Art and the chant workshop

We hosted our third chant workshop tonight; Chandra Alexander of Sharanya led us in Hindu Goddess chants. She gave us a handout with the words of the chants (in Sanskrit, with transliterations), and asked us which chants we’d like to try.

I asked for a chant titled “God Is Mother and Father”; the title alone reminded me of the mid-19th C. prayers of Theodore Parker, in which he often referred to his God as both Mother and Father. (The 1862 edition of Parker’s prayers, edited by Rufus Leighton and Matilda Goddard, is now online at Google Books.) Not that there is a precise congruence between the two. The Hindu chant can be translated as: “You are Mother and Father, you alone are friend and relation. you are wisdom and prosperity, O God of Gods you are everything.” Parker does not tend this far towards pantheism; his God is personal, God as persona: “O Lord, our Father and our Mother too, we know that we need not ask any good thing from thee, nor in our prayer beseech thee to remember us, for thou lovest us more than we can love ourselves…” (July 25, 1858, p. 185).

Either way, while I can appreciate the beauty of both chant and prayer, I can’t say that I a parental god-image does much for me. But that’s the way art works, isn’t it? I don’t have to believe in the reality of a thunder-god to feel awe and reverence in the presence of a Greek sculpture of Zeus.