The Scariest Thing of All

entwined trees

Connection/individuality

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love and fear are strange partners
They have been together a long time
They know each other well
Where one is found, so is the other
Seeming opposites, they occupy
the same coin’s two aspects
and flip back and forth
as our hearts open and close.

 

I wrote that poem while embroiled in the most complicated relationship of my life. I often thought that it was like an Olympics of relationshipping, requiring huge stretches and leaps, unprecedentedly tricky psychological and emotional gymnastics, greater skills than I had ever had to develop before.

I did not stick the landing.

Last weekend I performed in one of our monthly dance salons sponsored by the Farfesha troupe. It was the Halloween edition, but I didn’t have anything specific to the holiday planned. Then it occurred to me that the gentle, lyrical song I was dancing to, “Lamma bada yatathanna,” was about one of the things that scares people the most: helplessness in the face of love and desire.

It ends by repeating Aman, aman… “Mercy! Mercy!”

Lots of things in this world are scary. Maybe it sounds a bit histrionic to say that love and desire are among the ones that give people the most serious cases of the heebie-jeebies. But as an empath, that’s what I’ve experienced. I’ve also been told about it in so many words, as in, “Sometimes I want to be close to you, too, but it’s just too frightening.”

With the anniversary of the sprained soul I sustained at the end of that overcomplicated relationship coming up, I am thinking again about love and fear. Can they be separated? Is it ever possible to have only love? I would say that this is the case with my husband and me, but then, there is always the fear of loss. Even though the loss of a person to death is not truly real— they only appear to be gone— the pain can be beyond what we can cope with, and that can go on and on. Of course we fear it.

I think that the fear associated with love is always a fear of loss— loss of control above all, perhaps loss of one’s definition of oneself. Fears about losing freedom, autonomy and safety are common, though in a viable relationship those things will not really be lost. All of these are in some way fear of change.

My husband thought I was a little nuts writing about love being frightening. “Well,” I said, “what about when a guy goes out with a girl and really likes her a lot, and then he never calls her? That’s fear, right?”

“Yeah, if she likes him, then he’s stuck.” (His life will change for sure.) “And if she doesn’t like him, she’ll step on him and smash him like a spider!” (Yeeks!)

In the case of my gymnastics partner, as far as I can tell, a fundamental fear was about having to change his view of himself and what was possible for him. He didn’t have the flexibility to manage that. I acknowledge that this is a pretty terrifying thing, and I don’t blame him for being nervous about it.

The fear that permeated that association, though, was beyond anything reasonable. It was pervasive and infected every moment. Every time I thought we had gotten past it, it reared its head again. It lurked behind every affectionate gesture and every sincere word of kindness.

All along I kept trying to identify and root out my own phobias and anxieties. I thought I was going through some intense and useful spiritual development. Being an empath, I was constantly attending to the messages beneath the surface as well as the overt ones. I came up with new skills and new methods to make sense of the odd things that went on. It seemed like all that would keep me out of trouble, but ultimately I was no better off.

It was an epic fail, and I can’t advise you on how to avoid the same. All I know is that when there is a choice between love and fear, the path of fear will never get you where you want to go. Loving more thoroughly, more clear-headedly, with less ego, is the better strategy, and that means applying love and compassion to yourself as well. It may be that continuing the relationship is not compatible with this kind of love, that the truly loving course is to let it end.

I remind myself that if something is impossible, failing to accomplish it is not a real failure. We know that no one ever passed the Kobayashi Maru test without cheating.

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As I told you about last time, I had the great privilege to hear and meet Nadia Bolz-Weber at an event on October 20. I literally looked up to her— my goodness, she’s tall, and she was wearing 3” heels. Someone who makes no attempt to hide. She wasn’t always that way, though. Her book Shameless: A Sexual Reformation, which I’m rereading, describes her early life within a very repressive Protestant denomination.

 I was on the verge of tears all through her presentation that day, and wasn’t quite sure why. I felt that I had long since worked through the issues of shame and guilt and not-good-enough that she was talking about. While waiting for the event to start, I opened Shameless in e-book form on my phone, and my eye fell on the phrase “the inherent goodness of the human body.”

That is still an area of blockage for me. It struck me that for those of us struggling with or coming to terms with chronic illness, chronic pain, disability, or even just plain aging, finding ourselves in contention with recalcitrant bodies, it is hard to remember their inherent goodness. Even if we have cleared away millennia of religious asceticism and dualism that tell us our bodies are sinful and must be suppressed and disciplined, it can still be a real challenge to be friends with our physical forms. Rev. Nadia is talking about the goodness of the body in terms of its sexual and sensual nature, but there is far more to be found in that concept.

