The Sacred Marriage - Lecture IV


Into the Woods and Beyond

I have maintained that the symbol of the sacred marriage is an archetypal image that reflects the invisible contents of the human psyche. The Goddess is an image of the human soul. The drama of her mythology is the drama of the human soul; in one form or another, her drama is played out in all of us. When mythology gives birth to philosophy, around 800 – 700 BC, we encounter the Goddess as the material principle of cosmic being: water, fire, air, earth, mind. When philosophy gives birth to modern science, we encounter the Goddess as energy. The son/lover, the uroboros, of the Goddess, is the soul or the material principle of the cosmos in movement.

The mythological image of the Goddess is the one template common to all human thought in its effort to make sense of who we are and of the universe we live in. From philosophy to modern science, ‘man’ is defined as the material of the cosmos or of the Goddess in a specific form. Each human individual is the material of the cosmos of the Goddess in a particular form, made unique simply by a kaleidoscopic configuration of categories and attributes (e.g., color, size, shape); or, to speak scientifically, genes.

We affirm that the mythological image of the sacred marriage is an image that faithfully represents the most fundamental principles and movements of cosmic being and of the human soul. Our argument is not with the sacred marriage, but with its interpretation.

We have summoned Joseph Campbell as representative of those interpretations that we believe are wrong. Arguing from the perspective of studies in comparative mythology, Campbell argues that the two trees in the biblical story of the Garden are not really two trees. They are one tree of the Goddess which the biblical writers split into two. This splitting of the original one tree of the Goddess – the tree of knowledge and life – is of such consequence because the mythological image, as we have said, reflects the structure of the human psyche. The biblical split of the one tree of the Goddess into two trees is reflected back into the Semitic psyche that accepts the new Levitical religion. Absorbing the new mythological image of the Levites, the Hebrew psyche itself is split; it becomes deeply schizophrenic, expressed in a “nervous discord” that characterizes Semitic religion in general, in which the soul is placed religiously at odds with its own principle of life, which is the Goddess. Her son/lover is split off from her and made into a Father God whose mythological origin from the Goddess is denied.  He is set against her in order to subdue her.

If we were to believe Campbell, we would dissolve the Tree of Life into the serpent’s tree. We would believe, furthermore, that the Father God of the bible is really the son or grandson or even great Grandson (as was, e.g., the Babylonian Marduk) of the Goddess, and we would dissolve Him into the materia of the original Material Girl, reducing Him to a mythopoeic projection of some aspect of the human psyche, or of the Goddess.

We believe that what is at stake in this is life or death, because if we believe all this, our eyes will be blinded to the narrow gate that opens onto the better and changeless path that ascends to God, which is apparently hard to find to begin with, since only a few find it, as the Lord tells us.

In what follows, we’ll accept the bible at its word to see what view of human nature and destiny it sets before us when its own voice is not silenced by the din of alien agendas and it is allowed to speak for itself.

The Lie of the Serpent.

The bible has not split the one tree of the Goddess into two. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is itself the one whole tree of the Goddess. This can be demonstrated from its very name. The bible calls it the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Good and evil are the two poles of the uroboros’ sexual life that circles between birth and death, or between good and evil. The name the bible gives to the serpent’s tree, the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” therefore means the tree of the knowledge of life.

Sexual union is knowledge as we know from the bible: “And so-and-so knew his wife.” The whole mystery of life, both good and evil, living and dying, takes place in this “knowledge”; and so, the bible calls it the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, or the “tree of the knowledge of life”. The bible stops short from calling it the tree of knowledge and life as though to suggest that the life of the serpent’s tree is distinguished from the life of the Tree of Life in that it is the life specifically of good and evil: the life of the Goddess that has been mixed with the serpent’s poison to create a life that is always being swallowed up by death.

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is clearly, then, the one, unsplit tree of the Goddess. The alleged split of the Goddess’ tree withers before it grows up in the absence of an axe. The God of the bible is not Marduk, who cleaved the body of the conquered Goddess, his great, great grandmother, in two to form heaven and earth.[1]


An Excursus

This prompts us to look at representative biblical texts showing how God deals with the Goddess and her son/lover, the serpent. The name for the Goddess in Babylonian mythology is Tiamat. She appears in the book of Genesis as the “face of the deep (tehom)”.

