Archetype of the Virgin Birth

This archetype, like many others, has a long history, and I wish to show how much longer it existed before it was enshrines in Christian belief. The belief was probably started in pre-history, and below are just a few historical mentions.

Hebraic – Melchizedek: The Second Book of Enoch contains a section, called Exaltation of Melchizedek, which says that Melchizedek was born of a virgin, Sofonim (or Sopanima), the wife of Nir, a brother of Noah. The child came out from his mother after she had died and sat on the bed beside her corpse, already physically developed, clothed, speaking and blessing the Lord, and marked with the badge of priesthood.

Greco-Roman religions  –  According to tradition, Zoroaster’s mother, Dughdova, was a virgin when she conceived Zoroaster by a shaft of light. Attis was born to the virgin Nana on December 25  – : Heracles was born on December 25 to a virgin. Romulus was born to Rea Sivia, a mortal Vestal virgin.

Mithras Mithra was born in a cave, and on the 25th December. He was born of a Virgin. He travelled far and wide as a teacher and illuminator of men. His great festivals were the winter solstice and the Spring equinox (Christmas and Easter). He had twelve companions or disciples (the twelve zodiacal signs). He was buried in a tomb, from which however he rose again; and his resurrection was celebrated yearly with great rejoicings. He was called Savior and Mediator, and sometimes figured as a Lamb; and sacramental feasts in remembrance of him were held by his followers. He was dated about 1400 BC.

Buddhism – Siddartha who became the Buddha. The story of Gautama Buddha’s life (567- 487 BC) starts at preconception when his mother, Queen Maya, is said to have dreamt that a six-tusked elephant pierced her side with one of its tusks. This produced an immaculate conception. She understood the dream to mean the resulting child would become a monarch whose domain was the world.

Because of his life story, a story that is confirmed, we learn of how a real historical character, Siddartha, sets out on a search for a way beyond pain and death. The search is long but he finds what is sought in enlightenment and becomes the Buddha. In a similar way Jesus becomes the Christ at baptism.

Egypt – The virgin Queen of Egypt, supposedly gave birth to Pharaoh Amenkept III through a god holding a cross to her mouth.  – The Egyptian sun god, was said to be born of a virgin.  – Horus was born to a virgin IsisMeri on December 25 in a cave. Isis bore Horus having impregnated herself with the semen of Osiris after his death [1]

Hinduism  – Krishna  In the story of Krishna the deity is the agent of conception and also the offspring. Because of his sympathy for the earth, the divine Vishnu himself descended into the womb of Devaki and was born as her son, Krishna. 

“This is occasionally brought up as evidence for the hypothesis that “virgin birth” tales are a fairly common phenomenon in non-Christian religions around the world. However, there is nothing in Hindu scriptures to suggest that it was a “virgin” birth. By the time of conception and birth of Krishna, Devaki was married to Vasudeva and had already borne seven children.” That is quoted from Wikipedia, and the author supposes that virgin birth is a miraculous event rather than an event occuring in a mind free from preconceptions.

Assyrian and Babylonian religions  – Tammuz: was born to a virgin, named Mylitta, on December 25.

Mary as an image of your own human situation represents the possibility of a virginal mind and feelings.  Put simply this means that we drop preconceptions, we melt away fixed opinions, rigid attitudes, perhaps through prayer, meditation or perseverance, and in that state one can receive a conception from Life itself – in other words a divi  ne interception.

“The story of Mary beautifully illustrates this.  She is a young girl who has just started menstruation.  She is therefore fertile, open and loving.  How much more we can receive from that mysterious spirit of life that is around us and within us if we have an open and loving heart, a love that has unfolded like a beautiful flower toward the unknown mystery that we have given the name of Life or God?”

Evelyn Underhill, writing under the name John Cordelier in her book The Spiral Way, has this to say about Mary:

“So many had gone up the mountain to that one desired encounter; only to be thwarted by the cloud that broods upon the summit, and hides from human eyes the Shining Light within. The great prophets, poets, and philosophers of the antique world – all these had gone up, all had marked classic moments in the ascent of the race. Then came a little girl, pure, meek, and receptive: and ran easily to her destiny and the destiny of the universe because she was ‘full of grace.’ She held out her heart to the Invisible and in this act flung a bridge across the chasm that separates Illusion from Reality. Mary becomes by this circumstance the type and pattern of each human soul. Consciously or unconsciously, all are candidates for her high office. All, truly can become the mothers of God. (Published by Watkins .

