The Radiant Child

Posted August 19, 2009 by Chris
Categories: child archetype

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Mystic teachings are multi-layered.  They tend to transform and take on new meaning as we go through progressive initiations.  “Gnosis” is a Greek word meaning “knowledge”.  There is another layer of meaning, which is “personal knowledge of God.”  (Many early Christians believed, because Christ taught it, that one could know [“gno”] God without the need for intervening clergy.  For this reason they were labeled “Gnostics” and declared heretical by the burgeoning church establishment.)  Below this second level of understanding, lies the knowledge that our knowing is possible because we too are divine.  Below that lies the realization that the universe is one entity – everything is one.  Finally we come to the experience- the gnosis, of being one, in which the mind finally finally dissolves and allows us to feel the oneness that we have heretofore only comprehended.

 Lately, I’ve been reading The Gospel of Judas.  This is yet another Gostic text, discovered almost forty years ago in the Egyptian desert, but only translated and released in this century.  For me the most fascinating line in the text occurs almost at the beginning.  Speaking about Jesus, it says: 

 “Frequently, however, he would not reveal himself to his disciples but you would find him in their midst as a child.”

 You probably remember that in the traditional gospels, Jesus mentions children at least twice; first welcoming them into his presence and then telling  his followers that they must change and become like children to understand him.  The Gnostic gospels from Nag Hammadi also contain many references like this.  Several biblical and apocryphal stories exist about Jesus as a child including the one of his magical birth. 

 The radiant Divine Child is an archetype common to many cultures, stories and myths.  The Child Archetype is a pattern related to the hope and promise of new beginnings.  Fairy tales are full of both children and symbols of the child, such as most flower and circle related images like the golden ring and the golden ball.  Whenever The Child appears in a story, its appearance points to the hidden or unexpected presence of the divine.  The birth of the Christ Child who unites Heaven and Earth, Man and God, is a powerful archetypal event.  Had the life story of Jesus not included this archetype, it would have lost much of its meaning.

 Karl Jung believed that the child archetype represented an inevitable compelling urge in every being toward “self realization.” Ancient Greeks and Romans saw the Divine child as one’s “genius”.  By genius they meant something like, guardian spirit, but the word “genius” also means: “exceptional creative power.”

 In many Tarot decks, the nineteenth card of the Major Arcana called, The Sun, depicts a Radiant Child, arms out flung, riding bareback on a horse.  The horse is a lunar as well as a solar symbol, representing at various times both life and death.  In Buddhist and Hindu texts and in the writings of Greek authors influenced by Plato, the horse above all is a symbol of the senses, harnessed to the chariot of the spirit and controlled by the Self who is the charioteer. 

 However, the Sun Card shows us a divine child so harmonious in aspect that the senses need no bridle to move in the same direction as the child.  Their agreement is born out of trust, love and understanding.

 I mention the Sun today because we have just passed the summer solstice, longest day of the year, when the Sun shows its full glory and splendor.  Springtime– the time of mating and fertility, has preceded us.  Now wombs grow gravid; skins glow; the female gait changes and slows to a statelier pace.  Six months from now the Divine child will be born , on the other side of the year, in the depths of the darkest, longest night. 

So here we have the birth of a sacred child, a result of the coming together of masculine and feminine forces, the fruit of the sacred marriage.  Who is this child? 

Inside ourselves, we experience the child of the sacred marriage as intuitive knowing, spontaneous inspiration, deep insight.  The name of this child, born out of the integration of our differing energies ,is “Gnosis”. It’s playground is the corpus callosum, that amazing bridge which connects the right and left sides of the human brain.  Back and forth it skips turning out plots and poems, salads and stews, quilts, soft-ware, paintings, and pots.

The child is also our core true self, the deepest, most hidden authentic us – there since the beginning.  The Self-generated child of Gnostic myth.  This is the guardian spirit who always wishes us well; who urges us towards health, sanity, and integration.  It sends us teaching dreams.  It sends us healing dreams.  It alerts us to guides, teachers and mentors.  It whispers wake up, wake up, wake up.  It wants to come out of hiding.  It wants us to shine.  It wants to be born. 

The Sacred Marriage calls forth this radiant hidden child, promising it protection, sanctuary and nurture.  Marrying our self to ourselves we open to potential, to the unexpected, to promise, to new beginnings.



