I was rereading Georg Blattmann’s fine little book: “Radiant Matter: decay and consecration” (hard to find a copy, sorry), which is about the table of chemical elements, and its esoteric meaning, when I ran into this comment in the introduction.
“’I have made a great mistake’, Einstein said later, ‘in writing the letter to the president’, which informed him that it was possible to create a nuclear explosion.”
Not many scientists regret their deeds. Made me wonder if Rudolf Steiner ever regretted any of his works. I have nothing but the question, yet my view is that it remains a vital question to acknowledge.
I was reading Blattmann’s booklet because I was working on giving some order to my reading possibilities, and had chosen using the seven liberal arts as a formative guide. These are: rhetoric, grammar, logic, astronomy, geometry, arithmetic, and music.
[Grammar] a gospel of knowing: “A Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe’s World Conception” … [Logic] a gospel of the imagination: “Poetic Diction” …[Rhetoric] a gospel of the soul: “On Becoming an Alchemist” … [Arithmetic] a gospel of physics: Will – fire: “Man or Matter” … [Geometry] a gospel of organic chemistry: – Air – intellect: “The Nature of Substance” … [Music] a gospel of the nature of movement; Water – feeling: “Sensitive Chaos” … [Astronomy] a gospel of life: Earth – consciousness: “The Plant: vol I and II”
This arrangement was done instinctively, and somewhat arbitrarily. The reasoning is detailed in the article.
When, for the purpose of my reading list, I came to the art: Music, I felt a need to reread my books on chemistry. First Blattmann’s little wonder, and then Hauschka’s “The Nature of Substance”. My instinct was that there was a kind of music in the relationships of various kinds of matter to each other, and that the combination of elements (notes) into molecular compounds was a kind of “score”.
Parallel to these interests, I was still not satisfied with how I might “see” (with my thinking imagination), the manner in which the elemental kingdoms of salamanders, sylphs, undines, and gnomes, related to the chemical structures existing in our technology.
Plastics make up a good deal of the weight of your laptop. Plastic materials are used externally in the laptop’s body and internally in circuit boards, wiring insulation, fans and other components. Plastics have long chemical names like polystyrene or polyvinylchloride, but are mostly composed of two key elements, carbon and hydrogen. Some laptop plastics contain additional elements, such as nitrogen, chlorine or sulfur.
Many laptop bodies are made of the element aluminium, used for its light weight, strength and appearance. Steel is also a common material for structural support components and hardware like screws; steel is mostly iron, but also contains the elements carbon and nickel. Copper is a substantial component of laptops used in wiring on circuit boards and to connect electrical components.
One of the largest components in a laptop is the power source, which is typically a lithium-ion battery. The key element is lithium and other elements are used in the battery for the electrolytes and components. The most common lithium-ion batteries contain cobalt, oxygen and carbon.
Other elements are commonly found in laptops in small quantities. Silicon is used to manufacture microchips. The optical components in laptop screens can include indium, gallium and arsenic. Solder is made up of multiple metals, such as tin and bismuth. Internal motors contain tiny magnets comprised of neodymium. A few electronic components have minute quantities of precious metals such as gold or platinum.”(1)
A few years ago, I wrote a long article trying to work out the relationship between the four classical elements of antiquity: fire/will, air/intellect, water/feeling, and earth/consciousness; and, the four fundamental forces/transformations of modern physics: gravity, electo-magnetic, and the strong and weak nuclear interactions.
All of this is related to my more central thesis, which is that if we are to have a “moral” technology, we need to accomplish that by establishing a conscious communion-with the Beings that rule the work of the Elementals.
The Elementals have no free will, and their works therefore have to be organized from hierarchies above their “pay grade”, to borrow a common cliche`.
Rudolf Steiner, in both his remarks on “atoms”, “electricity”, and even the tiny organic “germs” and “viruses”, seemed to be of the view that the basic problem was that the “ideas” of scientific materialism were woefully inadequate in grasping the actual reality of the tiny world. He wanted/needed us – his students – to work at forming more consciously what is meant by the idea “atom” or “germ”, if we were to have any hope of understanding, and then – perhaps – evoking new knowledge (personal experience, not derivative from reading text) of the inner workings of such phenomena.
In my view, the great work of the individual in modern times is to re-ensoul material reality, by not treating physical objects as mindless things, but rather as representations of living spiritual works of art, all of which possess consciousness, even if it just the consciousness of the elemental beings.
As a suggestion, just try to imagine your computer/laptop/tablet/smart phone as having an interior inside, that can begin to be cognized by imagining the device backwards as to its journey into existence, in stages, all the way back to their “molecules” and “atoms”, and then forward, letting the imagination “feel” the evolution of our technology.
This is kin to the imagination of the “pencil” in Knowledge of Higher Worlds. It (this imaginative faculty) is a version of Goethe’s phenomenological approach to Nature. We recreate the changes over time, in the picture-mind, and if we are patient, the phenomena can begin to speak.
For a moment, consider “sunlight”. Goethe spoke of color as the deeds and sufferings of light. Rays of light, or better yet: the field of light, has an interior which we need to honor in our prayers of gratitude. Soul is everywhere, even in a keyboard.
In a world falling apart, with leaders of various nations seemingly going mad, the school of hard knocks and shared pain decided to have a plague.
The idea of a school implies teachers and students … you know, gods&goddesses and such, along with seven billion human beings. On some levels the social-political world is heading for the grave, in need of a eulogy; meanwhile, our myths might suggest celebration – a phoenix does arise from the ashes.
Both are true. The Mystery is. We are loved, and we are still learning how to love each other.
There are a small number of people who know of Rudolf Steiner, or Anthroposophy. All the same, the Mystery, that is Love, is teaching each individual biography precisely what that particular immortal spirit needs. It is not necessary for everyone to know of Anthroposophy and Steiner.
Rudolf Steiner was asked what the future would know of his works. His reply: The Philosophy of Freedom, for the path to Anthroposophy is revealed therein.
What future, in all these rough seas of change, is in store for the institution we call: “The Anthroposophical Society”?
Years ago I wrote a little article, in a tiny (only 23 copies) bit of writing that barely deserves to be called a journal (although I did so label it). I got a friend to hand carry these 23 copies to an anthroposophical/conference gathering in Ann Arbor, in August of 1997.
I put it on my first website. Some folks, who ran a brand new Internet Waldorf store, and resource website, put the two essays, and a poll, in the resource section. They were also American translators of Steiner’s works from German to English.
A European gentleman, who was publishing a real journal of critical thinking about Anthroposophy, on his own initiative translated this work into German, and published it in his journal.
Both asked ahead of acting.
About four years later, I got an email from an American woman, who had been at that Ann Arbor conference, and then, recent to this email, had found and read my journal’s words on the Internet. She told me that at that conference she had been warned to watch out for something “subversive” that was circulating among those attending.
“Subversive” is a political word. Heretical would have been a kind of religious criticism. “Illogical” is okay if there were questions of logic, evidence, and reasoning.
The paper had a dozen or so pages, and was called: “Outlaw Anthroposophy – the journal”, with the subtitle: “another declaration of independence: spiritual science with passion – light and heat”.
The first article was called: “The Study of Rudolf Steiner’s Lecture Cycles, and the Problem of Cognition – musings on the epistemological swampland of the Anthroposophical Movement.” This piece concerned the effects on the thinking of Steiner students due to a failure to learn the practical consequences of what I have been recently calling: “Steiner’s science of knowing”.
It was not a positive set of observations, and the effects continue to this day. The second essay was even more pointed. “The Anthroposophical Society: is it a living social form?”
My view then, and today as well, is that the Society is not living.
The living changes. It undergoes metamorphosis. It is not static, but growing and developing. Should the reader of this want more, that more can be found here: http://ipwebdev.com/hermit/oajnr.html
For example, I had once been living near Fair Oaks, CA, where Rudolf Steiner College is, as well as the Faust Branch of the Society. I was gone for 21 years, and on my return the same people were doing the same things. Not only that, of what value was naming a branch on the West Coast of America after an obscure European cultural artifact? In fact, around 1991, when I spoke of American culture, at a conference called: “Conversation in America”, the European sitting next to me remarked: “What culture?”
Social forms tend to become institutions. For example, the Roman Church has only a most tenuous relationship to the Catholic Religion (1). A thoughtful thinker wrote a series of books on what is at first blush, a rather strange idea: “Anti-fragility” (2). His thesis is that if an institution has too much inflexible order, it is fragile, and in the right circumstances will fail.
To survive the rapid changes of the modern world (especially now what with a plague and a lurking economic collapse), an institution needs to be flexible, adaptable, open to dancing in chaos.
As with most spiritual movements, ours is covered in traditions. Annual General Meetings, that are served up like mini-conferences, are mostly required by law, for any organization such as non-profits, to have a meeting where the budgets and the leadership is approved. Mostly form, little substance.
We celebrate festivals, Holy Nights, Easter Weeks, feasts of Michael, and St. John. Michaelmas and Easter on the equinoxes, and Holy Nights and St. John’s Tide on the solstices. As a christian raised in America, up until I meet European anthroposophists, I only knew of Christmas and Easter.
As I watched social life in America accept these additional “traditions”, I also noticed that two American traditions had been lost – at least among American anthroposophists: backyard barbecues and cocktail parties.
The first time I went to an anthroposophical Holy Nights festival, it broke my heart to be asked to sing German carols, in German. Doing Eurythmy is okay, but where was rock ‘n roll, and its obvious erotic attributes? What about singing the songs of Woody Guthrie, and Peter, Paul, and Mary? Or listening to Bob Dylan (3), jazz, country&western, and hip hop?
Americans wear their hearts on their sleeves, while Germans have two different words for “you”, one formal, and the other more intimate.
At one point, I began to label what Europeans anthroposophists did to the native culture of Americans: spiritual imperialism. In addition, Steiner, and other Europeans, such as Carl Stegmann, were clueless as to the facts and importance of the still thriving aboriginal cultures in the Americas.
Yeats was right. The center cannot hold, and mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. The best lack all conviction, and the worst are full of passionate intensity.
Latent in the world of Steiner readers is a potential. For this potential to be realized we need to celebrate the past, at the same time as we bury it. The centers, such as Dornach, need to surrender – to wash the feet – of the periphery, the study groups and branches, the Waldorf Schools and the biodynamic farms. Why?
Because the day of priests, initiates, gurus, mullahs, masters, and lamas are over. The Mystery speaks directly now to each heart’s mind, and we don’t need traveling “important” speakers, and conferences built solely on a sun-moon dynamic – speaker and listener. Especially in America, where the native folk well knew the value of the circle, and sun-sun living conversation.
Is the Anthroposophical Society flexible enough to adapt itself to the world’s local cultures, without imposing an unconscious European bias? If it isn’t, the structure will fail. Perhaps a very excellent effect of the times, in that then study groups and branches, Waldorf Schools and biodynamic farms, are free to present their experience, in their own – individual – Way.
The centers are in flames. The periphery takes the ashes, and births the phoenix.
I took a double dose of ganja goddess (ten milligrams sativa edible) today, and expect to do this twice a week – Sun-Day and Jupiter-Day; and, given than I am 80, and on a lot of materialist medicine (which has its virtues), I’m going to not take anything on goddess medicine days, even the Psyllium, although the rat poison Warfarin to keep my blood thin I still keep up, the regular visits to the Coagulation Clinic seem a sane move. I wonder if some of that drug makes me want to eat a lot of meat, and favor sweets.
Doctors are cautious, and to some degree self-police, yet … went to see my eye doctor yesterday. Annual checkup, paid by my retirement present from the Mother (aka: divine providence). I am so poor that between regular Social Security medical coverage, and my Mass-health, there sits a gate keeper, who manages the “money” stuff: Fallon Insurance.
How good is it? I don’t pay anything for drugs. No co-pay. Includes a gym program, … desirable for access to the pool, but my knees can’t handle the necessary walking. Twice in the last four years I had serious “medical issues”.
On one level, the ganja goddess played a role. It took me a while to understand what a “therapeutic level” was, or what was not, helpful. Between the two, which in each case involved several ambulance trips to the hospital – for which I never even saw a bill – there was what I learned by these experiences.
Before the Covid-Adventure, I tended to trust the doctors … that they knew what they were doing.
The first issue came about because I starting feeling faint, and dizzy. Enough so as to worry I might be having a heart-attack. It took three trips to the ER, plus some over-nights, for, in between visits two and three, the home physical therapist told me that I was using the wrong words, such as faint and dizzy. In each of the two prior ER trips, I walked up right into the box of their limits – most of which are institutional – the assumption was that I was having a heart-attack.
There followed much blood letting, and given my knees, a lot of awkward needs.
So, for a third time I took an ambulance to the hospital, the symptoms having continued after discharge 2. When a nurse, followed shortly by the Chief of the ER, stopped by to first talk to me, I said: “If you don’t pay attention to me, you are going to kill me. I not dizzy or faint, but I am weak and exhausted.“
Oh, not heart, gastrointestinal. I was given rest, watched-over, some fluids in a drip, and felt better. Here is the diagnosis, which I still find “fascinating”, as Spock would say: “Severe Protein Calorie Malnutrition”.
On a personal responsible level, I’d been doing too much ganja goddess, was not eating right at all, and my body had started to eat itself.
A secondary wonder was that this “diet” of many weeks, had gifted me with a loss of almost 65 lbs, down from 320 to 255.
On leaving from this admission, I had to wait in a fifth floor corridor for an orderly wheelchair driver to run me safely out of the hospital, … to my Lady waiting curbside. One of the interns, on the four man team which handled me this 3rd admission, was passing by, and stopped to say goodbye.
I thanked him, yet thought to ask him: “What with all the blood that was taken in the two prior visits, why did nobody notice how out of wack it was?” He looked down and to his right, mumbled a view technical terms in a soft voice. Looked a bit guilty, but knew he could not apologize given the entanglement of lawyers in our health care system.
As to the next personal teaching, … again my dark-side relationship with the ganja goddess was my responsibility. One day I felt is if my insides below my heart had fallen out. This was very frightening. The next day there were two more events, and a call to the ambulance (our town is small, the EMTs are becoming comrades).
As soon as possible, the one EMT that was with me in the back of our bouncing in pot holes light and siren vehicle, hooked me up to electrodes. Not too long afterward he is excitedly yelling at the driver to pull over, as he is capturing another drop out event.
Shortly I am in the ER. The name is ventricular tachycardia (V-tach) – a far too fast heart beat. I am hooked up and parked in an empty examine room. The place is busy, I will be moved to a “floor”. At one point a young man, wearing a white coat, stands for a moment in the curtained passage-way. I am in the dark, the light shines from behind him – I see a shape more than features.
He asks me if I know the name of my doctor. I offer what comes to mind. He reacts/pauses, and then after some thought offers this: “He is an interventionist.” On later reflection, I knew Him – my advisor. He had visited me as a youth just before I entered the USAF Academy, advising me to keep my head down, and as much as possible avoid being noticed.
Even given my dark-side ganja-influence, an additional symptomatic element was that I had just – inadvertently (?) – poisoned myself. I had the day before eaten three slices of what I had thought was “gluten free” bread, and was now in full blown distress few can imagine. Significantly bloating of abdomen, with increasing incontinence.
I came spiritually armed, but was still alarmed with the unknown. For virtue’s sake, I had my previous hospitalization’s experience of the ER’s need to make a preliminary diagnosis. Of even great virtue I had just read – twice – Tom Cowan’s “Human Heart, Cosmic Heart, A Doctor’s Quest to Understand, Treat, and Prevent Cardiovascular Disease”.
Brought to the right floor, I was visited by a surgeon and his two interns. When I explained my gluten poisoning, the interns laughed and spoke aloud what a wonderful paper that would be, if true.
The surgeon, my interventionist, leaned in and said: “Association does not prove causality”.
That night I was prepared for surgery in the morning, to take a peak inside my heart by instruments of technological wonder. They were to look for some kind of damage in the cells to support the diagnosis, of which there turned out to be no chemical confirmation. The surgeon also looked around and decided I needed a third stent, having two from two previous heart attacks that had occurred in an ER at the same time, in another town, ten years ago.
My snarky-self thought, while inside he had to do something, didn’t he? Meanwhile, my gluten trauma continues.
Anyway, I was soon advised to get a pacemaker-defibrillator installed in my left shoulder chest asap. So, this was done the next day. Meanwhile, my poisoned bowels continued their ravages, and were not much attended to by doctors or staff, except to keep me clean, and awake. No rest in a hospital what with all the hookups and probing.
Have aliens abducted me?
On the third sleepless night, self poisoned, off my ganja, a hole in my chest, and full of god only knows what chemicals, I was in such despair, that I felt Her there.
I was comforted by the Luminous Dark, and I asked whether She would take me if I wanted? She said yes. Clearly I had to decide. My first thought was what this would mean for my Lady?, … yet seemed a bit off. Then I had the idea that I wasn’t finished loving her, and wanted to stay around doing that. So I said, no.
I was sent home, and Fallon folk paid for a team of home-care workers to visit, keep the wound properly cared for, and begin some physical therapy. I was also supposed to keep my left arm in a device of torture, so that it wouldn’t move.
The problem is this person needs his left arm for leverage all the time. Since there will be a lot of time in bed, and what with too many trips to the necessary, I choose not to wear the arm-sling of arm-slings.
The wound had trouble closing. I knew it was a problem, but Cowan had made me think, and I had to trust my own judgment. At one point the wound-care ladies started seeing the wires from that device, and soon there was a trip to the hospital to remove that treasure, which my body seemed not to like.
While there, the interventionist wanted to insert another mechanism at the same time as the first was removed, this time in the right shoulder area. He insisted, even though I wondered how, with both shoulders unusable, I could care for my behind. So I asked for a second opinion. He said who, and I said my cardiologist was fine.
He was forty miles away … I think it was a Sunday afternoon … and when he arrived we talked. By the way, except for their first night in the hospital there had been no further events. Even the talisman, inserted in my chest, had me hooked up to monitors, and something that would record stuff via wifi magic.
So we were there together, me and my main heart guy – a fine elderly genial man. I asked questions. He gave advice. Near the end I asked him what data did they have on folks like me, who didn’t take the machine inside. He said they didn’t know, they didn’t keep track.
They didn’t know. I’ve had no events since, although inadvertently misread a label, and ate some wheat a couple of months ago. I do have a nice scar, however.
These hospitalizations have made me aware, on multiple levels, how much this Covid-Ordeal exhausts both patient, doctor, nurse, orderly and so forth.
I am fairly certain that the deaths in old folks homes are due to a very bad flu, among people already tired of life, and perhaps themselves wounded by surgeries, and efforts to treat their dementia. They lack the will to live, which is not their fault, their lives often already exhausting and boring.
In the dark they meet Her, and are comforted. Can I go, they ask. Sure, She says.
As to ER’s, they already have an answer for the severe cases of the flu – the pandemic. No need, or time, to look further. That experience adding stress to folk, who enter these halls already worried they will die.
A wall of stuff, making touch impossible, surrounds them, and they are attached to devices to keep them alive. And given medicine, as best that the front-line medical workers know how.
The weight of living and breathing grows, the will to live weakens. They are suffocating. My heart’s mind believes this is one of the seven stages of the passion of Christ, which we call the crucifixion.
I am fairly certain that, in the aftermath in the next few years, the weaknesses of greed, and power, and ignorance will be seen. No there was no pandemic, but an epic flu that is due to all the poisons in are soil, our food, our air, our water, and in our toxic social life … the tyranny of debt money banking, and to be horrible trained to be a mere worker and consumer, instead of being educated.
She and He – the Mystery of Divine Providence dancing with the Artist of Karma – have stopped “Western” civilization in its tracks. Opening gateways of wonder to futures yet to be imagined.
Meanwhile I listen and read medical heretics, and do my own thinking. I discover that Wohan China, the alleged birthplace of the “virus”, was one of the cities in China, with the worst levels of air pollution. Many Chinese are smokers. And just recently this city was gifted with a huge roll-out of 5G cell phone towers.
That’s on top of one of the mostly repressive and controlling governments ever in China’s history, taking full advantage of CTV cameras, and with facial recognition if you don’t look happy, you might get a visit from the neighborhood Party official.
The pandemic dropped a huge load of more stress on populations already over-stressed. Fear of death makes people do stuff, which on more sober reflection they might not do. Children’s dreams of the future are stolen. Meanwhile, a very few already rich with riches billionaires get even richer.
There never will be a return to what once was.
Can there even be hope for humanity’s future? Of course. It is just that when a civilization dies into a new becoming the ride is full of woe and treachery. As a nurse said to me on one of my recent hospitalizations: “There really are evil people in the world”.
Hope, faith, charity, … those qualities are ours to create. Meanwhile, She with He, are baptizing us in fire and holy breath. The school of hard knocks and shared pain still exists. Yet, at the same time, new communities are being born. We endure. We learn. The future is not written.
Topological Transformations Between Two Culturally Independent Kabbalistic Glyphs
and Practical Implications of Their Shared Hidden Pathways
Part the 1st
Ever since the fateful year of 1492, the cultures of Europe and the West have been at odds. The purpose of this presentation is to indicate that on an esoteric level and revealed by an examination of the geometrical analysis of their archetypal glyphs there is a deep complement of perspective between their foundational paradigms. How these form the assumptions and structures of the mass mind within the expanse of culture is beyond our present focus. Inferences abound from an analysis of the archetypes involved but for the most part they will need to remain as such to be worked out by the attentive observer.
In this exposition we will focus on deriving implications of the basic core structure of the Tree of Life and of its counterpart, the Circle of Life. In the case of the former, this is the Middle Pillar and its three Thresholds. In the case of the latter, the Center and the phases of the boundary threshold. Reference to secondary commentary, including that of the ancient Hebrew and other pre-Christian Traditions and the newer Golden Dawn/New Age derivatives is minimal.
Here we will be examining the two fundamental maps which are the armatures – the basic structures – which lie at the core heart and mind of our colliding civilizations in the Americas of the West. That is, the Far West, the True West, the actual West, as opposed to the self-designated ‘west’ of the overlaid superstructure of European derivation. We will be unfolding the built-in “hidden wisdom” within the paradigm glyphs which lie at the core of, on the one hand the dominant, and at the other hand, of the indigenous civilizations that occupy the same space within the West. We can only note the very revealing linguistic knot in which “Western [science, medicine, etc.]” is used to denote that which is native to European culture while leaving no space or term in language for that which is local to the actual West of global culture. These kinds of things come up in all languages as seemingly random but revealing ‘significant quirks’ or ‘Freudian slips’, remarkably resistant to change or even examination, so deeply a part of the general bushel basket of unexamined assumptions that comprise the bedrock of mass culture. The use of the loaded word ‘mankind’ as synonymous for humanity or “Father” for the deity are others. But we will not be beating that horse today.
We will be examining what R. J. Stewart calls the “pan-global, trans-cultural” virtues of these systems, ones which derive from basic observation of processes and features common to natural life. For instance, according to the dictum that “the heavens declare the glory of God” ( ), the Tree of Life can be understood as, observationally, a quite accurate map of our own solar system and philosophically as an objective starting point for the Hermetic principle of “As Above, So Below” iteration throughout all lesser as well as higher orders of existence. Commentary abounds.
These two maps which I will be referring to are those of the kabbalah and of the medicine wheel, as expressed in the glyphs of the Tree of Life and that of the Circle of Life (aka The Medicine Wheel of the Four Directions). Their classical depictions are as such:
For convenience sake in our exploratory transformations, we may abbreviate them as such:
And, on occasion, even further, in their most severe reductions, as:
Which brings out, for our immediate purposes, their typical associations of:
Line: Space and Circle: Time
Vertical across higher dimensions horizontal across space
Many cultural associations may come to mind, like Progress and Sustainability, or Aspiration and Appreciation for instance. These simple but profound symbols go deep into the Collective Unconscious, Group Mind, Cultural Mythos, and the like and can reveal significant signature attitudes about life and reality – as we shall see.
This initial procedure of reduction of complex glyphs to core geometric essentials is legitimate since their common forms are themselves reductions of even more complex iterations, as we shall proceed to demonstrate. We will also be unfolding also their embedded philosophical and initiatory implications as we unfold these iterations; the “hidden pathways” or “secret teachings” which lie within the Imaginations of such potent Memory Palaces.
Since the concepts of iteration and Imagination and kabbalahs are extremely important ones, we shall define the terms as we will be using them:
I teration is the repetition of a process in order to generate a (possibly unbounded) sequence of outcomes on larger or smaller scales. Each repetition of the process is a single iteration, and the outcome of each iteration is then the starting point of the next iteration. Successive iterations are usually not simple repetitions each shift in scale brings about not only more or less detail but also more or less capability of application.
An example of this in the domain of Space are the Russian matryoshka dolls, each of which in the series nests inside of a hollow, larger one and in which the level of detail increases as one increases in scale.
Take also the example of tree leaves or snowflakes, for instance: none are identical but all are recognizable as being visible iterations of the same invisible (aka “spiritual”) archetype. Allied with this is the phenomenon known as fractals, as popularly Imagined in the fascinating Mandelbrot or Julia sets, which generate an unbounded sequence of iterations in virtual space. “As above, so below” is a most succinct formulation of the same process of non-repeating self-replication.
Examples pertinent to our subsequent transformations of the Circle are the cyclic nature of all things that exist in Time, upward across scales of day, year, lifetime, cosmic or downward across processes of respiration, heartbeat and mental and emotional ‘loops’ or outward across wave phenomena of all sorts, large or small.
Imagination (capitalized letter “I”) is not used in the sense of unrealistic fantasy but is a technical term of art for the sense ability of being able to “see” those overarching archetypes which are invisible to the material eye but area yet constant within related shifting forms. Joseph Joubert defined Imagination as “the eye of the Soul” or, more precisely, of the astral body. This faculty can be stimulated out of latency by work with such potent glyphs as we are examining here, ones which are designed to assist in exactly that: they are potentized and imbued with that intention by the sustained attention of generations of those already accomplished in it. Such is the value of a living tradition; one which maintains links with what has proven to be of value. Kabbalah is that heartwood core of such tradition within our own Judeo-Christian culture. Every culture has one; this is ours.
Kabbalahs are the original Magical Mystery Tours maps and yes, there are more than one. You want to step outside the world of your own little self? Best to have some idea of what you will be experiencing so that you will be better equipped to make some intelligent decisions about how to conduct yourself. Other people have gone there and done that. Life is a dangerous thing. The path is a braided one but there are signposts which may not be initially recognized as such. Some principles are applicable across the worlds, some are location-specific. You should know how to conduct yourself when certain processes begin to educate your perception of reality. The lessons about such things are designed to be corrosive to conventional wisdoms as well as destructive to arbitrary and fixed personality patterns.
The reader will note that we will not be making any reference to the Hebrew legacy and lore of the kabbalah, the variant which most are familiar with, if they have made any acquaintance with kabbalah at all. We will be dealing with the fundamentals of the representations, not the particulars of one or the other cultural variant. No one owns the map of the world, for the Tree of Life is, as any kabbalah is, at the same time a multi-dimensional map of the solar system, the stages of human life, the process of initiation, the civilizations of the spiritual worlds, and much else besides. As different cultures, in accordance with specific and unique conditions have acquired from them different foods, clothing, music, languages, all serving the same ultimate purposes, so also have they expressed their own identities via their uniquely representational kabbalahs. Such is our proposition herein and which we will proceed to demonstrate by comparison in the case of two particular instances.
