The Sacred Feminine Today"The ancient Gnostic gospels were excluded from the Christian canon because they argued salvation through spiritual knowledge rather than the teaching authority of any church. And they often gave this a feminine cast, says Katherine Jansen, an associate professor of history at Catholic University in Washington, D.C."
The Sacred Feminine Today
Llewellyn Vaughan-LeeSufi teacher and author
Posted: 03/ 7/2012 8:00 pm
Today there is a resurgence of interest in the sacred feminine. The immense popularity a few years ago of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code spoke not just to our enjoyment of a good thriller but also to the mystery of the divine feminine in Western culture, which is the real thread of the book's chase, from the enigmatic smile of the Mona Lisa to the search for the grail and the heritage of Mary Magdalene. We know now how the feminine mysteries were present in Greek culture and myth, as imaged in the story of Persephone, and enacted for more than 2,000 years in the initiations at Eleusis. In the early Christianity women had spiritual equality, and the significance of Mary Magdalene, the disciple whom Jesus loved more than others, being the first to see the risen Christ, points to the esoteric significance of the feminine. We have also learned how the power of the sacred feminine was repressed by the Church fathers, and Mary Magdalene purposely misidentified as a prostitute.
As we awaken from the repressions of the patriarchy we need to reclaim the sacred feminine both for our individual spirituality and for the well being of the planet. Our ecological devastation points to a culture that has forgotten the sacredness of the earth and the divine mother, as well as denied the feminine's deep understanding of the wholeness and interconnectedness of all of life. And our individual life, so often caught in addictions and starved of real meaning, has a hunger to reconnect with the soul, which has always had a feminine quality. And linking our own journey and that of the world is the ancient feminine figure of the World Soul, the Anima Mundi, the spiritual presence within creation.
So what does it mean to reclaim the sacred feminine? How can we feel it in our bodies and in our daily life? Every woman knows this mystery in the cycles of her body, which are linked to the greater rhythms of life, the cycles of the moon. And she feels it in a calling to reconnect with the power and wisdom she carries within her, a deep knowing that is not found in books but belongs to her very nature. The feminine carries a natural understanding of the interconnectedness of life, how all the parts belong together. She instinctively knows how to respond to the needs of her children, how she feels for their well being even when they are not physically present. And in her body she carries the greatest mystery, the potential to give birth: to bring the light of a soul into this world.
The feminine is the matrix of creation. And yet 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. Regardless of whether an individual woman has the physical experience of giving birth, she shares in this primal mystery and is empowered by it. Yet 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. We separate life from its sacred core, from the matrix that nourishes all of creation. We cut our world off from the source that alone can heal, nourish, and transform it. 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 return us to a relationship with the wholeness of life.
Of course men also have a need to relate to the sacred feminine, to be nourished by her inner and outer presence. Without the sacred feminine nothing new can be born, and we see around us the sad plight of a masculine culture destroying its own ecosystem, unable to even agree on the steps needed to limit global warming. We all need to reclaim the living power and transformative potential of the sacred feminine, to feel her connection to the soul and the earth. And we desperately need the ancient wisdom of the soul of the world to help us at this time of global crisis. Many times before the world has been through an ecological crisis, and the world soul carries within her the memories and wisdom we need. But if we remain cut off in a mindset that sees this a problem that we need to fix with the same masculine attitude that has caused the problem, we will just compound the crisis. Only through working together with the sacred feminine can we heal and transform the world. And this means to honor her presence within our bodies and our soul, in the ground we walk on and the air we breathe.
The Sacred Feminine Today
Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, March 7, 2012
Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee has written about the feminine and the role of women in our present time in"The Return of the Feminine and the World Soul."
01:53 PM on 03/10/2012
"I so much agree with this article. All our attempts at saving our beautiful planet will be futile until we reclaim our sacred connection to life that we seem to have lost or is buried beneath our busy lives, all our accumulation of so much stuff, so much striving for what has little meaning. We forget we are mere guests on this Earth for a short time and that it would be good to behave as 'guests' and not leave a wake of chaos and mess behind when we depart. I appreciate Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee's words that remind us of the qualities needed to engage life, appreciating all the beauty of this planet, one that awakens our interconnectedness and wholeness. Thank you for reminding us to honor the feminine and call upon those qualities now when they are so needed."
