This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
(Hans Torwesten) (copied from “Vedanta” N° 357, 358, 359, 360, 367, 371)
Prologue Man is only a bridge, a transition to something new, which he can only surmise. Never have we felt this more strongly than today, as we are in a distinctly transitional age. Much that is old is dying and new things are born. And many things are coming back – not as a simple repetition, but on a new, higher level of the spiral, on a higher level of becoming human, which is always at the same time also becoming God. And we again make the discovery: God is also Mother! The divine also has a female dimension! Asia has always known this: in India the Shakti, the female creative energy, has always been assigned to a high level, and also the old cultures and religions of the Near East and the Mediterranean area worshipped the Great Mother. In our case also the umbilical cord to her has not been severed in the course of centuries, in spite of the patriarchal nature of society, in spite of the supremacy of the male-dominated prophetic-biblical religion of Jews and Christians. The vacuum was partly – but only partly! – filled by the rise of Mary, the Mother of God, who from scarce historical and biographical material slowly blossomed into the Queen of Heaven: for the iconoclast Puritans always a puzzle and an annoyance, for the human psyche a natural necessity. And what Mary was for the ordinary people and the saints, Sophia, the divine wisdom, which already occurs in the Old Testament, was for those mystical thinkers, for whom the too-masculine-evolving Christian Trinity could not embrace the female dimension of God. A lot of this will be touched upon again in this book, memories of the past. But we do not want to pursue any religious archaeology here, in order with scientific coolness and triumph to show the reader here the arm of a Demeter, there an already somewhat weathered breast of Ishtar or an “interesting” aspect of some Gnostic Sophia speculation. Let the scholars take the Mother to pieces, treat her as a mere object - in doing so they only remain in the old male delusion that one can master everything by
dissection and analysis. Today we are standing before the ruins of this exclusively masculine world. Of course this too was and is the play of the Divine Mother, the dance of her creative and destructive energy, because as Maya (a word that is related to the English “mass” and “measure”) she is also the measuring out and dividing force, which makes the many out of the One. She is in no way just chaos, just a warm mo ther’s lap, just an amorphous sameness, which first has to be given form by the male spirit. In the Old Testament, concerning the feminine “Wisdom” it is written that she “arranged all things by measure and number and weight” (Wisdom 11,21), that she “drew a circle on the face of the deep,” that she “assigned to the sea its limits” (Proverbs 8, 27-29). One of the male prejudices is that only the male creator God is capable of this, who has to overcome the “female” deep. Dividing, retraining and mastering is indeed doubtless a male undertaking, but here the danger of one-sidedness for the male clearly emerges in this case: without the female “helper,” without the wisdom and Shakti, the creative activity of the man is often destructive. And the mother gets her revenge for being looked down upon as merely “Nature,” as “Mother Earth,” for being continually raped, discouraged and reduced to a mere object. If she today rises up, then it is no longer as an interesting “object,” about which one can write, but again a s Thou, as a living force, with whom one can speak and communicate. One can also talk to her, just as generations of Christian have prayed to the Father. Yes, God is also Mother, and as Mother especially near, a nearness which is God’s motherly dimension. But we have driven nothing away so much as this direct nearness of God, we have all too often made Him into a Prussian general, an unapproachable, naturally male Super-Ego, before whom we may appear only in our proper Sunday suit or in uniform. We have practised standing to attention before Him, we have always had to look up to Him, who is in any case invisible. The arrival of His Son has not essentially changed the matter for many, as the Son was at once raised up to become the Pantokrator, the King of Kings, indeed to become the stern Judge, often not to be distinguished any more from the Father God Yahweh. When, as an eight-year-old at the rehearsal for the first holy communion – we were standing arranged in two rows and moved slowing towards the
communion rail – I inadvertently got out of step, I received a loud slap on the ear from the chaplain. The connection between this Church authority distributing slaps on the ear and the divine Father in Heaven was quickly produced for me as a child; only I thereafter had some difficulty of properly categorising the consumption of the sweet sacrificial lamb as a sign of immense divine love. It at least became clear to us children: one must never get out of line and begin to sing something, clap our hands or laugh with joy. Religion was a frightfully serious matter, and any false move was immediately punished. I know that fortunately today much has changed a little, but even today I would feel it to be necessary, to add to the old call of the Church, Maranatha! – Lord, come soon! - quietly or loudly to add the prayer: You too come, Mother, come soon and bring life again, real Life into this all too intellectual religion! Nothing will be able to prevent the return of the Divine Mother, which is connected with the rise of the feminine. And we said already: it will not be a question of mere repetition. If it were only a matter of simply claims to domination, of a return of the legendary matriarchate, the development would only be going round continually in a circle. Moreover domination actually begins with the man. One does not need to be clairvoyant to see the negative sides of the patriarchate, which has fixed its stamp on human history for a couple of thousand years already. But it would be blindness only to want to go back again to prehistoric times; back to an allegedly unhistorical mother’s bosom. Only someone who believes in the totality of the creative energy, the Shakti, knows the joy of the World Mother has in dialectics. The male aspect could not have dominated without Her will, and the “male aspect” in this case means, from an archetypal point of view, especially: analytical thinking, consciousness as bright as day and mastery of nature. Anyone who is convinced that nothing happens without the Mother’s will, also knows that this “male” urge to dominate is one of her steps in Her cosmic dance. But it is only one of the many aspects of Shakti, and at each part of the whole the temptation arises to seek to become absolute. The male element probably needs some time, when it can rid itself of the feminine-motherly, in order to come to itself, and this almost never happens without a struggle. The male creator God must also leave the feminine “ground” in order to recognise Himself. Only through the opposite does he succeed in obtaining
consciousness of his own existence. But no victor pose can be preserved for ever. Anyone who plunges deeper into reality, will soon encounter the relativity of and interaction between such archetypal forms: Kali, for instance, who stands on her divine husband Shiva and as Shakti dances the cosmic round dance of creation and destruction. The feminine is in no way just the one who in lying down, the horizontal one, the ever-enduring, the vessel, the only-natural, the chaos, the inert resistance of matter, the stool from which the masculine consciousness rises in triumph. When the French painter Delacroix represented in a picture an allegory of the revolutionary force and freedom, he painted a woman. And when the gods of the Hindu pantheon were at a loss, because they were being attacked by demons, they finally gathered together all their strength and energy and from it produced the form of a divine woman, who as Durga-Kali defeated the demonic forces. If today we proceed to cross the threshold of a new age, we are not ill advised, if we let ourselves be led by the power and inspiration of the Divine Mother. She has always been there, she does not have to be born: She is the unborn per se, the one who has given birth to everything, who by the Maya power has brought forth gods and worlds since all eternity and taken them back into herself. She must however be born in us, in our hearts. Her splendour must burst forth there. In dense darkness, O Mother, Thy formless beauty sparkles; Therefore the yogis meditate in a dark mountain cave. In the lap of boundless dark, on Mahanirvana’s waves up borne, Peace flows serene and inexhaustible. Taking the form of the Void, in the robe of darkness wrapped, Who art Thou, Mother, seated alone in the shrine of samadhi? From the Lotus of Thy fear-scattering Feet flash Thy love’s lightnings; Thy Spirit-Face shines forth with laughter terrible and loud! Ramakrishna, one of her great sons, often sang this song of the Bengali poet Ramprasad and in doing so often went into ecstasy. One has to be a little
mad in order to be able to understand Her completely, or more precisely: in order to be able to know that one can never grasp Her completely. “Who is there that can understand what Mother Kali is?” are the first words of another Bengali song. “Even the six darshanas (the six systems of Indian philosophy) are powerless to reveal Her.” The words of the Egyptian Isis also apply: “I am everything that was, that is and that will be ... And a mortal has not yet been able to reveal what is hidden under my veil.” Even in the veneration of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, something still lingers from the atmosphere of questioning and wondering: “Tell me, who is this?” – an echo not least of the Song of Songs in the Old Testament and the qu estion: “Who is this that looks forth like the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army with banners?” (6,10). The masculine will never come to rest in the face of the feminine secret, which for him is the “Other” and can therefore give him a taste of transcendence and the fathomable. It is true that we spoke of the nearness of the Divine Mother, we said that in this nearness the female dimension of the Godhead, her love and tenderness are expressed. Yet the more we draw near to the Mother, the more we soon have to admit that in her totality she is also always the opposite of everything. She is near to us, but she is also that which always escapes us - especially our conceptual “male” understanding, which would like to put everything into its pocket as a mental “possession,” as an acquired object established for ever. The Mother does not let herself be acquired. She does not let herself be stowed away in any drawer. One of her many names is Durga, and that literally means: the Unattainable. Of course I too am not free of this conceptual thinking, by means of which the Mother as Maya catches us in her net. We have this spider’s web constantly before our eyes, which prevents us from seeing the simplest thing direct, as it is. No, Maya is in no way just the “female seductive” being that ensnares man – she blinds man with what he thinks is typically male. The net that he lays over reality, his conceptual thinking and his value judgements, may have been important for many stages in human evolution , but reality itself is not caught in this net. Maya gives man weapons in his hand, with which he defends himself and with which he conquers the world. But in the end these weapons turn against him and prevent him from