All this brings up questions of why we live in physical bodies to begin with, and what we are to make of our relationship with this physical world. But clearly our bodies are meant to touch other bodies, as Rev. Nadia points out. The desire to connect, it seems to me, can be seen in spiritual terms as a need to connect with our Source.

The dance of love and fear is based in the conflict between the desire for connection and merging and the desire for individuation. All beings want to connect and belong, and all beings have an innate drive to keep existing. The mistake we make is in believing that love and connection threaten our continued existence as individuals.

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A hypnotic choreography to the version of “Lamma bada” I used, by Lena Chamamyan:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxIj4ni07Q0&list=WL&index=6&t=0s

The song is a venerable one from the Andalusian tradition, in sama’i rhythm with 10 beats per measure. Here is one of many versions of the lyrics:

Lamma bada yatathanna… Hubbi jamalu fatanna
Amru mâ bi-laHza asarna
Ghusnun thanâ Hina mal
Wa’adi wa ya Hirati
Man li raHimu shakwati… Fil-Hubbi min law’ati
Illa maliku l-jamal
Aman’ Aman’ Aman’ Aman

https://lyricstranslate.com

And a couple of the many translations:

When he was bending, when he was bending (this means he is dancing or doing something graceful)
My love, his beauty struck us
Something about it captivated us
beauty, as soon as he began to bend

My promise, oh my confusion, my promise, oh my confusion
Who could be the one to alleviate my sufferings in love, from my torment, except the one of beauty
Oh mercy, oh mercy, oh mercy

http://www.arabicmusictranslation.com/2008/10/lena-chamamyan-when-he-looked-bent-lama.html

She walked with a swaying gait
her beauty amazed me

Her eyes have taken me prisoner
Her stem folded as she bent over

Oh, my promise, oh, my perplexity
Who can answer my lament of love and distress
but the graceful one, the queen of beauty?

http://www.qiyanskrets.se/lyrics.htm

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Post from the Past: New Beatitudes for a Hurting World

I wanted to share this post with you again, after having the privilege of meeting Nadia Bolz-Weber in person a couple of days ago at Las Puertas in Albuquerque.  She was speaking on the ideas she brought forth in her 2018 book, Shameless: A Sexual Reformation.  The book is about the ways the churches and other entities in our society tell us that we are too this or not enough that or we want things we shouldn’t have or we don’t want what we’re expected to want, why we don’t need to listen to any of that, and how none of it is the voice of God.  You should read it.  You’ll feel better.

Her “New Beatitudes” socked me between the eyes last year.  I was socked again hearing her speak, teary throughout, grateful, disturbed, filled with grace and new questions.  If she still had a church, I’d get there somehow.

The post from July 3, 2018 is below.

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Sometimes social media, for all the trouble it causes and all the time it sucks, can bring real inspiration and even be a transmitter of grace. I am grateful to have encountered Nadia Bolz-Weber, an extraordinary Lutheran minister and founding pastor of the House for All Sinners and Saints church, in a video on Facebook. I hope it’s OK with her that I transcribed her stunning distillation of Christianity:

Blessed are the agnostics.
Blessed are they who doubt,
those who aren’t sure,
those who can still be surprised.
Blessed are those who have nothing to offer.
Blessed are they for whom death is not an abstraction.
Blessed are they who have buried their loved ones,
for whom tears could fill an ocean.
Blessed are they who have loved enough
to know what loss feels like.
Blessed are they who don’t have the luxury
of taking things for granted anymore.
Blessed are they who can’t fall apart,
because they have to keep it together for everyone else.
Blessed are those who still aren’t over it yet.
Blessed are those who mourn.
Blessed are those who no one else notices,
the kids who sit alone at middle school lunch tables,
the laundry guys at the hospital, the sex workers,
and the night-shift street sweepers.
Blessed are the forgotten,
blessed are the closeted,
blessed are the unemployed,
the unimpressive,
the underrepresented.
Blessed are the wrongly accused,
the ones who never catch a break,
the ones for whom life is hard,
for Jesus chose to surround himself
with people like them.
Blessed are those without documentation.
Blessed are the ones without lobbyists.
Blessed are those who make terrible business decisions
for the sake of people.
Blessed are the burned-out social workers
and the overworked teachers
and the pro-bono case takers.
Blessed are the kindhearted NFL players
and the fundraising trophy wives.
And blessed are the kids who step
between the bullies and the weak.
Blessed is everyone who has ever forgiven me
when I didn’t deserve it.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they totally get it.
You are of heaven, and Jesus blesses you.

