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THE DIVINE FEMININE
Opening to Our Inner Essence
The Divine Feminine:
Opening to Our Inner Essence
What is the ‘divine feminine’? In most cultures and traditions, there has always been some reference to the divine in feminine form, whether as a divine being as such or the qualities of the divine reflected or channelled through a female human being. There is increasing interest today in the feminine or softer aspects of the divine, yet in many religious models it is the masculine that is often depicted as the source of both love and softness and of hardness and authority – often executed with terrible wrath, apparently. The cosmos may be likened, according to that construct, as a one parent family, which is rather bizarre when you think about it. And the true essence of the divine principle is often further lost with an emphasis on deities and the deification of influential human, albeit possibly enlightened, beings. There is sometimes confusion, shall we say, between the subject of God on the one hand and human minds or teachers who have pointed the way to God on the other. And we have trouble, too, because a name or label – God – has been given to the undefinable. So our small human minds have raised wonderful teachers and guides to the status of God without knowing what God is and many cultures have also sexed God as masculine. Religions perform a great service by providing a code of conduct and ethics but have also resulted in some mixed-up thinking. But this article isn't a critique of religion. This writer certainly has no authority to do that, or indeed sufficient knowledge. This is more about what comes from the heart – the recognition of what must be right: that the divine is feminine as well as masculine. Accepting that there are always exceptions to any general rule, when we are children the most important person in life is the mother. It is the mother who carries us in her womb, who goes through agony giving birth to us, and who feeds, nurtures and cares for us above all else and all others. This is a rule of nature, not a man-made rule or regulation. It happens because it is natural for it to happen. Sometimes some of the mother's role is carried out by the father, or maybe by another figure, but in essence the caring aspect of life is part of the feminine or nurturing principle. Note the word ‘principle’. No-one is completely masculine or feminine and so everyone exhibits some of each characteristic. In other words, a woman has some masculinity in her make-up and a man some feminine quality. How much can vary enormously, as we know. So sometimes it may be that a father may have more nurturing qualities than the mother. What has this to do with the divine? The divine isn't separate from us and cannot be. The divine is wholeness itself and indivisible. Only our minds categorise everything into this and that, here and there, good and bad, existent and non-existent. When we consider the divine, we actually give thought to an aspect of ourselves. So when we think of the divine as the highest
expression of life, we are thinking about our own inner life, our potential as spiritual beings – our real innate nature. And if we make the mistake of thinking this is separate from our mundane life, we will also no doubt regard some aspects of ourselves as ‘good’ and others as ‘not good’. This is an error because it continues the divisive tendency of mind – the same tendency that labels the divine as male or female. The divine has the full potential of both masculinity and femininity, neither being superior to the other. The need for fuller expression of the feminine has been sensed for a considerable time in our society. This has led at times to an over-reaction so that towards the end of the twentieth century there was a tendency to masculinise the function of women, mistaking equalisation of status as a need to de-sex both sexes. Maybe part of the reason for that was the failure to recognise the divine feminine and the deep but unexpressed need to honour that aspect of life. If we turn our attention to the oriental traditions for a moment, we see a different picture. In Hinduism and Buddhism in particular, there is no shyness in revering the spiritual feminine. In the former, the Divine Mother is worshipped in myriad forms – Kali, Durga and Savitri, for example – and in the latter there are numerous dakinis and female deities, all personifying different qualities of life – Vajrayogini, Kuan Yin and Samantabhadri, to name just three. The closest representation in Christianity is the Virgin Mary or Madonna, mainly the preserve of Catholicism so far as devotion is concerned, though regarded as ‘the Mother of God’ without being a deity herself. Theology, the intellectual study of the divine is a vastly complicated area of thought and the subject of much grave and weighty analysis and debate. But the divine or spiritual side of life needs to be touched, to be experienced and to be made real. If we think about the divine, we confine it to the realm of thought. We remain detached, aloof, and so cut off from our inner reality. To restrict our experience in this way means we will never know ourselves, in the same way that no matter how hard we look at pictures and read