Friday, April 15, 2011

The Path of the Mystical Marriage : The Ecstasy of St Therese of Aville

Saint Teresa's love of God and her desire for spiritual union with him found expression in a vision in which an angel pierced her heart with a golden spear and sent her into a trance. The erotic intensity of her vision is vividly suggested in this image by Teresa's swooning expression and languid pose, and by the deep folds of drapery, which convey her agitation.

Artist: Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini Sculpture: marble Life-size group 1645-1652 CE Site: Italy: Rome Location: Italy: Rome, Santa Maria della Vittoria, Cornaro Chapel


Teresa is clothed from head to foot in a loose hooded garment. Her feet are bare, the left one prominently displayed. Her eyes are shut, her mouth opened, as she swoons in ecstasy. Standing before her is the figure of a winged youth. His garment hangs on one shoulder, exposing his arms and part of his upper torso. In his right hand he holds an arrow that is pointed at the heart of Teresa.
Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) was a Spanish mystic who lived during the Counter-Reformation, a period of religious turmoil in Europe. Teresa founded several houses for discalced (or "barefoot") Carmelite friars and nuns, who sought to live according to the original rule of the order. This was a more primitive and ascetic form of monastic life than was practiced in Spain at that time. In addition, Teresa was author of numerous books, including her Life, a personal autobiography, the Way of Perfection, a handbook for her nuns, and Interior Mansions, in which she describes the many different steps taken on the path to mystical union with God.
Teresa described the soul's intense desire for God in the language of erotic passion. In this, she belongs to a long tradition of mystical experience that is known as bridal mysticism:
It pleased our Lord that I should see the following vision a number of times. I saw an angel near me, on the left side, in bodily form. This I am not wont to see, save very rarely.... In this vision it pleased the Lord that I should see it thus. He was not tall, but short, marvellously beautiful, with a face which shone as though he were one of the highest of the angels, who seem to be all of fire: they must be those whom we call Seraphim.... I saw in his hands a long golden spear, and at the point of the iron there seemed to be a little fire. This I thought that he thrust several times into my heart, and that it penetrated to my entrails. When he drew out the spear he seemed to be drawing them with it, leaving me all on fire with a wondrous love for God. The pain was so great that it caused me to utter several moans; and yet so exceeding sweet is this greatest of pains that it is impossible to desire to be rid of it, or for the soul to be content with less than God. (Peers, 197)
The symbolism of bridal mysticism is found already in early gnostic forms of Christianity, where the central sacrament is called the Bridal Chamber. There the feminine soul of the gnostic unites with the masculine spirit and is in this way spiritualized, that is, liberated from the limitations of mundane existence. Related symbolism is found as well in the writings of the early Christian mystic Origen and the Neoplatonic mystic Plotinus. These three forms of mysticism are related and serve as the foundation for the history of mysticism in Christianity.
Probably, the early forms of bridal mysticism were influenced by the myth of Eros and Psyche, which was quite popular during late Hellenism. Indeed, we find a gnostic interpretation of this myth in the anonymous homily entitled Exegesis on the Soul, which describes the sacrament of the Bridal Chamber. During the Renaissance, Greek themes and images were rediscovered in Italy and elsewhere in Europe. Certainly, the form of Teresa's vision, and the symbolism illustrated here by Bernini, lies very close to the tale of the god of love and his human beloved. Psyche's name means "soul," and she begins her career as a mortal. It is because Eros loves her and wants her for his bride that Zeus is willing to elevate her to the status of an immortal. For Teresa, the moment in which she experiences the spiritual wound is but one moment in a complex drama culminating in the spiritual marriage, when such wounds will no longer be felt but are supplanted by a complete union of God and the soul on an inner level.
The word psyche in contemporary analytical psychology has taken on at least two meanings. On the one hand, it refers to the faculty of the human being that is capable of experiencing the imaginary world as well as the physical world. On the other hand, psyche may refer to the entire realm of experience, both conscious and unconscious. In the first case, the psyche is identified with the soul in the traditional sense; in the second, the psyche is the world of the soul.
The two traditions that are joined in this image of Saint Teresa are that of Greek mythologystory of Psyche and ErosRenaissance Christian mysticism, in which the soul is awakened to spiritual passion. There is, however, one important variation: In the Greek tale (recounted by Apuleius) it is not Eros who wounds Psyche with one of his arrows (in fact, he wounds himself when he first beholds her); rather, Psyche accidentally wounds herself when, disobeying him, she takes up a light to see what he looks like. In Teresa's vision, she as "soul" is completely passive and receives the wound at the hands of an Eros figure. Nevertheless, central to both scenes is the symbol of wounding, the origin of love in pain inflicted from without.
Although it may seem insignificant at first, the suffering caused by the arrow's wound is of the greatest value. It is the pain that initiates the ensuing action, the eventual marriage of Eros and Psyche in heaven and the spiritual marriage of the Bridegroom and the Bride in Teresa's innermost heart. Teresa describes this pain as being filled with fire, being inflamed. What is needed is something to quench the fire, to heal the wound. For Psyche, what follows is a painful period of alienation between her and Eros, until ultimately they are reunited and she gives birth to their daughter, Joy.
The marriage between the human soul and the divine lover represents a creative union of the human self with its transpersonal counterpart. The soul symbolizes the subjective capacity to feel and experience realitycapacity for consciousness. By uniting with the god of love, the soul gains a permanent connection with the abiding source of all life and love. In the infant, there is not yet the separation that gives rise to a subjective self. In the symbolism of the sacred marriage, a return to the original wholeness is achieved without a regression to the infantile unconsciousness.
Erich Neumann suggests that Psyche cannot truly love Eros in the dark. As Psyche, she requires vision. Her desire to see results in suffering, but also in real love: Psyche's act leads, then, to all the pain of individuation, in which a personality experiences itself in relation to a partner as something other, that is, as not only connected with the partner. Psyche wounds herself and wounds Eros [with the hot oil of the lamp, not the arrow -ed.


