A great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery. And another portent appeared in heaven; behold, a great red dragon. . . And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth; she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God. . .
Now war arose in heaven. . .and the great dragon was thrown down.
And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had borne the male child. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle that she might fly from the serpent. . .
Revelation 12: 1-6, 7-9, 13-14.
Women Who Will Change The World
Some day there will be girls and women whose name will no longer signify merely an opposite of the masculine but something in itself, something that makes one think not of any complement and limit, but only of life and existence: the feminine human being.
This advance will (at first much against the will of the outstripped men) change the love experience, which is now full of error, will alter it from the ground up, reshape it into a relation that is meant to be from one human being to another, no longer of man to woman. And this more human love (that will fulfill itself, infinitely considerate and gentle in binding and releasing) will resemble that which we are preparing with struggle and toil, that love that consists in this, that two solitudes protect and border and salute each other.
Letters to a Young Poet, R.M. Rilke1
In order to understand why this new image of Feminine Spirit is appearing within the feminine psyche, it is important to see it in the context of the times we live in. For the image of The Woman Clothed with the Sun is found within a mythic story of the death of an old order and the birth of a new one. Although Christian fundamentalists have hijacked this myth for their own purposes, they fundamentally misunderstand its purpose and influence within the Western psyche. The following is an attempt to see and understand the psychological and symbolic components of this image.
As we begin the 21st Century, humanity is confronted with the need for fundamental transformation at all levels of life. The old ways of living in and perceiving the world are no longer capable of dealing with the rapid changes and global scope of the complex problems that face us. We must evolve to meet the new needs of the times. We will have to adjust to a paradigm shift in our core beliefs and in the way we understand the world and our place it in, for we can no longer ignore our responsibility for creating the problems that face us nor can we be easily absolved of our guilt in creating them. Like God and the Devil, we have become creators, both of great good and of great evil.
Since the human psyche naturally looks for unifying images to make sense of chaos, and these fundamental changes need a return to chaos before new life can grow, our collective psyche has reanimated the apocalyptic images of Western culture, as well as Native and Eastern images, to try to make sense of current world events. The Book of Revelation is sometimes called The Apocalypse, but we have to remember that an apocalypse is an unveiling, an opening into the hidden dimensions of the Divine reality behind our mortal reality. Many people are trying to see beyond the veil, trying to understand the meaning of these times through these apocalyptic images.
The events of September 11, 2001 have become a marker for this unveiling. The Fundamentalist Christians believe it is a sign of the Second Coming, a marker on the Rapture Index. Jungian psychologist Randy Morris believes that the events of 9/11 can be seen as a revelatory experience, a visitation from “beyond the veil” to enlighten us about the state of our national consciousness and shadow.1 After September 11th, the world’s heart chakra was blown open, and for a moment, we became one world. Unfortunately, September 11th soon became the rallying point for the forces of war and imperialistic exploitation, which is symbolized by the great Dragon, but it also became a call for people of goodwill and conscience to unite in spirit and dedication to create a world of peace and prosperity and freedom for the whole world. That one moment of unity gave us a glimpse of our future.
The 2004 Tsunami in South Asia overwhelmed our psyches just as surely as the waves overwhelmed their victims, for we had never before seen such devastation from a natural disaster. It made us feel our vulnerability in the face of nature’s destructive power. It also proved that modern people are so far removed from their instincts that they actually stood on the beach and let their children play as the waters pulled back before the waves came crashing to shore. Only ancient tribal people and animals were in touch with their internal warning system, removing themselves from danger.
In the past century, uncounted people have dreamed of giant tidal waves sweeping through the land or hanging suspended in the sky. R.J.J. Tolkien called these his Atlantean dreams, feeling they were past life memories. C. G. Jung saw these dreams as harbingers of the Aquarian Age, an age in which there will be a great upsurge in the collective unconscious (symbolized by the ocean) so that the archetypal patterns that make us human can be lived out consciously. From ancient times, the image of the Age of Aquarius was seen as a deluge, an upwelling of the waters of life that brings freedom from tyranny. Like the giant tidal wave, this energy will destroy those aspects of civilization that cannot or will not give way to individual freedom. We have now experienced the reality of these dream images, and yet the archetypal image opens us to a deeper understanding of the transformations our world must undergo; not just physical changes, but the transformation of the hearts and minds and bodies of humanity. But just as the tsunami created vulnerability, it also engendered compassion and community. Once again, the world came together.
Many people live in fear of such disasters, while others call upon their bravery and determination to deal with these disasters in a courageous way. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 saw New Orleans overwhelmed by the waters, except this time, nature was abetted by human neglect of the levees that were to protect the city. Natural disasters have become commonplace, or rather, they have become common knowledge. Before our modern era, we might never have found out about the devastating tsunami in Asia, which caused more deaths than many wars. Because of modern media, we have come to realize that floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, devastating fires, mudslides, tornadoes and hurricanes have all occurred with startling regularity in the last decades of the 20th and first years of the 21st Century. Global warming is accelerating at an alarming rate, and yet our governments are slow to impose restrictions on corporate violators and individuals have been slow to take personal responsibility for conservation. Our old paradigm, which cannot encompass this emergency, makes it hard for people to take action. Only a new paradigm can. A good first step is to recognize the dangers of global warming and then get the nations of the world to join together to do something about the human causes of global warming. Good stewardship of the Earth must become part of our spiritual lives.
Then there are the equally devastating results of our failed Western economic policies that have ravaged the environment and caused a widening rift between the rich and the poor. The wars of the 20th Century and the war on terrorism that has begun the 21st Century have shown us that hatred and intolerance are still viable rallying cries to men who would rather dominate than love. Cancer and AIDS have reached epidemic proportions. Corporate scandals of corruption, vast public and private debt, violence and addictions are pervasive in Western society. The world appears to be descending into chaos. Our ego-centric Western consciousness, which tried to transcend the human condition and transform this planet into a 'safe' place, has instead brought us to the edge of destruction, both in war and in peace.
