In Our Right Minds
Celebrating Women, the Sacred Feminine and the Right Brain Restoring Right-Brain “Feminine”
Values to Society, by Dale Allen
“The male is by nature superior, and the female inferior; the one rules, and the other is ruled; this principle, of necessity, extends to all mankind.”
Aristotle, 4th Century B.C.E.
“Blessed art thou, O Lord our God and King of the Universe, that thou didst not create me a woman.”
Orthodox Jewish Prayer
“In childhood a female must be subject to her father, in youth to her husband, when her lord is dead to her sons; a woman must never be independent.”
The Hindu Code of Manu 1500 B.C.E.
“If you care for a son, you don’t go easy on his studies, if you care for a daughter, you don’t go easy on her footbinding.”
Chinese saying, Ts’ai-fei lu
“Men have authority over women because God has made one superior to the other.”
The Koran, 650 C.E.
“I will greatly multiply thy sorrows and thy conceptions, in pain shalt thou bring forth children and thy desire shall be for thy husband and he shall have dominion over thee.”
“In the beginning people prayed to the Creatress of Life … At the very dawn of religion, God was a woman.”
It is common knowledge that the human brain is made up of two hemispheres, and that each hemisphere specializes in particular skills. Professor Roger Sperry, Nobel Prize-winning Psychobiologist, wrote, “… there appear to be two modes of thinking, verbal and nonverbal, represented rather separately in the left and right hemispheres respectively, and … our education system, as well as science in general, tends to neglect the nonverbal form of intellect. What it comes down to is that modern society discriminates against the right hemisphere.”
The intelligence of the right brain is a part of all of us, and we are all using it more in every day life as we enter an era wherein right-brain skills are increasingly prized. Yet we live in a culture that is still left-brain dominant. The realm of the left hemisphere (the “masculine hunter/killer” side) is logical, linear, abstract, sequential, analytical, literal and functional. To read and write, we use the skills of the left hemisphere. The right realm (the “feminine gatherer/nurturer” side) includes intuition, creativity, metaphor, poetry, empathy, dreams, art and synthesis. This hemisphere comes into play as we contemplate images and the world around us. While the left hemisphere of the brain conceives of life as generally an “I am” experience, separate from all else, the right hemisphere of the brain experiences reality as frequencies, energies and patterns – a totality in which we are all connected. Through three million years of evolution, the two hemispheres developed to work in perfect balance, and yet our culture has favored left-brain skills and values.
In cultures that value strengths of the right brain, feminine power is celebrated. In a survey of 150 cultures today, anthropologist Peggy Reeves Sanday compared cultures structured around male dominance with those that embrace female power. She found a clear correlation between female power in society and the Goddess veneration found in these cultures. Where the divine has a feminine face, there is a correlation with the society’s honoring of nature, women’s role as officiators of sacred sacraments, connection to the land, and female power. In these right–brain integrated societies, there is egalitarianism, rather than women holding power over men. The worldview is holistic and oriented in the embodied rather than the abstract. These cultures value community, birthing, nurturing, empathy, intuitive intelligence, earth, nature, connection and interdependence. Also, the orientation of time is not linear, but is cyclical and aligned with the eternal cycles of birth, growth, death and renewal. The divine is understood to be embodied in every person and in nature, not somewhere else, abstract and disembodied. Sensuality and sexuality are honored as sacred. These “feminine” values belong to women and men; they are a valued part of society when the feminine is not subjugated. They are not seen as women’s tenets, they are societies’.
History takes us to our collective connection with Goddess veneration. In Paleolithic and Neolithic cultures, the driving force behind all things was considered female. Dr. Elinor Gadon, Cultural Historian writes about historic Goddess cultures: “… Goddess religion was earth-centered, not heaven-centered, of this world not otherworldly, body affirming not body-denying, holistic not dualistic. The Goddess was immanent, within every human being, not transcendent, and humanity was viewed as part of nature, death as part of life. Her worship was sensual, celebrating the erotic, embracing all that was alive.”
