Rescuing the Lost Maiden

Photograph meditation by alidarwish233 on 500px

In my previous blog I introduced the concept of The Lost Maidens, the dissociated parts of ourselves that we left behind in childhood and young adulthood to roam unattended in the wilderness. Now the question is: how can we as adult women go back and collect the fragments of the lost maiden integrating and receiving her into our adult woman? Do we even want to? Aren’t we doing okay as we are? We’ve managed this far without her- and maybe some childhood fragments too -but doesn’t everybody. Isn’t that the way of the world now, a reflection of our fragmented culture? We may be fooled into thinking that we are doing okay, that we can get by without these unacknowledged parts of ourselves, the parts that went into hiding, deep into the basement of our unconscious… yes, those parts, the same parts that erupt from time to time and of which we say “I don’t know what came over me. It’s just not like me. I have never said/done that before…”

The maiden may be lost but she is not gone. She still lives in hope that one day we will free her from her bondage- that is bondage of self-betrayal, stuffing her authenticity down a plug-hole in favor of exhibiting a socially acceptable, people-pleasing face that might just earn us love and acceptance- but more often it earns us crumbs and erodes our self respect. The unhealed maiden who never received her rightful love and acceptance continues to crave it- no matter how old. It is possible to have crossed the threshold of crone and still be held ransom by the approval seeking maiden.

The lost maiden wants only to be returned to her rightful place, firmly anchored in our bodies, heart, spirit and soul. Her purpose is to be realized. She stands barefoot, laden with an armful of treasure tarnished and broken by her time in the wilderness or underworld, but she will not let go of those things- she lives in hope that one day those treasures will shine and be seen by the world.

But the truth is they can’t be- these things belong to another time… our lives have taken the course they have taken- we have lived. There have been births and deaths, we have shaped things and been shaped. In reclaiming the lost maiden it is more a question of bringing back the energy and libido of the soul fragment and allowing it to find its place within us- expressing it in the best way to bring us to wholeness now. We can synthesis that energy into the matrix of our life, as women, as crone. In its primordial state, the essence of the maiden is pure, unadulterated vision, inspiration and warrior-like focus to see it through and make it happen, no matter what anyone else thinks, no matter how disappointing or unacceptable we become to those around us…who may in fact be quite happy with the people-pleasing pale imitations that we have become.

There is no one who is going to birth us from child to woman (although by grace of the goddess, if we are lucky, we receive much support and guidance along the way). For whatever reason- and there are many- for those of us who did not receive the grounding, witnessing, celebration and anchoring of our young feminine that we longed for as teenagers we must find a way to do it for ourselves. But like the phoenix we can rise from the ashes of our wasteland and see what remains of those soul treasures.

Retrieving the lost maiden could also initiate a cull- to receive her into our soul we must let go of the people, situations and the stagnant energy of our half-lived lives. This is the ego-sacrifice of the mother- we are literally mothering ourselves, letting go of grasping to people, situations and habits that keep us small in the vain hope of offering us security, comfort, love or acceptance. In allowing the lost maiden to return we finally give this gift to ourselves. No one else could ever do this for us, and deep down we knew that, we just did not know how to find the self-belief, courage, will, and unconditional self- love to birth ourselves over the threshold to woman.

Now we know.

In a shamanic sense, what is needed is a soul retrieval- the lost maiden is a soul fragment that has become separate from us. We need to make space to call her back; she needs to know there is a place for her and that she will not be abandoned again. She needs to be received. We begin by listening very carefully to what she has to say and we do this by turning inward to the silence within- so that we can hear.

My lost maiden is trying to come back, and I want her to. We are negotiating how this can happen. Part of the issue is that it is like learning to walk again- literally. In my dreams, I am given new shoes, kick- ass shoes that are going to take me many places- but I am not quite sure how to walk in them yet. Or else, I am trying to get ready for a return flight to somewhere- home- but I am disorientated and cannot get organized- I have too many things that I want to bring back with me and it’s just not possible. I have to let go of those things knowing that they are mere representations or symbols of an energy that I already possess because it is me. I let these things go. I decide to travel light. These dreams seem to me to be characteristic of the newly called back soul fragment trying to integrate and live along-side the part it has become dissociated from. The exiled part having now returned, or returning, needs a period of transition to settle in, and this is where the listening comes in. Her needs may be different to what we think she needs- this is where the ego surrender comes in, the sacrifice of the mother. What if she is asking for something, has a need, that will necessitate a big change, a big letting go of something we have been holding on to for such a longtime. Who are we when we are stripped bare of the trappings and trimmings of our false selves?

