Monday, December 15, 2008
True of False: All Gods are One God
In my yoga training, there's been a lot of god talk, which hasn't been easy for me. I can't help but think of the patriarchal Yahweh of history and his fundamental followers, who have, in my estimation, been one of the biggest blights on the planet. (Note that I'm talking about the fundies here - not all Judeo-Christian folks.)
Right now, I'm making my way through Paramahansa Yogananda's famed "Autobiography of a Yogi," which, in many ways, is a remarkable book, but I keep stumbling over the idea that all gods are one god - they're all emanations of one great god who is, of course, male.
I think there's something basically absurd about this idea. I am all-too-willing to say there's a whole lot about Mystery that I just don't understand, but I'm also willing to suggest that this lack of clarity is true for most humans. After all, we are human, and we live here, on this good green Earth where we deal with the concerns and magick and spirituality inherent in this lifetime and place-time.
I experience the Mysterious Ones (a term I use because it more accurately reflects my gender politics, among other ideas) as separate folks. Kali isn't just some facet of Brahma. Juno isn't part of someone else. They're different like me and you.
However, I do also see and ascribe to the idea that we are united on certain levels. As a priestess of Grandmother Spider and her peoples, I see that all of us are strands of web energy, as are our thoughts, visions, emotions, and dreams. In between those strands that make up matter and intention lie the spaces-in-between, where all experiences and all beings dissolve into a great no-thingness - Chaos, unlimited potentiality, the fabric of the Multiverse itself.
So, I get that we are "all one," but part of the paradox is that we manifest in some different ways while living these lifetimes right now.
Some of my other difficulty in the philosophy of yoga, as it's being taught to me and as I understand it, is what I call "Escapist Theology."
It goes something like this: "Life is an illusion. Everything is an illusion. Do everything you can to get the hell off this wheel of suffering, otherwise known as life, death, rebirth, and endless bullshit."
Call me an attachment junkie, but damn it, I love this place. I'm not looking to make the jump into Nirvana - I'm just hoping to be a vehicle for love to work through me in the world to make it a place of peace and deep joy. If I skip out (assuming I ever reached enlightenment), I feel that it's kind of selfish and seems antithetical to the views of compassion espoused by many of the East's powerful and life-changing spiritual traditions (shout out to the Boddhisatva's still hanging out and doing this work and the Buddha for staying around to teach all beings about his path!).
I also find it interesting that the unchanging principle of the Universe in yogic philosophy (and unchanging is "good") is male - the changing, form-based principle in the universe (read "unrealiable" and "illusory") is female. Hmmmm...patriarchy strikes again.
So it's been interesting, as a witch priestess of various Mysterious Ones (female, male, both and neither) to be a part of this training. I've had to do a lot of translation (which is starting to get a little tired, honestly) and also opening my mouth a lot - not a suprise to those who know me in the flesh.
Case in point: This weekend there was a chat about vegetarianism and its spiritual superiority to meat-eating. Full disclaimer: I've gone vegetarian since the end of June and have made the commitment to remain so through the training. I'll revisit this commitment at the end of it.
I brought up the question, "Why is taking the life of a plant any less valuable than taking the life of an animal? I find that there's a certain moral relativism going on in regards to the value of life."
The response was about doing "less harm," and the instructor pointed to the environmental toll that the meat industry wreaks on the earth. I'm totally down with that (and it's one of the reasons that when I ate meat, it was only from small farms where I knew how they treated their animals), but unless people are buying full organic, local farm produce, they're not doing much more to help the planet - see the "dead zones" in the Gulf of Mexico due to fertizlier run-off.
All of these thoughts are not to condemn the long-held beliefs of yogis - who the hell am I, right? But, it is a reminder to myself and perhaps others of a phrase that I've been using a lot lately: There's always another story.
(The first image is, of course, from Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling. The second is of the Tarantula Neubla, photographed by M.Schirmer, T. Erben, M. Lomardi European Southern Observatory. Amazing, right?! The Wheel of Samsara, that aforementioned wheel of life, death, and rebirth, was found here. And the last image is one that fast food chain Chik-fil-a put out years ago, and it still makes me laugh.)