Rebirth of a GoddessRay Douglas
Awareness of spirituality, its practical experience, creates a female principle of intercession which can grow into something vastly substantial, even within the most masculine of men. In ancient times we might have ascribed this understanding to the workings of Diana, or Artemis, or Venus, or Aphrodite, or Astarte, or even Mother Earth. The goddess who intercedes has her feet in the world of nature, her head in the heavens where she can remonstrate with the elements, charm the gods, and manipulate the fates in a way which could never be achieved by force.
According to the biblical Book of Genesis, man came first. Masculinity, it says, was created before femininity. The archetypal male principle seems firmly rooted at least in that particular story of creation. There are other creation myths which see the creative principle as basically female, but in the Judeo-Christian-Moslem tradition, the man Adam was made by God the Creator in his own image.
For so basic a principle to be seen as wholly male is plainly biased. As a foundation on which we all have to stand it can be felt as a sore point for some people even today, that feminine qualities should have developed apparently as an afterthought to balance sheerly one-sided masculinity. Mother Earth, after all, has never been thought of as Father Earth. In its favour, however, is the equally plain fact that the man—masculinity—can be seen as a channel; the woman—femininity—can be seen as a vessel in which to receive whatever is being channelled, and then to blend it, modify it, and reproduce it in a new form. Only woman, it seems, has the ability to change or modify what has been channelled from the Creator.
Femininity, it could be said, in modifying what has been transmitted, reduces laws to rules. Looked at in a personal, practical sense, if the male-god principle in its functioning is regarded as judgmental and impersonal, immutable, not to be swayed by force or even by reason, it follows that pristine femininity, in modifying that judgment, should be conciliatory, mediatory, intercessional, protective, and altogether more personal and intimate. Intolerance, if it is to be moved at all, can only be moved or checked by love working towards compassion. Main-line evolution functions on impersonal material balance. Personal spiritual balance is essential for love to operate; it is the female principle providing that balancing force that shows itself able to live in both worlds, both heavenly and earthly, able to exert influence over elemental powers both above and below, acting on behalf of the people in between.
Within this context the combined goddesses of old provided an abstract
influence, fearlessly submissive and submissively fearless, which, seen through the
eyes of people living close to nature, seemed to rise and fall with the seasons, initiating
a regular cycle, the cycle of nature modified from the human viewpoint. The only kind of
influence capable of swaying the dominating maleness of otherwise immutable heavenly
laws of life and death was the faculty of fearless submission tempered with the art of
manipulation. If it could be called a power in its own right, it was the submissive power of
faith which, we have been told, can move mountains.
Femininity should never dominate; I am sure that is true, whether in spirit or in flesh. In real life, on earth, a domineering woman with undisputed power and command tends to be disliked and parodied even by ardent feminists, who will despise her as a make-believe man. Femininity has to involve the art of persuasion rather than coercion. Neither prayer nor petition, if it is to be carried aloft, can be propelled forcibly towards its target; it can only be wafted gently by way of the female principle of submissive intercession. Empowerment on earth, the putting into practice of the results of that act of intercession, perceiving the outcome and putting it to practical use as though channelled directly from on high, as I see it, is best effected by way of the male principle.
Paradoxical it may seem, but the inner self of man as well as woman must be seen as feminine when pitting itself against the unremitting maleness of the universal principle of power. To God, as a channel of "will", the soul of man has to be receptively female by nature. The vehicle of intercession may itself be male, but the innate quality of femininity directs the progress of that vehicle. The spirituality of masculine man, though not at all effeminate, nevertheless embodies an element of femininity able to exert, not force, but a gently moulding influence, working to modify principles and laws that are all too readily seen as dogmatic and unbending.
It is a balance working towards wholeness. Love from the masculine viewpoint can be symbolised in many ways, categorised by the myth-makers of antique times: there is the earthy human love represented by the male Eros or Cupid, and the even more earthy human-plant-beast love symbolised by Bacchus or Dionysus; between them, they ensured a well-stocked earth. Earthy love, we could say, takes place at the feet of the nature goddess. As we move higher, away from her feet, into the rarified atmosphere of Olympus, the loving instinct too becomes rarified, sublimated in the child self. The process of sublimation can be seen in the story of Hebe, admired by both Greeks and Romans as the much-coveted goddess of eternal youth, and who acted as hand-maiden or cup-bearer to the gods. In the vulgar view she was thought able to restore the vigour of youth to aging men, and through intercession, able to free oppressed people from their earthly and spiritual bonds and chains. Only later was she replaced by Ganymede, the handsome youth abducted by Zeus, as the principle of feminine intercession at work within the essence of masculinity.
On a similar theme there are ancient myths which involved the castration of a god, sometimes in revenge by his own children, as in the case of the eccentric old god Uranus—and with his own sickle, his symbol of power. This is the symbolic emasculation that enables divine intercession to take place, the development of a submissive attitude. Symbolically, the act of emasculation opens the way for new birth— as the emergence of Venus-Aphrodite from the foam stirred up in the sea by the fallen severed organ of Uranus. The life principle which is normally stored above the earth becomes available below.
