In 1969 artist Bob Hieronimus and a group of a dozen other young spiritual seekers moved into a rundown mansion in the Coldspring area of northwest Baltimore. They formed Savitria (“House of the Sun”) and the AUM Center, which was approved by the Maryland State Board of Education to offer certificates in religious metaphysics, occult science and mystic arts. Despite the admonition against getting involved in politics taught by the Western Mystery Tradition that was fostered at Savitria, Hieronimus couldn’t help but admire the President of the Baltimore City Council William Donald Schaefer when he sponsored the One Percent for Art clause in municipal building contracts. When he met Schaefer at a fundraiser and was asked to design a poster for his mayoral campaign, he agreed, despite the disapproval of the other leaders at Savitria.
Hieronimus was given total design freedom with the poster, and Schaefer showed his true mettle when he did not back down after seeing what Hieronimus came up with. He did not pause for a minute when he saw what the Baltimore Sun would call, “a highly unlikely political poster,” and promised to use it if he ran for office. In a story headlined “Aquarian Age Poster Enters Politics,” the Sun noted “The art of politics slipped into the fourth dimension this week.”
Schaefer later stepped in to help Savitria, the peaceful living commune and esoteric study center co-founded by Hieronimus. When Savitria’s property was threatened by bulldozers for a condominium development, Hieronimus met with Schaefer, who interceded with the developers. Today, these condos literally surround the old Savitria building, which is now called the Ruscombe Mansion. Ruscombe has operated as a holistic health care center for the past 25 years under the direction of Hieronimus’s wife and partner in all things, Zohara Meyerhoff Hieronimus.
Hieronimus very proudly recalls a story that one of the Mayor’s exceedingly efficient female staff members confided to him after the election. During the racial riots and tension that simmered for years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., whenever storefront windows were smashed in any neighborhood, it was noted that windows displaying the Hieronimus Schaefer poster were always spared.
As with all Hieronimus works of this time period, there are many messages going on in this work. The central image is Aquarius (symbolic of brotherhood or altruism). From his urn he pours the energies labeled “William Donald Schaefer” over the Washington Monument in Mt. Vernon Square in Baltimore. Designed by Baltimore architect (and Freemason) Robert Mills, this monument to our nation’s most celebrated founding father was the first monument in the country to honor Washington. Mills would later design the more popular obelisk-shaped Washington Monument in DC. To the right of the poster design we see an Egyptian obelisk (symbolic of the unity of all creation, oneness, a shaft of light from divinity, the Sun). At the top of this obelisk rests a solar orb, and along its length are written several phrases in different ancient languages. In Sanskrit it says “serpent power” (symbolic of wisdom or the elevation of kundalini). In Hebrew it says “limitless light” (symbolic of limitless wisdom). In Egyptian hieroglyphs it says “We rejoice when we see the sun rising in the East.”
Starting at the obelisk and moving our way up and over the Washington Monument, we first see a being with an elongated neck between them. He is holding an eagle and stretching around to focus his vision on the name of the soon-to-be Mayor. The eagle is the highest level of symbolic interpretation for the zodiacal sign of Scorpio, the sign of William Donald Schaefer. Schaefer cultivated the qualities of the eagle using its intensity and high vision to push through the rebirth and transformation of the city’s deteriorated Inner Harbor into an economically thriving center. Hieronimus knew that based on the foundation date for the City of Baltimore, Baltimore is also considered a Scorpio, and a Scorpio mayor for a Scorpio town would make an ideal match for a much-needed rebirth.
Above the obelisk is the cosmos and universe, and over at the top left is a comet (symbolic of change) heading toward a moon (symbolic of the feminine side of consciousness). Below the moon are two UFOs (symbolic of beings of advanced consciousness and abilities). Next is Mercury (symbolic of the mind) holding its caduceus (healing wand). Then comes the eye in the triangle over the unfinished pyramid from the Great Seal (symbolic of the feminine side of the American spirit). This series of symbols from the top left of the piece down to the pyramid relate a process of the movement away from the patriarchal consciousness towards the Divine Feminine. The story in these symbols is that the coming of the Age of Aquarius is encouraged and overseen by beings of advanced consciousness and abilities (UFOs).
Below the pyramid we see the initiation of a candidate in the spiritual sciences of the mystery school tradition represented by the Sphinx and pyramid. In the bottom left of the poster we see the candidate in a stone coffer who is surrounded by a series of arabesque-type designs across the bottom portion of the poster, indicating that the applicant is experiencing moving from one dimension into multi-dimensions. Above him, he is an eagle (under the shadow of thy wings, Jehovah) an initiated being described in the Book of Revelations (symbolic of the mystery schools of the Judeo-Christian tradition). Above and between the eagle and the sphinx is the winged scarab (symbolic of rebirth).
The scene in this poster describes both an initiation of a candidate into the science of spirit at a level of higher consciousness, as well as what was hoped for in the election of a dedicated politician. This politician ended up successfully regenerating (Scorpio) the City of Baltimore, in part because he surrounded himself with numerous powerful and dedicated women (power of the Divine Feminine) to assist him in obtaining this goal. Hieronimus remembers the most important advice that William Donald Schaefer ever gave him was: “surround yourself with highly intelligent women if you want to get the job done.” The Divine Feminine turned out to be the missing link in the successful rebirth of the “Monumental City.”