Feminine Principle

Awakening to the New Story of the Feminine by Anne Baring — I

It is a great honor to share this essay written by Anne Baring and gifted to Philofem to share with you all.

This essay is the first one in a precious series that addresses the new story that is emerging from our conscious as the reunion of the Feminine with the Masculine principle on our planet.


We are moving out of one era and into another: out of the Age of Pisces which has lasted 2,000 years into the Age of Aquarius — a process which may take a couple of hundred years. Who will act as mid-wives to this new age if not women whose voice was silenced during the era that is thankfully passing?

Women could embark on a great adventure: an adventure which is directed towards changing our relationship with the planet; moving from an era of domination and exploitation to one of relationship, caring and service.

In 1988 Thomas Berry published his wonderful book The Dream of the Earth. (1) In it he said that in relation to the Earth, we had been autistic for centuries. He also said we were between stories. The old story of how the world came into being and our place in it is no longer effective yet we do not have a New Story, a story that will heal, guide and inspire us. “Because,” he wrote, “we are moving into a new mythic age, it is little wonder that a kind of mutation is taking place in the entire earth-human order. A new paradigm of what it is to be human is emerging. One aspect of this change involves the shift in earth-human relations, for we now in large measure determine the earth process that once determined us.” (2) He continued, “It is of the utmost importance that succeeding generations become aware of the numinous sacred values that have been present in an expanding sequence over the entire time of the world’s existence… There is no way of guiding the course of human affairs through the perilous course of the future except by discovering our role in this larger evolutionary process.” (3)

Thirty years after these words were written, women and men all over the planet are beginning to awaken to a New Story: a Story that is different from those we have been told in the past; a Story that restores our lost relationship with the Earth and offers a foundation for regarding the entire cosmos and our planet as a sacred entity; a Story that assists an alchemical transformation of our consciousness from base metal into gold, inspires hope and new possibilities for taking a giant leap in our evolutionary journey; outgrowing the destructive patterns, cruelty and struggles for power of the past.

These women and men are engaged in helping others, responding to the longing to create a planetary civilization: one based on relationship, love and service rather than the pursuit of power and the deeply engrained pattern of national rivalry, weapons and war.

We are living in extraordinary times when events are happening so fast that many of us may feel disoriented, disempowered, discouraged; alarmed by what is happening in the world but unable to influence the acceleration towards what seems like catastrophe. Women in particular, may feel impotent in a world where a few men seem to be all-powerful, possessing weapons which could wipe out the lives of millions in a few seconds. The young wonder what kind of future they will have in a world threatened by these weapons and by Climate Change.

How do we transform our present civilization which is unwittingly destroying the habitat that has nurtured our species for countless thousands of years?

This is perhaps the most crucial time in our history: a time of the utmost depravity, greed and barbarism but also a time of tremendous opportunity to discover a New Story. It is a time when the old social patterns, old beliefs, old institutions, are breaking down; a time of potential breakthrough to a higher level of consciousness, recognizing that we are inseparably connected to the world around us and the wider universe and that we have a vital role to play in harmonizing our world culture with the evolutionary intention of the universe. We tread a path which is on the knife-edge between birthing this new vision on the one hand and social disintegration and regression into barbarism – perhaps the virtual annihilation of our species – on the other.

The shadow aspect of our digitally enhanced but still unconscious age is barbarism, an unrecognized predatory aspect of our own nature that can take us over when we abandon the ethical values which respect and serve life. Its sole attribute is the will to power: the drive for dominance and control. We can see it in the demonic weapons accumulated by the nine nuclear powers of the world and their refusal to get rid of them. We can see it in the atrocious suffering inflicted on helpless populations by nations addicted to conflict. We can see it in the current unconscious leaders of nations who do not serve their people or the planet but their own power-driven agendas.

The New Story invites a totally different understanding of Life, bringing with it more mature values which profoundly respect all forms of planetary and cosmic life and a new unified worldview. These values have been clearly defined in The Charter for the Earth, launched in 2000 at the Peace Palace in The Hague as well as in the Pope’s luminous Encyclical Laudate Si in 2016. But how many politicians and economists read either of these wide-ranging and enlightened documents or are even aware that they exist?

