Athens Talk December 2nd, 2016
The Great Challenge of Our Time: Awakening to a New Story
My latest book, The Dream of the Cosmos has been translated into Greek. This talk was given in Athens on the occasion of the launch in December. While it contains material from earlier talks, it carries a new and urgent message.
I would like to open this talk with this beautiful image of Athena, protector of this ancient city. It once stood in an earlier temple on the Acropolis before the Parthenon was built. The serpent edging her robe, encircling her head and held in her hand signifies her power to regenerate life. It also shows her descent from the Great Goddess of the pre-patriarchal age and, more specifically, from the Cretan goddess prior to the destruction of that culture. The serpent is an ancient image of the quality of wisdom associated with Athena, wisdom with which the goddess guided Odysseus on his journey home to Penelope. We need her wisdom now at this crucially important and dangerous time for humanity.
2. The Dream of the Cosmos
I wrote my book, The Dream of the Cosmos, to recover the feminine image of the Soul and to find out why it had been lost. I also wrote it as an exploration of the collective psyche of Western civilization, uncovering the traumas it unconsciously carries and the beliefs and mythologies that had influenced it. In the course of writing it I discovered that we once had a profound relationship with the Earth and the Cosmos: a relationship Western civilization has lost but many shamanic cultures have miraculously preserved. How did we lose this relationship? We lost it partly through a growing emphasis on conquest and the building of vast empires and partly through religious beliefs which separated the Creator from creation, Spirit from Nature and mind from soul and body.
Once upon a time, long ago, the feeling for the sacredness of life and a profound connection with the Cosmos was a deep instinct, shared by much of humanity. Six ancient civilizations: those of Egypt, Vedic India, Mesopotamia, South and Central America and China built extraordinary temples aligned to specific stars and constellations. They valued visionary dreams as revelations from the divine ground of the Cosmos, as a source of divine guidance and as a door leading to divine encounters. Then, almost imperceptibly, this connection with the Cosmos was lost.
I soon began to see that for millennia a tremendous problem has been troubling the waters of the soul. It is this: in a civilization which has been structured for over two thousand years by a male image of God presiding over religions and institutions created entirely by men, and by a polarizing mythology which glorifies power, conquest and the mastery of nature, how can we learn to listen again to the voice of the Cosmos, the voice of the Soul? How can a more balanced and more conscious society come into being? How did we move from seeing Nature as animate and ensouled, part of the divine cosmic order, to seeing it as subject to our dominance and control? How did the Earth come to be regarded as an ‘It’ instead of a ‘Thou’? Centuries of conflict between nations, religions and ethnic groups have brought us to the present time when we must find a way of transcending archaic patterns of behaviour or risk destroying ourselves as a species.
The opening pages of my book define the purpose of civilization as the conquest of barbarism. The Minotaur, as shown in this marvellous etching by Picasso, is an image of barbarism, an image of blind, unconscious instinct bursting through the fragile layer of civilization and destroying everything in its path. It is an unrecognized predatory aspect of our own nature that can take us over when we lose touch with the ethical values which respect and serve life. It is utterly ruthless. Its sole attribute is the will to power: the drive for domination — even, in the words of Donald Rumsfeldt, the drive for ‘full spectrum dominance’. We see it manifesting in the horrific cruelties of Isis, in the destruction of the wonderful ancient city of Aleppo, in the massacre of helpless civilians, in the general breakdown of civilization. But we can also see it in the demonic weapons accumulated by the nine nuclear powers of the world. We can see it in the greed of the giant corporations and the leaders of nations who do not serve their people but their own power-driven agendas. We can see it above all in a statistic like this one: Global military expenditure in 2015 was an estimated $1,676 billion dollars. And this one: In 2014, at least $94.5 billion dollars worth of arms sales were agreed on. Between 2010 and 2014 the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, together with Germany and Spain, accounted for over 80% of the arms sold, mainly to developing countries. (source: Scilla Elworthy).
These nations may ignore the message of Sophocles, in his great play Oedipus the Tyrant where Tiresias says to Oedipus: “You have your sight, but do not see what evils are about you.” The Greek tragedians understood the nature of hubris. No-where is this hubris more apparent than in the sphere of politics, weapons and arms sales.
The Minotaur creates unimaginable suffering. It has done so over and over again for the last 4,000 years ever since the rise of the great empires and the beginning of the addiction to war and conquest.
4. Virgin and ruined city
What suffers most in the brutal rampage of the Minotaur is the neglected feminine value: the human instinct to protect and cherish life, the innate instinct to love; the deep sense for relationship: relationship with and respect for each other and for all aspects of life on the planet. The feminine value carries the neglected values of the heart, not the ruthless will to power of the unconscious predatory instinct.
5. Einstein picture
Einstein said that “with the splitting of the atom everything has changed save our mode of thinking and thus we drift towards unparalleled catastrophes.” He saw the danger of the splitting of the atom and the power this gave to governments to create the nuclear weapons that have unleashed the Minotaur in our time. In that ancient myth, Theseus found his way into the heart of the labyrinth and killed the Minotaur. I think our task is not so much to kill the Minotaur as to transform it. But how do we change our present mode of thinking and the predatory habits of behaviour that have such deep roots in our nature?
6. Moon, green fields and dolmen
What changed my mode of thinking and led to the writing of this book was a series of powerful archetypal dreams I had about forty years ago. One in particular profoundly changed the course of my life. I think you will understand why when I tell it to you.
I dream that I come round the side of a huge dolmen and enter a different world, a desert landscape lit by the brilliant radiance of the full moon. The landscape is transformed into field after field of shimmering green wheat. The moonlight is so bright that it is like daylight and the wheat is the colour of an emerald. I float over this emerald sea for many miles, my bare feet skimming its surface until I come to the brow of a hill and hesitate, wondering if I should go further. I decide to go on and come down into a valley which is about a mile wide. Suddenly I find that there are two gigantic men standing on either side of the valley. They have a huge net stretched across it and are drawing me into the presence of something tremendously powerful and numinous. I lie flat on my back on the ground, caught like a fish in the net. I look up, half in terror, half in awe at the vision before my eyes.
