The Heart of the Black Madonna

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Virgin Sophia

In this post, we will be exploring an interesting concept that is not specific to The Black Madonna, but we see this motif in numerous Madonnas throughout the ages. The material I will be presenting is part of my upcoming book on The Virgin of Guadalupe, which is set to be released on Pentecost of 2018. Make sure to subscribe to this blog, follow me on Facebook and twitter for updates on the specifics of the new release. You can also see a video of this topic on my channel The Heart of the Black Madonna on Youtube.

Every Christmas, I enjoy the “Festival of the Carols” broadcast from the BBC on my local classical station, KUSC. This production started in  1918, which is so interesting because that was 100 years ago from this recording, and also at the conclusion of World War One. The Festival is a mix of traditional and modern Christmas Carols mixed in with Bible verses relevant to Advent and Christmas. The service begins with Genesis, with the story of Adam and Eve and concludes with the birth of Christ narrative. In the Church Lectionary, as well as the verses read in the Liturgy of The Christian Community, we also visit the Genesis narrative, then the prophesy of Isaiah. Throughout the season before Advent, the Biblical readings focus is on the Apocalypse of St John.

So, in the Biblical readings, we have this interesting journey from the beginnings of time in Genisis, through the Incarnation and Passion of Christ to the Apocalypse, which basically is the so called “end of time.”  In Anthroposophy, we view the Incarnation of Christ as “the turning point of time,” and for those of you who are interested, there are two lecture cycles which approach the Book of Revelation, or the Apocalypse of John, which delve into this approach to the Incarnation and Resurrection of Christ as basically being smack dab in the middle of Cosmic Evolution.

As I have been studying Anthroposophy and the Christology of Rudolf Steiner for my writings and talks regarding The Black Madonna and The Virgin of Guadalupe, something very interesting has come apparent to me. For me, and please remember as I have said before, these are my insights based on my research, I respect everyones right to view things and have beliefs in which they feel comfortable, for me what the narratives I have been reading and listening to my whole life in the Bible have come to have a new meaning for me. For me, the Bible is metaphysically literal. I know those words do not always go together, but I approach the Judeo Christian Bible as both a narrative of cosmic history, and also as an initiation document.

What do I mean by Initiation?  Initiation from my perspective is a process where wisdom and enlightenment are opened to individuals through a series of  ordeals and lessons, resulting in a transformation of the initiate in some form. For those of us who had the pleasure of being in a Sorority or Fraternity, we had initiation ceremonies where we were given certain secrets of the organization after going through a pledge period. During the pledge period, we had to do certain things and “pass” in order to be a member of the organization. We see in indigenous cultures such as the Aborigines of Australia and the various Tribes of North and South America, tribal cultures in Africa where the initiate has to undergo both trials as well as ceremonies in order to achieve a certain status in a culture. In Native American traditions the Vision Quest comes to mind, where the individual goes out into the wild without food or water, survives and then comes back with a new perspective on their lives and purpose. Some of our modern initiation ceremonies can be viewed as events such as Bar or Bat Mitzvah’s , Confirmation, and I would argue school and graduation. Any person who has gone through a master or doctoral program I am sure would agree that the ordeal of getting that piece of paper, the wisdom and knowledge attained and the ceremony that follows would rival any sort of ancient initiation cult in terms of difficulty and transformation.

So the Bible in my perspective is a document that not only gives perspective on history and future, but also gives insights into what I would call “The Initiation of Humanity.”

We observe the narrative in Genesis of the creation of humanity and how humanity took a path away from Divinity. We call this event “the Fall” or “the fall from the garden of Eden.” We read and learn from that moment forward about all the characters and drama in the Old Testament, and we as Christians learn about the Christ Event in the Gospels, how to form the new community within the new covenant of Christ through the Book of Acts and the Epistles and then ultimately what is to happen in the future through the Book of Revelation. The Spiritual World in essence devised a grand "plan b" for Humanity's journey towards Divinity.