pushing forward to the heart of reality. And when he finally perceives the complete one-sidedness of his excessive rationality and intellectuality, he organises seminars on naturalness and attempts to learn spontaneity again in intense courses. I can hear the Mother laughing. She likes to give toys to her children, who consider themselves to be so terribly grown-up, and amuses herself with them. She was also probably amused, when I started researching in the library about her – researching into the “Unattainable!” It is astonishing, Mother, how one has so nice and neatly distributed your divine omnipresence over so many card indexes: mythology, theology, comparative religion, psychology, sociology, etc. You probably looked at me laughing, as I ran around with a face as red as beetroot, busily seeking traces of you and lugged whole piles of books home. It is astonishing how much one has written about you! Or more precisely about the conceptions that people especially men! - have formed about you. Well, I need hardly hide it: I too am a male being and will write this book as a man. But I am at least aware that Your Maya Power determines our thought and that all our male mental skill – whether we appear as philosophers, theologian or depthpsychologists – is nothing more that the slight ripple on the surface of your unfathomable sea. Everything, from our physical body to the highest intuitions of the mind, comes from Shakti, the Divine Mother. And when we offer Her something, we only offer what comes from Her. A poor Italian acrobat, who possessed nothing, once wanted to offer something to the Holy Virgin Mary – not a little intimidated by the expensive presents, which others had laid at the feet of her picture. As however he possessed nothing except his acrobat’s skill, he turned a summersault before her and made a grandiose headstand – and it is said that the Mother accepted the gift with a loving smile. I am afraid that this book will be nothing more than a series of - successful and less successful - headstands, and I can only hope that the Mother will also accept them with a smile. We are all “Our Lady’s acrobats,” whether we are aware of it or not, we are all actors in her great game. She provides the masks, the numerous roles and disguises, which all come from the tailor’s shop of her great Maya, from the crudest forms produced from an almost amorphous material to the great god-men, who show us the way back to the divine homeland. She is the eternal playful instinct of the Absolute, who
plays out all the possibilities of Being, she is Ananda, God’s joy, she is the life of the Ground resting in itself. She teaches us that God is not only strict and just, but also tender and playful, lively and effusive. “When he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him,” says Wisdom in the Old Testament, in the Book of Proverbs, “and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race” (Proverbs 3, 22 ff). And in a Bengali song it sounds still more effusive: “Companion of the Absolute, O Mother, you are engrossed in the joy of play! You are drunk with the wine of joy, Your feet falter, but never lose their balance. The Absolute, your husband, lies at your side. You press him to your breast, you seem quite beside yourself. The universe trembled under your feet. Madness is in your eyes and in those of your husband. In truth, the world is joyful! ... Oh dark blue Mother!” Yes, one has to be a bit mad in order even to come near God as Mother and feel her breath. And one must be naked, when one appears before the Mother. Did not Ramakrishna himself take off his Brahmin’s sacred thread, which reminded him of his belonging to a caste, when he prayed to her? We have to go through the gates of the underworld and give up all clothing, just as the Mother herself did as Ishtar, when she wanted to release Tammuz from the underworld. She had to let the guards rob her of all her jewellery and clothing and appear before the goddess of death naked and unprotected. God himself shows us how one has to uncover oneself before God. “Before entering the Holy of Holies you must take off your shoes,” Franz Kafka once wrote, “not only your shoes, but everything, travelling clothes and pack, and the core and the core of the core, then the rest and then the rest and then also the light of the eternal fire. First the fire will be sucked up from the holy of holies and lets itself by sucked up by it, neither can withstand it.” Difficulties with the Father A book about Shakti, the Divine Mother, written by a baptized Christian brought up in the West, who from childhood onwards has learned to pray to God as Father, has of necessity a quite “subjective,” personal character. If an inner revolt takes place here, if many things are suddenly put upside down, one must look for the causes.
As far as I am concerned, I did not at all grow up in a spiritually indifferent climate, but in a “good Catholic” atmosphere, and already at the age of nine my life’s aim stood clearly before my eyes: to become a monk. But after about seven years at boarding school, the light seemed suddenly to go out, the old God grew pale, and I fled into art and literature, which became a substitute religion for me; and if some years later I had not come across Eastern mysticism - Vedanta, Yoga, Zen – and certain trends within Christianity - especially Meister Eckhart - I would now probably be a convinced atheist. An exclusively male God, who suddenly created something out of nothing, no one knew exactly why, and whose principal occupation seemed to be to get angry with what He had made - namely His creation, man in particular all this had become difficult for me. He loved them only when they behaved themselves, namely when they complied with His standards. One had to praise Him all the time, keep Him in a good mood, be endlessly grateful for the smallest insignificant gift. All good things came exclusively from Him, were inspired by Him, while man might attribute all negative things to himself - unless one simply attributed them to this God’s opponent, the Devil. It was above all the artist in me, who rebelled against this exclusively male moral Father God, I encountered within myself and outside myself in creation so much that had no place in this religion: the enormous complexity and polarity of existence, a mysterious sphinx-like smile, sometimes even a loud laugh, or female beauty and the intensity of Eros. What use was it to just be good and well behaved and obtain a front seat in heaven, if as a result one had not lifted even one of these mysterious veils? Was it not much more important slowly to penetrate the mystery? Why was I here? Why was anything here? Only because one day it had occurred to this God to create us? What was it to Him that we were well behaved and went to church every Sunday? And what did we get out of it? Was it only a question of fulfilling our duty and pull through all right? If we had really been created by Him out of nothing, then we were still basically purely nothing, to which powerful God these “nothings” had not added anything in the least, but who strangely enough placed great importance on this nothing parading before Him and praising Him as the Almighty.
This God had next to nothing to do with nature. He still bore the marks of the Desert God - a God, who does not like any pictures, who does not particularly treasure the feminine and makes His appearance only in history, above all in the history of His chosen people. He seems above all to be very choosy, and woe to you, the thought becomes fixed in one’s mind, that you do not belong to the chosen ones, one could never satisfy this perfect Super-Ego. As a Catholic I had it perhaps easier than many Protestants, who often seem to be under even greater pressure to do well, in spite of or because of his teaching on mercy – provided of course that he is a strict believer - but the Catholic also had and has a lot to bear, especially if he has been brain-washed by boarding school education. I do not however want to over-dramatize these fears, which I did not in any case suffer for long. At a certain other point the attachment to this God was severed, He was no longer of interest to me. He was played out. In any case they had driven it into me that this God was never quite to be reached, that a fundamental gap would always separate us from his holiness and grandeur. I had no fear of punishments, as I no longer believed in hell, and heaven as a place of recompense offered hardly any attraction for me, as it seemed to be only a hierarchically graded boredom, in which one had continually to tell this God that He was the Almighty - which in any case He already knew. My bad deeds, for example my sensual feelings, also seemed irreparable, only some holy water was sprinkled on them through confession, but without any thorough root treatment, which at least to a limited degree would have penetrated into the depths. But these depths were what mattered to me. First of all those depths, that ground, which the depth-psychologists like to plough up - and to a certain extent I tried to be my own psychoanalyst - but then moreover also those depths, which can no longer be “analysed,” which do not appear to have any real “content.” I had always mistrusted the dogmatic assertion that an unbridgeable chasm separated man from God, the creature from the Creator. More and more I found the term “God” becoming altogether suspect: as a certain person, who wants this or that, who confronts me and everything. I thought more of a transpersonal ground, out of which everything comes and which connects everything. Of a substance, that bears us, like a “democratic” Godhead, who does not make himself “Lord” all the time. If I also almost lost my belief in a personal God, I did not lose my belief
in the “divine,” which did not exclude anything, which embraced everything - even me. A divinity that had no fear, “other gods” could appear beside him, who knew no jealousy, just because He was “everything.” I no longer needed to believe in a divine person, who had triumphed over other gods, as the only “true” God, but I believed in a divine ground, which in its enormous wealth manifested in all persons and figures, both divine and human. I need hardly mention that the religious traditions of the East helped me a great deal in this new understanding, both theoretically through their books of wisdom and holy scriptures, and also practically through the practice of meditation. When I reached the high point of my personal crisis I had a decisive ground-experience, and since then I know that I can never fall out of the divine ground. Anyone who has had such an experience often starts to laugh and perhaps also to dance - and even today I consider such a releasing laugh as the beginning of real religion, or more precisely spiritual life. We do not need any spectacular visions and hearing of voices, but just such a ground experience, in which we completely expose ourselves, in which we give up everything, including ourselves in the first place, in which we slowly empty ourselves on the floor, in which we no longer theorise and act a part, in which we no longer find ourselves “interesting,” in which the audience on the ceiling, who so often look down on us, is no longer there. It is a descent into complete darkness, into the ground - and not least of all to the Mother. Of course a simple replacement of the Father deity by the Mother deity did not take place. If God transcends all opposites, including male and female, father and mother, then he must be expressed on the relative plane by both aspects. The complete denial of the father aspect would be just as crazy as the previous complete suppression of the female aspect in God. The only thing is that general considerations of reason do not help much in this case, as it is a question of ways of personal development – which however are symptomatic of our times - and these ways are necessarily dialectic: if one comes into the foreground, the other disappears for a time into the background. One does not realize the divine by working out well thought out but meaningless views on one’s writing desk, devising philosophies of life. But if one goes astray and then finds the path again, in that one goes one’s zigzag way, living one’s search. God is basically not interested in us
