Do I Believe in Go(d)dess(es)?

My sister and her husband came over for dinner on New Years Day. While we live in the same city, we actually hadn’t seen each other much for a couple of months. Because of this we ended up exchanging Hanukkah gifts that night. One of my gifts to my sister was a copy of Magickal Judaism. She had wanted a copy of the book, not because she’s particularly interested in the subject matter — but because she thought it was cool her sister was in it.

This lead to a fairly surprising conversation, given that my sister is pretty much an atheist. No, she is an atheist. What’s surprising is that her non-belief is as centered and rational as my belief. Most people I meet who are atheists are so in a reactionary way. They’ve suffered a trauma and it caused them to lose faith. My sister and I are polar opposites on this, because she never had faith or any interest in things spiritual. While I’ve always had a spiritual leaning. Her lack of need for spiritual discovery astounds me. She really doesn’t seem to need it. This all being said, she’s also very active in a variety of social causes and has worked in the non-profit sector for years. She dedicates herself to making the world a better place. How Jewish is that!?!

But I digress. We started discussing God. What I realized is that her understanding and definition of God is a very common one, but one that I do not see, feel, experience and certainly don’t believe in. It’s very much the old man/woman who looks down on the world and plays us like chess pieces. Okay, maybe it’s not that extreme. But here’s the main issue. She insisted that God has to have a consciousness the way we understand it, which I think is what most Americans and many others believe.

The thing is that I don’t “believe” in God. I experience Divine energy. It’s not about belief. I feel, smell, and hear it. It’s something that I can not easier dismiss than the sunrising in the morning. It just is. But, that Divinity is not necessarily conscious on a human level. I’ve always felt that God is really a sacred fire that can emanate and appear in a variety of forms. It’s one of the reasons that I love the kabbalistic concept of Ein Sof. Ein Sof has no consciousness, it just is. Ein Sof as the energy expands from Ein Sof it can take a variety of forms, from a rainbow to a pillar of fire or an angel, and manifest itself to humanity. These are not Ein Sof — they are a part of Ein Sof, but not the whole. They are both independent and part of a great whole, just like mitochondria of our cells can operate independently our conscious minds.

So this leads to another question. If I don’t believe in a conscious God, why do I pray? I had an epiphany about this today. I don’t pray TO God. I pray WITH God. By praying I send my intention, my will my kavanah out to the Divine energy in hopes that it will sway it in one direction or another. Some many times in life, it just comes down to asking for what you want — so of course I pray. If I don’t, I can’t add my energy to all the other energy pulsing through the world.

How can he not believe that God is real,
I don’t understand how he could feel that way. When
There’s earth air water and fire.
So many different flowers, sunshine and rain shower,
So many different crystals and hills and volcanoes.

That’s how I know that God is real
— India.Arie (listen to a clip on Amazon)

So in the end, I don’t believe in God. I feel her/him with every fiber of my being. Maybe not every moment of every day, but that’s what prayer and ritual exist for — to allow us to remember. At Hanukkah this year I decided to physically do a re-dedication. Every night of the holiday I went outside to my circle space and gave offerings of wheat, barley and olive oil. I announced to the world that a great miracle happened there! I then announced that a great miracle lives here! Sparks of the Divine, God – the great unknowable fire, dwell in the world and in everyone and everything — and so I dedicated that space that earth as my temple. And I assure you that by the last two nights, I felt the Shekhinah, the manifest presence of Ein Sof, with out any question. I do not believe she was there. I do not believe I felt something. I know what happened. I know that chills ran up my spine and that the world around me grew crystal clear for a few moments. It’s not about belief.

[tags]hashem, god, goddess, faith, belief, judaism, shekhinah[/tags]

9 Comments

  1. Aron Gamman /

    I find these issues have a lot of to with why discussing religion can be so difficult. As you do, often if someone asks me if I beleive in God, would answer no but…I experience God . That's like asking if I believe in oxygen or food.

    But you get into complicated topics, here. I think when people ask you what you believe, they to some extent are asking what's important to you. That's why at times, I prefer to say yes but…rather than no.

  2. Carly (Chava Chai - /

    Aaron,

    That's why I do generally just say yes. It's the simplest answer and that's really what most people want.

    It was really interesting though, to engage on this topic with someone like my sister, who was looking for more than just a simple answer.

  3. You should watch "Diary of a Country Priest" by Robert Bresson (a french film) to further this discussion.

  4. Carly (Chava Chai - /

    Consider it added to the Netflix queue!

  5. Shmualaw (Sydney) /

    I was fascinated to read what you said, Carly….especially so because it is so similar to my thoughts, also, as a pagan and as a Jew-

    B'SHALOM

  6. Carly (Chava Chai - /

    Sydney! Good to "see" you again!

  7. See, this is why my lack of dogma has become almost a stringent requirement of my faith system: the belief in what I call the "Michaelangelo God" (the white bearded man in the sky) presupposes that you have no direct experience, and that's why the faith is so important. That you cannot see or experience God makes the belief in an absolutely transcendent person-God necessary. So when you say, "I experience 'God-ness' within my everyday life," that seems really weird to people whose basis for faith is that they are believing in that which the eye has not seen. Once you go outside and your eye beholds God, and you know you have seen God somewhere — even if invisible! — this sort of Michaelangelo God makes much less sense. And it's hard to explain sometimes, but you did an absolutely wonderful job of it.

  8. Your piece about knowing rather than believing resonates in me completely; I share absolutely what you write here. Hello, sister!

    Many years ago I wrote a poem:

    First God

    I have met him
    in myself,
    roaring through
    my wholeness
    in a ceaseless torrent
    of love
    like wonderful dysentery
    just coming
    and coming,
    but needing
    a recepticle
    to rest in,
    to empower –
    to live out
    its vitality
    its essence
    itself,
    me,
    God.

    I have known this always.

    I also love that you wroite that you pray with rather tyhsan to God. Yes. And sometimes we pray AS God.