Why talk of the Divine Feminine isn’t helping, or I WANT TO SCREAM!

By: Hedgehog
September 12, 2013

I am disturbed by the view that there even is such a thing as the divine feminine, and presumably it’s counterpart, the divine masculine. If our Heavenly Mother embodies the divine feminine, then presumably our Heavenly Father embodies the divine masculine. If they are then our role models, are we to become like them, divinely masculine or feminine? And this is where I scream.

The divine feminine is getting a lot of online attention. Julia has an ongoing project over at Poetry Sans Onions. Kimberly is running a series on connecting to Heavenly Mother over on fMh. And there’s an art competition. Then there have been numerous individual posts and comments in favour of learning more about the divine feminine.

As LDS we worship a very much embodied God, whom we describe as our Father, who has a Son. And we are taught that we are His sons and daughters too. Eliza R Snow  spoke of a Heavenly Mother recognised in the words of the hymn ‘O My Father‘, which she wrote. And that is pretty much all we think we know, though there has been plenty of speculation in the early church and now about whether there is more than one, and an image of eternal spirit-child bearing. We hear rumour and myth that we shouldn’t pray to Her, that Heavenly Father is protecting Her from us, her children.

There’s an idea of the divine feminine having been hidden in our scripture, described as Sophia or as Wisdom, and depicted by trees. That the purges of Josiah were not as at all as depicted in our CES Seminary & Institute and Sunday School courses, but served to eliminate worship of Her, as Asherah.

The current theme in our church materials would appear to be an emphasis on ‘separate but equal’ when it comes to discussing men and women. Many use the Proclamation on the Family to emphasize just that. The concept of the divine feminine as I’ve seen it discussed, even amongst those who otherwise complain about the proclamation, mostly plays right into this. The ideas that surface regularly are these:

  • Men have a much better picture of their eternal future. They have male role models to follow.
  • If we knew more about our Heavenly Mother, women would have a role model. We would know what our eternal future holds. (In other words, we would know our place!)

I am disturbed by the view that there even is such a thing as the divine feminine, and presumably it’s counterpart, the divine masculine. If our Heavenly Mother embodies the divine feminine, then presumably our Heavenly Father embodies the divine masculine. If They are then, as so defined, our role models, are we to become like them, divinely masculine or feminine? And this is where I scream.

The family proclamation describes gender as an essential and eternal characteristic. But if I’m asked to define gender I wouldn’t go along strict male-female biological lines. Elisothel had been running series of interesting posts exploring the subject on fMh.

I am a woman. I can’t say I feel any special affinity to my biology. But neither do I feel an affinity to anything else. I do have a tendency to distance myself from my body in favour of my mind, insofar as it possible to divorce the two. And my perception is one of my mind at times battling, not embracing, those female hormones. From time to time my husband will ask if I am glad to be a woman, and my answer has ever been: only because he is man.

In my ward Relief Society (which I am now attending after a lengthy break serving in primary) someone is assigned to read the Relief Society declaration most weeks*. And every time I baulk at the lines: “We are women”, “Find nobility in motherhood and joy in womanhood.” and “Sustain the priesthood as the authority of God on earth.” Yes, I’m a woman. It doesn’t define me. What do they mean by womanhood? Yes, I’m a mother. I love my children. Motherhood? That whole nobility and joy bit – visceral reaction. It isn’t that I think being a mother ignoble or being a woman joyless, not at all. Just the idea that they have become conceptualised, elevated. And that one ‘should’ feel those things about such concepts. I believe that the priesthood is the power of God, but “sustain the priesthood as the authority”? I thought priesthood   men, or so they like to tell us, yet this reads like a woman’s role is to support a church priesthood leadership structure that excludes women.

The declaration in it’s entirety smacks of forcing women into a uniform straight-jacket. I haven’t been asked to read it yet, and I don’t think I could. Couldn’t we just have stuck with the motto “Charity never faileth”?

I can only see the introduction of the divine feminine making things worse. I’m terrified of potential theological developments that could forever divide us into masculine and feminine. How is this anything other than ‘separate but equal’ on steroids? I have a permanent mental image in which I am running far far in the other direction. I want a universe where my sex or gender really does not matter, and does not define me.

