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The Other Father

Copyright © 1996 Daniel Deardorff

This article appeared in the June, 1996 issue of M.E.N. Magazine

By Daniel Deardorff

The image of Father stands like a mountain, shrouded in thunder, on the landscape of the human heart. It is a marker that demands our attention. If we are to pierce the clouds and understand our position or place in the great scheme of things, then we must refer to those landmarks that reveal our location. The Father, as one such landmark, is obscured by the storms of anger and shame that make it impossible to see him all at once.

A sense of location, or locus-appointed place-is the primary step into trustworthiness and so into community. When we have "location" we are centered, or grounded. Now we know, and others can know, "where we stand." It is the purpose of tradition, religion, myth, art, and now psychology to create a map of those sacred and trustworthy landmarks by which to take our bearings.

With a proper sense of location, our thoughts and actions are oriented to the divine forces that surround us. If we work from a false map, or a half-map, we live with a feeling of disorientation; we feel "dis-located." In order to heal the Father in our selves, and restore his values to the culture, we must recover that portion of his divinity which has broken away and is no longer visible in the culture. We can never have an accurate sense of self-location until we see an accurate and trusted image of the divine masculine standing on the horizon of our world. We, as individuals, families, and communities, will never enjoy the resources and gifts of a mature masculinity until we find the "Other Father" and learn his ways.

Men are made by the tempering of repeated exposure to extremes-fire to water and back again. This is the initiatory cycle of nature: birth, initiation, consummation, death, and resurrection. It can be understood as the Dance of the Father-God away from, and back again to, the Goddess: the Dance of Life and Death. The Father we seek is the Initiator and Guardian of these rites. He is the "other side" of the masculine that we have lost. He is the Earth Father: the wild, ecstatic, wounded, dancing, singing, phallic father of nature.

Long ago, we began to misunderstand his dance as a kind of dead end-a tyranny of hopeless repetition. We learned to reject the Earth and turned for salvation to an omnipotent heavenly-masculine: free of the feminine, and free of the Earth. This broken half-image of masculinity has deprived us of the nurturing masculine and cut us off from his beloved Goddess, "the soul of the world." For when we choose the monocracy of the Heavenly Father, we must deny all divinity to the feminine and to her consort, the Earth Father.

If it is true that there is a natural counterpart, a twin brother, to the Heavenly Father, and that we have destroyed our connection with him, then it is also true that we have lost those parts of the human father most related to his divine and life-giving nature.

The move away from nature is the move toward intellect and reason. In the battle to escape death, our culture has chosen to sanctify the one God of "the Rational Mind," the religion of scientific materialism. The concrete landmarks of "scientific reductionism," which reduce matter-mater, mother-to an infinite supply of dead stuff, do not ring true to the body and the soul, as illustrated by the following:

There is no life, truth, substance, nor intelligence in matter. All is infinite mind, and its infinite manifestation, for God is all in all. Spirit is immortal truth; matter is mortal error. Spirit is real, and eternal; matter is unreal and temporal...

- Christian Science Prayer

We long to redeem the poetic vision of "the Ritual Mind," that is, the Dancing Mind of the Earth Father. The Ritual Mind has its style of thought and perception: it can hold, in tension, the contradictions and paradoxes of life and death as mystery. And mystery is reality to the Ritual Mind-because the Ritual Mind includes the body, which includes death and decay, includes desire (which means of, or from, the father). The Ritual Mind is capable of a depth of knowledge that the Rational Mind can only dream of. The Rational Father, however, has no respect for the ways and intentions of ritual, and so body and soul must find a sideways expression-through the Shadow. Thus the human father is split: the Rational Father sits, high in his tower of glass and steel, deciding things for those below. He is remote, indifferent, dispassionate, and inhuman.

