As we approach the festive season of Easter, following the Mystery Drama begun at Christmas, one cannot help but to think not only of the great world teacher known as Jesus, the Christ, (meaning ‘the Anointed One’) (1), but also of that great act of sacrifice undertaken by Mary in becoming the mother of the Son of God. It was she who stood by Jesus from a very young age, accompanied him through all of his tribulations and victories, and stood with him throughout his era of teaching and ultimate sacrifice. The joy of the Christmas birth, like most births, naturally passes from the community to the new-born child and to the parents. Our festive season pays full homage to Jesus and eternal gratitude to God, the Father. The word ‘God’ means many things to many people and we may define it here in the Pantheistic sense, as that divine essence within, and underlying, all life. However, there is often the impression that Mary, the mother, is somehow less significant beyond the actual birth, and, one who barely receives acknowledgment as a steadfast witness and support in the final victory of life over matter.
Some Theosophical authors would suggest that the Gospel Stories about Jesus, while referring to historical personages, might perhaps be allegorical more than historical. The story conveys ageless truths about the final stages of the journey of each human being, who, after many lives and experiences, finally liberates the potential of the inner God imprisoned within the limitations of matter. Each character in the story becomes symbolic of the personal and universal principles within a single human being. Jesus, a wise and great soul born in the normal way, symbolically represents all human beings as a Son of Man (from Manas meaning thinker), expressing himself primarily through his personal vehicles of body, etheric double, emotional body and lower mind. See Matthew 17:9 to 12 and John 1:51 and 3:13. Each human being advances in evolutionary growth, learning to discern the Voice of the Silence within, see John 5:25. As the Easter drama reaches its interior completion, one becomes a Son of God, redeemed from past karma, expressing one’s inner soul perfectly. See Matthew 27:54 and John 3:17 to 21. The potential of each human is realised as an enlightened human being, distinguished by its ability to work unhindered within the universal vehicles of consciousness, Atma-Buddhi-Manas (Will-Wisdom-Intelligence). The awakened Christ-life within the human consciousness is therefore the inner Divine Father (Atma) that may fully express itself through the inner Holy Mother (Buddhi-Manas).
Three Marys and Sophia
Undoubtedly, many people choose to see the story as if compiled from journalistic newspaper cuttings, though as I understand it, scholars indicate that the gospel authors collected and tabulated the stories approximately 70 to 100 years after the event had occurred. Like poetry, scriptural writing cannot be subject to the limitations of only a literal reading, nor can any other art that is really trying to touch the universal and abstract with physical forms that represent archetypes. Scriptural writing is an art-form in allegory and analogy that seeks to draw out divine inspiration from within the reader. Literalism is a form of anthropomorphism, which is the natural tendency to extrapolate one’s own experience onto the unknown, and to see the surface of human attributes and properties instead of the profound reality. If anthropomorphism is ignorance and illusion, our personal maya, then it is the opposite of divine wisdom.
As we progress through the unfolding stages of consciousness, there are many subtle levels of anthropomorphism. Beyond the physical, there are psychic and emotional limitations to understanding. An example is the determination by some writers to anthropomorphise Jesus’ emotional nature. The speculation is that following his crossing of the divisions between Heaven and Earth, his death and resurrection or unification with the Higher Self, he became emotionally attached to one of his disciples, Mary Magdalene. In the later part of last century, the 20th, it seemed to suit the times to elevate Mary Magdalene, a single woman seen as one of Jesus’ favourites, to a high degree of importance. For the sake of romanticism, this has helped to diminish philosophical interest in a much higher embodiment of the feminine principle, Mary the mother of Jesus, the Mary whose purity and nobility was found worthy enough to nurture within herself a Divine Being.
So how are the Mary’s related to each other? We know, in a literal reading of the Gospels, that both Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother were present at the significant events associated with the glorification of Jesus—the crucifixion, his resurrection and, as indicated within the Gnostic text, the Pistis Sophia, both were present during his later teachings.
