First published in Huffington Post
Today we are faced by ongoing ecological devastation, polluted air, rising seas, and the world's worst refugee crisis since the end of World War II. If we can bear to hear the cry—both of the Earth, exploited through our greed and desires, and of the dispossessed, often war-ravaged and exploited by human traffickers and others—how should we fully respond? There is a simple, primary answer: we need to return to the feminine, to reconnect with her principles and values.
We can no longer afford to continue the present patriarchal story that tries to dominate nature, exploit the Earth and its peoples through power and greed. We need a new story, based upon our shared human values, our interdependence and unity. There are simple and basic feminine principles—receptivity, relatedness, interconnection and listening—that are necessary if we are to reestablish a relationship with the Earth as a single living being to which we all belong. Only when we have reconnected with these feminine principles can we begin the work of enacting and living the changes that are needed at this time, otherwise we easily reconstellate the primarily masculine dynamics that have created our present dangerous divisiveness and imbalance. We need to hear the voice of the feminine, of women and the earth.
Like many of my generation I grew up in a soulless, materialistic world. But when the bleak post-war years of the fifties turned into the sixties a new color entered the spectrum of consciousness, as spiritual traditions came from the East. With these traditions arrived different spiritual practices: meditation, chanting, hatha yoga and Sufi whirling. These practices and their teachings have an inward, soul-oriented dimension, and are often accompanied by feminine qualities and a holistic consciousness very different to the reductive consciousness of the prevalent masculine mindset. They often cultivate a way of "being" that give us access to a different way of living more in harmony with our soul or inner self. We learned to practice meditation, mindfulness, loving kindness, and also awareness of the body and its instinctual rhythms. We were given tools to access the spirit or energy that flows through all life and how to live from our center. And part of this process was to realign with the feminine qualities of both body and soul, reconnect with her primal wisdom.
The first stage of "the return of the feminine" is to rediscover these feminine qualities often repressed, distorted or dismissed by our dominant patriarchal culture. We come to recognize how they are central to any work of transformation, to the work of rebirth that by its very nature belongs to the feminine. Understanding the wisdom and transformative nature of the feminine (in both men and women) is essential if we are to move individually and collectively out of the wasteland created by masculine consciousness and values, if we are to awaken to a deeper and more natural awareness of our own nature as well as that of all of life. For example we can once again learn to listen to the Earth, feel her rhythms and heartbeat, and rejoin the "great conversation" with the natural world. The feminine can give us the tools we need to begin the work of both individual and global transformation.
But there is a second stage to this work. How can working with the feminine empower us to meet the call of our present time from a new perspective, drawing on the principles of interconnectedness, embodiment and reverence for all life? How can we bring unity and harmony back into a civilization and planet whose present collective values are so divisive and self-destructive—destroying even the eco-system that supports us? How can we use her values for social and environmental justice, for peace building and all the other changes that are so desperately needed at this time? Hopefully having reconnected with the feminine qualities that belong to our true nature we will be drawn to use them both for personal transformation and growth, but also for outer change—for activism rooted in wholeness rather than divisiveness.
Our response to the present refugee crisis is a real example of the value and need for feminine principles. Refugees evoke both our fear of "the other" and also the ancient values of sanctuary and hospitality. In Europe the flood of refugees has demanded the practical response of providing food and shelter, clothing, health care, jobs, but also the less tangible response of listening, hearing their stories, understanding their traumas, often of war-torn environments, being receptive to their culture and values as we move beyond the labels of refugee or asylum seeker. We need to apply the wisdom of the feminine that can create a space that welcomes and restores both body and soul. Then we can share the deep humanity that connects us beyond borders, recognize the interconnectedness that nourishes us all. This is just one example of how feminine values can take us out of the mind-set that so easily alienates the refugees as "other," and instead moves us towards a shared future, in which we are all an integral part of the web of life.
Putting feminine principles into action is part of an on-going work, a true empowerment of the feminine as she is within both women and men. Her spiritual qualities are essential not only for the soul's journey, but also as a foundation for any outer work in the world. How we bring feminine principles into action, live the vital contribution of feminine wisdom and her principles of inclusion, compassion, co-creation and unity will be the next stage. How we reconnect and work together with the qualities of the feminine will determine how we bring our civilization and the Earth herself back into balance.
This piece is adapted from a new preface to The Return of the Feminine and World Soul, by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, see also workingwithoneness.org/the-feminine-articles-excerpts/