Reestablishing the Feminine in Godhead: The Role of the Mother Goddess in Spirituality

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Angela

By Angela Pritchard

Today, the predominant view of God in the Western world and in many other cultures is as a male e.g. the Christian Trinity.

Although supreme deities are sometimes portrayed as having feminine attributes and as genderless, there has been an obvious bias toward masculinity. This has many consequences, intended or otherwise, in the understanding of the female aspect of creation and women’s place in the world.

Looking back through history, is it any wonder that male dominated religions have also created male dominated societies? That women were restricted from entering temples, from being instructed in spirituality, from holding positions of authority in religion, and even having a right to speak and hold authority in society?

Holy Trinity by Fridolin Leiber

Does something look not quite right here? Creation without a female? The Holy Trinity is often depicted as three men.

This injustice toward women is actually the result of a massive cover up, which has come to light as more and more ancient Christian texts have been discovered over approximately the last 200 years revealing that women were treated by Jesus as being equally important as men in society and religion and that the feminine is part of Godhead, just as the masculine. This same understanding existed in the sacred texts of the ancient Egyptians, the Vedic scriptures and those of the ancient Chinese amongst many others.

The feminine is a great mystery of life—she exists throughout the cosmos, and in our own inner divine nature. She is the essential half of the positive/negative forces of creation (the yin and yang). Jesus taught about the feminine as part of Godhead, but these teachings were excluded from the Bible. Instead the common concept of God and of women in society has been based on the ideas of powerful groups of men who created and sustained male dominated societies for thousands of years which Western culture inherited through orthodox religions.

CONTENTS
Where Did The Male Perception of God in Western Culture Come From?
Godhead in Christianity Gains Ground as Being All Male at The Council of Nicaea
The Holy Spirit as Female?
Texts Referring to Female as Part of Godhead Excluded from the Bible
Paul Perpetuates Society’s View on Women
Jesus on Women in the Bible
Jesus Describes the Mother in The Essene Gospel of Peace
Women in The Gospel of Mary
Women and the Mother in the Pistis Sophia
Women and the Mother in The Acts of Thomas
The Female as Integral to Creation in Ancient Spiritual Teachings
The Mother as Divine Cosmic Order
The Mother as Personal to Us In the Spiritual Work of Enlightenment
The Mother Goddess and the Feminine in Spirituality

Where Did The Male Perception of God in Western Culture Come From?

Creation of the Sun and Moon by Michelangelo

The archetypal view of God in Western culture.

Western nations were founded and have developed through the influence of the Christian religion over almost two thousand years. The affect of this cannot be ignored. Whilst spiritual beliefs in Western culture have appeared to shift toward atheism, multiculturalism and the new age, Christianity remains a dominant force, and the institutions and structures of society which formed through Christianity still largely remain today.

The basis of Christian doctrine is the Bible which is comprised mostly of texts that enumerate a male dominated world view and refer to Godhead as being male. Although viewed by many as a book about Jesus, his words comprise a tiny amount of its actual volume, which consists mostly of the Old Testament (a collection of Judaic texts) and material by Paul. What we have as the Bible today formed over a number of centuries as a compilation of various texts put together by men in completely male dominated societies.  Irenaeus, the 2nd century Church Father who penned the work Against Heresies that attacked the followers of Jesus’ secret and esoteric teachings, cited 21 books that would eventually officially end up as part of the New Testament, and by the second century AD most of the writings that formed the New Testament were accepted by almost all major Christian authorities.

Scores of other texts which emerged from the teachings of Jesus and his disciples were banned, burned, and buried in a campaign of suppression against the real message of Jesus. Instead, much of the Bible was based on Jewish society which discriminated against women and Paul in his writings, perpetuated their inferior treatment.

From the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance:

Women in ancient Israel:
Women’s status and freedoms were severely limited by Jewish law and custom in ancient Israel, as they were in essentially all other cultures at the time. Generally speaking:

  • most were restricted to roles of little or no authority,
  • they were largely confined to their father’s or husband’s home,
  • they were considered to be inferior to men, and under the authority of men — either their father before marriage, or their husband afterwards.

From the Second Temple period, women were not allowed to testify in court trials. They could not go out in public, or talk to strangers. When outside of their homes, they were to be doubly veiled. “They had become second-class Jews, excluded from the worship and teaching of God, with status scarcely above that of slaves.” 1 Their position in society was defined in the Hebrew Scriptures and in the interpretation of those scriptures. More details.

Godhead in Christianity Gains Ground as Being All Male at The Council of Nicaea

The First Council of Nicaea

A depiction of the Council of Nicaea – no women attended.

Later, at The Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, the exclusion of the feminine from Godhead was solidified. The council was a convention of Christian male bishops brought together by Constantine, the Emperor of Rome who converted to Christianity. It was a turning point in Western culture, as it was instrumental in defining the Christian religion as we know it today and its dominance in the Western world. Christianity eventually became the official religion of Rome in 380 AD, and this union formed the basis of Roman society which consequently had powerful influences on the cultural development of the West. Today, the Roman Catholic Church is still the largest Christian church, with over 1 billion members worldwide.