Yet in other ways Mary Magdalene had a very different relationship with Jesus, though one which has similarities to the relationship between Jesus and Sophia. In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 8 vs 1 & 2, we are told that Jesus, accompanied by his twelve disciples, had recently cured several people of obsessions and infirmities. Mary Magdalene was among this group, and was formerly obsessed with no less than 7 demons. And yet, just as Jesus had helped Mary to be free of her obsessions, we cannot forget that he also saved Sophia, from Chaos. According to the great Gnostic text known as the Pistis Sophia, Jesus stated:
“And at the commandment of my Father, the First Mystery which looketh within, I myself went down into the chaos, shining most exceedingly, and approached the lion-faced power, which shone exceedingly, and took its whole light in it and held fast all the emanations of Self-willed, so that from now on they went not into their region, that is the thirteenth æon. And I took away the power of all the emanations of Self-willed, and they all fell down in the chaos powerless. And I led forth Pistis Sophia, she being on the right of Gabriēl and Michaēl. And the great light-stream entered again into her. And Pistis Sophia beheld with her eyes her foes, that I had taken their light-power from them. And I led Pistis Sophia forth from the chaos, she treading under foot the serpent-faced emanation of Self-willed, and moreover treading under foot the seven-faced-basilisk emanation, and treading under foot the lion- and dragon-faced power. I made Pistis Sophia continue to stand upon the seven-headed-basilisk emanation of Self-willed; and it was more mighty than them all in its evil doings. And I, the First Mystery, stood by it and took all the powers in it, and made to perish its whole matter, so that no seed should arise from it from now on.” (2)
Theosophy teaches seven principles within the human being. The three immortal aspects, Atma (Higher Self), Buddhi (Spiritual Soul) and Higher Manas (Creative And Immortal Mind), and the four personal aspects of Kama-Manas (desire mind—the form or image producing mind and emotions, compounded together), Etheric Double, Prana and the Body. HPB suggests in her commentary on the Pistis Sophia that esoterically the three Mary’s represent three of these principles. Mary, the mother of Jesus, and vehicle of the Divine Will, represents the second human principle—Buddhi or Wisdom. Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus (John 11:2) and the one who anointed the Lord with perfume, and who wiped his feet with her hair, represents the higher Manas. This is the third human principle, the Causal Body—or abstract intellectual principle, influenced by Buddhi. And thirdly, Mary Magdalene represents lower Manas, the mental body, so often swayed by the emotions, the personal demons of our own making. (3) Both Sophia, who was saved from the seven-faced-basilisk emanation by the Christ, and Mary Magdalene, who was saved from the seven demons by the Christ, therefore represents the same human principal, the lower Manas or mind.
Of Mary Magdelene, Jesus said, ‘Look, I shall guide her to make her male …’
There is another passage from the Gospel of Thomas which would indicate that Jesus would not have accepted Mary Magdalene in a literal sense. From the last verse, 114, “Simon Peter said to them, ‘Mary should leave us, for females are not worthy of life.’ Jesus said, ‘Look, I shall guide her to make her male so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every female who makes herself male will enter Heaven’s Kingdom’”. This kind of statement would seem to challenge our reason in the same way that other statements attributed to the Christ have done, such as the parable of the cursing of the fig tree. If the literal meaning is unsatisfactory, then perhaps the writer intended a spiritual meaning. If one remembers that Spirit is an intangible unity within, neither male nor female but pure Will, and the inherent nature of matter is to nurture and build in the world of form, then the words may make some sense. Every human being has an active aspect and a passive aspect, a spiritual cause for each life and a receptive container. If the container dies at the end of each life, then to find immortality one must become the source of that life and not the container. As the book, Light On The Path, suggests, one does not tread the Path, one becomes the Path—the inner Psyche does not only marry the inner Eros, Psyche becomes Eros. The lower desire-mind, Psyche, in a passive state, responds to the activity of the higher wisdom-mind, Eros. In meditation, this process develops in which one attempts to become that which one meditates upon, a living spirit. So the words would imply the complete transformation of consciousness from the personal world into the impersonal consciousness of the universal and active spirit. If we may use a sea-faring analogy, the ship (or navis) Buddhi sails on the shore-less ocean, or matter, with a crew made up of personalities over many lifetimes, and fully responds to the helm of Atma, Will.
From the foregoing, we may see that the maternal figures—Mary the mother of Jesus, Maya the mother of the Buddha and Isis, the mother of Horus, and others representing the office of World-Mother—are significant. C W Leadbeater, like many Theosophists in the early years, strongly supported the ideal that men and women were complementary aspects of humanity, each with their own special qualities, yet having roles equal in standing. The soul life had particular lessons to learn, incarnating successively in both genders over many lives. See “The Interval Between lives” in the Second Volume of “The Inner Life” by C W Leadbeater in which he states: “In the beginning of these studies it was given to us as a general rule that a man usually takes not less than three and not more than seven incarnations in one sex before passing over to the other. Although the many researches which we have since undertaken have to a large extent confirmed this general rule, they have also shown us a great number of exceptions to it, some people taking long lines of incarnations in one sex before turning to the other, and others for a time incarnating alternately in male and female bodies; but most of these were in the case of egos who were already advanced somewhat beyond the average, and were therefore probably receiving special treatment.”
