“The Hindus say that without Shakti, the personified feminine life force, Shiva, who encompasses the masculine ability to act, becomes a corpse. She is the life energy that animates the male principle, and the male principle in turn animates action in the world.” ~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes
It begins with an oath. Similar to the one Liz Gilbert ingeniously wrote in Eat, Pray, Love, “If you’re brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting, which can be anything from your house to bitter, old resentments, and set out on a truth-seeking journey, either externally or internally, and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher and if you are prepared, most of all, to face and forgive some very difficult realities about yourself, then the truth will not be withheld from you.”
It continues with accepting that women are the most powerful force on this planet. Bar none, the single most powerful thing in the world is a woman’s power to procreate. Forget about money, possessions, military might. These are fragile and pretentious powers. True power is the ability to create. And no animal creates more powerfully than the female human animal.
All women are beholders of this prolific power. If this weren’t enough, women have intuitive thought that most men lack. They have access to another system of knowledge that few men ever develop -what Clarissa Pinkola Estes calls the “Deep Knowing.” Above all, women are the closest thing Mankind has to a relationship with Mother Nature.
The problem today is that “civilized” man has become overly -and even overtly- masculine. Which has nearly killed Shakti. Without feminine energy to balance it out, success and courage have become bureaucratic and institutionalized. As such, there can be no room for any real, authentic growth, because there is no longer even an inner-garden to be cultivated –It has long since dried up and withered into a cracked, dry, desolate space.
What happens in a governing system that has renounced the sacred feminine? A system of dead-eyed hierarchical one-upmanship presides. The geometry of which resembles a pyramid where the “Have-nots” are crammed and cramped into the lower part and the “Haves” ingloriously fatten themselves at the top, obese and overreaching, at the expense of everyone and everything else.
The energy of which is dark and bleak and void of creativity. The center of which is an existential black hole, ominous and crushing. A person who succeeds within this pyramid is merely a pseudo-powerful pawn going through the motions of upholding an unhealthy system that it doesn’t even understand.
As Bill Plotkin put it, “He’s a prisoner who’s been promoted to a position of control by other prisoners. The new prison-manager has a higher-level manager over him, and so on. The patho-adolescent society – the egocentric system itself – has ultimate control over all the prisoners.”
Just as we are naturally social creatures, we are naturally creatures who crave mythology. When our mythology is one of dominance and control, we become stagnant and hard, and closed off to the underlying essence. When our mythology is one of passivity and stagnation, we become fragile and fragmented, and unable to contain the underlying essence.
But when our mythology is one of equilibrium and balance between these polar energies (the union of Shakti and Shiva), the underlying essence can be tapped and the overarching theme becomes robust and fecund, and connected to the heart of creation –what Nietzsche referred to as the “Primordial Unity,” which revives both our Dionysian and Apollonian nature.
Life is a cycle that expands and contracts, inhales and exhales, impregnates and gestates, separates and unites, lives and dies. Shiva, the sacred feminine, “shoots us out of the sky” in order to humble us. She sings over the “bones” of our desiccated system in order to inspire and revive us. She takes life as easily as she gives it, loving as nature loves, with neither pity nor rancor. She is the archetypal wise woman, the eternal grandmother, and with her ability to blend both masculine and feminine energies, she is also the archetypal wise man and eternal grandfather, thus subsuming the human leitmotif. She is the Great Mother, and she is sick and tired of being raped and plundered by the aggrandized, overly-masculinized man-machine.
Now enter Jung’s anima/animus concept. The goal here is the retrieval and succor of archetypal humanity, the unburying of the wild and innate instinctual self. This wild self is the health of all humans, the balance of yin & yang. In the face of rampant, masculine indulgence, rediscovering the sacred feminine is tantamount to, paraphrasing Nietzsche, “struggling to recover the seriousness of a child at play.” The deeper into rebellious play we go, the higher we are launched into the sacred.
As it stands, the suppression of feminine power has left our culture dangerously lopsided. In a world run roughshod with masculine energy one must, as Luce Irigaray suggested, “assume the feminine role deliberately.” We must subsume madness and desire through imaginative insurgence, if we are to once again balance the forces between the masculine and the feminine. In Simone De Beauvoir’s The Second Sex she says that women must free themselves both from the idea that they must be like men and from the passivity that society has induced in them.
Living a truly authentic existence carries more risk than accepting a role handed down by society, but it is the only path to equality and freedom. We must resolve ourselves to the love of positive action rather than the slow agony of passively subsisting and merely surviving. “If it is not in you to stand up for the weakest among us, standing up for yourself is pointless,” writes Lee Burkett. “If it is not in you to speak up for those who have no voice, then speaking up for yourself is pointless. If it is not in you to care for those less fortunate, then caring for yourself is pointless. What you allow to be done to others, you give permission to be done to you.”
Not forgetting the understanding that all women contain masculine aspects and all men contain feminine aspects, the following generalization stands to reason. Everything about a man is seeking: his heart, his mind, his hands, and his body; while everything about a woman is sought: her womb, her mind, her hands, and her body.
In a world predominant with masculine energy, all that is “seeking” becomes extreme and unhealthy –in a word: violent, while all that is “sought” also becomes extreme and unhealthy –in a word: conquered. The violence our culture inflicts is specific towards women exactly because women represent all that is soft and pregnable in this world; all that is open and yielding. And in a world where the sword has forsaken the sheath, mass violence prevails. Like R. D. Laing wrote, “We are effectively destroying ourselves by violence masquerading as love.”
Still, it is essential to embrace our own suffering so that we are able to empathize and love other suffering beings. One out of three women will have been sexually abused in their lifetime. This is a startling statistic that should not be ignored.
On the one hand, we can indifferently choose to turn away from suffering, and perhaps find some version of happiness there, but you also turn your back on empathy and love. On the other hand, we can embrace our suffering and there discover empathy and love. The former choice is easier, sure, but it suppresses and limits us from our full potential as moral beings, and threatens meaninglessness.
The latter choice is more difficult, and requires a particular flavor of courage, but it is ultimately more rewarding in that it reveals a path toward a potential life filled with depth, significance and meaning.
But life isn’t just about enduring and getting through it as merely another statistic. It’s about the ability to affirm life despite, and even in spite of, the worst that people can dish out. It’s about coming back to what one has as their bedrock, their own unique capacity to love. From this place one can transcend any amount of pain, anger, hate or rage, and even transform it into a gift that others can learn from.
One billion women rising, with their animus (Shiva) unleashed, is exactly such a gift. One billion women rising, joined by men with their anima (Shakti) unleashed, is exactly such a gift. One billion women rising, united as sisters in Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ Scar Clan, is exactly such a gift.
One billion women rising, with Pandora’s Box in one hand and the Scales of Justice in the other, is exactly such a gift. One billion women rising, who, despite the powers that be, and despite the violence they’ve been subjugated to in the past, have the courage to rise up as a force to be reckoned with, who no longer take the violence unleashed upon them lying down, who rise up as a Unified Gaia Principle representing Mother Nature herself, is exactly such a gift. If one billion women rising isn’t the answer, then I don’t know what is.
In the end, who you are is nature’s gift to you; who you become is your gift to nature. Please, I beseech you, seekers of truth, lovers of freedom, become a gift of courageous love.