Woman
as Custodian of Life



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Woman as Custodian of Life

 


Upon women falls the task not only of throwing off their own economic dependence, but of rescuing from the like thraldom the deepest realities of which they were the first mothers.
                                                                                               
Robert Briffault, The Mothers

If ever the world sees a time when women shall come together purely and simply for the benefit of mankind, it will be a power such as the world has never known.    Matthew Arnold (1822-88)

 

 

In 1942 Henry Moore painted a picture which shows a group of people gazing up at a huge shrouded figure, their smallness dwarfed by its towering height. Beneath the shroud and the ropes which hold it in place is a feminine shape. This painting suggests that a new archetypal image of the numinous was emerging from the collective unconscious, waiting to be unveiled, waiting to be recognised and received by humanity. Henry Moore's greatest sculptures have the same feminine impress. His shelter drawings take us back to the maternal womb hidden beneath the earth — the cave in which we sought shelter as bombs rained death upon our cities. Both sculptures and drawings point to the awakening of the feminine archetype in the human soul.
-----The last fifty years of the twentieth century have seen an immense transformation in preparation: like the magma of the earth's molten core, the feminine principle has been pressing up beneath the surface of our lives until at last it is erupting into our conscious awareness, manifesting as a call for radical change in our values and our beliefs by inviting us to reconnect with Nature, Soul and Cosmos. This new phase in the evolution of consciousness heralds what Owen Barfield aptly called "Final Participation," (1) when humanity enters into a conscious relationship and partnership with life, seeking not to control and dominate it but to relate to, serve and protect it with insight, compassion and wisdom.
----- The influence of the feminine principle is responsible for our growing concern for the integrity of the life systems of the planet and the attraction to the mythic, the spiritual, the visionary, the non-rational — all of which nourish the heart and the imagination, inviting new perspectives on life, new ways of living in relationship to body, soul and spirit, generating a new understanding of the psyche. The flood of books now being written by men and women responding to the prompting of their intuition and their feelings would have been inconceivable fifty years ago.
-----The psychiatrist C.G. Jung recognised that the Papal Bulls of 1950 and 1954 reflected the fact that something of great significance was happening in the collective psyche: the feminine archetype, personified by the Virgin Mary, was being raised to the level of spirit, named as Queen of Heaven and declared "Assumed into Heaven, Body and Soul". A further indication of the rehabilitation of the feminine principle was the petition presented to the Pope in August 1997 asking that Mary be declared Co-redemptrix with Christ.
-----Jung anticipated a profound transformation of consciousness as this "marriage" of the two great archetypal principles was realized in the soul of humanity. To him it signified the reunion of spirit and nature, mind and soul, thinking and feeling. Familiar with the long mythological history which had led to this moment, he saw this archetypal reunion as a new image of the sacred marriage — that ancient ritual which once celebrated the union of heaven and earth. He also saw it as the herald of the great event awaited in the Jewish mystical tradition of Kabbalah: the wedding of the two indissoluble but long separated aspects of the god-head — the Holy One and his Shekinah.