It was here that the idea of a male only Godhead really gained ground (later to become fully defined as the Trinity at the Council of Constantinople in 360 AD) as the relationship between the Son and the Father was decreed. The Council had two arguments about how the Son had been created. One was that he was begotten by the Father from his own being, and the other that he was created as all creatures, out of nothing. Both ignored the role of the cosmic Mother in the process of creation—completely at odds with the principles of the natural world. In the end it was decided that the first argument was correct, and thus Christianity was left with the view that the Father created the Son from his Holy Spirit, with Mary as its human instrument.

The Holy Spirit as Female?

Since 360 AD, Godhead in the Christian religion has officially been seen as the Trinity comprising of three aspects of God, being Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These aspects were interpreted as belonging to the one being which was predominantly viewed as male, and thus were referred to with the male pronoun HE in the Bible. But how much of this could be due to male dominated social attitudes combined with interpretations during translation?

The four gospels of the Bible were discovered in Greek, whereas most believe that Jesus spoke in Aramaic. Is it possible that Jesus intended the Holy Spirit to represent the female aspect of creation, as the word spirit in Aramaic is feminine?

As support for this, there were many other early Christian texts that were excluded from the Bible even though they were also attributed to the disciples and contained the teachings of Jesus. In texts such as the Pistis Sophia, The Acts of Thomas and The Gospel of Phillip, the Holy Spirit is identified with the great Mother (as explored further below). Additionally, they contain clear references to the Mother as part of Godhead, along with the Father and Son.

Some said, “Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit.” They are in error. They do not know what they are saying. When did a woman ever conceive by a woman? Mary is the virgin whom no power defiled. She is a great anathema to the Hebrews, who are the apostles and the apostolic men. This virgin whom no power defiled [...] the powers defile themselves. And the Lord would not have said “My Father who is in Heaven” (Mt 16:17), unless he had had another father, but he would have said simply “My father”.
~ The Gospel of Phillip, The Nag Hammadi Library

The Holy Spirit was also referred to as female in a Jewish text called The Wisdom of Solomon, dated to the first century BC and not included in the Bible. In this text the female is identified as wisdom and the feminine aspect of Godhead.

It looks likely that the Holy Spirit was used as a term to replace the Mother and was changed from being female to male, and thus the all male Trinity became established in Christianity.

Texts Referring to Female as Part of Godhead Excluded from the Bible

The Coronation of the Virgin by Diego Velázquez

Mary as mother of Jesus is crowned, but seated safely below all the male aspects of Godhead. Concepts of Mother Goddess worship are condemned by the Holy See.

Is it any coincidence that all of the texts containing any references to the female as part of Godhead were excluded from the Bible? Instead, the Bible comprises mainly of the Old Testament (a collection of Judaic works), material by Paul, and select teachings of Jesus. The Judaic religion had formed the basis of the male dominated society which Jesus came into, and was based on a monotheistic God manifest predominantly as male. This society continued, and so it appears that most of the books of early Christianity which were esoteric and did not align to this tradition, were actually banned and excluded from the Bible.

The Gospel of Mary was such a text; it reveals a very different view of women than the texts of Paul—perhaps being one of the reasons it was left out. The four gospels themselves are also very likely to have been tampered with, leaving only what was seen as acceptable to the powerful men meeting behind closed doors.

Whilst the Christian Mary (the mother of Jesus) is seen as divine and having a sacred role of giving birth, the important difference is that she is not included in Godhead, but is its instrument. Mary Magdalene, Jesus’ most famous female disciple, was later depicted by the church as a repentant prostitute, whilst no references in the Bible to her being a prostitute exist. This understanding of women has infiltrated not only the perception of divinity, but also the very structure of Western society.

Paul Perpetuates Society’s View on Women

Paul de Tarse by Rembrandt

A rendition of Paul writing. Perhaps having no contact with Jesus, nor the disciples who were in disagreement with him, Paul was never exposed to Jesus’ view on women and just perpetuated the male dominated social view of the time.

Society and religion at the time of Jesus was already completely male dominated, and there were influences that wanted to keep it that way. As we will see further below, the actual teachings of Jesus about the female aspect of Godhead were suppressed and kept out of the Bible. Instead, the teachings of Paul, who never met Jesus and was not one of his disciples, were piled into the New Testament.

Much of the basis that formed the understanding of gender roles in Western culture actually stems from the writings of Paul who perpetuated the already entrenched view of a male dominated society. In the texts of the New Testament, Paul makes statements which need little introduction, such as:

“But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.”
Paul ~ I Corinthians 11:3

“For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.”
Paul ~ I Corinthians 11:8-9

“Let the women learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.”
Paul ~ I Timothy 2:11-14

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.”
Paul ~ Ephesians 5:22-24

“Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.”
Paul ~ I Corinthians 14:34-35

These are some examples. The words of Paul came to have such a powerful influence over Western society as the Bible ends with the following statement:

For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
~ Revelation 22:18-21

This statement has been interpreted as saying that the Bible in its entirety it is the infallible word of God. Therefore, this effectively gave Paul and the writings of the Old Testament the same authority as the words of Jesus. What position did that leave women in other than to submit to the absolute authority of men and occupy a small scope within society that men allowed them to occupy? They were faced with arguing against the supposed divine word of the Lord himself and worse, to be seen as blasphemous for violating it. In fact the book of Revelation was never written as part of the Bible; it was a separate text that originally wasn’t even included, and therefore the reference at the end refers to the book of Revelation itself and not to the Bible.

