So much to say! This is a post, a letter, an appeal, and an attempt to sort through my own feelings. I’m reeling from tragedies on every level, from the horror at Va. Tech to wondering if the malignancy on my father’s scalp has metastasized. He has surgery Wednesday, and it will be a while before we know where we stand. My mom isn’t doing well and I am overwhelmed with everything that needs to get done.
The tragedy in Virginia could have been prevented if VA refused to sell guns to anyone who, voluntarily or not, had been hospitalized for suicidal ideations. That shouldn’t even be considered gun control. It’s just common sense. The videos shown by NBC et al did give us some important information. It indicated, as did some of his other writings, that Cho might have been molested and/or struggling with issues of homosexuality. They reminded me of the stuff that Valerie Solanas wrote before she shot Andy Warhol - just streams of sexually charged obscenities that didn’t really say anything. It also showed that the guy who says nothing is the one with the most to say. I keep hearing Eddie Vedder in my head singing “Cho Seung Hui spoke in class today.” What a black irony that it scans the same as “Jeremy.”
Goddess bless the victims and their families, and help them find comfort for their grief.
The following is my venting that resulted in reading this month’s ODE magazine. It’s an amazing magazine and I really recommend that people who are committed to creating a better world subscribe, or at least check the website frequently. This was one of those issues where nearly every article wound me up because they’re so wonderfully close, but just don’t get it yet.
Some relevant articles in the May 2007 issue of ODE Magazine:
Pg 4 Marco Visscher states the modern need for the abolition movement because of continuing slavery around the world.
Pg 5 Max Christern relates former soccer star MIchel Platini’s desire to set soccer fans free by taking away the barriers. He believes that people will behave like adults if they are treated that way; put barriers in front of them and they will naturally rebel against them.
Pg 7 the Letters page with responses to a previous “god or not” article by Neal Donald Walsch called “Is God [sic] a Delusion?” re:Richard Dawkins most recent screed against “religion.”
Pg 10 Diana Reynolds Roome writes about the new education of exiled Tibetan nuns in “Sisterhood is Powerful.”
Pg 12 “Surprise Down by the Sea” biologist Mike Barandiaran “[the brown pelicans] were getting bombed left and right all around, but somehow they managed. Nature is persevering.” (She is, indeed!)
“The Secret Economy” cites information that 44% of people’s time in Western nations spent doing unpaid domestic work while they are volunteering 1 hour for every 14 of paid work, creating value that can’t be measured in dollars.
Pg 14 “The Good Don’t Die Young“ “benevolent, altruistic people live longer, stay healthier and experience less stress” because doing good works creates the release of endorphins.
...and more, which I’ll talk about below.
There is no word for the odd mixture of joy, optimism and frustration I experience when I read ODE Magazine. People are SO CLOSE to catching on, and there are so many people of all stripes - actors, doctors, scientists, philanthropists, entrepreneurs, mostly male - hitting all around the problems we face, but they don’t have the vocabulary to really get to the heart of the matter.
Take a deep breath, open your mind, screw up your courage and say the word: Goddess
That is the single, underlying theme that your contributors this month danced all around but couldn’t find a word to describe.
Most people will have a knee-jerk reaction at the use of that particular word. Are you picturing kooks in black Egyptian make-up? Hippies? Angry feminists? (I’m all of those, but read on, anyway.) The monotheists will hear blasphemy; the rationalists, superstition. I’m asking for neither faith in what I say nor belief in that which cannot be proven. Instead, I’m asking you to try a new frame for your own observations that can bring disparate and seemingly contradictory concepts into a unified whole. Moreover, it is a real and tangible whole that speaks to the deepest part of our psyches as well as our DNA, and that concept is Mother.
