Invocation to the Holy Shekinah
Kodesh Imma, Kodesh Kallah
Holy Mother, Holy Bride,
We invite you, we welcome you –
Ruach Ha-Elijah (Spirit of the Prophets)
Ruach Ha-Enoch (Spirit of the Initiates)
Ruach Ha-Messiah (Spirit of the Anointed)
Ruach Ha-Kodesh (Holy Spirit)
O Queen of Heaven and Earth
We open our minds and hearts and lives to you,
And pray you enter and indwell;
Uplift us now into the Bridal Chamber,
Bring us into the embrace of the Beloved,
So that we might put on our Supernal Image,
To shine with Light above and below;
Be the Divine Spirit, inwardly illuminating us with the Living Word
And in this way lead us in the path of righteousness,
So that we might be a sign of hope to the people,
In good times and bad;
We pray for the liberation of the people and the land from all darkness;
We pray for the healing of all illness and dis-ease;
We pray for the Divine Illumination of all living spirits and souls!
May all holy sparks be gathered in; May the Divine Light shine forth!
We pray for the resurrection and ascension of this Good Earth;
Amen and amen.
Shekinah: The Presence of Divinity
by Rev. Mark Raines
Shekinah – also spelled Shekhina, Shekhinah, Shekina, and Shechina – is known in the Qabalah, an ancient form of Jewish mysticism, as one of the emanations of God and the actual Presence of God. The belief was that one could not see God in Its fullness, but could see the emanation of God, Shekinah. When Moses asked to see God, it was Shekinah that he saw. Shekinah is also the consort, or Bride, of God. As such, she is Mother to us all, just as God is our Father.
In earlier times, God was seen as either dwelling in the clouds or in high places like mountains or very high hills. With the construction of the Ark of the Covenant, and then the construction of the Temple, a part of the Godhead came to dwell in the Ark and then in the Temple. This could not be the male God, the God of the Sky and of High Places. So Shekinah, formerly known as Asherah, a Goddess of Earth and Sea, came to dwell in the Ark of the Covenant and then in the Temple.
Originally it was Asherah who dwelled in the Temple as the Bride of God, His representative there. But after the “reforms” of King Josiah, Asherah worship was forbidden in the Temple. Still, the Jews knew that their Lady was still living there as their Queen and the representative of El, their God. So Asherah evolved. She began to be seen as the presence of God, and less as a separate entity. She became Shekinah, which means something like She who dwells (from the Hebrew shakhan, which means the act of dwelling). However, Asherah did not really change. She was always the representative of Her Husband, just as He was always HER representative. She, an Earth Goddess, was also Queen of Heaven. He, as Sky God, was also Ruler of Earth. This occurred only through Their marriage. So, it was not really that Asherah worship ever changed much within Judaism, or that Asherah Herself changed; only, it was made to look like it had changed to fool the patriarchal priests.
Unfortunately, Shekinah has been all but lost to Christianity. Elements of Her remain in Mother Mary, who was perhaps Shekinah’s incarnation. Mary Theotokos, as She is called, actually held the presence of God (Yeshua) within Her. She is known as the Queen of Heaven, but she is the representative of God to us and delivers our prayers to Him, according to Catholic tradition. Her apparitions are much more frequent than the apparitions of Yeshua, and the Father never appears. It seems that She is truly His representative to us, because (as we know) She is His Bride.
The union of Shekinah and El was never more evident than in the Sabbath. She is known as the Sabbath Bride, or the Sabbath Queen. Each week on the Sabbath, God and Goddess, El and Shekinah, act out the Song of Songs. One rabbi called that holy book the “Holy of Holies” of the Bible! Now take a look at this passage from the Zohar (the holy book of the Qabalah), called the Secret of the Sabbath, which tells us all about the Sabbath Queen:
THE SECRET OF SABBATH
The Secret of Sabbath:
She is Sabbath!
United in the secret of One
to draw down upon Her
the secret of One.
The prayer for the entrance of Sabbath:
The holy Throne of Glory is united in the secret of One,
prepared for the High Holy King to rest upon Her.
When Sabbath enters She is alone,
separated from the Other Side,
all judgments removed from Her.
Basking in the oneness of holy light,
She is crowned over and over to face the Holy King.
All powers of wrath and masters of judgment flee from Her.
Her face shines with a light from beyond;
She is crowned below by the holy people,
and all of them are crowned with new souls.
