Song of Songs is really two love stories: the story of two lovers, and
the story of their love for the Earth. Drawing inspiration from nature,
a metaphorical language to express their
delight in each other's beauty, grace, and vigor. In the process, they
become poetic embodiments of the land and its life.
My love is a gazelle, a wild
There he stands on the other side
of our wall, gazing
between the stones.
breasts are two fawns,
twins of a gazelle,
grazing in a field of lilies.
of Solomon 4:5
is more than metaphor in the ability of these two lovers to flow
shape to shape. Their fluidity arises from the author's sense
of connectedness with the web of life. The Song is an articulation of
the primordial religion of love and wonder, and the experience of
mystical union. Deep love for another has the
potential to lead us
into the most profound communion with nature and its Source, sweeping
illusion of separateness and uniting Heaven and Earth in a primordial
This marriage is beautifully
verses 4:1 through 5:1, where the young woman's body is pictured "as a
landscape teeming with animal life." (3) Suddenly she emerges from
landscape, and we
find her standing with her lover on a mountain peak, in the rocky
wild animals. Sensing danger, he urges her to return with him to
valley, and, after following him down, she melts, once again, into the
landscape. A fresh running stream traces their path from that
panoramic vista in the mountains to a secret garden in the valley,
thus bridging the gap between Heaven and Earth. This stream brings
life-giving water from the sky and surges like a fountain in
the Earth's fertile recesses. As they make love, she is both the woman
in the garden and the garden itself.
This metaphor is a familiar one
native American spiritual tradition, evoking the lovemaking of Mother
Earth and Father Sky. It is an archetypal image, and here in the Song
of Songs, it conveys the experience of two lovers who have dissolved
each other's boundaries, and spilled out into the world around them,
merging with the land and its life; merging with nature and its
androgynous Source. Thus their lovemaking is interwoven with that
of Mother Earth and Father Sky,
who comes to his lover in the
wind---caressing the grass and trees---and
rain that streams down from the mountains:
Your branches are an orchard
of pomegranate trees heavy with fruit,
flowering henna and spikenard,
spikenard and saffron, cane and cinnamon,
with every tree of frankincense,
myrrh and aloes,
all the rare spices.
You are a fountain in the garden,
a well of living waters
that stream from Lebanon.
Awake, north wind! 0 south
breathe upon my garden,
let its spices stream out.
Let my lover come into his garden
and taste its delicious fruit.
I have come into my garden,
my sister, my bride,
I have gathered my myrrh and my spices,
I have eaten from the honeycomb,
I have drunk the milk and the wine.
Song of Solomon 4:13 - 5:1
Then I went down to the walnut
to see the new green by the brook,
to see if the vine had budded,
if the pomegranate trees were in flower.
And oh! before I was aware,
she sat me in the most lavish of chariots.
Song of Solomon 6:11 - 6:12
Come, my beloved,
let us go out into the fields
and lie all night among the flowering henna.
Let us go early to the vineyards
to see if the vine has budded,
if the blossoms have opened
and the pomegranate is in flower.
There I will give you my love.
The air is filled with the
and at our doors
rare fruit of every kind, my love,
I have stored away for you.
Song of Solomon 7:12 - 7:14
"The Song of Songs is a poem
sexual awakening of a young woman and her lover. In a series of subtly
articulated scenes, the two meet in an idealized landscape of fertility
and abundance ---a kind of Eden---where they discover the pleasures of
---Ariel and Chana Bloch
The Song recalls for us the
flush of love and eros, but it goes beyond that to link this experience
with the primordial religion of love and wonder. Its paradisiacal
"landscape of fertility and abundance" is more than a poetic daydream.
Like the writings of Hesiod, citing legends of the time before the
Achaeans and the Dorians brought the god of war to Greece, it may
actually preserve a memory of the comparative peace and prosperity of
the Neolithic period of human history. Contemporary historians and
archaeologists have been uncovering evidence that tends to confirm
these ancient stories:
archaeological discoveries, coupled with reinterpretations of older
excavations, support the view that there were in our prehistory more
peaceful societies. In extensive excavations of early European
Neolithic settlements that had regular trade and other contact with one
another, there are few signs of destruction through warfare or of
fortifications. Moreover, there is in the rich art of the Neolithic a
(to us) remarkable lack of scenes of men killing each other in "heroic
" battles, and of men raping women."
