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Equality and Pluralism in the Divine Embodied: An Exegesis of The Charge of the Goddess Part IV

In this final part of the exegesis, we will continue to consider the wisdom that the Charge imparts with regard to our daily lives and the broader cycles of change, return, and interconnection. I believe that these last three verses are some of the most beautiful and important verses in the Charge and encourage you to read and consider them carefully.

From Me all things proceed and unto Me they must return. Let My worship be in the heart that rejoices for behold all acts of love and pleasure are My rituals.

The first line of this verse is quite obvious. It is the common understanding that the Divine creates and destroys. This is a cycle of being born and returning into the Divine. But more than this, it is again a reminder that we proceed directly from the Divine and therefore are ourselves a manifestation into the world of that Divine energy, a reflection of the Goddess herself. In the last phrase, the Charge uses the word must. This is a very strong word, and in my view, it is a reminder that those who struggle against the cycle cannot hope to win. One way of applying this idea is in the area of aging. Often we struggle against aging and looking older. The Crone reminds us that we have no choice in the matter of aging, but we do have a choice in how we will do it. The second part of this verse suggests that we can live through our cycles in a way that is peaceful and gentle.

In the next line, we are enjoined to look forward, to create love and pleasure in the world, rather than spend our time trying to make up for all our deficiencies and doing penance for our mistakes. Simple acts then become quite important as acts of ritual. Self-care becomes important. Gentleness towards oneself as one ages, as one makes mistakes and tries to correct them, becomes part of a worshipful way of life. But before we get too self-involved and hedonistic, the Charge offers a qualification in the following verse:

Let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you. And you who seek to know Me, know that your seeking will avail you not, unless you know the Mystery:

In the first line of the verse above, we are given sets of what might look like opposites but in fact are complementary characteristics. These indicate the balance we are to maintain in our daily lives, which will prevent us from veering off into self-worship or self-denigration. We cannot be beautiful or create beauty without the strength to sustain it, or to lose and rebuild it. We cannot wield any kind of power without understanding, compassion, and mercy, particularly for those who have no power. When we are confident and are given honor, we must also remain humble. Humility here is not the self-deprecating humility that most women have learned, but a good understanding of our own limitations and faults. Humility alone is disempowering and often women who have lived in victim-hood or self-deprecation tend to project onto those who are strong and empowered. This verse speaks to such imbalances. Finally, we are enjoined to be both mirthful and reverent — laugh and enjoy but also understand the holiness, the gravity and importance of all that is around us.

In the second line of this verse, the tone becomes more serious. We are all seeking the face of the Divine. And here we are told that the fruits of that seeking will be disappointing unless we can grasp the Mystery. The first step to being able to do that comes from understanding oneself and balancing oneself, as the previous line urges, because we are a reflection of the Divine. It is interesting to note that the Charge only speaks of one Mystery here. Clearly, it is the most important for those who are seeking the face of the Divine. And in the following verse, the Charge reveals what that is.

For if that which you seek you find not within yourself, you will never find it without. For behold, I have been with you from the beginning and I am that which is attained at the end of desire.

The Mystery, which runs across many traditions, is that seeking externally that which you cannot find internally will not avail you. This line echoes the many admonishments over the ages such as "Know Thyself" from the Delphic Oracle or "Tat Vam Asi" (That I am) in Hinduism. Again there is a balance between what we find inside ourselves and what we may find outside. If we cannot find our own divinity, our own connections to the Life force, to each other, we cannot hope to know a Divinity that is exactly that kind of interconnected being. This line tells us that we must understand humanity, know ourselves, and work to create balance and heal ourselves before we can fully understand the Mystery of the Divine. It is not enough to lie prostrate on the temple floor all day. We must go out into the world and go into ourselves and live and seek the Divine. But we are our own compass and map, we are the tool. If that tool is broken, it cannot find that which it seeks, the true North of our soul which is the Divine.

Finally, the Charge comes to an end through a beginning. In this last verse, we are given the teleological reason for all the seeking: the ultimate closing of the large circle of our lives. We proceed from the Divine and throughout our lives we desire to return. We seek the Divine in our lives, we honor it in ourselves. And at the end of all our days, even if we are never able to achieve our own wholeness, we are assured that at the end of desire, we shall once again flow into the Life force and become undifferentiated wholeness with the Divine.

And so as the Charge concludes its cycle, the cycle that was this exegesis is also complete. Because we have few texts of this kind, and even though we must all understand that this was written by a person and that it is not the "word" of the Goddess herself, I think it is a powerful tool that can yield many insights. I hope that the readers will take up the Charge and do their own meditations as I have tried to do.

Graphics Credits

  • window, courtesy of Jason Nelson.
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