having a “correct” opinion of Himself, but in our getting up out of our comfortable chair and proceeding on our way. In my case the path to the Mother led through the impersonal Ground. How could I address God as Thou, if I did not know who I was?! I had to get to the bottom of the whole of creation, sink right down into this Ground, in order to have only a slight awareness of my real being. I was impressed by the Indian teaching of the Atman, the real “Self,” which stands behind the small individual I and connects us all, finally also me and God. In traditional Christianity I had never come across this teaching, and only when I discovered mystics such as Eckhart, did I find the Western confirmation in a fine sweeping formulation for what had already become an inner certainty for me and which is repeatedly expressed in the Upanishad texts: “My Atman is smaller than a grain of paddy, than a barleycorn, than a mustard seed, than a grain of millet grain or than the kernel of a grain of millet. This my Atman residing in (the lotus of) the heart is greater than the earth, greater than the sky, greater than heaven, greater than all these worlds.” (Chandogya Upanishad III, 14) Did a priest in the church ever say this to me? How seldom is the heart expanded by the words of a priest, how often is it made to feel so small? One knows the objections: this feeling of being one with the Divine Self only gives rise to an euphoria of the ego, and this leads us away from the true God, whose greatness we shall only recognize when we are aware of our absolute insignificance. One can of course not deny that in many pseudo-mystical schools there is some inflation of the ego in the name of spirituality. I also concede that the feeling of absolute insignificance can bring us closer to the true Ground. We have already said that the mystical experience of the Ground is only possible, if one divests oneself of everything and hold nothing at all back. But this also means renunciation of this poor-sinner consciousness, which so many seem to like. It means renunciation of the “I” that could still stand before or next to God. The grain of wheat must die, if it wants to produce so much fruit. The Atman is the infinitely great, only because it is the infinitely small. Anyone who intuitively grasps the greatness of the Atman, his real
Self, will not be a megalomaniac. In my case a miracle suddenly happened. I could once more bow down before God. Yes, while I formerly made at most a quick genuflection, I now touched the floor with my forehead. An inner blockage seemed to be removed. The defiant and somewhat adolescent boy, who no longer wanted to bow down before the divine Father, who hated nothing more than this allegedly omniscient Father’s eye, was blown away. Then I knew that this eye was also in me as the eternal “witness,” which could never be made the object. And I no longer felt myself to be a worm, who crept around on the earth and caused God’s displeasure, but one with the Self of all beings. There was only one consciousness, only one seeing, and this consciousness was not the private possession of any powerful divine person, who watched over everything from above, but a general possession, even if most people did not know it. I therefore suddenly felt myself free - also free again to bow down before God. And for purely psychological reasons one can understand that God the Father remained in the background. It was more the sons of God, before whom I bowed down: the incarnations of God in whom the divine was manifested: Christ, but also Krishna, Buddha and Ramakrishna. They seemed to me to be more rounded off than the purely Father God, they already pointed to the unity of earth and heaven, they filled the gap between transcendence and immanence and also often radiated almost female charm, in which the divine mercy and grace was manifested. Did they not also point to the feminine-motherly dimension of God - also indeed through their incarnation, their becoming flesh, which without the motherly root would be impossible? “The primal origin of the universe is the Mother of all things,” says Lao Tse. “If one knows the Mother, one also knows the Sons. Knowing the Sons, while remaining in contact with the Mother, releases one from the fear of death.” And I of course once again approached the statues and pictures of the Madonna, with which I as a Catholic was familiar. I did not worry about justifying my veneration, I did not get into a muddle about hair-splitting distinctions between “veneration” and “worship,” which Catholics so love, when they defend their cult of Mary before Protestants. I
did not so much venerate an human being, who had risen to divine status, as the divine that mercifully manifested in Mary.
Mary and the East
As we said at the beginning: the biographical and historical material we possess regarding Mary is extremely sparse – and yet how it has blossomed forth! From the “lowly maid” there has come the Queen of Heaven, “clothed with the sun,” with the moon at her feet and God on her lap. Her background and her origin are just as anonymous as the ground from which the whole of creation has come forth. Like the Atman, she is smaller than the smallest, and perhaps for this reason she has grown beyond all measure. She helps us out of our afflictions – at least if one lives in Mexico, Poland or Bavaria - while “God” often quite disappears into the background and is not mentioned on any votive tablet. One can dismiss the cult of Mary as the “Kindergarten” of religion – suitable for those who first have to feel their way to the true God, the formless, pure spirit, who is of course male. Yet those who force their way out of this father image into the pure nameless ground of divinity, still often have a secret weakness for the cult of Mary; the simple humble people’s faith and the highest mysticism seem at many points to touch each other. Is it by chance that so many strict Protestants have at one and the same time been critical of both the cult of Mary and mysticism? They have believed that all pictures and “idols” have to be destroyed in order to remain true to the pu re word of the divine revelation. Yet in so doing they have all too often made the word, the scripture, into idols. Yes, their strict Father God became the greatest idol that the world has ever seen, more moody and tyrannical than all the heathen “idols” p ut together. One can disguise the divine Ground not only with pictures and statues, but also by fastening on to the word and occupying the centre of the divine teaching with the projection of a strict super-ego, which handicaps us from letting go, relaxing and finding ourselves again in the Ground of divinity: as one with this Ground.
Anyone however who succeeds in letting go completely, finds the Divine Ground expressed everywhere, in the smallest blade of grass, but also in the pictures of divine beings and saints. Everything has become permeable and transparent, so that we no longer see a person in Mary, who disguises the ultimate Ground, but on the one hand the tiny seed that expands into divine mercy and therefore also symbolises the spiritualization of every person, on the other hand also and especially the divine Ground itself, which expresses itself graciously through a picture of Mary, which smiles at us through her and approaches us through her. God is not only the Lawgiver, he also has “charm” and Mary is one of the channels through which this charm and this grace shines through to us. I therefore do not hesitate to call her an embodiment of God, an incarnation of the divine through which God’s love and mercy can be grasped. “The milk of God’s love flows to us through God’s incarnations,” said Ramakrishna, and Jesus proclaims: “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink” (John 7, 37). This applies not only to the male incarnations, but also to the Shaktis, who in particular embody the grace of God. In a church in the Tirol there is an altarpiece, in which a saint approaches the Mother of God. She shows him her grace, in that she quenches his thirst by a gush of milk from her breast. A Puritan would certainly be upset with regard to such an unconventional way of God showing His mercy. But is not the way Jesus speaks of the living water that streams out of his inside (literally his abdomen, his “lap”) also somewhat strange – at least for a completely muddled and impoverished religious way of thinking, which has turned its back on all sensory symbolic language, without however finding the least spiritual ground – so that most wander around in a barren no man’s land , where one can smell no fresh grass and find no milk and no water to drink, where however even the transcendental Ground is not realized? Anyone who has attained the Ground, however, will again find joy in such pictures. He will be gladly captivated by the charm of a picture of Mary, in which something Eastern is often wafted towards us, something very mature and superior, a resting in oneself, being anchored right in the centre. A smile blossoms out in an otherwise so strict religion, in which one can hardly offer flowers to the Father God. The altars of Mary are always decorated with flowers, especially in May, in Mary’s month, when the scent
of lilacs is almost overpowering. One can speak of the remains of a primitive nature religion – but is it not nature that has slipped away from us? When we today speak of a new age and are convinced that the return of the Mother will play a big part in it, this also especially concerns our relationship with nature. There may be experience of a certain, spiritually tinged, “materialism” in this connection, for which the mystical ground is a biological compost heap, but we cannot afford today to critically point out possible one-sided developments here and there. We must transform ourselves. And that means in particular first of all to die: to enter into the divine Ground, but also into nature, until we can again feel her as our real mother, who bears us. Between the transcendental Ground and the “natural” ground there exist, in spite of all the differences, a correspondence, and the curse of modern man consists in not being at home in either of them. But to return to Mary: anonymity and improbability have not prevented her rise, but on the contrary promoted it, as due to this “formlessness” she could so much more easily take on form: as the archetype of the Divine Mother, as Virgin and God-bearer, in short: as the female aspect of the divine. Her rise would of course not have been possible, if there had not always been a niche for her in the human psyche – a niche, which had previously been occupied in the Mediterranean area by the Magna Mater, the Great Mother in all her various aspects. Early Christianity first swept this niche clean, but when the Lord’s appearance, which had been expected soon, did not occur, when the Kingdom of God did not suddenly take shape in the old world, when the rhythm of the seasons continued to turn in a circle, when one began to plant flowers again and think of coming generations, the picture of the Mother again arose, now in the form of Mary, the Lord’s Mother. Was she a “step forward” compared with the earlier goddesses of antiquity? It is often said that she took up all the positive aspects of the old mother gods, so that the latter could blossom forth into new life in an ennobled – namely “Christian” – form. Many churches of Mary were indeed deliberately founded on the ruins of former temples, which were dedicated to a goddess. And one must indeed say: much appears to be ennobled in her. She radiates purity and kindness, which we hardly find in the earlier goddesses in the