There is also a grieving in this transition.

We can create ceremony and holding for this soul working, midwifing the new and hospicing the old- both equally important. And, although it is not always easy we need to give ourselves time for this process to happen and that begins with first acknowledging and accepting what is unfolding without trying to fight it. It is a death and rebirth.

The Lost Maidens

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Hermes helps Persephone to leave the Underworld and return to her mother Demeter. 1891 painting by Frederic Leighton.

By now most people are familiar with the triple pattern of psychic energy in feminine consciousness- mother, maiden, crone- and sometimes between maiden and crone is the enchantress or Queen. But have you ever stopped to consider how these archetypes are expressed in your own life?

In a culture where rites of passage, ritual and initiation are all but fragments of the past and in the case of our own culture practically disappeared from any written records, how do we mark these transitions in our life and what do they even mean?

Recently I have been giving some thought to the maiden archetype- partly this has to do with me becoming a facilitator for rites of passage for girls between the ages of 10 and 12. Of course, engaging with this work inevitably means confronting that part of myself. What was it like for me at that age, how was my maiden met in the world, and depending on that, what have the effects of that transition, or lack of transition, been on my life as a girl, young woman and mature woman?

The task of the maiden is to come to know and express her own essence. It is a stage in life when we make decisions about who we are, what we like, what we want, how we want to participate in the adult world. This is a tricky business because at that age we are also often very concerned with what others think of us, we long to be accepted and to be loved. If we are not accepted and loved for who we are in our essence we may begin to betray our inner wisdom and truth as a trade-off for love and acceptance. This is a time then when the dangers of self- betrayal are all around us – enter the shadow maiden. The shadow maiden loses herself amid what others want and expect from her. On the outside she is complicit in this contract but inside she is seething with rage at this terrible imposition she has allowed to befall her. She has no suitable out-let for her feelings and instead turns them in on herself- she becomes self-destructive.

The maiden carries the seeds of all her potential within her- within her changing body and processes of transformation, but if those seeds are not planted on fertile ground the flowers cannot grow. If the maiden is not met in who she is, is not acknowledged, celebrated and honored by her family, friends and community, it is very difficult for her to provide the positive reflection for herself. It is not impossible but it takes a very strong maiden to accept and celebrate herself when all around she is being given the message that she is wrong.

The task of the maiden is to dream her future into being by seeding projects, setting goals, finding the means, conditions and support to follow through on her plans. She has a light inside of her that needs to shine and be acknowledged by her community as a gift. Sadly, this was not the case for many of us now adult women. What happens at the second stage of feminine initiation- mother- if the first stage was not fulfilled? The shadow maiden becomes the shadow mother. The task of the mother is to actualize the dreams of the maiden, to birth the potential and bring it fully into the world. If we are actual mothers, our job may be to put our own ego desires aside and nurture the ground for the maiden daughter. If we are not biological mothers it may be to sacrifice aspects of our ego life in order to birth who we are truly meant to be in the world. These sacrifices must never be given with bitterness, only love and if the mother has not actualized herself, she will find it very difficult to actualize her daughter, or her own unbirthed maiden.

In moving toward facilitating rites of passage for prepubescent girls into woman-hood I have come face-to-face with my own maiden. In some ways, she has birthed the seeds of her potential but so many seeds were not birthed. My maiden certainly became lost in the mire of relationships and giving away power- that I could have been using for my own becoming- over to others who, I mistakenly thought, were able to give me myself. The shadow maiden or the lost maiden seeks to be mothered and birthed through any number of surrogate mothers, the mother that she never had. She is given to self-destructive tendencies to cope with the gap of what she knows in her soul to be the truth of her being, and the consequences of self- rejection. The shadow maiden never learned to anchor inside of her own being, trusting her own grounding and create healthy boundaries between self and world- she is constantly swallowed and lost in the world of others, seeking their approval, always trying to belong. What the shadow maiden needs to realise is that she is the only one who can gift herself that approval and belonging.

