THE DIVINE MOTHER
We often think of God the creator as a male entity. What about God the Mother? Who is She? Most humans have come out of the womb of a mother. Who is the Divine Mother? We don’t seem to have a grasp of Her in the Western world, outside of the Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus. We would have to go back to the Greeks to have Goddess Energy: Aphrodite, Athena, Hera, and the like.
It is not that women have been absent from the canons of the Western Art tradition, but what role have they played in their inspiration of a female divinity? Men like to paint nude women, and not always with the purpose of emphasizing their cutting edge creative prowess in the greater scheme of things. More seductive than creative, a sexual form to be admired & desired, and a being to be obsessed over in filling our attention with the body of the Muse—yet, What is she? Who is she? Certainly more than a beautiful voluptuous body.
There is a lot thrown together in this painting by Botticelli—The Birth of Venus. Venus on the half shell. If an artist painted Her like that today She would be deemed rather hokey. In fact, aspiring after Divine Beauty is not our style. Provocative Playboy Bunnies and big bottomed Kardashians are sexually charged images we associate with voluptuousness, without the holy encounter thrown in. Venus, born from the sea, into the mind space of feminine perfection, birthed already grown up and whole, keeping her seductiveness coyly understated, was the extreme of fifteen century Florence. It is not the extreme of twenty-first century millennials.
Certainly Botticelli had his delicate standard of feminine beauty that he put across in this Venus. Red flowing hair nearly conjures a cascade of oceanic power. Youth and the sweetness of Her lips invite the touch of the artist’s kiss. All this is understandable for the Goddess of Love, even in Her idealized countenance.
We are mesmerized as men to this standard of perfection. Angels of Wind, intertwined, just blew this beauty onto the shore for us to partake of this sacrament of feminine life. On the half-shell, with the adoration of the fully clothed and flowing fate to the right, She is neither mother nor lover, as if on a pedestal of perfection, albeit a clam shell. Are we ready to embrace Her divinity, or ravish Her in the trees, or both? Wrap Her in the raiment of the upper echelons of 15th century Florentine Medici privilege, and you have a Goddess of beauty by all standards, but do you have the Divine Mother? Not so sure. More like a Divine Sensual Starlet.
WHERE WOULD WE LOOK?
Where would we look for the Divine Mother in Western art? I am not sure She has shown up yet. Certainly the East has had their versions. Kuan Yin is a Bodhisattva who gives us the Stillness of the Peace of God. She fills our space with silence. Our mind stops in its tracks when we contemplate this Divine Mother. She is the real deal when it comes to transcending the flesh, and taking us to heights of universal presence.
We almost miss this presence of the Divine Mother in the West. The Virgin Mary, after the Common Era, is about all there is folks, for presenting the Divine Feminine in our midst. And there is no dearth of Virgin Marys, not all created equal. Some are much better than others invoking a universal motherhood. One of my favorites is Raphael’s Alba Madonna at the National Gallery here in Washington DC. The refinement of Raphael is notable, but also the compassion and realism of the scene. There is perfection. There is tenderness. There is exactitude. All these combine to make one of the most powerful Divine Mother images in Western Art.
We could go back farther, much farther, to find the thread of a true worship of the Feminine Powers. In a world before so called “civilization,” The Divine Mother was very prevalent in primitive societies. The Venus de Willendorf, circa 25,000 BCE, is one of the most potent fertile mother figures in Western art history. As a human race we have hovered around this necessity of honoring the Divine Feminine for eons. How could we avoid that very crucial relationship with life here on the planet earth, namely through the grace of the Cosmic Mother?
This hovering has yet to land, in the way it has within the Eastern traditions. Jagadambe is the Mother of everything. Not just the womb out of which high souled humans come, but also the womb out of which a whole Cosmos is birthed. The Divine Mother is often presented symbolically with eight arms, the ultimate “multi-tasker,” but She is engaged in various aspects of Creation that establish Her as the matrix for all physical form. Namely, the earth, the moon and the stars come forth from Her fingertips.
She is the Giver of all strength and all physical matter. She is the one Who manifests galaxies and worlds. She is worshipped by the male Divinities Who surrender to Her. She is the “All” of material existence. There is no atom in creation that She does not imbue with Her omnipotent presence. She is the Life Force itself, felt in the palpitation of things in the stream of immortal existence. The Divine Mother is the reason everything that exists does exist. Without Her there may be an impetus of a spark of Creation, but no where for it to go. In the Divine Mother all things have the physical stuff they need to be made manifest.
The Ultimate Adoration
Art pays homage to that which it attends in its creation. To paint the Divine Mother is to honor Her. I did a lot of paintings of Her in the past 13 years. Amritanadamayi, better known as “Amma, the hugging saint,” was my subject much of the time. I painted Her all over the world. This one I painted in Kiev, Ukraine.
This Praying Amma I painted for a client in California. There is a power in it, emanating out from a deep inner space. This pose is typical of a being absorbed in mindful contentment, like the Divine Mother often is. This is the Divine Mother in Action—the Action of Divine Grace.
In this quest for the Divine Mother, we still have not fully understood Her role in these coming times. A patriarchal system of the past 5000 years has produced great tribal and nationalistic havoc in the epochs of the human race. Scarcely have we known a Pax Humana, in which all human beings have lived in a relatively peaceful world of harmonic convergence. Yet this Mother Divine could make a difference. Who is She?
I was flipping through one of Sondra’s Vogue magazines and I came across this powerful person I had never seen before. It seems that the first Native American Indian has been appointed to the United States cabinet as the Secretary of the Interior. Finally our indigenous people are being honored and represented, and by a woman, Deb Haaland. She came across so stalwart and powerful in her stance, in her face, and in her presence. She has the Sacred Corn of Life on her colorful holy dress. I had to do a drawing with her.
What is there to say? We have to start honoring the wisdom of the feminine side of things. Men have made a mess of centuries of competition, dominance, sexual exploitation, and building their Xanadu’s of culture to tower over the common folks. Who is She? Who is the Divine Mother? This is a question we need to ask, and ask deeply to our soul. Because it is She who gave birth to us all.