Over the last five thousand years, the course of human consciousness has moved in a decidedly masculine direction. We have separated ourselves from the fabled Garden and staked our claim as a self-aware, self-determining species. To achieve and sustain our autonomy, we have denied our dependence on – and our vulnerability to – Mother Nature and her processes.
For most of human history, our ancestors lived in a merged, almost dreamlike, state of union with nature. In order to establish themselves as rational, self-reliant individuals, they began to differentiate from their surroundings and take charge of their own destinies. For these gains in consciousness, we lost a world, says cultural philosopher Jean Gebser, of pure but meaningful accident, a world in which all things and all persons are interrelated.
Peaceful, goddess-worshiping societies inhabited the earth for many millenniums prior to the rise of patriarchy. In these early, matrilineal cultures, people experienced themselves as living inside an immense feminine presence. There was no heaven above and earth below. All living creatures were embedded in the sacred, which held and sustained them like a living womb.
We have, in the words of David Whyte, fallen out of belonging. We have lost our connection to the Sacred Feminine, to the wholeness and interconnectedness of all things. Our will is strong, our intellect great, but the emotion, imagination and creativity of the feminine is missing in our lives. Cut off from the mystery and depth of our origins, we long for reunion with the source that gives us life.
Joanna Macy, in her work on deep ecology, speaks of the profound grief we carry as a consequence of our separation from matrix from which we emerge. She reminds us of the deep web of relationship that underlies all experience and of our fundamental belonging to it …Out of that vast net you cannot fall. No stupidity, or failure, or cowardice, can ever sever you from that living web. For that is what you are.
This living web is buried deep in the feminine soul. As women we have an important part to play in bringing it forward into awareness, in reconciling our modern day consciousness with the ancient mysteries of creation.
It’s time to ask the question of whether we want to maintain the illusion of our separateness and continue to live in an isolated, mechanical world, or to stretch out and embrace the feminine, in all her messiness, all her mystery and ambiguity, all her depth and creativity.
Reconnecting with the feminine does not require us to circle around again, going back to primitive, tribal ways, but to move forward towards a more conscious, integrated sense of unity – finding our place as a unique, individuated species within a vast field of sacred, interdependent parts.
This new kind of belonging is to be found, as Brian Swimme suggests, in the midst of the voices of the universe. Perhaps the next step in our personal and collective development will be, at long last, to reunite the masculine and feminine, and to awaken to the relatedness of all things.