"It annoys me when people like you keep using the word God. You should say Universe, or the All." ---a cleaned-up, generalized and homogenized version of a persistent comment I receive from a fundamentalist New Ager named Anonymous
Your "annoyance" says more about you than it does about the person or thing that annoys you.
The Fat Lady in the Garden VS. the Bearded Man in the Sky Twenty years ago, moving in neo-pagan circles -- among Wiccans, Druids, Radical Faeries -- I remember how some insisted on these "political" vocabulary choices -- to use the word Goddess instead of God.
Intellectually -- theoretically -- I would assign gender neutrality to my concept of the highest power; or the divine marriage of the duality. Emotionally -- aesthetically, artistically, intuitively -- I feel that, if pressed to choose between the masculine and feminine, I am inclined to romance the creative life force of the Universe as a feminine concept. The local deity -- the Earth, the World, Gaia -- is a Mother Archetype.
Long before I learned to academically apply a feminist revisionist perspective to history, politics, culture, and religion (which occurred in my late-teens / early 20's as I began college) I observed the exclusion of the Divine Feminine -- even as a little kid. During a Baptist Vacation Bible School I attended with a neighborhood friend in the summer between third and fourth grade, I asked the teacher:
"Is Mother Nature God's Wife?"
There was something about the familial structure of God the Father and His Son Jesus that begged questions very similar to those I harbored concerning Bruce Wayne and his ward Dick Grayson. What's up with all these confirmed old bachelor superheroes with sons and no mothers in sight? Who doesn't have a mom? Who wouldn't want to have a mom?
I'm totally down with God as a Girl.
I feel very warm and loving towards the big fat green Venus with the huge knockers, giver of all the abundance. Goddess! I get it. I can drink that Kool Aid and raise a Cone of Power with the goddess groupies any day.
If you put me in a corduroy blazer and a turtleneck and stand me in front of a Philosophy class, I'll argue that we're talking about playing with Jungian Paperdolls -- whether the Old Merlin archetype or the Chubby Uber-Mama. We're serving up two flavors of Kool-Aid, both wacky and day-glo colored, and not all that different from one another when you get right down to it.
Take my clothes off, paint my face blue with woad, put dandelions in my hair and drop me in the middle of a May Pole dance on a knoll at Beltane, I can sing the names of the Goddess with the best of them....Brigid, Isis, Mary, Judy, Liza, Barbra...Liz, Lisa, Tori, Sarah, Madonna.... (Maybe I'll even go Gaga)
Some followers of the Divine Feminine feels it's crucial to state their preference in everyday conversation, commonly cursing "Oh my Goddess" and "Goddess Help Me!" That kind of thing.
Yet I noticed something that occurs when you speak to someone who has a traditional, old school, fundamentalist, patriarchal concept of God as an old dude that might be played by Sean Connery.
The word Goddess does what it was intended to (or Universe or All or One or any other substitution for that matter) -- it makes a statement about the identification of the speaker. That the speaker has a different conception of the supreme deity.
It also stops the fundamentalist mind dead in its tracks. When you say "Goddess" to someone who's never heard such a thing before, you lose him halfway through the word -- he doesn't hear a blessed thing you say afterward. Even when you say it to a woman who may have never heard it before, but who lights up with some intuitive gut instinct, some recognition of her power -- she's buzzing on that moment, on that switch; she's not paying attention to you anymore.
Their minds stop and chew. I've observed that this delights many who use it and indeed seems to be the full manifestation of their goal in doing so.
But whatever brilliant observation you make about God(dess) is never heard. It's lost in a parlor trick of shock-value heresy. All smoke and mirrors and confabulation -- Big Bang with the Theory fallen off the cart like a wheel lost on a sharp turn.
Your listeners may be holding their hats and clutching their pearls -- they may hear you, but they're not listening.
You wrapped their brains around a curve ball and their glove is still numb from the impact of catching your drift. And if executing that social kiss-off is all you're after, it's easily accomplished.
I decided many years ago that I didn't just want a gold star for using an uncommon suffix, or a trophy for "brave" eccentricity....I wanted to communicate. I wanted to connect. I wanted to speak a common tongue among the most obvious and diverse of strangers.
I wanted to be able to walk into an "enemy" camp and return an honorary member of that tribe.
I feel that if the goal is to communicate, to find common ground, to be understood and to find new understanding, then the greater responsibility is born by the greater mind, by the greater sense of heart. The one who is more educated, the one with the broadest most inclusive world view, the one with the command of many languages should step up to cross the chasm between himself and those who cannot.
If mature wisdom holds that we are describing a Common Idea or Canopy Truth -- the One from Many -- then to use a word that communicates you are speaking of something Different, you are Other, does not accomplish that....
Why try to begin introducing another to your way of thinking by excluding them or distancing yourself in the Prologue to your world view?
Think of it this way: Let's say you speak English and Spanish. And you need to be understood by someone who only speaks Spanish. If you choose to speak English to make a point, that's fine, but just acknowledge that your priority goal surely must not be to be heard, or to be understood, or to be included, or to be connected. Maybe you want to be an ass and make the other party feel excluded or beneath you. By all means, if that's what you're trying to accomplish, that's a pretty gosh-darn easy trick.
If you want to really communicate about:
- a higher power
- the collective consciousness
- the synergy of life in the universe
- the great network of the world mind
- the great All that we all keep paying lip-service to
There's a really great word that tons of people, when they hear it -- even if their conception differs, they have more in common -- they automatically know what you're talking about, however they are able to perceive it. It's the word "god." I find it to be...kind of a useful word.
Living in a predominantly Judeo-Christian society, moving among a minority of the spiritual but not religious, god is a word that gets the job done.
So, Dear Anonymous Commentator, that's why I use such an "old-fashioned" patriarchal fundamentalist word. It's a kind of Mr Potato Head of a word -- feel free to put whatever drag on it you wish, interpret it in a way that is unique to you. Just know that I choose to do so not in ignorance but after conscious deliberation.
I'm like that lifeguard sitting up in his chair, sky behind him, surveying all the fun (and responsibility) of my charges down in the water. My skin and hair may be bone dry, but don't think for a minute I don't know how to swim. Or that I won't jump in and attempt to save your ass -- no matter Who you cry out for.
image credit Bart van Damme via Creative Commons on Flickr