DRAWS US HEAVENWARD
The Divine is all inclusive — both masculine and feminine. Since the origins of dualism two aspects, which previously were part of a whole, were torn apart and set up against each other: Light and Darkness, Good and Evil, Birth and Death, Beginning and End. Originally, they were inalienable instruments of the Great Beginning. They could not exist on their own. The patriarchal fear of ego-loss isolated darkness, death and evil and started a crusade against them. Then they became two separate entities. Thus patriarchy is the confirmation of female supremacy. The analogy of all patriarchal religions is striking: all in their own way want to escape from "the cycle of birth, death and women..." On the other hand we find the deep set reverence and recognition of the Great Mother, embodiment of that from which all things emerged in all major religious schools.
In Hinduism Devi-Matri represents the Great Mother together with Her "Law of the universe": destruction, preservation and rebirth. Tantra practices find their origin in pre-Aryan times, in which the Great Mother was the center of the fertility cult. Originally these three aspects were one, later they separated and the Maha-Devi's power is represented by three forms — Kali (destruction), Lakshmi (preservation) and Parvati (rebirth). Later these aspects were transferred into male gods: Shiva, Brahman and Vishnu. Nowadays the Hindu patheon is cluttered with hundreds of the Mother's "children", showing how much unity has lost itself in diversity. Later emphasis was laid on Purusha-Prakriti (literally meaning Persona-Nature) and Siva-Sakti — Cosmic Consciousness — to such an extent, that the link with the Great Mother as birth-giver was lost. Siva-Sakti is representing two sides of the indivisible whole, in which Siva is static and Sakti the creative power. Kali is the annihilation aspect of Sakti, which in fact is a projection of the destructive aspect of the Great Mother. The ultimate triumph of the Great Mother (in Her manifestation of the goddess Durga) over the "bull-tyrant" Mahisha representing the violent masculine principle. Durga slaying the buffalo-demon is probably the only myth in the world in which the Mother-principle has gained victory over patriarchy.
The memory e.g. realization of the Eternal Mother is most evident in the sayings of Lao-tse, the "founder" of Taoism.
Something mysteriously formed,
Born before heaven and earth.
In the silence and the void,
Standing alone and unchanging,
Ever present and in motion.
Perhaps it is the mother of the ten thousand things.
I do not know its name.
Call it Tao.
For lack of a better word, I call it great.
The beginning of the universe
Is the mother of all things.
Knowing the mother, one also knows the sons.
Knowing the sons, yet remaining in touch with the mother
Brings freedom from the fear of death.
Like in every patriarchal religion the original notion of the Great Mother as the the Ultimate Reality was diverted into some kind of deity or lower goddess. Example is Tianhou or "Empress of Heaven", also called Mazu, which means "grand, old mother". The goddess had a very humble beginning as a local woman with spiritual powers, helping seamen to return to home safely. Later on her divine status was recognized and she became very popular with the Chinese in general. Also known in Taoism is the Queen Mother of the West, a deity who together with her husband ruled over K'un-lun, the most important mountain in China. Almost equal in popularity and possibly more closely related to the original Great Mother is "Sheng-mu" or Holy Mother. In many temples in China she is portrayed with eight female deities around her. Her duty is to help women in pregnancy and birth-giving.
In "The Gnostic Gospels" Elaine Pagels describes how "in the beginning" not God but the Mother was the Origin of all. The former was a derivative, merely instrumental power whom the Mother had created to administer the universe, but his own self-conception was far more grandiose. They say that he believed that he had made everything by himself, but that, in reality, he had created the world because of Wisdom, his Mother, "infused him with energy" and implanted into him her own ideas. But he was foolish, and acted unconsciously, unaware that the ideas he used came from her: "he was even ignorant of his own Mother" (Hippolytus. Ref.6-33). The tradition of the Mother as the Source out of which everything — including God — is born, had its most prominent traces in Christianity. It is known as the "vierge ouvrante" devotion which was widespread in Europe (Poland, Germany, France, Spain) until the 15th century. Statues reveal Maria with God the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost coming out of Her body. It is the most perfect illustration of the Truth ever made.
New studies such as "Ich verwerfe im Lande die Kriege" by G.Weiler in 1986 reveal, that Hebrews were originally many tribes, worshipping different gods and goddesses, all linked to the primordial Great Mother. The lost Ark of the Covenant symbolizes the lost "Mother of Israel". The former is called the "House of God", which points at the original Mother religion. In ancient tradition "house", like vessel, tomb, cave, chalice etc. all represent the Great Mother. In Solomon's time the Holiest of Holiest of the Temple was called "Womb of Astarte", "House/vessel of God" means the Mother containing her Divine Son. It is emphasized by the fact, that the historic Ark contained a chalice as well as a rod, the latter symbolizing the rule of the Son, JHWH. Still some memory of the motherly matrix may have been there, because in Hebrew "In the beginning" (ruach) can be translated with the word "womb".
In Kabbalah, a Jewish mystical tradition, just below the first Sphere (sefirah) of divine emanation known as Keter (meaning "crown", "summit" or "pinnacle"), lie the two roots of masculine and feminine, known as Hokhmah and Binah. Although they are not masculine and feminine, Hokhmah and Binah are the archetypes of the masculine and feminine. Binah is the Kabbalistic feminine symbol for 'Understanding', a prelude to wisdom. The "female" principle within God is personified and called by the name: Shekhinah (literally "dwelling"), a term familiar from classical rabbinical literature. In the Kabbalah, however, the Shekhinah is not only included as a distinctive principle within the inner divine life, but this distinctive principle is explicitly, and quite graphically, described as female."
