I was sitting at my kitchen table reading the Miami Herald and marveling at a wonderful oil painting of the Virgin Mary that was painted in full color above the fold of the front page. I could not take my eyes off it. The detail, the brushwork, the use of color-the whole thing captivated me; it looked like something van Gogh would have painted. I had yet to read the article, and just kept staring at the painting. Finally it dawned on me that I could see the painting in person if I read the text and found out which gallery was showing it.
As I read the accompanying article, I discovered that this was not a painting at all. It was an oil slick that appeared on the giant plate glass window of a bank in Clearwater, Florida. It was a miracle, a sign from the Virgin attesting the truth of Her Son and Her compassion for humankind. Thousands of believers were streaming into Clearwater to see Her. I am not a believer and I didn’t drive to the bank to pay homage. But if Muhammad won’t come to the mountain….
After the incident at the bank, I began to see Her everywhere. And worse, She started talking to me. … When I moved from Florida to Los Angeles and began running retreats out of La Casa de Maria, She had me. I would go for walks late at night and talk with Her. Just in case I was going to make the mistake of assuming she was Mary exclusively, She sent me up the road to the Vedanta Convent where I found her in Hindu garb as the Mother, the Divine Feminine worshiped by Sri Ramakrishna.
I shared what was happening to me with my friend and teacher Andrew Harvey, the devotee of the Mother in all Her froms. “The Mother is chasing you,” he said, “and you must surrender to Her.” I protested his assessment and explained that I was having trouble reconciling Her with my personal nondualist and nongendered theology. “If God is everything,” he said, “why can God not also be a Mother? If God is everything, why can’t God manifest as Other? She calls to everyone, and to ignore Her is to ignore the greatest gift you may ever be offered: the passionate embrace of the Mother. She is going to hound you until She has you, and then She is going to strip you of all your ideas and notions until there is nothing left to you but the ecstasy of Her embrace.” I protested again, claiming that I couldn’t embrace the Virgin; I am a Jew. With a look that said, “My poor, poor idiot friend,” Andrew said to me, “It isn’t Mary, but the Mother. She comes to the Christian as the Blessed Virgin; She come to you as Chochma, Mother Wisdom.” And with that my whole life changed.
Chochma, the Hebrew word for “wisdom,” is the manifestation of the Divine Mother as she appears in the Hebrew Bible. She is the first manifestation of God, the vehicle of His unfolding, the Way of nature, the Way God is God in the world you and I experience every day. Seeing Her as Chochma removed the last of my defenses. I stopped running away, and gave myself to Her as best I could.
A few years later, I shared my experience of Mother Wisdom and Andrew’s comments with another friend and teacher, Sister Mary Jose Hobday, a Native American medicine woman and Catholic nun. “You have to share this story with people,” she told me. “It is what so many people are searching for. You have the credentials, the standing. If you say you know the Mother, talk with Her, and get guidence from Her, others will come forward and admit to the same.”
“But this could ruin my career as a rabbi. Modern Jews can barely deal with God the Father, let alone God the Mother.”
Sister Jose laughed at me. “Do you really think you have a choice in this?”
-Rabbi Rami Shapiro, The Divine Feminine