A Relationship With The Divine
In the West, the generally-accepted relationship with the Divine has only one possible form ... one with very limited potential: that of children to Divine parent. "Our Father who art in Heaven," etc.
This is a very restricted role, with little opportunity for spiritual maturity or personal empowerment.
Fortunately, there are many other possibilities.
Types of Spiritual Relationship
In India, relationship with the Divine Source is recognised as taking many forms. There is a much richer tapestry of connection with the Divine than we have.
Many options exist. But whichever one works for you, is the best one. People are at different places and have different needs -- one isn't any better or worse than another.
The important thing is that you have a good relationship with the Divine. The form it takes doesn't matter.
Offered here are possibilities that serve as alternatives to the default cultural relationship to the Divine. Perhaps you can find one that inspires you and brings out your greatest spiritual potential.
Child of the Divine
This is the form we're most familiar with.
Religions which cultivate this sort of relationship with the Divine Parent insist on obedience and honouring that which is greater than you -- your Creator.
These Parent/Child religions come with a lot of rules . . . naturally, since it is a parents' job to set appropriate rules of behaviour for their children. But like in any family, the rules can be to the advantage of the parent, or for the benefit of the child.
The Divine Parents - at least, as we imagine Them - can be domineering, judgemental, angry, and punitive, or They can be loving, nurturing, guiding, and supportive. Humanity has had long histories with both versions.
Traditionally these two versions have a gender orientation. Father is mentor and protector in the positive version, judge and disciplinarian, in the shadow version. Mother is love, nurturance, and acceptance. Some cultures have worshipped one as their primary deity, and some have worshipped both in various forms.
This child-relationship with the Divine in each form plays out in different ways . . .
Child of Divine FatherThe negative spiritual relationship with the Divine Father is mainly found in Christianity, and other One-God and Western religions.
As a child of a disciplinarian God, your spiritual task is duty and humility and obedience to His commandments, and His spokesmen. This obedience entitles you, in the religious mythology, to earn future rewards after you die.
Likewise, failure to obey earns future punishment. According to the extremist viewpoints, ruthless relentless punishment with no hope of parole.
This is the first evolutionary rung on the spiritual ladder. Not in historical chronology, but in spiritual development.
Even this relation with the Divine can be a positive path in some ways. Obedience, humility, and surrender are valuable spiritual qualities, although to put them to proper use often requires more spiritual awareness than is found at this level. And the purpose of them is not to earn the reward of Heaven, but to discover one's own true nature.
There is the positive aspect of relationship with the Divine Father in some religions that worship multiple deities, like Teutonic religion, Hinduism, Wicca religion, and other nature-based religions.
This is the Divine Father who is the protector, the teacher.
The devotees here are called to learn and emulate this Divine Parent.
Child of Divine MotherThis is the next rung on the ladder. Christianity and other One God religions may reach here. Wicca as a religion deepens here.
In this relationship with the Divine Mother, you are permitted and encouraged to grow, to think for yourself, to learn, to celebrate life, and to be true to your heart . . . which is recognised as a Temple of the Divine.
Here love is most important -- loving the Divine completely, as an infant adores her Mother.
The spiritual task of this relationship is taking responsibility for yourself, being respectful of others, seeing all as equal children of the Divine Mother, and gratitude for Her abundant gifts.
This entails serving others as if they were your siblings, and caring for the Earth as the very body of Divine Mother. In this paradigm, peace is a necessity, and violence inexcusable; partnership is natural and domination a disgrace; relationship is more important than wealth; compassion the mark of true strength.
This is a huge advance from serving a jealous God. And yet there are still more levels available. This is something every child knows in their flesh, as Hafiz expressed so clearly . . .
The God Who Only Knows Four Words *
Has known God.
Not the God of names,
Not the God of don’ts,
Not the God who ever does
But the God who only knows four words
And keeps repeating them, saying:
“Come dance with me.”
Lover of the Divine
Wicca Spirituality starts in a love relationship (or more) with the Divine, as does mysticism in many traditions, such as Sufism. Devout Lovers of the Divine can come from any religion, or none, but they have escaped most of the illusions that trap the rest of us.
In this form, the spiritual relationship is one of love and adoration between peers. At least, more or less - honest humility acknowledges that we aren't pure Divinity, but at least we are no longer coming as supplicants.
And at any rate, real love "elevates" the beloved above our own self.
The spiritual relationship is with the Divine as your Beloved, and you the most impassioned Lover.
Anyone who is fallen freshly in love knows what this is about. Your every thought is of your Beloved, you praise your Beloved all the time, you give your Beloved gifts out of an excess of devotion to their desires. You become self-less: you think only of what you can offer, not what you hope to receive. Your needs become a distant second in your list of priorities.
The spiritual practice here is devotion, worship, celebration, and complete disintegration of barriers between you and the Divine.
