The Incarnation, Chakras and God Talk

I wish that I felt comfortable writing more about God. I believe in Him (now, there's a loaded statement!), so why don't I? I've certainly read a lot about God or, rather, about what others have thought about God. And it's not like I don't have my own opinions. So why the silence? Why the fear?

Pride, I suppose. I don't want to sound simple, and yet I know I do. I'm not a theologian, I don't seem to have that calling. How could anything that I say about God hold a candle to the great meditations of Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, von Balthasar--to name only a few? I am, as Hildegard herself often protested, but an unlearned woman. Who am I to try to play with the big boys deciphering the mysteries of the divine?

But nor am I, as a woman, interested in developing a peculiar "feminine" theology. In part, because I don't really think it is necessary. More important, because I think it would be wrong: God created human beings male and female, not male or female. It really isn't as if we have to choose: "I'm a man, so I worship God as man" vs. "I'm a woman, so I want God to reflect the things that I think about myself as a woman." And besides, this is the great mystery of the Incarnation: God became man through a woman, taking on our humanity in full.

Prior Peter at the Monastery of the Holy Cross has written a beautiful meditation on the mystery that we celebrate tomorrow: "He descended from heaven, and was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made man." God, that is, took on everything that it is that makes us human, even unto death, so as to...well, I suppose that's the question. So as to what? If you listen to the off-hand criticisms that people often make about this time of year ("Not everyone celebrates Christmas, you know"; "It's just a warmed-over pagan festival of the new year"; "Nobody is going to make me believe in this fairy tale"), it would seem to be in order to tick us off, force people to believe something they don't want to, create divisions among traditions and communities just so everybody can fight. Which, of course, is one of the things that Jesus said he came to do (bring a sword), but I don't think that that is really what Christmas is supposed to be about.

I've been meditating (in an informal way) a lot on my first chakra these past couple of weeks, wishing that I felt more integrated in my body. Not so stiff. Not so at odds with my eating and weight. Not so frustrated that my eyes are aging and I can't read as easily as I used to with or without my glasses. I feel ugly and uncoordinated and bound. Trapped, yes, by my incarnate self. If only I could be free of the constraints of this body, think the thoughts that I want to, soar into the heavens on philosophical and contemplative wings. I would be able to describe the whole universe in all its glory, elucidate the mysteries of consciousness, surrender myself utterly to the light of simply being in beauty and joy. Instead, I'm stuck in this stupid body. Aging. Creeping ever closer to death. Limited in both space and time to what I can accomplish.

Ah.

Anodea Judith has this to say about why her take on the chakras is better than more traditional systems that emphasize only the ascending energy current from bottom (physical identity) to top (universal identity): "It is a basic premise of this work [Eastern Body, Western Mind] that a human being needs a balance between both of these currents [downward to embodiment and upward to ethereal consciousness] in order to be whole. If we cannot liberate [ascending current], we cannot change, grow, or expand. We become like automatons, unconsciously stuck in monotonous routines, our consciousness lulled to sleep from boredom. By contrast, without the [descending] current of manifestation we become aimless and empty--dreamers flying into vast realms but unable to land, full of ideas but unable to make commitments or completions. When we combine both currents, we have the mating of cosmic polarities known as the hieros gamos, or sacred marriage. This union of opposites creates limitless possibilities. It is the metaphoric source of conception--a word that implies both the birth of an idea and the beginning of life."*

A "mating of cosmic polarities"? A "union of opposites [that] creates limitless possibility"? "Conception" as involving both the birth of an idea (or logos) and the beginning of life (say, of a human child)? Call me simple, but this sounds an awful lot like a description of, yes, the Incarnation: the Logos uniting with humanity, thus opening up for us what it means to be human. As Prior Peter puts it: "In becoming a man, the Word of God becomes for us the key to the mystery of the human person, of human life... [We] see in the Word of God becoming flesh for our sake the proof in the person of Jesus Christ that dependence on God [who descended to us that we might ascend to Him] is the secret to true life, joy, peace and love."

Now
I know (in the way that one knows or, rather, suspects these things) that Anodea Judith would be the first to protest that there is nothing in her understanding of the chakras that requires anyone to believe anything in particular about God--heaven forbid! No, her system is simply a fusion of various philosophies, some ("derived primarily from Eastern cultures") focusing on enlightenment, transcendence and the ascent "to higher planes of consciousness that transcend suffering"; others (presumably, although Judith does not say as much explicitly, derived primarily from Western, materialist cultures, but she seems to mean what many associate with Neo-pagan or goddess cultures as well) focusing on immanence, "or the presence of the divine within." And still others, particularly "the depth psychology of Carl Gustav Jung," focusing on transformation, wholeness and individuation, "whose movement is toward integration of opposites: mind and body, Heaven and Earth, spirit and matter, light and shadow, male and female."#

Again, call me simple, but isn't this simply a description of the central premise of Christianity: that we are made whole through Christ because Christ makes it possible for us to become fully ourselves, male and female, body and soul? There being in Christ, as one particularly famous passage from Paul put it, no longer any male or female, Jew or Greek, slave or free, because "you all are one in Christ Jesus"? Perhaps I should, like Judith, read more Jung, but what I have read of him suggests that he knew this passage perfectly well, along with others, perhaps even some of the texts that I spent my youth studying, about the way in which God espoused himself (hieros gamos anyone?) in the womb of the Virgin so as to take on human nature.