Song of Songs contains] important clues to an earlier time when, far
from being a male "sex object," woman was seen as the conduit for what
in Indian sacred writings is called the kundalini: the powerful divine
energy from whence comes both life and bliss."
---Riane Eisler, "Sacred Pleasure"
The Song of Solomon was set in
final form some 300 years before the birth of Christ, and it preserves
elements that are much older---rooted in a time
when our sacred role in
the renewal of life was thought to be the very heart of religion. For
more than a thousand years the Song has been treated as an allegory
the soul's love for God and God's love for his chosen people.
Contemporary commentators are more likely to treat it as a collection
of secular love poems, but this secularism is anachronistic, and
unlikely in a pre-scientific age. No
author composes poetry in a cultural vacuum---outside
any context of
spiritual tradition or cosmology---and clues to
context can be found within the poem itself. The
Song's central metaphor---in which a woman's body
is described as a
garden, or a vineyard, or "a mountainous landscape teeming with animal
life"---fits perfectly with the ancient belief
that "Mother Earth" is
the visible body of the Source of Life. This maternal aspect of God has
been at least partially preserved in the Jewish and Christian mystical
God do all day long? He gives birth. From the beginning of eternity God
lies on a maternity bed giving birth to the All. God is creating this
whole universe, full and entire, in this present moment."
"The world is pregnant with
---Angela of Foligno
Meister Eckhart lived in a time
doctor of the church had to choose his words carefully, or risk being
burned at the stake. By contrast, the author of the Song grew up in a
culture that took God's maternity for granted. In that context, it
would have been quite natural for a young woman who was crossing the
border from childhood to motherhood to identify with the maternal
Source of Life and imagine herself as a garden of Earthly delights for
her lover's pleasure. Unified in purpose with Mother Nature, the Song's
Juliet shares her Mother's awesome power to bring new life into the
world. So deep is her sense of participation in this power that she
even seems to be able to command the wind. By Nature's alchemical
magic, she draws her lover to her side:
Awake, north wind! O south
breathe upon my garden,
let is spices stream out.
Let my lover come into his garden
its delicious fruit.
with Nature's passion for the renewal of life, she draws her Romeo more
deeply into the story of the Earth.
"Eros is connective energy par
excellence. Through erotic passion we overcome our habitual egoic
insularity and reach out into the core of other beings. Blazing eros
recognizes no barrier; it is the organic impulse toward wholeness"
"The mystic, magus and poet of
past considered our relationship with nature as a loving one---not
merely a sentimental appreciation on the part of humans, but rather a
kinship and attraction among all elements. Eros keeps the planets in
orbit, the seasons on time, and the organs of the body in harmony"
The Wedding of Heaven and Earth
In the literature of "bridal
mysticism," medieval mystics used the erotic language of the Song of
Solomon to describe their ecstatic union with Jesus. Christian mystics---like
the mystics of other spiritual traditions---discovered
the root of all, there is one unifying Self:
"The eye with which I see God
same eye with which God sees me: my eye and God's eye are one eye, one
seeing, one knowing and one love."
Eckhart, German Sermon No. 12.
knower and the known are one. Simple people imagine that they should
see God as if he stood there and they here. This is not so. God and I,
we are one in knowledge."
"God is nearer
to me than I am to myself."
the same vista of consciousness, Jesus said, "I am the vine and you are
In the Western spiritual
tradition, the experience of connectedness with nature and continuity
with its Source is usually associated with self-denial and disciplined
prayer or meditation. But in the Song of Solomon this insight is
charged with eros, reflecting the author's awareness that it can arise,
at times, in a sexual context, as a result of deeply felt, selfless
love---which is, after all, a way of transcending
limited sense of self. As Alan Watts pointed out in an exposition of
Tantric yoga, selfless love can sometimes sweep away the illusion of
an embrace of this kind, all considerations of time and place, of what
and who, drop away ... and the pair discover themselves as the
primordial 'love that makes the world go round.' There is an
extraordinary melting sensation ... and, 'seeing their eyes reflected
in each other's, they realize that there is one Self looking out
through both... The conceptual boundary between male and female, self
and other, dissolves, and--as every spoke leads to the hub--this
particular embrace on this particular day discloses itself as going on
forever, behind the scenes."
