Posted by Roberta Grimes • March 27, 2021 • 61 Comments
Jesus, The Teachings of Jesus
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways….
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
– Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) from Sonnets from the Portuguese 43 (1850)
I hear from many disaffected Christians. Some pour out their hearts to me, telling me they have been devout and happy in the religion for their entire lives until whatever age they are right now – usually they are in their fifties or sixties – but of late, they have become disillusioned. There are too many questions that lack good answers, too much that troubles them about Christian beliefs, and they simply no longer feel comfortable about being part of any Christian denomination. Many seem to see the way I have freed myself as their welcome inspiration to make the leap themselves. Some will ask me questions that suggest they are still nervous about suffering some level of divine retribution if they actually leave the religion; but most seem to think I can address their worries. After all, I successful broke away, and look how happy I am now! How close to Jesus! How spiritually fed and joyful and fulfilled I seem to be!
And I am indeed joyful. But it hasn’t been easy. My leaving traditional Christianity altogether was a move that I resisted for as long as I could, until in the end I really had no choice. And leaving Christianity has brought me so much closer to God in a truth-based reality that at last makes perfect sense! So I have no regrets about leaving Christianity. But I mourn the religion I have lost. I’ve made peace with my grief over the past two decades, much as you would make peace with the death of anyone very close to you. But still, at this time every year just the thought of what I have given up for Jesus feels like a small cloud of sadness in my springtime sky. Despite everything, I still love my religion!
I know from emails that this pining for Christianity after leaving it happens to others, too; and since that is true, it is past time for us to talk about what for many years felt to me like a personal failing. I converted to Catholicism at marriage, and then I came to love it so much that I held onto it long after I should have let it go. I love Jesus with everything in me! And the more I have studied His life and His words, the more convinced I have become that the religion has nothing to do with Jesus. In fact, it is impossible to follow the Lord if you let the religion remain between you.
But Christianity still displays such a comforting face! Despite all that is wrong with that old-time religion, if you ever have been at all devout you will find that the religion you abandon for Jesus is going to have its roots in your deepest heart. The longer you follow the Way of Jesus, the more He will reinforce your choice; but still, and perhaps forevermore, Christmas and Easter can make you ache for your old-time Christian life. And for the joy of singing Christmas carols! For candle-lit Christmas Eve services that always fill your heart with joy! For glorious sunrise services at dawn on every Easter morning, when you discover once again that empty tomb!
And most of all, what I still miss is that old-time Christian certainty. Growing up in a traditional Christian home makes you know when you are too young to fight the lessons that you are a sinner, that hell is real, and that Jesus had to die so God would forgive you and let you into heaven. You grew up knowing the deal you had made, and you knew that God and Jesus would stand behind it; but to keep your get-out-of-hell-free card you would have to keep going to church each week. Eventually I had done enough research to be sure there is no get-out-of-hell-free card, and nor is there ever any need for one; but nevertheless, I kept going to Mass for years after I could have made the break.
I told myself I was keeping my husband company, but I realize now that I still craved that wafer! I had learned enough of the truth that I was sure that in order to get closer to Jesus I was going to have to abandon the fear-based religion that still came between us; but there remained that small, residual fear that I had internalized in childhood. And I still felt the relief of knowing as that wafer melted on my tongue that I had sealed my deal with God for one more week. It was only when our local parish completed work on its beautiful new church that featured a life-sized, full-color plaster Jesus bleeding on a cross above the altar that I was able to stop attending church. I couldn’t bear even to look at Jesus being eternally crucified, so at last I welcomed into my heart the eternally risen Lord and asked Him to assume control of my life.
If you also find yourself still mourning your religion at susceptible times of the year, here are some measures that might lessen your burden:
It has been estimated that half of the Christian churches in the United States that closed for Covid last spring will be closed for good within the year. Our fading pandemic might be accelerating what already was a rapid decline. So it is time now for all of us to make real for Jesus the Christian Way that He taught us long ago. Next week let’s begin to celebrate the joy of at last really knowing and living the Way of our eternally risen Lord.
