August 27, 2014

Beyond Gender. ~ John Hardman

goddess durga

“God created man in his own image, and then man returned the favor.” ~ Voltaire

Yeah, I’m a guy, but I understand how centuries of patriarchy in the Western world, while providing the impetus for change and discovery, has left a lot of collateral damage in its wake, such as wars and environmental carnage.

It is probably not ironic that the land of the birth of monotheism is today the hot bed of war and genocide. Yes, it was the religions of Abraham (Jews, Christians and Muslims) who conceived and worshiped a frustrated, horny Jehovah, angry and alone in a heavenly man-cave needing a woman’s touch and the touch of a woman.

From the beginnings of humankind, as Voltaire chides us, we have imagined gods and goddesses with genders because we imagined what we knew of ourselves. Our ancient theologies reflected a balance of genders equally powerful and eternally united to inseminate and birth the natural world.

The Sami people of modern Finland still tend the semi-wild herds of reindeer much like our nomadic prehistoric ancestors. In their traditions, “Maderakka,” Mother Earth, lives close in the soil, just beneath the floors of the tents. She gives humans their bodies and desires. Women belong to Her, and boys, too, until they’re declared men.

“Maderatja” is her husband, father of the tribe. He gives humans their soul and gender and lives in the sky just below the sun. As they make love, thunder rolls through the heavens!

Anthropological evidence suggests that prehistoric hunter-gatherer societies were primarily equalitarian. Archeologists suggest the geographical record shows that climate change around 4000 BC led to famines in the Sahara, Arabian Peninsula and what are now the Central Asian deserts, resulting in the adoption of warlike, patriarchal structures in order to secure food sources.

While early monotheistic cultures imagined God as a formless spirit, nascent Christianity adopted the Greco-Roman gender pantheon, and supreme male Zeus became the bachelor god, Jehovah, but stripped of his predecessor’s female consorts and thunderous coupling. This was a tough God for tough times.

As philosopher Thomas Hobbes summed it up; “the life of man—solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”

Nothing succeeds like success. For thousands of years societies, have abandoned any pretense of equality and balance. Might makes right and even if the threat of famine and hunger have subsided, mankind creates imaginary threats to justify a perpetual call to arms and greed.

We have created a rogue male God divorced of caring and compassion, alone, angry and itching for a fight. It’s a nasty corner we’ve painted ourselves into, so how do we find our way back to some semblance of harmony again? Some are suggesting substituting matriarchy for patriarchy and replacing the loutish Jehovah with a more tolerant and refined goddess, Gaia, a virgin, hopefully without a hankering for “bad boy” consorts. I don’t know about you, but all this pendulum swinging is making me dizzy.

Swami Lashmanjoo speaks of Svātantrya as the first stage of creation, an undifferentiated energy, or the force that unifies all the energies of creation. This “formlessness” becomes mind blowing even for a Hindu Swami, so the gendered deities, Shakti and Shiva, are used to mirror our mortal condition.

Shakti represents the raw potential energy, and Shiva, the structuring or formation in the physical world. The “Yoga Journal” explains:“the experience of perfect unity of the changeless and the changeable, the dissolution of duality, is the aim of Tantra, and thus of Yoga.”

There is a Supreme Sanctity where Shiva and Shakti no longer exist as separate entities. Some call it ‘Brahman’, the state of nirvana, samadhi, perfect oneness, moksha or enlightenment. It is the state where Shiva merges so closely with Shakti that they become one. They merge so completely there is no longer any separation, and concepts of gender are meaningless.

Divinity then is, by definition, beyond gender and Shiva and Shakti are but mortal creations—maya, illusions.

There is no “Divine Feminine,” no masculine “God.” These are only human attempts to imagine Svātantrya in their image.

True divinity is Tantra, the seamless flow of oneness, the state of true grace. If there is gender, then it is not divine—primal possibly and certainly less contaminated by mortality than everyday life, but not “divine.”

Divinity is complete and total union, a balance or embrace of yin and yang—unity. Okay, all this talk of sacred union, deserves at least a thunder roll! And because it is “divine,” just hit “replay” and let it loop through eternity.

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          Apprentice Editor: Brenna Fischer / Editor: Catherine Monkman

          Photo: Flickr

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