There are four different aspects to this process of awakening:

1. The first and most important is to heal the deep split between spirit and matter which is so deeply embedded in the three patriarchal religions and the creed of scientific reductionism.
2. The second is to recover and redeem the Feminine Principle, understanding why it has been rejected and why its recovery is essential to balance the present masculine ethos of our culture. The freeing of women from their long oppression and marginalization is an intrinsic part of this effort.
3. The third is to define a new image of God, taking us beyond the patriarchal image we have inherited of a male Creator separate from creation.
4. The fourth is to define and expand the New Story and the role of the individual in integrating its meaning in his or her life.


Restoring the Balance between the Masculine and the Feminine

Our current worldview, whether in the East or the West, rests on the premise of our separation from and mastery of nature, where the resources of the planet are unthinkingly plundered to serve the ever-growing numbers and needs of our species. Our most urgent task is to heal the split between spirit and matter and re-unite our conscious, rational mind with the feminine matrix of our soul. Only when nature, matter, soul and body – the four aspects of the Feminine – are recognized as a manifestation of spirit will we be able to heal our dangerously unbalanced and unconscious culture. If we can accomplish this enormous task, we will enter a new era. As the Fuji Declaration stated in May 2017,
When the world seems divided and polarized to extremes, it is vital to restore balance between the feminine and masculine energies within each of us as well as in our society. The divine feminine and the divine masculine, as in Yin and Yang, are complimentary, interconnected and interdependent forces, which when united in oneness, give rise to a dynamic whole. By restoring harmony and balance between the feminine and masculine, we can create harmony in all aspects of life―harmony between body and spirit, harmony between men and women, harmony between humanity and nature, harmony between our inner and outer worlds, and harmony between the present and the future. By overcoming the imbalances of life and returning to wholeness, we can give full expression to our innate potential, in service to humanity and the whole web of life on the planet.


Defining the Feminine

In its deepest sense, what does the word ‘Feminine’ mean? As I have defined it in my book, The Dream of the Cosmos,

The feminine stands for a totally different perspective on life, a totally different paradigm of reality and for the feeling values which might reflect and support that worldview. It stands for a new planetary consciousness and the arduous creation of a new kind of civilization.

The word ‘Feminine’ stands for the Soul: the unseen cosmic Web of Life that connects each one of us to all others as well as to the life of the planet and the greater life of the Cosmos. It stands for the recognition that we live within a Sacred Order and that we have a responsibility to protect the life of the planet and all the variety of species it embraces instead of exploiting them for the benefit of our species alone.

Without reconnecting to the Soul and the guidance and wisdom of the Feminine, without going in search of the values it represents and opening our own heart to its subtle guidance, we will not understand the purpose of our presence on this planet, nor will we be able to dis-empower the unconscious atavistic tendencies which draw us ever closer to the destruction of our habitat and therefore to self-annihilation.

Awakening to the Feminine does not mean becoming a Feminist. It means moving to a new level of consciousness where the deepest instincts of the heart in both men and women: compassion, informed intelligence and a longing to protect, heal and make whole can take primacy and find expression in ways that may be described as devotion to all forms of life.

This powerful evolutionary impulse is working a profound alchemy beneath the surface of our culture, drawing men and women together to participate in a process of transformation that is manifesting as a new consciousness which recognizes the interconnection and interdependence of all aspects of life — its essential but hidden Oneness. The arrogant celebration of “man’s conquest of nature” is being replaced by the realization that if our species is to survive, we need to respect, safeguard and cherish the planetary life of which it is a part and on which all our lives depend.
Awakening to the Feminine means becoming protective of the whole of creation; dying to all the divisive ways of looking at life and each other; being born into an utterly different vision of reality. As it becomes more conscious in us, we are already becoming aware of our dependence for our continued existence on the integrity and sustainability of the planetary biosphere. Our image of reality and our relationship with the planet and with each other are being transformed as we assimilate the implications of this ‘marriage’ of the two primary archetypal principles. The return of the Feminine has the impact of a planetary earthquake, dissolving long-established social patterns, political and financial systems and religious institutions, insisting on a radical transformation of our understanding of life.

The influence of the Feminine is responsible for the growth of the ecological movement; for the determination to free women in every culture from their long oppression and subservience and encourage their increased participation in society; for the interest in the so-called non-rational; for many new approaches to healing both psyche and body. It is reflected in the mounting revulsion for our weapons of mass destruction; in compassion for the helpless victims of our addiction to war; in the engagement of hundreds of thousands of people in the work of helping both the planet and the victims of oppression. These different channels of influence are creating new perspectives on life, new ways of connection that bring together body, soul, mind and spirit.


