Walk in love and beauty.
Trust the knowledge that comes through the body.
Speak the truth about conflict, pain, and suffering.
Take only what you need.
Think about the consequences of your actions for seven generations.
Approach the taking of life with great restraint.
Practice great generosity.
Repair the web
In Rebirth of the Goddess, I offered Nine Touchstones of Goddess Spirituality as an alternative to the Ten Commandments. The touchstones are not commandments delivered from outside the world, nor are they accompanied by the promise of reward in heaven or the threat of punishment in hell. Rather, the Nine Touchstones are based upon observation of the world and rooted in the insight that human and other beings are connected in the web of life. They are intended to inform all our relationships, whether personal, communal, social, or political.
As I review the Nine Touchstones two decades after I first intuited and reflected on them, I marvel at my younger self. When I write, I often enter into a kind of trance in which words emerge from a place in myself that lies deeper than my conscious rational mind. I do not know that I know something until the words take shape on the page, and even then, their meaning unfolds over time. Something like this must have happened with the Nine Touchstones. I was drawn to the Native American teachings expressed in several of the touchstones even though I did not fully understand their context or meaning at the time. I was drawn to maternal values without knowing that they are the basis of ethics in egalitarian matriarchal cultures.
The first touchstone, “nurture life,” is the foundation of all the other touchstones. Nurturing life is practiced by mothers, sisters, fathers, brothers, aunts, uncles, and others the world around. It is not only a human value: nurturing of life is deeply rooted in the life experience of mothers and sometimes fathers in the animal world. Because mothering is rooted in our animal past, many consider nurturing life to be trivial or at best the physical foundation of so-called “higher” values. But I assert that to nurture life is the “highest value” and that all other values should be judged by whether or not the promote life, not only for ourselves and for those closest to us, but for all human beings and for the web of life as a whole.
Our world today is in crisis. An ecological catastrophe that threatens the possibility of life for humans and many other species is underway. Endless war and violence spawned by endless war are fueling migration. Even if all wars and violence could be ended, migration would continue as fertile lands become polluted by pesticides or turned to desert due to global warming. All of this is happening because some people put other values—short term economic gain, personal gain, greed, power, power over, and so forth above the highest value: nurturing and preserving of life in the web of life as whole.
When nurturing life understood to be the highest value, it is obvious that ripping babies and children from the arms of mothers and fathers at the US border who are fleeing violence and the threat of death in their home countries is wrong. Europe is also not doing very well in addressing the refugee crisis. At present more than 10,000 refugees are stranded in the Aegean islands. And as Nicholas Kristoff reminds us, America is Guilty of Neglecting Kids: Our Own. This too is very wrong.
Why is it that so many among us fail to understand this? Or if we understand, fail to act on our deepest knowing?
In part it is because the values and feelings associated with mothering and motherhood have been disparaged our culture. It does not have to be this way.
If we look within, we will discover that the capacity for empathy formed in the mother-child bond of all mammals is in all of us. It is wellspring of all ethical behavior for all human beings–not just for mothers, not just for women, but for everyone. When we value the empathy that is hard-wired into our very being, we can change the world.
Carol P. Christ is an internationally known feminist writer and educator currently living in Lasithi Prefecture, Crete. Carol’s recent book written with Judith Plaskow, Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology, is on Amazon. A Serpentine Path: Mysteries of the Goddess is on sale for only $10.98 on Amazon. Carol has been leading Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete for over twenty years: join her in Crete. Carol’s photo by Michael Honegger.