Re-Imagining Mary: A Journey Through Art to the Feminine Self
In Christianity the Advent-Christmas Mystery celebrates the historical birth of Jesus through the mythological imagery of Virgin Birth, Cave, Star, and the Child-God. Feelings of renewal related to the winter solstice and the ancient Saturnalia festivals find echoes in our own family reunions, gift-giving, and general merry making on New Year’s Eve. The circular “return” to primordial Origins for renewal has given way to linear history with its goal of unlimited progress. Yet the soul’s language is circular, as Frances Hatfield writes in her poem “The Soul’s Geometry” from The Book of Now: Poetry for the Rising Tide:
We are not traveling a straight line as thoughts do.This “looking” is a soul hunger, a return or remembering beyond history still slumbering in the unconscious of those who crowd churches on Christmas day, many who do not believe in Virgin Birth, angels, etc. and have lost the imaginative power to see reality in the mythic world which these images reflect. We want to feel, to surrender ego momentarily in the imaginal world of music, poetry, and ritual of remembrance made present. Back in 1936 C.G. Jung suggested what he felt each of us needs and longs to remember, “In the last analysis most of our difficulties come from losing contact with our instinct, with the age-old unforgotten wisdom stored up in us.”(2)
A circle is a line that went looking for itself.(1)
It is this remembering as the profound meaning of the Incarnation and the essence of some religions that makes Advent and Psychic Birth as relevant today as it was when it was published in 1993. While the literalists take the Christmas myth as history, and the doubtful seeing the cracks in the whole Christian myth still enjoy the artful Nativity story and its magical mystery, many atheists, taking science and materialism as guide while dismissing angels and stars, still hunger for the communal sense fostered by living myth. In Jung’s view Christmas rituals and the Christ Child image speak to our longing for rebirth, that is for greater awareness of our innate divinity, and they are a “religious necessity only so long as the majority of people are incapable of giving psychological reality to the saying: ‘Except ye become as little children…”’(3) Exploring the Child-God mythic image and its powerful psychic energies latent within us, we participate in the emerging myth or spirituality of the 21st century and beyond.
In this article, I want to offer a few meanings of myth, the Child-God and the imaginal world in which they are experienced. Why focus on these topics? Years ago in church settings during discussions of Advent and Psychic Birth, a number of people questioned my use of the phrase “Christian myth.” Comments ranged from, “I was taught that myth is pagan and false” to “Myth is less than history for history consists of ‘real events’ and is therefore true.” Over the years thanks to the influence of Joseph Campbell and others we have a better idea of how mythology affects our lives. Yet Jungian analyst James Hollis has recently published two books on myth saying that he senses a need “out there.”(4) I hope that you will explore these topics more fully than is possible here, using resources listed here as well as others readily available. It is a sad commentary on the spiritual hunger of our times that expressions of soul or imaginal experience have been overshadowed by the reams of ego-based information that can overwhelm us. The word, “mythological" is a stumbling block for many who either dismiss it as old fashioned or fear it as “pagan.”