I am still cautiously exploring esotericism, so I also loved her comment about science being what we can know about the Mystery, but that “Mystery is the soul’s realm; intuition is the way we perceive it” (121). It was fascinating to see mysticism related so closely to the language of dreams and the non-conscious mind: “Mysticism … [goes] beyond what is available to the senses to participate in a transcendent holiness. It is the soul’s yearning to love Ultimate Reality. Mysticism’s tendency is not to seek to know but to seek to be united” (122) and later: “Mystic consciousness ultimately transcends images, participating in the Ultimate Ground from which all images proceed” (123).
This was rather eye-opening: it explains why rational-seeming people sometimes choose to believe things that seem utterly absurd to me. If I’m understanding correctly, they are not looking for logic – they are looking for belonging. This may be the source, for example, of the surprising number of people who have written me about their (often grateful or emotional) acceptance and appreciation of the story in A Million Little Pieces — which has been proven to be exaggerated from the actual truth. I guess if the story helps these people to live better lives, it’s not a bad thing to believe in. The tragedy, to me, is when that soul-full belief is offered to something that does not deserve the reverence. It is one of the reasons I am cautious about mysticism: I don’t want to catch myself choosing to have faith in something which will eventually become self-destructive to me.
The author reinterprets her natal religion, Roman Catholicism, with loving attention, explaining the necessary role of cyclical balance throughout life and death, as well as within those cultural creations (such as religion) which attempt to explore, explain, and modulate it wisely: “He is the Word, she the Voice; he is the Vision, she the Seer. Together woman and man offer the gift of the cycle of life in a priesthood of creative power” (20). She insists on the importance of the emotional Descent into the dark, womb-like fecundity of both the (metaphorical and actual) earth and our inner selves, rather than treating the entire concept of Descent as the disgusting and evil opposite of ascent into the light. She re-defines the body as a sensuous gift from the deity, and the female body in particular as the joyous source of creative life: “For me, as woman, Jesus is not something to become but someone to bring forth. Jesus is the result of our descent into the body; we birth him in the release of our power – the new creation. The hint is earth. Incarnation” (21). Her perceptive review of Christianity is heart-wrenching in its piercing simplicity:
The horror of Christian history is that we have made and continue to make real women the scapegoats for humanity’s sundered soul and the resulting loss of eros. By setting up an Eve/Mary dichotomy, we perpetuate the split. We assure an everlasting victim. We institutionalize dualism, which is the essence of Original Sin. Consequently, we trivialize eros, separate sexuality from both love and the full expression of life, and inhibit the creative process.
Accepting a dualistic image of ourselves, we become wanderers with wounded and lost souls – victims and victimizers. (89)
I heartily concur with the inadvisability of simplifying the world into oppositional binaries. Invariably one becomes favored and synonymous with good. By definition, therefore, the other is invariably re-categorized as unfavored, wrong, or possibly evil. I also strongly agree that the Roman Catholic Church in particular, and Christianity in general, needs deep revision in order to become a religion of any meaning or worthy support for women. I hold it directly responsible, in fact, for a number of modern ideological ills, not least of which is the false separation and condemnation of sexuality, women, the flesh, and this earthly existence for an adulation of men and the mind, and an indifference to maintenance of the earth we all live on. As Weber herself poetically notes, “This is the arrogance we manifest when we set ourselves apart from creation as if we were its master and it simply an object for our use and manipulation. We are creation. We can know nothing real without drinking from the stream that flows from the tree of life” (145). I was therefore quite interested to see where the author, as a former nun, would take us in this book.