The World-Mother looks after every woman in the time of her suffering
In his book “The Masters And The Path”, there is special attention drawn to the World-Mother: “Students should understand that a great department of Motherhood exists, and has an important place in the Inner Government of the world. Just as the Manu is the head of a great department which looks after the physical development of races and sub-races, just as the Bodhisattva is the head of another which attends to religion and education, so is the great Official who is called the Jagat-Amba or World-Mother the head of a department of Motherhood.”
“It is the work of this department to look especially after the mothers of the world. From the occult standpoint the greatest glory of woman is not to become a leader in society, nor is it to take a high university degree and live in a flat in scornful isolation, but to provide vehicles for the egos that are to come into incarnation. And that is regarded not as something to hide and to put away, something of which one should be half-ashamed; it is the greatest glory of the feminine incarnation, the grand opportunity which women have and men have not. Men have other opportunities, but that really wonderful privilege of motherhood is not theirs. It is the women who do this great work for the helping of the world, for the continuance of the race; and they do it at a cost of suffering of which we who are men can have no idea.”
“Because this is so—because of the great work done and the terrible suffering which it entails—there is this special department of the government of the world, and the duty of its officials is to look after every woman in the time of her suffering, and give her such help and strength as her karma allows. As we have said, the World-Mother has at her command vast hosts of angelic beings, and at the birth of every child one of these is always present as her representative.”
“The World-Mother herself is present in and through her representative at the bedside of every suffering mother. Many women have seen her under such conditions, and many who have not been privileged to see have yet felt the help and the strength which she outpours.”
These statements were written over 80 years ago and yet they are far truer now than they were at the time they were written. Social upheaval in the 1960’s and 1970’s caused even Theosophists to become lost in the modern dilemma of the neglect of the feminine. This is evidenced by the fact that the quoted passages regarding the World-Mother were removed from all editions of the book published after 1969. The sociological phenomena emphasised ‘choice’, yet workplace attitudes, employers groups and existing social structures meant that women had to become ‘like men’, and phrases such as ‘to compete with men’ became fairly commonplace. As we entered the 21st century feminist groups began to wonder whether there was in fact real ‘choice’. Greater justice in the form of equal remuneration for both genders, and the removal of barriers to merited opportunities, were certainly necessary for humanity to advance. But many people continue to ask, “how can we have a family life while fulfilling our work responsibilities, and what is becoming of our children?”
Western Education and Career Systems were not developed to take account of the ‘biological clock’
Time waits for no one, and the timeline of a working life proceeding through the western education and career system, which had been developed predominately by males over the last 8oo years from the establishment of the first European Universities, does not favour the family and the ‘biological clock’ of motherhood. The time to attain educational qualifications and to build professional experience eats considerably into the biological time in which a woman may fall pregnant. If the remaining biological time is too narrow, it may lead to ‘circumstantial childlessness’. Dr Leslie Cannold from the University of Melbourne wrote in her 2005 publication ‘What, No Baby?’, from Curtin University Books, that a US survey of childless career women reported that only 14% of them said they had not wanted to have children (p13). So much for the appearance of ‘choice’. She says that: “unlike men, women don’t have three-quarters of a lifetime to muse on the question of motherhood. They have no alternative but to wake up, smell the parental coffee and–if brewing up a bub (baby) is what’s intended–get on with it. … Desperate attempts are occasionally made to find someone human, rather than divine, to blame. In Australia, the shrill accusatory finger is pointed either at particular women or at ‘feminists’ in general, and it is often pointed by highly educated and accomplished women who insist that had the women’s movement told them ‘the truth’, they wouldn’t be ending their reproductive years childless.” (p33-4) Dr Cannold reports that the fertility rate is much lower in family-unfriendly countries than in family-friendly countries. Family-friendly countries are those in which their work practices and governmental policies recognise the need and importance of career and family balance for both genders (p37-8).
CWL continues: “It is the earnest desire of the World-Mother that every woman in her time of trial should have the best possible surroundings—that she should be enfolded in deep and true affection, that she should be filled with the holiest and noblest thoughts, so that none but the highest influences may be brought to bear upon the child who is to be born, so that he may have a really favourable start in life. Nothing but the purest and best magnetism should await him or her, and it is imperatively necessary that the most scrupulous physical cleanliness should be observed in all particulars. Only by the strictest attention to the rules of hygiene can such favourable conditions be obtained as will permit of the birth of a noble and healthy body, fit for the habitation of an exalted ego.”