Jesus on Women in the Bible

Instead, in the few words left of Jesus we have left in the Bible, he shows equality toward women—something revolutionary at a time when society only gave women restricted access to the Temple of Jerusalem, were not be spoken to by men who were not their husband in public nor instructed in matters of theology by a Rabbi, and were generally prohibited from taking roles of authority. Jesus had women disciples and was supported financially by women. Here Wikipedia gives a very good overview of Jesus’ interactions with women in the four gospels and the Ontario Consultants on Religious Intolerance give another on the radical treatment of women by Jesus .

Following are just two examples from the Bible of Jesus teaching women in their own right.

Jesus Talks to the Samaritan Woman

Woman at the Well by Carl Heinrich Bloch

Jesus stops to talk to the Samaritan woman, despite the social rules of the day.

Jesus stops and talks to a Samaritan woman – when talking to a Samaritan, let alone a woman, was against social custom:

The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”
~ The Gospel of John 4:25-27

Mary Leaves Her Work in the Home to Listen to Jesus

Jesus at the home of Martha and Mary by Harold Copping

Martha tries to pressure Mary into helping her in the kitchen, but Jesus says she can and should stay to listen to his spiritual teaching which was more important.

Below Jesus tells Martha that Mary has made the right choice to receive his spiritual teaching rather than work in the kitchen:

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
~ Luke 10:38-42

However, despite Jesus’ stance of equality toward women, there is no clear reference to any feminine force in Godhead in the Bible. But its unclear just how much the words of Jesus themselves were tampered with to take it out. A number of early Christian texts that have surfaced that reveal more about Jesus’ views towards women—these are The Essene Gospel of Peace, The Gospel of Mary, The Acts of Thomas, The Gospel of Phillip, and The Gospel of Thomas, and probably many others.

Jesus Describes the Mother in The Essene Gospel of Peace

The Essene Gospel of Peace is an early Christian text containing teachings of Jesus, which a man called Edmund Bordeaux Szekely claimed to have discovered in 1923 whilst researching in the Vatican Library. He later produced and released its translation. Although written off as a hoax by many, the authenticity of much of its spiritual message is impossible to ignore. It is also entirely possible that the Vatican Library contains a cache of the esoteric texts it banned as heresy, and that The Essene Gospel of Peace may be just one of many.

It’s likely that it’s a collection of different texts compiled together as one document to spread and protect them from destruction by the church authorities. Once again, it is hard to say whether or not it too has been partially tampered with as it incorporates fragments from the New Testament, indicating that its unlikely to be the word-for-word verbatim of Jesus, but was written down based on his teachings and pulled together from various sources—some perhaps more reliable than others. Even so, it may give us a glimpse of the magnitude of the teachings Jesus gave about the female aspect of Godhead that were stripped out of the Bible and banned.

Whilst the writings of Paul in the Bible dogmatically set out rules for the behavior of women and their place in the divine hierarchy, The Essene Gospel of Peace speaks about a completely different way of understanding—which says that understanding is not gained through reading the scriptures that are created by men, but through self-knowledge and the living perception of the principles of creation.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau The Madonna of the RosesIn everything that is life is the law written. You find it in the grass, in the tree, in the river, in the mountain, in the birds of heaven, in the fishes of the sea; but seek it chiefly in yourselves. For I tell you truly, all living things are nearer to God than the scripture which is without life. God so made life and all living things that they might by the everlasting word teach the laws of the true God to man. God wrote not the laws in the pages of books, but in your heart and in your spirit. They are in your breath, your blood, your bone; in your flesh, your bowels, your eyes, your ears, and in every little part of your body. They are present in the air, in the water, in the earth, in the plants, in the sunbeams, in the depths and in the heights. They all speak to you that you may understand the tongue and the will of the living God. But you shut your eyes that you may not see, and you shut your ears that you may not hear. I tell you truly, that the scripture is the work of man, but life and all its hosts are the work of our God. Wherefore do you not listen to the words of God which are written in His works? And wherefore do you study the dead scriptures which are the work of the hands of men?
~ The Essene Gospel of Peace

In the natural world creation can only take place with the cooperation of male and female. Neither one can create without the other, nor would either exist without each other. The view of a male only creative Godhead flies not only in the face of our understanding of the natural world, but also in the face of some of the most ancient accounts of creation in sacred Egyptian, Vedic, and Mesoamerican sources,  and even in the words of Jesus himself.

The Essene Gospel of Peace refers to Father, Mother and Son as the three aspects of Godhead, fully recognizing the female force of creation in her rightful place.

