Excerpt rom Marion Woodman & Elinor Dickson, Dancing in The Flames: The Dark Goddess in The Transformation of Consciousness
FROM GREAT MOTHER TO GODDESS
ABOUT FIVE YEARS AGO I was sitting in my sun room reading the morning paper. A sense of excitement grew as I read an article on the dedication of a temple to the black goddess, Kali, right here in Toronto, Canada. Although I knew very little about her, I had become fascinated by her image. I saw her dancing, a bloodied sword in one hand and a severed, bearded head in the other. Her lolling tongue hung out of her gaping mouth, and around her neck dangled a necklace of skulls. Why was I fascinated by such a fierce image? Was I harboring some unconscious rage that wanted to burst out? Much as the patriarchal systems that dominate our culture irritate me, even enrage me, I sensed that that wasn’t the explanation. I felt Kali herself crying out to me.
At first glance, Kali comes across as a fierce embodiment of the devouring mother, who gobbles up everything, even her own chil- dren. A closer look, however, reveals a great halo around her head, halo not seen in early depictions of the Great Mother. The halo attests to Kali’s status as Goddess, to her need to be understood not only as devourer, but also as transformer. She is black, dark as the matrix, dark as the vortex, from which all creation comes and to which it returns. To her devotees, she is like a black sapphire; radi- ance shines through her blackness. She dances and laughs with abandon, intoxicated with the mystery she is.
There must be a death to the ego self; there must be a transformation in which there is a letting go of all false values, of all the things that the egotistical nature mistakenly clings to. In the burial ground of the heart, Kali’s enlightened devotees see beyond literal death to the death of values rooted in fear. When they come to accept death as a necessary step in their transformation, then Kali can dance her dance of perpetual becoming. Once her cycles are accepted, those who love her are free of the fear of death, free of their own vulnerability, free to live her mystery.
The mystery of Kali is that she is perpetually destroying and, at the same time, creating destroying in order to create, creating in order to destroy, death in the service of life, life in the service of death. Kali is time, immanence, ceascless becoming, nature as process. As ceaseless motion that has no purpose other than its own activity, Kali is as indifferent to the demands of the ego as she is to the instinct to survive. The opposites of life and death, love and hate, humility and pride, poverty and riches, mercy and revenge, justice and tyranny, mean nothing to her, because with her there is no polarity. For Kali, all experience is one-life as well as death.
In the Indian villages where Kali is celebrated in her own festival, the villagers spend weeks shaping a clay statue of their beloved Goddess, she who is the feminine wisdom deep in the body, who makes no sense in the light of rationality. When her day arrives, they sing and dance from their primordial roots, carry her through the streets, and at the close of day throw her into the river. Instantly, she goes back to mud. All the love and care that have gone into her Creation are dissolved in the waters. Kali’s creation and dissolution symbolize what the world of appearances looks like to those who recognize it as part of a larger totality. Those who can accept her cycle of life-and death-are no longer vulnerable. They are fearless.
Along with Krishna, Kali became one of the most popular deities in the Hindu pantheon. As David Kingsley points out, “In many Tantric texts Kali’s position is unambiguously declared to be that of a great deity; indeed, in many texts she is declared the supreme deity, triumphant over all others, equivalent, in fact, to Brahman.”
This rise in the worship of Kali and her subsequent clevation to supremacy represented a significant step in the evolution of matriarchal mythology.
Stages Of Human Consciousness
Drawing On the works of Bachofen, Neumann, Campbell, and others, Ken Wilber outlines three stages in this evolution.
The first stage, the typhon, refers gencrally to the period of earliest Homosapiens (Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon), and is itself a structure of consciousness dominated by body-bound mentality and instincts.
“In the earliest typhonic times,” Wilber writes,
“the Great Mother was probably not much more than an impact, a non-verbal shock at separate-self existence, and an expression of simple biological dependence.” In this period, the Mother was the one who fed, who provided the necessities of life through plants, seeds, and animals. Caves afforded the protection of her womb, which eventually became the tomb in the cycle of life and death. She was both the nourisher of life and the destroyer. Life and death, joy and pain, were a seamless reality. “And death,” declares the Earth Mother, in Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound, shall be the last embrace of her who takes the life she gave, even as a mother, Folding her child, says, “Leave me not again.”:
Life, in this first phase, was closely associated with blood. The monthly bleeding of women was thought to be the source of creation: when a baby was being formed in the womb, the bleeding stopped. New life was, therefore, assumed to come from the blood of the mother. Likewise, the Great Mother created out of her blood. She was the womb/tomb of existence. All physical existence and the Earth’s abundant provision for the sustenance of life flowed from that essential source–the Mother’s fertility.
The second stage of Great Mother mythology, as Wilber describes it, grew out of the earliest awareness of separation from the mother. As humans slowly separated out from nature, the primitive emotions of life and joy became differentiated from those of death and pain. In this phase, “the self sense [was] more structured, more articulate, and so likewise the Great Mother. Men and women were more conscious of their own tenuous existence, and thus more conscious of the Great Mother-what she was, and what she demanded.” As life and death became polarized, humans began to contemplate the possibility of nonbeing a terrifying prospect for a fledgling consciousness. Death came to be invested with starkness and terror, and the question then became, “How do I please Mother so that she will give me life rather than death?” What was the way to appease the Great Mother, to keep her as protectress and prevent her wrathful Vengeance? Give her what she demands- blood! And likewise, invent a precise way to do it-ritual! Thus, the first great ritual was a ritual of blood sacrifice, offered to the Great Mother-to Mother Nature–in a bartered attempt to quench her desire for blood. … Blood is indeed bodily life, and if you want to purchase life, you buy it with blood. So goes paleologic; like magic it works with partial truths; and like magic, since it is unable to grasp higher perspectives or wider contexts, it arrives at barbaric conclusions.”
Just prior to and during the early part of the pre-Iron Age, a third form of matriarchal mythology began to emerge. Those with a more highly evolved consciousness began to see beyond the concrete reality of nature and saw into the underlying essence that pervaded and unified all things. With this insight came the first glimmerings of an awareness of the subtle or archetypal realm. The unifying light in nature came to be worshiped as the Goddess, the mediator of transformation.
The Great Mother was seen as the “One,” the creatrix of all things and the ultimate source of life and death. Her Oneness was bound to the realm of nature as the unconscious personification of it. The Goddess, as distinct from the Mother, while remaining immanent in nature, and while demanding sacrifice, did not require blood sacrifice. Worship of the Goddess required a movement from the literal and concrete to the symbolic, a movement that launched a radical mutation in consciousness. This mutation effected a release from the mother-bound limitations of nature not unlike that which occurred when Abraham was released from the blood sacrifice of his son, Isaac, a release that launched the ethical consciousness identified with the Semitic tradition.
The Goddess reached a high level of conscious articulation in many of her numerous forms. Perhaps the best known are the Egyptian goddess Isis and Sophia, the wisdom figure of the Old Testament. The sense of oneness, the sense of absolute authority that each carried in her respective milieu is evident from the following descriptions.
