She had not really accepted that her body was female. Such a body had no validity, it was not the real thing. Yet here she was apparently pregnant. Her abdomen was beginning to bulge in a very unfamiliar way. She looked at it in amazement. That amazement in itself was one story, but it was one that could not be thought through right now. The story most pressing was, what was she going to do? She was young, single, a college student. Would she tell her mother? Would she marry the father?
She was of spiritual inclination … a Christian hippie variety; sufficiently hippie to allow her to fall into bed with her bloke, sufficiently Christian to cut her off from the acceptance of it. She really did love him, he was everything she could have wanted. In fact she had really saved herself for such a one. And in contrast to her self image that developed in later years, she had no thought of being inadequate or not good enough for this love, or for him. The spiritual and sexual connection was overwhelming and integral. It was a taste of the Divine, such as she would not know again for a long time. A taste of the Divine that she was not sufficiently conscious of, else she might not have let it slip through her fingers as it did.
They had imagined themselves in the genre of other great lovers of history and myth, and indeed they were, but they did not really know it. When they came face-up against the social reality they lived in, they could not hold on to what they had known in their hearts and spirits. Their grip on this Poetry was lost, as the social context pounded them against its well defined paradigm. Originally, when her pregnancy was confirmed, they expressed the joy in their union: yes, they celebrated. But it was not long before she was at her wits’ end with despair, tearing at herself, ripping her hair, trying to knock from herself some answer. Where was this Divine Love now? She did not know then that it was her shadow of doubt, and his too, that had eclipsed their joy. They did not have it in them to dare to live this inner Song.
They both hoped for some en-couragement from their pastoral leader, looked to him for some guidance, since they were active in the fostering of church community. Would he support their stepping forth, with the revelation of this Love to the community, so the child could be welcomed? They hoped for acceptance. But he turned them down. The pastoral leader said that it all must be hidden, that the young woman must go away. There was no ambivalence in him about what was right and what was wrong. He seemed to know for sure that this inner, truly human Divinity that they had known as integral, was shameful. And so indeed, it became a thing of pain. She went away.
She went away to grow fat with the child, to birth it, and to give it away. This, she had come to believe, was the “will of God”; that which must be done for the greater good of all, including her own. She even hid her pregnancy from her mother. Some place in her did not believe that her swollen body was shameful, but nothing in the world around her reflected that belief back to her. And it reflected, that “God” was quite different from whatever it was that she and her lover had known. This “whatever it was”, this mystery, had no spokesperson. It remained silent, for a time.
As her pregnancy progressed, her increasingly huge and obviously fertile female body, incubated an awareness of foreignness. The child stirred within her. The “God” believers, the church (and she thought she was one of them), offered her residence in a home for “unmarried mothers”. The home was run by nuns, dressed in mediaeval style, many of whom no doubt struggled to story their own desiring, bleeding female organism in a context that gave it no words. Her fertile fatness just made it more confronting. Then one day, as she sat in a church as she frequently did, a crack appeared in her cosmic egg – something in her ripened. She had the strangest thought: “What if the Deity was Female?” It was like a lightning bolt through her mind. Where did such an idea come from? No-one had whispered any such possibility to her. The feeling persisted :”What if the Deity knew this experience of swollen breasts and belly, this moving ocean within Her?” The young woman knew simultaneously that everything would be different. There would be no “will of God”: the Divinity in her would be manifest, the joy in the life within her could be lived. She would no longer be outcast. Amazed at this wonder, she went and wrote to her lover. Come and be with me she said, we can do this together, there is a way, I have seen it. But it was like Magdalene trying to tell the disciples of her vision; it seemed to them pure nonsense. And so it seemed to her lover. He had no grasp of what she could be babbling about. This inability in him, this refusal in him, closed the door again. There was no reception of her epiphany. She must be mad. The Mystery went back into its shell. She shut her mouth and got on with the “will of God”, for a long time to come.
She gave her immaculate first child away. He was not to be hers. Neither she, nor the father, had it in them to hold this Mystery; and the world was allowed to go on, as if It never existed. The only thing changed forever was her soul, hidden like the marks on her body. She spent many years being ashamed of her inability to hold the Mystery, feeling so inadequate.
But her hunger for it was something that would not be cut off from her for long. It would rise again like the ocean, come to claim her. It would call to her, and she would go. She would give up much, travel far, spend years looking. She would find some bits and think she had it all. She would dig herself into some disastrous places. She would have to sort through some stinking garbage within herself, in the midst of which she would forget what it was that she was searching for.
What she sought was a capacity within herself to hold the Mystery – is this what was meant by the Holy Grail? Was the Holy Grail a place, a vessel in one’s self, wherein was a potent essence of knowledge of Integrity? This too was her quest, not just to taste the Divine as she had done before, but to know it so profoundly in herself that it could not slip away again.
Copyright: Glenys Livingstone November 1996.