descriptions in a travel brochure, we can never know the destination unless we actually go there in person. For many, the use of deities can be helpful. By personifying the divine, a relatively innocent mind can employ the imagination and so generate feelings towards that which is unknown. If the feelings are pure, the heart of the person’s energy system will eventually start to unfold, like a tight flower bud that starts to show something of the colour within. The imagination is very powerful, of course. As fear, it can be very harmful and disrupt the natural flow of energy within us, but when it is engaged in a positive way, it can uplift us at every level — physical, emotional and mental, so that we touch our spiritual or inner nature. It is interesting that in Tibetan Buddhism, which is concerned with transforming the mind into an enlightened state, the highest potential of the human mind, the use of deities is widely used as an aid in training the mind. This isn't superstition, rather the intelligent employment of a visual aid to pacify the mind and to awaken hidden positive qualities. This is all very fine, of course, for those who live in cultures that are steeped in spiritual tradition, particularly those where both feminine and masculine representations of the divine are equally revered. But what of the secular society where traditional religion has been largely relegated to mythical status and where there is greater faith in the might of
Twitter than in any mystical dimension or power? Actually, all we have to do is allow the mind to become still and find what has always been present within us. There is no need to dress up the spiritual in religious garb, unless that is our inclination. Spirituality has nothing to do with religion. Religion is man-made; spirituality is cosmic, of the universe, and lies at the essence of everything. Simply be it, feel it, touch it within the heart. When we do that, we begin to know the divine as the most profound of qualities, encompassing the greatest strength and the deepest tenderness. That tenderness is an aspect of the divine feminine principle and it is what we need most in this age of excess stimulus, of strong yang. When we touch tenderness inside, we re-establish contact with what is sometimes called ‘the Divine Mother’. The divine is not separate from us and the Divine Mother is not an entity that is discrete from the rest of the cosmos. Rather, the Divine Mother is a name given to an aspect of universal consciousness and is so called to enliven the imagination to make it easier to relate to. Tenderness, love, kindness and compassion are outstanding and familiar qualities. So are nurturing, healing and caring. And in case we fall into the error of thinking this is all rather soft and mushy, the Divine Mother can also manifest as wrath – the wrath that a strong mother uses to protect her children, such as a lioness caring for and protecting her cubs against predators. We can observe these principles anywhere in nature. How do we touch tenderness? The home of the Divine Mother in the human psyche is the heart – not the physical organ but the ‘heart centre’, a focalised area of energy in roughly the centre of the chest. Sometimes we may feel compassion arising there. The heart centre needs enlivening or energising because in most of us the heart centre is only partially awakened. There is usually some hardness there, a result of evolution, perhaps, from defending our families, possessions, our status and the wherewithal to live. Although it may seem a strange thing to say, we need to learn to allow the heart to weep. To access our inner strength, we have to acquire the skill of inner softness. Hardness in the heart comes from tension, so the heart centre needs easing and relaxing. This isn't the same relaxation that comes from a massage in a spa or gazing at clouds. This is relaxation from being at ease with the world, with being confident and happy in ourselves. It also means understanding pain, acknowledging that there is pain and suffering in the world. Somehow, that pain has to be felt in the heart, just as a mother feels the pain of her child who is hurt or ill. To understand the Divine Mother is to contemplate love at its most profound. We can only appreciate that to the extent that we are capable of expressing love ourselves. Then multiply it tenfold, and then a hundredfold, and then some. Imagine being loved to that degree. To be able to love well, we also have to be able to accept it. That isn't easy, so it can be helpful and uplifting, if not cathartic, to meditate on being the recipient of love that is beyond our present understanding. This love is present now; indeed, we are bathed in love, wherever we are, whatever we are doing, day or night. This isn't love from some power or wielder of fate that directs actions like some master puppeteer and to whom we can abdicate all responsibility. This is love that simply is, and is present throughout the whole universe. If we can begin to contemplate this as a possibility, we have taken a step to opening up our potential as human beings and releasing the potency of the divine feminine principle in our own hearts – our inner essence.
Andrew George Marshall February 2014
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