Although a comprehension of the basic principles and forms of our mass-culture’s esoteric kabbalah are not all that difficult for one who is interested, a similar appreciation of locally indigenous cultures’ kabbalahs (all are similar in detail and exact in essence, according to the principle of fractal diversity as opposed to that of uniform universal doctrine) has been thwarted by an occult genocide of ascendant Shadow and double aspects within the presently dominant culture, an factor addressed ccontinually in this series. This writer has acquired the native equivalent of PhD by recognition of his effective participation in native ceremonial and by his adoption into Navajo Medicine Ways; he is an Eagle Staff-holder for the diyin dine’e and has been given permission and encouragement to visit and make offerings across the dine bikeyah on behalf of the people and his core spiritual practice has involved native protocols for over forty years and he pursued studies in his own ancestral traditions, that of kabbalah in many variants, not the least of which has been Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy in which he has been an active First Class member in its School for Spiritual Science for almost forty years.
Kabbalahs of whatever sort are for our present purposes like a combination of source code, preflight checklist and operating manual.
Let us proceed with our examination of kabbalistic iterations.
First of all, we will begin to unpack the almost necessary implications of the highly abstracted glyph that is the ordinary representation of the kabbalist’s Tree of Life (there are many others but although this is the one in common use, authentically useful ones could also, theoretically, be subjected to the same process – a good exercise for the budding kabbalist!):
We begin with the geometrical skeleton of the Tree, reduce it to its core structure, and tilt it out of the plane of the page, like so:
as before; flat projection, 0° basic elements, edge-on, 0° basic elements, tilted out 30°
Thus we see that what is given as the form of the Tree might possibly be a projection of a more realistic three-dimensional original. Let us look at the practical applications to see if this is justified. Taking the process one step further and tilting it a full 90° we have, looking down on it:
Illustrating the proposition that “Wherever you go, there you are.”
This is how the surrounding field of the Tree of Life looks in outline if one steps into it, looking down from Keter. We will add detail as we proceed.
Already we are beyond the initial process of “stepping into the Tree” in which one maps it into the body (together with the overlaid associations) toward the aim of transforming the given persona into the authentic Individuality according to the dynamics of the originating spiritual template:
This indicated set of attributions is fundamental, applying the process of the reconciliation of opposites on the three iterating levels of personal/psychological, transpersonal/spiritual and cosmic/divine integration as indicated by the three horizontal Threshold crossbars of the Tree. This particular kabbalistic mapping has proved useful for centuries and has proved quite useful as an invitation to the mother lode of professional grade spiritual wisdom at the core of our mass culture. But it implies much more than it indicates.
Full disclosure: In the opinion of this writer but in accordance with the principles of living traditions – most profoundly integrated into practice within Western praxis – there is no “kabbalah” as such and in isolated doctrine; there are only individual kabbalists who participate in an open-source program which has endured in continuing to generate a meandering, braided pathway. I take responsibility for it by contributing my own insights on which it will be up to others to accept or ignore. But it does work for to the extent that in indigenous contexts I am not considered a tourist but a participant since I have, first of all, learned the ways of my own people.
But enough of that.
Continuing, if instead of contemplating the flat diagram but steps inside the 3-D glyph one obtains a much more dynamic and accurate mapping of the relevant energies and additional insight as to how one can both attain and maintain that same “Middle Way” which the Buddhist prizes so highly and which is the kabbalist’s Middle Pillar meditation, for the energies within the actual Tree are not static and bound by grid but are dynamic and circulatory even though there is a relatively undeveloped provision for the latter in the typical angular representation:
Cyclic Cyclic Linear
We can now display the classical Tree of Life with the names of the relevant Sephiroth nodes along with the expanded version indicating the same plus some extra:
In this scenario, a two-dimensional map tending towards locked paradigms of polarity shifts into a more lifelike higher-level three-dimensional iteration in which there are only single energies on each level (Personal: Hod-Netzah, Transpersonal: Geburah-Hesed, Divine: Binah-Chokmah) whose pulsing may or may not be smooth depending on the equilibrium attained by the person who is at the center of it all. Thus far we can only hint at further implications such as vortex activity within and between the indicated levels.
Application to the Imagery yields the indication that the dilemma of reintegration is not so much a reconciliation of opposites as a restoration of self-stabilizing circulation, a process not of tension but of accommodation to a meta-reality.
Thus the tremendous value of mindfulness mediation and a validation, in colloquial language, of the principle of the inherent sanity of the Original Mind, protected and upheld by the dynamic security of pulsing life, the ebbing and flowing iterating tides of rhythmic existence: a bedrock principle to rely upon if there ever was one.
Of course and all to typically if you get too far off center, the centripetal force becomes a centrifugal force and one is flung onto the rocky shoals of bullshit, aka the qlippoth (turbulent eddies of “unbalanced force”) in the technical vocabulary. The kabbalah has a specific provision for mapping this but to address it here would lead us too far afield.
A surprising insight, true to inner lifework as well as to general theory of cycles, is that if one considers the 3-space-filling Tree, that in addition to the opposed Sephiroth clearly designated (e.g. Hod – Netzach, etc.) on the crossbars of the flat Tree two more points appear on each of the circular threshold bands: those which, on the 2-D maps are either coincident with or obscured by the vertical line of the Middle Pillar. If we chart the negative and positive (Severity and Mercy) Sephiroth nodes on the 3-D Tree with the 0° and 180° points on the circular bands, the newly apparent nodes will be at the 90° and 270° degree points.
In support of this perspective, we may indulge the mathematics of it in that it is a fact that in the principles of wave mechanics there are four, not two critical nodes in every pattern of rotation or circular motion. We can see this most clearly in the typical depiction of the sine wave: the map of the motion of a single point on the surface of a circle as it moves through space:
0° 90° 180° 270° 360°
The points noted on the horizontal line of the graph are the crucial maximums, minimums and crossover points in the life of any repetitive cycle: at 0° the vertical motion and the horizontal movements (aka vectors) are equal and the waveform is halfway between its extremes but tending upwards at maximum velocity: this corresponds to the Spring Equinox in the life-cycle of the year or dawn in the iterated cycle of the day where the length of the days are equal but which are also changing at their maximum rate. At 90° the vertical motion is zero (shifting from + to – ), is at its positive extreme but horizontal movement is at a maximum. This describes the state of the year or the day at Summer Solstice: the length of the days have reached their maximum but the rate of change is essentially zero as they shift from increasing length of days to decreasing length of days. And so forth.
This archetypal curve can be generated by taking a point on the circumference of a circle and tracing its path as it is rolled out on the bottom line of the graph, the red line is the trace or graph of that point, 360° being one complete revolution of that circle.
Conversely, if the graph is looked at edge on, front to back on the horizontal axis, the path of the sinusoidal waveform collapses into a straight line and one would only see the moving point going right to left and back again between their extremes without any hint of waveform oscillation. Such is the indicated the negotiation the energies of the opposing Sephiroth (eg Hod – Netzach) of the flat Tree but the psychology of resolving the passage past that Threshold is exceedingly awkward if conceptualized in those terms of opposed polarity, for those energies are essentially one and the same, periodically increasing or decreasing in intensity.
What are missing in the flat Tree glyph are the 90° and 270° degree balance points which on the fat Tree are coincident with the Middle Pillar; these will come up for examination in our next segment. Their invisibility is a significant if inevitable absence in the typical glyph – even a “blind” perhaps – one which must be amended and rectified by the student. These come up, inevitable, in every system and must be noted and adjusted in practice, for maps are only small slices of actual territories and can only indicate features deemed significant to those in the circumstantial time and place of origin. The spirit-thread in Navajo weaving is an acknowledgement of the inevitable presence of flaws in any such cosmological representation.
For the thoroughly geekified among us, I have included as an afterthought several cartoon depictions of the basic wave-cycle phenomenon, one which is at the basis of just about everything in physics and engineering. i
Fritz Lang, in 1927’s Metropolis, had a remarkable Imagination. When the scientist Hel needed to animate film science fiction’s first robot, he immersed it in a field of electrical life-forces (although the Inspiration of the spiritual science is faulty, the artistry does devolve from an otherwise valid Intuition):
Completely left unaddressed in the lore of Hebrew, Sufic, Christian and pre-Christian kabbalah is the nature of these “hidden” equilibrium wave points. We will find that the Western Circle of Life kabbalah does include them as an integral part of the overall scheme.
Only one more thing remains before we can shift to our consideration of those and other mirrored themes embodied in our native kabbalahs.
Once again, we return to the Formative principle of iteration when we illustrate the expanded version of the Tree of Life known as Jacob’s Ladder. The terminology as well as literature’s first mention of it derives from Torah’s Genesis 28:11-13 . . .
“On reaching a certain place, he spent the night there because the sun had set. And taking one of the stones from that place, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. And Jacob dreamed about a ladder that rested on the earth with its top reaching to heaven, and God’s angles going up and down upon it.And there at the top the LORD was standing and saying, “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac . . . .”
And referenced later in the New Testament in John 1:51.
Then He declared, “Truly, truly, I tell you, you will see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
The esoteric referent of that Imagination was expounded by the Hebrew Rabbis in various depictions in which the expanded (iterated!) diagrammatic mapping of the Sephiroth of the Four Worlds is remarkably consistent:
courtesy Colin Low, digital-brilliance.com courtesy Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi
Thus the kabbalist’s full Universe, which we cannot explicate in detail in this chapter, although we will see the native American analogue arrives at the exactly the same thing as reflected in the UnderWorldof the Mother and via a different route. For, as we can note, the kabbalah of the Tree of Life is oriented towards the Overworld of the Father and the path of initiation is mapped as upwards, whereas the kabbalah of the Circle of Life derives from the Mother and grows from the roots of being which lie in the Below. We will see that this latter perspective is not an entirely foreign to the Tree of Life!
Thus concludes Part the One. Part the Two will present a parallel examination of the indigenous Western Circle of Life and will complete the topological transformations between the two ultimately equivalent glyphs. Concluding will be the examination of the combined glyph representing the conjunction of the two.
In the preceding section we laid the groundwork for an appreciation of another kabbalah; that of the Land in which most of you, dear readers, reside. Although most of it will not seem that remarkable to those with a working knowledge of standard-issue kabbalah, I felt it worthwhile to cover the details of my method and argument since they will be leading directly into more unfamiliar territory.
Before we take that plunge, I am honored to pay my respects to those who have lent me their shoulders to stand upon, not that I am seeing further but looking out in a different direction. Only belatedly did I realize that Rudolf Steiner’s Occult Science was a kabbalistic textbook on the directed evolution of our solar system and earthly environment: better late than never. R. J. Stewart provided invaluable introductions to inner plane mentors and environments in many oral tradition workshops, influences proven reliable now in more than twenty years of application. Local group work with a small group in New Mexico associated with Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi filled many fine details of the rich Hebrew kabbalah lore.
Thus when I took up with my local Southwestern indigenous traditions I had “first learned the ways of my own people”; my initial instructions received from a venerable native elder. Principle among the latter is Scripsema “Gomo” Martinez of Lukachukai, AZ, a traditional Medicine Man of the first order. Of course such do not exist in isolation and I have been most honored to have been accepted as family among a large interconnected web of clan and professional relationships across the Navajo Reservation; ‘dine’ bikeyah’ as it is called.
Much is made of “oral tradition”: even increasingly among academic anthropologists the gold standard of passed-down knowledge within culture. However I have found it peculiar but characteristic of how such things are done among indigenous American culture is that over the course of more than twenty years of association with native elders, explicit oral communication has been almost nil. What is substituted for that is what I have come to comprehend as an even deeper source of wisdom: the Land itself. Recognizing the fact that native ceremony is never an intellectual exercise but is always directed towards a closer integrated bond with that land, on the land, one realizes that the only thing to do is ‘watch and learn’ and that the only instruction is: “Do the ceremonies; they will teach you.” For while in the frequently completely ungrounded European philosophical tradition the dictum is: “The map is not the territory” in the pathways of the West which grow out of a coherent relationship with the Mother, the territory is the map. As Stewart was fond of remarking in similar contexts: “All the rest is commentary.”
Which we will proceed to supply.
This writer’s commentary will be in a language and format alien to its native subject. As John R. Farella remarked in his remarkable book The Main Stalk – A Synthesis of Navajo Philosophy it is not the case that rural and frequently pre-literate peoples are not capable of intellectual thought; they are, it’s just that they don’t find it very interesting nor does it serve any useful purpose. Yet their actualized pathways are full of potentized pathway imagery that outsiders abstract and trivialize as folk art. Working on the principle that a picture is worth a thousand words, we shall proceed on that basis. My wish is that a certain amiable charm may rise from them for it is from the beauty of the land itself that my Inspirations arise.
In the previous section we have emphasized the typically unnoticed rhythmic properties concealed within the gusseted gridwork of the traditional representation of the Tree of Life.
tends to lend itself, by itself, to a gusseted gridwork of intellectual abstraction, a syndrome taken to a terminal phase in the amazing work of Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy. The Germanic tendency of “A place for everything and everything in its place” in a “Path of Thinking” [sic] was ineffective in its primary task of preventing the mass-suicide of European culture in the two World Wars which followed thereafter. The underlying paradigms which in their persistently devolved form drove the world-cataclysm of 1492 remained unaddressed, unacknowledged, and still do. In this section we will examine a persistent living traditions which persists in raising up initiates in every generation. In the West, that sort of thing is not an esoteric matter; it is an open secret for anyone who can recognize the responsible people in the community, for the spiritual life there is not separate from community life. In it, the paradigm is that of the Quartered Circle:
Which has, as an integral component which would be redundant to note, the Process (of all things) in Time:
As indicated in the common representation where the colored segments (the equivalent of the Tree of Life’s interconnecting pathways) indicate in their fundamental association, the inevitable succession of the times of day: White the color of Dawn in the East, Yellow the color of the Sun at Noon, Red the color of Sunset in the West and Black the color of Night in the North.C
The fact that some native cultures alter the color scheme in no way invalidates this observation, for if the blue of the sky at is used for South by some it still clearly indicates what is seen overhead at Noontime.
The parallel method of derivation of map from territory in the Tree of Life’s map of the solar system should be obvious:
W hereas the Tree of Life glyph maps the cosmos in an observationally accurate vertical fashion of increasingly larger orbits, the Circle of Life maps the earthly environment in horizontal fashion. Mapping out additional implications of this Western glyph, we can indicate successive boundary regions of its natural world suchly:
In this, the nested spheres (for it is as much 3-Dimensional as planar in its applications) also section the environment in terms of natural space. The inner circle is your personal environment. The features of E, S, W & N as it they can be marked and experienced within the local horizon can be located within the next boundary zone. The boundaries of the known world, usually significant geographical features of the tribal homeland, are mapped on the next enveloping zone. Creator and Sustainer beings of the spiritual world which also interpenetrate and envelope the other two find themselves within the outer boundary. Beyond all and off the map is the Great Mystery.
T o illustrate the uniquely sensible and immediately apprehensible character of the indigenous Western universe we will present images of the Four Sacred Mountains, boundary taproots into the originating spiritual WithinWorlds ofthe Navajo Diné Bikéyah, anchoring everything as the embodied representatives of their gods (all photographs by the author).
In the East is Sisnaajini’(White Shell Mountain and numerous other associations)which is the Blanca Peak Massif,
1 4,351 ft., E of Alamosa, CO. This pic from the South looking North.
In the South is Tsoodził (TurquoiseMountain, etc.) which is Mt. Taylor 11,306 ft., N of Grants, NM on US I-40 which
is pretty much also the southern boundary of Dine’ Bikéyah. This pic from the East looking West at Tó Hajiileehé, NM,
home of Leon Secatero, headman, during ceremonies there.
In the West is Dook’o’osłííd (Abalone Shell Mountain, etc.) which are the San Francisco Peaks North of Flagstaff, AZ . This pic taken from the North looking South in a stockpen housing Miracle Moon, the first White Buffalo born to the Lakota Sioux and harbinger of Pte San Win, White Buffalo Calf Woman, their Persephone and spiritual beloved, honored in every blade of grass and gentle breeze. As time went on the entire fencing was adorned in tobacco and other offerings from people come from all over.
In the North is Dibé Ntsaa (Black Jet Mountain, etc.). which are the La Plata Mountains NW of Durango, CO and their Mt. Hesperus at 13,232 ft. Looking NW from Ignacio, CO. Going up in there to pay your respects and make your offerings in the winter is obviously impossible but no less necessary so certain natural features iterated in the foothills stand in for the entire thing and since intention is everything that works just fine.
Equally well, this potent glyph also designed to map time on its successively longer- range cycles: the inner zone quarters the phases of the day within the cycle of the year within the stages of a human life within the sustaining embrace of cosmic rhythms. Off the page is, again, the Great Mystery. Note the multiple 4-Fold symmetries which are a constant motif throughout, regardless of application.
One more thing to note before we sum up the deformations to date. One of the most common designations of the Sephiroth spheres on the Tree is as such:
w hich has the quartered circle in Sephirah 10 (Malkuth) designating the Four Elements (Earth, Water, Fire, Air) altho the four-fold symmetry also applies to a multitude of other associations native to its own discipline: Seasons, Humors, Directions, Archangels, etc. Elements of this kind of quartered symmetry can be found in religions and traditions of whatever sort. This is an observation which will pursue as we continue to unfold the projections of both the Tree of Life its mate, the Circle of Life.
The significant difference of emphasis lies in the psychologically revealing fact that in the geometry of the former the dimension of Malkuth is hardly more than that of a point, while in the latter, it comprises the entire glyph. As Rudolf Steiner observed, language precedes and conditions thinking. This applies no less to symbolic languages.
We shall now proceed to demonstrate how these two glyphs – ToL (Tree of Life) and CoL (Circle of Life) – can evolve to morph into each other, geometrically. Finally, we shall demonstrate a few further kabbalistic transformations, noting some of the good advice on negotiating the inner planes, as embedded in the poetic symbolism of those geometrical considerations. This is revealed on its own and by no other means than by direct gnosis from sustained contemplation on these forms combined with ruthlessly scrutinized results of such interaction. The teaching is found within the practice.
Although the Tree of Life’s basic orientation is vertical and the Circle of Life’s is horizontal, these are neither absolute nor fixed and in practice are supple. A simple rotation of the Tree, superimposed upon the Circle yields the following, which does no violence to either.
This brings us to our first waypoint:
Stage One in our series of transformations – Coincidence of Tree and Circle
(which is no coincidence!)
At this point the similarities between the two symbolisms become more obvious as comprising differences in emphasis instead of contradictions of essence, there being no irreconcilable implications although there is one set of perspectives unique to the Circle of Life traditions which will comprise our journey towards Stage Two. Before we do that, we will continue to observe that, initial appearances to the contrary and past the Threshold of a meta-insight, any apparently divergent elements become even less so as we continue to expand our unfoldments into a full three dimensions, an aspect only briefly touched on earlier.
While on pages 8 & 9 we reviewed one particular mode of circular motion implicit within the Tree of Life glyph, there are yet other modes of three-dimensional activity within it:
[illustrate the arcs of circular boundaries]
Whether the creation of the Worlds is seen as:
1. emanating from the point in Keter in Aztiluth and expanding progressively in scope outwards, culminating in the furthest expanse of Malkuth in Assiyah or
2. contracting from the full expanse of Ain Soph, precipitating through Aztiluth and down through the Worlds culminating in the full density of Malkuth in Assiya,
3. it is the same thing from one essential point of view: development proceeds in top
down fashion and in strict hierarchical order as befitting the paradigm embodied in the rigid geometry of the glyph.
Certainly more fluid as well as more complex perspectives can be had on this matter but at this point we are only focusing on the most basic characteristics of this map, as we continue to contrast equally basic features of its companion glyph; the Medicine Wheel.
And another mode exists latent within the two-dimensional representation:
[illustrate vortex motion generating Lightning Flash, pix of Zome
Needless to say, in the Circle of Life glyph, these insights are already explicit.
Thus, still working with the Tree system, arcs expand into sectors of circles which then inflate into full surrounding spheres – as do also the expanded sectors of the Circle of Life
Stage Two in our series of transformations – in three full dimensions Tree and Wheel converge
I will not belabor additional philosophical or practical implications of this expanded iteration, they will become obvious to one who can read the map of the glyphs.
The Sacred Geometry of Our Ancestral Pathways
Part the 3rd
In this section we will examine the ramifications of one unique virtue of the Medicine Wheel, aka Circle of Life. Thus far we have been dealing with the convergent representations of the Worlds, as they have been depicted in the geometrical depictions developed in two disjunct cultures. However . . . in one crucial respect they are based on quite opposite perspectives about how and from where these worlds are generated and how in culture they lead to different orientations toward this one.
Regardless of variations in representation, the Tree of Life depicts the generation of the Worlds as proceeding from the top down:
Whereas the stories behind the Medicine Wheel depict the generation of the Worlds developing from Below upwards, their representational colors being Black, Blue, Yellow and White, respectively (and as they are iterated within this one):
In the same fashion as the
Tree and Wheel alternate emphases of Space and Time, with the
Tree system being explicit about outer cosmic relationships as mapped in Space while only revealing temporal relationships on a secondary basis, and whereas the Wheel system emphasizes natural relationships in Time while indicating their mythological origins within a different kind of interior space (as we shall see), so also is there another still deeper level of assymmetrical polarity between them which reveals itself when we examine the kabbalistic process of
Creation described within each of their mythologies.
In other words, as we have seen that while on a primary level Tree and Wheel exchange emphases but can be shown to converge in their geometrical reading on both as regards the main factors (including, primarily but not only Space and Time), on a meta-level regarding emmanations from Origins, there is another dynamic in play that on further examination also only seems to be a polarity.
What this meta-level dynamic between the two systems involves is that while Tree kabbalah has the worlds generated from the Top down, Wheel kabbalah does not generate the worlds from the Bottom up – still a spatial representation – but from Within outwards. This is not a symmetrical polarity in Space but a polarity between Dimensions.
And just as there are disjunct “quanta” jumps in orientation as one progresses through the levels of consciousness within each system of mapping the Worlds, whether expressed as from the Material to the Personal, Trans-personal, Spiritual and Divine or as from Immediate to Local, Continental, Planetary and Great Mystery, so also is there another, meta-shift involved in recognizing that the InnerWorlds of the Wheel are not just as mapped out on an upside-down or mirror-image Tree but as iterated levels within the Malkuth of the Tree map.
Again, in other words, instead of having the Four Worlds in each system align with each other in parallel fashion, in the one of the Tree the Jacob’s Ladder extends around the Place of Here, while in the other of the Wheel, the Four Worlds – not the same ones – are located as compacted within this one.
Thus whether the Source of Life in Tree proceeds either as a surrounding Aztiluth contracting progressively into Assiyah or as an Aztiluth expanding successively into full manifestation, that source is envisaged as being in an Aztiluth existing outside of the natural world, beyond its limits. In Wheel the source of life is found within successively deeper inner dimensions.
It was twenty years ago when I first had the “Drop”, as I call it, when the world opened up beneath me and I tumbled down the main rabbit hole into the First World, the InnerWorld counterpart of Aztiluth. The psychological shock of instant deconstruction of basic paradigmatic orientation was total when I met the beings resident there. As in the UpperWorlds, there is nothing separate from the beings who constitute them, yet this was a realm of Feminine identity which, as I was to find out, was as manifoldly diverse as the Lordly realms on high. I still struggle to describe the shift and the altered secondary perceptions that ensue. While the shift from Yesodic or Yetziric to Tipharetic or Beriatic consciousness is stark enough, that shift from OverWorld to UnderWorld consciousness is of another order.
In other words, it is emphatically not the case that the InnerWorlds within this one can be represented by means an upside-down Tree:
for the format of Top-Down with Origin outside and above this world remains constant:
Nor is it an appropriate representation of the Divine Feminine in Her Homeland of the Underworld even if phantom [sic!] elements of the divine feminine as are inevitably intuited are incorporated into the hierarchical paradigm of the Tree:
Furthermore, it verges into disinformation if the UnderWorld is conflated with the lair of Satan, as is frequently the case when religious superstition is not deprogrammed:
A nd even more so if the realms of the UnderWorld are equated with the Qlippoth (disordered Sephiroth). Even Rudolf Steiner fell prey to this errorii:
The only semi-realistic way that I have found of representing the UnderWorld/InnerWorlds within the classical Tree of Life format is to indicate the them as nested within the realm of Malkuth, continuing on in the progression of Worlds from Keter to Da’at to Tiphareth to Yesod to Malkuth with the succeeding InnerWorlds as shown by the inclusion of the InnerWorld Tree within the Sephirah of Malkuth:
which is but another version of
The Interior UnderWorld of Malkuth
The crucial difference in the way the OverWorld and the UnderWorld operate is that the OverWorld derives from the One and tends toward a universal encompassing of EveryThing while the UnderWorld, though miniscule in graphic depiction, is fractal and tends toward the particular and is at the heart of Every Thing. The old distinction between Transcendent and Immanent, the One and the Many. Both Divine. Each very different from the other, neither mirrored images nor polar opposites.
Rudolf Steiner had this most acute insight:
“When [cosmic] evolution had progressed to a sufficient stage of development, some of the spiritual hierarchies left the realm of the periphery and descended to dwell within the embryonic creation.”
My thesis on this point is that at the very moment when the very first item of creation – whatever and however it is conceived – emanated out of the Void/the All/the Great Mystery – and was no longer the One itself, it was poised between exterior and interior sets of also developing dieties. These were the masculine and the feminine gods. Both are Heaven and neither are Hell. Hell is persistent dysfunction anywhere in the realm of creation. All that glitters is not gold and darkness can be luminous in its own fashion.
Stage Three in our series of transformations
the Four Directions Stack and revolve within and around the Worlds
It only remains to close out the above and segue into my final dropkick namely that since Christ, having passed through the body of Jeshua bin Miriam, now resides distributed across everything lies in the “in-between” between all things (from JC’s body: Malkuth, to etheric/astral bioregion/watershed/ecosphere of Yesod the fractal free body of life energies); in the relationship among things – and people and every existent loving thing in this world, freer to manifest the BeautyWay. You had to be there . . . still do. The Born-Agains should get it right away, someday; they’re pointed in the right direction, at least. But its humility that get you in the door – All My Relations, Metakue Oyasin on your hands and knees on the ground works real good. No striving on the Circle it will take you right where you need to go (The Tree of Life looks like a compound crossbow ready to launch a bolt into God’s eye and its always the collateral damage that blows back. But although it does have its unique and valuable uses the balance these days lies in the direction of more soul).Take it from me and check it out with your local native elders. Any drunk Indian on the street should be able to point you in the right direction! As my mentor Leon Secatero, To’Hajiilee band Navajo said was worth getting with, the Next 500 Years is now. Has been for a while now. Seeking a critical mass. Ancient currents are flowing, ancient spiritual warfare’s, once more astral than nowday’s fully precipitated scientific industrial or financial black magics. The necessary but probably impossible remediation of the tremendous load of critical masses of nuclear cores disintegrating in the world’s oceans. The continental as well as local entities of Mesoamerican lore who would love to help and be known, as they have asked me to represent for them, in my own fashion.
