- Celestial Apparition -

The Trinity

The Trinity.  This is another of those universal motifs that are found in sacred stories all over the world. In Hinduism, there is Brahma (Creator), Vishnu (Preserver), and Shiva (Destroyer).  In ancient Greece, there was Zeus (Lord of Heaven), Poseidon (Lord of the Sea), and Hades (Lord of the Underworld). In Buddhism there is the Triratna: Buddha (Consciousness), Dharma (Divine Way), and Sangha (Order).  Of course the West is most familiar with the Christian Trinity: Father (Power), Son (Intelligence), and the Holy Spirit (Love).  There are many such examples; the earliest known representation of the trinity is in a French cave at Angles‑sur‑l’Anglin: three Goddesses (the spectrum of feminine wisdom - Maiden, Mother, Crone - each with prominent pubic triangles) carved in rock about 15,000 years ago.

Three seems to have a special significance in the spiritual imagination, inspired by its importance in the exterior cosmos.  Three is the totality of time (past, present, and future) and the totality of space (length, width, and height).  It is the domains above, the domains below, and the world in between. It is the Macrocosm of the incomprehensibly big, the Microcosm of the impenetrably small, and the Mesocosm of our everyday experience.  But this painting is not about the trinity.

In these dream-world and real-world examples of the trinity, in these reckonings of the dimensional totality of things, there is an implicit, unspoken question: this abundant  three-fold cosmos - where did it all come from?  Whence the gods of space-time, great and small?  Interestingly, the motif of the Trinity actually seeks to address this question ‑ and in a very quiet way...

Resurrection of the Moon

After noticing the sun up in the sky, humanity’s first celestial reckonings were of the moon ‑ that life-sustaining beacon of light in the predator‑filled darkness.  Archeological evidence indicates that worship of the moon dates back at least 25,000 years.  And if we can read anything into the nocturnal activities of coyotes and wolves (and many other animals), our response to Luna (from which we get the word “lunacy”) may be far older and even more primal than we imagine.

There are three visible phases of the moon: first quarter, full moon, and last quarter. But of course there is another phase of the moon, the new moon ‑ the unseen forth.  The moon comes into being, achieves full being, goes out of being, and hides in non‑being for three days before it emerges once more into the starry sky.  And as the moon regenerates in, and resurrects anew from, an unknown place of eternal mystery, so too does Life: within the Domain of the Goddess.

It may be useful to pause for a moment here and reflect upon these ancient reckonings of things, made by ancient people. It is easy for us to suppose that we are very far removed indeed from those wretched creatures.  We now live in our comfortable Tower of Babel, well insulated from the rigors of nature. We are warm in the winter, made well when we are sick, entertained in the comfort of our own home, and able to communicate in an instant across spectacular distances.  Surely we are above the primitive savages who howled at the stone‑age moon?

Homo‑sapiens ‑ man the wise ‑ first emerged as a distinct species about 100,000 years ago (or more, according to some sources).  If the entire biological history of our species were a journey of one mile, then the 5000-year span of written history would be a distance of only 80 yards.  And the span of what has really elevated us above the sufferings of our ancestors ‑ our technological history ‑ is a mere eight feet; eight feet of ease at the end of 5280 feet of misery.  In the 5000 generations of Man (20 yrs/generation X 5000 generations = 100,000 yrs), some 4994 of those have been lived bereft of the opiate embrace of technology.  I think it is clear that 4994 iterations of natural selection have shaped the architecture of the human psyche to a significantly greater extent than the last six.  We are genetically equivalent to the pitiful beasts who attacked wooly mammoths with stones and sticks ‑ with an equivalent capacity for kindness or brutality, wisdom or ignorance.

Of course we now know that the moon does not venture off to some other universe to be reborn, but our capacity for awe in the face of The Unknown remains.  What troubled us for those many tens of thousands of years, in some mysterious way, troubles us still...

The Unseen Goddess

In all the examples of the trinity listed above there is an unseen forth, which represents the Mysterium Tremendum ‑ the Infinite Unknown that is the dimensions of existence beyond the knowable universe.  In Hinduism, She is Devi ‑ the Source of all the Gods.  In Greece, She is Gaia ‑ the Body of the Earth (and in some traditions, the Cosmos itself).  In Buddhism, She is Maya ‑ the Veil that is our thoughts and perceptions of the world.  In time, She is Eternity ‑ the timelessness from which time grows.  In Space, She is hyperspace ‑ a transcendent spatial existence inside of which our universe resides, and into which gravity inexorably beckons all things...

And so I have endeavored in this image of the Unseen Forth to give a face to The Mystery, and there are several unseen forths in this image.  There is a trinity of lilies, with a single red rose.  There is a trinity of small diamonds in Her sapphire necklace, with a larger diamond in the center of her twelve-sapphire brooch.  And of course there is the trinity of doves, fluttering around the angelic apparition in the center: Mary ‑ Mother of God.

