Islamic Garden

Islamic Garden
Islamic Garden in Lausanne, Switzerland

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Bibi Miriam Within

As in some of my earlier posts on the significance of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Islam, and her hidden presence in al-Fatiha, I came across a similar vein of expression in a book by Dr. David Richo, ordained priest, licensed marriage and family therapist and Depth Psychologist:

"Mary can be contemplated as the woman described in the Gospels. In this view the importance of Mary is based on her motherhood of Jesus. This is the literal view. Mary can also be viewed as the most recent personification of the great mother goddess, her predecessors being Demeter, Tara, Isis, Astarte, Inanna, Cybele, Kali, and all the goddesses of light and shadow. In this view Mary is important in her own right and the accent is not on her as a person but as an archetype, a living component of the human psyche. This is the perspective of Mary that we will follow in this book. It is not a new approach. In the eighth century St. Andrew of Crete wrote: "Mary is a statue sculpted by God as an image of a divine archetype." No mature religious consciousness in human history has ever been literal in its understanding of stories or persons in scriptures but rather respects them for the spiritual truths they represent.

The name of the mother of Jesus is Miriam, the daughter, traditionally, of Anne and Joachim. Her name hearkens to an archetypal tradition. In the Hebrew Bible, Miriam is the older sister of Moses. She is a major figure in the movement to feminize Judaism today. Miriam placed Moses in a basket and sailed him down the Nile. In Talmudic tradition, she convinced her father to continue building a family when he was frightened by the Egyptian law ordering the death of male Israelite new-borns. Miriam is looked upon as a prophetess since she foretold Moses as the savior of Israel. Reminiscent of Mary and the Magnificat, Miriam sang a song of victory with the Israelite women after the crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 15:20).

We know hardly anything about Mary's earthly life. The historical Mary, like the historical Jesus is not clearly accessible in the New Testament. They are described in idealized ways as prototypes of the life of faith, exemplars for us. The Mary of the New Testament and of miracles and apparitions is the Mary of the Ave Maria, the Blessed Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Lady. She is the threefold archetypal goddess energy of young virgin, loyal mother, and wise queen. Those three dimensions characterized the great goddess in every tradition throughout history. The mystic philosopher Pythagoras reflected that the threefold goddess represented the phases of a woman's life: virgin, mother, wise old woman. The ancient threefold woman goddess, like Mary, was simultaneously the mistress of the underworld (virgin), the earth (mother), and the heavens (queen). The three dimensions also reflect the phases of the moon: new, waxing, and dying in preparation for renewal.

The excesses of devotion and of theology over the past two millennia regarding Mary become completely intelligible once we apply them to the perennially venerated great goddess and not to the historical Mary. What may seem like idolatry when applied to the woman from Nazareth is entirely appropriate when applied to her archetypal meaning in the life of faith. In fact, no one has yet praised her enough. There can be no excesses for the Source of and guide to the mystery of the divine life in us and in all of nature.

Our exalted titles and beliefs in these past centuries were living indicators of an intuition that survived that survived in us, and were preserved in Catholic tradition particularly. We knew implicitly we were venerating Mary as the divine mother not as a literal physical woman who gave birth to Jesus.If Jesus is the only incarnation of God then the literal/historical Mary is the object of our devotion. But if the incarnation of Jesus is an archetypal metaphor - as opposed to a merely literary metaphor - of our own human destiny to bring divine consciousness into time in our unique lifetime of faith, then the mystical Mary is the one we honor." (2007, pp. 7-8).

~ Excerpted from "Mary Within Us - A Jungian Contemplation of Her Titles and Powers" by David Richo, Ph.D., M.F.T

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