Then the beginning of prayer to bless Her with joy and beaming faces:
Barekbu ET YHVH ha-Mevorakh,
“Bless ET YHVH, the-Blessed One,”
ET YHVH, blessing Her first.
(*ET-YHVH is another name for ‘Shekinah’ (the feminine Divine Presence). In the Kabbalah, ET stands for Aleph to Tav, like our Alpha to Omega, or A to Z. Here ET refers to the song itself as the ultimate speech, hymn or prayer. According to the notes of Daniel Chanan Matt’s translation, this passage from the ZOHAR is recited in the Sephardic liturgy on Sabbath Eve.)
1. Shekhina, from Encyclopedia Mythica
2. Wisdom of Shekinah, by WOW Institute (no longer on line)
3. The Secret of Sabbath From the Zohar, ancient Kabbalistic inspired writings — zohar.com. Daniel Chanan Matt also uses this verse in his book Zohar, the Book of Enlightenment
Song of Creation
by Linda Sillitoe
Who made the world, my child?
Father made the rain
silver and forever.
drew riverbeds and hollowed seas,
drew riverbeds and hollowed seas
to bring the rain home.
Father bridled winds, my child,
to keep the world new.
fire free from stones
and breathed it strong and dancing,
and breathed it strong and dancing
the color of her hair.
He armed the thunderclouds
rolled out of heaven;
Her finger flickered
weaving the delicate white snow,
weaving the delicate white snow,
a waterfall of flowers.
And if you live long, my child,
you’ll see snow burst
and lightening in the snow
listen to Mother and Father laughing,
listen to Mother and Father laughing
behind the locked door.
There is one Christian denomination with the possibility of developing an egalitarian theology that includes Abba and Eema: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church. Official LDS teaching states that human beings existed prior to their physical birth as spiritual beings, and that we as spiritual beings lived as the divine children of a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother. The doctrine of a Heavenly Mother was taught to a few members by LDS founder Joseph Smith. One of these members was his wife, Eliza R. Snow, who wrote the first public declaration of belief in the LDS Heavenly Mother with the poem, “Invocation – or the Eternal Father and Mother.” This is now the hymn, “O My Father.” Unfortunately, the LDS is primarily run by men, and those men refuse to go much further with a thealogy of the Heavenly Mother. They cite an absence of scriptural evidence for Her (even though there are numerous references in the Bible and in the Book of Mormon). Citing lack of scriptural evidence is illogical, because according to the LDS, revelation is still coming to their church. The LDS refuses to allow private revelation on the subject however, issuing an order that no LDS member should pray to or about Heavenly Mother to obtain revelation from or about Her. Like most of Christianity, the LDS leadership has rejected Eema. Fortunately, however, there are many members of the LDS who are unhappy with this. Perhaps there will be a revolution in the LDS, which will allow for an egalitarian theology at last.
So we have seen that Eema is struggling to maintain Her presence in the pistic (mainstream lopsided) Christian churches. But what about in Esoteric Christianity?
She need not struggle with us! She is found in many forms within Esoteric Christianity. We see her as Asherah, the great Canaanite Goddess worshiped early on in the Hebrew tribe. We see her as Shekinah, the Feminine Presence of Godhead and Great Mother. We see her as Mary, the incarnation of Shekinah and Mother of Yeshua, the Queen of Heaven and Earth and our Mediatrix. Sometimes we see Her in the images of Sophia and Mary Magdalene, though They are most often associated with the Daughter Goddess. We see Her in Eloah, feminine counterpart of El, present and active at creation. We see Her throughout all time in many forms, but through past, present, and future She will always be simply, Our Mother.
Thanks to Soror Amber Satterwhite for her essay, God the Mother in Mormonism, which gave me much of the information about the LDS and the Heavenly Mother.
O my Father, thou that dwellest
In the high and glorious place,
When shall I regain thy presence
And again behold thy face?
In thy holy habitation,
Did my spirit once reside?
In my first primeval childhood,
Was I nurtured near thy side?
For a wise and glorious purpose
Thou hast placed me here on earth
And withheld the recollection
Of my former friends and birth;
Yet ofttimes a secret something
Whispered, “You’re a stranger here,”
And I felt that I had wandered
From a more exalted sphere.