(Line breaks and punctuation are my best guesses.)

After the tears ran their course and I could see again, I looked at the comments on her presentation. (You know what a bad idea that usually is.) And yes, there were those who had to let everyone know how much more theological knowledge and biblical scholarship they had at their disposal than this trained and ordained minister, who they instantly labeled as a heretic. There was even a heated argument about some translations of the Bible being valid and others being heretical. Way to totally miss the point, folks.

What I found particularly shocking— even though I rather expected it to come up— was the view that God will not forgive everyone, only some who deserve it. I’ve seen it before, but I’ve never gotten used to it. A God who withholds love is a very weird God for a religion whose adherents like to say “God is love.”

Some even said that it’s incorrect to say that we are not supposed to judge others, that indeed we should and it’s biblical to do so. But one doesn’t need to have a great deal of scriptural knowledge to remember “Judge not lest ye be judged.”

It surprises me to realize that the rather stodgy and ordinary Catholic parish I belonged to as a child somehow didn’t infect me with the controlling, judgmental spirit exhibited by so many folks who claim to be Christians. I might have expected Catholicism to be far to the more rigid side of the spectrum of denominations, but it often seems to be relatively open. Not always, but often. At any rate, I don’t think it’s only in recent years that I got the idea that Jesus’ teaching is more like Pastrix (her term) Nadia’s words and less like judgment and shaming and inflexible rules that no one can really follow.

The Jesus that Nadia allies herself with seems like the one I’ve met, the one you heard about here if you were around to read this a year ago: https://elenedom.wordpress.com/2017/06/21/you-know-my-heart/
Maybe that’s the Jesus you know too. The one who championed the poor and marginalized while criticizing the rich and self-satisfied. How can inclusion and forgiveness be heretical for Christians?

I wrote in that post: “Perhaps the people I am complaining about have tapped into a pervasive field of fear and judgment, just as I connected with a field of love and acceptance. I would suppose that it is absolutely real to them. I know where I would rather live, and I know which is more likely to generate a world that is better for all of us.”

And now I have to go and work on tolerance myself:

Blessed are those who sincerely read their holy books
even when they ignore the parts they don’t like,
for they are trying to make sense of a crazy world.
Blessed are all of us with our preconceived notions.
Blessed are those who hurt so much inside,
believing themselves to be flawed,
that they must constantly point out the flaws of others.
Blessed are the judgmental,
who find themselves to be unworthy.
Blessed are the spiritually immature,
who rely on being told what to think,
for they will grow up eventually.
Blessed are they who see evil everywhere,
because in their way they are trying to be good.

And blessed are all those who love anyway,
no matter what, without question, without ceasing.

 

The Sarcastic Lutheran blog: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nadiabolzweber/
http://www.nadiabolzweber.com/

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Things You Can Do When You’re Dead! and Some You Can’t

Whatever he’s doing, it’s not this.

Lawrence Spencer wrote 1001 Things You Can Do While You’re Dead: A Dead Person’s Guide to Living, which looks absolutely hilarious.

Tricia J. Robertson wrote Things You Can Do When You’re Dead!: True Accounts of After Death Communication, which looks intensely interesting.

I haven’t read either of these books yet, but I can definitely say that both authors are among the not-dead. Descriptions of the lives of the dead— you can see that language gets tangled right away— by dead folks themselves are abundant, but not necessarily all that clear to those of us still on this side of the veil.

 

On 9/10/19, after reading through some short Mozart pieces that I hadn’t been familiar with at the piano, I got to wondering if Fryderyk has any kind of relationship with his idol, or ever sees him. I was pleased to find myself easily getting in touch with him and able to have a clear conversation, which is still a fairly rare occurrence.

It seems that nobody really has a relationship with Mozart or gets to talk with him these days, from what Fryderyk told me. He is something of a recluse (we both struggled to find the best word for his situation). I was surprised, since I think of Mozart as a pretty gregarious person. He is secluded in a kind of chamber in which he is in meditation and in communication directly with the Divine Source. The image of a huge column of light streaming down, cascading into him, was strong, but I can’t say I really understood this whole concept. It had almost a science fiction movie flavor.

I wondered if Mozart had become almost a sort of deity himself. I’ve thought of him as something like that, but at the same time, the original earth-based Wolfgang seems so down to earth. It’s interesting to contemplate.

I wondered if they have any involvement with trying to help our dire situation on our dying planet. He said, firmly, that this is the responsibility of those who live on the planet at present, that we wanted and intended to be here and deal with this, that it is “your burden.”

But obviously Fryderyk is involved heavily with the earth plane.

