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Birthing the Conscious Feminine

Outside the blinkers of the patriarchal framework something very powerful is birthing. Just like birth itself, it is taking its time and it is scary. What is emerging is a feminine consciousness that can match and equal the masculine consciousness. The masculine consciousness has had 2,000 years and more to develop, but now the emerging feminine consciousness challenges it to become mature. The role models for conscious women and mature men come, not from the past, but from the present and from the future, for it is something new in the world. It is being created by those of us who are struggling to break out of both personal and collective oppressive patterns of thought and behaviour.

By Tess Harper  

In the struggle to put some balance into talk of God I have heard people refer to 'Father-Mother God'. I wrote an article myself years ago called 'The Feminine in God'. Lately, through fecund and lively discussion around the kitchen table, I have come to think that there is no feminine in God. There is no Mother to act as an appendage to the Father God of the heavens. It is futile to try to look at scripture and extract those images that refer to the feminine rather than the masculine aspects of God the Father.

Something much more radical is necessary. It is only since I began considering myself a 'recovering' Catholic that I have explored the expanse of thinking which allows me to step outside (or at least attempt to) the patriarchal mindset. God in the Heavens is a patriarchal construct and as such should be left alone and enjoyed, ignored or prayed to, in and for himself. The Divine Feminine is a different issue altogether.

I write as an intuitive with a sense of play when it comes to spirituality. Three years of studying Catholic theology taught me not to bother trying to be an academic theologian. I instinctively found myself more drawn to the theology of lifestyle; love of the land, of animals, and of the old mythology which is our Irish Old Testament.

Just because the Father God dhas had all the attention in dtthe western world for two dthousand years and more does not mean the Divine Feminine is gone.


In the theology of lifestyle I see that the Divine Feminine has nothing to do with the heavens. She is the earth and it is no accident that She has been ignored for the past two thousand years. The patriarchal orientation projected the Divine out into the heavens, into the abstract, the distant, into the 'that which is not us' and in doing so set the stage for the disconnection with the earth, our bodies, our sexuality, animals and plants.

In our Irish Old testament, in the thinking revealed in the old stories and mythology of Ireland, it is evident that the primal deity is feminine and She is the earth. All life comes from her and returns to Her. The very landscape was Her body mountains were Her breasts, wells were Her vagina, the entrance into Her womb. She had consorts and sons and daughters and the stories are rich with gods and goddesses. Reality was multilayered and humans had to tune into the patterns so that they could live in harmony with the Mother. This was the role of the shamans or the druids. They celebrated rituals which were to balance the various energies in the complex reality of life. It was the role of the king to see that the Goddess was honoured. In very early times he would mate with a representative of the Goddess to ensure that the land was fertile.

The Divine Feminine is still here. She is still the earth, the lifeforce, from Her still comes all life and to Her everything returns. She is still to be seen and felt in the landscape, in the natural rhythms of life and death, in seeds sown, food grown, harvested and then eaten. Just because the Father God has had all the attention in the western world for two thousand years and more does not mean that the Divine Feminine is gone. At the level of landscape She has been abused without reserve yet as a psychic energy, as a force to be reckoned with, She has merely remained in the unconscious and is awaiting Her moment of return.

I think that time has come.

Perhaps the cutting off from the feminine was a necessary step in the evolution of the consciousness of humankind. Whitmont in his book The Return of The Goddess suggests that, looked at from afar, the development of human consciousness moved from a very early Magical phase into a Mythological phase and then to the Patriarchal phase. Only now, he suggests, are we ready for a return of the Goddess.

It is a matter of opinion whether patriarchy needed such a long time to develop its powers. However in that time it has perfected the art of compartmentalisation and differentiation. It has achieved a clear separateness from diffused awareness. This diffused awareness is what Whitmont means by a Magical phase The linear, masculine way of being in the world has thrust humankind into a situation where it is fantastically developed in areas of technology and all the sciences. It is also dangerously close to destroying itself and the very ground it stands upon.