In the Book of Wisdom, Sophia “reaches mightily from end to end of the earth (and… “Though she is but one, she can do all things’),”* In the aretalogies of Isis we read, “I am Isis, sole ruler forever, and I oversee the ends of the sea and the earth. I have authority, and though I am but one I oversee them (Cyrene 4).”
The goddess, Sophia, whom we are called to enthrone in our being, is our life, “and no choice possession can compare with her.” Continually, she prepares a banquet that is food for the soul.
Isis was recognized as “the creator of the universe and as such presided over all its elements: ‘I divided earth from heaven. I set forth the paths of the stars. I established the course of the sun and moon (Cyme12-14) … “Whatever I determine, this too will be performed for me: all things obey me’ (Cyme 46).”
Wisdom has built her house, she has set up her seven columns; she has dressed her meal, mixed her wine, yes, she has spread her table. She has sent out her maidens; she calls from the heights out over the city: “Let whoever is simple turn in here; to him who lack understand- ing, I say, Come, eat of my food and drink of the wine I have mixed! Forsake foolishness that you may live; advance in the way of understanding. “
The most important factor in the evolution of consciousness is that in reaching this level of archetypal Oneness the individual dies to the sense of a separate self. As stated by Wilber, insight” the sacrifice of self disclosed the that simple yet crucial insight —”the sacrifice of self discloses the Eternal”—was the esoteric insight empowering the mythology of self-sacrifice to the Great Goddess, sacrifice carried out in prayer, in contemplation, in meditative ritual and ceremony, in symbolic mass.
Worshiping the Great Mother meant idenufying with her and trying to appease her great power over one’s ife by offering a sacrifice outside of oneself. The worship of the Goddess, on the other hand, involved entering into a process of self-transformation. In order to reach the desired level of archetypal oneness, one had to transcend the ego boundaries.
At this early stage in ego development, transcendence could be very threatening. It was safer merely to maintain participation mystique with the Mother. Penetration to the level of archetypal Oneness involved moving beyond the body-self, beyond the ego-self, to a realization of soul consciousness.
THE ECLIPSE OF THE GREAT GODDESS
With the onset of the Iron Age, worship of the Sun God, albeit a Sun God bound to the Mother, began to emerge. As consciousness developed, a sense of self began to emerge from the body-self. This is the natural course of human development. As the self developed even further, human beings began to take their projections of divinity off the Great Mother and the Goddess and to identify with the ascendant symbol of the Sun God. Whereas they had once taken power from nature through bone, feathers, and blood, now they sought to exert power over nature. All the powers of nature that had been an expression of the Great Mother were transferred to the Sun. Humanity moved from polytheism to monotheism. No longer did the king serve as the phallic consort of the Great Mother, but, in keeping with the shift to monotheism, he assumed supremacy as the representative of the Sun God.
Nature, in this patriarchal paradigm, was seen as something to be controlled and dominated. In an odd reversal of roles, nature was now pressed into the service of man. Power came to be perceived as deriving from strength. Virtually unchanged since its inception, this paradigm has dominated Western civilization down to the present.
The new state of ego consciousness that emerged gave rise to the Hero Myth, which achieved dominance by 1500 BCE.
Now there are several fascinating aspects to this historical emergence of the Hero Myth the myth of the individual Hero triumphing over the Great Mother or one of her consorts, such as the old serpent-dragon-uroboros, or over a Great Mother derivative, such as the Medusa with serpent-monster hair, or over a Great Mother offspring, such as Typhon. The first aspect is that the Hero is simply the Hero is simply the new egoic structure of consciousness which, coming into existence at this time (the low egoic period), is naturally given living expression in the mythology of the period.” Since she was rooted in the chaos of nature, the Great Mother was defeated by the Hero. Her cyclical realm allowed only for repetition, not for the linear sense of progression that the Hero desires.
Instead of integrating the mother mythology, the Hero dissociated from it. So complete was that dissociation that generations of children have grown up and come through the educational system without ever having heard of the Great Mother. At best, it is an historical footnote of litte significance.
Tragically, with the rise of ego consciousness, repression of the Great Goddess as well as the Great Mother occurred. The result was a gradual eclipse of the understanding of the unifying light in creation, the subtle Oneness of the Goddess that had begun to break through into human awareness.
With the loss of this burgeoning consciousness as a container for the process of transformation, an enormous split took place in the psych, both culturally and individually.
The Encyclopedia of Human Behavior describes a dissociative reaction as “a psychoneurotic reaction in which a portion of experience is split off, or isolated, from conscious awareness.” This dissociation not only protects us from threatening impulses, it also allows us to act them out without having to bear any conscious responsibility for our actions. We thereby avoid both anxiety and guilt.
When the dissociation takes place at a cultural level, it forms a basis for the neurosis of the whole culture. Patriarchy dissociated from its maternal ground, reconstructed that ground in the guise of a phallic mother that appears, for example, as Mother Church, Motherland, Alma Mater. Ironically, the very fear that led patriarchy to repress matriarchy has kept patriarchy neurotically bound in a struggle for power to what it did and does repress. What is repressed out of fear reemerges in the form of its repression. It is not therefore the absence of the feminine that should be lamented (both feminine and masculine are always already present in some form); it is the distorted forms of their presence that exaggerate the tragic imbalance between them. That imbalance undermines an entire civilization, contributing to its collapse.
Although the patriarchal ego prides itself on being reasonable, the twentieth century has been anything but the Age of Reason. In our collective neurosis, we have raped the earth, disrupted the delicate balance of nature, and created phallic missiles of mass destruction. Ironically, in our desperate attempt to keep death at bay (or prevent dissolution, from the point of view of thc ego) we have brought ourselves to the brink of extinction. So long as we deny the Great Mother and refuse to integrate her as Goddess in our psychic development, we will continue to act out neurotic fantasies and endanger our very survival as a species.
In spite of the rising sun, the Great Mother is still very much alive in the murky depths of our unconscious. Her presence is often demonstrated in our dreams.
In one dream, for example, a man sees his mother in the kitchen. Blocking the kitchen door is a large crocodile. The man goes into the living room with his cat and dog. The crocodile comes toward him and swallows the dog. He manages to save the cat.
In our homes, as in fairy tales, the kitchen is one of the most important rooms. There we prepare food, and, through the miracle of fire, we transform the energies of nature into energies we are able to assimilate. This Dreamer’s mother is in the kitchen, but his way to her is blocked by a crocodile. He later recalled that when he was ten or eleven, his mother was very depressed. In this image, he is cut off from her by this immense animal that sleeps in the mud, the epitome of inertia. The crocodile is near the beginning of the evolutionary scale. Symbolically, it brings up images not only of the personal mother but also of the collective mother, that huge mother half asleep in the unconscious, who can either suck us to our doom or fill us with creative energy. The transformative potential lies in her massive energy. This dreamer’s personal mother was depressed and needed her son to mirror her. She became over protective and constantly forbade him to go swimming with the boys, climb trees, or do anything that might hurt him. His burgeoning masculinity and his yearning for action were thus swallowed up. He lost his dog but he did manage to save his cat (feminine instinct). He explored the realms of art, and eventually achieved success in film, art, and music. In his marriage, however, he was insecure and jealous, fearing that other men, because he perceived them as more potent, would steal what he had. His energy, erratic at best, tended to flow toward depression and inertia in anything he did. The energy of his personal mother and the energy of the collective unconscious, which prefers sleeping in the mud to transforming in the fire, was in the Great Mother crocodile. Her energies were not available to him, and he was therefore unable to transform them into higher levels of integration.