There have been many books written by women which reflect the awakening of the feminine principle but there was one book in particular called The Fabric of the Future published in 1999 which struck me as a splendid statement of the deepest realities that Robert Briffault was referring to in the quotation above. I have been moved and encouraged by this book which is a symposium of short essays written by American women about how they see the future and their role in it. Their insights offer a template to women all over the world, throwing into high relief what is essential if we are to act as custodians of the planet in the age to come. These women of vision speak of our being in the midst of a "vast transformation," an "evolutionary awakening of global proportions", of a "deep and holy hunger" and a "revelatory experience", which they see as "the great turning" and "the rising of the soul of the world": the activation of the feminine principle expressed as the law of relationship and love. They express the dawning realization that spirit is not something separate and distant from ourselves but simply all that is and all that we are. What a revolution in our values this realization invites.
-----Dr. Joan Borysenko writes that from the 1960's onwards the green shoots of regeneration began to become visible in the response to Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, the opposition to the Vietnam War, the awakening of women in the feminist movement, the growing interest in spirituality, meditation and healing and the "breaching of the doors of perception" through the writings of Aldous Huxley and others. Dr. Borysenko says that, born in 1945, she now finds herself surrounded by "a huge groundswell of women and men whose values were forged in the 1960's". These have now come of age and have a growing influence in the culture. Jean Shinoda Bolen confirms this with her own observation that at the millennium, a critical mass of women reaching 50, women of wisdom, authority and action, may determine the direction that humanity will take. "What we do or fail to do at this liminal time," she writes, "will not only shape the course of our personal lives, but collectively will affect the third millennium and with it, the future of the planet."
-----Many writers speak of their having found support and companionship with other women, sharing experience, insights and rituals at regular meetings where the circle of women becomes a sanctuary — "a place for divinity to dwell." Sue Patton Thoele writes that rising from the ashes of injustice, domination, and fear women are reclaiming their heritage as essentially spiritual beings. They are learning and growing through shared experience, each contributing to the growth and well-being of all. "We are," writes Barbara Marx Hubbard, "at the threshold of the emergence of a new archetype on Earth – the feminine co-creator. The co-creative woman is one who is activated by spirit, awakened in the heart to express her unique creativity in loving action which evolves both herself and the world…We have had many types of women — the mother, the mystic, the priestess, the artist, the healer, the pioneering woman. The co-creative woman is a synthesis of all of this and something more, something new, because the world condition in which we are emerging is new."
-----And what is this new type of woman asked by life to accomplish? Something that has been forgotten by our entire civilisation - the need, as T.S. Eliot put it, to "redeem the unread vision in the higher dream." (Ash Wednesday 1V) This is the vocation of the woman who is in touch with her heart and who is acting as mid-wife to the birth of a new culture.
-----These essays offer a different perspective on life grounded in the age-old experience of women. The stories they tell have one clear message: their longing and their achievement is to cherish every kind of relationship: with their families, with their small local groups, with their environment, with the planet, in order to bring the emergent values into clearer focus, in order to give expression to them in their personal lives and a wider community.
-----What transfuses their words is an awakening planetary awareness and service of the feminine principle — the Sacred Feminine, or Holy Spirit of Wisdom, as several writers define it. This feminine ethos which has as its focus the need to cherish, to serve, to nurture life, is simply and eloquently expressed without any attempt to impose an ideology or a creed.
-----These American women are without doubt the leaders in this field because so many of them have faced and overcome the fear of abandonment, financial deprivation and loneliness which has held countless women in unhappy or sterile relationships for centuries. They have grown sufficiently in depth and understanding to become aware of a spiritual direction in their lives and, like master-mariners, t o hold to that course. They have made the commitment to deeper values and a process of self-transformation. Over some thirty years they have become well educated, well organized, articulate, experienced in the world and confident. They express themselves with fluency and grace. They are a role model and an inspiration to women everywhere.
-----The principal theme defined by the contributors to The Fabric of the Future is the shift from what Riane Eisler has called the "Dominator" model of society wherein we seek to control, manipulate and exploit life for our own personal or national advantage, to a "Partnership" model which recognises the need for a totally new consciousness grounded in compassionate awareness of the indissoluble relationship between ourselves and all creation.
-----There are still women bound by archaic tribal and religious beliefs or forced into subservience to a tyrannical regime who tragically, cannot yet free themselves or be freed from this state of virtual slavery (notably Afghanistan). There are also women who are deeply unconscious of any moral responsibility towards life and other human beings who blindly follow political or religious leaders responsible for the most bestial acts of cruelty towards other human beings; women who turn a blind eye to the torture, murder and suffering of others or who have silently to witness this barbarism because they have no possibility of protest or intervention. There are women who, because of tribal custom, their own beliefs or an imposed religious code, are driven to bear children far beyond their physical strength or their capacity to love and care for them.
-----Only a tiny handful of women in relation to the great mass of humanity have the possibility of conscious choice. Most are bound by the circumstances of their fate, by the ethos and beliefs of their culture and by unconscious complexes. What these essays show is the deep turning of the culture that can be accomplished by those few women who have choice, who choose to speak and act on behalf of life, not out of a sense of duty but out of the compassionate response of the heart. They are not interested in power for its own sake but in exercising the power they have on behalf of life, on behalf of others.

