Greece and the Divine Feminine
Pilgrimage to the Land of Ancient Mysteries
May 9-28, 2004
As well as exploring the sites of the mysteries of Ancient Greece, our pilgrimage focused upon the link between Mary and John – these two representing the Universal Church. At Mary’s house near Ephesus there lives a perpetual “Pentecost spirit” that awakens the capacity of the feminine nature within everyone to hold, love, and understand every perspective – to simultaneously grasp its pattern and purpose in the light of perfection. This gift of the Virgin Mary lives as a capacity in every human heart. If one human heart can do what Mary did at Pentecost, i.e. in any situation to hold all the various threads in intense love and care, holding the highest intent, this enables the descent of the Holy Spirit. And Sophia, who united with Mary at Pentecost, is the cosmic archetype of this ability to hold multiplicity together in unity.
For the Sophia Foundation the house of Mary is a most sacred location, as the dwelling place of Mary Sophia during the last years of her life. It is the place to which the apostles came – summoned interiorly – to gather around the death-bed of the Blessed Virgin. For the twelve she represented the “jewel in the heart of the lotus flower”, the 12-petalled lotus flower formed by the twelve apostles and Mary at Pentecost, the disciples having been prepared in advance for this by Christ, especially on the evening of the Last Supper. The twelve apostles and Mary at their center form the 12-petalled lotus flower of the new humanity that began to come into existence in the wake of Christ’s incarnation upon the Earth. The house near Ephesus is the place where Mary ascended into heaven, creating a link, a breathing interweaving between the Earth and the Heavenly Jerusalem, which is the New Paradise, the Holy City of the Lamb and His Bride, Divine Sophia.
It was the capacity of Mary’s heart to love and understand each person that played such an important role at Pentecost. As the “jewel at the heart of the lotus flower” she wove together the hearts and souls of the twelve disciples to form an organic whole into which the Dove of the Holy Spirit descended. Underlying this event was the union of Mary with Sophia. Through the capacity of the human heart to hold all perspectives in harmony, the human aura is expanded to receive the Dove of the Holy Spirit – an experience of light and warmth (enlightenment and ensoulment).
We were prepared for our visit to Mary’s house by all that went before during the pilgrimage. In Athens, for example, where the Acropalis – especially the sight of the Parthenon, the great temple of Athena – had aligned our souls with Athena, representing a pre-Christian aspect of Divine Sophia.
At Mary’s house the etheric field has been noticeably charged and purified through love. Whenever one encounters such an etheric field at a sacred site, it is tangible that a vessel has been created there to bear higher, spiritual forces. If we enter sacred sites with love and appreciation, we become aware that they are pulse points of Mother Earth, whose auras are charged and whose level of vibration has been raised. Love and purity of heart enable us to be receptive to that which lives at sacred sites, especially if we consciously recognize and acknowledge the Guardian Spirits of these places and also the nature beings there.
Just as Mary’s house near Ephesus is a place of breathing interweaving between the Earth and the Heavenly Jerusalem, the cave of John on Patmos, which we visited after leaving Ephesus, can awaken the capacity of the human heart to foresee the future – the new archetype of this being John’s experience of the appearance of the Ascended One to him in the cave as recorded in the Apocalypse (Book of Revelation). For humanity as a whole, this capacity lies in the future. It will be able to unfold when the etheric stream from the heart flowing up to the head in the process that is known as the “etherisation of the blood” unites with the etheric blood of Christ that has been present in the Earth’s aura since the Mystery of Golgotha. John’s cave is a place which holds this mystery and allows this subtle process to take place. John’s cave is thus a center for the heart mystery, just as the house of Mary could be thought of as a breathing center (mystery of the lungs). The two locations are inwardly related just as the heart and the lungs are connected. Together they comprise seed locations for the emergence of the new mysteries of Christ and Sophia especially connected with the heart and lungs.
In order to enter into the special atmosphere of the mystery sites, it is a matter of expanding one’s awareness to include the spiritual beings, the Guardian Spirits, associated with each place. With the cave of John, obviously John himself is its Guardian on the human level. What makes the cave such a special location is that it is the only place associated with the Ascended One – or, to be more precise, with the Risen Christ already somewhat on the way of his path of ascension that began on Ascension Day, May 14, A.D. 33. The year of his appearance to John in the cave on Patmos was probably A.D. 95, over sixty years after the Resurrection, whereas the appearance of the Risen One to Paul at the gates of Damascus occurred shortly after A.D. 33, before Christ’s cosmic journey through the planetary realms to the Father had gotten much underway. On this account John’s description of the Risen One in Chapter 1 of Revelation is cosmic in nature, because by this time, over sixty years after the Resurrection, the Risen One was truly a cosmic being, born into the cosmic realm surrounding the Earth, whereas at his appearance to Mary and the apostles and disciples, and then to Paul, he was more human in his appearance (recalling, for example, Mary Magdelene’s perception of him as the gardener in the Garden of the Holy Sepulchre).