7. Goddess Picture with swirling vortex in abdomen
I see the figure of a woman filling the entire space between earth and sky. She is naked and very beautiful; not young, but ageless. In the centre of her abdomen is an immense revolving wheel. Awestruck, I gaze up at her; then down at my own body, which is exactly like hers, only tiny in comparison with it. I too have a wheel but mine is not centred. It is on the left. She does not speak but indicates that I am to centre my wheel, like hers. That was her message to me. This picture (from Google) is the nearest I could find to the cosmic woman of my dream.
This visionary dream was an initiation into an utterly different perception of reality. What did I learn? I learned that dreams have a cosmic dimension. I learned that this Cosmic Woman represented the feminine aspect of deity that was banished by the three patriarchal religions. I realized this absence of the Feminine Archetype is the origin of the imbalance in Western civilization between the masculine and feminine archetypes and how profoundly this imbalance has affected every aspect of our lives. The dream led me to the Jewish mystical tradition of Kabbalah which is called The Voice of the Dove. To my astonishment, I found there the feminine image of the Shekinah and the cosmic union of the two primary archetypal principles, with multiple worlds or levels of reality emanating from their ecstatic and continuous embrace.
Centering my wheel taught me to become more aware of the devastation we have inflicted on the Earth by forgetting what shamanic cultures have never forgotten: that the Earth is part of a Sacred Cosmic Order. Ultimately this dream led me to author and co-author several books defining the mythology and images of the Goddess or the Divine Feminine. I gradually realised that only when nature, matter, soul and body – the four aspects of the Feminine – are recognized as the manifestation of spirit will we be able to heal our dangerously unbalanced and unconscious culture. If we can accomplish this enormous task, we will enter a new era.
The dream led me to discover when and how Nature had been split off from Spirit. It led me to the recognition that, as Plato understood long ago, the Soul is the great invisible matrix of Being to which we belong, in whose life we live. I suddenly understood that the soul is not so much in us. We are in the Soul. It led me to a different concept of God as the life of the entire Cosmos not as the remote paternal Creator beyond it. It led me to the realization that, while the body dies, the soul is immortal.
I knew that the voice of the long-silenced Feminine, the voice of the Soul is needed to heal the Wasteland—the current state of the planet and the lives of the billions of men, women and above all, children that are blighted or destroyed by human cruelty, greed and ignorance. In my book I ask the question: will we choose to imitate the patterns of the past, or can we embrace the truly immense transformation of consciousness we will need to make if we wish to forge a different future for coming generations?
8. Four Greek Philosophers
Now, I would like to go more deeply into our past history to explain how our present mode of thinking came into being. The Western philosophical tradition rests on the foundation laid by Pythagoras, Parmenides, Plato and Aristotle some 2,500 years ago. These philosophers were in touch with the Cosmos and the creative depths of the soul. They were vital links in a Western initiatory tradition that originated in Egypt. For them science and philosophy came from the sacred and led back to the sacred. Pythagoras learnt from the Egyptian priests the mathematical principles of the harmony of the Cosmos and left us these immortal words: “Take courage, for the human race is divine.” Parmenides, practiced in the rites of incubation where he waited in darkness for the enlightening Dream, wrote an extraordinary poem describing his journey into the Otherworld, drawn by a chariot guided by young women through immense gates that stretched from earth to heaven. There he encountered the Goddess who, taking his right hand in hers, gave him teachings to take back to the land of mortals: teachings about Truth, Justice and the right ordering of human existence. Plato, his pupil, gave a description of the Soul of the Cosmos as a “Single Living Creature that encompasses all living creatures that are within it.” Aristotle’s intention was to discover the working of the divine in the natural world. These men knew the Cosmos was a living harmonious whole and that our consciousness could access the higher dimensions of that greater Whole. Parmenides in particular, paid the closest attention to the Visionary Dream as a source of the laws promoting the right conduct of human society and the means of keeping it in a harmonious relationship with the Cosmos.
9. Picture of Cosmos: Zeus and Hera
I realized that the first necessity for changing our mode of thinking is to move beyond the current secular belief that the universe is without life, meaning or purpose and to recognize, as these Greek philosophers did, that we live in a universe that is alive, conscious and the unseen origin of our own still limited consciousness. The second necessity is to understand how a separation arose between the two great archetypal principles represented here by Zeus and Hera. Hera was the Great Goddess of the Plain of Argos for 2,000 years before Zeus appeared on the scene but few people know this.
10. Blake Ancient of Days
My research led me to realize that there was a fundamental dissociation in the three patriarchal religions between the masculine and feminine archetypes, between spirit and nature, creator and creation. I found that in Judaism, Christianity and Islam the concept of Deity contains no image of marriage and relationship between these two primary archetypes. Christianity has a male Trinity although the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament was originally Feminine. All three religions ruthlessly and deliberately eliminated the feminine aspect of Deity as well as the ancient belief that spirit was present in the forms of the natural world. All identified spirit with a wholly transcendent concept of God. Today, we are faced with the devastating effects of the long absence of the Feminine in our concept of spirit. There is no real respect for nature; no sense of relationship with the life of the planet; no apparent awareness that we are destroying the habitat that sustains us; a habitat that was once held to be sacred and worshipped as the Great Mother — as it still is today in shamanic cultures. With our ever-growing numbers we have already destroyed 50% of all species on the planet. By 2020, two-thirds of all wild animals will be gone. Awakening to a new story means moving towards a new image of God or Spirit which includes nature and all planetary life and indeed, all cosmic life. It means recovering a very ancient understanding that the Cosmos has a Soul and an Intelligence and that spirit is immanent or present in every particle of matter: every stone, flower, tree and blade of grass and every atom of the hundred million atoms of our own being.
11. Great Mother of the Lunar Era (3 images)
Through research for an earlier book — The Myth of the Goddess, that I wrote with a friend, I knew that the Great Mother was worshipped for at least 20,000 years before patriarchal civilization developed and that the Cosmos was imagined as a Great Mother from whose womb all life emerged. To understand the importance of the Feminine and why its repression has had such a catastrophic effect on Western civilization, we need to go back to the great civilizations of the Bronze Age and long before those, to the Neolithic and Palaeolithic eras. The observation of the phases of the moon was the origin of the great Bronze Age myths of the annual death and regeneration of life: the myths of Isis and Osiris, Ishtar and Tammuz, Cybele and Attis, Demeter and Persephone. Therefore in our book we called this pre-patriarchal phase in the evolution of consciousness the Lunar Era.
