Labyrinths of Learning, Not Ladders to Perfection

On the road to spiritual fulfillment and enlightenment, one is usually confronted with two models of spirituality that we are urged to follow: the ladder of ascent or the spiral labyrinth. The ladder model is a distinctly male model of spirituality that implies our position at the Bottom of spiritual enlightenment and our goal being at the Top, to reach God. On the ladder of ascent, one hopes to “get” somewhere, as a final destination. labyrinthOn the other hand, the labyrinth is distinctly female and womb-like in its insistence on long, slow, gestational journey we take to become one with Goddes. This path emphasizes the journey and not the destination. Inside the labyrinth you are encouraged to dream, be inspired, and contemplate your present journey, touch Godde at certain points, weave out and back in again, hopefully coming to realize a new sense of purpose in your spiritual walk. There is no anxiety in the sense that we have not “reached” what we should. There is no sense of having failed or fallen off the ladder to start over again. The labyrinth affords a drawing in and out, a wave of rhythmic movement that mimics the stages of our lives.

Both methods of enlightenment suggest much about the style of spirituality chosen by the myriads of gender combinations found in nature, which is never completely one or another. There is a multiplicity about the universe that ensures our always being on the right “path.” Nature does not create extremes. Nature is about subtlety and blending and tides that go in and out and return again

Male spirituality in its traditional western, Christianized form insists on a driving forward and upward mentality that suggests you will finally “arrive” at your intended goal; heaven, oneness, enlightenment, whatever the “masters” are calling it. For some mystical men, God is the supreme goal and they strive mightily to reach “him.” The religious dualism of male=sky=God-up-there vs. female=earth=Goddes-within couldn’t be more stark in approaches to spiritual fulfillment. For those who accept such dualism, the earth and its inhabitants are tainted with sin and human life must be endured until the goal of death is reached. The emphasis is on getting up and out of themselves to reach a “higher” plane.

Female spirituality, on the other hand, has tried mightily to emphasize the fluid, compassionate, wholistic awakening that one’s spirit encounters in her journey towards love and cosmic oneness. The “goal” is “she who is,” the inclusive deity that marginalizes no one. A woman’s goal is (and should be) her connection with the earth, the planet which births us, and the use this affords us within our families and partnerships. We need to focus on organic organizations of families that grow and nurture rather than rule and dictate. We focus our work on egalitarian principles in which no “ceilings” come into question because there is no “up” to strive for, only mutual respect. This spirituality is entirely pragmatic in its approach. The good can be found here and now, not later after death, or after we’ve reached a certain level. Leave what happens (if anything happens) after death for later. Reaching the ethereal heavens does not serve us. Our emphasis is on going within and facing the darkness that scares those at other ends of the spectrum. We find our true selves by not running away from the darkness, but by embracing it. It is this that patriarchal, hierarchical, fundamentalist religions cannot understand and are threatened by. goddess

Ethically, we work outward from our inner resources. If we are continuously trying to leave this world behind, then we will mentally leave it behind when it comes to social service. Starving children do not get full on spiritual food. Starving children need to be fed real food not spiritual platitudes. Abused women are not healed by promises of the future “kingdom in heaven” if they but endure their husbands now. Real healing takes place by taking them OUT of their earthly prisons and providing healing right now! This kind of “hereafter” pirituality may provide a temporary balm for taking the sting out of life now, but it has no lasting physical effect as we live lives today.

So too the Godde language we use has to be, above all, practical and inclusive. Spiritual healing is not benefited by exclusive language that marginalizes other genders, races, and ages or that describes surreal male-owned spiritual landscapes. Neither are we fulfilled by language that emphasize linear spiritual races to be won or hypothetical ladders to perfection. One cannot help but see a competitiveness in this language that suggests someone is first and the rest are last. Spirituality is not a race. History is not linear. Godde is not “up there.” The sooner we understand and re-language our spirituality, the more we can imagine full the humanity for women which is redeemed in Jesus Christ.