The Sacred Feminine: Women in the Biblesam
By Andrew Cort
‘God’, or ‘Divinity’, however you use these terms, is endless, infinite, and timeless, and as such is inherently indefinable and unknowable.
Fortunately, the Sacred Feminine aspect of the creation is the vehicle, the ‘Vessel’, through which the infinite Divine can be expressed in our finite world. And only the Sacred Feminine can lead the soul back to the Divine. Let’s talk about why this is so.
A defining characteristic of the Masculine is the need to think things through in a linear, step-by-step manner, to experience a reality that is limited and finite and therefore straightforward, controllable, and ‘knowable’. A defining characteristic of the Feminine, on the other hand, is the ability to experience reality in a holistic, open-ended, all-at-once manner, to take in and accept limitlessness and infinity. Needless to say, we each have a share in both of these characteristic abilities, but the Sacred Feminine in the world (women) and within the individual (the heart) must introduce the Sacred Masculine to the unknowable reality of the Divine. In the sacred stories, for instance, it is the Celestial Aphrodite who must unbind perfected souls and release them into bliss. And this is why Miriam had to die first, before Aaron and Moses: the Shechinah (the Feminine “Presence” of God) must lead the way.[ad name=”AdSense Responsive”]
Another defining characteristic of the Masculine is that it expresses the Active force within the creation, and as such it is always involved in doing, fixing, making, and acting. The Feminine, on the other hand, is the Passive/Receptive force of creation. This quality of passivity has been given a very bad name in our frantically productive society, where it has been saddled with negative and destructive connotations of weakness and submission. But if the truth be told, passivity is the higher quality. Action is the emblem of the realm of Matter and Time: the Masculine ‘does’. Passivity is the emblem of the realm of Spirit and Eternity: the Feminine ‘is’. It is precisely this ability to be passive, to ‘be’ without having to ‘do’, that allows the Sacred Feminine Vessel to receive pure, endless, unknowable Being, without having to limit it or define it through any agenda of her own, and then to bring it to birth as infinite abundance and love in the physical world.
In the Old Testament, the Sacred Feminine is represented by various characters, including Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Leah, and Miriam, who nurture and protect the patriarchs and Moses. In the New Testament, She is represented by the Marys, who nurture and protect Jesus (who represents the Sacred Masculine). But the Feminine power in the scriptures is not some sweet gentle ‘goddess’, representing all the ‘nice’ qualities that are missing in men. She is the Shechinah, the ‘Presence’ of God in the Creation, the force that hovers over the Ark of the Covenant, the ‘Mother of All Living’ who pours forth all the forms and qualities in the infinite universe. She is Life, from the primordial Chaos, to Eve, to ‘Rahab, the harlot of Jericho’. She is the Beauty of Rachel and the Wisdom of Leah. She is Miriam’s prophetic power. She embodies the secret of the Red Cow, for she is the mystery of blood, sex, birth, and death. She is the Sea, the boundless power of the Unconscious. She is the Mother and the Whore and the Wife and the Destroyer.
Most of Genesis covers the story beginning with Abraham, who talks to God in the ‘Promised Land’, and the stories of his children, grandchildren and descendants, ending in a state of slavery in Egypt. This entire story, when the symbolism is understood, represents the preparation of an individual soul which comes from a state of communion with God (“Canaan”) and enters the experience of material life in which we find ourselves now (“Egypt”). These are the Lesser Mysteries.
‘Egypt’, of course, does not mean a literal ‘place over there’, and the ‘enslavement’ is not ‘something that happened to other people a long time ago’. ‘Egypt’ is a symbol for our lives, right now. We are all “the children of Israel enslaved in Egypt”. We must find our way home. So the rest of the Torah, and through the Book of Joshua, consists of the Greater Mysteries: Moses leads the Israelites from Egypt back to the Promised Land, which means from slavery and ‘sleep’ to spiritual awakening and enlightenment. It is a journey that we are all invited, and encouraged, to take, and the Bible can be read symbolically as a How-To Manual explaining how to do it!
And at every single step along the way there is a necessary Feminine Principle as well as a Masculine Principle: Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Joshua and Rahab, etc. Here is an example:
Just before Joshua and the Israelites crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land, Joshua sent two spies on a reconnaissance mission. The spies set out, according to the Bible, and they went directly to the house of a harlot named Rahab and lodged there.
Now why, of all places, would Joshua’s spies go to the house of a harlot? Doesn’t the Bible say that God hates harlots?
A ‘harlot’ symbolizes the seductive sensations and desires that inflame our lower nature but leave the soul unsatisfied. The name ‘Rahab’ means proud or arrogant, and it is a term that is sometimes used to signify the material domain of ‘Egypt’. Jericho, Rahab’s city, means Moon – which is another symbol for the illusory level of life that ‘Egypt’ also represents. The soul’s first mission in the Promised Land will be to once and for all completely destroy ‘Jericho’, so that no illusions remain and the soul can reach enlightenment.
But ‘Rahab’ means even more. Rahab symbolizes the primordial Chaos that was ‘vanquished by the Creator’ in Hebrew legends at the very beginning. For example, Isaiah will later say: “It was You that hacked Rahab in pieces, That pierced the dragon. It was You that dried up the Sea, The waters of the great deep.” And Job will say: “By His power He stilled the sea; By His skill He struck down Rahab”.