02:53 PM on 03/09/2012
"This article speaks to a deep need in us, both women and men, to remember the sacred feminine. When the author says," Our ecological devastation points to a culture that has forgotten the sacredness of the earth and the divine mother, as well as denied the feminine's deep understanding of the wholeness and interconnectedness of all of life."it hits a very painful wound. And I wonder how many of us are really aware of the innate but simple power in Remembering the Sacred in Life. If you remember life is sacred, you make different choices, you live differently in all the little ways, and sometimes big ways of life. And you relate with fresh eyes. Not the just seeing the gray distractions and ever-present divisions that abound, but what is present NOW, if we can but remember. This piece again is a precious reminder, and such a rare voice. It is most needed."
10:26 AM on 03/09/2012
"The most important feminine power is the sacred substance within our bodies.We don't have to do any practices to have it, it is present already. And all we need to 'do' is to be aware of this substance , and it heals by flowing back into the world. We as women are the matrix, the seeds of creation. This creation, this earth, this world is what we need to be nourishing NOW. Healing creation will naturally and easily occur and flow from this 'milk of human kindness.' And it is just that simple. Just the understanding itself tears the veil and the truth flows through...Thanks Llewellyn, for being so crystal clear."
08:20 AM on 03/09/2012
"It is International Women's Day and it is also full moon today. This is beautifully synchronized. Also this article.
The moon holds a mystical place in the history of human culture and has always been the primary symbol for female energy. As the pull of the moon affects the waters of the world, so does its motion affect the body of woman.Nowdays, in the"modern world"Women bodies are out of sync with the moon cycle and their spirits have forgotten the meaning of such connections."Women carries a natural understanding of the interconnectedness of life,how all the parts belong together."How true if feels! And this is not outdated knowledge, but a forgotten one. As Llewellyn Vaughan -Lee says here: And yet we have forgotten, or been denied, the depths of this mystery.' And he continue to say in words rarely heard:
'Regardless of whether an individual woman has the physical experience of giving birth, she shares in this primal mystery and is empowered by it. Yet our culture's focus on a disembodied, transcendent God has left women bereft, denying them the sacredness of this simple mystery of divine love.... When we deny the divine mystery of the feminine we also deny something fundamental to life.'
This is a very deep truth that needs to be remembered."
05:11 PM on 03/08/2012
"Once again, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee's deep love for the sacred feminine and women transpires through this refreshing prose. I always read poetry in his writings, the poetry of life. I am grateful to you, beloved one, to write so poingnantly about the sacred feminine. I am also most grateful to the sacred feminine, the Goddess, represented to me by both Mary Magdalene and Mother Mary, who are two aspects of one and the same, and to the sacred masculine, represented by the light of Christ. You have taught me that, in us, the Absolute becomes immanent."
03:27 PM on 03/08/2012
This world is sacred, and it belongs to God. Our Western culture, however, has taught us that spirit and matter are separate. This masculine belief system has allowed us to see our beautiful Earth is a thing that can be endlessly exploited in order to gratify our desire for more stuff, more gadgets, more channels. We can not begin to reverse the environmental devastation we have caused to our planet, and to our own souls, by the same masculine thinking that caused the devastation in the first place. Women inherently understand the oneness of spirit and matter, and by honoring this sacred knowledge we can help to bring light back to the Earth and nourish all of life."
'Code' and the sacred feminine
By Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY
The plot of The Da Vinci Code turns on the revelation of a"sacred feminine"core to Christianity — a secret supposedly so shocking that it might overturn the Catholic Church.
The story line is well known: Jesus married Mary Magdalene and intended for her to succeed him as leader of his church; she was pregnant when he was crucified; their child, Sarah, was first in a bloodline that continues to this day. Powerful churchmen connive and kill to deny women their rightful place in the church.