The word mother someimes elicits a negative response a fact that displeases many women. It must be remembered, however, that like fairy tales and fantasies, dreams use metaphorical language. The image “mother” is a tuning fork that sets off vibrations far beyond the realm of the personal mother. It resonates in the creative matrix at the core of the psyche the matrix that contains both the devouring mother and the cherishing mother. It is the ego’s fear of being sucked into an earlier unconscious state that makes it regard the Great Mother as negative. When the ego is strong enough to relate to the Mother without losing its own identity, then Mother becomes the source of all creativity. Paradoxically, so long as the ego fears the conscious, it is at the same time magnetized by it. Driven by fear, it moves into Mother in destructive ways-drugs, food, sex, alcohol, spending money, whatever. These destructive ways indicate the hostility that, quickened by fear, inevitably lashes out against the mother and/or against oneself.
Falling into the maternal unconscious is a repeated theme in the consulting room. A woman has a dream in which a young man is riding toward her on a bicycle. He falls into the ditch and ends up in the mud (primeval matter). His mother appears behind him and says, “Now come on home. Everything will be all right.” This seemingly simple dream reenacts the classical myths and summarizes whole periods of history, both personal and cultural.
In this dream the woman’s new masculinity is seeking to break out of the unconscious depths, but instead he is thrown into the primal mud. Matter, mater, mother, and Mother are pulling his ego into the mud of oblivion. “Be safe here. I will look after you. Why do you want to leave home? Stay here and be a good boy.” This is Oedipus, who “rebels against the solar-father principle of a higher and more demanding mode of awareness, and seeks instead a union with the old comfort of the chthonic earth, an emotional-sexual incest with the Mother, an immersion in her domain.”
When a young boy begins to separate out from his mother, he may suddenly start imitating his father, walking like him, sitting like him, dressing like him. As soon as he is tired or hurt, however, he runs to Mother for comfort. This pre-Oedipal stage soon gives way to confrontations with Father, and an increased turning to Mother for support. Thus, the process of separating out from Mother can often be waylaid. A man may remain locked into Mother all his life, with varying amounts of resentment occasioned by a deep psychic fear of being cut adrift, of being alone physically or psychologically. Because his own inner feminine has not separated out from his mother, he is unable to express his real needs or stand up for his own values. He probably does not know what they are at a mature level. Ironically, he may be married to a woman who finds her strength in mothering her boy.
Girls can identify with Mother for a much longer period of time, since there is no biological or social imperative for them to unseparate from her. Yet even with the most loving and caring of mothers, a girl needs to separate out and become her own person. Failure to sever the unconscious bond eventually constellates a negative relationship.
It is this fear of emptiness that blocks most people from coming to at-one-ment. To reach the place where we belong to ourselves, we have to sever the umbilical cord that binds us to archaic dependencies. If we have never known a loving mother, that severing can be even more difficult, because we continue to long for what we have never had. We continue to seek Mother in our relationships. Often in analysis, the analyst must hold the role of loving mother until the Great and Loving Goddess has become a reality in the analysand’s pyche. Out of this reality comes a love affair with life and sheer delight in creativity.
When the differentiation between mother and the young feminine is about to begin, the young masculine usually asserts himself. The following dream focuses on the ego’s decision to encourage the young boy to act:
“I am on a ship. We are whale-watching. The whales are gracefully riding the waves. On the other side of the boat there are two whales, one practically on the back of the other. A little girl falls overboard and is swallowed whole by the whale. I encourage a young boy to open the whale’s mouth and take out the little girl. It’s incredible how this happens. The whale seems to be in a playful mood, and it is no trouble for the boy to release the tiny girl. Then there is a party to celebrate the girl’s safe return. Everyone is in colorful costumes and there is dancing and lively music.
This is not the patriarchal masculine, which makes the rules that keep people in their place. This is a new masculine consciousness that can pull the feminine out of the inertia of the mother, bringing a new assertiveness, a new perspective on life.
Most men and women are appalled when they look at the condition of their femininity in their dreams. They are more deeply appalled when they talk to those female figures. Those female figures have stories to tell, and they will tell them if they are listened to. Our culture has made us deaf and blind to feminine anguish. The media is making us increasingly aware of marital batterings, assaults, harassments, rape. As a culture, however, we are still blind to the false assumptions underlying many relationships, still deaf to the snide remarks some women make to undercut other women, still unable to pull the feminine out of the mud.
Why has that energy become so mired? Working with dreams is like working on an excavation. We have to dig through layer upon layer of facades that cover the feminine before we can reach it. The individual psyche is a microcosm of the cultural macrocosm. Centuries of abuse have brought us to a crisis in which we look the Death Goddess straight in the eye. That look can change our lives. It may not, in which case, we may obliterate ourselves. Even a very brief look at a few of the critical turning points in Western culture over the last eight centuries will give us some insight into the Goddess that lies buried in our depths.
Anyone who has labored to release the Goddess from the darkness of centuries of abuse has returned from the excavation with a paradox. She who is dead is alive. All we have to do is open our eyes an extra sixteenth of an inch, and there she is, dancing in every apple blossom, in the song of every purple finch, as well as in the flames of passion that we call life.
THE BLACK GODDESS
The connection between Virgin, Wisdom, and Sophia is significant. In their book entitled Sophia, Cady, Ronan, and Taussig explain their “use of the name ‘Sophia’ … when the biblical translators invariably prefer ‘Wisdom.’ Sophia is, in fact, the Greek word for wisdom, or rather, a transliteration of that word. Sophia immediately suggests a person rather than a concept…. Use of the title ‘ Wisdom’ rather than the name ‘Sophia’ contributes to further avoidance and repression of this unique biblical person.” Since the unknown feminine figure that appears in contemporary dreams carries so many of Sophia’s attributes, and since these attributes span feminine qualities from primal goddess to immanent radiance, we will sometimes refer to her as Sophia.
As soon as we put the word “black” with the Black Virgin or Black Madonna, we hear deeper resonances. According to Robert Graves in his exquisite version of The Song of Songs, “[t]he words black and wise [are] almost indistinguishable in Semitic script.” Further explaining the connection between black and wise he writes, “The many black Virgins in Spain and Southern France . . . are black because the Saracen occupation during the Middle Ages taught the local Christians to equate ‘black’ with `wise’—hence the ‘Black Arts’ were originally the Wise Arts.”
This connection between blackness and wisdom may also have something to do with the Black Madonnas that were brought back to Europe by the Crusaders from the Islamic world. Their love for these figures was sometimes connected to their belief that they had survived a fire and, therefore, understood their suffering. It was love forged in fire.
