Friday, May 23, 2014

Notes on the Ascendancy of the Feminine in Psyche (Human and Divine)

NOTE: Here are three artifacts from a talk given on Friday, 4/25/14 - my forty slide presentation, the audio recording of the live talk, and a full text version of my notes. The text version includes additional content not in the audio; each section is keyed to the corresponding slides and recording. Final version will be published in my next book (October 2014). Third and fourth talks on this series will be delivered in July and October. Also, here is a link to the artifacts from the first talk in this four-part series,  Notes on the Evolution of Yoga & the Yoga of Evolution.

Slide 1-2

NOTE: Opening meditation and introductory remarks can be heard on the audio of the talk.

Slide 3-4. [Starts at 10:28]

Planetary Emergency, Personal Emergence: Path of An Evolutionary is the third series of talks
 since 2010. The two previous two series led to my three most recent books, and I assume that this series will lead to my next book.

Slide 5-6. [Starts at 10:44]

We are in a state of planetary emergency. These are some numbers I shared in the first talk, I am not going to go into them again, but I will just add that the IPCCC has issued its latest report. This one was very poignant for me, because it was really all about the security consequences of Climate Change, which I have been talking to people about, and writing about, and speaking about, for over two decades. And I remember talking to experts in risk, security and intelligence, and having tell me, “Well, this is not a security issue, this is an environmental issue,” and out of the corners of their eyes I could see that some of them were looking for the nearest sandbox to hide their head in.

But it is upon us now. And everyone in touch with reality is talking about the security consequences, and the threat, not just to sea levels, or forests, or coral reefs, but also to the fabric of society itself. This planetary emergency is the result of the greatest failure of governance in human history. We are living in a planetary emergency that some of the governments of the world are ignoring, and others are moving as slowly as possible to come to grips with the reality of the way it was ten or fifteen years ago, but not the reality of now.

Slide 7. [Starts at 12:44]

This time of planetary emergency is also a great opportunity for personal emergence, because the greatest the pressure, the greater the challenge - the greater the opportunity to step beyond how one has lived, and to live in another way, a bigger way.

What do I mean by Personal Emergence? To Fall Awake. To Be Fully Embodied. To Optimize This Incarnation. To Participate in the Mitigation of Human Suffering.

The Diamond Sutra speaks of “Consummation of Incomparable Enlightenment,” Joe Miller just called it, “Falling awake,” this is the goal of the spiritual path. But you can arrive at the Consummation of Incomparable Enlightenment and not be Fully Embodied. Likewise, you could be Fully Embodied without arriving at the Consummation of Incomparable Enlightenment.

But to have them both at once, to be FULLY EMBODIED, and to have a taste of the Consummation of Incomparable Enlightenment (which is not something far away or only for a select few, but something that we taste everyday without realizing it), that would be optimizing this incarnation.

Slide 8-10. [Starts at 14:49]

This second talk of the series flows from the first, in several ways, but in one very direct way in particular. When I started the 200 Yoga Teacher Training (the first phase of my 500 Hour YTT), I looked around me and I was one of only four men in a class of 50 people. And in yoga classes, typically, day-to-day, it is rare that even 35% of those participating are men. It’s mostly women.

In my view, the principle reason is that yoga, in our global 21st Century culture, is evolving into something much bigger than just the narrow path of what yoga might have been presented as in the past. Yoga is part of an evolutionary edge, part of an evolutionary wave, part of the great shift that is already underway. And women will lead this great shift.


Here is something that Joe Miller, my Yoda, said over almost thirty years ago, at a Mevlevi Sema, in which he was the Pole, and both women and men participated as whirling dervishes:

“Women in this country are going to come into their own. And in other writings, given in the sacred teachings, it is said that in this coming century, the women will be the ones. Of course, men are immortal, but women are a bit more than that. Women give life to men, both emotionally and physically. It’s a new age, a new world we are living in. The potentiality for the feminine side is tremendous. You men have the job of nurturing that in its pure state …
I presume that from one standpoint the boys might find me rather foolish, but I’m not. I am just showing them how much greater they are, because their brothers who are sisters are the ones that are going to be carrying the banner in the next century.

-- Great Song: Life and Teachings of Joe Miller (edited by Richard Power), pp. 126-127

Slide 9. [Starts at 19:09]

Something has been terribly wrong for a long time. Millennia (plural). You can describe it in different ways. You can analyze it in different ways. But one stark dimension of it is this patriarchal framework in which we all speak, think, and live our constricted lives. And it has made everything crazy. It has skewed everything. It has opened up a crack in the world, a crack in consciousness, and that crack has divided man/woman, spirit/matter, life/death, light/dark, nature/humanity, etc.

And all health and sanity slip into this crack. But in the reality of our existence that crack isn’t there; it’s something that has come from a distorted world-view. So I say, how our minds are patterned determines how we view our world, which determines how our history is written and our future shaped, which determines how our minds are patterned, which determines …

There are vital elements of psyche, whatever system you want to use. There is the Yin and the Yang; there is the Anima and the Animus. These are different dimensions in how you might want to look at the elements of psyche. And you can’t have one without the other, you can subjugate one to the other, it’s a balance within one’s being, and a balance within society, and within nature itself. This is reality.