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
– Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) from Sonnets from the Portuguese 43 (1850)
61 thoughts on “Mourning My Religion”
Hi Roberta and the rest of blog crew! As I have written before, I have followed a similar path that Roberta has described ( I never missed one Sunday going to church and was convinced that everything from the front to the back of the Bible was 100% true). I broke away from these beliefs a year ago after I stumbled across Roberta’s early You-Tubes. But for me, something miraculous happened. I found that even thought my minister didn’t know of Roberta and her work , her sermons and prayers were about ” the teachings of Jesus” !!!. Not 100%, mind you, but enough for me to be able to sit in the services and be with my fellow practitioners that I have known since I have been a kid. So, I consider myself lucky, that I have been able to have my cake and eat it to!
David, from my perspective, your personal self-directed study and your communal church participation is the preferred model.
Roberta’s message here is pure, and correct, but only for a devoted mind that is so bright as hers is. The average person needs direction, as they would not be engaging in productive self study–that may appear as a patronizing view, but it is historically accurate. Most folks think they have much more important things to be doing than studying scripture or spending time in meditation with no dramatic contents for eyes and ears to maintain their attention.
A good church would encourage forming good community, and Christian education, and with minimal fear based threats. The problem here is likely that only a small number of such good churches exist.
Dear Jack, you are right in saying that few churches are sufficiently free from fear to make them safe places for people to grow spiritually. The Unity movement – link above – is probably the best of the lot, since they concentrate on “new thought – ancient wisdom” lessons and for the most part they don’t teach the traditional fear-based Christian dogmas. Nowadays, the Unity movement is devoting more effort to teaching what the movement’s founders believed a hundred years ago, which is too bad; but still, for those who want a church home, Unity continues to work quite well!
You are definitely lucky, David, to have found a minister like the one you describe. I imagine that a minister like her is quite rare. It sounds like an interesting and uplifting experience, unlike the fire and brimstone type preaching that was so common in the past, and still is in some places. Hopefully, there will be more like her as people become more aware.
Dear David, if your church was preaching the words of Jesus, then it was a very good church indeed! And yes, you were lucky that you were able to move toward the Lord in your thinking without abandoning your former church. So long as the church doesn’t talk about hellfire and damnation – so long as it isn’t preaching fear – then you may find that it still feels like a comfortable home!
Thank you for sharing a very personal part of your journey, perhaps a part that so many of us want to ask, but have been afraid to. After all, the very idea of being “shunned” or left out in family, friendships and religious communities is a scary prospect. But the “reward”, as I see it, is a much closer relationship with God, with Jesus the Christ. Yet, does it not align with his call to the “original” disciples-if you want to follow me, leave it all behind. Your message cuts to the chase, and you are, amongst others, a living example of what that original call means. It is not about doctrine, not about “the prosperity gospel/teachings”, not about the “right” dogma; rather it’s about authenticity with ourself, self honesty, which allows us to drop the masks of piety and religion in order to have a true friendship with Jesus, in Christ. You are honest because it must be an honest journey-none of the fluffy safety shields various religions promise can be at play. A very poignant and real message to contemplate. Thank you. Have a wonderful week!❤️
Dear Fran, this is beautiful. Thank you so much for hearing what I was trying to say and really understanding it! Yes, to speak against every version of Christianity because none of them is actually following the teachings that the Lord insists must always come first is really very hard! And when I first began to teach what I was learning, my husband – who is still a devout Catholic – actually told me I was going to hell. It’s so hard to live outside the fold! Even when you feel compelled to do it for the Lord’s sake. It’s very hard. I second-guessed myself repeatedly, but always came back to the same place. Really, no one else was speaking for Jesus! How was that even possible?
It’s better now, fortunately. I begin to see a few others speaking up for Jesus, which delights my heart. It’s a journey, but it seems at last to be heading in the right direction!
Thank you for sharing your feelings as you transitioned from a faithful Roman Catholic to a practitioner of the Way, as I had also gone through a similar journey myself. Each step of the way from atheist to faithful Episcopalian seemed better than the previous. Each step engendered no regrets, that is until now. I feel a little like a traitor at church services, via Zoom of course.
What did help at first was the example of Carla Ruekert, who was a cradle to grave Episcopalian despite all her channelling work. And now your example which I will gladly emulate.
Dear Cookie, each of us is on a somewhat different journey, even if we might begin near the same place and even if we are bent toward a similar destination. What astonishes me, though, is how little most people seem to be demanding of their religion! It’s as if they are worried that if they ask the harder questions, really ask their religion to stand up to scrutiny, it will be revealed to be nothing but made-up stories. And then there will turn out to be no God! Nothing to look forward to after death!
