GOD NOT SO INVISIBLE
Around last Christmas the Holy Spirit was in the news because film maker Brian Flemming and the highly irrational Rational Response Squad tried to establish an atheists’ campaign, The Blasphemy Challenge, to commit the unpardonable sin of blaspheming the Spirit. Strictly speaking this would only be feasible if you recognized the Spirit exists and wanted to call the goodness and miracles associated with this person of the Christian Trinity, something evil. Atheists don’t even acknowledge the Spirit exists, so mouthing “I deny the Holy Spirit” to You Tube couldn’t really achieve this blasphemy as believers understand it.
Ironically, though, quite a few Christians might as well be saying “I deny the Holy Spirit” for the amount they firmly believe in the Spirit’s existence, while among those who do believe almost nobody claims to have “seen” the Spirit. Apart from charismatics claiming to be overshadowed or possessed by the Spirit the widespread Christian disbelief, or half belief, is perhaps influenced by lack of an imagery to attach to - apart from the dove and the abstract wind and fire.
Yet despite the ancient association of doves with the feminine and Venus, according to Jesus the Spirit is both a person and He, ekeinos (not neuter in line with pneuma in the Greek). In which case what does the Spirit look like and should we have more human images ?
Readers may correct me but I think the modern witness of Sister Prema Pelletier is unique in Christian writing.
A convert to Christianity from Hinduism and now living in Canada she maintains that in the early morning of Nov 22nd 1995 she was shown the Holy Spirit from whom she has moreover received various giftings of a kind one would more usually associate with the saints. I can’t judge the validity of the reported experiences but I do regard the vision as making unexpected sense of sorts. It opens up avenues of thought which I find meaningful in relation to complex ideas and speculations I struggled to convey in my Signs for a Messiah with its symbolic grammar. It also raises anew important questions about the feminine within the divine.
THE SPIRIT APPEARS LIKE...
According to Sister Prema , the Holy Spirit appeared in the figure of a tall imposing man who was followed by a small “angel” perhaps four feet in height. (The angel should surely be described as a cherub and one wonders about an identification of this being with the fiery cherub of St Teresa’s vision where she regards him, though small, as one of the high cherubim). The Holy Spirit as a man however looks quite like Jesus (whom Sister Prema had seen in other visions).
To the extent the Trinity is “one” it would make sense that there should be such similarity. To the surprised Sister Prema, the Spirit appeared like Jesus’ “twin” - though of course it wasn’t a case of identical twins. Their style is different and according to this visionary (if one can summarize in so many words) the Spirit looks less obviously human than Jesus. He is more aerial and “electric”, (almost one might say the spaceman counterpart of Jesus). His eyes open onto infinity; his touch is electric and burning and whereas Jesus has hair that flows down to his shoulders the Spirit has short hair that stands out from his head like short rays or electric sparks.
The latter detail isn’t a minor one if you work a la Jung with archetypal symbolism. I wrote in Signs for a Messiah about Jesus and long hair and mysticism and the accepted symbolism of Neptune that is associated with these. I also wrote about shaved heads and short hair, and also the electrical quality and lightning shock realizations of Spirit in relation to accepted symbolism of Uranus maintaining as I do that the Christian Trinity can equate symbolically/archetypally with the three outer, transpersonal planets, Neptune/Uranus/Pluto. I also wrote of Jesus and Spirit and of Neptune and Uranus as a twin-like pair, to be seen as proceeding from the Ultimate, the Zero/All of God imaged by the Plutonic. And I described Christ as representing the essentially yin, feminine energy of the divine , (even though appearing masculine) over against the yang masculine energy of the Spirit (though identified with the androgynous qualities of Uranus). This ying/yang of Spirit upon the waters is what creates the world in Genesis.
So, obviously I am sympathetic towards what Sister Prema’s vision of the Spirit reveals as it confirms my speculations and symbolic equations. Yet I admit to some difficulties here and almost more for her visionary declarations than my more fluid symbolisms.
THE SPIRIT’S LOVE IS LIKE..
If one maintains in line with the Bible that there is a love of Father and Son, between God and Jesus, then in our emerging picture will we also say there is a love of…..twins….between Jesus and the Spirit and it’s creative for the world? Is one verging here on pseudo- homosexual imagery and claims, especially if one insists upon the electric and frequently androgynous/gay associations of anything Uranian at the more mundane level?
