Thursday, 7 July 2011

Are we pregnant with God or is God pregnant with us?

It is always interesting to interpret, especially philosophical and religious French as I did this morning for Rabbi Marc Raphael Guedj who was once more sharing his insights at the Bossey inter-faith summer school. Guedj always insists on the way values inform one another: not justice or charity but charity and justice, not just the letter but also the spirit, not just the spirit but also the letter - he often quotes Emmanuel Levinas' idea that "the letter is the folded wing of the spirit". Not just the written tradition but also the oral tradition. Not just one single and fundamentalist interpretation, but many in discussion and even in disagreement with one another.
Today he took us into rather different territory as he tried to get across the idea of immanence and transendence. At several points he said things along the lines of God being pregnant with humanity, wanting to offer some trace, some outline of Godlikeness to humanity. He spoke movingly of the feminine qualities of God, in the same terms as of the Western (wailing) wall of the Temple in Jerusalem - a totally dependable support. Interesting to think of a feminine quality in those terms. He went on to say that humanity, made in the image of God, is also in some way pregnant with a trace of God, wanting to give birth to that search for the Divine.
The word for pregnant in French in "enceinte" - it has the same root as the French for belt, ceinture, also "une enceinte" is a girded place, within the castle walls for instance. If you want to say in French that a man, or a male gendered object like "un pont", is pregnant it is almost impossible to do this grammatcally - you should say "le pont était enceint" but today of course Rabbi Guedj said "c'est comme si Dieu était enceinte de l'humanité". I really wish I had been able to take notes and so offer more than these fragments of remembered words which went into my ears and sort of came out of my mouth, I do know that I smiled as I heard him say that - knowing that the word "pregnant" in English would not entirely get across the shock of what he had just said.
Thinking about it now it reminded me of Ursula Le Guin's wonderful line "the King was pregnant" in the Left Hand of Darkness. And so I googled and got to this re-reading of Le Guin and now I know one of the books I shall be taking on holiday with me.
So I wonder, what trace of God might I be able to be pregnant with, to give birth to?


Kate said...

I am not normally a literalist but today found your post really fascinating Jane. Especially about the language.
I spent the afternoon with over 30 very new parents and their babies and young toddlers listening to them speak about their pregnancies; yes, their embodied pregnancies and also birthing their hopes, desires, deaths of some aspects of themselves, representations of their collective and subversive memories of mothering and babying and more...I cannot now seem to separate and cut an umbilical cord between god/dess being pregnant and us being pregnant with god/dess...the trace for me is life - an aspect of life - life affirming and not afflicting ways

Random Arrow said...

Meditating recently on Simone Weil’s account of Christ seizing her. Suffering possessing her soul to make her a slave (pains of childbirth?) . If not in impregnation, then furtive and promiscuous trying – Hannah Arendt in bed with Martin Heidegger. Fair to ask whether and what you’re pregnant with. The Divine Sonagram, where?



Jane said...

Thanks both of you for your comments. I spent some time at teh Kirchentag listening to brilliant readings (in German) from some of Catherine of Sienna's racier thoughts about God ... I'm not the mother of a child but We all have the capacity to be pregnant with hope and spledidly suvervise heretical and structural earthy ideas. Thanks to both of you for your insights and experiences