by Tim Sloan
“In the beginning all was the void and all was black. God saw this and said ‘Let there be Light’. And there was.”
Book of Genesis
In order to understand the Black Madonna, it is necessary to think in metaphor. The people of the past thought this way. Long before ‘materialist science’ arrived on the scene people did not dissect everything, they did not try to break everything up into tiny fragments. When they examined something, when they attempted to understand the world around them they did through the act of metaphorical thinking. They would approach a subject by finding it’s simile or attempt to understand it through the act of understanding things that were similar to it. This way of thinking runs contrary to the way that we think today. It also reveals a past that we may not be able to comprehend in a fashion that makes sense to us. When one realizes the power of this way of thinking it sheds an entirely new light on the people of old times.It makes one realize that their legends stories and myths may be something much different than we have been led to believe. Maybe western mythologists have not been completely correct in their perceptions of what these ancient people were telling us. Maybe they think they understand what the myths and stories were saying but possibly they are wrong. Maybe something else is being said. Maybe something we can’t yet understand is being conveyed to us. It is only through this re-understanding that we can begin to comprehend what it is that we are being told.
When people of the past attempted to describe the world around them they did it through the means of comparison. When they examined something they described it in the poetic, metaphorical terms of emotion and myth — they didn’t break it down into long words that run on forever. It is important to understand this because it is impossible for us to begin to realize what they are saying without this understanding. This is a difficult concept for us to accept today in a culture that believes that it is the smallest of objects that makes up the larger whole. But this way of dealing with the surrounding universe is a faulty way.
Scientists have broken water down to its atomic material. They will tell you that water molecules essentially are made up of two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen. But if this is so then why can’t they create water by mixing two parts hydrogen with one part oxygen? The fact is that they can’t do this. It is impossible. So what does all of this mean? Nothing much except to prove that breaking something down into it’s essential components is an exercise in futility. Yes we can say that water is made up of two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen but how are these atoms combined to make this substance we call water? No one can say.
I say all of this not to prove that science is silly or even that it’s presumptions are wrong. I say this because there are very real mysteries to these ideas. Science would like us to believe that these mysteries have either been solved or that they are on their way to being solved. This is not true. There is much more to be found about nature and her machinations then we can ever know.
Therefore maybe the ancients were on to something when they decided to view the surrounding world through the prism of metaphor and simile. Maybe they understood that there is something about the human mind itself which allows these comparisons to be not only right but possibly even more accurate than science itself.
This idea of metaphor and simile can help us understand the way that these people thought. Therefore we can understand how they looked at the world. If we can understand how they looked at the world then possibly we can even begin to understand them more completely.
This idea of metaphor begins to take further shape when one considers that many of the texts and myths handed down to us are not what they appear to be about. When one considers these ancient stories it becomes apparent that the interpretations we once thought were accurate representations of what these people are saying may very well be wrong. Let us take for instance the story of Jesus and his ordeal. For a moment let us shed the precepts and imprints of our own past history with this story. For a moment let us consider that this story came out of sophisticated and long tradition — that of the Hebrew people. Let us also consider that the Dead sea scrolls — found in Qumran in 1947 — reveal that the Essenes were a deeply esoteric group within the Hebrew tradition. Might it not be possible that they may have created the story of Jesus to tell us many other things then the idea that he was on a mission of compassion and was later executed for this mission? This is not to say that the myth itself may not be true, this is not to say that there may not have even been once a man named Jesus who performed miracles and rose from the dead. But let us take an excursion through the possible mindset of these Essenes and their Hebrew tradition. Myth is built on metaphor so what is the metaphor of the Jesus story? What are the similes between this story and other stories and situations that this group may have wanted to send down the stream of time? Taking this thought experiment to its logical conclusion we must begin top speculate on what is similar and metaphorical about the myth. First off there is the metaphor of the son and the sun. Jesus in Hebrew means Jesse or ‘Fire’. Let us — for a moment assume that instead of ‘son’ they are referring to the ‘sun’. Then let us consider the twelve apostles. Do they represent more than just twelve men? For a moment let us consider that this actually refers to the twelve signs of the Zodiac. Now for a moment let us consider Jesus’ mother Mary. Mary in Hebrew means sea or seawater, she is also associated with a crescent moon. It is well known that the moon controls the tides and therefore seawater. Is it possible that Mary is a metaphor for the moon? So let us consider what we have here. We have Jesus, or Fire, moves through the twelve men or signs. Just as our sun moves through the twelve signs of the zodiac. What is the missing astrological element? The moon of course. And along comes Mary to fill this void. Does this mean that the story of Jesus, Mary and his band of disciples is the story of some kind of astrological situation? Is it possible that this is what is happening — at least on a metaphorical level? I think so. This is what I mean by re-thinking these myths in a metaphorical way. This is in no way meant to denigrate the Christian religion or anyone’s belief in Jesus, Mary and the disciples as real men. The point that is being made is that there are metaphorical links to this story that are just as important as the human links. The names, and the numbers of their names, of these people involved in this story are important. Actually they are too important to be ignored — for it was within the names and the numbers inside the structure of these myths that a true understanding of what they are about can actually occur.