Reality is not patriarchal. Reality is not matriarchal for that matter (although to correct an imbalance you go in the opposite direction and then come back to center). Reality isn’t neutered either. Reality is all of it. Dynamic. Triadic. Holistic. That’s what our reality is, but our civilization, our society, our mind-world, our default Weltanschauung don’t reflect it at all.

Slide 10. [Starts at 21:55]

Studies have been done (in anthropology, in sociology, in economics, in political science) that show the profound, beneficial impact of girls going to school, of women fully controlling their own reproductive rights, of women owning their own businesses, of women rising to power in government. But I do not want to throw a lot of numbers at you.

Instead, here are some remarks made by a few people doing important work:

“The world will be saved by the Western woman …” -- Dalai Lama, Vancouver Peace Summit, September 2009

“The single best step toward avoiding a collapse, Ehrlich said, is to give total equality to women around the world …” -- Stanford biologists: Equal rights for women a critical first step to avoiding civilization's collapse, Stanford University News, 1-11-13

 [Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Undersecretary General, Executive Director of UN Women:]“All of the problems of the 21st century that we are working to solve will depend on what we do with women … empowering women liberates society.” -- Elizabeth Barr, Daily Beast, 4/4/14

“Whether in developing countries or in developed countries, women stand at the front lines in the battle against climate change: as providers of water, food, and energy or as leaders in businesses, communities and politics.” -- Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary, UN Climate Change Secretariat, 3-4-14

This is a vital aspect of the great shift that we have to undergo to move forward as a species, and to correct an imbalance that has been with us for millennia.

So in this talk, I am going to go through nine woman mystics and nine woman artists and photographers who have inspired me over the years, and share a bit about them. The first talk in this series was about embodiment; this talk is about empowerment. This talk is part virtual library and museum tour, part journey into psyche and part incantation.

Slide 11. [Starts at 25:09]

For me, there are two great resonances reverberating down through the centuries, one is from the vibration set off by Jesus and his paramour Mary Magdalene, the other is from the vibration set of by Padma Sambhava and his paramour Yeshe Tsogyal (although neither of these great resonances have all that much to do with the organized religions known to us as “Buddhism” and “Christianity”).

So there is no better place for me to begin this exploration.

Discovered among the Nag Hammadi scrolls, the Gospel of Mary Magdalena text establishes the importance of Jesus’ significant other among his immediate circle of disciples. In this brief and fragmented text, Magdalena expounds some deep, esoteric teachings, but I am not going to go into all that. I just want to point out that in response to a plea from Peter, the Magdalena says, “What is hidden from you I will proclaim to you …” and that in regard to her, Levi declares, “Surely the Savior know her very well. That is why He loved her more than us …”

Mary was intimate with him; she knew his essence.

There are many paintings and sculptures of Mary Magdalena, portraying her naked, with long, long hair. Dwelling in a cave. Post-crucifixion. After having fled Palestine. She is depicted as a wild woman. And I don’t mean that figuratively, I meant that ethnographically. Sometimes she is also depicted as pregnant, as in this one from Giampietrino (circa 1500s).

These are healthy symbols. But typically, in the titles of these art works, the Magdalena is described as “penitent.” She doesn’t strike me as “penitent.” Not in the least. A naked, pregnant wild woman, yes; but “penitent”? No. In those images of her, I see the countenance of a great bhakti, a great lover.

When I look at her, I hear one of the “Songs to Live By” that Joe sang (composed by his wife Guin):

“Heart of my heart / Thou, greater part of me / I thought I could not bear the pain /
Of separation from Thee / But now I see only Thee / In Multiplicity /
For Thou art everywhere / It is enough to know, to be.”
-- Joe and Guin Miller, Songs to Live By

Slide 12. [Starts at 27:31]

Now Yeshe Tsogygal, Vajra Yogini, was the paramour of Padma Sambhava, Vajra Guru. Both of them are very important to my inner life. Their mantra is my mantra. Their prayer is my prayer. I have written and spoken about both many times. If you want to read the amazing tale of her mystical (and polyamourous) life, I recommend Keith Dowman’s Sky Dancer.

