As we continue to explore the mysteries of love, hidden within the Song of Songs, we pull back from the close-up offered by Rabbi Rami Shapiro for an overview.
Here is part of Cynthia Bourgeault’s Foreword to Shapiro’s book:
“The Song of Songs has no plot, so to speak; its lovers simply play “hide and seek” through eight successive, almost surrealistic freeze-frames. Yet, something happens, and the spiritually-attuned heart picks up on it. Somewhere between Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 the male lover goes missing, and the woman, with wrenching determination, confirms her fidelity to her beloved and to the path of love: I will leave my bed and wander the city, searching street and square for you for whom my breath pants. (Song of Songs 3:2)
“Reunion, consummation, erotic bliss hurtle by, again in the Song’s allusive, freeze-frame way, and then, at the beginning of Chapter 6 another separation allusively looms, along with hints of rejection by society and family members. Another reunion and, finally, out of the blue, comes that empassioned affirmation that is no doubt among the top ten of the most stirring and luminous proclamations ever uttered in all of literature:
Set me as a seal upon your heart,
as an insignia upon your arm;
for love is strong as death,
passion as fierce as the grave;
its smallest spark is a flash of fire
igniting an inferno. (Song 8:6)
“All of a sudden thing have jumped from the launchpad of erotica to land in the domain of mystical union, with this soul-stirring proclamation of the ultimate dominion of love, the ultimate certainty of an alchemical fusion of souls that exceeds all space and time, all human loss and bereavement. (Cynthia Bourgeault, Foreword to Embracing the Divine Feminine, Rabbi Rami Shapiro, Skylight Illuminations, 2014)
Towards the end of his Introduction to the Song of Songs, Shapiro offers an interpretation of the Genesis story of the creation of the first earthling:
“In Genesis1:27, the Hebrew Bible says God created adam ‘male and female.’ The logical way to read this is to say God created man and woman at the same time. The problem with this reading is that just prior to telling us that God created ‘them’, the Hebrew Bible says God created ‘him’.”
Alluding to the centuries of rabbinical interpretation that arose from this, Shapiro offers his suggestion:
“My own reading of Genesis posits the original earthling as bisexual – physically, psychologically, and spiritually. Adam is the sacred androgyne, to use religious scholar Andrew Harvey’s term, who actualizes the inter-being of feminine and masculine and who longs to be born in your body.”
Shapiro cites Harvey’s writings:
This oneness heals all divisions and fuses all “separate” powers and brings into the union of Sacred Marriage all the “male” and “female” powers of the self, unites and fuses intellect and divine love, imagination and ecstasy, the spirit and the body, the laws of the heart and the structures of the mind, the light and every breath, gesture, thought and emotion lived in its truth.
What is born from this fusion, this “Sacred Marriage” of all separate powers of heart, mind, body, and soul is the Sacred Androgyne, the one who in his or her being realizes the total interpenetration with the Christ of all normally “opposed” or “contradictory” qualities.
This Sacred Androgyne – birthed in what early Gnostic writings such as the Gospel of Philip and the Acts of Thomas call again and again the “bridal Chamber,” the place of fusion between “male and female” – is a divinized human divine being free of all normal categories of “male” and “female” because it exists in a unity that contains, absorbs, “uses,” and ecstatically transcends both…the Sacred Androgyne… is the new Eve-Adam reuniting in his-her own being the Adam and Eve that we separated at the “Fall.” In such a being, “heaven” lives on earth: through such a being the divine radiates divine grace and power directly.
(Andrew Harvey, Son of Man:The Mystical Path to Christ, New York, Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1998, 121)
Shapiro adds: “What the Song of Songs celebrates and awakens us to, is the unification that is an ever-present but oft over-looked reality.”
As Shapiro notes, mystics have described their encounter with the Divine in terms of sexual union.
In my own study of the Medieval Christian Women Mystics I discovered that in their longing to share their experience, they found the Romantic Writings of the Medieval Troubadours to be the most helpful form of written expression upon which to model their work.
Here is a fragment from the writings of Mechtilde of Magdeburg (1208-1282):
The Youth: I hear a voice which speaks somewhat of love.
Many days have I wooed her
But never heard her voice.
Now I am moved. I must go to meet her.
She it is who bears grief and love together.
The Youth comes to greet the Soul in the woods
where nightingales sing and invites her to dance.
The Soul: I cannot dance, O Lord, unless Thou lead me.
If Thou wilt that I leap joyfully,
then must Thou Thyself first dance and sing!
Then will I leap for love, from love to knowledge,
From knowledge to fruition, from fruition to beyond all human sense.
There will I remain and circle evermore.
The Youth: Thy dance of praise is well done.
Now shalt thou have thy will of the Virgin’s Son.
“Then is she overcome and beside herself with weakness and can do no more. And He is overpowered with love for her, as He ever was, He neither gives nor takes. Then she says, `Lord, Thou art my beloved! My desire! My flowing stream! My sun! and I am thy reflection!’ “
Shapiro points to other sacred love songs found in many religious traditions.
He asks: “What are we to do with these songs? Are they simply poetic artifacts to be appreciated or can they be lived in our own bodies?”
His response is that the Song of Songs “has to be embodied, just as the Beloved has to be embraced.”
Like Mechtilde, we are invited to
leap for love, from love to knowledge,
from knowledge to fruition, from fruition to beyond all human sense.
for your soul-thoughts:
How does this echo your desire for union with the Sacred Beloved?
Read the Song of Songs and look for traces of your own story in the finding, the losing, and being found once more by the Beloved, both human and divine.