Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Divine Feminine’ Category

In Christ in a Pluralistic Age, process theologian John B. Cobb, Jr. builds a strong case for understanding the Logos as “creative transformation” and using the term “Christ” to indicate the incarnation of the Logos in creation. In popular usage, “Christ” seems to be understood merely as Jesus’ last name rather than as a descriptor of either his role or his impact on his followers. But Cobb asserts that “’Christ’ does not designate Jesus as such but refers to Jesus in a particular way, namely as the incarnation of the divine. It does not designate deity as such but refers to deity experienced as graciously incarnate in the world.” (66)

He draws from the artistic world to illustrate how Christ can dynamically move from a strictly external image to an internalized force, but insists that it cannot only be in art that this is true. “If creative transformation is Christ,” he writes, “it must be discernible in all life.” (63) In discussing creative transformation and novelty, Cobb talks about a “continuing restlessness in the human race” that leads us toward “spontaneity, growth, and self-transcendence.” (69-70)

Most of my adult life has been characterized by this “continuing restlessness,” and over the last several years, my process of discerning God’s call for me in that restlessness has been through a Jungian practice of dream work and examination of synchronicities, or meaningful coincidences.

There is a vibrant movement of Christian dream work that has developed through the work of Joyce Rockwood Hudson (author of Natural Spirituality: Recovering the Wisdom Tradition in Christianity) and Rev. Bob Haden (an Episcopal priest and Jungian analyst), both of whom are primary organizers for the annual Haden Institute Summer Dream Conference in North Carolina. This movement stresses the role of Divine Wisdom as the voice of God speaking to us in our dreams and through waking life synchronicities.

And so when Cobb describes Christ as incarnating the “cosmic principle of order, the ground of meaning, and the source of purpose,” (71) identifying this power only as “Logos,” I must disagree somewhat. In the Christian New Testament tradition, the word Logos is used primarily in the Gospel of John. In the Prologue to that Gospel especially – but generally in the New Testament – everything that is said about the Logos was already said in the Jewish tradition about Sophia (in Greek, Hochma in Hebrew), or Divine Wisdom, typically personified as feminine.

In her groundbreaking text She Who Is, Elizabeth A. Johnson summarizes the connection between Jesus and Wisdom in this way:

The Prologue to [John’s] Gospel, which more than any other scriptural text influences the subsequent development of Christology, actually presents the prehistory of Jesus as the story of Sophia: present ‘in the beginning,’ an active agent in creation, descending from heaven to pitch a tent among the people, rejected by some, giving life to those who seek, a radiant light that darkness cannot overcome (Jn 1:1-18). (Johnson, Elizabeth A. She Who Is.  10th Anniversary Edition. New York, NY: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 2002, 96-7)

According to Johnson, Christians in the first century, in trying to communicate “the saving significance of Jesus, ransacked the Jewish religious tradition and the surrounding Hellenistic culture for interpretive elements. Along with Son of God, Son of Man, Messiah, and Logos, the tradition of personified Wisdom was ready to hand.” (95) She continues,

What Judaism said of Sophia, Christian hymn makers and epistle writers now came to say of Jesus: he is the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15); the radiant light of God’s glory (Heb 1:3); the firstborn of all creation (Col 1:15); the one through whom all things were made (1 Cor 8:6).  Likewise, the way in which Judaism characterized Sophia in her dealings with human beings, Gospel writers now came to portray Jesus: he calls out to the heavy burdened to come to him and find rest (Mt 11:28-30); he makes people friends of God (Jn 15:15), and gifts those who love him with life (Jn 17:2).  As the trajectory of wisdom Christology shows, Jesus was so closely associated with Sophia that by the end of the first century he is presented not only as a wisdom teacher, not only as a child and envoy of Sophia, but ultimately even as an embodiment of Sophia herself. (95)

I think it’s crucial that we not lose this rich tradition when we speak of Christ and the Logos.

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

My transistor AM radio in 1970 was always tuned to WABC where I especially loved hearing Cousin Brucie. I’d carry it with me as I walked back and forth to Grace Wilday School in Roselle, NJ, the first community to be lit by electric lights and overhead wires in 1883. One of my favorite songs of that era was “Spirit in the Sky,”

When I die and they lay me to rest
Gonna go to the place that’s the best
When I lay me down to die
Goin’ up to the Spirit in the sky

Goin’ up to the Spirit in the sky
That’s where I’m gonna go when I die
When I die and they lay me to rest
Gonna go to the place that’s the best.
(© 1969 Norman Greenbaum)

At the time, I thought it was quite cool for a pop song to mention Jesus and I still think it’s a really catchy song. But I no longer believe in the Spirit in the Sky.