When the god is symbolically emasculated—or emasculates himself like Attis
beneath the pine tree—this is to enable him to act as go-between, to intercede and
mitigate the severity of natural laws which might otherwise overlook human needs. The
blood or passion of this nature-god's lost manhood flowed into the ground, where the
life-principle can remain dormant until able to give rise to the flowers of spring. A wholly
masculine god would not have the power to put into motion a new cycle of life.
A wholly masculine petitioner in any age will not have the power to avoid death and attain spiritual rebirth. Symbolic emasculation by adopting the "feminine" attribute of submission to a spiritual force greater than oneself is the only precondition for new spiritual growth.
In religious circles these days the principle may have become mislaid or overlooked, but literal minds in the past have often taken a step too far, putting into practice a principle only half-way understood. The priest-servants of Rhea, the heavenly queen, and later of Diana, Artemis, Astarte, Ashtoreth and Atargatis were obliged to castrate themselves. If nothing else, it was an acknowledgment that the channelling power of masculinity could have no legitimate role to play in the intercessional process over which they were intended to preside. By way of myth, fruitfulness depends on the loss of masculinity, in the same way that rebirth, in one sense or another, is conditional upon death. "A grain of wheat remains a solitary grain unless it falls into the ground and dies; but if it dies, it bears a rich harvest". This is the non-mythical principle of Christianity at work: "Sown in the earth as a perishable thing, it is raised imperishable".
But of course there is no need now to invent modern versions of ancient goddesses. Men as well as women can find the goddess of submissive intercession in themselves by leaving the spiritual channel open, and functioning as a vessel, to receive. This is the ultimate "tuning-in" to life forces: the finest and highest, most subtle, most diffuse vibration of nature. If you can find this quietly submissive dimension within your own self, imbibing in silence by allowing thoughts and feelings to subside in full consciousness, your own path of intercession will be cleared and made straight, for the gateway to that path is already there within your own self: your own soul.
Almighty God is impersonal; Spirit is impersonal; the human soul and its contents are personal. What I have called the "goddess" acts as intermediary between the personal and the impersonal. Our prayers, if they are to be answered, can only be heard by the highest part of our own selves. Our contact with the divine can only be achieved by way of the highest part of our own selves If something must die in order for this contact to come about, it has to be our passions, the functioning of our hearts and minds—if only on a temporary basis. The way we are seeking is in fact "the way of death", and we are truly blessed if we can enter and follow this way whilst our physical bodies, our hearts and minds, still live.
Time was when people, spiritually, were truly "human". Then people became
"human-animal" in their spiritual level, their psychic centre of gravity. Then the majority
of people became "human-plant", and nowadays we are almost all "human-material" Š
the quality of materiality comprising the spiritual level, or psychic centre of gravity, for
modern man. The Prophet Abraham, shall we say, lived in an age when people were still
purely "human"; Moses lived when people had descended from their high origins to
become "human-animal". Neither of them personally possessed so much as a shred of
compassion, whatever their other qualities may have been; their stories make this
abundantly clear. Their higher, human passions were powerful, their lower passions, the
qualities of their plant and material natures, were weak. The material passion is an
essential part of the soul-contents of a well balanced, well rounded person. We do not
aim to become spiritually "human"; we aim to acquire an even balance of these levels of
"passion"—the human, the animal, the plant, and the material. Our passions can then
flow together to create "compassion", or spiritual love. What I have called the "goddess"
within man is no more nor less than the coming together of these levels of passion.
True compassion, or spiritually inspired love will encompass "warts and all", the spontaneous act of feeling everything that is to be felt about a person, or a thing, or a situation. If one's balance excludes the human passion, for instance, it may show itself as the kind of compassion that is directed towards animals but not towards humans. If one's balance includes mainly the material and plant sections, one may exhibit a greenfingered "passion for flowers". And if one's personal centre of gravity is largely limited to the material psychic level, one may have a passion for accumulating certain material objects—an obsession with money perhaps—or a great love for collecting things in the way of so many enthusiasts.
As civilised human beings most of us strive towards a modicum of worldly success. Indeed, we have a duty to provide for our responsibilities in this world. But "you can't take it with you", and we also have an obligation towards our inner lives, and the inner welfare of our dependants too. It seems somewhat obvious that we ought to seek to achieve a balance within ourselves, if only to fulfil these dual duties. Our life's journey, it has truthfully been said, should run "from the spiritual (our point of birth) to the material, and back to the spiritual again". And somebody else once said: "We are all being carried on a journey through life, so we might as well do something useful to pass the time". What better provision could we make than to get it all together, and try to balance ourselves out?
