Sunday, 13 January 2008

Chapter Two

The Path Of The Goddess

IN SOME WAYS the path of the Goddess is easy to understand simply because it is the exact opposite of the path of the god. What is true on the path of the god is false on the path of the Goddess, and what is false on the path of the god is true on the path of the Goddess. They are total opposites.
The path of the god involves movement away from the Great Mother, into separation for the purposes of independent creation, and the path of the Goddess returns us to the Great Mother, to harmony and wholeness. This creates problems for anyone who begins the path of the Goddess, because for thousands of years, through different reincarnations, men have been brought up to believe in struggle, in independence, in control of themselves and the world about them, including their fellow man. Though women have been encouraged to see themselves as the inferior nurturers of men and children, they too have adopted patriarchal ideas. When the time comes in their development to assert their own needs, they feel that only struggle and conflict will achieve what they want. At the beginning of our journey home to the Great Mother, men must voluntarily give up competitiveness, relinquish their feelings of total independence, and simply surrender to Her, acknowledging their interdependence with everything which exists. They also have to learn unconditional love, for everyone on the Earth. This is how the Great Mother loves.
This last idea is exemplified in John Donne's poem, "No man is an Island."
Bill: I remember when I was a young man and read Donne's poem, I found the whole idea quite ludicrous. How could what I was doing affect others far away, and how could it be true that "every man's death diminishes me?" Now I am on the path of the Goddess, I have arrived at a position where I can see that I am part of everyone else, but I can also understand those people who are not yet ready to accept this.
The return to the Great Mother involves us in learning to do consciously and with awareness what we unconsciously did when we were a part of the Goddess. We must consciously love, accept and join with everything, through our free will, instead of, as we did originally, in an instinctive and intuitive way.
We also have to learn about harmony, which is an alien or unlikely idea in a patriarchal society. A person on the path of the god believes, consciously or unconsciously, that everyone's strength is pitted against him, though this belief only reflects his own internal conflict. There seems to him to be disharmony everywhere, both in society and in Nature. Man fights with man, country fights with country, and within Nature, only the most competitive, or 'fittest' animals survive. There seems no way out of this constant battle for survival, leading him to the inevitable conclusion that it is an intrinsic part of the human and world condition.
When we turn the corner and move on to the path of the Goddess, we find, eventually, that everything is in harmony with everything else, and the whole works together for the good of everything within that wholeness. At some level, we begin to realise, there must be basic harmony. The balance within Nature, without our interference, is clear to see. Within our bodies, the harmonious activity of all the constituent parts enables most of us to live without any conscious need to regulate that harmony. We take it for granted that our hearts will beat, our food be digested, and our lungs take in air. Even our societies, for the most part, operate in a harmonious way, even though we ourselves might concentrate on the disharmony within them. The natural order and balance of the universe is apparent to us through both the astronomer's telescope and the electron microscope. All this order and intrinsic harmony is natural. Without man's conscious interference, there would be no disharmony. Even though he often meddles with the best intentions in the world, because he is unaware of the myriads of factors affecting a particular situation, he cannot change one part and know what the eventual outcome will be. This truth is acknowledged in Chaos theory, which designates certain areas - the weather for example, as being beyond man's capacity to control. There are simply too many pieces of information to be considered when predicting or controlling what the weather might do.
On the path of the Goddess, man will realise that if he asks to be reconnected with his source, the Great Mother, then none of his actions will cause disharmony or imbalance. It will be a great relief to him to realise that if he surrenders to the Great Mother, and consciously follows her guidance, all of his actions will be utterly harmless. Man has moved too far from the Great Mother to be able to survive any longer without Her assistance. His recognition that this is so will allow him to accept Her help, through women and intuition, and reestablish harmony within himself. That harmony then will be made manifest within society and Nature.
As with the ideal human mother, once the child has established a separate identity, then the child and mother are free to come together on a different basis, allowing the child to grow further with the continued help, co-operation and love of the mother. When it finally happens, that man reconnects fully with his source, the Great Mother, then it will be possible to have Heaven on Earth. Heaven and Hell are really only states of mind, not places. Hell is the state of mind of the god, which involves conflict, punishment, judgment and division. Heaven is the state of mind of the Goddess, in which harmony is so total that no conflict can occur. There are no decisions to be made, no idea can oppose another idea, and no-one can be hurt in any way. As unbelievable as it may seem to someone on the path of the god, we really do not have to struggle for our existence, for enlightenment or for love. We do not have to earn it by being 'good', fight for it through sacrifice and competition, or strive to understand it. Love, the Great Mother's gift to us in its myriad forms, is freely given. We only have to allow it to happen. There is no effort involved, only acceptance.