Auclair, Marcelle. Saint Teresa of ?ila. New York, 1953.
Beever, John. Saint Teresa of Avila. Garden City, N.Y., 1961.
Neumann, Erich. Amor and Psyche, the Psychic Development of the Feminine: A Commentary on the Tale by Apuleius. New York, 1956.
Peers, E. Allison. Studies of the Spanish Mystics. London, 1927.
Walsh, William T. Saint Teresa of ?ila. Milwaukee, 1943.

Article Source :

The Path of Bhakty/the Mystical Marriage/the Mystical Bride

The Story of Meerabai

by Jyotsna Kamat
Page Last Updated: December 21,2007

Saint Mirabai (1547-1614 A.D.)

As the more famous (than Andal or Akkamadadevi) of the female saints of India, Bhakti Mira or Mirabai can be considered as one of the foremost mystics of the world. Worldly comforts never attracted these mystics. They have left beautiful songs and hymns to posterity which are sung to this day.

To Andal, Akkamahadevi and Mira, the soul was the eternal bride and the Lord their eternal Bridegroom the eternal Bridegroom . All the three excelled in the life of renunciation and divine realization. They lived in entirely different regions, wrote in their respective language in different age and Milieu, but became legends in their lifetime itself, by the austere life and single purpose of pursuit of God and finally divine attainment. This life is extremely difficult irrespective of gender to practice and attain salvation.

Mirabai was a princess of Rathod clan and belonged to Medath of Rajasthan. Rana Ratan Simh was her father. (Rana is the word for "Raja"). Even from childhood she exhibited spiritual traits. She was passionately attached to the idol of Giridhar Gopal, a form of Lord Krishna.

Refusal to Commit Sati and Marriage to Krishna
She was married to crown prince of Chittore. But shortly after, her husband Bhojraj and father-in-law Rana Sangh died. Mira refused to commit Sati, as was the practice among Rajputs. She was by conviction wedded to Giridhar Gopal, and death of "earthly" husband had no meaning to her. She spent all her time in praying, meditation, singing and dancing before her beloved idol, installed in the palace premises. The place started attracting many devotees, wandering saints and spiritual seekers. Mira found great solace in their company.