That is, I no longer believe in a Spirit that’s just in the sky.

I believe that God’s Spirit is present everywhere, in everything, and in every being, human and non-human.

Claremont School of Theology and Claremont Lincoln University, where I am a doctoral student, recently hosted an event featuring Brian McLaren as one of the speakers. McLaren serves on our Board and is a known figure in the emerging church. His books include A New Kind of Christianity and his most recent, Why did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? During the presentation, he told us a very compelling story.

Seems an economist friend and McLaren were discussing our current environmental crisis and what might be done about it. The economist had written that he believes we have been operating under two narratives in the U.S., both of which are “ecologically devastating”:

  • The first is the story of the “Grand Machine” that undergirds naturalistic science. In this story, the world and all of its non-human components are just machines or machine parts that have only instrumental value, and no intrinsic value or subjectivity of their own. According to the economist, this story is “bankrupt” and “cannot catalyze human energy” for addressing our very present crisis.
  • The second is the story of the “Distant Patriarch” that undergirds Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. In this story, there is “a dangerous and threatening divine being” and all of our human energy must be focused on appeasing this being. This story also has little power to mobilize us to take action even while the crisis worsens before our eyes.

What’s needed now, said the economist to McLaren, is a new narrative, the story of the “Integral Spirit.” This story says [in as close a paraphrase as I can offer],

The world is not just math and physics. There is a Spirit here that is involved in the processes of the universe, a present Spirit working within the universe that can help us deal with our problems. Everything has value and is a manifestation of this Spirit, and we’re all connected. Only this story can offer hope and has the power to heal, but this story – embraced by many – has no institutional home.

No institutional home. Is the Church listening?

This story of the “Integral Spirit” has been told by process theology for decades. As Bruce Epperly has written in Emerging Process,

In contrast to Enlightenment deism and conservative supernaturalism, both of which are grounded in the belief that God operates from “outside” the world, intruding occasionally in ways that subvert nature’s regularity, process theology affirms that God’s Spirit moves within all things, inviting us and them to be ‘more’ than they or we can imagine…Imagine a spirit-filled world! Imagine God’s spirit, breathing in and through all things, giving them life, energy, chi, ki, prana, ruach, and inviting them to evolve toward the wholeness in God’s realm of shalom, beauty, and love. (p. 88-89, 91)

Imagine how much could change if we embraced this story, if we really believed that God’s wondrous, grace-giving, enlivening Spirit was right here, right now. I think even Norman Greenbaum could tap his toes to that tune.

Read Full Post »

Yesterday, my church was a sycamore tree and God was a hummingbird. Maybe I should qualify that by saying that God was POSING as a hummingbird, but I believe that the Logos or Word of God is present in everything created so, for me, there’s not that much of a difference.  After all, the Gospel of Thomas has Jesus saying, “Raise the stone, and there you will find me; cleave the wood, and there I am.” But back to my September Sunday church in the sycamore tree…

I was not actually IN the sycamore tree, but the patio of my second story apartment places me right next to the extensive branches of the stately tree, and so when the light filtering through the leaves tickles my face as I rest there, it’s as if I can become a part of the tree itself. There are times in the morning when the leaves are haloed and especially gorgeous.

My time on the porch Sunday morning was primarily for the purpose of reading Dr. Bruce Epperly’s Holy Adventure (a 41-day guide to “audacious living), and so with my body resting on the two-seater there (and my dog, Cotton, occupying the other seat), I began to read. While I was immersed in the reading for Day 4, I heard the constant chattering of one of the hummingbirds that frequents my feeder, just when Dr. Epperly invited his readers to “Visualize yourself sitting in your favorite place of beauty.”(p. 45)  It was nice that I could do even better than that, as I was already present in that very real place. He continues, “Experience the unique beauty and wonder of this place. Feel its peace and tranquility.”

Hummingbirds are always a wonder for me, and to be able to catch them in a rare moment of stillness, perched on a branch, seems like an overabundance of grace. As I listened to the hummer’s vocalizations, I began speaking softly back, whispering my gratitude and love for this perfect little being. He or she grew very quiet and almost seemed to be listening to me as well. In that moment, everything paused and I experienced a brief respite of inner peace that was nothing short of a Eucharistic communion.

As Elizabeth Barrett Browning has written in her poem “Aurora Leigh”, and Dr. Epperly has quoted:

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only [she] who sees, takes off [her] shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Here, in this place, the Spirit of God whispered on the breeze through the branches, outlined leaves in light, spoke through the chattering of a hummingbird, flowed through my mind in grace-filled words, and held my heart in the palm of Her hand for a blessed moment of stillness and beauty.

Marble cathedral  Sunday services rarely get any better than that.

