The long process of the defamation of the Goddess deeply affected women. As nature was downgraded in relation to spirit and no longer seen as sacred, so woman was downgraded in relation to man. Following the powerful influence of the polarizing cosmic myth of the battle between Light and Darkness, Light and good became associated with spirit and the male; Darkness and even evil became associated with nature, the body and the female, culminating in the terrifying phenomenon of the witch hunts in Europe (fourteenth to eighteenth centuries) when tens of thousands of women were tortured and burnt alive, often denounced by other women.
As nature was split off from spirit, so body was split off from mind and mind from soul. Woman was viewed as a secondary and inferior creation and became subject to man, viewed as his possession. She was barred from her role in earlier cultures of Sybil, priestess, teacher and healer.
In Christian culture, woman had to endure the negative projections of a priesthood which described her as a flawed and inferior being.
Aligned with nature and body in the split between nature and spirit, her body was named a temptation to man and the pain and risk of death in childbirth a punishment for Eve’s sin of disobedience to God. The contorted attempts of Christian writers to punish woman for her descent from Eve bear eloquent witness to the misogyny which has contaminated Christian culture.
The image of God, with the feminine dimension of the divine excised from it, and the attitudes and social customs derived from a belief in original sin inflicted and still inflict enormous and unnecessary suffering on her. Her standpoint, her values, her feelings were ignored and denigrated and her voice was, so to speak, deleted from the history of Western civilization. Not surprisingly, she developed a negative internalized image of herself which has inhibited her from speaking and living her truth. Released from the control exercised by religion, she is now beginning to recover the roles she lived in earlier cultures, beginning to discover and express her immense creative and healing gifts which derive from her deep sense of relationship with life. But the old attitudes and beliefs that oppressed her for so many centuries linger still in the unconscious prejudice so evident in the media and need to be thoroughly exorcised by becoming aware of and discarding them like an outworn coat.
The Effects on the Planet of the Long Absence of the Feminine in our Image of Spirit
Today, we are faced with the devastating effects of the long absence of the Feminine in our image of spirit. For world culture as a whole, the Earth is no longer experienced as a living and sacred entity as it was in pre-patriarchal times and is still in the Indigenous cultures. It is no longer a ‘Thou’ but an ‘it’. We can abuse, desecrate, pollute and exploit it without any feeling of responsibility, regret or guilt for the devastation we have caused. There is no respect for nature; no sense of relationship with the life of the planet; no apparent awareness that we are destroying the habitat that sustains us. With our ever-growing numbers we have already destroyed 50% of all species on the planet. Yet there is still almost no awareness that parents should try to limit the number of their children to no more than two and that contraception is a vital necessity everywhere, overriding religious beliefs and social custom.
By 2020, two-thirds of all wild animals will be gone. A new study published in Nature (April 2017) says that if we continue to burn fossil fuels, we will cause the fastest climate change the Earth has seen in 50 million years. The effects of Global Warming and the pollution caused by fossil fuels are now evident yet there are still people who are in denial about them.
Awakening to a New Story means moving towards a new image of God or Spirit that includes nature, matter and all planetary life — and indeed, all cosmic life. It means recovering what we have lost: the very ancient understanding that the universe has a Soul and Intelligence and that Spirit is present in every particle of matter: every stone, flower, tree and blade of grass; every one of the hundred million atoms of the miraculous organism of our body. We have the responsibility to rise to this new perspective and women have a huge contribution to make.