Here’s how the Genesis writers portray God and Tiamat: “The Spirit of God moved over the face of the waters.” Moved over is a translation of the Hebrew, rhq. It has the meaning of brooding over with motherly tenderness, like a hen brooding over eggs until they hatch. It also means to be moved with feelings of tender love, to cherish; and so we could translate this verse: “The Spirit of God cherished the face of the waters.” Face is the same word for the human face. The Goddess, the world, is a personal mystery. She is summed up in Adam and Eve who are made in the Image of God, Jesus Christ, who is the Face of the Father.

Armed with this knowledge, look again at Genesis 1:2. It shows God embracing the Goddess – the world – in tender love. (Jn 3:16)

This reveals the serenely majestic beauty of the Theotokos. She is the Second or the New Eve. With her yes to God in her secret heart, she expels the uroboric serpent from the living waters of her belly. She is “the restoration of Adam and the recalling of Eve, the fountain of incorruption and the release from corruption: through her we have been made godlike and delivered from death.”[2] In her, humanity is purified of the serpent’s venom. Virgin and pure[3] in heart and body, she receives the Lordly Serpent, Christ the Son of God, the Creator and the true Savior of the World. Her womb becomes more spacious than the heavens, her body becomes a throne. She becomes the dwelling place of God. In her womb, the mystery of the Incarnation transpires. God becomes her Son, and she becomes the Mother of God, who in His holy Resurrection comes to the Virgin granting life.

From Isaiah the prophet, we take a text that seems representative of how the bible views God’s dealings with the uroboros son/lover of the Goddess. “In that day, the Lord with His sore and great and strong sword (cf. Heb 4) shall punish Leviathan the piercing serpent, even Leviathan, that crooked serpent; and He shall slay the dragon.” (Isa 27:1) I see the bible distinguishing between the Goddess (Tiamat) and the serpent. The serpent is the devil. The Lord says he is a liar and a murderer from the beginning. He is the spiritual father of the hypocritical, self-righteous Pharisees, whom St John the Baptist likens to a brood of vipers; i.e. descendants of the uroboric serpent. He has poisoned the living waters of the Goddess with his venom. Mingling his venom with her “living waters”, he has contaminated her life. He has turned her life that was made good by God into “good and evil”, a life that is forever trapped in the circle of life in which life is always being swallowed by death. This leads me to assert that the uroboros son/lover of the sacred marriage represents not the masculine element of human being as feminist ideology maintains. It represents the evil one who is not the son/lover of the Goddess. He is a false husband, a “ba’al” who has taken her children captive to swallow them into his belly, the pit of “Hell”. He is therefore a parasite and the bitter enemy of Eve, the Goddess. From this, I would assert further that feminist ideology misrepresents the Christian Faith. It is not the Goddess whom the Christian Faith demonizes. It is the serpent, whom the Christian Faith sees not as the masculine element, but as the devil who has insinuated himself into the living waters of the Goddess and polluted them to make them the living waters of death. “The first man fell prey to bodily corruption, which he transmitted to all our kind like some pollution from disease.”[4]


Back to the Tree of Knowledge

In its early history, psyche, from the Greek, designated the seminal fluids of the body. [5] These “psychic” fluids were the living waters of the gods, the “stuff” of life. The tree was a symbol of the woman. The uroboros was the symbol of these “psychic” fluids that flow through every particular of the cosmos like the string that flows through all the pearls of a necklace and holds them together. The life of the Goddess is psychic-sexual life. Its living waters are the psyche, the soul, the juice that flows from the belly where the “mystery” of death and life, good and evil, end and beginning are one.