Letting go of the Old Stories

As the New Story comes into being, there are two stories that need to be relinquished because they have served their time: The first story we need to let go of is the Myth of the Fall of Man recounted in the Book of Genesis which gives us a very negative view of our presence on this planet.

It tells us that we were expelled from the Garden of Eden because our primordial ancestors disobeyed God and ate the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. For too many centuries, we have been told that we are fallen, sinful creatures, condemned to a life of toil, suffering and hardship on this planet.

The Christian myth tells us that we have been redeemed from this fallen state by the sacrificial death of the Son of God. But this has removed from us the responsibility of releasing ourselves, not so much from a state of sin as a state of limitation or ignorance and discovering how to align our consciousness with the eternally present Divine Ground while living in this material dimension of reality.

The second story that needs to be relinquished is the current scientific worldview that material reality is the only reality and that consciousness begins and ends with the physical brain. It tells us that we are alone in a randomly created, uncaring universe that is without life, meaning or purpose. When we die, that is the end of us. Is it surprising that people are depressed, that they commit suicide because their lives seem to have no meaning and value? Science with its astounding discoveries is giving us important elements of the New Story but this limited view of the universe and our relationship with it blocks our access to a deeper meaning to our lives.
The materialist paradigm offered by reductionist science is not acceptable to many people who hold a vision of a living universe that is open to the existence of many worlds, dimensions or other adjacent universes and that our presence on this planet has purpose and meaning. If we hold a view of our potential and destiny that is limited to a material universe and our present state of consciousness, we are living in a virtual prison.


The New Story

The New Story coming into being is that the whole universe is a unified field.

The world we experience is like a minute excitation on the surface of an infinite cosmic sea which sustains not only our world, but the entire cosmos. We live within a cosmic web of life which underlies and connects all life forms in the universe and on our planet. Through a vast network of electro-magnetic fields, we are connected to the earth, the sun and the hundred billion galaxies: we are not separate from any aspect of planetary or cosmic life. This is illustrated in the Hindu tradition by the beautiful image of the Net of Indra.

The astounding discoveries of quantum physics tell us that we are literally bathed in a sea of light, invisible to us yet permeating every cell of our being.

We are not only connected with each other through the astonishing reach of the Internet but through the infinitesimal particles of sub-atomic matter. This New Story tells us that matter cannot be separated from spirit. It gives us a new vision of our profound relationship with an intelligent, living and interconnected universe. Not only that but at every level of existence – from the microscopic to the super galactic – the same geometric principles bring all things into manifestation. At the quantum level all apparently separate aspects of life are connected in one invisible and indivisible whole. We, as observers, are not separate from what we are observing. All life at the deepest level is essentially One.
As we begin to comprehend this New Story, the realization is dawning that we are participating in a Cosmic Consciousness or Intelligence which is present in every one of the 100 million atoms of our being and every particle of matter. God or Spirit or Divine Mind is not something transcendent to us, separate from us. We are within it, co-existing with it, even though our consciousness is still limited or incomplete, still unaware that we carry divinity within every cell of our being. Our physical body – the vehicle of spirit in this dimension of reality – is part of this divinity. This, I believe, is one of the great revelations of our time.
The dawning realization that we participate in a cosmic reality that is the source and ground of our own lives challenges the belief advanced by science that we exist on a tiny planet in a lifeless universe and that there is no life beyond death. It also challenges the deeply ingrained idea that the brain is the origin of consciousness and that the death of the brain is the end of consciousness. It may be that the universe has waited aeons for us to reach the point where more than a handful of individuals could awaken to awareness of the invisible ground that animates and supports the whole of our existence. Like the giant UFO in the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, an immense, invisible field of consciousness is making itself known to us, asking to be recognized by us, embraced by us. We might call it the Soul of the Cosmos.


Recognizing the Sacredness of All Life

The New Story invites the marriage of our rational mind with our long-neglected soul and the birth of the ‘child’ of a new, awakened consciousness that would be the fruit of this union and the true savior of our species. As the light of this new consciousness begins to shine in the darkness of our time, we could heal both our divided psyche and our raped and vandalized planet. It is a tremendously challenging and creative time to be alive.

The new understanding of our connection with all aspects of life could have a huge impact on how we live our lives, how we educate our children, how we relate to the planet and how we interact with each other, recognizing that every act, even every thought, has an effect on the whole.

