“…we have forgotten, or been denied, the depths of this mystery, of how the divine light of the soul creates a body in the womb of a woman, and how the mother shares in this wonder, giving her own blood, her own body, to what will be born. Our culture’s focus on a disembodied, transcendent God has left women bereft, denying them the sacredness of this simple mystery of divine love. What we do not realize is that this patriarchal denial affects not only every woman, but also life itself. When we deny the divine mystery of the feminine we also deny something fundamental to life.” ~Lewellyn Vaughn-Lee (Parabola, Spring, 2016)
In the pre-history of our species we struggled to survive like every living thing. We acted on our instincts to mate (the instinct for sex) and find food and protect our young (the instinct for nurturance). We knew how to find and build shelters (the instinct for activity) in the same way foxes know how to dig dens and birds know how to build nests.
Our survival depended on hunting. The best hunters were emotionless, task-oriented, focused, and factually precise. These are qualities of the brain’s left-hemisphere. As the human brain evolved, the most successful hunters were those whose left-hemisphere qualities were more highly developed. While this improved our chances for survival, we were far from finished.
One of the most significant outcomes of the left hemisphere’s development was the emergence of the ego from the maternal matrix of primordial unconsciousness. Until the ego showed up we were unaware of ourselves as a separate species, as beings who could choose not to act on our every instinct.
The birth of the ego marked the birth of human consciousness. The unique combination of the ego and physical developments like thumbs and the ability to walk upright eventually resulted in the emergence and strengthening of two additional instincts: the instinct for reflection and the instinct for creativity. Increasingly our specialization in these two set us apart from other animals.
With the creation of words, the basic unit of left-brained logic and reason, we had new tools to aid our survival. We wondered who had created us, we told stories to explain life’s mysteries, we celebrated the mysteries with ceremonies and rituals, colorful fabrics, beautiful art and crafts. And we taught our children to do the same.
But when we created alphabets in the second millennium BCE and could record the words for future generations, a subtle change was set into motion. The cleverest and most dominant males who saw the power of the written word began to equate their left-brained logos qualities with masculinity and maleness and used their written words to acquire power.
Eventually, the patriarchs of Judaism, Christianity, and then Islam forbade people to create life-like, ‘graven’ images (images and symbols being specialties of the brain’s right hemisphere) of God for worship. Many historians, philosophers and theologians now believe this was an effort to eradicate all signs of Goddess worship. Gradually the bias toward left hemisphere qualities and against those of the right, especially ones not consciously understood or those seen as threats to male-dominant hierarchies, spread to include femininity and femaleness.
Our ego creates and uses words to try to understand life’s mysteries, while our unconscious Self naturally and spontaneously creates symbols and images that bring us into a meaningful relationship with the mysteries. Both genders are born with two-hemisphered brains and the capacity for both perspectives. Each is necessary to a complete God-image and a conscious, balanced, meaningful life. Yet some people still profoundly distrust mythos thinking, women, creativity, and anything they consider “feminine.”
“The same sacred source that gave birth to each of us is needed to give meaning to our life, to nourish it with what is real, and to reveal to us the mystery, the divine purpose to being alive.” ~Llewellyn Vaughn-Lee
Luckily, humanity is still evolving. We bring moral sensibility to the table. We no longer condone a dominator, dictator mentality. We question unjust cultural biases, economic practices, and religious beliefs, even our own. We want our lives to have meaning and purpose. We are in search of our souls. To find them we’re re-engaging the faculties of both sides of our brains in maturing ways.
Thus, is the Western world returning to the Divine Feminine, but in a newer, more conscious way. This quote from Corpus Optima provides a biological explanation:
“The corpus callosum is the connecting terminal between the two lobes, the main channel between the two hemispheres, consisting of a profuse number of neural connections. It…allows the two lobes to communicate with each other. It holds the most complex group of nerves in the human body and provides for an integrated whole brain–and consciousness. It is through the neural connections of the corpus callosum that the two hemispheres work together for wholeness.”
Reblogged this on lampmagician.
Thank you for reposting this.