I had learned to call thee Father,
Thru thy Spirit from on high,
The Shekinah of Esoteric Judaism
by John Nash excerpted from Reflections on the Divine Feminine
The Shekinah, first discussed in the Talmud, is the embodiment of divine glory, God’s presence in the world. She was betrothed to the Holy One, Blessed be He. However, she was exiled, lost in the wilderness, and defiled as the result of humanity’s fall from grace. The faithful was charged with finding the Shekinah, adorning her for the wedding, and presenting her to her bridegroom The relationship between the Shekinah and her bridegroom is depicted well in the Qabalah. The Shekinah is associated with the divine emanation of Malkuth, and the Holy One with Tiphareth. In the Christian Qabalah, Tiphareth is identified with Jesus Christ. In both the Judaic and the Christian traditions, the goal of spiritual development is to raise the consciousness from Malkuth to Tiphareth, restoring the Shekinah to her rightful place with the Holy One.
Qabalists insist that all the emanations on the Tree of Life are all divine. In particular, they insist that the physical world is divine. Indeed, the very essence of the Shekinah is an expression of the immanence of God, the Glory of God in the natural world. Her role, in relationship to her bridegroom, finds an echo in many traditions in which the feminine aspect of God is identified with the earth, and the male aspect with the sky. For example, the Essenes spoke of the Heavenly Father and the Earthly Mother. Hindus identify the Brahman as the unknowable Godhead, and mother Maya with physical existence.
Some critics have complained that the portrayal of a goddess as a bride is demeaning: that a bride is somehow inferior to a bridegroom. Significantly, it was the Shekinah who was lost in the wilderness, not the Holy One. However, we may ask why the Holy One never went looking for her. He comes across as a passive, somewhat ineffective figure. For her part, the Shekinah did not abandon fallen humanity but chose to share its suffering, while the Holy One remained aloof. To that extent, the Shekinah served the same compassionate role as the Egyptian Isis, the Tibetan Buddhist Tara, or the Virgin Mary of Christianity.
There is no need to deny that the bride goddesses were, to a great extent, the products of male devotion. The Shekinah was created—or should we rather say discovered—by rabbinic scholars in a society of rigid gender roles. But we must also recognize that the rabbis accorded her the highest honors of their culture. She was adorned, she was beautiful, and she was sought-after. Moreover, the Shekinah was not forced into virginity. Later Qabalistic tradition has the Shekinah and the Holy One united in sexual fulfillment at midnight on the Sabbath. The healthy persona of the Shekinah reflects the principle—stressed in esoteric Judaism—that men and women are incomplete without the other and that both can joyfully and spiritually come together in marital union.
But until the key of knowledge was restored,
I knew not why.
In the heav’ns are parents single?
No, the thought makes reason stare!
Truth is reason; truth eternal
Tells me I’ve a Mother there.
When I leave this frail existence,
When I lay this mortal by,
Father, Mother, may I meet you
In your royal courts on high?
Then, at length, when I’ve completed
All you sent me forth to do,
With your mutual approbation
Let me come and dwell with you.
“‘What,’ says one, ‘do you mean we should understand that Deity consists of man and woman?’ Most certainly I do. If I believe anything that god has ever said about himself, and anything pertaining to the creation and organization of man upon the earth, I must believe that Deity consists of man and woman….there can be no god except he is composed of the man and woman united, and there is not in all the eternities that exist, nor ever will be, a God in any other way….There never was a God, and there never will be in all the eternities, except they are made of these two component parts; a man and a woman; the male and the female” (Journal of Discourses, 3 March 1878, 19:269-70).
Since there is such a lack of a real theology surrounding Heavenly Mother, the few authoritative statements we have about Her role tend to be based on individual men’s views of the role of women. Some LDS General Authorities have characterized Heavenly Mother as simply a baby-maker, others as just one of many polygamous wives, others as a refined spiritual nurturer devoid of sexuality. Instead of asking Heavenly Mother who She is and what She does, and seeing Her as a model of true womanhood, the Mormon leadership tends to model Heavenly Mother after the image of Her mortal daughters, who themselves are imperfect representations of a greater, yet unknown, Being. When the membership asks for further clarification on the matter, the Brethren make it clear that all that will be given (sometimes qualifying the statement with “at this time”), has been given. This, in turn, raises suspicions regarding the Brethren’s motives among many members of the Church. After all, as one Mormon feminist wrote, the doctrine of a Heavenly Mother “is a truth from which, when fully realized, the perfect ’emancipation’ and ennobling of woman will result” (“The Divine Feminine”, Deseret News, 28 Apr 1902). It is hard to believe the Lord would not want to reveal this sacred truth and accomplish this worthy goal. It makes one ask, “Is the Lord not revealing, or are the Brethren not asking? And if they’re not asking, why do they not want an answer?”