But the wonderful thing is that the life and teachings of Jesus are historically, scientifically, and in every possible way deeply genuine. Whatever questions we might dare to ask, the answers really are there!
And He even said that—knock and it will be opened to you. If we as a planet can remember that we are eternal spiritual beings, having this experience we perceive as incarnation, and start from THAT perspective when we begin “knocking,” the inquiry will be motivated by curiosity rather than fear of what may be revealed. And what a reveal!
Precisely! My dear Mike, sometimes I feel that the entire problem is that we have the words of Jesus, and we are encouraged to seek to know much more, but Christianity itself has instilled such fears into us that we simply cannot follow Jesus in the way that He intends for us to follow Him. Must we actually lose the religion in order to find the Lord? I’m afraid the jury is still out on that 🙁
I know I am going to be the odd one out; however, this could be a message to your parents for their children… I was brought up on a Rural 500 ac farm with mostly forests and small about of pastures. Allowed to learn to walk with the help of two St Bernard dogs. Left to roam from a very, very young age. We moved off this farm when I was five years old. But during that first 5 years I learned the wonders of nature wandering the woods with my cat along keeping me company.
When I was 5 my mother took to be summer bible school.. If I remember correctly I’d gone to only 2 or 3 meetings. At the conclusion of these 2 or 3 meeting I told my mother I NEVER WANTED TO GO BACK.. My mother never took me back.
That decision, in retrospect, save me a lot of heart ache. I learned that NO ONE from that pedestal preaching can help you one bit.. The truth is that YOU are the only one who can help yourself; and that help is within YOU not WITHOUT you..
I may be crazy but I’m of the belief I learned my basic understanding by watching, listening and observing the deep web of life in the forest. I understand there had to be a creator and life didn’t just happen.
The best advice is to start your journey into oneself by yourself; choose a learning path that serves you, knowing all the answers to your question lay inside you, actually your heart is the most important organ.
That person doing the preaching is in the same boat as you and is on their own journey. Yours and that person are not sharing a journey… Grow up and decide to make the changes necessary.
Happy journey from a 78yo..
Dear Skip, how fortunate you have been that you weren’t indoctrinated with religious details! Yours is a great example of natural spiritual growth. You simply learned by observing. And you even learned to walk taught by kindly dogs! That presents such a delightful picture ;-). You came to believe that all the answers are inside us, which is quite wonderful. I wonder now whether if we were not indoctrinated into religions in childhood as a matter of course, perhaps would most people simply discover spirituality on their own? And would there be any consistency about how such a natural spiritual worldview might come about?
So timely w/Easter soon. I also maintain rituals such as burning incense and listening to chants.
Your offering, my reading, and journaling is my personal Sunday service. I will always remember my Dad, who didn’t attend church, would cut each of us kid’s palm fronds into a cross for us.
Dear Roz, we here are honored that you make our Sunday discussions a part of your spiritual practice! I have been wondering of late whether we are going to run out of topics, since after all we have been doing this every week for several years without repeating; but so far, so good 🙂
Roberta: The Christian religion could have been a very wonderful and inspiring religion to follow, but it was tweaked and twisted (after Constantine) to include immense fear by those in power at the time. I remember their masses being beautiful and mystical, but that is where it ends. I never missed it because I never considered it an actual religion once I reached my teens. For some reason, I felt “something was wrong”, especially when I found out that most of the people who continued to follow it did so out of fear – certainly not out of love. None of them ever did any research on its history, and none of them were ever able to separate Jesus from the church’s dogma. Thus, the teachings of Jesus were ignored. I went to a Catholic school for a while, and except for the crucifixion, not much was generally said about Jesus as a teacher – Just that “God sent his only son here to die for our sins.” Yet, there is no evidence that Jesus ever wanted a church to be established in his name. He probably knew the outcome of that would not be good.
Lola, very well said.
Thank you, Dr. Hiller.. I just think it’s a tragedy that something which could have been so beneficial to mankind would instead nearly destroy it – and all for the love of power and control
Dear Lola, you make a wonderful point! But I would just add that Christianity was actually first screwed up by Constantine and those in his immediate wake. Prior to Constantine, there were many different versions of the Lord’s teachings and ideas about what it meant among those who followed Him; but once the Romans got hold of the followers of Jesus and decided to create their religion, they chose the most barbaric combination of dogmas they could find and ruthlessly stamped out the rest.