Tonight, I will just read this one passage, in which Yeshe Tsogyal recounts a profound experience she had after receiving Padma Sambhava’s final instructions:

“To the starving I appeared as a mountain of food, to the poverty-stricken I appeared as all kinds of wealth, to the naked I appeared as various kinds of clothes, to the childless I appeared as sons and daughters, to men desiring women I appeared as attractive girls, to women desiring husbands I appeared as handsome men … to those tormented by the law I brought them into the land of harmony and loving fellowship … those who had fallen into an abyss I rescued … to those afflicted by fire I appeared as water … to the dumb I manifested as tongues … wherever and from whatever denizens of Hell suffered I transformed myself into the means of assuaging their suffering … savage people living an evil existence I turned back from the path of error … beings wandering in the jungle as beasts I liberated from the suffering of stupidity, insensitivity and servitude … I saved beings from their torment no matter what their discomfort …. In short, where there is human emotion, there is sentient life; where there is sentient life, there are the five elements; where there are the five elements, there is space, and insofar as my compassion is co-extensive with space, it pervades all human emotion.”
--  Yeshe Tsogyal (Keith Dowman, Sky Dancer, 1983, p. 146)

Slide 13-15. [Starts at 29:53] Frida Kahlo (1907-1954)

Just as the mystical thread of what I am weaving here could only start with Mary Magdalena and Yeshe Tsogyal, the artistic thread could only start with Kahlo. I suggest to you that Kalho is the Da Vinci of our time. She is the Da Vinci of this shift. Da Vinci’s art and intellectual life epitomized the Renaissance, and the great shift that flowed from it, the outward expansion, that evolutionary leap that brought us the Humanist, the Rationalist, the Deist, the Scientist, the Engineer.

But Kahlo’s art and inner life epitomizes the interior journey, our inward expansion, and its establishes the context for the next great Shift, the next great evolutionary leap. Kahlo’s paintings explore the multi-dimensional view of reality and the human psyche. They are about more than just the life-altering injuries she sustained in the bus accident, or her intense and conflicted relationship with Diego Rivera. Yes, these circumstances served as prisms for her vision. But in its fullness, her work articulates the somatic. It elucidates the interpenetration of the emotional, the psychological and the mystical. It is grounded in the Unconscious and the Super-Conscious.

Consider these two paintings side by side. In Tree of Hope, Remain Strong, Kahlo is dealing with the physical suffering she endures, and the surgeries she underwent. On one side of the painting, she is on a hospital bed with wheels, naked except for white linens. You can see the fresh scars on her back. Her head is turned away from you. It is daylight. The sun is blazing. On the other side of the painting, she is sitting up, facing you, and she is dressed for festive occasion, and she is holding her back brace in her hands. It is nighttime. The moon is full. There are great fissures running through the earth beneath the tableau of the two Fridas. In Love Embrace of the Universe, she is cradling Diego in her arms, like a child, and she is being cradled in the arms of this green goddess, and then if you pull back you see that the green-brown goddess is being cradled in the arms of vast white-green goddess. And, as in Tree of Hope, Remain Strong, the sun is on one side and the moon is on the other side. Not one or the other. Not one in one painting, and the other in the other painting; no, both in both, Yin and Yang. If we survive the next hundred years, in any coherent and healthy way, I hope that this painting will be as widely known as Michelangelo’s depiction of Adam and God the Father touching fingertips on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Symbolically, it is that important. The meaning of this painting is a medicine that is desperately needed. This is just something to think about.

Slide 16. 32:47 Lalla-Devi (1320-1392)

Lalla-Devi was one of the great poet saints of Kashmir. She has been a powerful presence in my inner life for many years. If you google her image, you will find countless images of a beautiful modestly dressed woman, but Lalla-Devi walked naked in the world. That was her path. My friend Coleman Barks rendered some of her poems in a beautiful little book.

 Here, in Slide 16, are a few lines that are particularly beautiful to me:

Slide 17-18. 34:11 Remedios Varo (1908-1963)

Remedios Varo was a Spanish surrealist and anarchist. She fled to Paris during the Spanish Civil War; then she fled Paris when the Germans swept in. Varo traveled on to Mexico City, where she met Kahlo and Rivera and became close friends with Leonora Carrington (who is also part of this presentation). Varo was influenced by mystical teachings of George Gurdjieff, P.D. Ouspensky, Madame Helena P. Blavatsky, Dr. Carl Jung and the Sufis.

Look at this painting. It’s called To Be Reborn. There is a room inside of some kind of tree trunk tower. There is an open door. Beyond the open door, you can see trees in the night. Naked and luminous, a female spirit enters, not through the open door, but from inside the wall. She moves toward a table at the center of the room. On the table is a chalice. A crescent moon shines through a hole in the ceiling, and is reflected in the liquid that fills the chalice ...

This amazing work is simply entitled Plant.

Powerful medicine.

Slide 19-20. 35:34 Leonora Carrington (1917-2011)

Leonora Carrington was an Irish-blooded, British-born surrealist painter and novelist. She fell in with the surrealists in Paris, and then Paris fell to the Nazis. She was Max Ernst’ lover. The Gestapo arrested Ernst, and she fled to Spain, where she had a nervous breakdown, and collapsed in the British Embassy. She was institutionalized. They gave her “convulsive therapy” and heavy drugs. (She would later write of her nervous breakdown and institutionalization in a novel, Down Below.)

Peggy Guggenheim got Max Ernst out of the Gestapo’s clutches, with her money. (That’s Guggenheim, as in the Guggenheim Museum.) Living in NYC, Ernst and Guggenheim married. It didn’t last long. Carrington too eventually made her way to NYC. But Ernst and her could not put it back together. She went on to live in Mexico, where she married, had children, and as I mentioned become close friends with Varo.