If I understand Whitmont correctly, he suggests that patriarchy could only have achieved this level of development by savagely cutting off the feminine. (I think of everything from witch hunts to the destruction of the environment). This rings true when you consider an analogy with what C.G.Jung describes as the need for a man to separate from the Mother, both his own personal mother and the Mother archetype. Jung calls it 'the slaying of the dragon'. So strong is the hold of the Mother on the masculine psyche that a man must slay the dragon (which is a symbol for the Mother) in order to separate and become a real man. When he has not done this he remains in the hold of the Mother and She will emasculate him until he does separate.

Human consciousness has long ago separated from the Magical stage when the Mother archetype was dominant and there was no consciousness but rather a diffused awareness of all things. This Magical stage that Whitmont speaks of is similar to the infant stage in humans. The infant cannot yet distinguish between herself and her mother. So it was with the early primitive peoples. They were immersed in the Mother archetype. The return of the Goddess does not mean a return to an oblivious immersion into the Mother, the separation from which was won, fairly or not, by the ruthless denial of the feminine. What we are on the brink of is the emergence of a conscious feminine. This conscious feminine is only possible because of the quality of consciousness gained by the patriarchy.

A model for a truly instinctual feminine that is not in some way compromised by the patriarchy is terribly hard to find.


What is the conscious feminine? It is so hard to say because it is not quite a reality yet. We catch glimpses of it. I speak with my friend Kate Fitzpatrick and the conversation is electric because we both sense what is in the becoming. She actively explores, through shamanic journeying and creative ritual, the realm of the Goddess. Me, I feel like a motherless child in relation to the Goddess energies. I can locate Her in nature, in the animal's ruthless defence of her young, in the rhythms of land and season, in the ocean, in the colour blue. But the Goddess is even more than this and it is here that my relationship with her is only beginning. It is to do with learning how to access a power in my own psyche which is instinctively feminine and consciously chosen.

Instinctively feminine means: that which is the feminine in a deep sense, not socially moulded or constructed, but an ancient lifegiving energy, the woman energy, the bleeding energy, the birthing energy, the wildly, joyously loving energy, the sensuous, sexual energy, the rage-filled fighting energy We have only to look at Irish mythology to find expressions of this multilayered reality. Brigid, Mother Goddess; Morrigan, the Goddess of fertility and death; Macha, the horse Goddess; Meadbh, the warrior Goddess. All these goddesses are an expression of the primal deity which is the One, the earth, and is feminine.

Consciously chosen, means that we name the energies that arise. That we relate to them knowingly, allowing them to flow into our lives creatively rather than either repressing them or being driven by them. Consciously also means that we can articulate these energies and dialogue with a mature masculine standpoint about how they can be compatible. However the coming about of this is no easy matter.

We are approaching a time when a conscious feminine can stand in right relationship with a mature masculine.


The culture we belong to is patriarchal. Ireland has that peculiar phenomenon where the power in the family life is often held by the mother but she directs it towards the father or, if not the actual father, then the Church. Psychically the instinctual feminine has been at the beck and call of the masculine. How many Irish people have been reared by mothers who played the role of the dominant parent by working out of her animus, that is, her unconscious male energy? Or by mothers who were strong instinctively feminine figures yet who were entirely devoted to the Catholic Church, a male, patriarchal institution. It is terribly hard to fin a model for a truly instinctual feminine that is not in some way compromised by the patriarchy.

And what of a conscious instinctive feminine? I acknowledge that it is possible that I just have not found it myself, for I can only see so far as my own psychic constructs, and my own experience of these energies, allow me. But when I look for an experience of conscious feminine energies, I am forced to look to the present and the future rather than the past. I look to my contemporary women and men friends. I see them, particularly the women, through their own inner work, attempting to birth an entirely new way of being woman in the world. We are putting links together that have been disconnected. I see women, including myself, working in the following areas, birthing a conscious feminine:

How to be a sensuous, sexual woman in our own right, not defined by what men find sensuous or sexual. And how to do this without cutting off from men.

