Longing for the True Feminine
I met China Galland in 1999, thirteen miles up the Chama Canyon in New Mexico at Christ in the Desert Monastery. She introduced herself as a Jungian analyst. We began to talk about the Black Madonna of Einseideln as a representation of an interior integration and the anima and animus (Our feminine and male aspects of personality). This is Jungian language but it began to put together so many ideas I had been collecting over the years. A few years earlier I was coming back from Iraq after doing a major human rights report on Kurdish villages. It exposed me to many minority cultures in northern Iraq. I was kidnapped in Kurdistan for a second time and held for four months. Psychologically I was not in great shape. I was nervous and felt like a cat who had used eight of his nine lives. I stopped in Switzerland to meet with officials of the World Council of Churches. I decided to stay a few days with an Orthodox bishop (H.E. Cicek) and for some reason he had a couple monks take me to Einseideln. It was not a very enjoyable experience. The last thing I wanted to do was be a tourist. This 10th century monastery was a tour of endless altars and sexually repressed Rococo art of naked boys and women. But one statue was stunning and took away my breath. It was a Black Madonna. It was a royal European image but it evoked a deep feeling of integration within.
I shared this story with China Galland. It turns out she had written a rather important book called Longing for Darkness.: Tara amd the Black Madonna. She saw a connection ten years earlier between the Tibetian Female Buddha Tara and the Hindu and Indian Kali. Both are Black Madonnas. She searched the world for these Madonnas without regard to religion, location, or spiritual tradition. One of the first places she went was Einseideln in Switzerland. It turned out we had been in Edelstein about the same time. She was attending a Jungian conference.
She gave me a copy of her book after a long afternoon of stimulating conversation. We were children of the same Seeker who had drawn us to seek for connections others do not see. I met her only one more time after this remarkable day but her book has continued to stimulate my own journey.
Like China Galland I saw an inter-religious connection between female deities. I my case it is between Guan Yin the female Bodisatva of Tantric Buddhism and the Virgin Mary of Christianity. My international multi-year search is coming to a point of intellectual and archeological integration. In many ways I am a religious anthropologist although I am a priest. My deepest interest is in the psychological and sociological mechanisms that occur both individually and corporately in cultures that fuse radically different concepts and images within psychic humanity. It seems as if these connections are necessary to an evolution of human consciousness. Many of these seeds were planted in me through this conversation with China Galland.
In order to become authentic human being we must come face to face with the dark and terrifying feminine within. As a member of white Anglo Saxon of Protestant tradition it is enough to say that I am male. As an infant I spent a period of time in an orphanage in Seattle. My mother had abandoned me and my biological father committed suicide. To protect myself from the suffering of abandonment I created an image of a dark mother that was hideous to me. I was able with this image to defend against the natural feelings of shame and guilt and a desire to search for my mother. It allowed me to experience the love and protection of my parents who adopted me.
Later in life, a few crises triggered a new search for the divine feminine. The denial of the feminine, even the horrible feminine such as the one represented in the terror of the Hindu Goddess Kali, forced me to confront my fears. I knew I could not be a fully integrated and authentic human being. I knew that true wisdom could not emerge within me until I better understood and fully integrated the dark feminine.
Kuan Yin represents in almost all her manifestations unconditional love. No matter what evil I commit and allow to dwell within me she gives her life. From a psychological perspective this can be very dangerous as this anima manifestation can destroy and consume the animus. Limits disappear and one can be led to any number of additive and self destructive behaviors. I have always been aware of this danger and it has kept me from connecting too fully with this feminine side.
On the other hand, the moralistic and even prudish Madonna of western Christianity represented by the sweet but conditional Virgin Mary is also a dangerous feminine aspect of the human personality. She can crush the life out of our more loving and unconditional nature that provides us access to deep sensitivity and compassion. Reconciling these feminine aspects of our psychological interior is the challenge of every man and women. For men it can be an especially daunting task.
A popular television program in the United States is called Two and a Half Men. Two brothers live together. Charlie Sheen plays an artistic, womanizing, drunk who is terrified of his mother. He is devoted to the Guan Yin mother whom he seeks in every women he takes to his bed. His brother is a weak and psychologically constipated person who is ruled by a domineering Virgin Mother who has slapped all the joy out of his life through adherence to her moral paradigm. The brothers each represent non-integrated males who have adopted feminine extremes represented in Guan Yin and the Virgin Mary. I often ask who is the half man? It is not the child whom they are both raising. He is actually the most mature and integrated person. It is each of the brothers.