12. Phases of the Moon
In the Neolithic era and the great civilizations of the Bronze Age – particularly those of Egypt, India and China – the whole cosmos was imagined as a Great Mother, as an organic, sacred and living whole. This material world emerged from an unseen source or ground which breathed it into being, animating and sustaining it. The mythic theme of Lunar Culture is a cyclical process of Birth, Death and Regeneration that arose from the age-old observation of the recurring phases of the moon: its birth as the crescent; its waxing to fullness, and its waning into the three days of darkness. The constant rhythm of the moon’s waxing and waning taught us to perceive light and darkness in relation to each other. Light and darkness, life and death were not polarized as they were later to become in solar culture, but were phases of the total cycle.
13. Cecil Collins' painting of goddess
The life of the Great Mother was eternal, like the moon. The life of the Earth’s vegetation and our human lives waxed and waned like the phases of the moon. Everything was infused with divinity because each and all were part of a living, breathing, connecting web of life animated by spirit. People felt they lived within a Sacred Order, the Order of the Great Mother and the triune Goddess – maiden, mother and crone – who was associated with the life of the Moon. This was the foundation which the pre-Socratic Greek philosophers inherited and to which the pre-Socratic philosopher, Thales of Miletus, gave expression when he said “The All is Alive”.
14. Artemis of Ephesus
This is an image of Artemis, Great Goddess of Ephesus, whose Anatolian name was Cybele (Kybele) and whose statue stands, now beautifully restored, in the Archaeological Museum in Naples. Once it stood in her magnificent temple in Ephesus. Resting on her multiple breasts is the great lunar crescent identifying her as a Moon Goddess, and beneath it nestles a circle of tiny acorns. On her body are sculpted different animals including lions, bulls and bees as well as angelic beings and priestesses of her temple. It is an amazingly complete statement of the unity of the great web of life still carried as late as the sixth century AD by the image of a goddess as Great Mother.
15. Temple of Artemis of Ephesus
This is a virtual recreation of the magnificent temple of Artemis of Ephesus, truly one of the wonders of the Greek world. It is, tragically, one of the features of conquering religions that they try to destroy the evidence of an older religion, as the Islamists today are destroying the great monuments of Syria and Iraq.
The marvellous temples of the Greek and Roman world were destroyed in the 4th to 6th centuries AD on the orders of the Christian Emperors Theodosius and Justinian, who also closed down the Platonic School in Athens that had flourished for a thousand years. Fortunately, the king of Persia invited its renowned teachers to teach in a university located near the city of Basra. After the Muslims conquered Persia in the seventh century this priceless legacy of Greek texts was not destroyed but entered the Arab world and eventually returned to Europe via translators working in Arab Spain in the twelfth century.
In the hymns composed in honour of another Great Goddess, Isis, or Hathor as she was also known, is addressed as the sole creator of the world, the One who brings the many into being. There is an immense range of thought and feeling that the image of Isis carries and her many names and titles do not convey the people’s love for her, nor the depth of their need for and trust in her as their Cosmic or Universal Mother, nor the profound influence she had on Egyptian and later Greek and Roman civilization for over three thousand years. Holding the three dimensions of Heaven, Earth and Underworld within her being, she personified the great matrix of relationships through which all aspects and forms of life were connected with each other.
These Great Goddesses were worshipped as the source of life: one life manifesting as the life of each and all. Sexuality was seen as the vital expression of that life: a sacred, ecstatic impulse reflecting life’s own creative impulse eternally to renew itself. Everything came forth from the womb of the Great Mother and had meaning and value through relationship with her. So relationship and connection came to be understood as the essential quality of the Feminine.
The most important idea I want to convey to you is that there was no separation between the Great Mother as Source and the manifest forms of her life. There was no creator beyond creation. The creator was both the life of nature and the hidden powers of the cosmos personified in the Bronze Age and the later Iron Age by many goddesses and gods.
This exquisite statue of Kore in the museum here epitomises for me the genius of Greece. Greek culture stands between a lunar culture focussed on the Goddess and a solar culture focussed on the God. The older sense of participation in a sacred earth and a sacred cosmos begins to fade as a new phase in the evolution of human consciousness comes into being. This new phase I have called the Solar Era where the developing power of mind and rational thought begins to draw away from the maternal realm of an ensouled nature. It is at this point that human consciousness begins to be cut off from the cosmic depths from which it has emerged. The older mythology focused on death and regeneration begins to fade.
18. Diagram of Two Phases
I have drawn this diagram to summarise the older lunar phase of consciousness, the phase of Original Participation, where the human self felt contained within the Great Mother. In the new solar Phase of Separation, the ego or conscious mind is growing away from the sense of containment in the maternal primordial Soul. As this happens, Duality comes into being. Cosmos, deity and the world begin to be experienced as separate from the self and seen as objects. This leads to increasing polarization in the political and social field and the beginnings of a struggle for power between cities and nations, a struggle that continues today.
19. The Great Father God of the Solar Era
The Solar Era sees the emergence of the ego and the conscious mind from the matrix of instinct and the primordial soul. From around 2,000 BC we enter the patriarchal solar era: an era of huge social and political change; an era that I call the Phase of Separation. The sun rather than the moon becomes the primary celestial body. The Great Father replaces the Great Mother and two immensely powerful mythologies become the primary influence on the social, political and religious history of the West, right up to the present time. The mythic theme that dominates the solar era is the cosmic battle between Light and Darkness, Good and Evil, originating in Persia with the great sage Zoroaster. Pick up any newspaper and you can see how this battle lives on today in the political and social polarizations of our time. Despite its huge cultural achievements, this 4,000 year long era has been dominated by the theme of conquest, territorial expansion and the creation of gigantic empires, culminating in the First and Second World Wars and the current catastrophe in the Middle East and the tension between the great nations. This mythology has led ultimately to the battle to conquer and subdue Nature in the service of Man, to the splitting of the atom and the accumulation of nuclear weapons. During this era, the drive for power and dominance replaced the older lunar emphasis on relationship.
