A Study in
George Sidney Arundale
First published 1926
No more glorious vision has Nirvana given me than that of the apotheosis - or must I say again, an apotheosis - of womanhood. We are familiar with the conception of God the Father, but little information is there regarding God the Mother. Yet we come nearer an ultimate Reality when we begin to be able to sense the Mother-Principle as coeternal with the Father-Principle, co-existent with it, both emerging from one ineffable source. So far as I am aware, in every great Faith the Mother-Principle finds noble and wonderful expression, perhaps as Power-Sacrifice, impersonal, “awful” in the true sense of the word, or perhaps as Purity-Sacrifice, an ideal woman, such, for example, as we have in Christianity in Our Lady.
In terms of Nirvana I seem to perceive a Mother-Light and a Father-Light, each a component part of the Lightning-standing-still. I wonder whether I can differentiate between the two. The Mother-Light impresses me first of all with a sense of Simple, Majestic Dignity, the Dignity of the Unveiled Real, the Dignity of Holiness, in which are beautifully blended Restraint, reserved Power, Refuge, Protection. I seem to see within the glorious embodiments in the outer world of this great Mother-Light a radiant sea of Light, and the image comes to me of a vast expanse of still and silent ocean with a mother-of-pearl glittering
in the soft light of the full moon, the slight ripples causing a ceaseless shimmering. Think what the ocean is. Remember its tremendous, irresistible power. But this ocean of the Mother-Light is never lashed into storm - it remains ever peaceful, ever calm, inscrutable, deep beyond the power of words to express, yet shimmering, scintillating, with that Love-Light which is a
mighty mountain peak of Wisdom-Compassion.
In this great
indeed a holy and consecrated channel through which it flows outwards to generate and to fructify all life: Mater Generatrix.
As broods the
Mother-Light over every act of renewal in every
What a mission! How splendid an office! Woman the Fire of Creation.
At this point let me for a moment place in juxtaposition the Father-Light. What do I perceive in differentiation? Action, a Flashing Forth, may I say a storm-ridden sea, pulsating with mighty outpourings? The Positive complementary to the Negative; the two mighty Poles of manifested Being. Entering the essence of these two great Lights I see the One. And almost I begin to understand the One, because as I watch (or is it as I change?) I perceive the Light-quality dissolve into apparent nothingness - it is not really nothingness - and there remains a More-than-Light, that to which even Light owes its being. I can say no more. But I realize how both Father-Light and Mother-Light must together express this More-than-Light as it assumes the shadow of manifestation.
I return to the contemplation of the Mother-Light. Instantly the image of mighty Pallas Athene comes before my inner sight. In some wonderful way She seems a most perfect form of Mother-Light, infinitely majestic, awe-inspiring, a Sanctuary in which the afflicted take refuge and issue forth strong and unafraid, a great Heartener, Queen of Heaven’s Ministering Powers. The ancient statues of Her convey something of Her Glory. As I gaze upon her, a miracle happens. I see myriads of Her. For a moment I wonder what has happened, but almost immediately I perceive that I see her reflected in all womanhood in all kingdoms of Nature. Every woman a sparkling jewel of the Mother-Light, imprisoning its glories to release and speed them on their way. The whole world should sparkle with these jewels, yet many are dull, lifeless, dimmed by desecration.