So how are we to view the Bible in terms of a book of Initiation? When I comprehend the Genesis narrative, what I understand is there was this amazing creative act, that I think had quite a bit of forethought involved in terms of creating both the Cosmos and Humanity. Humans we read in Genesis were basically created as the pinnacle of the creation event. We come to understand that we were created in the image and likeness of Divinity, meaning we have freedom. The plan for Humanity in my estimation was well thought out, but due to freedom, Humanity chose to divert from the ultimate template. Fr Thomas Berry, a famous Passionist Priest and Theologian said it the best, he said that Divinity created Humanity in order to have a reflection. Other Theologians often comment that Divinity created Humanity because Divinity wanted company. In any case, Humanity took full advantage of our freedom and in the context of Anthroposophical Christology, choose to enter into material reality too quickly. My resident Los Angeles Christian Community Priest, put the response to this “Fall of Man” into simple terms. She said that after the Fall, the Spiritual World realized bestowing complete freedom on Cosmic neophytes such as humans was in essence a bit unfair. Humanity lacked the wisdom and experience to handle such a responsibility. Through numerous lectures, we learn from Rudolf Steiner that the Spiritual World and Divinity’s response to the fall was to basically go back to the conference room and design a plan to allow Humanity to in essence come back to the original plan. The challenge of this design was to fully honor Human freedom in the process. My understanding of this process was for the Spiritual World to in essence devise what we could call an initiation process or an educational program that would give Humanity the tools and skills it needed in order to get back with the program or original intent of the Creator. The ultimate goal of this process was to help guide humanity to choose in full freedom and full consciousness to unify with Divinity as a member of the Cosmic community.

Through Anthroposophical Christology and some Esoteric Christian sects, the process by which we are educated in order to transform and choose in full freedom and consciousness to unify with Divinity is outlined in the Bible. The Narrative of the Bible tells us about our origins, our mis-steps, guidelines for progress and offers us the ultimate model through the life, passion and resurrection of Christ Jesus on how our ordeal will unfold, and then ultimately what is next in Cosmic evolution through the Apocalypse of John.

The key for me to comprehend all of this also lies in Anthroposophical Christology. The basis for understanding this lies within the context of what Steiner calls “The Four Fold Human Being.” This Four Fold Human Being is us humans, both individually and collectively, and means that we are made up of four bodies, again both individually and collectively

We are made up of the following

The Physical Body
The Etheric Body
The Astral Body
The “I” also known as the "Ego"

The Physical Body is self explanatory, we have flesh and bones. The Etheric Body is considered the “life” body, what animates our flesh and bones and in essence is the body whose presence determines wether or not one is alive or not. The Astral Body is the body that connects our senses and perceptions with our consciousness, it also travels in and out of our physical through sleep, and connects with the Spiritual realm. The “I” is the essence of who we are, it is also our connection with Divinity, when we say “I” we are recognizing the Christ Within, Divinity Within, our “I” is eternal and not limited to our physical existence.

The original plan for Humanity, the one that was available before the fall, was for humans to slowly develop different aspects of themselves individually and collectively in order to companion Divinity. After the Fall, what I am calling “the School of Life was set up in order for humans to develop accordingly, though as we read in Genesis, this time it would not be quite pleasurable, we were told we would have to work by the sweat of our brow. The key to comprehending this cosmology, that of Humans evolving in order to meet Divinity in full freedom and consciousness is reincarnation. We can consider reincarnation as how the individual human “I” incarnates on Earth through subsequent life times in various points of history.

Something modern Theologians and Bible Scholars in the West have not factored into comprehending the consequence and remedy to the Fall of Man is the concept of Reincarnation. Reincarnation is a topic way beyond our scope in this segment, but suffice to say that it is not exactly absent from the Bible and was not absent in early Christian traditions. In fact, we in the modern West are really the only culture that rejects Reincarnation, it is embraced in many traditions around the world. I reject the notion that all verses on Reincarnation were removed from the Bible in the 5th Ecumenical council, it was not even on the agenda. Some argue that the Bible is actually rich in narrative regarding Reincarnation. There is an excellent discussion of Reincarnation and the Bible in the book The Souls Long Journey by Edward Reaugh Smith, whose scholarship in this area is quite exhaustive, in fact, his foot notes get a bit tedious at times, but he is a Lawyer by trade and quite dedicated to the concepts of proof and evidence. His writings reflect this orientation, and for scientists like me, I deeply appreciate his approach. I invite those of you who are curious to give him a look, and his website The Bible and Anthroposophy is worth a look if you get the chance.