I asked about his relationship with Liszt, having recently heard a 1955 Leslie Flint track* in which the Chopin voice spoke of his friendships with Liszt and Mendelssohn. What is Liszt getting himself up to lately? Is he still involved with us groundlings too?

He showed me Liszt reaching toward us on earth, like a hand reaching down into the atmosphere to tweak things here below. 

How is that different from what he does himself? He works by entering directly into the human heart, from the inside, he said, instead of imposing something from the outside.

But seriously, I insisted, things are not looking good around here. I asked if he had any advice for those of us tasked with getting through the next few decades. He said, “Your love of life must become greater than your love of death.”

 

I was trying to ask about what they do all “day,” something I am endlessly curious about, especially since it is more or less what we all will be doing eventually. In the Leslie Flint session I mentioned, the Chopin voice described having a salon in which he and other musicians played over their recent works and gave each other suggestions. We’ve heard before that at least for the more recently dead, life feels much the same as it did when they inhabited physical bodies; they appear to wear clothes, live in houses, walk about in gardens, etc. At the same time, we are told that there are so many aspects of their existence that we can’t fathom with our limited senses.

Perhaps those two things are not contradictory. I’m reminded of an anecdote from Rosemary Brown, in which she described a visit with Debussy, who brought one of his new nonphysical paintings to show her. If I remember correctly, the subject of the painting was a peacock; whatever it was, it moved around and morphed in a way that physical paintings can’t manage. Apparently he was having a lot of fun with this art form.

Michael Tymn’s latest blog post uses the Eiffel Tower as a clever metaphor for the various planes or spheres in which spirits find themselves at different levels of development.
http://whitecrowbooks.com/michaeltymn/month/2019/09/
He also discusses the naive and fallacious supposition that spirits should be expected to know anything and everything simply by virtue of being spirits. This is useful. My only quibble with his construction is that it is overly linear; spirit communicators tell us that they do exist in “higher” or “lower” spheres, but we are also told that any one spirit personality (or personality here on the planet) is only a part of a larger entity, and that the parts of that larger entity may have more or less expanded awareness. I think we need to consider that linear time, which is necessary for the concept of development or evolution, is not really fundamental to reality, but more a product of our way of experiencing it. Again, I don’t pretend to have a thorough understanding of these matters.

 

*https://www.leslieflint.com/chopin-july-7th-1955
  There are a number of new Chopin recordings and transcriptions at this site since I last wrote about it here, and the website is easier to use. Note that they are using Mary-Rose Douglas’ beautiful and evocative transformation of the 1849 photograph for their portrait of Chopin, this one:

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Katie Does Grief Counseling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most people, and maybe animals too, feel better if they know their deceased loved ones are OK.  In this sweet story, given to me by someone who has lived with many fine dogs, a beloved pet takes it upon herself to deliver the news of her death:

Katie Scarlett

My partner and I found a German Shepherd/Blue Heeler puppy on Central Avenue. The puppy was trying to lick water from a puddle and tossing her head back with each lick. I ran to pick her up and saw that a very tight flea collar had grown into her neck. We rushed her to the vet and had it removed.

We named her Katie Scarlett because of her strong will to survive. Katie was severely dehydrated and malnourished. We thought she was about 3 months old, but the vet said she was closer to 6 months old and severely deprived of care.

Katie became the sweetest, most gentle dog we had ever known. She was so careful with our grandkids, cats and other dogs. She was fiercely protective of our home and our family.

When her fur finally grew back, Katie was a beautiful brindle girl. We affectionately called her our “Jamoca almond swirl girl.” She slept on the foot of our bed for 15 years. We took her to work with us, camping, hiking, and swimming in the lakes, ponds and rivers.

As Katie aged, her hips began to cause her discomfort. We found alternative treatments so she could live life to the fullest pain free.

At the end of her 15th year, mobility once again became an issue. My partner knew that Katie was beginning her transition to the other side. Katie had always loved to sleep late, but she began to rise early and stare out the windows at the sky. It appeared she was seeing things not available to us.

My partner needed to go away for a few weeks and she was fearful that Katie might pass while she was gone. She spent time with Katie letting her know how deeply she would always be loved and how cherished she would always be. She told Katie if she had to leave, it would be okay. She assured Katie that we would miss her terribly but we would be okay and we would all be together again someday.

A week after my partner left on her trip, Katie left her tired earthly body behind. I was devastated and did not want to ruin my partner’s trip by sharing the sad news. I saw no need to tell bad news in a hurry.

Katie handled that for me. Late that evening, my partner called in tears. She told me Katie had come to her room and laid on the foot of her bed. As she reached to touch her, Katie flew away.

