During the months of September or October (depending on the Hindu calendar), Durga Puja, worship of a manifestation of the Divine Mother (“Ma” or “Devi”), is the one of the grandest Hindu festivals in West Bengal, India. New clothes, sweets, attending puja (worship service), giving Pushpanjali (offering flowers to the Divine Mother after chanting mantras), and singing during Arati (worship through fire). Growing up in the first ten years of my life in Asansol, West Bengal, this festival, over four days, was the highlight of the year. Sri Gyan Rajhans (2019) described Durga (Sanskrit word for fortress) as a manifestation of the Divine Mother, who protects her children against evil. She has ten arms, multitasker as most moms I know, rides a lion (demonstrating tremendous strength or “shakti’), embodies compassion in eliminating suffering in the world and grants resiliency in the inner and outer lives of her children. I find it fascinating that Ma Durga carries a lotus, not yet in full bloom, in one of her hands. Sri Gyan Rajhans wrote that the word lotus in Sanskrit translation means “born of mud”. This indicates that spiritual awareness and enlightenment in human beings, symbolized by the magnificent lotus, often arises from the struggles, hardships, sweat, blood, and tears, in the human condition (referring to the mud from which the lotus arises).
Given the patriarchal underpinnings of many cultures, religious and spiritual traditions tend to depict God or Divine Consciousness with masculine energies and features. However, the concept of the Divine Mother, God depicted with feminine energies and features, is also discussed in some religions and spiritual traditions. Jaya (2021) wrote an article, ” The Many Faces of The Divine Mother”, where he described the different manifestations of the Divine Mother, such as, Durga in Hinduism. Images of the Divine Mother include Kali, Saraswati, Lakshmi, Parvati, Chamundi in Hinduism. Tara is viewed as the Mother of Liberation in Buddhism. Dr. Sherry Ruth Anderson discussed the feminine faces of God in Judaism and Christianity. Dr. Sherry Ruth Anderson used the terms: “Shekinah” (feminine face of God in Judaism) and “Sophia” (feminine face of God in Christianity). The Virgin Mary is an embodiment the Divine Mother in some cultures.
In light of spirituality and the Divine Mother, I am very honored to introduce Dr. Jean MacPhail to the readers. She is my good friend, and an elder of immense wisdom, sharp intellect, wit, bold and fearless in expressing her thoughts and feelings. She is an artist, physician, medical researcher, prolific author, philosopher, and a nun in the Vedanta Society. I attended her presentation at a conference. I read her book, “A Spiral Life”. I am still working on her book, “Swami Vivekananda’s History of Universal Religion and its Potential for Global Reconciliation”. Dr. MacPhail discussed that she worships Ma Kali, a form of the Divine Mother. She stated that her exposure to Celtic tradition of Goddesses led her to find refuge in Ma Kali. She also described being a big fan of the saint, Sri Sarada Devi, wife of Sri Ramakrishna.
In my opinion, Dr. MacPhail is a fully bloomed lotus, demonstrating magnificent spiritual growth despite her personal tragedies. She has studied the philosophy of Swami Vivekananda extensively and completed her doctoral thesis on Vedanta philosophy. Swami Vivekananda gave his brilliant and groundbreaking speech on Hinduism’s focus on tolerance and universal acceptance of all religions at the Parliament of World’s Religions at Chicago in 1893 (artic.edu). He addressed his speech to the American audience with the endearing words, “Sisters and Brothers of America”, which led to a standing ovation by the audience.
This post consists of my interview with Dr. MacPhail, which is rich and fascinating, as she discusses her life cycles or “spirals” through a developmental perspective, each cycle consisting of disruptive stressors and healing relationships with teachers and the sacred. She discusses many facets of her spiritual journey and experiences of the sacred through Christianity, Buddhism, Celtic wisdom, relationship with the Divine Mother (Ma Kali) and Vedanta philosophy of Sri RamaKrishna and Swami Vivekananda.
Here is the link to my interview with Dr. Jean MacPhail:
The video was edited by Mr. Ryan Corcino.
Many thanks to Dr. Jean MacPhail and Ryan Corcino.
Spiral imprints are powerful symbols occurring repeatedly, ranging from the microcosm of one individual life to the macrocosm of galaxies in the universe. Dr. Brenner (2015) discussed the “spiral process” and particularly the cycles in the spiral imagery as stages of life where our consciousness experiences transformation, birth, death and rebirth of the self. She also discussed the spiral imagery as demonstrated in many facets of nature, such as the solar system, galaxies, and the flow of water. Dr. MacPhail’s discussion of the spirals or life cycles and her relationship with Ma Kali (Divine Mother) was very rich, powerful and intriguing. Dr. MacPhail’s interview was very timely as I just came back from the Durga Puja festival yesterday.
Dr. MacPhail’s interview led me to reflect of my own life cycles and their impact on my biological, psychological and spiritual development. Hope this post inspires readers to reflect on their own “spirals” or life cycles as we come closer to the end of this year and start of 2024.
FOR CONTACT INFORMATION for Dr. Jean MacPhail:
Art Institute of Chicago. Swami Vivekananda and His 1893 Speech. https://www.artic.edu
Brenner, A. (2015). Shape of your Life: The Spiral Process. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-flux/201501/the-shape-your-life#:~:text=Within%20the%20spiral%20form%20%E2%80%9Cthe%20potential%20for%20movement,evolution%2C%20humanity%E2%80%99s%20developmental%20climb%20to%20realize%20heightened%20consciousness.
Jaya, N. (2021). Many Faces of Divine Mother. Ananda India. https://anandaindia.org/blog/many-faces-of-divine-mother/
MacPhail, J. C. (2010) A Spiral Life. Xlibris Corporation.
MacPhail, J. C. ( 2020) Swami Vivekananda’s History of Universal Religion and its Potential for Global Reconciliation. Cook Communication.
Rajhans, S. G. (2019). Goddess-Durga. https://www.learnreligions.com
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