Much could be said on this thorny, complex issue. Here I would simply draw attention to a major thesis of Rictor Norton I cited and summarized in my A Special Illumination/. This teaches that within the history of culture a non biological same sex love in early societies can be considered source and model for later romantic heterosexual love and not vice versa. Certainly the earliest images of woman are less Venusian, sister bride-like and romantic than biologically based, as perhaps they were for the biblical Eve called “the mother of all living”. The earliest, strongest notions of love for heterosexuals were less of the companionate male to female kind than the mother to child kind. Twins, themselves so often an archetype of the homosexual consciousness, contribute hugely to shape love and relationship as we know it. So whatever one’s precise beliefs about God and creation a savour of the homosexual could be associated with the divine archetypally if we take the divine as archetypal for human impulse. But is this right?
WHERE IS THE DIVINE FEMININE LOCATED?
If the historical Jesus is male for all to see while the invisible Spirit is declared by Jesus himself to be male, what hope do we then have of discovering the feminine in God that we are surely meant to find somewhere, even without feminist motivation to do so? After all, though it’s something of a biblical riddle, Wisdom is God’s companion and coworker in creation and She is female. So where is this She who was from the beginning (Prov 8:22-31)? Is She always there, hiding behind or beside God, a sort of potential like Michelangelo’s Eve in his Creation of Adam fresco? Or does She exist in her own right?
Some Jewish and early Christian/Gnostic traditions had it that the Holy Spirit was feminine. It is just possible to read the Hebrew Bible that way, though not strictly the New Testament where Jesus’ words are explicit against the grain of the grammatical to make the point of maleness (and inevitably so if he and the disciples believed the Spirit had engendered him). Recently the American Kittredge Cherry’s novel, Jesus in Love, controversially revives and develops images of the Spirit as feminine. While one may understand the desire today for renewal of such emphasis I myself had never seen the necessity for this particular imaginative/visionary leap because I was prepared to affirm (as in my Signs for a Messiah) that since Jesus is both described and self described as the Sophia (the Wisdom) we could perhaps say that towards the finite Jesus is male but towards the infinite he is somehow female.
This is a bit like making (archetypally speaking) Jesus akin to Plato’s Aphrodite Urania, who paradoxically is, or appears, male. In any case, at least one of the medieval Catholic mystics, Blessed Henry Suso, reported a heavenly vision of Jesus first as male then as a beautiful woman. So maybe Suso saw what God sees, namely Jesus as the Sophia, and “this is my beloved Son” is a concession only to what we necessarily see as earth bound mortals…
ANDROGYNY WITH A GENDER BIAS
However, I am coming round to the idea that what may be involved is something more like an androgyny with bias than the either/or of different faces set towards the finite and the infinite that I have so far hypothesized. I am now thinking more in terms of Jesus and the Spirit being or appearing (and Spirit can take any form as when the Spirit is a dove) essentially androgynous yet predominantly one gender while hiding or implying the other gender which lurks beside or within. Undeniably the historical Jesus appears physically male yet he and his gospel hides a remarkably strong feminine component. Likewise the Spirit is said by Jesus to be, and can be imaged (to Sister Prema at least) as male, yet can hide a feminine “bridal” side that Hebrew tradition has attributed to him.
The reason I incline to this more subtle, fluid view is the result of recent dramatic personal experiences I cannot hope to detail here but which are recorded in my Thunder Perfect Minds book. (I hope this won’t take too long to reach publication given my record for being blocked for the more absurd, irrational kind of excuses that could in certain instances be linked to spiritual blindness and opposition itself ). In the course of the diary I recount extraordinary and shocking moments when I become as aware as it is humanly possible to be so that a barrier is broken and I am having direct contact and communication with God the Father as Father (proof it has to be the biblical God and not the super talkative, distinctly heretical God of Neale Walsch’s Conversations with God is supplied). On one occasion the communication dramatically shifts and something is conveyed that doesn’t fit unless by implication I am being deliberately shown something of the character of God as Mother. Yet this sensed feminine somehow lurks behind, beside, or is temporarily superimposed upon the Father image. You sense it, you don’t see it - unless perhaps you’re Sister Prema permitted to “see” such things and if we can safely assume her vision is valid.
Whatever, I do believe Sister Prema’s vision deserves consideration. It may provide long lost or till now unavailable clues.