This is an incredible painting, The Burning of Giordano Bruno. I was very happy that in the first episode of Cosmos, Neil deGrasse Tyson, honored the contribution and sacrifice of Bruno, great scientist, great philosopher, great occultist. BTW, in his writings, e.g., The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast (1584), Bruno referred to Divinity as “her” and “she.” He was burned at the stake.
This is Leonora Carrington’s Sol Niger. Sol Niger, i.e., the “Black Sun.” In alchemy, it’s the “nigredo” (i.e., “blackening”) the first of the four stages of the Magnum Opus for creating the Philosopher’s Stone. See the sun and the moon, the dark and the light, the yin and the yang, in repose together inside this pod teardrop ship, on a midnight blue sea, with dolphins following in its wake. Look at the dock - the mooring is in the shape of Ganesha’s head.

Transformation. All life is transformation. But on the Tantric Path, or the Alchemical Path, transformation is conscious. Of course, some people use that term, “Tantra,” in very specific ways; other people use it in very general ways. And yes, there are those that exploit that word.

From my perspective, the term “Tantra,” in its essence, means willful, directional transformation. That’s when life gets really interesting.

All of the paintings in this presentation are full of that transformational energy.

Slide 21. 38:24. Mirabai (1498-1557)

Mirabai (or “Meera”) was one of the great Bhakti poet saints. Like Lallah-Devi, she has been a powerful presence in my inner life.

Here, in Slide 21, is one of Mirabai’s poems, a favorite of mine, rendered by Robert Bly:

Slide 22-23. 38:52 Dorothea Tanning (1910-2012)

“Art has always been the raft onto which we climb to save our sanity, I don't see a different purpose for it now.” – Dorothea Tanning

Dorothea Tanning was a self-taught painter, printmaker, sculptor, writer, and poet. She was born and raised in Illinois. She moved from Chicago to NYC, and worked as a commercial artist. A Macy’s art director introduced her to a gallery owner and he exhibited her paintings. Ernst took an interest in her (although he was still married to Guggenheim at the time). Tanning and Ernst fell in love, moved to Sedona, and flourished there. In the McCarthy era, they moved to France because Ernst was denied a U.S. passport. After Ernst’s death, Tanning moved back to the USA, first to New Mexico and then New York City, where she died at the age of 101.

This beautiful painting is titled, Deidre, as in the great Celtic tale, Deidre of the Sorrows. Deidre (or Deirdre) is the “foremost tragic heroine” in Irish mythology. (Both Yeats and John Millington Synge wrote beautiful plays based on this tale.) Prophecy had foretold Deidre would be an exquisite beauty, and that hers would be a Helen of Troy kind of life. There would be much blood shed over who would possess her. The king’s advisers suggested he have the baby killed, but he decided he wanted her for himself, and took her from her family and had her raised in seclusion. But Deidre fell in love with one of the high king’s greatest warriors, and they fled to the Scottish highlands where they lived in idyllic joy for some time, until the high king sends one of his men to convince them it is safe to return. But when they do, Deidre’s lover is slain, and she is delivered to the high king. Seeing that she loathes him, he asks her if there is anyone in the world she loathes even more than him. The man who slayed her lover for him, she answered. And so the high king gives her to her lover’s murderer.

In researching images for this presentation, I was struck by the correspondences between Tanning’s Deidre and this Robert Motherwell photographic portrait of Tanning herself. Both Tanning and Deidre are adorned with wreaths on their heads, and there is a striking similarity in their countenances. So I juxtapose them for you here.

Tanning titled this next painting, Self-Portrait. There is this vast wilderness stretching out as far as the eye can see. Utter emptiness. Tanning is standing on the edge of that desolation, peering out into it. But she dressed as if she is going to a dance class or to a pool party. She has a bow on her head, and she is in a little swimsuit or dance costume of some kind. Looking out over this vast wilderness.

In pondering the Kahlo works I chose to include in this presentation, the theme of the multi-dimensionality of the psyche emerged strongly, in pondering the works Varo and Carrington I chose for this presentation, the theme of conscious, willful transformation emerged strongly, and in pondering the Tanning works I chose for this presentation, the theme of life as adventure emerged strongly. All these themes, and a few more that will arise as we continue on in this presentation were present in the lives and works of all of the nine great painters and nine great mystics we are touching on, and all of these themes are present in our lives here and now, and ever onward.

Life is such an adventure. People think they go to the movies to see Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings to escape mundane reality, to experience a realm of magic, danger and beauty, a realm of adventure, that is very different from their everyday existence. But, in reality, we go to Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, or read the great myths, to prepare ourselves for something that we intuitively know is always just a couple of ticks away; disaster, chaos, disruption, disintegration are always just a couple of ticks away. I will elaborate on what I mean by “just a couple of ticks away” in the next talk, the third in this series, and I will refer back to this painting when I do. But even in the daily grind of our lives in the “default” world, much of what we go through, on an emotional level, psychologically, and economically, it is of the nature of adventure. From inside, adventures feel much less like some exotic experience or some great saga than when you are projecting on to them.

