“God is our father, but beyond everything, he is our mother.”
Pope John Paul 1
Every so often, I enjoy asking those who attend my programs how they would feel if they suddenly discovered that God is a woman. The responses I get are remarkable for their unanimity and for the profound changes that come over the audience, both among men and women alike. One woman put it like this: “I would feel relieved, like a great burden was lifted from me, because I would feel that God understood and didn’t judge people. I’d feel that God was more likely to love us.”
Others respond in the same way. “I wouldn’t feel criticized or judged by God,” people say. “I would feel that there is unconditional love and understanding at the center of the universe.”
The image of a male God, angry and judgmental, that has been handed down to us over the past five thousand years is now being transformed. So, too, are many of the precepts and beliefs that are based on that image. And these changes have the potential to transform our world.
What happens to our world, we should ask, when women gain full partnership in the spiritual life of the world? What happens to orthodoxy, especially radical orthodoxy, both in the East and West, when women have the same authority as men in religious and spiritual matters? What happens to life on earth when the Divine Masculine is balanced — and even transformed — by the Divine Feminine, and when the two sides of Divinity are reflected in human behavior?
These questions reveal the enormous imbalance at the center of modern life, which is that the male consciousness has dominated our world — from politics and science to industry and religion – and has given rise to the multiple crises we face today.
When we consider the spread of fundamentalism around the world, the scandals rocking the Catholic Church, male-dominated medicine, and industry’s corruption of the food supply, we start to realize that the rise of the feminine consciousness may be the world’s only hope for a return to sanity. Fortunately, there are signs everywhere that that is exactly what’s taking place.
The Imbalanced Male
Many people respond to the question about the sexual identity of God by saying that God is neither man nor woman, but that is not the training we have been exposed to throughout the past five thousand years. God may be beyond sexuality in the physical sense, but we’ve all been trained to see the Divine as a man, thanks to religious literature written by men. And though we have accepted the image without much reflection, it nonetheless is unsettling in some deep place in our being.
Why? Because we know from direct experience and intuitive wisdom that women have a broader, more tolerant, and more life-sustaining consciousness than men. A cursory review of the past two thousand years of Christianity and five thousand years of Judaism will provide ample proof of that statement. The male deity configured in both these traditions is “a jealous” God, an “angry” God, a God full of wrath and vengeance. And this image of God has shaped reality for the vast majority of us, much to the detriment of the entire world. The history of Western cultural expansion, and its genocide of traditional peoples, especially in the Americas, is the story of male domination over the feminine approach to living.
That image of a critical, wrathful God has been the justification ministers have used for their fire and brimstone messages.
A few years ago, I watched well-known American journalist, Barbara Walters, interview television-evangelist, Ted Haggard, whose Christian ministry was raking in millions of dollars, thanks in large measure to Haggard’s fiery sermons, some of which outlined the criteria for who would be going to heaven, and who wouldn’t. It was in that vein that Haggard told Ms. Walters that that she was not getting into heaven because, as a Jew, she had not confessed Jesus Christ as her personal Lord and Savoir. On the question of whether Walters might get a reprieve, Haggard wasn’t reassuring.
“You’re going to have to work that out with God,” Haggard kept telling her, speaking to her as if from on high.
This kind of judgment is common among male ministers. So, too, is hypocrisy.
Shortly after being interviewed by Ms. Walters, Haggard’s life exploded in scandal when a male prostitute claimed that he had engaged in a three-year sexual relationship with Haggard. The man also said that he had purchased crystal methamphetamine for the minister. Haggard, married and the father of five children, lost his ministry and later got a job as an insurance salesman.