We do not die. We will all be together again. This life is but one of many. Katie was one of the very best blessings I ever received. I will be so happy to be with her again.

— Judy Talley

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Our Lady burning

Delighted to see that these chandeliers still exist!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notre Dame means so much to me that I used some of my photos of her as the theme for this blog. Like so many around the world, I was stricken and in tears during the fire on April 15. It turned out that things were not as bad as we feared, and at least this time it was an accident, not another willful act of destruction. But as I worked on writing about it, the church and other sites in Sri Lanka were bombed, with great loss of life, on Easter morning. I threw out what I had written before, and wrote this instead:

 

Our Lady burning

At Sacré-Coeur I felt nothing.
That gorgeous edifice towering on its hill,
seen from everywhere, unable to be unseen,
never moved me.
I read that it was made
to bring back the flock,
rekindle faith in the heart of France.
Imposed as it is imposing,
it floats above the city
without root, it seems to me.

Notre Dame is my place,
central, home to my soul,
“where God lives,” as a friend said,
and Saint Michel hovers nearby.
The power must have simmered there
long before those stones were cut.
From the depths it infuses them,
rises like sap through those square towers,
spirit soaring despite the attenuated tops.
Imperfect beloved, at times unwell,
she has been clothed with misplaced additions,
but her identity has endured, her significance,
through violation and neglect.

Here, it’s been a hard time that has not stopped.
On the same day there was a local burning;
a child dead, others hurt, homes lost.
A small building but great importance.
The week before, death after death,
other children, a strange paroxysm.
My friend murdered by someone close,
leaving her own children.
Our city reeling, impossible events,
then more impossible events.
And Our Lady burned, and it seemed
nothing could be counted upon.

But that was not enough,
because this is the world
and it has humans in it.
To add to the month of churches torched,
we must have bombs,
and now we use them on Easter,
and more children and more mothers
must be blown away.
because the founders of our faiths
never got through to us
and we think God only lives
in our own kind of house.

(In the book it says, “Jesus wept.”)

The humans inside the churches
have also killed, also violated.
Hearing of Notre Dame,
some said good riddance.
A man entered another cathedral
with gasoline.

 

Hope

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notre Dame burned, by accident, on 4/15/19. On Easter, 4/21/19, a church in Sri Lanka was bombed during the morning services. All this followed arson attacks on churches and a social service organization in the south of the US. Here are some things others had to say:

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2019/4/15/1850518/-The-Barbarians-at-the-Gate-Rejoice-on-Daily-Kos-at-the-Death-of-Civilization

https://www.wired.com/story/the-notre-dame-fire-and-the-future-of-history/

https://johnpavlovitz.com/2019/04/15/notre-dame-reminds-us-that-we-belong-to-one-another/

https://www.thenation.com/article/notre-dame-fire-muslim-france-islamophobia/

https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/notre-dame-in-the-french-imagination
‘At moments of enormous and historic loss, one seeks, perhaps foolishly or with false reassurance, for some sense of continuity, including the continuities of disaster and renewal.’
‘…Still, the cathedral belongs to everyone, and everyone is rooting for its restoration. The French leftist and staunch atheist Jean-Luc Mélenchon wrote on Monday evening that, while he could not see the hand of God in the cathedral, nonetheless, “If it seems so powerful, it’s without doubt because human beings surpassed themselves in putting Notre-Dame in the world. Those who feel the emptiness of a universe deprived of meaning and the absurdity of the human condition see here the apotheosis of the spirit of thousands of women and men who worked over two centuries and eight hundred years.”’

http://www.sacre-coeur-montmartre.com/english/history-and-visit/article/the-origin-of-the-construction-of
(Sacré-Coeur will celebrate its 100th birthday this fall.)

And here are a few moments of heaven:
https://www.facebook.com/eleneguschdom/videos/vb.1579282359/10216830307341533/?type=3

 

Behind the cathedral

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In happier times

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The Blue Lady and Marian Apparitions

Photo of the sky over Conyers, GA in 1990, attributed to someone named Ferdinando. My Blue Lady looked a lot like this.

Last time, I told you about my vision of an entity I thought of as the Blue Lady. While looking for images that might convey something of what I saw, I came across this:

http://www.zeitun-eg.org/zeitoun1.htm

“For more than a year, starting on the eve of Tuesday, April 2, 1968, the Blessed Holy Virgin Saint Mary, Mother of God, appeared in different forms over the domes of the Coptic Orthodox Church named after Her at Zeitoun, Cairo, Egypt.”