Where are the women to
restore to womanhood its splendid lustre? Where are the women to lead the women
of every Nation on a great crusade to recover and fulfil their heritage? How
long shall it be ere women remember that their bodies are shrines of the
Mother-Light at which they may worship with mighty Sacraments, among them those
of Marriage and Motherhood? How long shall it be ere children are born in holy
I suppose this sounds utterly alien from modern ideas of motherhood, womanhood, childhood. But I have been abiding awhile in the Real, and I have been living in the intense yearning of the World-Mother that Her children may draw nearer to Her, that She may press them to Her Heart. Where there is sorrow, grief, despair, agony, there is the World-Mother, tending, cherishing, comforting, as many a pain-stricken mother knows, as many a lonely child knows too. Yet She could do so much more, would womanhood but turn to Her. The Christ has returned to His world; many of us know this, and are preparing a welcome for our Guest and Father. But do we know, too, that with Him comes the World-Mother? Not, perhaps, in Her own most glorious Form, though possibly in bodies consecrated specifically to Her use; nevertheless She comes, and Her mission is to the women of the world, to remind them of the glory of womanhood, to summon them to lead the world and to give to the world great men 1and women, and to exhort them to make womanhood worthy of reverence as She will exhort men to reverence womanhood. We ask the world to welcome its Christ. We ask the world to welcome its Mother as She returns with Her Son Who is Her King.
How clearly I perceive the Nirvanic Glory of womanhood, so distorted and misshapen down here. Womanhood in excelsis! And I see, in this return of the Christ, Heaven that is Nirvana kissing earth and endowing earth once more with its glories, and none greater than the Mother-Light. Downward shines the Mother-Light through every World-Mother this earth has ever known. Once again do They come near to the world which aforetime They have mothered.
Once more They stir in the heart of every woman, summoning her to light again the sacrificial Fire in the temple of her being. Many They call to the sacraments of Marriage and individual Motherhood. But They call all to that wider Motherhood of which the world is being so disastrously deprived in these modern days when men and women alike have forgotten woman’s true place in life.
In an article appearing
in the August issue (1926) of The Liberal Catholic of
in which I first began to know Her as far as I am capable of understanding Her. I saw a Light. I have put that Light into feeble words:
“There is no more beautiful or mysterious truth in the world than the truth conveyed in those infinitely touching words - ‘Our Lady.’ In every Faith we find this truth. It is almost the heart of every Faith. Each Faith has its Power, its Wisdom and its Love. Within all three lies enshrined Motherhood - directing the Power, enlightening the Wisdom, beautifying the Love. Our Lady, chatelaine of the castle of the world, is wonderful as the Mother of Jesus, infinitely appealing to all that is noblest in us. Jesus, the Vehicle of our Lord the Christ. Our Lady, the Way of the Christ to His World. In Her Holiness She is far, far away from us. In Her Motherhood She is ‘nearer than hands and feet.’
“But she is more even than the Mother of Jesus, more than the Symbol of Her in any Faith, for we find Her on every plane of nature, in every kingdom of nature.
I ascend the loftiest regions I am capable of reaching, and there I find Her - Light Radiant, a Light exquisitely distinguishable from all other Light. In that Light glows the Mother-Principle of Light and Life and Glory. I am face to face with the shadow of the Motherhood of God. I see her as the supreme embodiment of Motherhood everywhere, in all kingdoms, on all planes. She is the Universal Mother - the apotheosis of all that makes motherhood the purest reflection of the Nature of God. In every act of motherhood is marvellously reflected and ever renewed the supreme wonder of the Sacrifice of God, so that motherhood becomes the most sacred thing in the world.
“Wherever there is motherhood there is Our Lady, and as I write these words there comes before me the picture of ‘The Lady of the Lamp’ - Florence Nightingale, as she passes from bedside to bedside among the wounded in her hospital at Scutari, carrying comfort and courage to every sufferer. I see this picture as a faint image of the Compassion of Our Lady, as She moves from bedside to bedside among the women-expectant of the world. The whole world is Her hospice, and myriad-formed She broods with infinite tenderness over every mother-to-be as she consummates her divine Act of Remembrance of the Sacrifice of God.14]
“I am told, too, the story of the poor Hindu girl in an Indian village, who, about to become a mother, was anxiously expecting her own mother to ‘mother’ her in her time of exquisite trial, through a crucifixion into a resurrection. Her mother lived faraway, but was hastening to her daughter’s side. She had not arrived when the agonies of birth began, but Another Mother was there in her form, so that the girl rejoiced that her mother had come in time. Tenderly Parvati - Our Lady of the Hindus, the Mother-Principle - guided Her child through the sacrament of Motherhood, enfolding her in joy and peace. At last the mother herself came, and Our Lady vanished. But the young mother knew not what had happened, and one day thanked her mother for her marvellous tenderness and care. Astonished, the older woman answered that to her great grief and anxiety she had not been able to arrive in time, but was so happy to see that someone else had bestowed upon her child a mother’s care. ‘But …’ said the daughter, and then upon them smiled Parvati, and they understood and rejoiced in deepest reverence and gratitude.
