Sunday, October 31, 2010

How Did a Nice Suburban White Boy End Up Worshiping Kali? Part I

I didn't know what I was getting into.

The Bible up on the high closet shelf, that's what started it... or was it the drugs? Or-- let's start at the point of no return, the moment when, without knowing it, I took the red pill. Then we'll look even farther back, then forward again. 

I'm 34, it's 1998. I've loved the Goddess for 12 years, since I had a startling and unexpected vision of Her as the living, intelligent Earth dancing in black space. Except--She's dead now, or I'm dead to Her, because whenever I think of Her, my Beloved, I feel washed out, like I've got to the end of a night shift at work and just want to have a beer, drag the curtains closed, and go to sleep. Bouncing around in the wake of Her unveiling 12 years ago, I became in short order an atheist, a Catholic, a practitioner of Tibetan Buddhist meditation, and a Wiccan. With every shift of my metaphysical shape, I felt more myself, closer to the supernova I dimly knew dwelt in my heart, the nut uncracked, the universe in a hazel nut like God showed Julian of Norwich...

In 1998 I'd more than fulfilled my ten-year mission to go boldly into libraries and meditation rooms and try to figure out what in the heck had happened to me 12 years previously. I'd voyaged so thoroughly in the realms of books that everything having to do with the Goddess was now a concept, a belief, a word. "Maybe She's not real," I had to admit to myself. There seemed to be so many cultural, neurological, pharmacological explanations of Her that She Herself might be superfluous, and anyway, how could a loving Goddess allow all that suffering, blah blah blah... ? The idea of a personal deity, so gut-true in 1986, was by the late 90s quaint, and anything "spiritual" I did was in the spirit of academic inquiry: reading new scriptures, trying new methods of meditation, fitting them into my or someone else's theoretical (not theological) model.So here I was, just out of grad school, preoccupied with a new relationship and finding a job, my whole life ahead of me, but missing Her, my true love, suffering from phantom heart syndrome.

All but the initial vision had been frustratingly dry. I wasn't smart enough to know you could--had to--create your own path, so I constantly searched for the best path others had cut, but they all lacked in some serious way. Buddhism was dull, Catholicism baroquely silly, Wicca disgustingly well-intentioned, and none of them offered me any room to lose my mind. It had been in delirium I had first met Her, first embraced Her, first been taught by the two female spirits who, years later and with a shudder, I would read always come to those who seek knowledge from the sacred vine tlitlitzin. The two spirits guided me for several days after my initial, stunning vision of Gaia. They said, "We're going to show you some things you'll understand now, and some you won't understand until later. And no matter what happens in your life, no matter how far you think you get from this moment, all you have to do is call on us and we'll be there."

If you believe in Angels, as my friend Mary Daly did, you know that They can intervene violently in one's life. They can whisper in your ear, or They can orchestrate a symphonic explosion of events to get your attention. I've always been somewhat spiritually hard of hearing, so I've tended to get bombs thrown at me, but by 1998 the bomb of 12 years back, the Big Bang of my life and the reason I'm writing this, the reason I've done most of what I've done since--even that had echoed itself out like last year's Fourth of July. I would ask Mary all kinds of questions about the divine--"But if there's Goddess, then how can there be ______" or "But what kind of sense does it make to understand Her as both imminent and transcendent?" and Mary would answer the questions usually but once in a while, and once pretty finally, she said something along the lines of "You're trying to intellectualize something that can't be intellectualized." Yes! The famous--intellectual! With three Ph.D.s! The philosopher who called herself a reincarnation of Aquinas! I know! That's what I said: sounds like a copout.

I could hardly have imagined what was about to happen, there in 1998 in my house in the gentrifying urban neighborhood, wanly thumbing my religion books, resignedly doing pranayama because Robert Anton Wilson said it worked for him when he was out of a job and going through the Dark Night of the Soul and he and his family were on welfare and living in the projects. I wrote to ask him how to do the heart chakra exercise he said made him "come alive" in the midst of all that hopelessness, but never heard back.It kind of hurt that he didn't return my letter, but part of me thinks that he knew he wouldn't need to; if I was that determined to find the doorway into my own heart, I'd find it.

I wanted my heart to open. I wanted Her, but I knew She probably wasn't there. Shakta lore says that if you do pranayama regularly, Kali will appear to you. In 1998 this would have sounded to me like instructions for summoning an alien spaceship to a clambake, but I was doing pranayama as an intellectual exercise anyway, timing my breathing sessions and noting any effects from them in a notebook, adding to my catalogue of other people's beliefs, rituals. Other people had those because they believed in something, and that was fine for them, but I didn't have the luxury of belief, or the foolishness. It was interesting that some people felt like they'd meditated or prayed their way into the company of gods or Angels, but I no longer saw that as a possibility for me.

What I didn't know was, it isn't all in your head. What I didn't know was, "when you're ready, they come for you."

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