The knowledge of the serpent’s tree, then, is sexual or “carnal” knowledge. It opens the eyes to behold the wisdom of the serpent, that the cosmos is a union of male and female, light and dark, yin and yang, life and death, good and evil. But, it is the perversion of the Goddess’ natural life-cycle that in God, is created as good, not good and evil. That is to say, in God, the life-cycle of the Goddess is the ‘psychic’ flow of erotic love, flowing from lover and beloved. The serpent has taken this erotic desire and trapped it in itself, so that it no longer opens onto God in the heart but flows down into the belly in a closed cycle of self-love. Thus “loving” has become “death” and “being loved” has become birth that flows right back into death, and which is not necessarily the product of personal love but of lust.

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil therefore represents sexual or psychic life that has been taken captive by the uroboric serpent. Its center is in the belly – or, in the lower regions of the soul, the unconscious. The belly is how the serpent goes eating dust all the days of its life. This is the bible’s image,[6] and it looks exactly like the Goddess and her uroboros. The biblical serpent is always eating dust like the uroboros is always eating its tail. Dust, as is clear from the Lord’s curse on Adam and Eve,[7] is a metaphor of death. If the biblical serpent goes eating dust all the days of its life, it’s eating death all the days of its life. The image of the serpent eating the dust is the same as the image of the serpent eating its tail; both show the uroboric life of the Goddess to be one that’s always dying. It is therefore a tragic irony when the bible calls woman, i.e. the Goddess, Eve: the “Mother of all living,” because the living to whom she gives birth are all dying as soon as they’re born.

From this theological perspective, God’s condemnation of Adam and Eve, “From the dust you were taken; to the dust you shall return,” now takes on the meaning: you were raised from the dust and made living souls by my Spirit to partake of my divinity[8] as my bride,[9] to bring forth children of God[10] in my own image and likeness.[11] You have chosen instead to marry the serpent and its wisdom; so, as the serpent with its wisdom crawls on the ground far below the heavens, so you will return to the dust whence you came. You have made yourselves the serpent’s children. Your home will not be heaven but the dust of the ground and you will crawl in the dust like your father, the serpent, does until you return to it and sink back into the bottomless abyss of your mother’s womb, Gaia (earth) or Chaos,[12] and into the undifferentiated oneness, the dark void, the nothingness from which you came, which the philosophers call “love”.[13]

This return to the dust of the ground is the Fall you hear tell of in Christian theology. But the doctrine of the Fall is really Good News. It means that our natural destiny is to ascend to God, not to return to the dust. Otherwise, our enslavement to death would not be a “Fall”.


The Tree of Life

If the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is the one whole tree of the Goddess, then the Tree of Life is clearly a different tree altogether. And if the bible calls it alone the Tree of Life in contrast to the serpent’s tree, it must represent a different life altogether,[14] and by implication, a different knowledge, a different Wisdom altogether than the wisdom of the serpent. Its center, its starting point, must be somewhere else, not in death or in the belly of the Goddess.

In the bible, this different life altogether is the fruit of the Tree of Life. It is the Life of Holy Wisdom, or the Divine Logos; for God’s Wisdom – whom the Church tells us is Christ – is called a “tree of life” to them that lay hold of Him.[15] Its fruit is righteousness (in one of its more obscure meanings, “righteous” means “living”).[16] Righteousness is eternal, and he who eats the fruit of righteousness partakes of immortality and becomes immortal.[17] But Christ is our righteousness. So the fruit of the Tree of Life is Christ, as Christ Himself tells us: “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you.” According to the Scriptures, the life of Christ is centered not in the belly but in the heart: “Guard your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”[18]

Here, then, in the upper region of the soul, in the heart, is where the Tree of Life is centered. Its life is of the heart; and its living waters are not the psyche but, as the Gospel says, they are the Holy Spirit.[19] Its knowledge, then, is the Wisdom of God, not the wisdom of the serpent or of human opinion.[20]

The call of Christ and His Bride: “Let him who is thirsty come and take the water of life without price,”[21] directs our erotic energy upward from the belly and into our secret heart to see that we are more than just cosmic matter in a particular, kaleidoscopic form. We are human beings created in the image of God with the potential to become persons in the likeness of God: able to partake of the divine nature as communicants of life eternal.