Beginning in the eleventh century, the Crusades unleashed immense slaughter and plunder across the ancient world. Something of Kali’s energy was manifested in the passion and excess that accompanied this well-intentioned but ill-fated campaign. The goal was to release Jerusalem (biblically imaged as the Bride) -and indeed the entire Holy Land -from the captivity of the Muslim hordes. Although this goal was, in the long term, not achieved, the Crusades were to have far-reaching consequences, both for Europe and for the rest of the world.
Along with a vastly expanded vision of life, the Crusaders brought back to Europe many treasures of the East. Among them were exquisite statues of the Black Goddess, Isis. These were enshrined as the Black Virgin. Devotion to her spread from cathedrals to small shrines dotted over the countryside in settings natural to the goddess of fertility. Literally hundreds of shrines to the Black Virgin sprang up throughout Europe in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. One reason for the Black Virgin’s grcat popularity during this period was the growing adoration of the chaste Virgin Mary. Courtly love, the legend of the Holy Grail, the veneration of the Virgin, the ascendancy of the idealized woman, were balanced by the compensating adoration of the Black Virgin. She was an underground figure; much of her so-called paganism still adhered to her (fertility, nature, earth). She was revered in an underground way–the blessing of the crops in the field, the blessing of pregnancy and childbirth, the dark excesses of sexuality and delight in the mysteries of the body, and the wisdom that can be experienced in lovemaking. She was the most intimate experience possible to the soul, opened herself to the Holy Spirit, was impregnated, and bore God a son. In her loneness she was an independent liberated image of the feminine. In the thirteenth century, the magnificent “thrones of Wisdom” were beloved icons in the cathedrals. A stately, royal mother figure sits on her throne, her skirt sweeping in majestic folds. Her throne is the cathedral, the chair that makes the cathedral her palace. (In dreams, a large chair or a large lap often symbolizes a mother complex.) Standing on her knee is the Child King, with his ancient face, holding the scepter and the orb. He stands like a king; his standpoint is secure on the lap of Wisdom.
This image of the Madonna and her son shifted into mother and young child. By the Renaissance, the icon had come to carry a totally different meaning. Leonardo da Vinci, however, maintains the concept of Sophia (Wisdom as Nature) in his cartoon of Mary and her son sitting on the lap of her mother. Mary appears as a finely honed feminine, totally integrated with the powerful nature goddess. Her son echoes the Little King of the “thrones of Wisdom.” In the Virgin ofthe Rocks, the nature goddess appears as the grotto and the rocks, the womb in which Mary and her child and John are located.
The Age of the Black Virgin, the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, was followed by the Black Death of the fourteenth century. People began to fear that they were being punished by God for heretical practices. The order of the universe (wisdom), which they connected with the Goddess, was collapsing into chaos, the Black Arts, and everything associated with their own shadow side. Their love for the Black Madonna was not diminished but became tinged with fear.
In 1347 the Black Death devastated Europe and by 1361 had killed up to one-half of the population. In 1349 alone, it killed at least a third of the population of England. In today’s terms, this would be the equivalent of a nuclear holocaust. It had an enormous effect on the psyche and the future development of the Western world. Historian Barbara Tuchman, writing about this period, concludes.
Survivors of the plague, finding themselves neither destroyed nor improved, could discover no Divine purpose in the pain they suffered. God’s purposes were usually mysterious, but this scourge had been too terrible to be accepted without questioning. Ifa disaster of such magnitude, the most lethal ever known, was a mere wanton act of God or perhaps not God’s work at all, then the absolutes of a fixed order were loosed from their moorings. Minds that opened to admit these questions could never again be shut. Once people envisioned the possibility of change in a fixed order, the end of an age of submission came in sight; the turn to individual conscience lay ahead. To that extent the Black Death may have been the unrecognized beginning of modern man.”
The fixed order Tuchman refers to is the hierarchical order of the feudal system: king, prince, dukes, all the way down to the serfs. Equally rigid was the hierarchy of the Church: pope, bishops, clerics, laity, all fixed in their place by divine decree. Not only was the divine purpose of the rigidly controlled patriarchal order questioned, but so was the Divine purpose of death, which had hitherto been seen as part of the natural order.
The plague was a catalyst for a major shift in human perception in many areas in cosmology, in science and medicine, in attitudes toward women, and in philosophy and religion itself. Unexplained and irrational, death was an insult an aberration thrown in the face of man’s newly acquired image as the “controller.” Man turned increasingly to his own rational power, and began to look upon death, nature, woman, his own body and sexuality as being irrational, and therefore as something to be subdued and brought under more rigorous control. Man began to be more resolute in his confrontation with the created universe. His dominance over nature became one expression of his power.
As E. F. Schumacher succinctly puts it, “The old science looked upon nature as God’s handiwork and man’s mother; the new science tends to look upon nature as an adversary to be conquered or a resource to be quarried and exploited.”
Man began to put distance between himself and the forces of death. The new order would create a more habitable world built on a more precise knowledge of the universe, including man himself. All clements of chance were to be systematically eliminated.
The irrational clements that man so rigorously attempted to subdue after the fourteenth century, and well into our century, are the very elements that we are now finally learning to creatively embrace in, for example, contemporary science, depth psychology, and the arts. The underground Black Goddess is surfacing again to become the cathedral of the creative mind. This surfacing, first seen in its modern form in the visionary world of Romanticism in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, is now finding its way into actual life, a life now experienced by most inhabitants of the planet as far more acausal than causal, far more inexplicable than explicable. Before we could arrive at this apparently chaotic state, howeve, rationalism had to bring us to the brink of extinction as a result of the mind’s determination to enslave the body.
Man’s focus on the mind was to find its fullest expression in the writings of Descartes in the seventeenth century. Descartes introduced a view of mind as an incorporeal thinking substance, radically distinct from body. As entirely mindless, matter or body had to be controlled by mind, mind not being in matter but over matter as a master ruling a slave.
The mind as the enslaver of matter became, in the seventeenth century, a metaphor of the operation of the mind of God in its creation of a material world. For Sir Isaac Newton, the cosmos itself was the enslaved body of an omnipotent mind which, having created the cosmos by an act of divine will, withdrew into the contemplation of itself, leaving the cosmos as an autonomous self-regulating mechanism. In this image of a vast self-regulating mechanism lay for Newton what Thomas Berry has called “a model for human activity” behind which lay mind itself contemplating, like Descartes’ (“I think therefore I am”), its own detached divinity. The goal of science as initiated by Descartes and achieved by Newton lay in the total submission of mater to mind, of slave to master. As “a model for human activity” it affirmed man’s rational submission to the immutable laws of nature. That matter had a mind of its own that would eventually rebel against its enslavement belonged to the realm of fantasy rather than reality. Not surprisingly, therefore, considering the long-standing patriarchal association of matter (mater) with the feminine, the feminist revolt in this century against what many feminists considered patriarchal subjugation, belonged for many men (and women) not to the realm of reality as masculine science defined it, but to the realm of myth as women by their “inferior rational nature” continued to inhabit it.
The dualism of mind and matter epitomized by Descartes began, however, long before Descartes. Immediately following the Black Plague, nature was more and more perceived as a chaotic realm unrelated to the thinking principle. Prior to the plague, the body had been studied not just by those wishing to become doctors, but also by those desiring a more intimate knowledge of God.