20. The Warrior – Alexander the Great
The Solar Era is the era of the warrior, the 'solar hero', personified here by Alexander of Macedon, the great conqueror. The archetype or pattern of the Warrior still dominates the piling up of arms by the great nations today and leaders of nations still unconsciously assume the role of the solar hero battling the forces of darkness that are projected onto an enemy.
21. Icon of St. George and the Dragon
The solar battle between Light and Darkness, Good and Evil is reflected in this icon of St. George killing a dragon. Many extraordinary human achievements owe their origin to the battle to overcome darkness but it was also projected onto the struggle for power between nations and the creation of an enemy — the dragon who had to be defeated by the solar hero. No-one was sufficiently conscious to be aware of the presence of the inner dragon until very recently.
22. Hero and Dragon Pisanello
However, I would like to explain to you that, in the context of the inner world of the psyche, this battle can be understood to reflect the ego’s struggle for autonomy in relation to the immense power of the matrix of nature and instinct from which it was emerging and which is here symbolized by the dragon. The ego’s great fear was of being swallowed by the jaws of the dragon, falling back into unconsciousness — which is precisely what happens when the Minotaur takes us over. Because of this struggle, the ego and the developing conscious mind – identified with the solar hero – became increasingly split off from the feminine matrix out of which it had evolved. It felt it had to ascend to the sun — away from Nature, away from the Great Mother, away from the jaws of the Dragon. The ego’s struggle for autonomy was tantamount to matricide and it destroyed the possibility of maintaining a relationship with the Feminine. You may remember the myth of Apollo killing the she-dragon of Delphi. Apollo, the sun god, can be identified with the male ego of that time and indeed, with the male ego today.
23. Diagram of the psyche
I have drawn this diagram of the psyche to show you how the ego and the conscious mind – that tiny yellow triangle at the top – have evolved out of the far older matrix of instinct, and beyond that, out of Nature and, ultimately, the Cosmos. Evolution brings problems and our problems today arise from the fact that over the last four millennia, this tiny aspect of our total psyche has become detached from the matrix of the primordial soul out of which it has evolved; detached from any sense of relationship with planetary and cosmic life. Personal memories are stored to some extent within our conscious memory but the less conscious collective memories and habits of behaviour of our species are held in what Jung called the Collective Unconscious. Being less accessible to consciousness they can influence our lives and relationships in ways we are not aware of.
As the centuries passed, the conscious mind became more and more detached and more and more inflated and omnipotent until its detachment is now complete and it no longer has any awareness of or relationship with the psychic depths from which it has emerged nor any relationship with Nature or the Cosmos. This leaves it open to being taken over, possessed and driven by powerful archetypal forces it does not recognize, symbolized in mythology by the Dragon, the Minotaur and the Gorgon who can freeze men to stone.
The danger here, as the story of Ikaros illustrates, is that the ego and the conscious mind can fly too close to the sun. The result for us, as it was for Ikaros, is catastrophe. Unaware of the power of unconscious forces within the psyche which influence our decisions and actions in the world, we may fall victim to that state of psychic inflation or hubris that the story of Ikaros illustrates.
25. The Story of the Fall of Man
The second immensely powerful myth that dominates the Solar Era is the story of the Fall of Man as told in the Book of Genesis, and the expulsion of our primordial ancestors, Adam and Eve, from the Garden of Eden. In this myth the Image of Deity changes from Great Mother to Great Father. The Great Mother is deliberately demoted by the Hebrew priesthood into the human and flawed figure of Eve who still holds the title of “Mother of All Living”. The image of the Goddess is banished from the great temple in Jerusalem. Divine Immanence is lost. Earth becomes a place of exile and punishment for primordial sin. Man is given dominion over the Earth but he is exiled from the Divine Order. He lives in a world contaminated by the Fall and subject to sin, suffering and death, subject also to control by powerful priesthoods, a control that continues to this day.
26. The Expulsion from the Garden - Michelangelo
This myth describes the birth of consciousness and the difficult emergence of the ego from the deeper matrix of the psyche but it was interpreted as literal fact and divine revelation. It became the foundation of Christian doctrine and the reason why we needed the sacrificial death of the Son of God to save us from our sins. The radical change of consciousness which it reflects tore us out of nature – symbolized by the Garden of Eden – and led to pathological symptoms of anxiety and guilt and the compensatory desire for power and security resulting from a profound experience of dissociation, separation and loss — symptoms similar to those a child exhibits when it has lost its mother.
I think this myth has had a disastrous effect on the human psyche and on Western civilization as a whole because it was used as an instrument for keeping people in a state of subjection to the control of a religious institution. We can understand now that the emergence of the ego and the conscious mind from the matrix of instinct was a tremendous and necessary evolutionary achievement but it was won at the expense of the former instinctive sense of relationship with the earth and the cosmos — hence the feeling of an irreparable loss. Worship was now directed away from the earth towards the transcendent Father in heaven: all rituals of relationship with nature and the Great Mother or Great Goddess were eradicated. All pagan temples were destroyed, including the great temple of Eleusis that had stood for 3,000 years. In 391 AD the Great Library in Alexandria was destroyed by a Christian mob. Thousands of scrolls – the priceless legacy of the ancient world – were burnt and lost forever.
27. Adam Blaming Eve
This powerful myth is the origin of the virulent misogyny still active today because all women were and still unconsciously are identified with Eve who was blamed for bringing sin, death and suffering into the world. Here we have Adam pointing the finger of blame at Eve. The patriarchal religions kept women in a position of subservience until very recently when, against huge resistance, they have begun to throw off their oppression and male control.
Until I researched their letters, I had not realized the extent of the early Christian Fathers’ obsession with the Myth of the Fall of Man, with the sin of Adam and Eve taking that apple from the Tree of Life. I was astonished by their deep suspicion of sexuality and appalled by their phobic fear of women. Without exception, all believed that the path to God required the renunciation of sexual intercourse and relationship with women.