This is just an example of how to re-read a common myth. Once one understands the true nature of the myth then one can go inside the myth and begin to understand all of its levels. What are the implications of re-reading the Jesus story as a metaphorical myth about some astrological event? The implications of this are not for this time and place. The example was only used to reveal the inner workings of myth and help you, o gentle reader, in understanding the many multifaceted levels of these experiences.
Once we begin to re-educate our minds into the correct interpretations of these stores can we begin to understand ourselves, our past and who we actually are.
This way of thinking can be difficult and sometimes impossible for our modern minds to comprehend. It can drive us up a wall as we consider the many faceted reality that this kind of thinking introduces. But there are many levels to reality and it is a big mistake to believe in openly one kind of fundamental reality at the expense of all of the other realities that are just as or maybe even more important.
With this new understanding of metaphor let us begin to recomprehend new concepts in light of this awareness.
We will begin with the color black. Black is the color that contains all colors. If you took all of the colors of the rainbow and combined them your resulting mix would be black in color. Black is the color that contains all colors. Metaphorically speaking then — it is possible for black to represent all things in their beginning stage. Black is the color, or the substance, from which all things manifest. Out of the black depths of space — stars, suns and planets form. The universe was once, according to scientists, a place that was dark and void of light. There was a black dust that hung like a mist throughout the universe. Slowly this dust coagulated into larger pieces. Soon the pieces begin to collect and grow, compression and gravity were the result. Over time enough of this material eventually formed into a dense sphere. This sphere began to compress and pressure within it’s core beginning to manifest. Soon the core began to collapse in on itself. Eventually this collapsing state began a nuclear reaction. This nuclear reaction spread throughout the mass of this compressed sphere and ignited it, turning it into the first star, the first sun. Out of this dark, dense and black material — light was formed.
In alchemy the matter that was there before all other matter is called the ‘prima materia’.
This was the original substance from which all alchemical transmutation manifested. The prima materia is the cause of all effects that occur after it is formed. It is the base matter. From the prima materia comes the first substances and from these substances comes the first minerals. The alchemist task is to somehow separate the different aspects of the prima materia into its own material spectrum of substance.
This process is similar to the creation of diamonds. Black coal is the prima materia for the construction of diamonds. Over thousands of years through the alchemy of time, pressure and gravity the black coal, the prima materia becomes the diamond. Through the prism of this construct the white light of the sun shines through. This light is broken up into the spectrum of colors that make up our world. So, through the process of the alchemy of our planet, the black coal is compressed into the multifaceted crystal that shines the colors of black through it’s prism. But now these colors are not coagulated and mixed into the color black — they have been separated now and shine with their own radiance. This is a great example of metaphor and how it relates separate items within the same universality.
It can be said that the process of time and compression brought forth the diamond. The alchemical earth created this substance from the basest of matter. Within the confines of this matter was the diamond. It was always there – it just needed time and gravity to transmute.