Throughout history, sex has always been a thorny issue for the male ministry, but never more so than today. Right now, the Catholic Church is caught up in a decades-long scandal that is already washing up on the Vatican’s front door. What was initially thought to be a crisis confined to the U.S. and Ireland now turns out to be a worldwide phenomenon. Priests have been molesting children – mostly boys, along with a minority of girls — by the tens of thousands, and they’ve been doing it for millennia. And like an old boys club for pedophiles, priests in senior positions have covered up these crimes, either by moving the offending clerics to other parishes, or by paying off their accusers with hush money.
The events themselves are now well-documented. What is important to me is not the details of the scandal – you can read those in any newspaper – but the beliefs that have led to the criminal behavior.
If the scandal teaches us anything, it is that women and children have always been treated by the Church as inferior beings – inferior to men in general, and to priests in particular. That belief alone is now coming back to haunt the Church.
But the scandal also teaches us a lot about the nature of our sexuality, which is far too powerful to be controlled by simple edict. Let’s face it, we humans are possessed by sex. And when that powerful force is repressed, people start behaving in bizarre, unnatural, and even criminal ways.
The absence of wisdom on the subject of sex, especially among religious leaders, is now all too obvious. Somehow, clergy members must have realized that they lack any real understanding of sex, because they did the thing that people do when they are lost and confused. They start blaming people. In this case, the clergy blamed women, who have been characterized for the past five thousand years as the dark, seductive force that have led men to their doom.
Women Are The Source Of Life
How women came to be recognized and treated as secondary figures on the planet is a long story that has its origins in religion and the peculiarities of the sex hormones. Testosterone gave men brute strength – and thus the upper hand when it came to violence — but it didn’t give us the power to reproduce life in our bellies. And clearly, the future of the human race depends less on muscle than it does on healthy wombs.
Our ancestors recognized a woman’s life-giving power as perhaps the greatest of all mysteries.
I have been blessed to be present at the birth of all three of my children and, as any father will tell you, witnessing the birth of one’s own child is among the most important experiences in a man’s life. Watching my wife’s belly expand, feeling with my hand the thumping of our child’s movements within her womb, and watching our baby emerge from my wife’s body is about as big a miracle as I have seen in my lifetime.
Indeed, the awesome process that is fertility, menstruation, pregnancy, and birth were among the cornerstones of religious life for our ancestors. These mysteries revealed the nature of the universe itself, mysteries that were distilled and captured within a woman’s body.
In their remarkable book, The Great Cosmic Mother, Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth, anthropologists Monica Sjoo and Barbara Mor assert that in order to turn people away from the original religion of the earth, the early authors of the bible created a story in which a woman, namely Eve, emerged from Adam’s rib. This, of course, reversed the pregnancy and birthing process that gave life to us all. It also asserted the superiority of men by depicting them as the source of women. We all know what came next. Eve is cast as Satan’s dupe. The apple becomes a metaphor for sexuality, and Eve’s seductive powers became the dark force that tempts “good men” to turn away from God’s will. That dark force had to be brought under control, the clergy told us, if the human race is to be redeemed.
In The Great Cosmic Mother, Sjoo and Mor reveal in enormous detail the gifts women have given to the evolution of the human race. With impeccable scholarship, Sjoo and Mor document that women were the first cooks and thus the first to harness the powers of fire; the first to recognize and cultivate seeds; the first to garden and reproduce food. Men were the hunters, women the gatherers. As the gatherers, women provided the greatest portion of the community’s food supply. (This is still true within primitive tribes, such as the !Kung of Botswana.) As hunters, men lived far more solitary lives. Women, on the other hand, sat around the community pot and – out of necessity — were the first to develop language. Women came to understand the importance and power of medicinal foods and herbs, which formed the basis for medicine. Many of the early cave paintings, pottery, and jewelry were created by women. In other words, women were among the earliest artists, healers, story tellers, and farmers.
Because of their menstrual cycles, and their innate connection to the moon, women also came to understand the link between human life and the movements of the heavens.
Of course, all of these areas were engaged by men, and indeed men made great contributions, as well. But the picture history has given us is that women were somehow outside the creative and intellectual process.
