Is it possible to reconnect with the mysticism behind organized religions? Rabbi Rami show us the way.
I feel bad for my Catholic friends. So many of them have left the Church without ever knowing the genius it once offered. A friend once said to me: “I am sickened by the abuse of children. And I can’t stand the homophobia, especially when I know so many priests are gay. And I can’t stand the misogyny when so much of our faith is linked to Mary the Mother of God. So much of what I hear from the pulpit is anti when we insist our theology is pro. So, I’m done!”
I understand their pain and their need to free themselves from having to defend the indefensible. I feel the same regarding much of what is done in the name of Judaism both in the United States and in the State of Israel. Yet, in their rush to leave, they assume there is nothing of value to learn.
Case in point: Clark Strand’s new book Waking Up to the Dark: The Black Madonna’s Gospel for an Age of Extinction and Collapse. As I read the book in preparation for our conversation on the Spirituality + Health Podcast, I came across this historical fact:
Medieval Catholic sources trace the spiritual wisdom of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux to the moment he drank milk from Mary’s breast. An etching from the period shows Mary on her throne, the infant Jesus on her lap, expressing milk in a thin stream directly onto Bernard’s forehead at the spot where yogic practitioners believe the third eye to be located. For centuries the church displayed paintings and statues of Maria Lactans, the “nursing Mary,” though in recent times such images have been suppressed. In Catholic pamphlets on the history of the rosary, you can read the story of how Mary appeared to Saint Dominic in 1208 to instruct him on how to say the prayer. But those pamphlets invariably omit one detail: that before she taught Dominic the rosary, she first fed him milk from her breast (pp. 88-89).
It is as if the Church is robbing itself of the milk of the Mother, and the result is the very evils my friends are lamenting.
Like me, Clark Strand is not a Catholic. And, like me, Clark Strand is a devotee of the Mother in all Her forms. Additionally, like me, Clark Strand believes that if there is hope for humanity, it will come not from the roiling fascism of our increasingly militaristic Gods, but from the searing love of the Mother who will burn away the dross of narcissism and nihilism (both personal and tribal) to reveal the sacred diversity of each life in the greater holiness of the nondual Aliveness in which we live and move and have our being.
But if we are to participate in this great harrowing—which I see as the precursor to an even greater awakening—we must not allow the powers that be to rob us of the Truths we so desperately need, and they so desperately fear.
Before you walk away from your root tradition, make time to look deeper into its mystic heart and salvage what you can so that when you leave, you take the Wisdom with you.
Listen to the podcast episode that inspired this essay here.