And you are right in saying that the Jesus of the Gospels never wanted a religion at all. He makes that very plain! In fact, a strong case can be made that He wanted to stamp out the very idea of religions and instead teach us each to relate to God on our own; but given the prohibition on speaking against Judaism on pain of execution, He had to get that idea across in fairly subtle ways.
Given the way you feel, I suppose that my ongoing attachment to Christianity makes no sense to you! I wasn’t continuing to practice Catholicism out of fear, but rather I stayed with it out of love. Love for my husband. Love for the ritual. And love for the millions of traditional Christians who had worshiped the same way over many centuries. Fear, you can get over! But love is a harder nut to crack….
I thought the rituals were beautiful too. Again, the whole thing was ruined after Constantine, and it extended to the Catholic schools. I experienced this myself. The religion probably doesn’t even closely compare to the pre-Constantine era, and it’s hard to miss something that you never had a chance to experience, so when I think of Christianity, the memories of my school experiences take over, so that’s why I have no cozy memories of the Catholic religion.
Roberta, well stated. I call myself an “unorthodox Christian,” and consider myself a much better Christian than I was while being raised a Catholic. Happy Easter!
Dear Mike, it’s lovely to see you here! And I smile at your “unorthodox Christian” label. I guess we all feel as you do, that following the teachings of Jesus makes us unorthodox, but we are better Christians for it! Happy Easter to you as well!
What a difficult topic! There is a spiritual reality from which we came and to which we will return. Your studies of near-death confirm this. There is an angel of light who meets us there in the spiritual realm along with relatives and other spirits. We realize that this realm of light and energy exists all around us but is undetectable for most of us. Some people are born with gifts of sensing spirits. Some develop skills as mediums. Some 5% of people have near-death experiences and about half of these venture into these realms of spirit and report back. Some people are guided by spirits. Some people report on past lives. It is all as complex as black holes and black energy. Our world of matter is electrically charged – the spirit realm may be matter that lacks electrical charge and hence be invisible to us.
There are many religions in the 7000 language groups existing on earth. They all attempt to portray this spiritual reality in ways that draw ordinary people into communion with spirit. Of the three Abrahamic religions, Christianity has a complexity to it represented by the Trinity: the Spirit working in the world (the Holy Spirit); the son who lived and taught love and forgiveness (then survived death and witnessed life eternal); and a Creator God who remains a mystery in the context of being (the ground of being.) When I entertain the other two Abrahamic religions, I find the beauty of the Creator God but miss the sense of community. I find my essence (my faith, my belief) in this complexity of Christianity combined with Buddhist meditation and living with the sense that all things change.
I still consider myself a Christian. I have found a liberal congregation and a Pastor who sees spiritual depth as being more important than any artificial teachings like original sin, punishment in hell, virgin birth, or salvation through the blood. I agree there is no “hell” (other than self-chosen alienation from God). I pray to a spirit who loves me, wants the best for me, and is my friend.
I find the teachings in A Course in Miracles to be important to knitting together spirituality and religion. We are all one, the world is not real (it is a creation of the ego/ we are here to learn and grow), and as we forgive one another we find that we are forgiving ourselves. ACIM came from Jesus as a contemporary revelation. NDEs are similar revelations. Scripture is revelation as well, but like the variability in NDE stories it is never fully to be believed. In the church I am an Elder and my task is adult Christian education. I try to use your teachings, ideas and parallel thoughts to bring alive God’s presence.
Yes I’ve taken the time to learn ancient Hebrew and Greek to read scripture. Yes I’ve seen the carnage wrought by organized religion (Crusades, Holocaust, Inquisition). Yes I see the inconsistencies in the theologies you enumerate. And yet, after all of this, I believe in the image (parable) of the light and the many colored glasses. To me Christianity is one color glass through which shines the light and beauty of our creator and the reality of the Angel of Light and heaven that awaits us. Each glass is a different religion and each color is that religion’s distortion. Other religions are other colors of tinted glass, each of which distorts the true light in one way or another. Going without church is also a colored glass, not pure light. I find church to be the place where people congregate to ask questions and seek community with others who are spiritually inquisitive. Church is a hospital for sinners, the island for broken toys. I am not ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I believe my spirituality encompasses my religion. It allows me to see the limitations of religion as well as its strength. I agree there is no hell. I agree that in the Life Review we tend to judge ourselves, but it is not God or the Elders (Spirits) who render judgement. I agree we are created by God who loves us with a depth that is beyond our imagination. Someday when we “transition” we will learn it is all about love. We need to work to bring that sense of love and forgiveness and grace into our world. This can be done in many different contexts, in many different ways. It can be done is church as well as in self-study and devotion.
