The Face of Feminist Spirituality - the heart of the woman-soul
One woman's journey to reclaiming the Divine for herself
|Mara, the first card in the Major Arcana|
Higher Mysteries of Mary Tarot Deck
Having been born as a woman in this age, my soul guided me to uncover a feminist spirituality for myself and other women like myself. There is an inherent conflict in the word feminist and spirituality. Feminist implies a divisive separation which is in direct contrast to the all inclusiveness of the word spirituality. I liked to use the word woman-soul and eventually this led me to a direct mystical experience and relationship with the Divine.
We do not only experience ourselves as women on a physical level, but more intensely on an emotional and psychic level. I uncovered my deep thirst for spiritual intimacy and soul ecstasy on the psychic level of my being and it was only through a direct experience of the relationship between my sexuality and the archetype of the goddess, that I could begin to marry these two concepts in myself.
All that is psychically experienced as woman-soul has been repressed by ourselves as women, in a patriarchal world with male-based spirituality.
There is an inherent conflict in the words feminist and spirituality. Feminist implies divisive separation and spirituality implicitly calls for ego-less and selfless action.Women have been conditioned and have inherited through the mother-line the submission to the patriarchal systems and societies in many subtle ways.
This is the most nebulous and fragile concept for any woman who is experiencing the deep thirst for spiritual intimacy and soul connection. Deeply etched into the collective woman-soul is the shaming of all that is feminine through thousands of years. This shaming of all that is psychically experienced as woman-soul and has never found an acceptable voice in male-based and male dominated spirituality, has been suppressed and repressed by women themselves.
Using the words feminist spirituality is extremely painful, conflicting and divisive. This is indeed the deepest conflict and inner division that many women on a conscious spiritual journey do experience though. The ultimate goal or focus of all spiritual paths and disciplines is Union or One-ness. The deepest yearning of a woman’s soul is indeed One-ness, but this mystical union within can only be experienced between two equal parts of self.
At the root of a woman’s longing for wholeness lies her suppressed voice and identity as a woman. Before she becomes truly conscious of a defined spiritual path, she experiences life as an open, sensitive and vulnerable being in a body and psyche which follows cycles and rhythms which are only reflected back at her in the natural world of seasons, plants and animals.
Nowhere else in the daily life of the household, nor society at large, are these cycles acknowledged, nor honoured. From her earliest age does she experience the differentiation made by gender and the deep–seated discrimination against feminine nature.
Nature as a feminine expression of Life and the ultimate expression of the Divine herself, is harnessed and subjected to mechanical means for profit and human comfort.
|The Cloak of the Earth|
Mother of Roses - Lady of Guadulupe
Higher Mysteries of Mary Tarot Deck
For years I was happy to teach from spiritual books and Gnostic scriptures. The deeper I entrenched myself into meditation and other spiritual practices, the more I discovered a gaping contradiction and inner conflict within myself. In my practical work as spiritual healer and teacher working mainly with women, I found this same inner conflict reflected back at me. We, as women, living in our current, modern world, had, at this stage of our journey, not had the luxury or privilege of asserting ourselves and being received positively for that assertion, as yet. We are now, embarking on a path of spiritual discipline, being asked to give up this assertiveness which we have never owned. We are being asked to put others first and ourselves last. Something that we have become accustomed to and which we have been living at great cost to our own sense of worth and value and those of our mothers and daughters.
I would find myself teaching those women, sitting in the circle, facing me with anticipation and hope, just the opposite of these teachings. I would advise them to start claiming their lives back. To put themselves first, to become strong and selfish mothers to their inner children, to fight for what is rightfully theirs and to claim their sacred space, to stake their boundaries and to learn to say no. As my inspired words became more and more feminist in nature and they appeared to be in contradiction to many accepted spiritual teachings. I tried to digest and assimilate these teachings as they flowed through me from my higher awareness and understanding – as they flowed through me from Her that I now intimately know and understand as Goddess.
But the conflict worsened as I observed women’s psyches and inner worlds flowered and blossomed into healthy bodies and clarity of purpose and sense of self. At a deeper level, a more subtle and more powerful conflict was raging within myself and within some of these women, who although they were witnesses to this powerful growth in their own inner worlds, came up against the wall of conditioning.
Not finding a mirror or reflection for this emerging Goddess in myself, I undertook a physical pilgrimage. I went to Italy, to the sanctuary of St Michael, San Michelle.