Thank you Jeanie – yes, a blend of mythos and logos is needed and for the masculine and feminine energies present in both genders to be integrated for recognition and for a greater appreciation of the sacred within. What a learning curve it all is! Whatever is suppressed will always out – and the turn of the wheel allows for fuller expression of the denied feminine and for a more soulful, honest and authentic relationship with ourselves, relationships, and the world …
Yes, whatever is suppressed will always out because we, like every growing thing, are meant to attain our fullness, our oneness. A rose does not refuse to bloom because it doesn’t like its color or scent. It allows nature to bring out its fullest potential, thereby blessing all of life with its beauty. Likewise it’s fruitless for us to fear or obstruct our fullest natural blossoming, the expression of the true loving and loved soul we were born with, because our soul is only following its destiny when it insists on coming into the light. Thank you, Susan
Why do people of the earth need a divinity whether male or female at all? The One whom I call Source of all that is, is neither female not male. He just IS Light and created life that generates love through the intrerconnectedness of all living species no matter the genre of that specie
Why do we need a divinity?
I believe it is because as sentient creatures we sense deep within ourselves that we contain that Source of Light and Life and Love at our core; and because we are made in such a way that we will never feel happy or fulfilled until we connect with it so as to reach our own highest and best potential. We are made such that the unconscious Self creates symbols that move us deeply and remind us of that Source of Love and Light and fullness to which we aspire.
At immature stages of consciousness, these symbols take on aspects of the genders, sometimes male, sometimes female, but with maturity come more complex images of unity and oneness, for example couples, or androgynous beings. Different God-images work for different individuals in different cultures and phases of development, but all those that come from within us are meant to move us along into expanding stages of consciousness of the One genderless Source that indwells us and life.
And one final reason. I don’t know if you meant to do this or not, but you begin your third sentence in your comment with the pronoun “He” as a descriptor of Source. This is problematic for women because it suggests only maleness is Sacred. At the age of ten I was painfully aware of how “Our culture’s focus on a disembodied, transcendent [male] God” denied me the sacredness of this simple mystery of divine love. So for me, having a cultural image of the Divine Source that was inclusive of maleness and femaleness would have been profoundly reassuring and affirming and would have made it far easier to claim that love for myself. I’m sure you would agree that all people, no matter their age or level of awareness of the sacredness of life, deserve that.
Thank you very much for writing. I appreciate questions like yours that offer me the opportunity to clarify my thoughts.
I love this blog post, Jean. Here’s a link to a lecture by Dr. Leonard Schlain, author of The Alphabet VS The Goddess: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2QQuD62RxrU The images he uses are quite stunning!
Thanks, Melody. Yes. Dr. Schlain’s book has been one of my favorites for years and has informed my thinking greatly! He was truly a brilliant, original thinker. He left us too soon! I appreciate the link and will check it out asap!
Jean, I say this with admiration: your thought process
Is often way more sophisticated than mine. But I love the premise of your essay.
Hebrew has no neuter pronouns, so by default The Eternal One is referred to in Scripture by the masculine pronoun. That said, he essence of God most accessible to us us שכינה (Shechina) a feminine noun.
Even though you correctly note the prohibition against graven images, anthropomorphisms creep in. Words are the imperfect tools we use to describe the indescribable.
In line with your wonderful essay, one of my favorite verses in Scripture is Psalm 123:2: “Behold, as the eyes of servants to the hands of their master, as the eyes of the handmaid to her mistress, so our eyes look to the Etnal One our God.”
I love Judaism’s understanding of and reverence for the Shechina and have referred to it often in my writing. Am I correct that the English interpretation of her name is “God with (or among) us?” In fact, at the age of 27 when I was undergoing a crisis of faith, I had a very real, very life-like vision of a pale blue pulsating pillar of light in front of the altar of my Episcopal church’s chapel. This happened immediatey after a woman who was a spiritual leader in my church prayed a prayer for me (at my earnest request) that my faith would be restored. I discovered years later from the writings of a female rabbi—I think her name was Rabbi Leah Novich?—that she would have considered it a manifestation of Shechina.
