This introductory note may help place the following poems in their context.
The Sanskrit term bhāvanā has several interrelated meanings, which all derive from the same root BHŪ.
- causing to be,
Connection is made between ‘contemplation’ and ‘causing to be’. To contemplate something is to bring it into being. A thing does not really exist if it is not contemplated. The same linkage can be found in the word ‘realize’, which is both an intellectual act and also an outward productivity. The inner and the outer involve each other.
Genesis ch. 2 may help. The man is put into a deep sleep and from his side the woman is drawn. He recognizes her and says, “This is bone from my bones, and flesh from my flesh.” She both comes from him and is brought to him. She is both from within and from without.
These poems follow the same procedure. They occur in the deep silence of meditation. Their words spring already formed from the depths of the heart; they are inspired words, not manufactured by an effort of the will. They come from me and they occur to me. They are both from within and from without.
They are poems to the goddess. This may cause some puzzlement, but should not. There is a view accepted among many theologians today that the Holy Spirit is best understood in feminine terms. This is not to say that the Spirit is an actual woman. The First Person of the Trinity is addressed, as ‘Father’ but is not of male gender. The Second Person takes flesh as a male but is not essentially of male gender. Neither is the Holy Spirit of female gender, but just as the Word is best expressed as male, in fact is incarnate as male, the Spirit is best understood in feminine terms, though the Spirit is not incarnate as woman. For that reason the Virgin Mary can be considered as the most perfect icon of the Spirit.
The poems are therefore addressed to the Spirit as feminine. Why then the name of Hindu goddesses? This is liable to misunderstanding, but the reason is simple. The Spirit, we know well, has not been explored sufficiently in Latin theology. The visions of the divine feminine in Hindu thought may provide some help. Those images of the goddesses help me to understand better the Spirit as feminine. The Spirit is the true Kālī.
The Nicene Creed in its Latin version states that the Spirit proceeds “from the Father and the Son”. For someone who identifies with the Christ the Lord, as I do in my prayer, the Spirit proceeds both from the Father and from me, from outside and from inside. The Sprit as the divine feminine is projected from me and given to me.
These poems are unusual but they are not heterodox. If they are I must repudiate them, but I consider they are not contrary to the received faith.
The Song of Songs presents God as Lover and the Chosen People as the Beloved; The Christian tradition interprets Jesus as the Lover and the Church, or the individual Christian, as the Beloved. This is a constant in Christian spiritual imagery, such as in the poem The Dark Night of St John of the Cross.
The mystics have no problem in describing this relationship as ‘mystical marriage’ and can be surprisingly graphic about it, such as in the poems of Hildegard of Bingen, Saint and Doctor of the Church and of many Beguines. If the Spirit is presented as the Divine Feminine, there is no difficulty in presenting the relationship between the individual Christian and the Holy Spirit in equally graphic terms. This is what I do in these poems. This may seem at first to be shocking but is not different from happens in the Song of Songs or the poems of the Christian mystics.
Indeed, the destiny of the human is to become partakers of the divine nature. Our material flesh will not cease to be physical even though it will be transfigured. The possibilities of sexuality will be fulfilled in heaven, not abrogated. Although there will be no giving and taking in marriage in the ordinary way, as Jesus teaches, there will be mystical marriage at the highest level. These poems explore what that will be when the resurrection of the dead takes place. Thus these poems are already an anticipation of the divine future. They also describe graphically the relationship between Word and Spirit in eternity.
The language of the poems, understood in their correct sense, is theologically and spiritually orthodox.
My contemplation is a work of the imagination (bhāvanā). It is imagination but is is not imaginary or fictitious. God imagines the human and so the human is. He is the divine Artist. Human beings are made in the image of God, and are an imagination of the divine mind, and therefore are real, even though “You sweep them away a dream.”
The Figure described in these poems is the result of imagining, yes, but the imagining is a realization (bhāvanā), a making real. She is the woman that corresponds to me, that is suited to me. Another contemplator will imagine the Feminine differently.