-Chuck Webb, Richmond VA (where we just abolished the death penalty!)
Dear Chuck,Wow! You have given us a book!
In this format, I can’t give you the lengthy answer that you deserve (and besides, I’m already deep into writing about Easter!), but I can touch on some answers:
1) It’s important to make clear the fact that nothing I have learned derives from studying “near-death.” In fact, near-death experiences have nothing whatsoever to do with death or with the genuine afterlife; instead, they are what amount to spirit-guided spontaneous out-of-body experiences. This is a very important distinction, since NDEs are all aberrant and inconsistent, while everything related to actual death is surprisingly uniform.
2) The spirit world is not matter at all. It is consciousness and its manifestations. In fact, the same is true of what we call “matter,” but the matter of which the visible universe is constructed is composed of and infused with minute vortices of energy that scientists used to call particles, presumably so our minds cannot so easily mess with it.
3) I very much commend your attempt to integrate religion with genuine spirituality! I am struggling with that whole concept now, and struggling hard, especially since it is pretty clear from what Jesus actually said that He was trying to move people past the whole idea of creating religions around their man-made gods and teach us how to relate to God directly. Two thousand years ago! How do we preserve Christianity in some productive form, when getting us past all dogmas-based religions is what the Lord apparently was about? But it looks as if you are working on that. BRAVO!
4) Your last paragraph is absolutely beautiful! It is a hymn of praise to the religion we both love, a way to try to integrate all religions, and poetry. Absolutely wonderful. Thank you for it!!
I feel great sympathy for you as you have had to learn and transition away from a religion that clearly meant so much to you. I have evolved and can never go back to a denomination that I sincerely joined while seeking the Truth as a young man (23). I faithfully followed that denomination for decades and sacrificed for my love of Jesus Christ. I raised my family in that denomination until my oldest son, while a teenager, said he would never go there again. Scales began to fall from my eyes.
Now, I am 66 and have had my eyes opened to realize that God is much “larger” than any religion believes. Today, I was driving to Houston for another week of radiation treatments and I landed on a station playing many of my favorite hymns. The memories of the Spirit were rising up in me as I loved the music and words in my past church experiences. It was really nice. Like me, how you must miss the wonderful church experiences that are in our past.
All things change, and for us and others, the change is very good and is likely what we had hoped for as we planned this incarnation. God bless everyone who seeks that they may find.
Dear David, thank you for this! There are so many of us, I find, who were once very devout Christians and whose children and grandchildren have no religion now. It is for them, perhaps, much more than for us, that I am trying so hard to find a spiritual path forward, and looking to the truths that Jesus taught in order to do that: I have come to think that His Way is really the world’s only path forward from here. And what is more, I am beginning to think now that ALL of this was divinely planned! The Incarnation, the false religion, and now the Revelation of God’s genuine truths two thousand years later. In eternity, a thousand years is but a day!
Reading these loving posts is heart lifting. When I was ten I took myself to church. The sermon was about sin and hell, I knew the vicar had got it completely wrong. I had been sent to a Sunday School so I knew the stories and unadorned words of Jesus from a young girl. I took these seriously and converted these to each situation. Even at a young age I had intuition,
I came to appreciate the inner spiritual guidance.
Now I laugh at my ‘private education’ this reliance brought the right words, a book or encounter with a right person at the right time. Answers still come, spiritual growth seems to be a continual unfolding. Inner thought is often confirmed the same way.
Spirit uses whatever is at hand, Skip had a forest schooling, mine was in a city blitz and war. Every situation the right place. I had empathy for the enemy, I saw families suffering in the same way. These first ten years were my foundation. As I approached ten, my grandfather came in Spirit with such love, I was given words I did not understand at the time. I did later when I heard the full quotation.