In our left-brain dominant culture, we define humanity according to left-brain characteristics, and we have relegated right-brain “feminine” characteristics to secondary status. We call war human nature, and peace an impractical ideal. We sing praises of women’s traditional work of nurturing. Yet those who do the work of caring for children or the infirm and elderly are relegated to the lower economical, social and political rungs. Nurturing is denigrated as “non-work.” We can hardly view sexuality and sensuality as holy expressions, for we have come to perceive sexuality through the lens of the left-brain with its themes of dominance, power and ownership. Our treatment of the natural world has made environmental issues like global warming an urgent concern. The United Nations has asked that the world come together for a common purpose: global investment in women and girls and the elimination of gender inequality. Our world mirrors for us the critical need for humanity to move into balance.
To access our right-brain intelligence we need to shake up the fixed assumptions of our left-brain dominant perspective. It can be a challenge to get beyond the left-brain perspective we are so familiar with. We rarely question assumptions that that provide the foundations upon which we build our personal beliefs and in turn, our culture.
We have been educated, formally and informally, that history begins with the written word. The first written law code is the Mesopotamian Law Code of 2350 B.C.E. Alphabetic literacy became well established across the ancient world at around 1700 B.C.E. With alphabetic literacy came a new left-hemispheric function of the human brain (we rely on the left hemisphere to read). As alphabetic literacy took hold, humanity underwent a shift into left-brain dominance and “masculine, hunter-killer” themes. New “Sky God” creation myths were written at that time that replaced the prevailing earth-based, Goddess creation myths. Over the next thousand years, new creation myths were written in many cultures across the ancient world. Genesis was written later, in 600 B.C.E.
What we don’t realize is that new foundations were laid in place at that time with those written words – foundations that are still with us today. We believe that the tenets of human existence are hierarchy, war, dominance, conquering. These tenets are left-brain oriented. Dr. Elinor Gadon outlines these foundational tenets as follows:
1) A male God created the universe.
2) Humans have the right to dominate nature.
3) Man has the right to dominate woman.
If history begins with the written word, then indeed all history is left-brain dominant, hierarchal, patriarchal history. But human history is three million years old; the history of homo sapiens sapiens began over 100,000 years ago – it did not begin with alphabetic literacy. The Beginning is not the Word and yet, we have virtually ignored our preliterate history – the history we learn in school tells the story of territories, battles and war. When we look at what we know of Neolithic and Paleolithic history we see a time when humanity understood the creative principle to be female. We find no evidence of organized war.
“Perhaps the most provocative discovery of recent archaeological research is that nowhere in Neolithic Goddess cultures is there any sign of warfare. There is no evidence of fortifications, of violent death, invasion or conquest. We can only conclude that there was some direct relation between Goddess religion and peaceful coexistence. Neolithic Goddess culture was woman-centered, peaceful, prosperous, and nonhierarchical.” Elinor Gadon
“Archaeologists ardently seek to find evidence of war in earlier societies, but there is actually no proof whatsoever of violence or war before the middle of the fifth millennium B.C.E. Although people built houses close together and lived in fairly high population density in the early urban centers, they apparently developed ways of resolving conflict and living in harmony with their environments that allowed them to share food and resources, irrigate fields, and participate in large ritual and artistic endeavors … Goddess scholars believe that content and form cannot be separated and that the reason for the lack of violence and conflict in early societies is the presence of the active worship of the Great Mother.” Vicki Noble
There is a correlation between peaceful coexistence, a Great Mother and right brain values in society. The Great Mother lives on, timelessly in our psyches. The archetype of the Great Mother is a part of all men and women. An archetype is an inward image in the human psyche that exerts a powerful influence on the nature of an individual personality, and in turn, on the larger culture. Poet David Whyte says “An archetypal image is much bigger than we are – it has informed human life since the beginning of time and transcends individual experience.”
“The effect of this (Great Goddess) archetype may be followed through the whole of history, for we can demonstrate its workings in the rites, myths, symbols of early man and also the dreams, fantasies and creative works of the … man of our day.” Erich Neumann
“Comparative religion … teaches us that there is in man (beyond the psychological need for a father symbol) an equally great, or possibly even greater need: that of the divine woman who appears in many different forms throughout the world, yet remains basically the same everywhere.” Raphael Patai
Yet, the archetype of the Goddess has been suppressed in our psyches and our culture. While we have been acculturated to easily accept the masculine pronouns for God, we are challenged to accept the female pronouns. Even though we may hold that God is beyond gender, the female pronouns seem awkward. Carol Christ, PhD, Religious Studies at Yale, writes: “Theologians frequently assert that God has no body, no gender, no race and no age. Most people state that God is neither male nor female. Yet most people become flustered, upset or even angry when it is suggested that the God they know as Lord and Father might also be God the Mother, or Goddess.”