Life is the adventure. This is it. That’s why Tanning dressed herself like this, and placed herself in that awesome, inhospitable landscape.

Slide 24. 42:40 H.P. Blavatsky (1831-1891)

H.P. Blavatsky was a personification of Life as Adventure. She traveled the world. She rode bareback, and rolled her own. Each government thought she was some other’s government’s spy. And she got a tremendous amount done, spiritually, intellectually, organizationally and energetically. But it was the blazing of the heart that her life and work best epitomized. H.P. Blavatsky was a brazen, brilliant evolutionary. And her depth and offering are yet to be fully realized.

So wrongfully maligned. So misunderstood. So wrongly maligned by her many adversaries then and now, those who feared and still fear the Promethean flame she wielded and that her legacy still carries within it, whether they call themselves “Christians” or “Buddhists” or “scholars,” or perhaps most dangerous of all, “Buddhist scholars.” So misunderstood, especially by many of those who imagine themselves to be her “followers,” and worship her dead letter, while utterly missing the open secret her great spirit enshrines now and until the end of it all. I am not going to go deep into her life and teaching in this presentation. I have before and I will again some time sooner than later.

But for now I will just share with you the gist of a footnote you will find in Volume Three (yes, Volume Three) of the Secret Doctrine (which is neither a “secret” or a “doctrine”). In this particular footnote, citing ancient Egyptian sources, she makes the vital distinction that Theosophy is not the love of wisdom, but rather, the Wisdom of Love. It is powerful distinction, and it reveals a very different world to those with, as I say, ears to see and eyes to hear. Selah!

Slide 25. 44:42 Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)

Somehow, Teresa of Avila, paramour of St. John of the Cross, shows up in every book I write and every talk I give. Her Interior Castle has been very important to me over the years. But tonight I am going to read this excerpt, in Slide 25, from her lengthy exposition on the Song of Songs. That Old Testament text is of great importance, of course, but it is the only one that explores sexual love and the intimacy of lover and beloved; it doesn’t only explore it, the text exalts it. And so does Teresa.

Notice that the gender of the divine is not fixed in her poetical expression. “Male” and “female” are loose metaphors that she uses to communicate a profound, intimate relationship with the interior of reality. The passage opens extolling the soul’s “Bridegroom” (male) but by the end, it is celebrating the soul’s “Spouse” (female) from whose breast it nurses on the “divine milk.”

The greatest mystics of the Christian middle ages were women. I am not indulging in hyperbole. I am prepared to defend that declaration. They weren’t supposed to be able to read or write. They weren’t supposed to be the equals of men. They were by definition unholy. But they produced their era’s greatest testimonies to the true message of Jesus of Nazareth. Seriously.

Slide 26-27. 46:38 Ruth Bernhard (1905-2006)

Ansel Adams hailed Ruth Bernhard as our “greatest photographer of the nude.”

Here, in Slide 26, is what Bernhard herself said about what she was doing.

Born in Berlin, Bernhard moved to NYC in the Roaring ‘20s. She became “heavily involved in the lesbian sub-culture of the artistic community.” (Wikipedia) She was a cultural evolutionary. She challenged the then dominant sexual and racial mores. In 1962, she debuted a work entitled, Two Forms, featuring real-life interracial lesbian lovers in nude embrace, dangerous and powerful for its time. Her romantic life was bisexual and very rich.

Her many relationships with both women and men are referenced in Ruth Bernhard, Between Art and Life. In 1944, she got involved with a woman artist and designer. They moved to California, and lived together for a decade. Later in life, she married an African American man, a retired Air Force Colonel, who was twenty years younger than her. And outlived him.

 Slide 28-29. 48:37 Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)

This is a beautiful photo of Georgia O’Keefe, taken by the great Alfred Stieglitz. He was twenty-three years older than her. People often misunderstand their relationship. It was intense, complex and life-long. After Stieglitz died, and was cremated, it was O’Keefe who took his ashes to Lake George and hid them there, somewhere “where he could hear the water.”

O’Keefe had a lot of fun with Freudians and feminists. She resisted their psychosexual interpretations of what was going on in her paintings. She said she was simply painting flowers. Well, have you even seen one of those 1960s interviews with Bob Dylan or John Lennon, in which some insipid rock critic or reporter is trying to deduce the meaning of some cryptic set of lyrics? That’s my sense of the mind games O’Keefe was playing. But it doesn’t really matter.

Let’s just say she was painting flowers. What does that say about Gaia? What does it say about the Great Goddess? What does it say about the mysteries of Mother Nature that the forms of flower blossoms and the forms of sexual organs are such that they compel you to see one when you are looking at a painting of the other? What a profound statement about the oneness of life.

O’Keefe had a nervous breakdown in 1932. She had failed to complete a mural project for Radio City Music Hall. I feel that I can see that before and after in her work. She moved to the Ghost Ranch, in that region of northern New Mexico she called the “Faraway.” She drove around in her Ford Model A. She painted bones, wild flowers and desert landscapes. She lived a solitary life.

