Friday, March 14, 2014

Is God a Goddess?: Unitarian Roots of the Divine Feminine

Late Cypriot Ceramics from V. Karageorghis, "Ancient Art from Cyprus", The Cesnola Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art NYC

As Unitarian Universalists, we view our theologies as a garden of diverse possibilities, from Orthodox Christianity to Neo-Paganism to Atheism. I recently preached on the origins of the Divine Feminine in the Unitarian branch of our denomination. Viewing the Divine as more nurturing than judgmental, I naturally sought for the moment when Unitarian Universalists adopted a maternal image of divine action. 
The Unitarian and Transcendentalist minister, Theodore Parker, out of mid 19th century Boston, wrote  a prayer:
"Eternal One, I bathe my soul in Your infinity.
Transcendent God! Yet, ever immanent in all that is, I flee to You, and seek repose and soothing in my Mother’s breast. From all this dusty world, You will not lose a molecule of earth or spark of light. Father and Mother of all things that are, I flee to You, and in Your arms find rest; My God! I thank You for Your love."

Aside from The Shakti devotees of India, this prayer may be one of the earliest expression of God as characteristically feminine and nurturing rather than masculine and authoritarian image that we mostly subscribe to. It is no wonder that Parker lost his mom at age 12 and was in the throes of a radical shift in parenting style in Victorian New England where children learned through varied experience and reflection(Louisa May Alcott, Little Women) rather than through authoritative transmission of culture and ideas. That idea of the Mother Goddess, or the androgynous concept of God's action in the world, may have taken root in Victorian/Transcendentalist child-rearing practices of the era. We, Unitarian Universalists need to remember our history. Instead of flailing about in a web of uncertainty, we should covet the rich, prophetic and foreshadowing qualities of our theological traditions.

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