Our world is literally dying, and our corporate philosophy of conspicuous consumption, the materialistic shadow side of the Christian belief that this world is unimportant compared to our heavenly home, is the major cause of the problem. Where once religion and philosophy steered humanity towards its purpose, we now have the corporate media pounding out our glorious new purpose: to consume! After the tragedy of 9/11, President Bush called on Americans to go shopping. It only got us into more debt and now we see the bankruptcy of these policies. Our economic policies are killing off species at cataclysmic rates. We are destroying forests which might contain cures for many of our diseases and which certainly clean our polluted air. We are poisoning our waters, which is LIFE to everything on this planet. We are depleting the topsoil that grows our food. We are poisoning the land with our toxic wastes and causing mutations and birth defects in ourselves and the other species we share this planet with. We are killing ourselves! And yet, while American supermarkets, fully stocked with food that we finally realize is killing us, spring up every mile or two, millions around the world are starving to death. Yes, we are killing ourselves, but it seems that Western culture intends to kill off everyone else before it has to die itself.
The Cosmic Story of Our Times
Many people feel there is nothing we can do to change course, sure that we are headed for destruction. They turn to The Book of Revelation, or the prophesies of Nostradamus, Edgar Cayce and now 2012, and believe that the end of the world is upon us. At the same time, other people are turning to a personal spiritual path for answers to the pressing concerns in their lives. Whether people turn to non-traditional or fundamentalist religions, tarot readers or E. T. channelings, Native American, Wiccan, Western or Eastern mysticism, there is a feeling that we are approaching an End Time and the world as we know it will never be the same. If movies are any indication of collective apocalyptic fantasies, then we are projecting vast destruction coming at us from the rest of the universe.
Aside from older movies such as E.T. and Star Trek, these new stories tell us that either space rocks or exploding stars are about to destroy us or that aliens from outer space want to overwhelm us for some diabolical end. Or that 2012 will bring the total destruction of our world. But this lack of imagination cannot be overcome until we become conscious that we are caught up in fears. We see on the movie screen the projections of the fears of our primitive, reptilian brain, which is trying to overwhelm the fragile layer of civilized consciousness humanity has struggled to attain. These reptilian fears - fight or flight, them or us, life or death – are also represented by the dragon of Revelation, the regressive pull of human unconsciousness and fear, which tries to devour the heavenly Woman and her Child. The old order is aggressively trying to keep the new life that is being born from growing to maturity, because it does not want to let go of its power. But the natural laws of the earth say that all things must die, so new life can grow.
In these first years of the 21st Century, all of us must examine what we believe about life and about the future of our world, for it is our beliefs that control our behavior and allow for new possibilities . . . or not. Before we begin to create the future, we have to look at what unconscious story is shaping our present consciousness and our world, for it is always the story going on behind the scenes that shapes reality.
What story is giving shape to the chaos of our times?
Many people believe we are living in the End Times, and this belief is shaping personal values and world events. Whatever your religious beliefs, this story of the End Times affects all of us, because it has been percolating in the collective unconscious for thousands of years, lodged deep within the human psyche. We seem to be at the in-between time, a time when the old tide is going out and the new is beginning to come in, so there are tidal eddies. As we shift out of the perspective of the religious Piscean Age and into the more secular Age of Aquarius, the still powerful influence of the old religious myths have to be understood if we are to come through this time of chaos and change to create a new reality. Perhaps this test of getting through the End Times is the only way for humanity to grow up and realize we are meant to be conscious spiritual beings, and that we can either create heaven here on Earth or destroy life on this planet.
The Hopi Prophecies
There are many End Time stories from many different cultures. The Hopi prophecies speak of the emergence of a new world. The Hopi Indians are the Record Keepers of the Native Americans. The Hopis call this time in history The Fourth Age of Man. According to them, the earth has been wiped clean three times already. The first time was by Fire; the second time was by Ice; the third, most recent, time was by the Flood, approximately 11,000-12,000 years ago. According to the Hopis, we are about to enter The Fifth Age called "The World of Illumination". But before this world can emerge, we will have to go through a purification in which we will be tested to see if we can make a leap in consciousness. This purification is meant to bring us into balance and peace. We will all be asked to choose our path: the path of greed and comfort and profit, or the path of love and strength and balance. The Hopi Prophecy Rock at Oraibi shows the ‘two-hearted’ people, people who think with their heads instead of their hearts. It is talking about us! Many native prophecies call for the rebirth of Feminine Spirit to heal the land, and many Native elders point to the birth of two white buffaloes in the last decade as an indication that White Buffalo Woman – the Great Mother goddess – is watching over us in this time of purification. If our left-brain society, which is oriented to a masculine consciousness of individuality and rationality, and lives in the head, continues to reject the heart – which is feminine and knows by intuition and feeling – then the purification will become self-destruction. But if we heal ourselves and think with our hearts, the world of illumination will be born.2 This new world can be likened to the Woman Clothed with the Sun's child of Revelation.
2012 and the Mayan Prophecies
There are other prophecies that speak of the changing of the Ages. The one people are talking about is based on the Mayan calendar. The Maya had an incredible understanding of time. Many Westerns have heard that the Mayan calendar is coming to an end; in fact, we are in the last few years of the calendar. There is a perception that this means that the end of the world is coming in the year 2012, but this is misleading and once again shows a very Western perception of the ending of things. We don't value cycles.
