By Anne Lowenkopf
We catch the Godhead much as we catch light. The very structures that enable us to
experience both limit how much of each we can experience. Since we catch God with our
human hearts and intellect and will, since we reach out to the Godhead because of our
human need and desire, it is not surprising that what we catch our visions of God
have both points of similarity and points of difference.
We experience anything everything through ourselves. It is
all we have to experience with. And so, not surprisingly because we humans are gendered
life forms, often our experience of the Godhead has gender.
God the Father is familiar to those of us who have grown up in
the Judeo-Christian traditions; round the globe and in the past various peoples have
perceived and worshiped father gods and other male deities in love and terror, hope and
Some of us have caught a Mother Goddess who is all-encompassing,
beyond role: " I am alone in the world here. Who else is there besides me? Set these
goddesses who are but my own powers entering into my own self!" a flat announcement
of monotheism from the Great goddess herself in the famous Sanskrit hymn Devi
Mahatmyam, Glory of the Divine Mother. Again and again the Devi
(Goddess) of the Devi Mahatmayam is described as the one without another; ultimately no
duality of any kind exists, no division between matter and spirit, no division between
created and creator. The Great Goddess contains within herself not only all other deities
but existence itself. Her children and all things reside within her, are of her substance,
and she indwells inside them. The shortest distance to the Mother is within yourself.
The vision of the Mother is exciting attention today when for the
first time in history so many young adults live alone, outside family and organized peer
groups. As the constrictions of paternalism break down and are replaced by the
bewilderments of choice and lack of structure, the concept of a Mother deity who all alone
creates and sustains begins to feel right; young people are feeling they can understand
such a deity and such a deity can understand them. A nexus of empathy radiates support,
comfort, and understanding in a two-way flow.
This concept of the Mother first attracted me as a young woman
who was rebelling against the notion of being born in the need of redemption for the
actions of others. I still remember the thrill of excitement at my discovery of a Goddess
who did not punish the created for what went wrong in her creation, who took the heat for
evil and death and yet was untouched by both.
Empathy for a deity who exists alone and copes
alone grows stronger as more and more young people have been raised by single parents, and
more are coping with the difficulties of being a single parent. The Devi of the Devi
Mahatmyam could aid did act as a warrior queen even though she was the monotheistic
deity, Its hymns are part of an exciting story in which the Goddess is approached by gods
who are being harassed by bandits and neighbors, and she agrees to help them fight off
their enemies. No question of damnation and eternal punishement here but of will against
will, skill against skill, with the Devi, as one who plays chess with herself, taking all
An American brought up in the climate of
Victorian notions of maternal behavior asked a contemporary devotee of the Devi how he
could be drawn to such a fierce deity and was told, "Ah, but you need a strong mother
who will go to battle for you when you are in trouble." Single parents who find
themselves battling for survival in their work worlds, battling traffic to get home at the
end of the day, battling to feed their kids and educate their kids and keep their house
reasonably sane resonate to the concept that one can be both and at the same time
nourisher and warrior.
The Mahatmyanm (sometimes called the Chandi),
first recorded in writing around 600 A.D, is by no means the oldest of hymns. But the
concept of the Great Goddess is ancient indeed.
The Devi of the Devi Mahatmyam came
to us in Sanskrit that was written by Aryan peoples, who worshipped masculine deities.
Mystics report that they have glimpsed behind the veil of their deities human forms and
personalities, a formless impersonal Godhead. This godhead was called Brahman,
Satchitananda, (Existence-Knowledge-Bliss). Some followers of the Devi have encountered
behind the Mothers form and personality, a formless, impersonal godhead they named
Descriptions of Shakti and Brahman are exactly the
same except in one particular Brahman is eternal and unchanging while Shakti is
eternal and always changing. The two are actually are one, Ramakrishna said, "like
fire and its power to burn". According to East Indian cosmology Shaktis
creative force spews out and develops this universe, which after an "age" draws
back into itself to rest in the blissful, unchanging being of Brahman, only to spew out
again through Shaktis restless power. This model is now so different from the
theoretical model, proposed by some contemporary physicists, which depicts the universe
exploding from a tiny and incomprehensibly dense core of existence, which will once again
explode and expand.
And come to that, descriptions of Shakti/Brahman
are uncannily similar to contemporary physicists descriptions of the force field
which creates and comprises all existence.
Source : " Living Wisdom Vedanta in the West"