Thank you for your reference to Psalm 123. As I was growing up, our family read our favorite Psalms before Sunday dinners whenever our grandparents were with us, but I don’t remember coming across the handmaid-mistress phrase. It’s really lovely and I’m sure it means far more to me now than it would have then. When it was my turn to read I always picked Psalm 91 because I loved the image of “abiding in the shadow of the Almighty” and “finding refuge under his wings.”
I really enjoy the fact that our religious heritages are dense with much of the same profound depth, meaning and beauty. My early, in-depth-studies of Christianity’s scriptures continue to be the foundation of my spirituality and an ongoing inspiration. I understood the symbolic meanings early on. My only regret is that neither my conservative forebears nor adult religious leaders did, and that they never educated the parishioners about a more inclusive gospel.
Of course, many churches/synagogues and religious leaders of today are far more progressive, but I had to go through a time of anger and rebellion before I could view my religion with fondness and compassion. It was only when I discovered Jungian psychology that I knew that what was missing in my religious education was the importance of loving and understanding oneself. Everyone talked about not pointing out the “mote in another’s eye” but no one told me how to see my own shadow. Perhaps that was just the path I was meant to take to get to the place I am today.
Thank you so much for writing. Jeanie
Steven, I’m away from my regular computer and this one is acting up. I received your kind response to the above comment and will check out the Exodus passage as soon as I can. Somehow as I was responding to it, this computer I’m using in a hotel in the Florida Keys started flashing weirdly for a moment and then eliminated both your response and the one I was writing! I just wanted to thank you for your kind and understanding comment and let you know that I appreciated your reference to the Exodus passage. I assume it was about the pillar of light…Shechina…that led the Jews through the wilderness for 40 years. I look forward to re-reading it from my newer perspective! 🙂
Dear Jeanie, I found myself resonating deeply all the way through your wonderful, rich article. I really enjoyed the image you used, displaying two sides of the brain. Initially, I assumed it was a beautiful sheaf of corn not the human brain, as it’s been captured (in camera and obviously in my psyche!) in such an arty, highly imaginative way. So pleased to share that whilst reading I experienced one of those ‘aha!’ light-bulb moments. Unconsciously, I guess I already knew this yet consciously I had never made the link before. Hmm, yes, talk about eradicating the goddess indeed!
I’m waffling, let me explain. In childhood when listening to the biblical story of Moses going on about taking down those ‘graven’ images I thought to myself, ‘no, don’t do that, I adore that golden calf!’ most especially after we were shown pictures of it taken from the children’s bible we were reading. Furthermore, after Moses burnt the beautiful calf, I was so upset to hear that ‘God’ (however defined) wasn’t going to be seen (visible) anytime soon. Aha! I think to myself today … so that’s why I love symbolism, and imagery so much, because even as a small child, I recognised that the image was speaking to me.
I remember my Sunday school teacher was appalled when I told her that I wanted the golden statue back. I remember saying, ‘god, what’s wrong with me!’ and then having to apologise to her twice for also taking his name in vain! Why did I love the images more? Oh how I tortured myself with that question for years, thinking there must be something wrong with me! Thank you so much for helping me make this connection today, I’m over the moon! It’s simply amazing that I’ve had to wait all these years to finally understand my love of symbols as a child and how that was taken away from me (us) for a long, long time. Blessings, Deborah.
What a fascinating memory you’ve uncovered. I never understood why the golden calf had to go either. It seemed so harmless and the people were having such fun dancing around it.
It makes me think of some Asian religions with their profusion of images representing all sorts of sacred qualities…beautiful ways of representing the energies of the archetypes. When we went to Viet Nam about 5 years ago there was a small outdoor chapel outside our hotel. In the center on a pedestal was the Buddha seated on the nine-headed cobra, and passers-by would place incense beside it, and necklaces of golden flowers, and fruit. Apparently one young man I talked to did it simply as a way to stop and remember his deceased mother by saying a prayer for her as he walked to work every day….a way to recapture warm feelings of love and gratitude and well-wishing. For him it was all about finding sacred meaning in life. Being grateful for it. And many images and symbolic gestures can do that for us.