Posted June 14, 2009 by Chris
Categories: Companion, Mary Magdalene

Tags: , ,

“Sister, we know that the Savior loved you more than all other women.  Tell us the words of the Savior that you remember, the things which you know that we don’t because we haven’t heard them.”

~Peter, Gospel of Mary

 Previousely, I spoke of Mary Magdalene as the witness and as the teacher- the Apostle to the Apostles.  I have promised to speak of her as partner.  But while her role as witness and teacher are well documented in the traditional and Gnostic gospels her role as partner is only hinted at.  European legends support the theory that Mary Magdalene and her Rabbi, Jesus were engaged in an intimate relationship but there is little evidence to support this. 

Mythically speaking, the sexual union of the archetypal female and male represented by Mary Magdalene and Jesus of Nazareth is the missing piece in the story.  They epitomize the sacred marriage- the union of feminine and masculine on all planes of existence.  It is difficult to speak about this excision without rage and grief.  Most religions emphasis eros as a vital path to mystic union with Spirit.  Sexual union is a metaphor of incredible power which humanity readily understands.  To leave out SO many elements of the story- the mystery of a woman’s body, the sacredness of sex, the relationship between life and death, the joy of the sensuous, has resulted in enormous pain and destruction.  The very absence of this piece speaks to its significance.  It demands a voice and I promise the use of mine in the near future.

Meanwhile, back to what we can glean from what history has handed us.

I have a mentor, Crystal Iyabo Bujol.  She founded the First Women’s Church of the City of the Angels.  Among many other things, she taught me to consider the dictionary as one of my bibles – a source of inspiration as well as information.  I wasn’t really happy using the word ‘partner’ to describe this aspect of the Magdalene and I couldn’t honestly use wife or mate.  Turning to synonyms for ‘partner’ I found ‘companion.’

Companion: a person who is frequently in the company of, or accompanies another or others; a mate or match for something.  And although the dictionary doesn’t say this, the word ‘companion’ implies friendship – a friendship built on the shared hardships, dangers, delights, and discouragements of the road.  Literature and film are full of stories about unlikely companions, forced by circumstance to travel together, who end up as dear friends and often lovers.  Companion has its roots in the words ‘with’ and ‘bread’ – so a companion is one with whom you share bread.

Now we are back on familiar ground. 

Excerpts from Luke 8: Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another… The Twelve were with him, and also some women… Mary (called Magdalene)…; Joanna…; Susanna; and many others.  These women were helping to support them out of their own means.

Here we have a group of women helped by a stranger who found them wandering on the road.  We might assume that once having left the shelter of husband, father or brother they could not go home again.   And yet there is that odd little nugget of information, “These women were helping to support them out of their own means.”   The Magdalene and her female companions seem to have joined the band of disciple out of choice.

The group spent long days trekking dusty roads across rolling hills encountering orchards and fields, springs and rivulets, pasture and forest.  We can safely surmise sunrise, sunset and long siestas to wait out the hot afternoons of the Middle East.  We know of many conversations among themselves and with strangers.  We can imagine the teacher moving to walk beside first one companion then the other, sometimes in silence, sometimes deep in conversation.  We know that Jesus sought out Mary’s companionship often enough to inspire questioning and a tinge of jealousy in other male disciples.  It is reported that he taught her things he did not or could not teach the others and he praised her for her willingness to learn and to see.  It must have been such a great comfort to have a companion who understood the subtleties, nuances and silences of the teachings.  Who looked at him and saw that her friend was hungry or tired, rested or eager.

It amazes me what gets included in these ancient reports.  How, in the face of the rampant misogyny of the early church fathers did all these details about women and their doings retain a place in the official record?  Why weren’t they expunged?  Were these women so well known, so beloved that a century later they still retained so much influence the church could not erase them?  Two thousand years later their names live on.  I count several Marys, three Suzannas and a Joanna among my friends today.  When you consider all the women before and after who were written out of history there must be a big reason these names survived the cut.

So what does all this mean, for us inside ourselves?  What does the sacred marriage have to do with companionship, with friendship? 