FOR YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER IS LOVE.
FOR YOUR EARTHLY MOTHER IS LOVE.
FOR THE SON OF MAN IS LOVE.
It is by love, that the Heavenly Father and the Earthly Mother and the Son of Man become one.
~ The Essene Gospel of Peace

I tell you truly, you are one with the Earthly Mother; she is in you, and you in her. Of her were you born, in her do you live, and to her shall you return again.
~ The Essene Gospel of Peace

For-I tell you truly, from one Mother proceeds all that lives upon the earth. Therefore, he who kills, kills his brother. And from him will the Earthly Mother turn away, and will pluck from him her quickening breasts.
~ The Essene Gospel of Peace

And just as the roots of the tree
Sink into the earth and are nourished,
And the branches of the tree
Raise their arms to heaven,
So is man like the trunk of the tree,
With his roots deep
In the breast of his Earthly Mother,
And his soul ascending
To the bright stars of his Heavenly Father.
And the roots of the tree
Are the Angels of the Earthly Mother,
And the branches of the tree
Are the Angels of the Heavenly Father.
And this is the sacred Tree of Life
Which stands in the Sea of Eternity.
~ The Essene Gospel of Peace

Women in The Gospel of Mary

The 70 Apostles of Jesus

The supposed 70 apostles of Jesus. Hmm, no women in here… Perhaps they overlooked the references to Jesus having women disciples?

The Gospel of Mary is an ancient Christian text that has been ascribed to Mary Magdalene, and surfaced in 1896. In it, Mary emerges as holding a high status amongst the apostles, and receiving divine revelations from Jesus which she then passes on to the disciples. However, she meets with disapproval from Peter because she is a woman.

Levi admonishes Peter for potentially excluding women, as Jesus had told the disciples not to create any further laws than the ones he gave, and nowhere had Jesus made any laws regarding the discrimination against sexes (or others concerning race, class etc.). This creation of further laws apart from the ones Jesus gave was a mistake that Paul later made, and which resulted in a distortion of Jesus’ message. This is how much of the dogma regarding the role of women in Western society was created, where in reality in Jesus’ actual teachings it simply doesn’t exist.

Peter also opposed her [Mary Magdalene] in regard to these matters and asked them about the Savior. “Did he then speak secretly with a woman, in preference to us, and not openly? Are we to turn back and all listen to her? Did he prefer her to us?”
Then Mary grieved and said to Peter, “My brother Peter, what do you think? Do you think that I thought this up myself in my heart or that I am lying concerning the Savior?”
Levi answered and said to Peter, “Peter, you are always irate. Now I see that you are contending against the woman like the adversaries. But if the Savior made her worthy, who are you to reject her? Surely the Savior knew her very well. For this reason he loved her more than us. And we should rather be ashamed and put on the Perfect Man, to form us [?] as he commanded us, and proclaim the gospel, without publishing a further commandment or a further law than the one which the Savior spoke.”
~ The Gospel of Mary

Women and the Mother in the Pistis Sophia

Paintings like this which span the two thousand year long history of Christianity, reinforce again and again that the disciples of Jesus were male only. Images such as this would have been more accurate if they had included women.

Paintings like this which span the two thousand year long history of Christianity, reinforce again and again that the disciples of Jesus were male only. Images such as this would have been more accurate if they had included women.

The Pistis Sophia is an ancient Christian text believed to have been written as early as the 2nd century AD but only discovered in 1773, after it was suppressed by the Church. It contains incredibly esoteric and complex teachings given to the disciples by the resurrected Jesus. In it, the female plays a central role: the Mother goddess is given various titles and her role in the universe is described, particularly as the Virgin of Light who judges the soul after death; Jesus discourses extensively throughout the text with a number of female disciples, such as Mary Magdalene, his mother Mary, Martha and Salome; and Mary Magdalene stands out as perhaps the most vocal and advanced of the disciples, taking part with the men just as other women disciples in the various esoteric discussions and mystic rites throughout the text (so much so that Peter actually complains to Jesus that she is taking too much time from the men!).

Mary, thou blessed one, whom I will perfect in all mysteries of those of the height, discourse in openness, thou, whose heart is raised to the kingdom of heaven more than all they brethren.
~ Jesus to Mary Magdalene in the Pistis Sophia

It came to pass when Mary had finished saying these words, that the Saviour was greatly astonished at the definition of the words which she spoke, for she had become pure spirit utterly.
~ reference to Mary Magdalene in the Pistis Sophia

On this account I have said to you aforetime: ‘Where I shall be there will be also my twelve ministers.’ But Mary Magdalene and John, the virgin, will tower over all my disciples and over all men who shall receive the mysteries in the Ineffable. And they will be on my right and on my left. And I am they and they are I.
~ Jesus, the Pistis Sophia

Mary, host received form which is in Barbelo, according to matter, and host received likeness which is in the Virgin of Light, according to light, thou and the other Mary, the blessed one and on thy account darkness hath arisen, and moreover out of thee did come forth the material body in which I am…
~ Jesus describes to his mother Mary in the Pistis Sophia how she has the likeness of the Virgin of Light, the Mother of the universe, as this is what she symbolically represents and who gives us our body

Women and the Mother in The Acts of Thomas

This 3rd century text is rejected by mainstream Christianity, and was officially labeled heretical by the Catholic Church. It was written in Syria where it looks like the arm of the Church did not fully extend to wipe out the original teachings of Jesus and the disciples on women and the Mother. It follows the mission of Judas Thomas to give the teaching in India, and contains references to the Mother in Godhead, to the Holy Spirit as female—equating it with the Mother, and equality toward women.