Many of us missed the full actualization of the maiden stage and have limped on through life, half realized, half subsumed by psychic forces that while remaining unrealized are often destructive. It is not too late- there is hope! While the maiden/mother/ crone -the triple goddess journey does correlate to linear and biological times of life, on another level it exists outside of time and space- it is a journey of the soul. As women we may be competent, or semi competent, mothers either for our biological children or soul seeds waiting to be birthed, but if any part of our inner maiden remains unacknowledged or outcast we will can never become fully actualized.

As women we can still acknowledge and realize our maiden. We can do this in rites of passage, ceremony, ritual… we can celebrate her in witnessing and giving space for what is yet unrealized in her. What seeds lay in the dark fertile ground of her being just waiting for the tenderness of heart and the soft rays of sunshine, so that they can flower?

Mistress of The Dance

The next Canterbury Moon Lodge takes place on September 6th, three days before the new moon when the Sun/Moon conjunction is in 16 degrees Virgo, and Venus is just entering Scorpio. The evening is given over to ‘The Dance’- and in our case it is the Spirit Dance, led by Natasha Quinn. We can delight to be in our bodies, to surrender the thinking mind to a deeper primordial instinct, to flow with the cosmic rhythm and pulse, to free ourselves just a little more from the shackles of the mind.

The Sabian Symbol for the Sun/Moon conjunction on the new moon is-

A Volcanic Eruption.

 Keynote: The explosive energy of long repressed contents of the subconscious.

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Image by Fabian Perez

And that is what can happen in the dance when we let go of old fixed ideas and the taming of the wild woman. Women have throughout time always danced to access a more intuitive, feeling expression, and to express the cosmic part of their nature. At its best, the dance is deeply transformative; inside its freeing rhythm we are changed- we show something of our unconditioned or liberated selves – not only to ourselves and to each other, but we also make ourselves available to be acted upon, and to act- the act is an upsurge or uprising from our innate knowing, longings and desires. Our bodies know how to move, how to release… they know what they need, and how to flow with universal energy.

Ecstasy comes from the ancient Greek word ἔκστασις ekstasis, and means “to be or stand outside oneself, a removal to elsewhere” from ek- “out,” and stasis “a stand, or a standoff of forces”.  In this context it is to stand outside the reasoned mind, the ego, and allow ourselves to enter a liminal zone beyond time and space, between the ordinary and non-ordinary realities. We stand outside of our every day persona and allow ourselves to take part in the cosmic dance. To dance and to be danced.

Shared ecstasy is rarely experienced these days outside of the collective intoxication of weekend binge drinking. This is a sad loss for our shared humanity. Ritual, ceremony and community celebration from our pagan past filled that space in rites such as Saturnalia, the Roman festival to honor the god Saturn. Here, the whole community celebrated in a public banquet followed by continual, often wild, partying that disregarded social norms of the time.

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Photograph by Daniell Alnuma

The Greek goddess of the dance is Terpsichore or Τερψιχορη who is one of the nine muses, she is Muse of Dance and her name means ‘to delight in the dance’. On the evening of our Moon Lodge and on the new moon Terpsichor is at 20 degrees Aquarius- which talks of how we meet these spheres of surrender and ecstasy in a social context- how we share these experiences- how we can stand outside ourselves in the presence of others. That is a big ask… we have been taught to adopt a persona, to develop a healthy ego, to separate self and other, and to act according to the social rules of our culture.