From the beginning of Buddhism there was a notion of the underlying feminine principle. The Prajnaparamita is said to be "The Mother of the Buddha's" or "The Womb of the Tathagatas". Existence is unfathomable. The origin of Great Mother Buddhism is the Buddha himself who not only proclaimed his Awakening, but subsequently referred it to something beyond: Nirvana. According to the Buddha, Enlightenment has to be put into the context of Emptiness, the Void. Nirvana is not the Ultimate, the Void is the Ultimate. Buddha acknowledged "Darkness" to be the Origin of Light. Buddhism originally was an enterprise entirely aimed at overcoming "the cycle of birth and death" — the feminine aspect of life — "Buddhahood" became a dimension for itself and on its own. The "organic" relationship with the Void was pushed to the background. The Yogacara school re-opened the discussion and emphasized "tathagathagarbha", the Womb from which Buddhahood arises. This school not only restored the original lineage ("Light born out of Darkness"), but had no problems with feminine connotations of the Origin. This tendency later was continued by Vajrayana Buddhism, seen in Borobudur, practiced in Theravada Buddhism and in Japanese esoteric Buddhism. In Tibetan Buddhism the insight in the true nature of existence is the Great Mother, the void state, the Mother of all Creation. The object of ultimate reverence thus being the Womb! In Asia, from time immemorial, the Great Mother has been symbolized by a Lotus flower. "Om mani padme hum" — the jewel in the lotus — means Being emerging from the Cosmic Womb. A closer look at almost all images of the Buddha, e.g. celestial Buddhas, Kuan Yin etc. reveals, that he (she) is sitting on a Lotus. It symbolizes the essence of Great Mother Buddhism. Great Mother Buddhism re-introduces the Mother Principle as the basic ground of existence. In Great Mother Buddhism the "cycle of birth and death" is reunited with its Matrix, overcoming 2000 years of (hidden) dualism. Buddha (Light, Heaven) and earth continuously die in the Great Mother, while being reborn in the selfsame Eternal Moment.
Few know that pre-Islam Arabia was ruled by three goddesses: Allat, al-Uzza and Manaat. Of them Allat was the most important one, was both a fertility and a war goddess. Union of these two aspects is symbolic of the Great Mother. For reasons unknown, only the destructive aspect remained, characterizing Pre-Islamic war-torn times with mass-sacrifices of matriarchy.
Islam thus started as an operation to free people from female dominance, by renouncing the pre-Islamic past and to hide e.g. cover femininity. The first was done through simply declaring the beginning of Islam as the year zero, and the second through imposing the veil upon women. Both the (pre-Islamic) past and femininity are the source of all fear. It is called the "black hole" or the existential darkness... (djahilija). This collective unconsciousness is containing the fear of death — related to primordial anxiety, and has become transformed into the desire for immortality. Paradise is waiting for every god-fearing person (man).
But, the spiritual meaning transcends this all. The holy shrine Ka'aba — the House of God/Baitullah — used to be a pre-Islamic fertility shrine. The key element of the Ka'aba is a meteorite. In many cultures the meteorite is worshipped as directly coming from the realm of darkness: the Mother. This is also true for the black color of the Ka'aba. The identity of the Black Stone with the Great Goddess and with the moon is recognized by the Hulama — the rationalist school of Islam. Seen from this perspective there appears to be a deep wisdom behind the phenomenon of the veiled women. Both the veiled Ka'aba and the women may represent the "absent, unknowable" Mother, they may be synonymous. Consciously or unconsciously Islam may thus have preserved the original matri-centered universe. The invisible women are where it is all about. The male-dominated society moves in a circle around the woman, just as the hadj pilgrims are circling in ecstasy around the Ka'aba. Seven times as it was in the pre-Islamic era...The priests serving the shrine are called "beni shaybah" (sons of the Old Woman)*. Thus in fact women are the center, men are the periphery. Thus, surprisingly, the Divine Feminine has always been present in Islam, seen as a patriarchal religion. The very nature of the feminine in Islam manifests metaphysically and in the inner expression of the religion.
The Divine Masculine and the Divine Feminine express two very distinct aspects of Allah. First, that Allah is Supreme is the principle of masculinity, and that Allah is Infinite is the principle of femininity. Ninety-nine names of Allah in the Qur'an are divided into the names of Majesty (jalal — images of the stern and strict "father") and the names of Beauty (jamal — images of a gentle and loving "mother".).
Sufism, the "mystical Islam", cherishes the esoteric secret of woman. In Sufism, woman is the ultimate secret, for woman is the soul. To the Sufi, Allah has always been the Beloved and the Sufi, the Lover. Allah as the Beloved in Sufi literature, the ma'shuq, is always depicted with female iconography. Fatima, Prophet Muhammad's daughter, is regarded by some Sufis as the first spiritual head (qutb) of their fellowship. Fatima tul Zehra (Fatima the Radiant, Fatima the Brightest Star, Fatima-Star of Venus, Fatima-The Evening Star), the daughter of the Prophet, is the secret in Sufism. She is the Hujjat of 'Ali. In other words, she establishes the esoteric sense of his knowledge and guides those who wish to attain it. Though she was his daughter, the Prophet Muhammad called her Um Abi'ha (mother of her father). What mystery was the Prophet hinting at by this statement?
February 15, 2006