Come, thou holy name of the Christ that is above every name.
Come, thou power of the Most High, and the compassion that is perfect.
Come, gift (charism) of the Most High.
Come, compassionate mother.
Come, communion of the male.
Come, she that revealeth the hidden mysteries.
Come, mother of the seven houses, that thy rest may be in the eighth house.
Come, elder of the five members, mind, thought, reflection, consideration, reason; communicate with these young men.
Come, holy spirit, and cleanse their reins and their heart, and give them the added seal, in the name of the Father and Son and Holy Ghost.
~ The Acts of Thomas

[…] we glorify and praise thee and thine invisible Father and thine holy spirit [and] the mother of all creation.
~ The Acts of Thomas

And he began to say: Come, O perfect compassion, Come O communion of the male, Come, she that knoweth the mysteries of him that is chosen, Come, she that hath part in all the combats of the noble champion (athlete), Come, the silence that revealeth the great things of the whole greatness, Come, she that manifesteth the hidden things and maketh the unspeakable things plain, the holy dove that beareth the twin young, Come, the hidden mother, Come, she that is manifest in her deeds and giveth joy and rest unto them that are joined unto her: Come and communicate with us in this eucharist which we celebrate in thy name and in the love-feast wherein we are gathered together at thy calling. (Syr. has other clauses and not few variants.) And having so said he marked out the cross upon the bread, and brake it, and began to distribute it. And first he gave unto the woman, saying: This shall be unto thee for remission of sins and eternal transgressions (Syr. and for the everlasting resurrection). And after her he gave unto all the others also which had received the seal (Syr. and said to them: Let this eucharist be unto you for life and rest, and not for judgement and vengeance. And they said, Amen. Cf. 29 fin.).
~ The Acts of Thomas

Bread of life, the which who eat abide incorruptible: Bread that filleth the hungry souls with the blessing thereof: thou art he that vouchsafest to receive a gift, that thou mayest become unto us remission of sins, and that they who eat thee may become immortal: we invoke upon thee the name of the mother, of the unspeakable mystery of the hidden powers and authorities (? we name the name of the unspeakable mystery, that is hidden from all &c.).
~ The Acts of Thomas

And they have glorified and praised with the living spirit, the Father of truth and the mother of wisdom.
~ The Acts of Thomas

From Us — King of Kings, thy Father,
And thy Mother, Queen of the Dawn-land,

And from Our Second, thy Brother —
To thee, Son, down in Egypt, Our Greeting!

Up an arise from thy sleep,
Give ear to the words of Our Letter!

Remember that thou art a King’s son;
See whom thou hast served in thy slavedom.

Bethink thyself of the Pearl
For which thou didst journey to Egypt.
~ From the Hymn of the Peal in The Acts of Thomas

The Female as Integral to Creation in Ancient Spiritual Teachings

Man and woman creating from their union in alchemy

In this medieval illustration of alchemy the union of man and woman creates the spiritual – both are needed. The grail symbolizing the female sexual organs, and the lingam the male sexual organs. Likewise nature and the divine cosmic process of creation follow the same principles, which was coined by the phrase “as above, so below”.

Going back to the earliest account of creation in ancient Egypt, we find the source of Mother and Father, of female and male, as a genderless Being called Atum, and the female as integral to creation as the embodiment of divine cosmic order.

In Egyptian creation it is said that in the beginning Atum, the Being of the Being, the great self-manifested androgynous creator, sometimes called “the Great He-She”, brought into existence the first gods. They were life, the male, and order, the female. The male was known as “Shu” and the female as “Tefnut”. Likewise in ancient Vedic accounts, the unknowable and genderless Brahman creates through the female Prakriti (matter), and male Purusha (spirit).

Both life and order are necessary for existence and are complimentary—without life, order is meaningless, and without order, life is unable to establish itself, being only chaos. The spirit of life fecundates the chaos of creation (the primordial waters/the womb) and the mother in her womb gives that life shape, order and form.

In ancient Hinduism, the female aspect of Godhead is known as Prakriti and also as Shakti. The descriptions of these goddesses give some idea of how immense and essential the female is to all of creation.

From Wikipedia:
“The primordial feminine creative-preservative-destructive energy, Shakti, is considered to be the motive force behind all action and existence in the phenomenal cosmos. The cosmos itself is Shiva or Purusha, the unchanging, infinite, immanent, and transcendent reality that is the Divine Ground of all being, the “world soul”. This masculine potential is actualized by feminine dynamism, embodied in multitudinous goddesses who are ultimately all manifestations of the One Great Mother. Mother Maya or Shakti, herself, can free the individual from demons of ego, ignorance, and desire that bind the soul in maya (illusion).”

The Hindu goddess Kali standing on the god Shiva

A painting of the Hindu goddess Kali standing on the god Shiva. Kali is a manifestation of the goddess Durga, and both are identified with Shakti. Shakti here is dynamic forces and Shiva resting symbolizes the unchanging divine ground of all being. These images of divine femininity contrast sharply with images of women in Christianity.