Touching on the work of Bernhard and O’Keefe brings forth another powerful theme from this journey into the wilds: in the work of Kahlo, the “Multi-Dimensionality of Psyche” presented itself, in the works of Varo and Carrington, the path of conscious, willful transformation presented itself, in the work of Tanning, the theme of life as adventure presented itself, and now in the work of Bernhard and O’Keefe, the theme of “Human Sexuality as Path” presents itself.

Slide 30. 50:37 Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)

Hildegaard of Bingen was another one of the extraordinary woman mystics of the Middle Ages. She was a philosopher, a musical composer, an artist, a visionary, a natural scientist, a Benedictine abbess, etc. Indeed, she was, like Da Vinci or Bacon, a polymath. There is much to say about her. I have already alluded to her work in many previous talks and writings. And she will come up again in the third in this series of presentations, as her concept of “viriditas” (i.e., “greeness”) will come into play.

But in the context of this talk on the Ascendancy of the Feminine in Psyche, it is her art and music that I want to draw your attention to. Her music in particular has been transformative to me.

This marvelous painting of hers is titled Cultivating the Cosmic Tree.

 I also want to read you this particular passage from one of her visionary works:

“In a true vision, with my body awake, I saw something like an extraordinarily beautiful young woman. I wasn’t able to look at her fully in the face because of the lightening-like brilliance radiating from her countenance. She wore a robe whiter than snow and more shining than the stars. She was also wearing shoes that seemed to be of the purest gold. She held the Sun and the Moon in her right hand and she embraced them tenderly. There was an ivory plaque on her breast and on it one could see the shape of a human and the color of this image was sapphire-blue … And I heard a voice speaking to me – ‘The young woman you see is Love. She has her tent in Eternity. For when God wanted to create the world, God bent down with the most tender love. God provided for everything that was necessary, just like a parent who prepares all inheritance for a son and with the zeal of love makes all of her possessions available. For in all its varieties and forms, creation recognized its Creator … it was love which was the source of this creation … On the woman’s breast is an ivory plaque. For in God’s Knowledge, there always blossoms ‘an unspoiled land,’ the Virgin Mary. And so there appears on the plaque, a human shape of sapphire-blue color. For it is in love that God’s Son streams out …The whole of creation call this maiden, ‘Lady.’ For it was from her that all of creation proceeded, since Love was the first. She made everything …’”-- Hildegard of Bingen

Slide 31. 52:41 Mother Krishnabai (1903-1989)

Mother Krishnabai was a great Bhakti saint of the 20th Century. Krishnabai and her guru Papa Ramdas (Vittal Rao, not Richard Alpert) were two of Samuel Lewis’ teachers. Sam was a member of the Lodge, and also a legendary American Sufi Murshid (he had numerous titles in numerous traditions). He brought forth Sufi Dancing in the West. Well, Sam said that Krishnabai was the most important person on the planet at that time (1960s-1970s). And certain experiences from my inner life corroborate that statement, at least to my satisfaction.

 Mataji and Papa gave the world Ram Nam. Ram Nam was in the world already of course. But Mataji and Papa gave the world a particularly powerful Ram Nam transmission. You can catch from their glances in photos, and even from in between the lines of their writings, especially her Guru’s Grace and his Vision of God. At Ananda Ashram, the chanting of Ram Nam was ceaseless. It was kept going 24 x 7, as a concentration for peace on the planet.

Because of my long relationship with Mother Krishnabai, I have also had a long relationship with Ram Nam. And I am going to tell you something about that mantra. But it's just my own view. Ram Nam existed before the Ramayana. Ram Nam in its essence is not a call or celebration of a particular avatar. The mantra does not exist to serve the stories, the stories exists to serve the mantra. Ram is one of the primordial sounds. It is like Ah, or Uh, or Mmm, or Hu, or Wah, or Hri. It is hard NOT to say Ram in the heart, once you understand where it belongs. You will also hear people say Ram is masculine. No, Ram is this (the heart). It relates to the nature of being beyond gender, but if it were particular to either gender, it would be feminine not masculine. Ram pre-existed the stories told about the avatar Rama. Those are the stories we tell children. Ram Nam is a kind of magic, like the other great mantras. It’s a kind of magic. I could give you some examples, but we don’t have time.

Slide 32-33. 54:54 Camille Claudel (1864-1943)

Camille Claudel was a French art student. She went to work in Rodin’s studio. She was 20, and he was 44. She became his model, his love, his confidante and his muse. She was a great sculptor. But she destroyed many of her works. The ones that endured have an exquisite beauty, haunted and haunting. They are something rare.

She had a hard life. She had at least two children by Rodin, but was not allowed to keep any of them. She had great grief about the loss of these children. She had a passionate but tortured relationship with Rodin. She also had a strange and troubled (possibly incestuous) relationship with her brother (a diplomat and poet). Her mother didn’t support her life as an artist, but her father did. And he sustained her financially. A week after her father died, her brother had her institutionalized. She remained in mental hospitals for the rest of her life. Thirty years.

