Dear Ms Iglehart,
I’m writing to thank you for your extraordinary book, The Heart of the Goddess. It changed my life in the year 1993.
When I was 14 years old, in 1993, I was struggling to figure out my sexuality as a young gay man.
My high school English class was working on a “Mythology” unit. I fell in love with the topic. While combing the mythology shelves at the public library, I happened upon your book.
Leafing through it, I fell in love with the pictures. I knew that I had to take the book home.
I went on to read every word of your text.
I was raised Roman Catholic, in a conservative home. I was hungry for what you give your readers in the book. I needed it.
Some key points from my interaction with the Heart of the Goddess:
I remember going with my family to church, and seriously asking your question: How would the church be different, if the Paleolithic Venus were carved over the door?
(My relationship with the Church changed after that!)
I remember being struck, confused, in awe, at your inclusion of the Our Lady of Guadalupe, and that extraordinary sculpture (I believe from the Cluny?) of Mary containing the universe.
I built a shrine to Pele of Hawaii in my room. (My family was perplexed and pretended to be amused.)
In your introduction, you mention the gay liberation movement as one of the ways in which the Goddess is coming alive again. That meant a lot to me.
My favourite picture in the book was of Prajnaparamita. I hardly understood the picture, in some ways. But I loved it. I love it still:
As a sign of affirmation of my spiritual journey, my mother bought me a small statue of Prajnaparamita in San Fransisco’s Chinatown, when she visited SF for a conference. She knew that I was studying the Goddess, and had a particular love for the Buddhist female bodhisattvas.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that The Heart of the Goddess helped me to accept myself as a gay man, with love. That coming-out process is still underway — the process of learning to truly love my sexuality, and to overcome shame.
This week, meditating on the massacre at the Pulse club in Orlando, I have re-visited the topic of homophobia in my thoughts, and the “weapons” of liberation at my disposal (Kannon’s sword!).
Where do they come from? To whom do I owe thanks for them?
The idea of writing to you came from these questions.
Over the past year, I have opened a very intense and positive new chapter in my spiritual life.
I now regularly practice Buddhist meditation, at a Zen hermitage.
I re-discovered Prajnaparamita — an old flame.
She never left me.
Last night, I meditated at the hermitage on the massacre committed against the LGBT community last Sunday in Orlando.
I tried to breathe in all of the trauma and suffering that has flowed from the slaughter.
I tried to breathe out love, healing, wholeness — to the victims, to the oppressors, for myself, for everyone.
I meditated on Prajnaparamita — her dorje of right leadership in one hand, her book of wisdom in another, with two left over for the resting-clasping of meditation.
I imagined myself as a bee, buzzing within her lotus — aware of interdependence.
Today, I feel renewed in an unexpected way.
The massacre of Orlando is still with us. But I feel that we can heal the world.
I am so grateful that you set me on the path to healing meditation, when I was 14.
Atheist, Catholic, Buddhist, Pagan, Goddess-revering: Are these qualities not very dependent on how we define them, on what values we bring to the practice?
I am struck by the fact that I am coming back, as an adult, to the language you taught me when I was 14.
You helped me to clarify what my values are: pro-sex, pro-planet, pro-animals, pro-woman. Anti-patriarchy, anti-racist, anti-xenophobe, anti-pollution. With all of these charged as sacred.
That bedrock has never left me.
Thank you, a thousand times !