The marriage vow is a container, an alchemical vessel, and a cauldron.  It holds the journey that the partners agree, for whatever reason, to now take together.  Friendship, companionship is the fruit of the journey.  It grows gradually, out of shared experience.  One of the great pleasures of such companionship is peace.  Compromise is an inevitable consequence of commitment.  The practice of conscious equitable compromise brings peace. The peace that passeth understanding.  Feel the relief and the rest those words bring- the peace that passeth understanding.   Rumi describes it as the place beyond right-doing and wrong-doing where the lovers, you and I, meet.

Just so, we hold inside ourselves a band of potential companions suffering under the delusion – possessed you might say by dis-ease.   Each thinks him or herself capable of surviving the road alone.  The sacred marriage, removes the veil of this illusion.  That inner company brought to this decision point, looks around, sees each other as if for the first time, and acknowledges that it is on the same journey.  This is a major step – the first step across the threshold.  By sharing the road, with all its attendant challenges and surprises our interior selves begin to come into right relationship with each other.  We begin to come into right relationship with ourselves.   

Although interior alliances, preferences or particular friendships may occur the cohesiveness of the whole will continue to grow and develop.  In the end, it will expand to hold everything.  Mary Magdalene and Jesus Christ developed their particular friendship in the context of a dedicated group of companions.  They were not alone. In the end whatever jealousy, betrayal or disappointment occurred, the love , which the group carried for each other held strong.  The men listened to Mary preach and wrote down her words and passed them on.  I think this is why the women aren’t written out of the story.  In the end the bonds of companionship prevailed, as they will for us if we nuture them both inside ourselves and with each other.

Apostle to the Apostles

Posted June 14, 2009 by Chris
Categories: Apostle to the Apostles, Companion, Mary Magdalene, Witness

Tags: , , , ,

Then Mary stood up. She greeted them all, addressing her brothers and sisters, “Do not weep and be distressed nor let your hearts be irresolute. For his grace will be with you all and will shelter you.  Rather we should praise his greatness, for he has prepared us and made us true human beings.”

~Mary Magdalene, Gospel of Mary


I remember the first time someone told me to “walk my talk”.  I loved that statement.  It was pithy, real and simple.  Or so I thought ‑ being young enough not to know how complex and difficult those three words could get.  It is not easy to become an authentic being; a person whole enough within herself so that outer actions reflect inner integrity and wisdom.  Such becoming requires both fierce light and deep darkness.  Neither state is easy to endure.  Either can make one mad.

One of the first things we hear of Mary Magdalene is that she suffered the madness of possession.  Seven demons tormented her.  Seven has been accepted since ancient times by diverse cultures and religions1 as a magic and mystical number.  The Hindu tradition describes seven Chakras or power centers of the human body.  In the eighth chapter of the Gnostic, Gospel of Mary, the Magdalene describes the journey of the soul through seven “powers of wrath.” 

During my ordination process, I participated in a group study of this gospel and we women were excited to discover a parallel between Mary’s seven powers and the symbolic attributes attached to each of the seven Chakras.  To me, Mary Magdalene’s description in her gospel2 of the soul’s journey through “the seven powers of wrath” represents seven stages of initiation in which the human psyche moves through different levels of experience and attachment, separating out who she truly is from all the accretions, beliefs and misconceptions, which have gathered around each Chakra.  Each step brings her closer to becoming an authentic being.

Meeting the extraordinary teacher Jeshua was transformational for Mary.  She understood what he taught.  His words guided her on an inner journey of transformation.  Jeshua called the place of transformation, The Kingdom of Heaven.  Other teachers have called it “Enlightenment”, “Nirvana”, “Tao”… It is the place of all knowing- the heart of the paradox where we “gno” ourselves as the one in the many; the many in the one.   It is a place beyond words and description, which can only be approached through parable, metaphor and myth.

All the great teachers tell us that their wish and desire is for their students to become like them.  They all say it is possible and in fact easy; one must simply see and hear in a new way.  The word, “apostle” like the word “epistle” means, “messenger”.  These teachers saw themselves as messengers, carrying the information that there is another way of living and of being, another way of sensing the world.  Mary Magdalene learned what her teacher taught and she in turn taught her wisdom to others.

