I want a new religion. I have changed to the point that I cannot be a part of a patriarchal religion and I feel that all of the major organized religions fall into that category. It has taken me a long time, but I can now see that these organized religions were created largely to support the patriarchal culture that most humans have lived in for at least the past 5,000 years.
I started reading Mary Daly, Riane Eisler, Merlin Stone, Carol Christ, Marija Gimbutus and other similar authors in recent years. I was amazed at how much I did not know about life before patriarchy. I was never taught in school that there were cultures – civilized cultures – for tens of thousands of years prior to patriarchy. These pre-historical civilizations were largely matrilineal although not matriarchal.
Women had power in such cultures, but not “power over” others. These cultures were organized as partnership societies, not hierarchical societies. The Divine Presence worshiped was feminine which, of course, makes perfect sense since the female sex is the one that gives birth. As far as I can tell, there is little known about the specific religious beliefs and rituals of these civilizations. However, from the art work that has been discovered, there appears to be a theme of a Great Mother Goddess who gave birth to the world and all that is in it. Although we can’t go backwards to this ancient goddess religion, knowing more about it may open our eyes to other ways of conceiving a Divine Presence.
I would like to go forward to a new religion organized around a Divine Presence that is not exclusively masculine. In this new religion, Divine Presence, while not exclusively male nor exclusively female, is also both. I’ll use the name God/dess. God/dess is love and is omnipresent, but is not omnipotent – an idea adopted from Carol Christ’s book, She Who Changes. The idea of God/dess being omnipresent, but not omnipotent makes sense to me. It allows for free will and an understanding of why God/dess cannot intervene in human affairs.
Another idea from Christ’s book does not align with my intuition. I cannot see physical death as the end of a human soul. In view, all life is eternal – life has always existed and will always exist. It may be that life at some point existed only as God/dess and later was “separated” into other forms of life that evolved into human beings. Each human being has a soul that has always existed (as God/dess) and, once created, will always exist as a unique soul. (This, I think, is true of all life, not just humans.)
Divine Presence may have begun this “separation” and evolutionary process in order to have company – to have relationships with sentient beings. I think of the relationship between a human and God/dess as almost a partnership. God/dess is always changing and evolving and human beings are always changing and evolving, and we have an effect on each other. God/dess changes through relationship with humans, and humans change with relationship with God/dess. I think that this evolutionary process of a human soul continues after the physical death of that human. As part of that continuation, I tend to think that reincarnation is possible for humans, but not a necessity for all humans. I think that learning, growing, becoming more whole, evolving – all continue after death in ways that are beyond my understanding.
I find hints of a belief in immortality in Mary Daly’s writings. Daly discusses “foreground” (our normal reality) and “background” (ultimate reality) as different dimensions of life and suggests that feminists can “spin” into the background and talk with our foresisters who still exist. In an interview printed in the Fall 2000 issue of “Cross Currents” magazine, Daly said: “…for one thing, my idea of time is not as simple as it might appear. I think — I think our foresisters are here now. I don’t believe in linear time. It would be nice to think that what I’ve done, what I’m doing, is a springboard for others to carry on. I think I’m going to carry on too, though. I’m not going to croak and say it’s all over.”
Marion Woodman writes about soul-making. An interview with Woodman in Common Boundary magazine (July/August 1992) quotes her as saying: “For me, soul-making is allowing the eternal essence to enter and experience the outer world through all the orifices of the body – seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting, touching – so that the soul grows during its time on Earth. It grows like an embryo in the womb. Soul-making is constantly confronting the paradox that an eternal being is dwelling in a temporal body.”
I think Woodman is saying that this “eternal being” will not die after its human body’s physical death. Woodman also writes frequently that life is a series of deaths and rebirths, implying that there will be a rebirth into another dimension/level of life after physical death. I know that many people believe that this type of rebirth is an impersonal one. For example, it might mean that, after our death, our cells will become part of the soil, a tree, its fruit and then a bird. To me, this scenario seems to waste an entire lifetime of learning and any wisdom gained is gone.
The new religion that I want would definitely have a concept of an afterlife or parallel life – similar to Daly’s “Background” idea.
I realize my idea of a new religion is quite preposterous and, undoubtedly, I could use a good theologian to tidy up my internal inconsistencies and my spiritual loose ends! However, I am serious about not fitting into any existing religion. Surely I am not the only woman who feels this way.
Susan Gifford earned her B.S. from Millersville University and did extensive graduate work in Behavioral Genetics at the University of Colorado. She worked as a Mainframe Computer Systems Analyst and Programmer for many years, while living in Colorado. She and her husband are retired and, along with their dog, moved to the southern Oregon coast last year. She reads extensively and thinks about what she’s read as she walks along the incredibly beautiful beaches there.