Buddhism and the Goddess

Feminism and Religion has got to be one of my favorite blogs to read. I look forward to the often daily posts in my inbox. Often I choose to comment when a viewpoint diverges from my own or otherwise gets me thinking. And I kind of look forward to that as well because within this benevolent friction, lives the great gift of opportunity to learn and grow.

Recently, Carol P. Christ posted an entry referring to the post of another contributor, Oxana Poberejnaia, on Buddhism as it can relate to feminism. You can read both of those posts for more background on my thoughts below, though this post should hopefully be able to stand alone.

On Suffering:

This seems to be a difficult concept for many Westerners. Suffering could also be called dissatisfaction. This, most persistent suffering encountered in life, is the existential kind. It's the "if only" or "I wish" moments of the world where things are not as we'd like them to be. This isn't wrong to feel. It just is. As the Buddha said, "Life is suffering". He didn't mean this in a negative, Debby-downer sort of way, but to reveal the nature of beings ruled by the "I want" thinking of desire where it seems at times that nothing is exactly good enough. We must have more and more in the hopes of filling that existential void within; of quieting that voice that tells us to find satisfaction outside of ourselves in material things and novel people.

So, we all suffer to some degree. This is often less about the struggles of the everyday and more of a persistent nagging feeling we all have experienced in our gut. This is the suffering without a name that can make us feel confused and ungrateful for not simply being happy for all the wonderful gifts in our lives. It's the something missing; the suffering of sentience as opposed to the suffering of not having material needs met. We are all familiar with both kinds of suffering though we can often forget that just because we are healthy, fed, clothed, etc. that we still may have inner suffering to become aware of and attend to. Sometimes we feel we are not entitled to that suffering and repress it. Other times we become identified with it and let it run our lives and relationships.

It is in this place of inner suffering that our unconscious patterns and reactions live. We regret, we lament, we mourn who we could've been. We beat ourselves up for our choices and admonish ourselves for not being better. And when someone wrongs us, we react as we've always reacted - from a place of defensiveness. We feel hurt, we get angry, we lash out. We think there is no other way to deal with these emotions. We think we must feel them, react on them, receive our justice, and only then can our suffering cease. When really these emotional reactions are all within our control if we choose to realize it. When we see our true nature as divine beings, these reactions cease to have any power and can cease to exist all together.

Accepting the nature of our suffering allows us to acknowledge it so we can be free from it. Just as you can't heal a wound that you do not know exists, so too does our suffering live on if we don't acknowledge its existence. If we become free from suffering, we would naturally wish the same for others, creating the consciousness of the Bodhisattva or the heart of Bodhichitta.

But this altruistic concern for the welfare of others begins within the individual. It begins in the place of “Know Thyself” as it is written in the stone at Delphi, once a temple devoted to Gaia before Apollo. This is a lesson of the Goddess and can be further heard in the words of Doreen Valiente's charge “for if that which you seek you find not within, you will never find it without”.

On Life as Gift, Death, and Samsara:

Buddhists consider life a gift. They are not trying to be liberated from everyday experiences and the joys of life but to become totally immersed in them with mindful awareness. They are trying to be liberated from the fear of death by understanding their own true nature and the reality of death. Death can be fully accepted as part of existence while simultaneously being seen as an illusion. For what we really are can never truly die.

Recognizing that our true human nature and potential is divine may be the main goal of Buddhist practice. By doing so we can free ourselves from the limiting views of unconscious ego that can control our emotions and reactions which often cause pain to ourselves and to others. We can work to reveal our true nature as pure, altruistic beings striving for happiness. After sitting in meditation for a time we may finally discover that we are the divine void - the everything, the nothing, and all the spaces in between. We may remove the shackles of societal programming, peeling back all the subtle layers of unconsciousness, and revealing ourselves to be the totality of the Universe. This divine recognition is liberation from Samsara and living in the now of Nirvana.

On Buddha and the Goddess:

I believe that if Goddess Religion in the modern era had more time to evolve and manifest, it would ultimately end up looking a lot like Buddhism. For me, Buddhist practice reveals our nature as Goddess through the human journey of the Buddha. He is Cernunnos, sitting in the lotus position with torque and snake in hand while his antlers pierce the sky above him. He is the Gnostic Christ, the Anointed One, who suffered and learned before us so that we may have the tools to reach liberation. He is Persephone who journeys to the Underworld to bring back lessons of the seed; of immortality and the illusory nature of death. He is the Divine Son, The Holy Father, and the Spirit of Consciousness as Goddess. He is the divine principle of the Seeker, the Lover, and 100% a being of the Goddess while also the Goddess herself.

