Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The "God-Goddess" matter: or, What is the gender of What Is Real?

Having used that term "Goddess" in the previous post, Walhydra supposes that she ought to explain.

(Actually, Walhydra supposes that she ought to explain a lot of things, but…hey…this is her blog.)

Walhydra is always suspicious of labels. Labels are words. And words are merely pointers for stored strings of facts, fantasies, sensory, emotional and intellectual associations, personal and cultural experiences, memories, hopes, etc.—each string imagined to represent a discrete human concept.

And then there is What Is Real.

Wahydra realizes that she has always had less problem with the latter than the former. She imagines that she returned from the bardos this time with a Zen clichĂ© tattooed on her…never mind….

"Don't mistake the finger pointing at the moon for the moon."

To be accurate, she has less problem dealing with What Is Real when she remembers that whole bit about the pointers. Even then she tends to get into trouble (and, occasionally, burned at the stake), because much of the human race insists that the pointers exactly and completely name and describe the concepts. More dangerously, they imagine that the concepts exactly and completely name and describe what they refer to.

Walhydra proposes an experiment: think of your mother.

You see? We are already in disagreement.

However Walhydra looks at it, however masterfully you paint the portrait of that dear and/or dreaded lady, Walhydra cannot possibly see the same whole picture, pregnant (pardon the pun) with all of its meanings and associations, which the term "mother" conjures up for you.

Now: think of God.

When Walhydra was a child, she was blessed that her father, the Lutheran pastor, preached a God who, though omnipotent, omniscient, etc., was always in loving, nurturing and forgiving relationship with the people he had created. It was easy for Walhydra to imagine and internalize such a string of associations for the pointer "God," because she was blessed to have such a human family.

Walhydra's Dad did not think it his job to seduce, cajole and harangue his congregation into a weekly cathartic ecstasy of guilt, so that even little children ran crying up to altar call. He wasn't like that at home, either.

What Walhydra remembers with warmth from her childhood with her Dad is gardening, fishing or building things, Sunday drives, and, especially, tickle matches on the living room floor.

Sadly, as Walhydra was approaching puberty, the tickle matches stopped. Since tickling is part of her own erotic fantasy material—Walhydra pauses here to blush—she wonders if her Dad feared a similar ambivalence in himself. In any event, thus began a painful distancing of father and son which is only now being healed, forty-some years later.

The cultural side of this matter, the stuff Walhydra absorbed by osmosis just from growing up in 1950s and 60s America, is that "God" equals "men" equals any guy with the power to make you do what he wants—like running up and down three flights of stairs because you forgot to bring your sneakers to high school gym class.

Though Walhydra's own Dad wasn't like that, when he began to withdraw from his soon-to-be-horny son, he got lost in the crowd of authority figures and bullies. By the time Walhydra stumbled off to seminary, Dad and God had become—in her gut feelings, that is—someone who could only be approached (and appeased) by being (a) a successful professional man and theologian, or (b) a miserable failure of a sissy who needed rescue, absolution and a paternal helping hand.

(Walhydra doesn't know at gut level—in this incarnation, that is—what this is all like for girls growing up, but she can well imagine.)

So…where were we?


If her faithful readers have been paying attention (Walhydra insists you go back and review, if you haven't), they will know that Walhydra's Mom, Senior Witch, has implicitly embodied and demonstrated from the start those loving, nurturing, forgiving aspects of the Divine One.

Granted, Senior Witch grew up in pre-Women's Lib America, as the daughter, sister, wife and then divorcée of Lutheran ministers, so she had a lot of patriarchal you-know-what to dig herself out from under. Nonetheless, as basically healthy, self-possessed women tend to do, she was able to give Walhydra a subversive appreciation for the so-called "feminine" aspects of the Divine, without even knowing she was doing so.

That forceful ejection from the closet which you may have read about recently threw Walhydra right into the arms of the Goddess. Though it took her a decade or so—distracted as she was for a while by Holy Smoke (ahem)—Walhydra eventually had a moment of awakening.

"Hey, wait a minute!" she exclaimed, eyeing the Goddess slantwise one day. "You're that same Guy…!"

"Yes, Dearie," Goddess smiled, batting her eyelashes. "Glad you finally noticed."

You see, as Walhydra now understands it, human concepts—including concepts like "the gender of the deity"—are just that. Human.

They are temporary and ever-changing maps of what we happen to know or suspect, at a given moment, about the character of our individual and collective experience of What Is Real. They are, just like the labels which direct us to them, merely pointing fingers.

But we know What Is Real.

We can't not know. However, we can distract ourselves and each other from knowing by concentrating on, arguing over, even killing each other over the pointers.

A few years ago, Walhydra decided that, in order to be gentle with her mostly Christian friends and readers, she should compromise and use the term "Mother-Father God." That is a handy personal shorthand for what she now remembers—re-recognizes—about the Divine One.

Yet even that is still only words. It doesn't get to some of the deeper mysteries of What Is Real.

So, Walhydra wants to leave her readers with the words of someone else, the 14th century Persian Sufi poet, Shams-ud-din Muhammad Hafiz:

I Knew We Would Be Friends

As soon as you opened your mouth
And I heard your soft

I knew we would be

The first time, dear pilgrim, I heard
You laugh,

I knew it would not take me long
To turn you back into

The Subject Tonight Is Love:
60 Wild and Sweet Poems of Hafiz

Versions by Daniel Ladinsky
(Reprint edition, Penguin, 2003, p.30)