And after a thriller-killer cross-continental chase, the heroine is declared"The last living descendant of Jesus Christ."
But how much punch does the Code's woman-power premise have? Is there really a feminine aspect to God? A theology that's been sub rosa, hidden for centuries beneath the feminine symbol of the rose, the flower reminiscent of a blossoming womb?
Author Dan Brown says one reason his book is popular with women is because it confirms their sense that Christianity has kept women in secondary roles to downplay or disguise the feminine aspect of God, maintain male religious authority and stamp out rival beliefs, such as goddess cults.
Our world today is based on"outdated male philosophy," Brown said recently on New Hampshire Public Radio. So he countered with a heroine whose very name, Sophie, means wisdom.
It's a salute to Gnosticism (gnosis is Greek for knowledge), a first-century sect some claim was more feminine-friendly. That makes some critics and scholars sputtering mad.
"God does not have a feminine aspect. He doesn't have a masculine aspect. He doesn't have a body," says Barbara Nicolosi, a former nun who founded and directs Act One, which trains Christian screenwriters to work in Hollywood.
"I'll give it a hearing that the church has discounted or devalued the contributions of women in the past," she says," but the church is always of its time. Looking back through a 21st-century lens is wrong."
And yet, says the Rev. James Martin, he is constantly asked why the church" is hiding proof that Christ had sex."
Martin waxes sarcastic at celebrating Mary Magdalene"just because she's Ms. Jesus, known by her womb, not by her brains, as The Mother of Sarah Magdalene-Christ. It's disparaging her all over again because her only power comes through a man."
But, more seriously, Martin, author of My Life with the Saints, frets when people swallow Brown's version of early church history because"They think it is purer, less complicated, with no rules or doctrines, just because it was an earlier time. In fact, it was a much more contentious scene."
However contentious, scholars say, there was no conscious, long-term strategic effort to suppress the feminine in early and later Christianity.
"The patriarchal coloring that the church later acquired has little to do with Christian theology and much to do with the brutal military nature of society in the late Roman Empire," says Carl Raschke, professor of religious studies at the University of Denver and author Engendering God: Male and Female Faces of God.
Still, the"sacred feminine"has drawn attention for decades.
Brown draws some of his imagery from Riane Eisler's 1987 book, The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future. Eisler presents the inverted triangle as a woman's womb or chalice, and the pyramid as the blade or phallus — an image alluded to in Code. Eisler calls for balance between the two to create a cooperative, non-patriarchal society.
Other scholars say Brown's presentation of the sacred feminine is a form of nouveau Gnosticism.
The ancient Gnostic gospels were excluded from the Christian canon because they argued salvation through spiritual knowledge rather than the teaching authority of any church. And they often gave this a feminine cast, says Katherine Jansen, an associate professor of history at Catholic University in Washington, D.C.
But for some spiritual seekers, this philosophy, free of gender, is appealing. Jehanne McQuillan travels the USA as a teacher and priestess in a"tiny, little-known women's Gnostic tradition"called Laconneau.
Laconneau is an oral tradition, stressing inner spiritual growth and devotion to the"divine feminine"that has been passed from teacher to students in small, first-name-only groups since the 13th century, when they hid to escape persecution in France, McQuillan says.
"The Da Vinci Code is certainly a fiction. We do think Mary Magdalene fled to France," she says, citing clues in Revelation, the Bible's final book."But we believe there was no child. The child of their union was actually their teachings. Mary Magdalene had a role in the foundation of the Gnostic church from the first century on."
Laconneau, she says, draws people from every denomination"because nearly everyone has a growing undercurrent of feminist spirituality, a concept that humanity is in God's image, an image that doesn't leave out 50% of the human race."
Posted 5/23/2006 9:36 PM ET
Disclaimer: Our material may be copied, printed and distributed by referring to this site. This site also contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the education and research provisions of "fair use" in an effort to advance freedom of inquiry for a better understanding of religious, spiritual and inter-faith issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than "fair use" you must request permission from the copyright owner.