The Mayans tracked cycles within cycles within cycles of time. Their calendar acted as a harmonic calibrator, linking and coordinating the earthly, lunar, solar and galactic seasons. The calendar says that a rare astronomical and mythical event will occur on the Winter Solstice of 2012. On that day, there will be a cosmic alignment between the Earth, Sun, the Pleiades star cluster and the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, called by the Maya the Sacred Tree. On December 21, 2012, the sun will rise at the center of this Sacred Tree, the womb of the Milky Way galaxy, which represents the World Tree and the Tree of Life. On that day, the Maya predict that all the diverse cycles will simultaneously turn over and start again, vibrating to a new era. It might even symbolize the end of a Great Year, the 26,000 year cycle that spans the whole zodiac. This alignment with the center of the Milky Way galaxy will supposedly align Earth with the spiritual intentions of the rest of the galaxy, as well as bringing these placements into alignment with the constellation of the Pleiades, the crown chakra of the galaxy. While some people believe world-shattering destruction awaits us, the symbolism also tells us that we will receive divine guidance and wisdom. While this myth does not relieve us of the duty to solve the problems we have created for ourselves, it does say that we will have the help of cosmic energy to create a new world.(3) As Gregg Braden says:
our ancestors left us everything we need to meet the challenges of a great
world age. It's not only about cycles. It's about our ability to recognize
patterns and where we are within the cycles. While quantum scientists tell us
that we can never predict an exact future, what we can predict are cyclic
probabilities for the future. This is precisely what the existence of repeating
cycles of time demonstrates. Each time a cycle appears it repeats the general
conditions that make something possible, rather than a precise outcome. Just as
the conditions in Earth's atmosphere can create the perfect environment for a
tornado without ever actually forming one, time's cycles can bring together all
of the circumstances that led to an event in history, without that event
occurring again in the present.
The key here is that the ingredients for a repetition are present and the situation is "primed." The way those conditions play out, however, is determined by the choices that we make in life. The beauty of such an understanding is that along with the moments in our time that are ripe for war, suffering, and chaos, we can also pinpoint the moments in our future that are ripe for peace, success and stability.
If we know where we are in a cycle, then we know what to expect when it repeats.
To know in advance where our choices can have the greatest impact tips the scales in our favor as we complete the cycle that holds our well being and, ultimately our survival, in the balance. And that is the beauty of Fractal Time. Because the rhythms and patterns of nature tell us precisely when we can expect the repeating cycles of the past, they also tell us when we have the greatest opportunity to change the hurtful and destructive patterns of the past-the choice points-that create the new cycles of life!
The Precession of the Astrological Ages
The ancient Greeks believed in the changing of the Aion, a change that is brought about by the precession of the zodiac, which is caused by the wobble of the Earth’s axis. This precession causes the vernal (spring) equinox point to slightly shift against the backdrop of the constellations through time: this point, which moves backwards through the constellations, is now at the end of the constellation of Pisces and is moving into the constellation of Aquarius, the water-bearer, who pours out a stream of water into a fish’s mouth. Each age, a period of about 2100 years, brings in a different vibration and energy, reflecting the evolution of human consciousness. As one age ends and another begins; there is a time of transition, when the energies of both ages mix, causing confusion until things settle down. According to this theory, we are living in such a time.
Ray Grasse, in his book on the astrological ages, Signs of the Times,4 gives examples of these astrological Ages, past, present and future. The character of each age is defined by the celestial mythology of the zodiac.
The Age of Taurus (an Earth sign) 4200-2100 BCE, was the age of monumental earthworks and construction. These Taurean builders achieved an astonishing mastery of matter that has proved durable (like Taurus) down through the ages. We are still in awe of the Great Pyramid and Stonehenge, which date from this age. During the age of Taurus the bull was symbolically worshiped as the Egyptian bull-god Apis, as the golden calf of Moses, and by Poseidon’s white bull who fathered the Minotaur in Crete. The Great Goddess was worshiped in Egypt as Hathor the Golden Cow. The Earth was sacred and people knew that their prosperity, fertility and very life depended on the Earth.
The Age of Aries (a Fire sign) 2100BCE -1AD, was the age of the warriors from Greece, Persia, India and Israel. The Great Ram was worshiped in Egypt as well as in Israel. The Golden Fleece was sought by Jason and the Argonauts. This was the age of the hero, and of the awakening of self-awareness that gave form to individual ego consciousness (just like the sign of Aries, which represents the search for self identity). As the inner consolidation of the human ego took place, outer empires rose and fell. This was the beginning of the rise of monotheistic religions. Aries’ cry of “I am” is echoed in the name of the Jewish God Yahweh “I am that I am”.
We are now at the end of the Age of Pisces (a Water sign),1 - 2100AD, called the Age of Faith, which uses the symbolism of water in its religious beliefs: baptism, walking on water, changing water into wine. The symbolism of the fishes of Pisces was taken over by the early Christians when they used the sign of the fish to indicate Christ, the fishermen who became apostles, and the eating of fish (the sacred food) on Friday. Jesus Christ became the god-image of the Piscean Age. At its best, this Age taught humanity to relate to the divine and to the world in a more emotional way, adding a new element of compassion and faith to society. The world of the imagination also became important, both in religious experience and in art. Since the sign consists of two fishes swimming in opposite directions, the negative side of the Piscean Age ushered in dogmatism and persecution in religion. As a sign concerned with matters of faith, this was an age of religious extremes and intolerance. Many believed that suffering and guilt (Piscean qualities) were synonymous with spirituality. It was an age of neurosis, martyrdom and sado-masochism as well as an age in which humanity was learning to transcend the ego and surrender personal desires in service to higher ideals. The water element at its most refined is concerned with the principles of sacrifice (to make sacred), nurturing, worship and devotion. Not my will but Thine. The Piscean Age brought a sense of inwardness, a sense of personal conscience and moral responsibility to the human experience.