Though the Buddha is male, note that in most portrayals of his appearance, he can be quite ambiguous – seemingly neither completely “masculine” or “feminine” as we perceive these traits in our current culture. He is a whole human, defined only by his divinity and without attachment to divisive ideas such as gender.

Buddhist philosophies set us free as the Maiden does, teach us compassion as the Mother does, and ultimately gift us with the ego-less wisdom of the Crone. It shows us that we are now and always have been the conscious creators, the divine architects, and those who give birth to all of existence. I believe the Buddha taught these lessons and that they are the timeless words of the Great Goddess.

When Women Wanted Sex More Than Men

Lilith (1887), John Collier
Interesting article at Alternet: When Women Wanted Much More Sex Than Men and How the Stereotype Flipped

For the record, I don't think there are distinct variations between men and women when it comes to sexuality. I think it's more of an individual thing where everyone has their own levels of desire based on their own history, life experiences, social conditioning, etc.

Still, this is a great article because it points out one major thing about gender roles and the stereotypes that go with them. They're all made up. Everything is completely arbitrary and changeable as opposed to fixed and timeless. That is literally one of my favorite things. See quote below.

"Even when gender roles change, sexism has a remarkable ability to adapt--and historical amnesia enables this ability. The association of men with lust is as much an artifact of recent times as the association of girls with pink and boys with blue (less than 100 years ago, this system of gendered color-coding was also reversed). Yet even with all this switching-around, some things have stayed suspiciously the same. When women were sexual, their proper place was in the home as caregivers and mothers. When women became passionless, their proper place was still in the home as caregivers and mothers. Isn’t it funny how that works? Gender roles gain their power from the fact that they appear natural and eternal. By looking to the past, we can draw aside this veil and see these categories for what they are--made by people, and able to be changed by people."

Dissecting and Discovering the Triplicate God

Note: This started off as a stream of consciousness type thing and may seem a bit disorganized. I've tried to clean it up without losing any of the meaning but some things may still need clarification. Feel free to use the comments section if you're interested in getting a conversation going.

Concepts of the Goddess and the God are often patterned after what Carl Jung called archetypes. In the Jungian view archetypes can be defined as “....universal, archaic patterns and images that derive from the collective unconsciousness.” In and of themselves, these archetypes are not a bad thing. However, insomuch as many of our current God models are based on a patriarchal standard and a culture of domination, they may take on meaning that they did not originally have in a pre-agrarian, egalitarian world.

According to the archeological record and the common held belief of many Goddess practitioners, our concepts of the Sacred Feminine and the Sacred Masculine do not originally come from a world where power and patriarchy are the law of the day. Instead they were first fashioned in a time when humanity revered both males and females in equal, divine regard. Or so that is the theory of what human culture may have resembled within an egalitarian matriarchy (or antiheirarchy as I call it sometimes). In order to imagine what this world may have been like, let's suspend all of our doubt and allow for that shift in paradigms for a moment.

The most common archetypes within the Sacred Masculine are the Warrior, the Hero, the Hunter, the Mystic, the Lover, and the King. We could interpret these ideas from any angle that we like but I am most interested in what these archetypes may have represented before the last 5,000-10,000 years or so of agrarian, patriarchal human civilization.

I mention this period of history because, even though many vegetation goddesses survived through the ages, the advent of agriculture is believed to be where a huge shift began towards more patriarchal societies. With land being the primary form of wealth, and the hands of many being required to maintain and protect it, the bodies of women became commodified for their ability to create the necessary heirs and children as labor force. The leap from presuming one was entitled to own a piece of the earth (The Great Mother Goddess) to being entitled to own a woman (the literal incarnation of the Goddess) is apparently not a far one to make.

From my perspective, the Warrior concept may not even be necessary and certainly shouldn't be a focus when thinking of the Sacred Masculine. It is my long held belief that humanity has seen long stretches of peace and prosperity to such an extent where a warrior culture would not exist. I also deeply believe that wars are started over money, property, and material power in general. This entire concept is antithetical to a culture that predates the domination model of patriarchy. When we look at a surviving hunter-gatherer culture such as the Aka pygmies of Central Africa, we see a culture not obsessed with properties, money, or other forms of material wealth. In fact, they continually reinforce economic equality by a system of demand sharing. Whatever someone asks for (or needs) they will be given.