From this perspective, all weapons and all acts that destroy the miraculous and infinitely precious life of another human being or injure the sacred life of the planet are no longer tolerable.
Moving to this new level of understanding will be difficult but not impossible as more and more people get the message that this is an evolutionary imperative and our survival as a species depends on it.


Listening to the Voice of the Soul

In a civilization which is patriarchal in organization and outlook, which has been structured for several thousand years by a male image of God presiding over religions and institutions created entirely by men, and by a mythology which glorifies power, conquest and the domination of nature, how can the long-silenced voice of the soul be heard? How can we comprehend the unfamiliar idea that the universe does not consist of dead matter as we have been told but is alive, conscious and the ground and origin of our own partially developed consciousness?

Over the course of many centuries, we have developed a formidable intellect, a formidable science, a formidable technology. But what of the soul—source of our deepest instincts, intuitive insights and feelings? What of our need for relationship with an unrecognized dimension of reality; the need to know the deeper purpose of our lives: why we are here, on this planet? What of our visions, dreams and hopes as well as our unhealed wounds and the suffering generated by our lack of compassion towards each other?

The pressing need for the soul’s recognition has brought us to this crucial time of choice: the time of humanity’s awakening; the time of the soul’s awakening. It is as if mortal danger is forcing us to take a great leap in our evolution that we might never have made were we not driven to take it by the force of circumstances we ourselves have brought into being.

The creative genius of our species is being called upon as never before to respond to the greatest challenge of our time: to create the template of a new civilization and a new understanding of our relationship to the universe before we destroy ourselves. And that template can only be created with the help of many thousands of women and men coming together to make their voices heard.


The Recovery of the Lost Feminine Dimension of the Divine

My own awakening to the New Story began with a powerful visionary dream I had about forty years ago which changed the course of my life:
I dreamt that I came round the side of a huge dolmen and entered a different world, a desert landscape lit by the radiance of the full moon which transformed it into field after field of shimmering green wheat. The moonlight was so bright it was like daylight and the wheat was the colour of an emerald. I floated over this emerald sea for many miles, looking for my beloved, my bare feet skimming its surface until I came to the brow of a hill and hesitated, wondering if I should go further. I decided to go on and came down into a valley which was about a mile wide. Suddenly I saw two gigantic men standing on either side of the valley. They had a huge net stretched across it and were slowly drawing me into the presence of something tremendously powerful and numinous. I lay flat on my back on the ground, caught like a fish in the net and looked up, half in terror, half in awe at the vision before my eyes.
I saw the figure of a woman filling the entire space between earth and sky. She was naked and very beautiful; not young, but ageless. In the centre of her abdomen was an immense revolving wheel that was also a rose and a labyrinth. Awestruck, I gazed up at her; then down at my own body, which was exactly like hers, only tiny in comparison. I too had a wheel but mine was not centred. It was on the left. She did not speak but indicated I was to center my wheel, like hers. That was her message to me.

This visionary dream was an initiation into an utterly different perception of reality. It also guided me to my life’s work.

I have spent the last forty years centering my wheel, becoming more conscious of what serving the Feminine Archetype involves.
It led me to explore older societies and discover that for countless thousands of years, astronomers and mathematicians had studied the stars, the patterns of the constellations and the movements of the sun, moon and planets in relation to them.

They knew the dimensions of the Earth and that it moved around the sun millennia before this was discovered in fifteenth century Europe. They knew about the precession of the equinoxes. They kept records in Egypt, Persia, Turkey, India, China, South and Central America spanning many thousands of years. The Visionary Dream was highly valued in all the early societies of which we have record. It was understood to be the means by which we could align ourselves with the specific dynamics and requirements of the unfolding pattern of the cosmos at any specific time. Nothing was more important to these early shamanic cultures than the guidance received through the Dream on how the human community could live in harmony with the laws and rhythmic patterns of the Cosmos.

My dream launched me on a quest to find out why the Feminine had been so devalued in patriarchal civilization; why woman’s voice had been silenced for some four thousand years. I began to ask questions: what happened to the Goddess? Why do we have a God and no Goddess? Seeking the answers to these questions led me to embark on a journey to recover the lost images and mythology of the Goddess and to co-write a book with a close friend about the reasons why these had been banished from Western civilization and replaced by the monotheistic God of the three patriarchal religions.

Why did we feel this quest for the lost feminine dimension of the divine was so important?