The difficulty in finding appropriate bodies for highly developed egos
“This matter of providing a suitable incarnation for highly developed egos is one which causes considerable anxiety to the World-Mother and to her attendant angels. Many thousands of advanced souls are ready for incarnation and anxious to take it, in order that they may help in the work of the World-Teacher; but the difficulty of finding appropriate bodies is very great. In consequence of foolish and wasteful ostentation an evil tradition is growing up in the Western world that men and women cannot afford to marry, and that large families are too expensive to be practically possible. Not understanding the wonderful opportunity which their sex gives them, women desire to be free from the restraints of marriage in order that they may ape the lives and the actions of men, instead of taking advantage of their peculiar privileges. Such a line of thought and action is obviously disastrous to the future of the race, for it means that many of the better-class parents take no part in its perpetuation, but leave it entirely in the hands of the more undesirable and undeveloped egos.”
The term ‘Ego’ as used here represents the higher human individuality, the Causal Body or human soul, not the lower psyche or animal soul as applied in Psychology. This problem, the lack of suitable bodies for advanced egos, has worsened in recent years and is a known sociological issue which is discussed in Dr Cannold’s book. Susan Faludi, in her book ‘Backlash’ discusses the allure of work, its financial rewards and the problems arising as self-esteem is more strongly derived from one’s role in the workplace rather than one’s role in the family. The issue was recently satirised in the Hollywood film ‘Idiocracy’, in which the future humanity, having gradually declined in intellectual faculties, had lost its understanding of how to use present day technology. Part of the problem is that there are few financial rewards in raising a family, which of course means that the primary carer whether male or female, faces a loss of financial independence and a sense of no longer being empowered. In Chapter 5 of Dr Cannold’s book, she touches on another biological subtlety. If most women feel drawn to maternal love, most men have a significantly different drive and are often content to remain childless. Only 10% of Australian men are staying out of the workforce to care for their children (p159). Of course, many had chosen to do so only because their partners earned significantly higher earnings. As so often happens, the ideas and reflections of the early Theosophists take into account not only the conditions of their time but the condition of humanity long into the future.
CWL goes on to say, as the conditions existed in the 1920’s: “In India the conditions are different, for every one marries as a matter of course; but even in the higher castes there is often a lamentable lack of supervision, and the conditions provided are very unfavourable for the production of sound and healthy bodies. This is a very serious matter, earnestly to be commended to the consideration of all students of occultism, who should assuredly do everything in their power to bring about a more satisfactory state of affairs.”
“It would indeed be well that women in all countries should band themselves together in an endeavour to spread abroad among their sisters accurate information on this most important subject; every women should fully realize the magnificent opportunities which the feminine incarnation gives her; every woman should be taught the absolute necessity for proper conditions before, during and after her pregnancy. Not only the most perfect cleanliness and the most careful attention should surround the baby body, but also it should be encompassed by perfect astral and mental conditions, by love and trust, by happiness and holiness. In this way the work of the World-Mother would be immensely facilitated and the future of the race would be assured.”
The complementary role of feminine deities and adepts in life and ritual
“It has often been asked whether there are any Adepts living in feminine bodies. The existence of the World-Mother is an answer to that question. Because of her wonderful quality of intense purity and because of her development in other ways, she was chosen to be the mother of the body of the disciple Jesus long ago in Palestine; and because of the wonderful patience and nobility of soul with which she bore all the terrible suffering which came to her as the consequence of that position, she attained in that same life the level of Adeptship. Having reached that, and finding the seven paths open before her, she chose to enter the glorious Deva evolution and was received into it with great honour and distinction.”
“That is the truth which lies behind the Roman Catholic doctrine of her Assumption; not that she was carried up into heaven among the Angels in her physical body, but that when she left that body she took her place among the Angels, and being presently appointed to the office of World-Mother she became very truly a queen among them, as the Church so poetically says. A great Deva needs no physical body; but while she holds her present office she will always appear to us in feminine form, as will those Adepts who have chosen to help her in her work.”
“All through the centuries thousands upon thousands both of men and of women have poured heartfelt devotion at her feet, and it is very certain that no jot or tittle of that devotion has been misdirected or wasted; for she, whose love for mankind has evoked it, has always used its force to the uttermost in the onerous task which she has undertaken. However little men have known it, they have poured such a splendid wealth of love at her feet not because she was once the mother of Jesus, but because she is now the Mother of all living.”