Mediterranean area. This judgement – perhaps also a prejudice – is certainly also connected with the fact that we are today largely missing the living relationship with these goddesses: with Isis, Astarte, Demeter, etc. We know many songs in their honour, we have descriptions of their services and mystery cults, which even today have something moving for us, and yet they are regarded as an established part of our education, archaeological findings. One can collect these remnants and thus upholster a kind of antiChristian attitude, but an intellectual and emotional protest against a certain Christian one-sidedness is not a positive cult. Anything that is not continuously worshipped and surrounded by a still living cult atmosphere appears to be slowly dying out – just as though the prana, the life energy, were flowing out. This does not however apply to India: there the Mother is still living in all her different manifestations, as a heavenly archetype, as an all-embracing World Mother, as small restricted tree goddesses or again as a human “embodiment.” An almost endlessly long golden thread of mother worship binds the oldest mother goddess of the pre-Arian era to the “Mother” of the Aurobindo Ashram. From a geographical point of view the Indian Mother seems to us to be further away than Isis and Demeter, but in reality she is nearer to us – not least because the Divine Mother there in the last hundred years through great saints and yogis like Ramakrishna, Vivekananda and Aurobindo was “awakened” to intensive life – not to mention the Shaktis, who often accompanied these great enlightened ones. Without India we would hardly encounter the reality of the Mother so strongly. We see her through the eyes of the great masses of people, who seek her protection and whose fervour is only comparable with the intensive Mary worship of the Poles or Mexicans; but we also see her through the eyes of the great mystics and enlightened ones, who bear witness to her presence. Ramakrishna’s lifelong dialogue with “his” Divine Mother is for me much more important than a hundred learned discourses about the archetype of the Great Mother, because it encourages me to turn to the Mother myself, to open up fully to Her. The cult of Mary also receives a new impulse through this Indian blood transfusion, it grows still further into the cosmic, into the great wide beyond, and thus loses its provincial character, which still sometimes clings to it.
Of course, through this encounter with the Mother, whether in her Indian manifestations, whether in the form of Mary, or also the goddess of Babylon, Egypt and ancient Greece and Rome, she becomes somewhat more living than before, as one recognises this or that feature in them. Nevertheless concern with them remains strongly on the intellectual and artistic level, at which I “think about” the mother and everything female at all, in which the mother divinity seems “interesting” to me, as an object of research or a subject for discussion. The light does not come from inside, but is shone on to her from outside – as from museum spotlights. The psychologist and sociologist, and of course the person interested in art, enjoy themselves, but do not enter the innermost centre of mother worship. However fascinating Isis may seem to me – I cannot pray to her. I cannot make prostrations before Demeter, I do not feel moved in my innermost being. Of course many Indian Shakti forms have their exotic sides, which will remain strange to me, which one can only understand as a Bengali or a South Indian. Yet here at least her great devotees, through whose eyes we see her, removed the largest blocks of misunderstanding - just as Jesus also took some features of the Yahweh cult and made it possible for us to see Abba in God. By this I do not mean simply a “taming” of God. The volcano and desert god Yahweh and the often quite aggressive Kali were not domesticated by Jesus and Ramakrishna into good harmless house gods, who lack any teeth. Their vitality remained, but they lost their provincial features, so that for instance in the case of Kali it is also possible for me as a Westerner to envisage God as Mother – without thereby necessarily thinking of a protruding tongue or other metaphorical attributes. Anyone who sometimes approaches somewhat gruesome Indian images of the Mother, often then seeks refuge in the familiar and trusted image of Mary. In Christianity it is now admitted, although hesitatingly, that the divine nature could very well have a female aspect, but it is then always at once added: To find this out, we do not need the East, Mary is quite sufficient; if she was capable of absorbing all the ancient goddesses of the Mediterranean area, this also applies to the Indian mother divinities. Really? We should not at once hand ourselves entirely over to the East, before we have sounded the depths of what our own Western tradition has to offer. Yet just as the male needs the complement of the female in order to be complete, so does the West need the East, and it would be completely
senseless to want always to be confined to what is allegedly “one’s own.” It is not a betrayal of Mary, if we supplement her by her Asian sisters: by female figures such as Sita, Radha or Sarada Devi, by the lovely forms of Sarasvatis, Lakshmis or the Chinese Kuan-yin (Kwannon in Japanese), but also by the “wilder” mother divinities, such as Durga, Kali and Tara. In other words: the cult of Mary seems to me not to fully cover what we have called the female and motherly dimension of God. Firstly, it will always be difficult in Christianity – not only among Protestants, but also in the teachings of the Catholic Church, for Mary to be recognised as an aspect of God. Those who worship her may unconsciously worship the divine in and through her, but in their conscience they always insist that Mary is of course not God. Thousand-year-old modes of thought cannot be reversed from one day to the next. Those who dare to advance furthest in this regard are indeed the best proof of how difficult it is for a Christian to ignore his past. When the American Catholic Andrew Greeley begins his study on Mary with the words: “This is not a book about Mary in the traditional sense. It is more about God, who manifests Himself in Mary,” it sounds extremely promising. Greeley would like to go to Mary with the reader, “in order to learn something about God.” We begin to suspect that this Christian writer does not see God as a limited person, but as the divine with various aspects and “dimensions” – a divine being, who reveals himself through persons, through the completely male Yahweh, but also through Mary. Finally Greeley continually draws our attention to the fact that our understanding of God has so far been one-sided and male. But when it then becomes serious, this brave Catholic seems to fear his own courage. He admits that “there are no philosophical, theological or religious grounds at all, why we cannot address God as a woman.” Yet: “I would not wish to assert that we should address God as a woman. I should only like to say that it is quite possible and legitimate to do this.” Yes, if only the rift between theory and practice were not so great, and courage to jump over it were a little greater! Yet it is not only a question of a firmly established practice. Behind it there are also hidden theoretical roots. Greeley gives himself away when he writes: “Even if there have been wrong developments in the cult of Mary, the worship of the new Queen of Heaven has never reached divine transcendence or been questioned.” In plain language: the female has – in spite of all the deep bows before it – nothing to do with divine
transcendence, because this is exclusively reserved for the male God, who jealously watches over his sole lordship. For anyone therefore who calls himself a Christian the call for a female divinity is completely unnecessary, as Mary already fulfils all these requirements; he thus just says that God cannot be a mother, as the mother whom he worships cannot be God according to his faith. One could of course give a purely external reason: Mary is and remains a “creature,” a being created by God. It is n ot so much a female dimension of God that is denied, but that God could become a creature. It is not the maternal female that is denied transcendence, but the creature named Mary. If the two are so often mixed up, this is a regrettable chance occurrence. But is it really a question of a chance occurrence, are we not encountering a deep connection? It is not a chance occurrence that at the head of all strictly monotheistic religions there is a Father God, who alone represents the divine. Anything that even only remotely looks like pantheism, like a blurring of the frontiers between the Creator God and his creation, is persecuted. His transcendence is sharply distinguished from everything that is not Him, what He has created out of nothing: the material world, the creatures, nature – and thus also the female. The worship of the female – for instance in the fertility cults – is just as strongly fought against as the efforts of the creatures to emancipate themselves. One can almost make a comparison out of this: the female becomes a “sign” for everything created, for everything that is dependent, derived and “trivial.” It is the “other” for the male God, his opposite, his object, his inferior, by which his superiority and divine transcendence is so rightly known. He is the absolute being, who needs nothing outside Himself, while the creature-female has nothing outside herself, just exists, because she is kept by Him and is for Him. In this regard God is endlessly merciful. He lets what He has created in no way fall back into non-existence, for which He has the authority and the right to do, but holds it in His strong arms. Yes, He even falls in love with this nonentity, as a man with a woman. The whole of creation and in particular His chosen people become His “bride,” His “daughter Zion,” whom He passionately courts. And this love adventure becomes acute when he chooses Mary from this chosen people, in order with her help to have a son, who then again falls in love with his chosen people, the Church, which he regards as his
“bride,” and has not seldom grown with the figure of Mary, as the Bride of God, whom God takes home into his eternal nuptial chamber.