So it is possible to have a life of complete joy if you accept the help of the Great Mother, and relinquish 'trying.'
Bill: I have found this to be true in my own life. I was brought up by my father to believe in struggle. I was told that I would never achieve anything unless I worked very hard towards my goals. But personal experience has taught me that whenever I struggle to make things happen, nothing ever works out. When I have merely 'followed the flow' of whatever life brought towards me, then everything seemed to resolve itself in a harmonious way. My father had the same experience. He had worked hard all his life, as the god dictated he should, but for little result. Then he became too ill and depressed to continue. He gave up and surrendered. Suddenly life began to work out for him and he became happier and more successful than he had ever been before in his life.
Though illness and depression are not inevitable precursors of surrender, we are sure that most people who have a deep spiritual understanding could tell a similar story. In Christian mysticism, it is called 'The long dark night of the soul,' the point of deepest despair when you realise you know nothing, followed by surrender and peace.
We can see the same theme repeated in the life of the Buddha. When the Buddha was a very young man, he questioned the need for the suffering he saw around him, and tried to understand why man felt he needed to suffer at all. He gave up his privileged position as a prince, and went on the road to find spiritual enlightenment. After trying various disciplines and spiritual philosophies, to find some understanding, he became so disenchanted with his search that he simply gave up and surrendered, despairing of ever finding an answer. At that moment he became enlightened.
The same idea is found in the New Testament. Here we see a spiritual man, Jesus Christ, on the path of the Goddess. It is obvious that this is so from his teachings about a God of Love, and from the whole symbolism of the New Testament. This never caught on particularly well with Christians, who largely worship the old Jehovah god of the Old Testament. Jesus is crucified, descends into Hell, then rises again after three days. This encapsulates the whole cycle of man's development. The agony which Jesus experiences is the path of the god, one in which sacrifice and suffering are necessary. His death on the cross is the death of this path, offered to all human beings, so that they will not need to embrace suffering any longer. His resurrection on the third day follows his surrender to the Great Mother, which brings rebirth in a changed form. Our patriarchal way of thinking needs to die, as Jesus died on his cross, so that we can return to the Great Mother.
The story of the Prodigal Son continues the same theme. A man leaves his home and ventures out on his own, where he becomes more and more impoverished. His misery allows him to realise that he is far worse off now than when he was at home, so he returns. His fear that he will not be welcome is dispelled by the joy his father expresses when he arrives. The New Testament calls the parent 'father,' to satisfy the patriarchal society of the time, but nevertheless the point is clear. We journey away from the Great Mother, until, poor and unhappy, we realise we need Her. Then we surrender, give up the fight, and go home. We find that only love and acceptance are waiting to meet us. There is no punishment for our 'sin' in leaving, or for our mistakes and failures along the way.
Also in the New Testament we have the Virgin Mary, who continues a long tradition from earlier religions of being both a virgin and a mother. Of course, the Great Mother is the only one who can give birth without a male, but Mary allows us to see a very watered-down form of Her power and love in a religion which in every other respect totally devalues the feminine. Though the Christian Church emphasises Mary's sexlessness and celibacy as an inducement to women not to express their own sexuality, millions of people have prayed to her for help and compassion, thus reaching to the Great Mother through this action.
Mary Magdalene is another woman in the New Testament who represents a facet of the Great Mother. She was said to be a prostitute, one of the most despised occupations for a woman in patriarchal society. Jesus chose not to condemn her, and in fact she seems to have been one of his closest disciples. He is accepting of her because she, like the Great Mother, can give unconditional love to any man yet not be possessed by one. In the temples of the old matercentric religions were sacred prostitutes, or qadishtu, who saw sex as a celebration of life and creativity, not as something sinful. They might temporarily or permanently reside in the temple, and their children were not disparaged as 'bastards.' The idea that a woman should be restricted to sex with one man to ensure his property was left to his own children could not be important in a society which was matrilineal -i.e. titles and property came down through the mother, not the father.
