Shared Transformation Issue 20
Resurrection of the Feminine
Irina Tweedie's Sufi master, Bhai Sahib, explained to her that in one aspect, the spiritual life is less complex for women than for men. "Only a certain temperament of man can surrender like women can surrender," "Women are taken up through the path of love, for love is a feminine mystery." And what must be lovingly surrendered to is not a guru or teaching, but "only to the light within, to one's own highest self... to that eternal part within you; ancient, without beginning or end." For men to accomplish this spiritual goal, Bhai Sahib said they needed to be given many practices "because the energy works in men entirely differently from that in women." He told her that women needed few if any practices since they could reach reality simply by following their own nature. But he warned her that this did not mean that the path was not difficult for women, only different. (from "Suffering and Spirituality: An Interview with Irina Tweedie," The Spiral Path, ed. by Theresa King)
Spiritual development moves us toward greater internal and external harmony and balance. Because of the variance in our cultural conditioning, men and women are thrown out of sacred alignment in different ways. Men are expected to be competitive and self-promoting. And while it is no longer the law of the land, traditionally, women have been trained to be submissive and other-oriented. Thus, the transformative personality changes most often evinced in men are increased humility and empathy, while women gain in personal stature and strength. In general (and there are always exceptions), men grow more wise and true in their relationship to all beings while women grow more wise and true in their relationship to themselves.
On a more universal level, the masculine principle, which exists in both men and women, has
been dangerously overemphasized, while the feminine principle has been seriously undervalued, creating relationship
problems and inner conflict for men and women alike. Because of this collective male- principle bias, the ego
strength of the healthy masculine has become inflated to monstrous proportions, resulting in what Jungian analyst
Marion Woodman astutely identifies as "ruthless will power which has little respect for man, beast or God,
let alone the feminine." [Addiction to Perfection] The masculine is extolled in our cultural passion for
doing -- often to the point of drivenness. As soon as two strangers are introduced, they ask each other, "What
do you do?" It is socially assumed that our occupations are who we are, and that our monetary remunerated
work is more important than what we value, what we feel or even what we know. The feminine is in our responses
to life -- in our emotions, feelings, intuition and in our reflections and introspective musings -- all of which
are discouraged in the workaday world. The feminine is also found in the earthy and sensual experiences of the
body. Woodman believes that "femininity is taking responsibility for our bodies, so that the body becomes
the tangible expression of the spirit within." This is quite different from the masculine regard for the body
as a showpiece, which has become rampant in both male and female obsession with exercise-hewn, lean hardbodies,
and surgically sculpted simulations of physical perfection and eternal youth. The feminine within the body is
found not in how our bodies look so much as in what they reveal. "To find the natural rhythms of our bodies,
to walk, to see, to hear, to feel with renewed sensitivity and perception," exclaims Woodman, "is to
return to our birthright which is our gift from the Goddess." Because the main thrust of the Kundalini process
is toward wholeness and authenticity, the issue of collective masculine/feminine imbalance will eventually surface
in some form for anyone experiencing self-transformation.
The Burning Times
We know that the serpent is a universal symbol for Kundalini. This is esoterically exemplified in the Biblical story of Genesis, in which the serpent appears in the tree of knowledge. To eat the apple from the tree, which the serpent offers to Eve, is to experience spiritual awakening. (In the original Sumerian Garden of Eden myth, the serpent was sacred, not evil.) The odd thing in the Genesis story is that God is very threatened by this, so much so that he makes the fruit of the tree taboo. In his book Astrology & Consciousness, Rio Olesky notes that the divine repercussions from Eve's act demonstrate a radically different belief system from the Eastern traditions with their high regard for consciousness. The Genesis story, which blesses innocence and condemns awareness, implicates both women and wisdom as unworthy before God. The consequences of Judeo/Christian aspersion of both the mind and the feminine have been far reaching. Olesky says that this belief "has helped to repress the development of individual power in general and the freedom and value of women in particular, because, after all, it was Eve who acted on the serpent's suggestion." He finds it quizzical that instead of crediting Eve -- and through her, all women -- for initiating the process of human evolution, the Bible blames her for mankind's fall from grace.
Of course, Biblical scriptures have undergone countless translations and socio-politically mandated revisions to suit the ruling powers of the day. The Gnostics were condemned as heretical for their very different telling of the story of Genesis. In their sacred texts, the Supreme Creator was a Divine plurality called "Elohim." This God-Goddess created male and female in their image, unlike the familiar version in which a male God creates a male Adam in His image and then jury-rigs Eve out of one of Adam's ribs as an afterthought. The sexist, Church-sanctioned version which has survived into modern religious thought has fueled centuries of devaluation of the feminine. It was the blanket vilification of women that set the stage for the reign of terror during the Middle Ages, when nine million women healers and wise women were tortured and killed. This horrific legacy has left its dark imprint on our collective psyche. In Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom, Christiane Northrup comments: "It's not uncommon for women who are reclaiming their power or speaking their personal truths to have terrifying dreams of being burned... When a woman enters into the work of healing her body and speaking her truth, she must break through the collective field of fear and pain that is all around us and has been for the past five thousand years of dominator society."