Hans Thoma 1886 Acht tanzende Frauen in Vogelkörpern

Hans Thoma, 1886 Acht tanzende Frauen in Vogelkörpern

I would like to share a dream that I once had…

There were many women in a underground temple. The women were dancing in sync with each other, precisely coordinated movements, sometimes very fast, sometimes much slower… moving as one collective, focused energy. The movements and the energy created by the women determined the events and movements of the ordinary world above them. In this sense the women were like earth energies, or kundalini, sinuously moving through the subterranean land, the lower world, or the unconscious, influencing worldly affairs.

In this dream I realised the power of dance, a power that must never be underestimated or forgotten.

As T.S. Elliot so beautifully declared in his poem Burnt Norton from The Four Quartets-

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.

 

The Solar Feminine

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Portrait of a Heart by Christian Schloe

I write this blog when the sun is in the zodiacal sign of Leo, and we have just passed the new moon eclipse in Leo (yesterday). For someone whose interests are often rooted in lunar consciousness, and in particular, how women can work with lunar energy, I turn my attention to the solar feminine.

A brief search on the internet into the solar feminine reveals that many people view the solar feminine principle as an antidote to what they perceive to be an enforced lunar consciousness imposed upon women through a patriarchal mind-set. One that allows and accepts certain feminine attributes (nurturance, receptivity, passivity) but not others (action, wilfulness, courage). I disagree.

While certain aspects of the feminine principle have been more permitted within what we have come to consider patriarchal culture, the dark phase of the moon, the dark goddess and her acceptance of the interplay between life and death has been rejected. The territory of the dark goddess contains magic, the occult, divination, embodiment, direct experience, menstruation, blood, ecstasy, lunacy, intuition over reason, the non- rational, transformation, death and re-birth. In our culture, women involved with these experiences are often viewed as witches. Whoever said that the moon was all nurturing, yielding and passive? In certain phases of the moon/feminine consciousness cycle these states may be more present, but that’s not the whole story.

My interest in the solar feminine, then, is not in rejection of an imposed lunar consciousness on the feminine, it is a search for feminine light and spirituality that is transcendent in nature and defies five thousand years of religious culture which has denied a feminine spirituality. In moving from lunar based matriarchal cultures to the worship of solar god heroes, the privilege of light and transcendence became associated with the masculine principle- Christ, Apollo, and Ra to name a few. However in some cultures, typically Egyptian and Celtic, the solar deities were often female- Sekhmet, Hathor, Wadjet and Nut in Egypt, and  Brighid, Grian, and Olwen in the Celtic tradition. In Baltic mythology, Saule is a an important solar deity while in Aboriginal mythology there are several solar feminine deities.

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Brigid- Goddess of Inspiration by Emily Balivet

Exploring feminine solar deities makes for interesting comparative religious studies, but for now I am interested in exploring what the solar feminine looks like from a Western perspective in a culture whose main religion has placed a male figure as the central hero and redeemer – the Son of God. Daughter of God is not so neatly embedded within our cultural lexicon or psyche and many women in their search for God have felt disappointed and rejected by the absence of a divinized feminine. In this context the feminine has been split into Mother Mary the immaculate, and Mary Magdalene the penitent whore- a dichotomy which has played out ever since.

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Repentant Mary Magdalene by Giampietrino (Gian Pietro Rizzoli). Active-1508-1549

There are of course many examples where women have excelled in a culture that celebrates what might typically be thought of male values- ambition, logic, reason, intellect, monetary success, emotional detachment, mind over body, science, fiscal growth, politics, technological advancement… But to what extent is it possible to incorporate more soulful, heart-based, erotic, intuitive and feeling qualities into these spheres? I am sure there are many women (and men) who bring this to the worldly realms, but more often than not, the solar feminine in this context becomes the shadow solar- good daughters of patriarchy upholding values that are not always heart-based or soulful. The shadow solar is active when science attempts to control the matrix of life through advancements that esteems life but negates death; through politics that becomes increasingly separate from the lives of real people; through education that seeks to classify and judge children on an imposed set of values rather than celebrating difference and creativity. The list goes on…

So what is the solar feminine? Well it is not just applicable to women, it can be expressed through both men and women. It is present whenever there is a heart-based connection and true power is being expressed. True power comes from a synthesis of wisdom, intellect and heart – and I would include the body. It is a joined up, holistic approach to life that is responsible for the welfare of all beings including the earth. It gives space to the rich array of human experience and emotions. It respects that we are cyclical in nature and that this cyclicity allows for the possibility of wholeness and renewal, for death and rebirth and for the wisdom of nature to be revealed.