So, this is my reconciliation of my two ancestral streams: biological bloodline and spiritual adoption. Home at last, tumbling across the doorway, as usual. But it’s a moving target, isn’t it? Expect a miracle, everything is a miracle anyway.
Somebody needs to work out the possibly mutually beneficial interactions between [sic!] equivalent cultural kabbalahs in places like Africa (all of them), Pacific Islands, Tibetan mountainlands, Siberian tundras and Mongolian steppes. And your backyard; learn the history of your place, move into it. Just a suggestion. As you know when you ask your Navajo friends for advice, you know what they’re gonna say ahead of time so you usually don’t even bother: “It’s up to you.” And since it’s all an open-source project make yourself useful. Lead, follow or get out of the way maybe. I think in the long run we’ll all end up with the world we make happen. It’s the short- and medium-term future, it’s gonna be a bitch, that’s for sure so get smart and keep your powder dry.
And you can cast white corn meal to the early Dawn Boy, offer corn pollen to Brother Sun when you see him for the first time that day, if not at sunrise. Why? Because it pleases them, it what they have told me. It’s a small thing but it signifies. It gets you noticed, helps when you have to pray for help; they know who’s coming in. Those nice little things that friends do for each other. Things like that, make up your own perhaps. It’s all about the focused intention of the Heart. It takes you right off the map of the Matrix and into the Web of Life. Tree of Life and Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The Middle Pillar and the branching Tree of unintended consequences of good intentions. They both grow out of the same ground: VITRIOL. Seek and ye shall find. It means exactly what it says, needs no interpretation. Sometimes you need to take scripture literally. Not all the time but you have to know when and poets are sly they like to mess with your head and scripture should be read like that I say. Those oldtimers didn’t waste words the said what they meant and they meant what they said, in Imaginal language much more suited to the subject than this one.
All Best Regards from deep in the heart of political Mordor gazing over at Gondolin, rising in the East, carrying Power from the South, Blessings from the West and Wisdom from the North under the starry sky and upon the breasts of Mother’s milk. Hozhonahasglii x 4!
Holy Nights 2018-19
Pagosa Springs, CO USA
A peek at the images of the following section:
Typically enough, but with Western iterations unsuspected by typical neo-pagan commentary.
Bob Dylan and an Initiatory Tradition in Popular Culture
- As delivered in oral presentation to a select group in Paagosa Springs, CO, 3/10/2019
My lifelong delving into the sources of Bob Dylan’s Inspirations has only
confirmed my estimation of him as, in every sense of the word, a prophet; one
with a signature voice and fully realized set of visions working throughout a career
in language within a variety of musical forms. What I will be presenting are notes
on those Inspirations as they work through Poetry, Culture, and Spiritual Ancestry.
All of these exist in Time but have their immediate roots in another time and
place, one lurking on the edges of this one, one which has been called by many
names but whose nature poets strive to express. My purpose here today is to
encourage to you to take him even more seriously than you may already do.
Please bear in mind that this is NOT a “General Theory of Bob” but only one thin
slice from a single perspective – there are others which I hope to develop at
another time, another place. Thank you for your attention and interest.
Bob Dylan and an Initiatory Tradition in Popular Culture
Part I – Genius in Poetry
In this exploration I will be demonstrating the profound spiritual depth of
Bob Dylan’s contributions to the desolated glittering world of post-WWII popular
American culture: Vargas girls, A-Bombs, TV families and tail fins (disclosure: I do
admit a reverence for tailfins!).
And the kind of peculiar influence passed down within it among musicians
who craft in a style no less significant in its own fashion than that crafted in the
old Templar, Rosicrucian and Druid guilds of yore. I will cite Bob Dylan’s own
written autobiographical and poetic texts to illustrate this proposition, though I
will assemble selections to suit my own cherry-picking. As some may say. That’s
ok; I won’t protest. But what you can take at face value is my individual response
to it all. Yet any response to this must also address the matter of the similar
profound effect that his influence has had on so many of us in this crazy post-
WWII generation (you know who you are . . . ). In the course of some 50 years of
tracking The Bob’s musical and poetic career, I have never been disappointed by
any effort to look deeper into what he might be trying to say. I have been
educated by researching his references and have been successful in crediting
seemingly random associations with profound ancestral resources linked to
serious spiritual initiation streams.
Bob Dylan has an authentic voice, with a signature quality of frequently
enough prophetic authority.
In 2016 Bob Dylan received the Nobel Prize in Literature “for having created
new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”.
I will, first of all, be reading an extended section of his remarks from what
he had to say on that occasion, before sampling his song lyrics:
Nobel Lecture 5 June 2017
(also Banquet Speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bi3Ws2Qm8ck)
Note readers’ remarks as appended in both links! ]
QUOTE: “When I first received this Nobel Prize for Literature, I got
to wondering exactly how my songs related to literature. I wanted to reflect
on it and see where the connection was. I’m going to try to articulate that to
you. And most likely it will go in a roundabout way, but I hope what I say
will be worthwhile and purposeful.
“If I was to go back to the dawning of it all, I guess I’d have to start
with Buddy Holly. Buddy died when I was about eighteen and he was
twenty-two. From the moment I first heard him, I felt akin. I felt related, like
he was an older brother. I even thought I resembled him. Buddy played the
music that I loved – the music I grew up on: country western, rock ‘n’ roll,
and rhythm and blues. Three separate strands of music that he intertwined
and infused into one genre. One brand. And Buddy wrote songs – songs that
had beautiful melodies and imaginative verses. And he sang great – sang in
more than a few voices. He was the archetype. Everything I wasn’t and
wanted to be. I saw him only but once, and that was a few days before he
was gone. I had to travel a hundred miles to get to see him play, and I wasn’t
“He was powerful and electrifying and had a commanding presence. I
was only six feet away. He was mesmerizing. I watched his face, his hands,
the way he tapped his foot, his big black glasses, the eyes behind the glasses,
the way he held his guitar, the way he stood, his neat suit. Everything about
him. He looked older than twenty-two. Something about him seemed
permanent, and he filled me with conviction. Then, out of the blue, the most
uncanny thing happened. He looked me right straight dead in the eye, and he
transmitted something. Something I didn’t know what. And it gave me the
“I think it was a day or two after that that his plane went down. And
somebody – somebody I’d never seen before – handed me a Leadbelly
record with the song “Cottonfields” on it. And that record changed my life
right then and there. Transported me into a world I’d never known. It was
like an explosion went off. Like I’d been walking in darkness and all of the
sudden the darkness was illuminated. It was like somebody laid hands on
(With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight and decades of evidence we
might venture to take him at his word, at face value, on this and that he has
gone a long way towards fulfilling that promise.)
Continuing: “It was on a label I’d never heard of with a booklet inside
with advertisements for other artists on the label: Sonny Terry and Brownie
McGhee, the New Lost City Ramblers, Jean Ritchie, string bands. I’d never
heard of any of them. But I reckoned if they were on this label with
Leadbelly, they had to be good, so I needed to hear them. I wanted to know
all about it and play that kind of music . . . .
“I hadn’t left home yet, but I couldn’t wait to. I wanted to learn this
music and meet the people who played it. Eventually, I did leave, and I did
learn to play those songs. They were different than the radio songs that I’d
been listening to all along [crooners with pretty voices singing idiot
sensibilities cf: How Much Is that Doggie In the Window? . . . .]. They were
more vibrant and truthful to life . . . . I had a natural feeling for the ancient
ballads and country blues, but everything else I had to learn from scratch . . .
“By listening to all the early folk artists and singing the songs
yourself, you pick up the vernacular. You internalize it.
“When I started writing my own songs, the folk lingo was the only
vocabulary that I knew, and I used it.
“But I had something else as well. I had principles and sensibilities
and an informed view of the world. And I had had that for a while.
Learned it all in grammar school. Don Quixote, Ivanhoe, Robinson
Crusoe, Gulliver’s Travels, Tale of Two Cities, (elsewhere he credits
the Iliad and the Odyssey), all the rest – typical grammar school
reading that gave you a way of looking at life, an understanding of
human nature, and a standard to measure things by. I took all that with
me when I started composing lyrics. And the themes from those books
worked their way into many of my songs, either knowingly or
unintentionally. I wanted to write songs unlike anything anybody ever
heard, and these themes were fundamental.” UNQUOTE
Additionally, it is not for nothing that his style has been called “Biblical.”
We can only allude to that in fragments here.
Many themes, which we will address as we get along here. Each encounter:
Buddy Holly – Leadbetter – Jack Dempsey – even the one with Gorgeous George is
laden with significance as they indicate his evolving recognized relationship to the
Zeitgeist: the Folk-Soul as well as the Time-Spirit as expressed in the terms of
Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophical kabbalism. A constant theme of poetry no
matter the topic in the “handed down songs” of the oral ancestral lore. Vibrant
echoes of Irish Seers, Scottish Healers, English bards and Ovates of noble lineage
veined into the bedrock of collective culture, remnants of a pre-technological age
escaped into the Appalachian wilderness within bedtime stories and cradle songs,
full of Imaginal potency and formative life, living buried latent in the grounding
breath of weightless music.
Not for nothing was J. S. Bach called the “Fifth Evangelist”. Similarly, I see
Bob Dylan as another prophet in the lineage of Amos, Jeremiah and Elijah,
preaching doom to fools and repentance to the faithful, always speaking truth to
power as well as to those with the wit to take heed. This is the mission of a bard,
heir and custodian to the spiritual legacy of a people.
As he relates in his autobiographical book “Chronicles”:
“I read The White Goddess by Robert Graves . . . . Invoking the poetic
muse was something I didn’t know about yet. Didn’t know enough to start
trouble with it, anyway.”
This was c. 1961 and he was off and running.
Get this: Graves himself states in that same book that:
“The function of poetry is the religious invocation of the muse [I will
call this the Education of Imagination].
Graves goes on to say: “Its use is the experience of mixed exaltation
and horror that her presence excites.
“Faithfulness to this Theme affects the reader with a strange feeling,
of which the purely physical effect is that the hair literally stands on end. But
nowadays? . . . . This was once a warning to man that he must keep in
harmony with the family of living creatures among which he was born, by
obedience to the lady of the house; it is now a reminder that he has
disregarded the warning, turned his house upside down by capricious
experiment in philosophy, science and industry, and brought ruin on himself
and his family. ‘Nowadays’ is a civilization in which the prime emblems of
poetry are dishonoured. In which serpent, lion and eagle belong to the circus
tent, ox, salmon and boar to the cannery, racehorse and greyhound to the
betting ring, and the sacred grove to the sawmill. In which the Moon is
despised as a burned out satellite of earth and woman as a producer of more
tax-paying consumers. In which money will buy almost anything but truth
and almost anyone but the truth-possessed poet.” (Graves, WG, p. 14)
The book says elsewhere:
“The White Goddess is more than a long-discredited pagan deity. She
is still alive and active, and her worship takes many forms, both inside and
outside the conventions of public morality. In particular, she continues as the
Ninefold Muse, patroness of the white magic of poetry.”
Yet already in 1966, Bob was already hot on the trail of that goddess . . . .
In Visions of Johanna (1966), Bob Dylan (in the vein of other “crazy
wisdom” types such as Trungpa, Gurdjieff, Don Juan and Osho) ventures upon the
deconstruction of consensual reality which maintains the psychological black
magic of literalism and commodification. Bob Dylan’s exorcism is attempted not
by means of logical analysis or spooky midnight ritual but by placing his audience
inside the subjective experience of the cognitive dissonance of a corrupt society
expressed though the communal ceremony of revolutionary musical form
embodied as a virus within the mass culture. (I’m going to repeat this)
These are lyrics sampled from Visions of Johanna:
Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial
Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while
But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues
You can tell by the way she smiles
Oh, jewels and binoculars hang from the head of the mule [Dada mockery]
But these visions of Johanna, they make it all seem so cruel
The peddler now speaks to the countess who’s pretending to care for him
Sayin’, “Name me someone that’s not a parasite and I’ll go out and say a prayer for him”
But like Louise always says
“Ya can’t look at much, can ya man?”
As she, herself, prepares for him
And Madonna, she still has not showed
We see this empty cage now corrode
Where her cape of the stage once had flowed
The fiddler, he now steps to the road
He writes ev’rything’s been returned which was owed
On the back of the fish truck that loads
While my conscience explodes
The harmonicas play the skeleton keys in the rain
And these visions of Johanna are now all that remain
“Museums”: HS, p. 205. “Museums are cemeteries . . . . It’s not
the Bomb that has to go, man, it’s the museums.”
Who is that Johanna? My proposal is that you consider her a phantom of
the eternal feminine, a concept well worked over by others in more respectable
fashion. Bob knows as well as anyone that paradox is the nature of reality –
variety raised to a spiritual signature of the endlessly diversifying nature of reality
as maintained in the mind of the Goddess muse of poetry.
Such a suggestion might seem to be speculation except that even a cursory
examination of Bob Dylan’s lifework can support the case for it, as we shall see.
This is the theme that we will be pursuing here.
The eternal, endlessly foliating nature of the Feminine is an underlying,
recurrent theme that appears in his work right up into the present day, both in his
recordings and in his still ongoing live concert tour performances. In Spirit on the
Water (2006) (and similarly in Beyond the Horizon 2007) he combines sacred love
of woman (the goddess?) and earthly love of women, here, as usual within the
same song without doing injustice to either:
The sources of this hidden pain
You burned your way into my heart
You got the key to my brain . . . .
I hear your name
Ringing up and down the line [what “line’ is this?]
I’m saying it plain
These ties are strong enough to bind . . . . [ thru successive incarnations?]
Your sweet voice
Calls out from some old familiar shrine . . . .
When you are near
It’s just as plain as it can be
I’m wild about you, gal
You ought to be a fool about me
Also, in When the Deal Goes Down (2006):
The moon gives light and shines by night
I scarcely feel the glow
We learn to live and then we forgive
O’er the road we’re bound to go
More frailer than the flowers, these precious hours
That keep us so tightly bound
You come to my eyes like a vision from the skies
And I’ll be with you when the deal goes down
As much as this could be about an actual lover, it could also at the same
time be about the poet pledging his fidelity to that poetic muse. Note that this
recurrent theme precedes, underlies and continues past his involvement with the
gospel forms of salvational Christianity, without rejecting the esoteric essence
and import of it.
On a deeper, esoteric level, one known to Bob through his continuing
honoring of his Hebraic roots, common to both Hebraic and Christian kabbalahs is
the transformational kabbalistic practice of tikkun olam – the reintegration of the
fractured worlds. With Bob this process is one executed within his own suffering
and transforming psyche. Many artists use their personal drama as fuel for their art,
but Bob has taken the process to a whole new level, invoking his passage through the
stages of a spiritual initiation as a template for a real-time, old-time mystery drama.
We see this exemplified in the lyrics to “Ain’t Talkin’” (2006):
As I walked out tonight in the mystic garden
The wounded flowers were dangling from the vines
I was passing by yon cool and crystal fountain
Someone hit me from behind [the Threshold is too close behind]
Ain’t talkin’, just walkin’
Through this weary world of woe
Heart burnin’, still yearnin’
No one on earth would ever know
They say prayer has the power to help
So pray from the mother
In the human heart an evil spirit can dwell
I’m trying to love my neighbor and do good unto others
But oh, mother, things ain’t going well
* * *
All my loyal and much-loved companions
They approve of me and share my code
I practice a faith that’s been long abandoned
Ain’t no altars on this long and lonesome road [cf: the ‘old familiar shrine of “Spirit On
Ain’t talkin’, just walkin’
My mule is sick, my horse is blind
Heart burnin’, still yearnin’
Thinkin’ ‘bout that gal I left behind
It’s bright in the heavens and the wheels are flying [cf: Ezekiel 1:4-28]
Fame and honor never seem to fade
The fire’s gone out but the light is never dying [cf: No Country For Old Men; the embers
Who says I can’t get heavenly aid? In the horn]
Here he is stretched taut between the spiritual and the earthly forms of
In Soon After Midnight (2013) is the sly but explicit acknowledgement of
what his Jewish, then Christian kabbalism has led him to the Shekinah and the
Daughters of the Earth as represented by both the lusty Magdalene and the fertile
I’m searching for phrases to sing your praises
I need to tell someone
It’s soon after midnight and my day has just begun [cf: reversal of attention]
A gal named Honey took my money
She was passing by
It’s soon after midnight and the moon is in my eye [the Moon is the Sun of the Night]
My heart is cheerful, it’s never fearful
I been down on the killing floors
I’m in no great hurry, I’m not afraid of your fury
I’ve faced stronger walls than yours [cf: the kabbalist World of Assiyah]
Charlotte’s a harlot, dresses in scarlet
Mary dresses in green
It’s soon after midnight and I’ve got a date with a fairy queen
* * * *
It’s now or never, more than ever
When I met you I didn’t think you would do
It’s soon after midnight and I don’t want nobody but you [but which “you”?]
In many persisting sly indications like these, Bob Dylan indicates what can
legitimately be named a professional level of spiritual training and
And, always, love of the Land and Place, at peace with the span between
sacred and profane love (Duquesne Whistle, 2013). Listen for the overtones of
Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher, Woody Guthrie, Hank Williams and everyone
else who ever wrote songs about trains, the lonesome whistle and the tracks
converging on infinity:
Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowin’
Blowin’ like it’s gonna sweep my world away
I’m gonna stop in Carbondale and keep on going
That Duquesne train gonna ride me night and day
You say I’m a gambler, you say I’m a pimp
But I ain’t neither one
Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowin’
Sound like it’s on a final run
Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowin’
Blowin’ like she never blowed before
Blue light blinking, red light glowin’
Blowin’ like she’s at my chamber door
You smiling through the fence at me
Just like you always smiled before
Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowin’
Blowin’ like she ain’t gonna blow no more
Can’t you hear that Duquesne whistle blowin’
Blowin’ like the sky’s gonna blow apart
You’re the only thing alive that keeps me goin’
You’re like a time bomb in my heart
I can hear a sweet voice gently calling
Must be the Mother of our Lord
Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowin’
Blowin’ like my woman’s on board
The lights of my native land are glowin’
I wonder if they’ll know me next time around
I wonder if that old oak tree’s still standing
That old oak tree, the one we used to climb
Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowin’
Blowin’ like she’s blowin’ right on time
Still a Christian in Spirit – Pay in Blood (2012):
. . . .
Low cards are what I’ve got
But I’ll play this hand whether I like it or not
I’m sworn to uphold the laws of God
You could put me out in front of a firing squad
I’ve been out and around with the rising men
Just like you, my handsome friend
My head’s so hard, must be made of stone
I pay in blood, but not my own
So . . . .
Poetry, like scripture, is, above all, a symbolic language, with symbols which
encode a potency which cannot be incarcerated by utilitarian language and which
extend down from creative forces generating infinite variety of living forms and,
ultimately, actual existences. Language is the ash of that fire, which ash poets mix
with their blood and tears to scribble images pointing back to origins. Fitfully
perhaps, but sometimes raising the hair in the back of your neck. In this, you
know that ‘something else’ has just passed by. [cf: Keats’ nightingale, p. 12]
II – Links in culture
What do we find when we look for Bob’s actual link with culture’s ancestry,
something more substantial than a momentary Rock n Roll shaktipat? Where
does it ground out?
Enter Harry Smith: avant-garde filmmaker, ethnologist with very strong
connections to native culture (how I wish I had time to get into that . . . ), print-
maker extraordinaire, kabbalist and, most relevantly to our theme, the compiler
of the seminal 1952 Anthology of American Folk Music: the so-called “secret text”
for what Greil Marcus called the “old, weird America”, gothic and asymmetrical.
On which all the musical folklorists and performers of the era cut their teeth.
Primarily for which during the 1991 Grammy Award ceremonies he received –
quote - “for his ongoing insight into the relationship between artistry and society,
his deep commitment to presenting folk music as a vehicle for social change, the
Chairman’s Merit Award”, at which occasion Smith said:
“I’m glad to say my dreams came true, that I lived to see America changed
As one commentator said: “The voices of the Anthology, like the Keats’
nightingale and its song, are after all only visitors from another place – the faery
lands forlorn’ from which, as for the poet, only the sound of a living voice, our
own, can deliver us. . . . Listening to the Anthology, we are, like Keats, wondering
whether we are asleep or awake, seeing or dreaming, wondering whether it is ever
possible to know the difference, or whether it makes any difference whether we
can or cannot.”
- Robert S. Cantwell, Darkling I Listen, HS, p. 200.
His acquaintance Owen Karlenzig remembered:
“He told me Anthology of American Folk Music was intended as a last gasp
of oral tradition, just as mass-marketed recordings, radio and movies changed
As Harry’s friend Ed sanders of the Fugs stated:
QUOTE “Harry’s Anthology was a deliberate act of anthropologic
magic. He said: ‘I felt social changes would result from it. I’d been reading
Plato’s Republic He’s jabbering on about music, how you have to be careful
about changing the music because it might upset or destroy the government.’
The benevolent social concerns, for instance, that were implicit in the
American folk music surge of the 1960’s grew, at least in part from this
quest of his youth.” UNQUOTE
Harry was also responsible for orchestrating the ritual for the magical
attempt to exorcise the demons from the Pentagon as part of 1967’s big antiwar
As Bob says about his own estimation of the pre-corporate musical culture:
“My songs, what makes them different is that there’s a foundation to
them . . . . They don’t fall into the commercial category; they’re not written
to be performed by other people [‘crooners’]. But they’re standing on a
strong foundation, and subliminally that’s what people are hearing. Those
old songs are my lexicon and prayer book.”
- HS, p. 220.
Bob is also remembered as disavowing himself of the mantle of “protest
singer” and this is frequently cited in the sanitized mass-market version of
“Dylan”. However, the other half of the original statement was to the effect that
his songs were not protest songs, they were rebellion songs. This is four-square in
the folksong tradition and he did his part to move it along when he went
III – Roots in Our Shared Spiritual Tradition
Bob Dylan’s personal spiritual foundation for the entire arc of his career
may well be the kabbalah of his own Jewish heritage, one the he continues to
maintain through his Lubitcher Hassidism, one of the most traditionally as well as
kabbalistically oriented variants of observant Jewish religious life.
We have mentioned kabbalah several times. Even throughout and
continuing after his so-called “Christian period” – which, even so, was of a sort
which strongly valued Old Testament Mosaic values - are archetypal kabbalistic
themes, no more explicit than in Forever Young of 1974, written for his son
Jacob’s Bar Mitzvah:
May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young
May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
May your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
It is too much to get into in this brief presentation, but these verses tick off
the traditional attributions of the Sephiroth on the kabbalist’s glyph of the Tree of
Life (as well as very apt references to several of the Tarot Trumps, particularly as
they relate to specific pathways between those Sephira), a representation now
almost a thousand years old, with antecedent forms going back millenia before
that, all the way back into the Genesis of Biblical and Torah oral tradition. In
Genesis 26:10-12 it is related that:
“Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. When he reached a
certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of
the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a
dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching
to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.”
This remains Jacob’s as well as young Jacob Dylan’s and every kabbalists’
ladder to the stars, the taproot for the “Foundation” of his songs.
That’s tradition for you! As a staunch traditionalist, Bob Dylan knows his
kabbalah and knows it in its higher forms of activating transformation on the level
of sacred magic. Thus his musical forms can shift and morph without loosing their
connection with their sources. The case can be made for this solely on the basis of
results achieved, as we all recognize by instinctive response, forget the
intellectual superstructure. For one who can recognize the results of sustained
devotion in Kabbalistic practice, the most convincing evidence for it resounds
throughout within Bob Dylan’s signature poetic and musical sensibilities. Perhaps
it is this, more than anything else, which explains the deep resonance that so
many feel in his art, for something so true and authentic is present in it. “By their
fruits you shall know them.”
To wrap this up, William Faulkner remarked, perhaps – or perhaps not -
referring to the persistence of spiritual roots:
“ The Past is not over; it’s not even the past .”
And there is this last; Bob Dylan closing his Nobel Prize address:
“ I return once again to Homer, who says: “Sing in me, O
Muse, and through me tell the story .”
* * * *
The author may be reached at email@example.com
This article also published online at:
A Living Tradition is like one of those plants that live mostly in the root
system: you can shear, rototill, blight, or pave over the above-ground growth but
the organism persists and will assert itself and reemerge when conditions allow,
even if it remain dormant for long periods of time.
I suggest that it’s not so much what he says, it’s who’s talking.
Between the 10th century BC and the beginning of their exile in 586 BC, polytheism was normal throughout Israel; it was only after the exile that worship of Yahweh alone became established, and possibly only as late as the time of the Maccabees (2nd century BC) that monotheism became universal among the Jews. Some biblical scholars believe that Asherah at one time was worshipped as the consort of Yahweh, the national God of Israel. There are references to the worship of numerous gods throughout Kings: Solomon builds temples to many gods and Josiah is reported as cutting down the statues of Asherah in the temple Solomon built for Yahweh (2 Kings 23:14). Josiah’s grandfather Manasseh had erected one such statue (2 Kings 21:7).
Further evidence for Asherah-worship includes, for example, an 8th-century BC combination of iconography and inscriptions discovered at Kuntillet Ajrud in the northern Sinai desert where a storage jar shows three anthropomorphic figures and several inscriptions. The inscriptions found refer not only to Yahweh but to ʾEl and Baʿal, and two include the phrases “Yahweh of Samaria and his Asherah” and “Yahweh of Teman and his Asherah.” The references to Samaria (capital of the kingdom of Israel) and Teman (in Edom) suggest that Yahweh had a temple in Samaria, while raising questions about the relationship between Yahweh and Kaus, the national god of Edom. The ‘asherah’ in question is most likely a cultic object, although the relationship of this object (a stylised tree perhaps) to Yahweh and to the goddess Asherah, consort of ʾEl, is unclear. It has been suggested that the Israelites may have considered Asherah as the consort of Baʿal, due to the anti-Asherah ideology which was influenced by the Deuteronomistic Historians, at the later period of the kingdom. It has also been suggested by several scholars that there is a relationship between the position of the gĕbîrâ in the royal court and the worship (orthodox or not) of Asherah. In a potsherd inscription of blessings from “Yahweh and his Asherah”, there appears a cow feeding its calf. Numerous Canaanite amulets depict wearing a bouffant wig similar to the Egyptian Hathor. If Asherah is then to be associated with Hathor/Qudshu, it can then be assumed that the cow is being referred to as Asherah.
William Dever’s book Did God Have a Wife? adduces further archaeological evidence—for instance, the many female figurines unearthed in ancient Israel, (known as pillar-base figurines)—as supporting the view that in Israelite folk religion of the monarchical period, Asherah functioned as a goddess and consort of Yahweh and was worshiped as the queen of heaven, for whose festival the Hebrews baked small cakes. Dever also points to the discovery of multiple shrines and temples within ancient Israel and Judah. The temple site at Arad is particularly interesting for the presence of two (possibly three) massebot, standing stones representing the presence of deities. Although the identity of the deities associated with the massebot is uncertain, Yahweh and Asherah or Asherah and Baal remain strong candidates, as Dever notes: “The only goddess whose name is well attested in the Hebrew Bible (or in ancient Israel generally) is Asherah.”