I have found only a faint glimmer of light in any discussion of the divine feminine, in a podcast interview with Julene, who believes the suppression of the divine feminine was a necessary part of human development and that “the purpose of our day is to bring Her back into our consciousness”. The faint glimmer for me was this:

“Each of us have within us a male side and a female side… If we are actually engendered as a woman it is easier for us to identify with our female side. [For most people maybe.] If we are male we identify with our male side. But the task of our spiritual progress is to bring those two sides together… We are to consider ourselves both Adam and Eve. We have both of that inside ourselves. And we have the male role that needs to take precedence in certain circumstances and a female side that needs to take precedence in certain circumstances and we need to bring those together in unity and consensus.”

Faint because I had great difficulty in following her logic. It was quite a leap to get there.

Pendant based on Chalice Well, Glastonbury

In speaking of herself and her husband, Julene speaks of a necklace she wears with two overlapping circles, in which she as the feminine is one circle, and her husband as the masculine is the other circle:

“…you have one side that’s male, and one side that’s female. We have these different roles… that middle [the overlap] as we progress will get bigger and bigger until the circle is superimposed on top of eachother. That our roles are so identical there’s no difference.”

From her perspective, it would seem we need to dig up the divine feminine before we can progress beyond the masculine-feminine division.

  • Do you think the current discussions are helping or hindering?
  • Do you favour an eternal separate but equal division? If you feel this is correct, why?
  • How do you feel about the idea that we can come to find that whole for each of us, combining both masculine and feminine attributes? Is it really necessary to go through the ‘seperate but equal’ state first?

Discuss.

 

*The Young Women attend for the opening exercises on a fast Sunday, so then we are all expected to recite the YW theme instead. I’ve had a strong aversion to that since the theme was first introduced when I was a YW.

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29 Responses to Why talk of the Divine Feminine isn’t helping, or I WANT TO SCREAM!

  1. Frank Pellett on September 12, 2013 at 2:47 PM

    Ok who put hand rails on that trestle? Don’t they know they’re messing with a serious trope? What will kids do when they don’t have to run for their lives because of an unexpected train? How will our kids learn without that growth opportunity?

    Anyway, more to the post, rather than the pic . . .

    For me, I subscribe to a form of gender essentialism and complementarianism. Kind of like yin/yang. We’re working toward that balance both within ourselves and with our spouse.

    Course, I also believe the choice of Adam and Eve was just one of four possible outcomes, and that we will get things back into balance as we progress toward the perfect world. Will be interesting to see how the other worlds developed based on the choices their “Adam and Eve” made. Could there be one having as much trouble with their matriarchal history as we are with out patriarchal one?

    I think the current discussions are good, as it gets us thinking about the possibilities. I don’t think seperate but equal is quite right (as it mainly inferrs the never equal use in the civil rights era of the mid 20th century), but I don’t think we’re moving toward all being the same. I think we need that opposition, that difference, to truly grow.

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  2. Tom Irvine on September 12, 2013 at 3:41 PM

    I like the Taoist yin & yang model…

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  3. Steve on September 12, 2013 at 3:52 PM

    Margaret Barker talks about this subject. USU hosted a conference featuring her and others on such topics last year and I believe they will continue in the future.

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  4. IDIAT on September 12, 2013 at 4:11 PM

    Current discussions: just a bunch of wild speculation at this point. I want a First Vision type of revelation on Heavenly Mother.
    Eternal separate but equal? Yes but unified the same way Christ says He and the Father are one. There wouldn’t have been much sense in us being (mostly) male and female during this earh life if we weren’t that way in the premortal life. We could have been created with all parts necessary to procreate by ourselves (forgot technical term for that) and skipped this whole couples stuff.
    Finding ourselves: I think, just as in earthly life we inherit traits from both parents, similarly we have spiritual traits from both Heavenly Parents. As much as I would like to attribute some traits to social and environmental programming or even evolutionary biology, it just seems that most males are different than most females. But there is plenty of overlap so that we can draw upon all that is divine within us.
    Finally, if none of this is true, it really wreaks havoc with our understanding of the Plan of Salvation.

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  5. honey on September 12, 2013 at 4:27 PM

    We have a role model, Jesus Christ. He is the role model for us all. Why isn’t He enough?