Because we felt it might offer an explanation of how our present culture had come to regard nature as something that could be exploited and manipulated for the benefit of our species without any awareness of the effect this attitude had on the whole organism and balance of planetary life. We felt it would also help us to understand the roots of woman’s long subjugation, why her voice had been effectively written out of the history of Western and indeed, Eastern civilization, why she had suffered so much oppression and persecution in patriarchal culture.

We had absolutely no idea when we started of the chain of misogynistic ideas which had developed from Eve’s role in the Biblical Myth of the Fall and why it has been so difficult for woman to gain access to education that would allow her to give expression to her great gifts and exercise her great healing powers.

As we traced the evolution and many transformations of the image of the Goddess from the Palaeolithic Era to the present day, we began to understand that this feminine image in its many forms stood for a totally different perspective on life, one that has been lost, buried, forgotten for millennia.

In the course of our research, we discovered such surprising similarities and parallels in the Goddess myths of apparently unrelated eras and cultures that we concluded there had been a continuous transmission of images throughout some twenty-five thousand years or even longer. These had been effectively deleted from our history books.

What we discovered was a revelation to us: the continuity of the images and mythology of the Goddess through many centuries and civilizations. We realized that the Goddess represented a vision of life that had vanished: the vision of a living, intelligent, harmonious universe in which all aspects of life were intimately related and connected to each other.

We found we needed to go back to the Neolithic era to understand the enormity of what had been lost. The Neolithic was a time when shamanic cultures flourished, guided by highly skilled astronomers, engineers and architects who raised the great stone temples we can still see today. It was the time when the whole cosmos was imagined as a Great Mother, from whose womb all life emerged. She was seen as the ruler of the sky, the earth and the waters beneath the earth. The serpent personified her ability eternally to regenerate life. The bird was her messenger. The whole of the natural world and the cosmos itself was alive and ensouled, part of a living web of relationships, animated and sustained by the Great Mother. Her image inspired and focussed a perception of the universe as an organic, sacred and indivisible whole in which humanity, the Earth and all life on Earth participated as ‘her children’. Everything was woven together in one cosmic web: all orders of life were related, because all shared in the sanctity of the original source.

The most important idea about this time is that there was no Creator beyond creation; no separation between the Great Mother as Source and the myriad forms of her life: no separation, therefore, between spirit and nature. People felt they lived within a Sacred Order, the Order of the Great Mother. Everything came forth from her womb and had meaning and value through relationship with her. So, relationship, connection and unity came to be understood as the essential qualities of the Feminine Principle.

The mythic theme of the Goddess cultures was lunar; focussed on a cyclical process of birth, death and regeneration that arose from the age-old observation of the recurring phases of the moon: its birth as the crescent; its waxing to fullness, and its waning into the three days of darkness.

This process was carried in the image of the triune goddess: the maiden, the mother and the crone. The constant rhythm of the moon’s waxing and waning taught us to perceive light and darkness in relation to each other and to connect these with the waxing and waning of the seasons and the pattern of our own lives. Light and darkness, life and death were not polarized as they were later to become in patriarchal culture, but were two phases of a total cycle, endlessly renewed.

We followed the transformation of the Great Mother of the Neolithic era into the Great Goddesses of the Bronze Age and further, into Greek and Roman times. These Great Goddesses were worshipped as the source of life: one life manifesting as the life of each and all. Sexuality was seen as the vital expression of that life: a sacred, ecstatic experience associated with life’s own creative impulse eternally to renew itself.

What we discovered through our researches was a revelation to us—the continuity of the images and mythology of the Goddess through many centuries and civilizations. As the pieces of this mosaic began to fit together, a theme of great beauty and complexity slowly revealed itself to us, but also a story of the loss, repression and distortion of a priceless legacy from the past.

We realized that the Goddess personified a vision of life that had been lost—the vision of a living, intelligent, conscious universe in which all aspects of life were related to each other.

Once, long ago, the world was experienced as alive with spirit: nature was part of a sacred cosmic whole. Everything that the image of the Great Mother once embraced in earlier cultures was lost, and with it the vital sense of participation in the cosmic life of an invisible entity imagined as a containing, connecting maternal being. We need urgently to recover this experience if we are to respond to the challenge of this crucial time of choice.


Stay tuned for the next chapter in this series of essays on the Feminine divine.

1.Thomas Berry, The Dream of the Earth
2. ibid, p.133
3. ibid, pp. 136-7

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