She was buried in a communal grave amidst the bones of the most destitute.

Throughout her captivity, her doctors actually petitioned for her to be released, but her brother would never allow it. You know the saying, “Just because I am paranoid, doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get me.” She said they were all out to get her, and if you look at her life story …

For this presentation, I juxtaposed these two pieces. This sculpture is Clotho, one of the Three Fates. She controls the moment of life and death. The thread is in her hands. This other sculpture is Wounded Niobid. In Greek mythology, there is a tale of ten children, the Niobid, who were slaughtered out of jealousy of a god (Apollo) and a goddess (Artemis). The god killed the boys and the goddess killed the girls. Claudel made some fascinating thematic choices.

Slide 34-36. 57:08 Francesca Woodman (1958-1981)

The great Man Ray said, "l paint what cannot be photographed …” But Woodman photographed what could only be painted. She generated dreams. She photographed dreams. With no artifice, just her nakedness, and her friends’ nakedness, faces obscured, merging with their surroundings, emerging from walls, from under kitchen counters, from fireplaces, from tree trunks. She worked with the natural elements, the ambience of certain rooms and abandoned spaces, light, angles, timing, shutter speeds, depth perception, inanimate objects, the texture of fabrics, the blurring of images, all in black and white. She photographed the invisible. She photographed hauntings. She photographed wingless flight. She photographed the angelic and jinn planes intersecting the physical.

You may find snatches of her magic in the work of other photographers, but you won’t find the depth and breadth of her vision in anyone else' body of work. Her kind of genius is the rarest of the rare.

The creatrix she reminds me most of is Kahlo. Kahlo did maybe 143 paintings (55 self-portraits, BTW); and as of 2006, there were 120 of Woodman’s images that published (10,000 negatives, 800 prints). Taken together those 143 paintings and those 120 photographs create a worm hole, there is a new universe on the other side of them, and if you enter that wormhole you will find that new universe is the reality of the same one humanity has been sleepwalking in for millennia.

Woodward was a powerful young magician, a mystical artist ... But she was not a survivor. She did not have Kahlo’s awe-inspiring resilience. She did not have Kahlo’s fangs. Remember, Kahlo said “I was born a bitch, I was born a painter.” Woodward died so very young.

She had gone to public school in Boulder, and boarding school in Massachusetts, She studied at the Rhode School of Design. She studied in Rome, and spoke fluent Italian. She moved to New York City "to make a career in photography," and sent portfolios of her work to fashion photographers, but "her solicitations did not lead anywhere." The failure of her work to attract attention, and the end of a romantic relationship, plunged her into depression. She survived one suicide attempt, but succeeded the second time. She jumped out of a loft window. A rejected application for funding from the National Endowment for the Arts (what fools!) might have been the final blow.

Francesca Woodman’s last journal entry: “I was inventing a Language for people to see…” (1/19/81)

The fates of Claudel and Woodman are cautionary tales. We must save the artist, both as a society and inside ourselves. Remember, Nietzsche warning: “When you look deep into the abyss, the abyss looks back into you.” Beings like Claudel, Woodman, Nietzsche and others did not have a context into which to enter the void, without losing their lives. They could not find the ground within the groundlessness. The paths of the mystic and the artist have much to offer each other.

In his "Van Gogh, the Man Suicided by Society," Artaud (the great French playwright, poet, actor and director) wrote: "No one has ever written, painted, sculpted, modeled, built, or invented except literally to get out of hell."

Slide 37. 58:40 Maria Sabina (1894-1985)

This talk has been very East-West axis. We have touched on Mexico so much, because the action of a lot of what I am highlighting moved there and/or was generated there, in my narrative. But the axis of this talk is very East-West. The axis of the next talk, the third in this series of four, will be North-South. I will draw on very different elements, and very different content, as I talk about altruism and sustainability as spiritual imperatives; and I will reach into indigenous peoples culture and indigenous peoples wisdom, and explore the Shamanic dimension of it all.

Maria Sabina is the down payment on that promise. I want to include her here. I call her a medicine woman, a shaman. These are terms used in different ways by different people; I am using them loosely. Technically, she was a Mazatec curandera.

Maria Sabina worked with psilocybe mushrooms. In 1955, R. Gordon Wasson, an ethnomycologist/banker discovered her. Soon, Albert Hoffman, a Swiss chemist, had duplicated the active ingredients of the fungus and produced psilocybin in his lab. Soon, “Seeking the Magic Mushroom” was featured on the cover of Life Magazine. Soon, the counter culture of the 1960s had descended upon her, led by Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. At first, she welcomed these visitors, but she came to regret it. There was tension with her community, and with the Mexican government. Her house was burned down.

 But some of her chants, like this one, sung in Shamanic “trance,” were recorded and translated, a powerful medicine in and of themselves:

Because I can swim in the immense
Because I can swim in all forms
Because I am the launch woman
Because I am the sacred opposum 
Because I am the Lord opposum
I am the woman Book that is beneath the water,
says I am the woman of the populous town,
says I am the shepherdess who is beneath the water,
says I am the woman who shepherds the immense,
says I am a shepherdess and I come with my shepherd, says
Because everything has its origin and I come going from place to place from the origin …
Estrada, MarĂ­a Sabina: Her Life and Chants

You can YouTube the sound of her singing such chants.