The name Asherah appears forty times in the Hebrew Bible, but it is much reduced in English translations. The word ʾăšērâ is translated in Greek as ἄλσος (grove; plural: ἄλση) in every instance apart from Isaiah 17:8; 27:9 and 2 Chronicles 15:16; 24:18, with δένδρα (trees) being used for the former, and, peculiarly, Ἀστάρτη (Astarte) for the latter. The Vulgate in Latin provided lucus or nemus, a grove or a wood. From the Vulgate, the King James translation of the Bible uses grove or groves instead of Asherah’s name. Non-scholarly English language readers of the Bible would not have read about the figure for more than 400 years afterward. The association of Asherah with trees in the Hebrew Bible is very strong. For example, she is found under trees (1 Kings 14:23; 2 Kings 17:10) and is made of wood by human beings (1 Kings 14:15, 2 Kings 16:3–4). Trees described as being an asherah or part of an asherah include grapevines, pomegranates, walnuts, myrtles, and willows.
Worship and suppression
Episodes in the Hebrew Bible show a gender imbalance in Hebrew religion. Asherah was patronized by female royals such as the Queen Mother Maacah (1 Kings 15:13). But more commonly, perhaps, Asherah was worshiped within the household, and her offerings were performed by family matriarchs. As the women of Jerusalem attested, “When we burned incense to the Queen of Heaven and poured out drink offerings to her, did not our husbands know that we were making cakes impressed with her image and pouring out drink offerings to her?” (Jeremiah 44:19). This passage corroborates a number of archaeological excavations showing altar spaces in Hebrew homes. The “household idols” variously referred to in the Bible may also be linked to the hundreds of female pillar-base figurines which have been discovered.
Popular culture defines Canaanite religion and Hebrew idolatry as sexual “fertility cults,” products of primitive superstition rather than spiritual philosophy. This position is buttressed by the Hebrew Bible, which frequently and graphically associates goddess religions with prostitution. As Jeremiah wrote, “On every high hill and under every spreading tree you lay down as a prostitute” (Jeremiah 2:20). Hosea, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel in particular blame the goddess religions for making Yahweh “jealous,” and cite his jealousy as the reason Yahweh allowed the destruction of Jerusalem. As for sexual and fertility rites, it is likely that they were once held in honor in Israel, as they were throughout the ancient world. Although their nature remains uncertain, sexual rites typically revolved around women of power and influence, such as Maacah. The Hebrew term qadishtu, usually translated as “temple prostitutes” or “shrine prostitutes,” literally means priestesses or priests.
Some scholars have found an early link between Asherah and Eve, based upon the coincidence of their common title as “the mother of all living” in Genesis 3:20 through the identification with the Hurrianmother goddessHebat. There is further speculation that the Shekhinah as a feminine aspect of Yahweh may be a cultural memory or devolution of Asherah. In Christian scripture, the Holy Spirit is represented by a dove—a ubiquitous symbol of goddess religions, also found on Hebrew naos shrines. This speculation is not widely accepted. In the non-canon Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, Jesus is depicted saying, “Whoever knows the Father and the Mother will be called the child of a whore.” Goddess symbology nevertheless persists in Christian iconography; Israel Morrow notes that while Christian art typically displays female angels with avian wings, the only biblical reference to such figures comes through Zechariah’s vision of pagan goddesses.
Ugaritic amulets show a miniature “tree of life” growing out of Asherah’s belly. Accordingly, Asherah poles, which were sacred trees or poles, are mentioned many times in the Hebrew Bible, rendered as palus sacer (sacred poles) in the Latin Vulgate. Asherah poles were prohibited by the Deuteronomic Code which commanded “You shall not plant any tree as an Asherah beside the altar of the Lord your God”. The prohibition, as Dever notes, is also a testament to the practice of putting up Asherah poles beside Yahweh’s altars (cf. 2 Kings 21:7) amongst Israelites. Another significant biblical reference occurs in the legend of Deborah, a female ruler of Israel who held court under a sacred tree (Judges 4:5), which was preserved for many generations. Morrow further notes that the “funeral pillars of the kings” described by Ezekiel (43:9, variously translated as “funeral offerings” or even “carcasses of the kings”) were likely constructed of sacred wood, since the prophet connects them with “prostitution.”
Like the dove and tree, the lioness made a ubiquitous symbol for goddesses of the ancient Middle East. Lionesses figure prominently in Asherah’s iconography, including the 10th century BC Ta’anach cult stand, which also includes the tree motif. A Hebrew arrowhead from 11th century BC bears the inscription “Servant of the Lion Lady.”
Asherah, the Tree of Life and the Menorah : Continuity of a Goddess symbol in Judaism?The First Sophia Fellowship Feminist Theology Lecture . The College of St. Mark & St. John. Plymouth. 4th December 1996 . I am very happy to be here today to give the first Sophia lecture in Feminist Theology, and to have had the most interesting experience this term of living and working among you, taking part in the life of the College. I will express my appreciation and thanks to all who have helped me, later. They have given me the opportunity of taking up research on a theme that has been of interest for a long time; what I present to you tonight is part of work in progress. That there might be a connection, rooted in the Hebrew bible, between the female figure there named Asherah, the Garden of Eden, the Tree of Life and the Menorah (the seven branched candlestick of Jewish life and ritual) occurred to me when in 1991 I was writing a study of the biblical divine female figure of Wisdom, Hochma in Hebrew, Sophia in Greek. To some extent it appeared that Hochma was the alter ego of God presented in the feminine gender. In doing this work I looked at other female divine figures in the Hebrew bible, of whom Asherah was certainly one of the most prominent. Where Hochma, Wisdom, encapsulated the comprehension of creation and the brilliance of order and the intellect, it seemed that Asherah stood for the concept of life, its physicality, its sacrality, its cyclical renewal within nature and the hope by the human beings who worshipped her that such renewal was some sort of symbol of eternal life. It seemed of particular interest that this female divine figure was always associated with trees. LXX translated the word Asherah into in Greek as also, grove, or alse, groves, or occasionally by dendra, trees; Vulgate in Latin provided lucus or nemus, a grove or a wood (thus KJV bible uses grove or groves with the consequent loss of Asherah’s name and knowledge of her existence to English language readers of the bible over some 400 years). I noticed then the possibility that the special tree, the Tree of Life might act as a signal concerning the presence of this divine female being. The familiar Genesis 3:24,(normally accepted as written by the J element in biblical composition) tells us that the human being (ha-adam) was driven out of the garden of Eden and that God placed the cherubim with a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life. On the other hand, Prov. 3:18 tells us of female Wisdom “she shall be a tree of life to all who lay hold on her”. The contrast here was striking. For the J writer of Genesis, the Tree of Life was denied when our foreparents had gained knowledge of good and evil, yet the Wisdom writer at approximately the same period commended it to the seeker as divine female wisdom. The questions raised were linked. Is Gen 3:24 an expression of the prohibition of worship of a goddess figure who might be Asherah? And is Prov. 3:18 a relic of the popular religious veneration of the female in deity? (Long:1992: 130-31) At the time I was able only to follow through the material about Wisdom but today as a result of the courtesy of this college I am happy to present to you some account of Asherah and the tree of life, and a possible symbol of both that has lasted throughout history, and I am doing so within the context of feminist theology. Since I started my biblical researches some years ago I have been encouraged by the words of the distinguished scholar Peter Ackroyd. He suggested that the hostile portrayal of goddesses in the Hebrew bible, was part of a polemic. Its aim was to discredit any cult of goddesses and to classify them as alien rather than part of the Hebrew popular religion (Ackroyd: 1983: 256). From there it was a short step to the ideas of feminist theologians which provided the encouragement to pursue the study further. I have been particularly struck with Rosemary Ruether’s formulation which calls upon us to find a remedy for the age old exclusion of women from the norms of divinity and of humanity ( Radford Ruether 1992:14-19), and with Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza’s methodology for so doing. This, following Ricoeur, she has named the hermeneutics of suspicion. We are not to be intimidated by the androcentricity of the texts but must search for the female who has been obscured.( Schussler Fiorenza 1984:15-18) In my case, I have been seeking not so much the stories of the women in the Hebrew scriptures but whether a female dimension of deity is to be found there. One solution to this question was proposed two decades or so ago by Phyllis Trible who has discussed at length the many female characteristics of God in the Hebrew bible. She linked them first with Gen 1:27: “God created the human being in his own image, male and female created he them”; and then, with the cognate Hebrew words for compassion (rahamim), and for the womb, rehem ( Trible: 1978:33). This had the great value to those seeking a female dimension, but within tradition, of keeping a monotheistic stance intact. However, Trible’s work does not satisfy the many questions that arise from archaeological finds, chief of which is iconographic and linguistic evidence for a proposition summed up by archaeologist Ze’ev Meshel in the question “Did Yahweh have a consort?” (1979) and by the title of fellow archaeologist Richard Petteys more recent book “Asherah Goddess of Israel.”(1990) What do we mean by the Asherah? There are 40 references to Asherah in the Hebrew bible, almost all couched in hostile terms. Forms of the name include the singular Asherah, or plural either Asherim or Asheroth. The form Ashtoreth is also found, containing the vowels of the Hebrew word bosheth meaning shame, put in by later redactors. A few texts from RSV translation will provide a touch of their flavour. Deut 12.2 calls upon the people to “tear down their altars, dash in pieces their pillars and burn their Asherim with fire.” 16:21 commands them not to plant any living tree as an Asherah beside the altar of the Lord. Judges 6:25/26 not only insists that the Asherah which the Hebrews have built beside the altar of Baal be cut down but also it must provide the wood to make a burnt offering of the bull that was used to pull down the shrine. There are also references to the Asherah as an image in the temple of Yahweh:(2K 21:7)) while the account of Josiah’s reform recounts the high priest’s actions in bringing out not only the vessels made for Asherah in addition to those made for Baal and the host of heaven ) but also the Asherah itself from the house of the Lord. The text (2K 23:6-7) tells how he burned it and beat it to dust and cast the dust upon the graves of the common people. 1 K 18-19 refers to 400 prophets of Asherah alongside those of the Canaanite god, Baal. The association of Asherah with trees in the Hebrew bible is very strong. For example, she is found under trees (1K14:23; 2K 17:10)), is made of wood by human beings (1K 14:15, 2K16:3-4) and is erected by human beings (2K17:1). The Asherah often occurs in conjunction with shrines on high places, which may also be to other gods such as Baal, and frequently is mentioned in association with the host of heaven. Richard Pettey (1990:153-4) has catalogued each reference and produced tables showing all combinations of Asherah with images, pillars, high places and altars. Using these he argued that Asherah, always associated with the worship of a deity whether JHWH or Baal, is a cultic object used along with the altars, high places and pillars in the service of such deities which included Jahweh ( this is also the position of widely quoted biblical exegete Saul Olyan. 1988). It is rather surprising considering the numerous references to trees in connection with Asherah that Pettey does not include them in his formula. To the question was Asherah a Goddess of the Israelites? he answers both no and yes.( Pettey 1990: 210) Certainly no, he says, the biblical authors were unanimous in their abhorrence of Asherah worship, but, yes, she was without doubt popularly accepted as the goddess of Israel. One thing is certain: that the Asherah with attendant asherim has many forms but is never far from trees or the wood of trees. Where you would find an Asherah? First you would look on every high hill and under every green tree,” ( e.g. Jer 2:20,Jer 3:6, Isa 57:5). There you may discover that she is also associated with sexual activities. In the words of the biblical writers, the people of Israel who worshipped her there bowed down playing the harlot, or burned with lust among the oaks. We will return to this subject later. It will however be seen immediately that Asherah was a vital force in the life of the people of Israel, and indeed Raphael Patai in his study of the Hebrew goddess has calculated that “the statue of Asherah was present in the temple for no less than 236 years, two-thirds of the time the Solomonic temple stood in Jerusalem.” This worship, he asserts, was part of the legitimate religion approved and led by the king the court and the priesthood”.(Patai.1990: 38) So those seeking Asherah would find her in groves and on the hills, and in the temple of JHWH itself. The question now to be answered is: What would you find? We see that it is difficult to define Asherah. She is female and something divine that people worship. She appears to be made of wood. She is a living tree that can be planted and cut down, or, she is erected and made by human beings; she stands both in the temple of the Lord and at the shrine of Baal; she is connected with pillars and, in some texts, with the mysterious host of heaven. There are many asherim yet there is one who is worshipped in the temple of Yahweh. She has 400 priestesses serving her. She is worshipped on high hills and under green trees. She is referred to in the singular and in the plural. Answers to what has often been called the puzzle of Asherah have been attempted for hundreds of years. The most ancient commentators whose works are still extant are the rabbis who wrote the Mishnah, the Oral Law, in about the second and third centuries of this era. The Mishnah’s definition of an Asherah is any tree worshipped by a heathen, or any tree which is worshipped.. The great rabbi Akibah said “wherever thou findest a high mountain or a lofty hill and a green tree know that an idol is there”.(Danby: 1933:441). Trees described by the rabbis as being an asherah or part of an asherah include grapevines, pomegranates, walnuts, myrtles and willows (Danby:1933:90,176). From this it will be seen that these early lawmakers denied Asherah as part of the Hebrew religion but recognised her as a divinity worshipped by the “heathen”, and treated her as a living tree or living part of a tree. Their testimony was made in exile and under persecution from the Romans, but still within community memory of a former Israel which though a tributary state to Rome, was able most of the time to order its own religious affairs, and to contain the vast memory of its long religious life. Because of this I am inclined to take their view very seriously even though some modern scholars do not agree with them. John Day, one of the current leaders in the field of Ancient Near Eastern studies expresses a majority consensus when he declares that no serious scholar today believes the Asherah was a living tree. (Day:1986 402) A minority opinion in favour comes from the French scholar Andre Lemaire. Day points out (Day:1986:385-408) that in the late 19th and early 20th century before the major discovery at ancient Ugarit in Northern Syria,( today called Ras Shamra), of Canaanite material ( which we shall be examining a little later on) three main views obtained concerning the identity of biblical Asherah. The German school believed she was the goddess Astarte or her symbol; the British school led by William Robertson Smith, the centenary of whose death was commemorated last year by a distinguished gathering at his alma mater, Aberdeen University, thought that Asherah was not the name of a deity but of a sacred symbol, a wooden pole, such as a maypole used as a cult object. This is still the position of a few scholars, notably Saul Olyan, and Baruch Margalit. It is conceded, that this symbol might be a faint echo of a previous Canaanite deity. John Day’s third category is that Asherah is both a sacred object and a goddess, and this reading he believes is now mostly accepted and most consistent with the evidence (1983: 398). Ruth Hestrin, of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem has gone further and built this into an extremely satisfactory solution to the conundrum.(Hestrin 1991:50-59 ). She states that the goddess Asherah is represented in the bible by three of her manifestations – as an image representing the goddess herself, as a green tree, and as the asherim, tree trunks . She points out that this interpretation fits well with the that of the rabbis statement in the Mishnah. (It is of interest that the question “Is She One or Many?” is one of the most pressing questions now being addressed by the present-day goddess movement (see Long: Feminist Theology, May 1997), and although it cannot be pursued here, it seems as if a study of biblical Asherah may provide some pointers to answers.) The major reason for the substantial recognition of Asherah as a goddess and for the current explosion of interest in her status and function is the discovery of texts and iconographic material in the territories now Syria, Palestine, Sinai and Israel. We will look at four major discoveries: In the first Asherah may be recognised as a pre-biblical Canaanite goddess in her own right; in the second and third we have Israelite depictions and inscriptions linking Yahweh and Asherah, while in the fourth pictures of her connect her closely with those of the Tree of Life. The Ras Shamra texts In 1929 a substantial discovery was made in Northern Syria, of texts dating to the Bronze age of about 1400BCE. They contained a cycle of divine myths of the Canaanite people. From them, we learn that chief among the gods were El, the father god, and his consort, the Lady Athirat (Ugaritic version of Hebrew Asherah). Asherah’s titles included Creatress of all the Gods, and Mistress of Sexual Rejoicing. She was also called rbt ym which has been variously translated as Lady who walks on the sea or perhaps She who walks on the dragon – both suggested by Albright in 1940. A contemporary Hebrew scholar Baruch Margalit remarks (Margalit 1990:266-7) the fact that this interpretation of the divine name Athirat/Asherah endured for nearly half a century is a measure of its appeal as well as the unparalleled authority of its author. However, he yields to linguistic objections raised by other scholars and eventually agrees with John Day that probably the simpler solution, Lady of the Sea, is a preferred alternative. It is often remarked that this title would suit a deity of the Canaanites who lived on the coastline. Later the Israelites took over the higher inland countryside, and this title of Asherah faded from use among them. The Ras Shamra material shows Asherah to be a powerful deity: she procures a palace for the god Baal when he is unable to do so himself; she is in some conflict with El, who asks Am I am slave that I am must do her bidding? (Driver, ibid) but indeed he finds he must; Frank M. Cross in his ground- breaking “Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic” (1973) designates her ” as the primary wife of El” and as such the “Creatress of creatures” as well as ” the creatress of the gods” ( Cross: 1973:15, 32). Her function he believes is as a mother goddess. Baruch Margalit proposes( 1990:269) a different reading of her name: it is “she who walks behind”, and, he declares, this describes a wife. His interpretation is idiosyncratic and there is little support for it by other scholars. In fact, a quite different appreciation of Asherah’s position in the Canaanite world comes to the fore when it is realised that she is also addressed as Qudsu, holy, and identified with a goddess of that name who (Hestrin and others) was well known in Egypt as a goddess of love at the time of the Phoenician or Canaanite influence there. Mark Smith (1990: 94) points to passages in the Ras Shamra texts that may be relative to the equating of Qudsu with Asherah: in both of them nudity and lovemaking is inferred. In fact, it is usually conceded that Asherah/Athirat and Qudsu are identical deities, whose major function is to do with sexuality and the prosperity of the land and people, arising from it. Such a goddess is a potent deity in her own right, and we may presume that although she appears as a consort of El, ideas of a kind of wifehood that means walking behind, are in the commentator’s mind rather than in the text. An echo of Asherah come to us in the South West of England. IES Edwards( 1955:49-57) describes a relief of a goddess called Qudshu-Astarte- Anath which was presented to Winchester College in 1951. Edwards remarks : ” No precise information is available concerning either its original acquisition or the date it reached England”. She is represented as standing on a lion; above her is a disk and a crescent – perhaps the sun and moon. She is almost naked and is holding a lotus blossom and serpents. This resembles many other depictions which show very similar scenes where sometimes a woman, sometimes a sacred tree takes the centre place. Apparently Winchester no longer has this interesting artifact. An example of the interchangeability of the tree and the goddess is suggested by the Ancient Near Eastern scholar John Gray. Referring (1967:149) to a relief on an ivory casket found at Minet el Beida, in a neighbouring mound to Ras Shamra and of equivalent date, he writes (Winthom 67 149):” it depicts the Mother Goddess offering heads of corn to two rampant caprids (animals of the goat family.) This is a significant sculpture as it seems a variant on the motif of two caprids similarly flanking a date palm found most abundantly in the vicinity of Tel el Ajjud, Palestine. The Minet -el-Beida sculpture suggests that the tree corresponds to the Mother Goddess and is in fact the Tree of Life.” We shall see later other examples of this interchangeability and identification of tree and goddess. Kuntillet Ajrud and Khirbet el Qom The second and third of our categories that have persuaded many scholars to regard biblical Asherah as a goddess in her own right consist of shrines bearing texts and pictures. Archaeologist Ze’ev Meshel disclosed in 1979 that he had discovered a rock shelter at Kuntillet Ajrud in Sinai, possibly used by travellers on cross country routes( Meshel. 1979:24-36). It contained drawings and inscriptions both on the walls and on pithoi – large storage jars. They showed a seated female on a throne playing a musical instrument, portrayals of a cow and her calf and numerous other figures, some in procession. In his communication publishing his findings he asked: “Did Yhwh have a consort?” This arresting question was based on two inscriptions, which read as an appeal for blessings from” Jhwh and his Asherah” or” Yhwh and Asherah” ( the word in question is Asherata). Emerton,(1982:2-20), Freedman (1987:241-249), Beck,(1982:3-68), Dever,(1984: 21-37) Oden (1976:31-36), Zevit,(1984:39-47) ) Hestrin,(1991:50-59), Hadley( 1987:50-62) and Day(1986:385-408) are among those who have taken up the task of providing accurate translations and interpretations of this material, but there is still no consensus on a translation of Asherata. David Noel Freedman even quotes Shakespeare : Can it be, he asks, that we may compare the form “his Asherah” to the last words of Romeo and Juliet : ” For never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo.”(1987:249). A similar inscription found at Khirbet El Qom – presumed site of the biblical Makkedah – reinforces the problems. Judith Hadley of Cambridge has examined this and suggests the reading: (1987:51-62) Blessed be Uriyahu by Yahweh For from his enemies, by his (YHWHs) Asherah, he Yhwh saved him (again the term Asherata is used.) Hadley discusses the linguistic problems in some detail; the question returns: do the words actually mean “his” Asherah, or Asherah in her own right? Hadley comes to the conclusion that in this instance, Yhwh remains the subject of the blessing, but it is carried out by “his Asherah”. Other scholars provide different understandings: for example, the meaning of Asherah in the context might be “holy place” (Meshel(), a reading which links with previous attempts to define Asherah in terms of a grove or shrine ( Albright (1942:77-78), Day,(1986:388-9) Wiggins(1993:193). Emerton opts for “a wooden cult object representing the goddess”.( 1982:20) By contrast, Zevit translates the inscription as : “I blessed Uruyahu to Yahweh and from his enemies oh Asherata save him”, where Asherata is an invocation to the named goddess herself(1984:39-47). There is also the question asked by William Dever whether the seated female figure and the depiction of a sacred tree and a cow with her calf may themselves be portrayals of the goddess.() Dever has been making these questions a prime concern for the last sixteen years. He believes that the concept that Asherah may have been personified and actually worshipped in ancient Israel as the consort of JHwh has been consistently downplayed ()… he contends that the archaeological discoveries provide both texts and pictorial representations that clearly identify Asherah as the consort of Jhwh, at least in some circles of ancient Israel. It is impossible here to outline the many complexities of the various scholarly arguments, but it can safely be stated that the divine figure of YHwh is associated with either a cult object or a divine and female personage. Opinion on which of these seems to be equally divided; but even assuming that “cult object” is the more accurate interpretation the questions remain of what function that object performed, and whether it was a representation of the goddess. It is clear that positive identification of Asherah as a Hebrew goddess at least in some circles in ancient Israel is much enhanced by these finds. The Cult Stand at Taanach The fourth of our archaeological indications of the nature of Asherah takes the form of a pottery stand uncovered at Tel Taanach in Israel, identified as a cult stand or an object used in ritual and worship. Ruth Hestrin has described this object extensively and discussed its possible religious background (Hestrin 1987: 61-77). It is dated to the 10th c BCE and is remarkable for the number and subject of the scenes that decorate it. Hestrin describes them as follows: (1987:65) “In the lowest register a crudely shaped naked woman flanked by two standing lions is represented…the second register has an opening in the centre flanked by two sphinxes with a lions body, birds wings and a female head. Two round protuberances are seen between the legs. The faces resemble that of the naked woman. A sacred tree is represented in the centre of the third register composed of a heavy central trunk from which sprout symmetrically three pairs of curling branches. Two ibexes stand on their hind legs in an antithetical position.. flanking this group are two lionesses almost identical to those in the lowest register”. Notice particularly the shape of the sacred tree and the number of branches – you will see that the trunk plus the branches make it seven fold. I shall refer to this later when we discuss the seven-branched candlestick, the Menorah. Analysing the decorative material on the cult stand, Hestrin comes to the conclusion that two of the registers show an Asherah, once as a naked woman, and once represented by her symbol the tree. The very fact that the lions in the registers are almost identical in shape and position indicates, she says, that they belong to the same deity. Representations of a nude goddess flanked by lions and holding snakes and lotus blossoms are known widely in the Ancient Near East. In particular, as already mentioned, those uncovered in Ugarit and Minet-el-Beida show similar themes, as do portrayals of Qudshu from Egypt. Iconographic evidence alone can only suggest an identification between the goddess Asherah-Qudshu and a sacred tree; but support for such an identification is considerable when seen in relation to our textual material. John Day, discussing what he calls the sacred Asherah pole- that is, a pole from a sacred tree and taking on its significance, writes (1986:404):”It may be that the sacred Asherah pole had the form of a stylised tree. The evidence for this I would seek in Hos 14. 9 (Eng 8) There the prophet makes Yahweh declare:” Ephraim what has he still to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after him. I am like a luxuriant cypress, from me comes your fruit”. Day continues: “The bold comparison of Yhwh with a tree, unique in the Hebrew bible juxtaposed with the condemnation of idolatry has suggested to many scholars that Hosea is polemicising against idolatry associated with Canaanite tree symbolism. Could this be a polemic against Asherah? A number of scholars have believed that it is”(ibid). The implications of this suggestion of Day’s are far-reaching, and for me they extend as far as the Garden of Eden. The narrative there tells us that the tree forbidden was of knowledge of good and evil; but when humans ate its fruit, they were then denied access to the tree of life. Although this had not been forbidden originally, Gen 3:22 has God saying that the human beings having eaten of the forbidden tree might next” take of the tree of life, and eat and live for ever”. It is time to look further at the Tree of Life. The Tree of Life The idea of a Tree of Life is a concept held by many peoples of different cultures. Roger Cook (1974) has surveyed this phenomenon from Ygdrasil, ”the great tree which is the Scandinavian axis of the world” and which links the underworld, middle earth and the heavenly land of the gods; to the.. cosmic Bhodi tree under which the Buddha gained enlightenment. Through varying cultures and times the Tree of Life has been a symbol both of this world and a world of the divine. It represents the theme of rebirth, along with the union of opposites. (1974: 25,26). In one instance the great tree is said to shake, bringing about the destruction of the gods and the world. However, concealed with in its trunk are the seeds of the world’s renewal in the form of a man and a woman from whose union a new race will appear to re-populate the world. Cook writes: (1974:13):”the full breasted tree divinity is one of the many epiphanies or divine manifestations of the Great Mother Goddess known in mythology the world over. As the Earth Mother (Tellus Mater) she embodies the regenerative powers contained in the earth and the waters…(she is) a perpetual source of cosmic fertility. Woman and Tree alike embody this Great Earth Mother for both are visible manifestations of her fruitfulness”. Whether we agree or not with Cook’s description of one universal great goddess, there is no doubt of the association between sacred trees, fertility and a female dimension of the divine. All are involved in the continuation and nurture of life in this world and sometimes in the next. Fertility, in the sense of the continuation and sustenance of the earth and of people is celebrated sexually in the shade of the Tree, or grove; this has been the practice in many cultures among them the people of Israel as we know from our biblical texts. There, as elsewhere, the power of life giving and life sustaining is associated not only with the Tree of Life but very often is one of the attributes of the female divine. An account of the mythology of the sacred tree is given by Yarden (1971) who connects it closely with the Menorah as we shall see later. Yarden describes an ancient myth of “the cosmic or World Tree usually conceived at the centre of the earth…..with its roots in the Underworld…and crown in Heaven(1971:35). He surveys the extent of this myth in the Ancient Near Eastern world and its echoes in the biblical texts. He records that “representations of sacred trees or their branches appear on even the oldest finds” (1971:37). He surveys the extent of this myth in the Ancient Near Eastern world and its echoes in the biblical texts and records that “representations of sacred trees or their branches appear on even the oldest finds” (1971:37). In this connection, we will look to the distinguished biblical scholar Carol Meyers, whom I will later be introducing in connection with the Menorah. In an account of Ancient Near Eastern iconography (1976:25) she writes ” it is hardly an exaggeration to indicate that the sacredness of vegetation and trees has been a recurrent and integral theme in a wide rage of cultures spanning most areas of the globe and most epochs of human history… the sacred quality of trees lies in the fact of their embodiment of the life principle” (p95). She speaks of “the widespread association of vegetal life with the generative power of the divinity”, resulting in the common phenomenon of the manifestation of deity within or at certain trees which would be especially favoured; these trees would lead the worshipper in the direction of the divinity. Furthermore the divinity revealed in the tree is also the source of the hoped-for life after death.. thus the theophany motif of the sacred tree becomes blended inextricably with the concept of life eternal. The tree of life in the sense of immortal life becomes an inseparable aspect of the regenerative principle contained within plant life” (1976: 96). Here we have clearly set out the relationship between the tree which gives us the daily fruit of our life, and its relationship with divinity and with eternal life. We also can understand from this some of the relationship of fertility practices to the sacred. Anne Primavesi,(90:240-243)) a leading ecofeminist, has posed the question: why was it a garden in which our first parents were set? And answered it by saying the first thing that is needed for life is food, and it is in a garden or orchard of trees that fruit comes readily to the hand. As today we hear of the enormous tragedies of starvation throughout the worlds southern, peoples, caused solely by the hand of man we may ponder Anne’s words again. To live, human beings must eat, and our first parents were put in a place where good things to eat were abundant. So the very first meaning of the Tree of Life might indicate that it will actually keep us alive. Howard Wallace (1985) in a Ph.D. dissertation entitled The Eden Narrative analyses the different meanings of the word life in Ancient Near Eastern literature. Looking at the Babylonian epics of the third millennium BCE which contain accounts of various heroes of that period who attempted to find eternal life, he comments that it is mostly said to be available from plants or leaves. For example, the hero Gilgamesh at one point finds a plant that might have provided what he sought but it is stolen from him by a serpent. Another hero Adapa, through a mistaken decision does not partake of the food and water of life actually offered to him. The divine Ishtar in her descent to the Underworld, in the Sumerian version of the story is given the plant of life. Albright has described(Hebraica 36. 