What is the present focus of the feminine principle? I believe it is to put us in touch with what has been lost to consciousness, to relate us to the deep sources of our psychic life and draw up from these depths the living waters which nourish and sustain the soul. The recovery of the feminine principle is the key to the transformation of our world culture from decay and disintegration and progressive regression into uniformity, banality and brutality, into something longed for and extraordinary.
-----Woman's own awakening to the realization of her value is part of the recovery of the feminine principle. It is as if a momentous birth is taking place in the collective psyche of woman. This birth may be experienced as something that is deeply perplexing and difficult as well as something exciting and challenging. As woman gives birth to herself, to her unique individuality, to the emerging awareness of her value as woman (not an imitation of man), the feminine principle will also emerge in the consciousness of humanity which for so long has suffered from its repression and rejection. Woman, whose essential nature is to respond to suffering and need, is now responding to life's own need and is experiencing herself as the vessel of transformation in which a new consciousness is being born. If anyone personified and lived this process of birth and awakening for the whole world to see, it was the late Princess Diana. Tragically, she did not live to realize how significant and important her contribution was.
-----There is a Hasidic saying which goes: "When the moon shall shine as bright as the sun, the Messiah will come." Woman through her struggle to understand herself and to articulate the highest values of the feminine principle could begin to make the moon shine so that it softens the sun-brightness of our present consciousness. In accepting her depression, her suffering, her loneliness, her longing to outgrow the inarticulateness and powerlessness of her past existence, she may accomplish something truly heroic and extraordinary for life, something which humanity in centuries to come will recognize and cherish. Each woman who gives birth to herself and responds to what life is asking her to accomplish, contributes to the survival of our species and the diminishment of human suffering.
-----For this reason, nothing is of such value or of such importance as woman's rescue of herself. This is something very difficult for woman to accept because in the past the whole impulsion of her nature has been to respond to the needs of others. The fact that she herself is in greatest need of her own help, support and understanding, is the very first step in the direction of polishing the moon. It will only shine as brightly as the sun when woman has become Orpheus to her own Eurydice and has rescued herself from "the powers of the underworld" which symbolise her unconsciousness of her value and her bondage to the subservient pattern of the past.