But of course, images can be used to stir up the worst in people too: to wit, the swastika, once an ancient sacred symbol possibly representing the on-ongoing energy of life, long before the Nazis adopted it to symbolize something entirely different! Symbols and images, like television and the internet—media which make full use of them—-are neither good nor bad in themselves. It all depends on what they represent to us and how we use them.
Blessings to you, Jeanie
What a wonderful reply, I really enjoyed reading your thoughts and reflections on symbolism and imagery. And on the subject of symbols, today I decided to say farewell to the little blue ‘twitter’ bird, as my heart, I realise, just wasn’t in it. However, I shall endeavour to keep up with my blog, and most especially my new diet! Thank you Jeanie for your kind-hearted reply.
You’re so welcome, Deborah. I fully understand your need to say farewell to the little blue bird. An obsessive compulsion to pay homage to it can easily trap us in ego-inflation, almost idolatry….never a good thing, as Moses knew full well. 🙂
My friends, I’m away from my main computer for a few days and the one I’m using is acting very strangely. Twice after I’ve written responses to the second comments of two people, Rabbi Steven and Deborah, this computer has eliminated both their comments and my responses. As you can see above, it says there have been 14 replies at the bottom of the above post, but only 11 show up (not counting this one, which I hope will show up.) This has never happened to me before in six years of using wordpress and I’m very bothered by it. As you know I enjoy your comments very much and always try to respond to them in a timely manner. So please know that I didn’t voluntarily eliminate your comments or my responses. I simply have no idea where they went or why they went away. ????
If it helps Jeanie, my WordPress Reader broke down about a week or so ago, so no notifications, or any blogs in my reader. Hmm, possibly some pesky bugs in the WP system? I was going to put up a post in their support forum but hundreds of others have beaten me to it. Hopefully all will be resumed to a normal WP service in the next day or so. On the flip-side I’m enjoying reading my fab new book! oxox
It does help, Deborah. I thought I must have some terrible virus in my laptop. Had my computer guy go in remotely to trouble shoot and am trying it again now. It seems to be working normally so far….. keeping fingers crossed!
It makes me happy to know that the first preserved poet, Enhuduanna, was a woman, a priestess of Inanna. When the masculine saw the power in the written word, they confiscated it and denied it to women.
You wrote: “Luckily, humanity is still evolving. We bring moral sensibility to the table. We no longer condone a dominator, dictator mentality.” I agree we are still evolving and will always be, but I’ve never seen less moral sensibility in the collective of my country or more interest in dictator mentality. As you suggest, we have never been in more need of a new integrated image of sacred wholeness.
Yes, there’s no doubt that the collective consciousness of my country is still seriously challenged. But when I look at humanity from a cosmic/historical view, I see growth….slow for certain, but growth. I mean the Magna Carta was signed in 1215 but it took about 561 more years before we established a government based on its principles…yet it happened.
Is our government flawed? Yes. But the one we have is better than most of the repressive ones our forebears fled from. Did women only get the vote about 100 years ago? Shamefully, yes. But now we have many intelligent, conscious and well-intentioned women in places of power. Are some politicians still corrupt and obsessed with power? Yes. Are we as a people still psychologically ignorant and vulnerable to the mass influences of the media and the very angry and outspoken citizens who are still suffering from the immoral excesses that led to the 2008 recession? Yes.
But I also see the thoughts and ideas of many wise, psychologically and spiritually mature individuals making an impression on more and more of our populace, and being spread to a far wider audience than ever before. And I know that times of severe turmoil and chaos and unrest indicate that something newer and better is trying to be born in the psyche. And it will be born….. Eventually…….
I love your mention of the poetess Enhuduanna and what she represents: the wise and powerful women who know how to use their voices and can make a difference in society. My hope rests with women like this.
So yes, even now, my glass is still half full. 🙂
Thank you for sharing your thoughts, my sister.