1919-20 258-9) how Gilgamesh reaches the goddess Siduri-Sabatu. She is seated under a vine in the Paradise garden which is described as of “dazzling beauty”. The vine is its centrepiece. Siduri-Sabatu is addressed as Goddess of Wisdom, Genius of Life, and referred to as “Keeper of the Fruit of Life”. He asks her for the gift of eternal life but she refuses; Wallace writes: The aspect of “life” in these stories changes from one to the other,(but) the various aspects are all part of the broader concept of life in all its abundance; it is worthy to note that the gaining of divine qualities of life is associated with …eating or drinking some substance which possesses the magical powers to grant this gift”. Wallace makes the point that usually the substance needed will be procured from a tree.(1985:101-3). He compares these texts with Psalm 1, which declares of someone who seeks wisdom: ” he will be like a tree transplanted by channels of water which gives its fruit in season whose leaf does not wither. ” There we may understand a tree of life that is both temporal and eternal. Its fruit brings abundance in this world but its unwithering qualities bring it into eternal life. Wallace then discusses the Hebrew words for life and sees a possible connection between life- the Hebrew word hayyyim, and Eve, Hebrew word Hayya., He proposes a strong association between the two. Can Eve, called the Mother of all living, be identified as the Tree of Life itself? Wallace cites a fertility motif as the connecting link between the two. He sees a strong association between Eve, the Tree of Life, and Asherah, creatress of the gods, and writes ( 1985:114) “it is not impossible that a tree which is associated with fertility and the mother goddess figure on one level of a story could take on other life-giving aspects, also a divine gift at another level, especially when we remember the broad spectrum covered by the word “life”. The biblical writers lived with the evidences around them of sacred fertility rituals on every high hill and under every green tree in honour of the goddess Asherah. It is not impossible that Wallace’s identification of Eve in this way could account for the hostility shown to her and the malediction set upon what might be thought to be the joyful human condition of sexuality and reproduction. Wallace’s identification of Eve, with Asherah and with the Tree of Life, may be deemed by some to be a walk along the wild side of speculation, yet its resonances with the polemics of the material are strong. Thus, the ancient monotheistic heritage of the religious system that became traditional Judaism, where the deity is always expressed in the masculine gender, is challenged by current archaeological and textual evidence. This suggests that a goddess or goddesses were worshipped not as part of a residue of foreign cult, but in her own right in the Hebrew religion. She would be associated with all that is meant by life and symbolised by the Tree of Life: an indwelling Deity who was the source of not only of food, sexuality, reproduction, at a mundane level, but also wisdom and possibly the promise of immortal life. The high hills, green trees and groves where she was worshipped were expressions of herself; parts of trees were made into images of her or set up as poles in her honour. Traditionalists might still argue that all these forms of worship were extraneous to the Hebrew religion and were in fact “heathen”; but the current evidence is mounting against them. It is reinforced by a concept of he Tree of Life that has been part of normative Judaism for a millennium and a half: part of normative Judaism but hidden from more than half of Judaism’s adherents. I refer to the Kabbalah. This is the mystical system practised until recently only by an elite few, who must be male and married and over forty years of age. It was kept secret from everyone else, notably women. It is the Kabbalah, now more available to those wishing to study it, no matter their sex and age. At its heart stands a Tree of Life. Surrounding the Tree in all its glory is a divine female entity, named the Shekinah, the dwelling place of God. The nearest that the traditional commentators came to the feminine Shekinah was to say it represented the community of Israel, historically in a marriage relationship with God. But distinguished Kabbalah scholar Gershon Scholem found differently. He writes: (1969: 105) “the Shekinah becomes an aspect of God that is a quasi-independent feminine element within him. ..the necessary discovery of the female element with God…regarded with the utmost misgiving by non-Kabbalistic sources was a mystic conception of the feminine principle”. The Shekina reflects her own and God’s glory, she is the Face of God and she envelopes the Tree in her shining light. She is sometimes represented as a Paradise Garden full of luxurious trees (1969: 58). The Tree of Life in itself, is the image of Gods creation, it offers a depiction of what Cook has called ” the mysterious relationship between the invisible transcendent god and the visible world of creation” (Cook 1974: 18). The image used is that of an inverted tree, descending from heaven to earth. Its branches are emanations – called sephiroth; they represent the divine powers and spheres through which the human being can work towards the mystical divine. It is impossible here to address this subject with any but the briefest of glances; it has been the basis of a Western tradition of esoteric religious magical working, has been related to the continuous underground hermetic tradition and today continues to fascinate new generations of seekers with its profundities. It has been and is understood as a most powerful symbol of divine glory. We cannot avoid the connection of this Kabbalistic Tree, an ongoing conception from early rabbinical times to its first publication in the 13th century of our era, with the sacred trees we have been addressing. Certainly there appears to be a large time lag, but Kabbalists will affirm that their material can be traced continuously to biblical times.. The divine female element was re-created, in the understanding of many of the Kabbalists, to become the Shekinah. It is not too fanciful to propose that in her is a resonance of Asherah, whose name and presence became obscured but never lost. We will now look at the connections of this material with The Menorah While the Kabbala was practised by men in the synagogues away from the domestic hearth, there was – and is – in their homes, presided over by the woman, a powerful symbol of that same Tree of Life which was the heart of their study. This is the Menorah. Cook describes it as “an important .. Jewish symbol related to the cosmic tree”. (1974:20) We first hear of it in Exodus 25: 31-40. “You shall make a lamp-stand of pure gold….its cups its capitals and its flowers shall be of one piece with it. And there shall be six branches going out of its sides, three branches of the lampstand out of one side of it and three branches out of the other side of it; three cups made like almonds, each with its capitals and flower, on the one branch, and three cups each with its capitals and flower on the other branch – so for the six branches going out from the lampstand.” This lampstand was the desert Tabernacle Menorah guarding and throwing light towards the Ark of the Covenant. Note that its cups were to be shaped in the form of almonds, which themselves are precursors of returning life to the trees in spring, being the first tree to flower before even its leaves have opened. Carol Meyers today a distinguished theologian made the Tabernacle Menorah her Ph.D. dissertation in 1974. She addresses the relationship between God and the Trees of the garden, and offers the perception (1974: 138/9): “in the primeval cycle of Genesis, the primacy of God separate from nature is the clear message The mythological forces represented by the life-giving nature of plant life …are confronted ..in a direct way. ..nevertheless there is not a radical and permanent breaking off of such ideas. The power of the underlying mythic ideas was enormous and is not to be under estimated. It evidently lay beneath the surface ready to materialise for a long time during Israel’s history” Here Meyers points to the continuity of ideas hidden perhaps within Hebrew monotheism that support the concept of the Genesis Eden narrative as polemic. When she turns to the Menorah of Exodus, the Tabernacle Menorah, she examines in detail its relation to the iconography and texts concerning sacred trees in the Ancient Near East. She writes that her study “has shown that the tabernacle menorah in form and detail belongs to the conventional way for the sanctity of vegetable life to be depicted.” (1974: 133). She declares that it has long been recognised that because of the language employed to describe the Menorah and because of its appearance as a thickened stem or shaft from which its branches project that the whole shape strongly resembles a stylised tree. Meyers cites S.A. Cook (1974) who pointed out this some time ago, largely on the basis of its representation in later Jewish art. He would, she says, have laid it down that the candlestick and the tree inevitably tend to merge into one another. Goodenough also suggests this, pointing out that the vision of Zachariah (4:1-14) with trees flanking the Menorah perhaps preserves the original meaning of plant form imbued with sanctity.”(Men 84) She argues:”A consideration of some of the details of such forms has revealed that there is a close morphological connection between arboreal expressions on ancient seals and monuments and the branched form assumed by the superstructure, as it were, of the tabernacle Menorah. (whose form) is exactly (that) taken by the quintessential stylised tree or branch in the Mesopotamian, Aegean, and Syro-Palestinian religions. Whereas there are various modes for expressing stylised plant life throughout Mesopotamian history it is precisely in the Late Bronze Age that a specific six plus one axis form not only comes to dominate but is also disseminated throughout the Eastern Mediterranean island and coastal areas”. (1974: 118/119) Referring to the sanctity of the vegetable and plant life symbolised, she declares that it “involves both the fertility theme of the tree and the immortality concept”. She calls attention to the variations in design of the Menorahs of the first and second Temples, and quotes first century Josephus’ description of the latter: “facing the table, near the South Wall, stood a candelabrum of cast gold.. it was made up of globules, and lilies, pomegranates and little bowls…it terminated in seven branches, regularly disposed in a row. Each branch bore one lamp”. The tree and plant allusions are clear here, as they also are in a Talmudic description which she quotes: “the cups were like Alexandrian goblets, the knobs like Cretan apples, and the flowers like blossoms around the capitals of columns” (1974: 37/38.) The material that she presents is in line with the views of earlier Jewish scholars in this century concerning the relationship of the Menorah to the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. For example, Menahem Recanati calls attention to the vision of Zachariah, where the text of 4:10 reads ” these seven (lamps) are the eyes of God”. He claims that this asserts that God governs by means of the Sephirot emphasised by the seven branches of the Menorah: the divine power is exercised through the Menorah” (E. Jud. 11.1367/. Asher Ben David sees the Menorah as a symbol reflecting the world of the Sephirot. A similar view is taken by Bahqa brn Asher. L. Yarden (1971) has surveyed the Menorah from its inception until the present. He believes it has enormous significance in “fundamental conceptions of (hu)mankind’s most fundamental conceptions of Nature, of Life and Death of Cosmos and God.(1971:vi) he connects it with the ancient sacred tree(1971:35-40), and then discusses its light as the “light of God and the Torah ( 1971:48) He shows its ubiquity throughout Jewish history in a series of remarkable pictures of synagogue vessels and decorations from early times until the present. Present day Kabbalist Ze’ev ben Shimon Halevi argues that in the Menorah we can see a symbol of both the mystical and objective knowledge of the universe conveyed by God to Abraham and to Moses. He writes: ” ..the construction of (Solomon’s) Temple and the seven branched candlestick are both formulations of the Tree of Life”. (p18). In an illustration of the Menorah as the Tree of Life he shows how its stem and branches indicate the different Sephiroth (emanations of God) which to the Kabbalist are the basis of study of eternal wisdom. Words shown at each candle flame are the names of each Sephira. Halevi writes: “The Sephiroth ..might be regarded as a system of functions in a circuit through which flows a divine current. Any Sephiroth can change direction of flow.. power may be stepped up or down in all Sephiroth”.(32))Obviously we cannot follows these paths here, and I am certainly not able to expound this complex and intricate religious system. If we now look at the Menorah in the religious life of Judaism it is clear that while it has a mystical significance which can lead the adept to the throne of the divine, yet throughout the whole history of Judaism it has taken the form of a practical symbol of everyday religious life. It is kept in the synagogue and in the home. Each winter a special version of it, with nine, not seven branches comes into use for nine days. This is at Chanukah, the winter festival of lights, commemorating the miracle of preservation of the oil for the lights in the Jerusalem temple in the 2nd century BCE when Judas Macabeus and his brethren led a successful revolt against their imperial persecutors. (1 & 2 Maccabees) By coincidence only, certainly without intention, it happens that I am giving this lecture now on the eve of this year’s Chanukah festival, the first candle flame of which will be lit on Menorahs in Jewish homes tomorrow evening. Depictions of the Menorah are universal in Jewish history. A huge portrayal of it is shown on the triumphal arch of Titus in Rome, emphasising the plight of the Jews losing their home and going into slavery in 7OCE, after the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. Art historian Heinrich Strauss has called attention to the menorah on walls of ancient and medieval synagogues from Asia Minor to Spain as well as to those many in the modern era. He points to its depiction on coins amulets and jewels of all kinds throughout the lands of the dispersion of the Jews, being particularly noticeable on Persian artefacts. Scribblings of menorahs by Jewish prisoners awaiting execution can be seen on the walls of Roman catacombs, such as beneath the Villa Torlonia. Nearly two thousand years later similar designs were scratched at Auschwitz and Therienstadt death camps, and when the memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto fighters was unveiled in 1963, two huge Menorahs were seen to be its most significant element. The Menorah is a homely, as well as a sacred symbol, familiar to all Jewish families and a part of their life as it has been over the centuries. It is unlikely that the ordinary family and particularly the women of the house would be aware of any sacred significance other than its appearance in the story of Exodus and its identification with the Chanukah lights. There is certainly no idea whatever in normative Judaism that this candlestick could be an image or symbol of, or could in any way resonate with, the goddess Asherah whom the biblical writers and traditional Judaism so abominate. Yet it appears that such a concept is not impossible. In this talk I have tried to show that there is indeed a case to be made for this, even though it may be thought by some to be a surprising or even a scandalous suggestion. Conclusions To try and gather the threads together: it has only been possible to touch upon some of the themes that underly a concept of the religion of the Hebrew people that is entirely new and surprising to most of us. Although the American scholar Morton Smith, (1971), some twenty-five years ago, opened up ideas concerning the worship of a Hebrew goddess in some circles of the ancient Hebrew religion, it is only recently that it has become accepted as a legitimate study and is attracting more and more interest. Its implications reach far outside traditional scholarship and impinge on our inner beliefs and our conduct derived from them. I have suggested tonight that the Hebrew religion contains a female divine figure, Asherah, who may have been the consort of God, Yhwh, and also was interchangeable with the Tree of Life. This latter is represented by the Menorah, the seven-branched candlestick, a religious symbol in Judaism whose connection with the female aspect of divinity has been lost. Until the archaeological finds of this century it was generally supposed that the forty texts in the Hebrew bible concerning Asherah, referred to wooden cult objects connected with earlier near eastern goddesses, associated with trees. To perceive in the biblical texts, any reference to the figure of Asherah as a Goddess in her own right, and certainly as a goddess of the Hebrews was condemned. Re-assessment of this judgement is gaining ground among scholars of different disciplines because of archaeological discoveries. First Canaanite texts gave accounts of a powerful mother goddess named Goddess Asherah; then illustrations and inscriptions linked Yhwh and Asherah together in biblical times in a manner which could be construed to support the idea of a divine couple. This is entirely contrary to the accepted view of divine monotheism expressed solely in the masculine gender. It was clear that the original description of Asherah as alien to the Hebrews religion could not be sustained; she had certainly been a Canaanite goddess; and it was possible that she was a Hebrew goddess. Further it had been observed that a sacred or cosmic tree attended by animals was a constant theme in Ancient Near Eastern iconography. The cult stand of Taanach gave major indications that the tree could be replaced by and was interchangeable with a female figure conjectured to be a goddess, with some evidence that she might be Asherah. The Tree of Life was generally considered to be dwelling place of the divine, source of fruitfulness, and nourished not only life here in this world, but held the hope of immortality. This background to the Eden story has led to scholarly enquiries concerning its polemic origin. Could the texts have been written as rhetoric against worship of a goddess, who was likely to be Asherah? Alongside this theme there runs a parallel concept where a stylised version of the Tree of Life is created in the form the seven-branched candlestick the Menorah described in the Book of Exodus. This stood in the first Jerusalem temple and a similar model was placed in the second. Eventually models abounded and came to be a symbol of the Hebrew people. At a later date such replicas were connected with the Maccabean struggles, and continue to hold that identity, as well as that of the Tree of Life. As time went on, the idea of a divine female figure at the core of Judaism was totally forgotten except within the Kabbalah, a secret mystical form of the religion. Central to this system is the Tree of Life concept, where the ten emanations are enveloped in the glory of the divine female Shekinah. Praxis within the Kabbalah included identification of the Tree of Life with the Menorah. I have suggested that we may reasonably perceive resonances between the Menorah and the biblical figure of Asherah, herself very possibly connected with the Tree of Life. Reference has also been made to the Eden story and scholarly commentators who believe that it was composed as a polemic against the worship of Asherah. Referring back to my original question: Was the story of the denial of the Tree of Life to humans in Gen 3:24 a prohibition of worship of the goddess Asherah? It is suggested that an affirmative answer may respectably be given. Finally, I would like to say that raising these questions is an expression of the profound shift that feminist theology makes to our thinking. As a Jewish woman myself I was until very recently quite unaware of the heritage I have outlined, and I find it inspiring and liberating. I am particularly moved by the Menorah, since now I am able to see in it a reminder that in my background religion of strict monotheism a female aspect or dimension or symbol of the divine may have been present from the beginning. Although Jewish memories of her significance became distorted and eventually faded, yet a symbol of her has been continually present in our homes. I feel that to be a reinforcement of great strength and inspiration since it help restore to women their full personhood of humanity and divinity. It remains for me, with great pleasure, to thank Dr. Rae and all those many people who have been so kind to me here, and assisted me in every way. I cannot mention them all but I must pick out the Theology Department where Professor Adrian Thatcher and his colleagues have gone out of their way to help me, and in particular my thanks to Dr. Lisa Isherwood, without whose energy and determination I certainly would never have undertaken this study. I want to thank Sue Stephens in the Library and Mike Pepper in Media Sevices whose help been precious and exceedingly efficient. Lastly a big thank you to the students with whom I have had much so much pleasure in discussion and teaching. It has seemed to me that the connections between the three generations in those lecture rooms – the young students of my grandchildren’s generation, the mature students of their parent’s age, and myself, were indeed an expression of a true Tree of Life. Thank you. Acknowledgements and thanks to Veronica Doubleday and to Daniel Cohen who both read the paper in its early stages and made a number of helpful suggestions. This article has been reprinted in Patriarchs Prophets and Other Villains, edited by Lisa Isherwood (Equinox Publishing 2007) http://www.equinoxpub.com/books/showbook.asp?bkid=202 This book of feminist biblical studies by various authors was conceived and inspired by Asphodel and Lisa. Asherah, the Tree of Life and the Menorah Selected Bibliography. Ackroyd, Peter. ‘Goddesses,Women and Jezebel’ in A. Cameron & A. Kuhrt (eds) Images of Women in Antiquity. Croom Helm, London, 1983 Albright, W. F. Goddess of Life and Wisdom. Hebraica 36, 1920 pp 258-394. Beck. P. The Drawings from Horvat Teiman (Kuntillet Ajrud) . Tel Aviv 9. (1982:3-86) Binger, Tilde Asherah: the Goddess in the Texts from Ugarit, Israel and the Old Testament. 1997. Sheffield Academic Press. Sheffield. Cook Roger The Tree of Life. 1974 Thames and Hudson, London Cross F,M. Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic 1973 Harvard Univ. Press. Harvard. Dahoo, D. M. Ancient Semitic Deities in Syria and Palestine. in Moscati, S. (ed) Le Anticho Divinita semitiche 1958:65-94 Danby, H. The Mishnah. Oxford Univ. Press 1933 Day, John. Asherah in the Hebrew Bible & North Semitic Literature. Journal of Biblical Studies, (JBL) vol. 5, no. 3 pp 395-408 Delcor, M. Religion d’Israel et Proche Orient Ancien. Brill, Leiden. 1976 Dever, William Asherah, Consort of Jahweh? New Evidence from Kuntillet Ajrud. Bull. of American Schools of Oriental Research. no 255.1984:21-37 Women’s Popular Religion, suppressed in the bible, now revealed by archaeology. Biblical Archaeological Review (BAR) Mar/April 1991 Driver, G. R. Canaanite Myths and Legends. 1956 T&T Clark, Edinburgh Edwards, I.E.S. A Relief of Qudshu Astarte. in Journal of Near Eastern Studies. 1955. Vol 14: 49-51 Emerton, J.A. New Light on Israelite Religion: the implications of the inscription from Kuntillet Ajrud.in : Zeitschrift fur alt-testamentliche Wissenschaften, 94. (1982) :2-20 Encyclopaedia Judaica ; The Jewish Encyclopaedia ; The Bible, Revised Standard Version Fiorenza, E.Schussler Bread Not Stone 1984 Beacon Press Boston Goodenough, E.R. Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period 1965 Bollingen Series XXXVII, Pantheon Toronto. Gray, John Ugarit. in Winton Thomas, D. (ed) 1967 Archaeology and Old Testament Study. Clarendon Press. Oxford Freedman D. N. Bib. Arch. Review. 1987 Dec. :241-249 Gray, John The Canaanites. Thames & Hudson London 1964 Hadley, J. M. Evidence for a Hebrew Goddess: the cult of Asherah in ancient Israel and Judah. Cambridge Univ. Press 1997 Hadley, Judith The Khirbet El Qom Inscription. Vetus Testamentum, Vol.XXXV11 No. 1 1987 pp 50-62 Halevi Ze’ev B.S. The Tree of Life Gateway Books, Bath 1991 Hestrin, Ruth The Lachish Ewer and the Asherah. Israel Exploration Journal 37 (1987) :212-23 Hestrin, Ruth Understanding Asherah: exploring Semitic Iconography. BAR Vol XVII no. 5 1991: 50-59 Hestrin, Ruth The Cult Stand from Taanach and its Religious Background. in 1987 Studia Phoenicia V. U.Peeters. Leuven. Korsak, M.P. At the Start : the Story of Genesis. Sheffield Academic Press 1994 Long, A. P. The One or the Many: the Great Goddess Revisited. Feminist Theology, no. 15, May 1997: 13-29 Sheffield Academic Press Sheffield In a Chariot Drawn by Lions. The Womens Press, London 1992. The Goddess in Judaism, a historical perspective. in: Pirani, A. (ed) 1991 Margalit, Baruch The Meaning and Significance of Asherah Vetus Testamentum 40(1990):264-97. Meshel, Ze’ev.Did Jahweh have a Consort? Biblical Archaeology Review vol 5/2 1979 :24-36 Kuntillet Ajrud:and Israelite religious centre from the time of the Judean Monarchy. 1978 Museum Catalogue 175, Israel Museum, Jerusalem Meyers, Carol,L. The Tabernacle Menorah. Scholars Press Missoula, 1976 Oden, Robert. A.The Persistence of the Canaanite Religion. Bib. Archaeology. Vol 39 1976 :31-36 Olyan, S.M. Asherah and the Cult of Yahweh in Israel. 1988 Scholars Press Atlanta. Patai, Raphael The Hebrew Goddess. Wayne Univ. Press Detroit 1990 Perlman, A. Asherah and Astarte in the Old Testament. Ph.D. Dissertation, Univ. of California. (available through University Microfilms,Ann Arbor) Pettey, R. Asherah, Goddess of Israel. Peter Lang. NY 1990 Pirani, Alix. The Absent Mother. Restoring the Goddess to Judaism and Christianity. 1991. Mandala London Primavesi Anne From Apocalypse to Genesis:ecology , feminism and Christianity. 1991. Burns and Oates, Tunbridge Wells. Ruether , Rosemary R. Sexism and God Talk.1983. SCM Press London Scholem Gershon The Kabbalah and its Symbolism. 1969. Schocken. NY Scholem, Gershon Merkabah Mysticism and Talmudic Tradition.1960.The Jewish Theological Seminary of America. New York Smith, Mark S.The Early History of God : Jahweh and the other deities in Ancient Israel. Harper & Row San Francisco 1990 Smith,, Morton.Palestine Parties and Politics that shaped the Old Testament. Columbia Univ. Press. NY & London 1971 Taylor, Joan E. The Asherah, the Menorah and the Sacred Tree. in Journal for the Study of the Old Testament. 66 (1995) 29-54 Trible, Phyllis God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality. 1978 Fortress Press, PA. Wallace, H.N. The Eden Narrative. Scholars Press Atlanta 1985 Wiggins, S. A Re-assessment of Asherah. Verlag Butzen & Bercker 1993 . Yarden,L. The Tree of Light: a Study of the Menorah. Cornell Univ. Press. Ithaca. 1971