The Age of Aquarius, (an Air Sign) 2100-4200AD, is upon us. Aquarius will be more concerned with Ideals than feelings - an age of the awakening of the Mind and its vast potentials, as well as the urge for true freedom. We experienced a preview of what this new age will be like when Uranus, the planet that rules Aquarius, transited through Aquarius from 1996-2003. The giant advances in technology and research, especially in the fields of information and communication, are the first step to creating a unified world. The idea of a global village springs from it. The brilliance of the Aquarian mind reflects the working of the Cosmic Mind. Mental telepathy and other unexplored talents of the human mind will probably be at our disposal. In terms of religious beliefs, there will hopefully be tolerance and the knowledge that all paths lead to Spirit. Hopefully too, science and spirituality will work together to bring us to our human potential. Carl Jung saw the Age of Aquarius as an age when the Archetypes are lived consciously by humanity. There is the possibility that if we can stand up for our ideals now when the world seems so dark, we might usher in a golden age of consciousness, of equality and creativity, of law and justice, unseen in these previous ages. But there is always a shadow side to everything, and so our ideals must be grounded in reality and never taken to extremes, such as forcing our ideals on others or trying to ‘create’ perfect human beings. Aquarius’ shadow can turn idealism into fanaticism and judgment.
The End: A Final Death or The Chance For Rebirth
These stories of the End Times speak of a great change that is somehow pre-ordained. The question is: do we have to go through a time of literal suffering, physical death and destruction, or can we make the transition easier by changing ourselves? If we are indeed at the End Times, we are in the death aspect of the cycle of Life. When we study the environment, we can see this cycle at work: gestation, birth, growth, maturity, producing new seeds and death. Our Western perception of life is that death is the end. But endings are deceiving, because even though something is dying, a transformation is going on, and you can be sure that something else is being born. It appears that humanity is being called upon to 'die' to an old order, an old consciousness. As would be expected in such a materialistic culture as our own, we have projected that death outside ourselves. It is being embodied - both in our own bodies and in the earth's body. What we haven't understood is that this death has to happen on a deep psychological level within each person, just as it is happening in the collective unconscious or the World Soul. If it is true that the inner and outer worlds are reflections of each other, than what we are seeing is how destitute Western culture and consciousness have become. It is a killing mentality and it is killing itself. If we are to get through this death to new life, we must face these End Times with the knowledge that it is a call to action, not despair. Only in facing this death honestly and openly will we be able to bring about transformation and new life for ourselves and for our world.
The chaos of this death can give birth to a leap in consciousness, an awareness that we are all one, and that we have the source of our being here on our mother Earth. Our individual and collective purpose has to be to get through these End Times and to become the cornerstone for a new age of peace. As has happened in the past, it will be the 'rejected cornerstone' that the prophet Isaiah spoke of, the voiceless ones - women, people of color, the trees, the waters, the air, the children - those aspects of our culture that are devalued by collective consciousness, that will be the foundation stone of this new vision of life. We need to understand that the power of compassion and a loving heart can bring about peace and change in the world, for in the most essential ways, we are truly all one, which is the ultimate lesson of the Piscean Age. We have the seeds of this new life within us.
Before we can go out to colonize the starry heavens, we must become a responsible race here on earth. If we cannot face and clean up our own toxicity, both individually and collectively, perhaps we will not be 'permitted' to go beyond the borders of our own solar system. C.S. Lewis once wrote about earth as The Silent Planet5, the one planet in the solar system that was barred from communication with the rest of creation because our 'Eldil' or ruling spirit, Lucifer the fallen one, refused to recognize his place in the cosmic order. Before we can know our place in the cosmic order, before we can truly know that 'we are all one' and that we are part of one world, we have to deal with our demons, we have to look at our shadows. We have to face death, if we are to go on to new life. We have to come up against the End Times and discover a new cosmology, a new story about creation and our place in it.
Other cultures view the End Times as a time of purification and rebirth. These same themes can be found in the End Time visions of the three major Western religions of the Book (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), which also have many things in common. The Jews wait for their Messiah, who will lead them to victory over their oppressors and set up a kingdom of justice. Islam believes that the Mahdi, their Messiah figure, will return and bring about the final judgment at the last day: those who are sinful will suffer in a physical fire, while the blessed will have physical pleasure and happiness. Christians also believe in a last battle between good and evil and a last judgment, when the evil ones will be cast into Hell for eternity and the Chosen ones will be given their New Jerusalem. There is a common theme in these beliefs that (1) some people will be Chosen, and that (2) there will be a battle between good and evil. To be chosen implies that others are not chosen. And there is an innate cruelty in the battles between good and evil, so that the ‘chosen’ people come out looking just as vicious as the ‘evil’ people. These stories are very much male visions of the world. It is interesting that in most apocalyptic visions, women play such a small part. My guess is that women didn't have much of a say in passing on those visions.
Christianity's End Time Story: The Book of Revelation
Christianity has given us its own vision of these End Times in the Book of Revelation. The Revelation of St. John the Divine6 is written in the tradition of Jewish apocalyptic thought, which has its roots in the conquest of the Israelites in 586 B.C, when the Babylonians, under the famous King Nebuchadnezzar, conquered the city of Jerusalem and destroyed Solomon's Temple. This Babylonian Exile made the Jewish people rethink their religious and political history for all time. Following in this tradition, both Jesus and John the Baptist believed they were living in the End Times and expected the manifestation of the kingdom of God. The Book of Revelation, the last book of the Christian Bible, speaks to that belief. Believed to have been written by Jesus’ disciple, John, the son of Zebedee, while he was exiled by the Romans on the island of Patmos in the last years of the 1st Century, it is a visionary book full of astrological symbols and Jewish apocalyptic prophecies that speaks of the end of the age and God’s judgment of the world. The images and symbols have fascinated and terrified people throughout the ages. The images of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are well known to most of us - for war, plague, famine and death are most definitely part of our world. A literal reading of the book shows a vision of judgment and punishments and destruction except for the chosen few. A symbolic reading can be a guide to self-understanding and transformation, for this book can be understood as a story of our collective Christian shadow as well as the possibility of evolving to a higher state of conscious spirituality.