I know that when I first experimented with making “Goddess” a part of my vocabulary, it felt strange, and I wondered why I should bother. I really didn’t like the word “Goddess” – it felt uncomfortable and unnecessary. Yet, at a time of crossroads in my life, the term kept rising up from within me – it was a feminine voice I had never heard. I began to study the sacred feminine – the erudition of anthropologists, psychologists, feminist scholars, poets, archeologists and historians. And the more I persisted in my studies of the sacred feminine, the more it was revealed to me just how deeply imbedded the “masculine” hierarchy had been within my psyche. I eagerly saturated myself in the feminine experience of the divine. This was deeply transformative. I felt that a long lost part of me was being restored – that I was connecting to the deepest core of my being and finding there a power and strength that was beyond anything I had experienced. It bubbled up within me and turned my perception of our cultural mores upside-down. My foundational beliefs had been pried up just enough to allow me to access the vast and fecund psychic terrain beneath. She Who Dwells Within every human psyche at our deepest collective level, broke free within me This feminine presence confirmed my gut level “knowing” that hierarchies, war, environmental destruction, a world in which children suffer and grow to repeat the same patterns of pain – this is not the only reality for humans. A world of peaceful co-existence, harmony with the natural world, honoring of the human body and all life forms – a world in which children are safe and can thrive in the expression of their own unique beauty and divinity – this is our birthright. We can look at history and contemporary matriarchal cultures to see pieces of what is possible.
Many people on the planet are opening up to higher levels of consciousness, but as we go higher, we must also dig deeply into the archetypal realms, into the body’s wisdom and our collective history. “The Mother has left memory in us all.” She is the honoring of community, interdependence, birth, nurturing, empathy, intuitive intelligence, creativity, earth, nature, the eternal cycles of birth, growth, death and renewal, sensuality and sacred sexuality. For so long, our left-brain dominant theological journey has made heaven (the realm of God) an abstraction, earth a proving ground for the soul, and life a time to earn immortality. The Goddess is earth. Her heaven is here. Her children are born into Her divinity, rather than the traditional view of being born into a troubled earth, to one-day return to heaven. Heaven is here.
As we endeavor to move beyond the limitations of the mind into expanded consciousness, we must first witness what is operating in the mind. Foundational beliefs that have been in place because of our left-brain dominance and male monotheistic culture can be tough for us to access, to see within ourselves. These foundational beliefs can become quite clear not by trying to look directly at them, but instead, by focusing on their complement. The very unfamiliarity and awkwardness of the term, “Goddess” indicates just how deeply male monotheism is operating, even though we may state that the divine is beyond gender. We can only say we’ve gone beyond gender when the term “Goddess” is as comfortable and natural as the term “God.” Ultimately we have gone beyond when we are that very thing that we have conceived of as the divine – when we are the image and likeness of the divine as it expresses uniquely through us.
The great teachers, whose wisdom provides the foundation of the world’s religions, have modeled for us what it means to be divinely embodied. All of the world’s faiths have at their core magnificent wisdom – it is misinterpretation that brings disharmony and division right up to this present day. If looking at some of our foundational beliefs helps us to come into balance and regain our interconnectedness with each other and nature, then we need to do it. We are all using the right hemispheres of our brains more, and this bodes well for humankind. We are the co-creators of heaven on earth. Leadership for a new era will be based on the integration of the feminine, as expressed through both women and men and the restoration of the sacred feminine has profound implications for every sphere of leadership – within families, communities, businesses, health, education, governments and the global economy. The United Nations’ World Conference on Women affirms that the advancement of women is central to every dimension of global development. A sustainable world cannot be built using the old, out-of-balance model. The feminine face of the divine has been missing for far too long. Thankfully, “the Mother has left a memory in us all.”
More information and DVDs of “In Our Right Minds” are available online at: www.inourrightminds.com
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