THE GODDESS IN JUDAISM – AN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE All religions start with a cosmogony, a myth that tells the worshippers how the world was formed. The first verses of the Hebrew Bible conform to this pattern. They seem quite straightforward and have provided the basis of belief among Jews and Christians for several millennia, although the Christians recast the words of Genesis to conform to their own new ideas. In the words of Genesis, Beraishit, ‘in the beginning’, God created the heavens and the earth. The latter was a formless void, there was darkness ‘on the face of the deep’, and God’s spirit moved on the waters (Genesis 1:1-2). This seems quite straightforward and, given a religious cast of thought, easy to assimilate. But here we must pause. There is another, quite scholastically respectable, way of translating the Hebrew words. The verses would read: ‘In the beginning, a number of gods (“Elohim”) began to give birth to the heavens and the earth. The earth still belonged to Tohu and Bohu (goddesses of formlessness and ultimate space), and darkness was on the face of the mother creator goddess Tiamat, and a huge wind flapped its wings over the face of the water.’ This translation (which will be commented on in detail in the later section on ‘Goddesses in the Hebrew background’) is at least as indicative of what the original might have meant as are all the interpretations and translations that have been set out until now. As will be seen, references are made to goddesses and perceptions of creation by them that appeared to be present in Hebrew culture. How different would our attitude to religion and society be if the above interpretation or a version of it had been accepted by both Jews and Christians as a reasonable understanding of the text. Even if a standard explanation of the Hebrew word Elohim – the gods – could be accepted – that the one God encompasses the whole – yet the concept of female deities or female aspects of deity, of the birth-giving female being associated with the birth of the heavens and the earth, of ideas of chaos and formlessness being a symbol of the totality in which creation is possible -, all this would have produced enormous changes in consciousness of the relationship of women and men and both to the divine. But it was not the case. All biblical texts are androcentric. They are written, edited and expounded by men, men concerned about male status. When women’s stories and words are given, they are interpreted and judged by men. The new method of feminist interpretation of the Bible is to redress this uneven situation. The texts are reviewed again in the light of a search for the lost female; to find her story, her own words, to attempt to understand what was happening for her and to her, to reclaim and proclaim her. The female in the divine is to be understood in this search as well as the human woman. Feminist Bible scholars have outlined their methods and rationale. For example the theologian Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza writes: Androcentric texts and linguistic reality constructions must not be mistaken as trustworthy evidence of human culture, and religion … the text may be the message, but the message is not co-terminal with human reality and history.1 Bernadette Brootten, who has surveyed Jewish Hellenistic inscriptions, suggests: Literature composed by men is the product of men’s minds and not a simple mirror image of reality. As we begin to evaluate all the sources for Jewish women’s history … a much more differentiated picture will emerge. It will then be impossible to mistake male Jewish attitudes towards women for Jewish women’s history.2 Feminist Judith Plaskow affirms that the deep resistance called forth by naming the Goddess in Judaism indicates the needs she answered are still with us … for a God who does not include Her is an idol made in man’s image … acknowledging the many aspects of the Goddess among the names of God becomes a measure of our ability to incorporate the feminine into a monotheistic religious framework.3 Where feminist views have been criticized by establishment academics as speculative or subjective, Carol Christ answers their objections: Though the notion that scholarship is objective has been criticized in … critical, hermeneutical and other theories, radical feminist scholarship continues to be dismissed as biased, polemical, limited or confessional. This may be especially true of religious studies … let me state very clearly that I do not propose that we abandon historical research, philosophical reflection, literary analysis or any of the other scholarly methods we have inherited…4 These quotations provide the context of the research I set out in this paper. I try and look beyond the androcentrism of biblical and related texts and for sources where I can find the female, divine and human. If challenged about the question of monotheism, I can, if necessary, envisage a monotheism that sees in the One the totality of the All. In human terms the All includes women; in divine terms, I see the All had for many millennia strong acceptance of the female as deity or as an important aspect of it. That perception changed, and the result was then its banishment from history, with the female divine and human so put down, degraded, patronized and derided, obscured and reviled that only now women are beginning to be able to attempt to redress the balance. This means seeking Her out, and reviewing all material in the light of Her banishment. Where is She? We have to ask this at all points. As we do so, we open up a new perspective in history. The landscape to which we are accustomed shifts; its familiar features are still there, but the whole has taken on a new meaning. My brief is to set out an historical perspective for the Goddess in Judaism. This is of course immediately beset with many problems. How much of what is apparent is historical? I will deal with three questions here. What do we mean, in this context, by historical? When we refer to ‘the Goddess’ who or what are we referring to? And lastly, when we speak of Judaism what era or kind of Judaism are we dealing with? I will set out the parameters I have chosen, otherwise I might founder in those vastly chaotic waters which are our beginning. 1 HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE If by history we mean something provable, I am lost already. Nothing in this context is ‘provable’. I have chosen a period whose early date is about 2000 BCE and end date at about 400 CE. The first centuries provide a background in which the Hebrew religion and ultimately Judaism were born. The later date sees the Jews dispersed, the Talmud and rabbinical commentaries well under way, and a homogeneous religion established, while at the same time the mainstream Christian Church has its creed and structure well in place, and is free to spread its doctrines throughout the world. I have used information from the various disciplines that are concerned with Bible history: exegesis, archaeology, ancient history, etc. I have invented nothing and if I have had personal insights I record them as such. Dates I do believe, contrary to much modern accepted wisdom, that dates are a signpost to understanding events. The Bible progresses along a line of history, and it is useful to have some dates to guide us. For those who believe the Hebrew Bible was, directly, or indirectly through prophets and scribes, written by God, no mundane eras are necessary. The rest of us are presented with mountains of contradictory material – which is likely to change, as new scholarship is presented. Taking a middle line between the various controversies, I am placing the period of the compilation of the Law and the Prophets, and possibly some of the Writings of the Hebrew Bible at about the time of Ezra, say early 400s BCE, and the actual canonization of the texts, after which nothing could be added or taken away, at about five hundred years later. This was undertaken by the rabbis at Jamnia (Javneh) who set up their religious stronghold there after the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in 70 CE. The events in the Bible may be dated to about 1800 BCE for the time of Abraham, 1300 for Moses and from about 900 for David and Solomon. The Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom of Israel in 721 BCE and dispersed the Israelites living there. (The riddle of what happened to them has intrigued generations and unlikely answers such as their identification with the Khasis of Russia or the British Israelites of the United Kingdom continue to be asserted.) The southern kingdom of Judah continued under its kings until the arrival of Nebuchadnezzer of Babylon who destroyed the temple in 587 BCE and took the royal and upper classes into Exile. About thirty years later Cyrus King of Persia conquered the Babylonians and allowed the Hebrews back home. 2 THE GODDESS It will be useful to outline some of the meanings this word holds, since it is used indiscriminately and there is no set definition. I will then give my own understanding of it: (i) For many, the Goddess is god with an -ess. That is, She is the Supreme Being, the Ultimate, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. Most of the attributes of God belong to Her although on the whole, despite some texts to the contrary, she is not considered warlike. She may also be felt as a personal deity, available for support and prayer. (ii) In much modem pagan and wiccan thought and practice, the Goddess is teamed with the God. She is ‘prima inter pares’. Both are worshipped together but she is held to be foremost. Goddesses and gods from the mythology of the world are called upon; often the deities associated with one’s own country are particularly to be invoked. Such deities are intimately associated with nature and the round of the seasons. (iii) In feminist spirituality ‘the Goddess’ is often used to mean the idea of female deity. Sometimes, it may introduce the idea into monotheism as the female aspect of God. On the other hand it may mean any goddess from religion or mythology or any number of goddesses. The classical description of Her as ‘many-named’ sits well here. She is all or any of the Goddesses of the past or the current polytheisms as well as a reclaimed goddess of today. She is not only a transcendent creating deity, but also immanent and part of Nature and the world. In fact, for many, she is Nature. Women are her representatives because of her birth-giving ability, but that is not all. The words of Isis inscribed on the temple at Sais in ancient Egypt sum her up for today’s followers: ‘I am all that is, was or ever will be.’ (It is quite possible, date-wise, that Moses was familiar with this inscription, which appears in similar form concerning Jahweh in Exodus 3:14, ‘I am that I am,’ and becomes the holy unspeakable name of God.) In general understanding the trajectory is perceived firstly of a creator mother who conceives a son autonomously; this son becomes her lover and eventually steals her power and overcomes her. Then as this happens a concept of domination in society and over nature takes the place of a previous concept of participation and egalitarianism. This leads to a position of male supremacy and the downgrading of the female in every aspect. In my own opinion researching and reclaiming information and developing insight concerning goddesses assists women (and possibly men if they are willing) to overthrow their conditioning. Women begin to feel stronger and inspired to overcome their feelings of guilt and inferiority. They feel better about themselves and can demand and take a more satisfactory place in the world, at the same time renewing and being refreshed by spiritual wholeness. Because I come from an Orthodox Jewish background (though never in adult life being ‘observant’), I choose to research the goddesses in the background of my own culture. If I refer to ‘the goddess’ without a particular name attached it will refer to the idea of a female aspect of deity, a facet of the whole. Religious practices concerning the goddess today include celebration of seasonal and calendar festivals. Classical and area myths and rituals are ‘re-invented’ in the light of today’s needs. 3 JUDAISM Since I am dealing with so vast a period, I have chosen to call ‘Hebrew’ the period before the rebuilding of the second temple (i.e. pre 400 BCE) and Jewish or to do with Judaism what came after it. I am aware this is open to challenge, but it is as good a working definition as any I know. Finally in this section, it is important to say I shall not at any time use the phrase ‘Judaeo-Christian’. Although it appears to be convenient, in fact there is now growing acceptance of the understanding that it is both inaccurate and imperialistic. Inaccurate because Christianity owes a great debt to Hellenistic cultures as well as to Judaism, and imperialistic because it implies a progression from Judaism to Christianity with the latter taking over from the former. This is not the case. Thus I shall refer to the ‘Hebrew Bible’ rather than the ‘Old Testament’. The New Testament seems to be self-descriptive and as far as I know quite acceptable. The Hebrew Bible is composed of material from different dates and sources. Some were ancient when they were written down and preserved through an oral tradition, or through more ancient documents; these are usually narratives, hymns, poems and oracles. They may owe a good deal to the background cultures. On the other hand, laws, commandments, strictures and a system of reward and punishment and above all the covenant between God and His people appear to be written by the later authors and editors, whose main concern was to impose male supremacy through their version of monotheism. These editors are often called the Deuteronomists. It is their struggle against the influence of the Goddess in the popular religion that forms much of their Biblical material. But however hard they tried to banish Her, they were not successful. The concept of a goddess or goddesses in Israel runs through the whole of the Hebrew Bible. We will try and trace it, starting with the background female deities of the ancient Near Eastern people, through the concept of a Goddess as wife or consort to God (Jahweh), then the ambivalence of the wisdom figure (Hochma/Sophia), to the Hellenistic Gnostic world and the birth of Christianity. There, first subsumed into Jesus Christ, she emerges sometimes as the Holy Spirit within the Trinity and then as the Church, which is totally male-directed. Finally in much popular understanding she may become identified with the Virgin Mary. It is this long journey of the Goddess that we are beginning to travel now. GODDESSES IN THE HEBREW BACKGROUND The Patriarch Abraham is said to have lived in ‘Ur of the Chaldees’. It is from there he is called by God to leave his birthplace and travel to the land of Canaan, and it is he with whom God made his covenant. It is clear, therefore, that before this call Abraham and Abraham’s parents worshipped the deities of their land, and certainly his father is quoted as so doing (Joshua 24:2). Who were these gods and goddesses? Perhaps they bear some relationship to those that Rachel, his grandson Jacob’s wife, hid beneath her when she left her father’s home (Genesis 31:19,34-5). We are able to gain some idea about them and to make informed guesses. In the last century or so archaeologists have discovered substantial material concerning the religions of the ancient Near East, and have provided the basis of research for scholars of many other disciplines. Raphael Patai is among those who have researched and commented widely on the female deities who entered the consciousness of the Hebrew people.5Here I will only draw attention to the main primary sources of information. These are the Babylonian epics of about 1800-1500 BCE; the Ras Shamra texts from ancient Ugarit, c. 1500 BCE; and a mass of Egyptian papyri which date from the second millennium until the first years of the Christian centuries. In all of them we meet goddesses who bear a very close relationship to female divinities mentioned – usually in a hostile way in the Bible, although one may not always recognize them at first sight. (i) Babylonian epics Variously called Babylonia, Chaldea and Mesopotamia, this is the ‘country between the rivers’ – the Tigris and Euphrates – fertile land on which it was easy to live and on which great civilizations had been built. The Laws of Hammurabi and the work of Chaldean astronomers and astrologers are typical examples, and in particular there are a number of long poems, epics, written on clay in the cuneiform script, which record the cosmogony and the religious mythology of the people there. Two of these poems are the Epic of Creation and the Epic of Gilgamesh. It is from the former that the figure of Tiamat is drawn. Here are its first lines: When on high were not raised the heavens And also below on earth a plant had not grown up The abyss had not broken its boundaries The chaos Tiamat was the producing mother of all of them. George Smith, the original translator of the cuneiform tablets, believed that Tiamat was the living principle of the sea and chaos.6 She is depicted on reliefs and in drawings as a vast dragon, and is shown rearing herself on two legs, when she confronts Marduk, her grandson who kills her. The epic recounts: ‘She raised herself to her full height and planted her feet firmly on the ground.’ Another depiction of her shows enormous wings. She is thus the primaeval dragon, living under water, able to walk on land, able to fly and possibly to breathe fire. The formlessness with which we are confronted symbolizes, for me, a wholeness of totality, of land, sea, air and fire, the four elements of creation. It includes all there is waiting to be born, whether the material or the inspirational. Tiamat is also referred to as a sea serpent who, in the course of the struggle with Marduk who wants to gain from her the Tablets of Destiny which she holds, creates out of herself all sorts of monsters, mixtures of animal and human and extraordinary shapes of creatures. The epic goes on to relate how Marduk with the help of his friends blows her belly apart with a mighty wind, and then cuts her into pieces. Each part of her body becomes a different part of the cosmos and is ruled over by Marduk and the other gods. This defeat is proclaimed as the triumph of order and beginning of creation. Tiamat’s name is recalled in Genesis 1:2 where the Hebrew ‘Tehom’ is usually translated as ‘the deep’; it will be recalled that Tiamat is the sea goddess living in the deep. It was her home and in it life itself was waiting to be born. In addition to the Genesis resonance, there are many passages in the Bible where God celebrates his victory over the dragon, the sea monster and the abyss.7 Indeed, there is a school of thought which believes that the Babylonian New Year Festival which celebrated Marduk’s triumph over Tiamat was the origin of the Hebrew and then Jewish New Year Festival where God in the liturgy for the occasion still celebrates his victory over chaos. And what was meant by chaos? It is extraordinary that today the notion of chaos, so long condemned, is coming into the foreground of many branches of science as a positive description of basic natural forces. It seems to have an affinity with the ‘chaos’ of the ancients, then presented as a birth-giving female with all the necessities of creation within her. There also seems to be an appreciation of the relationship of creation to vast emptiness. For a long time the debate about the Genesis creation story included questions as to whether God created the universe ex nihilo – from nothing – or put into order something that was already there. The mentions of Tohu and Bohu (Genesis 1:2), usually translated as ‘void and without form’, indicate there might be a reference to these goddesses of formlessness and ultimate space; it has been thought that Bohu at least may be identified with the great Mesopotamian goddess Bau, another creating mother of the universe, and one who is linked to the ‘Mother of the Physicians’, Gula. In this association we may see an idea not only of creation but of maintenance and sustenance. Gula’s temples in Mesopotamia were arranged as hospitals, and it was part of religious practice in her honour to study medicine and heal the sick. She is the source of medical knowledge. I see a connection between Gula and Wisdom, also the source of understanding and a teacher to humanity. Many texts refer to Gula-Bau as well as to each alone. Tiamat’s form as a dragon needs further comment. Dragons and serpents are interchangeable in ancient literature as well as more modern folklore. The Epic of Creation is an early example of a young male person killing an older dragon monster, which conventional wisdom presents as evil. Even today who is a ‘dragon’ but a powerful older woman whom younger men would like to be rid of? In the dragon and serpent as the symbol of evil we are naturally reinforced by the story of Eve and the serpent in the Garden of Eden. When we meet the serpent she is coiled on the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil which has been forbidden to the first couple. The serpent can be seen as knowing all the mysteries; for a long time they have presented an ambivalent problem to commentators. Serpents have remained depositories of knowledge of medicine and have symbolized long life and even immortality as well as indicating temptation and evil. In the Eden story I suggest the serpent is a form of Tiamat who is offering Eve knowledge, good and evil as it might be used; the knowledge that is her inheritance which she can share with her partner if she wishes. It is the power which this gives that is denied, and the outcome is a double defeat. Not only is Eve deprived of the ancient powers that are hers by inheritance, but God puts enmity between her and the serpent: a clear example of the patriarchal policy of dividing women from each other, particularly the young from the old, and causing them to depend on their male partner rather than on female support. We can see in this story a paradigm for the situation where male ‘specialists’ have deprived human female wisdom of any authority. To return to Genesis 1:2 Who is it that ‘flaps its wings like a bird’ over the face of Tiamat? The Hebrew word for this action is merachepet. It is variously translated as ‘move’, or ‘hover’, the later being more accurate as it gives the impression of vast wings. Who has wings? The very first name to come to mind is Lilith. There is a statue of her dated to about 1500 BCE where she is a naked woman with spreading wings, she has the feet of a bird and is attended by owls. This is contemporary with a story about her in Mesopotamian literature,8 in which she is a ‘dark maid’ who flies off on her wings to the desert. But in the Genesis account Lilith is not mentioned, although much later the rabbis revealed a story about her in the same time and place, perhaps based on ancient material, that has found much resonance, and which we shall reach in a short while. In Genesis 1:2 it is ruach elohim, translated as the ‘spirit of God’ or alternatively as ‘mighty wind’, which hovers or moves over the waters. But what is ruach? Ruach is the Hebrew word for spirit or wind, and like the Latin anima or the Greekpneuma it can be used for either. Now, whose name tells us that she is also spirit or wind? None other than Lilith. The word Lilith is connected with two root words – LayiI, the Hebrew for night, and Lil, Sumerian (c. 3000 BCE) ‘wind’ or ‘breath’ or ‘spirit’. Traditionally, until the information from Sumer came to light, Lilith was always associated with night and darkness. There is only one mention of her name as such in the Hebrew Bible. It is Isaiah 34:8-14. The prophet declares: The land shall become burning pitch Thorns shall grow over its strongholds It shall be the haunt of jackals Yea the night hag shall there alight and find for herself a resting place. (RSV) Very few translations provide the word Lilith itself. ‘Night hag’ in the RSV replaces the older ‘screech owl` in the King James version. The New English Bible gives ‘night-jar’, RV of 1881 suggests ‘night monster’. The Latin vulgate of the fourth century CE from which most Christian translations stem says Lamia – these are the Greek ‘dirty goddesses’. The Moffat translation uses ‘vampires’ (plural). French Lilith is ‘le spectre de la nuit’ and German Lutheran translates her as der Kobold (masculine), a spirit or goblin. The Jerusalem Bible is to be commended for actually using her name. Apart from the last, all these translations have relied on the concept of Lilith as to do with night. But if one accepts the other meaning then Lilith is spirit or air or mighty wind and it is she who hovers over the face of Mother Tiamat, perhaps in her form as a woman and bird. So much has been written about her. She is the ultimate demon of Jewish tradition, most particularly to women in childbirth and a danger to their new-born infants. People have been taught to fear her. She also became Queen of the Witches in Christian tradition. But I believe her to be the Lady of the air and wind and the spirit, the living breath of life. She has all knowledge. The rabbinic eleventh-century tale of her in the Genesis story is that during sexual intercourse with Adam – for she was, it seems, his first wife – she refused the ‘missionary’ position saying, ‘I am made of the same earth as you’ (and here there may even be a reference to female Adamah, Hebrew for earth, and possibly a lost Mother Earth Goddess). She called on the magic and holy name of God, freed herself from Adam and flew off – yes, flew – into the desert. How did Lilith know the powerful name of God when Adam could only ask God to help him? I suggest it is because it is she who is the Wisdom figure, the spirit. The presence of Lilith, named or otherwise, in the creation story links her with Hochma who will be discussed below. Patriarchy has turned her into queen of the demons, killer of children, particularly to be feared by mothers in childbirth. And that sums it up; instead of the creatrix she has been made the destroyer. The symbol of women’s wisdom and power, she has become a source of evil to be feared most particularly by women. She represents to us our innermost herstory. In reclaiming Her, we women throw off and pour away for ever the poison about ourselves, our so-called inferiority, our evil inner selves, our guilt. On reclaiming Lilith. we reclaim the breath of life that emerges as we give birth to our children, to our works of all kind; we reclaim our wisdom, our knowledge, our power, our autonomy.9 Back to the Garden of Eden and the Babylonian epics. In the Epic of Gilgamesh the eponymous hero sets out to seek eternal life. He reaches the Paradise Garden which he is allowed to enter because of the divine blood inherited from his mother Ninsun. He meets in the garden the Goddess Siduri-Sabatu, who is able to provide the ‘gift of life’. The Paradise Garden is of ‘dazzling beauty’. The Goddess is sitting by a vine which is the garden’s centrepiece, and she is also ‘by the throne of the sea’. She is addressed as ‘Goddess of Wisdom, Genius of Life’. She is referred to as ‘Keeper of the fruit of life’.10 Obviously the connections with the Garden of Eden are very clear. We have a goddess, actually keeper of the fruit of life, sitting by a throne of the sea, in the garden. Even the vine is a strong symbol which is repeated many times in both Hebrew Bible and New Testament (Jesus says, ‘I am the true vine’), often also indicating God’s strength or God’s people. The association with the sea is reminiscent of Tiamat and also bears a close relation to the goddesses to be found in the next group of texts we shall discuss. (ii) Ras Shamra Texts In 1929 a body of texts was found at a place called Ras Shamra. in northern Syria, the site of ancient Ugarit, home of the Hittites. Dated to about 1500 BCE, they are composed of descriptions of the life and religion of the Canaanites, including legends, myths and religious invocations, hymns, etc.11 Ras Shamra religious texts are usually interpreted as myths which control creation, and whose enactment ritually helps keep creation in being. The proper round of the seasons, the arrival of rain, the changing of light to dark and back again, the unending miracle of new life and its nurture, all these are enacted in such ritual myths. The battle with the sea is a major theme. In these myths we meet major figures who previously were known to us almost entirely from their appearances in the Hebrew Bible. The supreme Deity is named El, a word which until the time of the discovery had been thought merely to indicate ‘God’. One of the major deities is his wife the Lady Asherah. This is the Asherah who appears continuously in Bible narrative. Until Ras Shamra there was a good deal of controversy as to whether she was a goddess as such or either the symbol of a goddess in the form of a tree or pole or wooden statue or else merely one of these which the ‘heathen’ worshipped without its actually representing a deity in her own right. Now it is clear that she was an ancient goddess, mother of the Lord Baal and the Lady Anat, and chief of a pantheon of enormously powerful female divinities. It is to them that Baal must turn for help in conducting his everyday business. He cannot obtain a house to live in without his mother’s assistance. More importantly, when he is killed by the figure of Death it is his sister Anat who brings him to life again. Another goddess, Shaqat, restores a dead child to life. It is the goddesses who have this power, not the gods. The controversy concerning the Asherim as trees or poles seems to be resolved easily. That these represented her can be in no doubt. It is even possible that the May Pole has links with the Asherim. The tree is widely known to be a symbol of life and a source of and shelter for life. The Bible records the destruction of a large number of trees and groves sacred to her, in an effort to drive out her worship. Thus Asherah was both the goddess and the tree or bough representing her. There was no need for the prophets to call for the destruction of trees in a desert land where every tree was important, unless they believed that with the trees they were exterminating the goddess. The Ras Shamra stories and the Biblical texts have many similarities and have been analysed widely. Certainly the hostility in the Bible to the goddesses is reflected in the prominent position they held in the Canaanite pantheon. However, it is also clear that they became as much divinities of the Hebrews as of the earlier people. Baal, Lord of the weather in the Ras Shamra myths, is found in the Bible often as the god in opposition to Jahweh. Asherah’s particular powers can be deduced from another well known Bible story, that of the contest between the prophet Elijah and the ‘four hundred priests of Baal and four hundred priests of Asherah” (1 Kings 18:19). Elijah is successful at producing the magic that Baal’s priests cannot, and they are killed by the people around. Nothing is said about the fate of Asherah’s priests. Why not? Several suggestions come to mind. Perhaps that while the people did not mind killing Baal’s servants, those of Asherah were too holy and could not be touched; or that Asherah was too well loved to be offended. Some scholars suggest that the introduction of Asherah’s priests to the story is a later interpolation, and the editors forgot to say what happened to them. The suggested reason for the interpolation is that the editors wanted to make Elijah’s victory all the more conclusive of the power of Jahweh. But the latter idea seems to me to be unsatisfactory, and I prefer the earlier ones, since they would explain why Asherah’s priests not only were spared but why there was silence about it – since the Bible editors would not want to draw attention to Asherah’s power with the people. Moreover, my feeling is that she may provide an answer to the much-asked query concerning the choice of knowledge of good and evil as the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden. Can there be a connection with Asherah, was she the mother of all and source of wisdom, that tree whose fruit which above all was not to be eaten? It has to be mentioned here that Biblical authors often used Ashtaroth instead of Asherah, a word which incorporates the word ‘shame’, and she is also often referred to as ‘abomination’. The hostility which was heaped upon her by these religious leaders is balanced by the persistence of her worshippers who refused to allow her to be dismissed from their religion. The position of the Lady Anat within the Ras Shamra texts is a very powerful one, and has been analysed widely. Cassuto’s book provides a sense of the dimension of strength and longevity, the passion and the inspiration, the death-dealing and the cleansing powers of this goddess, whom we will meet again in a later setting. Among the many deities among the Canaanites who are reflected in some way in the Hebrew Bible, I also draw attention to Paghat, goddess of the sun. It is often thought that if there were goddesses, then they were associated with the moon, and the sun represented the masculine deity. However, the Hittites have left us many artefacts indicating that the sun is seen by them as a goddess. In today’s Turkey there are numerous depictions of her while their ancient literature is full of her praise. Here is one such verse in praise of Paghat which has later resonances: She rises early in the morning She sweeps the dew from the grasses She carries the clouds on her shoulders She instructs the course of the stars.12 Who else rises early in the morning? We are reminded of the panegyric concerning a good wife in the well known chapter of Proverbs 31. This good woman rises while it is yet dark to prepare food for her household. There, the goddess has become demythologized: she is now an ordinary woman – but is she so ordinary? In the Proverbs passage we find signs of unusual strength and power. In addition to providing food and working with textiles, she is able to go out and buy a field, plant a vineyard. She ‘girds her loins with strength and makes her arms strong.’ Above all, ‘She opens her mouth with Wisdom.’ The good woman still has some aura of goddesses about her, from Paghat to Hochma – whom we meet shortly and where we will also discuss the heritage from Egypt. In the meantime we will follow Asherah from her Canaanite to her Hebrew domain. (iii) Jahweh and his consort The publication in 1979 of a paper entitled ‘Did Jahweh have a Consort?’13 by Israeli archaeologist Ze’ev Meshel brought to a head long-standing disputes by scholars on this subject and opened up to the informed public a changing vista of Jewish religious history and tradition. Conventionally, Judaism is identified with an absolute monotheism which was to a large extent inherited also by Christianity. Such monotheism is centred on God, Jahweh (Jehovah) who is always referred to in the masculine gender. How could God have a consort? Such an idea must surely be totally pagan and be dismissed out of hand. But no. Current opinion has it that the ancient goddess Asherah was worshipped not only in the setting of the Canaanite religion as wife of EI and mother of Baal and Anat, but quite disparately, as the consort of Jahweh. This would have been part of what is called the ‘popular religion’ of the Hebrews and it is the one that the Deuteronomists and their successors were trying so hard and so unsuccessfully to stamp out. Because this appears to be such a revolutionary idea it will be helpful to outline some of the material associated with it. Meshel’s excavations took place in 1975 and 1976 at Kuntillet Ajrud, which he describes as a ‘remote desert station in the wilderness of North Sinai’. At a crossroads he found the remains of a large building which he believes was used for religious purposes, possibly by travellers on country routes, and was inhabited and kept in order by guardians of the shrine who lived a religious life there. The major find was a collection of ancient Hebrew and Phoenician inscriptions on walls and stone vessels, and there were also spectacular drawings on two large storage jars (pithoi). It was assumed that the community was able to survive in this desert region because of the proximity of wells in the vicinity. Meshel remarks that the modern Arabic name means ‘solitary hill of the wells’. The site was dated to about the eighth century BCE. The inscriptions that caused the explosion of interest were found in the bench room and two adjoining side rooms. Including both the name EI and the name Jahweh, some of the inscriptions were written on the jamb of the entrance – recalling possibly the instruction in Deuteronomy 6:9 (‘you shall write them on the doorposts of your house’, which also has become the basis of the mezuzah in Judaism). They blessed Jahweh and asked to be protected by him and – this the key surprise – by ‘Asherato’, mostly translated as ‘his Asherah’. Some scholars contend that the word can be translated as naming Asherah in her own right. Beneath the words are drawings of a tree and of a cow with a calf. Nearby are other drawings, particularly one very clear ‘tree of life’ flanked by two ibexes. Again, ‘May you be blessed by Jahweh and Asherato’ is inscribed on a jar nearby. Just as scholars were getting down to an analysis of these finds and their possible meanings, a similar inscription was published from another source. This was a site called Khirbet-el-Qom which has been identified as the Biblical Makkedah. Following earlier communications by various scholars, it was only in 1979 that J. Naveh published the inscriptions and in 1984 that Z. Zevit expressed an opinion on their meaning. The inscription indicates that it was written by Uriyahu (the name includes a reference to God) who calls for a blessing from ‘Jahweh my guardian and his Asherah’. The date is similar to that of Kuntillet Ajrud. A great deal of research from many disciplines is trying to establish the meaning and implications of these finds and others like them. The linguistic and epigraphic problems of the inscriptions, the cultic or other meaning of the drawings, the symbols that they express, all are a matter of growing discussion which now tends to look outwards and backwards to relevant previous material that was not understood. Traditionalists may want to argue that ‘his Asherah’ may still be a ‘cultic symbol’. Previously an ‘Asherah’ was identified with a tree or pole, but when one sees the blossoming tree of life, and also considers that the cow and calf together are always a symbol of the mother goddess in the ancient Near East, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the presence of the goddess Asherah is conveyed, and that she and Jahweh are worshipped together and seen as complementary to each other. Even the name Uriyahu would show that the writer was a practising Hebrew, and the supposition that the shrine was inhabited by a group of guardians would indicate that it was supported by enough people to keep it viable. From Jahweh and his Asherah we turn back to a Biblical married couple, Hosea and his unfaithful wife (Hosea 2). This narrative appears to be a tale of a kind husband who forgives his erring wife, but who turns into God speaking to Israel. There is an obvious parallel but in fact the symbols in the story indicate strongly that the wife is Asherah the goddess, whom God will forgive only when she has yielded her divine powers to him. This narrative, which starts as a moral tale about the prophet and his apparently unfaithful wife, alters to the relationship of God and his people, who conventionally in Deuteronomic terms are husband and wife. When husband Hosea suddenly turns into God, are we not entitled to conclude that God is speaking to his ‘erring’ wife, Asherah? She is after all addressed as a ‘harlot’, the term used by the Deuteronomists to describe a goddess. Her fig trees and vines, well known symbols of the mother goddess, are to be laid waste; her way of life in celebrating nature and seasons owes much to her ancient background. Another account of Jahweh with a female partner or consort is contained in a set of papyri from Egypt, from a town called Elephantine and dated at about 400 BCE. A Jewish colony lived there which paid its dues to the temple in Jerusalem – this indicates it was accepted as part of the mainstream Jewish community. The surprise is the name of the temple which is recorded as having sent the money – Anat/Jaho. Jaho is a form of Jahweh and Anat the goddess is known to us from the Hittite Ras Shamra texts and elsewhere. What is not in doubt is that the temple of Anat/Jaho was a Jewish temple. It links Jahweh with a goddess, they are complementary and worshipped together and it is reasonable to suggest that they are partners. or consorts. This view is strengthened by the records of other temples in that area. They are referred to as those of Anat Bethel and Asham Bethel. Bethel is familiar to us. The Hebrew words mean House of God, and we first meet a Bethel in the Bible when Jacob the Patriarch has spoken with God and anoints the stone on which he had slept when God visited him (Genesis 28:19, 22; 35:14-15). The stone is holy because God had been present in it or on it. However, a ‘Bethel’ is not confined to this, the God of the Bible. The Greek baetyl – a similar word – is a meteorite or black stone which falls from heaven, having within it the essence of the goddess, the queen of Heaven. The temples of Elephantine appear to be worshipping her as well as Jaho/Anat; and this is not surprising in view of the Queen of Heaven story in the book of Jeremiah (44:15-19; 7:17-18). Who is the Queen of Heaven? When we meet her the prophet denounces the people for worshipping her. He tells them that their wickedness is responsible for their current disaster. Both women and men reply that when they burned incense and baked cakes for the Queen of Heaven no such trouble fell upon them. They recall that when they lived in Jerusalem the ‘children gathered sticks, the men lit fires and the women made the cakes’ for the Queen of Heaven. For me this cameo shows that it was not only the women but the whole family and whole communities who joined in Her worship, and it is important to emphasize that these were Hebrews and not Canaanites or other ‘heathen’. The Queen of Heaven is unnamed and it has often been suggested that she is naturally the consort of the ‘king of heaven’ as well as being a major deity in her own right. Certainly her longevity is remarkable and is worth noting in our story. A ritual of baking cakes for the Queen of Heaven, there named as Ishtar (Astarte), is available to us from Babylonian records of about 2000 BCE. A hymn to Ishtar includes the lines: O Ishtar I have made a preparation of milk, cake, grilled bread and salt, hear me and be kind.14 Another hymn to Ishtar prays: O Ishlar I look on your face, and I make an offering of pure milk with a baked cake.15 A similar sacred practice is recorded again from a Phoenician settlement in North Africa. A list has been found which sets out the wages to be paid to various work people, on it is inscribed: ‘wages to the bakers of cakes for the Queen of Heaven’.16 In Tunisia today there is a site which still contains a temple to the Queen of Heaven and there are stones there with inscriptions to her. Such inscriptions may be of a very much later date, since well into the Christian era Bishop Augustine of Hippo, in North Africa – the same Augustine who ‘invented’ the idea of original sin – thundered against women whom he described as going out with filthy dancing to the Queen of Heaven. This title eventually became attached to the Virgin Mary, who interestingly enough was worshipped in the early centuries by a Christian sect denounced as heretical, who baked cakes in her honour. They were called the Collyridians, a name based on the Greek word collyridos, which means a small cake or bread roll. This is a long continuum of cakes for the Queen of Heaven from the wayside desert shrine at Kuntillet Ajrud. In Meshel’s description of the settlement there he observed that there were two large ovens for whose size he could see no real reason. In the course of an interview he kindly gave this writer, he agreed that they certainly could have been used to bake ritual cakes. Although the path we have followed has been one of jumps and crevasses, yet there seems to be a very strong connecting path. The Lady Asherah, a Canaanite goddess, became part of the religion of the Hebrews and appears to have been worshipped as the partner or consort of Jahweh. She is not one particular goddess figure but rather a female deity who can be identified by various names, including that of Queen of Heaven. Her worship continued over several millennia, always condemned by the leadership and always retained by the popular will. That God did have a consort or, understood another way, that the one God included the female with the male and could be approached as either or both was a tenacious belief of the Hebrews. It seems also that while the Hebrew leadership denied Asherah and her sisters, they were open to a female concept of deity in a form more satisfying, yet more perplexing and they had to find new ways of solving the problem for them of the female in the divine. THE WISDOM GODDESSHochma Throughout the Biblical period and then far beyond it a divine female presence has been continually present in Hebrew and Jewish consciousness. This is Hochma, Wisdom. Everything to do with her is mysterious and paradoxical. In the Bible she is always female. The rabbinic Kabbalists a thousand years later turned her into a male sephira on the Tree of Life. She is continually being sought and found, lost and found; she ascends and descends; she finds her place in Israel, she can find no place in Israel. She is the divine female companion of God eternal with him before creation, and is herself involved in the cosmos as creator, nurturer, teacher and artificer. She acts as intermediary between God and humans and is willing to share herself with them and with the world. She may be married to God, or to selected men, and she may be the mother of the created world. Human beings must follow her rules if they are to succeed in this life, and also possibly to partake in an afterlife with God. It was she who helped God to create the universe and she knows all its secrets. She moves through it and orders it well.17 All these descriptions of Wisdom are to be found in the Bible or in the Apocrypha. At the same time, she is also portrayed as a woman whom men must seek to marry, she has sex appeal, she can behave like a spurned woman, and she has a sister or counterpart named Folly who boasts that she has knowledge better than Wisdom can offer. She has been described by commentators as a bonus for upper-class men and there is no doubt that she has been subject in the Bible to a great deal of sexist description. Jewish writers found a solution to the problem of her female divinity and to some of the contradictions by identifying her with the Torah, and this became the normative view in Judaism. I will take a few only of these Wisdom themes to try and establish a picture of her. Her precedence over creation is found, for example, in Proverbs 3:19, Psalm 104:24. The Lord founded the earth by means of Hochma; he needed to search her out and discover her ways, and he made all his works through Hochma. She is the pre-existent cosmic order that is the source of the world and sustains it. If the casual reader feels that all that is being said is that the Lord used Hochma – or Wisdom – for his creative work, then turn to the famous passage of Proverbs 8:22-30. She is, firstly, created by God, ‘the first of his acts of old’. Yet she is there ‘from the beginning’ before the world is made, and what is more – she was beside him and was daily his delight. In what capacity was she beside him? The Hebrew is amon and reputations have been built and lost on interpretation of this word. Major English language translations give different versions ‘as one brought up with him’ (AV), ‘master workman’ (RSV). Various interpreters have added ‘nurseling or even ‘nurse’ and finally ‘connecting post` . The latter is not as remarkable as it may first appear, since Christianity relies on Paul’s description of Jesus as one who has taken on the whole of Wisdom and is a connecting link between all creation and the divine (Collossians 1:17). This set of meanings gives an indication of how extraordinary the description of Hochma actually is. She is a transcendent – or the transcendent cosmic force of the universe – yet she may be a little child. The meaning ‘master craftsman’ was used by the Greek translators of the Hebrew Bible in the second century BCE – the septuagint, known as LXX, where they used the Greek word technites to describe one of Wisdom’s characteristics. It will be remembered that in Proverbs 9:1 Hochma ‘builds her house with seven pillars’, although one Israeli modern commentator says that she did not, that it was done by the wise men of Babylon.18 Religious thinkers concerned to expunge all ideas of female divinity from the Jewish religion solved the problem by making Hochma the Torah. Even then her effect could not altogether be dismissed. The Torah itself became identified with Hochma. The written texts of the Law, the first five books of the Bible, took on a sacral character, even a mystic relationship with God. The Talmud tells us that the Torah ‘existed before the creation of the world’ although prior to the creation of time it is a creation of God. The Torah is the ‘eternal now’, it existed before time and is not encompassed by time and is the eternal present for those who fear God. It is above history and the action of God in history. The Torah is older than creation and was originally written in black letters of flame on a white ground of fire. God held counsel with it at the creation of the world ‘since it was wisdom itself’. This Wisdom is safely, for the pious, banished into the Torah and yet she illumines it with her own divine presence. Hochma, then, in this religious system which became normative Judaism, is what is left when the divine is taken from her. She is a woman, and one who is viewed with much ambivalence, yet she retains something of the divine which men (that is male human beings) want to use for their own purposes. This trajectory of thought becomes very clear in the Book of Wisdom of Solomon (BWS), part of the Apocrypha and written in Greek. The author is assumed to be a first-century Jew in Alexandria, centre of the Hellenistic world, where over one million Jews are said to have been living at the time. There they are exposed to all the temptations and attractions of Hellenism, and the author seeks to bring them back to their traditional faith and to demonstrate that their rich cultural heritage has much in common with that of the Greeks. The Wisdom of BWS is now Sophia, Greek translation of Hochma, and it is the Hochma of the Hebrew Bible who is being described in the book. The Sophia of BWS is either identical with God, is the Spirit of God or is an autonomous divine figure who herself ‘protected the first formed father of the world’ and led the children of Israel out of Egypt and who at once was responsible for the salvation of the Hebrew and Jewish people. She is the source of all learning and understanding. She taught the author, the Sage (pseudo-Solomon): to know the structure of the world and the activity of the elements … the cycles of the years and the constellations of the stars … the nature of animals and the tempers of wild beasts … the varieties of plants and the virtues of roots. (BWS 7:17-22) She instructs him in ‘what is secret and what is manifest’ and she is described as the fashioner (technites) of all things – the last word linking her with the amon, the master craftsman of Proverbs 8:30 (see p. 47). It indicates she was the co-fashioner, with God, of the universe. In the same passage Sophia is described in a series of adjectives which emphasize that all that is good is within her. She is intelligent, but holy, all powerful, overseeing all, beneficent, humane, she pervades and penetrates all things. She is a reflection of eternal light and ‘though she is but one, she can do all things, and while remaining in herself she can renew all things … she reaches mightily from one end of the world to the other, and she orders all things well’ (BWS 7:21-8:1). In this description we have, perhaps for the only time openly in Judaism, a laudation of the female divinity who is part of the essence of the religion. She is an initiate in the knowledge of God and an associate with his works (8:4), she is praised as identical with God or even as God Herself. She springs out of a Hebrew context; she is described in detail and she is there for the Jews to worship and to follow her ways. At the same time, the Book of Wisdom of Solomon is shot through with contradictions about her. Sophia suddenly changes. The Sage ‘determined to take her to live with me … Because of her I shall have glory among the multitudes … Because of her … I shall govern peoples and nations shall be subject to me Dread monarchs will be afraid of me … I shall show myself capable and courageous in war.’ (BWS 8:9-15) He has introduced the theme of greed leading to self-aggrandizement, domination, hierarchy and war that has been a keynote of Western civilization. At the time of BWS it is only one thread of a many-layered skein. My own feeling is that this thread became so dominant later because the female had been devalued and the male overvalued, in concepts of divinity and thence of humanity. In BWS, by the end of the book, Hochma/Sophia has vanished entirely. It is as if she had never been there. Before following her on her journey into Gnosticism and then into Christianity it is helpful to place her in her Hellenistic context, since this had enormous influence. There is some speculation that part at least of BWS may have been written by women. The Jewish philosopher Philo, who lived a little earlier than the author of BWS, wrote about a community, mixed men and women and all Jewish, who lived on the shores of the Dead Sea and were called the Therapeutae. They reached into the lives of the communities around them, preached Sabbath services, and were an influential source of religious instruction. Philo described how women interpreted scripture and led ritual. It has been suggested that possibly BWS may have been their work, or at least those parts of it in praise of Sophia, and that the other parts were put in by opponents who wanted a more establishment-style monotheism. The Therapeutae are among the numerous Jewish sects who existed until the time of the Roman destruction in the first century CE and who perished: the Sadducees, Essenes and others of whom little is known. The Jews remaining were the Pharisees, strict followers of Ezra and the Deuteronomists, who were able to set up their school at Jamnia and establish the religion of Judaism now believed to be normative. In this Sophia is not mentioned, and Hochma is the Torah. In the Hellenistic world which was the matrix of the birth of Christianity, Jewish religion was held to be of great influence and antiquity, but it was one only – and a one relatively small in numbers among a great many widespread religions. Perhaps the most influential was that of the goddess Isis of Egypt which had spread throughout the ‘known world’, continuing for something like three millennia and ending only when destroyed by about 500 CE. Wisdom, whether Hochma or Sophia, has frequently been compared with Isis and her sister goddess Ma’at. Isis of Egypt is the great goddess. She has described herself in a well known aretalogy (self-praise) which is available to us. Here are some lines from it: I am Isis, I am she who is called goddess by women I gave and ordained laws for humans which no one is able to change I divided the earth from the heavens I ordered the course of the sun and the moon I appointed to women to bring their infants, to birth in the tenth month I made the beautiful and the shameful to be distinguished by nature I established punishment for those who practise injustice I am Queen of rivers and winds and sea I am in the rays of the sun Fate hearkens to me Hail Egypt that nourishes me.19 Here we see the goddess who is divine and creative, queen of nature who also points out the best ways of living for human beings in whose world she takes part. There is an ethical side to her. The complete hymn, of over fifty lines, balances descriptions of her transcendence with her very real concern for the everyday world of human beings. She punishes injustice, she ’causes the trickster to be caught by his own tricks’, she is concerned with women and birth-giving and with the relationships of parents and children. She is very much to be compared with the Hochma of Proverbs in this respect. Alongside her is Ma’at, goddess of truth, right and justice. This name actually describes a measure of land, and it is on this concept of exactitude and rightness that order and justice depends. Such earthy mundane order is duplicated by the order of the eternal: Ma’at becomes goddess of the underworld where she judges human souls. In this capacity she also exercises mercy, and again there are strong resonances in her judgments and in what she expects from human beings with those of Wisdom in Proverbs. Here is part of a confession the soul is called upon to make before Ma’at. It is called a ‘Negative Confession’: I have not committed iniquity … I have not oppressed the poor … I have not defaulted … I have not in aught diminished the supplies to the temples … I have not murdered … I have not made any to weep … I have not falsified the beam of the balance … 20 It is noticeable that in addition to setting out what the Egyptians considered proper for human behaviour, in the manner of Proverbs, the ideals of human justice usually associated with the Hebrew prophets or even the Ten Commandments are there. But there is also a very human, and one might even say a very female compassion – ‘I have not made any to weep’ – and also particular exactness and precision in everyday dealings. Ma’at is the cosmic order of the world, like Hochma, which is itself built on order and precision, and in this respect heaven and earth are linked. Isis and Ma’at have been identified in much of the description of Hochma and Sophia and have also been described as figuring largely in the New Testament understanding of Jesus as Logos in the opening chapter of the Fourth Gospel. That the masculine Logos is closely connected with Hochma and Sophia is not in doubt. Wisdom is there, but from now on as Christianity develops it is Jesus Christ and becomes a part of him. He is described often with her words and there are statements that all wisdom is in Him.21 Much of her journey is duplicated in His. Where the Jews encapsulated Wisdom in sacred texts, the Christians subsumed her in the Saviour and then in various ways and times into the Holy Spirit and often into the Virgin Mary. But before that transformation revealed itself, there was a period when Sophia, who had herself changed her character, appeared and was venerated. It is in this Sophia, successor to Hochma in the intertestamental and early Christian world, that we can begin to see another account of fall of the female aspect of divinity. THE GNOSTIC DIMENSION Gnosticism is becoming a powerful influence in feminist research into the overthrow of the female in the divine. The discovery in 1945 of a substantial number of documents in the sand of Egypt at Nag Hammadi brought fresh light to our knowledge of a religious system which previously had been only available through the hostile polemics of some of the early Christian Fathers. These Nag Hammadi texts, now available in translation, 22 cover a period of four hundred years, which span the two centuries before the common era and the following two centuries. Composed of between fifty and sixty separate ‘books’ or tractates, they are firmly placed in Judaic and Christian or pre-Christian modes of thought. The documents fall into various groups, based mainly on their dating and the schools which produced them. Common to many of them, and taking a major part in several, are divine female figures, named Sophia, Epinoia, Protennoia or Barbelo. The first three are all words to do with Wisdom. Sophia herself, although related to Hochma, in fact stands for the Wisdom of the Gnosis. This is the knowledge of the divine mysteries: where we came from, where we are going, the nature of heaven, the divinity within us. While it is impossible to give an account here of the different religious systems entailed, it is important that there were vast differences between the various schools of thought, and there is no one interpretation of Gnosticism or Gnosis. The only theme that may be common to all is the insistence that divine Wisdom is available to those who, despising the world, seek their spiritual salvation in her; or, in the more Christianized texts, in the Saviour. The earlier Gnostic writers showed Sophia and her divine sisters to be joined with God, creator figures in themselves, or in unison with God. They are available to humans, and in themselves reflect the comprehensive differences in humanity – in fact, they represent the whole and all its inter-connecting parts. One quotation will illustrate this: I am Protennoia, the Thought that dwells in the Light. I am the movement that dwells in the All, she in whom the All takes its stand, the first born as among those who came to exist. I am invisible within the thought of the Invisible One. I am revealed in the immeasurable, ineffable. I am the head of the All, since I exist in everyone.23 She is the invisible essence, yet she is also the first-born of All who came to exist; that is she is immanence and transcendence. In this she reminds us of Hochma. She is the female principle in deity. Protennoia goes on to declare: I am perception and knowledge, uttering a voice by means of thought I am the real Voice. I cry out in everyone.24 For me, these words are extremely moving. Here is the acknowledged and venerated female divine being, who lives in me and who calls out in me. But for how long has our female voice been silenced, for how long our perception and knowledge dismissed as worthless, for how long have we women been silenced? Protennoia calls on us to break our silence, to cry out, to speak out. She assures us she is there within us – and has been there from the beginning. Another female divinity who calls to women and assures us of our dignity and our power is the otherwise un-named Thunder Perfect Mind. She appears to be everywhere and encompasses everything: I am the first and the last I am the honoured one and the scorned one I am the whore and the holy one I am the wife and the virgin I am the mother and the daughter I am the members of my mother I am the barren one and many are her sons I am the one who has been hated, everywhere and who has been loved everywhere I am the one whom they call Life and you have called Death.25 She is everything and everybody and its opposite. She is female and within her there is the whole range of female life from birth to death, from the mundane woman in the world to the divine Wisdom of Heaven. She shows for me that there is no disunity between something and its opposite. A totality includes all aspects. Linear and dualistic divisions do not exist. So many times we, women in the world, are aware that we are something and we are not something; or we are called names that put us down, and we are punished for being who we are. In Thunder Perfect Mind we can rejoice in a revelation of a goddess who is both outside us and within us, and we can be reminded of that same goddess figure who is the first and the last, who is called life and you – the others – have called Death. Asherah and Ashertaroth were called whore, abomination and death, by those who hated them. Hochma, their sister and descendant, was called the tree of life (Proverbs) before she was divested of her female form. I see in the ‘Thunder’ the vision of a goddess human and divine who speaks again. Her words are taken over by the newer male-oriented religions. ‘I am the first and the last` is a description of God and of Christ (Rev 21:6; 22:13); it not only recalls `Thunder’ but also Egyptian Isis. The differences in the Christianized and pre-Christian texts in their attitudes to Sophia have been analysed in detail by Rose Arthur. She points to the contrast between the early female Gnostic divinities and the ‘fallen Sophia’ of the Christians. She remarks that in the Jewish documents Sophia is not a personage in need of male redemption; this idea comes in the Christian texts. In particular Sophia’s fall from divinity is traced in the story of the birth of her child. I will quote part of it from the Apocryphon of John: And the Sophia of the Epinnoia, being an aeon, conceived a thought from herself with the reflection of the invisible Spirit and foreknowledge. She wanted to bring forth a likeness out of herself without the consent of the Spirit – he had not approved – and without her consort and without his consideration. And though the personage of her maleness had not approved, and she had not found her agreement, and she had thought without the consent of the Spirit and the knowledge of her agreement, (yet) she brought forth. And because of the invincible power that is in her, her thought did not remain idle and a thing came out of her which was imperfect and different from her appearance, because she had created it without her consort. And it was dissimilar to the likeness of its mother for it has another form. She cast it away from her, outside the place, that no one of the immortal ones might see it, for she had created it in ignorance. And she surrounded it with a luminous cloud, and she placed a throne in the middle of the cloud that no one might see it except the holy Spirit who is called the mother of the living and she called his name Yaltabaoth.26 Here is a summation of the travels of the goddess. She has invincible power within her, she is able to create without the male principle and does so because she wishes to do so. In this she is behaving in the same way as a long line of ancient mother goddesses, but by now, in the second centuries after Christ, this has to be condemned as a fault, a fault so grievous that her child is imperfect; and this imperfect being then becomes the creator of a faulty and imperfect world. Whose fault is this? Sophia’s. Why? Because she does not ask for male approval. From then on Sophia’s only way open is repentance, and this means she is constantly weeping. Eventually, fully penitent, she is allowed to return to the lowest place in the spiritual world, well away from her former glory. Where the author of the Book of Wisdom of Solomon moved to wanting to possess Sophia for his own aggrandizement, the later Gnostic books have gone far further. Now she is to bear the guilt for all the world’s shortcomings. Much was made of her relationship to the ‘fallen’ Eve of Genesis 3.27 There is little doubt that the female divine Hochma and Sophia of earlier Gnostics was never forgotten. Vestiges of that philosophy were carried steadily in an underground stream throughout European history. Sometimes they bubbled up strongly, as for example in the Hermetic Philosophy of the Renaissance, as Frances Yates has shown. They continually nourished ‘unofficial’ movements and sects within the mainstream religions, sometimes openly, sometimes disguised. Where the later Gnostic view of Sophia’s disobedience and fault was planted firmly on to all women by the Church, yet many Christians found in Mary the Virgin, and often the Black Virgin, a vision of the earlier goddess. In the Jewish world the establishment religion was satisfied with Hochma as Torah, the law, thus effectively denying the presence of the female in the divine. This view was challenged by the influence of the mystical sect of Kabbalists who saw in the Shekhinah the female presence of God and venerated her accordingly. But since women themselves were denied access to or knowledge of the Kabbalah for most of its history the idea of a Jewish acknowledgment of the female deity was a closely guarded secret among men who treated it as a hidden doctrine and did not allow any of its consequences to pass into the community. It is only today that Christian women may understand that Mary might be God the Mother as well as Mother of God; and that Sophia may be the unacknowledged female aspect of Jesus and possibly of the Holy Spirit. Jewish women in the present time may at last enter into their heritage of the divine female, for them in the guise of the Shekhinah, the female indwelling presence of God. The living waters which have bubbled underground for so long are now rising up and pouring out their revivifying streams. SHEKHINAH CONSCIOUSNESS The idea of the Shekhinah is full of contradictions and yet of inspiration.28 It is used to denote the presence of God and is derived from the Hebrew word to dwell. In Biblical texts it denoted the presence of God at some particular place – e.g. at Bethel, where Jacob met God, in the Meeting Tent with Moses in the desert, in the temple of Solomon at Jerusalem, and even as the deity as a resting place or refuge for humans. The Hebrew word is feminine in gender but for mainstream Talmudic and rabbinical thought it was not used to denote any female essence or element within God. It was, for them, synonymous with His presence, His glory, sometimes with His Holy Spirit (ruach-ha kodesh). Sometimes called the Face of God, the glory associated with the Shekhinah shone, for example, on Moses’ face when he came down from the mountain. In a comprehensive work of reference on the indwelling of God in the world according to rabbinical literature, a writer early this century was able to provide copious detailed information about the Shekhinah without ever mentioning a feminine aspect.29 However, in the alternative and mystical tradition of Judaism known as Kabbalah, the Shekhinah, while keeping her characteristic of ‘dwelling’, became more and more personified as both divine and female. The Kabbalah literature may be taken to begin in the first four centuries of our era and itself related to an earlier mystical trend associated with the Merkabah (chariot) visions in the Book of Ezekiel, and it had certain affinities with some Gnostic