The Mormon leadership’s primary excuse for not developing this theology of God the Mother further is the absence of Her presence in scripture. An LDS seminary teacher in the 1960’s explained:
“Considering the way man has profaned the name of God, the Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ, is it any wonder that the name of our Mother in Heaven has been withheld, not to mention the fact that the mention of Her is practically nil in scripture?” (Melvin R. Brooks, “LDS Reference Encyclopedia” [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1960] 309-310).
I reject this argument for two reasons. First, it assumes that Heavenly Mother is not mentioned in LDS scripture, when She is. Mosiah 8:20, 2:36, Helaman 12:5, and 2 Nephi 21:2 (all in the Book of Mormon), speak of a Wisdom Goddess closely related to the 32 Paths of the Jewish Kabbalah. Brother Daniel C. Peterson examines the connections of this Goddess to Nephi’s vision of the Tree of Life quite well in his article “Nephi & His Asherah”, Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Volume 9, Number 2. Doctrine and Covenants 84:99-102 and 88:40-47 speak of Her in more Pagan terms, equating Her with both the Earth and the Moon and alluding to her daughters’ priestesshood. Furthermore, the Holy Bible, also considered authoritative scripture in the LDS religion, is replete with mention of our Heavenly Mother, some of it much more explicit than the above examples from Latter-day scripture. These references have been explained in great detail by many Christian feminist theologians, and have shown a picture of a Heavenly Mother intimately involved with the spiritual history of Her earth-bound children. Brother Brooks’ argument is also a strange attitude to be found in Mormonism since its scriptural canon, perhaps unlike any other Christ-centered religion, is still open. Latter-day Saints can and do continue to expand their doctrinal understanding and beliefs through continuing revelation. The fact that a particular principle hasn’t been taught in scripture yet is no reason to believe that it shouldn’t be taught.
Also, Brother Brooks’ argument assumes that knowledge of our Heavenly Mother is unnecessary for the spiritual progression of the children of God. I vehemently disagree with this notion. An exceptional number of LDS men and women have stood up and said that we do need Her. LDS theology teaches, after all, that we are to strive to become as our Heavenly Parents are. It also teaches that Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother have unique male-female roles, roles that we are bound to take up and emulate after our own sex. Yet, the men are given their example to follow in the person of their Heavenly Father, but the women are given little to no example of their role as women by being withheld from an equally clear concept of their Heavenly Mother. The prophets of the LDS Church have lauded motherhood as the singularly most important role in all the eternities; but it is divine fatherhood, not motherhood, which is represented the most. It is hard to believe that women’s roles are just as important as men’s in LDS theology when the male example is given much greater weight than the female example. It is hard to understand the LDS Church’s emphasis on “nuclear” families when the eternal family it sets as an example, for all intents and purposes, is the household of a single Father, whose Mother does not reveal Herself to Her children, and whose children are not to speak to Her.
The quandary this presents for some members of the LDS Church has led many to seek a personal relationship with their Heavenly Mother to know Her as they know their Heavenly Father. Mormonism, after all, not only believes in continuing revelation, but personal revelation, especially in matters of personal importance that may not be pertinent to the Church as a whole or that the leadership might not have reason to explore. Members are then free to seek answers for their personal questions through private prayer and study, and many members have begun to do this in regard to the question of our Heavenly Mother. However, perhaps in one of the few times in LDS history, the leaders of the Church have essentially issued a “gag order” on any personal revelation of the sort.
In the early years of the Church, Elder Orson Pratt forbade worship or prayer to Heavenly Mother through the following reasoning:
“The Father of our spirits is the head of His household and his wives and children are required to yield the most perfect obedience to their great Head. It is lawful for the children to worship the King of Heaven, but not the ‘Queen of heaven’…. Jesus prayed to His father, and taught His disciples to do likewise; but we are nowhere taught that Jesus prayed to His Heavenly Mother. (Orson Pratt, “Celestial Marriage”, The Seer 1 (Oct. 1853):159).