The Way of the Prodigal

In his autobiography, Carl Jung shared one of the “big” dreams he had when young.[22] I quote from Philip Sherrard:

“In this dream, Jung found himself in a two-story house. He was on the upper floor. He first descended to the ground floor, and then to the cellar, and finally down into a cave cut out in the rock beneath the house, where there were two human skulls lying among scattered bones and broken pottery. He interpreted the dream as a kind of structural diagram of the human psyche. The upper floor where he first found himself represented the consciousness; the ground floor stood for the first level of the unconscious, while the cave itself was the world of the primitive man in every human being.”[23]

Jung rejected the Christian idea that human consciousness has its roots in the divine and that it has become obscured because of his choice to immerse himself in earthly and animal existence. He maintained that the roots of consciousness lay in the collective unconscious, the dark sub-human world of the animals and plants that over the centuries has been gradually emerging into the light of complete evolution.[24] Therefore, Jung thought his dream was leading him down to the roots of the psyche in the unconscious where the psyche is identical with the animals and plants and indeed, the whole cosmos.

We argue that his dream showed him going down to the belly – down to the lower regions of the soul, the unconscious: i.e., into the roots of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Jung was going away from, he was not approaching the material principle of his soul, which is our having been made in the image of God.

Dumitru Staniloae, in his book, Orthodox Spirituality,[25] says that the Church also admits of a lower region of the soul which doesn’t fall under the light of consciousness. This is the subconscious where so many disgraceful tendencies and thoughts gather and which the consciousness keeps repressing. It’s a kind of cellar of the conscience, where all our bad things have accumulated and that give rise to the passions, to anger and lust. But this isn’t where the roots of the soul lie. This cellar of the soul is a later accretion (my extension of Staniloae’s remarks), dug into the ground of the soul, if you will, to store all the dead waste excreted from our bellies from eating the fruit of the serpent’s tree.

The Church also sees an “upper” region of the soul, Staniloae goes on to say. In the Church’s monastic and spiritual texts, it’s called, among other terms, spirit or heart. This upper room of the soul is the innermost part of the soul. So, while Jung’s wisdom would lead us to the lower regions of the soul, to the most ignoble and beastly element of the soul as to our innermost part where he would have us find the principle of our soul, the Church directs us to the upper regions of the heart, to the most noble, highest part of the soul – the upper story in Jung’s dream – to find the roots of our soul in our spiritual capacity to become personal and to attain to personal communion with God.

Jung’s dream in fact shows the expulsion of Adam from Paradise. In his dream, Jung is taking the path of the Prodigal Son, leaving his Father’s house in the upper region of the heart to go down to the pigpen in the belly. Jung didn’t see this because, he was looking downward, not upward for the psyche’s material principle. The Church reveals to us the “great secret” of the Gospel: our roots go up into God. We exist in an innate capacity for God; for, made in His Image, we are akin to God.


The Goddess Transfigured

The Theotokos, as the Second Eve, is the incarnate image of “our having been made in the image of God.” Liturgical texts call her the root and the source of our life. She is the Gate that opens to the East. In the Theotokos, the template of the sacred marriage is shattered and the Goddess, human nature, is transfigured. As the gate that opens to the East, the Theotokos reveals the Goddess to be fundamentally spiritual or personal, rooted in the secret heart of man. That means that in her materia the Goddess is fundamentally a potentiality for spirit or for hypostatic, personal being; and this means that the Goddess instinctively desires God. In her material principle, she opens onto God, in the “gate that opens onto the East.” In the Spiritual Marriage of the Church, the head and tail of the uroboros are crushed and the dynamic movement of the soul opens up into a never ending ascent from glory to glory. The Spiritual Marriage is a true union of opposites. The Goddess united in her totality to Christ, the Son of the immaterial Father. In Christ, the Image in whom she was made, the Goddess becomes truly herself. The life she lives is no longer her own psychic life but the spiritual life of Christ who lives in her in His Holy Spirit.[26] In the dynamic movement of that spiritual union, in contrast to the fusion of the uroboros, she is raised up out of herself and into the spiritual life of the immaterial Life of God even as she always remains who she is in the material principle of her being: the beloved of God, created in his image and likeness.

