Theosophia: divine wisdom

When most people think of theosophy they think of Helena Blavatsky (1831–1891) and the Theosophical Society founded in the 19th century, but theosophy is a much older term dating back to the 3rd Century. During this time the use of the term has changed considerably, from meaning the study of divine wisdom to having more of an esoteric meaning.

Böhme was a visionary dedicated to ‘divine wisdom’. And so it is under this meaning that we shall explore theosophy. If you notice the root words, we have the Greek θεοσοφία theosophia, from θεός theos, divine + σοφία sophia, wisdom; literally “divine wisdom.” [ Greek translation from wikipedia] Versluis says that “theosophy is nothing less than the transmutation of the individual soul, it’s purification and illumination.” (2001, p.171)

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the Divine Mother as Rose

Madonna della rosa, attribuited to Michelino da Besozzo or to Stefano da Verona- circa 1435. http://www.wga.hu. US Public Domain via wikimedia
Madonna della rosa, attribuited to Michelino da Besozzo or to Stefano da Verona- circa 1435. http://www.wga.hu. US Public Domain via wikimedia

Here we see a 14th Century painting of the Madonna of the Rose. The rose is often associated with the Mother archetype. Carl Jung points out that the mother archetype “can be attached to … various vessels such as the baptismal font, or to vessel-shaped flowers like the rose.” (9i, para. 157) In the Western tradition we see the rose associated with the Virgin Mary. Cardinal Newman (1801 – 1890) said:

“She is the Queen of spiritual flowers; and therefore, is called the Rose, for the rose is called of all flowers the most beautiful. But, moreover, she is the Mystical or Hidden Rose, for mystical means hidden.”

The divine mother archetype is related to the hidden. She represents the mystical gnosis, and the rose is a symbol of such gnosis.

Reference: Carl G. Jung, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious – Collected Works volume 9i (originally published 1934–1954)

The Mother Mary and the Moon

Michael Sittow, Assumption of Mary-1500. National Gallery of Art. US Public Domain via wikimedia.
Michael Sittow, Assumption of Mary-1500. National Gallery of Art. US Public Domain via wikimedia.

This 15th Century painting of the assumption of Mary into heaven is quite lovely. Notice that Mary rises from her tomb on a crescent moon. The moon image is also associated with the earth mother.  Carl Jung says, “The Earth Mother is always chthonic and is occasionally related to the moon.” (Carl Jung, CW 9i, para. 312) This relationship between the moon and the mother is preserved in this image of the Virgin.

Reference: Carl G.Jung,  The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious – Collected Works volume 9i (originally published 1934–1954)

Hero’s battle with sacred mother

“The hero’s main feat is to overcome the monster of darkness: it is the long-hoped-for and expected triumph of consciousness over the unconscious.” (CW 9i, para. 283)

On a personal level the hero’s journey is thought to represent the process of individuation. But what shall we make of the hero’s journey on a collective level? What are the consequences of our collective struggle? Carl Jung says:

“The paternal principle, the Logos,… eternally struggles to extricate itself from the primal warmth and primal darkness of the maternal womb; in a word, from unconsciousness.” (ibid)

Jung associates the paternal principle with Logos, and Logos with ‘divine curiosity.’ This divine curiosity seeks the evolution of consciousness, bringing forth the potential and possibility of human awareness. Jung says,

“Divine curiosity yearns to be born and does not shrink from conflict, suffering, or sin.” (ibid)

This process of the emergence of consciousness is no easy feat. Divinity must divide within itself, creating opposition. Conflict, suffering and sin are the necessary conditions for the evolution of consciousness. Jung says that “there is no consciousness without discrimination of opposites.” (ibid)

A somewhat necessary, but simultaneously unfortunate, aspect of the transcendence of consciousness is the denigration of the maternal principle. Logos seeks to transcend the primal mother– the unconscious. According to Jung this process metaphorically includes a symbolic act of matricide. Jung continues:

“Unconsciousness is the primal sin, evil itself, for the Logos. Therefore its first creative act of liberation is matricide.” (ibid, emphasis added)

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Earth Mother with Multiple Breasts

Peter Paul Rubens and Jan Brueghel the Elder, Nature and Her Followers or Nature Adorning the Three Graces, circa 1615. US Public Domain.
Peter Paul Rubens and Jan Brueghel the Elder, Nature and Her Followers or Nature Adorning the Three Graces, circa 1615. US Public Domain.

In the image above, we see the mother Earth with multiple breasts. Multiple breasts may represent the fertility of the Goddess. There is garland of fruit which is a representative of fertility as well. The goddess gives forth the milk of life, the nourishing waters, the earthy foods. Three graces veil the goddess. In the image we also see five satyrs and a black man.

 

Note:

  1. Carl Jung speaks to the Earth Mother with multiple breasts in Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious CW 9i, para. 312.