The Miraculous Conception of the Redeemer

Perhaps the most significant feature of this mythology is Mary’s supernatural purity ‑ Her virginity.  This motif of the Miraculous Conception is also found in all times and regions of the world. In the Hindu tradition (dating back some 3500 years), Devaki is the Virgin Mother of Krishna ‑ the human incarnation of Vishnu, the Preserver of the Universe.  In the Buddhist tradition (dating back some 2500 years), Queen Maya is the Virgin Mother of Gautama Buddha ‑ the living incarnation of all‑knowing Buddha Consciousness.  In the Arthurian tradition the Sage‑prophet Merlin is conceived of a Virgin Mother and a “golden being of light”. (Chretien de Troyes’ seminal masterwork ‑ Li Contes del Graal, c. 12th Century ‑ is a Christian interpretation of far older Celtic stories that may date back 2500 years or more.)  There are many such examples of the virgin birth in the sacred books of the world, including a story at least 5000 years old:

Heaven and Earth adored each other from across the great distance between them, longing for the day when they might be together. Ra ‑ He who had fashioned the cosmos with His own hands ‑ lived in terror of their longing, for prophecy foretold the union of Celestial Spirit and Terrestrial Matter: from their love must come beings even greater than Ra.  Despite His efforts to keep them apart, Nut, Goddess of the Heavens, and Geb, God of the Earth, found each other for a single, eternal night.  When Ra returned from His nightly sojourn of regeneration in the Underworld, He found them together and an inconsolable rage came upon Him.  He cast the lovers apart until the end of time, but His fury was in vain, for the prophecy was true: Nut gave birth to Four new Divinities, and they were indeed far greater than Ra.  Brothers Osiris and Set, and Sisters Isis and Nephthys became the new regents of the cosmos; it was they who brought Life to the endless emptiness of Ra’s creation.

Nature is a double‑edged sword. It is the golden luminance of dawn, seen through incandescent lotus blossoms on the Nile.  And simultaneously, it is the ravenous lion raking the living flesh from a screaming antelope.  And so, where Osirus sought to bring life into the world, Set wished only to drag it back into the earth. Where Osiris dreamed of what might one day become of the children basking in His gentle light, Set schemed in darkness to keep them savages.  Such animosity could not long endure, and at a gathering of the Gods one night, Set murdered His Brother.  He hacked Osiris’ body into 72 pieces, and scattered them to the ends of the earth.  And then He sat back upon His throne - the new demon-king of the fearful gods.

(In this divide between Set and Osiris, we see something of the ideological dichotomy that endures to this day: the Way of Strength or the Way of Compassion. Pragmatism or Idealism. Are we to accept the world as it is, or are we to make the world as it should be?  It is ever the human quest to find a balance between the two.)

Set had miscalculated, however, and it would prove to be His undoing: He had not expected the extraordinary devotion of Osiris’ Wife.  Isis, Goddess of the Elements, was overcome by sorrow.  She left behind Her sacred task as Goddess of Life so that She might search for and find those 72 pieces of Her beloved Husband.  And as She searched those many years, Set’s dark putrefaction slowly crept over the earth.  After a long series of adventures, Isis finally ventured to the dismal Underworld ‑ the Land of the Dead ‑ passing through the seven Gates of Hell to find the 71st and last extant piece of Osiris.  His corpse was now complete but for one irretrievably lost component: His reproductive member.

Even the Goddess of Life requires a seed to make life, and so Isis lay down beside the lifeless Osiris, content to dwell for eternity in the Underworld with the empty husk of Her Beloved.  But in that moment a wonderful metaphysical union occurred, as the wandering spirit of Osiris found Isis and entered into Her womb. In that transcendent conjunction of The Ethereal and The Material, a new and miraculous force entered into the universe.  He was soon brought forth into the living world again as Horus: Father resurrected as the Son, the Eternal Life-Force of Egypt to whom all the Pharaohs were but garments.  And by his eventual victory over the chthonic, life‑negating will of Set, Osirus‑Horus became the Redeemer of World...

We cannot fail to notice here an unmistakable similarity to a story with which everyone in the western world is familiar. It is apparent that the soul‑nourishing waters of these many different stories have been drawn from the same ancient Well of Sacredness...

Spiritual Beings

What is this mythology of the Virgin Birth? For some, this is emphatically not mythology but history: the Virgin Birth is a journalistic account of events that actually happened in space and time ‑ just like The Book said.  If this is true, then the prevalence of this story in many sacred books from all over the world suggests that there is a significant amount of this metaphysical coupling going on, and the Creator of the universe is every bit as libidinous as the ancient Greeks imagined Zeus to be.  Could there be another explanation for the universal distribution of the Myth of the Miraculous Conception?

To realize the awesome magic and beauty of the universe, and love the infinite mystery and potential manifest in all things is to transcend the changeless destiny nature granted us at birth.  For most of us, when we walk the Eternal Dreamscape, drink from the Holy Grail, and touch the Noumenal Truth that dwells in the heart of the Unknown Continent of the human psyche, we awaken as though we are leaving a theatre where the make‑believe world is left behind.  But there are a privileged few who get their treasure past the dragon who guards the gates, and return to the land of consciousness still aware of ‑ still communicating with ‑ that primordial Will that generates the Eternal Dreamworld.

We come into this world by virtue of a physical act of union, and are born physical beings, slaves to the many contradictory instincts we require for survival.  By a metaphysical act of union with the genesis of all thought we achieve a kind of rebirth, a spiritual coming into being.  To achieve a Virgin Birth is to enter into a world of more than mere nature, a magical domain of new and extraordinary possibilities where our destiny is truly ours to determine.  And we shall see that free will is a magic great beyond all compare...