“At every Sacrament of
Motherhood Our Lady ministers, and many women there be who see Her, while all
who are conscious of the Sacrament know in full measure that Peace which is Her
Presence. To all She comes, taking for each the form she loves and worships.
How wonderful is the Motherhood of God, the Mother-Principle of life ... a
glowing Glory, a glowing Triumph, a glowing Tenderness, a glowing Sacrifice, a
glowing Understanding, a glowing Power to guard and cherish. The Light which is
this Mother-Principle flashes forth many-hued, encircling the world, radiating
upon all things. In every
Of this Light Our Lady,
this Universal Mother of us all, is the Epiphany, the embodied Form. She is a
Being, a Person, Who has trodden this glorious road to Divinity, and has
reached atonement in Motherhood. No picture, no words, can describe Her, yet
She is no abstraction, no pure Principle, but Mother-Light in glorious, Form.
By the side of every mother does She stand as the mother bears splendid witness
in her own physical body that she is a
“Each mother-to-be is a
Can you perceive from this great sacrament of birth, how great indeed, how solemn, is the sacrament that precedes it - the sacrament of marriage? Over every marriage, truly, broods Our Lady’s Blessing. The married couple become Her children, united for that beautiful sacrifice of birth-giving which they prepare in shining love for offering by Our Lady. As in the Bread and Wine of the Eucharistic Service is the Real Presence of our Lord, so in every child-birth is the Real Presence of our Lady. How glorious the role of woman - temple, priestess, altar, chalice, in one! Is not every child-birth a marvellous
Eucharistic Service - sacred and joyous beyond the power of words to paint?“Would that the old-time reverence for women returned! Would that women the world over entered into their heritage of priesthood!
All women may not be able to marry. Marriage may not be the vocation for every woman. Yet the priesthood remains. Is there not the service of the Benediction of the Most Holy Sacrament as well as the Eucharistic Service itself? Is there not so much in the world that woman alone can do, even though she be not called to be the priestess-mother? In these days when women have to earn their living - in many ways one cannot but regret the necessity, it savours of the world’s want of reverence for womanhood - when women have to enter into so many of the sordid things of life, still may they remember the priesthood of their sex, that wherever they are and whatever they may be doing they remain the chosen priestesses and ministrants of Our Lady, to defend Motherhood against all degradation, to stand for the sacred rights of mother and of child, to represent the Mother-Principle in Life.
“Is not every child a child of Our Lady, the Universal Mother, and sacred for that if for no other reason? Is not every woman, because of this, a mother to all children, only less near than the physical mother, ready to replace her should need arise? The world needs more motherhood. Has not Our Lady been too little remembered, though She has ever remembered?
Motherhood begins before birth, and nowhere can we see its ending. Through life, through death, we need the mother. No more cherished word than ‘mother’.
“No word so fraught
with tenderest memories. No word more potent to arouse the heart’s most
poignant yearnings. Let there be honour to Motherhood from women and men alike.
Dishonour is there to the Christ where there is dishonour to Our Lady.
Dishonour is there to the Christ where there is dishonour to woman or to
mother, for every woman is a
“May every man bow in reverence before Her temples, may every woman cause Her light to shine upon the world. So shall the Mother-Light heal the wounds of the world, and make it new.”
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