Friday, June 01, 2007

The Divine Feminine

Offering of Fruits to Moon Goddess, 1757
Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo (b. 1727, Venezia, d. 1804, Venezia)
There is not a petal of a flower or a blade of grass that does not configure the Way.
Everyone wishes to have truth on his side, but not everyone wishes to be on the side of truth.
---Richard Whately
There is no end. There is no beginning. There is only the infinite passion of life.
---Federico Fellini
I have to be very careful here. Here I am offering up an article about a (The?) feminine perspective, and all the quotations up there are by guys. Is it a (The?) male perspective to explain things and solve problems, as those gentlemen are attempting? Women often respond by telling me what's wrong with my thinking and ignoring my solutions.
And of course there is a thin line between reporting and advocacy. I've had a whole life of trouble through advocating things, albeit worthwhile. Civil rights, anti-nukes, peace, organics, education and citizenship, cleaning up fraud and corruption, anti-consumerism. But of all the movements I tried to support, the feminine one has been the trickiest around which to maintain objectivity.
So I'm going to try just to report something here that I think may be significant and of interest having to do with what some call a particularly feminine outlook. Actually Cathy Holt is going to report it, so I'm hoping to get pretty much off the hook. I've subscribed to Cathy's occasional newsletter almost from the first day I got onto the Internet. Originally she wrote about natural foods and the alternative lifestyle, but from the vantage point of someone still struggling in the mainstream. That appealed to me because I try to do that. But a couple years ago, she decided to involve herself in an experimental community of people in North Carolina, who want off the grid and out of the rat race. As far as I know, there she has stayed...and while she doesn't write much about the struggles of such attempts, it seems to be going OK.
This article is a bit different, as she reports on a workshop she attended. Since most of the people who read what I send out---or at least skim through the ones with intriguing titles (before hitting delete)---have an interest in what direction the species seems to be headed, I'm hoping Cathy's effort will be helpful and inspiring toward hope!
EARTH & US: Sacred Activism
The Divine Feminine came to Asheville in the form of Jim Garrison and Andrew Harvey of Wisdom University. They electrified hundreds at a weekend workshop on Sacred Activism. Garrison is a theologian and philosopher, author of six books, and a proponent of the emerging "Wisdom Culture." Harvey is a Rumi scholar, worshipper of the Divine Feminine, and author of numerous books including The Direct Path.
"Wisdom is always collective," said Garrison. "Why is it that after billions of years, our species has brought all life to the brink of extinction?" This ability to destroy the world was seen as something only God could do, previously to our times. He reminded us of other times of collapse in history, when many thought that the end of the world had come. For example, in 14th century Europe, the plague killed one-quarter of Europe's population. The medieval order collapsed along with monarchy. However, in 1380, two councilmen from Florence reformed the educational system. Teaching children "civic humanism" may have been the spark that ignited the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment. At moments of great duress, the feminine wisdom takes hold, Garrison believes, adding, "We are in one of those moments now."
All the movements of the sixties and seventies have now produced a body of some 60 million people which Garrison calls "the new moral majority." Quoting Dr. Paul Rahe (another professor at Wisdom University), Garrison says that Conservatives are now about 24% of the populace (and dropping), Moderns about 50%, and Cultural Creatives are about 26% and rising. Their values:
* Personal development, spiritual growth
* Environmental protection
* Community
* Social justice
Genocide is at the basis of the power of the U.S. empire. The U.S. has broken treaties and international laws under Bush; the world community now sees the U.S. as a rogue nation. It’s up to our generation to change that, by realizing our power and using it to create social change arising from collective vision and reverence for the Earth.
Andrew Harvey, who was raised in India, first experienced the divine feminine there. "Rumi is a force of the great birth in the midst of apocalypse," he said. "Unless we transform our consciousness on every level, we'll die and take most of nature with us." He believes that our false self is showing up as fundamentalism, ecological crisis, trashy mass media, techno-addiction ("the cement garden"), insane busy-ness, and psychotic denial. The Divine Mother offers transformative wisdom now, leading to the fusion of the mystic's passion for the divine and the activist's passion for justice. "The shadow of the mystic is being without doing; the shadow of the activist is acting from indignation, demonizing the opponent, and addiction to doing," Harvey declared. "The dynamic, passionate fire of love in action will transform the Earth into a garden!"
