Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Feminine Spirituality

"Intimately Abiding"
-in my meditation garden-

Back several years ago, I stood in the Sistine Chapel in Rome looking up in awe and wondered at Michelangelo's famed ceiling frescoes. "God" portrayed as a powerful man with flowing robes and a long white beard, his finger touching the finger of the youthful looking Adam, bringing him into life. "God" creates "man" in God's own image and likeness.  

Today, when I look at that creation fresco, I think that in some sense, it might be the other way around. In fact as I examine the course of history, it has been "man" that has been creating "God" in "man's" own image and likeness. 

After all, the many images, names, icons, depictions and definitions of "God" produced over the ages are not who "God" actually "is." "God" is energy, force, abiding Presence, unable to ever be captured by a name or  depicted in an icon. All those images and names are human constructs - just ways in which human beings have tried to "get at," an unfathomable mystery, to make some sort of sense out of a transcendence that the mind is unable to grasp.

The three major "Abrahamic" faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) all originated from highly patriarchal cultures where women played a secondary role, always subservient to men and so it is understandable that the "God" images coming out of these cultures would primarily be "male"images. "God," the all powerful man with flowing robes giving life to the young Adam, "God" the almighty and eternal king sitting on high on the heavenly throne, "God" the judge of heaven and earth. 

That's why historically, so much of Western spirituality has been so decidedly masculine. Most of the scriptures, laws, rituals, prayers and practices of the "Abrahamic" religions are products of the way "God" has been imagined and depicted.

And so, people obey the commandments, follow the law in order to keep the Almighty Father happy.  Over the ages, wars have been fought and nations conquered in the name of the Almighty King. To this  day churches, synagogues, temples and mosques are often very hierarchical and male-dominated.  The Roman Catholic Church is governed by a Holy Father and only men may be priests. In orthodox Jewish tradition women cannot be rabbis, and in Islam the role of the Imam is almost solely held by men. 

Over the ages "man" has created "God" in "man's" own mage and likeness.

Today is "Mother's Day" in America, and I think about how different the world would be if our images of God were primarily feminine rather than masculine. "God" depicted as a gentle mother, tender, intimate, warm, compassionate, embracing, kind. "God"painted as the mother who always "goes to bat" for her kids instead of standing in judgment over them. "God," the gentle mother who teachers her children to live in her own image and tenderly embrace the world just as she does.  

On this Mother's Day, I reflect on what the world would be like through the lens of a feminine spirituality instead of a masculine one. It may not sound very "macho" on my part, but I'll choose the feminine any day.

In very many ways these feminine images and icons do a far better job at helping me to get my head around and make some sense out of the ONE who cannot be named or contained. 

There are several Hibiscus plants in my meditation garden. The flowers are in full bloom at this time of year. As I look at one of the tender blossoms this morning, it occurs to me that this single little flower is actually more "awesome" than that mighty creation fresco in the Sistine chapel.

When I sit in the garden in the morning, the flower is "Present." It abides full of life, beauty and color. It is tender and it is gentle. 

What a beautiful picture of "God"

Happy Mothers' Day!

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