Maybe it was using the piano keyboard in the picture for the last entry, but I was abruptly overwhelmed by the need to re-perform my piano concerto using my new music workstation. It turned out very well.
My mother was raised in a little fundamentalist cult in rural Oklahoma, and she had seen the face of God. That vision probably took place during a psychotic break triggered by post-partum depression after my younger sister’s birth. Old letters indicate that mental problems were not a new thing for her. What I don’t venture to guess is whether the mental illness created her god, or if her god created the mental illness, because her god was a monster.
I grew up with that god, and reached my forties before I could look him straight in the eye and say, “You were and are a monster. I will not feed you any longer with honor, nor with worship, nor with fear, nor even with hatred. I write you completely out of my life. I ignore you so completely that even your memory will be lost.”
So as you might imagine, I’m a little distrustful around all gods.
A couple of weeks ago, I spoke with Hades, Greek Lord of the Underworld. The priest had channeled him the night before, so only an echo was left, but I could hear that echo in his voice and his choice of words. I heard none of the blustering wrath of my mother’s god — Hades was compassionate and very approachable.
I’ve spoken with Isis a number of times, again through a channel, as well as with other goddesses who did not identify themselves by name. Those were invariably beautiful, moving experiences, and I have always been treated with great kindness and gentleness.
I’ve spoken with the collection of dead guys that call themselves Abraham. They very rarely speak of individual futures, but they made an exception for me, as an act of compassion. I was skeptical, even angry with them for making such a prediction, but I’m happy to say that the future they predicted — which was a good one — started to unfold within two months of that conversation.
I’ve had my own inner connections with many levels of beings, large and small. I’ve held conversations with Jesus — I have no issues with him, only with his dad. A river full of playful Niaids. A reclusive but friendly tribe of not-people living in the shadows of a dark forest at the foot of a jade-green cliff. Several unnamed goddesses. A tribe of plains warriors. The Wolf spirit.
I don’t pretend to know what the gods are.
They are, in an important and objective sense, quite real. The monster-god of my mother holds sway over millions of people within sects of Christianity, and I can speculate it is the same god who dominates similar sects of Muslims, Hindus, and other faiths under different aliases. The figures of the goddess, whether you call her Nemetona, Isis, or Mary, have come to the aid of many millions when comfort was needed. Hades, as he told me himself two weeks ago, waits patiently for each of us, to help us through death into what comes after.
Shared experience provides the foundation — indeed, the only evidence — of what we call “reality.” When someone silently passes wind in an elevator, no one questions its reality because we all share the experience. When a goddess visits a grove and leaves a sweet peace in the place that can be felt and described in similar terms by many who visit for years afterward, how can we reasonably consider it any less real?
One explanation for this, accepted without question by most people throughout history, is that we are made in the image of the gods: it isn’t that they are like us, it is that we are like them.
This was easy to reconcile with the old creation myths, but very difficult to reconcile with the modern story told by science. We are now told that two-legged erect hominids didn’t exist even two million years ago, which is only a shallow scratch on the age of the earth. Modern humans are only a few hundred thousand years old at the most.
What were the gods for the billions of years of earth’s history prior to our shallow scratch of time? What were the gods in the relatively recent age of the dinosaurs? Did they not exist back then? Did they take dinosaur forms? Or are we to believe the conceit that the gods have always had human characteristics, and it simply took them sixteen billion years or so to push and shove the world into its “proper” shape so that we could take on their forms as the ultimate expression of their natures?
The gods appear to and through our senses, inner and outer. Whatever the gods are, we see them through the limits of our perception and imagination. I believe this is the reason — and the only real reason — they seem so human to us. If the field mice experience them (and I suspect they do) they doubtless see the gods as other field mice.
This is the best we can possibly do.
The ancient Chinese Taoists had the saying, “The Tao you can name is not the Tao.” In all humility, the same must be said of the gods. Whatever they really are — like the real Tao — is not something we can see or describe or even imagine. We are, as I like to say, merely hairless pink apes with delusions of intelligence and a penchant for big hats. The Tao and the gods alike are out of our league.
Yet we sense something of them: a flicker of light, a flash of joy, a phrase of music, a wavering but welcome image in a darkened mirror. And their touch changes us.