One wonders why one forms expectations for anything. Rarely is there a match. That’s not exactly accurate: I was partly right (a brief history of land use acknowledgment here) but also completely wrong about how the DFW Divine Feminine event held on April 22 would affect me.
Planning to attend began in October 2022 and seemed connected to the Heavenly Mother podcast and poetry research in August. Not that it was my planning, of course; Natalie Cosby was my contact for many months. She and her team raised funds; solicited art, dance, and poetry; included relevant music (violin and harp arrangement of “Meditation” from Thais); secured a venue; booked speakers; arranged and printed agendas; tested pens (the writing kind); promoted the event with layers of publicity; involved indigenous peoples and a variety of faith leaders; arranged for unique handouts and relevant merch; organized timed events; staffed (not “manned,” sorry, couldn’t resist) volunteer positions throughout. What a list, and it’s just what I observed must have gone on. Surely much more work happened. Impressively done!
That was my expectation, however: Women do things well. Although it is probably apocryphal, Spencer Kimball, president of the Church from 1973-85, said it wouldn’t work for women to be in charge because things would be done too quickly and efficiently whereas the way men run things, there’d be more time. Something like that. I’m not sure it makes sense. On the other hand, a women’s banquet preparation would be coordinated and organized whereas men might have crackers and chili. But no. That’s sexist. Sorry again.
To redeem myself: Three of the four talks I heard were from men. Brief summaries will add to what I thought I knew before, and then the grand finale will ensue.
The first, wandered into randomly, was “Mother, Daughter, Queen and Priestess in Ancient Egypt.” Jared Rubalcaba, the presenter, takes tours to Egypt as well, and after hearing this, I was ready to go. An inveterate notetaker, I began writing but soon found it was too much to absorb. Luckily, the lecture is also here on YouTube. As I listened a second time, it was clear that this is so full of wonder that I can’t summarize it other than perhaps to say this Lady of Countless Names is indeed the being I worked to describe in that scholarly paper that now seems so inadequate. She is the Companion of divinity. Not a delicate or retiring shadow but an equal. In the video’s conclusion, Jared shares his translation of an unnamed text beginning at 54:50. If you listen to the earlier part, great. But you don’t have to. The name of the goddess speaking is Hathor. This Wikipedia article has 177 citations and a Works Cited of more-than-I-am-willing-to-count scholarly sources about her.
That time was well spent. The second topic about which I also knew nothing was the Kabbalah. An SMU professor, Serge Frolov, began with historical context. Unlike the millennia-old texts and art of the Egyptian goddess, Kabbalah is medieval (12th century Catalonia) and, therefore, “new.” The word means “tradition,” but connotation adds “mystical.” Or, differently interpreted, Kabbalah pre-dates all religions. The foundational text is the Zohar, published by a scholar who said it had been written by a 2nd century rabbi during his 12 years of hiding in a cave.
Dr. Frolov then introduced the word “Shekhinah” which means “the indwelling of the divine.” A photo using 10 Hebrew letters is in media above, but the crown at the top to the foundation at the bottom are flanked by three words on each side: wisdom, lovingkindness, eternity of the right; understanding, justice, majesty on the left. He asked the audience which one was the feminine side, presumably because all got it wrong. Sure enough, people were quick to guess the right when the correct answer is the left. Embedded between the last two on each side is glory, a word sometimes also associated with Shekhinah but masculine.
This video with Daniel Matt is short but discusses the importance of the shechina (different spelling) as the appearance of God in the burning bush (Exodus 3) and the presence that accompanies the children of Israel throughout their time in the wilderness. In fact, he ties this to humanity, that the divine needs our righteousness for expression. Matt likes another name for it, “the secret of the possible.” Dr. Frolov describes Shekhinah as the female, Tif’eret the male. Their marriage is only possible when the Temple is on the earth, so when it was destroyed, they can no longer meet “as is currently the case.” He also suggested we look at the opening prayer at Shabbat, which you can hear here, chosen because the English translation is included. The meaning? A bride is the key symbol.