Another metaphor to be understood is that of the lotus. In order for the lotus to grow strong and to produce a beautiful flower it is necessary that its roots to ground themselves in manure. The darker the excrement — the better the lotus will grow, the more astonishing will be it’s flower. This is why the lotus is considered the most sacred of plants in the east. It is only through the action of the emergence of the flower from the black shit can the importance of this metaphor be understood.
In western traditions there was once a vast pilgrimage that took place in Europe. Pilgrims made their way towards the town of Compostella in Spain. The word Compostella comes from the same root word as compost. Compost is the living, black material that is made from rotting fruits, grains and other organic matter. From this compost — life and light will emerge. When the pilgrims came to the Cathedral at Compostella they were being ‘composted’ in a sense. After their emergence into the dark confines of the cathedral and the spirit — they were ready to flower, they were ready to return home with their spirits lightened.
The New Age seeks to denigrate the dark. They speak of only the light. But they misunderstand the true significance of the dark and of the black. They fail to realize that there can be no light without dark. They fail to see that the light can only be perceived through the background of darkness. This misunderstanding is a great one and needs to be overcome if they wish to succeed in a pursuit of truth.
Within black is all things. All things manifest from the black.
The ancient name for Egypt was Al-Kemi. This meant ‘The Black Lands’. This is the word from which we get the word ‘alchemy’. The reason they named their fabled land this title was because the yearly inundation of the Nile river deposited rich and mineralized soil to the banks of Egypt. The people of Al-Kemi or Egypt became dependent on this black alluvial soil. Out of this black rich soil grew all of the crops, grains, and other commodities that this great culture depended upon. Also out of this culture came the knowledge of a sacred science. This science remains a mystery to us today. It was once called alchemy. No one seems to know what was exactly what this science entailed. All that is known is that the Egyptians spent allot of time and resources on this ‘science’. The most intelligent people of that society were the sacred scientists. They studied all aspects of our particular localized universe. They studied and understood the human body and spirit, the nature of matter, the knowledge of plants and minerals, the lore of the stars and much more. Today alchemy is regarded with some disdain by modern scientists. They believe that the old alchemists were fooling themselves with their endless experiments and rituals. For what can actually be gained from such senseless activity? But scientists make a big mistake with this presumption. Would intelligent men and women really spend their lives endlessly searching for something that could never be attained? It seems highly unlikely. What seems more likely is that these people were seeing the world in different terms then we do today. With the idea of metaphor as their driving intellectual force it is possible that we do not completely understand this ancient process. The alchemists were obsessed with the prima materia. They called it the black virgin. For it’s color was black and it was a virgin in the sense that no alchemical transmutation had yet been performed on this material. It is difficult for us today to begin to grasp what they were referring to when they used the terms ‘prima materia’ or black virgin’. There are many theories. Some say it was coal, others say it was black sand from the Sahara desert, others say it was the volcanic black obsidian that came from the near east. Whatever this black virgin was it was the beginning of the alchemical process. It was the material that was used to transmute and create entirely new materials. Hence the legend that the alchemists could turn lead into to gold. The process remains a mystery to all but the most serious of adepts. But what does seem clear was that the alchemists had the ability to change this prima materia into something that flowered or separated the light. It has been speculated that they were attempting to communicate with the matter itself. The goal of alchemy may remain mysterious but what it absolutely certain is that the Black Madonna’s, that were placed inside the great cathedrals of Europe were meant to represent — at least on one level — this prima materia, this black virginous quality that was so much prized by these alchemists.
The study of mitochondria DNA is the next metaphor that bears exploring. The mitochondria DNA is part of the DNA chain that can only be passed down from woman to woman, from mother to daughter. Using this process scientists can actually follow the generations of women backwards through time. Through this process they can actually find the very first woman. Scientists in the 1980’s did just this. What they discovered was that the very first human, the very first woman, the mother of all humanity existed about two hundred thousand years ago. She was also black. This brings up all sorts of controversy but the basic point remains the same. The very first woman was black. So even in the realm of human interaction the metaphor that all things come from black and later separate into different colors is shown.