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  6. Phil on September 12, 2013 at 4:41 PM

    Honey:
    Because that’s not good enough for feminism. You have the FMH website that encourages goddess worship, which is forbidden. So how do you satisfy this need to know Heavenly Mother and not venture into the dark side of goddess worship? No idea.

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  7. Steve on September 12, 2013 at 4:44 PM

    Is it permitted to pray/talk to Her? is it permitted to suggest others do this?

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  8. nate on September 12, 2013 at 5:31 PM

    Obvious distracting biological organs aside, I think it’s true that we all have both masculine and feminine traits. You might say the average man is 80% masculine and 20% feminine. He likes hunting, but maybe knows how to sew a button. A gay man might be 80% feminine and 20% masculine.

    As a man, cultivating the feminine seems like a good idea: becoming more nurturing, detail oriented. A woman might profit by taking up kickboxing.

    And if you imagine a perfect being, like God, you would imagine that He is the greatest stock car racer, and the greatest multi-tasker. It is not a question of God being 80% masculine and 20% feminine. There are no percentages in infinity. God would hold all those traits to an infinite degree.

    I would guess, examining the nature of Eternity and infinity, that masculine and feminine divisions are some kind of temporary, local state. Particularly since the division of these traits seems to be so mixed and uneven to begin with, with gays and bisexuals and the like.

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  9. hawkgrrrl on September 12, 2013 at 5:35 PM

    Steve, most bloggers are careful of this distinction not to advocate anything the church has outlawed and explicitly don’t encourage others to do so. But what a sad state of affairs when our Heavenly Mother is so disparaged and closeted away. I have always thought of her as Eleanor of Aquitane, a wife and mother in exile. I don’t know how else I could think of her. We have been given no information, then prohibited from talking about what we know nothing about.

    I believe we are going to see a corner turned on one thing: referring to Heavenly Parents, not just Heavenly Father. There was already a beginning trend of this in the last Gen Conf. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

    Back to Hedgehog’s actual post.

    I agree that it’s difficult to relate to the male / female separation at church. It is nothing like real life in my experience. People don’t primarily relate to me as a “woman” although I am one. How much I have in common with another person has almost nothing to do with that person’s sex. I truly dislike repeating mantras like the YW theme, and we haven’t recited the RS theme in my wards for about a decade. I just think it sounds like we are cub scouts reciting the scout oath or something. It’s a strange ritual to me, and I don’t relate to large parts of both themes.

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  10. Steve on September 12, 2013 at 5:54 PM

    Joseph repeatedly said he had so much to teach the Saints, if only they could stand it. Maybe the truth on these matters is included in what he was prohibited from saying.

    Nephi was prohibited from detailing parts of the vision he received. But some say that he used the Isaiah passages to teach the very same thing. Perhaps we could learn and share what we read from older cultures, who had more to openly say about Her.

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  11. hawkgrrrl on September 12, 2013 at 6:41 PM

    Steve, perhaps you missed my post on this topic: http://www.wheatandtares.org/10529/the-plan-of-asherah/

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  12. Moss on September 12, 2013 at 8:06 PM

    I read that an early Hebrew translation of the Adam and Eve story ‘rib’ meant ‘side’. Some believed that the original Adam encapsulated the masculine and feminine, and the creation of Eve involved taking out the side of him that was female. I thought this was an interesting way to think about it and it ties in nicely with Julene’s quotes.

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  13. JennyP1969 on September 12, 2013 at 10:08 PM

    I don’t mind the talk, but understand that we’re all different. I like thinking about Heavenly Mother, who is the Divine Feminine and supreme Goddess who is omniscient and omnipotent. She is One with Heavenly Father. Neither of them could be all-knowing if they didn’t fully understand and embrace their quieter-side gender. The Savior descended below all sins and sorrows in Gethsemane, so He had to know what it feels like to go through all things female, as well as male. Men often say they can’t fathom the female mind, but our Parents and Savior do so perfectly. I have no doubt that HM understands Her husband and sons thoroughly perfectly. And both the Father and Son understand Her and all women everywhere.