Long ago, in the Neolithic era and the early Bronze Age, woman was believed to have a magical connection with the Earth, with plants and trees, with animals and the rhythms of nature. Her fertility was identified with the fertility of the life of the Earth and she was thought to enhance it by participating in certain rituals. In all times and places, once new life was growing in her, woman was initiated into a profound participation with nature through her role as co-creator with it, knowing that her life might be sacrificed in giving birth to the life she carried. The key word here, once again, is participation, because her experience as mother and grandmother gave her the feeling of having a sacred role, participating in the life of nature as Great Mother. But the foundation of this instinctive participatory feeling which was developed in the social role and the rituals created by women and transmitted from mother to daughter, was the millions of years of genetic programming before the advent of the human species, the millions of years of experience as female mammal, female animal. Human consciousness has evolved out of this older mammalian matrix, and this pre-human genetic memory influences maternal behaviour to this day. It is of great importance in understanding the origin of woman's capacity to care for life and to recognize and respond to the needs of others, particularly her children.
-----Woman's experience of being the carrier and nurturer of life, living, as it were, the role of the Great Mother, bound to the greater rhythm of nature by the rhythms of her menstrual cycle and the ten lunar months of gestation before the birth of her child, has given a profound value, meaning and responsibility to her life. The observation through countless millennia of the way women carried their children in the womb, gave birth to them, nourished and cared for them during their dependent years, endowed women with a numinous significance as the carrier and custodian of life. Women have always prepared food for their families: for countless millennia they have planted, tended and gathered crops, ground seeds and kernels of wheat or corn into flour, cooked and transformed the raw material drawn from the Earth into food.
-----Woman's immemorial experience of herself as the carrier and nurturer of life helped to define the image and qualities of the Great Mother as Nature who could protect, nourish, contain and transform life. Woman as the young girl – the seed, the blossom, the crescent moon – nascent, virgin life; woman growing to maturity as mother – the plant, the fruit, the full moon; woman as grandmother, wise old crone – the harvested crop, the stored fruit, the waning moon: each phase of woman's life experience as well as the observation of the moon's eternal cycle, helped to define the relationship of woman to Nature and the Cosmos. Woman's menstrual cycle connected her in the depths of her being with the immensely powerful rhythms of the Earth and Nature: the rhythm of the seasons, the rhythm of the moon and the stars, the rhythm of the cycle of the crops and the rhythm of the ocean tides. Born of her mother, giving birth to her daughter who would, in turn, become the carrier and custodian of life, she could feel connected to an immemorial past of mothers, and an immemorial future of daughters, each a transmitter of the life process, each surrendering to an experience more mysterious and powerful and demanding than any other, requiring as it were, her submission to an instinctual process which, ineluctably, as the vehicle of life, she served.
-----In Christian culture, woman had to endure the negative projections of a priesthood which described her as a flawed and inferior being. Aligned with nature and body in the split between Nature and Spirit and identified with Eve who introduced death, sin and suffering into the world, her sexuality was named as a temptation to man and the pain and risk of death in childbirth a punishment for Eve's sin of disobedience to God. The contorted attempts of Christian writers from St. Jerome and St. Augustine to Calvin to punish woman for her descent from Eve bear eloquent witness to the misogyny which has contaminated Christian culture. The image of God, with the feminine dimension of the divine excised from it, and the attitudes and social customs derived from a belief in original sin have inflicted and still inflict enormous and unnecessary suffering on her. Her standpoint, her values, her feelings were ignored and denigrated and her voice was, so to speak, deleted from the history of Western civilization. Not surprisingly, she developed a negative internalised image of herself which has inhibited her from speaking and living her truth. She is just beginning to recover the role she lived in earlier cultures: the role of healer, sibyl, priestess and shaman, beginning to discover and express her immense creative and healing gifts which are focussed through her deep sense of relationship with life.
-----Women's lives have been radically transformed through the active part they played during the Second World War, through access to higher education and through contraception. The rebellion expressed in the feminist movement (with roots in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries) against the millennia-old ethos of patriarchal culture has also liberated many women from a confined and diminished life. They are entering and creating a wide range of professions which did not exist 50 years ago. This represents an enormous expansion of their creative gifts and a great enrichment of the culture. (Psychotherapy is but one field in which they excel). Their newly discovered creativity releases the latent potential in others, helping both men and women to follow their heart in whatever career or calling present itself to them as a channel of expression for their gifts.
-----But there is one big problem: woman still finds it enormously difficult to value herself. Because of the long emphasis on the inferiority and guilt of woman, the irrelevance of her thoughts and feelings, and the insistence that her only role in life was to be a mother, and to serve their husband and the community regardless of her own needs, motherhood became identified with a state of servitude and worthlessness. Today many women in their quest for individuality and autonomy (which is part of the evolutionary imperative of our time) reject the image of themselves as "only a mother" because of the negative image associated with being a woman and a mother in the past. A great deal of depression in modern mothers may be related to this negative image. I recently met a German woman, mother of five children (two of them handicapped) who said that she felt inferior and inadequate when professional women came to her house. She felt she had nothing of value to say or to contribute and she felt miserable after they left. So many mothers echo her words – usually with the phrase "I am only a mother." I told her I was writing a book for women like herself whose deep devotion to her children is the most profound contribution and the highest spiritual value anyone can live and express. Did she ever, I asked her, love and praise herself? Did she ever say, "I am of value to life, to my children and husband, to the community, precisely because of the love and care I give to those I love?" Did she ever pause to think of her own needs, whether physical or emotional? Did she ever praise herself, or give herself an hour's rest? "No," she said, "but I will do so from now on."
-----There is a danger that in seeking power and equality with men in order for her voice and her creative gifts to be recognized, woman may unconsciously reject the very foundation which gives her, through her millennial experience as custodian of life, something of supreme importance to say. I think the word custodian is appropriate here because woman has a deep instinct to care for the life she has brought into being until it is strong enough to care for itself. In all communities, as far as I am aware, women care for the young and the old. In some they plant and gather the crops which provide food; in all they prepare food to nourish their families. Their primary concern even when they themselves are faced with starvation or death is for the survival and well-being of their children. They hold the community together, integrating the life of the old and infirm with the life of the young through the network of caring relationships they instinctively maintain. Women are becoming aware that if the environment is threatened with pollution and toxins the health and lives of their children will be endangered. Education has given a voice to a few women but there is an immense and world-wide task to be addressed in enabling countless millions of others to play a more active and articulate role in the life of society. Above all there is a need for women to value their role as women and as mothers if the catastrophic social and psychic effects of their long devaluation and subservience – often carried unconsciously by themselves as well as by their culture and religion – are to be reversed and if the transmission of this diminished view of women to new generations of sons and daughters is to be brought to an end. (The contemptuous denigration of women who stay at home and "bake cakes" in favour of the "power" based career woman is one contemporary example of this).
-----The best modern example I can think of to illustrate the strength and value and importance of woman's ancient role as custodian of life is the role of the grandmother in Jung Chang's book Wild Swans. Were it not for the care she gave her daughter and grandchildren, none of them would have survived. Another woman who has most clearly described the responsibility and vital role of women is Aung San Suu Kyi. In her address to the 1995 Forum on Women in Beijing, she emphasised the feminine qualities of tolerance, compassion and women's ability to teach and to learn: "I am not talking of learning in the narrow sense of acquiring an academic education but of learning as the process of absorbing those lessons of life that enable us to increase peace and happiness in our world...Women in their role as mothers have traditionally assumed the responsibility of teaching children values that will guide them throughout their lives. It is time we were given the full opportunity to use our natural teaching skills to contribute towards building a modern world that can withstand the tremendous challenges of the technological revolution which has in turn brought revolutionary changes in social values."
-----For thousands of years man's role has been defined as warrior and protector of the community and his life was primarily focussed on achieving a position in the world and extending his role as hunter into the role of provider and protector of his family. Now, with woman leaving the home and entering the arena of the world, often in competition with him, the older pattern is giving way to a different role for both – as companion and partner of the other – often sharing the domestic care of their children and the responsibilities of earning enough money to provide for their needs. Although accompanied by much turmoil and stress, woman's perception of man and man's perception of woman is changing and with it, a stereotyped and outgrown pattern of relationship which had diminished women and denied men access to their feelings.
-----The main danger for women is that in the attempt to live a double life, earning their living in the world and trying to maintain the traditional role of mother, they may succumb to exhaustion and illness because the strain is too great. Also, the discovery of their creative gifts and the attempt to find and maintain a channel for them may leave insufficient time and energy for close relationships with partners and children. Some women can manage to integrate both life patterns; others cannot and have to sacrifice one to the other because they do not have the physical and emotional energy to live both simultaneously. Their relationships may suffer from the stress of this situation and from trying to compress too much experience into too few years.
-----There may be two fundamental reasons for the increasing breakdown of relationships between men and women: one is the alienation of women from their deepest values in their attempt to copy the lifestyle of men and to be accepted on equal terms with men; the other is that whether consciously or unconsciously, women are trying to bring into being a new ethos and to move away from the one which has dominated political and social life over the last few millennia. Men, particularly in cultures which do not accept any role for woman other than that of subservient wife and mother, wish to retain the dominant role in the relationship and this may create a deep tension between them. But where a new kind of collaboration and partnership is brought into being, each can enhance, support and extend their own and the other's creative potential.