That we were allowed to sing and do eurythmy in the cave of John was very special, because the walls of the cave drank in our offering and streamed it out again into the world’s ethers. Given the dire nature of the present world situation, our prayers are necessary and potent at this time – all the more so when offered in such a heart center as the cave of John, from which they can flow far and wide with the etheric circulation circumscribing the planet.
Hearkening back to ancient Greek culture, at its core was the great endeavor to create beauty and harmony in the pursuit of truth through philosophy and self-knowledge. “Know thyself” was the inscription on the outside of the porch at the entrance to the temple of Apollo. This central impulse radiated out from Delphi under the aegis of Apollo. Apart from Delphi, the spiritual and geographical center of ancient Greece, we visited a great triangle of mystery centers around the Aegean Sea: the mystery center of the great gods of Samothrace in the northern Aegean; the mystery center of Artemis of Ephesus on the south-eastern Aegean; and the mystery center of Demeter and Persephone at Eleusis, some 15 miles west of Athens, located on the Saronikos Kolpos Gulf adjoining the western, southern end of the Aegean. It was an incredible experience to visit this mystery triangle and live into the ancient initiations that took place there. It was tangible that a real meeting took place between our group and the Guardian Spirits of these ancient sites. Rather than coming as tourists, we came to sing and dance and give something to the renewal of the ancient mysteries in a new form. And we chose to do this at this point in time when the world’s attention is beginning to focus on Greece with the approaching Olympic Games, in order to sow a homeopathic seed in the spiritual atmosphere of what the true spirit of Greece – in particular in relation to the mysteries of the Divine Feminine – is about.
Whereas Ephesus was a Greek colony in Asia Minor for a long period of time, it is now in modern Turkey. So our pilgrimage was not limited to Greece but also took in Turkey for the few days that we were visiting Ephesus and the house of the Virgin Mary. Only one pillar remains of the great temple of Artemis that was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Nevertheless, on account of the destruction by fire of the temple in 356 B.C. – on the night of the birth of Alexander the Great – the inner content of the temple is inscribed into the etheric realm there, and this can be drawn upon. Many of our group were deeply moved by the experience of the temple of Artemis, even though outwardly it is now a rather desolate site.
Our pilgrimage was a joyous event. We were a harmonious community of people who truly loved and cared for one another – singing and moving together at the various sacred sites, thus giving something to these sites, contributing to the purification and ennobling of the spiritual atmosphere at these ancient mystery centers, especially through our appreciation directed toward the Guardian Spirits there. Our journey was an unfolding story of the mystery living within the journey, which can only be sketched out briefly here.
At the mystery center on Samothrace we encountered two levels of initiation into the mysteries of the four great gods of Samothrace, having to do with the four stages of evolution of the Earth and humankind and also with the mystery of the immortality of the soul beyond the threshold of death. Also on this remote and wild island of Samothrace we took a hike on which some of us walked through water (reminding us of the Washing of the Feet). We inhaled the cleansing breath of the forest air. Our nervous systems were lifted through the singing of the birds. There was a cleansing of our auras and a baptism through bathing in a pool (not for everyone, though, as it was very cold). Mother Nature gladly received our prayers and eurythmy in a clearing in the woods.
In Ephesus, the site of the temple of Artemis, we then moved into a level of mystery pertaining on the one hand to nature (Artemis as a protectress of nature, especially the animal kingdom) and on the other hand to the birth of the human soul from the cosmic realm of the planets. Through inner identification with the great cult statue of Artemis in the temple, the neophytes were initiated into this birth mystery, experiencing how the soul, as an offspring of the realm of light, receives gifts from the various planets, as comes to expression in the Ephesus verse:
Offspring of worlds, thou in form of light,
Empowered by the Sun, with Luna’s might.
Endowed with Mars’ creative sounding, and Mercury’s limb activity abounding,
Illumined by Jupiter’s radiant wiseness, and Venus bearing beauty and lovingness,
That Saturn’s age-old spirit inwardness thee unto the world of space and time hallow!