If you are a Lover of the Divine, and not celibate, the practice is worshipping your human lover AS the Divine her- or himself. Those who practice the Great Rite at Beltane or Tantric Yoga have an experiential understanding of this.
Up until this level of love, you are primarily "taking" from the Divine, as a dependent. What you give, is by-the-book obligations.
Here is the turning point, when the relationship with the Divine becomes reciprocal. And what you give is everything you have, everything you are . . . solely for the purpose of pleasing the One you adore.
At the next level, the balance shifts even more.
Mother of God
The focus in this relationship with the Divine is not on what you can receive - pleasure, gifts, power, etc . . . even love. What matters here is giving back.
At this stage you are aligning yourself with Divine Mother. You may tend and adore a symbolic infant God, as a (well-supported) mother joyfully serves her newborn child. And men may do this too; gender is no condition for mothering.
In India, this is sometimes practiced as caring for a blue Baby Krishna doll, as if He were the Divine Child Incarnate. Which, on some levels, He is. This practice can be illuminating.
Another way to practice this is by mothering a mortal child (or dependent) as the Divine Child. With the Divine existing within every being, we can be as a mother to the Divine with everyone we meet.
In fact, this is where this practice really gains Power.
Hafiz knew what this is like . . .
Where Is the Door to the Tavern?
Where is the door to God?
In the sound of a barking dog,
In the ring of a hammer,
In the face of
Perhaps even more to the point is offering the Earth all the love, appreciation, and gratitude possible. I am reminded of how water is transformed by thoughts of love. A wonderful practice is to say this type of prayer when you encounter water:
I thank you, Water
This is very effective as a prayer to the Earth, too.
The spiritual lessons in this relationship with the Divine are selfless service, absolute open-heartedness, and pure devotion.
This is willingly surrendering your personal "needs" in order to be a true devotee to the Will of the Divine.
No longer submerged solely in Love, for the pleasure of it, your love must find expression in action . . . in the service of others.
This is perhaps not exactly a relationship with the Divine, so much as a way of developing spiritual awareness. Knowing the Divine, it's impossible to truly imagine yourself as Its mother. But it is a valuable spiritual practice, and does indicate more refined awareness than imagining the Divine is there to serve us.
Handmaiden of Divine Mother
(Just to clarify, handmaidens can be of any gender. I've taken this term from Swami Radha, and she was very clear on this point. I'm assuming it's because there's no suitable alternative phrase in a masculine format.)
At this level you are going completely beyond what the Divine can offer you - protection, love, answering prayers, etc.
Here you are coming to a place of total selflessness. The ideas of a personal life and personal goals seem superfluous. Even saying "I" can seem faintly ludicrous.
You have set aside your own agenda, in order to become an agent of Divine Will.
Mother Teresa exemplified this perfectly. She lived to serve the Divine in, as she said, "all of His distressing disguises."
This is existing as the hands and arms and eyes and voice of the Divine. You are the instrument through which the Divine can act in the world.
No longer existing for your own purposes and goals, you now exist to enable the Divine to accomplish Her wishes in the world.
This is the highest level of surrender - releasing in the end even the concept of self as opposed to Divine Will.
Because the only way to be an instrument of the Divine's Song is to be like a flute . . . in good condition, empty of obstructions (like ego), moving easily to Her music.
Being The Divine
This is the purest relationship with the Divine Source possible. It is a relationship with your Divine Self.
There are no words that can really describe it, although mystic poets such as Rumi, Mirabai, Hildegard von Bingen, and Blake come as close as anyone can. I will let Hafiz give us a taste of this wonder . . .
And For No Reason
For no reason
I start skipping like a child.
For no reason
I turn into a leaf
That is carried so high
I kiss the Sun’s mouth
For no reason
A thousand birds
Choose my head for a conference table,
Start passing their
Cups of wine
And their wild songbooks all around.
For every reason in existence
I begin to eternally,
To eternally laugh and love!
When I turn into a leaf
And start dancing,
I run to kiss our beautiful Friend
And I dissolve in the Truth
That I Am.
The Multiple Faces of Relationship With The Divine
While these forms of relationship with the Divine are presented as levels or stages of evolution, none is wrong or less than another. Each is a way of relating to the Truth, which is perfectly appropriate for people at different places on the journey Home.
One or two of these options are likely to work better for an individual, than the others. And we can grow from the simple to the more subtle relationships with Divine Source.
But which one is "best" is entirely dependent on the person involved. Only you can know which works best for you.
The point is not to try to force yourself to relate to your Divine Source that is repellent or inexplicable to you. The point is to find one that may serve you well in your joyful quest towards the Divine.
I'd like to leave the last word up to my old friend, Hafiz:
As a myriad things and
Playing a game
Has kissed you and said,
I mean, you're Really IT!”
It does not matter
What you believe or feel
For something wonderful,
Is someday going
* All poems by Hafiz, from The Gift, translated by Daniel Ladinsky.
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