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The Goddess versus the Macho Theologians

During the Age of Pisces, the Supreme Being was portrayed as male: omniscient, omnipotent, dominating, controlling, vengeful and judgemental.  As we move into the Age of Aquarius, the gentler feminine aspects of spirituality are re-emerging from twenty centuries of repression.

Problems with macho theology
There is a contradiction in the idea of a supreme being who is omniscient, compassionate and yet creates souls in the knowledge that they are damned to eternal agony in hell.  This contradiction has never been resolved by the theologians.   If God is omniscient then He knows all events past and future, including  how people will behave, and their ultimate fate before they are even born.

If God is not omniscient in the sense of knowing the future, then neither can He be omnipotent. If He exists within time, and is subject to the uncertainties of time just  like the rest of us,  then time is ultimately more powerful than God.

If He is omniscient and exists outside time, then he can never make a decision or choose a course of action, because he knows in advance exactly what his future actions will be for all eternity.  He cannot decide to change his mind because he will know in advance when and how he will decide to change his mind, so his mind will already be made up. Such a God would be totally paralysed by his own pre-ordained future - the ultimate in feed-back loops or logical contradictions, which ever way you care to look at it.

The theologians have overspecified God with power attributes to such an extent that He has become a logically impossible being. This has led many Spiritual practitioners to rediscover the feminine nature of the deity. In the Anglo-Celtic Traditions She is portrayed as having three aspects - maiden, mother and wise woman. In Tibet a more detailed enumeration is given, and She has three times seven aspects - the twenty-one manifestations of  the Lady Tara .   Tara  is a wise and helpful enlightened being, not a projection into the spiritual realm of a long authoritarian tradition of Continental Tyrants. 

Too much of a good thing
The Patriarchal God has many other internal logical contradictions, apart from suffering the paralysis of omniscience. The fact that theologians have heaped power and superlatives on him gives rise to problems of logical consistency.  He is claimed to be omnipotent, good, the source of truth, perfect and changeless. Yet many of these attributes are either self-contradictory or contradict one another.  For example:

  • Omnipotence
    If He is omnipotent, can he produce a truly indestructible object? If He can't then He's not omnipotent. If He can then He's not omnipotent either because now there's one action He cannot do (destroy the truly indestructible).

  • Goodness
    If He is good then why is there so much human and animal suffering in His creation? If suffering and other evils result from Satan rather than God, then why doesn't God get rid of Satan - after all, God is omnipotent and Satan is limited.  In any case, if God is omniscient he knows what Satan is going to do in advance, so God could always outwit Satan and spoil his devious plots if He wanted to.

  • Truth
    If as the believers claim, God created the universe during six days, less than ten thousand years ago, why did he create the fossil record?  The account in Genesis would seem to be contradicted by every mineshaft sunk and every drill-hole bored. Are fossils indeed forgeries planted by Satan to support the theory of evolution, or did God plant them to test our faith in the Bible? 

  • And what about those light rays from distant stars which appear to have started on their journey millions of years ago? Are these fakes as well?  Maybe God has constructed a vast planetarium surrounding the solar system, from which he projects the appearance of an old universe towards us in order to tempt us into disbelieving Genesis.

  • Free will and changelessness.
    Can God create autonomous beings, whose wishes and intentions he can't control?   Most Buddhists and neo-pagans claim that humans have free will. Most materialists and many Christians (especially Calvinists) claim that free will does not exist. Materialists reject free will on the basis of physicalist determinism.  Calvinistic Christians reject free will because in creating autonomous beings God would lose his omnipotence (he couldn't control their actions) and also his omniscience (he wouldn't know what they were going to do). Which implies that by creating such beings he would have changed in his ultimate nature from a perfect being to a limited being.   Thus God would be seen as an inconstant, changing and indeed diminishing over time. This is regarded by the Calvinists as a  theological non-starter.

  • Perfection
    If God is perfect then he is sufficient in himself. So why bother to create a world at all?

  • If God is imperfect, so that he requires our existence for some reason (eternal loneliness?) then perhaps we should regard him with compassion rather than with fear and trepidation.  He would then be what the Buddhists term a 'samsaric god' - a powerful but ultimately tragic figure.

But maybe a less-than-macho God wouldn't go down too well with the theologians, and certainly not with the  memoids who, as the Age of Pisces draws to its close, are becoming the predominant force in most of the patriarchal belief systems  (resulting in an increase in fundamentalism, intolerance, acts of   terrorism, anti-rationalism, homophobia, censorship of school syllabuses and libraries, persecution of harmless pagans such as wiccans, and a general escalation of invective and paranoia).

 

Deconstructing the God or Reconstructing the Goddess?
So how come that the idea of the ultra-macho, ultra-powerful God has been taken to such extremes that it is riddled with contradictions?  The answer is that the macho-god's origins do not lie in either logical analysis or spiritual experience. God is a meme,  the product of a male-dominated political system.

God's origins go back to the decline of the Roman empire. The later Roman emperors, both Western and Byzantine,  were tyrants who owned their subjects body and soul. Anyone who defied them was generally sentenced to a slow and agonising death.  This earthly kingdom was extrapolated into the eternal spiritual realm by continental theologians, who imposed the memetic blackmail of the doctrine of ever-lasting hell and its torments for defiance of ecclesiastical authority.   Any teachings which claimed that the individual was capable of salvation outside each particular sect were denounced as heresy.  Unfortunately the Anglo-Celtic opposition to this tyrannical theocracy was smashed at the Synod of Whitby.  