During the plague, however, the need to control disease and death gave the practical applications of the study of anatomy greater impetus. The interaction between self-knowledge and medical practice disappeared in a system that was becoming more and more materialistic the further away man moved from seeing himself as a part of the created order. The link between consciousness and body no longer applied. The body became a fascinating system to be studied in the same way as the stars and plancts. With the nincteenth-century formulation of the Doctrine of Specific Etiology (namely, that a single agent such as a microbe can be the cause of disease), the door was opened for the control of the spread of infectious diseases. Man began to develop a new sense of power over his own body.
These advances in science were accompanied by a profound alteration in man’s perception of woman and death. As Philippe Aries has observed, it was during this period that dcath began to take on an erotic meaning in art and literature. Death and the sex act were “henceforth increasingly thought of as a transgression which tears man from his daily life, from rational society, from his monotonous work, in order to make him undergo a paroxysm, plunging him into an irrational, violent, and beautiful world.”
The intensified association of woman with death and erotic love increased greatly the anxiety that man experienced. He began to project his own guilt about his sexual impulses onto woman. An example of this reenactment of Adam’s blaming Eve can be found in a 1486 report by the Dominican inquisitors, Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger.
“But the natural reason is that she (woman] is more carnal than a man, as is clear from her many carrnal abominations. And it should be noted that there was a defect in the formation of the first woman, since she was formed from a bent rib, that is, a rib of the breast, which is bent as it were in a contrary direction to a man. And since through this defect she is an imperfect animal, she always deceives.”
While guilt and carnality were projected onto women in general, there occurred a compensating idealization through the cult of virginity, both within and without the Church. Within the Church, the emphasis was placed on chastity, since death and sexual coupling were regarded as synonymous. Thus St. John Chrysostom wrote in Della Verqinita:
“For where there is death, there too is sexual coupling; and where there is no dcath, there is no sexual coupling either. But virginity is not accompanied by such things.”
Rosemary Ruether sees the disjunction that occurred in man’s perception of woman as a split between spiritualized femininity and carnal femaleness. She points out that this split is analogous to the one between mind and body:
“This split continued to grow more and more intense during the Middle Ages until it erupted in a veritable orgy of paranoia in the late medieval period [1300s- -1600s]. It can hardly be a coincidence that the same period that saw Mariology reach the greatest heights of theological definition and refinement with the triumph of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception in nominalist theology also saw the outbreak of witch hunts that took the lives of upwards of one million women between the 14th and I7th centuries.”
Man’s split perception of woman manifested itsclf most clearly in the witch hunts. Not only did woman carry the burden of man’s guilt and response to death, but she also became the scapegoat for the economic instability that came in the wake of the plague. In Gesta Trevirorum we read: “Inasmuch as it was popularly believed that the continued sterility of many years was caused by witches through the malice of the Devil, the whole country rose to exterminate the witches.” In town after town, the Inquisitors ordered countless women stripped and shaved and subjected them to vaginal and rectal searches. Those found to have the devil’s mark were hanged or burned at the stake. Women became the scapegoat, for, as the Inquisitor concluded, “all witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which is in women insatiable.”
About this time, devotion to Mary as Universal Mother began to spread, as man started looking for a new source of security. Mary became the disembodicd Mother. As Queen of Heaven, she became part of the Church’s redemptive theology-not as the Black Madonna, bridging sexuality and spirituality, but rather, as the obedient, chaste, Virgin Mother.
With consciousness focused on the perfection of the Virgin as Mary, the dark shadow of lust constellated in the unconscious. A reflection of the mind/body dichotomy, this virgin/whore split drove the feminine soul, the receptive, unifying principle that had begun to emerge, deeper into exile. The soul becamc an isolated entity, the immortal and immaterial part of oneself that needed to be “saved” out of the corrupting influence of the material world.
The virgin/whore split manifests in women’s dreams as well. A woman dreams, for example, that she is visiting a construction site, where a house is being built. The dream ego, white and properly dressed, is supervising. A dark shadow woman is also present, fornicating with the workmen. The dream ego wants to make a hasty retreat, but is fascinated by the energy of the shadowy whore. The shadow is distracting the workmen (the constructive energies of the unconscious), and it is she who will have to be integrated if the construction of the inner house is to go ahead.
Given this split and the repression of the feminine, it is not difficult to see why Freud mistakenly placed sexuality at the root of the underlying anxiety in the psyche. Only very recently has it become clear that patriarchal pathology is rooted in the dread of death, the fear of dissolution. Not since the plague of the fourteenth century have human beings been so traumatized by the sudden loss of the boundaries that established their security. The holocaust in Europe, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, were a nightmare that everyone has had to contend with ever since. Here was mass death on an unprecedented scale. Now the terror was not the un- known forces of nature rebelling against man, or God punishing man for his sins; now it was “man’s inhumanity to man” that was to be feared. Inasmuch as the plague had forced man to rclate differently to nature, so the Second World War placed man in a new relationship to himself. Not only did men begin to fear each other, but man also began to fear himself, his own overwhelming capacity for destruction.
The suppression of death, or “forbidden death,” to use Aries’s term, has had a profound effect on the organization of the self. In Freud’s day, the suppression of sexuality took the form of hysterical neuroses and obsessions, which characterize the deterioration of the ego from internalized pressures. In our own day, particularly following the Second World War, the breakdown of the self has become evident in the predominance of the narcissistic personality. Powerlessness, emptiness, and paranoia characterized the neuroses of the eighties and continue to make their presence felt in the present decade. As Peter Giovacchini writes, “The growing prominence of ‘character disorders’ seems to signify an underlying change in the organization of personality, from what has been called inner-direction to narcissism.”
Michael Beldoch has this to say: “Today’s patients by and large do not suffer from hysterical paralyses of the legs or handwashing compulsions; instead it is their very psychic selves that have gone numb or that they must scrub and rescrub in an exhausting and unending effort to come clean.” These patients suffer from “pervasive feclings of emptiness and a deep disturbance of self- esteem. “
The characteristic feature of borderline patients is an obsessive need to re-create a womb, which will rescue them from their sense of emptiness. Addictive or dependent relationships are often sought as an antidote to a traumatized ego. While the regression to the womb is predominant in the borderline personality, many people in our crumbling society seek to establish relationships based on participation mystique through sharing drugs, alcohol, sex, or other addictive behaviors.
We have become alienated from the earth, from others, and from our own deepest feelings. In such a condition we become narcissistic. In all the mirrors that reflect reality we see only ourselves. We have become highly self-conscious, but this state is a mere parody of true self-knowledge. Self-knowledge comes through a relationship with and a commitment to something or someone beyond one’s self, beyond the gratification of one’s personal needs. Sexual repression has given way to sexual liberation, but neither has anything to do with true passion or true self-knowledge. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, we denied, through the practice of puritanism, the guilt we felt toward our bodies; in the twentieth century, the discomfort of repressed guilt became too much to bear, so we abandoned it in favor of bodily gratification. We may now be a little more comfortable with the fact that we have bodies, but we have no context to give meaning to our new-found awareness.