But this strange behavior was not acceptable to royal household and the ruling king, her brother-in-law. They thought of various modes of diverting her attention and save the glare of public. (Rajput women then and even now (year 2001) observe strict purdah) .Some songs of Mira reflect the agony and persecution she had to undergo. But her Giridhar Gopal always proved her savior.

"The Rana sent Mira a basketful of flowers with a snake inside. Mira absorbed in worship, put her hand into the basket to take flowers. Oh God! The snake had changed into a Saligrama! (Saligrama is a small round shaped black stone from the Gandaki river in Himalayas and is worshipped as a symbol of Vishnu).

Determined to kill Mira, the Rana sent a cup of poison. She prayed to Gopal and drank it. The poison turned into nectar. The Rana got a bed of sharp nails and Mira was made to lay down on it. But the nails turned to flowers. Mira was saved from all these dangers by none other than her Lord. Now intoxicated with immense love, she wanders all over in search of her Lord, dedicating herself to him entirely" she sang.

When many plots failed to kill Mira, it is said that Rana, the new king, cursed her "Why shouldn't this ignoble woman drown herself and die?"

Mira came to know about this wish and thought it would be a great relief to her royal relations if she put amend to life by jumping into the river. But in the nick of time divine voice addressed her. "It is a great sin to kill oneself... go to Brindavan."

So she undertook pilgrimage to Brindavan. It is considered sport field of Lord Krishna. Brindavan, a sacred place, was abode to several holy men. Jeeva Goswami had taken a vow never to see a woman--even her shadow! So, disciple of Goswami stopped her. "The Swamiji will not see any woman."

Mira laughed. "I though the only Man in Brindavan is Shri Krishan. now I see, there is a rival to him!"

In the Bhakti cult the love of the wife for her husband is said to be the best form of devotion. Hence all devotees in this world are women and God is the only man. In Brindavan the only man was supposed to be Krishna and other men and women were gopis, as gender distinction did not exist among real Bhaktas. If a devotee really felt as a gopi, he could never refuse to see another woman devotee. If anybody thinks himself a man it amounts to being a rival to god.

Mirabai's words stung Goswami and he at once understood the hidden meaning. He came out from cottage, bowed to the great lady and escorted to the hermitage.

From Brindavan she went to Dwaraka singing and praying. "I discovered the great secret in uttering the name and learnt it was quintessence of sastras. I reached my Giridhar through prayers and tears."

She gave many helpful suggestions to spiritual aspirants. "Oh my mind! You must do spiritual practice and worship.

"To love and live for Him" was the central theme of her songs. "Without pure love, the darling son of Nanda cannot be attained."

It is said that Mira got merged into the idol of Krishna in the temple of Ranchod at Dwaraka.

More than 400 songs ascribed to Mira known as Padas (lyrics) have been collected. She herself set tune to her songs and sang in soul-stirring divinely sweet voice. "Rag Govind" and "Rag Mira Malhar" are her creations. All her songs could be set to music easily and have become immensely popular throughout India, an indication to national solidarity established through Bhakti and through music.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Life is infinite and so is the spiritual journey. We are the All, so there is never a destination that is arrived at. I have been receiving mails from some of my readers, wondering why I am not writing. To those of you who do not know my unpredictable rhythms yet, I am always on the verge of moving into the 'cave'. Especially when I enter a very creative phase. Right now I am working on The Alchemical Journey of Everywoman - an exhibition that I am planning. I am also working on producing enough art for a very big artist market and another exhibition (which I have not even started on yet!) And to support me in this, my internet server crashed and my phone's battery died! And oh yes, my car also had a flat tyre! I am listening!

Over and above my creative life, my life as guide to a small group of students continue. As their journeys deepen, I spend a lot of time in energetic support, deep meditation and also facilitating initiations. You may also have noticed that my spiritual name has changed. And indeed, I myself, was initiated into another part of Tantra Yoga and blessed with the name of Bhaktymayi Ma, shortened to Bhakty Ma.

