• Michael Martin

In the Name of the Mother, and of the Daughter, and of the Holy Soul

The Swiss psychoanalyst C.G. Jung was notably enthusiastic in 1950 when Pope Pius XII promulgated the dogma of the Assumptio Mariae. Indeed, he saw this event as a psychological necessity for Western culture:

For a long time there had been a psychological need for this, as is evident in the medieval pictures of the Assumption and Coronation of the Virgin; it was also responsible for elevating her to a position as Mediatrix, corresponding to Christ’s position as mediator…. The recent promulgation of the dogma of the Assumption emphasizes the taking up not only of the soul but of the body of Mary into the Trinity.[1]

For Jung, this event corresponded to the integration of male and female (animus and anima) as the goal of psychology. He called this “a higher union…. an indispensable prerequisite for wholeness”[2] and his long fascination with alchemy certainly bears witness to this insight. Of this union—which is a true communion—he writes,

They therefore represent a supreme pair of opposites, not hopelessly divided by logical contradiction but, because of the mutual attraction between them, giving promise of union and actually making it possible. The coniunctio oppositorum engaged the speculations of the alchemists in the form of the “Chymical Wedding,” and those of the cabalists in the form of Tifereth and Malchuth or God and the Shekinah, not to speak of the marriage of the Lamb.[3]

Any child raised as a Christian, I suspect, at one time or another asks why the Trinity lacks a feminine face. Of course, theologians are often quick to say that God does not really have a gender. Whatever. Any child can see something is out of whack in this imaginary. But they are taught to not ask ostensibly heretical questions.

With revelations of the pervasive pederasty in Catholic seminary culture (though I suspect other denominations are not exempt), one can see how the absence of the psychic integration of the feminine leads to pathology: a tradition going back at least to Classical Greece. Talk about the union of Athens and Jerusalem! Such an environment is by definition sterile.

Postmodernity may think it has outgrown the masculine Christian imaginary, but this is hardly the case. This imaginary clearly infects postmodernity as such. All too often, even feminism counts acting like the men (while simultaneously declaring gender as socially constructed) a victory. I don’t see how the last century has made the world a more hospitable place for the feminine. If anything, it is even more hostile to the feminine. As Paul Evdokimov has written, “The modern, profoundly masculine world, where the feminine charism plays no role whatsoever, is more and more a world without God, for it has no mother and God cannot be born in it.”[4] I see little evidence of a feminine charism, either in seminary culture or in society at large. In fact, I think we’ve had it wrong from the beginning. Scripture scholar and Methodist minister Margaret Barker suggests precisely this.

In her illuminating book The Mother of the Lord: Volume I: The Lady in the Temple (Bloomsbury, 2012), Barker argues that the originary form of Jewish worship included reverence for Wisdom before she was expelled from the Temple and all but expunged from scripture following the reforms of Josiah.[5] She then traces the migration of the veneration of Wisdom from the hostile environment of Josiah-era Jerusalem to Alexandria where a Jewish community preserved her worship. (Alexandria is also where the deuterocanonical books of Wisdom and Sirach were composed.) Wisdom spirituality, according to Barker, was characterized more by attentiveness to creation than to history and law. Furthermore, Wisdom was the bearer of God’s glory:

Now if the Lady in Jerusalem was Wisdom…and also the glory… ‘the whole earth full of his glory’ or ‘the knowledge of the glory’ indicates the manner of her divine presence on earth: the Lady was present in her knowledge of the creation. This too was remembered by those in Egypt who had not abandoned the Lady.[6]

One would think that Barker’s scholarly excavation might be affirming the simple intuition of a child who realizes that, if there is a Father, there needs to be a Mother. That our culture no longer makes this assumption, then, could be traced back to what Barker takes (as I do) to be a tragic and fatal mistake of religious politics.

Among those whose intuition led them to infer the invisible presence of the Mother are the Eastern Orthodox archbishop (and convert from Catholicism) Alexis van der Mensbrugghe (1899–1980) and contemporary Byzantine Catholic priest and theologian István Cselényi, both of whom question whether it is Wisdom to whom God speaks in Genesis: “Let us create man in our image, after our likeness…. in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them” (1:26, 27). The Divine Image: male and female.