"Some day," Rilke wrote prophetically in 1904 in one of his Letters to a Young Poet, "girls and women in their new, their own unfolding will but in passing be imitators of masculine vices and virtues and repeaters of masculine professions. After the uncertainty of such transitions it will become apparent that women only went through the whole range and variety of those (often ridiculous) disguises in order to clean their own most characteristic nature of the distorting influences of the other sex. Women in whom life lingers and dwells more immediately, more fruitfully and more confidently, must naturally have become fundamentally riper people, more human people, than man who is easy-going, by the weight of no fruit of his body pulled down below the surface of life, and who, presumptuous and hasty, undervalues what he thinks he loves. This humanity of woman, carried out in suffering and humiliation, will then, when in the commutations of her external situation she will have stripped off the conventions of being only feminine, come to light, and those men, who do not yet feel it approaching today, will be astonished and stunned by it.
-----Some day (and of this, particularly in the northern countries, reliable signs already clearly speak), some day there will be girls and women whose name will no longer signify merely an opposite of the masculine, but something in itself, something that makes one think, not of any complement and limit, but of life and existence: the female human being.
-----This advance will (at first much against the will of the men who have been outstripped) change the experiencing of love, which is now full of error, will alter it from the ground up, reshape it into a relation that is meant to be of one human being to another, no longer of man to woman. And this more human love (that will fulfil itself, infinitely considerate and gentle, and good and clear in binding and releasing) will resemble that which we are with struggle and endeavour preparing, the love that consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other."
(2)