 And the disciples asked about Mary Magdalene,  “Why do you love her more than all of us?”2 

The answer: “Why do I not love you like her?” seems to speak to Mary Magdalene’s understanding of the Teacher’s message.  Mary has achieved gnosis- she understands the teachings completely with mind, body and spirit.  Over and over various gospels, be they Gnostic or Christian, show the Magdalene paying attention, understanding, teaching, and interpreting. 

The Eastern Orthodox Church has always honored Mary Magdalene as the Apostle to the Apostles.  Ostensibly this refers to her carrying the news of Christ’s resurrection to the other apostles.  Embedded in the story is the acknowledgement that this greatest honor was hers.  But why was she chosen above all others?  That question is never addressed.  Given the restrictions of their dogma, the Christian Church finds it almost impossible to admit that anyone, particularly a woman, could become as enlightened as Christ but clearly, as we see from the teachings ascribed to her in the Gnostic gospels, this is what happened.  Her authority as a leader, as a teacher came from the inner journey – into and back from madness where she faced her own demons and overcame them with the guidance and teaching of her beloved messenger.

So what does it mean to us?  How do we assume her title, follow her example and become an apostle to the apostles?  I think it means that the work of becoming is not an end in itself.  To what purpose do we undertake that inner journey, brave the dark night of the slog through slough of despair, find our voice, face the demons and learn to love ourselves?  We undertake it in order to enlighten others.  After we learn to “walk our talk,” after we begin to integrate and embody our wisdom, we must return to the beginning, turn the teaching around and begin to “talk our walk”.  This is the message of the Apostle to the Apostles – this is the Magdalene’s message to us.  The learning, the knowledge is the beginning of service.  Now that we “gno” what we “gno” it is our turn to teach, to inform, to carry the news, to relay the message.  The Magdalene invites us, by her example to share the harvest of our wisdom.

                                                                                                 Christine Irving©2007

 1 In almost all cultures the number seven represents:

completeness and totality

2 The Gospel of Mary Magdalene (Bg 8502,1)

3  The Gospel of Philip (NHC II 3.63.32ff)


Posted June 14, 2009 by Chris
Categories: Mary Magdalene, Witness

Tags: , ,


She said, “I saw the Lord in a vision and I said to him, ‘Lord, I saw you today in a vision.  ‘He answered me, ‘How wonderful you are for not wavering at seeing me!  For where the mind is, there is the treasure.’

~Mary Magdalene, Gospel of Mary

I began life as a Christian child faithfully going to Sunday school every week of my life. By age thirteen I had completely rejected Christianity.  At the time I had no idea of the power of story, symbolism and myth.  I knew nothing of the way the precepts and principles of culture, gender, and family seep through our personalities leaving indelible traces of their passage.

I felt like a “misplaced zygote” an ugly duckling.  Oh, how I longed for community of like-minded people, a golden circle who loved ideas and conversation and me!   I certainly had no idea it was a spiritual community I was searching for and it is only now, in retrospect, I see, at the root of this longing, those long ago Sunday school stories of a small band of faithful companions roaming the countryside in constant dialog and conversation.

So there I was a teenage existentialist – when into my hands dropped a copy of Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land.  Inside it, sitting around Jubal Henshaw’s swimming pool was my golden circle.

Aside from the whole practical-mystic tenor of the book, two concepts from Stranger stand out clearly in my memory.  The first is the word “grok.”  It means to understand something holistically on an intuitive, heuristic and intellectual level.  It was my first Gnostic word.

The second concept was that of the Fair Witness.  In the book Anne, Jubal’s secretary has been “rigorously trained to observe, remember, and report without prejudice, distortion, lapses in memory, or personal involvement”.  To witness something officially she puts on a special robe of office and steps into the role of Fair Witness leaving behind any personal preference and prejudice.   Later I learned this is what a healer, a teacher, a priestess does, when she/he steps into the place of service.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the Fair Witness and about why this particular character struck me so forcibly.  I think she confirmed in me a deep sense of fair play and higher purpose.  She set me up for my encounter, years later, with the Magdalene.

In the next couple of essays I will be talking about Mary Magdalene as she emerges in the Nag Hammadi library and the Gospel of Mary.  But today I want to concentrate on her appearance in the New Testament gospels.