Anyone who maintains that the male creator God of the monotheist religions is only a harsh tyrant and a dry lawyer, seems in this case to have thought better of it: God is a passionate lover, who does not consider it beneath his dignity to step out and tenderly to approach his Bride” – creation, the people of Israel, Mary, the Church and even every individual soul. But does this tell us anything about the female-motherly side of God? It only tells us that God can fall in love with the female. One can see in this a veneration of the female, but also an indirect discrimination: the female can never herself be God, but is “Nothing,” the not-God, the Other, whom God loves. It is the object that God desires. “Whether we imagine God – according to our own sex – as mainly male or female, may be left to our personal religious taste,” writes Greeley; but then he again p iles up the traditional examples that show us as God as a husband and a bridegroom. “The male dimension of God is very clearly worked out in the Christian religion,” he continues, and probably no one will contradict him. “The female dimension of God is only just intimated, but it is placed in the background for us on the figure of Mary as a Christian inheritance.” But this is precisely the beam in his own eye, which he does not see or does not want to see, for Mary reveals in the theological context, to which he still feels himself bound, not the female dimension of God, but the “female” character of creation or the chosen people or the Church. In patriarchal Christianity Mary and indeed the whole female dimension cannot stand as a “sign” for God, but at most for what God loves. Only the male Creator God is the real subject here, and therefore only He can be the object of prayer. Mary can pray, but may not be prayed to. When Greeley writes: “In Mary we meet the female, tender, attractive, charming and fasc inating side of God,” he does indeed attempt to break out of the cage of patriarchal tradition, but is again and again caught up in it. Finally it leads to the position that Mary is indeed attractive to God, but is not an attractive divinity or cannot be one. Why does one then, like Greeley, write such exciting sentences as: “Mary reveals to us a seductive, enticing, exciting and extremely attractive God,” if one cannot convert this in practice into a real worship? I must admit that Mary has something seductive and exciting for me, because I see through
her the great Divine Mother, Mahamaya, who bewitches us with her sphinxlike smile, with whom one can fall in love, who is a completely sovereign being, the great Shakti, the Sovereign Ruler. The Father God of the Bible, on the other hand, is not exciting, but excited. He is the passionate and jealous lover, who “condescends” to fall in love with his bride. Is the latter then perhaps a partner with equal rights, can she call him to account? Jahwe continually complains that his bride, the daughter of Zion, does not want to do quite what he wants. “Therefore thus saith the Lord: Ask ye now among the heathen, who hath heard such things: the virgin of Israel hath done a very horrible thing” (Jer. 18, 13). If however Yahwe himself does something horrible, if he goes beyond his own laws and lets murder be committed, in order to “test” one of his own creatures, then it is better – as Job soon has to learn – to keep one’s mouth shut than to struggle against God, the ab solute master of his slaves. “Be in pain, and labour to bring forth, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in travail: for now shalt thou go forth out of the city, and thou shalt dwell in the field, and thou shalt go even to Babylon; there shalt thou be delivered; there the Lord shall redeem thee from the hand of thine enemies.” (Micah 4.10). Where the motherly and the mother giving birth is degraded almost sadistically to the object, can it not at the same time receive divine honour. The eagerness that is so admired in this God, also has too much of a desire for possession in it, that we could speak of pure “love.” In this regard Christianity certainly indicates a step forward. We are no longer concerned here with a limited God, who “wants” this or that, but with an inner divine life, with several divine persons, as a result of which something of a dialogue takes place in God: there is question and answer. God is no longer the solitary male, who has a desire for something outside himself, but the object of love is itself taken into God. We are suddenly concerned with a divine ground, which opens up and blooms forth into a personal self-love. The female, it is true, still continues to be held at a distance from this divine sphere, but through the incarnation of the Logos (which was soon identified with the “Wisdom” of the Old Testament) and through the Holy Ghost there are yet contacts with the female, to which we will have to refer later. At least in such an atmosphere Mary could be raised
to the throne of the Theotokos”, the “God-bearer”, a title she took over from Isis and, as is well known, led to passionate arguments in the Church. And in the late middle ages, in the context of the courtly love movement, she would rise to the “High Lady,” who is in no way just a bride, that God desires and to whom he descends, and also not just the “Mother” of God, but herself the Lady, even goddess, who graciously receives from on high the prayers of her ardent admirers. Much about Mary that originates from Christian writers awakens conflicting impressions. One either goes too far or not far enough. There are glorifications that border on the laughable, and then in spite of all the wordy praises one has not the courage to grant the female a place in the divine transcendence. The whole gigantic theological machinery is engaged to raise Mary from the swamp of the created, natural world of the original sin, with often quite arbitrary declarations, and an at least equally great effort is then employed to keep the one who has been so raised up away from the divine throne. In the dogmatisation of her “immaculate conception” she was praised in the following terms by Pope Pius IX: “More beautiful than beauty, more gracious than grace, holier than holiness, the only holy one(!), the purest in body and soul, going beyond all perfection and virginity, the sole perfect receptacle of all the grace of the Holy Spirit, more exalted – apart from God – than all beings, even more exalted than the cherubim and seraphim ..., so that neither human nor angelic tongues are sufficient to praise her.” Whom should such hymns of praise help? If one is really convinced that God is also Mother, then one no longer needs to take refuge in such extravagances, which have their origin after all in a bad conscience – and on the other hand because one necessarily has for religious fanatical and patriotic reasons to celebrate one’s “goddess” as the greatest and the highest. A Bengali devotee of the “Holy Mother” Sarada Devi – who in the Ramakrishna “cult” perhaps takes the place of Mary – in spite of the often flowery and effusive oriental language, would be embarrassed to shower such superlatives on the “Mother;” he would on the other hand regard it as the most natural thing in the world to see in Sarada Devi the embodiment of the Divine Mother, who in his eyes has brought forth this whole universe.