In ancient Hinduism it is said that Prakriti is the “primal motive force” of the universe, and the basic nature of intelligence by which the universe exists and functions. She is identified as being “the root of nature” and as “fundamental matter”; and is often defined as the essence of matter, that aspect of the Absolute which underlines all the objective aspects of nature.

Shakti means the “sacred force or empowerment” and is said to be the primordial cosmic energy and to represent the dynamic forces that are thought to move through the entire universe.

Ancient Chinese Taoist texts describe the Mother as something universal in which the whole of nature is contained.

The interplay of yin and yang within the womb of the Mysterious Mother creates the expansion and contraction of nature. Although the entire universe is created out of this reproductive dance, it is but a tiny portion of her being. Her heart is the Universal Heart, and her mind the Universal Mind.
~ The Hua Hu Ching

In creation accounts from all around the world, including Incan and Vedic, there are the same three forces of Father impregnating the Mother with his spirit/seed, Mother as earth/chaos/water, and Son emerging from their union as conciliator and creator of the manifest world. In the structure of an atom these same forces exists as protons (positive force, Father), electrons (negative force, Mother), and neutrons (neutral force, Son). Likewise, these same forces exist for us personally.

Through a process of creation between male and female forces and their final union, a human being can achieve the fusion with divinity, eventually returning to a state of wholeness, symbolized by the first Egyptian god to emerge from the divine source, called Atum. A detailed explanation of this is given in How Enlightenment is the Process of Creation in Reverse.

The Mother as Divine Cosmic Order

The Egyptian goddess Maat

The beautiful Egyptian goddess Maat, embodiment of cosmic order, with her white feather of truth

In ancient Egypt, the counterpart of the first male god was the female Tefnut, who was order where the male was life. This cosmic order was personified as the beautiful goddess Maat holding a scepter of power in one hand and the key to eternal life in the other. She set the order of the universe from out of chaos from the first moment of creation. She embodied truth, harmony, balance, justice, law, wisdom and ethics; she was the natural order of all life in physical and spiritual realms; and regulated the stars, seasons, and the actions of both humans and deities. In the ancient Egyptian view of life, one had to strive to fulfill the laws of Maat knowing at death their heart would be weighed by the deity Anubis on Maat’s scales against her white feather of truth.

In the judgment of the dead, Anubis is accompanied by 42 judges, known as the 42 Assessors of Maat. In the Papyrus of Ani (part of the Egyptian Book of the Dead), there are 42 laws of Maat.

The Egyptian goddess Ammit

The Egyptian goddess Ammit – part crocodile, part lion, and part hippopotamus, and terrifying punisher of the dead.

If one fulfilled the laws of Maat, the Mother, they would be allowed to pass into paradise—the realm of eternal life (the “Kingdom of Heaven” of the Father), but for those who didn’t, the terrifying goddess Ammit—part crocodile, part lion, and part hippopotamus—waited beneath the scales to devour the heart that was heavier than the feather. The jaws of this crocodile can be seen in the spiritual realms as the entrance to what the Egyptians called, “the Place of Annihilation” and of “dying a second time”. This is “the mouth of hell”, the entrance to the Abyss, where the egos of the dead are destroyed through punishment and suffering.

In the goddesses Maat and Ammit, we see the representations of the Mother as cosmic law, order, and punishment—she in whom all life and death is contained, like the mother who bears us, who rears us, teaching us about the order of life and the universe, and chastising us when we violate this order. She teaches through the realms of nature, in human life, and also through hell where beings learn through just punishment. This had its influence on Egyptian society, as the advice of women oracles guided the rulers of Egypt. Likewise in ancient Greece, the female Delphic priestess and oracle was the highest authority even in its male dominated society.

The Egyptian goddess Tefnut

The Egyptian goddess Tefnut presiding over the weighing of the heart of the dead against her laws as part of their judgement. She has the face of a lion and holds the scepter of power.

In ancient esoteric Christianity, Jesus also identifies the Mother as the judge and punisher of the soul, just as the Egyptians did. In the Pistis Sophia, Jesus explains how the soul is judged by “the judge” who is the “Virgin of Light”, and who is female. He describes how the Mother assesses the spiritual work of the individual soul and also its sin, and based upon what it has done, assigns it its fate, which includes punishment in hell, heaven, or rebirth into another body according to its deeds (karma).

…the counterfeiting spirit leadeth the soul to the Virgin of Light, the judge; and the judge, the Virgin of Light, proveth the soul and findeth that it hath sinned and, as she also hath not found the mysteries of the Light with it, she handeth it over to one of her receivers, and her receiver leadeth it and casteth it into the body, and it cometh not out of the changes of the body before it hath yielded its last circuit.
~ Jesus, Pistis Sophia

The Egyptian goddess Tefnut, the first female created as cosmic order, was depicted as a lion headed goddess, similar to the representations of the goddess Senge Dongma in Buddhism who is another lion headed goddess created to protect the world from demons, to Durga in Hinduism who rides astride a tiger as a fierce warrior and protector against evil, and to the ancient Sumerian goddess Inanna whose chariot was pulled by lions and was often depicted as a lioness in battle. Inanna was said to hold “full power of judgment and decision and the control of the law of heaven and earth.”