The continental God-meme is a sociopolitical power construct, in fact a parody of a power construct, in that the power attributes have been exaggerated to such an extent  that they have become logically contradictory.

 

Spirituality and the sense of the numinous
Yet the sense of the transcendent, the numinous and the spiritual aspects of  life are as prevalent now as in earlier centuries. If  Caesar-in-the-Sky can no longer provide a focus for these longings, who can? 

Some theologians may attempt a partial deconstruction of the macho-God to alleviate some of the difficulties. A more radical approach is to recognise that religion has become the enemy of spirituality.  The only way out of the mess is to go back to the pre-Roman roots of our culture, put Caesar into the museum where he belongs, then examine the female attributes of divinity, which have been suppressed for so many centuries.

 

Attributes of the divine in pre-Roman and eastern cultures.
In neolithic times the Godhead was portrayed as what has been called an 'Earth Goddess'. The Earth Goddess appears as a plump, pregnant woman with large vulva and breasts.  One interpretation is that she is a fertility goddess representing the crops of  the earth and the fecundity of the tribe.   However a more metaphysical interpretation is possible, as we shall see.

In Celtic times the Goddess was strongly associated with wells and springs (eg the rituals surrounding  Coventina's well and the numerous Brideswells, Marywells, St.Anne's wells and Ladywells throughout Celtic Britain and Ireland).  The usual explanation is that our fertility-obsessed ancestors regarded these watery orifices as the vagina or nipple of the Earth Goddess. 

The presence of the Sheela-na-gig in the vicinity of some holy wells in Ireland does suggest a connection with the vagina. But again, a more spiritual interpretation is possible, for we must not forget that one of the most enduring aspects of the Celtic goddess is that of the wise woman (only finally eradicated from Anglo-Celtic spirituality by the last witch-burnings of 16th and 17th centuries).

In classical Greece the principal female divinity was Athene (patron Goddess of the city of  Athens, of  philosophy, and of all the arts and sciences of civilisation).   She was first and foremost a wisdom goddess.

But what does wisdom and philosophy have to do with the pregnant earth-mother and the fluid symbolism of springs and wells?

To get a coherant picture we need to look to the Tibetan tradition, where ancient wisdom has survived into modern times with no intervening attempts to masculinise everything (at least not until the appearance of Mao Tse Tung). 

In Tibetan Buddhism, wisdom is very definitely feminine. Tara is a wisdom Goddess. Wisdom is primarily the understanding of the ultimate nature of reality - Sunyata - which is sometimes translated as emptiness, but in fact comes from a Sanskrit root meaning 'pregnant' or 'swollen with possibility'.    This may account for the philosophical significance of the pregnancy symbolism.

Sunyata is the ground of all being (hence the earth symbolism).   Sunyata is also sometimes known as 'the plenitude of the void'  and is seen as a constant upwelling of possibility, freedom and potential.   Sunyata is the primary fountainhead of the flow of free-will (non-determined action, intuition and creativity).  Only by having the ultimate nature of sunyata can anything change or develop or be created.  

'Water symbolizes the whole of potentiality; it is fons et origo, the source of all possible existence' - Mircea Eliade.     Hence the well and spring symbolism may have a meaning which transcends the cruder interpretation of physical fluids.

Caesar-in-the-Sky has been so overspecified with superlatives, especially with the fatal feedback loop of omniscience,  that he has been constructed into what philosophers would call a 'logically necessary being' (ie a changeless, inherently existent being ). But according to Buddhist philosophy nothing can be inherently existent, there is no such thing as a logically necessary being, and anything than cannot itself undergo a change of state cannot interact with anything else.

In contrast, the Goddess is not a static, stagnant, inherently existent monolith. 

She is the clear wellspring of liberation, and the source of all the potentials and possibilities which flow out of the ground of being.

Sacred springs and wells

For Goddess resources and links visit THEALOGY


 

THE LADY TARA


greentara.jpg (145060 bytes)

 

Each of the twenty one Taras is a manifestation of the principal Tara, Green Tara. (See 'Liberation from Sorrow 'and 'Great Compassionate Mother' published by Tharpa).  Her aspects encompass the maiden, mother, guardian, healer,  consuming fire, light and wisdom. They are traditionally stated to be:

I           Lotus-born swift heroine
II         Lighting the darkness like a hundred full moons in autumn
III       Wisdom
IV       Honored by the Conquerors
V         Subduer of unfavourable conditions
VI       Worshipped by the (male samsaric) Gods
VII      Destroyer of opponents - fiery appearance
VIII     Exorcism of demons
IX        Mudra symbolising the three precious jewels
X          Mirthful laughter
XI        Summoning the directional guardians
XII       Adorned by the crescent moon.
XIII      Wrathful fire which destroys obstructions to spiritual progress.
XIV      Radiating power.
XV       Dwelling within a sphere of peace
XVI      Powerful Mantra - the ten letter rosary
XVII     Shaker of worlds
XVIII    Dispeller of poisons
IXX      Dispeller of conflicts and bad dreams
XX       Healer
XXI      Subduer of evil spirits

She is not however the creator of the universe, nor is she omnipotent.  She is a being who became enlightened in another world-system, aeons ago.

 


Goddess in the aspect of the maiden at full moon

The Goddess in the aspect of a maiden

 


Buddhism