The heart is our central, embodied sun, it connects us to the cosmic sun and the spiritual sun- illumination. It is not surprising that in recent years it has been discovered that the heart is in not just a ‘suck and pump’ vessel, nor is it merely a muscle of the circulatory system, but is in fact a spiral and what are spirals if not vehicles between spheres – vortexes or portals that can open up realms of consciousness between earth and the rest of the cosmos.

In our secularized Western culture, the heart has been identified with romance, feelings, compassion and human love, but rarely with transcendence. The mystical path of Sufism recognizes that the world cannot be known by the mind but must be felt with the heart.

For so long did the Beloved
Face my open heart
That except for His Attributes and Nature
Nothing remained of that heart.
– Maghribi

In the Christian tradition there is the ‘Sacred Heart’ which may be read as Christ’s love and compassion for humanity, or it may be interpreted as the potential for human beings to be pierced by the ray of cosmic light- I am not a theologian. The heart appears to have an esoteric significance beyond the purely physical in all major religions. There is the Heart Sutra in Mahayana Buddhism and in Jewish thought, Rabbi Yerucham Levovitz says “the heart is like a seismograph, recording every tiny tremor that passes through us, even if our conscious minds remain unaware of the impact.”

In the neoliberal takeover of the Western world, the heart has been demoted to a source to be manipulated, a thing to be pulled upon in order to illicit reactions and sentiments, creating voids that can be filled by endless consumer products. We have lost the mystical spiritual significance of the heart and in a culture (cult) of individualism we are encouraged to protect our hearts, to tend to our own little worlds that may be controlled and managed – to stay safe and protect ourselves. We try not to get a broken heart. Charities pull on our heart strings and manipulate us into easing our conscience by alleviating the suffering of others but we have very little contact with that suffering- in many cases we set up a direct debit from our bank account and maybe read the occasional newsletter about the project we support but we tend not to get up close and personal with the mess. We get emotional release vicariously through the many emotive and stirring films from Hollywood and mass media. We choose romantic partners like we choose clothes- what seems like the best fit, what looks good? We like to believe that we are invulnerable and we play our cards close to our chest. In the work place it is taboo to show feelings and emotions and we are rewarded for qualities like consistency, reliability and level headedness. But where is the heart?

Perhaps the solar feminine could be said to be love in action, a willingness to be open and connected, to be vulnerable and not afraid to show feelings or be moved by others. Not afraid to want intimacy and affection, or to serve others; to right wrongs, challenge injustice and say no to the forces that would tyrannize the ways of the heart. The solar feminine in men and women rejects corruption, manipulation and self serving behavior that cares little for consequences and injury to others. She holds the flaming sword of truth and will not be beaten into submission or seduced by the jewels of the world. She cannot be bought and sold. Alongside her magical lunar counterpart, she is true feminine power, not the depictions of feminine power we are encouraged to aspire to through debased sexuality, illusionary independence, and disconnection from our bodies and natural rhythms.

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As an astrologer I look at the placement of the natal sun in a chart to get a sense of where these values may seek expression in the lives of individuals. By placement, house and aspects much can be revealed about our solar identity and how to birth it into the world.

I am available for intuitive astrological guidance.

The Daimon- Shadow & Light

The psyche in its impulse towards wholeness does not always guide us toward the light, instead sometimes plunges us into the dark and often shocking recesses of the unconscious, our own and the collective.

In coming to terms my own darkness I have attempted to define it, give it shape and form, a reason for being and a name… in short, I have tried to know the darkness. But the primordial darkness cannot be known any more than the light as both belong to the mystery and may not be so opposite and we have led to believe.

“And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, let there be light: and there was light”.

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Detail from Michelangelo’s painting in the Sistine Chapel.

