Tonight I finished reading “The Divine Feminine” by Andrew Harvey and Anne Baring. I had to read it before I was finished with “The Great Goddess,” because its library due date was approaching and I wasn’t able to renew it. It’s now a week overdue and I owe the library $1.10, but I’ll pay the fine and return it tomorrow.
Overall, it was a really good read and gave me a good introduction to how The Goddess has been manifest in diverse cultures and religions around the world, including the 3 patriarchal religions which currently dominate human consciousness. It was divided into 13 chapters, each chapter representing a particular culture, civilization, or religion. The authors provided a brief analysis of the presence of the feminine within divinity, and then provided sacred texts from each of those cultures venerating The Goddess. Very occasionally, the authors’ interpretation of sacred texts rubbed up against my personal feminist sensibilities, but this happened rarely.
Here are some of the quotes that captivated me or else made me think:
After the traumatic experience of birth and the sudden and violent expulsion from [the womb], the prolongation of the earlier feelings of close relationship, trust, and safety is absolutely vital. Without the consistent and loving care of the mother in early childhood, the child has no trust in itself, no power to survive negative life experiences, no model from which to learn how to nurture and support itself or to care for its children in turn. Its primary response to life is anxiety and fear.* … Those cultures which have no image of the Mother in the godhead are vulnerable to immensely powerful unconscious feelings of fear and anxiety, particularly when the emphasis of their religious teaching is on sin and guilt. The compensation for this fear is an insatiable need for power and control over life. How hungry the human heart is for an image of a Divine Mother that would, like an umbilical cord, reconnect it to the Womb of Being, restoring the lost sense of trust and containment in a dimension that may be beyond the reach of our intellect, yet is accessible to us through our deepest instincts. (p. 11)
*NOTE: I don’t think I agree 100% with the absoluteness of these claims, but I understand the analogy being made between the importance of mothers and mothering to children and the importance of a cultural sense of the Divine Mother. END NOTE.
Historians of religion used to believe that monotheism started with Akhenaten and the Jews; but the understanding of the sacredness of unity behind multiplicity was already alive in those tribal traditions that see life as one and everything that lives as holy. (p. 24)
At the very core of Islamic philosophy there are glowing traces of what can be called a vision of the Motherhood of God. In the first “sura” of the Koran - the famous “fatiha” that is recited by millions in their devotions every day - God is called al-rahmin, the merciful and compassionate one. Rahmin derives from the Arabic for “womb” or “matrix,” and the mercy of God is clearly meant to be thought of as a feminine attribute. (p. 120)
The “feminine” side of Muhammad’s experience of the Divine may have been shelved or severely clouded over in exoteric “official” Islam; however, its power and radiance continued in the esoteric aspects of Islam, most notably of course in the glorious poetry and philosophy of the Sufis. (p. 123)
The mystery of motherhood shines as Mecca, Mother of Holy Places, radiates as the Glorious Koran, Mother of Scriptures, and illumines the entire universe as umma, the spiritual community, Mother of the Lovers of Truth. The mystery of motherhood sparkles secretly as the primary Divine Names, rahman and rahim, which derive from the single Arabic word meaning womb. The mystery of motherhood grows delicately as the spiritual pregnancy of the heart of both men and women along the mystic way. This rich spiritual mystery manifests in a special sense through all women. (From Lex Hixon’s Atom From the Sun of Knowledge, quoted on p. 131)
…it goes off. From the Nag Hammadi Library.
Translated by George W. MacRae
I was sent forth from the power,
and I have come to those who reflect upon me,
and I have been found among those who seek after me.
Look upon me, you who reflect upon me,
and you hearers, hear me.
You who are waiting for me, take me to yourselves.
And do not banish me from your sight.
And do not make your voice hate me, nor your hearing.
Do not be ignorant of me anywhere or any time. Be on your guard!
Do not be ignorant of me.
For I am the first and the last.
I am the honored one and the scorned one.
I am the whore and the holy one.
I am the wife and the virgin.
I am the mother and the daughter.
I am the members of my mother.
I am the barren one
and many are her sons.
I am she whose wedding is great,
and I have not taken a husband.
I am the midwife and she who does not bear.
I am the solace of my labor pains.
I am the bride and the bridegroom,
and it is my husband who begot me.
I am the mother of my father
and the sister of my husband
and he is my offspring.
I am the slave of him who prepared me.
I am the ruler of my offspring.
But he is the one who begot me before the time on a birthday.
And he is my offspring in (due) time,
and my power is from him.
I am the staff of his power in his youth,
and he is the rod of my old age.
And whatever he wills happens to me.
I am the silence that is incomprehensible
and the idea whose remembrance is frequent.
I am the voice whose sound is manifold
and the word whose appearance is multiple.
I am the utterance of my name.