Read Full Post »

I found my outer home when I was 46 years old, but even before that, I’d found my spiritual home.  This week, I’m fortunate to be able to reconnect with both while here at the Kanuga Conference Center in Hendersonville, NC to attend the annual Haden Institute Summer Dream Conference.

Kanuga Conference Center, Hendersonville, NC

I moved to the metro Atlanta area shortly after I graduated from college and lived there for 25 years before I ran away to the mountains in 2006 to experience life in a small, rural community that I’d loved visiting for many years. Despite having been born and raised in NJ, I knew as soon as I found the 100-year old farmhouse for rent that I’d come home. The house was surrounded by eight acres of gorgeous land with pastures, woods, a creek, a lake, and a completely picturesque barn up on the hill. Though its perfection was marred slightly by its close proximity to a busy road, I grew to love that house and believed with all my heart that it loved me too.

It wasn’t just the house, but rather the whole region that spoke deeply to me. The landscape itself felt sacred and my soul settled in there in a way it had never settled before. Spaces seemed to open up inside of me that breathed freer and sighed more deeply than was true in any other place in the world that I’d set foot.  Western NC is a landscape cut from the same topography – tapping into the roots of the Blue Ridge Mountains – and so it feels much like home as well.

I’ve been living in southern CA since last July, and though it’s a good place to be, and I know it is the right place for me to be right now, it’s not the place my soul likes to put its feet up and kick back with its eyes closed. It’s not the place where I feel most rooted.

The joyful icing on the cake is that I am here this week in NC to join with about two hundred or more seekers to talk about our dreams and our relationship with the Sacred. The people who come to this gathering know or at least suspect that there’s more to those night visions than the looking-glass-world flotsam and jetsam that appears at first glance. Those of us who’ve been turning over dreams and synchronicities like archeological treasures for a long time know that there are deep veins of wisdom and grace running through them if we’ll only take the time to look.

At a time in my life when I wasn’t sure I could even remain a Christian because I’d become so disgusted with the public expressions of the fundamentalist and politically power-hungry religion that was masquerading as Christianity, a friend brought me a different kind of archeological treasure – a book by Joyce Rockwood Hudson called Natural Spirituality: Recovering the Wisdom Tradition in Christianity. In this book, Joyce showed me how the Jungian psychology that I’d felt so resonant with could be integrated with my Christian tradition in a way that brought life to it again. I knew I’d found my spiritual home.

I’m here at Kanuga until Friday, and my plan is to take as long and deep a drink from this Living Water as I can possibly manage, and to take as many long, loving looks as possible at those mountains before I leave here; at least enough to last me until next year.

Read Full Post »

Source: Grace Cathedral website

I just walked into the womb of God.

At least that’s what the labyrinth spread out upon the floor of the chapel at the Claremont School of Theology became for me this evening. We’ve been exploring a different contemplative practice in our class each week, and this week was the practice of walking the labyrinth. For those who are not familiar, a labyrinth is a winding pathway that is typically walked in a meditative way as a means of deepening one’s relationship with God. Unlike mazes, labyrinths have no dead ends or high walls; their pathway leads in to a center and then back out again.

It is thought that labyrinths might have been used to take the place of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and their use in the United States has become more popular in recent years due, in part, to the work of people like Lauren Artress from Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.  Here at school, we’re in the final throes of our semester, and our canvas labyrinth has been installed in the chapel to help with stress reduction as well as contemplation.

We entered the chapel adorned with lit candles, icons, and music, and I entered the pathway with a prayer expressing my intention to welcome God’s presence.  At turns in the circuit, I imagined things I wanted to be rid of – ways of thinking that no longer serve me – and immediately felt tears stinging my eyes as I prayed to let them go.

Right foot spread from heel to toe, raised leg, and then left foot following suit; over and over again, I connected body to ground, body to ground, praying for a better connection between body and soul, and body and heart. As I rounded a turn near the illuminated icons, there was Mother and Child and I saw myself held in the arms of my Mother God. I was held still in her gaze for a long moment of deep connection.

And then I knew that I was not just walking toward the center of a labyrinth, but I was walking toward the womb of my Mother God, Mother Sophia, and that it was in Her womb that I would be fed and formed and finally birthed as a new being back into the world. Every turn now brought her loving presence deeper into my body, and I breathed in this new found joy. Mother Sophia! Mother God! Now the saxophone jazz was a celebration, now the prayers were praise, now the Love was right Here.

 

Sources: The Way We Pray: Celebrating Spirit from Around the World, Maggie Oman Shannon  (Berkeley, CA: Conari Press, 2001) and 50 Ways to Pray: Practices from Many Traditions and Times, Teresa A. Blythe (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2006.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: