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The "Other" Darkness

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from Chapter 5,  "She Knows Us"  Sophia The Feminine Face of God : Nine Heart Paths to Healing and Abundanceby Karen Speerstra

A group of creative women met at my neighbor's house one night to swim in the silky water of her spring-fed pond, celebrate our giftedness and eat great food.

Sara, another writer, asked me what I was writing now and i struggled for a few seconds to come up with this book's "elevator speech."

I'm writing about the feminine face of God. I suppose you could call it my spiritual memoir."

"How does Sophia show up?" she asked.

I knew she was writing and editing a memoir by a group of older people in our Vermont community so I replied, "Well, for instance, she shows up in you every time you focus on telling the stories of the elderly as you are doing, every time you affirm their lives, every time you write!  Every time someone creates something.

She IS you, and she's me and she's all those other beautiful women--and men--around us. She offers a deep dark fertile place within each of us with which to create and affirm life.

Sara could have said to those elderly storytellers, "Write your own stories. I'm too busy and I'm not interested." If she had, she'd have chosen to exhibit that "other darkness." Not Sophia.

Everyone has their own definition of "evil" but it's usually described as a controlling, denigrating, abusive, hateful force. It's the opposite of being awake. It's life all spent. Bled out. used up. I believe demonic hormones lurk in our food, mercury in our water, pollutants in our air and cancer in our bellies. It's everything Sophia isn't. Instead of being creative, compassionate and energetic, evil is greedy, destructive, and debilitating. Evil freezes us. Is evil simply something in our lives that is unbalanced? Or is it far worse? Evil seems to stagnate and move in the opposite direction of evolution. It also kills...

...In May of 2004, images of Iraqi prisoners being tortured haunted worldwide media. Everyone remembers the trophy photos from Abu Ghraib. Donald Rumsfeld called it abuse, not torture. Is there a difference? Rush Limbaugh called it an emotional release. People were just having a good time. It took a twenty-four year old Reservist named Joe Darby to blow the whistle and call it like it was: Evil.

Sophia reminds us that even evil can be redeemed. Systems can be changed. We can demand just authority. We can decide not to sacrifice our freedoms for illusions of security. When we make mistakes, we can find ways to genuinely say, "I'm sorry." And then not do it again. We can be much more vigilant in listening for ways language seduces us and pulls the hood over our eyes. We can find new ways to express ourselves without using sexually demeaning words. When we can name it, we can change it. We can monitor our bullying and hate. Sophia will help us.

Whenever we refer to "the other" in derogatory terms, it's a slippery slide into deeper muck. If the person who is being called names is considered worthless, then killing can be "justified." The Tutsi were called cockroaches; Jews, voracious rats; Backs, niggers; Iraqis, towel-heads and hajis; Vietnamese, gooks; gays, faggots. Listen for the slurs and watch how you react. Edmund Burke, an English statesman, said, "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." And for women to ignore what's happening.

Tolkien's Elrond, the Elf-King, warns that evil is empty, a cheap copy, a counterfeit. Frodo decides evil was what twisted the Orcs. We see that every grouping of beings in Tolkien's universe, just as every human in ours, carries the capacity for good or ill...But take heart. Evil must eventually reveal its sinister nature and even the dullest of us will catch on. The evil Ring maintains Bilbo Baggins' youthful body without apparent physical change for fifty years, but he begins to feel it's "all think, sort of stretched if you know what I mean, like butter that's been scraped over too much bread."...

It would be easy to spot evil if it were always vicious and horrible. As graves are unearthed in a serial killer's backyard you might hear, "But he was a good neighbor. He seemed like such a nice guy!" Evil can be not only banal, but as smooth and as charming as that granny-and-little-girl-eating-wolf. It still intends to kill, to entrap, to suppress, to stifle. We've seen all too often how evil can snap on a clergy collar or put on monk's robes. It was monks, you may remember, who flayed Hypatia, a brilliant fifth-century mathematics professor in Alexandria. They used oyster shells. Then they tore her corpse apart...

...Why is there evil? Evil requires three things, according to Roy Baumeister. It requires the deliberate actions of one person, the suffering of another and the judgment of either the second person or an observer. If evil falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear is it still evil? If there is a victim--yes! There are four root causes of evil, Baumeister says: (1) material gain, such as money or power; (2) someone's ego is threatened, (3) idealism, and (4) sadistic pleasure...

...Sophia offers many gifts, many resources we can draw on. One is her faithfulness. She won't give up on us. She won't go away, even when we ignore her. She won't disappear even when our holy scriptures write her out. She'll be there for us when we ask her to be present.

From "Sophia's Notebook," in Sophia's "own voice," which ends each chapter...

My story is always your story. You are my face. You are my hands. You are my heart...I am on the fringe of the fires, on the edges of the water, in the center of ice. I am where nature breathes clear and easy...Every baby lamb is held in the family warmth. Each one. Ewe lamb--you lamb. You too are warmed and fed and tended. Fear not. I am with you. You shall not be cast away, discarded even though your wool may be carded. Your plenty, more evenly distributed. Your gifts put to better use...Fear not.

Sophia The Feminine Face of God will be released August 1, 2011.
Publisher: Divine Arts  (


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