I am considering the differences between pantheism and panentheism. The first is forbidden to Christians and of course to Catholics, the second one apparently is not. I have always considered myself a secret pantheist, because of believing God was in all things, and all things were of God, but in chapter 6 of the wonderful Original Blessings, by Matthew Fox, he talks about panentheism as experiencing the diaphanous and transparent God. I will admit that I may have been using the wrong word for the same experience.
From Meister Eckhart, comes the following: “God created all things in such a way that they are not outside himself, as ignorant people imagine. Rather, all creatures flow outwards, but nonetheless remain within God.”
Paul says in Acts 17:28: “In God we live and move and have our being.” Paul is one of the poets of the Bible, and although I am using the inclusive Bible, and have always modified prayers as male and female created she them, I will admit, as a poet, to a love for my King James. Male and female created she them. The new translations might be more inclusive, but are not always as beautiful. Surely there is a value to the beautiful words, resonating in the earth and in the heavens. The Psalmist says at 100: “Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands. Serve God with gladness: come before her presence with singing. Know that God is she that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are her people, and the sheep of her pasture. Enter into her gates with thanksgiving, and into her courts with praise: be thankful unto her, and bless her name. For God is good; her mercy is everlasting; and her truth endures to all generations.” And lest we forget Jeremiah, he says, at 44:25: “Thus says…the God of Israel: You and your wives have accomplished in deeds what you declared in words, ‘We are determined to …make offerings to the queen of heaven and to pour out libations to her.’ By all means, keep your vows and make your libations!”
You may have noticed I have been a bit creative with the psalmist’s words, but I have been thinking much about the male and female created she them. There was news on February 4th of an old priest who was dead for over 40 minutes and who met the female, mother God while he was having his near-death experience, so I can take a bit of leeway here. Anyway, I have for many years in my head when I repeated the prayers of my childhood or adolescence, changed the names to my name, she, as did Dr. Spock so many years ago. So it’s she who dwells in the secret place of the most high, and I have been praying to mother father God lo these many years.
Yesterday in considering a picture which my good friend Ronald Yates posted on social media of a woman nursing a baby, the woman being a black mother and the baby being white, probably taken at a time when the mother would not have been allowed to sit at the same lunch counter as the boy when he was grown, I realized that as awful as slavery and racism are and were, the worst sin is the sin of misogyny. Because it is a denial of the mother, the denial of life, as it is through the mother that life comes for each one of us. When we deny the female principle and pretend that the ultimate and most important and only valuable thing is the male principle, we are indeed wreaking havoc on the universe.
We call the dark evil; even in the Chinese description of the yin and the yang, the male principle is bright and positive, while the female principle is dark and negative. Although we learned in the study of electromagnetism that positive and negative are just a way to describe two separate poles, two directions, in our world they are taken as valid and invalid, good and bad, preferable and not preferable. If you are the dark and negative, you have a lesser validity and you have no self-worth. Who would want in this society of ours to be the lesser? Who the dark and the negative? So we disrespect the planet because she grows the stuff of life in the earth, which is messy and dark and lovely. Some of the practices I have dabbled in practically deny darkness. All our adjectives to describe the dark are not as preferable as those we use to describe brightness, and we can understand an obeyance to the sun rather than to the lesser moon. I am a daughter of the moon. In the dark I dream all my dreams of being, in the dark I am repaired and with the repair I become more of what I am, a she creature and she God, a goddess, yes, a poetess yes, and I will have to make up and to use words that I myself have decried because they meant that if I used the female form I was somehow lesser. (And Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? John 10:34)
Although a feminist, I made the mistake when I was younger of trying to obtain for myself that which the male creatures had, but I want today to claim for myself my energy as a female creature, I want to say that I am no longer a poet but a poetess, I am a creature of the dark, of the dark womb of the planet, from whence all life comes.
I have already done some of the preliminary work, because I was a feminist before we used the word, as a child who wondered about my mother’s cries that she wanted to have been born a man. She would ask frequently as she was sweeping or doing dishes, or any one of the other endless and thankless tasks of homemakers everywhere, why she had been born a woman. And as I was growing further, she would counsel me to pretend I was not smart, because I would not be able to catch a husband. Man wanted pretty and flimsy female companions, not overly intellectualized females who might make them feel less intelligent.
When I was with Jim, the love of my life, one of our younger friends once asked him what it was that he looked for in a woman. He answered briefly and quickly that the first thing wanted in a woman was intelligence, because otherwise how could you talk to her, and the second thing was kindness and that if you found those two, you were set. Our young friend laughed, I don’t know if from understanding, but I felt immensely joyful at Jim’s response. Our life together was filled with unlimited abundance, and I don’t mean in the financial area. In that wonderful prayer, the Lord’s prayer, which Dominic Crossan calls Christianity’s greatest and strangest prayer, a revolutionary manifesto, we ask to be given this day our daily bread. This is an allegorical request for all that we need, the cry for prosperity, and prosperity is all of it, the bread and the love and the help and the beautiful planet and the companionship that we need. The old languages were much more poetic in their use of metaphor, but for me, finding Jim, loving him and being loved by him, was indeed my unlimited abundance. He walks with me still. Give us, indeed, our daily bread.
Looking at the black nursing mother, in that age of slavery and racism, the use of a black woman to nurse a child makes sense in terms of the misogyny of the time, the sexism of the time, which we have not ended with, as it is a plague upon the female, mother earth. She was, as all mothers were, a beast of burden. In our modern consumer times, we extol the praises of women and mothers once a year, as an excuse to encourage more consumer purchasing. We don’t mean any of it, what we are after is profit. What mothers need is more visits, more talk, more attention, at every stage of their work and effort as mothers. If there were more consideration and attention to this most important job, we would not have the need for psychological attention when, as we get older, we deal with the trauma of the mother-child relationship. But when we have an entire gender, the gender responsible for bringing forth humanity, that is constantly abused, mistreated, denigrated and disregarded, there is a festering infection that takes hold right in the breast that produces the milk, for she is nothing if not a plaything for the male animal, and she must be sexy and always on her pert and best behavior. So she gets breast implants and belly tucks and she erases her age lines and does things to her buttocks. She might color and straighten or curl her hair; her work to make herself more beautiful is never done. And her work is not valued in any event, her abilities and sensibilities are of no concern to those around her. She lives from bout of depression to bout of depression. If she is raped it is her fault, if she if she has been born with little natural beauty, whatever that means, except that in our world it is sexual beauty that we are talking about, having to do with strict guidelines of whiteness and thinness and youth, she is perhaps even more limited in her opportunies, another dream deferred, as the poet says.
And as we age, we become even more invisible. As we grow perhaps heavier and less graceful, as the body begins its natural decay to the next phase, we are not only invisible but the butt of jokes, nasty looks, and discrimination. The invisibility is sometimes an interesting adjunct to life. The truth is that an older heavy woman can probably get away with a crime, because she is not seen. She can enter places and get into things, because she is not really there. The eyes of the young no longer see the old. In earlier societies and especially in other cultures, there was a treasuring of age, but in our consumer world, age means you are no longer productive. As a peon of the corporate machinery, once you are no longer productive, you can be relegated to the dust heap.
Going back to pantheism and panentheism, I will say with Carl Jung that one of the ways to lose your soul is to worship a God outside of you. The goddess is within, and I am not a believer of dualism. I believe in the mystical union with all that is, the male and female principle. We must work to join the positive and the negative, the male and female, the dark and the light. Only then may we be able to save ourselves and our planet, female and male all.
Namaste, my sisters and brothers.