Existential guilt requires forgiveness, something we cannot give ourselves. Instead we remain trapped in a hedonism that is at best a manipulation of our own bodies. It is commonly thought that contemporary man has swung from Puritanism to hedonismto the pursuit of pleasure rather than the denial of pleasure. But these are two sides of one coin. Both the hedonist and the puritan face the body in the condition of fear; the puritan fears gratification while the hedonist fears the absence of gratification. Both derive their sense of identity through conflict with the natural rhythms of the organism; both are manipulators, at war with what is.
REDISCOVERING THE LIGHT IN MATTER
Not unil we recognize the Divine Immanence, the light of the Goddess in matter, can we hope to establish a balance, a reconnection with our own deepest nature that can root us in a world of meaning and imagination. Perhaps, we will have to face the darkness, walk out on the moor alone at nightfall, or dive to the bottom of the sea before the old ossified ego boundaries can be shattered to make room for the dance.
In dreams, the Goddess often leads the dreamer into a deep cave or a dark place. In the following dream, the dreamer, a woman, was led down into the basement, where everything was pitch black.
“I am at a large celebration. I go down into the wine cellar to get some wine. As I go down, it is extremely black. I lose my direction walking down the corridors. I feel an opening and I get down and start feeling around the walls and then I touch the floor. As I do this, little clumps of golden light spark up in every spot I touch, and soon I begin to see where I am-a large empty room. Nest, the golden light becomes women young, middle-aged, and very old, on crutches, in wheelchairs. What is peculiar is that their faces are radiant, glowing eyes, clear and sparkling. I distinctly hear the words: “I will give you treasures out of the darkness, and riches that have been hidden away.”
In search of wine (spirit), the dreamer goes down into the blackness of the basement (the unconscious). In her searching, she finds the light (spirit), but it is light embodied in matter-the gold sparks that appear where she touches the black walls. This is the light, the consciousness within our own bodies as well as within all creation, that will be recognized and released as we continue to evolve. The embodied light reveals itself in the feminine threesome (mother, maiden, crone). The crones are crippled, but their eyes are shining. The voice knows where the treasure is hidden. Out of the darkness will come the treasures, and the hidden riches.
This is the darkness we have always feared. Beneath the mature persona of the ego lies the child’s imagination, which fears being devoured by the wolf or the wicked witch. If we remain trapped in fear, we will never know the treasures of the dark. Being catapulted into the underworld is a common mythological theme, found in almost all cultures. The descent is undertaken cither voluntarily, in search of a deeper goal, or involuntarily, when the abyss unexpectedly opens. The potential in either case comes from the fact that ordinary ego perceptions are shattered; cracks occur in the well-crafted persona. Through these cracks emerges the possibility of something new.
In tribal cultures, the shaman had to go into the underworld and sometimes wander there for three years. Usually, he had to undergo dismemberment–a death and resurrection–before he could assume his true vocation. Often, crystals were placed in the orifices of his body during this period to signify the light in matter.
Descent into the underworld can happen at different stages in life. The midlife descent often requires a whole reorientation of identity. In the first half of life we live mainly in terms of doing. We find out who we are through going to school, pursuing a career, marrying, having children and raising them. In the second half of life, we are pushed toward a deeper consciousness of who we are, an identity in terms of being, an identity based not on the ego but on the soul. The gap we pass through, someimes lasting several years, is what is commonly known as the midlife crisis.
Tibetan Buddhism has a tradition of stories of people who are catapulted into the underworld, often through grave illness. Depression can also lead us into the black hole that exists at the center of our being. Perhaps, if we are “lucky” enough, we fall into that hole the confusion, the lethargy, the hollowness of old enthusiasms, old addictions that don’t work any more. Until the ego feels its own despair, there is little motivation toward change.
If all we have known of the feminine is the old devouring Mother, we may become stuck in the black hole. If, however, we are able to recognize the Great Goddess in her role as the transformer of energy, then we can trust, even if we don’t know where we are going. The blackness will reveal its gold. Sometimes with humor, sometimes with bluntness and even harshness, sometimes with tenderness, she will both challenge and guide.
In writing about the dakini in the Buddhist tradition, Tsultrim Alone speaks of the possibility that “[wļe could have little gaps in the claustrophobic game of dualism, and clarity could shine through.
The world is not as solid as we think it is, and the more we are open to the gaps, the more wisdom can shine through and the more the play of the dakini energy can be experienced.”
These “gaps” in the “solidified fantasies of dualistic fixation” have become the subject of present day physics. Chaos theory puts a scientific spin on the myth of Tiamat, the carly Babylonian goddess of chaos out of which everything was created. Until recently, the problem was that chaos has been seen as “bad.” In fact, up until this century it was widely believed that we would, sooner or later, find an explanation for chaos, and then order would prevail. “Chaos was merely complexity so great that in practice scientists couldn’t track it, but they were sure that in principle they might one day be able to do so. When that day came there would be no chaos, so to speak, only Newton’s laws.”‘”
Reductionism lasted until the 1970s, or until high-powered computers made it possible for us to solve nonlinear equations more rapidly. It was found that the most minute variation in any system, when amplified, would lead to random behavior—that is, to chaos. Science has very nearly grasped the paradox at the heart of reality the paradox that mythology calls “Goddess”creating a momentum that has never existed at any other time in history. As we begin to look at the quantum reality of nature and of our own bodies, we are called to a new level of consciousness. In many ways, we are discovering what we have intuitively known for centuries. In psycho- and logical terms this is the yin/yang reality, separate but indivisible.
While the new metaphors “chaos theory,” “quantum reality” peak more directly to contemporary culture, the ancient yin/yang and Shakti/Shiva realities still hold true.
Gaps in nonlinear systems make most naturally occurring processes impossible to predict with certainty. With nonlinearity, reductionism and the great illusion of ultimate control go out the window. Ancient wisdom, in which chaos was recognized and preserved (particularly in gnosticism and alchemy) as the necessary element of transformation, has finally been restored.
It is within this chaos that a deeper, intrinsic order reveals itself. This is not the imposed order that we have become so accustomed to in a patriarchal, conceptualized world, an order that is not connected to the creative matrix. Rather, it is an order that emerges instead of being imposed. When we are connected to this emerging order we are psychically living from the incarnate feminine energy that has within it the possibility of transformation. We are in touch with the rhythms of matter and its deepest wisdom.
The oldest mythologies of the Great Mother saw life essentially as an unending cycle of life-death-rebirth, a process that did not allow for transformation into new levels of consciousness. Patriarchy rejected this cycle as something that was “stuck” because it did not allow for linear progression. In a linear concept of progression, death is seen as something that can only be denied or projected.
While the manipulation of material things may give the impression of progress, consciousness and the movement upward from an animal existence to a more humane human existence are less obvious.
We need only watch television news to realize that the evolution of human beings has, in fact, been “stuck” for a very long time. Animals, being closer to the rhythms of nature, have a more intrinsic morality. Sometimes, the only sign of “progression” seems to be our more precise technologies, which perform blood sacrifices with greater depravity.