Another person who came to this insight was the Catholic mystic and hermeticist Valentin Tomberg. In his astounding Meditations on the Tarot, Tomberg makes the case for what he calls “the Luminous Holy Trinity.” His is a daring conclusion:

For just as no one comes to the Father but by Jesus Christ (John xiv, 6), so does no one understand the Holy Trinity but by Mary-Sophia. And just as the Holy Trinity manifests itself through Jesus Christ, so understanding of this manifestation is possible only through intuitive apprehension of what the virgin mother of Jesus Christ understands of it, who not only bore him and brought him to the light of day, but who also was present—present as mother—at his death on the Cross. And just as Wisdom (Sophia)—as Solomon said—was present at the creation (“when he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep. . .then I was at work beside him”—Proverbs viii, 27-31) and “built her house. . .set up her seven pillars” (Proverbs ix, 1), so Mary-Sophia was present at the redemption and "was at work beside him", and “built her house . . . set up her seven pillars”, i.e. she became Our Lady of the seven sorrows. For the seven sorrows of Mary correspond, for the work of the redemption, to the seven pillars of Sophia for the work of creation. Sophia is the queen of the “three luminaries”—the moon, the sun and the stars—as the “great portent” of the Apocalypse shows. And just as the word of the Holy Trinity became flesh in Jesus Christ, so did the light of the Holy Trinity become flesh in Mary-Sophia—the light, i.e. threefold receptivity, the threefold faculty of intelligent reaction, or understanding. Mary’s words: mihi fiat secundum verbum tuum (“let it be to me according to your word”—Luke i, 38) are the key to the mystery of the relationship between the pure act and pure reaction, between the word and understanding—lastly, between Father, Son and Holy Spirit on the one hand and Mother, Daughter and Holy Soul on the other hand. They are the true key to the “seal of Solomon”—the hexagram.

The hexagram is not at all the symbol of good and evil, but rather is that of the threefold pure act or “fire” and the threefold pure reaction (the threefold mihi fiat secundum verbum tuum) or “light of fire”, i.e. “water”. “Fire” and “water” signify that which acts spontaneously and creatively on the one hand, and that which reacts reflectively on the other hand — the latter being the conscious “yes” or light of mihi fiat secundum verbum tuum. This is the elementary meaning of the “seal of Solomon”—elementary in the sense of the elements “fire” and “water”, taken on their highest level.

But the still higher meaning that this symbol hides—or rather reveals—is that of the luminous Holy Trinity, i.e. that of understanding of the Holy Trinity.

Then it is the hexagram comprising the two triangles: Father-Son-Holy Spirit; Mother-Daughter-Holy Soul (see figure). And these two triangles of the luminous Holy Trinity are revealed in the work of redemption accomplished through Jesus Christ and conceived through Mary-Sophia. Jesus Christ is its agent; Mary-Sophia is its luminous reaction. The two triangles reveal the luminous Holy Trinity in the work of creation accomplished by the creative Word and animated by the “yes” of Wisdom-Sophia. The luminous Holy Trinity is therefore the unity of the triune Creator and the triune natura naturans, i.e. the unity of the threefold Fiat and the threefold mihi fiat secundum verbum tuum which reveals itself in natura naturata, in the world created before the Fall; and it is the triune divine spirit and the triune soul of the world manifesting in the body of the world—in natura naturata.[7]

Have we been suffering from an incomplete picture all this time? I believe we have. And, whether one considers oneself a Christian, or as religious in any way or not, we are all suffering from this lack of integration. And it cannot be attained by mechanical means. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood.

[1] C.G. Jung, Mysterium Coniunctionis: An Inquiry into the Separation and Synthesis of Psychic Opposites in Alchemy, 2nd ed., trans. R.F.C. Hull, Bollingen Series XX (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970), 186.

[2] C.G. Jung, Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self, trans. R.F.C. Hull, 2nd ed., Bollingen Series XX (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1959), 32.

[3] C.G. Jung, Aion, 268.

[4] Paul Evdokimov, Woman and he Salvation of the World: A Christian Anthropology on the Charisms of Women, trans. Anthony P. Gythiel (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1994), 251.

[5] Much of Barker’s work focuses on this aspect of the First Temple.

[6] The Mother of the Lord, Volume I: The Lady in the Temple, 259.

[7] Meditations on the Tarot, trans. Robert Powell (Angelico Press, 2019), 547–48.

Michael can be reached at director@thecenterforsophiologicalstudies.com See also The Center for Sophiological Studies' available courses.

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