I know you’re a more enlightened group than most, but no one is perfect so try this: Set aside all your conditioning that says women are weak, emotional, secondary. Forget about popular concepts of balance, yin and yang, polarity, 50/50, either/or, black and white, good vs. evil. Reducing our reality to two opposing forces creates opposition, conflict and stagnation. It is divisive and damaging. It creates the idea that if I am to be “right” then you must be “wrong”; That might, wealth or divine decree create an entitlement for some to rule over many and for those rulers to hoard wealth and influence while enslaving, raping, plundering resources and committing genocide, all with the blessings of their “heavenly father.” “Somebody has to be in charge,” they say, and they claim to be the Chosen who have dominion over everyone else (the infidel) and the Earth as well. These are patriarchal concepts that have nothing to do with Nature, who always prefers Her own gender. Humans are 54% female. Using the reductive reasoning so common in Western thinking, we should refer to ourselves as womankind, since women comprise the majority of the race and since every one of us began as female in the womb. Why don’t we? I’ll come back to that later.
Both “rationalists” and religionists see the Earth as a thing that can be conquered, manipulated or controlled. Some picture an old man with a white beard deciding to make himself a world, fashioning a man from mud and a women from his rib. Others think “god” is a delusion and that we walk on dead rocks among senseless plants and dumb animals, while only we are blessed with the ability to reason. Many experience the world but are not of the world. This is not only incorrect, it is not logical. Logically, we cannot exist apart from Nature because we are a part of Nature. There is nothing rational in believing that humans stand apart from the rest of existence.
Our ideation of existing separately is a combination of hubris and ignorance that causes us to tune out our own experiences with the living and sentient life forms around us. In "Native Intelligence", pp. 28 - 32, anthropologist Jeremy Narby, calling himself a “diplomat between systems of knowledge,**” advocates incorporating the knowledge of indigenous people into our world view. The article cites studies that show mold can navigate a maze to find oatmeal; that bees are capable of abstract thought with a brain the size of a pinhead; that plants process information about the world around them the same way the neurons in our brains function; and that there’s a plant called the dodder vine that knows which sources in its surroundings are the most nutritious and a stilt palm in the Amazon that very slowly “walks” about, following the sunlight by extending roots into the light and letting the ones in shade die off, effectively moving it from place to place. In anthropology, the belief that plants and animals have consciousness or intelligence is called “animism.” The Japanese, we are told, call it chi-sei, “the capacity to know.” A shaman might call it magick (with a “k”); a scientist, superstition; I call it Goddess, or the more recognizable Gaia, using the latter when referring specifically to our own planetary ecosystem as a living entity. Call it what you want - it all leads to the same conclusion. Universal connection within one whole entity. When we cut her up into genders, countries, sects and sides we damage Her and our experience is poorer for it.
Narby wants us to know that everything is alive and everything is connected. This is not a new concept to my readers or the Goddess movement at large, but it is radically different from the consensus reality of the West. He and some biologist colleagues even participated in ayahuasca ceremonies which yielded new information in their fields for each of them. He stops just short of realizing that the world is a living (parthenogenetic ergo female) being. Nature is our living Mother who gave birth to us in Her womb, the ocean, through a process called evolution. That process is repeated in the development of a fetus in the womb. She’s alive. She’s conscious. We are interconnected parts of Her living body.
Paul Hawken gets closer in “The Instinct to Save the Planet,” pp. 39-45, wherein he understands that humans have acted like a cancer in the body of Earth and he perceives a growing, multi-faceted “movement” which he cannot name, but which he likens to the Earth’s immune system fighting back through this loose but growing web of between 1 and 2 million grass roots activist organizations. He identifies three roots of the system: “environmental activism, social justice initiatives and indigenous cultures’ resistance to globalization.” He doesn’t address the ties most of these groups have to the feminist movement, let alone acknowledge that Gaia, in true homeopathic form, is healing what Al Gore calls Her “fever” by using “like to cure like” - humans run amok have created Her illness, and something in the undercurrent of humanity is spurring people all over the globe to take healing action in a way that is unprecedented in our history.