material. From the early rabbinic years, the Kabbalah developed widely, rising to a peak during the Middle Ages, and again was renewed in later Judaism by the Hassidic sects of Eastern Europe. We meet the Shekhinah on the Tree of Life, yet we also meet her as the ‘community of Israel’. In the latter case, she is re-mythologized to become the marital partner of God, reflecting the Biblical tradition of God the husband, Israel the wife. She is addressed as ‘Queen, Daughter, Bride’ of God. A good deal of sexual imagery is used, in the tradition of that used in the Book of Proverbs about Hochma. Yet at the same time, some sects within the Kabbalists took the Shekhinah right out of this relationship to make her into what Patai has called ‘an independent divine female entity, a direct heir to ancient Hebrew goddesses’. This point is also made strongly by Scholem, who compares the Shekhinah within the Kabbalah to the goddesses of the past, yet stresses that it is only for the Kabbalists that she has this character. For everyday and mainstream Jews, the Shekhinah must always be comprehended as God’s presence or, at the utmost, the community of Israel. It is clear that while the Jewish mystics pursued a comprehensive study of female divinity, yet no human female was allowed to take part in this activity or indeed to know anything at all about it. It was totally androcentric in concept and performance. The male students and teachers glorified the female but placed her in relation to themselves, and did not allow her divinity to enter into the lives of the general Jewish community, or into their worship. It has been emphasized that the study of the Kabbalah was ‘not for the rabble’. It was for an elite, which in any case must necessarily be male. Within this restriction, veneration of the Shekhinah was unbounded. It was emphasized that her glory is God’s glory. She is described as a garden full of fruit and nuts, the latter being to do with riddles, puzzles and problems and, at a deeper level, the mysteries of alchemy and magic. Modern students of magic often look to the Kabbalistic writings as a primary source of material. The Shekhinah has been compared to Lilith and to Hochma. As for Lilith, by the time the Kabbalists were writing she had long been turned into a ferocious demon, although there are a few positive references to her in the literature. Hochma they transformed into a male, equating the creative activity and direct knowledge of the world with the masculine, leaving the more passive aspects of perception and understanding to the female. There is also another fundamental difference between Hochma and the Shekhinah. The latter belongs to Judaism and is identified with the trials and hopes of the Jewish people, whom she comforted in their exile, and mourned within their trials. She was the essence of tikkun – the return to harmony of the world. She stands as a female aspect of divinity within Judaism to which Jewish people and especially women can now relate. By contrast, Hochma, Wisdom, was always universal. She called on all to enter her home and eat her food; all could learn from her the secrets of the universe; all could benefit from her instruction and learn to order their lives well. She reached from one end of the world to the other. She was not attached to any one group or people or religion. (Although some writers spoke of her making her home in Israel, this was never pursued widely.) She was co-existent with the universe, the mediator between all within it and deity which she shares. Just as it is true that Hochma. like Shekhinah, became submerged in male culture, so both can be reclaimed in their free, powerful feminine forms. Now is the time they are both emerging from their long imprisonment. THE GODDESS TODAY A transformation concerning woman’s place in both heavenly and earthly society has taken place in the last decade. The underground streams have become torrents. They have led to concern, even crisis, within traditional religions. While during the last hundred years or more women have spoken out strongly against Biblical-based subordination, it is only now that their numbers are large enough and the ideas are propagated widely enough to secure actual changes – many of which are still strongly resisted. Ursula King 30 in her survey of women’s spirituality today has listed seven categories of voices: of protest and anger; of challenge; of experience; of spiritual power; of a new spirituality; of a new theology; of prophecy and integration. These come from disparate places, traditions, languages, cultures. They all join into one voice, that of a new women’s spirituality. From that list I move on. All, if we look at any of the categories, must start with anger – at the androcentrism of society and, within religion and theology, of the biblical and religious texts which have formed our culture. What next? It is to seek methods by which the subsumed, the forgotten half of humanity, the underclass of women, the no-no of humanity and of divinity, may be raised up and proclaimed. There is no consensus as to method – far from it – nor as to belief. There are many distinctions and some conflicts. But serving as a framework for all is the knowledge of past injustice and the will to put matters right. Within the new theology, a network of methods of reinterpretation has been under construction for some years. Christian women research both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, concentrating strongly on demythologizing the stories of sin and on remaking woman in the image of God – both themes in Genesis. Many include such subjects as the immanence of goddess or god in our lives, a new view of salvation that depends on wholeness and connectedness rather than reward and punishment. Areas of research deal, for example, with Mary the Virgin, or with Jesus-Sophia; with sexuality and religion, and with Jesus’ position in the background of his times. Some scholars are researching the divinity of Wisdom. Women within the Jewish tradition are, among much else, reclaiming the Kabbalah, and finding that the Shekhinah, God’s female presence, is as much for them as for the men who previously appropriated it. They are able to copy early rituals, such as the blessing of the new moon, that was biblically the province of women, and in their academic studies are able to see and discuss rabbinical rituals outside the mainstream that in fact do not deny women’s equality with men. They are taking a hard look at Bible texts and extra-biblical material and finding the forgotten and the overlooked female within them. There is an international growing network of feminist theological dissent. The Bible has for over a hundred years been subject to various methods of interpretation and exegesis; today the feminist method is followed by more and more scholars. Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza and Rosemary Ruether, both American Catholic feminist theologians, have been pioneering academic methods of demonstrating the received androcentric views and reconstructing a Christianity based on a wholism, indeed a love, that is traditionally purported to be its root. Theories of egalitarianism are suggested in different ways by these authors, who both fully realize women’s previous subordination in their religion and who endeavour to see a way out within it. Women in theological research in Europe have formed an organization which centres on exchange of ideas and research in feminist theology. The subjects are of vast dimension: whether of a maligned woman in the Bible – such as Jezebel – or a new understanding of the meaning of the female ruach (spirit) in the Hebrew Bible; a discussion of the violence against women in the Bible, and the possibility of a women’s liberation theology; a discussion of Mariology and its effect on women – positive or otherwise; a vision of Jesus as liberator of women (although this has serious drawbacks); and, above all, many views of the image of God – referring to Genesis 1:26 – and of reversing the Christian concept of women as vehicles of sin. All these were matters for discussion at a recent conference, as was a new one: within the ‘Image of God’ concept came the image of justice. The participants at a conference in Germany in 1989 took up the Christian roots of anti-Judaism. Judith Plaskow, in a paper entitled ‘Feminist anti-Judaism and the Christian God’, warned against the easy way that Christian feminists might follow by taking Jesus out of context to deliver women from their apparent oppressors, thus taking an anti-Jewish theme for granted.31 She pointed out that the theme of connectedness within Christianity is also present within Judaism and both religions can be called upon by women for a vision of totality and community. Those who remain in the traditional religions try and work them through to establish a base for egalitarianism and wholism. Others have left them, finding that effort or dream impossible. Daphne Hampson, a British feminist theologian, has put Christianity behind her. She does not, she says, need Christianity for connectedness. She sees a vision of the whole, within a transformation of the meaning of God.32 An identification of one’s woman-self with God is taken further by many women who move right away from their background religion. Those who turn back to older roots, pick up the myths and stories of the ancient goddesses, take them into sacred activities for themselves today. Again, there is no doctrine or homogeneity: some belong to a wiccan tradition, or faerie; some believe they have inherited secrets through grandmother to grandmother; some take up the cause and the practice of the ancient women healers; some seek goddesses from various cultures and defend and renew them. There are many others. Common to most is the assertion that the divine is not only ‘out there’ but is in ourselves, most particularly that the goddess is in us women and we in her. Others, myself among them, will state quite definitely that the goddesses who were despised, rejected, tortured, overthrown and continuously kept out of sight by ongoing ferocious brutality are a paradigm of what has happened to women and women’s spirituality. In reclaiming them we reclaim ourselves; in reclaiming ourselves, we reclaim them. Common to all – those in traditional religions who are reworking them; those who have left them behind but still stay clear of goddesses; those who attach themselves to goddesses whether inside or outside their ‘home’ religion; those who re-evaluate and reconstruct texts without a religious drive – is a sisterhood of understanding and endeavour. Whatever the method used, whatever the actual religious faith or lack of it, whatever charge of intensity is to be found in the work, there is no doubt that all involved with feminist theology – or thealogy as many of us would have it – are struggling to bring justice and truth to religion, especially as it affects women, and thence to the community in which they live. Such justice and truth are not words nor mirages, but affect the everyday lives of women – and men – everywhere. Throughout the long journey at which we have taken passing glances, there has never been a point that did not contain a female aspect of God. From the goddesses of the ancient Near East who became transformed into the consort of God, and then demonized; from the acknowledgment of Hochma as both cosmic Wisdom and immediacy in the world, to the Torah; from Sophia, identical with the supreme divine power and instructor and guide to human beings, her sisterhood with other female divinities in other surrounding cultures, to her fallen state and her disappearance within the Trinity, and then her reappearance in another form as the Virgin Mary – the goddess has been there. The unfortunate part of the whole matter is that she has been disguised and dismissed. When we look at her history we understand how immense was her defeat. What do we mean by this? Who was defeated? There is only one answer. We were defeated. And who are we? Well, first we are women, who have undergone defeat after defeat but somehow, like the goddess, on the whole we manage to survive through continuous catastrophes, crippled. Also defeated are men, who have paraded and gloried in their ‘godliness’ to bring the world to the brink of extinction and themselves to a place of nowhere in particular. The Bible, Hebrew and New Testament, both in their different ways chronicle the godhead of the female and its overthrow. The results of such male supremacy in religion have been and are horrific. To heal and revive our world and all the people in it, we need to look again at the older religious traditions that sought and followed a concept of a female God, or within God, or aspect of God. The Divine She, the Mother Earth and Queen of Heaven, the She of the underworld, all express a concept that has been swept from the patriarchal thought and tradition. The kernel of the She within the divine was her association with earth as well as heaven, participation with humankind, a bridge between the transcendent and the mundane, making all of it sacred. Can we re-learn her lessons? Of Wisdom it was written: ‘She shall be a Tree of Life to you.’ Do we not have to face the flaming sword that the androcentric writers placed in front of her and deny it, so that we may again recognize Her and revenerate Her? Only in this way can our women’s ‘thirteenth hour’ help humanity survive the crisis which male imbalance has brought upon the created world. Pirani, Alix, Ed. The Absent Mother 1991 NOTES1 Fiorenza, Elisabeth Schussler, In Memory of Her, Crossroad, New York, 1983, p.29, and others by this author. 2 Brootten, Bernadette J., Women Leaders in the Ancient Synagogue, Scholars Press, CA, 1982, p.150. 3 Plaskow, Judith, ‘The Right Question is Theological’, in Heschel, S. (ed.), On Being a Jewish Feminist, Schocken, NY, 1983, p.230 4 Christ, Carol P., The Laughter of Aphrodite, Harper & Row, CA, 1987. 5 Patai, Raphael, The Hebrew Goddess, (new enlarged edition, Wayne State University Press, Detroit, 1990). 6 Quoted in Durdin-Robertson, L., The Goddesses of Chaldea, Syria and Egypt, Cesara Publications, Eire, 1975, p.2. 7 E.g. Isaiah 27:1, Psalm 74:13, Psalm 89:10. 8 Wolkstein, Diane and Kramer, Samuel Noah, Inanna, Harper, New York, 1983, p.7. 9 Long, Asphodel P., in Arachne, No. 2, MRRN, London, 1985, pp. 26-30. 10 Albright, W.F., Hebraica 36, 1919-20, pp.258-9. 11 Driver, G.R., Canaanite Myths and Legends, 1956. 12 Gray, John, The Canaanites, Thames & Hudson, London, 1964. 13 Meshel, Z. ‘Did Jahweh have a Consort?’ in Biblical Archaeological Review, March 1979. 14 Delcor, M., in Von Kanaan bis Kerala, ed. Delsman, Verlag Butzon & Berckerkevelaer, 1982, pp. 101-22. 15 Ibid. 16 Ibid. 17 E.g. Proverbs 3:18-19, 8:22-30; Book of Wisdom of Solomon 7:8, 8:1; Ecclesiasticus (The Book of Sirach) 24; The Book of Enoch 42:1-2 18 Greenfield, J.C. ‘The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. A Mistranslation’, in Jewish Quarterly Review, LXXVI, No. 1, 1985, pp.13-20. 19 Engelsman, Joan C., The Feminine Dimension of the Divine, Westminster Press, PA, 1979. 20 Durdin-Robertson, L., The Goddesses of Chaldea, Syria and Egypt, Cesara Publications, Eire, 1975, pp.324-5. 21 E.g. 1 Corinthians 1:24. 22 Robinson, James R., The Nag Hammadi Library, E.J. Brill, Leiden, 1977. 23 Robinson, J.R., 1977, op. cit., pp. 461-70. 24 Ibid. 25 Ibid., pp. 271-7. 26 Arthur, Rose H., The Wisdom Goddess, University Press of America, 1984. 27 Robinson, J.R., 1977 op.cit., pp.103-4. 28 For historical information on Shekhinah see Scholem, Gershon, The Kabbalah and its Symbolism, Schocken, New York, 1969 and Scholem, Gershon, Kabbalah, Keter, Jerusalem, 1974; also Patai, Raphael, 1967 (1990), op.cit. 29 Abelson, Joshua, The Immanence of God, London, 1912. 30 King, Ursula, Women and Spirituality, Macmillan, London, 1989. 31 European Society of Women in Theological Research, Amoldshain, Germany, 1989. 32 Hampson, Daphne, Theology and Feminism, Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1990.
Wow! Just found and read the “thread”. The author of the article seemed to offer two “authorities”, while pretending not to do so.
Steiner and Science.
Steiner didn’t know everything, and what is worse he got the whole reality of the Nature of the Inner Earth wrong. Emerson says that the past is not the moment, or the future. To place one’s own mind in orbit around another person, or set of views, is to place our own spirit in a kind of prison. Last sentence of original introduction to Steiner’s The Philosophy of Freedom is: “One must be able to confront an idea, and experience it, otherwise one will fall into its bondage.
If you have a lively discussion with a scientist (I’ve had several of this type), they ultimately confess that science’s views often change, which means that any given point of view is just today’s best guess.
When the covid-Narrative exploded in major Media, as an observer for decades of what Media does, this set off alarm bells, precisely because Media favors a good hysterical tale, over the often too many complex details of speaking “truth”.
I predicted that Media would demand of politicians: What are you going to do to save us from the latest boogeyman? Why Media even thinks they are asking the right people a significant question has little to do with the way Media behaves. As a consequence the Politician does his/her I know what I am doing dance, and starts to make promises.
So the Narrative feeds us hysteria, and politician lies as to what the leaders can actually do. Look, says the Media, there is the Rabbit Hole. Oh good, sez the Pol, I’ll jump in and join the party.
Both Media and Politicians need a hat rack on which to hang their hats, and wonder of wonders there appears the perfect “expert”, Dr. Fauci. A mad hatter pouring tea into a cup that is missing half of its surfaces.
Politicians serve big money – all of them believing (or appear to do so) in free market capitalism, and debt money. Big money owns the Media. Politicians lie, aka: the Pentagon Papers, and the CIA telling Congress it is not watching all our electronic communications, i.e. the Edward Snowden story.
As to Trumpism, 75 million people didn’t vote for Biden, because their religious leaders (allegedly Christians all), along with Fox Noise and “conservative” radio, brain washed them.
You can fool a lot of people a lot of the time.
There is no Trumpism without Rovism (Ahriman is alive now), where Karl Rove asserted that just tell the lie over and over again – reality is plastic – and it becomes effectively the truth.
Why is Trumpism an issue? Because the mind needs to make not-okay what it doesn’t like, or understand. The mind of the “doctor” above speaks of conspiracy theories, and pejoratively of anti-vaccers.
He thinks folks should think like him, and throws out some mumbo jumbo about certainty that little “things” cause illness. It is essentially “settled science”, which as we know never changes it mind.
I’d like to see him on a public stage having a conversation about this with healer Tom Cowan, whose views were so radical and heretical, that the AMA took away his license to practice medicine.
Why do people trust either politicians, or Media, or Big Pharma? Even more crucial, if the Narrative is false, why are people dying?
In the mid-1800’s, industrial civilization began to take over agriculture, medicine, food production, medicine creation, with the consequence that since that time people have been poisoned, over and over again – in their food, their air, their water (pollution), their medicines (side effects), and subjected to socially toxic banking and education.
The results have been the DNA stream of heredity has become weaker and weaker. They physical body is not given what it needs, in terms of nature, of music, of time to play, and becomes then psychologically/spiritually over stressed by becoming to big money: workers, consumers, and cannon fodder.The longest war in American history, the one in Afghanistan, is about protecting pipelines for the energy wars on the horizon.
Stress is like getting a multitude of doses of fight or flight hormones every day of your life. The toxification of the body has made many people “sensitive”, such as the Roundup on our wheat that leads to “gluten” allergies.
If you hang out with the Mystery*** (aka: the Mother and the Son), you see there is a spiritual point to all this madness … after all this is the Dying and Becoming of “Western” civilization, which often evokes ancient tales of Atlantean times.
By the way, the flu is the body trying to detoxify, and materialistic medicine suppresses symptoms which help that process. Got to keep folks at work, until they drop.
I may have mention here that I am writing a new book, in the form of a diary. The title is “the meditating scholar”, and it concerns what Steiner students call “The Return of Christ in the Ethereal”.
The work of six personalities is discussed … three dead and three living. Rudolf Steiner, Valentin Tomberg, and Franz Bardon, have passed on, yet left us with books to study. They wrote for a European culture, and should be honored with the term: Initiates.
The three living – yet aging – are Americans, Stephen Clarke, Catherine MacCoun, and myself. We are students of the Holy Mother – Earth Mother, i.e. the Platonists of which Steiner warned. Shamans, mystics, magicians, and pagans.
Right now I am mostly writing of what I call: the three magi – Steiner, Tomberg, and Bardon, who in different ways spoke of Christ on the cusp of His Return given that Mystery Wisdom does not put all its eggs in one basket.
People like to read books. If you just study one of these initiates by itself, you will end up with a one-sided understanding of the truth of this Event of the Return.
A bit ago, I wrote of these three magi using an observation of Steiner’s, … that we are more awake in our thinking, more dreamy in our feeling, and more asleep in our willing.
Steiner gifts us with a science of knowing, a matter almost lost to the world, because most Steiner students do not study these two books of his: “A Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe’s World Conception”, and – of course – “The Philosophy of Freedom.” He is the archetypal “thinker”, teaching us how to be awake in that realm of the soul.
Steiner’s inspiration led to other treasures, of which the most significant are the works of the Goethean scientists. Right now the world is dying on the cross of scientific materialism – all is matter, there is no spirit. The healing for this is found in Steiner’s science of knowing, and the work of the Goethean scientists.
Our age is the Age in which the principle Way of Knowledge is Science. Those readers of far too many Steiner lecture cycles, become true believers of Steinerism, which like scientific materialism has begat a world filled with people who mistake scientific theory for scientific fact. Among anthroposophists is a similar flaw: to treat the material in the books and lectures as fact.
The science of knowing can help here. In “Theory” Steiner writes of thinking and experience. In “Philosophy” he writes of concept and percept. When we treat as fact what we read in Steiner, we have then a concept without a percept, or thought without experience. This is why in the introductions to both “Theosophy” and “Occult Science – an outline”, the introductory material speaks of “understanding”, not knowledge.
Steiner has pointed to this situation by suggesting we read one book fifty times, instead of fifty books once. If we work with a single work, and try to create the thought stream (train of thoughts) in the own mind, over and over again, we are drawn near to the percept/experience which Steiner had, and from which he wrote and spoke.
Tomberg is a dreamer. In his Russian soul are deeply felt roots, as regards religion. His “Meditations on the Tarot – a journey into Christian Hermeticism” is a remarkable work of written art. In this book he writes deep studies of the 22 major arcana of the Tarot. There is beauty there, should we wish to see it with our own heart’s mind.
Bardon is in some sense the teacher of the hidden, of the secrets of the will. His three volume study of the secrets of the four elements stands alone. At the same time, the books have this magic quality already. In the lore of the true Magus, we may hear that such books contain hidden wisdom, in plain sight.
This has been my experience.
For example, if you look at the first book – Initiation into Hermetics – in a conventional sense, reading one sentence, then another, through a great deal of detail, the mind can have a pile of practices, almost too much to even begin to undertake. We might just put the book down, for it is written to appear harder than it is.
Secrets are being revealed.
This book consists of ten Steps, and each is laid out in such a way that we feel we must work through it like a mason who has to make the bricks, then the wall, after which there just might be a house there.
It is better to see the first seven Steps in the form of a circle, where the last rejoins the first, illuminating it beyond what we may have thought from our first reading. In fact, if someone is going to take up a study of this work, I recommend they read Step I, then Step VII, then Step II, then Step VI, and so forth.
When end up with three pairs of ideas, which has a middle: Step IV. The point of this is to grasp the basic idea of the work to be undertaken.
Most who read this will already have worked at their own spiritual development. Each has spiritual skills won through trials and errors.
This means, for anthroposophists, these skills help ease the study of Tomberg and Bardon. You are not starting from ground zero.
“the meditating scholar” then reads books, not too many, trusting that the Mystery will guide you through these mazes and labyrinths to precisely what you can gain, by being a kind of spiritual generalist. Not a specialist, but something richer.
Most of those who read this, will have already studied many Ways, and all those talents already won, are enriched by reading, and then meditating on a particular phrase or sentence.
There is no hurry, as all of us are right where we need to be. Trust your karma. Trust the Mystery. All are the people for which we have been waiting.
Vaccinations do not cure the flu. We will continue to have this massive world-wide toxic-cleansing for some time. Vaccines seek to kill a tiny tiny organism, whose appearance is just another symptom of the need for detoxification from the poisons (pollution) in our soil, our air, our water, our food, and our medicines (side-effects).
In addition, at the social level, our systems of banking and education are also toxic. For the first, we are producers, consumers, and cannon fodder for the many endless wars, the war industries need. For the second, we are taught in school the religion of scientific materialism (all is matter, there is no spirit).
While we wait, in lock-downs and isolation, we have gained some time, away from the rush to work, to buy, and to pay taxes. For students of Rudolf Steiner, some of this time is spent in meditation.
Some of that meditation-time can include exercises based on the nature of the four elements. Listed they are: akasha or causal sphere, fire or sphere of the will, air or sphere of the intellect, water, or the sphere of feeling, and earth or the sphere of consciousness.
This field of consciousness actually circles around to join with the akasha, thus the ancient representation of the dragon eating its own tail. It is also a unity – nowhere separate.
When sitting still we can focus our attention on the skin felt aspect of consciousness. In the article above, preparing the body for learning “pore-breathing” of the “light”, is described.
We use the imagination (the light we generate) to picture the universal light streaming in and out of the body through the pores. We will soon notice that our attention wanders. A noise, an itch, a twinge of pain, the feeling of weight, colors, smells and so forth.
Practicing the pore-breathing of the light (in it was life and the life was the light of the world) can be aided by working with this total field of consciousness, by moving the attention into particular zones of the whole field.
The symbol for fire / will is an equilateral triangle pointing upward. If we shift our attention to the head and senses region of the field of consciousness, we can also feel this fire nature, as warmth. This quality, and the ones immediately below, can also be aided by the imaginative faculty.
The symbol for air / intellect is a fire triangle with a horizontal line, and in our field of consciousness the zone is the chest, the lungs and heart, up to the neck, while the feeling is one of lightness.
The symbol for water / feeling is a triangle pointed downward. The organs are the bowels, milt, gall, liver and stomach to midriff, while the feeling is coolness.
The symbol for consciousness is a downward triangle with a horizontal line through its middle. The organs are feet to thighs, rump-bone, and genitals, while the feeling is one of gravity.
The primary polarity is warmth and coolness, while lightness and gravity – or weight, are a secondary polarity.
In a like fashion, it is possible to experience from within the field of the own consciousness, the seven chakras: the regions or zones of consciousness that we can notice with our mobile imaginative attention are: 1 genitals, 2 bowels, 3 stomach, 4 liver, 5 lungs, 6 heart, 7 larynx, and 8 head.
Consider these eight zones as notes, and the traditional chakras as the interval in between each note, of which there are seven.
The above is offered to the meditating scholar as a means to begin to appreciate that knowledge of the elements, within and without, can be very useful.
The first book is “Initiation Into Hermetics”, and consists of detailed instructions for acquiring, maintaining, and improving, these qualities of self observation. It is possible to download a pdf form, and thus have no need for the actually book, unless you like books to hold in your hands. A pdf opened in a browser is searchable, so owning both book and pdf file has several virtues.
Some will wonder about “magical powers” given the legends. A lot of what we already do is in play, as it were. We do stuff, for which we don’t know the more ancient names.
When breathing in the light, we are working with the vital or life forces direction. When moving on from that, the work allows learning of the accumulation, and exhaling of, the elements, which creates a kind of power reserve in the blood and the seed.
Given that everything existing has the akasha and/or consciousness aspects, the quality of the vital or life forces, and the quality of the accumulation of the elements, can take on thoughts, which thoughts then direct the movement of the electro-magnetic (fire-water polarity) fluids toward our goals.
This is already happening, we just yet remain asleep as to the dynamics from the point of view of magic, or Hermetic Science.
In the American Soul a kind of spiritual battle took place, over recent centuries. The native aboriginal folk had cycles of wisdom and confusion. Sometimes one set of spiritual conceptions warred with “others”. The Hopi Prophecy is woven into an oral history that remembers Atlantis. It was a memory&wisdom, which can be read about here: “From the Beginning of Life to the Day of Purification.”
It predicts the arrival of a white race that would claim the land as their own. Today many races, religions, philosophies, sciences, and political theories – feed on and feed in, to the total mix of American Culture.
At the same time the Spirit of the Land repelled other elemental beings. from different regions of the earth, that tried to follow immigrating peoples. Steiner’s idea was that America was a place that races and civilizations go to die. Out of many, one. He didn’t see the people here that belonged to, and where the stewards of the Land.
The Land said No to that which knew it/him/her not. Meanwhile the cries for justice for native peoples, tribes, and nations, grow stronger. The blood of the past haunts America. Metals and minerals cover the Land, but in truth only a small part.
The mosaic of modern American Culture has been fertilized with Materialistic Science from central Europe, and from the East a garden of Ways, ancient works, living teachers, modest intentions. See for example: “Zen Anthroposophy”
On the Land then, a carnival of needs&deeds. Covid-Chaos. Fleeing women and children. Public life at sea. Evidence of the Day of Purification, evoking a plague, an economic collapse, scarcity, and poverty. Outside – in the physical world.
In the soul-world, another war, for dominance of what it all means. Yet, deeper inside, in the spirit-world, individuals burn with an on-fire want for individual freedom.
The phenomena we call: “climate change”, which is abstract numbers, suggests we look to the rogue weather. Most any sane person sees this as increasing. Having lost the ideas of gods&goddesses, we don’t ensoul the natural world, and this mistake then blinds us to the handwriting on the wall.
Change your Ways, human beings, or destruction will follow.
Cities are becoming more and more unlivable. Our agricultural regions produce foods without much life in them. The wild lands are war zones, where common sense is undercut by corporate greed and folly.
America needs its own migration, from the cities, to the farms, and then to the wilds. The Land hungers for our stewardship, and if we do not attend to today’s wise needs, rogue weather will seem like a butterfly kiss as to what comes next.