What truly clarifies the importance of women among our ancestors is that the original religion of human beings was the worship of God as a Woman, indeed, as the Divine Mother. The religion of the Cosmic Mother, according to Sjoo and Mor – and confirmed by many other anthropologists, both women and men – existed for some two-hundred-thousand years. In fact, our early ancestors had no choice but to see God as a woman, because life itself was reproduced through her. In the same way that a woman’s body gave birth, so, too, did the earth give birth to food, healing plants, fire, and the materials for clothing and shelter.
Menstruation, the rhythms of fertility, the link with the movements of the moon and other heavenly bodies – all of these were tied to the mysteries that lived within women’s bodies. The earth reflected these same characteristics, and thus was called Gaia, or Goddess.
The Feminist Mistake
Whenever a group is suppressed by the dominant power, there is the temptation among the suppressed to become more like their oppressors. For decades, many women felt that they must become more like men if they were to have any power. That’s understandable, to be sure, but it also leads us away from the neglected part of our humanity, which is so desperately needed if we are to become more whole and capable of surviving our current challenges.
It has become politically incorrect to speak about the differences between men and women, but it’s a subject that must become a greater part of our conversation if we are to truly understand ourselves, and the steps we must take in order to evolve.
Within the human body lies an intelligence – indeed, an infinite wisdom — that is beyond anything our rational minds can comprehend. Thanks to their unique anatomy, women are far more likely to experience an intimate connection with their bodies, their subtle rhythms, and the stream of instinctual wisdom that resides in the body of both sexes. Not only does this innate connection to the body join women to their inner lives, but also to the earth itself.
Men, on the other hand, have a tendency to be top-heavy. Our nature inspires us to think a lot, which can foster great leaps of creativity, or a descent into a conceptual world that is detached from the wisdom of the body, heart, and human suffering. Inevitably, such detachment leads to a belief in absolutes, good and bad, us and them, saintliness and evil, which itself is the basis for much of the evil that has spread across the world. It has given rise to Inquisitions, witch burnings, Nazism, and manifestations of genocide the world over.
Whenever one sex is shielded from the balancing influence of the other, bad things happen in human consciousness and the world at large. When male consciousness is allowed to flourish without the balancing influence of the feminine mind, yang-aggressive energies go unchallenged and un-transformed by yin-receptive forces. Without the balancing effects that the female, without the harmonizing effects of yin mingling with yang, nature is destroyed.
The pendulum has reached an extreme point in its movement toward the male pole of our nature. And whenever extremes manifest, danger awaits us.
What Control Of Nature Has Wrought For Us
The attempts by men to control women, and women’s bodies, are reflected in the very way we have treated Mother Nature and the human body itself. Male consciousness, unfettered by the feminine influence, gives rise to behaviors and institutions that are themselves distortions of reality.
Among the most important of those distortions are the following:
- A food system that turns the bounty of nature into the products of the factory in order to enrich it’s sugar, fat, and synthetic contents and thus make it ever-more addictive and pathogenic.
- A medical system that dismisses the subtle healing energies of the human body, and the powers of healing food, herbs, touch, and other inexpensive forms of healing and medicine.
- A political system that denies the vulnerability of the young, the old, and the weak and that leans inevitably toward violence and radicalism.
- A science that seeks to manipulate the molecular and genetic worlds in order to patent pharmaceuticals and control the genome so as to provide short-term symptomatic relief, without cures, and thus create market dependency for maximum profits.
- Religions that thrive on power and subservience, that resort to various forms of violence, that distort the true nature of women, children, and men, that force women and children into servitude, and instill in men conflicting and confusing images of what it means to be a man.
And there can be no doubt that all of it is leading in the same direction – toward destruction.
Whether or not we make it out of this period in history is still unknown. Perhaps the jury is still out. Still, all of us yearn for health and balance again. All of us are secretly asking – whether we know it or not –a “kinder and gentler” way of life, as stated by our former U.S. President, George Herbert Walker Bush (the first Bush). In other words, we wish for a more feminine directed world.