Campbell couldn’t see this because he, too, was looking downward and not upward for the principle of our being. And so, he couldn’t hear in the “nervous discord” of the bible the soul crying out from its depths: “Lord, I cry unto Thee, hear me!” For, the Church would agree that the soul is at odds with herself. She has turned away from her principle, having been made in the Image of God, and she has descended down into her belly, giving herself to the serpent whose venom dissolves her into an undifferentiated blob when she was made for the spiritual love of personal communion in God.

The Goddess Made Whole.

When the Second Eve, the Theotokos, gives her consent, Christ descends into her womb and clothes himself in the materia of the Goddess, our human nature. He becomes flesh and dwells among us in the schema, the form, of a man.[27] He is found in the schema of the “sacred marriage”, man’s existential separation from God, with this fundamental difference: He is not the seed of the uroboric serpent but of the immaterial Father. The hemorrhaging Goddess touches the hem of the God-man’s garment.[28] She touches the wood of his Cross; and at once she is healed. Her flow of blood is made to cease. She receives the divine Seed of the immaterial Father, and she truly becomes the Mother of All Living. She becomes Theotokos: Mother of God.

Bread and wine are symbols of the dying-rising gods of the ancient Near East. By uniting the bread and wine of the Passover meal to Himself, the Savior unites the central symbols of the Jewish Passover and the pagan sacred marriage to Himself. He thereby unites the religions of the world to His own death and resurrection at their center; and so in His own crucified and risen body and blood He makes the religions of the world to ascend from a “this worldly” religion to a “heavenly” religion in the secret heart, in the soul’s authentic material principle.

At the center of the sacred marriage is the womb that is also the tomb, which the life-force of the Goddess could never get out of, because her seed was mingled with the toxic venom of the serpent. At the center of the Spiritual Marriage is the womb of the Theotokos, the “root and source of our life.”[29] Through the Son of God born of her womb, the tomb is emptied, except for the burial clothes of the risen Savior. These are like our clothes that we shed at our baptism. Where they fall to the floor, as though sinking to the bottom of the Jordan in the dark fourth,[30] they mark the beginning of that better and changeless path that ascends to God and to the ambon of the Church as to the upper room where the risen Savior comes to his disciples[31] to become partakers of the divine nature in the marriage feast of the Spiritual Marriage of Christ and his Bride, the Church.

[1] Cf. the Babylonian epic, the Enuma Elish.

[2] Festal Menaion, p. 105

[3] In the mythology of the Goddess, Virgin means able to give birth from oneself. In the Christian faith, Virgin means to be pure in heart so that one can see God.

[4] Festal Menaion, p. 149

[5] See R.B.Onians, At the Origins of Modern European Thought.

[6] Gn 3:14.

[7] Gn 3:19, “From the dust you were taken; to the dust you shall return.”

[8] II Pt 1:4

[9] Eze 16

[10] Jn 1:12

[11] Col 1:15

[12] I’m referring to the opening lines of Hesiod’s Theogony.

[13] This is the teaching of Empedocles. Love melts all things together into an indifferentiated unity. This, for Empedocles is the Golden Age. It is the opposite of Hate or Strife and separate ego-identities. Cf. McEvilley, 68.

[14] As St Maximus the Confessor argues in Second Century on Various Texts §30.

[15] Prov 3:18

[16] Prov 11:30

[17] Wisdom of Solomon

[18] Prov 4:23

[19] Jn 7:37

[20] Rom

[21] Rev 22:21

[22] C.G.Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections. London, 1963, pp 155-156.

[23] Philip Sherrard, Lineaments of a Sacred Tradition, p. 144.

[24] Sherrard, p. 146.

[25] Orthodox Spirituality, trans. Archimandrite Jerome Newville and Otilia Kloos, St Tikhon’s Seminary Press, 2002.

[26] Gal 2:20

[27] Phil 2:7 and Jn 1:13

[28] Lk 8:43ff.

[29] FM 124 & 506.

[30] FM 377: “He bears creation down into the stream, bringing it to a better and a changeless path.”

[31] Jn 20:26ff.