As Evelyn says, “Consciously or unconsciously, all are candidates for her high office. All, truly can become the mothers of God.” All means everybody, men as well as women.  It suggests that if we take on and learn to become the prayer of the virgin soul, we too can allow the birth of the holy.

The life of prayer is often spoken of as part of the Christian path.  But prayer can so easily be the mechanical mouthing of certain words, repeated over and over. We may make the movements of our mouth, we may repeat the words, but do we really experience them – do we make them an outflow of a real inner feeling? The great women and men of East and West have gone beyond words and ego-directed movements, to the real changing of self. Some of the changes they made within themselves are almost universal.  This is true of the Prayer of the Virgin Soul.

The prayer of the virgin soul

The symbolism of the Virgin Mary, and the many other virgin mothers in the world’s sacred literature, show how universal a realisation this is. But if you wish to practise it, you have to make it an inner reality. In doing so you have to realise that by “inner change” is meant an inner condition, an inner state of being. It is also helpful to understand why you attempt this. It is because, until you clear at least part of your consciousness of preconceived ideas, biases, convictions, rigid emotions, unconscious habits, and so on, you cannot conceive new realisations from your own inner possibilities, you cannot give birth to the awareness of that Mystery that you are, to God. Basically this is very practical. In trying to remember someone’s name you may fail utterly because you are certain it begins with ‘S’ – when in fact it begins with ‘B’. You will never remember the name until you drop your preconception.

So the virgin posture of the soul is an attempt to bring about an inner state, an inner feeling of fertility and love towards your invisible and unknown potential – purity from preconceived ideas – the offering of your whole being as material for your potential to use in creating a new self – the act of supplication in which you let go of your thoughts, emotions and body, so they can be played upon as a piano or organ by Life. There should arise a feeling of warmth toward and desire for the unseen Life, openness to any possibility Life may have in store for you, good or bad, allied with trust. If you have a temperament capable of this, then make it an act of love, a real devotion, approaching ones darling. See How I Became A Virgin

When you manage to let go of what you think God or Life is, what you believe yourself to be, or what you are convinced is so about yourself and the world, then you are ready to receive something new.  Then, that divine conception can take place in you that enables the spiritual (that which exists beyond the barriers and boundaries of your own ego) to gain a foothold in you.  Then you become pregnant with new life and eventually give birth to the More of yourself in the way you live and act. This conception and the following birth will become known to you in some way.  It will be felt, or maybe shown to you in a dream.  The following is the dream of a man who for some time had been practising the way of Mary.

My understanding of this at the time came from Eliot’s words:

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope

For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love

For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith

But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.

Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:

So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

Here is an example from a man who had tried for ages to be open to the influence of that Mystery giving birth, remember that in Islam it was said a man could give birth to the Prophet.

“I dreamt I was lying in a cellar. I was myself, yet at the same time, I was my wife and another woman I loved. I was in labour, and after a time the baby was born. It was a boy, a wonderful child. The membrane covered part of its face and I pulled it away. The baby then began to breathe, and looked about, fully conscious and very alert. Then, to my wonder, it spoke the name of Jesus, and said, ‘It is gone’.

When asked what was gone, the beautiful baby replied, “The other ego, where has it gone?” I seemed to know exactly what it meant. The baby had been part of the cosmic awareness, of universal consciousness, and was now but a babe; and I said, ‘The cosmic still exists within you, to become known as you grow, but being in a body has closed that door.’ I then carried the baby from the cellar upstairs, and knew it to be a holy and wonderful child.”

It is an old, old story, for having a virgin soul has always been seen as holy.  This means that when we become empty of preconceived ideas we can receive and conceive, and even give birth to, an extraordinary impulse or power that can open us to a new life and purpose.

Deep within us, when we have opened to Life itself as a virgin, in the cellar or cave of our unconscious, among the beasts of our instincts, and physical energies, the New Life tentatively begins its growth to consciousness, to birth. The star and the stable are the highest and the lowest in us uniting in this wonderful task. Joseph, our intellect and outer creativeness, difficult though he finds it to believe in this miracle, listens to his intuitions and dreams, and protects and cares for the childlike mother.

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