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Monday, January 28, 2013

Reweaving the world: The Emergence of Ecofeminism

I must admit, I had a welling sense of disinclination when it came to reading ecofeminist manifesto’s. Just the word ecofeminist would be enough to scare away a lot of different people. I was honestly uncomfortable. Yes, I realize that this fact alone may be evidence that I myself am a victim of a patriarchal society. 

The feeling had grown after reading the first essay in Irene Diamond and Gloria Orensteins’ Reweaving the World, by Charlene Spretnak. It first sounded a bit like man-bashing. She talks about “patriarchal obsessions of dominance and control,” “fear and resentment of the elemental power of the female,” “Patriarchal attitudes that condition men to demand a large number of offspring in order to prove virility,” toward the end of the essay she writes:

“Around us we see immensely destructive thrashing of patriarchal leaders who cannot even name the pain and ignorance that drive their greed. In their frenzy they push 10,000 species into extinction each year…” 

Do I agree? Yes. But, I don’t think this is the way to change people. I’ve got to consider, though, what she was writing for and when she was writing it. I check the copywrite date (which I should’ve known prior to opening) 1990, of course! The ‘technocratic alienation and nihilism’ that she talks about was, in some ways, worse than ever. Consumerism and corporate greed ran rampant and unchecked, they destroyed unimaginable amounts of life from rainforests to oceans. Industrial agriculture was booming and biotechnology seemed to offer promise for the starving and overpopulated. The volume on Ani Difranco and Alanis Morisette was topped out, in my house too. Okay, it doesn’t sound like a whole lot has changed but I think it has. There is a growing awareness and a great deal of interest in being ecologically responsible, community oriented, ethically driven. It occurs to me that people like Spretnak, Diamond and Orenstein are all in part responsible for that growing awareness. Real things have happened to people like rising fuel costs, climate problems, foreclosures, and layoffs that have forced them to reconsider their life trajectory, their definition of success. Caught within that process of change, they are more open to learn about sacred earth, rhythms and cycles of life, nature-based spirituality. She says that people are lost; well I think they feel lost and they want more than a new app. for their i-phone. They know this isn’t the way, that capitalism is unfulfilling…they are already looking for another path.

When I got to Brian Swimme and Riane Eislers’ essays I was primed, and both of these were actually inspiring. How to heal a lobotomy was entertaining and accurate altogether:

“I speak here from my own experiences as scientist. It is quite possible that the lobotomizing taking place in the standard scientific training surpasses that carried out in all other educational processes, even seminaries and business schools, and that’s saying something.” –Swimme, page 16

He is drawing attention to the fact that science cannot and never will be able to measure meaning, beauty, aesthetics, morality, character, or Truth with a capitol ‘T’. He uses an example of how unimpressed scientists were upon discovering the birth of the universe.

“Arthur Eddington…regarded the discovery of the universes beginnings as ‘abhorrent.’ Even more revealing is the phrase chosen to name it: the big bang.”

Unimpressed isn’t the right term, perhaps numbed would be more appropriate. They don’t have the level of universal care, or the capacity to see the whole of something for what it is. I know this, just like many ecofeminists know similarly, because if scientists could see the whole for what it was…they would have seen something beautiful and amazing and something which makes so much sense. At the risk of sounding like an ecofeminist: A vast womb of endless potentiality which, when introduced to a physical element, explodes with activity and growth and expansion, evolution. The genetic code of the universe is her child. We are part of that, we are the children of the original womb.

They would have seen what Riane Eisler calls the Gaia tradition, and perhaps that is a true tradition, but really she is clumping together a bunch of ancient matriarchal traditions.  In my opinion, she leans heavily on ‘what women have done or can do versus men.’ Her solution a partnership system, and its based on replacing masculine associations of domination and violence with values of transformation and actualization. I like this idea and I think it is a step.

I feel like it all has to do with balancing the masculine and feminine energies within each human being. It is a duality, just like day and night or ascending and descending currents within the body. However, because we all connect specifically with one gender energy (this is not universal to each person or to sex) we grow and develop differently. We develop differently along different lines of development.

For example, Carol Gilligan shows that while females develop from being ‘selfish’ when young to ‘tribal or community care’ and eventually to ‘universal care’ while males tend to go from ‘selfish’ to ‘tribal rights’ or rights for those you care about to ‘universal rights’ and eventually to universal rights and care. These paths lead us to the same universal care (which includes care for Nature), but the way we get there is different depending on which gender we identify with. In Keith Witt’s book Waking Up: Psychotherapy as Art, Spirituality and Science, he suggests that the fact that masculine and feminine types develop differently points to the possibility that they are different lines of development. That fits into my ‘masculine and feminine’ energies idea.

I guess what I am saying, and what I feel overall that ecofeminists are trying to say, is very similar to some of the esoteric and occult traditions that I’ve studied over the years (which must be why the book goes on to talk about the Bible and Eleusinian mysteries, which I will look forward to reading). That at times throughout the ancient past, humans had balanced masculine and feminine energies. This balance brought about an understanding which was more whole than the one we have today. Understanding about who we are, our true character, our place in Nature, Earths place in the universe and the sacredness in all of those essences and cycles. Today, our society has oppressed its feminine energies for some time and has become off-balance. This has given rise to a choppy, unstable and disenfranchised understanding of our purpose and future. Our relationship with one of our mothers…mother Nature, has suffered tremendously to the point of becoming abusive. There is something intuitively more nurturing about a mother god, the care factor replaces the hard handed justice of a male god. Not that we couldn’t have male gods who practice universal care.

 Riane Eisler:

“The way a society structures the most fundamental human relations- the relations between male and female halves of humanity without which our species could not survive – has major implications for the totality of a social system. It clearly affects the individual roles and life choices of both women and men. Equally important, though until now rarely noted, is that it also profoundly affects all our values and social institutions – whether a society will be warlike or peaceful or bent on the conquest of our environement.” Page 26

Sumerian goddess Inanna

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