When we decide to take the return half of our life's journey, from the material realms where we live, back to the spiritual heights we once left, we will find that it cannot be done of our own volition. Many have tried, but the task seems hopeless; indeed, the harder one tries, the more hopeless does the task become. Can we allow the goddess to take her place within, and intercede on our behalf, to bring about a reconciliation of the personal with the impersonal? It is the greatest challenge any of us can ever face; but it is as well to remember that the highest, purest passion to be found within the material level, and part and parcel of it, is the passion of faith. All these levels, all these passions, are part of our own selves.
May I ask you to visualise the course of your life, from childhood on, as a wellshaft
down which you have had the misfortune to slide. You may see that you need to
continue your descent until you reach the solid bottom of the well: the hard base of
ultimate materiality that can lend a point of leverage, a firm ladder base to start you
climbing. Your personal impetus may come from non-personal Spirit when the time is
right, as when the rays of the sun shine briefly down a real shaft. The idea is sometimes
reflected, sometimes comes to light, when prehistoric buildings or ancient monuments
occupy the centre of attention—Stone Age caves, megalithic tombs or chambers, from
Stonehenge to the Pyramids. It is a theme archaeologists like to explore: prehistoric
people believing in this or that; and speculating on what may happen when a ray of
sunlight works its magic and strikes the spot on midsummer's morn, or whenever it may
be. And of course the essence of these ideas is not ancient superstition. It comes not
from the prehistoric people themselves, not from the stones, nor even from the sun, but
from the inner selves of the people exploring these ideas. For them, for their own souls,
the penetrating sunlight symbolises the Spirit without which nothing could live, the Spirit
which they sense is able to breathe new life into the subject of its focus. And when their
conscious attention is diverted from the outer to the inner dimension, they might just
possibly be able to experience the truth of these things, inwardly, for themselves.
There is no need to possess acute brains or university degrees in this or that in order to unravel the mystery, and actually travel up that ray of light on the inner plane yourself. All you need is that uppermost passion of the material soul-level—the "good passion" of faith—plus a little help, perhaps, from your fellow spiritual travellers. If you do put this suggestion into practice (and perhaps a little detective work on your part will be needed first, a real case of "seek and ye shall find") your first "spiritual" experiences will necessarily be of a material nature. When the influence of Spirit begins to penetrate the layers of your own soul, you may find that you have been carried, albeit briefly, into that magical zone I call the "light of the material" where, if you are at all sensitive to supernatural matters, you may experience all sorts of miraculous things. Do not aim to stay there; treat it as a mere foretaste of better things to come. The zone of material light is certainly the goal of occultists, wizards and witches, but it is still firmly placed within the ultimate depths of materiality. If you really do remain there basking in the light, you may end up like Merlin the Magician, trapped inside the rock. It is still somewhat symbolic of course, but it is not nonsense. We should be heedful of the dangers.
As you have slid down the well-shaft of life, as I say, you need to reach the base of the material level before you can start to climb. At this point your "material-soul", having come to awareness, may well take on a separate life of its own, helping and advising, as befits your "soul-brother" or "soul-sister" as the case might be. Some people, having started along this way and experiencing something like this which seems truly amazing, assume that they have already "arrived", already regained the truly human level from which they started life, or that they have become "spiritually adept". Don't fall for it! The lure of materiality is all the greater, all the more enhanced, once you have experienced something of the magical light zone. Watch what happens with interest; don't fight it, but don't hang on to it either; let it go when the time comes. You are still on the bottom rung of the ladder, the penetrating sunlight swiftly moves on, and the dark well-shaft still looms above you!
You may seem to lose strength and purpose as your material-soul is left behind
during your climb. The well-shaft, don't forget, is you, your own life, and the "souls" or
essences of these levels of being are still your own, eventually to be reunited: atoned.
The highest passion of the material level is "faith", and faith was needed for the process
to begin. We spoke of the "human-plant" level of spirituality, the stage to be reached as
you leave the material level behind, and with it the confidential advice and help of your
"Material-soul". Your "plant-soul" cannot offer much in the way of material advice, but
the highest passion of the plant level of spirituality is "patience", and patience will
certainly be needed during this dull, dark, emotional but seemingly spiritually barren part
of your climb. Above the plants are the beasts, and your "animal-soul" will guide you
along this part of your climb. Your brain may be active, but your animal impulses will
seem to tempt you to abandon your climb. The highest passion of the animal level is
"submission", and this is where the goddess within will be of the utmost help—fearlessly
submissive and submissively fearless, she will see you through. Nearing the top of your
well-shaft the human life forces will help you up towards the light. The highest passion of
the human level is "sincerity", and it is sincerity of purpose that will help you reach the
point at which the passions can combine to produce "compassion", the spiritual love
which is the characteristic sign of a whole person; the person who has been made
whole; the person who can understand that "God is love".
Also by Ray DouglasAstrology and the Inner Self
The Essence of the Upanishads
The Waters of Babylon