Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Mystery Lover

I had a very Catholic upbringing, complete with bouts of parochial school and catechism (Sunday school). I rebelled from about age seven, when I argued with the priest about a piece of doctrine, which stated that babies who died unbaptized would not go to Heaven, due to the "stain of original sin" upon their newborn souls (a brother was born on my seventh birthday, and this idea was both terrifying and disgusting).

My notion of God did not appear to match the traditional one; when I asked how a supposedly loving deity could deny a brand-new child the comfort of heaven, the only answer the priest had was that it was all a "mystery".

Oddly enough, as I got older, I held on to the feeling that there was some kind of God that churches never quite got right. This was partly due to the fact that my personal universe was insanely "magical", full of experience that church, parents, teachers and science could never satisfactorily explain. I had a highly developed critical thinking ability and a love for science--but I was torn straight down the middle between the temptation to be either atheist or religious. I tried to go back to church a few times during my teens, thinking there was something I was missing, that there may be something to the "mystery" that I could figure out with advancing adulthood.

All I learned was that I fully appreciated the sensory delight of a High Mass at midnight on Christmas in a cathedral...the incense burning, the waves of sweet voices, the banks of candlelight, the solid feeling of devotional oneness emanating from the people...that, not doctrine, affected me to the core. Indeed, the sermon seemed terribly hollow in the midst of all the deep red splendor, as if somehow, the human congregation should look and listen, but not touch something as profound as a virgin birth.

I felt that somehow, religion missed the point.

Today, there is a Mystery much more vast than the pale shadows I encountered during years of living and feeling my way through. I don't go to church, because it is not necessary, but I fully understand the desire to somehow find a way to unite with God, or Spirit, or the Ground of Being.

Whatever we name the Ineffable, we continue to call it, seek it, long for it. Initially, we do this in an attempt to get out of pain. Those of us who hang on through much darkness and what mythologists might call "testing", might--and might not--be rewarded.

That is the story.

Wisdom says, seek and ye shall find; persist and the treasure is yours. All the seeking, though, is an educational process meant to turn a human around to take a good, long look at things as they are...that is, things as we are. How we are is exactly how "things" are.

Not to sound blasphemous, all my friends and loved ones with the belief that we are created by a Superior Engineer, like machines or artifacts--but one day, you wake up and find that you are God. Not God-the-idea or the label or the Absolute we can never reach. Not an idealized experience "of" any of these thoughts. Not a sterile, removed and infinitely educated God, or an invisible substance in each object; not a theory or a doctrine or a philosophy or an insight. And, this is no "accident".

I knew this long ago. I knew it and hoped I was wrong; I was afraid of it, because it certainly sounds to a trained Catholic ear like the utmost egotistical belief. I actually ran from experience that was downright revelatory. Now I see, of course, that the timing was all perfect, the pain and fear all necessary. Because I like to think, I had to be repeatedly humbled into dust. Not that thinking is's just that we can't explain Ultimate Being with a word or phrase, or even a whole divine book. We can't explain it at all.

It isn't necessary to describe this kind of "awakening" in religious or metaphysical terms with capital letters. But the discovery really is a great treasure in terms of the story of one's life and the meaning within, in the sense that it "undefines" existence and breaks the bounds of all perceived limits. There is a sense of incredible relief and freedom, but that isn't it; there is an ongoing love and intimacy with all experience, even the "negative".

What this translates to is this:

I felt something missing, which had already found me.
I was looking for my home when I had never left it.
All the time I judged myself, I was beyond compare.
The love I cried for was crying through me.
All the hope I ever held was a distraction from fulfillment.
The face I sought never left my field of vision.
The touch I craved has been inescapable all along.

Some fear, control or taboo in this culture teaches that we are somehow disconnected from our essence, an essence that is "higher", more loving, understanding and knowing in every conceivable way than our human experience; that this, here, is some kind of rehearsal for what's real; that there is no way we could possibly know God, divinity being that which is unattainable in the end.

The only "unattainable" thing is a mind standing apart from itself. A more vicious and futile circle cannot be imagined.

I have heard about "cosmic consciousness", or a union with Divine Nature, being the ultimate destiny and the ultimate impossibility.

What if I am God, on the other end of this equation, seeking to "devolve" into our commonplace world, trying to appear as solidly and humbly as possible in the form of rocks and tar and sunflowers, kisses, the common cold, beast, human, all form I am, brushing my teeth, touching your hand, raking the yard, arguing with the boss, crying late at night in loneliness or grief, laughing at the silliness of commercials. I am seeking, too, to be absolutely whatever my form is (human, in this case), which means experiencing life through senses-- whether bird or lake or babe-in-manger senses. I want to be, fully, whatever it is. When I succeed--that is, when you stop pushing me away--we meet in the middle, and I show you heaven. Nirvana. Bliss.

Nowadays, when I (Maria) run a line between the Absolute and myself--when I insist that we are subtly apart (God gets schizophrenic), It is my best friend and most intimate lover, less than a breath away, closer than my skin. My "other" Self. Joyous to type, dream, eat, have a backache. Oh my god, we get to emote, to live, to tell stories...

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