Quoting Rumi ("the voice of the birth of mystic truth"):
The tender words we said to one another
Are stored in the secret heart of heaven.
When the world is consumed with fire,
They will descend like rain
And the world will grow green with our love.
Harvey spoke of Rumi's luminous vision of creation: "each thing filled with wisdom and beauty." The profoundest courtesy of soul is due every creation, which we must respect and cherish with deep tenderness. Harvey, who is a great lover of cats, is fond of pointing out that Rumi's cat died shortly after he did, and was buried along with him.
Real birth and transformation, Harvey said, isn't all light. It's a scary process and can only arise from the death of the false self. This is the dark night of the soul which every mystic experiences, followed by the resurrection, the liberation into the power of alignment with divine compassion. "Just as soil must be broken in order to grow food, abscesses must be pierced to heal, trees are cut to build a house, and wheat is ground on the millstone, so must we purify ourselves and abandon all arrogance, burn our egos to ash, and receive the bliss of limitless existence." Such transformation comes not from intellect, but from the sacred fire.
"Passion burns down every branch of exhaustion."
– Rumi.
"Let divine passion derange and possess you," Harvey exhorted. "Marry the human nothing with the divine everything."
Harvey led us to examine our shadow and its seven aspects of fear: fear of suffering; of looking weak & emotional; of trusting our deep instincts; of overwhelming guilt; of causing pain to others (and losing their approval); of powerlessness, helplessness; and of awakening to full power and total responsibility.
The activist often has a Messiah complex, "I have to do it all." Activists may demonize their opponents, self-righteously projecting evil onto others. They may mistake stress and burnout for glory and authenticity; they may depreciate ordinary life, preferring heroics; and they may be ungrounded in spirit. Mystics, on the other hand, may be addicted to transcendent bliss, escaping from the real, believing "I need do nothing but love." They may deny the reality of evil, and even lack compassion for the suffering of others.
Owning the shadow gives us wisdom to see our "opponents" as a manifestation of ourselves. "Knowing our own darkness is the best way of dealing with the darknesses of other people," Harvey asserted. He listed seven practices to help the activist find balance.
1. Spiritual practices: "Cool" practices of meditation, mindful breathing and walking, calming and peaceful focus on the Divine; "warm" practices to keep the heart compassionate, from Christian mysticism and Mahayana Buddhism; sacred body practices to strengthen and ground oneself, such as yoga and Tai Chi.
2. Surrender the fruits of action (non-attachment). This clears the ego out of the way and prevents discouragement when results are poor. The greatest power is in surrendering to divine intention. This was true of both Jesus and Gandhi.
3. Recognize evil, face it in oneself and in society. Evil is the conscious enjoyment of destructive power. So much human intelligence has been focused on cruelty to one another.
4. Transform anger into fierce wisdom energy. This is not demonizing others, not suppressing or repressing outrage, but transforming it into wisdom and compassion. Allow anger to arise, imagine it flows out the belly and into Kali's mouth, where she breathes it into herself to transmute. She saves the pure gold and streams it back to us as fierce wisdom with compassion.
5. Do shadow work. This means seeing the other as oneself reflected, leading to heart-broken tender compassion for all beings. "Shadow work is the ultimate form of protection." We can each claim the parts of ourselves that are like George Bush, and send healing energy to those parts. "The way out of hell is to find a child of the enemy and raise him with total love."
6. Create networks of grace. Don't wait for governments and corporations to change, but network with people everywhere. Realize you can't do it alone, and that synergy, mutual sharing of insights and resources, is the only way.
7. Challenge escapist and burnt out activism. There is great joy in inspiring, uplifting and energizing people, unleashing the energy of the creative force. When we are joyful, others can't help wanting to join us.
He closed with a powerful story from the Truth and Reconciliation process in South Africa. An elderly black woman offered her love to the white man who had killed her children. When asked how that was possible, she simply said, "Jesus gave me the strength."
Cathy Holt
Stop the words now.
Open the window in the center of your chest
And let the spirits fly in and out.
- Rumi

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