Pandora's Hope: Reclaiming the Divine Feminine



I have been developing a theory over the past so many years. My theory is admittedly 'sexist', in that it revolves around the belief that the majority of world culture has been constructed upon the myth of male superiority. The acceptance of this myth as fact requires women to be compliant and complicit. Beneath this myth is another myth, that men cannot control their biological urges.

I believe that women and men are wired differently, but neither wiring is better. I also believe that there are multiplicities of wiring within all of the genders beyond the male/female duality. However, I do believe we could rewire society to reflect a balance and more than that to recognize that male/female absolutes are illusions.

I think we, the collective we, the religious we, the secular we, the political we, the social we, do an endless amount of bending, twisting, and lying to accommodate the male sexual and aggressive impulse. Let's start with Genesis, which is in essence a story about how a man was so weak and incapable of making his own decisions that a serpent and a woman tricked him. The original sin was not that man chose to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, it was that a woman 'forced him' to eat that fruit by merely suggesting he give it a try. That fruit was a metaphor. Eve was the first temptress.

It wasn't his fault.
"So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate." Genesis 3:6 
Eve introduced sin into the world. Adam just went along for the ride. In fact, the serpent convinced her to eat it. Note that this was a restructuring of more ancient religious stories where the female was the deity and the serpent her consort. Note that to know the goddess intimately, personally, intrinsically meant eating from her tree of knowledge, knowing her in the carnal, magical, deepest sense. The mysteries of the universe and the divine were discovered through sexual contact. So, even the metaphor of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was recast in the Genesis mythology. In earlier texts from which the Old Testament was formed, Jahweh had a wife, Asherah, which meant "sacred tree."  Asherah represented the female experience of the divine. Her name also means womb. She was often depicted with serpents. These stories, in the Judeo-Christian bible and in all of the religious texts of the world's major religions evolved over time, being edited to shape a new mythology.

I've often pondered why Jahweh put that tree in the garden and then made such a big deal about warning Adam and Eve not to eat it. It seems like a set up to me. Also, what's up with the serpent? How did he get in there? What was the point of giving them paradise and then stacking the deck so heavily against them? Also, what's so bad about wisdom, exactly? Is blissful ignorance really paradise? If it is, I'll take a pass.

The message relayed from this story, even if it wasn't fully supported by the text, was that woman was inferior. Therefore she needed to be forced into subjugation. How better to subjugate woman than to recast her as the enemy? How better to recast the once powerful goddess than to make her a vessel for male release? Then every woman became, by proxy, a vessel for male release. How better to exert male superiority than to create a new mythology that absolved men from responsibility for their sexual urges and their aggressive impulses?

Woman was weak because she chose to eat the fruit and evil because she forced man to make the same choice. Man was the hapless victim. By casting women as the agents of the downfall of humanity, we have created a world in which women will always be perceived as duplicitous, dangerous, and inferior. Our current geopolitical reality is the endgame of this mythology.

LGBTQ people are also considered threatening, because they defy the male/female duality. The myth of the male as superior and woman as his servant, vessel, and property is shattered by people who exist outside of this mythology. Marriage began and still exists in many cultures, as a transaction, a way of treating women as property to be handed from one male figure to another. In that sense, marriage as a contract between two equal adults who are not tethered by the patriarchal construct is a threat to the continuation of that mythology. The frantic efforts in this country to enforce religious mythology as law are a direct response to the tide of LGBTQ people who have risen up from the shadows and demanded to be treated as equals. By pushing them back down through laws or force, the patriarchal male/female superior/inferior good/evil duality remains unchallenged and unchanged.

It's not just the Judeo-Christian mythology. These underlying male/female themes are present in every major religion. This mythology that men are not responsible, are victims of female temptation, has influenced cultures that regularly subjugate women while blaming them for the male sexual impulse for centuries. This includes Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and all of the world's major religions.
"The belief that women are inferior human beings in the eyes of God,” Mr. Carter continued, “gives excuses to the brutal husband who beats his wife, the soldier who rapes a woman, the employer who has a lower pay scale for women employees, or parents who decide to abort a female embryo.-Former President Jimmy Carter, Losing My Religion for Equality
The fascinating thing is that so many women have bought into these limiting constructs and accepted a position of inferiority. We have turned myth into reality. We have co-created a world where male sexual and aggressive impulses reign supreme. Whether it means hiding ourselves under layers of fabric, remaining pressed against the glass ceiling, forcing other women to accept the patriarchal code, making ourselves smaller and more docile, allowing physical or sexual abuse, or telling ourselves the story that women are less than, it all contributes to the continuation and proliferation of the mythology.

I believe that we will not find balance between male and female energy until we shift our mythology. We will not find this balance until we stop creating and accepting a reality that tells the story that men cannot control themselves and women are to blame. We will not find balance until we stop telling women how to dress, how to act, what to say, what they can and cannot do with their bodies, how to move through the world as if they are constantly forcing men to think bad thoughts and do bad things. We will not find balance until we create true equality for the sexes. We will also not progress until women stop tearing each other apart and start lifting each other up instead. That's important, because it's a huge hurdle that needs addressing and eliminating. Women cannot rise until they do it collectively.