The present Prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley, has taken a similar stance by saying he considers it “inappropriate” for any member of the Church to pray to our Mother in Heaven, and has instructed the priesthood of the Church to take disciplinary action against any members who attempt to do so. During the early 1990’s he spearheaded the excommunication of several Mormon feminists, such as Maxine Hanks and Janice Allred, for opposing this policy by examining and developing an LDS theology of the Divine Feminine and practicing private worship of our Heavenly Mother together with our Heavenly Father.
This position is opposed to the Apostle Rudger Clawson, however, when he taught, “It doesn’t take from our worship of the Eternal Father, to adore our Eternal mother, any more than it diminishes the love we bear our earthly fathers, to include our earthly mother in our affection” (“Our Mother in Heaven”, Latter-day Saints Millenial Star 72 [29 Sept 1910]: 619-20). He points out that men are just as much in need of a Heavenly Mother as women and children are. If our Heavenly Mother is truly the equal of our Heavenly Father, and our Heavenly Father deserves our worship because He is our Divine Father, it would logically follow that our Divine Mother deserves the same regard. To teach otherwise not only makes inequalities in heaven, it also justifies them on earth. After all, the relationship between our Heavenly Parents is the perfect model for husband-wife relationships here on earth. As men are made in Heavenly Father’s image here on earth, so are women made in Heavenly Mother’s image. Our image of Her dictates the role of women in mortality. If that role is subservient and devoid of respect and power, then that is the attitude we will have toward mortal women as well. If Heavenly Mother is silent, unapproachable, and beyond mystery in heaven, is it any wonder that Her earthly daughters also feel ignored, silenced, and misunderstood, too?
It is disappointing that in a day when other Christian denominations, from Roman Catholics to Methodists to Lutherans, are incorporating a theology of a Divine Mother into their view of Deity, that the LDS Church, who was perhaps the first Christian denomination in 2,000 years to openly declare such a doctrine, is regressing to a near-denial of Her. The personal experiences of thousands of Latter-day Saints have declared that She is ready to reveal Herself, that She has always been with us, working for our good, that She is ready to welcome us into Her arms and love us as only a Mother can do. I could ask why, then, are the leaders of the Church not responding to this call, and punishing those who do? What is holding us back from a definitive revelation of God the Mother, or at least permission to pursue such revelation personally, for our own individual benefit as sons and daughters of the Goddess?
When I ask this question I am reminded of how men of color were denied the priesthood in the LDS Church for decades based on much the same justifications I have enumerated above. Many members of the Church, even Apostles and prophets, sincerely believed that black men would never receive the priesthood based on supposed scriptural injunctions against the “seed of Cain.” Many cited a lack of definitive revelation on the subject and explained a host of other seemingly reasonable arguments to deny this righteous body of members the benefits of ministering the everlasting priesthood of God to their families. When the proper time came, however, when the membership of the Church could at last set aside their prejudices which were conditioned by the unrevealed tenets of their society and accept men of color as being worthy of the priesthood, without that same membership taking part in a major apostasy which would have severely crippled the work of the Lord in the latter-days, the righteous black men of our Church were finally ordained. It was discovered shortly thereafter that Joseph Smith himself had ordained at least one black man to the priesthood in Nauvoo, suggesting that this was not a “new” revelation at all, but a principle meant to be a restored tenet of the Gospel from the beginning. It also suggests that perhaps the “proper time” for the President of the Church and the Quorum of the Twelve to receive and issue this revelation had less to do with the will of the Lord to change the bigoted policy than it had to do with the membership’s and leadership’s willingness to receive it and act on it.
So it is with the revelation of our Heavenly Mother. She is already there, in our scriptures, in our modern revelations, in our history and traditions, in our lives, and sometimes even in our hearts, when we allow Her. It is this allowance the membership of the Church must be willing to make before its leaders will be enabled to receive the revelation that will make Her more knowable to all the Latter-day Saints as a Church body. In the meantime, we must question if denying our ability to communicate and reverence Her is really the best way to begin that welcoming. As so many have already done and continue to do, we must have the courage to be the voice in the desert who cries for the Rose to bloom. Someday, perhaps, this cry will become a chorus of voices, singing the praises of our Father and our Mother in Heaven, just as Eliza Snow wrote it. [Read Eliza Snow’s entire poem, O My Father]