Slide 38-39. 1:01:36 Leonora Fini (1908-1996)

Born in Buenos Aires, raised in Italy, then fell in with Eluard, Ernst, Dali, Picasso, Cartier-Bresson, etc. in Paris. (Cartier-Bresson shot a photo of her nude in a pool, it sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars later on). She wrote three novels. Cocteau, Moravia and de Chrico were among her friends.

“Marriage never appealed to me,” Leonora Fini said, “I've never lived with one person. Since I was 18, I've always preferred to live in a sort of community - A big house with my atelier and cats and friends, one with a man who was rather a lover and another who was rather a friend. And it has always worked.”

Everything we have touched on in this talk, it is all in these two paintings of hers: Guardian of the Black Egg and Guardian of the Phoenixes. Every theme we have touched on: Multi-Dimensionality, the Path of Conscious, Willful Transformation, Life as Adventure, Sexuality as Path, Suffering on the Path, the Goddess, the Alpha and Omega, all of it. The Black Egg, the Cosmic Egg, remember, Carrington’s Sol Niger, the Nigredo of the Opus Magnum? Remember the great green/brown goddess in Kahlo’s Love Embrace of the Universe, and the greater white/green goddess behind her? It’s all here. Remember the Sun and the Moon in Sol Niger and in Kahlo’s Tree of Hope, Remain Strong?

Remember Hildegard’s “true vision” of “an extraordinarily beautiful young woman” who “held the Sun and the Moon in her right hand” and “embraced them tenderly”?  Remember, she “has her tent in Eternity”? “Love was the first,” Hildegard wrote, “She made everything.” Remember, the soul in Teresa of Avila’s meditation on the Song of Songs, nursing at the divine breasts, drawing its sustenance from the divine milk? It is all here in these two paintings; yes, the Alpha and the Omega. This black egg the Guardian goddess holds lovingly in her lap in the one; that flock of phoenixes fluttering around her in the other.

Do you know the ancient myth of how Love was born of Night?

 "But the Orphics say that black-winged Night, a goddess of whom even Zeus stands in awe, was courted by the Wind and laid a silver egg in the womb of Darkness; and that Eros, whom some call Phanes, was hatched from this egg and set the Universe in motion. Eros was double-sexed and golden-winged and, having four heads, sometimes roared like a bull or a lion, sometimes hissed like a serpent or bleated like a ram. Night, who named him Ericepaius and Protogenus Phaethon, lived in a cave with him, displaying herself in triad: Night, Order and Justice. Before this cave sat inescapable mother Rhea, playing on a brazen drum, and compelling man's attention to the oracles of the goddess. Phanes created earth, sky, sun, and moon, but the triple-goddess ruled the universe, until her scepter passed to Uranus." - Robert Graves' The Greek Myths

It is all here. Within the vast wilderness that Tanning confronted in her Self-Portrait.  It is all here. Reflected in the chalice on the table in Varo’s To Be Reborn. All of it. In the wild magic that Woodward captured in her images from Dreamtime, it is here. Selah! All of it. In the mysterious truth Bernhard hallowed in her beautific nudes, all of it is here. Selah! The whole of creation hatched from the black egg. Each hatchling a Jivanmukti, a Monad, a Microcosm, and each Jivanmukti a phoenix. Selah! Each phoenix, in turn, is consumed by self-combusting fire, only to rise from its own ashes, which coalesce into another black egg. And yet there is only one black egg. Selah! All of this, the Alpha and the Omega, is occurring is within the protection of the Guardian goddess. “Love was the first,” Hildegard wrote, “She made everything.” Selah! The Guardian extends her protection through both light and dark, birth and death, Yin and Yang, Sun and Moon, Light and Darkness, from Alpha to Omega and back again, all of it. Every theme that presented itself along the way on our journey into psyche is present here in these two paintings, here at the close of this presentation: Multi-Dimensionality, the Path of Conscious, Willful Transformation, Life as Adventure, Sexuality as Path, Suffering on the Path, the Goddess, the Alpha and Omega, all of it. Selah!

Don’t try to get your Rational Mind (in its lower octave) around this mysterious truth, you won’t be able to; instead, allow your Irrational Mind In (in its higher octave) to embrace the wonder of it, and take it deep into yourself. Use it lean forward into the great shift. (Of course, in their higher octaves, the Rational Mind and the Irrational Mind occupy the same space, a unified field.) Selah!

Richard Power is the author of nine books, including User's Guide to Human Incarnation: The Yoga of Primal Reality, Humanifesto: A Guide to Primal Reality in an Era of Global Peril and Between Shadow and Night: The Singularity in Anticipation of Itself. Power writes and speaks on spirituality, sustainability, human rights, and security. He blogs at Words of Power. He also teaches yoga.