|1||Let’s go, my beloved, to meet the bride,||Lekha dodi liqrat kallah||לכה דודי לקראת כלה|
|2||Let us welcome the presence of Shabbat.||p’ne Shabbat neqabelah||פני שבת נקבלה|
Finally, Dr. Frolov discussed another symbol, the Star of David. To save time, I’ll just say that the descending triangle as it meets the lower triangle suggests the male and the female coming together, in a literal and graphic sense. This should sound very familiar if you know Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code or the 2006 movie. Tens of millions of books were sold, and the movie earned hundreds of millions of dollars. Brown was sued by several plaintiffs, however, who claimed he either plagiarized their novels or research. Conversely, others said the “research” was completely bogus. Brown frames the story as a conspiracy to repress the posterity of Jesus, and the Catholic Church doesn’t look good with that interpretation. His main character, Dr. Robert Langdon, does solve the mystery and restores the descendant of Christ to her protectors. Her name, of course, is Sophie (remembering wisdom). In the final scene of the movie, Langdon cuts himself shaving and the blood forms a sword as it swirls into the porcelain sink. He rushes to his own book, Symbols of the Sacred Feminine, realizes he has known the truth all along, and hurries to the Louvre where the sarcophagus of Mary Magdalene lies beneath the inverted pyramid. The chalice if you will. In fact, there is a shopping mall there instead, but the truth intrudes.
I did ask Dr. Frolov about Code afterward, and he reminded me about the lawsuits. The star of David symbolism is accurate, he believes. I also asked him if he knew of the LDS doctrine of Heavenly Mother. He does, and plans to use it in his class on the Divine Feminine, but has never gotten around to it. Remember round tuits?
The last session featured McArthur Krishna and Martin Pulido. She co-authored A Girl’s Guide to Heavenly Mother with Bethany Brady Spalding. He co-authored the article “’A Mother There’: A Survey of Historical Teachings About Mother in Heaven” with David Paulsen, which I quoted in my scholarly article. They discussed the history of the doctrine as well as their own connections to the topic. Krishna and Spalding also wrote Girls Who Choose God because of questions from daughters. Pulido added that the Harvard theologian and scholar Noah Feldman believes the doctrine of a Heavenly Mother is one of the best things the Church has to offer, which was in response to my question about how non-members perceive Her. Other audience questions receive good answers as well. One woman has felt hurt by the admonition not to ask more than we have been given. Krishna said that there is a way of looking at the Church as scaffolding: not the object but the tool. And there are other ways of communication than prayer. Plus, I now have two copies of her book, one autographed. Beautiful art fills this slim volume, with a variety of interpretations from artists all over the world.
Circling back to the beginning of part 2, I can now share the non-literary, non-artistic, non-scholarly, non-experiential conclusion: This conference seems to have marked a change in me. While it’s tempting to say it caused the change, I can’t. I don’t know. The post hoc ergo propter hoc logical fallacy prevents me. The pattern (A happened, then B happened, so A must have caused B) holds true sometimes, but most often there is no way to tell.
Before, I had been feeling “beset.” Not a common word, but it seemed the best choice. It means “attacked from all sides,” a bit harsh perhaps, attacked, but all sides definitely. My own doing, of course. I say yes too much, procrastinate often, get distracted easily. So it’s not that there are enemies from without doing me in; I can manage that well enough on my own. The result, however, is no less real even if I am the source of creating my own burdens.
Afterward, that feeling has lapsed into a feeling of peace. It’s not a term I use lightly. Strictly speaking, I wasn’t feeling the lack of peace; it just happens to have been the result. But the joy is real. It’s not that what I knew before was inadequate, either. The Gospel means good news. It is enough.
I’ll just say that without adequate words to describe the difference, I can only say that the confidence, assurance, mindfulness feels new and bright and good. Each of us does so much self-criticism, saying things to ourselves we would never say to anyone else. Perhaps the realization that I am more than what I seem to perceive?
Is this the end of a months-long quest? For now. Lots of good art to see, but, more importantly, kind acts to do. That may be the best outcome, anyway.