The energy that is now emerging from the unconscious of so many contemporary dreamers is not the energy of the old matriarchal consciousness. One woman, for example, recently had a dream in which she was a little girl; she had moved into a huge new house and was wandering around, amazed at the size of the rooms. In the second part of the dream, she shifts locales:
“I am standing on a dock beside a lakeside house. It’s a sunny, warm day. Looking down into the brown water of the lake, I see the long backbone of a whale. As I move closer to look at the whale, suddenly a huge woman rises from the water. She has light-brown skin and thick black hair that falls to her shoulders. She is draped in cloth of dark brown and blue and her huge breasts are bare. She stands hip-deep in the water. She laughs, and her teeth look very white against her brown skin. “What are you gawking at?” she says to me. “Go inside.”
In the first segment of this dream, the young feminine has moved into an enormous new house and she is exploring this large space with wonderment. In daily life, the dreamer had entered a new understanding of the feminine, which had led her into an entirely new concept of the Self, the God/Goddess image within. It is these large, new spaces within herself that amaze her.
With the feminine having moved to a new place, the second part of the dream introduces the dream ego to a sun-filled space that includes both conscious and unconscious energies (the lake). The dreamer sees what appears to be a whale (an old mother symbol). Suddenly, it is not a whale, but a huge brown-skinned woman. Figures that appear larger than life are archetypal energies from the collective unconscious, in this case, a Goddess. She is laughing and merely asks the dreamer what she is gawking at, or why she is so surprised at her appearance. Then, in her customary fashion, she gives the dreamer a very cryptic message: “Go inside.” With this transformation in her interior landscape, the dreamer may be on the way to genuine change.
In another dream, a multi-bodied snake slides out from the hair of a large, black, African woman. The dreamer recalls: “It looks gross and disgusting to me, but she cheerfully shows me how it unfolds into a complete circle, which she puts on top of her head. She says she uses it as a basket to carry things in, and it protects her head from the rain, like an umbrella.”
On hearing the dream, one is immediately reminded of the snake hair of the Medusa, the Gorgon who was so ugly that anyone who looked at her turned into stone. As the dream continues, it becomes clear that this energy is not that of the Devouring Mother. The unconscious deftly presents it as a beneficent Goddess figure. The dreanmer later drew the “halo” formed by the snake. Her sketch called to mind the image of the enlightened Buddha with the halo of seven snakes (representing the seven chakras) that appears above the head to signify an enlightened consciousness.
The Buddha is depicted with seven heads emerging from one body. In the dream, the Goddess is shown with seven bodies uniting in one head. Could this be an indication of the difference in the processing of masculine and feminine energies?
In dreams, the position of the serpent is very important. If it is crawling on the earth it is usually representing an old, chthonic life force, regressive and possibly treacherous. When it is upright or beyond the head, it represents ascendance of energy through the energy centers of the body to a place of enlightenment. This is the kundalini energy that has risen from its coiled position in the lowest chakra, the biological energy, that has become the spiritual consciousness.
The reemnergence of the Goddess as distinct from the Great Mother is also apparent in men’s dreams. One man had a dream in which he was approaching what looked like a mountain. This turned out to be the pubic mound of the Great Mother. He stood between her massive legs and then approached her vagina, realizing he was supposed to walk into it. Atop the pubic mound were three witches straight out of Macbeth. In his fear of being devoured—a deep-seated masculine fear—he attached a feather to the foot of the Great Mother. To the feather he fastened one end of a rope; the other end he held in his hand. The idea was that, if he became trapped inside, he would pull on the rope, which would tickle the foot of the Great Mother and he could escape. Once inside the Great Mother, however, he saw a haloed object, which turned toward him, revealing the Goddess buried within the womb of the Mother.
In this dream as well, the unconscious seems to be differentiating between the old Mother mythology and her more conscious form, the Goddess. This image is reminiscent of the Tantric dakini, Vajra Varahi. “She springs out of the cosmic cervix, the triangular source of dharmas, burning with unbearable bliss, energy in an unconditional state. She has the three-dimensional triangular source of dharmas just below her navel and she is standing on one. This fornm acts on the being of the tantrika when he or she visualizes Vajra Varahi, and the effect is the activation of internal energies which dissolve the sense of inner and outer and plug in to a sense of all pervading energized space which is primordial wisdom and a kind of burning transcendental lust and bliss.” This dakini energy that emerges from the womb of the Great Mother is similar, in many respects to Kali’s. The three main objects that accompany the dakini are the hooked knife or sword, the skull cup of blood, and the trident staff. According to Allione, the hook in Tibetan Buddhist imagery is the hook or knife of compassion, “the hook which pulls beings out of the cycles of transmigration. .. It pulls one forth from suffering, chops up the ego-centered self and is guided by the diamond clarity of the vajra.” The skull cup is likened to the cauldron, the container which holds the primordial passion of blood. “The red blood suggests the burning interior power of women, primal matrix which can become babies, milk, passion and fierceness, primal lava of life.” The third is the staff “with a trident at the top, and underneath the trident, tied to the staff, is a double vajra with three severed hcads. The top head is a dry skull, under the skull is a head that has been severed several days, and below that is a freshly severed head. The staff is held in the crook of the elbow of the left arm and extends from her head to her foot. Usually she is dancing, so one foot is raised and the other is standing on a corpse, which represents the negativity which has been over-come.” By her staff, the death that the Goddess brings is the trans- formation of the three poisons: lust, anger, and ignorance.
The three skulls symbolize not the concrete blood sacrifice of an earlier time but the death (transformation) of the three highest levels of consciousness: the Nirmanakaya body (physical body), the Sambkogakaya body (subtle body), and the Dharmakaya, the latter represented by the dry skull, “a level of being which has no form, but contains the potential for everything.” The staff also carries the symbolism of a deeper integration.
“The overall significance of the Khatvanga staff is that of the ‘hidden consort’. … By holding the Khatvanga she shows us that she has incorporated the masculine into herself. This energy is at her service. With this staff she has the power to stand alone. . The same is true for male figures who hold the Khatvanga as their ‘secret consort.'” The Tantric practitioners who visualize themselves as these deities understand that in order to be whole we must embody and appreciate both the masculine and the feminine in ourselves.”
The stake, or staff, as analyzed by Svlvia Perera in Descent to the Goddess, is the peg of Erishkiqal, the peg on which she hangs her bright sister, Inanna. It “fills the all-receptive emptiness of the feminine with feminine yang strength. It fills the eternally empty womb mouth, and gives a woman her own wholeness, so that the woman is not merely dependent on man or child, but can be unto herself as a full and separate individual.”
Given this potential to grasp our own uniqueness, our own wholeness through an ability to stand alone, we can begin to manifest the interaction of positive masculine and feminine energies within us. These are not the old devouring matriarchal energy or the tyrannical, one-sided patriarchal energy. The evolutionary imperative within the collective unconscious is pushing us toward a new level of consciousness.
An alienated ego can think of wholeness only as the accumulation of more and more matter under its control. It stands in relationship to people and things as outside of itself, no matter how it may secretly long to incorporate or devour whatever is around it. In probing the deeper symbolism of the Goddess, we are challenged to go “inside.” Evolution at this point is no longer in terms of the material body; it seems to be moving toward a greater interiority, and, paradoxically, a greater sense of all.