The American Christian fundamentalist version of the End Times has a very powerful influence on American politics today. Besides a literal belief in the events described in the Book of Revelation, these fundamentalists believe in a doctrine called dispensationalism, formulated by two 19th Century American preachers. This doctrine states that Israel must exist as a nation to play a key role in bringing about the end of the present age, the ‘rapture’ of the chosen ones and the second coming of Christ. Bill Moyers, in a January 30, 20057 article, describes the essence of their beliefs. “Once Israel has occupied the rest of its "biblical lands," legions of the antichrist will attack it, triggering a final showdown in the valley of Armageddon. As the Jews who have not been converted are burned, the messiah will return for the rapture. True believers will be lifted out of their clothes and transported to Heaven, where, seated next to the right hand of God, they will watch their political and religious opponents suffer plagues of boils, sores, locusts and frogs during the several years of tribulation that follow.” Mr. Moyers has reported that these Christian fundamentalists “are sincere, serious and polite as they tell you they feel called to help bring the rapture on as fulfillment of biblical prophecy. That's why they have declared solidarity with Israel and the Jewish settlements and backed up their support with money and volunteers. It's why the invasion of Iraq for them was a warm-up act, predicted in the Book of Revelation where four angels "which are bound in the great river Euphrates will be released to slay the third part of man." A war with Islam in the Middle East is not something to be feared but welcomed -- an essential conflagration on the road to redemption. The last time I googled it, the rapture index stood at 144 -- just one point below the critical threshold when the whole thing will blow, the son of God will return, the righteous will enter Heaven and sinners will be condemned to eternal hellfire.”
The Christian End Time story can give rise to despair and hopelessness, for who amongst us is perfect enough to be one of the 'righteous remnant’, those who are chosen to live in the New Jerusalem with God as their constant companion? In other End Time stories, everyone goes through the change together. To avert disaster, people have to take responsibility for saving the world. In the Christian version, if you are not one of the saved, you will die painfully and burn in hell for eternity. Is it any wonder that after all these centuries of hearing this story we fear death? And yet, other cultures have not feared death as we do.
Other cultures saw death as a doorway to new life. Jesus Christ showed us this truth with his Resurrection – the promise that we are more than our bodies and that our souls live on. Nature also shows us that the cycle of life includes death, which in turn leads to a rebirth. We are the children of Mother Earth and therefore subject to Her laws. This is the knowledge that Wisdom offers us. Just look at the turning of the seasons or the cycle of the moon. Rebirth is part of our DNA coding. It must be, for we are children of the Earth, and Earth Herself has not cut us off from her blessings, even if we imagine we have left Her far behind.
The Return of Wisdom: The Woman Clothed With the Sun
There is an image in the Book of Revelation, often ignored by Christian fundamentalists, which I consider very important to this issue of the End Times. It is the image of the Woman Clothed with the Sun. She is the pivot point, the crux of the matter. For she gives birth to the Divine Child, and afterwards, the war in heaven against the dragon and his legions brings about a new heaven and a new earth. Amidst death and destruction, a new birth. A birth which is not without peril, for the dragon, the deadly pull of the old order, the inertia of unconsciousness that is so much a part of human nature, will be waiting to swallow up this new being. It is this image of Conscious Woman that speaks to me when I imagine the purpose and power of women today.
Now a great portent appeared in heaven: a Woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant, and in labor, crying aloud in the pangs of childbirth.
Revelation, 12: 1-2.
This is the image of a Goddess, yet She is also a Woman. It is also an image we first saw that day in July 1969 when the first men landed on the moon and sent us pictures of Earth, hanging above the moon, surrounded by the stars. We saw another version of this image in the heavens on June 8, 2004 when the planet Venus passed in front of the sun, for Venus/Aphrodite, who represents the power of love and connectedness, is also an image of this Woman. This Woman is Goddess, Earth and Woman, and all three are laboring to bring forth Life for all people and for the planet. She is clothed in Light, for Light banishes the darkness of injustice, unconsciousness and ignorance. She has Her standpoint on the Moon, the regulator of earthly rhythms and tides and the eye of the Unconscious. And She is crowned with twelve stars, which represent the twelve zodiacal signs that symbolize the archetypal human journey toward consciousness, wholeness and wisdom. It is a most painful and dangerous journey, yet like labor, once begun it will not stop until it has run its course. The Woman cries out in anguish, for the convulsions of birth are overwhelming. The Child She is giving birth to wants to be born. And She is birthing something awesome and something new, otherwise the dragon would not try to destroy Her and Her Child. This Child is what the Christian theologian Matthew Fox calls the Cosmic Christ, the awakening to our own divinity, as well as the honoring of our humanity. Meister Eckhart, one of the great creation-centered mystics of our own Western spiritual tradition, celebrates the divine presence in all of creation.
There is only one birth - and this birth takes place in the being and in the ground and core of the soul. . . Not only is the Son of the heavenly Creator born in this darkness - but you too are born there as a child of the same heavenly Creator and none other. And the Creator extends this same power to you out of the divine maternity bed located in the Godhead to eternally give birth. . . .The fruitful person gives birth out of the very same foundation from which the Creator begets the eternal Word. It is from this core that one becomes fruitfully pregnant. 8
This is the Child being birthed by the Woman in these times by every conscious individual. This is the Child of our creative vision for a different future. It is said that this Child will rule with a rod of iron. Iron can represent fetters and hardness, or it can represent strength and firmness. Perhaps if the Woman can raise her child herself, and teach him the gifts of feminine spirit to complement those of masculine spirit he gets from the Father, he will become a man of spirit, strength and purpose, as will the world they create together.
