I have only known Devi for two years, but She has known me for eternity. There has never been a time that either of us have been without existance, but for 29 years of this incarnation, I was unaware of this fact.
I am an American and one that grew up in mainstream America, indoctrinated into mainstream ideology (Protestant Christianity) and, unfortunately like most, I grew up ignorant of the rich spirituality pervading other cultures. I was aware of them, however I was ignorant of the Truth of which they possessed. I was pretty certain that they were all idolatrous sinners who will suffer in hell as all idolatrous sinners do-- you know, because the Bible told me so. I mean, seriously, look at Kali! What kind of moral person would worship THAT? I would have prayed for death during my early teens had you said that I would.
My fervor for All Things Christian™ burned out in my midteens upon, after having visited a number of churches and heard them damning each other (nevermind other religions), I realized that either God must be beyond sectarian mudslinging or simply not exist. Because I did not find the idea of atheism very satisfying, I chose to pursue an alternative to the spiritual diet that I had previously consumed.
The diet varied at first. I sampled from a large number of platters. From Buddhism to Judaism, Vodou to Asatru, and down through a number of systems within modern paganism, I spiritually travelled around the world in circular time. Some of these ideas and practices remain with me, as they are inherantly Me, just compartmentalized with proper cultural respect to each other, but none quite took me home like my first encounter with Devi, Goddess, She who is verily Brahman.
I had been long aware of Sanathana Dharma (Hinduism) before this awakening. I studied it in brief here and there. I even had a few dreams of Shiva one week and rushed out and purchased a rudraksha mala that I still use today. I did not quite get it then, however, although I am unsure as to why. I had long embraced henotheism, the idea that God is One (and therefore all religious revelations of Deity are quintessentially true), but the rest I could not quite understand. I still had misconceptions and sanskrit threw me off. With everything else, I over-analyzed, as so often I do. A couple of years later, nothing could possibly make more sense.
I had recently moved to coastal Virginia and, in just having had a discussion about the nature of Shekinah (the feminine presence of God within Judaism), decided to Google the nearest synagogue. I entered in "Chesapeake VA synagogue" but the top result that caught my eye was nothing Abrahamic, but rather Hampton Roads Hindu Temple. How [ir]relevant, I thought, but curiosity clicked the link. "Temple Deities"? Let me see...
And, there She was.
I read Her brief description, was utterly encaptivated by the synopsis provided, and quickly pulled up more information about Her. I found several images and gazing upon them illicited a deep emotional response in me. I cried. I cannot define the overwhelming emotions that I experienced. My analytical mind collapsed and I suddenly began to understand all that I could not before. And, I understood that She was all that there has been, is and will be. The Divine Feminine Reality Whose Cosmic Play Ever Reveals and Conceals Herself, stepped out of the web of maya made manifest by Herself, and was revealed to me within my heart of hearts, from where She had always existed. As the saying from the Brihad-aranyaka Upanishad says:
"Lord, lead me from the unreal to the real !
Lead me from darkness to light !
Lead me from death to immortality !"
And, spiritually speaking, She did at that revelation. I have since understood things I previously considered incomprehensible. Although I still have times of darkness in my physical life, I know that She remains even when everything else seem to leave. Like a good and proper Mother, She will hold my hand at some points in my life and smack it at other times.
In the breaking dawn, as the shank sounds and the brightness of the Sun forces all shadows to flee, I bow to you, sweet Lalita.
When the Sun sits and Your planet is cloaked with the terrors of the night, I cling to You, O Kali.
You are Durga ultimately, Mahadevi, and to you I give devotion and my Everything. You knew me first. It is my turn to know you.
Jai Mata Di! Victory to the Goddess.