Yet another trace of the Great Mother in the New Testament is the idea of the Holy Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Ghost. This represents the three aspects of the Great Mother found in the stages of a woman's life; the Mother, Daughter and Wise Woman. Many of the old matercentric religions had a triple Goddess who was 'three in one' in the same way Christianity is. These three faces of the Goddess were represented when Christ was crucified as the three Marys. It is also interesting to note that when he became resurrected, he appeared firstly to a woman, Mary Magdalene, before showing himself to the male disciples.
The most important point we can make about the New Testament is that its teachings are more in line with the path of the Goddess than the path of the god. Later on, Christ's message was distorted by the Church to fit in better with patriarchal society, and to preserve the power of the Church hierarchy. Jesus, because he was connected to the Great Mother, attempted to help people avoid needless suffering and separation. He was crucified for this, because people wanted their full measure of sorrow, pain and humiliation, even if it happened to be someone else's.
If you find this difficult to believe, think of how many people today are fascinated by stories of violence, murder or rape; how many enjoy plots involving oppositions such as cowboys/indians, cops/robbers, or other variations on the goodies/baddies theme. Many films and T.V. programmes are minor variations on the old Roman circuses, with the difference being that we are not physically present to witness the bloodshed. News reports also concentrate on disaster and violence, and filter out the peaceful and harmonious events occurring everywhere. While we are fascinated by fear, conflict, suffering and hatred, we are on the path of the god, and likely to create these themes in our lives. We are bored by harmony, because it is not exciting in the way 'fighting for right' is. To paraphrase Shakespeare, all the world's a stage, and while we are on the path of the god, we play the game of fear, aggression and hatred for real. Having forgotten that we all write our own scripts, we believe it is necessary.
Even on the path of the god, in the midst of the apparent conflict, there is an underlying harmony, which we cannot disrupt. Although newspapers present a picture of a world in constant turmoil, most of life is ordered, harmonious and balanced. Though we may choose to focus on disease and disharmony, the universe continues to operate in a perfectly balanced way. When we move on to the path of the Goddess, we begin to appreciate this. We see that Nature has an innate balance, that the world we see through our telescopes is as mysteriously ordered as the one glimpsed by sub-molecular physicists. An underlying yet invisible balancing mechanism exists, which ensures that everything works together in a continuous state of harmony. Even though an infinitesimally small sub-atomic particle appears to have an element of unpredictability surrounding it, something like our own free-will, at the larger level, there is always order.
The conflicts within the patriarchal system also show a drive towards harmony. Without this, society would be destroyed. Extremes of violence, deprivation and oppression cause their own reaction, and move inevitably towards their opposite. Within the larger cycle of human development are smaller ones, all of which show the same tendency to move towards eventual balance and harmony. If we have had a mini-era of sexual restraint, for example, then we swing back into a time of sexual freedom, which then moves into another era of repression, hopefully not as severe as the first.
Although harmony is real, we are free to believe otherwise, because the Great Mother has given us free-will. Until we choose to change our beliefs, no-one can alter them, and they continue to produce a world which inevitably proves them true. On the path of the god, it is pain which prizes us loose from our entrenched attitudes, and eventually forces us to grow, though we may endure a great deal of it before rebelling. On the path of the Goddess, joy and trust give us the confidence to welcome change and learn.
The conflict of ideas and beliefs which exists in patriarchal societies is not a true one. The Great Mother has given each of us a part of the truth, and since we are all unique, we each have a different part of the truth. All truths are true, and we have no right to tell another person that theirs is wrong. However, that is not the end of the story. All the pieces of truth given to us are part of a vast jigsaw puzzle, and we will never see a wider picture until we put the pieces together. This can only happen if we restore communication between the separate parts of the Great Mother's creation, this time with full consciousness. Each person will then have access to the truths possessed by others, and be able to see the whole picture instead of the tiny fragment of the totality which is his personal truth. Until we do this, we wander around with a little bit of sky, tree or earth, insisting that the whole puzzle is this piece.
The very limited truth available to patriarchal men is illustrated by the figure of The Hermit in the Tarot. The Hermit stands alone, like the patriarchal man who does not trust others, fears his god, and is trying to become completely divorced from the Great Mother. In his hand he holds a light, which represents his conscious mind, and with this feeble beam, he is attempting to see the whole of truth. Because the light is only a small one, he is very limited in what he can see.