Anything which restores our sense of personal strength, autonomy, or our connection to the divine within can awaken these horrible race memories. As Northrup says, "I know of no woman who has tapped her inner source of power without going through an almost palpable veil of fear, often feeling as though her very life would be threatened by telling the truth." The emergence of psychic abilities or any phase of a Kundalini awakening are especially strong triggers for this fear. We may even experience past life recall of being persecuted for being spiritually vital women. When I was suffering most from my spine injury, I had repeated impressions of having gone through this before, in another life when I had been tortured on the rack. Thank God and Goddess, we no longer need fear being burned at the stake. But regardless of whether or not we adhere to traditional Christian beliefs, these issues take their psychological toll on us. The well- being of the planet has been greatly endangered by the repression of the body, the feminine, and nature itself, and the oppression of women, children, animals and native peoples. The mysterious workings of the Spirit within us are still not entirely welcome in our society. Two well known spiritual magazines, one Buddhist and one focused on yoga, rejected ads for Shared Transformation on the grounds that physical Kundalini manifestations were not an appropriate concern for serious spiritual seekers! A telling commentary on the lack of spiritual sophistication among those who imagine themselves to be high priests. On a deeper level, dismissing Kundalini (and the correlation between body and soul) reflects the rejection of the Divine Feminine that has prevailed in both Eastern and Western religions for thousands of years. (There are a few notable exceptions, such as the Saiva Agasmas branch of Hinduism, which never regarded matter as maya or illusion, but reveres both the physical and spiritual worlds as sacred creations of the divine.) Modern day "witchcraft trials" still take place in myriad psychiatrists' offices and psychiatric institutions, where woeful ignorance of spiritual emergence regards the Kundalini symptoms as pathological aberrations to be suppressed by medications or more drastic measures. Even when we are not subjected to draconian medical treatments, the doctors and therapists we turn to for help may erroneously diagnose us as mentally ill, with stigmatizing labels which follow us in our medical histories for the rest of our lives. (I am not suggesting that there is something shameful in being mentally ill, although as these individuals well know, societal prejudice runs strong against them.)
For some of us, there is also fear -- or the literal experience -- of being persecuted by violently self- righteous religious groups. While I am fortunate to live in an area of the country where there is much cultural diversity and religious tolerance, I have still at times found myself shaken by envisioned scenarios of patriarchal, fundamentalist "gestapo" raiding our home and interpreting our Goddess figurines and our many books on Kundalini and other spiritual and metaphysical subjects as proof that my husband and I are in league with the devil and must be destroyed. Freeing ourselves from the tyranny of the patriarchy is not about making men into women's enemies. The patriarchy is not about men vs. women, it is about dominance, power, hierarchy and conquest. It plays out through oppression that affects us all. As Marion Woodman has observed, "men are just as wounded by patriarchy as women," and "women who get into power are more patriarchal than men!"
For women, reclaiming our integrity, remaining steadfast to our highest truths, and refusing to sacrifice ourselves in ways that do not seem healthy or beneficial can stir up some very nasty opposition from those who feel threatened by these changes in us. Like women brought to trial before the Inquisitors, we may be unfairly accused, falsely judged, and pressured to "recant" and to allow others to dictate our reality to us. Other people -- even those we dearly love -- may feel justified in punishing us for our "crime" of being true to ourselves rather than "rightfully" (by patriarchal standards) subjugated to their expectations of us.
Keeping our hearts open to ourselves and to others while firmly standing our own sacred ground is the greatest challenge during such replays of the burning times. For those of us who are tenderhearted, the protests and recriminations against us are nowhere so painful as our loved onesí claims that they are being hurt by the ways in which we are becoming more whole. The temptation to put ourselves out of our own hearts can be very great at such times. We want to spare our children or others close to us from the inevitable pain they too must feel when attachments to the way things used to be are broken. Because women are often very sensitive to others, they tend to suffer more, especially when they are on a spiritual path. "We bear our children with suffering and blood," says Irina Tweedie: "We bleed for our children; we bleed for our man. We bleed for all those we are connected to... Also, you see, being second class citizens we are constantly pushed down, down, down. There is suffering from all directions: physical and emotional and psychological and physiological and every possible way." When someone is making demands on me that I feel are unfair, I ask myself, with all the honesty of which I am capable, "Am I resisting out of anger or spite, or am I resisting because complying with this request will be destructive to my own well-being?" I also pray for guidance and ask the Spirit for help in keeping my heart and mind clear. Like many women, I have spent a great deal of my life saying "Yes" to others at terrible expense to myself. Since my Kundalini arose, I have been shown very dramatically that my body and psyche will no longer tolerate such self-abuse. Taking care of everyone and everything else first can no longer be my priority. When I was reminding myself, "It's okay for me to nurture and protect myself," a voice in my mind broke through and stated emphatically: "I have an obligation to nurture and protect myself!" Nearly any self-help book on the market espouses this simple and obvious kind of self-confirmation. I had been reading such books for over fifteen years. But simply agreeing with the principles and mouthing the words is not the same as actually committing oneself to living these vows. It has taken years of deepening into myself to discover who I really am and what I really need before I could truly incarnate self-love in my life. It is still hard to be my own advocate and to trust my own wisdom in the face of both inner and outer flame-throwers who tell me it is wrong and selfish to treat myself with the same kindness and generosity that I offer to others.
Before the burning times, women lived in service to their own inner Light. After the burning
times, women lived in servitude to others and had to obey externally imposed rules. This perversion of the gifts
of the feminine is coming to an end. Now, the inner Light within women everywhere is growing ever brighter. Together
with good-hearted, brave and honorable men, we are rising up from the ashes of the burning times to create a healed
and more inclusive and beautiful world for ourselves and for all other life that is blessed by the work of our
hands and hearts.
-- El Collie
© El Collie 1995