Twenty three years later (1927), Jung ended an essay entitled "Women in Europe" with the words: "God himself cannot flourish if man's soul is starved. The feminine psyche responds to this hunger, for it is the function of Eros to unite what Logos has sundered. The woman of today is faced with a tremendous cultural task – perhaps it will be the dawn of a new era." (3) Jung foresaw that as woman had access to education, financial independence and a wider role in the world, she would in time find the words to articulate what is of supreme importance to her and the strength to insist that her voice is heard. She would finally and irrevocably answer Freud's plaintive question: "What does woman really want?" She would build a bridge between an era that denies there is anything beyond ourselves and an era that wants to reconnect with all that is beyond. She would, in a word, break through the restricting, claustrophobic, superficial atmosphere of our culture into a freer, finer quality of air.
-----So what can woman do to act as mid-wife to the birth of this new era? She can nurture an awareness which reconciles mind with body and thinking with feeling; one which brings together the intellectual capacities of the mind with the feeling values of the heart in a marriage that in turn would draw her into relationship with a deeper dimension of reality. She can re-discover and re-establish the connections between things that have been fragmented; articulate and support values that have been over-ridden and dismissed for centuries — values that serve and protect life instead of exploiting and misusing it for divisive political, religious or commercial aims. She can aim at the highest in the certainty that thereby, ultimately, all lower aims will be achieved.
-----For myself, I now know that life is sacred and indivisible. I want there to be an end to unnecessary suffering: the suffering born of ignorance and the belief that the human species is separate from and superior to nature (through having been given dominion over it) and therefore has the right to do what it wants to the fragile web of life. I want there to be an end to the sacrifice of life and the manufacture of weapons of war. I cannot bear to see women and children rendered destitute because they have lost their husbands and fathers in war nor the cruel sacrifice of young male lives. I cannot bear to think of orphans of my grandson's age left abandoned and weeping in the streets of devastated towns and villages. I want to see an end to the spectacle of man as predator. I cannot endure the thought of men and women abused, raped, tortured. I cannot accept women's continued thraldom to religious beliefs and social customs which exacerbate and perpetuate their suffering: for example, the belief that a raped woman is defiled and unfit for I know many women feel as I do. However, millions of women are struggling simply to survive and have no possibility of expressing their feelings. Those more materially fortunate may be immersed in establishing themselves in their careers and in relationships with partners and children. Few have the time or the inclination to think of these things, yet unless they are thought of, there may be no future. Older women who have the time and the life experience need to speak out in defence of the future well-being, even the survival, of their children and grandchildren.
-----Jung repeatedly drew attention to the fact that the fate of the earth depends on the individual – on the capacity of women and men to relate to their soul, to become aware of and to value that part of themselves they know least: their deepest feelings and instincts which are the root of their creative imagination. This instinctual dimension of ourselves, so split off from consciousness, so little explored and understood, is the matrix of our creative life, and is immeasurably older and sometimes wiser than the more recently developed aspect of ourselves we call our rational mind. Becoming aware of this instinctual dimension of ourselves and the immense field of relationships and experience it embraces constitutes an evolutionary advance for, until we learn how to relate to it, how to integrate it with our more familiar, focussed ability to think, we remain emotionally immature, the prey of unconscious drives, emotions, compulsions and complexes which exist in what Jung called the shadow aspect of the psyche. More dangerously, we may fall victim to the manipulation of political or religious leaders who still think only in ideological and collective terms, rather than in terms of what truly benefits the people they are meant to serve. The imagination and the psychic freedom as well as the creativity of a whole culture may be crippled when there is so little awareness and understanding of how we may be unconsciously driven and directed by the power of the neglected instinct.
-----The recovery of the feminine principle may be compared to the excavation of a precious treasure. A new image of Spirit as the totality of all that is has begun to restore nature, matter and the body to the realm of the sacred. It is giving woman a voice and a value and a sacred image of herself. It is giving man a new image of himself as protector and preserver of life, not in the old warrior role but in a new role as advocate and nurturer of spiritual values which transcend the desire for power and self-aggrandisement. These values have been beautifully expressed by the Prince of Wales in a recent paper called A Time to Heal:

"As I have grown older I have gradually come to realize that my entire life so far has been motivated by a desire to heal - to heal the dismembered landscape and the poisoned soil; the cruelly shattered townscape, where harmony has been replaced by cacophony; to heal the divisions between intuitive and rational thought, between mind, body and soul, so that the temple of our humanity can once again be lit by a sacred flame; to level the monstrous artificial barrier erected between Tradition and Modernity and, above all, to heal the mortally wounded soul that, alone, can give us warning of the folly of playing God and of believing that knowledge on its own is a substitute for wisdom." (4)

The activation of the feminine principle has recovered for us the lost image of soul and is reconnecting us to our instincts and liberating our creative imagination. It is effecting a profound alchemy beneath the surface of the culture. Women and men are both participating in a process of transformation which is bringing into being a new cultural focus, one whose emphasis is no longer on power and control but on a greater awareness of the interweaving of all aspects of life. The phrase "the conquest of nature" is being replaced by the realization that humanity and nature participate in a deeper and still unexplored reality which contains them both.
----- Woman's age-old instinct to nurture and sustain life, man's instinct to protect and defend it are being extended to embrace the life of the Earth. A planet which has taken three and a half billion years to evolve an organ of consciousness through which life can come to know itself may be under threat; our survival as a species is uncertain. Before too long, we may not be able to alter the course of events we have unwittingly set in motion. Yet, in response to the extreme peril of this situation we are beginning to recover the ancient feeling of relationship with a sacred Earth and a sacred Cosmos. We are responding to the instinct which is urging all of us to become custodians of life, drawing men and women closer together in partnership to act on behalf of life, on behalf of each other, on behalf of the Earth before it is too late.

Notes:
1. Owen Barfield, Saving the Appearances, Second Edition, Wesleyan University Press, Connecticut, 1988.
2. Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, Letter VII. Translation M.D. Herter Norton. W.W. Norton & Co. Inc., New York 1934.
3. CW 10, Civilization in Transition, par. 275, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1964.
4. The concluding paragraph from "A Time to Heal" by HRH The Prince of Wales, first published in issue 5, The Temenos Academy Review, Autumn 2002.

 

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