Throughout my travels in Italy, visiting one ancient church and sanctuary after the other, I found the soothing re-assurance of the grieving blessed Mary, the suffering and poverty of St Clare of Assisi. I found a deep sense of reassurance and hope in the images of these suffering Holy Women, not realizing and fully understanding that the anguish and pain of my own woman soul found a sense of acknowledgement and acceptance in these images reflected at me. That deepest, unspoken, unacknowledged, repressed feminine self, found solace in the stories of these Catholic saints and mystics.
My tortured feminine self, found a new sense of hope, of the possibility of receiving Grace, a sense of having found acknowledgement of her real needs and desires to dance and sing and speak with abandon and passion.
At that stage I had been practising as a spiritual healer for a number of years. At the same time I was teaching ACIM to a group of women. Eventually the ACIM lessons was replaced by the teaching Freedom through Love and I was guided towards the Gnostic texts and the Nag Hammadi Library.
And here I discovered The Gospel of Mary and the Pistis Sophia. I started to explore the idea of the Soul as feminine consciousness and the understanding of the goddess; firstly as psychic archetype and secondly as a conscious being.
Slowly, but surely my inner world turned upside down. I discovered authors like Marion Woodman and other Jungian authors; I delved into Jean Bolen and Jean Houston's work and immersed myself in the power of myth.
My dreams became another world : a world filled with sound and symbology and speaking beings. I dreamt of the old woman, the old man, those with branches for hair and I dreamt of the snake that devours me, night after night.
It is also during this time that my meditations changed. No longer could I sit in a confined space and focus on the no-thing. No longer did my meditations provide a peaceful haven. Within myself an incredible force surged up as soon as I sat down to meditate. This force had the power of desire and the heat of suppressed energy and I was scared to unleash it. I found a book by Leslie Kenton (it had an angel wing on the cover and this made me feel secure about trying it :)) on shamanic rituals and especially the power of drumming and working with a rattle. So I journeyed into the inner world to meet this force within myself; this force that is disrupting my life and the way that I see and understand things; this force that had no respect for the intellectual and tidy psychological understanding of my own subconscious.
In the inner world I met a woman. I understood her to be Persephone and later she transformed into the many archetypes that inhabit my psyche and I travelled with her on many occasions. Through her eyes I came to understand that I had an entire inner world that has been locked up: that there is a Hades which I have to explore and that I will be guided through this epic adventure! I did not always experience it so poetically, I can assure you. At times I was filled with fear and confusion.
The only way that I could explain to myself what I was experiencing, was to translate these experiences into 'theatre'.
Freedom through Love then started to focus on archetypal goddess teachings and I formed a small theatre group with my women. I later incorporated these mythological dramas into the course work and we re-enacted the Underworld journey of Inanna, the abduction of Kore, Pandora's box and others. One of these, Psyche and Eros, were filmed and broadcast on Free Spirit, a local TV program.
At this stage Archangel Michael was still my personal guardian - since that first meditation when he made himself known through all the blue glass. An Italian client of mine, Michele, brought me a beautiful Michael statue with blue stained glass. As he placed the statue in my hand, I exclaimed, 'where does this statue come from? I have to visit this place'.
And this was the turning point. I had reached the sacred crossing of the three paths, without realising it and by making this statement, I had made a choice and a commitment.
After this, the demand from within to take a sabbatical from my practise and wisdom school, became more and more insistent. There was no avoiding it; I KNEW I had to give it up. In exchange for the unknown. And it took me two years to finally let go. Two years of resisting this decision and two years of really struggling to maintain the energy.
I followed up with Michele about the little Italian village where I felt Archangel Michael had guided me to and decided to visit - maybe hoping to find a different option for myself.
Every year, during the weekend of 23 September, the annual Michael feast day is held in Monte Sant Angelo in the district Puglia of Italy. In this ancient village, clinging to the side of Italy, is the grotto where Archangel Michael appeared in the year 460.
So, in September of 2001 I travelled to Mont Sant' Angelo for the week's celebrations. Mont Sant'Angelo is part of the Gargano pilgrimage route and I visited the Sanctuary of Padre Pio where I witnessed the most beautiful miracle. My travel companions were witness to my experience and years later this event also fell into place. I will explain later.
I absolutely loved Mont Sant' Angelo and the pomp and splendour of a Catholic festival (my first), but I did not receive the answer I was hoping for. I also visited Rome and the Temple of the Vestal Virgins and the magnificent Santa Chiara Cathedral in St Assisi. Saint Clare was the one that provided me with some direction for the way forward and she supported me often in the future.
So, I came home and I broke the news to my students. At that stage I had three separate groups of women students (for the three levels of Freedom through Love) and also some internet students. I also had to break the news to my clients. This in itself was quite an adventure as it was received with mixed reactions. But I knew I could no longer avoid the Call.