by Michael Ketterhagen
“Thus says the wisdom of God: When the Lord established the heavens, I was there. … I was beside him as his craftsman, … playing on the surface of his earth, and I found delight in the human race.” --The Book of Proverbs (NRSV)
This past Sunday I participated in the Eucharistic celebration of the Most Holy Trinity. It is one of the most sacred beliefs in the Christian tradition; namely, the belief that the one God is three persons. This year’s particular celebration began with the above reading from Proverbs. Wisdom was speaking to us humans, in whom “she” delights.
The Yoga Tradition calls the maker of life, the designer and fabricator of all that exists, the Divine Mother. Even though the translation of the Hebrew text above calls “wisdom” by the pronoun “he,” the Hebrew word for “wisdom” is “sophia,” which is feminine. In fact, one of the names for God in the Old Testament is “El-Shaddai,” “Father-Mother God.”
Humans have given many names to each of the Divine forces of nature, attempting to personify those forces so that we as human “persons” can relate to them better. In any case, except for a Middle Ages persistence of calling God “Father,” even Christianity often refers to the Holy Spirit as “she.” In Christianity, the Holy Spirit is the active creative force of nature/reality, the activity of God, the Father, in the physical world. This is another attempt to personify the activity of God in human life.
All change, all the forces of nature which carry out the will of the Creator, is the function of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Blessed Trinity. Yoga gives the name “Shiva” to that force of change in the universe and calls the “power” of that change agent, “Shakti.” Often, Shiva and Shakti are pictured together as one, or talked about as two separate expressions of the Divine Mother. In Christianity, they are joined as well with the phrase “the power of the Holy Spirit.”
The triad of Divine names—Brahman, Vishnu and Shiva—in the morning prayers of the Yoga tradition are considered sacred persons, corresponding to the persons of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in Christianity. They are considered intelligent separate realities, yet one.
This similarity in the identification of the forces of nature, the aspects of reality—the Creative Force called the Creator, the changing quality of life called the Sanctifier, and the force of Love which sustains and holds everything together/maintains everything—has fascinated me.
Then, when I realized that the Latin word for “person” is “persona,” which translates as “mask,” I began to see more clearly how our human desire to relate to life personifies those forces which are often out of our control. The names are masks for the forces of the reality that we experience. They are the names for the changes that enter our lives every second of the day, the creative nature of reality always present, the destructive nature of reality that confounds us when we want things to always stay the same. Our desire to identify and unite with God is the reason we have named those forces which are out of our control.
Therefore, it makes sense when the spiritual traditions of Christianity and Yoga tell us to “surrender to the will of God,” or “Ishvara pranidhana (surrender to the highest Good)” that they are actually urging us to surrender to life as it unfolds. We are surrendering to Reality and Its Forces. We are surrendering to Life!
The next step in our spiritual understanding of our life and existence is becoming aware of our participation in those forces of nature, our Unity with Reality, The Divine Mother, who is Wisdom and who delights in us!
I pray to the divinity in you!