Beneath the big oak tree we invoked the ancestors, the spirits of the grove, the spirit of the place, geni loci.
Before we walked to the labyrinth’s center where a didgeridoo was bellowing its earthy blessings, we were smudged with sweet grass and a Native American Chumash elder called in the four directions. Then the drumming began, and with it, the ecstatic West African chants to the Vodun earth essences.
Blessings and tears flowed, joyous embraces to one and all.
Location: the hills east of Santa Barbara. Event: A ceremony at the end of a three-year doctoral program in depth psychology.
As the dusk darkened into night and the intoxication of the drums and togetherness began to wear off (not even lemonade was served), still wet with sweat and tears, I caught myself wondering at this remarkable upsurge of enthusiasm (en-theos: possessed by god) from so many quarters of the world. Something struck me as slightly strange.
How exactly was it that in the mix of all these divinities, the one God, yes, that one: the Judeo-Christian one, God the Creator, the transcendent, full of rigour and rules, fire-and-brimstone-pathos-and-paradox-god was missing from the party?
This was not exactly a Richard Dawkins-Sam Harris affair. These were spiritual folks, aged 25 to 65, mostly American-born, 99% of whom had Judeo-Christian roots. Yet, there was not a whisper of that “God.” And as Jung called the Zeitgeist that forms the conventions of each era, the “Spirit of the Times” was decidedly polytheistic.
Such is our aversion today.
A veritable God-allergy has grown up among us Westerners, a flight from any whiff of monotheism or its patron God, YH-VH (or for that matter, JC his son) whose mythic transcendence is just too overbearing, thunderous, and demanding to be taken seriously. And why should it? The mono in monotheism has come to describe the mono-cultured, mono-chromed monotony of churches and synagogues everywhere where His priests and rabbis deliver monologues.
And the imams…don’t even go there.
But I am a rabbi after all. A closet Kabbalist, you might say. And I beg to holler: There has been a mistake! A serious booboo! An extreme co-opting of clarity; a devolution of a most radical intuition that once illuminated our ancient ancestors: it was an astonishing aha! that there was a single uncanny mystery, a hidden wholeness whispering out from behind the multiplicity of local spirits and gods.
A unity of intention that undulated through every wave and rivulet, murmured behind every chirp and caw and croak.
Yes, this one love—this ineffable primal breath YaaaHaaaUaaaHaa—was reified into Yahweh and ossified into religious doctrine. Promoted as transcendent, intangible, disincarnate, lording over, this pulsing, radically feminine presence was masculinized and of course, politicized; used as a reward in a heaven beyond. But she was never and is still not anywhere but here! Right here.
She holds us, breathes through us, one feeling fabric of which we are a part. This round, unified being in which we participate is our living home, the one life, one love, one immense luminescent body, a shape as perfect and boundless as a sphere, spinning, as another closet Kabbalist David Abram has said.
This is the one God, and this One is radically present and alive in all beings, be it the shimmering grass, the snow melting in the creek, the spider crawling up the porch stairs, the neon green lichen on the trail, the air in your nostrils as you read these words. Monotheism was the epiphany that there was one knowing wink behind the myriad sentient beings, available and reciprocal if we but hold and behold her in any of her countless faces.
So while I revel in all things indigenous, polytheistic, ancestor revering, didgeridoo-ing, I just wanted to rectify that one little point about monotheism.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise
Photo: via Pinterest