One can of course to a certain extent respect the Catholic emotions that lie behind such hymns of praise, because religion is after all, especially when it is national and popular, primarily a matter of the heart and not the head. But when many church leaders have cleverly used their heads to exploit the people’s emotions for their own purposes, then it must be at least just as legitimate, to use the intellect to reveal the inner connections in this case. The cult of Mary must not service to provide the people with an outlet for subconscious yearnings and otherwise leave everything as it was. The lever must in this case be inserted under the whole system, which is almost exclusively male-orientated. A baroque dogma theatre with ascensions cannot in the long run hide from us the fact that men have held and are holding the cords, by means of which Mary is taken up to heaven and the female half of mankind is still bound here on earth. One can also have a very personal relationship to Mary, one can burn with love for her, without all the time pointing out that she is the most pure, most beautiful and quite incomparable. Basically a lot is made in this case out of little biographical knowledge. If we see her as the embodiment of the eternal Divine Mother, comparisons are in any case superfluous, because the Mother is always the purest and most beautiful, irrespective of whether she appears as Sita or as Mary. If one however concentrates above all on the human person Mary, one opens the door to competitive thinking and if one becomes set on seeing in her the purest and greatest of all women, one calls forth a “why” – and has to take refuge in the most adventurous suppositions in order to justify one’s assertions. Greeley, for instance, says: If we do not know much about the mother, we still know something about the son. “We know his courage, his insight, his wisdom, his extraordinary poetic language... Consequently the mother of Jesus was most likely a very courageous, pious, wise and charming woman.” It almost sounds like childish contrariness when Greeley adds: “No one can take the Mother of God away from us.” I do not know whether a Buddhist has ever had the idea of going back in this way from Buddha to his mother Maya. Such stop-gap solutions can only work in a religion that is continually plagued by the stress of having to set up their founder and also his mother as unique and unrepeatable. If one
stresses this uniqueness so much and also tries to support it biographically, one awakes in the person with other beliefs only negative feelings and encourages him to look for some dark spot. Perhaps Mary was not at all so courageous? In Mark’s gospel we read that Jesus was considered to be mad by his own family: “He is beside himself!” (Mark 3, 21). They want to take him out of circulation and bring him home. Mary is at first in this regard in no way excluded, even she does not at first fully understand the new life of her son who is filled with the Holy Spirit. And is this so surprising? Ramakrishna’s mother also thought at first that her ecstatic son was “possessed,” although her attention had through numerous spiritual experiences been drawn to her son’s “divine” nature. In the lives of the great avatars and also the “Shaktis” we again and again come across human shortcomings; this belongs to their Maya play. Yet these weaknesses are nothing in comparison with the enormous treasure of the divine Ground, which they all in various ways express. If one sees them in their fullness, there no jealousy and no thought of competition can arise. One is happy with everything in their lives, which inspires us, and does not dwell for long over any shortcoming. The biographical element is therefore not to be overemphasised, because each of these figures soon outgrows himself or herself. Mary for example, although we cannot separate her from the Jewish girl Miriam, has taken on her own life and has become a receptacle and a channel of God’s motherly love. Moreover in the West she was and is almost the only point at which the natural worship of the female-motherly aspect can start. But the subject we are dealing with in this book is not exhausted by her. The cult of Mary is not a motherly religion, but the female ornament in a distinctly fatherly religion. As C.G. Jung stressed, the male aims at perfection – with a strong leaning towards one-sidedness and exclusiveness – while the female strives more for completeness. If the female is permitted in a male religion, as for instance in the Catholic Church, then it is only in such a way that it does not call into question the basic tendencies of the male. Mary could never be presented as the embodiment of totality in Christianity. She radiates only purity, goodness and love. This “only,” this one-sidedness, has great advantages, but also disadvantages which are not
to be ignored. Mary has nothing thrilling like the Indian Shakti, one cannot “wrestle” with her. In many ways Jahwe has even greater similarity with the Indian Shakti concept than Mary. Anyone who extols her purity as the triumph of Christian ennoblement often forgets what has to be paid for this exclusiveness: the condemnation of everything sensual, the disparagement of Eros, the suspicion of everything female and irrational – attitudes that experienced their tragic highpoint in the obsessive belief in witches. Anyone who with turned up nose turns aside from the religion of “delight in creation” (as Walter Schubart called it), w ith a shudder turns his back on the sensual representations on some Indian temple walls, should also think of the blazing pyres in the burning of witches, which represent the reverse side of Christian “purity” and unfortunately were not extinguished by any miracle of Mary, however much Mary has otherwise decided battles. The exclusive stress on purity led to a split in the female, to an unholy dualism: here was the chaste virgin, there the franticly dancing witch, who in most cases was only the shadow of a completely inhibited male psyche, which was now projected on to the female. We therefore do not need to transform Mary into Aphrodite, just as we must not make the “pure” female figures of Hinduism such as Sita and Sarada into symbols of sensuality or demonic powers. Each figure, even Mary, is exactly what she is and needs no rounding off and completion – as long as we are clear in our minds that she only embodies an aspect and that what she does not embody also belongs to reality and does not necessarily have to be demonised. If some people project their own conceptions on to her, one cannot blame Mary for that – and she has doubtless often been misused and is still misused: as a militant political far right leader of a “Blue Army,” as a pale blue sign of a childish-regressive devotional ideology; as a coat-of-arms of an arch-conservative Catholicism, for which Pius XII was the last valid Pope; as a cover for the gagging and repression of women. Under her broad mantle there is so much room, and she should not be blamed for everything that finds its way in there. Anyone, however, who also wants to pray to God as Mother, and wants to live with this belief that God also has a female dimension, cannot, as I already said, alone be satisfied with the worship of Mary. Even if we, after we have “plundered” Asia’s extensive spiritual treasury, return and subsequently read so much into Mary, we soon reach a limit and I think we
should respect this limit, we should not alienate the cult of Mary. Greeley attempts, in order to make Mary “everything,” to raise her also to the “protector of the sexual play in each living and ever renewing relationship between man and woman.” It is worth recognising that a Catholic does to propagate any bitter enmity against the body, but I consider it a bit exaggerated and a bit too “chic.” One cannot with a few elegant formulations reverse two thousand years of Christian moral history. The fact that Mary, just like any other figure in whom the divine is expressed, can be a symbol of “renewal,” is obvious, and I should also not like to doubt that human renewal can very well also be enacted in the sign of Eros. Yet the Mary “symbol” has already been assigned to other things, it cannot represent a side of life, which one has for two thousand years very carefully erased from her picture. She cannot, like the Indian Shakti, become the embodiment of the totality of all being. In spite of many similarities we are here treading on quite other ground – a ground which for most Western people is so shaky, that she quickly withdraw to their trusted field, where the Devil is still the Devil and God is still God. The Indian conception of the Divine Mother admittedly mixes many things together, but I believe that it is precisely here that the roots for a new religious understanding may lie. A dive into the waters of Chaos can never do any harm - indeed, it is even necessary, if one wants to regenerate oneself. In the Western tradition we have become accustomed to the concept of an extra-cosmic creator God, who directs everything from outside and shows Himself only in history. As the natural man never seemed to be so tied down as the woman, one almost always conceived of this God as male although one also tried in higher theology to avoid a too glaring anthropomorphism and to understand God as a pure spirit, beyond everything sexual, and therefore beyond male and female. As however the men - and only they determined the theology and philosophy - imagined that pure spirits are represented above all by man, while the female is per se sexual, the male colouring of this extra-cosmic creator God always remained in place. Just as the Great Mother was not formerly dependant on male assistance and gave birth to the world entirely
by herself, so now in the opposite way the Father God became the All-God, the One, who did not need any helper - partly because he simply took over certain motherly features. How often in mysticism do we find talk of the lap of the Father, who not only produces, but also “bears” the Son, th e divine Word. Yes, there are representations, in which the Father God takes over the part of Mary and holds the Son on his lap. There have of course been exceptions, accompanying melodies, as it were, to the main male theme - long before the rise of Mary. In the Jewish culture we find the Shechina, the “power of God,” which plays an important part in the Kabbala and has a lot in common with the Indian Shakti. And above all there is Sophia, “Wisdom,” whom we have already mentioned. She is designated in the Old Testament as the companion of Yahwe, who was with Him from the beginning and whose existence Yahwe must have forgotten or suppressed for a long time. ”So in herself, wisdom is a spirit,” it says in the Wisdom of Solomon, “that is rational. Holy, only-begotten, manifold, subtle, easily moved, clear...” She is described as “unhindered, manifest, man loving, steadfast, unfailing, free from worry, all-powerful, all-surveying, and penetrating all spirits... So she is the exhalation of the power of God and the emanation of the pure glory of the Almighty. Though she is one, she can do all things; so while remaining in herself, she renews all things. And in every generation, she passes into holy souls and makes them friends of God and prophets... Wisdom stretches from one end of the earth to the other and she governs all things well.” The man who wrote this must have been aware that the male God Yahwe needed a supplement, namely a female dimension, which is expressly described as “man-loving” – as though one wanted to point out that this was not exactly a typical feature of Yahwe’s character. It must also be stressed that the female is here not assigned only the dark side of being: the nightly, damp, natural and earthly, heavy - in contrast to the “sunny” quality of male creator intelligence - but that the divine spirit-energy, in fact “Wisdom," is conceived of as light. “For wisdom is more beautiful than the sun and more than every constellation of stars. Compared with light she is found to be superior.” This hymn to Wisdom has something enchanting and exhilarating about it, as indeed it is also a declaration of love. Without this love, without this
enthusiasm, one cannot approach the female dimension of God. We do not bother with superlatives, because in this case it is not a finite person of whom it is being sung, who is for instance being played off against other persons, but the divine exhilaration itself. We are at the level of poetic and spiritual intuition, and not at the level of the complicated and ponderous formation of dogma. No one has yet been able to capture the exhilarating wisdom, the female whirlwind, that makes one think of a dancing and a playful girl. One may say that she remains an abstract idea, a Greek spark that has become lost in the Old Testament, but I think she has indeed her own life and, in spite of all her vagueness, something very characteristic. She also embodies the “living” God and not at all a mere idea - she is after all God’s life, his power, his Shakti - something lively, in contrast to whom Yahwe in his appearances often, in spite of all his thunder, has something of the ponderousness of a steamroller. One only has to read a work such as “The Mother” by Sri Aurobindo to feel how closely the “Wisdom” of the Old Testament comes nea r to the Indian Shakti. “She whom we worship as Mother,” writes Aurobindo, “is the divine power of consciousness, which governs all existence, is one, but at the same time so multiple, that even for the quickest mind and the most free and comprehensive insight it is not possible to follow its movements. The Mother is the consciousness and the power of the Most High and stands far above all her creations.” Aurobindo divides the Mother’s “multiplicity,” which it also pointed to in the Old Testament wisdom literature, in particular into five aspects Maheshwari (Wisdom), Mahakali (Energy), Mahalakshmi (Harmony) and Mahasaraswati (Perfection) - and writes as an introduction: “The one is the figure of the silent expanse, comprehensive wisdom, quiet goodness, inexhaustible sympathy, the highest, superior majesty, all-governing greatness. Another incorporates her power of illuminating energy and irresistible passion, warlike stance, crushing will, impetuous speed and world-shaking power. The third is lively, soft and wonderful in the deep secret of her beauty, her harmony, her fine rhythm, her manifold, tender richness, her irresistible charm and her bewitching grace. The fourth is endowed with her secret ability to penetrate to the innermost knowledge, to careful, faultless work and to quiet and clear perfection in all things.”