In the Jewish text The Wisdom of Solomon, the female aspect of Godhead is also seen as the law andn order of creation, just as the ancient goddesses of Egypt.

For the very true beginning of her is the desire of discipline; and the care of discipline is love; And love is the keeping of her laws; and the giving heed unto her laws is the assurance of incorruption; And incorruption maketh us near unto God: Therefore the desire of wisdom bringeth to a kingdom.
~ The Wisdom of Solomon

For God loveth none but him that dwelleth with wisdom. For she is more beautiful than the sun, and above all the order of stars: being compared with the light, she is found before it. For after this cometh night: but vice shall not prevail against wisdom. Wisdom reacheth from one end to another mightily: and sweetly doth she order all things.
~ The Wisdom of Solomon

The following excerpt from The Essene Gospel of Peace beautifully summarizes the Mother as she who gives us life, who rules over us with her laws, in whom everything exists, who heals us and protects us from all evil, as so many goddesses around the world have depicted.

The Incan Mother goddess Pachamama

The Incan Mother goddess Pachamama

Your Mother is in you, and you in her. She bore you she gives you life. It was she who gave to you your body, and to her shall you one day give it back again. Happy are you when you come to know her and her kingdom; if you receive your Mother’s angels and if you do her laws. I tell you truly, he who does these things shall never see disease. For the power of our Mother is above all. And it destroys Satan and his kingdom, and has rule over all your bodies and all living things.

The blood which runs in us is born of the blood of our Earthly Mother. Her blood falls from the clouds; leaps from the womb of the earth; babbles in the brooks of the mountains; flows wide in the rivers of the plains; sleeps in the lakes; rages mightily in tempestuous seas.

The air which we breathe is born of the breath of our Earthly Mother. Her breath is azure in the heights of the heavens; soughs in the tops of the mountains; whispers the leaves of the forest; billows over the cornfields; slumbers in the deep valleys, burns hot in the desert.

The hardness of our bones is born of the bones of our Earthly Mother, of the rocks and of the stones. They stand naked to the heavens on the tops of mountains; are as giants that lie sleeping on the sides of the mountains, as idols set in the desert, and are hidden in the deepness of the earth.

The tenderness of our flesh is born of the flesh of our Earthly Mother; whose flesh waxes yellow and red in the fruits of the trees, and nurtures us in the furrows of the fields.

Our bowels are born of the bowels of our Earthly Mother, and are hid from our eyes, like the invisible depths of the earth.

The light of our eyes, the hearing of our ears, both are born of the colors and the sounds of our Earthly Mother; which enclose us about, as the waves of the sea a fish, as the eddying air a bird.

I tell you in very truth, Man is the Son of the Earthly Mother, and from her did the Son of Man receive his whole body, even as the body of the newborn babe is born of the womb of his mother. I tell you truly, you are one with the Earthly Mother; she is in you, and you in her. Of her were you born, in her do you live, and to her shall you return again. Keep, therefore, her laws, for none can live long, neither be happy, but he who honors his Earthly Mother and does her laws. For your breath is her breath; your blood her blood; your bone her bone; your flesh her flesh; your bowels her bowels; your eyes and your ears are her eyes and her ears.

I tell you truly, should you fail to keep but one only of all these laws, should you harm but one only of all your body’s members, you shall be utterly lost in your grievous sickness, and there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. I tell you, unless you follow the laws of your Mother, you can in no wise escape death. And he who clings to the laws of his Mother, to him shall his Mother cling also. She shall heal all his plagues, and he shall never become sick. She gives him long life, and protects him from all afflictions; from fire, from water, from the bite of venomous serpents. For your Mother bore you, keeps life within you. She has given you her body, and none but she heals you. Happy is he who loves his Mother and lies quietly in her bosom. For your Mother loves you, even when you turn away from her. And how much more shall she love you, if you turn to her again? I tell you truly, very great is her love, greater than the greatest of mountains, deeper than the deepest seas. And those who love their Mother, she never deserts them. As the hen protects her chickens, as the lioness her cubs, as the mother her newborn babe, so does the Earthly Mother protect the Son of Man from all danger and from all evils.
~ The Essene Gospel of Peace

The Mother as Personal to Us In the Spiritual Work of Enlightenment

Isis feeding the Ankh of eternal life to an Egyptian Queen.

Isis feeding the Ankh of eternal life to an Egyptian Queen.

As there is a cosmic Mother, so too is there a female (Mother) aspect to human consciousness.

The process of creation follows the same principles, whether it is for life here on earth, in the creation of the cosmos, and even in the creation of our own eternal spiritual being. This is why in sacred teachings a maxim of wisdom is “as above, so below”.

Just as in the process of the creation of the universe, described by many ancient sacred teachings, creation starts from the genderless and unknowable being, so too do we as consciousness. This being must divide into duality in order to manifest into creation and create. This division results in male and female, two halves of the same whole, with neither one above the other. It is not possible for a male to be created alone and exist alone as half of duality, and then to bring forth a female out of themselves as something is only male by virtue of being separated from the female. These kinds of absurd ideas which don’t adhere to simple natural principles are made possible through rigid and blind beliefs.