Around the Hermit is a vast darkness, which symbolises all he does not know, or does not want to look at. In the darkness is the Great Mother, because the Hermit no longer wishes to acknowledge Her existence. As he moves further away from Her, he begins to see darkness as frightening. There is so much of it, and he can neither understand it or control it. He also fears punishment by the Great Mother for leaving Her, which intensifies his determination to forget She exists. The darkness becomes peopled with evil spirits, which represent the parts of himself he has discarded as 'bad.' The further he moves away from the Great Mother, and the brighter his personal light becomes, the more menacing the darkness appears. His reaction is to dump more and more of himself into the darkness of non-acceptance; his fears, 'sins,' love for others, and women. His god becomes a god of light, and darkness is equated with evil. Women in particular are seen as 'dark' and evil, which in a sense is true. Since they still often operate in an instinctive and intuitive way, despite patriarchal conditioning, they have very little 'light' in them, in the sense of intellectual and ego development.
People on the path of the god have a very strong sense of what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is evil. Like the Hermit with his tiny lamp, they illuminate a small part of All That Is, and call it 'good.' The variety of behaviours and beliefs designated as good by this process is fascinating. One man may see compassion and caring as 'bad,' because it is 'unmanly,' and weak, while another man sees it as a true Christian quality, and castigates 'selfish' people as evil. Like the Hermit, we keep ourselves focused on the known, and avoid the darkness of the unknown. Even scientists, who could be considered explorers par excellence, will often avoid investigating areas which they fear might lead them into revising deeply entrenched beliefs.
We keep ourselves stimulated and 'busy' because we fear that if we opened up to the unknown, all our unacceptable thoughts and feelings might come flooding back. What is worse, we might not be able to control them. This is one of the fears of men who refuse to look at the oppression of women. If women are given too many freedoms, where will it all end? They may no longer be susceptible to the control and domination of men. It seems safer by far to avoid looking into the darkness, since we cannot see that it has anything of value in it.
One of the accompanying phenomena of the refusal to accept our whole selves, by looking beyond the conscious mind, is scapegoating. We search for someone to blame for the evil in the world, or for our own personal deficiencies. If you look around you, you will inevitably see people who do this to an inordinate degree.
Pamela: One of the places I have found to be a rich source of 'it's not my fault' is a prison. When I was working in one for a time, I was amazed at the number of crimes which were completely excused on this ground. Rape is an obvious one. Many men blamed their victims, who were 'asking for it' in some way, and showed no recognition that a woman had any rights. Another favourite, and not quite so simple, was to defend a long list of burglaries, violence etc on the grounds that 'hard' drugs such as Heroin are illegal, and so you 'have to' rob people to buy them from your dealer. As far as the men were concerned, this was the sole cause of their being in prison. One might argue that there is some substance in what they say, because the Law is what makes us criminals by designating certain acts as illegal, but they extended this manoeuvre into almost every area of life. The fact that they could never see their own failings in a given situation, which allowed them self-esteem in a degrading prison system, was also the reason why they could never abandon their patterns of behaviour and the justifications they used for them.
The Jews traditionally practised scapegoating in a ritual whereby the sins of the people were passed on to an animal. When the animal was freed, it ran away, taking the sins of the community with it. Christians use this mechanism too. They see Jesus as having absolved them from sin through his crucifixion. Later on, the Devil took the blame for all the temptations people had to commit sinful actions. Women too are scapegoats. Eve's disobedience of the god was seen as the reason for man's fall from a state of grace, and women have been punished for this ever since. Their carnal nature was often seen as particularly suspect. Their sexual magnetism drew men towards them, leading to lustful, corrupt and weakening sexual activity which was definitely not the fault of men. At times, women were not even seen as deserving of the status of human beings, and did not have a soul.
Today, we still have scapegoats, but the movement towards the Great Mother is well-advanced in many individuals. We are less afraid of the darkness, in all its forms, and more willing to look at our fears and inadequacies. The awareness and acceptance of what psychologists call 'the unconscious' is now commonplace, though for some people it remains an intellectual toy rather than a tool for self-discovery. While many people are uneasy in the face of silence and darkness, others are beginning to listen to the voice of the Great Mother. The trouble is that the 'still small voice' tends to reverse the accepted wisdom of patriarchal society. No wonder it has been seen by so many people as the voice of the Devil. This is unfortunate, because if we were to trust this inner link to the Great Mother, it would take us home again to Paradise.