This recalls the book ‘Voices of the First Day’ by Robert Lawlor. In this book he postulates the theory that the very first people were the aborigines in Australia. They are, of course, black. He theorizes that the subtle energies from space come down through the north pole of the earth. These energies travel down through the center of the earth and come out at the south pole. These energies then sweep upwards over the top of the earth’s surface. He believes that life itself also emanates this way. The aborigines believe that they have lived in Australia for the past 200,000 years. Geologists and continental drift theorists have shown that there was once one super continent named Pangea. Pangea eventually broke apart and began moving northwards. Which is the situation we have today with most of the land masses gathering close to the northern part of the planet. The land masses appear to be following these south to north energies that flow over the earth’s surface. As the first people were created from these forces they begat the people that followed. In this way it is shown that all men come from the people of the first day.
Scientists and western mythologists refer to this first woman as Eve. She is actually Isis. She came to teach the arts of civilization. She is the first mother. She is the progenitor of all that is too come. All things manifest in Isis and all things are co-created with her.
The Black Madonna is symbol of all of the above and much more. She is Isis and she is Eve, she is the prima materia and the black lands, she is alchemy and she is the mother of all of human creation. From the depths of the darkest of space and the from the primal blackness of the mud of the earth she was formed. Manifesting into all colors and realms she casts her light of compassion, love and forgiveness into the very being of humanity. She is what makes the spirit rise out of the animal form. She is the being who represents all of the aspects of nature which are rising up out of creation. She is the being who symbolizes the transcendent nature of all of life. It is through her suffering, her desire, her compassion and her willingness to teach that the human race can reach towards a less mundane role. She is all that is and all that shall ever be. Isis is the true manifestation of all that is good in humanity. She is the woman that lives inside all of women. She is the true being of worship for it is only through her ultimate martyrship that we as men can grow.
Inside of each of the great Gothic Cathedrals of Europe, and especially France, are statues of the Black Madonna. She is made out of black obsidian. In the beginning she was painted white but now the paint has flecked away leaving the original black rock underneath. In this we have a beautiful metaphor that explains the Black Madonna’s origins and what she represents. Her original being is made of volcanic, black rock that comes from deep in the earth. She is Mother Night. Thus she arose directly from the stuff that makes up our planet. She is then painted white and dressed in white and blue clothes. She holds the son, exoterically represented by the baby Jesus but esoterically he represents Horus, the son of Isis and Osiris. Black Obsidian is very likely the prima materia of the alchemists. It is from this important substance that gold and other transmutations could be performed. Out of this dark and black aspect comes the white surface, black becomes white. The transmutation of matter is complete. But if the white is left alone for a long period of time — it begins to turn back to the black. Just as the white inside of an apple will turn brown and black if left alone in the air. White is a moment in the process but only just a moment. Soon all things fall back to their primordial essence. Soon all things turn back to the black. Thus Isis, or the Black Madonna, represented one aspect of her being when she was formed from the black obsidian. She became another aspect of herself when she was painted white. Today she sits in the cathedrals with her body and skin black but she still wears the white clothes of her former self. She today symbolizes the dual aspects of the age of iron. She is both the black volcanic earth and the soft white cotton of civilization. But soon the fires of nature shall burn away the white clothes and this will leave the maiden black again, just as she started.
According to the great alchemist Fulcanelli there is a Black Madonna in the crypt, or the basement, of every Cathedral in France. He says that she is the secret Isis who must stay hidden through this age. One day perhaps she will be taken out of the crypts and take her rightful place at the head of the altar. Perhaps some day the ruby light from the rose window at Chartes Cathedral can shine again on her face as it was originally intended.