This Woman calls all women to their destiny. It is a time for women to reclaim their ancient powers and wisdom as we deal with the anxieties of these apocalyptic times. These are the powers of inner sight and vision, of empathy and healing. These powers have always come from women's connection with the Earth, and as women re-discover their own spiritual power, it is not surprising that they return to an earth-based, body-based spirituality. The Feminine Spirit is the archetypal energy of the incarnation of Spirit. This energy wants to bring spirit down into life; it is concerned with the spiritualization of matter, with the knowledge that all created things and beings are full of spirit, consciousness and life force, just as our quantum physicists are proving. We cannot afford to believe that this world is an illusion and that our true rewards lie in some heavenly paradise reserved for the Elect. It is this very idea that has led us into the trouble we now find ourselves in.
The Heavenly Woman
So who is this Woman – goddess and energy – and why is she important in these times? For the Roman Catholic Church, the many appearances of Mary in the past century have led church officials to proclaim this the 'Marian Age'. Mary, the Mother of God, has reappeared to remind our rational age that we need to turn to the Spirit if we are to get through this End Time. One of the first appearances of Our Lady, as millions of Roman Catholics speak of her, was to a French nun in 1830. Her visions were of Mary standing on the globe of the world with stars surrounding Her head. A great light shone from Her, and rays of many-colored lights came from many rings on Her hands. These were the graces that She promised to shower on anyone who asked for Her help.9 This image, so close to that of the Woman from Revelation, has brought many Catholics back to a connection to the Divine Spirit. The Church also believes that this next age will be the Age of the Holy Spirit, when divine blessings flow to humanity.
The Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, is the form the Goddess has taken during the Christian era. Many women who are trying to reconnect with their inner goddess have rejected Mary as 'nothing but' a patriarchal image of the perfect mother and obedient servant. But throughout the history of the Catholic Church, Mary has taken on most of the aspects of the ancient Goddess. As the Queen of Heaven, She became the Co-Redemptress with her Son, and served as Mediator between God and humanity.
Deathless, pure, and by inference, without sin of any kind; at home in the courts of heaven, no mere spirit but body and soul complete; an ever-active intercessor and comforter; a friend of individual mortals, close at hand in their earthly pilgrimage. . .10
Such is the Virgin Mary, the Merciful and Sorrowing Mother of all humanity. In many ways, Mary is the Crone aspect of the Goddess, the spiritual mother and virgin who mediates between life and death. And yet, she is most truly a human woman. The Church took away her human sexuality, and that is the split that women have to heal, for to be 'no mere spirit but body and soul complete' entails the reclaiming of our bodies as temples of the spirit.
Men have a great fear of the body’s instincts and they have created religions to help them tame those instincts. Unfortunately, they have projected those fears onto women, who are much more in touch with the body’s instincts. Since Christianity split the Feminine into Virgin Mother and Scarlet Woman of Mystery, we now have to heal the virgin/whore split in the Western psyche. And the image of the Woman Clothed with the Sun heals this split by making the instincts of the body, and Earth’s natural laws, conscious. To be clothed with the sun is to make the natural rhythms of the lunar life of the body/Earth conscious; to be clothed with the sun is to be crowned with the stars of spiritual consciousness.
Wisdom's Daughters: The Conscious Feminine
So what is the role of women, and feminine consciousness, during these chaotic times? What do women have to offer to the 'new world order' that has arisen in the last decades? If we are not to establish it on the basis of the old masculine dominator belief system, what new birth must women mother into being? The image of the Woman Clothed with the Sun is Lady Wisdom, the anima mundi. It has also been attributed to Mary, the World Mother. I believe that it can be attributed to all the faces of the many goddesses from around the world. And I believe that if one woman gave birth to the 'Son of God', then all women have the potential to be the Mother of the Savior. It is this potential that I want to explore.
My dream of the wounded lion, the tidal wave and the voice that spoke to me of a new birth of the Savior has been a guiding light to me through the years. The images created order out of the chaos of my changing life. I go back to these images again and again, and I always find that they have something new to teach me. Soon after that dream, I moved to that town by the sea, and I experienced the ebb and flow of the tides and the moon, and I was called upon to nurture and mother the creative potential of many people there. That's were I learned to become one of Wisdom's Daughters.
Like my dream of giving birth to the Savior, women are dreaming and then manifesting this Wisdom in their lives. The New Feminine is appearing with great power in the dreams of modern women and men. These ancient archetypal images are alive and well and living in the collective unconscious of humanity. They want to incarnate in us and so they come to us through dreams and visions.
The Woman Clothed with the Sun is an image of what Marion Woodman calls Conscious Femininity. She redeems and births a new consciousness on a collective human level. It is an image of Lady Wisdom, a consciousness of human and divine love and will. It is a consciousness of the sacredness of life and of our essential place as stewards of the paradise our Creator has given us. The Earth is also this Woman, and we, Her human children, are embodiments of Her consciousness. She calls upon us to know ourselves, to become conscious of our instincts and emotions, to understand ourselves as earthly beings as well as spiritual beings. It is time to stop rejecting this earthly life out of fear and guilt. It is time to let our knowing support our being.
During the years ahead, we will need to reckon with our collective unconscious, the World Soul, or anima mundi. We need a story, a cosmology, to help us understand the chaos of our world. But we first need to look at the ancient stories and myths that are the formative elements of Western culture. Our whole history calls to us in these stories of the end of an Age. The collective unconscious of our many diverse backgrounds has been chewing on these images and producing many more in an attempt to understand what these times call for. What is the psychic model necessary to take an evolutionary leap in consciousness?
C. G. Jung said that the god-images that have shaped our ancient and modern psyches have been reduced to psychological processes, and we are marked with their spirit. In struggling to attain this new consciousness and our place in the scheme of things, we have to re-examine and re-imagine what our stories and our values are, and live them out in fullness of spirit as responsible adults - freely choosing our life, not moving through it at the mercy of big business, government bureaucracy, religious control and modern media techniques.