On the pilgrimage we worked with the Ephesus verse in eurythmy, and it was a special experience to do this together in the great theatre of the ancient city of Ephesus. It was here, in this theatre, that the people of Ephesus met and chanted “Great is Artemis of Ephesus!” as an expression of their opposition to the apostle Paul and his strange new teachings (Acts of the Apostles, chapter 19). The mystery of Artemis of Ephesus takes us back to a far-distant past. We shared in this mystery, recalling an ancient memory of our relationship with the Mother, when the fecundity of life itself was revered in awe and wonder by way of a consciousness that participated in celebrating life. In posing the question as to how to regain this mystical nature consciousness now in a conscious way, we can understand and appreciate how the modern mysteries of Divine Sophia help us toward a new participatory consciousness of (and with) the Mother. Our visit to Ephesus helped us to draw nearer to the Artemis mystery that found its fulfillment in the Virgin Mary, who came to Ephesus and lived at a distance of only a few miles from the great temple and whose house today receives people from around the world, just as she welcomed all who came when she lived there.
At the house of Mary we celebrated the fullness of Mary’s heart, the flowering essence of her unique spiritual presence and fragrance, which remains as a resonance permeating her house, and which can be felt as a mantle embracing the world. We were blessed in our meeting with a Franciscan priest, Father Tarcy, from Bopal, India, who holds the responsibility for caring for Mary’s house. He celebrated a Sophianic mass for our group and allowed us to use the private garden there for our enactment of the sacred drama of Mary’s death (dormition) and assumption at Ephesus, written by Karen (based on the words of Anne Catherine Emmerich). We spent several hours on two consecutive days at the house of Mary and in the private garden, and as we were leaving Father Tarcy appeared with a copy of Rudolf Steiner’s book Philosophy of Freedom and spoke of how much he appreciates the work of Rudolf Steiner. Father Tarcy is a truly Sophianic soul who has been entrusted with the task of caring for this new center of the mysteries of the Divine Feminine.
As part of the sacred drama of Mary’s dormition, the Blessed Virgin was lifted up and carried, which was a meaningful symbolic act honoring her walk through life. This enactment powerfully evoked the actual event in the past when the body of Mary was lifted and borne to her grave by the apostles and disciples. The presence of Mary’s soul overflowing with love and filled with profound understanding, her heart holding the community together in brotherhood and sisterhood, suddenly became tangible in the little garden at the site of Mary’s house near Ephesus, where we were gathered together.
Both on the way to Ephesus and on the way back, we had a stopover on the island of Samos. As destiny would have it, we stayed at a hotel within walking distance of the town of Pythagorio, the ancient town (at that time named Samos) where Pythagoras was born, now renamed in his honor. As well as visiting the nearby ruins of the ancient temple of the goddess Hera, who was considered to have been “born” on Samos, some of us visited the “cave of the nymphs”. In antiquity (already at the time of Pythagoras) the nymphs dwelling in this cave were a source of guidance and inspiration to natives of Samos and also to visitors to Samos. Now an Orthodox chapel, the cave contains an image of the Virgin Mary which has almost completely faded away. The experience in this cave helped pave the way for our visit to the cave of John on the island of Patmos. The experience in the “cave of the nymphs” was one of a call to service, coming as a living inspiration which could only have come from Mary. And in the town of Pythagorio the encounter with Pythagoras was significant, whose heart held the impulse not only of community but also that of the cleansing and development of the human soul seeking a meeting with divine inspiration. Pythagoras, who through divine inspiration bore an understanding of the music of the cosmic harmonies, provided a welcoming and guiding hand to prepare us for the last part of our pilgrimage – in particular preparing us for Delphi, recalling that Pythagoras was dedicated to serving Apollo, whose great sanctuary was located at Delphi. The temple of Apollo at Delphi, like other temples we visited, was an example of living, breathing geometric harmony and beauty, whose inner space was devoted to expressing these qualities that were particularly associated with Apollo.
The evening boat journey from Samos to Patmos, crossing this mysterious expanse of water at nightfall, was a perfect beginning to the inner birthing of participating in the mystery of John, who made that same journey over 1900 years ago when he was banished to Patmos. It was perfect timing: nightfall, with our consciousness expanded to the stars to behold the slender new crescent Moon cupping radiant Venus, embodying the mystery of love.
In the cave of John on Patmos our consciousness was transported back in time during the Orthodox liturgy, when the cave was washed with resonant tones from another time. At John’s time the great mouth of the cave looked out onto the Aegean Sea, with a view down to Patmos’ heart-shaped natural harbor – appropriate for the apostle of love. The cave is still very much alive – breathing and pulsating its mystery into the world as a heart center. On two consecutive mornings we ascended from the cave into the light and radiant nature outside the cave, enjoying the same view that John had when he was there some 1900 years ago. There we celebrated together: on the first morning a meditation on the Seven Seals, belonging to the Book of Revelation that was revealed to John in the cave; and on the second morning a meditation on Divine Sophia. Sacred texts were read during each celebration, and the texts were interspersed with the beautiful singing of the choir under Karen’s guidance. We also did eurythmy in the space right next to the entrance to the cave. Thus we honored the revelation to John and paid homage to the sacred event of the appearance of the Ascended One to him there in A.D. 95. Through our celebrations a lemniscate (8) back into the past and forward into the future – living in the present – was created.
