I had some very negative personal opinions about Christianity prior to conducting my research for Miserere. During my youth, I never heard about spirituality from the female perspective other than through the virgin/whore paradigm. My viewpoints on Christianity came mainly from my own bad experiences, the nightly news, and a smug superiority that I was right and everyone else was wrong. In those days, the subtle shades of gray had not fallen over my eyes, and I saw the world only in black and white.
It never occurred to me to study Christianity from a historical angle. When I did--many, many years later--I found quite a few interesting facts. It turns out that prior to being expunged by the Deuteronomic laws, Elohim/Yahweh had a consort named Asherah. She reigned beside Yahweh in the Jerusalem temple for over half the years it stood.*
As I moved from the history of Judaism to the history of early Christianity, I stumbled across an edition of Frontline, From Jesus to Christ, where Elaine Pagels talked about a poem found at Nag Hammadi entitled The Thunder, Perfect Mind.** What got my full attention was that this poem exalted the power of the divine feminine.
Pagels believes that whoever wrote the poem knew the traditions of Isis and the traditions of the Jews. The poem itself is composed to salute the divine feminine in all her forms.
While writing Miserere, I often referred to The Thunder, Perfect Mind for Rachael's scenes. I wanted to convey the strength of the goddess through her attitudes, experiences, and actions. Modern Christianity tends to divide the feminine between the images of the virgin (Mary, mother of Jesus) and Mary the Magdalene (who was a prophet, not a prostitute, but that's another post for another day). All of the very important parts of being a woman are omitted from this narrow theology.
The Thunder, Perfect Mind is a piece of Gnostic literature that encompasses the whole woman and projects a feminine that is both mysterious and wonderfully accessible. We don't know the name of the divine revealer who wrote this poem. She could be any woman within whom the goddess resided. Whoever she was, she was no white goddess standing serene and aloof. This is the crone speaking from all her experience, all her passion, all her multiple experiences. These are the words of a goddess in her totality. She has lived in the fullness of life and she exemplifies the Great I-am.
The opening lines demand the reader's attention with the command: "Look upon me, you who reflect upon me, / and you hearers, hear me." Then the poem reflects upon the female experience through contradictions:
For I am the first and the last.
I am the honored one and the scorned one.
I am the whore and the holy one.
I am the wife and the virgin.
I am <the mother> and the daughter.
I am the members of my mother.
I am the barren one
and many are her sons.
I am she whose wedding is great,
and I have not taken a husband.
I am the midwife and she who does not bear.
I am the solace of my labor pains.
I am the bride and the bridegroom,
and it is my husband who begot me.
I am the mother of my father
and the sister of my husband
and he is my offspring.
She embodies the spiritual and the after-life:
I am the knowledge of my inquiry,
and the finding of those who seek after me,
and the command of those who ask of me,
and the power of the powers in my knowledge
of the angels, who have been sent at my word,
and of gods in their seasons by my counsel,
and of spirits of every man who exists with me,
and of women who dwell within me.
For I am the one who alone exists,
and I have no one who will judge me.
For many are the pleasant forms which exist in numerous sins,
and disgraceful passions,
and fleeting pleasures,
which (men) embrace until they become sober
and go up to their resting place.
And they will find me there,
and they will live,
and they will not die again.
Each time I sat down to write Rachael's character in Miserere, I would hear her say:
I, I am godless,
and I am the one whose God is great.
Given the chance, Rachael would open rip heaven's doors and demand that God account himself to her.
She is godless, but she believes her god is great.
She is coming ...
*I'll refer you to the link embedded in the quote, which comes from a post by Dr. Robert M. Price, who condenses a great deal of information in a very brief blog post.
**The actual poem is very long. I've only used excerpts in this post. The original was taken from: James M. Robinson, ed., The Nag Hammadi Library, revised edition. HarperCollins, San Francisco, 1990 and quoted in full on the PBS web site.