In Defense of Monotheism. ~ Rabbi Tirzah Firestone

Via elephant journal
on Aug 4, 2013
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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.

One immense luminescent body is us.



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 Ed: Bryonie Wise

Photo: via Pinterest


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10 Responses to “In Defense of Monotheism. ~ Rabbi Tirzah Firestone”

  1. John says:

    By his own testimony, that God doesn't play well with others, so perhaps everyone's better off if he's off somewhere else thinking he's the only game in the universe.

  2. beautiful writing…

  3. Ryan says:

    How a human being can ever think they understand something like this in such simple terms, ill never understand. There’s probably a good chance the words one and god are totaly meaningless in the deeper truth of the universe.

    But it’s no fun to be into something you can’t really talk about is it? A true spiritual leader would be better off spending thier time diluting the convinient concepts we’ve developed over the years rather than defending them.

  4. Tony says:

    Rabbi Tirzah, atheism and religion bashing in general are all the rage these days. Could you write an article in response to the arguments of Dawkins, Hawking, et. al.? A complex issue, yes, but I'd like to get your view however brief and limited. Is it true, as the atheists contend, that there is simply no evidence to support belief in a creator? Do religions do more harm than good in the world? And so on.

    Really enjoyed the above article. One of the best I've read on this site. Thanks.

  5. Rabbi Tirzah says:

    Hi John,
    I agree. THAT God is not a God I care to dance with either. He is nothing more than a jealous and vindictive tribal deity, no longer in rapport (if ever he was) with the pulsing beauty of evolving life, a rape victim of a power hungry political system that serves only itself. What I am trying to say here is that the essence of the Judeo Christian vision was once upon a time a radical experience of a unified breath that embodies us all. Is it too gross to say that the vision got pimped?

  6. Rabbi Tirzah says:

    Pretty cynical Ryan.
    I'm not into concepts at all, rather, direct spiritual experience.

  7. Rabbi Tirzah says:

    Thanks for the prod, Tony!
    Religions have in many cases been co-opted by the lust for power and have been contaminated so deeply that they are at this point truly (in Bill Mahr's language) "religulous!" and verge on useless. Hence the current drive toward shamanism, Eastern meditation and yoga, indigenous cultures. We are all starved for the numinous, for an experience of direct contact with something unquestionably greater than ourselves.

    Don't forget, there are many dimensions of reality here on earth and many ways to measure experience! One is the mind and its quantitative analyses and proofs. This mode is highly prevalent nowadays and we tend to bow down to science as the ultimate rubric.
    Another kind of knowing is the heart's experience. At the level of pure cognition and quantitative definitions, Hawking and Dawkins are absolutely correct: there is no evidence whatsoever to support belief in a creator. However, experiences of the numinous, of the sacred have beengoing on for millenia around the world. That there is a unity peering out from behind he multiplicity of life forms, that there is an intelligence out there/in here, a guidance coming to us from our dreams and in signs all around us….that knowing is from the realm of the heart! It is neither factual nor objectifiably evidenced, but rather one's own subjective qualitative experience.

    Thanks for writing!
    Rabbi Tirzah

  8. Tony says:

    "Science as the ultimate rubric" is one of the things that really concerns me in the whole debate about atheism/science versus religion and the ineffable. Science as the ultimate arbiter in human affairs is just too monolithic, too absolutist, too dangerous. There are those, however, who would gladly hand the world over to the scientists. Let us stamp out superstition they cry! Reason is the pony to bet on, and reason only. As far as I can tell, the Bill Mahers of the world have no taste for any of it, whether the Judeo-Christian beliefs of the West or the esoteric practices of the East. It's all a bunch of film-flam. The hyper rationalists must not gain too much power. It will be a safer, more hospitable world if they are kept in check. Render unto Caesar…

    Thanks for your reply, and good luck with your work.

  9. MatBoy says:

    The arguments supporting monotheism are the same used to support handgun ownership in the US. If we look at how they are used by the population, the violence and carnage they leave in their wake, the divisions within society they encourage or at least keenly sharpen, and the feelings of righteousness they engender in their adherents reducing the need or tendency to communicate or even interact with people from other groups, you can see they support intolerance for diversity. It is used to justify perpetrating hateful violence on other people. But adherents use specious arguments to support their case finding theoretical talking points that appear positive. Guns (monotheism) do(es) not kill people, people kill people.

  10. Harry says:

    I never met your sister but her ideas draw me to her incredibly as if she was my friend