Wisdom and Temptation

divine mother as a serpent

The feminine divine is an integral part of Yoga. In Christianity She is slowly moving out from her meek and mild image as Mother Mary, and finding more support in new feminist theology. When I speak of Divine Mother I expand on Mother Mary to include the feminine side of humanity and to acknowledge her as the manifest creation of our reality. One of the ways I recognize Divine Mother is as a serpent. I see Her as the snake who appears in the Garden of Eden but also as the Kundalini serpent regarded as feminine coiled symbolically at the base of spine. The Kundalini system is a path to higher consciousness. In Christian terms the Kundalini is the Soul.

I am both an ordained minister and a practitioner of Yoga. I serve the United Church in southeastern BC, making bridges between the common elements of Yoga and Christian teachings. I encourage people to actively engage in their faith journey and to find the Christ within themselves and others. Because I see little hope for the sustenance of Christianity in our post-Christian era as presented by the traditional mainline church, I bring forward the feminine aspect of the Divine. The church has left Her out of the dance and patriarchy has denied Her unique partnership for too long.

Now why would a United Church minister consider Divine Mother at all? She was not part of any formal training I ever had at seminary. And why do I think of Divine Mother in Her serpentine form? I see Divine Mother's wisdom as a Serpent. I find Her in the Garden of Eden to animate the plot. In the Apostasis of the Archons, an anonymous Gnostic tract written maybe in the 3rd century C.E., She comes as the Female Principle. She is the Instructor. She refutes what God has told Adam and Eve. "With death you shall not die, for it was out of jealousy that he said this to you. Rather, your eyes shall open and you shall come to be like gods, recognizing good and evil."

Humanity is highly susceptible to the serpentine image. As the snake crawls away from the forbidden Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, it is sentenced to live forever on its belly. The doomed creature would live in mortal fear of humankind's imagination. Its potential is belly-down, ground into the dirt for eternity. How could it ever stand upright and reach for the Light? Like a needle on a magnet swings toward north, the finger of accusation swings toward the woman, Eve. The entire Fall is accounted to the serpent and the temptation to which Eve first succumbs. The snake or serpent in the Judeo-Christian tradition begins as neuter (n) and later becomes male (m) and is identified with Satan. Yet Satan is sometimes called Lucifer, which means Light. So the image itself is dual. The snake is both Wisdom and Temptation.

When Jesus goes through his trials in the desert, he is presented with three temptations: turn all these stones into bread, survey all these kingdoms which can be yours, exploit your power to seduce and manipulate others. Divine Mother fiercely challenges Jesus because it is through challenges that She helps us become strong in our purpose. She manifests in ways to make us grow.

The serpent/temptation aspect of Divine Mother must be dealt with first in order to attain a marriage with the Divine. We need to face our own issues through reflection and self-examination and not skirt the challenges. Entering the unknown of our psyche can be very disquieting but not entering the dark night of the Soul is to remain on the horizontal arms of the Cross. Both Kundalini Yoga and the Christian teachings support the view that we have to wrestle with the serpent of Wisdom and Temptation in order to gain heaven. It is She who has the key to the One.

Jesus resists these temptations and gains the strength and conviction to begin his ministry. Jesus, as Wisdom, was with God since the beginning. "The Lord created me at the beginning of his work , the first of his acts of long ago. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth..." (Proverbs 8:22,23). Jesus was and is the female partner in the creative dance of life. Jesus is Divine Mother who has to deal with the vulnerable aspects of himself. To consider Jesus as Mother is only problematic when God is firmly ensconced as male and gender is taken literally. Divine Mother offers Jesus choice just as She offered the same to Eve. She is both the temptations within all of us and the Wisdom of our Higher Selves to choose Life.

The Christian teachings of Jesus the Christ engage the heart (or the 4th chakra in terms of the Kundalini System). It is in the heart where a choice is made to continue up the vertical axis of the Cross or to remain at the horizontal. Jesus offers us a choice at the Crossroads. He testifies on his own behalf saying "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life." (John 8:12) In the end Jesus climbs the Tree as he is nailed to it and bursts forth in his Christ consciousness three days later.

Returning to the scene from the Garden of Eden, what would happen if this same snake coiled herself upwards around the spine of the Tree of Life, forked tongue testing the air, preparing to rise and spiral up toward heaven? Divine Mother as serpent takes a different turn. She is the wellspring of all possibilities in her coiled up position at the base of the spine or the trunk of the tree. We awaken Her by choosing to transcend an exclusively material existence and begin a spiral path toward the Light.

In the temptations of Jesus in the desert must be, as for all of us, something choose against. A Choice implies at least two things to choose from. The more difficult the choice, the sharper the blade of the Soul becomes. The snake sets the scene for choice-making. She spirals up and Her twin spirals down according to our response. That is not to say that choices are right or wrong: they just are. They represent the opposites in life. Without this dualism our customary reality would cease to exist. It is held in tension by Divine Mother as both Temptation and Wisdom.

Divine Mother presents me with the polarities of living. In each of us there are two selves. There are many times when life seems a dangerous and treacherous pilgrimage and I cannot seem to rise above the dirt, and other times when I glimpse my potential and can only stand in awe of what that might be. Divine Mother is the duality of existence. She is beautiful as the Double Serpent.

Divine Mother is often treated the way most people treat a snake. She is negated as we turn away from the "groaning of creation" as St. Paul says: we fear and turn away from the snake. We turn Her beauty into commodities to be bought and sold destroying what is precious, awesome and mysterious about life. We fear the poison that life sends us while we admit that sometimes it is also the poison that cures us.

Not long ago, I saw Divine Mother in the form of a snake. She was as confirmation of a major choice I had made. Part of me was desiring to return to a city, earn more money, gain more prestige, and play with the many opportunities to feed my insatiable ego. I sent out a resume and got to the interview stage. It was then that I changed my mind and decided to remain in rural BC close to my spiritual home. I became instantly aware of the awesome power of choice. I went for a long walk, and as I was crossing the ridge of a hill I noticed a snake lying across my path. She didn't move but tested my presence with her forked tongue. I felt an immediate recognition of confirmation of my choice. I admired her from the bottom of my heart. I connected her with the Kundalini serpent and Divine Mother because it is the power of choice that creates a conscious decision to evolve in this life toward higher consciousness, to activate the rising of the Soul.

Like Jesus, I battle with my own wilderness issues. When once I have made a firm choice, She comes....silently, but with so much power and presence it takes my breath away.
Louise Skibsted is an Anglican Minister living in Creston, BC. She was called to the ministry in 1987, and works to bridge Christian and yogic teachings.

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