The Return of the Feminine and the World Soul
The following introduction is essential for the reader
to understand the reason for this compilation of materials,
and its contribution at this moment in time.
The assembly is filled with fragrance
at the mention of her,
and every tongue utters her name.
— Ibn ‘Arabî(1)
The following chapters are a compilation of my writings on the feminine from 1991 until 2008. Over these years I have written, lectured, and given interviews on the subject of the feminine principle, the sacred feminine. My earliest writings concern my own experience of the feminine from a psychological perspective, the anima or soul figure within my own psyche as she expressed herself in dreams and images, her darkness and light, her power and beauty. From this inner reconnection with a feminine that has only too often been rejected, misunderstood and mistreated, I began to value and understand the role of the feminine on the spiritual quest, the importance of listening, receptivity, and sacred space that is needed for spiritual rebirth and living the longing of the soul.
These feminine qualities belong to both men and women, and they draw us into the depths within us, into the mysteries of the soul whose wisdom is called Sophia. They also reconnect us with the primal pain of the feminine that has been so abused by our masculine culture. We come to experience her tears and wounds, her pain which is also the pain of our own soul. In the realm of the feminine everything is connected, nothing is excluded. And working with people, especially women, listening to their dreams and stories, I began to see how this pain, this denial, is a wound in each of us that needs to be understood and forgiven if we are to reclaim our true spiritual heritage, the innate knowledge of the feminine and the wisdom of the earth.
My own journey took me beyond my individual quest into the drama of the whole, feeling the suffering of the earth and its longing to reawaken from this nightmare of exploitation and patriarchal greed. Here I experienced the pressing need to reclaim the wisdom and power of the Goddess, Her healing and transformative potential. And I glimpsed how this energy is especially present within women, and how women have a crucial role to play in redeeming the sacred feminine and learning once again how to work with her. Although the feminine is an important part of a man’s psyche, women carry her wisdom and power in every cell of their body, and they have a responsibility in reawakening her potential.
In the story of our relationship to the earth I was drawn further, back to the ancient understanding of the anima mundi, the soul of the world, the divine principle within creation. Throughout history, in different times and cultures, there has been a relationship with the anima mundi, and ways to work with her, to bring her into daily life, particularly through art and the imagination. This feminine consciousness within all of life needs our attention in order to redeem our civilization and our world. Her cry needs to be heard, her knowing brought into our consciousness.
My own spiritual journey has followed the Sufi path of love, whose mysteries of the heart have always had a central place for the feminine. For the Sufi wayfarer it is love’s feminine quality of longing that draws us back to our Beloved. The mystic lover waits in a deep space of feminine receptivity and unknowing for the Beloved to reveal Himself. This inner love affair of the soul with God has taught me much about the relationship with the feminine, and the Sufi tradition of images and mystical poetry has helped me to articulate some of her mystery. The fragrance of this tradition of lovers will be present in these pages.
Although this material comes from my own personal journey, I have stressed how the work of the feminine belongs to the healing and transformation of the whole. The book begins with chapters that focus on our need to revalue the feminine, to understand how she has a central part to play in the work of global healing and transformation. Her natural consciousness holds a deep understanding of the interconnections of life, how all the different parts relate together: how her awakening oneness can unfold. And every woman has in her spiritual centers the sacred substance of creation that is necessary for life’s regeneration. Without the full participation of the feminine nothing new can be born. The reader is then taken into the dimension of the anima mundi, whose ancient wisdom and understanding of life’s oneness is needed if the world is to be redeemed. I have included as an appendix a psychological and spiritual perspective on the feminine that began this exploration, how the journey to the soul of the world began with my own soul.
Part of the difficulty of understanding and describing the feminine is her very elusive nature, the veils that surround her, as well as our patriarchal repression and denial of her wisdom and power. Also the ancient feminine mysteries, her initiations and teachings, were never written down. She is not easily fixed and defined, but is mysterious in her continual movement and change. She belongs to the silvery light of the moon and its many reflections rather than the harsh glare of masculine sunshine and its rational constructs. She is more easily alluded to and hinted at, expressing the mystery and matrix of creation that is always a wonder rather than something to be explained. So these chapters do not attempt a rational, linear explanation of the feminine, but are more facets of a mirror reflecting different feminine qualities and ways of being. In this gathered material there are many repetitions, as each chapter treats a repeated theme from a slightly different perspective, and so over the whole book a more rounded and complete picture of the repeated theme subtly emerges. This is also part of the mystery of the feminine, whose creation is an eternal round of evolving repetition. Each moment the same divine wonder is expressed in a slightly different way.
Also repetition in itself has a value: after such a long time and such a deep conditioning of neglect and forgetting of the nature and quality and value of the feminine in our culture, there is a need to bring her back into consciousness. In a culture that is so steeped in masculine values as ours is, articulating these long-forgotten themes only once may not be enough. There is a need to emphasize her again and again until her qualities once again become part of our relationship to life. The more we are reminded of her, the better she will find a foothold again in our individual consciousness and in our collective culture.
The feminine belongs to the inner worlds as much as to the outer world of creation. She is part of the mystery of the soul, of the womb of the world. Our masculine culture has focused on an external, definable and measurable world, but the feminine knows a different dimension—what is hidden within, often in the darkness. Much of these writings belong to the inner worlds, which are traditionally the home of the mystic and shaman, the poet, the priestess, and the seer. These realms, often rich in symbols, feelings, and images, accessed through visions and the imagination, are not well known in our culture, and our language is ill equipped to describe them, just as our language itself belongs to a masculine, rational culture, one that likes things to be defined rather than just alluded to. In reading this book it is important to recognize the limitations of language, and allow what is beyond the words to speak to you.
Rather than explain the role of the feminine in a logical, linear manner, these chapters attempt to draw the reader into her wisdom and mystery. There is no single definition of the feminine, but there can be an awakening to her ways, to her qualities and powers. Sometimes I have called her “the divine,” or “the Goddess” or “the feminine principle” or the “anima mundi.” The feminine does not like to be caught in any single name or fixed explanation. She is a way of relating to life and to oneself and to the divine.
It is also important to remember that the divine feminine is not in any contrast or opposition to the masculine. Within her sacred wholeness everything is included. And when I refer to the unknowable aspect of the divine that is beyond all form or knowing as He, It has no gender: that “He” is not masculine as opposed to feminine. Although we may live in a culture dominated by separation, the divine is beyond any division. Yet the feminine has her own fragrance, her particular magic. Hopefully in these pages something of her true nature will come into consciousness. She will reveal some of her qualities, lift some of her veils.
Notes from Introduction:
(1) Quoted by Chittick, Imaginal Worlds, p. 80.