That is, for more than a year, something or someone appeared over St. Mary Coptic Orthodox Church. The something was a glowing form resembling a woman in long robes, with rays of light around her head. This apparition was often accompanied by others, including forms like white doves that came and went suddenly and flew without visibly flapping their wings. Sometimes the strange sights went on for over two hours. A great many people saw them, and quite a few striking photos and even movies exist. No matter how skeptical we may be or how uncomfortable religious imagery may be for a lot of us, this evidence is there to confront us.

Please take a moment to boggle at the pictures at the link above.  Here is an example.


And here are some more: http://jesusphotos.altervista.org/Apparition_at_Zeitoun.htm

Even for those of us who are accustomed to Seeing Things and knowing that others see even more, this is a freaky event to contemplate, especially since it involved so many observers at once. Blessed Mother sightings are not uncommon, though, and have been well documented over many decades.

I am curious as to whether the Blue Lady I saw had anything to do with this phenomenon. I’m also wondering whether the apparitions are related to the being described by Clark Strand in his book Waking Up to the Dark: Ancient Wisdom for a Sleepless Age, which I reported on here: https://elenedom.wordpress.com/2015/10/21/review-waking-up-to-the-dark/

Recounting Strand’s experiences, I wrote: “As he progressed with his exploration of the depths of night, at some point the darkness itself, the Yin principle one might say, began to visit him in the form of a beautiful young woman, three-dimensional, visible, audible, and solid to the touch. When he first saw her, her lips were sealed by a creepily evocative X of black electrical tape, which she wordlessly pleaded with him to remove. Sometimes her appearance would change. He recognized her as Mary, Isis, Sophia, Diana, the Shekinah, the Queen of Heaven, and especially the Black Madonna. In all cases, She is the personification of Earth and Nature, the Mother we all come from and who we ignore at our peril, the feminine essence that so many human societies have suppressed with desperate force.”

I would like to know whether people in completely different cultures, not exposed to the Mary mythos, have similar visions. Certainly Mary has become conflated and entwined with the goddesses of other cultures, as we see in Our Lady of Guadalupe:

“Following the Conquest in 1519–21, the Spanish destroyed a temple of the mother goddess Tonantzin at Tepeyac outside Mexico City, and built a chapel dedicated to the Virgin on the same site. Tonantzin (the beloved mother of the gods) was celebrated around each winter solstice which occurred on different dates, the winter solstice of 1531 occurred on December 12, 1531 according to the UNAM. Even many of the newly converted to Catholicism natives then continued to come from afar to worship there, often addressing the renamed native image, as if she were the Virgin Mary, which they had known as their Tonantzin.” [December 12, 1531 was the climactic day of the visions seen by the peasant Juan Diego.]
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Our_Lady_of_Guadalupe

It would be no surprise if various peoples saw the image of the Mother in a guise familiar to them. As one of the Zeitoun website pages put it, “She sometimes made Her apparition with the Babe Jesus Christ in Her arms. It is not strange to see the Child Jesus Christ in an apparition; heavenly apparitions may take forms known to us, so that we can understand them.” The image of a powerful, all-loving, nurturing Mother is as fundamental to the human psyche as anything can possibly be, and She is real in at least a psychological and emotional sense. Perhaps seeing Her in so many times and places is to be expected.

That’s about as much as I can say about the visions themselves at this point. Your thoughts are welcome. I would especially like to know if you have experienced anything along these lines yourself.

I do want to add something about Her names. Often these apparitions are referred to by the acronym “BVM”— Blessed Virgin Mary. I have always been bugged by the Blessed Virgin concept. Virgin and Mother are incompatible archetypes! The story of the mother of Jesus being a virgin was added well after his death, and is based in Greek and Roman, not Jewish, mythology. The reason it bugs me so much is not only because it’s just plain not historically true, but because it seems to me to insult and repudiate women, and all of nature along with us. It is a perfect expression of a patriarchal culture that could not deal well with sexuality or human bodies. It’s as if God built the world a certain way, then decided that he had messed it up when He invented mammals and their means of reproduction.

Adyashanti’s interpretation made me feel a little better about this. He said the story means that the divine principle came directly into the world without requiring the duality of male and female, remaining one purely divine reality. Whatever. I prefer to contemplate the ancient image of the Mother without painting the unnecessary Virgin layer over her.

It would be wonderful to believe that Someone is watching over us with loving attention, and like any mom, will comfort us when we inevitably fall and get bruised. But perhaps, like any mom, she will set limits on our nonsense, and apply consequences. If only she could make us stop fighting with our brothers and sisters….


