Sophia for Earth Week April 16-22, 2023
Once we take our first turning towards a Sacred Feminine Presence, welcoming her into our lives, change begins. In Rebirth of the Goddess (1997), Carol P. Christ writes of how turning towards the presence she names the Goddess altered her life. Her book reflects her new view of religion, politics, ecology, life, death, relationships, morality, the meaning of existence….
Reading Christ’s book has led me to reflect on how my own life has been altered since coming to know Sophia. I realize that the change began when I first recognized that there is a feminine path to the Holy that differs in important ways from the masculine path. The masculine path was shown to me as I grew up in a Church where the teachers, priests, writers, theologians were mostly men and some women who had embraced the masculine way to holiness.
What a revelation it was for me to encounter, through their writings and at times through hearing them speak, the feminist theologians who rose to prominence in the last third of the twentieth century. These women used their powerful intellects, their theological training, and their own experience to show that the “objective” masculine teachings, thought to apply to all humankind, actually reflected the masculine way to God. The feminist theologians found the heart of the difference between the masculine and feminine ways to be within the perceived dualities found in Greek thought: spirit/matter, sky/earth, thought/ feeling, supernatural/natural, mind/body, spirituality/sexuality, man/woman. More than a separation, there is a perceived hierarchy. Spirit, sky, thought, the supernatural, mind, spirituality, man viewed as separate from, superior to, matter, earth, feeling, nature, body, sexuality and woman. This is a worldview where God is separate from creation, from humanity. To find this God, we must soar above the human.
Embracing this worldview, I had embraced an ideal of spiritual life that led me to distrust love, to be cautious with emotion, to value thought over feeling. I had learned to distrust my desires, my body, my sexuality, all of which, I’d been warned, would lead me astray, away from God. I learned to embrace an ideal of perfection, though I never succeeded in living it out.
Through the writings of the feminist theologians, I learned that recovering a sense of the sacredness of the feminine would assist me to recover a sense of the sacredness of the earth, of the body, of my feelings, of my sexuality.
artwork by Josephine Wall
At this time in the story of our planet Earth, this recovery is vital. The sacred presence of love lives within all of life, within the earth herself, within the creatures that walk, swim, fly, crawl upon and within her. Only this knowing can give us the courage and the strength we need for the work we are called to do with the earth as she heals from the ravages of our despoiling her.
In the sixth chapter of her book, “The Web of Life”, Carol Christ writes compellingly of this call:
To know ourselves as of this earth is to know our deep connection to all people and beings. All beings are interdependent in the web of life….We feel deeply within ourselves that we are part of all that is, but we must learn to speak of what we know. We know, too, that we participate fully in the earth’s cycles of birth, death, and regeneration….
The fundamental insight of connection to all beings in the web of life is experienced by children, poets, mystics, and indeed, I suspect, by all of us, though we may lack the language to express what we feel….(p. 113)
Acknowledging the difficulty of speaking of this deep connection “in the face of criticism rooted in dualistic thinking”, Christ quotes Jewish theologian Martin Buber who wrote of his “I-Thou” relation to a tree:
I contemplate a tree.
I can accept it as a picture: as rigid pillar in a flood of light, or splashes of green traversed by the gentleness of the blue silver ground.
I can feel it as movement: the flowing veins around the sturdy, striving core, the sucking of the roots, the breathing of the leaves, the infinite commerce with earth and air – and the growing itself in its darkness…
But it can also happen, if will and grace are joined, that as I contemplate the tree I am drawn into a relation, and the tree ceases to be an It. The power of exclusiveness has seized me. (Martin Buber, I and Thou trans. Walter Kaufmann, New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1970 pp. 58-59)
The writings of Susan Griffin recognize our Earth as intelligent and aware:
I taste, I know, and I know why she goes on, under great weight, with this great thirst, in drought, in starvation, with intelligence in every act, does she survive disaster. (Susan Griffin inWoman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her New York, Harper and Row, 1978 p. 219)
A beautiful reweaving of dualities into wholeness flows from our embrace of Sophia/Sacred Feminine/Goddess. Here is Carol Christ’s celebration of the insight into oneness intuited by children, mystics and poets:
If Goddess is an intelligent power that is fully embodied in the world, then the notion that divinity, nature and humanity are three totally distinct categories collapses. If Goddess as fully embodied intelligent love is the ground of all being, then it makes sense to speak of intelligence and love as rising out of the very nature of being and of all beings as intelligent and infused with love. Human intelligence and our capacity to love do not separate us from nature. Instead, everything we are arises from the nature of being, from our grounding in the earth. (p. 123)
As we celebrate Earth Week in 2023, may the eyes of our mind, the intelligence of our heart recognize, perhaps for the first time, that Planet Earth is truly Our Mother, the source, sustainer and unifier of all that lives upon and within her.