protestant Bible and I was brought up as a Protestant. I had spent nine long months in hospital at that age and during that time, having little else to do, read my Bible from cover to cover, understanding very little of it, yet absorbing as much as I could of its stories and imagery.
In the Apocrypha I found evidence of a feminine being, identified with Divine Wisdom and the Holy Spirit, who comes to life in certain of its passages. Here, in the Book of Ben Sirach or Ecclesiasticus, Wisdom tells us that she is immanent in our world, with us in the streets of our cities, calling to us to awaken to her presence, to obey her laws, to listen to her wisdom, promising her blessing if we can only hear her voice and respond to her teaching. In the Book of Proverbs, Wisdom tells us that she is the Beloved of God, with Him from the beginning, before the foundation of the world. She speaks from the deep ground of life as the hidden law which orders it and as the Craftswoman of creation. With their vivid imagery, these passages transform the idea of the Holy Spirit, speaking as Divine Wisdom, from abstract idea into Living Presence. She speaks as if, like the Shekinah, she were here, in this dimension, dwelling with us in the midst of her kingdom, accessible to those who seek her out. She is unknown and unrecognized, yet working within the depths of life, striving to open our understanding to the divine reality of her being, the sacredness of her creation, her justice, wisdom, love and truth.
- Anne Baring, "The Dream of the Cosmos"