20.9 million adults and children are sold into sexual slavery every year. 98% of them are female. This is all because we have accepted the myth that men are entitled to sex and women are obligated to provide it regardless of their willingness to comply. This is our great mostly unspoken collective shame. These women and children often come from extreme poverty, these children are sold into poverty out of desperation or tricked into slavery through false promises. In this twisted reality, a virgin is a trophy, not a living, breathing, human being, not a child in need of protecting. This industry exists solely to serve male sexual desire. Despite our cultural taboos regarding the sexual abuse of children, millions of them are sexually abused every single day.
"They forced me to sleep with as many as 50 customers a day. I had to give [the pimp] all my money. If I did not [earn a set amount] they punished me by removing my clothes and beating me with a stick until I fainted, electrocuting me, cutting me."-Kolab, sex trafficking survivor from Cambodia
Interestingly, in the Old Testament of the Judeo-Christian Bible, there are multiple passages where Jahwah instructs men to rape, murder, and even tear pregnant women and their unborn fetuses apart if they are women who belong to their enemies. The Bible offers advice on how to force female children into sexual slavery. When so many treat this ancient text as the word of God, it becomes easy to see how what should be unconscionable becomes quietly acceptable.
"The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open." Hosea 13:16
"Happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us. He who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks." Psalms 137:8-9
"Only the young girls who are virgins may live; you may keep them for yourselves." Numbers 31:7-18
It isn't just biblical or religious mythology that formed this archetype of woman as evil. The Greek myth of Pandora, the first human woman, also contributes to this idea. Men were immortal, living in a world without women, until Prometheus stole fire from the gods. Pandora was created as a punishment for this act, designed as a 'beautiful evil.' She was fashioned to lure mankind into sexual congress to create the offspring that would torment the human race. Woman was designed specifically and carefully to bring the downfall of mankind. Her box or jar, like the grail, was opened unleashing evil into the world. Again, woman is to blame. Sure, Prometheus stole fire, but Pandora opened the jar. Yet, interestingly, the only thing remaining inside, hope.
"From her is the race of women and female kind:
of her is the deadly race and tribe of women who
live amongst mortal men to their great trouble,
no helpmates in hateful poverty, but only in wealth." Hesiod
Progress for women's rights has been made, but it is rapidly being lost. The increasing assault by governments around the world on women's reproductive control all stems from the idea that women are inferior. Controlling women's reproduction allows for the continuation of cycles of poverty and hopelessness. When women are forced to provide sex to men even under force, prevented from using birth control to prevent unwanted pregnancies, and denied access to abortions, women do not have any control over their destiny or even their day to day reality.

Shifting this mythology doesn't mean emasculating men, it means asking them to take responsibility for their thoughts, impulses, and actions. It means no longer placing the burden and the blame for male lack of physical control on women. It also means women will have to cease seeing each other as enemies competing for the male gaze or male dominated cultural approval. When your value stems from your physical attractiveness, you are objectified and lessened. Shifting this mythology also means accepting and embracing the complex spectrum of sexuality as a part of our natural biology and embracing all of the endless variations of being in the world.

I used to think that if women had an equal share in ruling the world, it would be a better world. I still think this, but many of the women who rise to power within the limitations of the patriarchal construct are most often still acting under those rules and limitations. They are still promoting the agenda of the oppressor. I often hear women suggest that if we passed the ERA, women should be forced to sign up for the draft. I find this unacceptable. Equality does not mean indistinguishable or interchangeable. War is unacceptable to me, it is a male construct. I don't think anyone should be forced to sign up for the draft or to fight for the financial gains of the profiteers behind the military industrial complex. If we pass the ERA, perhaps we should work to end the construct of war. Perhaps then we would work towards a society in the US and even more importantly, globally, where women's rights are considered human rights and war, rape, violence, aggression, discrimination, sexism, ageism, racism all become abominations and impossibilities.

If women were free to move from a place of unrestricted power and equality, then I do think we could change the world. I think we'd see less violence, aggression, war, fear, greed, poverty, ignorance, and hoarding of resources. I think we'd see more cooperation, kindness, love, abundance, understanding, and sharing of resources. Perhaps I'm wrong, because the programming of division and competition between women may be too strong to override.

Still, it's something to ponder. What if there really was a Lady Party and what if our platform reflected a kinder, gentler, more compassionate approach to society? How would that look? Is it possible that there are enough women who reject the prevailing mythology and messaging? Are there enough of us who are willing to join forces to say no to war, greed, corruption, poverty, discrimination, destruction, and control of women's bodies and choices? Can we, as women, reject the patriarchal construct and spurn an evolution of consciousness together? Can we reclaim the divine feminine?

Can we open Pandora's jar again to unleash hope upon the world?

Cheers,
Madge

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