The idea of a conscious Earth is not new or even so far-fetched. Most cultures at one time had a reverence for, and the knowledge of, the ways of Nature. The Earth was The Goddess, the great mother of us all. But we seem to have forgotten this, for we have chosen to live in our heads and in our rationality for a long time now. And the Goddess retreated into the Unconscious, and was only remembered by the rejected and the downtrodden. But the extreme degradation of the Earth and of women has finally been recognized, and as our culture began to protect and defend both the Earth and women, the Goddess has returned once more to consciousness and is giving birth to new life, for that is the purpose of the Feminine aspect of Spirit. This time, the return of the Goddess is as an equal partner to the God, not the ancient Great Mother nor Patriarchal Father, but Man and Woman united.
If we are to see a rebirth of consciousness and of culture, we need women to mother it into being as well as men to father it. Women who are conscious of their own womanly gifts and consciousness, women whose gifts are of life and of the Spirit. Women can give birth to new dimensions of consciousness, ones that are based in the intuitive and imaginative functions of the human psyche. These are the wings of the eagle that the Woman receives in Revelation. The eagle symbolizes the spiritual intellect, or Lady Wisdom. It is an image of the balance of vision and understanding that we all need to attain if we are to do our soul work. Lady Wisdom wants to incarnate in our hearts. Women everywhere are standing up and speaking out our wisdom. For it is time to wed imagination to intellect in a new renaissance of Spirit. To create a truly democratic society, we must recognize and respect the Feminine Spirit as an equal co-creator with the Masculine Spirit.
Because women's experiences have differed from that of men, it is important that women define our own understanding of Feminine Spirit. Men also use both imagination and intellect, but women experience it differently, and that difference is what must be recognized and honored, by both men and women. Just as our external characteristics are different and yet complementary, so too our inner knowing, which is honed by differing outer experiences, will be different, but once again, complementary. Therefore, while I speak of women's knowledge, it does not mean that it will be foreign to men, for the feminine soul in men is developing and speaking to them. But this knowledge comes from a vision of the world that springs from feminine consciousness and a woman's experience.
Growing up into womanhood in the second half of the 20th century has been a hard, yet often exciting, undertaking - hard because, in breaking out of the old stereotypes, women are confronted with the old negative images of who and what we are supposed to be as defined by the patriarchy, as well as having to contend with the anger that arises when we finally find our own strength and power. Hard because women have been left alone to raise children in a world that refuses to see and meet them in their truth. Most of the people living at poverty level in the United States are single mothers and their children. Woman Alone within our patriarchal system is just struggling to survive. What has been exciting is that, where this struggle has not produced devastating hopeless, women are developing the capacity to stand on their own resources as free and independent individuals. It seems we have to experience not being free within to truly learn to live in freedom. Since freedom cannot be dictated, it has to be experienced and learned. And that is what women are doing – learning to be free in the world and in our relationships.
We are growing into an independence of mind and spirit that not many women have achieved in the past. On the one hand, we have done this by our struggle to receive equal rights in society. We have accomplished this by trying to fit ourselves into the patriarchal model. We have learned how to think rationally, to orient ourselves to business and finance, to live and teach the moral codes of the culture. We have clothed ourselves with the sun of individuality and rational consciousness. But because of our cultural training, we have built up an ego-consciousness that is basically one-sided, like our dependence on masculine, rational left-brain functioning. We have become Father's Daughters. So many women are finding their freedom by looking within, as well as back to our ancient heritage, to discover the potentials inherent in the feminine aspects of spirit. It is the possibilities that these potentials offer women that can lead to true freedom. As women look to these feminine models, we are re-discovering the goddess images that have been repressed within our psyches. As we remember and reclaim our feminine spiritual heritage, we regain a true knowledge of ourselves as women.
Looking Back To The Future
Because we are facing the End Times, we are standing on a frontier between the old and the new. From here we can see the possibilities of what being a free and conscious woman might entail, because frontiers are those boundaries we cross over in the hope of finding something new, something unknown. We discover these unknown possibilities not only for ourselves, but also for our men, our daughters and our sons, and for the future of our planet.
It is sometimes necessary to look at something greater than ourselves to find the images of who we might become. This involves a change of perspective. Joseph Campbell spoke of the power of myth to give us "clues to the spiritual potentialities of the human life."11 Myths are the Big Stories that help us understand our experience of being alive, by opening our imaginations and moving us forward in our lives. When we look to the stories of the ancient goddesses, we begin to understand that these goddesses were the guardians of the transformative mysteries of birth, death and rebirth. So when women open up to this meeting with the unknown parts of ourselves, we re-discover our ancient function as mediators of transformation.
When we look beyond our humanness to a more universal Feminine Spirit, we can begin to imagine the place and powers of women in the world. Many women have turned to the ancient images of the Goddess to reclaim a sense of their own wholeness. This Goddess wears many faces and She tells women that we can be many things and take on many shapes. It is never 'either...or' with Her, but 'this and also that.'
And yet, we cannot go back and worship these ancient images as our fore-mothers did. We have to reclaim them by experiencing where they are operating in our lives unconsciously and naming them, thereby transforming them into consciously lived spirit. We have to engage the Goddess in new ways, because this age we live in demands equality between God and Goddess, male and female, such as the Celts seemed able to manifest in their culture and spirituality. This new orientation to the feminine, earthy, instinctual aspects of life is emerging in the collective unconscious through dreams and fantasies, as well as in collective consciousness through environmental and social concerns, for the Earth has shared the fate of her daughters in being defiled and devalued for centuries.
The development of Western ego-consciousness and our patriarchal model of culture repressed the Goddess, and the feminine consciousness that She represents. Perhaps this was caused by the fear of the Feminine and its power – for it is powerful! Women partake naturally of the transformative mystery by shedding blood each month, which in turn leads to new life. Men have never been able to do this, except when they created rituals to mimic this mysterious shedding of blood that brings new life – usually at great loss of life to animals and people who were sacrificed by them! Or in the end, perhaps the Goddess was repressed because it was the time of Her descent into the Underworld, the time of the dark of the moon when Goddess energy is hidden from sight so it can be renewed.