    To those who denounce worshipping Her, I ask why wouldn’t we worship Her? HF does. They are One. I personally feel you can’t worship the One without the Other. I’ve had choice experiences with Them. One experience, in particular was truly profound. I can’t share these things because I’ve learned through sad experience that one person’s spiritual experience is another’s deception by the devil. So no way will I put these cherished treasures out there for some to trash.

    But I do encourage all of us to be mindful of Her with the utmost reverence and respect. She deserves far more than our very best thoughts, yet most never consider Her at all. They raised us, nurtured us, and prepared us to come to this estate where She has been erased. How utterly appalling. Our finest love and worship are not worthy of what They deserve.

    We rather easily take the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for granted, yet worship Them. We revere our prophets and apostles. But our Mother is barely a speck, if that, on the “windmills of our minds.” Though we all have mothers or are mothers or are married to the mother of our children, we excuse our individual culpability in erasing her from our minds and hearts by saying unholy things such as we don’t know much about her or she’s too sacred to even think of. What a truly cruel thing to do to our Beloved Mom. When you think about it like that it becomes much more natural to find our own personal path into Her precious, precious arms.

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  14. Hedgehog on September 13, 2013 at 1:51 AM

    Frank #1: “Course, I also believe the choice of Adam and Eve was just one of four possible outcomes, and that we will get things back into balance as we progress toward the perfect world. Will be interesting to see how the other worlds developed based on the choices their “Adam and Eve” made. Could there be one having as much trouble with their matriarchal history as we are with out patriarchal one?”
    I find myself wondering the same things.
    Why is it Satan has the interesting lines?

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  15. Hedgehog on September 13, 2013 at 2:00 AM

    Steve #3
    I can cope with the historical, at a distance, dispassionate analysis. However I came across this announcement yesterday for this years conference:
    http://www.heavenlyascents.com/2013/09/11/conference-the-lady-of-the-temple-examining-the-divine-feminine-in-the-judeo-christian-tradition/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+HeavenlyAscents+%28Heavenly+Ascents%29

    It’s the description for the final presentation in which “She [Valerie Hudson] will comment on the other papers, examine them in light of her perspective on LDS teachings about Mother in Heaven, and explore their implications in the wider world religious community.” that really scares me. I don’t like her perspective at all.

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  16. Hedgehog on September 13, 2013 at 2:08 AM

    Just to qualify the above – not that Valerie Hudson isn’t entitled to her views, but it is her views that are gaining traction with the church leadership. That’s what is so scary.

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  17. Hedgehog on September 13, 2013 at 2:21 AM

    Tom #2, Perhaps I ought to read more about yin/yang. What do you like about it?

    IDIAT #4, I’m glad you acknowledge there’s overlap.

    Honey #5 Yes!

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  18. Hedgehog on September 13, 2013 at 2:38 AM

    Nate #8, Great comment. I especially liked:
    “It is not a question of God being 80% masculine and 20% feminine. There are no percentages in infinity. God would hold all those traits to an infinite degree.
    I would guess, examining the nature of Eternity and infinity, that masculine and feminine divisions are some kind of temporary, local state. Particularly since the division of these traits seems to be so mixed and uneven to begin with, with gays and bisexuals and the like.”

    Yes. I’ve found it very confusing to see the very same people, who are great advocates for the LGBT community, revelling in the whole divine feminine, and not addressing, or even seeming to be aware of, the problems I see with the concept of an eternal gender divide for those groups particularly. Did I miss something?

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  19. nate on September 13, 2013 at 3:17 AM

    Hedgehog, rethinking what I’d written, for the sake of current LDS doctrine, I don’t want to suggest that gender is not eternal, inasmuch as gender represents the arbitrary assignation of a penis or vagina to a mortal or ressurected body. But I do think that masculine and feminine traits could both be manifest to an infinite degree in a God, and that God would understand intimately what it feels like to be a woman, and thus is, on some dimension, the embodiment of both the divine feminine and the divine masculine.

    One might also speculate that God as we pray to Him/Her could be a plural, man/woman team, but one that was so unified that their identity is really a single whole. I don’t know.