Still more photos of apparitions or purported apparitions:

Apparitions at another place in Egypt in 2009, still photos and video
http://jesusphotos.altervista.org/Apparition_at_Warraq.htm

“Photographs of the Virgin Mary in the clouds”
http://jesusphotos.altervista.org/Virgin%20Mary%20in%20the%20clouds.htm

 

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Filed under history, mythology and metaphor, psychology, spirit communication, spirituality, the unexplained

Be Still: Riding the Waves of the Sea of Fear

Back in September, our house was burglarized. That was the beginning of the feeling of being under siege. Within a few weeks I developed the high-pitched tinnitus I’ve told you about, which is like having an alarm going off 24/7. On Election Day, I took a bad fall on concrete, which caused injuries I’m still dealing with and for a while made me nervous even of walking.

In early January, I saw a new primary care physician for the first time, and it was pretty much the worst experience I’ve had with a medical appointment in my entire life, truly traumatizing. It had nothing to do with “care,” and little to do with “physician,” as the woman was strangely refusing to practice medicine. But it was clear, both from what she said and from her body language, that she had been badly mistreated herself. I had never seen a doctor in such a stressed, terrified state. She was literally trembling, and I don’t mean in the sense of having a neurological condition.

I felt very concerned for this woman*, but outraged that she would think it was remotely OK to treat a patient, or any human being, the way she treated me. More critically, I was being put in danger by her refusal to take my health issue seriously. I sank into a state of complete terror myself.

Just a few days later, our house was broken into and robbed again, this time with a lot of damage. They didn’t get much of any monetary value, but they took the few shreds of a sense of safety we had left.

As soon as I could pull out from the shock and anxiety, I took a look at the big picture as best I could. Perhaps my being mired in fear had helped to attract the burglar? I scanned around my body and the perimeter of the house and found a lot of energetic holes. Big ones. I patched everything up and worked at shifting my attitude and expectations.

If the abusive doctor had been put in my path for a reason, I thought, it was so that I could perceive, yet again, that fear is the fundamental problem.

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One of the things I’ve been doing to keep myself on an even keel is to listen to recordings of Adyashanti, the American Buddhist teacher, which I find both soothing and inspiring. I’m in the midst of an audio course called Resurrecting Jesus: Embodying the Spirit of a Revolutionary Mystic. The course invites a deeper engagement with the story of Jesus’ life by digging into the metaphorical and mythological aspects of the Gospels, treating the story as story with all its psychological connections, not worrying about whether a given event happened in the physical world exactly as described. This is a bit of a departure for me, since I have spent a lot of time studying the history of early Christianity and trying to understand what did literally happen and what was invented later. I’ve been more involved with the facts, to the extent that they can be known. But I am completely fine with the concept that a story can be true without being something that actually happened.

At times Adyashanti seems a little off the mark to me in this course, but for the most part his interpretations make tremendous sense. He even came up with a way of thinking about the myth of the virgin birth that makes it no longer offensive to me. (More on that in the next post, in case you’re curious.) He emphasizes over and over that Jesus was pointing toward the Divine Nature within all of us. I wish we had all been taught this way to begin with. I don’t think we would fight ourselves or each other as much as we do.

The story that’s most relevant to my theme today is the one where Jesus and his friends are out on the Sea of Galilee in a boat when a terrible storm comes up, one that terrifies even the experienced fishermen among them. The disciples panic, sure they are all going to die, but Jesus is peacefully sleeping in the back of the boat. He knows the storm is nothing to be concerned about. They wake him up, shouting, “Master, we’re going to drown!” Jesus simply says to the storm, “Quiet! Be still!” and everything immediately becomes calm. “Where is your faith?” he asks the men.

Adyashanti riffs on the metaphorical meaning of water, which among other things can symbolize the unconscious. The storm-tossed sea is the myriad unsettled and unsettling things roiling around in the darkness inside all of us. Adyashanti takes this even further, with an idea I wouldn’t have thought of: previously, Jesus had cast the demons who called themselves Legion out of a man and into a herd of pigs, which then threw themselves off a cliff and drowned in a lake. Wait, was that really supposed to be the same body of water which later was the scene of the storm? For now, for the sake of a good parable, let’s just go along with Adyashanti’s device.

The demons are now in the water, lots of them, all loose and ready to make trouble. Think of any demons you can identify in your present moment. Threats to the climate. Yemen, Syria, Venezuela. The Brexit fiasco. MAGA hats. Intolerance. Xenophobia. Burglaries. Murders. Interior demons like self-hatred. [Your issue here.] There are infinite numbers of “demons” that might fill that stormy sea.