Watts, "Erotic Spirituality"
entire universe is a manifestation of our own deeper being. In our
being we are naturally one with all. Through relationship we are trying
to rediscover that unity... to discover ourselves beyond the boundaries
of the physical body."
sacred sexuality, we directly participate in the vastness of
being---the mountains, rivers, and animals of the Earth, the planets
and the stars, and our next door neighbors"
Wedding the Land
In the matriarchal societies of
ancient Near East, and during the transition to patriarchy, kingship
was conferred by wedding the high priestess, which was a symbolic way
of wedding the Earth herself---the
of life. We
find a reference to this rite in verse 3:11. Notice that it is
Solomon's mother who provides the crown, and his marriage which
provides the occassion for coronation.
Come out, O
daughters of Zion,
and gaze at Solomon the King!
See the crown his mother set on his head
on the day of his
the day of his heart's great joy.
---Song of Solomon 3:11
By wedding the land, the king
the shepherd of his kingdom and accepted the priviledge and
responsibility of stewardship. This is an idea that needs to be
reinvented for the 21st century. We are living in a perilous time, and
the Earth is in dire need of responsible stewardship.
When two people fall in love and start a family, they affirm the beauty
and essential goodness of this world. By blessing the Earth with
children, we participate in the renewal of this unique human way of
experiencing and exploring the universe. We co-create the world with
God. We marry the land. As in the ancient rite of sacred marriage, a
contemporary wedding presents an opportunity for two lovers to declare
this affirmation of human life. And, for those who care deeply about
the Earth and her distress, it presents an opportunity to declare their
love and commitment, not only to each other but to their children and
these perilous times, when human beings have the power to completely
destroy the biosphere and abort all life on this planet, a wedding
ceremony takes on a whole new meaning. Our species has been almost too
successful in the long battle for survival, and we have yet to learn
how to live in harmony with nature, and manage the Earth's finite
resources in a way that is wise and sustainable. Our sacred role in the
regeneration of life--- considered by our
Neolithic ancestors to be the
very heart of religion---has, in fact, become
absolutely critical for
the preservation of life on Earth.
Christians have a vital role to
in this much needed healing. As Mark Wallace put it in his essay, "The
Green Face of God," the Christian spiritual tradition is the "the
pharmakon of looming environmental disaster." Christianity is, in part,
"both the cause of the problem and its solution."
"Lynn White, in a now famous
writes that Western Christianity's attack on paganism effectively
stripped the natural world of any spiritual meaning by replacing the
belief that the Sacred is in rivers and trees with the doctrine that
God is a disembodied Spirit whose true residence is in heaven, not on
The impact of Christianity's antipagan
teachings has tended to empty the biosphere of any sense of God's
presence in natural things.
But if the root
of the environmental problem is deeply spiritual or religious at its
core, it is also the case, ironically, that a partial answer to the
problem lies in a rehabilitation of the earth-friendly teachings within
the spiritual traditions that seem most hostile to nature, namely, the
Christianity, then, is
the pharmakon of looming environmental disaster: in part, it is both
the cause of the problem and its solution. It is both the origin of the
ecocidal "disease" from which we suffer and its "cure," insofar as it
provides resources for a new green mindset toward nature that is a
prophylactic against antinature attitudes and habits."
A rich store of such resources
found in the Christian mystical tradition. And in the Song of Solomon,
as I have tried to show, there is a profound spiritual dimension: a
deep sense of interconnectedness with other sentient beings and
continuity with the Source of Life. This is the consciousness that we
need to cultivate in our art and literature, and translate into
political action, if our children and grandchildren are to live and
thrive in a free society on a healthy planet.
"The ecological spirituality
for today is founded in a deep recognition of the unity of life---a
unity that is celebrated in the act of love"
"we share our somatic reality
countless other beings with whom we are interconnected and
interdependent. Contemporary spirituality is, then, meaningful only to
the degree that it is ecological in the broadest sense of the term."
"The Earth remains our mother
God remains our father, and our mother will only lay in the father's
arms those who are true to her. Earth and its distress---this is the
Christian's song of songs."
"Our religious vocation for the
foreseeable future is Earthkeeping. Fidelity to God now expresses
itself as fidelity to the Earth."
"The world is pregnant with
---Angela of Foligno
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