On a recent trip to England my wife and I visited Walsingham in the northeastern part of the county of Norfolk. It was a most impressive and uplifting place. Indeed, I will never forget the place, for it left a very powerful impression on me. It was a combination of the beautiful countryside, the quaintness, old-fashioned religiosity and piety of the place, and an intangible something-or-other within me crying, 'I believe; help my unbelief' (Mk 9:24)). For the most part, my wife and I walked around the village in noble silence, with the knowledge and in the awareness that we were walking on 'holy ground'. Words are so useless at the best of times, but especially when talking about matters spiritual.
In this post I discuss several different lines of symbolism concerning Our Lady, each of which is devoid of superstition. I claim no originality for the ideas discussed, all of which are firmly grounded in esoteric and metaphysical Christianity. Now, the word 'esoteric' is often misunderstood. When used in the present context it simply refers to the fact that sacred scripture, mythology, folk tales and similar writings and ideas generally have an 'inner' and deeper meaning: cf Gal 4:24 ('Now this is an allegory'); 1 Cor 3:6 ('we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God'). The early Christian theologian Origen wrote that every religion has a body, a soul and a spirit and that scripture can be interpreted in three different ways, the first according to the letter (‘the body’) of the scriptural text, the second according to the allegorical meaning of the text (‘the soul’), and the third according to the esoteric interpretation of the text (‘the spirit’). Of course, there are some texts that can, sensibly, only be interpreted literally. However, some ideas only make sense when interpreted allegorically or symbolically.
Now, Walsingham. In medieval times the village of Walsingham was one of the most important pilgrimage sites in the world and a rival to even Rome. That changed after the Reformation, but a revival during the 19th century put Walsingham back on the pilgrimage map and thousands now visit Walsingham each year, especially at Easter time.
So, if you think that God is a giant man 'up there' or 'out there', some supra-personal Being with a face, body, arms and legs and genitalia, you are horribly mistaken. In short, God is love, life, truth and power—and the very ground of our being. The English metaphysician and judge Thomas Troward referred to God as undifferentiated Consciousness—that is, the formeless awareness that creates by Itself and becomes that which It images Itself to be. I like that. That makes sense to me. If quantum mechanics has shown us anything—and it has shown us plenty—it has shown that consciousness or mind is fundamental, eternal and all-creative.
Do you think that the Incarnation happened just once, some 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem, when Jesus was born? Think again. The Incarnation is forever happening! Yes, the spirit of life is forever being incarnated into new and fresh manifestations of life. The Roman Catholic archbishop Fulton J Sheen would often make that point in his sermons and writings. Some say that God spoke His final word in Jesus but the truth is that God, the spirit of life, is forever speaking. And God speaks just one word—his son—and God is forever begetting the son. God begot you and me and all other forms of life. Yes, we are all divine, being sons and daughters of the Most High. Even Jesus himself affirmed, ‘Is it not written in your law, “I said, You are gods; you are all sons of the Most High’’’ (Jn 10:34; cf Ps 82:6). So, despite what others may have told you over the years, the ‘only-begotten son’ is every son and daughter begotten of the One Father-Mother God. The son is your real self, the person that in truth you are.
According to one great line of symbolism, Mary signifies our subjective self, that is, our subconscious mind. According to another, Mary signifies the great Deep, that is, the great Sea or the waters of space over the surface of which the Holy Spirit brooded and upon which It acted. Our Lady Mary is the Star of the Sea which is why she is almost always depicted in robes of the blue of the sea and the sky. The name Mary in Latin is, of course, Maria. The word maria is the plural of mare, the sea. More directly in origin, the word Mary is derived from the Hebrew mar, 'bitter', or 'the sea'. Water is a common symbol of the soul. There is a metaphorical bitterness in the soul being imprisoned in matter when its destiny lies elsewhere (as does our own), but the soul (the 'higher self') can escape from the bondage of flesh and limitation and give birth to a more exalted existence. Make of that what you will. Suffice to say there are a number of ideas here including the idea of the seas of virgin matter from which the universe was created and the idea of the birth of the Christ Child. Actually, these lines of symbolism are quite interconnected. The womb of the Virgin Mary, in which the as yet unborn Christ Child grows, and the waters of the deep (the sea of virgin matter) at the dawn of creation over the face of which the spirit of God moved are symbolically one and the same. On another level, Mary represents the feminine aspect of the Godhead, something Protestants tend to overlook to their detriment. On yet another level, Mary signifies the Spirit of Wisdom: ‘She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honour’ (Prov 3:15-16).
However, I generally interpret the idea of the Assumption as follows. The Bible says: ‘Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it’ (Ecc 12:7). We come from God, we belong to God, and ultimately we shall return to God. Life is indestructible. There is only life and there is no place where life is not. We are life. Life is energy. Life is expression. Life is in all, through all and around all. It cannot cease because it is ceaselessness itself. Yes, we will change form and ultimately vanish from view but we cannot cease to be. We never cease to be—not for a moment. We cannot be separated from life. We cannot be less than life. And life cannot other than be.