28. Mary Magdalene and Jesus at the tomb (Noli me tangere)
Since writing my book, I have discovered that the Catholic Church deliberately concealed the fact that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and that they had three children and many descendents. At the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD amid furious argument between two opposing factions, the Council of Bishops declared Jesus to be the only Son of God, of one substance with God. Naming him the Son of God meant that he had to be immaculately conceived as well as celibate. All traces of his marriage and the fact that he had children as well as several brothers and sisters and a bloodline of descent for several hundred years had to be erased. Pope Gregory the Great in the late sixth century declared Mary Magdalene to have been a prostitute and possessed by seven devils. Imagine how different the history of Christianity might have been if the marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene and the existence of their children had been known and celebrated and if it were known that Mary was not only his wife but one of the apostles, another fact that was erased. The emphasis on celibacy as the path to spirituality might never have existed. We might have been spared the neurotic preoccupation with sin and sexuality and the mistrust of women that bedevils the Christian Churches to this day and the current addiction to pornography and sex. We might have been spared the horrific sexual abuse of children that has recently come to light and the deaths of thousands who were sacrificed by the Church because of its belief that God required the extirpation of heresy.
29. The Effect of these two Polarizing Mythologies
As a consequence of the deity becoming totally transcendent, spirit and nature during the solar era become separated.
From 418 AD, under the powerful influence of St. Augustine, Church Doctrine taught that sexual intercourse transmitted the Original Sin of the Fall. Can you imagine what this did to relationships between men and women and to sexuality in general? Can you understand how the repression of sexuality is one of the disastrous features of Christian civilization? Repressing a vital instinct leads to compulsive forms of behaviour which inflict great violence on others.
Western civilisation has developed on the foundation of this fundamental split between spirit and nature, creator and creation, and between mind and body. The body has never been regarded as sacred and as the vehicle of spirit in this dimension of reality. For millennia, the body has been sacrificed and is still horrifically sacrificed in wars by the obscene weapons we have created.
This split effectively destroyed the ancient awareness of the presence of spirit in the natural world and opened the way to its ultimate exploitation. The Feminine Archetype, once associated with the Great Mother and the Great Goddesses of earlier civilizations and with the deep instinctive sense that the world was part of a Sacred Cosmic Order, was relegated to the unconscious. Our current worldview, whether in the East or the West, now rests on the premise of our separation from and mastery of nature, where the resources of the planet are unthinkingly plundered to serve the ever-growing numbers and needs of our species. Our most urgent task is to heal the split between spirit and nature and reconnect our conscious, rational mind with the feminine matrix of our primordial soul.
30. Odilon Redon
In this painting of the Cyclops a one-eyed giant gazes out over a beautiful landscape holding the figure of a naked woman. No image illustrates more eloquently the current dissociation of our rational conscious mind and its one-eyed vision from the deeper matrix of our soul and its instinctive way of knowing. World culture now is in thrall to this one-eyed consciousness. Immersed in the fascination with technology and the struggle for power between nations, we have forgotten our profound relationship with the planet and the Cosmos. Technological progress, scientific advance, the acquisition of wealth and political and corporate power have become the supreme goals. The words: “Without vision the people perish” have been forgotten.
To sum up: over the four millennia that solar mythology has been the dominant influence on Western civilization, we have reached dazzling heights of scientific and technological advance which have improved the conditions of human life on this planet and facilitated a phenomenal expansion of our ability to express the creative genius of our species in many different fields. But we have also suffered a catastrophic loss of soul, a loss of the ancient instinctive awareness of the sacred interweaving of all aspects of life, a loss of the sense of participation in the life of nature and the invisible dimension of the Cosmos, a loss of the mythic imagination. The rational human mind is now the supreme value – falsely claiming the role of the solar hero. It has virtually replaced God: it no longer recognizes a dimension of reality beyond the material universe, nor any form of consciousness transcendent to its own. It has lost all awareness of the soul. In its one-eyed stance, cut off from its roots, it has banished the unknown, unexplored, non-rational aspect of life. Arrogant and dissociated it stands like a tyrant over and against nature, over and against the earth, over against life, seeking ever more power over them. This activates elements in the Cosmos which will seek to redress the wrongs we have inflicted on the Earth.
31. Jung’s warning
Jung warned us with these words: “As at the beginning of the Christian Era, so again today we are faced with the problem of the general moral backwardness of our species which has failed to keep pace with our scientific, technical and social progress.”
“Consciousness torn from its roots…possesses a Promethean freedom but it also partakes of the nature of a godless hubris.”
32. Danger of Ideologies and Mass Psychoses (Mao, Hitler, Stalin, IS)
Having survived three totalitarian regimes in the last century which between them killed over 100 million people, we are now faced with a fourth – the threat of an Islamist Caliphate taking root in the Middle East and extending itself along the shores of North Africa as far as Tunisia, possibly even worldwide. Christians are under assault in more than a hundred countries. Thousands of Muslims are dying horrifically at the hands of fellow Muslims. Jews are threatened by the same hatred that led to the Holocaust, a hatred that would like to see the State of Israel wiped from the map. Young men are slaughtering men, women and children in the name of Allah, taking women and children to serve them as concubines and slaves, glorifying depravity in the name of the God of Compassion. There is as yet no great spiritual leader in the Muslim world who is calling for an end to the lethal hatred between the Sunnis and the Shia which has endured for over a thousand years and is largely responsible for this tragic scenario. Thousands of young men have fallen victim to this new ideology.
Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the current civil war in Syria some fourteen million Muslims have fled their homes and villages and may not be able to return to them. Despite the teachings of all religions about the sanctity of life, we can see that humanity as a whole is still morally unconscious, still easily drawn to follow psychopathic leaders, still the helpless victim of the Minotaur. Jung commented on these psychoses: “Although contemporary man believes that he can change himself without limit, the astounding or rather terrifying, fact remains that despite civilisation and the influence of religions, he is still, morally, as much in bondage to his instincts as an animal, and can therefore fall victim at any moment to the beast within.” We can see from the situation in Aleppo that this has rightly been called by a former Under-Secretary the blackest chapter in the history of the UN which is powerless to intervene to send help to the desperate civilians trapped in this ravaged city.