That Divine energy is rising.
The Rise Of The Divine Mother, And The Saving Of The Earth
The pendulum has reached its extreme, to be sure, and whenever extremes manifest there is danger. There are signs, however, that the pendulum has begun its journey back into balance, that the male and female natures – though still separated by a great distance – are returning to harmony. The rise of the Divine Feminine is making this possible.
Thus, we are witnessing the following:
- A food supply that is returning to its original nature. Though challenged by corporate greed and advertising that attempts to brainwash the general public, farmers are producing more and more organic, whole foods. A purer, less processed food supply is growing. Whole, unprocessed foods are the very thoughts of Heaven and Earth, of the Divine Father and Mother. More and more of us are consuming those thoughts every day of our lives.
- Gentle, motherly medicine, known as complementary and alternative medicine, is growing stronger by the year. The wisdom and power of healing systems based on a deeper understanding of the human form, and the heavenly and earthly energies are gaining power in the world today.
- The human body, and human consciousness, are being supported by both an organic food supply and motherly medicine, which means that the powers of the mind and the wisdom of the body will continue to mingle and balance each other. Thus, the marriage of Heaven and Earth, the union of the Divine Father and Mother, is more likely to take place in each of us.
- The distress of the earth, its atmosphere and environment, is becoming ever-more clear and critical. Each day, more people are doing whatever they can to heal the earth – even if it is only one backyard, one little stretch of river, or one patch of forest at a time.
- Gentle forms of energy, mother energy – in the form of wind, water, bio-fuels, and solar – are increasingly being demanded by the growing consciousness among people everywhere. Meanwhile, people of that growing consciousness are demanding such energy development increase.
- People around the world are no longer willing to turn their backs on the molestation of children, the abuse of women, and the demonizing of gays, lesbians, and people who are helping us integrate the complexities of our challenging sexuality.
- Animals are increasingly regarded as sentient beings who have rights to freedom and clean and natural habitats.
- The old order and its fundamental institutions are under siege. Banking, government, religion, and health care are facing sweeping tides of change. New ideas and practices in all of these areas of society will emerge as the existing giants are forced to evolve or become extinct.
These are but a few of the practical signs taking place the world over. They are of a certain character. Indeed, with a small insight, we can perceive the Great Being below the surface of such change.
Our job is to participate, promote, and encourage these very areas of life where the Divine Mother is active. The time has come for all of us to work with her rising power.
The rise of the Divine Mother is the only hope for men, as well. It’s possible that men can only experience their true natures when we can make a contribution that contributes to the lives of all people, but especially to women, children, and younger men. Our job may be to foster evolution, to protect what is good, and to bless. To bless means to see and cultivate all that is good, true, and beautiful in another human being, and indeed in the earth itself. Protect means to act not from the short-term profit, but from the long view of what is healthy for the next seven generations. And to evolve means to take responsibility for that which is no longer working, no longer true, and no longer appropriate; to act courageously and creatively in order to create a better future for ourselves and those we care about; and, when the moment calls for it, to let go of the past.
It’s true that the reigning consciousness is still overwhelmingly dominant. And as I said, the odds are long that we will overcome it. But great powers are with us, I believe, and nothing is impossible when the Divine Mother insists on change.
It’s possible that we must all become practitioners of the yin way. We must learn to employ more subtle methods of healing that include deep listening, healthier food choices, many ancient healing modalities, and the great learning to balance yin and yang within ourselves and the world around us.
The Mother Earth is already showing us that she is stirring and about to bring forth great change. Such events will only continue and become more obvious. Unless we align ourselves with her emerging forces, we are likely to find ourselves in history’s dumpster, next to the dinosaurs, pedophiles, fire-breathing ministers, and an enormous pile of worthless pharmaceuticals.