You want integration? Try Philip of Harvengt on the mystical betrothal celebrated on the day on which the Creator of the Virgin Mary became her Bridegroom, "when in her womb our humanity was assumed into God, yet not consumed by the overshadowing Spirit." You want the mystery of what it feels like for your consciousness to become incarnate while at the same time your spirit soars to the heavens in contemplation of the universe? Try Augustine describing God's descent into our human condition so as to make it possible for us to hear and understand Him. You want the mystery of embodiment conjoined with transcendence, the body elevated to a status equal to the soul in the composition of the human person? Try the doctrine of the Incarnation, the divine becoming one with us in our humanity, dying not only so as to save us from our sins, (read, our disintegration, our separation from ourselves and, therefore, from God), but also rising again to life in body so that we might be reborn, reintegrated with our bodies, indeed, resurrected into new life and made whole.

Really, I'm appalled. I'm enjoying reading Judith, but this kind of "I'm not trying to impose my beliefs about God on anybody" blindness really burns me up. "Exercise for Guidance from the Higher Self: Talking to God or Goddess. With a friend or counselor [say, a spiritual director?]: Create a mental image of your concept of deity. It may be a round, stout Earth Mother, or an old man with a white beard, a bright star [stella maris?], a fountain of light [fons signatus?], or an astral cloud [a woman clothed with the sun?]. It does not matter as long as it is an image you can relate to [oh, really? 'Cause, you know, that is the whole point of the Incarnation: that God became human so we could relate to him], one that carries wisdom and compassion for you [even, Wisdom Incarnate?]. Describe your image of deity to your friend. Now think of an issue on which you seek guidance... After you have described your deity and named your question, change places with your friend. Imagine now that you are this God/dess you have envisioned. Really feel it; immerse yourself in the experience.... [Allow] your friend to ask you, as God/dess, the question you asked earlier. Then allow yourself to answer as the deity might."$ Oh, please. Give me a break. Ignatius Loyola's Exercitia spiritualia, anyone? You know, a method of visualization for helping discern God's will by imagining yourself in conversation ("colloquy") with the oh-so-human Jesus (a.k.a. God) and the Virgin Mary (a.k.a. Mother of G0d) as they go about their daily lives?

I know, I know, I'm getting snarky. Which may tell me something about why I don't write about these issues more. I'm not sure whom I would really be writing for. Christians know all of this stuff (or, at least, some of it) and those who think of themselves as non-Christian don't want to hear it, even if, as I read Judith, everything that they say in fact has deep roots in a tradition of which they seem at best only dimly aware. And, of course, there's the problem that I am worried about sounding too pedantic, too immersed in the scholarship, too intellectual (God help me) to make sense to those who aren't as versed in the intricacies of the tradition. It's as Augustine put it (you know, like): "For however widely our spoken word differs from the rapidity of our understanding, greater by far is the difference between mortal flesh and equality with God."@

I know what I want to say--it's there, in the flash of understanding when I read things like Judith's discussion of the chakras and see all of the connections--but I can't find the words, and even when I do, they feel cumbersome and heavy. Just like my body. Limited. Bound. And yet, as Judith herself says, it is only by embracing limitations that we will be able to manifest, channel the energy downwards, into realization. Into flesh. I'm thinking again of what Dorothy Sayers said about the creative process and the necessity of suffering in giving our work body. Just as Christ suffered in becoming human and taking on all of our frailties and hopes. In Judith's words: "In order to manifest, we must accept our limitation. We have to be able to focus on what we want, to be specific about it. We have to be able to stick with it long enough for manifestation to occur. I have to be able to sit in my chair for months on end to manifest this book. It may be necessary to stick with long periods of schooling or training to manifest a good job skill. To become proficient at something, we have to practice it over and over again, limiting ourselves to that specific activity until we master it."%

Like fencing. Or writing about God. I know what my problem is: I've been too impatient, not wanting to go through the discipline of sitting down again, possibly for years, in order to manifest my next book (or, even, for hours, as it has taken me to write this blog post). And so, paradoxically, my body has been seizing up, not wanting to move. Perhaps it's trying to tell me something. Perhaps in order to manifest my thinking, I need to embrace my flesh. Just as God did, by taking on human flesh and sticking with it for 33 years.

I'm going to have to keep thinking about this. Meanwhile, merry Christmas! And God bless us, every one!

*Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System as a Path to the Self, rev. ed. (Berkeley: Celestial Arts, 2004), p. 14.
#Eastern Body, Western Mind, p. xi.
$Eastern Body, Western Mind, pp. 428-29.
@Augustine, De catechizandis rudibus, chap. 10.15, ed. and trans. Joseph P. Christopher (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1926), pp. 48-49.
%Eastern Body, Western Mind, p. 64.

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