Let us however remain for a short while on Jewish and Christian territory, in order further to trace the path to “Wisdom” there. In particular it differs from the general picture of the “Bride” of God in that it is not only seen as an object, with which God falls in love, but that it has something quite independent and subjective about it. It is not only admired by God as the “Other,” “the non-divine,” but itself embodies the divine. Can God not also be courted and loved as the female, who is for man also always the “Completely Other,” but in fact not just as an object, but as the other side which can lead him to a transcendental experience? We shall come back again to this important point. In Christianity the “Wisdom” of the Old Testament took on three different forms: as the Logos, as the Holy Spirit and as Mary - in which connection one must add that this theological separation could not affect and remove the specific character and aura of “Wisdom,” as we encounter it in the Old Testament. Much has gone over from it into these three figures - and also into the “Church” - and yet a bit remains, which cannot be theologically captured. The Logos, the creator Word of God, through which everything has come about, is indeed mostly taken to be masculine, but if one does not wish to simplify him to cheap “logic,” which is rightly or wrongly assigned to the male, this creative word doubtless has the features of the female Wisdom. It is true that we have become used to seeing in the Logos something like Hegel’s Absolute, a somewhat Prussian World Spirit; but with at least just so much right we can in this “Word” also discover something flowing, “light and moveable” like wisdom, related to the Tao, which also stands almost closer to the motherly wisdom than the fatherly wisdom. Like the Tao the divine Word is also the root, the “Mother of ten thousand things,” and which Jesus of Nazareth embodies in Israel, who not by chance showed many a characteristic of a Taoist sage. When he says he would have liked to gather together the people of Jerusalem just as the mother hen gathers her chicks beneath her wings, he is expressing something motherly, which otherwise almost only finds expression in the broad mantle of Mary. The English mystic Julian of Norwich does not hesitate to call the second person of the Trinity our “Mother.” The Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Christian Trinity, can indeed also not be understood as distinctly feminine.
When the “Spirit of God,” which wanders over the waters of Chaos, and in particular as the Spirit that overshadows Mary and at the same time “begets” the Son, it has indeed for many people more masculine qualities. And yet, this creative spirit, this life-giving power is far removed from a creator God, who with an all-powerful gesture “makes” something out of nothing. There is a hidden correspondence between Him and the “feminine” Waters of Chaos. The Ruach Elohim, the “Breath of God,” is feminine in Hebrew, just like “Wisdom,” and its hovering over the waters is also often referred to as “brooding.” There is something of fruitful moisture in this breath, which spreads like a cloud over the Chaos and takes it up into itself as into its lap. The border between begetting and giving birth, between creation and life-bearing is wiped away here. “I came from the mouth of the Most High and covered the earth like a mist” (Sirach 24,3), Wisdom says and bear witness that in the creation it was not exclusively a male will that was at work, which makes something out of nothing or forms and inspires a completely passive original material, but it is a question of co-operation between male and female powers, which unite to form a creative power. The Holy Spirit has taken up into itself much from Wisdom, as well as from the “Shechina," the “power” of God, and its similarity to the Indian Shakti hardly needs to be pointed out. It is not by chance that the dove, his “form," is a feminine symbol - indeed, a symbol of the goddess of love. While the Father represents above all the original Being and the Son - as the Word - knowledge, the Holy Spirit embodies the breath of burning love and the exuberant life and blissfulness of the Godhead. It is the Pleroma, in which the inner life of God is fulfilled and breaks out of itself in order to let the inner fullness flow over outside just as in Indian metaphysics Being (Sat) and Consciousness (Chit) find their fulfilment in overflowing love and joy (Ananda) and at the same time burst forth and return to the innermost source. For us the Holy Spirit is similar to Wisdom in the Old Testament, especially important as the power that binds together all apparent opposites, which takes us out of the world of duality into the life of unity. The highest spirituality and love of nature, asceticism and Eros are no longer enemies under its power of love. With what great passion the great medieval mystic Hildegard von Bingen could sing of the power of this love – in which
connection it is no longer after all a question of whether the “I” in this text is the Holy Spirit, “Wisdom” or Christ - or, in Indian terminology, Shakti or Krishna. “I, the fiery life of God’s presence, shine forth over the beauty of the fields. I shine in the waters. I burn in the sun, in the moon and in the stars. And with the wind - as with unseen life, which bears everything – I powerfully awaken all life, for the air lives in blossoming forth. The waters flow as though they were alive. The sun also lives in its light and the moon … In all this I am hidden, the fiery power; they burn from me, as the breath powerfully brings movement to men, and as the flame is in the fire. They all live in their being and are not found in death, for I am life… the unscathed life, which is not from flints, does not blossom from boughs, does not arise from human power, but everything that lives has its roots in me.” Here the light of the Old Testament “Wisdom” is again lit in the heart of Christian mysticism - in a woman’s heart. And the spark flies on to us, who are standing on the threshold of an age, in which spirit and nature, the “spirit” and life of Prakriti can be connected again with Chit-Shakti, the Spirit-Energy, whose real essence is love. When Ramakrishna for the first time felt the rush of the spirit, when the waves of this endless sea burst over him and he sank into ecstasy, he whispered, when hours later he came to himself, again and again only the words “Mother, Mother." In the apocryphal Hebrew text Jesus calls the Spirit his “Mother." Of all the three persons of the Christian Trinity, the Holy Spirit is perhaps the least comprehensible, so that the theologians have always had problems with it. Just like “Wisdom” it is “light and volatile," “penetrating everything and unrestrainable.” “The wind bloweth where it listeth,“ says Jesus, “and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth.” (John 3,8). Anyone who is caught up by this wind of the Spirit easily comes like Jesus and Ramakrishna to suspect that he is “beside himself.” (Mark 3,21), or at least “full of sweet wine," like the young men at the Easter Festival. Here we encounter the wild, crazy, unrestrained Dionysian element at a higher level, so to say in a clarified transparent form, where the coarse aspect is rejected, without the spirit however being completely “tamed” as a result. It has not in any way lost contact with nature, it is and remains a
giver of life, just as Shiva also loses nothing of his creative power. “The spirit that goes into the heart of man, or is awakened in it as the great Kundalini power, is the same spirit, whose fiery life flames over the beauty of the fields” (Hildegard von Bingen). The Holy Spirit, like “Wisdom," breaks through all artificial rules, breaks open all encrustations and enables us to go beyond ordinary slow discursive thinking, in which we normally spend our sad days like moles in their dark passages. It destroys the small-town politics of the ego and is the actual opener of God’s kingdom, in which all separating fences and walls are torn down. Sri Aurobindo rightly expresses the elation of the spirit, whose nature is above all Ananda (spiritual joy), when he writes to a Sadhaka: “Be less logically narrow. Expand more. Swim out of the pool and into the open sea. Dance away to the horizon!” But how often have we lost the ability to dance! We have become as stiff as a poker in a religious tradition, which has continually attempted to prescribe for the spirit when and at what time it has to blow. One may try to get out of this by saying that enthusiasm is always dangerous, that it easily gets out of control and in many cases it is only a spiritually disguised egotrip. This may be true in individual cases - especially where purely mentalemotional phenomena are confused with true spirituality; but one must not pour the baby out with the bath water. Isolated cases of misdirected enthusiasm are not such a great pity as a general drying up of spirituality. In spite of its powerful spray, the spirit has the sensitivity of a woman; the lively breath of Shakti quickly draws back when it sees that it is unwanted. Of course the bustle of a religious community can apparently impressively progress externally without this breath - but what use is all that, when one has driven away the real giver of life? Spirituality is not possible without it, without the experience of the spirit. Baptism and confirmation can only give a weak signal, just like all ceremony: a pointer towards experience, which is still lacking. “Tomorrow’s pious man will be a 'mystic,' someone who has ‘experienced’ something, or he will not exist anymore,” wrote the Catholic theologian Karl Rahner, who cannot be suspected of too great uncontrolled enthusiasm.