With the repression of the Goddess and its effect on the status of women came a devaluation of the feminine, symbolic mode of consciousness. In accepting the domination of rational consciousness, we have all been deprived of the wisdom that an imaginal, intuitive consciousness brings to our lives. This type of consciousness is a way of perceiving through images and stories, dreams and visions. It speaks to the heart, not to the head. Matthew Fox, the Anglican theologian, calls it our 'mystical brain' and believes that its suppression is the underlying cause of unbalance in Western civilization.
A crucial dimension of this imbalance in the West is the stunted growth of our mystical awareness and the underdevelopment of our mystical brain. Our brains are amazingly complex creations of time, nature, and divinity. Part of what we know about the brain is that the right and left hemispheres perform different tasks. The left lobe accomplishes analytic and verbal processes for us, and the right lobe accomplishes the synthetic, sensual, and mystical tasks. Western civilization, which dominates the globe today, has invested almost exclusively in left-lobe processes in education, politics, economics, and religion.12
Right-brain thinking is associated with feminine consciousness. By exploring the image of the Woman Clothed with the Sun through images and stories, I hope to show what this consciousness is and how it works, because this is how women naturally envision life. You may have noticed that I quoted five men in describing Feminine Spirit and consciousness. Men can and do engage in right-brain thinking. They also know the Feminine Spirit, whose name is Wisdom. Men have been lovers of Lady Wisdom: so many of our greatest teachers, thinkers and mystics have been men who have seen with this mystic vision truths about life and the cosmos. I believe that it is time for women to incarnate this new vision of Feminine Spirit, which means walking in the path of Wisdom. When we do, women will shine in this area of human consciousness, but we have to name it, reclaim it and value it for ourselves. It is time for the feminine imagination to come alive again.
Birthing a New Heaven and a New Earth
The Woman Clothed with the Sun offers us an image of Feminine Spirit that conveys embodiment, consciousness, imagination and spirituality, and the willingness to suffer through the journey it takes to reclaim these gifts. Women need to discover images that mirror the new understanding we have of ourselves, and which give us clues to the purpose of this labor we've undertaken, so we own the gifts that all the suffering and loneliness and joy that this journey of self-knowledge brings us. This purpose is the birth of the Divine Child, for it is the gift of new life itself that we are asked to birth. The Woman of Revelation brings lasting values and a cosmology that can unite us to ourselves and to the rest of the universe. We are Her daughters and our task is Her task. She calls us to our true Selves, to our Wisdom, and offers us an image of who we might become, just as Christ, the Buddha and Quetzalcoatl have been images of Masculine Spirit which have shaped the very best character in men.
This new archetypal Feminine Spirit expresses the power and purpose of women in these transformational times. This Cosmic Woman delineates women’s purpose in our times – to give birth to a new consciousness and use our wisdom to help the world. She shows women who they might become and the reason for their quest for freedom and consciousness at this time in our human history. The fact that this figure is found in a story of the End Times gives women a focus and responsibility for their inner journey. It places them front and center in the mythic story of our times. As women come to understand and incarnate the gifts Lady Wisdom bestows, they will foster change in society as well as help men come to trust and allow for the growth of these same gifts within themselves.
In re-imagining the feminine spirit for our times, new pathways open up for women to explore. The understanding of imaginal, feminine consciousness can help us own our innermost feelings and intuitions. I feel that women should own their feminine potentials, potentials that are rooted in our womanly bodies. Our capacity for literal childbearing does not necessarily tie us down to one biological function. The wisdom that our bodies incorporate can be the basis of other types of creativity and consciousness. We are daughters of Mother Earth as well as Lady Wisdom, and we have a share in Her gifts of creativity and diversity. We need to look to Her as our teacher.
We are made in the image of this Woman, who is clothed with the Sun, who stands on the Moon, and whose crown is the Starry Heavens. Her powers are the powers of transformation, and they are the creative powers of love and union. These are the gifts of Lady Wisdom. When She appears to us and in us, She brings a renewed connection to spirit and to soul. Many women are learning to trust their intuition, to examine and act on their feelings, and to reconnect with their Inner Guides, and it is helping us deal consciously and wisely with our lives. If our souls are awake, we have a connection to the Divine Spirit that continually creates the cosmos, and we can find there the meaning of our lives and our place in that creation.
The new consciousness which is birthed can lead all of us to the creation of a 'new heaven and a new earth'. The fears of the millennium are the projections of our own shadows. The horrors of war, plague and earth changes have to be faced by the world working together. But they also have to be face by each individual. For many Christians, the most horrifying image from Revelation has always been the image of the Anti-Christ. We can look outside for a specific person to be this Anti-Christ, or we can look within ourselves and at our own culture. Perhaps the real Anti-Christ is our Western corporate culture as it has developed over the past 500 years. It has become a culture that has lost touch with Soul. As our scientific and economic world-view took over the cosmology of Christianity, it left us a life without meaning. As the Church condemned the sinfulness of the body and the Earth, it created the Anti-Christ of rampant materialism and loss of soul. It is the other side, or Dark Twin, of Christianity.
As we deal with this 'loss of soul' in our individual lives, we are dealing with Anti-Christ, who is the spirit that embodies a consciousness that is against ‘Christ consciousness’, which is love. As we reclaim our connection with the Feminine Spirit, we are re-awakening our human potential to receive grace and blessings and that love which Christ preached. For each of us can embody the Second Coming of Christ. With the help of the Spirit, we can give birth to a truly new world order, one blessed by the partnership and creativity of men and women of consciousness and spirit. It is time to see that our fears of annihilation are really a lack of imagination. Once we understand the divine laws of Nature, and of our feminine natures, the power of the Imagination can give us the answers to our most pressing problems. Then we can create a world of peace and unity where all of us can partake of the blessings and grace of human life here on Earth.
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