Thus our journey unfolded: beginning on Samothrace with the baptism and cleansing of the aura, then moving into the breathing mystery of the house of Mary at Ephesus and the experience of her immaculate heart able to hold the synthesis of the whole. Now our journey continued on Patmos, entering into the chamber of the heart, the cave of John reflecting the sacred heart of Jesus Christ, which reveals the unfolding of the future of humanity. The story of John in the cave on Patmos is still very alive and present, with a continuous stream of people coming to the cave all the time. Yet we were blessed to have a time of relatively few visitors during the two days of our stay there on Patmos.
Our next destination was Delphi on Mt. Parnassus. Here are the remains of a great temple of Athena, located a little below the great sanctuary of Apollo. First we visited the sacred Castalian fountain house for purification, as was customary for all pilgrims to the oracle of Apollo at Delphi, and then we proceeded to the temple of Athena before we made our way to the sanctuary of Apollo. The sheer natural beauty of this sacred site suffices to lift one’s soul to experience something of the mystery that lived there for so many centuries. This mystery centered upon the oracle, the Pythia, who answered people’s questions in the name of Apollo. The Pythia was more than a “spokeswoman” for Apollo; the god himself spoke in the first person using her voice. In the atmosphere of Delphi human beings were engaged with artistic, creative endeavors: thinking lofty philosophical thoughts, performing sacred dramas, reciting poetry, singing, playing music, and dancing [choreuei] – all under the inspiration of Apollo and the nine muses (or perhaps under the inspiration of Dionysus, who was allowed to preside at Delphi during the three winter months when Apollo was absent) – as well as participating in the athletic contests that were held there under the aegis of Apollo.
Observing the stair-stepped layering of Delphi, with the temple of Athena below, climbing progressively up to the sanctuary of Apollo, then with the theatre above, surmounted by the stadium, it is clear that the wisdom of Athena lived there as well as the heart forces of the Sun god Apollo inspiring dance, song, poetry, and drama at the theatre and the physical will activity of the athletes in the stadium, celebrating the beauty and harmony of the human form. We honored the thinking, feeling, and will activities which were celebrated in Delphi under the aegis of Apollo. First we purified ourselves in the water flowing from the Castalian fountain. Then we honored the wisdom of Athena, nourishing ourselves in the atmosphere of her temple. At the theatre we did cosmic dance together for over an hour, moving to the dance of the world expressed in the twelve zodiacal moods by Rudolf Steiner. The experience in this great open-air theatre dedicated to music, poetry, dance, and drama, was a highpoint. And when we then thanked the Guardian Spirits of that space where up to 7000 people could be seated, their appreciation of our offering was gratefully received, as was tangible. Up above the theatre, in the stadium the choir sang in honor of the muses, and then one of our group sprinted the full length of the stadium and back, honoring the noble athletes who competed there.
Lastly, when we left Delphi to return to Athens, we visited Eleusis. Here at this most famous mystery site of antiquity – dedicated to Demeter and Persephone – we experienced more strongly than elsewhere the veil of sleep and forgetfulness that has been cast upon this holy site. The mystery lives on, but it is now veiled and silent. And we have to actively seek it in order to find it. Because of the dulled and numbed circumstances (Eleusis is surrounded by modern city life, except on the side where it looks out to sea), we are forced into the present time of our lives and individual destiny dramas. We are called upon to remember the will to serve the highest good and the intention to love our fellow human beings and to reach out to build community – in a sense of gratitude towards all of our teachers, past and present, who give us a deeper sense of knowing as to where we are headed. That which in antiquity was enacted as the sacred drama of Eleusis now has to become the enactment of our individual drama in the unfolding of our lives and destinies.
This brief account of the Sophia Foundation pilgrimage to Greece cannot do more than touch upon some of the highlights – and many of the highlights as well as numerous other wonderful and inspiring aspects of this pilgrimage have been omitted. In particular it has been necessary, in terms of space, to omit the content of the ancient mysteries which we explored together. In this sense – in relation to our exploration of the mystery sites as a community – our pilgrimage was a traveling mystery school.
This brief account of the Sophia Foundation pilgrimage to Greece cannot do more than touch upon some of the highlights. Our pilgrimage was a traveling mystery school. This pilgrimage, the sixth undertaken by the Sophia Foundation, was a life-changing experience, the echoes of which will continue to live on for the rest of our lives.