Where fringe feminism and environmentalism meet there is found a shrine to the “Goddess.” Last May Time magazine reported that “Goddess worship” is a “growing spiritual movement in the U.S.,” claiming as many as one hundred thousand adherents, most of them female. On May 12, 1991, the New York Times placed its imprimatur on the movement, declaring in an editorial that “Goddess worship . . . is rooted in reverence for the Ultimate Mother, for woman as the giver of life.” According to the Times, in ancient Goddess-adoring matriarchies, “Life was peaceful, cooperative and egalitarian, while in societies focused on the male gods it was violent, authoritarian and stratified. In addition, the Goddess-based cultures cherished Earth as nurturer of humankind.” Accordingly, “Goddess worship resonates with modern environmentalism, and in particular with the Gaia hypothesis—the theory . . . that the Earth and its biosphere behave like a single living organism.”
How do we know so much about the ancient Goddess cult, which supposedly was abolished by the advent of monotheism some three thousand years ago? Through the miracle of feminist scholarship, of course. During the past several years numerous “scholarly” works dealing with the Goddess have been produced: The Great Cosmic Mother by Monica Sjöö and Barbara Mor; The Women’s History of the World by Rosalind Miles; The Chalice and the Blade by Riane Eisler, to name but three examples. Such works trade in the assumptions found in the Times editorial—that somewhere in the arcadian mists of antiquity there existed an egalitarian Goddess-based society that was destroyed by patriarchal usurpers. All of the evil that plagues humanity therefore has its roots in the destruction of the Goddess-inspired order, and “healing” will occur when that order is restored.
If feminist pseudo-scholarship is not enough to persuade the unconverted, perhaps a new mystery play would help. Mother Wove the Morning, a one-woman play written and performed by Carol Lynn Pearson, offers 16 vignettes designed to make the concept of the Goddess a palpable reality. Pearson is a Mormon, after a fashion: Orthodox Mormons believe that there is, in addition to a Heavenly Father, a Heavenly Mother—but that the subject is beyond the concern of mortals, and that worshiping the Mother is a species of idolatry. According to Pearson, true worship should be directed at a “partnership”—”The human animal [should] get to an adult where he or she can work for balance, can acknowledge the absolute equal valuing of male and female, and have room on our mantelpieces for mother as well as father. . . . I don’t know of anything that’s more great and important—and I mean really important to us right now—than to further validate the human female by bringing into our concept and to our worship the divine female.”
In the play various women from different stages of history speak achingly of the need for the Goddess. Rachel, wife of Jacob (“As in Abraham, Isaac and . . .” Pearson explains) is made to mouth the contemporary feminist party line: she remembers the benevolent era of the Goddess and the brutal, monotheist patriarchs who deposed the “Mother.” This memory, we are told, explains Rachel’s decision to steal the figurines of several “gods” from Laban (an event described in Genesis, chapter 31); among those “gods,” we are assured, was an image of the Goddess.
The “Rachel” segment exemplifies the play’s approach. It takes a familiar event from scriptural history and invests it with a feminist subtext, effectively inverting the event’s scriptural significance. Idol worshipers suddenly become the Good Guys—the innocent victims trying to preserve the healing image of the “Mother.” This perspective utterly invalidates the Judeo-Christian canon as a source of spiritual truth, thus producing a vacuum to be filled by acolytes of the Goddess.
Pearson’s play is a runaway smash in Utah. In January 1990 a scheduled 14-date engagement had to be extended to 30 performances in order to meet the demand. An unadvertised performance offered for students at Brigham Young University quickly sold out. The message took root with some BYU students: BYU English teacher Elouise Bell reports that during a Q-and-A period following the performance “All participants seemed to accept her premises; their questions had to do with solutions and particulars: ‘How can we . . . ?'” One student offered a public validation of Pearson’s Mother hypothesis: the opening prayer at the April 1991 BYU commencement began, “Our Father and Mother in Heaven . . .”
If Pearson can find a receptive audience in Utah—the very bosom of the dreaded patriarchy—she can make it anywhere. Since the play’s debut in Utah in 1990, the production has played in Phoenix and Chicago, where it enjoyed extended runs; the play was also warmly received in Ireland. In September 1991 the production returned to Utah, where it was greeted again with sold-out auditoriums.
Pearson professes to be “thrilled” by the response generated by her play: “I have had such a wonderful response from people of all backgrounds, people of all religions or no religion [and] as I’d listen in the lobby after the play, they’d say, ‘Oh, let me tell you what my church is doing to bring back the concept of the Mother.'” The desire to bring back the “Mother” can be seen in the use of “gender-inclusive” language in hymnals, prayers, and revisions of the Bible.
The vice-president of the Jungian Psychiatry Institute was so taken with Pearson’s drama that he asked her to perform the play at the organization’s international conference later this year. According to Pearson, “Jungian psychologists know that the most important psychological work we have to do in this last decade of the 20th century is the reintegration of the feminine divine into our religious experience.”
Does anybody still doubt the reality of the Goddess? After all, can the New York Times, the Jungian Psychiatry Institute, and Pearson’s rhapsodic audiences all be wrong?
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