It was at this age I saw that Jesus was an older brother teaching us the way, he gave the pattern but we had to cut and fashion the cloth we each received.
The talents and the lack of talent, were just tools.
Later I studied theology and psychology, now well into my eighties I am learning still. We are dealing with the invisible, science is now exploring the invisible more than ever.
Amongst all the chaos there is a beautiful unfolding universe. The only word I have is WOW
Maureen, Society and conventional science both either ignore God as creator, or consider that whatever God was he finished and we live in a world that is set, even if things like the climate change or species die out– but God is eternally creative, and that will be seen better when we return to the other side. And our spirit participates in God’s creativity.
Dear Jack, this is a great point. In fact, we are told now by those who really know what is going on that in fact there is no time and creation is continuous in the moment, very much as a movie is a fast-flowing series of still pictures. I find that thought astonishing! But it’s comforting as well. The Creator makes all things new….
Oh my dear Maureen, how beautiful this is! Thank you for sharing with us such a wonderful, spirit-guided life-journey! I like to think that there are many who have been so well guided, but yet most have not seen all the many points of guidance and followed them; I know I haven’t. I have been very thick indeed, to my poor Thomas’s frustration! But perhaps that has been good, too, since it has helped me to better understand what so many others are going through, groping through our self-created darkness in order to finally begin to find the light. Perhaps what matters most is that all of us eventually find that “WOW!”
For most people, it is hard to understand these concepts due to living in this low vibrational earth world. Their focus is almost entirely on the physical. People don’t think of God as constantly creating, Returning to the other side will likely help us to understand the much bigger picture.
Dear Lola, I am being guided now to talk more about how creation actually happens, with emphasis on something that I have trouble really grasping, myself: what we are living is a kind of old-fashioned film-strip in which creation happens freshly with each micro-instant, just as a film strip is a series of still pictures where just a tiny change happens in each frame. And that is reality! No past! No future! How on earth do we get our minds around that?
Hi Roberta, if you do think there is a brewing blog topic in Creation, here is Arrow’s preview: we cannot get behind Creation. Creation is not an action but a state of being. More to come!♐️
Heh – yes, I guess that would be another way of saying it! Creation never happened. Instead, creation is continuously happening!
As always, language is contraindicated.
I know. It’s hard to grasp that there is no real time as we know it, as our lives are governed by time. Living just 1 day without looking at a clock is almost impossible. I wonder if there are periods or eras of time that still exist there, and even crazier, I wonder if we can access them there, which would be impossible here. Maybe the past doesn’t actually “go away” but remains as some type of reality there and is still accessible. Some researchers say that it is. Nothing surprises me any more.
Dear Lola, we are told that in fact a part of the fun that awaits us there is the fact that we can experience many different “times” on earth. These places seem to include at least the Age of Dinosaurs, the Wild West, the Plains Indians with teepees and millions of buffalo, the fifties, the sixties, and probably a great many other times as well. Apparently we can attend and watch the American Continental Congress! I gather that these experiences are not actually visiting the past, but rather they seem to be a kind of recreation – something like theme parks – where we can experience these periods. Fascinating!
I heard that too, and for me,, that is the most fascinating part. Our past is accessible, no matter who we are, and the historical past is also accessible. It all sounds fanciful until we take into account that there is no linear time there,, and then it doesn’t seem so outlandish.
Since there has been some mention of the Catholic faith, I was wondering if a few words could be said about divinity in a feminine form. It has not been mentioned in any of the blog posts, but one of the unique aspects of the Catholic faith is the veneration of Mary, Mother of God. The “Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord be with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb…” The prayer on the Miraculous Medal, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for those who have recourse to thee.” The visitation of Mary to numerous people. The mention of the Catholic faith made me notice there has been no mention of a female spirituality on here (for example, the Madonna with child)
I know some Christians don’t like talking about Mary. I was on a website around Christmas where someone had started a post asking people to imagine the Lord as a baby. I responded by speaking about Mary, the Mother of God, because you can’t have a baby without a Mother. You would have thought I had slapped him across the face, how angry his response to me was, that I could have the idea that a woman could share in divinity in any way, shape, or form. I reminded him of his own original post, but things started getting ugly, so I left.
Is there a place for Mary, or the divine feminine, in The Way?
