To speak of the “ground of being” is a feminist way of naming our encounter with the divine. It is about journeying down into Mother Earth and interacting there; down into the place of roots nourishing and being nourished in the dark there; down into our lower chakras which connect most immediately with Mother Earth.
It is honoring the darkness, as Rilke does:
Yet no matter how deeply I go down into myself
my God is dark, and like a webbing made
of a hundred roots, that drink in silence.*
Eckhart also honors darkness when he tells us that “the ground of the soul is dark.”
Thomas Merton speaks of the darkness of “Holy Wisdom” or Hagia Sofia. In a long prose poem by that name, Merton reminds us of the “feminine principle” in the universe that is often honored within the wisdom tradition of the Bible and the mystical tradition.
Wisdom is feminine in the Bible and in the tradition, in both Latin and in Hebrew, and as current scholarship has reminded us, the historical Jesus himself comes from the Wisdom tradition.
Merton finished the poem at Pentecost, 1961, and tells us how it evolved:
Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) is God Himself. God is not only a Father but a Mother. He is both at the same time, and it is this ‘feminine principle’ in the divinity that is the Hagia Sophia….The Three Divine Persons each at the same time are Sophia and Manifest her.
He compares Sophia, the wisdom of God, to “the Tao, the nameless pivot of all being and nature.” The Tao is feminine and the Great Mother in the Chinese tradition.
Merton also incorporates the Black Madonna and the darkness that the Divine Feminine represents when he writes:
Hagia Sofia is the dark, nameless Ousia [being] of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, the incomprehensible, ‘primordial’ darkness which is infinite light….Hence, Sophia is the feminine, dark, yielding, tender part of the power, justice, creative dynamism of the Father.
Honoring the earth and the ground is honoring the Black Madonna and vice versa.
The Black Madonna is an archetype returning today with much power and multiple meanings. She calls us to honor the ground, the depths, whether of soul or soil or sea or sky—depths are always dark.
One commentary on the Black Madonna tells us this: She is
…the embodiment of the Divine feminine, our Earth Goddess and the Mother of all humanity. She represents the fertile womb, black and sacred and stands as a symbol of transformation and change….[She] symbolizes majesty and power, a love of great strength, powerful, enduring and unbroken…..
She is an important symbol in the present-day, redefining darkness as a positive image in contemporary culture. Darkness or blackness is too often associated with the negative. That kind of association is one of the cornerstones of racism….Darkness represents the internal being and includes pride in one’s history and culture, as well as struggle survival, and achievements.
*See Matthew Fox, Original Blessing, p. 133.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, A Way To God: Thomas Merton’s Creation Spirituality Journey, pp. 160-162;
Also see Matthew Fox, The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine, p. 232.
Banner Image: “The Wave in the Moonlight” Photo by Pavel Soro London on Wikimedia Commons
Can you say with Rilke that your God is dark? Has the Black Madonna spoken to you in dreams or images or otherwise?
A Way to God: Thomas Merton’s Creation Spirituality Journey
In A Way to God, Fox explores Merton’s pioneering work in interfaith, his essential teachings on mixing contemplation and action, and how the vision of Meister Eckhart profoundly influenced Merton in what Fox calls his Creation Spirituality journey.
“This wise and marvelous book will profoundly inspire all those who love Merton and want to know him more deeply.” — Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism
Passion for Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart
Matthew Fox’s comprehensive translation of Meister Eckhart’s sermons is a meeting of true prophets across centuries, resulting in a spirituality for the new millennium. The holiness of creation, the divine life in each person and the divine power of our creativity, our call to do justice and practice compassion–these are among Eckhart’s themes, brilliantly interpreted and explained for today’s reader.
“The most important book on mysticism in 500 years.” — Madonna Kolbenschlag, author of Kissing Sleeping Beauty Goodbye.
The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine
To awaken what Fox calls “the sacred masculine,” he unearths ten metaphors, or archetypes, ranging from the Green Man, an ancient pagan symbol of our fundamental relationship with nature, to the Spiritual Warrior….These timeless archetypes can inspire men to pursue their higher calling to connect to their deepest selves and to reinvent the world.
“Every man on this planet should read this book — not to mention every woman who wants to understand the struggles, often unconscious, that shape the men they know.” — Rabbi Michael Lerner, author of The Left Hand of God