The male and female, known as Father and Mother, unite to then create a third force, which is Son. In nature sex between male and female can produce genders of either male or female, and thus the Son is a neutral force, which incarnates both in men and women alike.

diagram of the divine consciousness returning to source

This is the later stages of the process of enlightenment. It is reversed for creation.

In the spiritual work, the forces of male and female are used to create the spiritual within in tantrism/alchemy. Through following the process of creation in reverse, initiates (both men and women) work to incarnate the spiritual force of the Son. The Son then returns to the womb of the Mother, which is a time of death and chaos in the spiritual work. The initiate then works to become one with the Mother, which requires a fulfillment of all her laws. As described above, the Egyptians depicted the Mother in this aspect as the goddess Maat. Those who fulfilled the laws of Maat were allowed to pass into paradise and eternal life. Here the initiate establishes cosmic order within themselves, which was symbolically portrayed in ancient Egypt as receiving a jackal face—the sacred headdress of Anubis, the head judge of divine cosmic law in the spiritual realms. More on this in Decoding the Ancient Meaning of the Sphinx and its Origins as Anubis.

This is the stage of resurrection, where one reaches the Father, which is the attainment of “the Kingdom of Heaven” and “everlasting life”, which can only be reached through the fulfillment of the laws of the Mother. (More on this in The Spiritual Meaning of the Spring Equinox).

For truly, no one can reach the Heavenly Father unless through the Earthly Mother.
~ The Essene Gospel of Peace

Eventually the initiate must make female and male as one again, becoming as the Egyptian Atum, the androgynous and unknowable Being of the Being, the Narayana of the ancient Vedas—perfect, whole and complete, in order to return to the source as they left, but aware of their own existence.

Jesus said to them, “When you make the two one, and when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside, and the above like the below, and when you make the male and the female one and the same, so that the male not be male nor the female female; and when you fashion eyes in the place of an eye, and a hand in place of a hand, and a foot in place of a foot, and a likeness in place of a likeness; then will you enter the kingdom.”
~ Jesus, The Gospel of Thomas

The Mother Goddess and the Feminine in Spirituality

The male and female aspects of Godhead, both venerated in ancient Egypt (photo copyright Bernard Gagnon 1989).

Although ancient texts can provide us with an incredible source of guidance, they are often written within the social framework of the time and can be tampered with by uncomprehending and even sinister hands. The conventional Church suppressed the true understanding of the Mother not only in Christianity, but in their oppression of earlier pagan religions, in which the Mother and feminine was venerated.

Thankfully the principles of life and spirituality are found in ourselves and all of creation, allowing the individual to find their way back to the source – free of the dogmas and constraints of religions that become based on beliefs rather than living experience and perception. Holding a blind belief in something is how a commitment to the most absurd ideas can take precedence over a perception of undeniable truths that are right in front of us.

Many women have suffered an injustice by being placed under a dogma which reinforced the use of male aggression and dominance to subdue women who are naturally physically weaker. But no gender should have an authority over the other simply because of their gender. Women have the same innate rights of self-determination as men, and can lead, organize, and gather, just as men have the right to. Ultimately, whether man or woman, we are all individuals with the same innate rights. “As above, so below” – Mother and Father, male and female forces, brought forth creation together and exist in equality, so too then do men and women each have equal rights according to the same cosmic principles.

As many who have had  out-of-body experiences and near-death experiences can attest, there are awakened females who exist in higher dimensions to help us here to learn and awaken, and in accounts of extraterrestrial encounters, women are just as present as men. This shows that despite the artificial constructs of our earthly societies and religions, women have the same rights to pursue their destiny as they wish, the same potential to create the spiritual within themselves, and the same rights to be heard and treated as individuals in their own right.

In reality, the Mother is all around us, and inside each one of us ready to help us return to our source. If as a society we can recognize the Mother in her rightful place, as an essential part of divinity and Godhead, then we as a humanity have a much greater opportunity to appreciate her incredible mysteries in our lives and to end the injustice against the feminine – instead creating a world based on truly just cosmic principles.

The valley spirit never dies;
It is the woman, primal mother.
Her gateway is the root of heaven and earth.
It is like a veil barely seen.
Use it; it will never fail.
~ Lao Tsu from The Tao Te Ching (translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English)

Everyone else is busy,
But I alone am aimless and without desire.
I am different.
I am nourished by the great mother.
~ Lao Tsu from The Tao Te Ching (translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English)

The beginning of the universe
Is the mother of all things.
Knowing the mother, you also know the sons.
Knowing the sons, yet remaining in touch with the mother,
Brings freedom from the fear of death.
~ Lao Tsu from The Tao Te Ching (translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English)

~ Copyright 2012 Angela Pritchard (in consultation with Belsebuub)

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Here are some songs about the Mother, which convey in some way her immense and incredible nature:

Ancient Mother by Robert Gass & On Wings of Song

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Lady of the Flowing Waters by Robert Gass & On Wings of Song

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