According to another legend from the Oral Tradition (preserved in the Talmud and the Kabbalah), Joshua was swallowed by a sea-monster in his infancy, but at a distant point of the sea-coast the monster spewed him forth unharmed. So on a deep psychological level, we see that Rahab was the ‘sea-monster’ who spewed forth Joshua – in mythical terms, his ‘mother’! Later on, according to the legends, Joshua will marry Rahab (in her current incarnation as the ‘harlot of Jericho’), so she is also his ‘wife’. This is a recurrent theme in mythology and religion. Eve was Adam’s wife, but she was also his Mother – since he calls her ‘the Mother of all Living’. In Greek mythology, some stories have Gaia as Uranos’ wife, while in other stories she’s his mother.
Like the Greek goddess Gaia, Rahab is Chaos, the turbulent Passions. She is the ‘Sea’, the deep vast unconscious. Rahab is the ancient archetype that underlies the power of the Sacred Feminine. In Jericho, she lives in a tower, high above the city. Rahab was said to be the most beautiful woman in the world, a theme that is found in the stories of Sarah, Rachel and others, and means that she represents the Shechinah, the Sacred Feminine, God’s “Presence” in the world.
As always, the Masculine needs her protection, so when the king of Jericho hears rumors of the spies, Rahab hides the two men on her roof and tells the king to take his soldiers out of the city and search for them in the nearby hills. Then she made a deal with the men that when the day of Jericho’s destruction came, they would first come and rescue her and her family. The spies of course agreed. This is the end of the story in the Hebrew Bible, so now, as the soul prepares at last to ascend to enlightenment, Rahab, the Sacred Feminine, must reunite with Joshua, the Sacred Masculine, so that together they can merge back into Oneness and return home to God. The Shechinah was present at the beginning of Creation, she imbues all levels of Creation from the lowest to the highest, and she is still present here at the end of the story waiting for the Masculine to return. Just before the destruction of Jericho, Rahab, the rescuer who saved the spies, is rescued in return, and she returns to Israel where the Bible says, “she continues to dwell to this very day.”
In the Christian story, the Sacred Feminine appears to Jesus in the guise of an abundance of women led by a triad of Power, Grace and Joy, reuniting with the Sacred Masculine so that together they will be capable of completing the journey back to Divinity:
“Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene [which means ‘High Tower’, such as the one where Rahab lived, and is a symbol of ‘Power’], from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna [which means ‘Grace’], the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Suzanna [which means ‘Joy’], and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.” (Luke.8.1-3)
To say that Mary Magdalene had been ‘cured of seven demons’ does not mean, as has often been said, that she was a particularly egregious sinner. She was no more a sinner than you or I. But Mary Magdalene had been fully initiated! In scriptural symbolism, ‘Seven’ signifies complete achievement, and this means that every single level of Mary Magdalene had been purified and perfected. She is the archetype of the soul that drinks in the total experience of life on earth, who has the good sense and humility to ask for God’s help (like the Samaritan woman), who pours forth love and attains complete forgiveness (like the woman with the alabaster jar), who completes all of the Great Work and has been healed at every level of her soul, and who will now remain the powerful ally and protectress of the Spirit right to the very end – Mary, unlike the other apostles, will still be present at the Cross. And apart from Jesus himself, there is no indication that anyone else in the New Testament achieves her level of initiation, with the single exception of her male counterpart, Lazarus.
Was Mary Magdalene the secret wife of Jesus? Was she the ‘vessel’ of his semen and his children, the mother of a lost line of kings, and thus the authentic ‘Holy Grail’? Perhaps. But actually, in my opinion, all of this is beside the point. Not because it is unimportant to return the Sacred Feminine to her rightful place in western civilization. On the contrary. It is urgent! But chasing after gossip, scandal, and conspiracy theories, is not the way to do it. There is a better reason.
Socrates taught his pupils that only those things that help to perfect one’s soul can be called ‘moral’ or ‘good’. If we found a Marriage Certificate with both of their signatures buried in a desert cave, how would this discovery contribute anything to the perfection of your soul? The search for this kind of ‘proof’ is fascinating and fun, but it is of no real spiritual significance. We should put aside the scientific demand for ‘proof’ and the academic fascination with textual criticism, and ask ourselves more important, human, and relevant questions: What are these stories trying to tell me? How can these words help me with my own spiritual efforts? How can my struggle to unveil their inner meaning help my soul evolve? What are they telling me to do, and how can I do it?
The reason we must restore the Sacred Feminine to her full divine stature in our lives and culture is because without her all spiritual evolution is impossible! Without her all the ancient myths and holy scriptures are useless! We cannot follow Demeter and Persephone back up to Olympus, we cannot obey the Law of Moses, we cannot walk in Christ’s footsteps, if we continue to misconstrue everything that is said about the perfect equality, the required harmony, and the absolute inter-dependence of ‘Male’ and ‘Female’ at every level of Creation. All of this is in the stories. Nothing is hidden. But the meaning of the words has to be penetrated and understood.
As we have seen, only the Sacred Feminine, within the soul of a human being or the soul of a civilization, can receive the pure, endless, unknowable Being of God, without trying to limit or define it, and then bring it to birth as infinite abundance and love in this world. And only the Sacred Feminine, through pure noetic intuition, can reconnect us to that infinite, timeless, Divine Being, and lead us home.
The consequences of her degradation, a crime for which men and women are equally responsible, are constantly and painfully visible in the disintegration of compassion, decency, kindness, and human meaning that we witness all around us.
Andrew Cort – author, speaker, teacher, attorney, and doctor of chiropractic – is the author of THE PURPOSE OF RELIGION: Enlightenment, Meaning and Love in Jewish, Christian and Islamic Symbology and other books that celebrate the wisdom, decency and unity of all our Traditions. Please visit his Blog, Spirituality and Religion, where you can find out more about his work, browse his books, and also watch a series of 19 short video discussions about the Sacred Feminine.
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