34. Nuclear Explosion
“God’s powers have passed into our hands. The powers themselves are not evil, but in the hands of man they are an appalling danger — in evil hands.” Jung
With nuclear fission, tremendous power was given into our hands, power that we were in no sense morally equipped to handle. The belief that matter is ‘dead’ rather than alive with spirit, allowed us to split the atom and develop a dangerous technology which is leaving lethal residues of radioactivity from some 2,000 nuclear explosions and the plutonium waste from 450 nuclear reactors, some elements of which can last for 500 million years. It has driven us to create ever more demonic weapons with which to perpetuate our addiction to war. It has given terrifying power to enemies such as the Islamists whose avowed intention is to rule the world. But are these barbaric Jihadists the reflection of the unrecognized shadow of our aggressive western culture with its weapons of mass destruction?
Here is what former vice-president Cheney said of the President and nuclear weapons – now about 5,000 of them.
The President of the United States is followed at all times, 24 hours a day, by a military aide carrying the secret nuclear codes that he would use and be authorized to use in the event of a nuclear attack on the United States. He could launch the kind of devastating attack the world has never seen. He doesn’t have to check with anybody, he doesn’t have to call Congress, he doesn’t have to check with the courts.
The evils we see today may be the creation of our beliefs and patterns of behaviour over some four thousand years. From the perspective of the great spiritual teachers of humanity, we have created a truly demonic technology but our survival instincts and the habits of governments may prevent us from recognizing this.
This critically dangerous time when evil and cruelty stalk the world like the giant of this painting, when millions of desperate people are fleeing their homes to seek sanctuary in Europe, gives us the possibility of moving to a higher state of consciousness: in the midst of this great darkness a light is dawning. We can increasingly see that we have to evolve from the malignant chaos we have created.
We can see clearly the unconscious shadow aspect of our civilization, the brutal, ruthless, predatory shadow. We cannot ignore what is being revealed. The election of Donald Trump, dangerously unaware of his power-seeking shadow, gives us the opportunity to see our collective shadow — the shadow that lurks beneath the mask of democracy — reflected in the shadow he is projecting into the world. So he can act like a wake-up call to all of us.
36. Facing the Shadow
In my book there is a chapter on the Shadow and how difficult it is to see the pattern of the predator which can so easily take us over and turn us into the Minotaur. There is also a chapter on War as the Rape of the Soul. One of the most destructive dynamics in the human psyche is when the darkness of the unconscious shadow — the brutal, ruthless, predatory shadow — becomes visible and available for being made conscious and we ignore or deny it. If we remain fixated at our current level, seeing life only in terms of conquest, power and technological progress or in terms of the rampant greed and consumerism that drives so many in our culture, our consciousness will remain fixated at the level of what the sages of India call the first chakra, unable to evolve beyond it. We will not be able to transform the shadow by moving to the level of the heart chakra.
37. Killing the Old King
We are living in an apocalyptic time when the patriarchal order and the old paradigm of power and conquest – a paradigm that has prevailed for the last 4,000 years – is dying and a new one is struggling to be born. This image from the Alchemical tradition shows the killing of the Old King, the Old Order. The old certainties, the old patriarchal concept of God, the old institutions like the UN are collapsing or losing their power and new ones are not yet established, so there is great confusion, uncertainty and fear as well as a ferocious battle to retain power and control on the part of the Old Order — a battle we can see reflected in the Middle East as well as in the American election and within the EU.
We are in the midst of the breakdown of a central myth and a belief system and image of God that has endured for two thousand years, shattering the vessel containing our beliefs about the nature of reality. Because of its loss, meaning and values are also lost. In their place, primitive and atavistic contents are activated. The hard-earned values that once governed society are replaced by the elemental motivations of power and pleasure, and the individual is exposed to emptiness, powerlessness and despair. People are disoriented, depressed, frightened and angry because the old certainties have gone; the old institutions, whether political or religious, are crumbling, dying, like the old king in this picture.
38. blank screen. Break here for a rest.
39. Pleiades Third Phase
In the last section of my book, I offer a new vision of reality leading to the recovery of our connection to the Soul of the Cosmos and our true role as servants of this planet. I define a new image of God, showing how we are an inseparable part of what we have worshipped for thousands of years, how we carry the presence of the divine within us. I show how we are responsible for our own redemption. We are, I think, moving into the third phase in the evolution of human consciousness. With the alchemists, I call this third phase Stellar Consciousness: our conscious participation in an ensouled universe and the reunion of spirit and nature, mind and soul.
40. View of Earth from Moon
I think the first trigger for the emergence of this new vision was Rachel Carson’s book ‘Silent Spring’, published in 1962. The second and most powerful trigger was the astronauts’ landing on the moon in July 1969 which gave us the breathtaking view of the Earth seen from space. Five hundred million people watched the Apollo landing and listened to Neil Armstrong’s famous words. In the space of a few hours, our planetary eyes expanded to cosmic eyes. Our relationship with the cosmos and our perception of ourselves was transformed. The fact that it was the moon being explored – age-old symbol of the Great Mother, the Feminine and the Soul – was in itself significant. But it was the sight of our planet from the moon that lifted us beyond national allegiances and opened our heart to the feeling of belonging to the cosmos. For the first time we became visually aware of the exquisite beauty and fragility of our blue planet and knew it was our home in the vastness of the starry cosmos.
41. Robin’s Cosmos picture
As this painting by my husband illustrates, something is manifesting from the deeper ground of the Cosmos. Something is stirring in the depths of our collective psyche, calling us to remember our true nature as inhabitants of the Cosmos and our true spiritual role as guardians and servants of this precious planet.
What is the great challenge of our time? It is to offer a new cosmology to our world: a new story. It is to move to a higher level of consciousness, recognizing that we are part of a Sacred Cosmic Order and that we are each inseparably connected to the world around us and the wider universe. It is to offer a new image of man – man not only exploring the Cosmos but man in conscious relationship and communion with it. The current story defining our culture is that material reality is the only reality and that consciousness begins and ends with the physical brain. We are alone in a randomly created universe that is without meaning or purpose. When we die, that is the end of us. No wonder people are depressed! Fortunately this story is fading and a new one is being born. We are not alone in the universe. “Far from living our lives unnoticed in a distant corner of an insentient universe, we are everywhere surrounded by orders of intelligence beyond reckoning.” (Bache)
We are living in a time of tumultuous evolutionary change which demands the breakdown of old structures and the birth of a new story. The thrilling discoveries by the Hubble telescope of the limitless size and incredible beauty of the universe, the remarkable discoveries about the sub-atomic world, and the biological history of evolution on this planet — all these and more have shattered the foundation upon which our civilization was built, just as the discoveries of Copernicus shattered the medieval view of reality.