She first appears as a woman who has once been possessed by seven demons.  She encounters a teacher named Jeshua.  At some point thereafter he heals her of this possession by casting the demons out.  I’ll have more to say about the nature of the demons and the mystic number seven next time.  Right now I want you to think back for a minute and remember any moments of torment, confusion or terror you might have experienced in your life. 

Now multiply it by seven.

It might be that in order to witness without the distortion of entrenched beliefs one must endure a period of chaos, which, shatters all our absolutes.  Socrates said,  ‘The only thing I know is that I know nothing’.  Buddhism advocates “beginner’s mind” as the beginning of wisdom. 

I imagine, in Mary Magdalene, a mind brought to madness by a buzzing cloud of shattered dreams, expectations, idealizations, and ideologies.  Something had happened to turn her world upside down and completely disorient her.  Why else would any woman in any age be wandering around the countryside by herself acting crazy?  It wasn’t Jesus- he came later.  With a word, a touch or some simple act of kindness he brought her back to herself.  She knew who she was.  Her mind, emptied of confusion is clean, calm and replete with silence -the place of perfect witnessing.  When all things are new, all novelty has equal value. 

Imagine the balm a calm mind offers to the teacher who has been idealized, reviled, and misunderstood.  Someone who can hear the teachings without judgment or distortion.  How invaluable to have a companion who remembers one day’s journeying from the next, one supplication from another; who remembers honestly what you said yesterday or the day before, or the day before that.  And imagine how comforting it might be to have a sounding board to test your own sense of what is true.  It might keep you sane in a world of misinformation, contradiction and turbulent emotion.

There is another act of kindness a Fair Witness can provide to those around her.   She witnesses one’s life- stares with steady eyes at both triumph and disaster, at the sublime and the ridiculous, the momentous and the mundane.  Her robe of office is symbol for her training.  When she puts on the robe she relinquishes her own opinions and interpretations of what she sees.  What passes before her eyes remains your story, not hers.  A Fair Witness can remember your entire life and what it means to you.  When you look at her, rest assured that you really did glow when you were pregnant, that you did fall flat on your face walking across stage to get your diploma, that you actually caught that fly ball at the end of the ninth.  The Fair Witness is living proof that you exist, that you are real. 

Mary Magdalene did this for Christ. Again and again we see her as witness especially at Golgotha, standing without turning away, watching till the bitter end of a bloody execution.

Witnessing lies at the heart of compassion.  There is so little pain we can alleviate, so little suffering we may actually ease.  Most of the time all we can do is stand by.  “I hear you,” says the witness, “I see you.  You are not alone, some one is taking note.”  So often we shy away; refusing to look at the homeless man, the abused child, the battered wife, the palsied elder.  And so often the kindest most meaningful thing we could ever do is to look directly into their eyes with acknowledgement and comprehension.

 Today, I invite you to meditate on Mary Magdalene clothed in the robes of the Fair Witness.  I invite you to cloak yourself in that same robe and to try it on for size.

The Secret of Intention

Posted June 14, 2009 by Chris
Categories: Intention

Tags: ,

As children we come into this world with a frightening degree of intelligence, a full blown and mature package of emotions and almost no experience, no touchstone on which to base the immediate flood of perceptions.  From the first moment we struggle to make sense of our surroundings.  Those conclusions we come to in those first few years, about how things work in relation to us, become our strongest beliefs as we age.

 Early on, I concluded that I would never get have what I wanted.  In order to avoid the pain of not getting, I renounced wanting.  Years later, after I had begun the work of the internal sacred marriage‑ the work of bringing all my disparate internal parts and pieces into harmony and relationship, my friend Dixie asked me during a Rosen session, “What do you want? “ I burst into tears.  It took a long time before I could even hear the question without dissolving, much less begin to clarify an answer.  Gradually, I began to learn that I was allowed to want, that the very act of asking brought answers. Seeking, was the clue to finding.

Recently, I saw a movie called, “The Secret.”  The secret is what the film calls the Law of Attraction.  It tells us there is a universal law, which says if we want something and can focus on and articulate the wanting, we will get it.  Well, this is what I had already discovered for myself.  So why did I have such a negative reaction to the movie?  I tried figuring out all the stylistic and psychological reasons why this might be so for me.  Even after taking all that into account and even though I could not disagree with the information, I still experienced an internal sense of wrongness.

