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Finding a Worthy Consort for the Divine Feminine

By Matthew Fox


Anyone with a sense of soul and appreciation of Spirit senses that one of the greatest advancements of the past forty years in spirituality has been the return of the Divine Feminine. This is expressed in myriad forms, from the recovery of the goddess in history, archeology, theology and practice, the rise of the wikka movement, Woman-Church, ordaining of women, return of Wisdom, Sophia, Hochmah, respect for Gaia and eco­spirituality, the re­discovery of the brilliance of women thinkers, and much more. Of course there is much work to do, especially regarding the continued global exploitation of women, women working for less (or no) pay, women in positions of decision­-making, the return of mystical consciousness, and more.

Dorothee Soelle – Photo: akademie-oldenburg.de

Dorothee Soelle – Photo: akademie-oldenburg.de

Liberation theologian and feminist author Dorothee Soelle points out that to recover a mystical consciousness is to bring alive feminist philosophy because mysticism “comes closest to overcoming the hierarchical masculine concept of God ... The mystical certainty that nothing can separate us from the love of God grows when we ourselves become one with love by placing ourselves, freely and without guarantee of success, on the side of love.” She believes that feminism gives us a new sense of transcendence – not God as up but rather our “being bound up in the web of life ... That means that we move from God­above­us to God­within­us and overcome false transcendence hierarchically conceived.” Indeed, she proposes that the true “language of religion ... is the language ofmysticism: I am completely and utterly in God, I cannot fall out of God, I am imperishable.” And she invokes Paul: “Who shall separate us from the love of God?” and, affirming Paul the mystic, answers “neither death nor life, height nor depth, neither present nor future” (Romans 8:35, 38).

Thus we honor the Divine Feminine when we return to religion as experience, such as the Wisdom tradition of Israel puts forth: God is our experience of God; “taste and see that God is good” says the psalmist. This wisdom tradition is the tradition of the historical Jesus as well. What distinguishes spirituality from religion – which so often in the West has come to mean sociological structures – is tasting and experiencing. Great women mystics from Hildegard of Bingen to Julian of Norwich, Mechtild of Magdeburg, Teresa of Avila, Dorothy Day, and others are being heard from once again and for good reason.

The Role of the Divine Masculine

But another dimension to the Divine Feminine begs for attention: Is the return of the goddess enough, or do we also need a return of the Sacred Masculine? Doesn't the goddess require a worthy consort? And can the masculine, mired as it has been for centuries in excessive reptilian brain consciousness, finally begin to transcend the sick and dangerous and illusory understandings of the masculine that are in fact despoiling the earth, demanding ever increasing armaments expenditures, and threatening wars and rumors of wars all over the earth?

Does not the return of the Divine Feminine require the dismantling of the toxic masculine? And the presentation of new stories and images of masculinity that are worthy of men and of women alike? (After all, if you are at all touched by Jung's basic psychology, you would agree that the male soul is half feminine and the female soul is half masculine – thus the return of the goddess is welcomed by healthy men; and the renewal of the sacred masculine would be welcomed by healthy women.) Or to put it differently, we are all, men and women alike, walking around on earth carrying a toxic masculine in us. All of us need to clean up our acts.

These are topics I take up in my book, The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors for Awakening the Sacred Masculine. The very first response I received to that book was an email from a woman who said to me: “In my home library I have over 200 books about the goddess and not a single book about the Sacred Masculine. Yet I have two sons! I do not regret my decision beginning forty years ago to pursue my womanhood and my spirituality as a woman, but I agree that it is time to pay attention to the Sacred Masculine. Until I read your book I did not know how much men have suffered under patriarchy.”

A second response came from a very tall and elegantly dressed white­haired Native American man who approached me at a conference where I was speaking on the Sacred Masculine. He said to me: “I work in prisons and have done so for twelve years. Your book is the first book I have ever used with these men that allows them to find the nobility inside them. Most men in prison,” he said, “are very busy projecting onto others and are afraid to look inside. But your book invites them in and there they find something noble.”

I love that phrase, “the nobility inside.” Is that different from Jesus speaking of the “kingdom/queendom of God inside us and among us?” How do I lay out a path to recovering the Sacred Masculine and invite men (and women) to “look inside”? I offer ten archetypes (or metaphors) of the Sacred Masculine, including the following: Father Sky; Green Man; Icarus and Daedalus; Hunter­Gatherer; Spiritual Warrior; Masculine Sexuality, Numinous Sexuality; Our Cosmic and Animal Bodies; the Blue Man; the Fatherly Heart; the Grandfatherly Heart (elder). By journeying through these archetypes one transcends any one religious or ethnic or cultural naming: One comes to some deep experiences that are recognizable by many of us. An archetype “wakes us up” – it is something very powerful, gets us moving again, even motivates us, lighting a fire under us. As Marion Woodman puts it, an archetype delivers a charge of about 100,000 volts!

One way I invite people to recover the Sacred Masculine is to have people in a retreat or workshop break into small groups (four to six people maybe) and create a quick skit about the archetype. For example I may speak for twelve minutes or so abut the Green Man or Father Sky; then break people into groups to work out a skit. They have a limited amount of time, like fifteen minutes, to get the job done, return and share with the group at large. The exercise is fun, it involves laughter and creativity and the body – and for that reason it is also memorable and deep. One Saturday I did this exercise at a workshop in San Francisco. Three months later I ran into a woman in the supermarket who said to me: “I was in that workshop three months ago, and it changed my life.” (Yes, men and women together can work on finding the sacred masculine together – and should.)

Allow me to briefly describe three of these archetypes. “Father Sky” is important because humans for eons of time have found the sky to be a sacred place. “Our Father who art in heaven,” Jesus prayed, and indigenous people around the globe honor the sky as a dwelling place for Divinity. The modern era, though, instructed us to see the sky as a machine, inert and passive, thus ending eons of respect and wonder from observing the sky. Today's new cosmology from science reverses the modern era’s reductionism, restoring the notion of an alive and super active sky. (After all, we are now instructed that a star is being born every fifteen seconds.) “Father Sky” lives again. So too can the masculine soul.

The “Green Man” archetype instructs us about our deep relationship to the plant world and the rest of nature. The Green Man has boughs growing from his mouth (fifth chakra) and his beard is often a wreath that surrounds his head. This celebrates the deep fecundity of the masculine spirit as well as our thorough interdependence with the rest of nature. Its meaning is that we are to be warriors defending mother earth. Can one imagine a more relevant archetype for our times when so much of nature is being destroyed?

The sacred marriage of Zeus and Hera

The sacred marriage of Zeus and Hera

The Blue Man archetypes celebrates the creativity and powers of healing and compassion that men possess. It is about renewal and expansion of self in service of healing. It announces our vocation as healers or as Hildegard of Bingen put it, of employing the “healing Christ” who is “the man in sapphire blue” found in all of us. Swami Muktananda, a Hindu saint of the late twentieth century, relates in his autobiography that his meditation on the pearl that morphed into a “Blue Man” was the most significant meditation of his entire life, opening him up to his creativity and powers of healing.

I do not believe that recovering the Sacred Masculine is the end game. Rather, the Sacred Marriage is. The point of recovering both the Divine Feminine and the Sacred Masculine is to lead to a healthy Sacred Marriage of the two. Thus I end my book on the Sacred Masculine with not one but two chapters on the Sacred Marriage, and I propose, for example, a marriage of the Black Madonna and the Green Man as a fit one for our times, along with many others.

The Dorothee Soelle citations are from Theology for Skeptics: Reflections on God (1995). They can also found in Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics: 365 Readings and Meditations (2011), pp. 277-­279.