Our consciousness is the infinitesimal spark of cosmic light that is now sufficiently evolved for the universe to reveal itself to us through the incredible instruments that science has devised. As if in response to an innate directing impulse, the consciousness latent or present within the Cosmos, Nature and matter is becoming conscious of itself through our consciousness. We are discovering our cosmic origins and the fact that in our essence we are literally star-life, star-energy, star-matter in every cell of our being.
42. The New Story
The New Story is that the whole universe is a unified field. We live within a cosmic web of life which underlies and connects all life forms in the universe and on our planet. Every atom of life interacts with every other atom, no matter how distant. None of us is therefore truly separate from others or from any aspect of cosmic life. This understanding was once implicitly held in the image of the Great Goddess and was certainly known to the Pre-Socratic philosophers. Here it is illustrated by an image of the Net of Indra from the Hindu tradition.
43. The New Cosmology
Through the emerging science of Unified Physics a new cosmology is being born; a new vision of our profound relationship with an intelligent, living and interconnected universe. We are not only connected through the Internet but through the actual particles of sub-atomic matter. We are part of an immense Field of Consciousness which sustains not only our world, but the entire Cosmos. The New Story gives us a radically new image of ourselves – not only exploring the universe but in conscious relationship and communion with it.
44. Blake Revelation
As in this painting by the English mystic William Blake, what we are being offered if we can see it is the revelation of a totally new way of looking at the universe and at ourselves, one that gives infinite value to our lives and lifts them out of the context of everyday concerns and obsessions.
What is the emerging vision of our time which could offer a template for a new civilization? I believe it is a vision which takes us beyond an outdated paradigm or worldview where we are held in bondage to beliefs and habits specific to race, nation, religion or gender, which have led us to exclude and devalue those who are different from ourselves and neglect our relationship with our planetary home. It is a vision which offers us a totally new concept of God or Spirit as an energy field — a limitless sea of being — as well as the creative consciousness or organising intelligence within that sea or field, and a totally new concept of ourselves as belonging to and participating in that incandescent sea of consciousness, with our lives contributing to its expansion.
It is a vision which recognises the sacredness and indissoluble unity of the great cosmic web of life and imposes on us the responsibility of becoming far more sensitive to the effects of our decisions and our actions. It invites our recognition of the needs of the planet and the life it sustains as primary, with ourselves as the humble servants of those needs. It invites us to see the well being of every creature as our responsibility. Above all, it is a vision which asks that we relinquish our addiction to weapons and war and the pursuit of power; that we become more aware of the dark shadow cast by this addiction which threatens us with ever more barbarism, bloodshed and suffering—ultimately with the possible extinction of our species.
From this perspective, the crisis of our times is not only an ecological and political crisis but a spiritual one. The answers we seek cannot come from the limited consciousness which now rules the world but could grow from a deeper understanding born of the union of heart and head, helping us to see that all life is one, that each of us participates in the life of a cosmic entity of immeasurable dimensions. The urgent need for this psychic balance, this deeper intelligence and wisdom, this wholeness, could help us to recover a perspective on life that has been increasingly lost until we have come to live without it — and without even noticing it has gone — recognizing the existence of nothing beyond the parameters of the human mind. It is a dangerous time because it involves transforming entrenched belief systems and archaic survival habits of behaviour that are rooted in fear, as well as the greed and desire for power that are born of fear. But it is also an immense opportunity for evolutionary advance, if only we can understand what is happening and why.
45. Awakening to the Feminine and the Soul
Part of the New Story is awakening to the Feminine. In its deepest archetypal sense, what does the word ‘Feminine’ mean? As I’ve defined it in my book it stands for a totally different perspective on life, a totally different paradigm of reality and for the values which reflect and support that paradigm. It stands for a new and conscious relationship with the Earth and the Cosmos and the arduous creation of a new kind of civilization which honours that relationship and those values. Awakening to the Feminine invites the recognition that we live within a Sacred Order and that we have a responsibility to the Cosmos to protect the life of this planet and all the variety of species it embraces instead of exploiting them for the benefit of our species alone. Awakening to the Feminine would fulfil Einstein’s wish that we should change our mode of thinking.
The Soul is the great Sea of Being in whose life we live. Beyond our present time-bound sight a limitless field of Consciousness is interacting with our own, asking to be recognized by us, embraced by us. We need to broaden our concept of Soul to embrace the inner life of the universe and recognize that it is alive, conscious and the eternal ground of our own consciousness. It may be that the Soul of the Cosmos has waited aeons for us to reach the point in our evolution where more than a handful of individuals could awaken to relationship with the ground that animates and supports the whole of our existence. We face a choice between continuing in the patterns of the past which may lead to our extinction or living and acting from a radically different understanding of life and of ourselves.
In the words of Heraclitus, you could not discover the limits of the soul, even if you travelled by every path in order to do so; so profound is its meaning
Awakening to the Feminine invites us to listen to the long-ignored voice of the soul that speaks below the threshold of consciousness – speaks to us through dreams and visions, through our deepest instincts and intuitions and through the depressions that afflict so many of us — depressions that are rooted in the loss of soul and living in a culture that has lost all connection with a deeper Ground, that is totally out of harmony with it. Our physical body and brain are the vehicle of the Soul in this material dimension of reality. The soul communicates mainly through the heart, through our deepest feelings, many of which are ignored and repressed in our driven and addicted culture.
46. Highest Qualities of the Soul
To move beyond the first chakra, we need consciously to cultivate and develop these highest qualities of the Soul: Wisdom, Compassion, Love, Justice, Beauty and Harmony and the instinct to heal, nurture, cherish and protect all forms of life.
47. New Image of God or Spirit
As we begin to understand this incredible New Story, the realization is dawning that we are participating in a Cosmic Consciousness or Intelligence which is present in every particle of our being and every particle of matter. We are all individual expressions of one limitless Organism. God or Spirit or Divine Mind is not something transcendent to ourselves. We are co-inherent with it, at the very heart of it. This is one of the great revelations of our time.
