Reflectionary by Linda Carleton

Ancient Herons.4x4


In the Beginning
by Linda Carleton

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth . . .

Does anyone else remember being ten years old, lying in the scratchy August grass with fireflies flickering in the darkness, then gazing into the starry sky and wondering where it all came from? And who remembers our parents beleaguered efforts to explain what was there BEFORE it all began?

The earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep . . .

The deep? What deep? Of course my ten-year-old self had no sense of ancient Hebrew cosmology or the primordial soup. She just wanted to know how it all fit together. She still does.

Perhaps the Buddha was correct in maintaining his Noble Silence and recognizing the futility of such ultimate questions. Or maybe the material plane that we so take for granted is merely illusion as suggested by Hindu philosophy or the contemporary A Course in Miracles. Or possibly the ancient Gnostics or the medieval Cathars got it right in suggesting that this world of chaos and corruption is the work of some evil demiurge.

. . . while a wind of God swept over the face of waters. Then God said, “Let there be light; and there was light.”

Other religious traditions accept no such explanations. They claim that his world, in all its chaos and complexity, was formed through a conscious act of creation. In Taoism the union of yin and yang split into the ten thousand things. In the mythology of Ancient Egypt the heron, or Benu, flies from the heart of Osiris to call in the beginning of time and space. The Qur’an describes the explosion that separated matter and space. The Kabala images this moment of creation as ten divine emanations forming the sephirot of the Tree of Life.

And now scientists are suggesting that there was no Big Bang, no beginning and no end to the cosmos.

It’s thoughts like these that gave rise to my mandala, “Ancient Herons.” It is sent within the energetic grid of the flower of life. From this shines the sephirot and the light of creation. And around it are two herons whose mating call, like ours, brings forth a nest of new life.


Linda Carleton is a spiritual director, writer, artist and retired UCC minister and teacher of comparative religions who divides her time between Chebeague Island and Portland. She enjoys exploring faith questions and leading workshops on mandala journaling and the Enneagram.

Visit Linda at

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