In place of the Warrior and in combination with the Hunter, I propose the Father-Husband as protector and partnered provider. In fact, why is this idea absent from the primary archetypes of the Divine Masculine within predominant traditions of Neo-paganism? Does a child not also need their father? I know there are many people who believe that's not the case and once upon a time I guess I was one of them. But my personal experiences of less than fantastic father-figures is not because men aren't or can't be great fathers. It's because fatherhood is seen as optional in a world where men and women are not equal. Raising children is the work of women according to the patriarchal paradigm and is thus seen as weak by the power-fueled standard. But this is not the only way for fathers to be, nor is it obviously the most healthy.

According to Professor Barry Hewlett, fathers in the Aka culture spend about 47% of their time with their children (more than any other cultural group on the planet) and the societal roles of Aka males and females are virtually interchangeable. As a result their divorce rate is almost non-existent (though perfectly accepted by their culture) and couples spend a great deal of time hunting and gathering with their children as a family. They also make love several times a night and often enjoy extremely close marital friendship.

Okay, so we've got Hero, King, Lover, and Mystic left. Where's the Son, do you suppose? Maybe some would join him in with Lover as in the Goddess's Son-lover (a grossly misunderstood concept, by the way). I would say I definitely believe the idea of a Divine Son could be connected to the inner-child and is an important one that allows us to ultimately grow from our fears and vulnerabilities. But joining him with the Lover aspect isn't what my intuition is telling me.

In the Goddess I would compare the Divine Son to the Maiden or the Holy Bride of Truth; the Revealer who shows us our shadows and beckons us to destroy our own egos and be free, pure, inherently innocent creatures once more. Without the inner-child concept and an honoring of it, we don't allow ourselves our fears and vulnerabilities and therefore will never grow out of them.

But Son here doesn't seem like the right title. The Maiden isn't called Daughter most often so I think the youth aspect of the God needs an alternate name that can speak to more spiritual and subconscious things with appropriate symbolism. So I did some research (see image) and I found the name/title of Feon most appropriate. I'm finding it difficult to put my intuitive conclusions into words so I'm hoping my handwritten notes may help make my thought process more clear. I'll also add some links at the bottom of this article that readers interested in investigating the Feon aspect can click through to.

Okay, so far we have Father and Feon. I was planning on rolling the Hero and the Mystic together as both are typically men who are on quests to find themselves. The Hero just seems to come at his problems in a more physical manner while the Mystic is the result of the Hero's spiritual journey. In a way the Mystic is on the next road where the material world has been seen for the illusion it is and he's now moving through the spiritual layers of himself towards enlightenment. We could alternately call him a Sage and see him as the male version of the Crone Goddess.

I'd like to forget the King in general or roll him into the Father. Not that there can't be benevolent kings, but as we know the archetype today, it has less than perfect connotations. Kings rule but Fathers protect and provide care. Kings take taxes. Fathers ask for nothing in return and act selflessly towards those they love.

And as for the Lover... well I believe he lives in all of those archetypes as I see the act of being someone's lover as far deeper a spiritual thing than just mere sex and physical expression. Nor does it just have to do with virility or procreation or providing for or sharing responsibilities. No, it's a joining of souls that recognize themselves as divine. The idea of Lover is perhaps the Great God himself; the combination of the Initiate (Feon), the Father, and The Sage all rolled into one. Pantheo: the God that is one but many.

Goddess = Maiden/Mother/Crone
God = Feon/Father/Sage
Androgynous Divine = Initiate/Parent/Mystic

Feon Related Notes

The word Pheon itself is of unknown meaning and origin. Also find it interesting that there is such a thing as a Pheon Cross - an equal armed, solar cross made of four broad arrows.

2. Lost Language Of Symbolism Volume 2,  pheon/feon (the One Fire)
Find particular interest in the obvious phallic imagery of the arrow combined with the bull and the serpent.

3. Feon also related to Finn MacCool of Irish folklore/Bel or Balanus and through him other Gods of Light or the Sun like Apollo. His stories bear resemblance to King Arthur and The Merlin Taliesin. 

The Innocent God

"Each arrow overshot his head" (1902) by Elmer Boyd Smith.
I've been thinking a lot lately of redefining the Sacred Masculine - a topic I touched on a few weeks ago - and I don't think it's so much a concept that's in need of redefining as remembering. In the way that for so long the Goddess remained veiled from human consciousness, so too I believe does the face of the authentic Male Divine. Though, as with the Goddess, I believe He continues to dwell in our collective unconscious and in our hearts.