Hi Jason, Speaking as a Catholic, I will say that the veneration of Mary was injected into the religion relatively recently. As perhaps you are aware, it is referred to as the Marian Tradition. Protestantism does not seem to put Mother Mary on a pedestal as Catholicism does. As for the Divine Feminine, there is evidence in the Gnostic gospels that this was a strong impulse among early followers of Jesus–and apparently had a place in other mystical threads of Christianity–but from where I sit (not a scholar, not an expert) it is considered Pagan and reviled by most Christian traditions. Others on this blog more knowledgeable than I can probably elaborate in a much clearer and more historically accurate fashion.
Thinking of the divine feminine, I was also reminded of Sophia, another name for Wisdom, but if you look at the first chapters of Proverbs wisdom is spoken of in feminine terms. I think she is also mentioned in the Wisdom of Solomon, but having not read it cannot yet verify it.
Dear Mike, I think you have explained it pretty well! The veneration of Mary is a later addition to Catholicism, a movement that developed in the early Middle Ages (if my memory serves) and that soon had Mary becoming “forever virgin” (so His “brothers” became His “cousins”). Protestants mostly accept that Jesus was divinely conceived (something of which I am skeptical, largely because it was unnecessary and it makes Him less human). Most Protestants love Mary, but consider the thought that she is some sort of divine being to be idolatry. For my part, since Jesus explicitly renounces the notion that His mother should be elevated above others, I don’t think we should be doing that in spite of Him!
Since Mary is a later addition, it would be a man made concept, so putting any credibility to it would probably be a mistake.
I am no expert, but in all the NDE accounts and reports back from the Afterlife that I have seen, all reports are of God or Source being sexless. So why, you might ask are we assigned to sexes … I might offer that it makes our experiences more interesting. From all the reports of multiple lives, it seems that we alternate between living lives as male and female.
Just my thoughts …
Thank you Jack, you are right.
It is exciting isn’t it?
When my husband was in his last months of illness, he use to wake full of wonder to tell me of a dream, these dream states were full of knowledge of the most amazing universe, as if he was getting a glimpse of a dimension we cannot fully understand from our limited perceptions.
Last night I was dreaming of being in a Bookclub, the books were simple children’s books. The book covers were printed both ways up, I guess to make sure the potential reader understood from both ways, the truth in simplicity.
Small acts of kindness, so often it seems we just complicate what we are here to be, just more loving. Nurturing the creation we have to hand.
Oh my dear Maureen, this is beautiful! So many wise and perfectly lovely comments this week! We do needlessly and counter-productively complicate everything, don’t we? Wonderfully said!
I would not be surprised if one goes to Source that there is not the polarity of sex. I just notice the tendency sometimes to view Divinity in an unbalanced way, the Yang without a balancing Yin, to borrow from the Taoists. God the Father, God the Son, God the… where are the women? Why are the women missing?
My dear Jason, you make an excellent point about the need for balance in the religion, but in fact at the Source level there is no need for balance because at the Source level there is no division in any manner, and no separation at all. At the Source, we truly are One!
Dear David, you make me smile! Why are we assigned to sexes, you may ask? Well, yes, it does make our experiences more interesting. But I think the primary reason is probably because we need to make ongoing generations of bodies over the centuries and the millennia so people can have ongoing earth-experiences!
Dear Jason, it’s obvious that your own spirituality includes the veneration of Mother Mary, and that is understandable. We are told that even now, she is much beloved where where she now resides! I think, though, that we are at last getting past the idea that the divine feminine is somehow different from the divine masculine. All is divinity! Because all is love. Every one of us has lived lives as a man and also lives as a woman. The gendered body somewhat tempers the being that we become in this lifetime, and the way that we live our lives, and it causes us to have a preference of genders in the immediate afterlife – we tend there to express as more masculine or feminine – but it is up to us. In fact, our eternal minds (our “souls,” to use the religious term) are not only masculine or feminine, but rather we express as one universal gender more and more as we continue to grow spiritually. And that is a very good thing indeed, since any division at all among eternal beings – whether sexual, racial, or in any way whatsoever – divides what must universally and eternally be One.