This process is being facilitated by the growth of the information matrix described in "The Power of Many", pp. 34 - 38, which talks about the self-organizing tendencies being harnessed by various organizations and web entities. We have a natural drive to share, to help each other, and to make things better. That drive is being expressed in new ways on the web as well as social and political events which are beginning to abandon hierarchical structure and linear formats. The drive for justice, the defense of nature, the abandonment of hierarchy, growth from the bottom up instead of power directed downward are all essential facets of the Goddess Movement, and the awareness and connectedness that Hawken and Narby are crusading for are succinctly described as Goddess Consciousness. Hawken states that there is no ideology that encompasses all facets of the movement he has noticed or “heal all the wounds of this world”; I propose that there is one that he either doesn’t know or hasn’t seriously considered, and it is Goddess.
Have you felt uneasy with the way I punctuate sentences, specifically in terms of capitalization? Does is seem odd to give Earth gender? Does it seem strange to say Goddess and god? Feminists in the 70s addressed the gender inequities in language but they failed to take it into the realm of religion. It’s time to challenge the assumed preference given to “god/Yaweh/Jehovah/Allah” in all of our printed matter. It’s time to recognize that these are in fact one deity and one only, whose scripture declares him to be jealous of others.
Back to my question about Womankind. Why don’t we call ourselves by the logical term? Why is talking about Goddess more uncomfortable than talking about “god?” Why can “god” create a world, but Goddess not BE the Universe and Gaia the planet? What if the Big Bang was actually a primordial orgasm that set life in motion? That discomfort with the Feminine Divine is the political effect of 6,000 years of patriarchy and monotheist brain-washing.
In its quest for power, Western civilization has sacrificed connection - men are divided from women, races from one another, humans are divided from Nature, our minds are divided from our bodies. That brain-washing says that women in power are dirty, evil and dangerous, not to be trusted. The abuse heaped on women like Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi has a common origin with the idea that women must be swathed in burkas and the windows of their houses painted black. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are really one religion dedicated to the “god” of Abraham, each frozen at different stages of its development, and the scriptures used by that religion’s many forms have been crafted, reinterpreted, and twisted to keep women out of power and under the control of men, because women equal wealth - children, dowries, unpaid work, sex. It is no accident that the majority of people who live in poverty are women and their children. We are told that this is to be expected. People are naturally greedy, lazy, selfish and violent. War is inevitable. Evil is everywhere. We are told repeatedly that this is a normal condition for humans, and most people have never questioned it because they’ve never known anything else. There is another way, if we are willing to change our minds.
On this we can agree - human beings have been successful as a species because of our innate desire to be helpful to each other, and our ability to make individual sacrifice for the good of the group. There is a societal structure that is inclusive, participatory and just. There is a system that eschews hierarchies and strives for sustainable use of resources and equal distribution of wealth. It is probably the natural order for human beings - familial clans that trace their lineage through the female line, sharing child care and production of food and goods among them all, every member participating in and contributing to the common good of the group. Many matriarchies still exist in many pockets in the world. In the United States, the Iroquois or Haudenosaunee Nation has strong matriarchal roots that helped influence the Suffragist Movement. The Mosuo of China retain their matrilineal structure and have no concept of marriage or dominance. New matriarchies are forming in Africa to give women refuge from violence and exploitation. I hope we’ll soon see communities of single or abandoned mothers and their children forming small woman-centered communities with cooperative child care and related services. What if we re-worked abandoned buildings for poor women’s families? Or if a group of families simply chose to form a web of support for each other?
The shift in consciousness that your contributors yearn for us to make so that the numinous movement arising from grass roots around the world can flourish is a return to Goddess Consciousness. Use it as a symbol or a frame or a poetic expression of a scientific concept if you prefer that to religion, but whatever importance you ascribe to it, you will find that it is an extremely pragmatic view. It just works. The Goddess is not “out there” somewhere. She is you, your neighbor, the food that you eat, the air that you breathe. The “god or not” debate perpetuated by Walsch and Dawkins misses the point entirely. It’s not about what importance we put on some ancient scrolls that may be nothing more than the dreams of some hash-smoking nomads. It doesn’t matter if you call it Nature, Magick or Quantum Mechanics - it’s all the same multifaceted field of energy and matter that vibrates in space inhabited by our consciousness, following the same natural laws and forces whether you can name them or calculate them or even know they exist. You don’t have to believe in gravity to fall down, and you don’t need to believe the planet is literally a girl to reap the benefits that would come from acting as if you did.