A couple of days after the viewing I stopped by my favorite bookshop café. Right on top of a heap was a book by Timothy Miller called How To Want What You Have.  The words fell on me like sweet balm. I had to laugh- synchronicity had again delivered what I sought.

I rifled through the table of contents and the opening pages just to see what his “how-to” was but really the words “want what you have” were enough.  Wanting what I have is the next step.  Otherwise there is no end to wanting – it’s exhausting.  Thinking about all this I began to realize that the work of the sacred marriage is to want what I have.  This is the cultivation of desire as a spiritual practice.  It can apply to my real flesh and blood mate but it also applies to the skills, talents and beauty which I already possess.  Rather than discarding or ignoring my innate qualities while lusting after something shinier, I must pay attention what’s already here. 

Studies on attention conclude that, at any given time, each person has only a limited amount of attention at her or his disposal.  So no one can give 100% attention to two things at the same time.  It’s impossible.  By turning our attention away from wanting what is outside the marriage, or outside ourselves, we have more attention to give to what we already have. 

Attention is one of Timothy Miller’s suggestions. It is also one of Angeles Arrien’s precepts in the Four Fold Way.  “Show up,” she says “and pay attention.”  Years ago, when I was young and twice as opinionated, ignorant, and judgmental as I am now, met a woman who at my first glance appeared to have an unusually unattractive face.  She was married to a very handsome man.  It puzzled me.  I got over my prejudice, we became friends and gradually as I paid more attention to who she really was and less to my opinion of who that might be, I began to love her.  In the process I forgot about her face.  But as I kept paying attention to my friend I began to notice how lovely her eyes were.  Eventually, her features came into focus again for me but this time as the perfect frame for those beautiful eyes.

At the time I saw my experience with my friend as a lesson in overcoming prejudice with love.  Now I see it as a teaching about the power of attention.  Attention is the key, not the wanting.  How and where do we focus and distribute our attention? 

There is a further factor at work here‑ intention.  The two words share similar meanings.  However, their difference is pointed out in the first syllable of each word.  Attention has to do with concentrating one’s mental powers upon an object.  Whereas intention is about creating an internal purpose or determination to act in a certain way or to do a certain thing.

Attention brings the outside in, intention brings the inside out into the world to search for its match or mate.  Intention is more than observation, more than desire – it’s a coherent direction one sets for oneself trusting that the path will open in front of one’s feet.  Mary Magdalene walked the dusty paths of Galilee following her intention to study with and learn from the teachings of the Christ.  That intention rolled before her, opening a path through all obstacles of tradition, prejudice, and even her own demons.  Her determination to live what she learned carried her past the death of her teacher on into her own ministry.

Intention reaches beyond simple craving to possess- it implies a desire to engage with the world outside oneself.  It includes ideas of reciprocity, collaboration and mutuality. Intention derives out of the attention one gives to knowing oneself. Which brings us back to gnosis.  Literally gnosis translates as knowledge but  the word, insight might convey its meaning more completely.  Insight couples intellectual understanding with the knowledge of the heart and the wisdom of the body.  Insight informs intention.  Deep insight reveals the divine nature inherent in each soul.

And this is the real secret- one intimate connection with spirit.  When we allow ourselves to feel the intimate weave of the universe our souls fill up with enough love, enough knowledge, enough joy to satiate.  This is the end of wanting the great fulfillment of desire.

Gnostic Kali Ma

Posted June 7, 2009 by Chris
Categories: power

Tags: , ,

Searching out the perfect birthday card for my friend Susanna, I decided to send an image of the goddess Kali.  Kali may seem an odd choice for a birthday card but She is a particular favorite of Susanna and with good reason.  My friend is a fierce woman.

You may remember that Kali Ma was a goddess of last resort. 