If Mary, the mother of Jesus, was venerated as an equal to Jesus in the Christian religion, though with a different and yet complementary role, there would be far more interest in developing feminine rituals that complement the existing masculine rituals within the Christian Church. Throughout the history of world religions, there have been masculine rituals, feminine rituals and rituals neutral or genderless. These energies are reflective of the fundamental energies in nature, like the Kundalini energies of Ida (feminine), Pingala (masculine) and Sushumni, and all are necessary. From ‘The Secret Doctrine’ HP Blavatsky writes “It is the pure Akasha that passes up Sushumna; its two aspects flow in Ida and Pingala. These are three vital airs, and are symbolized by the Brahmanical thread. They are ruled by the Will. Will and Desire are the higher and lower aspects of one and the same thing. Hence the importance of the purity of the canals … From these three a circulation is set up, and from the central canal passes into the whole body.” “Ida and Pingala play along the curved wall of the cord in which is Sushumna. They are semi-material, positive and negative, sun and moon, and start into action the free and spiritual current of Sushumna. They have distinct paths of their own, otherwise they would radiate all over the body”. From ‘The Chakras’, CWL continues; “in a man the Ida starts from the base of the spine just on the left of the Sushumna and the Pingala on the right (be it understood that I mean the right and left of the man, not the spectator); but in a woman these positions are reversed. The lines end in the medulla oblongata. The spine is called in India the Brahmadanda, the stick of Brahma; … it is also the original of the caduceus of Mercury, the two snakes of which symbolize the kundalini or serpent-fire which is presently to be set in motion along those channels, while the wings typify the power of conscious flight through higher planes which the development of that fire confers.” For more information, see ‘The Chakras’, Chapter II The Three Spinal Channels.
A wider knowledge of these forces may perhaps diminish the strong desire some women have to become hierophants within the old Christian male rituals, who have struggled in recent years to adapt to the polarised energies of the old, though still valuable, rituals. There is a better way. Rather than to simply emulate the male, and to become like the male priests, expressing the energies of divinity in only one aspect, and to be once again caught up in the problems of identity, there is the distinct possibility of establishing feminine rituals devoted to the Great Angel Mary, the Star of the Sea, and of rediscovering a distinctly feminine identity. However, this can only occur if there is enough support to develop feminine rituals that may be tested and validated over time, without necessarily losing the practice and value of the old rituals.
“I become the Goddess of the lotus pond”
The great World-Mother principle belongs to all of the great religions. She does not need a separate movement. The various qualities of her nature and work may be found through all of these religions containing aspects of the Ageless-Wisdom tradition. She is clearly recognized in India as the Jagat-Amba (Jagad-Ambikā) or Jagad-Mātā. She is the trimurti of spiritual energy as Shakti, consort to Shiva, Lakshmi consort to Vishnu and Saraswati, consort to Brahmā. In China she is Kwan-Yin, the Mother of Mercy and Knowledge, and Mãyã, the Cosmic Mother to the Bodhisattvas and Buddhas. As CWL states; “She is essentially the representative, the very type and essence of love, devotion and purity; the heavenly wisdom indeed, but most of all Consolatrix Afflictorum, the Consoler, Comforter, Helper of all who are in trouble, sorrow, need, sickness or any other adversity.”
Finally, Mãyã, the mother of the Buddha states very beautifully that one who nurtures a human life may one day nurture whole worlds, and ultimately become the mother of the Universe: “And, O noble son, just as I was the mother of the tathãgata (one who has gone beyond coming and going, or one with truth) Vairocana, so have I been the mother of countless other previous tathãgatas. When a bodhisattva (an enlightened being prior to full Buddhahood) is about to be born in this world, it sometimes happens that he is born in a lotus. I become the Goddess of the lotus pond and take that bodhisattva. And the world calls me the mother of the bodhisattva. Once he appeared in someone’s lap; there too I was his mother. If the bodhisattva is to be born in a Buddha-field, then I become the Goddess of the seat of enlightenment in that Buddha-field. In this way O noble son, bodhisattvas in their final birth can display various forms of birth as a form of skilful means to reach beings; I display similar skilful means and become their mothers. … In every one of those worlds I will be his mother.”
1 H P Blavatsky quotes the Clementine Recognitions in which it is announced that the father anointed his son with “oil that was taken from the wood of the Tree of Life, and from this anointing he is called the Christ. See HPB Collected Writing Vol 8 Page 196.
2 Pistis Sophia, G R S Mead Translation, Chapter 66
3 The Collected Writings Of H P Blavatsky, Vol XIII, on Pistis Sophia Page 37
4. ‘Buddhist Scriptures’, edited by Donald Lopez Jr, Penguin Books 2004, Chapter 16 “Mãyã, Mother Of The Buddha”, P 134.