I will post some more detail about this path, the path of the Mystical Marriage. My devotion to this understanding has been very obvious in my writings and especially my poetry. More on this later.

Speak to you soon, blessings to you

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Meeting at the Well

Life Itself taught me that there is no separation between human and divine; that there is no separation between within and without, above and below.

It is only our minds and our belief systems (which we have been conditioned into over the ages) that make us believe otherwise. And our minds are incredibly powerful and we will see what we believe to be there. Thus, it can be very challenging and confusing at times, when this exact statement is used against you and you are taught that this also applies to the spiritual life and journey.

There is only one way to really Know and that is through personal direct experience. Until you experience directly, you will always follow the mind and its many theories and concepts. And even then, even after a direct experience, it still takes time and many changes to embody That which you have come to know. So all in all, it requires patience and commitment - every second of every day - and even your deepest Knowing will continually be challenged and opposed in order for you to expand and to embrace evolution of yourself.

Many other amazing incidents happened in Italy. All of those served to create my foundation in my own personal truth and from that trip onwards, life did change drastically. However, the challenges also became bigger and more subtle and the Trickster became much more devious!

I quickly learned that spirituality does not mean angels floating on clouds in heaven and nor does inner peace mean stagnant waters within. Being awake in your life is truly an awesome thing, in other words, something that inspires awe and therefore breaks down the status quo.

On my return I entered my sabbatical - my self-made entry into a life of contemplation. And then the depression assailed me. A deep dank darkness that I could not get rid of. I used a strict routine to help me cope with these unspoken and unspeakable feelings. My dreams were filled with visions and images, symbols and beings. I wrote these down and I journalled and painted the unfolding. I wrote poems and for each of my paintings, but it was as if everything conspired to drag me down into the depths of my own unconscious.

I started Jungian therapy and this led me to explore many other avenues, other than the alternative modalities and therapies. Eventually I found myself in the embrace of a small Roman Catholic community of healers - ex-nuns and ex-monks - who had embraced the alternative into their tradition. During this time I also experienced the old paralysis of my lower back and hip (more about this later). Also during this time, I experienced incredible dizziness and vertigo, even nausea at times and I became aware of an insistent sound in my ear. There was nothing wrong with my ear - I would at times sit and listen to the interesting sounds in my ear - they changed without warning and I noticed that when I meditated, I could focus on the sound to take me deeper into the vastness of the inner world.

All these physical and emotional changes and challenges are indeed part of the awakening and unfolding of the kundalini. And as I said previously, that which I knew about kundalini was not enough to explain this to me. Nor was I ever attracted to find out more about kundalini. At that stage I had not connected the dots yet!

Through the loving healing and support of this community, I started the practise of contemplation and meditation contained in the Cloud of Unknowing. The Book of Wisdom in the Catholic Bible became my mainstay: 'wisdom is brilliant, she never fades, by those who love her, she is readily seen, by those who seek her, she is readily found, She anticipates those who desire her by making herself known first, meditating on her is understanding in its perfect form, and anyone keeping awake for her will soon be free from care'.

I studied Sophian Theology and the many meanings of Mary. Raised as a Calvinist Protestant, this feminine approach, however slight as it is in the patriarchal religion, was like a breath of fresh air to me. I read every book ever written by Marion Woodman and the Jungian approach to individuation and the patriarchal just made so much sense to me. Very soon it became obvious to me that I suffered from the wound of the repressed feminine. You will see in my early writings, how strongly I felt about the patriarchal culture and the mechanisation of the feminine and how this has impacted and still continues to impact the lives of our souls.

During this time I was looking for something in an old storage cupboard and a calendar fell out. I perused through it and found an image and article on Vesta and Bridgid. I was mainly interested in the fire element and the beautiful images contained in the pages.

A few days later I was struck by an image on the counter of a book store. It was the front cover of a box of The Glastonbury Tarot. It had a striking painting on the box of the Tor and a structure on top. On the same day, I walked past another bookstore and a book in the window called me in. It was Glastonbury : Avalon of the Heart by Dion Fortune, which mainly called to me because of the cover of the book : a beautiful painting of the Tor and Tower seen through the walls of Glastonbury Abby. I bought the book, literally ran back to the first bookstore and bought the Glastonbury Tarot Deck as well.