Once upon a time, long ago and far away the gods had entered into a great battle with the demons.  It was a fierce and bloody war and it was going badly for the gods because the demons had a great champion who could not be killed by any man.  He was a magical, practically immortal being who could shift shape at will.  He seemed to be invincible.  In desperation the gods held a council.  In discussing the situation they realized that though no man could kill the demon, perhaps a woman could. With renewed hope they called upon the goddess Trinity and began bestowing gifts upon her.  Each god gave a little of his own power to enhance an aspect of the goddess.  Emerging as Durga, the goddess came forth with terrible beauty and leapt into battle with the monster.  She fought and fought.  The demon dripped blood from every wound she inflicted but every drop of blood that hit the ground became another demon.  As a last resort Durga summoned from deep deep within herself yet another even more terrible manifestation- Kali.  Kali drank up the blood of her enemy and drained him dry- finally he was vanquished.  But now Kali herself became the monster.  Drunk with insatiable bloodlust she danced upon the fallen corpses of the battlefield.  No one could come near her until her husband Shiva lay down among the dead bodies.  When her foot touched his torso she knew him at once and ceased her destructive danse macabre.

So this is a story about  power:

The power of delusion.  The evil monster of destruction is a shape shifter, an illusionist who reflects back upon his opponents their own shadows- the flaws, fears and taboos; all that they hide from themselves.  No  matter how the heroes strive they cannot defeat their own natures.

The power of community.  Here we find a group of imperious autonomous deities relinquishing a piece of their precious individuality for the good of all.  The creature they create is greater and stronger than any one of them.  Recent sociological research suggests that collective intelligence trumps individual intelligence almost every time.1

The power of the feminine.  The masculine by itself cannot survive.  Until the male gods dredge deep within themselves to rediscover their buried and forgotten feminine they are doomed.  Conversely, when Durga becomes purely and entirely feminine she is impossibly chaotic and uncontained.  Durga’s femininity is elemental – awesome and terrible to behold- fire, earth, air, water in primordial manifestation.

The  power of persistence and alternative thinking.  Whatever energy is at play here, wisdom is always present.  Each seemingly irresolvable situation is met with a novel solution.  Each new idea comes from within rather than without.  The players think, intuit, gno their way through changing circumstances.

The power of the sacred marriage.  The monster, faced with the allied forces of masculine and feminine, is drained of  the power it sucked from its opponents.  The moment her toe grazes the skin of her husband, Kali stops killing. Love, compassion, and wisdom flow from their union and rebalance the world. 

This is only the first layer of information.  What does the story teach about the necessity of power, the wielding of power, the place of power?  Where does power reside?  What does all that blood signify?  What does Trinity represent – why does She have three aspects?  

Gnostic writings are known to be esoteric teachings- lessons which contain ever deeper and sometimes seemingly opposing layers of meaning.   The story of Kali is an ancient teaching story containing myriad interpretations.  We could spend a day,  a week or a lifetime exploring all its nuances; digging ever deeper like Trinity, like Durga.  Such an exploration would lead to insights and revelations for such teaching is a true reflection of real life in which most circumstances are subject to alternative interpretations.  In truth, every situation, any thought, each feeling which arises can be examined at depth to expand  self-knowledge.  It is exactly this kind of mindfulness that is meant by gnosis.

One final word about Kali‑ once manifested she was permanently present; out in the world where she remains to this day as a vital presence worshipped and adored by millions. 

The quality of fierceness holds a necessary place in the pantheon of internal qualities to be cultivated.  Plumbing one’s depths, mining for meaning, requires the fierceness and persistence of a champion.  Sadly, most women come to fierceness as a last resort, in response to extraordinary circumstances.  Often the dire straits in which they find themselves are the direct result of cultural strictures which taught them not to be fierce, powerful and courageous.

My friend, Susanna consciously cultivates fierceness.  She uses that fierceness to defend her integrity.  When I go to her for help, she fiercely defends my integrity, refusing to let me slip away into sloughs of self-pity or despair.  She persists in asking difficult questions to take me down below the surface of what I think I understand.  Susanna models to me the fierce persistence required by me, for me in my continuing relationship with All That Is. 

 Kali Ma can be proud of her  daughter. 

Christine Irving©2009 

1.  Paraphrased from The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki, Abacus 2005





The Marriage of Dark & Light

Posted May 24, 2009 by Chris
Categories: poem

Tags: ,

How fertile is the deepest dark

how inspirational the bright.

And yet, if there is only light

then we are blinded

scorched and afraid

and if only darkness

then we are blinded

frozen and afraid. 

Light loves shade

just as darkness

loves starlight and moon glow.

Unadulterated yet united

two who are one, the same and different; 

at the heart of mystery

they stand face to face

transforming contradiction.