But Jesus, as an advanced spiritual master, is not bothered by any of them, because he knows what is truly real and what is delusion. When he says, “Be still,” he speaks with absolute authority, and they instantly obey. The disciples, still in thrall to what appears to be reality, cannot understand this. Can we? Can we bring ourselves to be still?

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The look on your face when your boggle threshold is exceeded.

Meanwhile, Star Trek: Discovery continues its aspirations to create modern mythology. As you may remember, Discovery’s first officer, Saru the Kelpien, is a creature who, being a prey animal, is ruled by fear. Or at least, he was until…

*SPOILER ALERT!!!* If you haven’t yet seen the fourth episode of season 2, and you plan to, stop right here and come back later.

… he has a near-death experience that transforms all of that.

Kelpiens are fast, capable of running around 80 kph. They’re super-smart, or at least Saru is— he has learned 94 languages, and in his youth he was able to figure out technological devices without any training. The main reason the Kelpiens have allowed themselves to be kept as livestock is that they believe that the “Great Balance” demands it. They don’t resist. They don’t even consider the possibility of resistance.

At some point in a Kelpien’s life, he or she undergoes a process called the vahar’ai, which is supposed to signal impending death. At this time, the Kelpien is expected to submit to being taken and slaughtered for food by the Ba’ul. The vahar’ai is extremely painful, so the affected Kelpien presumably looks forward to the end. All this is accepted calmly as the just the way things are; one should not think of trying to change it or having any other kind of life. The village priests reinforce this belief system.

In the recent episode “An Obol for Charon,” the vahar’ai is triggered in Saru by the death throes of a mysterious planet-like entity. Seeing no alternative to death, and in great pain, Saru begs Michael Burnham to cut off his threat ganglia (the sensory organs that warn Kelpiens of danger), which will kill him quickly and end his suffering. Weeping, Michael raises the knife to fulfill his request, but before she can begin to cut, the threat ganglia fall off of their own accord.

And Saru is not only still alive, he is suddenly free of fear, transformed in a way no Kelpien ever realized was possible. He has died to one version of reality and been born to another. He says that he feels his own power.

Which, in reality, he has always had.

How’s that for a metaphor?

Earlier in the day that this episode premiered, I had been contending again with the intersections of love and fear, hope and despair. As had happened when I was introduced to the mycelial network concept, I was given a perfect parable to fit the moment.

(It turns out, two episodes later, that things with the Kelpiens are even more complex, and their power more far-reaching, but I’ll let you watch and find out about that.)

Discovery has brought up yet another image that resonates for me, the “Red Angel.” We don’t know yet what this being really is, or whether it is good, evil, or something less definable. We know that a threat to all life in the galaxy is on the way, and the Red Angel may be connected to it, but so far we have only seen the mysterious entity acting to save people, a lot of them, including Michael Burnham. (*Extra spoiler*: As of the sixth episode of the season, we have evidence that the Angel is a humanoid using advanced technology, not a spiritual being.)

The neon-like pictures of the Red Angel reminded me of something or someone I saw years ago, when my mother-in-law was in the hospital after her stroke. While I was doing energy work for her, a vision of a glowing blue being, like a neon outline of a woman in flowing robes, appeared before my eyes. It was unusual in its vividness, and because it seemed as if I saw it floating in the room, rather than only in my mind’s eye. The vision went on for a few seconds. The Blue Lady, as I called her, didn’t do anything in particular, but she had a comforting effect.

I’ve wondered if I might have seen the entity or phenomenon that is responsible for the many “BVM” (Blessed Virgin Mary) sightings that have been recorded around the world. Whether or not that is so, I am completely agnostic about the nature or meaning of the Blue Lady. At the time I felt that she was there to help. I would like to think that she is still out there, still available, whatever and whoever she is.

The Red Angel may or may not be meant to convey a similar sense of security, comfort and hope. Fans are speculating intensively. We should get some clarification in a matter of weeks. Meanwhile, I will hold to the hope— I should say faith, but I have so much trouble with that word— that Someone has our backs as we navigate the murky waters of this dark and confusing time.

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Not long ago we had an alarm system installed in our home. We’re still getting used to it. I understand that, although it is called a “security system,” it cannot really create security or safety. It can’t stop anyone from entering our home; it can only make them extremely uncomfortable and discourage them from staying. True security can’t be found that way. It has to be gained from understanding what is real and what is not.

I’m working on it.

 

 

*Something is even more horribly wrong with our broken system than I had realized. I’ve been trying to figure out what to do to help support our MDs so that they can better support patients, and I have a few ideas, but haven’t found the path to put them into practice yet. Your thoughts on this matter are welcome.

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