And thus a magical part of my journey started. I discovered that the structure on top of the Tor (a man made mound) is the St Michael Tower. And I discovered that there are two images on either side of the arch of the Tower : one of St Michael and one of St Bridgid. Many other synchronicities followed and I felt called to travel to Glastonbury. During my last therapy session, the therapist said to me, 'may you in Glastonbury find the well that you are looking for'.

I will never forget my first sighting of the Tor - it took my breath away. The entire Tor had a very vivid but yet gentle pink aura. Great big balls of energy was clearly visible around Glastonbury and the energy radiated from the Tower. For the first few nights in Glastonbury I could not sleep at all and wheverever I walked in the landscape my mind was assailed with vivid memories. It also seemed as though the high energy in the area, kept the imprint of times past.

Glastonbury on its own is filled with wondrous tales and magic and it is a wonderful melting pot of all religions and traditions.

I spent hours and hours in the grounds of the old Abbey, lying on my back gazing at the incredible energy radiating from the Tor and Tower. In the town posters was up everywhere about a public performance that night forming part of the Goddess Conference. At this stage my knowledge of the goddess traditions was limited to myths and archetypes. I went to the musical performance and sat next to a very wise and experienced local dowser. He told me about the Michael and Mary leylines and this conversation made my hair stand on end.

The owner of the bed and breakfast at which we stayed was and still is a Priestess of the Lady of Avalon! So the bread crumbs was once again left for me all over the globe. Koko became my very good friend and was a co-presenter at the Goddess celebrations at my own Goddess Temple in 2008! (

It was indeed exciting times for me - almost like reading a brand new book as a child, filled with magical characters and wondrous events that pop out at you! My one song to myself was, 'it is true, it is true'. That was the most eloquent way I could verbalise to myself the knowledge that my first and deepest knowing as a child, was indeed true, despite all that 'they', (the grown-ups I suppose) said. I never really stopped to analyse these thoughts; I treasured them to myself till they had seeded and became strong trees under which I could shelter.

Koko arranged a tour for myself of the local Michael and Mary sites as they appeared on the leylines in Glastonbury and Avebury.

Outside a tiny church dedicated to Mary I had my first truly numinous experience with Her. I stood outside the church, near the old well. The Mary leyline always followed the water and the wells and healers in ancient days lived on this line. Churches were later erected on these spots to harness the powerful energies. At this specific spot, the line flowed through two hillocks that looked exactly like two breasts, the breasts of Mary, according to the Avalon Temple priest that was our tour guide.

As I stood there, the wind, the hillocks and the light, all became one sound and one voice and one presence. It blew through me and I was the sound and the presence. Although I say 'voice' no words were spoken; it was more as though a knowing woke up in my brain which I afterwards interpreted as a voice. I knew this numinous experience to be the Presence of Mary, the divine Mother of All.

I felt very shaken after this experience and virtually out of my body. After this I lost interest in the rest of the tour including Stonehenge. I was no longer 'myself' and I just wanted to bask in this absolute feeling of infinity.

I had one day left in Glastonbury and I felt guided to a certain place in the ancient Abby. It was in a corner that I did not explore previously - I think there were too many people there at my previous visit and I preferred the lawns in the far off corners. And in this corner I found Mary's Well.

A meeting at the Well

Parched, dried out, desert

Stone on stone

Arid winds, white skeleton bones,

Skull bone,

bleached by the sun

Her body shrunk,

Skin pulled tight,




Waiting by the well

Like Mary of old

Emptied out

She stares down the dark pit

Of her

forgotten soul

Leaning forward, craning her neck

She smells the air

Hoping, yearning, longing



I need water

The cry sears through her heart

Burns her dry throat

The Siren Song of the Soul

Echoes and shakes

‘Pour Your eternal waters into me

Fill up my well

Oh my Lord

What have I done?

Hear my call

Echoing in my hollowed out bones’

She falls on her knees

Bone on stone



To meet at the Well.