The Earth Father has fallen: the poet and the priest are now eccentrics, work in the arts is not "real work," romance is illusion. The work of our hands, working the earth, is both mundane and uncouth. At best, we are made to feel a certain embarrassment or even shame with regard to expressions of the Ritual Mind. At worst, the repressed energy of the Earth Father seeps out as obsession, perversion, addiction, and violence. The Father of the Heavenly Throne has driven his Dancing Brother down and out into the infernal realms of the underworld. There, he is bound up with all the demons and monsters of our most terror-filled dreams. The omnipotent masculine has claimed all divinity, all dominion to himself:

[Man] is divine not in his single person, but only in his twinhood. As Osiris, the Spirit of the Waxing Year, he is always jealous of his weird, Set, the Spirit of the Waning Year and vice versa; he cannot be both at once except by an intellectual effort that destroys his humanity...

- Robert Graves, The White Goddess

This "intellectual effort" is the bedrock of Western culture, the Rational Mind, the Omnipotent Father. The influence of this image on our assumptions and perceptions is incalculable. Our expectations, ambitions, and prejudices are formed by, and founded on, this premise. "I think, therefore I am" is the battle cry of this relentless campaign. It has raised its flag in every camp, from religion to politics, even among poets.

The father [Rational] poets, like Pope, try to find a substitute for the Ecstatic Mother inside male consciousness; their poems have excitement but no ecstasy. However, they live a long time.

- Robert Bly, Sleepers Joining Hands

So we live longer, but "When however are we really alive[?]" (Rainier Maria Rilke)

We are ill, the culture is ill, our families and communities are ill as a result of the constant and repeated murder of our "instinctive nature." The medicine we desperately need is in the hands of the Dancing Father, the Wild Father. Only he can call the Goddess to a full return, only he can dethrone the Rational Mind long enough to initiate us into the Mystery of Three Rivers. There are Three Rivers in the heart, Three Rivers of consciousness that create the cosmos: the Red, the Black, and the White. The White Culture, with our White King in the White House, has chosen to sanctify only the White stream of consciousness. While the Red and the Black spill into the gutters, into the sewers, the culture bleeds to death, becoming a pure-white corpse.

Novalis tells us that "the Seat of the Soul is where the inner world and the outer world meet and permeate each other... "and Rilke says "a man is split, and where two roads intersect inside us no one has built the Singer's Temple..." Where matter and spirit meet, commingle, and commune, at the crossroads of the soul, we must build a temple to the Singer: the one who howls at the moon, the fertile one, the expressive one. Between worlds, a temple to the Dancing Father and his beloved-if we build it, they will come.

Kokopelli is the phallic, humpbacked, flute-playing deity of the Americas. His flute and his phallus are one, combining heaven and earth in the fruitfulness of art and love. Can we begin to imagine the qualities of fertility, artistry, and woundedness, as combined in the image of Kokopelli, to be divine? That is our task, and the Rational World will do everything in its power to hinder us.

Robert Bly has suggested "a practical way to heal [this] wound; it involves imaginative labor, and that labor cannot be done by the collective. Each person has to do it alone." And so in recovering the lost Father, we will oppose the great "intellectual effort" with an "imaginative labor." It has certainly already begun. Men and women throughout the West are endeavoring to recover the sacred in our daily lives, in our work, and in our environment. If we are to succeed in pushing the inner world over the boundaries of the outer world, to form a little pocket of sacred space, we must first redeem the divinity of the Red and Black sides of the masculine. We must find it in our hearts to admit the "Other Father" back to his rightful place. To be "really alive" we must have both Fathers, sitting on the Throne and weaving in the Dance; the turning of the Wheel; the Dance of Life and Death; waxing and waning; the seasons, the wilderness, the rhythm, and the heartbeat of the Earth.

Daniel Deardorff is a well-known Seattle-area singer, songwriter and poet, who has inspired many because of the strength of his spirit, even though his body reflects the ravages of childhood polio. He will give a concert on Faces of the Father at Bellevue Unity Church, Wed., June 12 (7:30-9:30 P.M.) and on Finding the Exiled Father: Recalling the Divine Masculine in Nature and the Earth at Seattle Unity Church on Father's Day, June 16 (1:00-4:00 P.M.). He will also co-minister the Father's Day service at Seattle Unity with Rev. Steve Towles. For further information on these events, call (206) 442-2064.

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