When She Was God
When we look at notions of the Divine in most of organized religion today, more often than not God is viewed exclusively as the archetypal “Sky Father” high up in the heavens above us and even against us, if we do not abide by “his” laws…
Yet if we go back to the prehistoric period, we can see that our ancestors worshipped a great Mother Goddess who is found at the entrance of rock shelters, carved out of stone more than 20,000 years ago. After the transition to farming and the domestication of animals a few thousand years later, the Goddess was often associated with animals, most notably birds, fish, and snakes. And after 3000 BCE, in the scriptures of ancient Egypt and Babylonia, the great Goddess was praised as the “Sustainer of all Life” and the “Queen of Heaven” – a title later attributed to Mother Mary when her Assumption became official Church doctrine in the 1950’s. Another example is the great goddess Isis of Egypt who was praised as the primordial creative matrix (e.g., “In the beginning there was Isis…from whom all Becoming arose”) and even as the “Savior of the Human Race” – a title that was later adopted by Christianity. Thousands of years ago, the great Goddess was hence viewed as the sustainer of life, the cosmic womb of creation. Yet, just as everything is born from the Mother… in the end, everything returns to her. She is the first and the last. Birth, growth, decay, and death are stages within the sacred life cycle.
We may also note in this context that during the time of Jesus Christ the Aramaic word for God was actually “parent.” In other words, God was viewed as both Father and Mother. Eventually, the Mother aspect of God got lost in translation of scripture or was deliberately omitted by institutionalized religion. There are many historical explanations and reasons for this development but chief among them is that practically all religions became increasingly managed and dominated by men. A notable exception within the Abrahamic faith traditions are the mystics, who have always honored the Feminine Face of the Divine in addition to the Masculine Face. In the Jewish esoteric tradition of Kabbalah, for example, the feminine divine presence on earth is referred to as the divine Bride of the God of Israel. And today, in some religions such as Hinduism, the Goddess is still widely popular and worshiped as the Divine Mother in the Shakta tradition. Prominent examples are the Hindu goddesses Kali, Durga, Lakshmi, and Sarasvati, to name just a few. Renowned Indian mystic Ammachi – also know as the “Hugging Saint” and “Mother of Immortal Bliss” – comments on the issue of God and gender as follows: “Is God a Man or a Woman? The answer is: Neither – God is That. But if you must give God a gender, God is more female than male, for he is contained in She.”
The notion of God as transcendent “Father” is hence fairly recent in Western culture. Roughly we can say that this notion emerges with the Abrahamic religions stating that there is only one God. And this God came to be viewed exclusively as an archetypal Sky Father separate from “his” creation. This understanding of the Divine implies that there is an existential gap between God and humans, among others. This development was, for the most part, a sharp departure from the progressive vision of Jesus Christ and other great spiritual pioneers…In fact, mystics and saints across religions have reminded us that the Divine is not only transcendent beyond any limited and limiting concepts of our minds but also immanent in all of creation. The Divine is hence without and within. Similarly, Goddess religion is earth-centered and views Gaia as a sacred living organism that connects us all in this great web of life. In Goddess religion, Spirit and flesh are one. Goddess spirituality does not take us out of the world, but rather brings us more fully in.