What I have gleaned from this orientation towards scripture and the lectures of Rudolf Steiner on the subject gives me insight into a motif we see on many Madonnas throughout the history of Christianity.

In many Madonnas we see the presentation that is first articulated in Revelations 12:1 A Woman appeared who was clothed with the Sun, and the Moon at her feet and a crown of twelve stars at her head.

We see these twelve stars in many Icons of the Madonna, and we also see this motif of rays of sun, a crescent moon and if there are not stars in a crown around the Madonnas head, then we see stars in her mantle and veil.

We see the stars in Chestochova’s mantle, here in the Virgin of Villinus and also in the mantle of The Virgin of Guadalupe’s image.

Lets go back to the topic of our segment, The Virgin Sophia and The Black Madonna. What is the Sophia?

We see images of Sophia more in ancient Christian iconography and quite a bit in Eastern Orthodox traditions. Sophia, the Feminine Wisdom of God or Holy Wisdom is articulated through what are called the “Wisdom Scriptures” which include books in the Old Testament as well as the Apocryphya. The Book of Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, Psalms, Song of Solomon, Book of Wisdom, Book of Sirach are the most commonly recognized books of Wisdom. Some traditions include the Book of Baruch in the mix. We hear most significantly about the creation of  Sophia in Proverbs 8: 22 - 31

“The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works,
    before his deeds of old;

I was formed long ages ago,
    at the very beginning, when the world came to be.

When there were no watery depths, I was given birth,
    when there were no springs overflowing with water;

before the mountains were settled in place,
    before the hills, I was given birth,

before he made the world or its fields
    or any of the dust of the earth.

I was there when he set the heavens in place,
    when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,

when he established the clouds above
    and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,

when he gave the sea its boundary
    so the waters would not overstep his command,
and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.

    Then I was constantly at his side.
I was filled with delight day after day,
    rejoicing always in his presence,

rejoicing in his whole world
    and delighting in mankind.

 One way of comprehending this “birth of Sophia” verse, is to understand that as it says, Sophia or Wisdom was the first of all of the creations. We read in the beginning of John’s Gospel that “In the Beginning was the Word….. And that not one thing in all creation was made without him. The Word was the source of life.” We also understand that the “word” the Evangelist used in this Gospel for the “Word” of God is “Logos.” In Sophianic Christian Traditions, there is a great interplay between the Sophia and the Logos. The way I comprehend this is that in order for the Logos to manifest creation, there had to be a matrix, a container for this Logos to have form.

Cosmologists tell us that in the formation of our Earth, in the extremely early days, there was no atmosphere. We get a bit of an inkling of this when we view Astronauts on the moon. The Light of the sun basically whizzes by and the light of the stars is seen as pinpoints within a vast velvety darkness. This is because there is no atmosphere. After many events, the Earth obtained an atmosphere of Oxygen, Hydrogen and other substances. On Earth, we have an atmosphere which lights up during the day and shows itself as our blue sky. The atmosphere of Earth in essence captures the light. This is how I see the Sophia, as the atmosphere, or structure that allows the form of light and creation to be manifest. Sophia is a container if you will, for the Logos. The Logos created her as the first of all creations, and she allows creation to fill in the spaces so to speak. The Sophia and Logos are interdependent, each has a unique gesture and impulse, and together they weave the substance of the Cosmos. The Sophia is the representative of the Divine Feminine and the Logos is the representative of the Divine Masculine. The Virgin Mary is seen as the human embodiment of the Divine Sophia. Christ Jesus is seen as the human embodiment of the Divine Logos as we learn in the Epilogue of John’s Gospel “The Word became Flesh and Dwelt among us.”