48. Dark Heart
At the heart of it is a love of unimaginable dimensions. It is this love that sustains the universe and holds all aspects of the Cosmos together. If God or Spirit is not something separate from us, something transcendent to nature and planetary life, but is the intelligence and energy of the life process itself, flaring forth at every instant in every region of this vast universe, then how we treat so-called inanimate matter, planetary life and each other becomes a matter of how we are treating God. It transforms obedience to God’s commands into love and relationship with God’s creation.
49. New Attitude to Death, Hieronymous Bosch painting
The New Story invites a different understanding of death. The role of the Feminine is to reunite what has been separated: this world with the invisible dimensions of the cosmos; the rational with the trans-rational. Through the Near-Death Experience recounted by thousands of individuals, and the huge body of evidence about our survival that now exists, we are being made aware of the immortality of the soul and the existence of our subtle or soul body. Nothing is more important for our well being than to know that when we die we move into another reality that is as real and vitally alive as this one. Consciousness does not die with the death of the body: consciousness is eternal. We are re-united with those we love and from whom we have been separated by death.
50. Three bodies: physical, soul and spirit body
The Metaphysical Traditions of both East and West have long taught that we are living within subtle fields of reality which are imperceptible to our ‘normal’ level of consciousness and the instruments so far devised by science. We see only 4% of the universe. What lies hidden within the invisible 96%? These metaphysical traditions tell us that our lives are woven into a cosmic tapestry whose threads connect us not only with many dimensions of reality but with multitudes of beings inhabiting those dimensions. Beyond the present confines of our sight a limitless field of consciousness is interacting with our own.
We have three bodies connecting us to three different dimensions or levels of reality that are attuned to different vibrational rates: first of all the physical body we need when incarnating on this planet and its dense vibrational field. Secondly, the soul body we need when we enter the “Soul World” of subtle forms and multiple dimensions. Thirdly, the spirit body we connect with when we are in touch with the divine ground — the plane of Light beyond form. We carry these three bodies without being aware of the soul and spirit ones, yet with contemplative practices known to many different cultures, we can connect with these while still in our physical body. We need to align these three bodies with each other so that they act as a unity. Psychotherapy needs to take account of the need to align these three bodies with each other.
51. Bridge between Dimensions
It is time scientists began to listen to shamans who for millennia have been in touch with other dimensions and even with beings from other planetary systems that they call “The Shining Ones”. In shamanic cultures there has always been a bridge between this world and other invisible ones. Twelve thousand eight hundred years ago this planet was hit by fragments of a disintegrating comet and most of its inhabitants were destroyed by the devastating impact of what was remembered as the Great Flood. People came from other planetary systems to teach the traumatised survivors the lost skills of civilization. We had, as Plato put it, “to begin again like children with no memory of what went before.”
52. Parmenides and Aesclepius
It is high time we began to listen again to the messages of our dreams as Parmenides and Aesclepius did two and a half millennia ago.
53. Young King from Splendor Solis manuscript
In my book I explore Alchemy. Somehow Alchemy kept alive through the centuries the teaching of Jesus about the transmutation of consciousness. The alchemists prepared the ground for the transformation that is taking place today. Alchemy has a vivid image for the emergence of the new consciousness that is being birthed in the souls of hundreds of thousands of people all over the planet. They called it the Young King. The dying of the Old Order is carried in the distant figure of the Old King in the water. The New Order is carried in this beautiful image of the Young King. The words that go with this picture say: “The King's son lies in the depths of the sea as though dead. But he lives and calls from the deep: Whosoever will rescue me and bring me to dry land, him will I reward with everlasting riches.”
The Old Order has been based on the principle of power. The new one will be based on the principle of relationship. The time of transition from an old paradigm to a new one is challenging and dangerous because the old one is so deeply established in the collective psyche and more specifically, in the governments of nations and their unconscious political leaders. Yet there is great hope for a different future for humanity carried in the hearts of those who are working for the new vision.
54. The Annunciation, Simone Martini
I think that something comparable to an Annunciation is taking place in our world, announcing a new phase in the evolution of human consciousness: an awakening to the divine unity of life. It could be said that the Incarnation did not end with the life of Christ. It is a process unfolding through millennia in the lives of billions of individuals, many of whom are not affiliated to any religious tradition. The great images of the Christian myth, like the Annunciation are archetypal realities that can come alive again in our time because an arduous process of birth is taking place in the collective soul of humanity. Many thousands of us are awakening to what I have called the Dream of the Cosmos — the Dream of an awakened humanity engaging in a new role on this planet: a role that is in harmony with the evolutionary intention of the Cosmos and is no longer driven by the quest for power, conquest and control and the appropriation of the Earth’s resources for the benefit of the few. The task is immense and daunting yet we have the power to change course, to bring ourselves into alignment with the Cosmos, to respond to the deeper voice of the Soul.
55. Piero della Francesca, Resurrection of Christ
Christ was a supremely great teacher, one of the greatest to have incarnated on this planet. He taught that all of us carry divinity within us and have the potential to bring that divinity into manifestation in the service of life. He did not ask for belief and worship. He did not die a sacrificial death on the cross in order to save us from sin. This superb painting offers us the image of an awakened man, awakened from the tomb of ignorance and unconsciousness represented by the sleeping soldiers. He asked us to listen to what he was teaching about direct union with the Divine Ground. He showed us the way to transform our consciousness from base metal into gold, not through belief but through active compassion in the service of life.
56. Santa Maria Maggiore
The sacred marriage between the two great archetypal principles reflected in this wonderful fifth century mosaic from Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, shows Jesus and Mary in the starry heavens, surrounded by angels, with the sun and moon beneath their feet. Mythologically speaking, this new era invites the marriage of lunar and solar consciousness and the birth of the ‘child’ of a new consciousness arising in our soul that would be the fruit of this union and the true ‘saviour’ of our species. As the light of this deep soul-impulse gathers momentum in the darkness of our time, the marriage of our rational mind with our long neglected soul is beginning to change our perception of reality. We can heal both our divided psyche and our raped and vandalised planet. It is a tremendously challenging and creative time to be alive.