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The State of Women’s Spirituality

July 1, 2008

I have just been reading a ton of women’s spirituality books, and have been somewhat disheartened. Writing on women’s spirituality seems to fall into two categories:

1) Sacred feminine/goddess worship: The general theme is that we have a special feminine power, and our main connection to mystic experience is through this. This feminine power is ‘sensual’, ‘connected to nature’, and more ‘from the heart’ then men’s power. We naturally connect to divinity through this power, which manifests especially through our relationships to others.

2) Motherhood and wifehood are women’s special spiritual ‘work’: We are the ‘nurturers’ of the world, and the love we manifest as caretakes, especially as mothers, is the foundation for our connection to God.

Does this bother anyone else? They both seem to me to be updated versions of old steroetypes. What about women who don’t feel that nurturing? Or who choose to manifest their power in traditionally masculine realms? Or who, heaven forbid, don’t want to be mothers or caretakers? Are they excluded from a spiritual life? Many of these books seem to be saying that. In the guise of combatting patriarchy by celebrating womenhood, they end up defining us in the same way men did for centuries – as wives and mothers first.

It really is this strange trend that feminism wrought, when applied to spirituality. Many women spiritual writers in the last thirty years or so have focused on critiquing the ways the major world religions have excluded and persecuted women. And of course that is much needed. But the result has been defining feminine spirituality solely in terms of goddess worship and the sacred feminine, and too often these ended up being watered down to overused ideals like ‘nurturing’ and ‘sensuality’.

And what about the idea that spirituality is about moving past these kinds of identification altogether? Moving even beyond gender ideals, and experiencing pure spirit? This is the kind of feminine spirituality I am interested in – one that addresses the unique challenges many of us modern women face, particularly in balancing work and family and spirituality, but that ultimately moves us beyond these definitions altogether.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. hailmarygrace permalink
    July 6, 2008 3:13 pm

    I understand your frustration. Spirituality and motherhood are so intertwined that there is actually no separation. A woman who is not a mother can be just as spiritual as a woman who is a mother but differently.

    Spirituality has so many facets and that is why there are so many belief systems. Your choice is governed by what you are personally working on for your own spiritual growth. Just like we all wear clothing, the clothes are choices in style, color, fabric. So it is with belief systems regardless if there is a church that is affiliated with your personal growth. We choose according to the purpose we are focusing at the time.

    We humans are here to help one another reach a higher plateau within ourselves. If we were all at the same level of spiritual growth, it would be quite boring. There would be no challenge for us to grow in another arena of spirituality.

    At this time, the Divine Feminine is coming to balance with the Divine Masculine. We, as a people, had just about eliminated the strengths of the female as the male came into power. Now it is important for the balance between the two, within ourselves and with each other. Both the female and male traits are so vital, that is where the strength is. We as a people cannot exist without each other, we cannot do it alone although we have tried for years to do just that. Cooperation between nations and all of their people is essential. Respect and share the similarities and honor the differences, that is where we, as a planet, will be strong.

    I do believe though that we need to honor the one organ that males and females do not share. Men and women both have hearts, livers, kidneys, etc. but the one organ that is different between the two is the womb. Men do not have a womb unless they were born with one (as in the pregnant man who was born female but changed legally to a male).

    I have felt that my life’s mission was to be a mother and that passion showed up at the young age of 5 when my brother was born. I took for granted that I would be a mother and I did birthe three children. When I needed a hysterectomy, I became acutely aware of just what that little organ had allowed me to do. It had allowed me to fulfill my life’s mission. I requested to have it returned to me so that I might honor the first home my children ever knew. Every single human being on this planet has come through their mother’s womb. Man as a species would cease to exist if women did not have a uterus.

    Women who do not have children still have the gift of the womb which allows them a choice. The menses used to be honored as a time of quiet and contemplation with other females. We lost that uniqueness. It was a time where women could honor themselves and the males also honored that time as special.

    Ladies, let us honor ourselves and then the men will honor us and also themselves. We are all unique human beings but also just one of the species called homo sapiens.
    We are more alike than we are different, so let us share our similarities and show respect for our differences.

  2. mommymystic permalink*
    July 7, 2008 3:01 am

    HailMaryGrace,

    I appreciate your comment. I agree the most with your last statement, that we are all more alike than different. Part of my frustration with the goddess/sacred feminine orientation of women’s spirituality these days is that it too often is used as an excuse for division. My orientation is that men’s and women’s PATHS may be different because of their differing bodies, energies and life choices, but that their highest spiritual EXPERIENCES are the same, because there is only one universal truth/power. Too much of what I have read is exclusionary, placing women above men spirituality in an effort to address past wrongs.

    It is very similar to the debate currently raging in academic circles about feminism – many younger women do not consider themselves feminists, because they have been turned off by some of the rhetoric and stereotypes. So that is really my concern. I see that kind of division simply as a form of ego, and in that sense a force that can block spiritual insight. And ego is a HUMAN condition, not a male or female one.

    I actually teach women’s meditation classes, and do emphasize the importance of recognizing our natural energy cycles in correspondance with our monthly cycles, and the incredible power of menopause spiritually etc. So I am with you there. But if you read some of the higher Tibetan Tantric texts, BOTH men’s and women’s sexual and reproductive organs are recognized to have special spiritual potential. And in those traditions knowledge of those energies only impacts the student’s PATH not the destination.

    It also interests me that there have always been incredible women mystics throughout history, even in the most male-dominated traditions (in Christianity – Theresa of Avila, Julian of Norwich, Hildegard of Bingen; in Buddhism – Yeshe Tsogyal, Mandarava, and the first Zen Abbot Mugai Nyobai; in Hinduism – Mirabai, Sarada Devi, etc.) And in these cases, almost none of these women were mothers, but they experienced the highest spiritual truths. So I am uncomfortable with blanket statements about history that make it seem like women’s spirituality has been entirely repressed for centuries because we were not allowed to worship the Goddess/Divine Mother. Women mystics found their way to God (or Goddess – I prefer to just say Truth) anyway.

  3. August 4, 2009 9:44 pm

    Incredible. This is a wonderful healing website, please keep up the excellent work!

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