Spirituality (Essay 1)

All This Talk About the GODDESS ?

“The Goddess since her historical dethronement has remained alive and well. And continues to exert power from deep in the hidden recesses of the human psyche. Granted she has been sentenced to remain in a kind of internal exile, under house arrest, but her power is obvious from the efforts spent to keep her imprisoned.”
                                                                                                               Sam Keen

So,who is she, or what is she, and why does she keep seeking our attention? Might it be that it is we – subconsciously and unknowingly – are seeking her? But why? Those interested in her seem to be a strange mixture of people: witches, neo-pagans, extreme feminists, new-agers, and a handful of scholars probably with nothing better to do. So, how do we make sense of her enduring fascination?

Historical Context?

Research offers at least six possible responses to the above questions:

1. The Goddess is an archetypal expression of the divine universal life-force that impregnates the cosmic creation from the beginning of time (Cf. Proverbs 8:22ff).

“The universal order that holds things together in a comprehensive embrace can be presented in mathematical equations. But it can be and consistently has been presented in mythic form. From earliest times, this vast embrace bonding all things together in the magnificence of the entire created order has been understood in the maternal metaphor of the Great Mother. It was the fecundity and the nurturing quality of the universe that so impressed the earliest humans. This principle of fecundity and this nurturing quality we can now identify with that grand curvature of the universe, for this indeed is the creative and nurturing context of all that exists.”   
Brian Swimme & Thomas Berry (1992), The Universe Story, (pp.219-220).

2. The Goddess symbolises the groundedness of all creatures in the body of the Earth, inviting us to come home to the clay from which we are beautifully formed.

“The Goddess is the power of intelligent embodied love that is the ground of all being. The earth is the body of the Goddess. All beings are interdependent in the web of life. Nature is intelligent, alive and aware. As part of nature, human beings are relational, embodied and interdependent.”  Carol Christ (1997), Rebirth of the Goddess, p.xv.  

3. The Goddess as archetype of the Divine Mother carries a strong appeal at a time when millions feel insecure and largely unprotected by the prevailing political and religious forces.

It seems to me, that in our time, this image of the Goddess, bringing to birth the resurrected sun – or Son – out of the womb of darkness, out of the burial cave of the earth, carries a numinous power. For there can be no doubt that if civilised humankind is to survive the dangers of this century of transition, when all the familiar landmarks are disappearing and the collective structures that used to protect us are crumbling, we must turn to the Goddess, to the long-despised values of the feminine, to the feeling heart and the contemplative mind. Perhaps, then, our culture may see the rising of a new day.” Helen M.Luke (1987), Woman: Earth & Spirit, p.28.   

4. The Goddess is an internal psychic structure through which humans (especially women) can reclaim the subverted values of the feminine.

“The image of the Goddess inspires women to see ourselves as divine, our bodies as sacred, the changing phases of our lives as holy, our aggression as healthy, our anger as purifying, and our power to nurture and create , but also to limit and destroy when necessary, as the very force that sustains all life.” Starhawk, quoted in Charlene Spretnak (1982), The Politics of Women’s Spirituality, p.51

5. The Goddess, representing the birthing power of the Divine, becomes embodied in historical personalities throughout human history. These include several ancient Goddesses (real or imagined) as well as Kali and Durga in Hinduism, Tara and Kwan Yin in Buddhism, the West African Oya and Oshun, and Mary in Christianity, especially in the embodiment of the Black Madonna.

Further Information in : Charlene Spretnak (2003), Missing Mary;  Elizabeth Johnson (2004), Truly our Sister.     

6. As a historical person worshipped as the primary manifestation of the divine throughout the Palaelothic era (35,000-10,000 BCE). The primary evidence is that of Ice Age Art and the archaeological research of Marija Gimbutas and several others.

This a controversial claim with a deep appeal for several female scholars and for others committed to Goddess faith. For an excellent resume of the ongoing debate, seen Feminist Theology  Vol.13/2 (Jan.2005). Imaging the Goddess as a person – in the conventional Aristotelian sense – can easily become a form of patriarchal control – see the excellent critique provided by Rosemary Radford Ruether (2005), Goddesses and the Divine Feminine
 

The Da Vinci Code and the Great Goddess


A best seller and gripping read, yet heavily and justifiably criticised for several factual errors, this book has proved to be an alluring read precisely because it is about the Great Goddess. This is the subconscious grip that has hooked several readers.

Quite rightly, the author Dan Brown, highlights the petrified fear with which the Catholic Church (and indeed all religions) has regarded the Goddess, begetting a powerful antithetical force – symbolised in the contemporary movement, Opus Dei – to undermine the empowerment of the Goddess whenever and wherever possible.

Rightly, Brown highlights that the oppressive strategy has not worked (and never will). The Goddess continues to flourish, but not in his distorted patriarchal reconstruction of early Christian history. There is no evidence whatever that the Goddess descends through a royal line of any type, and her primary embodiment in the Christian story is not Mary Magdalene but Mary the mother of Jesus.

The major thesis on which The Da Vince Code is based – namely the existence and flourishing of the Great Goddess – is the lure and fascination that has gripped several readers. Sadly, the development of the plot grossly distorts what the Goddess is about and consequently, has little to contribute to what is likely to become one of the greatest spiritual and theological challenges of the 21st. century.

Conclusion


The Christians Churches will continue to ridicule, condemn and dismiss the fascination with the Goddess. Patriarchal religion seems to have an in-built antipathy for anything that connects us too intimately with the body whether it be that of the earth or the human. And the religions tend to become paranoid when the empowerment of the female and the promotion of female values gains ascendancy. 

The archetypal Goddess is an explosive symbol for our time. It is not just about female empowerment, because in fact most women on Planet Earth today feel grossly disempowered. And the main reason for this is the subjugation of the earth itself at the hands of the powerful corporate and consumerist forces of our time.

The rebirth of the Goddess is a birthing cry of anguish and desperate hope from an embattled earth body, broken and brutalised by parasitical humans. It is a wake-up call from the great nourishing Mother, and it carries a disturbing sense of urgency - see the scholarly, challenging work of
Paul Reid-Bowen (2007), Goddess as Nature. Either we cop-on to what we are doing to the womb of life or we may have no womb from which to draw nurturance. It may well be one of the most apocalyptic moments we have had to face in the history of Homo Sapiens. And if we stand any hope of surviving, I suggest we had better listen carefully to what the Goddess is asking of us at this precarious time. 


 


© 2010 Diarmuid
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