I participated in a blog carnival called “God or Not” for a while, and learned a valuable lesson. The objections raised by rationalists against “religion” were only true of monotheist religion; none of them considered a monotheast and/or polytheist system at all before rejecting all religion. The religionists were nice, but not terribly good at making an argument; the rationalists were angry and rude, and only a little better at supporting their positions. Eventually, the project failed because the religionists tired of the obnoxious behavior of the rationalists. The same problem affected both sides: Fundamentalism. Humans go through three basic levels of moral development. First, they are driven by reward and punishment - “mommy will spank me if I do that, give me a cookie if I do this.” Then they move into a phase in which they see the world in concrete terms, and look to external authority, whatever that may be, to define morality for them, whether they behave in a moral way or not. As kids, they follow the rules and expect things to be fair; they learn to obey the law (or not) and do what the Bible says (or not) and they don’t question those systems - they simply parrot them or rebel against them, but they don’t challenge their validity, only their own agreement to follow them or not. That is Fundamentalism, and it doesn’t matter what you believe - just how you express your belief. You can take the Bible literally, get your cues from the Taliban or be a staunch defender of science a la Dawkins, but if you assume that your chosen authority is infallible and you cannot imagine that you might be wrong, you are a fundamentalist.
To admit that you might be wrong is essential to the survival of our world. We are in a situation where most of the world is stuck at the adolescent level that thinks in concrete terms. We can begin to understand abstract concepts in our late teens, but most people never mature to that stage. At the conceptual level, you can consider that your reality is not the only one; that you might be wrong; that some other person/view/culture/religion/political party might be right; that somebody else might know something you don’t; that everyone might be wrong, or we all might be right; or that there is no right or wrong at all. At that stage, you look at available information, and you reach your own conclusions, which may change in time as you continue to learn new things or incorporate new experiences. We are, in a very real sense, having growing pains. Our challenge is to drag the concrete thinkers out of their adolescent black and white world into one of infinite possibilities because you aren't likely to strap a bomb on yourself and go to the market if you realize you might be wrong. That’s an entirely possible process. The irony is that, as Fouad Laroui points out in “The Many Sides of Allah,“ pp. 52 - 59, the majority of fundamentalists are violently defending misconceptions, and really know very little about their own religious doctrine. We need to challenge those misconceptions when they arise, and we do that with dialogue and education.
Goddess can do all of this - She’s good at weaving webs with every kind of connection. She loves learning and wisdom, philosophy and poetry. She holds teaching, nursing, caring for children, the elderly, the sick and the destitute, singing, dancing, art, prayer and sexuality as sacred activities. She’s generous, loves us unconditionally, loves diversity, urges us to care for one another, make the most of what we have, to share, to grow, to prosper and live in harmony as one body. That’s a practical, positive image to work with and it has been with us since the beginning of time.
The state of women in a culture is the state of the culture itself. On the back page of this issue, Greg Mortensen, who educates girls in Taliban country, says “you can drop bombs, hand out condoms, build roads or put in electricity, but until the girls are educated, a society will not change.” A few people make a lot of money by keeping us at war. How will we ever have peace when the people at the negotiating table don’t believe peace is possible? If they’re making money from the war? How will we overcome pollution if people in power profit from it? How would our political discussions, our religious rivalries, our economic goals and environmental awareness change if someone at the table represented the Goddess openly and fearlessly?
If you want a better, more peaceful and humane world, the future is female
Morgaine Swann, H.Ps.
**(My word for that is “Witch”)