Yoga Wicca Buddha

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Absent Lover/Hidden God

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

I spent my adolescence listening to Nana Mouskouri: sentimental, schmaltzy songs, yes, and none more so than “I Have a Dream.” Yet the lyrics have stayed with me:


I'll bring to you the secrets of my life

Like petals in my hand and you will understand…


Demand of me all that I have to give

And while I live I'll give it gladly

Command me to deny the world I knew

I'd give it all away if you but asked me to.


It used to make me a little weepy back then. Perhaps it still does. The singer addresses a unknown beloved, who may only be a figment of her longing. But that longing was one I shared. The idea of complete surrender had a strange attraction, as did the undefined perfection of the distant lover. It doesn’t really leave us, this need for a deeper solace, for intensity of experience and blissful oblivion both. We may direct our desires to gods or lovers or just into the void of mystery, but deep down we know—or hope we know— that somewhere out there is the beauty our souls were made for.


But lovers disappoint and gods remain elusive.

Psyche was granted an invisible lover, only to have him flee once she glimpsed his true form, as winged Eros, god of love. Jesus and Buddha left their followers by their deaths. Zeus denied his lover Semele the sight of his full glory until his hand was forced—and then she burst into flames as a result. Likewise, the God of Exodus declares: “No one may see me and live.” 


They hide from us, these perfect beings. They tease us with glimpses—like the legendary white hart or golden hind, threading between the trees, drawing us into the hunt. But if they don’t mean to be found, are they leading us astray? 


Surrendering the fragments of my life

I'll follow where you are although the road be far

And if I falter you will see me through

If I can find my way to you


This road of devotion is not necessarily a fool’s errand. It can be a step away from the prison of the ego, which makes everything about itself, every injury a cause for shame and anger, every pleasure an occasion to fear its loss. Devotion turns our eyes away from ourselves, outward and upward. Longing for a perfect being is an end run around whatever stands between us and receiving love: the feeling that we don’t deserve it or that we can’t trust those who offer it. In conjuring the invisible lover, we love around and above those barriers, tasting what our hearts are capable of.


If we imagine a being who can see our worth and our sincerity, then we are secretly admitting to ourselves that we are lovable, that we are sincere. If, instead of embarking on the impossible labour of fixing ourselves, we throw ourselves on the mercy of something greater, we recognize the value of knowing our own weakness. We honour our need for connection rather than despising it.


Devotion opens us up, makes us humble in our struggles, but at the same time sanctifies that humility and those struggles. We may feel unworthy in every way, but somehow we know ourselves worthy in our longing, in our ability to know our own need and imagine its fulfillment. Perhaps crying out to a hidden god can even teach us to accept ourselves, in all our imperfection.


And then we can accept others, see them as wanderers on the same path. We may come to respect their yearning, their capacity to desire the good. It may even move us to listen to their stories, to hear them as we desire to be heard.


Seeking the absent lover, the hidden god, we find our selves, the selves that can survive all with their eyes on the ideal and their hands on their hearts, the selves that can accept all that we are and see it as a worthy offering, the selves that can see others for all that they are. It is the search itself that brings us home.


The Lover is invisible because hidden in our hearts. For we are what we long for.


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Archer has been trying to make sense of religion since her parents first abandoned her at Sunday School in the 60s. She’s a mom, yoga teacher and repository of useless bits of information on ancient religion, spiritual practices and English grammar. Check out her column “Connections” in Witches and Pagans.


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