How Pogo's iconic statement* speaks for all of us, and all about finding the Sacred Mother within
Cartoonist Walt Kelly published the above when I was just eighteen. Pogo was a swamp-dwelling Louisiana possum, and Kelly's characters were imbued with considerable wisdom. Of all his work, the above Walt Kelly cartoon is the one I've seen quoted most, simply because it's true.
Lately I've been doing a dance with both the sacred and the profane, and the cartoon came to mind. Here's why.
For whatever reason I've been on a devil kick lately. Netflix has recently released Dracula, The Exorcist (by far the best of its genre) and The Rite, which, since Sir Anthony Hopkins was in it, I had to watch. It's a pale copy of Blatty's Exorcist but still, unsettling. It's deeply satisfying to believe that the Devil in all his finery and the demons of hell are creatures outside of ourselves, sent in some way to tempt us and lead us to perdition.
It's in organized religion's best interest to promote this idea, just as it is an equally good sales pitch to say that a savior (name your invisible man in the sky) is also outside of ourselves and sent in some way to save us and lead us to heaven.
I struggle mightily with both ideas. They are entertaining at best, and misleading in the muddy middle. Worst of all they distract us from the truth, which is both very simple and deeply uncomfortable:
It's all inside us. Nowhere else.
If you are any kind of student of religion, one of the most potent themes is that, using Christian language, the kingdom of heaven lies within.
That said, it stands to reason that if the sacred lies within us, and I most assuredly believe it does, than its twin is also true: the profane does as well, and those warring factions battle within us every single day. We lose that battle every time we absolve ourselves from the responsibility to face off with the demons which inhabit the basement of our subconscious, and fail to call upon the immense power of the sacred which also lives in the same house.
This article was inspired by a comment from Saga supporter Nurit Amichai. On a recent Medium article, she wrote:
In our search for that Sacred Mother figure, we may well have to turn to one another and recognize that it is us.
I couldn't agree more. Whether or not you happen to believe in or feel at ease with the Sacred Mother concept, the notion that she is us and we are Her is felt by those women who have done considerable Deep Work and have realized that there is no saving to be done by some Disney Prince or even a well-intentioned Shrek ogre (yeah so okay that was also on Netflix recently). That's ours to do.
What is also true, and part of what Nurit is addressing here, is that extraordinary opportunity to recognize, acknowledge and draw from that sacred within each other.
I powerfully believe that all of us are animated by the spark of the sacred. When we take the time to discover it inside us, instead of running around looking for some savior to do all our dirty work and make life easier in return (not happening, man), we transform not only ourselves but those around us.
To quote another phrase that I grew up with: God helps those who help themselves. This is immensely appealing, and speaks to the luminous works of the great Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore, but that's another article.
We are all gods and goddesses in training in some sense. Saga Supporter Jim Stutsman wrote in a comment that I saw last night about how he is spending his final years focusing on kindness and making a difference. So many of us, as we evolve into our fullest selves later in life, are better able to set aside the petty and focus instead on Deep Work, which involves letting go of much of what animated us early on. Those are part of our evolution; most of us pay the price of ambition or lack thereof, bad habits, bad behavior, etcetera.
At some point, if we are in fact motivated by the idea of Something Higher, and I most certainly am, we may well have wandered through all manner of belief systems and holy books and organizations and temples and churches in search of that very thing. That is most certainly my journey. That doesn't make me right; it only makes me a very serious seeker. The bookcase in my bedroom is jammed with books from every religion and books on religious history.
I am seriously interested in this stuff, for I truly believe that our human journey is much improved when we can make peace with what dogs us from inside, and rise to the sacred invitation which also lives inside each of us.
In both The Rite and The Exorcist, the stories focus on a brilliantly capable psychological manipulator, the devil or one of his demons, who uses lies mixed with just enough truth to do terrible damage to the resolve of those very priests trying hard to exorcise the cretin from an innocent.
That is precisely how the mind works. If you look at what drives us to distraction, those thoughts which cause some of us to consider suicide, that is how our self-talk operates. There's just enough truth so that the messaging sounds accurate, mixed in with lies about our worthlessness, so that the entire message has the ring of Great Truth. Nobody is better at eviscerating us than us. We know our soft bellies, our tender hearts and our great insecurities, our doubts.
Our own minds house the most evil of all demons, for they are privy to what pains us most. While you and I might have learned the language of self-hate from our families, churches, guardians, friends, partners et. al., they only take up permanent residence when we feed them regularly. All those folks did was cascade the language they learned from folks before them.
You likely have heard the story told by the tribal elder to a young boy about the two dogs who fight inside us. One is good, one is evil, the story goes. When the child asks which one wins, the elder says, the one you feed.
There is no greater truth.
Nurit goes on to say this:
Maybe it’s just time that you, me, and other women like us own our place in life and in the lives of other women, without arrogance but with confidence and love.
This is just as relevant for men as it is for women. The Sacred Mother is that nurturing, vulnerable, fertile and all-encompassing energy which has since the beginning of all worship represented Life itself, birth, renewal, the numinous aspects of passage of life into Something Else. She/It is part of all of life, and is not the exclusive property of the female.
Saga Supporter Nalini McNab writes about this regularly, and is another source of information and inspiration on the topic.
For what people refer to as Divine Mother is life on earth, at least for me. The sacred promise of Something Else is what perhaps lies beyond physical life. I have no clue and am quite happy to live in the question. I dunno. That keeps me teachable and reachable, which is that Sacred Mother energy which receives.
Nurit's comment brought up a piece by another Medium writer, Elle Beau:
Elle does a superb job of addressing some of what gets in the way of our being able to see the sacred in each other because of sick social constructs, the power dynamic and the cost to each of us.
This is food for thought, as always inspired by comments by people I respect. I make no argument that I am right, only that this is how I frame things. However, psychology will bear me out in much of what I've written above. The rest, we have to feel our own ways forward.
That said, Nurit's quote that we really do have to acknowledge the Sacred Mother in each other applies most certainly to all of us women. Doing so ends the constant internecine war within our own gender, a war which has caused untold damage to us and all our girl children of all races and cultures as well as to the men we love.
It also applies to that vulnerable and receptive part of all men, the twin to the male energy which we women also embody when we must set boundaries, protect our bodies, our children and our lives from those who are so thoroughly inhabited by their demons that we aren't safe in the world. Men who are out of touch with the Sacred Mother are everywhere, and the results of that truncated, damaged self are evident in every war photo that ever hit the newsstands. The women who enable them are equally out of touch.
Nobody is coming to save them. Nobody is coming to save you or me. That is work that only we can do for ourselves.
I was listening to reports from Ukraine as I drove back from the beach yesterday. Last night I reread Nurit's comments and some from my readers. Those are what inspired this article. The older I get, the more I feel embraced by the very Mother who surrounds us with all that is beautiful on this earth, that those who have no relationship with Her are all too happy to destroy. The closer I get to leaning myself into the softness of her final embrace, the more I focus on the exquisite beauty, power and gift that is life, and what we are doing with it.
The quality of our existence on this beautiful, troubled bubble comes down to the same thing over and over: it depends on which dog we feed.
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*I am informed by this article as to the use of the cartoon image. It is for educational purposes only.