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  20. nate on September 13, 2013 at 3:24 AM

    Hedgehog, rethinking what I’d written, for the sake of current LDS doctrine, I don’t want to suggest that gender is not eternal, inasmuch as gender represents the arbitrary assignation of a penis or vagina to a mortal or ressurected body. But I do think that masculine and feminine traits could both be manifest to an infinite degree in a God, and that God would understand intimately what it feels like to be a woman, and thus is, on some dimension, the embodiment of both the divine feminine and the divine masculine. Bisexuality as an eternal ideal of divine understanding, (though not sexual practice)

    One might also speculate that God as we pray to Him/Her could be a plural, man/woman team, but one that was so unified that their identity is really a single whole. I can think that when we pray to God, it is inclusive of Heavenly Mother.

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  21. tomirvine999 on September 13, 2013 at 6:27 AM

    Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee.
    Blessed art thou amongst women,
    and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
    Holy Mary, Mother of God,
    pray for us sinners,
    now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

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  22. Frank Pellett on September 13, 2013 at 10:58 AM

    Hedgehog #14(?) (warning, slight side track, temple talk)I know, such good stuff all through. For this, I found the line, “I am doing what has been done on other worlds, giving the fruit of good and evil to them”. So that means on other worlds, Adam and Eve waited til someone gave them the fruit, meaning they wouldn’t have been stuck there forever if they did not disobey, and that someone was not punished for it as Satan was, meaning it was supposed to happen that way. It’s a bit against the current cultural thought to think that A&E did not need to disobey to leave the garden, but for me, it’s the only explanation that fits.

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  23. Steve on September 13, 2013 at 12:30 PM

    I have heard that the commandment re: the fruit they ate was a matter of timing and that eventually they would have been able to partake. Also I figure that everything Lucifer says is a lie.

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  24. Tom Irvine on September 13, 2013 at 2:52 PM

    Conventional-doctrinal-type-wisdom is that Adam and Eve transgressed by partaking of the forbidden fruit. My alternate-worldview perspective is that the real transgression was failing to take responsibility for their actions and instead blaming others. Adam blamed Eve, who in turn blamed the serpent.

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  25. Hedgehog on September 14, 2013 at 4:57 AM

    hawkgrrrl #9,
    “I agree that it’s difficult to relate to the male / female separation at church. It is nothing like real life in my experience. People don’t primarily relate to me as a “woman” although I am one. How much I have in common with another person has almost nothing to do with that person’s sex. I truly dislike repeating mantras like the YW theme, and we haven’t recited the RS theme in my wards for about a decade. I just think it sounds like we are cub scouts reciting the scout oath or something. It’s a strange ritual to me, and I don’t relate to large parts of both themes.”

    I felt alien in YW, and feel alien in RS.

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  26. Hedgehog on September 14, 2013 at 5:02 AM

    Moss #12. I like the side by side reading.

    Jenny #13. I’ve read a number of personal comments on the blogs by those who seem to relish the idea of the divine feminine. I can see they feel moved, but it is all way outside my experience. I just don’t like the division – in your comment you refer to the female mind, as if there is such a thing. I find it all so alien.

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  27. Hedgehog on September 14, 2013 at 5:09 AM

    Nate: “I can think that when we pray to God, it is inclusive of Heavenly Mother.”
    I guess.

    Frank #22: No worries. That’s the phrase I was thinking of. Glad I’m not the only one to ponder it.

    Steve #23: “Also I figure that everything Lucifer says is a lie.”
    Well, not quite. More half truths when it came to his description of what would happen on eating the fruit I think.

    Tom #24: That’s really interesting. I’d heard the view expressed before that Eve had been laying the blame, but the speaker was arguing Adam hadn’t, which I thought outrageous, because it certainly sounded like he was to me. The idea that both of them failing to take responsibility for their actions – standing up and saying, ‘yes I decided to so this, and this is why’ in a positive way, is quite compelling.

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  28. Thomas Parkin on September 14, 2013 at 12:26 PM

    I personally believe our model of divinity, in this life, is Jesus. We come to understand not only the Father but also the Mother by knowing Jesus. He seems to me a complete model for both men and women. His gender is therefore inessential.

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  29. CEF on September 18, 2013 at 11:45 AM

    I am not sure just what it would mean to be male in a universe without a female. What purpose would it serve? If God has always existed as God, then I seriously doubt He has a navel and is neither male or female. Just my opinion. :)

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