The spirit is Chit-Shakti, the dynamic aspect of divine consciousness. For us this is again an indicator that the female motherly aspect, which is expressed in Shakti, is in no way so muffled and unconscious as many male philosophers believed. The well-known Chinese distinction between Yin and Yang – in which Yin represents the female, earthly, dark, passive, heavy, negative and damp, while Yang represents the male, heavenly, bright, active and positive has indeed a certain justification in the world of archetypes, but it would be quite contrary to the Tao and in no way according to the spirit, if one wanted to make these characteristics permanently static. The female also has something bright, flashing and masterful about it. It can become sunny and embodies above all the intuitive creative power which often comes to notice through its agility, while “masculine” logical thinking often appears ponderous. Above all, it is more than questionable, when male psychologists and philosophers also want to substantiate metaphysically their prejudice against the female. These allegedly “eternal” truths are not conserved like gold bars in some platonic heaven, they have grown up, they have matured in a rather feminine way in a patriarchal society and are in no way more valid than the “biological” truths of earlier scholars, from those from which philosophers and doctors of the Church such as Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas derived their theories of the inferiority of woman, whom they regarded as a failed man. In the Maya play of up and down, high and low, etc. the rolls are never fixed for ever. The human being is not a being established forever, but is always involved in becoming, he is capable of transcendence. He has entered the field of history, in which everything is still “open." The present -day women’s emancipation movement and the man’s consciousness of his feminine depths are perhaps just the harbingers of a coming revolution, in which all the traditional hierarchies will break up. Such a revolution could involve purely destructive characteristics, but when it takes place under the banner of the life-giving spirit and Shakti, under the banner of renewal and transformation, it will open a really new age. Because this spirit of wisdom, which combines within itself motherliness and boldness, teaches us not to regard a human being as a cold reality,
neither man nor woman; it teaches us to look at the potential that is still within the human being. Anyone who in this case sets up established hierarchies of the sexes and even derives some “rights” for himself from it, only shows that he is not yet caught up by this spirit. The latter can then also appear to him in the form of the black Kali, whose often fearful laughter not only forces itself on us from the depths, but often enough and unexpectedly, suddenly, from on high. In Hinduism many divinities also have a female aspect, which completes them, and not a few Indian prayers call on God with the words: "You are our Father, you are our Mother!" Krishna can say: "I am the Father of this world, the Mother, the Dispenser and the Grandfather ..." (Gita IX, 17). The female aspect is partly expressed through the accompanying Shakti and partly by the fact that there is a female, motherly quality in the male God. In contrast to the "prophetic" religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, which are strongly characterised by male qualities, Hinduism, which likes to call itself the "Eternal Religion" (Sanatana Dharma), belongs to the mainly "motherly" religions - in spite of the undeniable subjection of woman over many centuries of Indian history. The reasons for this lie very deep. The female characteristic is in no way confined to the veneration of Shakti in Tantrism, in which the Divine Mother has practically been raised to the chief divinity. We must go further down into the divine ground itself, which is called Brahman in the Upanishads. Brahman is certainly not female, it is neither HE nor SHE, it is the Absolute, the Ultimate Source. Yet from this mystical ground a bridge can more easily be crossed to the female aspect of God than from a male extra-cosmic Creator God, who is worshipped as the highest Absolute and does not tolerate any other gods and certainly any goddess besides Himself. This God "makes" something out of nothing. The mother, on the other hand, lets something become and arise, come forth and grow - not out of something else, but out of herself. Ramakrishna often compared Shakti to a spider, who spins forth the universe, her cosmic web of Maya out of herself. He also often stressed that his Divine Mother was identical to the Brahman of the Vedas. In the Mundaka Upanishad we read: "Just as the spider spins its web and draws it in, as the plants come forth from out of the earth, as the hair grows out of the living body, so all things arise out of the Indestructible" (1, 7).
Here an almost Taoist and "motherly" feeling of being alive is expressed. Creation is in this case not a unique act of will and power, by which a male Creator God wishes to assert Himself (and whom one must then continually praise for this "accomplishment"), but a natural spontaneous happening – almost without a reason. Have we today, after all the show of strength in our Western civilization, not again become more receptive for such a position - a position that has time, without always at once interfering in everything? [S1]There is a basic trust in it that all will be well - provided we do not mess things up again. Many psychologists will speak of regression. They will say: it is necessary that the male Creator God be removed from this ground - whether this ground be an absolute IT (Brahman) or the motherly womb of nature (Prakriti). We must however go on to ask: Where is the final point of the development? Even when we admit that the male dawning of consciousness, which always at the same time appears to be separate from the female mother ground, is a necessary stage in human - and perhaps even divine - evolution, it is not thereby implied that it represents a final high point. There is not only an unconscious and a conscious aspect, but also a super-conscious one, in which everything is fulfilled, both the male and the female. The purely natural is here transcended, but also the male urge to overcome, which goes against nature. The fulfilment is not a stiff male victory posture. Whoever stands, cannot let go, cannot relax and he is not ripe for the highest fulfilment. Relaxation does not consist of a return to chaos, but of a realisation of the transcendental ground, which transcends all the opposites. For the man, however, who has almost always lived only in a tense state of consciousness, in a continuous anti-feeling, in a world of opposites, this transcendent super-consciousness gain appears to have female features and a certain similarity with the mother's womb. The "lower" natural aspect and the super-conscious aspect touch on one another and between them lies all the struggles and convulsions of our civilization. There is only one place in the Upanishads, in which the formless Absolute Brahman takes on a form and speaks - and it does so as a woman. In this passage in the Kena Upanishad the mysterious nature of Brahman, which as the mysterious IT is behind all divine and human persons and defies all definitions, is emphasized in a quite humorous way. The passage reads: "It is said that Brahman once won a victory for the gods (over the demons). Though the victory was due to Brahman, the gods became elated by it, and thought: verily this victory has been won by us. The glory of it is ours.
Brahman knew their vanity, and he appeared before them, but they did not understand who that adorable Spirit was. They said to Agni (Fire): "O Jatavedas (all-knower), find out who this adorable Spirit is." He agreed. Agni hastened to the Spirit. The Spirit asked him who he was, and Agni replied: "Verily I am Agni, the omniscient." "What power resides in such as you?" asked the Spirit. "Why, I can burn up everything there is on earth," replied Agni. The Spirit put down a straw before him and said, "Burn it!" Agni dashed on it, but was unable to burn it. So he returned to the gods, saying, "I could not find out who that adorable Spirit is." Then the gods said to Vayu (Wind): "O Vayu, find out who this adorable Spirit is." He agreed. Vayu hastened to the Spirit. The Spirit asked him who he was, and Vayu replied, "Verily I am Vayu, the King of air." "What power resides in such as you?" asked the Spirit. "Why, I can blow away anything, whatever there is on earth," said Vayu. The Spirit put down a straw before him and said, "Blow that away!" Vayu dashed at it, but was unable to move it. So he returned to the gods, saying, "I could not find out who that adorable Spirit is". Then the gods said to Indra (the chief of gods): O Maghavan, find out who this adorable Spirit is." He agreed and hastened towards the Spirit, but the Spirit disappeared from his view. And on that very spot he beheld a woman, wondrously fair – the daughter of the snowy mountain Himavat. And of Her he asked, "Who could this adorable Spirit be?" She replied: "That is Brahman - the Brahman in whose victory you have attained greatness." Therefore, verily, these gods - Agni, Vayu and Indra – excel the other gods; for they approached the Spirit nearest, and they were the first to know Him as Brahman. This story reminds one a little of that Indian mythological tale, in which the bewildered male gods combine their energies and enable the figure of Devi, the Great Goddess, to arise, which conquers the demonic powers. "Brahman gained victory for the gods", it says in the Upanishad - Brahman is the background power, which brings about the victory of the gods fighting in the foreground. In contrast to this mysterious Brahman the Goddess Herself does indeed appear on the field of battle as the combined power of the gods, but in spite of this intervention in the event she has the "background" in common with Brahman: she is not at all so much a clearly defined person, but the life-giving and also aggressive energy, which is in all beings, which pervades everything and holds everything together, and in this case "appears" only as a figure, while in reality she is the power that lets forth all formations and appearances from herself.
Later Vedanta philosophers have attempted to separate Brahman and the female Maya-Shakti and even to declare them to be enemies. They did not want to see the purity of a static Absolute polluted by the dynamic veiled dance of this creative energy. But we do not yet find this dualism in the Upanishads, where Brahman is something that goes beyond itself, the pulsating and living entity - although there is at the same time an eternal silence within it, into which the Yogi immerses himself. It is precisely there, where the mysterious nature of Brahman is emphasized, where it is asked, what a strange mystery it is that a secret relationship with the "female" Maya becomes clear - with that power, which the great Vedanta philosopher Shankara, even when he unflinchingly went into battle against it, nevertheless described it as "most wonderful" and "indescribable in words". We here stand before the strange paradox, that the power, which as Maya-Shakti produces the world of manifold appearances and thus hides the transcendental ground of being, by her mysterious nature brought to despair the very male philosophers like Shankara, also thereby points to the unattainable and indescribable transcendental character of the Ground of Being. The somewhat superficial male Creator God, who is very proud of his deeds - like the smaller gods, whom Brahman annoyed by his jokes - seems on the other hand almost banal. One feels that he cannot yet be "All", one looks for something behind Him - for the ground of Being and a power, which does not make itself the Lord, does not continually give itself airs, but which as the secret controlling energy makes the game possible in the first place. And I think that Brahman and Shakti have much in common in this regard. (Translated by John Phillips)
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