But the Madonna in the crypt is still serving a useful purpose, albeit a hidden one. She is always placed nearby the well that lies at the bottom of each Cathedral. It is a little known fact that the great Gothic Cathedrals were built over the sacred wells and groves of the earlier Druids. Thus their architects were secretly upholding a tradition that connects these Cathedrals to the very core of the spiritual nature of the Druid people who once populated Europe. The lady by the well is very important to the proper spiritual construct of these edifices. The well is the representation of the female earth, the dark matter of our planet. The subtle energies, known to the cabbalists and alchemists as telluric forces, flow out from her and rise upwards towards the floor of the cathedral. The Black Madonna in the crypt is the first to greet these female earthly telluric energies. These energies rise up to greet the male telluric energies of father sky. These energies are received by the giant steeples of the cathedrals. These steeples act like amplifiers as they gather up the male energies and bring these downwards towards the floor of the Cathedrals. These steeples are symbolic representations of the stone monoliths that once dotted the landscape of Europe. These stones, or these steeples, are working in tandem with the earth’s telluric energies coming up from the wells. Together these energies would meet on the floor of the cathedrals where the members of the parish would meet. Gregorian chants would be written to resonate and transmit these subtle energies more clearly. At the core of this symbolic revival of the mother goddess, of Isis, was the giant rose window which sat at the center of the path of the sun. The light from father son was diffused by the red colored glass and this symbiotic transmutation would cause a heightened awareness and a birth of consciousness within the people experiencing this. This was the secret magic of the architects of these buildings. The Knight’s Templar, fresh from their esoteric reinvigoration in Jerusalem most likely funded and designed these Cathedrals. Some believe that the Knights had been secretly converted to a form of Sufi influenced Islam during their trip to the Holy Lands. The Cathedrals do bear a remarkable resemblance to the mosques of Islam. The Knights may have taken this knowledge of the Sufi’s and used it in conjunction with their own Druid belief system. In this marriage a new view of the world, human beings and the surrounding universe began to pervade Europe. After a long drowsy sleep — the continent began to open. This brought many unforeseen tragedies as well as many advances in technology but the ultimate end of this awakening may not happen for a while. It sometimes takes a long while for an experiment to unfold.
The Black Madonna thus represents the return of a female power. This power is not concerned with equality within corrupt institutions like the military and the corporate world. This equality is a spiritual union. A tantric union of opposites embraced in love. That is the ultimate quest of Isis and the Black Madonna. As she is from the earth so are we from the earth. As she returns to black so will our bodies one day return to the black soil of this planet. As our sun came out of the dust of darkness to light our solar neighborhood – so it too will one day die in its own embers. So it will also fade back into the darkness of female creation. The light must come from the dark. And one day the light returns to dark. This is the metaphor that rules all of creation. This is the tantric union of dark and light. The Black Madonna not only represents all of this but she is also a symbol of the vast and important knowledge that our ancestors attempted to leave behind. If one is presented with the Book of All Knowledge but does not know how to read it – what good is it? That is the dilemma that we are presented with today in our modern world. Our ancient fathers and mothers, our blood and flesh, left us a plethora of symbols and images to help us understand the larger universe and our place in it. We have lost the ability to understand these images and we have acquired a terrible case of amnesia. From which recovery is not guaranteed. In this amnesiac state we began to misperceive these symbols and writings. Without the true understanding of metaphor we began to think that our ancestors were ignorant, dumb and imprecise. What a horrible thing to have happen to one’s own flesh and blood. The symbols of the cathedrals, like the symbols of India and Egypt reveal a vast knowledge that frequently surpasses our own. Only in an age such as ours could such foolish notions manifest. The arrogant turn ignorant as they drown in the ocean of their own foolishness.
Now, at the end of the Kali Yuga, these symbols may become understandable again. Now as corporate culture replaces nature we can only imagine what the past was telling us. As we view the world through the virtual lenses of a corporate paradigm it is little wonder that we have lost our ability to understand who we are. The old world fades quickly away with the downward spiral of pollution from this age. The earth, the female, the soft touch of life have all been denigrated and corrupted by this age of insanity.
The Black Madonna is all that we have left of this long legacy of Isis. She still stands today in the Cathedrals of France. Today, still active and alive, the spirit of the goddess, the Black Madonna can still be knelt before, she can still be asked for forgiveness and for compassion. Her spirit has never died in Europe. Surely this is a miracle!