How to find what is deepest in ourselves in terms of work, vision, lifestyle and live this out.

How to mother children and relate to them emotionally without swallowing them into a bog of unconscious manipulative dependence.

Discovering right relationship with men, neither competing with them, being dominated by them, nor dominating them!

How to worship a Divine that is feminine in essence. What rituals suffice? How can these rituals complement and even integrate with the more masculine rituals aimed at a Father God?

There are now different ways to be a woman in the western world: a woman can access animus energies and compete with the masculine. She can do womanly things as they have been done all along. She can also step into that scary space of exploring deep hunches and attempting to follow where they lead. Some women orient to one way more than another, sometimes to the exclusion of the others. Many at different points in their lives explore them all. What, perhaps, is contributing to something new is that women can be conscious of how they are living. What energies are they accessing? What collective psychic energy or archetype is being channelled through them at any given stage in their lives. In other words: What Gods/Goddesses do they worship? Is it the Animus? The Unconscious Mother? The Father? The Shadow? The Instinctive Feminine, dug up from the depths of the collective unconscious, appearing in her many guises and consciously chosen and honoured?

We are approaching a time when a conscious feminine can stand in right relationship with a mature masculine. Mature masculine as opposed to a merely developed masculine. Developed masculine thinking is the product of thousands of years of honing. It is far from mature. It strikes me that at least two things are required before the mature masculine becomes a collective reality in the world.

Firstly, men must work on what it is to be a man in a deep sense as opposed to the patriarch-infested image which passes for manhood. Much work has already been done in this area by Robert Bly and Sam Keen, among others. It is a fallacy to think that only women have been damaged by patriarchy. Men do not know what manhood really is, separate from dominance, aggression, competition the macho image. Are there aspects to being a man other than this macho image and other than the integration of his feminine side? The answer involves the discovering of what it is to be a man outside of the patriarchal mindset. There are, perhaps, other Gods, other archetypes than the Father God, which need to be explored. Lugh, the God of light; Aengus Óg, the God of love; and other consorts of the Goddess in Irish Mythology come to mind. In exploring these, men can discover new psychic energies to access.

Secondly, because the present masculine consciousness has developed while the feminine has been oppressed, it now needs to re-embrace the feminine. Individual men must slay the dragon, the devouring Mother, in their own psyches but they must also embrace a conscious feminine however she emerges and in whatever form.

Outside the blinkers of the patriarchal framework there is something powerful birthing.


The distinction between a developed masculine and a mature masculine came up in conversation with Kate Fitzpatrick. We also spoke of the possibility that in the past there have already been surges from the collective unconscious attempting to establish a right relationship between the feminine and the masculine. In the western world, we see this in the life, teaching and death of Jesus Christ. Jesus was an example of the mature masculine. In a culture that was seriously patriarchal he managed to be a man in a very different way, breaking many taboos, diving into the depths of himself for his wisdom and vision and relating with women in a radically new way. He called on a different aspect of Father God to the previous Judaic one, a personal one capable of an intimate relationship with himself as son.

Quite apart from this, Jesus was also the Son of the Goddess. The stories around his conception and birth are Goddess mysteries. His death and resurrection is the domain of the Goddess.

Another surge from the collective unconscious, attempting to readdress the imbalance, was the Search for the Holy Grail, found in the Arthurian legend. This again is Goddess imagery. Both of these surges became absorbed into the patriarchal construct. The more profound message within them has lain dormant through time.

Now something entirely new is emerging. Is it happening despite us? Many people have noticed that much is shifting in the collective consciousness over the past number of years. We are on the crest of a wave in terms of psychic energies. Old containers for the archetypes are falling asunder (the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland being one example). At the same time individuals are striving to make their lives work in a new way. They are tapping into deeply creative energies and are exploring the realisation that outside the blinkers of the patriarchal framework there is something powerful birthing.

Tess Harper is co-editor of the AISLING Magazine and lives on Inis Mór, Aran Islands.
 
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