As we have learned in various segments as well as in my book, The Black Madonna, Mysterious Soul Companion, the Madonna in art is the image and symbol for the Human Soul, and for Humanity. The Virgin Mary has many many names, but one of the most significant is how she is referred to as “the mother of humanity.” We might be tempted to think that actually it was Eve from Genesis as the Mother of Humanity, but Mary as her task and example set before us, is considered the new Eve, the transformed Eve helping to set us back on the track that we were supposed to have taken so long ago.

The number 12 has special significance. The twelve stars we see on the Virgin's head symbolize the wisdom of the cosmos. Twelve represents the educational process on all levels. It represents completion, cycles of experience and regeneration towards a higher consciousness, knoweldge and wisdom. 

The Madonna with the Stars on her head is a metaphor and symbol of what we are to accomplish in this segment of evolution. Steiner tells us that each subsequent historical period is an opportunity to develop individually and collectively. Through his cycle on the Pictures of the Apocalypse, he shows us that each one of the letters to the Seven Churches symbolizes a historical epoch and a task that each epoch is to attain. At the end of the letters, we read in Revelation chapter 3:20, that after these challenges or what I would also call stages of initiation, the Mystic Lamb says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if any hear my voice (the word) and opens the door I will come into their house and eat with them and they will eat with me.”

Hearing the knock, and opening the door to the Mystic Lamb is the deeply metaphorical future event where by Humanity after lengthy preparation will be able to open their hearts to Christ in full freedom and consciousness. This could not be done in ages past, mainly because Humans did not really have the capacity to meet such a being, and we choose to vere off the path so to speak during the Fall. But we are, as the Book of Revelation tells us, preparing for that event through great trial, ordeal and initiation. We are, in essence, to work towards becoming Virgin Sophia’s.

The word “virgin” has many connotations. In materialistic terms, we often limit our understanding of “virgin” to mean “without sexual intercourse.” But the word “virgin” can also mean “pure.” It is within this context I feel the scriptures and the images of Madonnas, Black, White and Mestizo as with The Virgin of Guadalupe appears are speaking to us. We fell through our choices so long ago in Eden. We have sullied our purity, but we can through our efforts and the Grace of God, purify ourselves.

The twelve stars we see on the Virgin’s head symbolize the wisdom of the cosmos. Notice the stars are not on her belly or at her feet, but on her head, symbolizing that such cosmic wisdom can stream into our thoughts and perceptions. Steiner tells us that our current task is to prepare our Astral bodies to meet with the Mystic Lamb, the Cosmic Christ. In the previous epoch, through the Christ Event, we were able to purify our “I”, our current epoch we are striving to purify our Astral bodies, and the next epoch we will purify our Etheric bodies, and finally our physical bodies will be purified  so we can answer that profound knock on the door ( to our fully prepared beings and our hearts) to have the Christ enter us and be one with us.

The Madonnas of our Era are inviting us to purify our Astral bodies, our sensing bodies that connect us with spirit. They show this to us through the stars on their heads, the cosmic wisdom streaming from the heavens permeating our beings, our thinking so we can be fully conscious to meet our next stage of initiation.

So how do we purify our astral bodies? By surrounding ourselves with beauty, by thinking positively, by exposing our senses to natural things, and nourishing our souls with scriptures and the arts. The purifying of our astral bodies will enable us to then in the next age, purify our etheric bodies and live heart filled loving and caring lives for our fellow human being.

Through this purification, we will be able to be containers for Christ. We will be containers of the Logos, as we see in these beautiful Icons of the Virgin Mary as the New Burning Bush, where Moses heard so long ago before the first Burning Bush “I am the I am,” we will arrive at this through what I call the ultimate great course of humanity, the Cosmic Initiation of Humanity. This is our destiny, he artistic images show us what we are capable of, invite us to continue and support us along the way. We are to work towards purifying our bodies so we too can be containers for Divinity, to be Virgin Sophias.

So, in spite of all the distractions, fill your senses with true deep beauty. Immerse yourself in Wisdom Scriptures, gaze at the stars, greet the sun, indulge in nourishing conversation, dance with abandon, smell those flowers and love with all your might. Work for justice, transform suffering into wisdom. This is how we can achieve our cosmic destiny. I for one, want to be ready.

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