Hi all. The sacred feminine was much more prominent in ancient times, even in ancient Israel she kept croppong back up as Ishtar, Ashteroth, or Isis despite all the efforts to stamp her out. Some have even suggested that the Marys of the new testament were priestesses to her, that the name was actually a title. Who knows. I see it as a metaphor, metaphor being the only way we can really try to describe God, in which the the unmanifest infinite field of possibility was seen as more masculine – the Father. The manifest world, or the creation, was seen as more feminine – the Mother. The Son (or just as easily the Daughter) – the Christ Consciousness – somehow mediates between the two, and we are all learning to become the Christ. I’m no theologian, but that may be where the idea of Holy Trinity came from. There were many trinities in ancient mythology.
Yes, I have noticed a number of ancient trinities, and I have noticed the masculine representation was more of a unmanifested infinite while the feminine representative was more of the manifest world. The Son, then, shares elements of both parents. It would help explain the mythic importance of Mary. I also found an interesting quote about Sophia, wisdom, spoken of in feminine pronouns. It is Proverbs 8:22-31 and makes interesting reading.
Dear Jason, yes, a lovely quotation! I do wonder, though, whether we might be overthinking the Marian factor. If we are truly to follow the Lord’s Way, then nothing that happened after His Resurrection – no idea from the First Council of Nicaea in 325 or even later – can matter to us. So the Trinity, the Marian Devotion, and so many other aspects of Christianity that we have been taught to take for granted must be put aside. Whatever is human-made no longer matters. Instead, we are seeking only the truth that Jesus came to teach us!
Very important in any case is the Mother Mary is NOT the divine feminine in Catholicism. She is venerated, but she has not taken on the role of divinity. The divine feminine is NOT a Catholic dogma.
Great point, dear Mike, as always!!
I opened a bit of a can of worms with my question. Reading the responses makes me think the symbolism of Mary may not be the best fit for the particular expression you are bringing forth called The Way. I would disagree in the idea that trinities, the devotions to the Mother, are solely human made. I am thinking about Carl Jung, and his noticing of archetypes images, mythic symbolism arising in many cultures that did not have direct contact with each other.
I admit I went to the mythic, non thought mind, the place of Mystery, with my inquiries into Mary, Sophia, and the divine feminine, the place where art and symbol hold sway. Sorry to have thrown a curveball into your comment section.
Dear Jason, no need to apologize! We all have different experiences and histories and we see the world somewhat differently, so for you to be so open here is a wonderful thing!
I agree with you that the notions of a trinity and of a divine feminine have deep cultural roots in the period surrounding and following the life of Jesus. We are learning now that apparently there were many more connections among these very early cultures than we thought; but still, some ideas arose in different areas independently. The ideas of a god who was a powerful male, and a loving, wise, and nurturing female goddess, probably arose from our universal experience of family. The idea of a pantheon of gods with different specialties also likely came from our lived experience. The trinity idea may have had similar roots – e.g. mom, dad, child.
But I think we do know now that none of these ideas originated with the Godhead, or with Spirit in any form. We know that in the genuine afterlife – in the greater reality – the entire movement is away from the individual and toward ever greater unity. Even the Godhead is apparently a Collective! (I’m still fighting that, but I’m losing.) In the upper levels of Spirit there is no division into individuals, nor is there any need for one.
When I worried about that in terms of maybe someday losing my individual awareness, Thomas said, “You will never lose awareness. You will have God’s awareness.” Wow.
Dear Scott, well said! The whole notion of the Trinity in Christianity apparently came about because the prominent religions of the time of Constantine’s formalization of Christianity as a religion based in dogmas – the period just before 300 AD – often had trinities. Effectively, the founders of Christianity were saying, “Hey, we’ve got a Trinity too!” But the notion doesn’t come from Jesus. In fact, knowing what we know now, I think the whole idea horrifies Him. Here He is, trying to teach us to relate directly to the One God Who is Spirit, and instead we created a Trinity??
The trinity us only one of the many man made concepts that came into play long after the crucifixion.
Roberta, re your reply to Jason above (no more room there) and the notion of growing eternally closer to God’s awareness and “away” from individual differentiation, once again our wretched Western techno-cultural linguistic problem arises. No wonder “silence is the language of God and all else is a poor translation.” (Rumi) Maybe we can discuss further in the upcoming blog post about Creation!
Heh – dear Mike, is there going to be an upcoming blog post about Creation…? Perhaps so. I am always the last to know!