Doing quite a bit of research has led me to some insights, some not yet coalesced into logical order enough to be put into words. At the moment, I'm becoming acquainted with the Norse/Dorian god Baldur whom many scholars believe is an earlier incarnation of other solar deities like Apollo, Horus, and the Christ.
"Baldur (also Baldr or Balder), also known as Balder the brave, is the god of light, joy, purity, beauty, innocence, and reconciliation"
This feels slightly like synchronicity to me considering the idea of the Innocent God is something my mind happened upon over the last few months to a year or so ago.  Googling the phrase "Innocent God" led me to Baldur which led me to Apollo and on down the line.

If Baldur is one of the first imaginings in record of the common male solar deity and he is associated with innocence, I would see no reason to begin to recognize that the Divine Masculine indeed contains this primary attribute.Yet innocence, in the way many people have it formed in their minds, isn't exactly what I mean.

The innocence I'm talking about is more concerned with the inherent innocence of the soul represented in Vedic traditions by the First Chakra. When balanced properly and allowed to flow without outside influences, it is the pure and untamed life force.

This is the kind of energy that seeks to do good without getting anything in return; the representation of the brave soul that loves without fear of not being loved back. It's the innocence that comes when we assimilate and love our bodies, minds, and souls as parts of one united entity that has no end and no beginning. It's the spirit of pure altruism and seeing the divine in the eyes our our beloved and feeling that divine as dwelling within us. It is a state of being that operates only from a place of love, no longer giving in to fear. When we look into the spirit of a child or an animal we intuitively recognize this wild innocence.

Considering a triplicate face for the God has been interesting. I've searched around a bit and a lot of people tend to see him as Youth, Warrior, and Sage. I think this idea is incomplete and have come up with an alternative version that I'll get into more in a later post. For now, I'll leave you with the names for my version of a Triple God.

Feon | Father | Sage

Don't worry. I'll explain that Feon stuff very soon. ;)

Evil Doesn't Exist

Dead star surrounded by shell of matter that will form new bodies. (PBS.ORG)

I am often inspired by posts at Feminism and Religion. This morning proved no different as I woke up to an email in my inbox informing me of a new post by Carol P. Christ on a debate about whether human beings may have some natural disposition towards evil impulses because it exists in divinity. Me being me, my 6am brain starting churning out thoughts on this idea.

I believe that everything that the human psyche is rooted in consists of two primary emotions that we commonly call love and fear. This is an idea that's promoted by New Age, Oprah-endorsed guru types like Gary Zukav and even modern psychologists like Athena Staik. It's not my idea nor is it really theirs, but a compartmentalization created by the human mind to deal with the forces of creation and destruction that perpetuate existence in the Universe.

So the more I started pondering these polarities of creation and destruction the more I started to see that there really aren't polarities at all. Really, both creation and destruction are forces of change and transformation without which nothing can actually come into existence. Just because our frail human minds interpret the change of destruction as something to be feared does not actually make it evil. Really, it's not optional. Destruction must be for anything to exist at all.

In the act of making a new life, egg and spermatozoa are individually destroyed in order to create something new – something with more potential than the single cells had on their own. They come together to die in order to make something bigger. This seems to me to be one of the best metaphors for conscious ego death in an “as above so below” or microcosm as macrocosm sense. The same thing happens in the Universe on grand scales of dying stars and coalescing atoms. Nothing in creation would exist if it were not for the death of something else.

I think this inherent transformational death or impermanence is something human beings understand on deep subconscious levels. This then gives rise to the very prevalent mentality of fear that inhabits our world because we identify with impermanent things such as our bodies or even our minds. Our egos are wrapped up in things that can not exist forever and that makes us terrified. This fear created out of the ignorance of our rational minds creates other negative emotions like anger, envy, and hatred.

Actually, there is nothing to fear at all. We are not our bodies or our minds but eternal souls with no end and no beginning. Our fault lies in identification with impermanent things, ideas, and states of being. We think these phenomena are us. We think we are only our physical bodies. We think we are only our minds or our thoughts. We even think we are defined by the material things that we own. When we realize that we are much more than those things or thoughts, we are on the path to being free from the fear that causes suffering and therefore the force existent in the Universe that some have called “evil”.

Evil doesn't exist. There is only love (on a much deeper level than your average Harlequin) that perpetuates change. Fear of that change (or resistance against it) causes negative forces to materialize from within the human mind. Humanity created evil and through understanding, humanity can destroy it.


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