The Christian- Judaeo tradition separates dark and light and ascribes names to these states- Christ and Satan, Heaven and Hell, good and evil. Within that tradition we are taught that we ought to strive for the light… that Christ is all good while the devil is all bad. But what if these two seemingly opposite states are in fact one in the same and that what has been feared as evil and darkness is in fact an expression of what has been known since the time of Socrates as the daimon, the guiding principle mediating between our human and divine states of being- or our guide to help us realise our true nature?

 

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‘Thou wast Perfect till Iniquity was Found in Thee’ c.1805 William Blake 1757-1827 Presented by the executors of W. Graham Robertson through the Art Fund 1949

God does indeed move in mysterious ways and the daimon, as an intermediate power of divine order, interacts with all parts of our being from the highest to the lowest to facilitate our wholeness. According to Plato, the daimon exists within us before birth and the conditions are set for the journey through life to reveal the will of God.

The daimon appears as the ultimate trickster and speaks to us through archetype, symbol and the imaginal, and in this way the daimon will draw upon and use any means in order to communicate to us… and it does not always appear as benevolent. This communion largely depends on how conscious we are of a situation; the daimon may talk to us in a symbolic language that can be understood only by us.

Influenced by Jungian and archetypal psychology my sense of the daimon is also shaped by my personal experience and confrontation with the darkness of my own soul. I am  inspired by those who have allowed themselves to be transformed by their darkness.

Carl Jung famously had a confrontation with his own unconscious from which he created the Red Book; Philemon was a guide who appeared to Jung in a dream in 1913. Jung says,

[Philemon] was simply a superior knowledge, and he taught me psychological objectivity and the actuality of the soul. He formulated and expressed everything which I had never thought.

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During Jung’s descent he was aware that he was being guided by a power that he was incapable or resisting and therefore did not feel that his life was entirely his own-

I had to obey an inner law which was imposed on me and left me no freedom of choice…. . . A creative person has little power over his own life. He is not free. He is captive and driven by his daimon …. This lack of freedom has been a great sorrow to me. ~Carl Jung, Jung’s Last Years, Page 141.

The purpose of a such a journey (or ordeal) is to transcend the limited scope of the ego. Jung writes,

Thus the Self can appear in all shapes from the highest to the lowest, inasmuch as these transcend the scope of the ego personality in the manner of a daimonion ~Carl Jung, CW 9ii, Para 356

When we are in the grip of the daimon and the archetypal forces, our ego is shattered, and a new sense perception is revealed to us. Returning from the experience we are changed forever. Many mystics and saints were touched by God through ecstatic states where the holy spirit descended into them- think of Saint Theresa of Avila.

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Bernini’s “The Ecstasy of St. Teresa of Avila”

Ecstasy means to stand outside oneself and many indigenous cultures as well as the ancients understood the power of ecstatic ritual, dance, theatre, and song to enable moving beyond the restrictions of the ego. We also move beyond the ego when we are broken down in psychosis, madness, dissociation, or any altered state caused by archetypal forces being too powerful or over-whelming for the ego to handle. Likewise, we can reach these states through psycho-active substances or Dionysian intoxication, and through sex. In all of these transcended states we return transformed in some way, however there are dangers and perils on this journey- we may become stuck or lost, attached to the archetype, addicted to intoxication or just too far into madness to return.

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Orpheus returning form the Underworld

The archetypal forces- guided by the daimon– move through us and can destroy us if we do not provide adequate containment or are not prepared for the penetration. Restoring ritual in our modern world will go a long way in helping us to navigate archetypal meetings.

We can be exposed to the archetypal realm through wounds that occurs in early childhood… sometimes called sacred wounds, created when forces that move through our underdeveloped psyche are so over-whelming that they cannot be processed in the usual way and are instead introjected. This creates a rich and magical world that can be dissociated from the external world of consensual reality causing our psyche to become fragmented. 

Plato believed that between our human state and God a spectrum of forms or states existed – including the daimonic– and that the human realm was inferior to loftier states such as the angelic realms.

Instead of separating heaven and earth, human and divine, could the times we are living through now be about merging these states and recognizing our human divinity?

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Archangel Michael by Guido Reni