And what about God? Is Goddess just God in a skirt? Or a skort? Or jeans and a flannel shirt? And just what does gender mean when we are in the realm of spirit?
These questions have been on my mind, because I recently completed an adaptation of the Christian Science textbook, intended for use by women interested in a system of metaphysical healing with a remarkable track record. The book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures written by Mary Baker Eddy, was originally published in 1875, and this publication was followed by an astounding record of healings attributed to the reading and application of the teachings it contained. The Christian Science Church was founded on the healings, which, according to Eddy, proved her theory.
I was a serious student of Christian Science for several years, until the homophobia of the Church's policies in the 1980's compelled me to withdraw my membership and leave the religion. I have written about this in my introduction to the adaptation.
But I never forgot the power of the teaching, and, in fact, the more I read about recovery from trauma and about quantum physics, the more I felt the brilliance and prescience of Eddy's work. In a nutshell, she believed that what we know of the world, derived from the five senses, is inaccurate... that, in fact, matter is unreal. And, in fact, quantum physics has demonstrated this. Moreover, she writes that the mind reporting the delusion is the delusion itself. Kind of like a dissociated state reporting reality. And all of this would be philosophical speculation, except for her insistence on an ultimate reality, that is Spirit, which, according to her, can override this false testimony of the senses.
To explain another way... The Christian Scientist, understanding Spirit to be all and matter to be nothing, would approach the appearance of a tumor the same way she would the appearance of antlers. She would understand it to be an impossibility, a lie. She would not apply affirmations to make it go away. She would work to understand the impossibility and to line her thinking up with the spiritual reality of the allness of Spirit (also called Mind, Principle, Soul, Life, Truth, Love).
To make a long story short (read my intro), I have grown more, not less, interested in Eddy's system since leaving the Church a quarter century ago. Which is why I decided to adapt the textbook. (The book is in public domain and someone actually put it online in Word.)
And... this is where radical-feminist-lesbian-nature-based-goddess-worship ran headlong into 19th-century-protestant-Christian-patriarchal-Biblical tropes. Eddy's metaphors, which were useful to her in putting across a radical teaching in 1875, were not useful to me. They were, in fact, serious impediments. I did not feel that they were in any way integral to her theory, which is why I undertook the adaptation in the first place... but the whole point was to preserve as much of her 700-page book as possible... so what to adapt and how?
Yesterday I was reading a copy of Herstoria, which is a fabulous publication, by the way.... and I ran across an article "The medieval mystery of a prayerbook, secret writing and a woman's learning..." by Kathryn Powell. It was about the discovery of an 11th century prayerbook that appears to have been adapted by a woman sometime in the 12th century. And, yes, between the lines she had changed the pronouns. She had also decoded secret writing that appears to have been some kind of game played by the monks.
I felt myself in a long tradition of women struggling to tease out the core truths in metaphysical systems couched and coded in patriarchal terms.
Changing the pronouns in my case meant changing many other things-- words like "sin," "evil," "dominion," "purity," "righteousness." And, of course, removing all reference to the Bible and to Christianity. After much thought, and more than a little influenced by the Gulf Coast disaster, I changed "God" to "Gaia." I wanted to do more than put God in a skirt.
I do not belief that masculinity and femininity are yin and yang ideas, two halves of some whole. I believe that women are quite whole by ourselves, thank you, and that historically, our so-called "other halves" have made life a living hell on earth for us. A spirituality, and especially a metaphysical system of healing, that is for women has to reflect this wholeness. At the same time, there is power in personifying a higher power, because in moments of terror and chaos, intellectualizing is not much comfort.
Anyway, the exercise was profound, and the book is A Science of Gaia. It's available as a PDF download, an eBook, or a paperback. Blessed be!