The Goddess and the Role of Women
It is only when women start to organize in large numbers that we become a political force, and begin to move towards the possibility of a truly democratic society in which every human being can be brave, responsible, thinking and diligent in the struggle to live at once freely and unselfishly.
As Ray Grasse, long-time Assistant Editor of Quest Magazine, points out in his book Signs of the Times “Carl Jung once remarked that as dreams are to the individual, so myths are to society. The stories we tell ourselves as a culture reveal many insights into the deeper workings of our psyches with its myriad desires, fears, and values. By studying a society’s mythologies, one can gain valuable glimpses into the archetypal dynamics that underlie history in its course from one era to the next…By studying those recurring themes already surfacing throughout popular culture, we can discern the broad outline of trends which are forming deep in the collective unconscious, and which will continue to take shape in the millennia to come. Make no mistake: Our stories are already beginning to change. By studying these shifting details, we can better grasp the great transformation that is currently sweeping our world, affecting all of us.”
Myth is the natural and indispensable intermediate stage between unconscious and conscious cognition — a secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into human cultural manifestation. One of the most symbolic of the new myths of our time is the return of the Goddess. After a long period of patriarchy (still dominant in some parts of the world), we see the rise of the feminine — a feminine energy that is intrinsically skilful and wise. Women are capable of sensing the seeds of change which need not only rational capacities but intuitive capacities. This intuition has not been developed by centuries of searching for ‘masculine’ power and greater productivity, more profit, hence more consumption.
In the Chinese Taoist quest for balance and equilibrium represented by the Yin/Yang symbol, when one aspect reaches a climax, there is a slow return to the other pole until a better balanced is reached. ‘Feminine’ and ‘masculine’ are related to these terms of Yin and Yang. Men and women alike have these psychological characteristics. ‘Feminine’ characteristics or values include intuitive, nurturing, caring, sensitive, relational traits, while ‘masculine’ are rational, dominant, assertive, analytical and hierarchical.
Today, a test for women as agents of change toward a more just and humane world is presenting itself in the Arab-Islamic world. After the changes which began in Tunisia followed by Egypt, we now see mass violence in Libya and Syria and repression and conflict elsewhere. How does a community pull itself out from a cycle of violence and set up sustainable ways of living in which different categories of people may be encouraged to contribute to the process?
Women should not only be seen as victims of violence. They are often significantly involved in taking initiatives to promote peace. The basic question is how best to use the talents, energies, and networks of both women and men for efforts at conflict resolution.
There is a danger of a ‘backlash’ against the increased role of women in the Arab-Islamic world. Some view equality and initiatives as a menace to their position. For those of us who are not living in the wider Middle East, we must consider what can we do usefully from a distance.
Two recent efforts in which women played a significant role — the ‘Free Gaza Flotilla’ and the ‘Welcome to Palestine’ were largely blocked. The boats were, for the most part, not allowed to sail from Greece. The ‘Welcome to Palestine’ which was largely an initiative from Western Europe of people wanting to spend two weeks in the Palestinian West Bank to see the conditions of life there were prevented by the European airlines from taking a flight (as the airline companies would be responsible for the cost of returning people if deported.) Other individuals were blocked at the airport in Israel and then deported. As there are no functioning airports in the Palestinian areas, visitors usually pass through the Israeli airport.
Thus, highly visible non-violent action known in advance may not be the best way to help. Plus, the need for creative action is much wider than the Israel-Palestine issue. Much of the Goddess myth grew in the Greek-Middle East area. We need to find creative ways to revive the Goddess image as a symbol of equality and inner growth.