In terms of our mythology, a new image of God/Goddess yearns to be found within ourselves. The kingdom is first within. It is manifested through body and mind. We are moving beyond an ego consciousness not only to an integration of body and mind but to a transcendence of the body/mind split, to a new level of consciousness based on the dance between soul and spirit.
The soul embolied in matter, manifested in the Goddess as container and transformer, will take us beyond dualism, beyond the defensive splits within our psyche if we open up to her encrgy within us. She faces us with our greatest fear and by showing us the treasure hidden away within it, she takes us to a place where love is born. Love is the true antithesis of fear. It expands where fear constricts. It embraces where fear repels.
In “The Tablet of the Holy Mariner” of Baha’u’llah, the prophet of the Bahai faith, Wisdom as the Maid of Heaven descends to carth seeking one who is able to embrace her. Unable to find anyone worthy of her love, she returns to her own lofty mansion, shares her grief with her handmaidens, and falls prostrate upon the dust. In the Book of Enoch we are also told of the flight of Wisdom:
Wisdom went forth to make her dwelling Among the children of men, And found no dwelling place; Wisdom returned to her place, And took her seat among the angels.
The Black Goddess, who emerged in history centuries ago, was exiled into the unconscious. Will it be any different this time? Perhaps not by choice but by necessity, we will recognize and honor her. Without the recognition of the cycle of life-death-rebirth there can be no transformation, no true progression grounded in nature for the human species. In the transition from Great Mother to Great Goddess, the possibility of transformation in rebirth began to dawn. The chaos that she embodies is a shattering of rigid categories. If we enter into it, that chaos can resurrect us into a higher wisdom, rooted in the wisdom of the creative process. The chaos that we fear is the very thing that can free us. To refuse to enter into Kali’s dance of creation and destruction is to get stuck in a one-sided view of reality that can bring anarchy–destruction without creation. Armed with a new understanding of the very nature of reality itself, we may now be able to embrace the Goddess energy that is necessary if we are to move forward in our evolution.
NOTE: THE NEXT SECTION ON THE HORNED GOD REFERS TO AN ENERGY THAT HAS BEEN REPRESSED. IN JUNGIAN PSYCHOLOGY THE GOD’s REFER TO ARCHETYPAL ENERGIES. LIKE THE GREEK GODS OR THE GODS AND GODDESSES IN EGYPTIAN MYTHOLOGY REPRESENT DIFFERENT ARCHETYPES OR ENERGIES THAT ARE UNIVERSAL AND TRANSPERSONAL. THEY TRANSCEND TIME, CULTURE, AND THE PERSONALITY AND YET THEIR IMAGES ARE UNIVERSALLY STAMPED IN OUR PSYCHES. WHENEVER AN ENERGY IS REPRESSED AND ISN’T ALLOWED TO FLOW NATURALLY… IT BECOMES A DEMON—OR A COMPLEX. IN TAROT THE DEVIL CARD IS ACTUALLY ONE OF THE MOST POWERFUL CARDS. ALTHOUGH IT CAN MEAN BONDAGE, WHAT IS ACTUALLY BOUND UP IS DIVINE ENERGY THAT HASN’T YET BE ALLOWED TO BE LIVED. SO, THERE IS A LOT OF POTENTIAL WHENEVER THIS CARD COMES UP. SURE… YOU MIGHT BE IN BONDAGE… BUT WHAT IS ACTUALLY IMPRISONED IS DIVINE ENERGY. EVERYTHING IS PARADOX.
The Horned God
The Horned Devil is Energy so repressed and cut off from the earth that it is best symbolized by Mephistopheles, that light and airy creature that floats above the carth. The Horned Devil is the disembodied spirit that manipulates, usurping situations for the gratification of its instinctual desires for domination-sexual or otherwise.The Horned God, as Gary Lingen points out”… is a positive symbol for male power-free from the patriarchy and all other authoritative models as he grows and passes through his changes during the wheel of the year, he remains in relationship to and not separate from the prime life and nurturing force–the Goddess.”
The Horned God, moreover, is an archetypal figure quite unlike most masculine images as they appear in our culture. He is difficult to understand because he does not fit into any of the expected stereotypes. He is gentle, tender and comforting, but he is also the Hunter. He is the Dying God but his death is always in the service of the life force. He is untamed sexuality–but sexuality as a deep, holy, connecting power. He is the power of feeling, and the image of what men could be if they were liberated from the constraints of patriarchal culture.
The Horned God, the wild man, symbolizes everything that the patriarchal persona disdains, because he plunges people into change, uncertainty, freedom from conformity. He is spontaneous, not rational and controlled; he is honest and straightforward, not devious and manipulative; he is in service to life, not in domination over it. He is confident of his own potency and does not need to compensate with phallic missiles. He is creative, not destructive of the carth or of relationships. Whereas Apollo, the Sun God, turned women into trees, or stones, or made them lose their voice, Dionysus, the god of ecstasy and dance, was, perhaps, the only god on Olympus that remained faithful to one woman, Ariadne.
The real reason Dionysus has been banished from our culture is that he is the God of death and resurrection. Patriarchy, with its unrealistic faith in the goals of this life, is built upon the denial of transformation and death. It cannot tolerate a god who dies— an Osiris, a Dionysus, or a Christ. For men and women, allowing the Horned God to live within us means accepting death as transformation. It means living an incarnated life-a life in which spontaneous spirit is allowed to transform matter. It means allowing spontaneity to burst through outworn patterns of thought and behavior, recognizing that these patterns are dead, and allowing them to die to make room for the new.. Stark honesty, however painful, is needed on this journey toward the Self; the unconscious will not tolerate anything less. One must be willing to face many cruel truths, those we keep hidden from the light of day, and those we keep hidden from ourselves. Not only do we have to die to a false image of oursclves, but we have to change our outer life accordingly. Change means change. We may have all the insights, but if we do not incarnate them, they are all in vain. We may have to die to our job, to a particular relationship, to our faith. Death is agonizing, lonely, risky. We have to be willing to suffer the loss of those things that stand in our way to freedom. It is the Horned Devil who says, “No, there is an easier way, a pain-free way. Come fly with me.” For the pain of an actual transformation, the Horned Devil would substitute the delusion of an addiction. Instcad of flying, one has first to crawl. The Horned God can come back into the culture only in relationship to the Goddess. He is the embodied, incarnate masculine, the rightful consort of the Goddess who is also incarnate, the Divine Immanence. Shiva was the consort of Shakti, as Osiris was the consort of Isis. Christ gave voice to Sophia’s wisdom. Incarnate life is the coming together of masculine and feminine in both men and women. A man who is not in relationship to the Goddess has no choice but to project his soul needs onto a woman. No woman can carry this projection, but if she seems to reject the man, or fails to comply with his wishes, fails to be the womb or the nurturing breast that he is projecting, then he feels a loss of potency. Violence against women springs from the deepest insecurities in the male, because, in the absence of the Goddess, the woman carries for the man his soul projection. His experience of the woman, because she is not the Goddess, is a betrayal of his soul needs. To lose her is to lose his soul. If, on the other hand, he wins the woman by pleasing her, his rage is equally great, even if it is repressed rather than acted out.